Wednesday, June 4, 2014

[Actual Play] Tears of a Machine: Tales of the Arx Jericho - Episode 03: Celebrations and Romance

Previously on Tales of the Arx Jericho...
In our last episode, our young heroes were able to thwart the Mayzor invasion in Brooklyn, NY and Rafe Hunter, Rick's estranged father, was captured by the military.
The next day, aboard the Arx Jericho, Rick visits his sister, Serena, at the hospital, who's in critical condition from the raid in Chicago. Romantic tensions stir between Serena and Billy; while other romantic tensions (between Alex and Ryoko) have crumbled.
Jason overhears Captain Kasherov talking to some CRC scientists and learns that the CRC has Rick's father, but that AK-47 has the military breathing down her neck so that he can be in their custody. Jason also hears something about the Apostle Project.

Sorrow lingers in the air as the SAInt pilots of Charlie Company have mandatory psychological evaluations later that day. Jason and Sarah meet with Dr. Elizabeth Harris, where Sarah pries some information out of Dr. Harris regarding the Chicago raid.

Rick, however, meets with Dr. Donald Johnson, who interrogates Rick about his father and demands that Rick reveals anything his father has told him. Despite Rick's best efforts at convincing Dr. Johnson that he really doesn't know anything, Dr. Johnson still doesn't believe him; and Rick spirals into depression - not before seeing a CRC research folder with his father's name on it, of course.

Captain Kasherov leads in debriefing Charlie Company; and our young heroes, together and alone for the first time since the Mayzor raid, share information and discuss future plans. Alex mentions some information he knows regarding the Apostle Project and the rumored Prophet...
GM: Misha Polonsky

The Characters
Rick Hunter (Robert Ruthven): Son of Rafe Hunter, a medical researcher, Rick thought things couldn't get worse after his dad went on the run after his illegal experiments on humans came to light. Then the Mayzor raided the town he lived in, on the outskirts of Metro Scotia, and Rick was powerless to stop the swarm from taking his mother.
Now it's just him and his sister, and when Rick swore vengeance upon the Mayzor and decided to join the SAInt program to fight them, Serena signed up along with him to keep an eye on her brother.

Jason Reyes (David Andrews): Jason is a 13 year old kid whose stepfather is career military. First in the Royal Australian Air Force, then in the Preservation Force. Not being the most physical or athletic kids, Jason never really got on with his step father despite wanting to. He see's becoming a SAiNT pilot to be his best chance of making his stepfather proud of him.

Sarah Werner (Wolfie Fang): Sarah had as normal as a normal life could be before in the States. Her worries were on how she could get a sleepover with her friends and how to keep her older brother from bothering her. After the invasion, she had to grow up fast. Her family escaped with their lives, and they've moved to a new urban city on the east coast, New Alamo. She hoped that she could go back to normal, but life was always spent in fear with each evacuation, and it was hard to have a sleepover when you never slept.
It wasn't mandatory. She only got tested for the SAInt programs because everyone else was, and her brother kept bothering her about it, and honestly didn't realize what she had gotten into. Now she's worried she's lost what little freedom she's had left, but she's got a plan to go turn it around back to fun. She'll make new friends, work together, and she won't let her new chores stop them from having fun.

FRIDAY, MAY 9, 2031
Two months have passed, and the episode begins in a classroom lecture hall. Rick, Sarah, Jason, and all the other SAInt pilots and classmates are listening to Dr. Harris, as she finishes up a biology lecture. It's two days from Mother's Day, and the start of family weekend, and the SAInt pilots from all three companies were told they weren't allowed to leave the Arx Jericho to go see their families, unlike most of their other classmates. This bummed most of the pilots out. Jason feels especially bummed, because it's his birthday and no one's said anything to him yet. On top of that, Dr. Harris suddenly announces a pop quiz on last week's material before class is dismissed for family weekend! Little does Jason know what Rick and Sarah have planned for him in just a few hours. After they turn in their papers, Rick and Jason later find out they don't do so well on their quiz, while Sarah barely gets a passing grade by cheating off Serena.

Dr. Harris is the first person to wish Jason a happy birthday. He turns 14 today! Back at the foster home, Alex is nowhere in sight, and Jason sees a present for him addressed from his stepfather, Air Commodore (OF6) Martin Reyes (43) of the Preservation Forces, Western Pacific Division (aboard Arx Galilee over Sydney, Australia). There's a note wishing Jason a happy birthday, and Jason opens the present up to find a state-of-the-art, newly invented hoverboard, the likes of which Jason had only seen in movies like Back to the Future. Jason's surprised to receive such an expensive gift from his stepfather, since that's never happened before.

