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Dan Schaeffer
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Tesladyne Midwest, Volume 1, Issue #2. (This happened several weeks ago, so I'm reconstructing from fading memory. Should be shorter than the Issue #1 recap. See for that.)

The team brought their Perigee Aviation/Mercury Retrograde prisoner back to a cell in a subbasement of the Sears (never "Willis") Tower. Leaving him locked up, they repaired to a conference room to meet their newest team member - Dejana, a strange woman with downy feathers instead of hair and oddly birdlike behavior. She didn't relate her entire life story, but Wilberforce, the team's Action HR Manager, vouched for her.

The group debated how to extract information from the prisoner. Dejana volunteered to play prisoner - her unearthly qualities made her a reasonable candidate for "captured alien creature" - and try to bond with the prisoner. She was marched into the holding cell and tried to ingratiate herself with her cellmate. He was silent, but she spoke about escape, and he grinned, pressed the Mercury tattoo on his wrist and disappeared.

With no prisoner, the team regrouped to try to follow up on the device they had recovered from Perigee. a little fiddling and brainstorming, and they were able to determine that it was not only signalling the birds at the airport, it was receiving a signal from somewhere, acting perhaps as a relay. They were able to triangulate and discovered that the signal had originated in one of the water filtration cribs situated in Lake Michigan through which Chicago gets its fresh water. Most of the cribs have been disused and decommissioned, but they remain on the lake, and one of them was the source.

A quick boat trip to the crib and they found, sure enough, a transmitter antenna with a thick cable leading down into the depths of the crib. They were able to trace the thick cabling down an access shaft - hearing water gurgling just behind the concrete walls - at the bottom of which was a deep hole.

Fearlessly, the crew lowered themselves down by rope into a vast underground (underlake?) cavern. It was vast and echoey, with the vague shapes of heavy equipment looming in the darkness. It wasn't long before they realized that there was a large tunnel - certainly wide enough to accommodate the abandoned machinery - leading eastward on a downward slope. The earth-moving machines themselves were not viable transportation, so they walked. And walked. And walked. (Except for Hanuman the World's Smartest Priate - he rode on top of SONIC the robot.)

Eventually, miles later, the tunnel opened out into an even huger, vaster, more echoey chamber, in which a little exploration revealed: (a) other tunnels leading off in several directions; (b) a worksite-type trailer office; and (c) a crew of men and apparently robots hard at work boring out another tunnel to the northeast.

What to do, what to do? SONIC morphed, or transformed, or whatever, to disguise itself - it looked vaguely like the other robots in the work area.- and went off to infiltrate. Hanuman and Mark the Action Archaeologist went to check out the trailer office.

The trailer had a sophisticated electronic lock which they couldn't get through, so Hanuman climbed up on the roof and found a vent he could squeeze through. A foreman sort of guy  came into the trailer for something, and Mark somehow managed to sneak in behind him and knock him out.

While Mark looked for information, Hanuman spotted a Mercury tatto on the foreman's forearm, so he decided to try some field medicine to see if he could extract the teleportation device for further analysis. Of course he was sure he could do it - World's Smartest Primate, he can't resist a challenge of that nature. Unfortunately, as he carefully dug into the foreman's arm, the device delivered a massive jolt of electricity, frying itself and the foreman along with it.

Meanwhile, SONIC was trying to buddy up to the other robots without much success. Memory fails a bit, but I think it was about now that he Big Zap happened in the trailer, and the robots determined that SONIC was not one of them. Large-caliber guns popped out of their carapaces, and they began to chase SONIC back toward the trailer. Things were looking grim as the robots closed in, followed closely by the other men. But then Hanuman found a literal Big Red Button. What could go wrong? He pressed it.

Immediately a klaxon and sirens went off. The men jumped into a golf cart style transport and headed up one of the tunnels, and all the robots retracted their external appendages - guns, arms, wheels - and with a hissing sound, rubber tubes began to inflate around their midsections. Uh oh.

The Tesladyne crew grabbed another golf cart and began to pursue the men who had gone up the tunnel. Behind them, they could hear a roaring sound as millions of gallons of water rushed down out of the other tunnels toward the hub. A giant metal bulkhead began to close over the entrance to the tunnel they were heading for, and they just barely made it. They made their way quickly but cautiously up the tunnel and found themselves at another giant metal bulkhead, with a normal human-sized metal door in it. Hot in pursuit of the diggers, they plunged through the door, only to see the handful of men press the tattoos on their forearms and disappear... leaving the Tesladyne team in a large room that was definitely a dead end.

Still not fully comfortable with how to use aspects, especially in the heat of combat/conflict/chases, etc. But once again, everybody had a good tie, and we are looking for a time to schedule Issue #3. Ideally, we will have the entire team - my WWII tie traveling spy couldn't make it, and Dejana the bird-woman had to leave early.

WARNING: Long post.

Well, Tesladyne Midwest kicked off Volume 1, Issue #1 yesterday afternoon. All team members except Tesla's granddaughter were in attendance. It went pretty smoothly, although I wound up not paying much attention to game mechanics and die rolls.

