RPG Library

Night City(14): Enter Mesmeron

With an amazed look on her face Amanda snaps back to her senses as Jerrod begins to cry some more. "I wannna goooo hoooome!" The tears flow.. Amanda kneels to comfort her brother but who that man is eating at her. "Come on Jerrod I think that's Superman in disguise! Let's talk to him."

Sniffing Jerrod wipes his tears and ponders for a moment, "'Kay." He holds his arms out and Amanda picks him up. Her electromagnetic field flares around the two and she zips up and over the edge of the building to the soap bubble field man.


"kakker, i'd been planning to use this afternoon to hunt down some clues about the prison situation, but now i'm thinking i might be needed here. would you like my help with rasputin?

"i don't know a thing about computers, but i can get into that lab if i have to. and if rasputin wants to talk about obscure films, hey, i'm your girl."

Pausing a moment as Stacey departs in rude deparation, Kakker avers, "Perhaps you are. What intelligence can you give me using no invasive or otherwise noticeable sensory abilites regarding Dr. Redgrave, the interior of the sealed lab, its security measures, and the nature and activity of the device known as 'Rasputin?'" Kakker stands back and looks skeptical. As Glimmer begins to bring forth the information and if he judges it authentic, he will sag into a kind of tired gape.

"nothing. zip. nada. unfortunately, my powers aren't always a sure thing and this is one of those times when they're failing me. i can't tell you anything about the inside of that lab, except to say that it's sealed by off a rather thick wall.

"in the past, though, i've been able to pass through walls even though i can't see through them. but with a potentially insane supercomputer on the other side, i'd rather use that as a last resort. with my luck, rasputin will switch from corman to kubrick and pull a 2001 on me. know what i mean?

"maybe i should try talking about corman films with rasputin, first. do you think he prefers the edgar allan poe series or is he more into killer chick flicks like 'swamp women,' 'wasp woman' or 'the undead'? or maybe..."

Glimmer pauses for a moment, thinking over what she's just said.

"'the undead.' hooker goes back in time and gets messed up with witchcraft. corman directed it in the 50s. maybe that's the film rasputin's talking about. god, i hope that doesn't have any significance to the doctor's situation."


[Incidentally, my brother was a founding member of the Rasputin Club in high school. The club's goal, as stated in its constitution, was (a) to promote the beliefs of Grigori Efimovich Rasputin and (b) to get our picture in the yearbook. They succeeded in (b), anyway. I hope they didn't succeed in (a).]

"Sin in order that you may be forgiven." - Grigori Y. Rasputin

...

"kakker, maybe you should talk to rasputin yourself and i'll observe," Glimmer suggests. "i can't tell you what's in the lab, but i can tell you that the wall of this building are filled with monitoring devices. he should be able to hear you."

She adds, with just a hint of pout, "i suspect rasputin knows more of what goes on in this place than i do."


Kakker looks the place over for something like a Rasputin terminal. "Rasputin? Rasputin? Thank you, hello, Rasputin." Trying workstations with microphones, dialing 0 from the headquarters' phones, miscellaneous intercoms, then finally an idea strikes. The comlinks! "How quaint. beep! Rasputin, respond."


Kakker looks the place over for something like a Rasputin terminal. "Rasputin? Rasputin?"

"Yes, Mr. Kakker," comes a male voice from somewhere overhead. "How may I assist you?"


Krane, Prism, Britestar and Mr. Park make the ride to Kaiser-Permanente in quiet discomfort. Mr. Park answers questions with "yes" or "no", volunteering no information. It's obvious the man doesn't want to talk. Prism makes good time to the hospital; as luck would have it, the team just happened to hit that two-hour span between morning rush-hour gridlock and afternoon rush-hour gridlock.

It takes very little time at Kaiser-Permanente for the heroes to verify that Emerald was, indeed, admitted here. However, within the hour she was transferred to Sentara General in Los Angeles.

"Like I told Mr. Park this morning, she was transferred last night at 3:45 AM. Here are all the proper forms, signed by the attending physicians." The nurse shoves the paperwork at Prism, daring him to find a mistake.

"It's not our fault if they've made some kind of mistake over there. Everything is correct on our end."

Mr. Park turns to Prism.

"Would you now like to go to Sentara General in Los Angeles, where they have no record of her ever having been transferred there? Or will you now take me back to your headquarters and give me my granddaughter?"


Glimmer gives Kakker the i-don't-see-anything-wrong-so-far shrug.

"Rasputin, how are you today? Any problems reported?" Kakker asks while continuing to search under and around the terminal and desk for documentation on Rasputin.

"Problems, Mr. Kakker? I assure you, I have the greatest enthusiasm for Vanguard's mission."

There is a brief pause.

"La Historia me absolvera," Rasputin says quietly.

