Earthrise Campaign: Year 4
This page just covers the story in year 4 of the Earthrise campaign. For the rest of the story, see:
Session 53 (Played Feb. 22, 2011)
New York Times top headlines, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2059:
Metro: Space cop's lawyer: "Rico is a hero"
Blue Lightning is turned over to FBI custody, but the heros keep Rico in a cell in their base to separate him from other prisoners. About a week later, Human Force, Feedback, and Catalyst are present at the base when the power goes out. The back-up generator and emergency lightning come on, but most other base systems remain off-line. Feedback investigates the circuits, finding that the power is still coming from outside, but somehow not getting to the machines that need it. Human Force checks on Rico, who is still present in his cell, and Catalyst, who was last seen watching TV in the lounge. Catalyst is gone and so is the couch, replaced by large hazy sphere.
Human Force and Feedback are attacked by two similar but smaller and mobile spheres, and discover that the spheres drain energy. However, they can be dissipated by sufficient force. Human Force retrieves Rico's armor and weapons and frees him to help fight the spheres and figure out what is going on. They find and defeat a third sphere wandering the complex, and another emerges from the sphere in the lounge.
The sphere in the lounge proves impervious to attack and can't be moved, but the heros determine that it is draining the external power from the base. The emergency lighting starts to flicker, and the heros decide to shut off all power to the base, hoping to starve the sphere. However, the process drives out a giant mobile sphere that was feeding on the auxiliary power plant. The heros' attacks cause it to grow, but also damage it, and ultimately, the heros defeat it. With the entropy monsters gone and the power off, the sphere in the lounge shrinks rapidly and disappears. The heros are left to wonder: What happened to Catalyst?
Session 54 (Played Mar. 24, 2011)
New York Times, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2059:
Plea Bargain for "Judge" Rico
A plea bargain was announced today for "Judge" Rico Dredd, who had been accused of murder of the Warchildren twins known as Double Trouble. Dredd will receive a community service and a suspended prison sentence. The decision has split public opinion. On the one side, many think of Dredd as a hero for eliminating some dangerous Warchildren who had been at large for years. However, Warchild rights activists point to the widely-disseminated video of Dredd shooting the helpless twins as clear evidence of murder and complain of a double standard.
Jack's interrogation of Blue Lightning primarily reveals the supervillain's hatred of aliens. The heros also learn his true name, Billy John Harbison, and his former profession as a farmer in Arkansas. Rico turns over John Doe's phone number, but the number has been disconnected. A week later, Jack is called to the hero's secret base after Catalyst's disappearance. The base's security camera footage from just before the power outage shows one of Catalyst's entropic balls growing out of control and engulfing him and the couch, but does not clearly answer the question of exactly what happened to him.
Blue Lightning is released on bail. After his release, Jack follows him to an apartment building, but does not further pursue immediately. The FBI decides to plea bargain with Rico, and for community service, Rico is assigned to help the PCs, with Jack watching him to make sure he behaves. They decide to check out the building where Blue Lightning went after release, and Rico recognizes it as the location of a safehouse where the Defenders took Rico during their short time working together. The heros try to investigate Blue Lightning's suit further, but discover that it has disappeared from the evidence locker at the FBI office; a review of security camera tapes reveals that Mindstorm walked into the building and checked it out, pretending to be Jack.
The heros decide to poke around to try to find the Defenders through pockets of anti-Warchild sentiment. Feedback recalls an incident where he got into an argument with someone about it, and learns that the man was parroting information he got from one Tom White. The PCs track down Tom White, and Jack pretends to be an FBI agent "Paul Revere" who is part of a group of government officials who want to join forces with non-governmental groups to take action against non-human influence in the U.S. Tom sets up a meeting for Jack with his contact Apostle. Jack suggests to Apostle that he wants to help fund their group, and arranges another meeting for the following week.
