Tuesday, January 14, 2014

[Actual Play] DWAiTAS - The Exiles of Time 1.02: 'The Avatars of Madness'

THE CAST
Aru (played by Clara Owen): An amnesiac girl in her late teens with psychic powers and an inexplicable fear and distrust of men. Aru is stick figure thin and tall, with short spiky dark brown hair, ocean blue eyes and wears a black bodysuit with bright blue inlays, and has a laser gun holstered in her chunky belt.
Robyn Dalton (played by Heather W): A UNIT researcher for the top-secret Project Broadsword, Robyn is haunted by a shameful past, but her history gives her knowledge and expertise that make her a valuable asset to UNIT. She is dark eyed and has dark hair cut in a bob style with green or blue highlights depending on her mood. (Kinda like Claudia from Warehouse 13.)
Malik (played by Luke): A Silurian from a time when his species' reign on Earth, displaced in time by the Cardiff Rift, Malik has been living in a TMNT-style pad in the sewers of the Welsh capital, feeding on criminals and becoming the subject of urban legend, the 'Lizard Man of Cardiff'. He wears a hessian cloak and cowl to hide his features when he walks among the apes that have taken over his homeworld.
Pan (played by Maggie): A student of Archimedes, and the real inventor of Archimedes' screw and the fabled 'heat ray'. Possesses technological knowledge beyond his time, owing to his precognitive abilities. Pan is tall and has messy 'mad scientist' hair, dressed in a Grecian tunic and sandals.

Guest Starring
Andrew (played by Luke in first half of session)
Anith (recurring NPC from episode 1)

EPISODE 1.02: 'The Avatars of Madness'
The shaking subsides as the TARDIS breaks through into the normal time vortex, and Anith sags against the console as if suddenly drained, planting her staff firmly on the floor to steady herself. But before the group can celebrate their escape, the TARDIS starts to rock violently once again. Anith struggles with the controls, and manages to land them safely, but it seems the TARDIS has been caught up in the energy field of a time scoop, and they must locate and disable the time scoop in order to fly away safely. Robyn and Pan check the scanner to find they have landed inside a spaceship, sometime in the 51st century. As soon as they venture outside, Anith collapses; she is time sensitive, and now that she is in this universe she can feel something is terribly awry, though she can't place exactly what.

Malik heads straight outside into a large cargo hold with a blue column of light in the centre of the room, spanning from floor to ceiling into the other decks. He pokes his head in it, assuming it's an elevator, but pulls it out again when his head begins to tingle. It's about this point that two people arrive with guns, one man and one woman demanding to know who he is. He claims to be their boss, but they point out that their boss is dead. He claims to be a replacement from the Galactic Council, but they don't buy that either, so he points at the top of the TARDIS and says he's with the police. They don't seem very pleased to hear that.

Meanwhile, somewhere else on the ship, a woman wakes up to find herself strapped into a hospital bed by metallic restraints, with no memory of who she is, or how she got there. She's not alone, there's a man in futuristic overall-style hospital scrubs similar to hers, shaking her to try and wake her; which causes her to panic, since she doesn't like men. The man tries to calm her down, introducing himself as Andrew, but saying that's all he remembers about himself. He asks her what her name is, but since she doesn't know, she looks down at the serial number on her overalls - which reads ARU56 - and decides to call herself Aru for now.

Andrew has technokinetic powers, which he uses to tell the lock on the hospital bed to open. Aru leaps out of the bed and is off, running down corridors, tearing off without Andrew. She finds a spanner lying around, and picks it up, when she encounters an android with a smiling holographic face projected in front of its otherwise blank head. It suggests she go back to bed, but Aru beats it with her spanner and runs away. Andrew runs into an identical robot, mouthing similarly creepy "helpful" advice before lunging for him, its holographic face glitching into an expression twisted in a silent scream of pain and fury. He puts a hand to its face and lets out another technopathic pulse, frying the robot's nervous system. He runs off as it begins to get up again, calling out to Aru.

Back in the cargo hold, Pan and Robyn have stepped out of the TARDIS to bail Mal out. The man and woman are Zach and Mercy, and they seem to be part of the ship's crew; they're dressed in camo, but don't seem to be military. And clearly their activities are illegal, judging from their response to Mal claiming to be with the police. They argue with the crewmembers, trying to get them to lower their guns, until the lights flicker and an ominous voice speaks gibberish over the PA system.

Mal asks their 'hosts' what the voice was, and they explain that it's the ship's AI; it's gone a bit funny, started referring to itself as WARDEN and taken over all the androids onboard - referred to as Avatroids - as well as the ship's systems. From the statement it made over the PA, and the name it has chosen for itself, it seems to regard all aboard the ship as its prisoners and seeks to punish them, though Zach and Mercy claim - rather unconvincingly - not to know why. Robyn convinces them that, given her skill in engineering, she might be able to help fix the AI.

The two crewmembers consider this, but before either one of them can say anything, an Avatroid appears from the blue column of energy. It identifies the TARDIS crew as stowaways to be expunged, and Zach and Mercy are to be made to pay for their sins. The Avatroid swings at Zach and misses, and Robyn calls for everyone to get inside the TARDIS. She, Mal and Pan pile inside. Zach and Mercy waver outside, unsure how they're all going to fit inside, but Robyn grabs Mercy by the scruff of the neck and pulls her inside, and Zach stomps in after them both. The TARDIS door is slammed shut, and the Avatroid stands outside. Waiting.