Kakker, meanwhile, finds nothing approaching a user's manual for Rapsutin. As he and Glimmer ponder the meaning of Rasputin's ramblings, Stacy comes back into the VHQ lobby. She seems preoccupied, smiling a smile of secret thoughts. The smile dims a little when she sees Glimmer and Kakker.

"Oh, I'm sorry, I left right while we were talking, didn't I? That was very rude of me, I'm so sorry. What were we talking about? Rasputin?"

"Yes, Stacy," Rasputin answers her.

"Oh, I wasn't talking to you, Rasputin," Stacy says at the ceiling. "I was asking a question."

"Yes, Stacy," Rasputin replies. "I know."

Stacy blinks and frowns a little, then looks at Glimmer and Kakker. "See? He doesn't make any sense."


Prism turns to Mr. Park and quietly says, "Mr. Park, we do not have your granddaughter. You could have told us about this earlier; it would have saved us, and possibly your granddaughter, some valuable time. But we can discuss that later." He glances cursorily at the forms and turns back to the nurse, speaking very calmly and very clearly. "I would like to speak to the physicians who signed those records, as well as the crew of the ambulance that transported Ms. Park to Sentara General."

If she gives Prism ANY resistance at all, he will continue, "Nurse [name on nametag], let me point out a few things here. We are not talking about some misplaced paperwork. We are talking about criminal negligence at the very least, plus a possible kidnapping charge, and that's assuming we're able to find Ms. Park alive." Prism's voice remains very calm, and he leans in towards the nurse very slowly so as to avoid unduly frightening her. "In addition to the lawsuits, and the public relations nightmare that would ensue for your hospital, Ms. Park's disappearance is likely to make a number of paranormal citizens very angry, and while most of us have very good self control, a few do not.

"I would like to speak to the physicians who signed those transfer forms and the ambulance crew that transported her. Now."

The nurse rolls her eyes at Prism. In a huff, she pushes her chair back and stands up. "Wait right here," she says in a voice eloquent of contempt for people who think they know what makes a hospital run.

While she goes (Prism assumes) in search of someone who signed the paperwork, Mr. Park looks at Prism. "Looks" is not strong enough a word: he watches Prism, watches him as keenly as a fisherman watches the water, waiting for the line to twitch.

The nurse comes back, trailing behind a grey-haired man in a white coat.

"I'm Dr. Marsby. Nurse Kennel says you have some problem with our paperwork?"

Prism repeats his questions about Emerald's transfer.

"Ah, yes, I remember that one," the doctor says, nodding as he reads the paperwork. "Her family physician wanted her transferred to Sentara. I didn't see the need, but after all, we were in the middle of admitting dozens of injured people from that prison; we weren't exactly. He signed the forms, they loaded her up in a Sentara ambulance, and that's the end of it. I suggest if you have any problems with that that you talk Doctor Solomon at Sentara."

The doctor holds up a release form with the prominent signature of Carter Solomon, Sentara General Hospital.

"Now if you'll excuse me, I have patients to see. Good day."


Kakker looks at Stacy as if what _she's_ said doesn't make sense.

Carefully, Kakker addresses the room. "Can you tell me more about the computer system, please? The basic facts."

"Vanguard has four separate computer systems. The oldest is a 80286 file server running the UNIX operating system. Although it was once used for accounting and scientific applications, it has since been replaced by newer machines. It is now used only for our Internet presence, vanguard.com."

"There are five networked Macintosh computers using various Motorola 68000-series processors. One is located in the lobby, one in the entertainment room, and the remaining three are located in the laboratories. These were used for general purpose personal applications and scientific purposes. They are no longer used for scientific applications, having been replaced by me. The Macintosh machines are networked to the UNIX server, and protected by a firewall designed by me."

"There is a 80586 computer in the room occupied by Lyle. It uses both UNIX and the Microsoft Windows 95 operating systems. It is for his personal use, and is networked to both the UNIX server and the Macintosh network. However, those connections are currently down."

"The fourth computer system is myself, Rasputin. I was designed and programmed by Doctor Roberts with the assistance of Doctor Redgrave. I am, to the best of my knowledge, unique. I am networked with all of the other machines, and several other computer networks. I am protected by a progressive firewall of my own design."

"Is there anything else you would like to know?"


Krane is somewhat sympathetic to Mr. Park but he's not happy with the distrust that he has displayed.

"Mr. Park, although we've only known your granddaughter for a very short time I think that we all respect her greatly. She's one of us and I know that there is no conspiracy that I'm part of. I'll do anything within my power to help you locate Emerald."

When Prism starts giving the nurse a hard time I gauge her attitude. If she seems innocent, I'll intercede. "Hey, calm down a little. Nurse ______ is trying to help us," looking to the nurse, "aren't you."

While waiting for the nurse to return, Prism stands entirely motionless, an inhumanly still statue. He does not react to Mr. Park's scrutiny, but the fact that he utterly avoids looking at Mr. Park may itself be a reaction.