Session 55 (Played Apr. 27, 2011)
Missing Persons Report, Arlington, Texas police department:
Carter Wellington, Male, 12 yrs. old, 5'1", 93 lbs, dirty blond hair, blue eyes. Reported missing Aug. 5, 2059. Last seen at home. Has severe developmental disorder, diagnosed as type 21(III) autism. Private detectives hired to investigate concluded Carter voluntarily left the premises, possibly due to argument with parents.
Apostle meets with Jack. Jack gives him some money to fund his organization, and Apostle offers to set up a meeting with someone higher up who can discuss possible action plans. However, the follow-up meeting is a trap. Rico and Feedback are hiding nearby, and together they and Jack are able to defeat the dozen agents attacking Jack. Jack has a brief chat with John Doe over the radio link and offers to collaborate with Mindstorm on finding the alien shapeshifter.
The money Jack gave to Apostle shows up in the bank account of a splinter church called the House of the 4th Coming. The heros investigate it but conclude it is a dead end. They bring in Apostle for questioning, and bug his apartment, but learn little beyond that the Defenders have a cell structure so Apostle knows little about the wider organization. Searching his e-mail is more successful, revealing that he is in frequent communication with someone called "Eagle", who has arranged for a number of Apostle's recruits to be picked up on Sunday morning, Jan. 11, at a New York bus station.
Rico, Jack, Human Force, and Feedback investigate the meeting and see the recruits loading onto a minibus, apparently for a long trip. They follow and notice someone else is following too, an old woman in a rental car. During a rest stop, Feedback sneaks into her car to learn more about her. They are mutually suspicious, but agree to join forces to follow the Defenders of Humanity. The minibus drives to a fenced compound outside a small town in Ohio and enters.
Session 56 (Played May 31, 2011)
Message from Jerry Napolitano to Miranda Smith, January 10, 2060:
I'm so sorry, but I'm going to miss our date next Friday. I'll be out of town and gone for three weeks. You know how I was saying someone ought to do something about those damn robots? It turns out that someone is, and I'm going to be a part of it. I might even get to meet Robo-Shocker! Anyway, it's all very hush-hush, so don't tell anyone!
See you in three weeks. J
Jack leaves the group to do "paperwork" and parks by the side of the road. Rico, Human Force, Feedback, and Savannah watch the compound for a bit and see two more minibuses enter. They wait until one leaves and ambush it. They are unable to learn much from the driver, so they leave him tied up in a field and drive the van back to the compound.
They are unsuccessful at bluffing their way in, so they break down the gate and drive towards the center of the compound. They meet and defeat a group of 4 guards coming to intercept them. Taking the guards' armor, they pretend to have taken Rico captive, and claim the other intruders fled into the forest. The camp's leader sends search parties out and moves to take custody of Rico.
Human Force tries to create a diversion for Feedback to disappear by tripping one of the guards holding Rico. Rico decides he will be blamed, so he breaks free and attacks the leader. With the apparent help of Human Force and Savannah, Rico is subdued and taken captive once more. Feedback takes advantage of the turmoil to turn invisible and slip inside the compound's main building.
Session 57 (Played June 28, 2011)
Recording, Defenders of Humanity Holoconference, Dec. 23, 2059:
The recording begins with a tall black man and a hologram of a woman, both sitting around a real conference table. The faces of both are fuzzed out, but they apparently know each other enough to greet each other. The black man begins with nod. "Eagle," he says. She responds, "Commander." Then there is silence for a minute until another hologram appears.
"Let's get started," the newcomer begins. His face is also obscured, but his voice is recognizeable as that of John Doe. "Eagle, your report on recruiting for the month."
The woman rattles off a list of numbers of potential recruitment candidates and ones who have actually joined, numbers assigned to silently pass information to the Defenders, numbers assigned as agents provocateurs, numbers assigned to wait as sleepers until a need for them arises, and even two who have been asked to find more jobs where they can be more useful to the Defenders. She concludes, "And finally, we have had a record month recruiting agents for direct action, with 83 new recruits assigned for agent training. Commander Abdujab will report on them."
