Saturday, July 5, 2014

[Actual Play] Tears of a Machine: Tales of the Arx Jericho - Episode 09: Bad News and Beach Drama

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.

Previously on Tales of the Arx Jericho...
It's the end of the summer term, and the SAInt pilots from Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie Company all get to go on a week-long vacation to the Bahamas! Serena has to stay behind for special training with Dr. Johnson, but Sarah convinces her to shirk her duties and come along. AK-47 doesn't really mind.

Prior to the trip, Rick, Sarah, and Jason decide to break into Dr. Johnson's office when he's not there so that they can find out what sort of nefarious deeds he's involved in with relation to the Mayzor. Their suspicions are confirmed when Rick and Sarah discover confidential, CRC files on Opsie, Serena, Sarah, and Rick. All four are candidates for the top-secret Apostle Project which involves a new, 'P-Class' SAInt that's supposedly stripped of its Id and has an even stronger, telepathic bond with its pilot. The files also reveal the name of the drug that Opsie, Serena, and Rick have all been injected with sometime in the past. It's called Americium Bromine Oxide 51A (AmBrO51A) and allegedly helps expedite the zen-like state they need to reach in order to pilot the P-Class SAInts at optimal efficiency. Sarah is the only candidate who has yet to be injected with the AmBrO51A serum.

Meanwhile, Jason hacks Dr. Johnson's computer and finds several, encrypted folders containing text documents with scrambled code, which he copies over to his Linc. He puts his computer skills to good use and successfully converts the code into their proper form, revealing kanji-like symbols and a master list of an alphabet none of the pilots have ever seen before. Unfortunately, there's not enough time to translate them on the spot, but Jason will work on deciphering the files during vacation.

The next day is spent traveling to the Bahamas, and the pilots all settle into their beach houses. AK-47 and Dr. Harris are the only adults and Preservation Forces officers that accompany the teenagers as their chaperones.

Two new recruits, named Bala and Lieke, join Charlie Company and are pilots of a modified SAInt called the Mendicant. It's a tandem variant created for pilots with excellent, telepathic abilities but can't pass the physical or academic tests for Preservation Forces service by themselves. The two pilots cooperate and compensate for each others' deficiencies, as they pilot the Mendicant together. In Bala and Lieke's case, they're twin brother and sister who are so connected with each other, they even finish each other's sentences from time to time. Jason finds that extremely unnerving.

Later on in the day, he and Opsie go head to head in a surfing competition after the 'Prima Donna from Galilee' boasts about being a champion surfer from Sydney, which Jason clearly can't recall. He stays ahead of her the entire time and pulls off some stunning maneuvers which sends Opsie crashing into a huge wave and wiping out. Strudel cheers Jason on, as he heads over to the volleyball court, where a bunch of pilots are gathering for a game of boys versus girls.

Rick, Strudel, Billy, Raspberry, Kazuhiro, and Miguel square off against Sarah, Serena, Joanne, Stephanie, and Laurie. It's an exciting game that forces many of the pilots to eat sand, and Sarah leads the girls team to a successfully victory over the boys. The PF officers watch from the sidelines, and AK-47 finally takes notice of Serena, who shouldn't even be on the trip, but AK-47 isn't mad at her one bit. She's actually relieved Serena didn't stay behind with Dr. Johnson.

There's a competition that evening to see who can build the best bonfire, and everyone ends up gathering around Alpha Company's site. The pilots eat dinner, roast marshmallows, and share spooky, ghost stories. Rick's story causes Joanne to fall off her log, while Jason cleverly utilizes sound effects to scare the pants off Strudel.

Right as they're going to bed, Jason's Linc beeps, alerting him that the first file from Dr. Johnson's computer has been deciphered. It contains instructions for Dr. Johnson to upload a virus to the Operations' computers using a miniature-sized Wormwood which acts as a sort of flash drive. The virus is responsible for disrupting the MetaTron and causing the static interference that the pilots experienced in New Alamo the previous.

