After being away for our last gathering, I was especially ready to get together and play. It had been four weeks for me – which is far too long.
I decided to celebrate the event with a special dinner, bringing turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and best of all, canned jellied cranberry sauce. We ate our fill and set to work. We had two new personas joining us, and John Hammer’s player was absent.
Based on initial reports, Ed Farmington (Handler) sent down two more agents. These two were “minder” specialists. It was imperative that this mission get tied up successfully with solid evidence leading to convictions in court before a jury.
Harold Cranston: Assassin and field operative minder, a “cleaner” operative.
Aldo Squeelio: federal prosecutor, Bureau counsellor and field operations legal advisor.
We welcomed back:
Riso Occidare: Italian, former attorney and prosecutor turned special agent
Jerome “J.J.” Johnson: African American WWI veteran and world traveler
Lucien Forsythe: Former pilot, and traveler turned special agent
John Hammer: Hardened street investigator and loner
Jimmy Scarlotta: Former mob member and street thug turned agent
We picked up where we left off. Our original agents had stepped through the basement of the Manchester House and landed somewhere deep in a coniferous forest near the sea. After much experimentation and exploration – all quietly and in the dark – they determined that they were somewhere in British Columbia. Some sort of advanced alien or scientific technology had transported them across the continent.
They landed near an old barn and looking around inside, they discovered cases of whiskey and distillation apparatus. In addition, they discovered a door frame similar to the one they had stepped through when they found themselves here. John Hammer stepped through, disappeared, and didn’t return.
The remaining agents split up to have a look around. Ocidarre and Forsythe went down the path to check out the excavated obelisk and boat dock. Scarlotta and Johnson stayed behind to keep an eye on the large lodge-like house and barn.
Soon, Johnson noticed one of the upper dormer windows opening ever so slowly. He and Scarlotta watched silently. Slowly, a young girl crept out of the upstairs window and crawled along the roof skirt in her night gown. Slowly she crawled around above the entrance of the lodge and began to crawl down a supporting pole head first.
Johnson eased a shell into the chamber of his shotgun.
From inside the lodge, a light flickered to life and an adult male voice called out, “Aden!”
The girl crouched onto all fours at the foot of the lodge entrance stairs and began to snuffle around the ground. The light approached the main entrance doors and as one opened, the male voice said more quietly, “Aden, come back inside. It’s time to sleep.”
The man, wearing a worn and soiled union suit, gathered the girl into his arms and pulled the door closed behind him as he slipped back into the lodge. The light moved within the building, upstairs, and then extinguished.
Meanwhile, Occidare and Forsythe were down in the creek. By the dim light of their yellow flashlight beams in the rain, they found a large excavation pit in the middle of a rocky and mostly dry stream channel. Within lay a giant obelisk like form, partly broken. There were some strange large glyphs on the stone and from along its long flanks, bones of various kinds. Human skeletal hands, feet and skulls protruded from the surface.
The encounter left Occidare and Forsythe slightly shaken – and they quickly returned up the trail to the bard to join Johnson and Scarlotta.
What to do?
After much discussion, and after almost entering the lodge with tommy guns locked and loaded, the four agents returned to the barn and stepped through the standing doorframe.
All returned through the basement doorway of the Manchester House to stand looking down toward the dock and out over the sea. All were exhausted. The events of the evening were too much to explain, not to mention that passage through the doorway itself left them tired and drawn. They returned to their nearby agency vehicle and trundled back into Durban and to bed. Some enjoyed a stiff shot of the liquor they acquired the previous evening from A-a-ron.
Breakfast came late. Everyone, including Cranston and Squeelio, met up at the Quality Cafe for a late breakfast and to discuss plans. Today was Friday, the day they booked their fishing boat charter for mid-day out of Kingston. Everyone decided to go for a boat ride, and after breakfast, and a little bit of shopping, made their way north to the docks of Cranston.
