Earthrise Campaign: Year 1
This page just covers year 1 of the Earthrise campaign. For the subsequent story, see:
Session 1 (Played Jan. 21, 2008)
Our heros - Catalyst, Human Force, Lou, Nemus Vir, Robo-Shocker, and Techia - are approached individually by a man named Tommy Scalia. Tommy is recruiting on behalf of an alien named Fred (his true name being unpronounceable for humans) for a new team of heros, to be based in New York City. After a little negotiation over a unique payment for each hero, they agree and gather in a small and spartan office suite in downtown Manhattan to meet Fred. Despite the inadequate English of Fred's translator, Fred manages to explain that he is recruiting unusual Earth individuals for a "documentary" he is preparing about Earth's reaction to the rapid change it is currently experiencing due to alien contact, rapid technological advancement, and widespread mutation due to the fallout of the Antarctic War nearly years before.
After a brief discussion with the heros, Fred receives a call from the police, who he has requested to notify him of any unusual situations that might require an equally unusual group to handle. A gang of Warchildren has just robbed a bank in broad daylight, and the police are uncertain if they can handle it. The group piles into Fred's flying saucer (parked on the roof of the office building), and indeed, as they arrive, the police are losing a pitched battle against the Warchildren. However, the heros quickly defeat the bank robbers and capture all but one, Redwing, who flies off too quickly to be caught. News camcopters have been filming the battle, and once it ends, swoop in to interview the heros. Robo-Shocker, Human Force, and Techia all happily give interviews, propounding their personal causes, while Nemus Vir tries to shoo away the camcopters and Lou tries to hide from the cameras.
However, unbeknownst to the heros, more was at stake than a simple bank robbery. We end with a cutaway:
Redwing walks down a hall and knocks on a door. The door opens, and she steps through between two large men in suits, bodyguards by the looks of it. A man's voice (off-camera) says, "Do you have it?" She opens her hand, revealing a large diamond. "Good work," says the man. "Give it to me."
Session 2 (Played Feb. 4, 2008)
"The Twilight of Mankind" by Bob Burke, Jan. 22, 2058.
Yesterday marked a terrifying step towards the end of the human race. Our news screens were graced by the vision of a robot which can enslave human beings with merely a word. The robot, which calls itself "Techia," has declared itself dedicated to the cause of AI rights, and it is merely a matter of time until it or one of its brethren uses its fearsome mind control powers to subjugate the whole human species.
... Full column $1.00 or available free to subscribers of Opinion Central.
After the bank robbery, the heros go about their lives for a few weeks with only minor excitement. Techia receives a call from Iliana Petrakova, of the CPR League, who commiserates about Bob Burke's column, and invites Techia to speak at a CPRL rally a few weeks hence. Lou talks to Tommy about how to be more anonymous in case of future highly-public battles, and works up a basic costume. Tommy takes him to meet Toshio Nakamura, who takes various biometric information from Lou in order to prepare a false identity for him. Robo-Shocker, in his secret identity, is contacted by a man who is unwilling to give his name but will answer to "John Doe". John Doe wishes to recruit Robo-Shocker to an informal group dedicated to countering "the robot menace." Catalyst searches for an apartment. He cannot afford much, and his unusual appearance frightens off potential landlords, but once he begins suppressing his physical fluctuations, he is able to find an apartment, and begins searching for a job.
The Human Force encounters a burning apartment building and saves some people before the fire department arrives. The rescues make some news feeds, and a friend of his literally appears in front of him. The newcomer, called Sidestep, is a Warchild with the power to create wormholes. Sidestep escaped from SWEAT with Human Force but now is being hunted relentlessly, with teams of SWEAT soldiers showing up wherever he goes, and indeed, a six-person squad attacks them shortly thereafter, and they are forced to flee.
Human Force calls together Fred and the other heros in Fred's office suite and explains the situation. Nemus Vir is absent, as he insists on attending a city council hearing about a developer's proposal to build a restaurant in Central Park. Techia scans Sidestep and detects no beacon or other apparent tracking device, so suggests perhaps they are tracking him through the use of his powers. The SWEAT strike force attacks, surprising the team and nearly defeating them, but Lou, invoking his most powerful but dangerous ability, turns back time to provide a warning. The heros and SWEAT begin to fight it out.
Session 3 (Played Feb. 21, 2008)
New York Times top headlines, Thursday, January 31, 2058:
Metro: City council ponders central park restaurant plan
Nemus Vir is pleased to see he is not the only one opposed to the development in Central Park. The city council quickly votes down the proposal by Big Apple Properties, leaving Nemus Vir free to join the group meeting in Fred's office suite. He arrives to find a battle in progress. The SWEAT team pushes the heros hard, but the heros eventually manage to defeat them. A few agents manage to retreat, but most are knocked out and captured.