The team was summoned to a conference room by their handler (August Wilberforce, Action HR Person - a descendant and spitting image of George Westinghouse) and informed of an odd series of bird strikes on airplanes in the Chicago area and a pretty wide radius around O'Hare airport. No fatalities or serious injuries yet, but several planes forced to make emergency landings, etc.

Before they could even start to act, an alarm went off, alerting them to something happening in one of the subterranean labs. They rushed down to find a man in a Nazi uniform holding several confused technicians at bay with a Luger. The techs explained they had been conducting some preliminary energy tests for a teleportation research project, and this guy had just suddenly appeared in the middle of the test space, pulled a gun, and started shouting in German.

S.O.N.I.C., the self-aware search engine in a mobile robot body, was able to translate the German and the group was able to defuse the situation. It helped when the newcomer revealed that he was not actually a German, but a British spy who had been undercover in a Nazi lab. He had been discovered, and in his effort to escape had stumbled into a chamber with a strange device in it. One of the soldiers chasing him had shot a panel, sparks and flashes of light ensued, and suddenly he was... somewhere else.

Wilberforce immediately recruited the newcomer to Tesladyne, as much to keep tabs on him as for any other reason, and assigned him (after he signed the appropriate paperwork) to the team. His skills could prove useful and complementary. Further debriefing would of course be in order, but for now, the team had a task at hand....

The group investigated the most recent incident, which had occurred just a couple of days earlier on runway 27L at O'Hare. The plane was still there, so they got a look at the engine that had blown up, the scattered dead birds, and the area. That led to a brainstorming session - a mechanism we all liked - wherein it was determined (hypothesized) that the birds had been magnetically guided into these jet engines. It was gratifying to see that they had come up with the thing I had planned. Where they deviated from my pre-planning was in determining that the magnetic field manipulation was being governed by a device planted on the plane - which they found. On it was etched a symbol that the team determined was the astrological/alchemical symbol for Mercury.

This led to some consideration - who would have access to all these planes? The answer was, of course, an airplane maintenance provider. Some research suggested that a company called Perigee Aviation Services might be the right place. And Perigee has a large aircraft maintenance facility right there at O'Hare. How convenient!

This led to a nighttime break-in. I won't go into all the details, but the highlights included a WWII British spy becoming fascinated by the inner workings of a desktop tower computer; the World's Smartest Rhesus Macaque™ stripping out of his clothes and running past some guards to distract them; the sentient search engine/robot grabbing the action archaeologist and jumping off the roof, fortunately finding out at the last second that it has jetpack style rockets enabling a safe landing; and the aforesaid action archaeologist and sentient search engine/robot bowling down guards in a narrow corridor.

The guards were mostly rent-a-cops, but they called in a trio of harder, more competent guys who, sadly for them, got bowled down like the rest. And two of them had their heads bashed together like coconuts. These three guards all had tattoos on their right wrists of the same Mercury symbol.

So the group made their escape, having recovered a strange transmitter-like device from the roof, the two word phrase "Mercury Retrograde" and an odd alphanumeric string gleaned from the main server, and a prisoner - one of the tattooed guards.

So Issue #1 ended with many questions. What is Perigee Aviation Services up to? What does "Mercury Retrograde" mean? Who is behind these bird strikes, and why?

For future sessions, I want to try to focus a little more on aspects - we used them, but not as smoothly and effectively as I would have liked. But everybody had a good time, and we're all looking forward to the next session (probably in January).

Just wanted to share the prep for my about-to-start AR campaign - well, I hope it will turn into a campaign.

The setting is Tesladyne Midwest, in Chicago. (Write what you know....) The time frame is just after the events of Savage Sword of Dr. Dinosaur, so Atomic Robo is missing and Tesladyne is keeping a low profile. Tesladyne Midwest (based in the Sears, er Willis, Tower) has has managed to keep out of the press by publicly working on only the most innocuous projects and maintaining good relations with the nearby Argonne National Laboratory. But it has secret underground labs that are equal to any others in the organization.

The PCs have (so far) all gone for weird modes. One is the world's smartest macaque, who is an action primate psychologist. Another is the granddaughter of Nikola Tesla and the pigeon he fell in love with (look it up). It turns out that pigeon was an alien who also fell in love with him. A third is a sentient robot of some sort. (We're still working on character dev.) I think the fourth one may end up being a relatively standard action archaeologist. I have another who wants to be a World War II soldier somehow transported to modern Chicago. And one other who hasn't decided yet.

The first conspiracy my team will meet involves a spate of bird strikes on jet aircraft, and other bird-induced chaos. It turns out someone is manipulating magnetic fields to either trick flocks of birds into suicidal acts... or perhaps to guide them? What sort of damage could be done with that kind of power? The team will discover a new and nefarious organization called Mercury Retrograde. Who is behind it? Here's a hint: The chemical symbol for Mercury is Hg.

Anyway, I have a lot of prep yet to do, but I suspect the players and I are going to do a lot of on-the-fly decision-making.
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