The episode cuts with Jason grumbling, "Awww, fu-"

Saturday, August 16th 2031
Bad News Part I

Jason wastes no time, and sends Rick, Sarah, Serena, and Strudel a group message on their Lincs to meet up by the campfire pit. Rick arrives first, and Jason gives him all the details on the first file he's deciphered. Rick's starting to freak out too. Meanwhile, Jason's Linc is almost done deciphering the second file, but something goes awry, and there's some sort of technological failure. Jason scrambles to fix it and manages to save the file from becoming corrupted. It reveals detailed blueprints of the city of New Alamo and a full breakdown of the Mayzor assault - where the Wormwoods would land, the number of Locusts and their targets, the Magnas, and specific instructions for Dr. Johnson to purposely redirect Bravo Company's Jehu's Bow trajectory to keep them far away from New Alamo. The plan was to isolate Alpha Company so that the two Magnas could gang up on them and destroy them. Obviously things didn't go as planned, and the Mayzor underestimated the SAInt pilots they were dealing with.

Sarah meets up with Rick and Jason, and Jason tells her about the instructions Dr. 'Scary Face' received in the deciphered messages, and Sarah's just as stunned and uneasy as they are. While none of the instructions are actually proven to have come from the Mayzor, Jason works a bit more computer magic and figures out that Dr. Johnson received them two months prior to the New Alamo invasion. This news really worries the pilots, and they unanimously decide to bring the information to AK-47 right away.

Since Rick is on better terms with AK-47, Jason and Sarah decide he should be the one to break the news to her, however Sarah's the only one who's allowed inside the girl's beach house to wake her up and tell her. Sarah hesitantly walks inside to do so, and AK-47 grumbles with groggy, partly-closed eyes asking what Sarah wants that can't wait until the morning. Sarah says she needs to come outside; they have some grave and serious news to tell her. AK-47 dismisses her and plops back into her pillow, but Sarah reiterates the importance of their news, that this isn't a prank, and convinces AK-47 to follow her by actually saying her full name, Captain Anastasia Kasherov. "This better be good," the Captain grumbles. On her way out, Sarah locks eyes with Serena, who's awake, and points her Linc before motioning to the door. Serena follows shortly after.

Outside the girls' residence, Rick salutes AK-47 and explains what they've discovered, while Jason sends her the files he deciphered (and the ones he's still deciphering) to her Linc. AK-47's mouth drops, and her face goes pale. "Where did you get these? What else do you know?" she asks. Rick explains that they broke into Dr. Johnson's office and copied the files off his computer after decrypting them. Rick also tells AK about the classified, CRC folders they saw with the information on the Apostle Project, the P-Class SAInt, the candidates chosen, and the AmBrO51A serum. AK-47 walks them over to the campfire pit, where they'll have more privacy, and confirms a lot of what Rick said. Yes, there's a top secret Apostle Project being spearheaded by the CRC. Yes, Opsie, Serena, Rick, and Sarah are candidates, and yes, Opsie, Rick, and Serena were said to have been administered the AmBrO51A drug, but AK-47 merely had suspicions about Dr. Johnson; now, they're proving to be accurate. AK-47 gets into a few specifics regarding Opsie's and Serena's training with the P-Class, or Prophet, SAInt, in an underground, CRC facility within the Arx Jericho. AK-47 doesn't have the necessary clearance to check up on them during training, but she has an inside source, a CRC scientist, who feeds her information. She suspects Rick will be next to start his training and urges him to heed Dr. Johnson's instructions when asked so as not to alert suspicion. Rick isn't thrilled with the idea one bit but reluctantly agrees. Just as AK-47 gets ready to retire again for the night, Jason suddenly asks about the pilots who perished in the Chicago Catastrophe and whether they were candidates or not. AK-47 says Serena was the only Prophet candidate from the former Alpha Company before she leaves, and Jason's comment leaves Serena with a sad or angry look on her face. Sarah attempts to read her emotions and figures out that Serena is neither outright sad nor angry, but she's feeling extremely guilty for not being able to save all her teammates on that dreadful day.