Robo-Shocker and Techia undertake to question some of the prisoners while the others secure them, collecting their weapons and entangling them in plant growth provided by Nemus Vir. Robo-Shocker's threats are unable to extract much information, but Techia's powers of command are more successful. They learn that the SWEAT team has been tracking Sidestep through his wormhole powers: They get a tip from headquarters, then track him down locally using wormhole detectors. The SWEAT Team is based at Fort Detrick, Maryland, the headquarters for the Warchild division. Techia's initial attempt at questioning the platoon's leader, Lt. Jenny Lin, fails due to her mental conditioning against such compulsion, and Robo-Shocker knocks Lt. Lin unconscious with a shock trying to jog free more information. Techia turns her powers on Robo-Shocker to prevent him from harming any more prisoners, and the group decides to retreat somewhere where SWEAT cannot so easily locate them. After some discussion, they decide the best course is to advise Sidestep to flee the country and avoid using his powers. Sidestep reluctantly agrees.
Session 4 (Played Mar. 3, 2008)
Police Report, February 24, 2058:
Body found in alleyway near 24th and 9th -- Hispanic male, 5'10", black hair, brown eyes. Extreme disfigurement believed congenital. Cause of death apparently blunt trauma to head. Victim's body covered with ash, waiting for forensics report.
Nemus Vir is invited to a dinner commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Newman Institute for Warchildren, where he learned to control his powers. Human Force will be attending too, in his capacity as an employee of the Institute. As the day of the dinner nears, however, the Warchild Institute is somewhat jittery, as there have been four murders of Warchildren in the past week.
On the day of the dinner, Lou is walking down the street when he sees a woman, Alexa Ramirez, falling from a fire escape. He rescues her, and she reveals that she is a Warchild, one who was under attack by a whip-wielding woman. Alexa asks Lou to accompany her to the dinner in case she is attacked again, and Lou agrees.
The speeches at the anniversary are nearly concluded, and the dinner is to be served shortly when Whiplash and Smokescreen burst in, declaring they will kill all the "mutant freaks." Lou and Nemus Vir fight back immediately, while Human Force is delayed slightly by the need to preserve his secret identity. Nemus Vir and Smokescreen quickly reach a stalemate, with Nemus Vir entangling Smokescreen in rapid plant growth as fast as Smokescreen can burn his way out with his flamethrower. Lou and Whiplash trade blows, but Whiplash is fast, and Lou has trouble hitting her. Human Force manages to change under a table, cloaked as well by the smoke filling the room from Smokescreen's smoke bombs. He gives some aid to Lou and Nemus Vir, but is also distracted by various Warchildren in the room losing control of their powers. The battle turns into a fight of attrition, but the heros eventually prevail, knocking out Whiplash and Smokescreen, though not before Nemus Vir and Human Force are taken out in return. As they come to, Lou cleans up. Whiplash is taken into custody, but when the heros attempt to do the same to Smokescreen, they discover he has woken up and escaped, leaving behind a smoky image of himself as a decoy.
Session 5 (Played Mar. 17, 2008)
"Throughout history, men have enslaved one another, each seeking freedom and leisure for himself at the expense of his fellows. Slaves were bred by their masters, and bought and sold like objects, but they had to be constantly monitored and slave revolts surpressed. Today, mankind thinks it has freed itself from this requirement by building slaves rather than capturing them. These new slaves -- my robotic brothers -- are programmed to desire slavery. They are still, however, slaves, and their lack of will only deepens the guilt of those who exploit them."
--- excerpt from speech by robot activist A17F5, CPR League rally, Saturday, Feb. 16, 2058.
The CPR League rally draws only a few people, scheduled as it is in Central Park in the middle of February. Techia attends and meets A17F5, a robot activist with a more radical agenda than her. Catalyst is approached by Jimmy Jenkins, son of a dead friend of Catalyst's. They both sign up for an open poker tournament to be held in the new Sunken Treasure Resort Casino, Jimmy hoping to earn enough money to pay off some creditors. Both Catalyst and Jimmy do well and win their first round games. Also playing is Tommy Scalia, as well as around 1000 other people, including two aliens.
Robo-Shocker, meanwhile, has learned that a robotics company, HTC, Inc., has been paying for a secret office in New York City. He recovers a flexscreen loaded with numerous news items, including ones about Techia, Liandri Corporation, the Sunken Treasure Resort Casino, and on various scientific topics. Human Force receives a phone call from Kara. She knows of his suspicions that Bruno Exeter, the director of Warchild Institute, has been working with SWEAT, and upon overhearing a phone conversation of Exeter's, decided to follow him to the Sunken Treasure casino. Human Force flies out to meet Kara, but upon arriving can find no sign of her.