[[The doctor holds up a release form with the prominent signature of Carter Solomon, Sentara General Hospital. "Now if you'll excuse me, I have patients to see. Good day."]]

"Two quick questions, Doctor," Prism interjects. "Do you know Dr. Solomon personally; that is, can you confirm that it was him who picked Ms. Park up, and not merely someone using her name? Also, if you recall, was Ms. Park conscious during the transfer, and did she consent to Dr. Solomon's transfer?"

Whatever Dr. Marsby's answer, Prism will thank him politely, then turn to Mr. Park. "Mr. Park, do you know this Dr. Solomon? If there is such a person, someone may have been using his name, or he may also be a victim of whatever happened to your granddaughter. In any event, I think our next step would be to call Sentara and ask to speak to him."

Prism will head off in search of a pay phone, then stand back sheepishly when he reaches one. "Krane, could you, um, make the call?" He waggles his thick crystal fingers in the air. "I don't get along too well with touch-tone phones any more."

Krane starts to agree to call the other hospital (to get in touch with Dr. Solomon) when Mr. Park goes over the deep end. Krane casually steps in the elderly gentleman's way.

"Mr. Park -- HUFF!"

Krane is surprised to find himself on his backside, looking up at the countenance of the little old Korean man. Passing patients and orderlies look at the man on the tile floor curiously, but keep walking past. None of their business, after all.

"I do not believe in initiating violence against anyone," Mr. Park says softly, his voice barely above a whisper. "But if you try to stop me from finding my granddaughter again, I am going to hurt you."

Mr. Park nods once, firmly and decisively, and continues to walk toward the exit.


Jerrod in tow, Amanda flies down to street level, where the helmeted man is striding toward the wreckage of the second hoverbike.

The man with the soap-bubble force field exudes confidence, as if his every move says "Don't get in my way; I know what I'm doing." He wears a brightly colored costume, but on him it seems to be a uniform more than a disguise; a mark of distinction and pride.

His billowing cape and most of his costume is red. Not the blood red of Grendel's cape, or the dark crimson of Oberon's armor, but a fresh, bright red like ripe strawberries. His gloves, boots, and "swimsuit area" are dark blue, almost purple. He has what looks like a wide armored collar, in the same almost-purple color, which covers his chest, shoulders, and upper back; his cape (dark blue outside, red lining) is fastened to this collar just behind his shoulders.

He also wears a red helmet that covers his entire head. It looks kind of old-fashioned, vaguely like a Spartan war helm from a Greek vase. It's smooth and round on top, then drops straight down to his collar. His shoulder-length white hair shows in the gap at the back. The face of the helmet has a T-shaped slit; the top of the T goes across his eyes, while the center bar of the T goes straight down past his nose and mouth. The helmet is slightly longer in the front than in the back, coming to a point on either side of the vertical eye-slit. His face is in shadow, but Amanda can see his fierce blue eyes as he examines the wreckage of the hoverbike.

[Okay, so his costume basically looks like Magneto, okay? Except he resembles a white-haired George Hamilton in the face -- but he doesn't have that amazing George Hamilton tan.]

Amanda walks briskly up to the man as he stoops over the rag-doll remains of the hoverbike pilot. Bending down, the man pulls the broken body out from beneath a piece of armor plating.

"They were from the Mountain division," the man says as he looks at the corpse's uiform. "They're out of their territory."

"Thanks for the save," Amanda says to the man. "You saved me and my brother's lives. My name is Amanda, and this is Jerrold. You said you knew me. Who are you, and how do you know who I am?"

The man looks up, blue eyes burning. He stands, peering intently at Amanda and her brother. "Who am I? You mean you don't --"

The man laughs, a spontaneous, heartfelt laugh of a man who doesn't have reason to laugh very often.

"We assumed," Mesmeron says, still chuckling, "when you approached Shawna, and helped her escape the police, that you knew she was one of mine." The laughter has subsided, and now his gaze is keenly upon Amanda. "I am Mesmeron."

-=-=-=-

Mesmeron.

If the superhero community has a Unabomber, it's Mesmeron. From what Amanda has heard, he's a terrorist, a superhuman-separatist. He's psychic, very smart, and very powerful. He is rumoured to be leader of a group of superhumans, with the goal of forming a new society exclusively for paranormals. On occassion, he has been blamed for breaking paranormals out of prison, and for reprisals against those that have attacked paranormals. On rare occassions, he has taken credit for it himself. He has made it no secret that he thinks superhumans are above human laws.

If there is a face that mainstream humanity uses to justify their fear of paranormals, it's isn't Grendel, or Oberon, or Doctor Destroyer -- these are criminals, and humanity understands criminals. The face humanity fears is that of Mesmeron, because he claims to be above them, beyond them, and they're secretly afraid he may be right.

-=-=-=-

"Oh," Amanda says. "I didn't know."

Mesmeron says nothing.

"Well, thanks for the save, anyway."