That night, Rick, Sarah, and Jason all have nightmares. Jason dreams about his mother's recent abduction by the Mayzor, the attack on the Arx Galilee, and the fact that his step father couldn't do a thing to prevent either. Sarah dreams about her brother and parents being attacked in New Alamo, and Rick has the worst nightmare of all. He's somewhere in Germany, in an auditorium filled with masked scientists, and he's strapped to a cot next to Opsie, screaming as his father, Rafe, plunges the syringe of AmBrO51A into his neck. "Why are you doing this?!" he screams, and his father softly replies, "Shhh, shhh. You're special, Rick. You're going to help save the world, my son. Remember that." It's around six in the morning when Rick wakes up, and he doesn't go back to sleep.

Bad News Part II
Jason wakes up around nine in the morning and checks his Linc first thing. The rest of the files have been deciphered, and Jason's face sinks, as he discovers even more, terrible news. The third file reveals blueprint images of two new, aquatic-class Locusts - a squid-like Constrictor and a whale-like Cannon - and a list of islands and coastal cities the Mayzor are targeting next. The Bahamas and Bimini Island are included. Jason gets ready to alert his teammates, but he has trouble opening up the fourth and last file. Something is preventing it from displaying properly on his Linc; it's like the file is purposely trying to block Jason from opening it. Being the tech wiz that he is, Jason overrides the security and successfully opens the deciphered file. It contains one last set of instructions for Dr. Johnson to closely monitor Rick, Serena, and Opsie and a plan to take control of the Prophets as soon as the Preservation Forces launch Operation Blue Moon.

Jason frantically sends another group message, alerting his teammates, and Sarah and Serena get up to tell AK-47, but she's not inside the beach house. Sarah spots her swimming in the ocean through the window and rushes out with Serena to deliver the grave news. They've never seen AK so flustered and disturbed, and the Captain rallies Alpha Company to meet her in private, by the volleyball court, before breakfast. She also tells Sarah and Serena to bring Opsie.

Sarah fetches Rick and Jason, while Serena heads to the girls' bunk to grab Opsie, and they all meet up with AK-47 who's still overwhelmed by all the news and in shock after the pilots mention Operation Blue Moon. She tells them about a secret, underground base on Bimini Island, where the Preservation Forces have been working on several, new, aquatic prototype SAInts in case they were ever forced to battle the Mayzor in the water. She tells the pilots to meet her in the afternoon so that she can take them there.

Rick, Sarah, Jason, Serena, Strudel, and Opsie return to the campfire to help the other pilots prepare breakfast.

Morning Activities and Drama
Joanne calls Rick over and challenges him to a Kendo match after they eat. Rick can't quite tell if she's trying to act mean/tough or awkwardly tease him again, and after spending Ego, he realizes she's not just teasing him; Joanne wants to publicly humiliate Rick by beating him in competition in front of everyone. He accepts her challenge nonetheless.

Jason notices Laurie glaring at him with an angry expression, and he wonders what on earth he did. She walks away from the campfire, and he catches up with her to have a word. She turns and says, "Go away, Jason, I know what you did!" "What did I do?" Jason asks, and Laurie replies, "Opsie told me everything!" "What did Opsie say now?" he asks, and Laurie says, "Don't play dumb! I know you tried to kiss her after your little surfing competition yesterday. She told me everything." Jason grumbles and catches Opsie grinning at them from afar. Strudel is nearby, collecting sea shells, and overhears everything. Jason struggles to convince Laurie that Opsie's lying, and Strudel's sincere face is what finally turns it around for Laurie. She agrees that Opsie says a lot of things that aren't always true and believes Jason is telling the truth in the end. She gives him a peck on the cheek, takes his hand, and invites him to go on a long walk across the beach. That's an offer Jason can't possibly refuse.

Raspberry tells Sarah there's a cool arcade by the boardwalk and invites her to come play video games after breakfast. She wholeheartedly accepts and beats him in every round of Shinobi Knights 4 while drawing a crowd of local kids.