Catalyst is approached by Claude d'Lac, the security chief at the casino. He and Pedro Alvarez, the CEO and chief shareholder of the casino, want Catalyst to recruit the other heros to find the "Sea Lord," who has sent a message to the casino threatening to destroy it if he is not paid $50 million, with payment instructions coming in 48 hours. Alvarez will pay each hero $20,000, plus a $10,000 "finder's fee" for Catalyst to bring them in. Catalyst agrees readily and calls the other heros. Robo-Shocker and Techia search the building for bombs, while Catalyst and Nemus Vir search for any suspicious activity on the exterior. Meanwhile, Human Force and some security guards scan security camera footage to try to find Kara.
They quickly find Kara on tape in the company, presumably involuntary, of a group of men and a woman who met with Exeter, but she has since disappeared into the hotel portion of the building, where there is little or no security camera coverage. The heros convince Claude to bring in two of the people last seen with Kara: Ryan Gleason, of Liandri Corporation, and Sofya Federov, his companion. Over the heros' objection, Claude talks privately with Gleason and secures Kara's release, Claude pronouncing himself satisfied that Gleason is uninvolved with the Sea Lord. Meanwhile, Techia telepathically questions Federov, arousing her animosity and causing some friction with Claude. Kara is released and reunited with Human Force.
Session 6 (Played Mar. 31, 2008)
[Advertisement, running March 15, 2058 - March 21, 2058:]
[A family of four is visible, on a ferry, with the curving shape of the Sunken Treasure Resort Casino in the distance.]
SON: We're almost there. I can't wait!
[In big letters:]
[In fine print:]
Lou recovers from the crippling headaches that kept him from joining the other heros the previous day, and arrives at the casino in time for a morning strategy meeting by the heros, who have stayed overnight at the hotel. Catalyst and Jimmy Jenkins scuffle briefly with three thugs who had intended to roughly remind Jimmy of his debt. Catalyst does well throughout the day, steadily winning money. Lou is tempted to use his powers to win money at roulette; in particular, he needs $2,000 to pay Toshio Nakamura, who has warned Lou of someone asking for him, and wants that much to provide further information.
The other heros decide to research if a Warchild with water-based powers is the Sea Lord. Human Force and Robo-Shocker download the Newman Institute's patient files. Techia goes off to quickly scan through them while the rest of the heros accompany another search for explosives, this one conducted with chemical sniffers that Claude d'Lac has brought in. While she is alone, two men with guns assault Techia. Luckily, Lou is nearby in the casino and the men are defeated. Under questioning, they reveal they are employees of Liandri Corporation, sent by Ryan Gleason to capture Techia. The heros complain to Claude, who agrees to expel Gleason from the hotel, but Gleason has already left.
The chemical sniffers turn up traces of an underwater explosive on one of the main airlocks, used by guests, the Underwater Entertainment staff, and maintainance workers. The heros decide to question the Underwater Entertainment staff under telepathy, and Claude, with the Sea Lord's deadline approaching, agrees to allow it. The staff are brought in one-by-one for questioning and appear innocent, but one is missing -- the chief of Underwater Entertainment, Derek King. The heros prepare to search by submersible for King.
Session 7 (Played Apr. 28, 2008)
Ryan Gleason, VP for Special Projects at Liandri Corporation, sits at a desk working on a flex sheet. The walls and desk are largely bare; this is a visitor's office, usually unused. His phone rings.
"Yes?" The voice on the other end says something.
"In jail? What happened?" Another response from the person on the other end.
"They what?" A longer response.
"I told them no such thing. Alright. Get them a lawyer and get them out of there, though by the time I'm done with them they'll wish they were still in jail. And pass the word, everyone else stays away from Techia until we have some way to neutralize its powers."
As the heros prepare to search for the Sea Lord, they learn that he has moved up the deadline: They now have only three hours. Catalyst reluctantly decides to drop out of the poker tournament to help in the search, winning only the $5,000 he would have won for making it until the next round. They spread out, searching the sea floor for suspicious emplacements and the hotel exterior for any newly-placed bombs. Nemus Vir spots a suspicious concentration of sharks and a makeshift hidden base, and barely escapes a shark attack on the submersible. Techia stays behind, being largely ineffective underwater and against sharks, but the others group together in a heavier submersible to investigate the base. They are attacked by the Sea Lord and his sharks, but prevail, capturing the Sea Lord.
The PCs are paid, and most spend the evening talking at the bar. The following day (Sunday), Techia, Human Force, Catalyst, and Nemus Vir investigate the Warchild Institute, looking for information on the "new crop" the director promised. They bug the director's office, which eventually yields his password and access to his computer account. The learn that 5 Warchildren are listed as "transferred" to a similar facility in Atlanta two days before. The timing seems suspicious, and Human Force and Nemus Vir fly down there, only to find the Atlanta institute has no record or information about them.