Meanwhile, Rick and Sarah have occupied the two classrooms containing the Gaming Guild's computers and the Kendo Club's wooden floor and removed the wall separating the two to form a big space for Jason's surprise birthday party. Sarah texts Jason to get him to come over, while she and Rick finish preparing the balloons, video game stations, DDR machines, dance floor lights, music, snacks, soda, cake, ice cream, a surprise piñata, and, of course, presents.

The other guests in attendance are all SAInt pilots from Charlie and Bravo Company. There's Billy and Alex (Strudel), from C Company, of course, as well as Serena, team leader of B Company, and Laurie and Leo (Raspberry), both from B company as well. Joanne and Stephanie, both in the Kendo Club with Rick, officially became SAInt pilots for Bravo Company less than a month after the Chicago Catastrophe and have been in heavy training the past month. All the SAInt pilots are anticipating a mandatory, group simulation test in two days, on Mother's Day.

Back at his foster home, Jason is tinkering with his new toy, when he gets a text from Sarah. She says that her controller is broken and needs him to come fix it for her. Jason grumbles and takes his time getting ready. He decides to head over in style and give his new hoverboard a test run. Jason's always been an avid skateboarder and does well on his first time aboard a hoverboard. He almost gets side swept by a moving vehicle buts gets away without a scratch, except to the corner of his new board.

When he reaches the computer lab, the lights are all off and Jason knocks on the door then slowly walks in. It's silent. He can barely make out faces and bodies shuffling in the dark, before the lights go on and everyone yells, "Surprise!" An eventful birthday party ensues.

First, there's a video game competition. Sarah's up against Raspberry in Shinobi Knights 4. Serena's watching, looking a tad grim, but smiles and cheers Sarah on, as Sarah wins. Rick plays Jason. The birthday boy wins, impressing Alex, but Rick still manages to impress his sister by almost winning. Unfortunately, he's been depressed for a good, solid month, and the loss doesn't do his ego any good.

As the party goes on, there are subtle and not-so-subtle signs of romance blossoming in the air. Strudel and Stephanie, for example, seem to be hitting it off really well. They're constantly laughing together, playing DDR against each other, even holding hands. Joanne approaches Rick and challenges him to a game of DDR. Rick attempts to her discern her emotions, but he needs Sarah's help to learn that Joanne seems to have a major crush on him, based on her body language. Rick decides to play Joanne and does his best but loses. She laughs and sneers at him, but gives him a wink and a smile all at the same time. Rick's ego is still shot.

It isn't until the piñata that Rick finally slinks out of his depression. The kicker is that the piñata is in the shape of a Magnas, a replica of Belial to be exact. The SAInt pilots take turns wearing the blindfold and swinging the wooden stick, each time knocking more holes into the piñata Belial's masks, knocking loads of candy onto the ground. Strudel's eyes are already greedily scanning the ground, and his arms are snatching up any pieces that drop down in his vicinity. Stephanie's helping him. Rick, Sarah, Jason, and everyone else continues to swing, but when it comes back around to Rick again, he delivers the final blow, exploding the piñata Magnas's self-detonating core and releasing all the candy onto the ground. Strudel is in a frenzy. Everyone cheers Rick on, and his ego is up a little. He's no longer depressed.

Finally, it's time to open up the presents! Jason opens Rick's first. It's a copy of the new video game, Shinobi Knights 5: The Reckoning. Sarah's present is a sweet, fully functional airsoft gun. Alex and Billy went in on their present together. It's a brand new helmet and set of protective padding and gloves for Jason's new hoverboard, which all the other SAInt pilots completely drool over. It seems Alex knew Jason was getting a hoverboard all along. Serena gets him new clothes, others get him some boring gifts, and Laurie waits until everyone scatters to present her gift last.

She hands Jason an envelope with a very personalized card inside and a kiss on the cheek. She then asks him if he wants a drink. Laurie pulls out a small handle of vodka she snuck into the classroom with the rest of the sodas and juices. Jason responds, "Sure, why not?" and they start drinking as pilots are stepping onto the dance floor in the Kendo Club area; the music is getting slower, and boys and girls start to slow dance. Laurie invites Jason to dance and begins passing drinks with alcohol around to all the other pilots.

Jason and Laurie dance. Strudel pairs up with Stephanie. Raspberry even gets a dance in with Sarah, and Joanne looks like she wants a dance with Rick, but Rick goes over to Serena, who's by herself. Billy is by himself, at the opposite end of the classroom, as well.

Rick asks his sister what's wrong, and Serena instinctively says she doesn't want to talk about it. Rick convinces her to tell him what's on her mind, and she says Billy has been a real jerk. She says Billy's sweet, but then he starts pressuring her into speaking with Dr. Johnson and saying mean things about their father and Rick. Serena glares across the room at Billy.