The black man picks up where Eagle left off. "We have been doubling up on classes for the month of December to take advantage of the holidays. Even though most of the agent recruits are unemployed, we have a backlog of those who cannot get away any other time. So far in December, we have completed training for 56 agents, with 3 failures and 1 death due to a firearms accident. I'm afraid the quality of the skills of these agents is low, as usual."
John Doe interrupts. "Yes, we've been through that before. You don't need to repeat your complaints. Once we've reached our primary recruitment goal, we can revisit the question of extending the initial training sequence."
Abdujab resumes his report, "This week we have reserved for a special advanced training week. Half the trainers are off, but the other two are leading courses on demolitions, martial arts, special tactics, and additional weapon training for 25 of our better graduates. We'll resume with the regular recruits next week."
Jack, hearing distant gunfire, enters the compound to investigate. Seeing the central cluster of buildings well-guarded, he elects to sneak up to the hill to try to listen in on the guards' conversation. Meanwhile, Savannah and Human Force, in disguise as guards, help escort the prisoner Rico to the cells in the basement, leaving his weapons at the first floor security center. When they reach the cells and find no prisoners there, Savannah and Human Force help Rico escape, with Feedback, who has snuck up invisibly from behind, joining in. Only the compound's leader proves a challenge. They knock him out, but not before he has warned the other guards that the intruders are wearing Defenders armor.
The heros head back upstairs to retrieve Rico's weapons from the security center. Behind a locked door in the security center, they discover an armory containing guns, but also two heavy machine guns, some grenades, and some surface-to-air missiles. The PCs use up most of the SAMs trying to break down some more locked doors. The noise brings Jack in, sneaking in from the roof to avoid the guards. He joins forces with the other heros, and they search the basement thoroughly. On their way out, however, they encounter a large group of guards. A pitched battle in the building's atrium ends with the Defenders agents defeated. However, after the battle, Jack and Feedback are struck by shots from a powerful anti-vehicle laser concealed in a silo nearby. Human Force manages to bring the two of them under shelter in the building with his telekinesis, and once they recover, Jack uses the last SAM to destroy the laser.
The compound's remaining guards circle the building, but do not dare to enter. The heros search the whole building, and recover records from two offices and a hard drive from conferencing equipment in the meeting room. Then they fly off, taking the unconscious base commander with them as a prisoner.
Session 58 (Played July 13, 2011)
NASA Internal Memo, Dec. 15, 2059:
The relief team has managed to safely investigate the wreckage of the Olympus Mons base. No survivors have been discovered. A few continuing dimensional anomalies were experienced, but the frequency and severity seems to be fading. Nevertheless, the site remains dangerous, and possibility of a follow-up event cannot be ruled out on the basis of our current knowledge. Despite the high potential scientific payoff, the risks are too great. Our recommendation: Quarentine Olympus Mons for the forseeable future.
Kit is eating lunch in downtown San Francisco when she hears a distant sonic boom. She goes to investigate, and it turns out to be a gigantic three-headed dimensional hydra destroying the city. Eyewitnesses later report that it appeared from nowhere and began its rampage. She attacks it, and it teleports itself, her, and their immediate surroundings to New York, on the campus of New York University.
Savannah is in class there at the time, and Feedback is nearby, so they join in the fight. Together, the three heros manage to defeat the creature, knocking it out. They find it difficult to kill off permanently, and wish to avoid news coverage, so after assuring that it will not wake up for a long time, they leave it to the police to dispose of.
Session 59 (Played July 26, 2011)
Cutaway, Tuesday, January 20, 2060:
Two HTC security robots confront a group of intruders. "Halt. You are in a restricted area. Please leave immediately."