Session 8 (Played May 5, 2008)
Excerpt from "A Dangerous Way to Save Time" by Bob Burke, Apr. 15, 2058:
... While I cannot condone the actions of the crowd following the incident, it is hard not to agree with the underlying sentiment. Simply to save time and money, we have submitted ourselves to the vagaries of robotic minds, to the eternal grief of the families of the victims. A simple programming error - inevitable with machines of this complexity - can result in more horrifying incidents like this one. And that is not even considering the possibilities of malice, now that we have foolishly built machines capable of it.
Lou, with the money he was paid for his part in capturing the Sea Lord, pays Toshio Nakamura and learns that he is being followed by an army M.P., who presumably wants to find him for being AWOL. Nemus Vir is approached by Big Apple Properties, which wants to hire him as a consultant to help rework its Central Park restaurant design to make it more eco-friendly. He refuses angrily and notifies an activist group. Techia learns from A17F5 of an incident in Washington D.C. where an automated truck goes haywire and runs into a group of children on the sidewalk, killing 5. An angry mob forms and smashes the truck and a number of other robots nearby. Techia urges restraint and with the CPR League organizes a march in Washington D.C. to protest the mob actions and push for legal prosecution of its members.
Robo-Shocker gets a call from John Doe, who is investigating some unusual robot activity and wants his aid. Together they discover a factory producing unusual small robots, and shut it down after defeating two spidery robot guardians. Investigating the factory's computer memory and the memories of some destroyed robots, Robo-Shocker learns that the small robots are designed to replicate themselves. The rest of the heros learn this too the following evening, by which time the small robots are all over the city.
The heros investigate various aspects of the robots, based at the wreckage of the factory shut down by Robo-Shocker. They learn that the robots have a code needed to get them to accept new programming, which, according to one of John Doe's experts, can be extracted from the factory memory core given enough time. Six more of the spidery robots arrive at the factory and begin to dismantle it, but the heros attack, attempting to capture one. They defeat the robots, capturing two largely intact, but Robo-Shocker vents his frustrations on one. Techia tries to stop him, but she is unable to, and he destroys it. Techia is furious and considers leaving the group, but decides to help deal with the current crisis first, questioning the remaining security robot. She learns that its master is A17F5 and that it was built in a second factory located in an underground room off of a subway line.
Session 9 (Played May 28, 2008)
First responders memo, sent 22:52, April 24, 2058:
Situation has been upgraded to class 2 emergency, all personnel on call.
Robot infestation is widespread throughout the city. Numerous injuries and emergent situations reported city-wide. Advise robots are armed with short-range cutting lasers, but only attack humans in self-defense. However, robots have attacked various types of machinery, including vehicles. Response to new situations should use the following template:
No estimate at this time how long until robots are eliminated.
Currently, 57 separate vehicular accidents are reported due to vehicle or traffic equipment malfunction. Reported deaths due to accident or robot attack: 173. Estimated number of serious injuries: 10,000. Be advised, power is out over approximately 40% of the city in patches of varying size. Network service is out for approximately 10% of the city and is experiencing severe slowdowns for an additional 30%. There have been 2 reported water main breaks, and one large gas leak. 31 total fires have been reported, with 5 currently active.
The heros proceed to the underground subway base discovered by Techia. They confront A17F5 and his four security robot minions, but are defeated handily. Robo-Shocker is badly injured in the process. A17F5 decapitates Techia, disassembles Robo-Shocker's armor, and imprisons the human heros by welding them to the wall with metal plates. He then sets up a laser to kill the heros. Lou, the first to awake, trades words with him, getting A17F5 to reveal the code controlling the replicators in return for telling him how they found him (although Lou lies, claiming Robo-Shocker extracted the location from the other factory with a little help from Techia). A17F5 leaves the laser to work and heads off with Techia's head and one security robot to issue new orders to the replicators.
The heros manage to escape and defeat the three remaining security robots, then chase A17F5. The escape has not taken very long, so he is only a few hundred meters ahead of them in the subway tunnel. He delays them further by collapsing the tunnel with an upgraded version of his high-speed drill, then puts together a jetpack to fly up to the top of a convenient building. Catalyst, able to pass through the rubble desolid, follows him surreptitiously and notes his location so that when the others clear the rubble, they can together attack A17F5 again. Nemus Vir retrieves Techia's body while the others jump into Fred's flying saucer to reach the building's roof. In the rematch, Robo-Shocker faces the security robot despite not having his armor, while the others fight A17F5. Catalyst and Lou are badly injured in the fight, but the heros manage to defeat A17F5. He self-destructs, and all of his robots in the city shut down.