Joanne warms up with Stephanie prior to the Kendo match, and as soon as Rick joins her, all the other, remaining pilots form a crowd around them by the volleyball court. Joanne gives Rick a chance to warm up, but they soon jump right into the competition. Rick's first strike misses, and Joanne starts taunting him out loud, while Billy yells, "Yeah, Joanne! You show that twerp!" Rick responds with some rapid footwork and disorients Joanne completely before landing a successful strike. Serena cheers her brother on, but Rick's Ego doesn't go up, as he can't her amidst all the other pilots cheering. Joanne gets ready to retaliate, and Stephanie asks Rick if he needs any help, but that only distracts him and forces him to fumble his next attack. Joanne sneers and hits him in the side, but Rick recovers and cleverly decides to pay her a well-timed compliment by saying how cute she is when she gets mad. Joanne turns red, and Rick steps in front of her while bringing his boken up to her throat and forcing her to land backwards into the sand. Humiliated and defeated, Joanne gets up and salutes Rick, congratulating him. As the crowd disperses, she says she wants a rematch tomorrow and leaves. It's almost time for Alpha Company to meet up with AK-47, but Stephanie asks Rick if he wants to spar a bit more. Rick agrees and exchanges several, quick blows, but it's far too easy, and Stephanie is clearly no match him unlike Joanne.

Jason and Laurie return a little past twelve, and Strudel meets them going on and on about Rick's incredible fight. Jason's eyes widen, but he's relieved to find out it was just a Kendo match, not a real life with, say, Billy. Strudel wants to ask Jason something but not in front of Laurie, though it might have to wait until after they meet with AK-47. Laurie turns to Jason and asks, "Oh, where are you guys going?" and Jason responds AK-47 wants to meet with them. Laurie takes that to mean all the companies, and Jason says he only means Alpha Company. "Oh, well OK then," Laurie says before giving Jason a kiss and walking off.

The Base Beneath Bimini Island and Billy's Folly
AK-47 meets Alpha Company and Opsie with the new recruits, Bala and Lieke. They take a banana boat to Bimini Island, where AK-47 leads them to a secret, camouflaged, underground hangar in the opposite direction of the natural, hot springs. There, AK-47 shows off the aquatic, prototype SAInts which have propulsion systems on the soles of their feet and their backs as well as rubber webbing between their toes and fingers. Otherwise, they resemble the normal, land-based SAInts, only with green markings instead of red. AK-47 wants Alpha Company to choose what weapons they want their aquatic SAInts to wield, while Bala and Lieke have come along to spend some time training in their Mendicant.

Alpha Company returns to the main island by late afternoon, while Opsie stays behind to oversee Bala and Lieke's training.

Strudel asks Jason for relationship advice, as he believes Stephanie is mad at him. Jason tells Strudel to ask her what he did wrong and then apologize. After all, it's what Jason's step father always did with his mother. Strudel thanks Jason for the advice and says he'll follow through with it.

A few hours before dinner, Rick sees Billy arguing with Serena and decides to eavesdrop on them while remaining inconspicuous. They whisper far too quietly for Rick to hear anything, but he sees Billy storm off in ab pouty fit of rage. Along the way, Rick, Jason, and Sarah see Billy kick over Miguel's sand castle while yelling, "Get out of the way, dweeb!" They can't believe Billy just did that, and after Miguel (the youngest of the pilots) starts bawling in tears, Jason suggests delivering some poetic justice. Rick agrees and rallies all the other pilots to stand together with him and Jason to prevent Billy from having dinner as punishment for his bullying.

Billy storms off and sulks by himself the rest of the night, as all the other pilots have dinner, roast marshmallows, and end the evening on a fairly good note.

Next Time...
It's Day 3 of summer vacation/beach week in the Bahamas, and Rick, Sarah, and Jason are still apprehensive about all the ominous news concerning Dr. Johnson and the evolved, aquatic-class Locusts. At least AK-47 and Dr. Harris are taking the pilots to visit the hot springs at Bimini Island, so that should be fun and relaxing! With the girls and boys separated, you can be sure to see some sneakiness going on and plenty more, teenage drama. But what about the Mayzor? Will they launch their first ever naval assault? If so, will the Bahamas be hit first, and can Rick, Sarah, and Jason even stop them using the Preservation Forces' specialized, submarine SAInts?

Stay tuned to find out!


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