One man fires a strangely shaped gun. A hexagonal projectile hits one robot and sticks there. The robot stops moving. Another man, clad in a blue suit, moves at blinding speed, striking the other robot many times before it can react with the glowing energy ball surrounding his left hand, leaving the robot a smoking ruin.
The remaining two intruders step forward to the door behind the robots, and the man kicks down the door. A technician on the other side looks up, agape at the sudden intrusion. Before he can even protest, however, the last intruder, a woman in strangely-shaped armor, gestures at him, and he screams, holding his head, and falls to the floor unconscious.
"I'm sorry about that," says John Doe to the man's still form, "But I'm afraid we need to use this facility for a little while."
As a result of the raid on the Defenders compound, Jack is called to Washington and taken off the Defenders of Humanity case. Catalyst returns to New York above the corpse of the dimensional hydra, having found a way back from the entropic plane to which he accidentally slipped. The heros review the information captured from the Defenders of Humanity and go to Maryland to investigate Fort Detrick, the army's biological warfare research lab and base. After concluding they cannot realistically stake the whole army base out to watch for a break-in by the Defenders, they return to New York.
Jack receives a phone call from John Doe, who says that Mindstorm has located the alien shapeshifter. The Defenders are tied up tracking it, but he suggests the heros go after it. The shapeshifter, he says, is located in an apartment belonging to the mafia don Carlo Genovese, and it likely knows that it is being tracked.
As the heros prepare to attack the apartment, they get a call from their base computer. Robo-Shocker and Kite are attacking their base. However, the heros are committed to the fight already -- the shapeshifter is masquerading as the mistress of the mafia don, and has called in some of his underlings for reinforcement, including a sniper and Maul. The heros defeat the mobsters, and the shapeshifter tries to escape, setting off a singularity bomb to suck the apartment into a black hole. It swallows two of the mobsters, but the heros all escape and capture the shapeshifter in the process. They return to their base to find the defenses and the computer trashed, and Robo-Shocker and Kite gone.
Session 60 (Played Sep. 1, 2011)
New York Times, Wednesday, January 21, 2060:
Shapeshifter Captured, Raising Fears of Alien Spy Ring
The FBI announced the capture last night of a shapeshifting alien of the species Karoo. The alien, whose name was not released, was masquerading as Olivia Belmont. The real Ms. Belmont has not been located. A well-placed source in the intelligence community has told the New York Times that this is the second alien masquerading as a human that has been discovered in the past year, and suggests that a widespread alien spying ring is active on Earth.
Tommy Scalia introduces a new team member, Quantum Warrior, while announcing that Jack has been transferred and Human Force has been sent on another assignment. The heros repair the base and continue to investigate the Defenders' pending attack on Fort Detrick. Quantum Warrior has the ability to travel in time, and visits the future to recover a news archive containing the next 2 months' worth of news that might be related to the attack. A story from the following Monday indicates that nearby residents heard some explosions inside Fort Detrick at roughly 2 AM the previous night.
Before then, however, a high-speed chase downtown requires the heros' attention. Modular Man and Swerve have robbed a jewelry store, and are being chased by police. However, Swerve is a skilled driver and his car is well-equipped to lose the police. Rico and Feedback chase the villains on Rico's motorcycle while Quantum Warrior prepares to teleport to the location of the chase. Some early attacks by Feedback damage Swerve's car and Quantum Warrior's time manipulation abilities slow it enough for Rico to keep up. Modular Man leaves the car to fight Feedback and Quantum Warrior while Rico continues to chase Swerve. Both criminals are eventually defeated and captured.
Session 61 (Played Sep. 13, 2011)
Frederic, Maryland Local news feed, Monday, Jan. 26, 2060:
Residents nearby Fort Detrick army base report hearing explosions and possible gunfire on the base overnight. At about 2 AM, an explosion woke sleeping civilians living near the base, followed by a second explosion a few minutes later. "The first one that woke me, I thought it was thunder," said resident Marjorie Banks. "But I was awake for the second one, and that definitely wasn't thunder. There was some other noise too, a rattling sound, I thought might be gunfire, but it was pretty far off."