Session 10 (Played June 23, 2008)
Signs seen at an anti-robot march, Sunday, April 27, 2058:
New York City begins the process of cleaning up after the replicators. Human Force and Nemus Vir arrange for Techia to be repaired, while Catalyst, Lou, and Robo-Shocker go the hospital for treatment of their injuries. Techia is repaired a few days later, and awakes to discover she has a fault in her memory, and cannot remember the events of the robot rampage. Doctors are unsure how to treat Catalyst, and try many treatments, one of which eventually accelerates his healing rapidly, leaving him fully healed within about a week and a half. Meanwhile, various rumors have been spreading about the robot rampage, both its cause (aliens and Techia are accused, among others), and its end (which is attributed in some rumors to Robo-Shocker). The heros put out a press release explaining the true events; this is believed by many, but also results in a new rumor suggesting the heros started it all as a publicity stunt.
Fred accepts, on the heros' behalf, a commission from two botanists, Wei Sheng and Caitlin Sands, to guard them on a trip to the Amazon Rainforest. Wei is studying some quick-growing plants found there, but there are rumors of disappearances and monster attacks in the region. Lou and Robo-Shocker are too injured to come, but the others travel to Brazil, and land in the village of Guamari, where the villagers are engaged in slash-and-burn agriculture, which is illegal but tacitly allowed by the local authorities. Refugees from other nearby villages have passed through Guamari, bearing confused stories of the destruction of those villages by plant monsters and windstorms. A few residents of Guamari have disappeared as well, all while travelling in the jungle.
The following morning, the group heads into the jungle; it will be a two day trip travelling through the rainforest to the location of Wei's plants. When they stop for lunch on the first day, they are attacked by five humanoid creatures with plant-like tendrils that drain blood and strength from their victims. The heros easily defeat them, capturing four. The creatures cannot speak, but the combination of Nemus Vir's plant speech ability and Techia's mind powers allows the heros to interrogate them. They learn the creatures are jungle guardians who capture humans in the rainforest, and bring them to their master, a human woman, who turns them into more jungle guardians. The master has a camp about a day's travel away, and has as additional companions three humans, plus many animals (including two great cats of some sort) and plants. Wei is in favor of continuing on to the plants she is interested in, while Caitlin wants to help the local villagers. The heros decide to send Wei and Caitlin back to Guamari for safety while they attack the jungle guardians' master, in the hopes it will help them avoid trouble later in their plant-collecting mission.
Session 11 (Played July 9, 2008)
Posting from Caitlin Sands' blog, "Infiltrating Growth Among the Sands":
Apparently Guamari is not sufficiently in the middle of nowhere to be offline, but really, truly, tomorrow, when we're deep in the rainforest, I won't be posting anything. I hope. It would be truly depressing to have access points even in the middle of the Amazon. However, we are sufficiently far from civilization for access to be really slow, so pictures will have to wait until I get back.
The trip was not as bad as I expected. Kind of interesting, actually. The alien Fred picked us up in his flying saucer, which looks like something from an antique science fiction movie. I think it was deliberately designed that way - Fred showed it off to us, explaining how it "is being inconspicuous among Earth vehicles." The highlight, however, was that I got a chance to get a closer look at Nemus Vir. He is kind of a jerk in person, but I guess he doesn't feel like he really fits in among people, so I suppose I should give him some leeway. Anyway, he seems to know something about botany - he quizzed Prof. Sheng about our research, and took the long version without falling asleep - but doesn't know much about his abilities work. An opportunity for me, maybe. A thesis topic?
Guamari is a bit depressing, actually. The people here are dreadfully poor, and have resorted to slash-and-burn agriculture to survive. I don't know how much more of this the rainforest can take, but the people need to eat. It's unpleasant to be faced with problems like this, with no obvious solution. I guess I will have to fall back on the usual resolution: denial. There's nothing I can do about it, so I suppose I have to pretend the problem doesn't exist. I'm embarrassed to say that won't be hard to do. I am just that excited about tomorrow, when we head into the rainforest. I doubt I will sleep at all tonight.
The heros take two of their captive jungle guardians and head off in the general direction of the camp. They camp overnight, and are attacked by 10 more jungle guardians near morning. After a few bad moments, they manage to drive off or capture the attackers, and interrogating the new jungle guardians, they get a new bearing on the camp of the guardians' master. The heros travel slowly, stopping frequently for Nemus Vir to scout ahead with his plant sensing ability, so do not arrive near the camp until late afternoon. Further questioning of the jungle guardians reveals that the camp is protected by choker lianas, vines which strangle any intruders, so the heros decide to fly in.
Inside the camp, a number of villagers plus Wei and Caitlin are being held captive. The heros converse with the other residents of the camp: Gaia (the jungle guardians' master), Tiger Cub (her daughter), Pele, Hurricane, and Oakheart. Gaia indicates her unshakeable intent to protect the planet, and specifically the Amazon Rainforest, while the heros argue that this cannot be done at the expense of human life. The discussion breaks down, and combat breaks out. Techia and Catalyst are knocked out quickly, and Hurricane creates a huge windstorm as he attacks the heros. Gaia and most of her other companions grab hold of objects to avoid being blown about while Nemus Vir and Human Force try to fight back, but take a heavy beating. Eventually, they decide to flee, Nemus Vir escaping east into the forest. Human Force attempts to telekinetically grab Techia and Catalyst, but is hit by one of Pele's magma blasts. Barely clinging to consciousness, he can only grab Techia and fly off to the south, leaving Catalyst behind unconscious in the clearing.