They met their captain, Dennis Turin, on the docks of Kingston. As they came walking down to the boat, I asked what they were bringing. There was a pause and then some looks of recognition and suddenly, their burdens grew significantly. The loading of ordinance on the boat took some time. Rifles, shotguns, Thompsons, were heaved aboard and all were wearing a pistol or two, along with bags and boxes of ammo. Turin asked about the nature of their fishing trip with a raised eyebrow, but with the waving of a Federal badge and a promise of some additional cash, they were on their way, leaving during the middle part of the day and setting out into Narragansett Bay in the bright sun of May.
They made their way down the coast, navigating the muddy shoals and tricky backwaters, paralleling the shoreline until they came to the tidal marshes near Durban. They grounded once but then managed to free themselves and make their way amongst some low marshy islands until they came to where they could see the Chinese laborers camp or village. After bringing their fishing boat to rest some several hundred yards away, a few agents approached in the dingy, including Cranston, Johnson, Scarlotta, and Forsythe. The villagers grew obviously agitated at their approach so Johnson, who had spent time in China previously, sought to sing a song of welcoming and arrival. Unfortunately, Johnson’s Chinese wasn’t what he thought it was. He failed abysmally. It was clear that the villagers were well armed, several possessed rifles and others possessed shotguns. There were even a few tommy guns among being waved around. Many were lining up with weapons and yelling and signing for the agents to go away.
First one shot was fired from the Chinese that smacked into the water some yards from the dinghy, then another and another. Our agents returned fire. Johnson jerked up his tommy gun to let loose a burst toward the horde and hopefully force them into cover, but he fumbled the piece horribly. The dice were fickle. With several potential outcomes, he rolled that he accidentally shot one of his fellow agents, and then another roll of the dice determined it was Cranston – nailed through the back of the shoulder for 9 points. Cranston went down and the rest rowed furiously back to the boat – bullets splashing all around and hitting the gunnels of the dingy. Several of the Chinese were hit as well by return fire from the agents.
Everyone clambered aboard the little fishing boat and Turin gave her all she had to get the hell out of there. A bullet crashed through the pilothouse window and winged Turin through the arm, spattering the windshield with his blood. Meanwhile, nobody was able to administer effective first aid to Cranston. The bleeding was barely staunched, but he was hit hard. Still, as the little boat churned toward shore, he began to regain his faculties.
Just after leaving the Chinese village, our heroes passed a low grassy island, more than a mile in length, with a single standing object, like an obelisk, near the center. It was like the one that was seen in British Columbia… There was a clearing in the tall grass around the standing stone and a pair of small boat docks. The stone itself was only about 80% complete, missing its topmost portion. The sides were covered in scaffolding as if it were under construction.
By the time they pulled up to the dock in Kingston, the ringing sounds of battle had begun to fade, but the blood and empty shells strewn all over the deck were reminders of the sounds and sights from mere minutes ago. All were shaken and disturbed by the encounter and all helped Cranston to the hospital where he received excellent care. Despite his deep wound, he was bound and bandaged and good enough to walk around…. or go for another boat ride.
Everyone decided they’d like to head back to the bay, and specifically to see what was up with that Obelisk. Everyone, except John Hammer – who was missing. They were relieved to be without his presence as he was a generally offensive fellow. Still, they asked around at the hospital to find he headed out only a few moments earlier. They followed his path down toward the docks and it turned out they just missed him. He had just departed in a small boat.
With that, the agents called the Coast Guard for support. They asked the Coast Guard be on the lookout for Hammer, as well as to meet them, if they could, down near that obelisk. Arriving back at their little craft by the docks, they noticed the blood and shells had been swept and washed from the decks of The Seahorse as they headed out again, and this time into coming darkness.
It took much longer for our agents and their captain to find their way back. The darkness made navigating the narrow murky channels difficult. But they did find their way. They could see the lights of the fiery torches first. Then they could see there were hundreds of Chinese gathered around the base of the obelisk. Two small steam powered boats were already docked at the docks. More boats brought more villagers. Our agents watched from a distance in silence. The Chinese began to chant. They worked up and down the scaffolding, carrying baskets of something…and that’s when the screaming started. More than one person could be heard screaming over the chanting. Desperate panicked sort of screams. Through the binoculars, Squeelio saw John Hammer’s bloodied head protruding from the side of the obelisk near the top. He was screaming his lungs out in complete terror.