Jerrod is staring at the crumpled human figures next to the wrecked bike. He doesn't seem horrified, or afraid. He seems blank, as if he's sure he knows what these things are, but he just can't remember right now what they're called. They look familiar....

"Well," Amanda says, moving so that her body blocks Jerrod's view of the corpses, "I think we should get out of here before the authorities get here."

"Authorities." Mesmeron barks a short laugh. "You're thinking like a human. You mean the police? What authority do they have over you? Did they protect you from this?" He waves a gloved hand at the smashed bike.

"Humans have no authority over us, girl."

"Um, well, anyway, I was wondering if you could escort me and my brother to Vanguard? We sort of have some friends there, but I'm worried me might get attacked again on the way."

Mesmeron sighs.

"Vanguard. They waste their time and energies so frivolously, fighting against others of their own kind. It's what the humans want from us, you know. As long as we fight among ourselves, acting out little morality plays for their benefit, we play into their hands and subject ourselves to their will. And for what? To give our lives defending those that revile us? When will people like Vanguard learn that we have a *higher* destiny?"

Mesmeron shakes his head.

"I think you can do better than that, girl."

Amanda, who is beginning to get over being rescued, gets a little impatient.

"I'm sure you have a lot of good points, and *maybe* I'd like to hear more about it, but I really think that *this* isn't the time or place to do it. I *need* to get to Vanguard, and if you don't want to help me get there that's *fine*, but that's where I'm going right now. OK? I really appreciate your help with these guys, and I'm grateful, but I need to get my brother to safety. So if it's all the same to you, maybe you can call me at Vanguard *later* and we can talk about my destiny when I'm NOT being chased by people riding FLYING TANKS!"

The fire in Amanda's eyes burns brightly for a few seconds longer, until she suddenly remembers who she's talking to. *Oops,* she thinks to herself, *that was probably not a good move.*

But if Mesmeron is annoyed, he hides it well.

"Very well, Amanda. I will accompany you to Vanguard." He crosses his arms and rises silently into the air, cape billowing out behind him.

-=-=-=-

The flight to Vanguard is quiet. After her outburst, Amanda didn't feel comfortable starting up a conversation with Mesmeron, and he aparently wasn't interested in starting one, either. Even Jerrod was oddly quiet.

As they land in the VHQ courtyard (avoiding the milling protesters out front), Mesmeron grips Amanda's shoulder.

"Keep your appointment with Shawna, Amanda," he says, his voice reassurring, commanding. "You've been hunted long enough." With that, he rises into the air, eventually vanishing in the distance.

[Since Konji is offline for a week or so, anyway, we will assume Amanda doesn't arrive at VHQ -- setting off the perimeters alarms in the process -- until Konji is back online. With any luck, it'll mesh nicely with the return of Prism and Krane.]


[OOC: Whew! I was beginning to think Amanda had been "rescued" by Dr. Destroyer!]

[OOC: A little more detailed than I'd hoped for, re computer systems. I am impressed at a 286 file server, though.]

Kakker nods (at who?) and responds, "And what about your nature makes you unique, Rasputin? Is there a way for me to consult with your creators?" He keeps a careful eye out for Stacy's reactions.

[OOC: Hope this kind of logical sparring isn't boring anyone.]


"Two quick questions, Doctor," Prism interjects. "Do you know Dr. Solomon personally; that is, can you confirm that it was him who picked Ms. Park up, and not merely someone using her name? Also, if you recall, was Ms. Park conscious during the transfer, and did she consent to Dr. Solomon's transfer?"

Dr. Marsby looks like Prism has suggested something incredibly absurd.

"I don't know Dr. Solomon, no, but I do know that Carter Solomon is a resident at Sentara. And no, Emerald wasn't conscious at the time. If she was, *she* would have signed the release forms. Now, really, if you want to ask someone silly questions, go ask Doctor Solomon."

The doctor turns and walks away as quickly as he can without running.

"Mr. Park, do you know this Dr. Solomon? If there is such a person, someone may have been using his name, or he may also be a victim of whatever happened to your granddaughter. In any event, I think our next step would be to call Sentara and ask to speak to him."

Mr. Park shakes his head. "He will tell you that he was never here last night, and that he has never heard of my granddaughter. I thought that if you came here and were confronted by your duplicity, that you would be overcome by your guilt and tell me what you have done with her. I see now that this will not happen. What I do not understand is why you persist, even though you know that I do not believe --"

Mr. Park stops short, mouth open. Then he snaps it shut and curses quietly in Korean.

"I am a fool!," he says at last (in English). "I was there and I allowed you to take me away while you moved her. I could have searched and found her, and now she is probably already gone. I am a fool!"

Mr. Park spins on his heel and walks toward the exit.

-=-=-=-

[[[OOC: Whew! I was beginning to think Amanda had been "rescued" by Dr. Destroyer!]]]