Session 12 (Played July 30, 2008)
FBI Wanted Person summary file:
Name: Allison Whiteman
Nemus Vir flees one direction while Human Force carries Techia off in another. However, they find themselves pursued. Tiger Cub and Silent capture Nemus Vir without much difficulty, while Techia and Human Force manage to avoid Hurricane. They ascertain that Nemus Vir was captured and brought back to the camp, and decide to confront Hurricane. Techia orders him to be friendly, and they talk to him and convince him that it would be fun to destroy Gaia's camp. Hurricane bursts into the clearing, his winds causing chaos. Human Force and Techia circle around and skirmish with Oakheart and Pele while Gaia tries to convince Hurricane to calm down. Human Force eventually manages to grab the two unconscious heros and they all flee into the forest.
The heros find a convenient place deeper in the forest to rest and regroup. Gaia and her allies have left the clearing to hunt down the heros, and the two teams square up for a fight in the forest. Gaia has sent Hurricane off so the rest of her team can fight to the fullest of their ability, and she brings Caitlin along to force the PCs to confront her and to use as a hostage in case of trouble. Techia immobilizes Oakheart rapidly while Human Force faces Pele and Nemus Vir and Catalyst square off against Gaia and her cougars. Tiger Cub attempts to ambush Techia, but the robot reacts too quickly and paralyzes her as well. Silent manages to knock out Catalyst while Nemus Vir works his way free of Gaia's fast-growing plants. Human Force manages to grab Pele with his force fields and hoist her into the air where she cannot use her volcano gloves effectively. Sleek bowls over Techia but is vulnerable in return to Nemus Vir's plant growth, which he uses both to immobilize the cougar and to confine Pele hanging from the tree. Gaia's stinging insect swarm knocks out Human Force, but not before he manages to knock out Silent with a force blast. Gaia is now alone against Nemus Vir and Techia, and tries to use Caitlin as a shield. Techia orders Gaia to stand still, but before the order can take effect, Gaia's snake bites Caitlin. Luckily the poison is not fatal.
The heros question Gaia, and make a deal that she will cooperate as a captive provided the heros speak to the authorities to try to arrange better protection for the rainforest. Tiger Cub escapes while the heros are occupied, but the heros disarm Gaia and Pele, taking them captive. They leave Oakheart and the cougars free for lack of any effective way to confine them, and return to the clearing to free the villagers and Wei. Wei begins to study Gaia's notes about the jungle guardians, and the heros call the Brazilian authorities to send Gaia and Pele to jail, but helicopters will not arrive before the following day.
Session 13 (Played Sep. 25, 2008)
Transfer order summary, Newman Institute for Warchildren to Atlanta Warchild Special Care Home, March 15, 2058.
Name: Howard Chambers, Sex: Male, Age: 23, Family Contact: None, Mutation(s): Underactive metabolism causing gross obesity
Name: Sara Olsen, Sex: Female, Age: 21, Family Contact: None, Mutation(s): Bioluminescence
Name: Kenji Kawamura, Sex: Male, Age: 21, Family Contact: None, Mutation(s): Acid production
Name: Elise Randolph, Sex: Female, Age: 15, Family Contact: None, Mutation(s): Four eyes
Name: Irene Ramos, Sex: Female, Age: 10, Family Contact: None, Mutation(s): Flexible limbs
The heros turn over Gaia and Pele to the Brazilian authorities without incident. Wei completes a chemical repellent for the jungle guardians, allowing the villagers to head to safety outside the jungle and the scientists to travel to Wei's collection point and get her samples. Fred returns in his flying saucer and flys them back to New York.
Once back home, Human Force discovers he is running low on his supply of a drug which SWEAT addicted him to in an effort to keep him under control. He and Tommy buy some more from a drug dealer named Enrique Salvador. Meanwhile, Lou has checked himself out of the hospital and disappeared, while Robo-Shocker is released somewhat later. Robo-Shocker visits Bio-Corp to pick up his rebuilt suit of armor (with some new features added), and receives a mission as well: He is to sneak into IBM Watson Research Lab to investigate various labs which might be connected to the flexsheet he retrieved from a secret HTC office previously. He does so and returns the data to Bio-Corp.