But there were hundreds of well armed Chinese all around, and there were four other figures nearest the base of the obelisk including Ms. Aldercott, Mr. Walsh, an older man, and someone wearing thick dark robes or layers of robes.
Our heroes sat and watched as the screams died down and finally stopped.
After an hour or so, the Chinese began to file down to the boats and load into rowboats and one steamship. Many departed. The four figures before the obelisk remained still, arms raised. After another half an hour, the steamboat returned and most of the rest of the Chinese departed. All that remained were about a dozen tommy-gun toting Chinese and the four figures, now talking among themselves near the obelisk scaffolding.
Our crew debated. It grew late, both in the game and for our tired players.
Finally, a plan. Five agents slipped into the rowboat and crept forward in the shadow of the remaining steamboat. They cut the mooring lines and paddled gently away. The ship began to drift along behind with the breeze.
It was only a few moments until one of the Chinese noticed – there was a cry of alarm and five ran for the edge of the dock. Leaving their tommy guns behind, they leapt in to swim after the boat. That’s about when they spotted the dingy with our heroes aboard – and everyone started shooting.
Squeelio lit up the cultists in the water with his chopper. Forsythe took one down with his shotgun. Two died and three dove, but at least a couple of those were wounded. Rifle fire from Cranston began to toll on the cultists on island. He nailed Chester Walsh with his first shot – who went down. Fire from the cultists began to take its toll as well. Scarlotta and Johnson were hit and bleeding but still firing. Then a tommy gun toting cultist took it in the chest from Cranston and likewise fell. Everyone on the island scattered for cover, except the robed figure who moved slowly, almost tottering.
Stephiana Aldercott went to assist that figure … and Cranston nailed her too. She spun and fell from the impact.
Meanwhile the cultists in the water swam to the other side of the steamship, away from their well armed pursuers. Squeelio, Forsythe, Johnson and Scarlotta boarded the steamboat up its starboard stairs and proceeded toward the stern where they expected to meet the climbing swimmers.
Suddenly, on land, a bright stream of liquid light or liquid energy spewed out of the fallen form of Stephania lighting the clearing, scaffolding and obelisk in a horrible flashing and waving glow. In that same moment, Chester Walsh sprang up and sprayed his Thompson toward The Seahorse. Cranston nailed Chester through the top of the head as he bent for another magazine for his Thompson. Chester fell in a heap as the bullet exploded the back of his skull .
Just as the Chinese climbed onto the deck of the steamship, and all eyes were landward, a giant jointed leg some thirty feet long burst from the corpse of Stephania and began to unfold, lifting her body high in the air.
Forsythe fell stupified into his own personal abyss (43 SAN at one hit). Squeelio stared transfixed in horror. Scarlotta ran for the far end of the steamship, and Johnson rowed madly away from everything.
Occidare and Cranston fired up the fishing boat and fled into the night while Turin stood gaping.
That’s where we ended the evening. Everyone was tired. It was time to go.
Throughout the adventure, the emphasis from the mission manager was to make sure and gather evidence. Documentation. “Gather irrefutable proof that can be used in court to obtain convictions of Marchesi and his band.” Why then did the gunfight ensue? Was it for love of John Hammer and for want of revenge? Was it a habitual response? As if when certain environmental conditions are met, subsequent actions are a mere tick of destiny away? Let’s see: Crazed cultists, check. Sacrificial ritual, check. Thompsons, check. Ready – open fire!
Was the mission successful? Were our heroes heroic? Sadly, I’d have to say no. No evidence was obtained. The few surviving agents were forever scarred, and likely never operational again. Scarlotta, Forsythe, Squeelio, and Johnson were lost. … And John Hammer as well.
Were the master plans of the evil cultists foiled and ruined?
Postponed, is a better word.