Meanwhile, Andrew catches up with Aru - who has, by now, found a bodysuit, belt and stun blaster that she felt a sense of familiarity from, and has put them on - but stays a few paces behind her since she still doesn't trust him. They find the cargo hold with the column of light, and decide to jump through it. They arrive in what appears to be the exact same part of the cargo hold, only now the TARDIS is there, and so is the Avatroid that was standing guard in front of it. WARDEN, speaking through the Avatroid tells Andrew that he shouldn't be fighting the droids, he should be helping them. While the droid is distracted talking to Andrew, Robyn opens the TARDIS door and Aru runs and slides past the droid and through the TARDIS door. Then Andrew uses his technokinesis to zap the droid and knock it out.

As Andrew is about to join the others inside the TARDIS, someone calls from the doorway at the back of the cargo hold - leading to the engine room. Listening on the scanner, Mercy and Zach recognise it as the voice of their ship's apprentice engineer, Willard Harvey. Willard peeks out from the engineering doorway and, once he's sure the coast is clear, joins Andrew to enter the TARDIS.

Once they're all gathered inside, Malik once again demands to know what's going on. Mercy and Zach are still reticent about talking, but Willard is only too happy to explain: while this ship is primarily a free trade and passenger vessel, the senior members of the crew had a side job going on. Under contract from a mysterious corporate benefactor, they had been using time scoop technology provided by their employer - which is far beyond 51st century time travel capability - to kidnap people from different time periods and mindwipe them for use as slave labor. 

Zach and Mercy are shocked, and Mercy turns to him to ask how he knows this. He wasn't a senior crew member, he wasn't in the loop. He replies, 'No, I wasn't.' And then he stabs her with a screwdriver he had been concealing. Aru knocks him out with her stun gun. At this point, Malik is all for just disabling the time scoop and leaving the crew to their fate, but Mercy protests that they still have passengers aboard, hiding in their quarters, who are innocent in all this. She begs them to save the ship for their sake, if not the remaining crew. Robyn and Pan try to save her, but she bleeds out and soon dies. They figure out that Willard has cybernetic brain implants, and WARDEN must have been controlling him through those. They now know why WARDEN believes the crew must be punished, but not how the ship's AI became WARDEN. 

Regardless, they need to regain control of the ship, and to do that they must make their way to the bridge, where Robyn can access the AI core and perform a system reboot. The group leaves the TARDIS and makes their way up to the command deck, where they are confronted by another Avatroid controlled by WARDEN. WARDEN appeals to Andrew to not let them do what it knows they intend, because if they do he will never be whole. Andrew doesn't understand, but Robyn works something out: WARDEN is an anagram of Andrew. When Andrew was being mindwiped, he must have tried to use his technopsychic abilities to escape, but ended up transferring a large portion of his mind into the ship's computer. But the experience must have been so traumatic it drove the transferred persona insane. And under the circumstances, restoring his persona would be ill-advised at best, and likely impossible in any case.

Andrew uses his technokinetics to fry the Avatroid's CPU and clear a path for the group, choosing to sacrifice the slightest chance of restoring his own identity in order to save the ship, its crew, and its passengers. Robyn races ahead into the AI core on the bridge and the group barricade themselves inside the bridge as Avatroids converge on their position. Robyn initiates the system restore and the Avatroids stop dead. The system reboots, and the ship's AI expresses its confusion as to what has transpired. The crisis is over.

Afterwards, they check the mind-wipe system, but it seems that the crew were under orders by their employer to completely erase Aru's memories and retain no backups, leaving Aru with no identity and no place to go. Except perhaps with the TARDIS crew. As they prepare to leave in the TARDIS, having convinced the crew to turn themselves into the authorities, they are approached by one of the passengers, Thomas Webb. Webb identifies himself as an undercover agent for the Temporal Security Agency investigating reports of the Warui Ōkami's temporal slave trade operation. It's unfortunate that he wasn't able to identify the ship's mysterious employer, but he's grateful for their efforts in resolving the crisis. He then recognises the TARDIS and is shocked, asking if the Doctor is with them. They say no, and he checks his wrist as if for a watch - but it's bare - then asks them to wait right there and runs off. Maggie sees a vision of a woman in a suit and hat looking rather angry at someone - most likely one of them - from across a desk in a police-style interrogation room. Worried by this, they decide to step into the TARDIS and leave. Andrew tries to join them but is left behind as the TARDIS dematerialises...

NEXT TIME...
A janitor glances over at a mirror in a public toilet, to see a little girl banging her fists against it from the other side, with nobody there to cast that reflection. 
A UNIT mobile command centre is parked outside an old-fashioned private school; a sign declares it to be Farrington Boarding School.
The Exiles, headed by Robyn, are escorted by UNIT troops to a man in a UNIT officer's uniform: "So! You're the geek they sent down to lead the investigation, eh? Well, come on in..."
We cut to the janitor from before, stares in horror as cracks spontaneously form on his reflection - but not the mirror itself - before his very eyes. "...see if you can crack this one..."
Cut to the girl in the mirror, she looks back over her shoulder, looks back through the mirror and screams: "Doctooooooooooooooor!"

Next Episode: 'The Shattered Reflections'

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