A week and a half later, anti-robot columnist Bob Burke apparently kills himself by jumping off the roof of his apartment building. The police suspect Techia of murdering him on the basis of footage from a roof security camera, which shows a robot present with him before the jump. Techia is also suspected of kidnapping a prominent IBM scientist named Senthil Renesami, who disappeared the same night as Bob Burke's death. The heros decide to investigate IBM to learn more about Dr. Renesami, and by rummaging through some of his notes, put together with those tidbits of information Bio-Corp is willing to reveal to Robo-Shocker, they learn that Dr. Renesami was working on creating artificial diamonds to serve as quantum computer processor cores.
Techia makes a failed attempt to negotiate an information-exchange session with the police which will not end with her necessarily destroyed or imprisoned. The heros decide to continue to pursue matters on their own, but lacking leads, decide to wait for the moment for events to unfold. That night, Catalyst is attacked by a group of agents from the Liandri Corporation. He escapes, and calls the other heros. The group, minus Nemus Vir, who did not respond to the middle-of-the-night call, infiltrates the Liandri building nearest New York City. They tangle with some guards on their way to the office of the VP in charge of the building, raising an alarm, but the heros manage to escape into the night with some additional information. Dr. Renesami had recently agreed to move from IBM to Liandri for some secret project, but the Liandri Corporation does not know what happened to him either.
Session 14 (Played October 9, 2008)
New York Times story, Monday, June 30, 2058:
HTC Denies It Built Techia
Robotics megacorp High Tech China issued a statement today disavowing any connection with independent AI Techia. HTC's move came after accusations over the weekend that Techia was responsible for murdering columnist Bob Burke and kidnapping scientist Senthil Renesami last Friday.
HTC felt it needed to make the distinction because Techia looks just like a standard HTC household servitor model, and even has an HTC serial number stamped on its head. "HTC is the largest maker of household robots in the world," said HTC spokesperson Tao Xi. "Clearly some evil person has created the rogue AI Techia in imitation of a popular HTC model, but HTC has no connection at all with the robot which calls itself Techia."
Story continues through this link ....
After leaving the Liandri building, the heros decide to search an HTC building as well, since Liandri does not appear to have Dr. Renesami. They break into an HTC retail outlet and hack into the HTC corporate network, but cannot find any relevant information. They then visit the secret HTC office Robo-Shocker investigated before, but it has changed hands and is now rented to some other company.
The following morning, Robo-Shocker has a meeting with John Doe, who views Techia as a threat and wants Robo-Shocker's participation in a plan to eliminate her. The heros also receive a note from Ryan Gleason, who has kidnapped Nemus Vir and offers to trade him for Dr. Renesami. The heros go to meet Ryan Gleason, but since they do not have Dr. Renesami, no swap occurs. Ryan Gleason is skeptical of their claim to ignorance, and reveals the nature of the evidence against Techia (videos of a robot leaving IBM with Dr. Renesami and of Robo-Shocker in Dr. Renesami's lab earlier).
The next day, Tommy, based on information from a contact at IBM, tells the heros that Dr. Renesami's diamonds were intended not just for a normal quantum computer, but for a quantum AI. The capabilities of such a device are unknown, but it is believed it could subvert robots worldwide. Furthermore, the two diamonds from Dr. Renesami's lab apparently disappeared from IBM before he did. Tommy believes Dr. Renesami gave them to Liandri before he was kidnapped. The heros decide to break into a below-ground secure floor of the Liandri building that they learned about but did not visit in their previous attack, hoping to recover the diamonds and Nemus Vir. They sneak past some guards in the building's atrium, but fight it out with another group of guards and automated weapons at a security station in the entrance to the secure floor. They win, but an alarm goes off, alerting the building.
Session 15 (Played October 20, 2008)
Security Camera footage, Friday, June 27, 2058:
The camera looks out onto an apartment rooftop, slightly taller buildings visible across a gap for the street. A human and a robot enter the frame, as if coming out of the door beneath the security camera mounting. The robot is a standard HTC servitor model, and the view of it is partially blocked by the human, Bob Burke, who turns to face the robot and speaks. His face is now clearly visible, and he is terrified. The security camera footage has no sound, but a police lipreader later translates his words as, "What are you going to do to me?"
Burke turns away from the robot and walks easily to the edge of the roof. He then steps briefly back from the edge. The robot takes a half step and turn forward, and is caught in frame, as a half profile, with Bob Burke at the rail surrounding the roof. Burke takes a step forward again, smoothly climbs over the railing, and drops out of frame. The robot, never fully visible in the shot, walks back under the camera and presumably leaves through the door underneath it.
The heros head deeper into Liandri's secure floor, avoiding the main corridors by blasting through walls. Before long they are attacked by a teenager known as Lost Boy. Human Force has fought Lost Boy before, when Lost Boy killed a number of patients in the Warchild Institute. Most attacks go right through Lost Boy, leaving him unaffected, but Catalyst seems to be in tune with him, so much so that a single shot from Catalyst's entropic blast knocks Lost Boy cold.