A statement released by the army says the two explosions were caused by an unspecified equipment malfunction. The statement also says "to pre-empt any concerns in the community" that no dangerous bacteria were released in the explosion.
Preparing for their expected confrontation with the Defenders of Humanity early Monday morning, Feedback and Quantum Warrior break into the Fort Detrick computer system. They download blueprints of the base, minus a half-dozen highly classified buildings, and arrange for any alarms to be sent to them. They then camp out in a motel near Fort Detrick waiting for the Defenders to attack.
When they receive an alarm message, Quantum Warrior teleports the group to the roof of the Biohazard Level 4 building, where guards have reported some intruders. Catalyst locates the Defenders of Humanity moving inside the building, and the heros ambush them. Blue Lightning continues with the mission while the other Defenders - Mindstorm, Whiplash, Smokescreen, Robo-Shocker, and Kite - fight the heros. Outnumbered, the heros are defeated and knocked out. The Defenders continue moving to avoid the base guards, leaving the heros to wake up under arrest by Fort Detrick soldiers. However, the heros are easily able to escape from the soliders and regroup back at their hotel.
Session 62 (Played Sep. 29, 2011)
Equipment requisition, Special Agent Alyssa Hart:
Lockheed-Martin Mobility Advanced Exoskeleton, Model AEX5300, Serial number 57Z63G0103
Tommy Scalia reports, through a contact in the army, that the Defenders of Humanity stole a sample of the Kenyan Plague, a genetically engineered disease which spreads as a cold among most people, but rapidly kills those possessing certain genetic markers characteristic of some disfavored tribes in Kenya. In an attempt to track down the Defenders of Humanity, the heros look into the backgrounds of two Defenders of Humanity supervillains who have been arrested in the past: Whiplash and Blue Lightning. The heros visit Whiplash's estranged husband Anton Chernyshev, and investigate the lawyer who secured her bail. Quantum Warrior goes back in time to visit Billy John Harbison's (Blue Lightning's) family 7 years ago. She meets some sort of time-travelling alien, who is looking for the source of an increased rate of dimensional anomalies back in the present day. She talks briefly to Billy John of 7 years ago, verifying mostly that he does not have any extreme prejudice against aliens at that time.
FBI Special Agent Alyssa Hart is introduced to the group as Rico's new parole officer and immediately raises hackles when she tries to take charge. She reports that 53 Liandri employees have been murdered over the past year and a half in various bizarre ways which suggest Warchildren are behind it. Skin and hair samples collected from some crime scenes implicate Fiona Howell, George Vazquez, and two others. The heros agree to take the case, and rapidly conjecture that Frostburn and some allies are responsible. They head to Boston, where the largest number of murders have taken place, and ask around for Frostburn. They are able to locate his base of operations there and learn that he has been working with a group called the Vols, which also contains Aroma, Ghostlight, and Machine.
Session 63 (Played Oct. 19, 2011)
Liandri special projects data files, Project Metagen, subject #87, George Vazquez, modification plan:
Existing mutation: metal nodules associated with neural clusters. Subject has learned to produce and manipulate fine metal filaments.
Step 1: Boost available energy with biobattery plus auxiliary stomach to enhance nutritional efficiency.
Projected end state: Subject's metal filaments will be able to rapidly transform large masses of metal. Possible industrial applications.
The heros stake out the Vols' house in Boston. The Vols return home after three days of watching, and Catalyst, Quantum Warrior, and Feedback go to talk to them against Rico's protest. The Vols suggest Catalyst and perhaps the others join them to attack a bigger Liandri target, such as Ryan Gleason (who the Vols can't locate) or Gordon Smelt (who is too well-protected for the Vols). Catalyst agrees to consider it, and the heros warn the Vols that the FBI is after them.
