Tuesday, July 1, 2014

[Actual Play] Tears of a Machine: Tales of the Arx Jericho - Episode 08: To The Beach!

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.

Rick Hunter (Me) - 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.

Sarah Werner (Alex aka Wolfie) – 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.

Previously on Tales of the Arx Jericho
A month has passed since the Battle of New Alamo, where Alpha Company found themselves facing two Magnas at once, Beezlebub and Thammuz. Cut off from HQ by a mysterious static over the MetaTron communications network, and with no sign of backup from Bravo Company, Alpha took on the two Magnas themselves, with Sarah taking down Thammuz single-handedly, while the rest teamed up against Beezlebub. Together they were able to repel the invasion, and even stopped one of the Wormwoods from blasting off back to their home base, Tartarus. They were also able to protect Sarah's parents from being carried of by the swarm, and stopped her brother - Robbie pilot, Allen Werner - from being smashed to pieces in the battle. After the battle, the Preservation Forces still have no idea what caused the strange static, or why Bravo Company were mistakenly diverted to California. However, the pilots notice that Dr Johnson seem inappropriately smug about something. Hmm...suspicious.

Snooping on Dr Johnson

Thursday, August 14th 2031
With summer term having just ended and finals out of the way, the pilots and their classmates are about to head to the Bahamas for a well-earned vacation. Unfortunately, during lunch at the cafeteria, Serena reveals that she has been told not to go, as she needs to stay on the Arx for some one-on-one training with Dr Johnson as part of her new training routine. While Rick is unhappy with this, he knows there’s little point in trying to convince his sister to go against orders. Sarah gives it a shot though, telling Serena she needs to have some fun and that summer vacation is no time to be doing training. Serena is persuaded by her argument and decides to go along and face whatever consequences may result, and Sarah’s spirits are lifted by Serena’s change of heart.

Suspicious of Dr Johnson after the Battle of New Alamo, Rick, Jason and Sarah head to his office to try and break in and see if they can dig up some dirt on him. Jason is able to bypass the thumb scan lock by using his Linc to take a picture of the greasy thumbprint on the scanner and using the captured image to trick the scanner. As he opens the door, Sarah hears someone walking down the hall and checks around the corner to see Dr Harris heading their way, probably on her way to her own office. Dr Harris hasn’t spotted them yet, so Sarah shoves everyone inside and shuts the door behind her as they enter.

The pilots search his desk and find several red folders containing progress reports on Serena and Opsie. The reports seem like classified documents that the CRC would keep to themselves, so it’s a little odd that he would have them. The reports are psychological evaluations and progress reports on how the two pilots are doing in their ‘P-Class’ training for the ‘Apostle Project’. The Apostle Project is  something the pilots have heard mention about before, but these documents give them a little more information about it. It seems that they are trying to find and train better pilots for a new class of SAInt. These new SAInts are stripped of their Id, allowing for a deeper connection with their pilot. Rick is concerned for Serena because this means that if anything goes wrong she can be directly affected.

Even more troubling is the revelation that in order to expediate the zen-like state required to pilot the P-Class, some candidates are dosed with a drug called Americium Bromine Oxide 51A (or AmBrO51A). The drug doesn’t work immediately, it needs to be in the candidates system for months or even years, and both Serena and Opsie have been treated with it. This may explain Rick’s shared dream with Serena of her being injected with something by their father. In fact, he finds documents that state they were both treated with the drug in the few months before his father left home, which makes him a potential P-Class candidate. Sarah also seems to be listed as a candidate, but has not received any injections yet.

Jason hacks into Dr Johnson’s computer, with Sarah leaning over his shoulder and offering encouragement while Rick goes to keep watch by the doorway. He find several encrypted folders, containing text documents in some form of jumbled up code. He’s able to convert them into their proper form, revealing kanji-like symbols which are unlike any language he is aware of. He finds a master list of the symbols, which can help him translate them, but there’s not enough time to do that right now, so he copies the files to his Linc to try and decipher them later. The pilots then decide to scram before they get caught committing a federal felony.

Summer Vacation

Friday, August 15th 2031
The pilots and their classmates, chaperoned by Captain Kasharov (AK 47) and Dr Harris, fly out to the Bahamas, with Serena having snuck onboard with her fellow pilots.  There’s a brief moment when AK 47 nearly spots Serena but Rick manages to warn her so she can duck into the bathroom and hide.
Along for the trip are a pair of twins, Bala and Likay, who are a pair of new pilots. Together they pilot the Mendicant-variant SAInt which is built for two pilots, allowing two pilots who are telepathically gifted but can’t pass the physical or academic classes for pilot candidates to cover for each others’ deficiencies. Jason and Rick are a bit creeped out by them, but Sarah makes an effort to befriend Likay, at least.