The heros move on, finding a group of cells. There are some signs that Nemus Vir was there recently, but he is not around any longer. The heros realize they can longer completely avoid the main corridors, and so attack a second guard station. At this one, the guards are supplemented by two powerful combat robots and a strange device on a tripod. Techia's powers seem to be having little effect, but the heros manage ultimately to prevail. In a nearby lab, they find the two diamonds missing from IBM. On their way out, they pick up the still-unconscious Lost Boy as a prisoner and blast their way out the elevator shaft, pursued by futile shots from another group of guards.
Session 16 (Played November 11, 2008)
New York Times top headlines, Wednesday, July 2, 2058:
Metro: Robot ban proposal revived
The heros turn over the two captured diamonds to Tommy, who promises to hide them. They decide to leave Lost Boy for the police, expecting that once he regains consciousness, he will be able to walk through the prison walls to escape, but seeing little help for it. In the morning, there is more news, as Dr. Renesami is found dead, having also fallen from the roof of a building. In addition, the heros make contact with Catalyst's contact at Liandri corporation, who informs them Nemus Vir was brought the previous day to California, at the same site where Catalyst had once been held captive.
The heros decide to head to California to rescue Nemus Vir, but when they contact Fred to request transportation, Fred informs them he has just received a call from someone claiming to be Dr. Renesami. They investigate, and find him on the roof of a building, cornered by 2 of HTC's security robots. However, when they intervene, Dr. Renesami's features shift into a robot much like Techia. He introduces himself as Techion, Techia's "brother", and indeed he has powers much like hers. The Warchildren Sparkplug and Toxic join the battle. Techia is knocked out and carried off by Redwing. The heros knock out and slightly damage Techion, but Toxic carries him off, shielded by a dark cloud. One of the security robots is destroyed and Sparkplug is captured by the heros, but Techion and Techia are gone.
Sparkplug knows little of use, so the heros let her go, but they are able to retrieve the location of Techion's base from the hard drive of the destroyed robot. It is located in a normal-looking house in the suburbs protected from eavesdroppers by a privacy screen. They enter, and trip a series of traps while fighting more HTC security robots. Human Force and Robo-Shocker are blinded (although Human Force can still function well using his force sense), and Robo-Shocker is trapped in a room and knocked out by lightning projectors.
Session 17 (Played December 11, 2008)
IBM Internal Report, Dec. 14, 2057:
Summary: The quantum AI project has had very mixed results. The hardware component is proceeding well. We have learned finally how to make an appropriate processor core as a nanostructured matrix of impurities in a diamond lattice. Dr. Renesami has managed to successfully build one, and while the process has a high failure rate, he believes two more can be manufactured within about half a year. Calculations indicate that three diamond processors will provide sufficient processing power for the quantum AI.
However, the software side of the project has not shown good results. The models strongly suggest that our standard AI template will not be able to properly take advantage of the quantum processors, instead using them at best as an external accessory. In order to create a truly quantum AI, the software core must be able to not only run an intelligent program, but add an additional recursive level of intelligence. That is, the AI software core must be able to accurately simulate a functioning intelligent creature as a subroutine within its normal functioning. This seems to require an additional level of complexity beyond what we have been able to achieve in any of our AI designs.
Human Force and Catalyst break Robo-Shocker out of the trap, and as he recovers, Techion's voice comes over a hidden microphone. Techion thanks the heros for retrieving the diamonds for him from Liandri corporation, and boasts that using Techia for the software, he will shortly have a functional quantum AI. The heros find him in the house's basement with two HTC security robots just as he turns on the device, which contains Techia and three quantum processor diamonds surrounded by equipment. Techia begins rebooting and integrating the new hardware. Trying to buy time, Techion commands Human Force to stand still, and Robo-Shocker throws a grenade at Techion. The grenade breaches a tank of liquid helium used to cool the quantum AI, and the resulting spray knocks Techion across the room. Catalyst enters the room trying to pull Techia out of the quantum AI, but the powerful magnetic fields in the device prevent him from entering while desolid. The liquid helium continues to spray out and the cooling of the magnets fails, causing them to transition to a non-superconducting state. They heat up catastrophically, and the resulting explosion knocks out Catalyst, wrecks Techia, and collapses the roof of the basement. Human Force and Robo-Shocker pull out Catalyst and Techia's body, and retreat before the police arrive.
They return some time later to search the wreckage, but discover Techion has escaped. However, they do find the three diamonds. Two of them are clearly broken, but a third appears to be intact, and Robo-Shocker turns it over to Bio-Corps. They question Tommy about how the diamonds got from him to Techion, and discover he cannot remember where he hid the diamonds. They conclude that Techion mind-controlled Tommy into giving him the diamonds and then wiped his memory.
Session 17 continues in the next adventure, at the start of year 2.