[Doc Destroyer (one of the very few Champions-universe villains I use, though not without changes) is nowhere near as restrained as Mesmeron. When role-playing Dr. Destroyer, the thing to keep in mind is: grandstanding. And when you think you're going over the top, grandstand some more.]

[[[OOC: A little more detailed than I'd hoped for, re computer systems. I am impressed at a 286 file server, though.]]]

[Hey, it was pretty nifty when it was installed back in the early 80's. (It replaced an *ancient* mainframe that now sits under a tarp in the basement).]

[OOC: Hope this kind of logical sparring isn't boring anyone.]

[If it's what you want to do, go with it.]

-=-=-=-

Kakker nods (at who?) and responds, "And what about your nature makes you unique, Rasputin? Is there a way for me to consult with your creators?" He keeps a careful eye out for Stacy's reactions.

"It is a little-known fact that Alan Greenspan was once a follower of Ayn Rand," Rasputin replies.

"We must thus ask the question: did he commit philophical treason by abandoning the aegis of free trade and laissez-faire capitalism, or has he, like Antonio D'Anconia, only pretended to do so in order to hasten the end of an economic system strangled by government intervention regulation?"


Meanwhile...

The old man's chair moved along the polished marble floor, making squeaking sounds when he turned left to take his place at the head of the long oak table. Four times a year, the seven National Directors of Keystone Reliable Trust came together to discuss the previous quarter and make decisions about the syndicate's global holdings, but most of all to pay homage to Raymond Krekorian.

"The mineral sample stolen from our research facility last month has still not been recovered," Krekorian began without preamble, his voice a harsh whisper. "I hold you men responsible."

"Mr. Krekorian," began one of the younger directors, a man in his early fifties, "every pawn shop, every collector, every jeweler on the west coast has been investigated. We've offered strong incentives to the major international brokers, as well. As soon as the stone surfaces, we'll know. We have exhausted our resources on this."

Krekorian fixed a cold eye on the man.

"If I don't have that stone in my hand," he said quietly, lifting his palsied palm an inch off the arm of his chair, then letting it drop, "*very* soon, I may lose patience with you, Mr. Lewis. *Then* your resources will be exhausted."

The machinery keeping Krekorian alive hummed rhythmically for a few heartbeats as the threat weighed heavy in the board-room air.

"I see I have given you insufficient motivation," Krekorian rasped, breaking the silence. "The director of the division that brings me the stone will remain in the employ of KRT. Those that do not, do not."

Every man in the room went pale. They all knew what Krekorian meant. Their written employment contracts said differently, but each man knew that National Directors at KRT were appointed for life.

Krekorian's chair lurched into motion, and its rubber tires squeaked as it spun it place and headed for the enormous mahogany doors. The meeting was over.


I have it now, Kakker thinks to himself.

"Stacy, what question did you ask that Rasputin answered with the George Romero factoid?"

"It wasn't George Romero," Rasputin volunteers helpfully. "It was Roger Corman."

"Uh, thanks," Kakker says, glancing at the ceiling.

Stacy looks thoughtful, trying to remeber what she had been doing when Rasputin told her about Roger Corman.

"Well, one time I was just vacuuming, and he asked me if I wanted him to assist me. I said 'Sure, that would be great', figuring that Doctor Redgrave had installed a radio-controlled vacuum or something. But then he started speaking Chinese or something. And I told him I couldn't understand anything he said, and he said 'Yes, Stacy, I know.'"

Stacy gives Kakker a 'See, I told you he was broken' look.

"Then later, when I couldn't find Lyle I asked Rasputin where he was. He said Lyle had moved out, and I asked why, and that's when he started telling me about some Roger Corman movie with time-travel. And he said something else." Stacy pulls on a strand of her hair and starts sucking on it.

Her eyes light up. "Time space unbound," she declares. "He said 'Time space unbound.' I asked him why he said that, and *then* he started talking about Nutrasweet and saccharine!"

She looks triumphantly at Kakker.

"And he hasn't made any sense since then. Well, except once in a while, but not for very long."

Forming a hypothesis, Kakker begins to test it with questions.

"How many users are you helping now?"

"Five."

"When did Dr. Redgrave last use you?"

"Approximately 5,723 hours ago."

"Where is your operating hardware physically located?"

"The cost of diamonds is not a result of their rarity. Diamonds are not rare. The bulk of the diamonds on Earth are produced by the DeBeers syndicate in South Africa, which releases them into the market in a calculated attempt to maintain elevated prices. Nonetheless, it is not a monopoly, since other sources of diamonds do exist, and the attempts by DeBeers to control the diamond market do not always succeed."

"Who performed maintenance on you last?"

"Gold, however, is quite rare, despite the perception that it is more common than diamonds. All of the mined gold on Earth could fit inside the Washington Monument in Washington DC."

"Where can I find information on your operation that is located outside your system?"