Rico warns Alyssa, who is busy getting arrest warrents now that two of the Vols have been identified as Fiona Howell and George Vazquez. By the time Alyssa arrives, the Vols have left the house, but Rico is able to follow them to the airport. While waiting for airport security to locate the Vols, Rico and Alyssa confront Catalyst and Feedback. Feedback attempts to harrass Alyssa by stealing her phone, gets caught, and sends Rico and Alyssa flying with his spatial burst in order to escape.
The Vols get on a plane to Chicago. Alyssa directs airport security and Rico to let them fly there, preferring to confront them somewhere less busy. Alyssa arranges for the Vols' plane to be held an hour so that Rico and she can get there first. Meanwhile, Quantum Warrior and Feedback break into the airport computer system and also learn the Vols are headed to Chicago, so they and Catalyst teleport there to wait for them and warn them about Alyssa and Rico.
Session 64 (Played Nov. 17, 2011)
From: Quantum Warrior
Enough! We can't stop the murders with Alyssa and Rico trying to arrest the VoLs and Catalyst and Feedback focusing on Liandri.
1) The VoLs are murdering employees of Liandri with no consideration for the individuals
We need to meet and talk this through how best to handle this in context together, as a team, rather than against each other.
The Vols arrive in Chicago. Alyssa, Rico, Catalyst, and Feedback attempt to follow them using their various skills and powers, but the Vols ultimately manage to give the slip to everyone except Catalyst, hidden in the trunk of their car, who follows them all the way to a house in the outskirts of Chicago. Having lost track of the Vols, Alyssa and Rico agree to a meeting with them in New Axis, outside U.S. territorial waters. The Vols agree to meet in exchange for the heros' agreement to investigate Liandri.
The heros try to broker a plea bargain in which the Vols turn themselves in in exchange for an FBI investigation of Liandri's abuses. However, the Vols are not willing to turn themselves in until Liandri is destroyed, and Alyssa is unwilling to leave the Vols at large for the length of time it would take to investigate and prosecute Liandri, so the negotiation stalemates. The Vols leave and the heros agree with Alyssa that they will need to be hunted down and stopped.
Session 65 (Played Nov. 30, 2011)
PubMed Central search: Dr. Thomas Kalb, published Sep. 1, 2059 - Feb. 10, 2060
T. Loui, F.-X. Wu, G. Sever, T. Kalb, Improved uptake rates for genetic transforms with VFT-27, Virology, vol. 899, number 8 (published Oct. 15, 2059)
Quantum Warrior learns from investigating Liandri's data on Warchild experiments that many Warchildren share a few genetic markers. Tommy sets up a meeting with Dr. Thomas Kalb, of Columbia, to help the heros counter Liandri's virus. However, when the heros arrive, they find him murdered. They capture the two Defenders of Humanity agents responsible. Rico questions one, then releases him with a message to John Doe, indicating Rico's continued sympathy with the Defenders despite his current situation. Rico claims the prisoner suprised him and escaped, but Quantum Warrior travels back in time to recapture the prisoner and observes Rico's charade.
Catalyst returns to the base with the other prisoner. Feedback guards the recaptured Defenders agent while Quantum Warrior teleports to the base to ask for Catalyst's help transporting him. However, when the they teleport back they trigger the creation of time elemental, which attacks them, and grows as it steals time from them. Defeating the time elemental, however, only triggers a time loop. The time elemental continues to grow as time loops again and again. Quantum Warrior brings together the heros via teleportation, then breaks the time loop by travelling forward in time until after the end of the loop. The other heros are left to fight the time elemental, which is quite large by this time through the loop, but manage to prevail and destroy it. The heros then attempt to retrieve the recaptured prisoner from the alley where they left him, but he has escaped while they were preoccupied. Rico transfers the other prisoner to the police.
The story of Earthrise continues with year 5.