Everybody does their own thing; tanning on the beach, swimming, reading, and whatever else they feel like. Later there’s a volleyball game between the girls and boys, which Jason opts out of in favour of doing a bit of surfing on his hoverboard. He finds himself racing against Opsie, who has also decided to do some surfing instead of join the volleyball. She boasts that she was a champion surfer back in Sydney, and bets that she can surf better than he can. He mutters that he will not lose to the ‘Prima Donna from Gallalee’. He manages to stay ahead of her and does some cool manuevers, runs her into a huge wave that causes her to wipe out. She’s impressed, but disbelieving that he beat her. Alex, on his way to the volleyball game, sees this and cheers him on. Unfortunately, Alex is too easy to impress, and Jason is annoyed that Opsie made it into a competition, so he’s not as pleased with his victory as he could be.

Meanwhile, at the volleyball game, Sarah formulates a game plan with her teammates – Serena, Joanne, Stephanie, Lorrie and Likay, among others – doing a group huddle and drawing a diagram in the sand, which intimidates the boys slightly since the girls seem to have a solid plan going in. Rick and Strudel do a coordinated maneuver, allowing Rick to spike the ball over Sarah’s head. Joanne tries to catch it but ends up eating sand and cursing his name. Raspberry loses them the next round because he’s paying more attention to Sarah in her bathing suit than to the game, and so he fumbles the ball and drops it. Rick – exercising his fledgling leadership skills as Alpha Company’s new team leader – rallies the boys’ team, and specifically Raspberry, telling them they can let the girls beat them that easily. This encouragement gets Raspberry to pick up his game, even as Joanne is trash talking him, and he scores another point with Stephanie landing in the sand this time. Jason shows up to watch with a nice cold drink, just as Sarah wins the game by blocking an attempted spike by Billy, smacking it back in his face and knocking him out cold. Serena, AK and Dr Harris all go to check on Billy, and the volleyball game breaks up.

It’s at this point that AK 47 notices that Serena is there, and she looks blankly at the girl who is supposed to be back at the Arx training with Dr Johnson. Sarah is able to read AK’s face a bit better, and even though she seems surprised that Serena has disobeyed orders to come on the trip, she actually seems pleased that she is here.

Later in the evening, the three companies compete to make the best campfire, but Alpha Company find all the best logs and big thick branches for their fire, and theirs ends up being the biggest one. The teens all congregate around Alpha’s campfire and tell scary stories.

Sarah tells a story about a creepy doll that was buried, but later turned up in a boy’s room. AK 47 tells the story of Baba Yaga. Rick and Serena tell the story of Lover’s Cove, where legend tells of two lovers – a fisherman and a woman from a rich family – who arranged to meet there. It ended badly for them, and their spirits now haunt the Cove, testing the love of any couples who visit there. They are aided by Alex, who goes ‘Boo’ at the right moment and causes Joanne to fall of her perch, which earns Rick a glare from her.

Jason finishes off with a story about when the Mayzor first started attacking, about people who figured out that the Mayzor don’t attack on water, got on boats and went out to sea. These people never returned to land, staying out at sea for about seven or eight years with low food and supplies. Every now and then they would come across islands, where people still live and start fires on the beach, thinking that they’re safe there. The city-folk aren’t great at catching fish, but they don’t need to when they have shotguns, and there’s a bunch of people sitting around a fire. He accompanies his story with sound effects from his Linc, which manages to freak Alex out. Which isn’t that hard, to be honest.

Later that night, as he’s climbing into his hammock, Jason’s Linc beeps, alerting him that it has finished decrypting one of the files from Johnson’s computer. The file contains instructions for Johnson telling him to attach an object - that looks similar to a Mayzor Wormwood, only on a smaller scale – to the operations main computer system. This would have uploaded a virus to the MetaTron, which would account for the weird static, loss of communication and redirection of Bravo Company during the Battle of New Alamo. Whoever he received these orders from, it seems clear that Johnson does not have the Preservation Forces’ best interests in mind.

The session closes on Jason as he grumbles, “Awww, fu—“


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