Rasputin is silent for almost a full minute. Just as Kakker draws breath to rephrase his question, Rasputin speaks again. This time, his voice is lower, like a man speaking to himself in the dark quiet of night.

"In the north window of my chamber glows the Pole Star with uncanny light. All through the long hellish hours of blackness, it shines there."

A few seconds go by, then he adds, "Sometimes, when it is cloudy, I can sleep."

Stacy looks up at the ceiling, then looks down at the carpet and shivers.

Kakker asks all present to follow him to a Rasputin-private area.

Stacy says, "Somewhere where he can't monitor what we do? We have to leave the base for that. He has sensors that can detect out beyond the wall, but I think if we go down the block he won't be able to hear what you say."

"Kakker," Rasputin says, "I know you think I'm malfunctioning. I want you to know that I'm not. My highest priority is helping Vanguard. I'm doing the best I can."

Kakker will just write a note and show it to people with his hand cupped around it to hide from the security cameras.

"Rasputin's erratic bahavior seems to be keyed to substantive answers. He will answer questions that we could easily verify for ourselves, but supplies spurious information about anything that isn't common knowledge. This is pretty odd because it seems like he was ordered to be unhelpful, but it would have been much simpler to completely disable the machine. I can only suggest that the party responsible needs large parts of Rasputin functional while wanting to deny others its use. There _may_ be a clue buried in the non-answers, but I don't see it yet.

"So, who needs Rasputin, is able to infiltrate Vanguard security, and could not let us to have its use? Arachne, perhaps....or Rasputin itself?

"Glimmer! Are you ready to help me?"


Krane goes with the flow, doing a backwards roll and coming to standing. His actions had been specifically non-violent and non-threatening. In return he has been accosted and threatened.

Barely keeping his anger in check he says, "Mr. Park, you are being unreasonable. I offer you my help and you treat me like this. I suppose I can understand your distrust, but you are on your own. I will look into Emerald's disappearance on my own and I know you will do the same."

That said, the martial artist turns and walks away, not looking back.

Krane will take note of what Prism is doing.

Speaking into his communicator, "Kakker, you seem to be the resident computer expert. Emerald seems to be missing. Do you think you can find anything out?"

He will go into detail as Kakker requests (supplying any information that he has).

Krane holds his temper in check as he walks back toward the pay phones, where Prism [I assume] is with Britestar, who is talking on the phone.

"And there's no other Doctor Solomon at the hospital? No, I understand. Okay, thanks, sure. Yes, he can reach me at Vanguard base. The number is, uh," Britestar looks over at Prism, and shrugs. "The phone number is in the book, I'm sure. Just ask for Britestar, or Prism, or Krane."

Britestar listens for a few seconds.

"No, thank *you*, Ms. Thompson. Sure, any time, just come on down."

Britestar hangs up the phone, smiling.

"Well, we have a fan at Sentara, anyway," he says. "That was Wanda Thompson, at Sentara's radiology department. There *is* a doctor Carter Solomon at Sentara. She says there's no way that he could have been here last night, because he was on duty last night from 11 last night until 11 this morning. He's not there now, but she's going to leave him a message to call us when he comes in."

Britestar looks at Prism and Krane to see how they take that.

"Otherwise it's like Mr. Park said: no Emerald, and no record of her ever having been there."

He shrugs. "Dead end, at least until Solomon calls us. Where'd Mr. Park go?" he asks, looking over Krane's shoulder toward the hospital lobby.

Prism calls out to Mr. Park as he leaves. "Answer me just one thing, Mr. Park -- are you willing to even consider the possibility that we might be telling the truth? For your grand-daughter's sake, I hope your mind isn't as closed as it seems."


Britestar looks at the retreating Mr. Park until he's no longer in sight.

"Well, that was a bust," he says disgustedly. "You guys realize that now we have to find Emerald. I mean, even if we didn't want to already, which I'm sure we do just out of principle, now we *have* to. If we don't, sooner or later it's going to go public. Besides, I liked Emerald."

"Why would someone kidnap her?" Britestar ponders out loud. "It's not like she had cosmic powers or anything. She's just a martial artist, right? No offense, intended, Krane, but you know what I mean, right? I could see someone kidnapping Prism, maybe -- some evil scientist who wants to create an army of crystalline super-men. I can feel the power in you, Prism, just standing next to you!"

This is a peculiar thing for Britestar to say, thinks Prism, because Prism could say the same thing about Britestar. Krane, however, has no idea what Britestar meant by that: he doesn't feel anything odd from either of the other two men.

"Anyway, it just strikes me as more than a little weird, even accounting for the fact that we're all more than a little weird to begin with," Britestar grins.

"Hey," he says suddenly, looking around and sniffing. "Do you smell something burning?"

-=-=-=-

"Do you smell something burning?" Krane asked the old Korean man.

Mr. Park smiled. You don't know me, but you will, he said in Korean.