Rick glares angrily at Billy but decides to temper himself. Roughly an hour later, after most of the pilots have had more than a few drinks, Rick suddenly sees Billy and Serena standing next to each other, getting into an argument. Billy, drink in hand, shoves Serena. Rick rushes over to help and asks if everything's OK. Billy tells him to go away and shoves Rick backward. Rick lunges forward and twists Billy's arm, as Billy's drink spills all over the ground. Serena slaps Billy across the face and walks away, and Rick lets go of Billy, who walks out of the classroom, his pride wounded.

As Rick goes to console Serena, the pilots hear Billy's voice talking to Dr. Harris outside the classroom and claiming they've all been drinking. Billy marches off in a drunk stupor, and Dr. Harris approaches the classroom. Rick, Sarah, and Jason lead the other pilots, as they scramble to hide all the liquor and escape out of an open window. Everyone but Rick, Sarah, Jason, Serena, and Strudel escape when Dr. Harris enters the classroom. She looks around at the mess, smiling, and pokes her head around, then asks the pilots how their party has been. The pilots responds, "Fine," and Dr. Harris tells them Billy said you were all drinking. Sarah sweeps one last bottle under a table, behind her, and responds that they were drinking soda and juice. "Oh, of course!" Dr. Harris smiles, believing her, or simply turning a blind eye, and leaves.

Serena, Rick, Sarah, Jason, and Strudel sigh in relief, then leave.

Two days later, Jason calls his mother up, who lives just outside Sydney, Australia, and wishes her a happy Mother's Day. She, in turn, wishes him a belated happy birthday. Her birthday card arrived just yesterday, a day late. As the two chat, Sarah calls her parents up in New Alamo. They haven't spoken in a month, and Sarah's mother, Julia (44), tells Sarah that her brother, Allen (17), already called to wish her a happy Mother's Day. Julia and David (49), Sarah's father, ask how she's doing, and Sarah fills them in on the bare basics of her life as a SAInt pilot. Sarah's parents spend more time talking about Allen and his current success in the military. Rick and Serena, unfortunately, don't have a mother to call. Meredith Hunter nee Buchanan, an English Lit teacher, was taken by a Mayzor swarm about a year ago, just outside the Metro Scotia defensive barrier. Rick and Serena decided to join the SAInt program soon after and were transferred to the Arx Jericho after becoming SAInt pilots.

Later that day, Bravo and Charlie Company meet together at the testing facility for a team-oriented, group, SAInt simulation test against a replica of the Dominion class Magnas, Vepar, the same kind that took out the majority of Alpha and Bravo Company in the Chicago Catastrophe. However, there's a catch. Billy and Serena switch teams. Serena is now the leader of Charlie Company, and Billy is the new leader of Bravo Company. C Company immediately takes charge and works together to convince Billy to play nice, despite all the drama that's happened. Not only do they get Billy to cooperate, but Billy publicly apologizes to Rick and Serena as well. Jason and his SAInt stay at HB range, firing off sniper shots at the Magnas, while his teammates fire blindly at it as a distraction. Jason's SAInt crouches down behind a building to reload its gun; Strudel helps him take cover. Vepar fires off lasers, but Sarah helps out as well, deflecting them with her Arc Shield. Rick instructs Billy, and the rest of Bravo Company, to move up to FA range and start firing at the Magnas.

Jason gets up and takes another, well-aimed shot, hitting Vepar, as Bravo Company lays into the monster with immense firepower. Strudel stays with Jason, while Serena, Rick, and Sarah move up to get into FA range, so that they can fire at the Magnas as well. With all of Bravo Company, and most of Charlie Company, continously firing at Vepar, Jason reloads and fires one last shot, which penetrates its defensive core and causes it to explode on the spot. Both companies evade any collateral damage, and the simulation test ends.

AK-47 has been impressed with Charlie Company the entire time. She congratulates them on taking initiative and sticking to the real objectives, which revolved around teamwork. AK-47 decides to keep Billy as team leader of Bravo Company and Serena as team leader of Charlie Company. AK-47 also rewards Charlie Company by officially promoting them as the new Alpha Company.

The following month will consist of more boring lectures, tests and SAInt simulations, drama and growing relationships, and the rise of a new Charlie Company as several more teenagers are accepted as SAInt pilots. Nothing new has surfaced with Rafe's situation. Jason will be leaving the foster home and moving into the dorms the next month.

TO BE CONTINUED

Next Episode: An interface test meant to separate the SAInt pilots causes them to have vivid dreams that come together. Past, present, and future events reveal themselves! Stay tuned!

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