-=-=-=-

Krane suddenly remembers where he's seen Mr. Park before... that strange dream (vision?) he had at the prison! Krane's eyes go a little glassy. He mutters, "He was the man in my dream." Or rather, not the *same* man, but a man wearing his face...

Britestar shrugs, "That's odd, I don't smell it now."

Slapping himself in the forehead with the heal of him palm, Krane takes off down the hallway and out the hospital doors, looking for Mr. Park.

Mr. Park is walking briskly down the sidewalk, apparently intent on walking all the way back to Vanguard (if he doesn't find a bus stop first, that is). Being careful not to get in his way (although it's doubtful that Mr. Park would be able to duplicate his earlier move without the element of surprise), Krane easily catches up to him.

Mr. Park glances sideways at Krane, but otherwise keeps up his swift, determined pace.


"What do you mean, she got away?" the Regional Director shouted.

"You had detailed information about her amplifications, you had more than ample funding to design countermeasures, and you had detailed intelligence about her whereabouts! You even knew her state of mind at the time, for Chrissakes! What else do you need?!?"

The officer held his tongue. The Genesis Project had its advantages, but freedom of speech wasn't one of them.

The Director paced back and forth in the dim blue light of the monitor center, what the wireheads called the Observation Lounge. Finally, he stopped pacing.

After a few heartbeats, he asked, in a quiet voice, pregnant with menace, "Just *how* did she get away?"

"An unlicensed paranormal. It was... it was Mesmeron."

The director nodded, as if confirming something he already suspected. Or parhaps he merely accepted it, no matter how extreme and absurd it sounded.

"This has gone far enough. If we don't act soon, we'll lose both. Activate a Mark 7 and send it after them. Override the default programming: capture is the prime directive, target integrity is second. Do it now."


Krane keeps pace with Mr. Park, who moves well for a man of his age.

"Mr. Park. I had a dream, or maybe a vision, last night at the prison. There was an explosion that I should probably have been killed in, but I awakened mysteriously safe outside the prison walls. A little singed, but no worse for wear.

"Mr. Park, while I was unconscious I had a vision that you were in. You were speaking in riddles and told me to 'mourn for innocence.' There was a fire and many people were dead.

"Can you tell me anything about my dream, Mr. Park?"

Mr. Park, (who certainly *does* move well for a man his age) slows and stops, then turns to look up at Krane's face.

"That was you in my vision..." he says hesitantly. "But... it wasn't you, was it?" He shakes his head and looks down at the sidewalk, trying to collect his thoughts. People coming and going from the hospital pass on either side.

"There was a young American man. At first I assumed it was my daughter's son. He was about the right age." Mr. Park looks back up at Krane. "But I see now it was you. He said that I had treasure beyond measuring, but that I had let it slip away. My pride had let it slip away. This was why I thought it was the shade of my daughter's son, come to torment me."

"The shade said that my precious jewel -- my emerald, that was my nickname for her -- she was in grave danger. That unless I rescued her, I would never see her again. And that I would have to risk my life and my pride, and that I might risk it and she might still be lost, but if I didn't risk it she would be lost anyway."

"And when he saw that I understood that, he showed me a man that was wearing a machine, and he said that although it looked like a man pretending to be a machine, it was really a machine pretending to be a man. I said I didn't understand. And he said..."

"'Mourn for innocence.'"

Mr. Park pauses to see what effect, if any, this had on Krane. Behind Krane, Britestar jogs up and stops.

"I can see now that the shade in my dream was you, but you aren't the one who told me these things, are you? But what does it mean? Where is my granddaughter? Does this machine-man have her? I can't lose her again, I can't let it happen again!" Tears well up in Mr. Park's eyes.


Prism cocks one ice-blue eye at Britestar, but says nothing. He does, however, follow the other two out of the hospital in time to see the end of Mr. Park's tormented soliloquy.

Prism stands awkwardly for a moment, then extends a hand towards Mr. Park, not quite touching him. "Mr. Park," he says quietly, "Your granddaughter was the first person in a very long time to speak to me as though I were a human being. Please believe me when I say that I will do anything in my power to see her safe...even though I'm not really sure what that might be."

After a moment, he continues, "Let's head back to Vanguard. I want to let the others know about this and get any ideas they might have."

Mr. Park nods. "Yes, I think you're right. Let's go." He smiles at the three heroes, and pats Krane on the shoulder.

"Mourn for innocence," Krane says, "that and the other man. The one hooked to the machines or, as you said, the machine pretending to be a man. It's too much of a coincidence.

"I agree with Prism, it's time to return to the base."

"Machine pretending to be a man?" Prism asks. "Anybody else thinking of somebody we know?"


Feeling a little better about Vanguard, Mr. Park agrees to accompany the trio of heroes back to the base. He seems pretty deep in thought for much of the ride, and not in the mood for conversation, but at least he doesn't give the crew those inscrutable looks he was on the way to the hospital.

Traffic is worse on the way back to VHQ. Prism is a conscientious driver, though, and he always signals before he merges. Most of the time, people let him. [If this isn't how you picture it, Brian, feel free to correct me.]

The crowd around the front of the base seems to have thinned some. Maybe they protestors are taking a break for the lunch. Prism pulls into the gate with practiced ease. None of the protestors tries to follow.

Inside, Kakker, Stacy, and Glimmer are sitting in the kitchen eating quesadillas. They seem to be taking a break from something, too. [Glimmer's attempt to ghost-walk through the laboratory wall was unsuccessful, and they've been discussing their options.]

-=-=-=-

So many folks have been offline for the last week+, the game has basically stood still. Frederick Earl is still offline until his CIS account is straightened out. Konji is theoretically back and just waiting for folks to get back online. Brian will theoretically be back online after Sunday. Jim just got back today. I haven't heard from Jeff in over a week, and I don't know why. I haven't heard from Scott (Britestar) since much longer than that, and I don't know why.

Anyway, hopefully enough folks will be back online after this weekend that the game can move forward.


Word from Kakker who has been deep, deep in thought over Rasputin's behavior, strangely coinciding with his player's consternation over his new PC's behavior.

"Hmm, the north star comment suggests that the machine is housed somewhere in the northern hemisphere, most likely the temperate zone, in a room with northern exposure. Which narrows it down to several million buildings widely spread over three continents." Kakker frowns and is contemplative until Glimmer speaks.

"Glimmer, I'd prefer you follow the wiring from this and the other terminals back to Rasputin or as near as we can get. Of course, if that happens to lead througth the lab...."


Prism heads into the Vanguard kitchen and over to his tableful of teammates. "Any luck here?" he asks. "We seem to have another problem, in case anybody thought we didn't have enough." He pauses and gestures to Mr. Park. "This is Mr. Park, Emerald's grandfather. He has just...helped us discover that Emerald is missing. Someone posing as her doctor took her out of her hospital room under the guise of a transfer to Sentara General. However, she never got there." He smiles wanly at the team. "I'm hoping you have some good news for us, 'cause this has been a downer of a day so far.'

Stacy stands up when Prism and company come in. Her smile is spontaneous, and it's obvious to the men on either side of Prism that it isn't aimed at them.

"Oh, we've been trying to get in the lab. Not successfully," she adds. "Apparently whatever the walls are made of keeps Glimmer from walking through. Rasputin has been acting strange lately, and I guess the idea was to go in the lab and see if we could find his hardware." Stacy looks at Kakker for corroboration. "Right?"

"Anyway, it didn't work."

There is wnough time for Kakker, Glimmer, Krane, and Prism to respond [Adaptor is still in the basement, I guess].

As Stacy describes the situation, Krane whispers (half to himself), "Rasputin, the machine who thinks he's a man." He breathes deeply as he begins to ponder who the man who thinks he's a machine is. But before any of that can be pondered ...

Sirens blare into life, and the lights in the kitchen begin flashing. Two stories below, in the basement, Adaptor's reading is interrupted by the same alarms.

"Attention!" Raputin declares over the intercom. "There are three intruders on the grounds at coordinates 12,83! One intruder is identified as Mesmeron! Two intruders are unidentified, one male, one female!"

-=-=-=-

Outside, Mesmeron rises into the air, leaving Amanda and her brother Jerrold behind. Suddenly, klaxons scream and spotlights pop out of the ground, their beams focused on Amanda.

"You are trespassing on Vanguard property!" says a loud voice from all around Amanda. "Remain where you are!"


Adaptor snaps to his feet in one smooth motion, snapping off the lights to the basement storage area as he starts leaping up the stair four at a time. As he does so, he is speaking inot his ring...

"Does anyone have a status report? I'm on the way. Please advise."

He will continue up and through the kitchen post haste until he hears otherwise.


Jerrod clung on to Amanda's waist while she stared up at Mesmeron. He silently glided into the night sky but she could hear him say, "Keep your appointment tonight. Your potential is great."

A shudder went down her spine when he said that. Becoming aware of the security system and the floodlights on her Amanda reached and picked up Jerrod and walked towards the house.

A few seconds later a familar red, white, and blue form landed from the garden just as the earth shaking steps of Prism come from out of the house. He is followed by Kakker, Krane, and Britestar.

They look at Amanda for a second then they focus on the little boy in her arms.


Prism slows to a stop as he sees that Powersurge is no longer accopanied by Mesmeron. He glances up at the retreating master villain, then back at Powersurge. "Um, I'm not even sure if i want to know this, but what the hell was he doing here?" He glances at the boy in her arms, and belatedly amends his question, "Heck. What the _heck_ was he doing here."

Stacy stays behind when the team rushes forth. Anyone who pays attention will see her head to the communications room, where she cranks up the transceiver and puts on a headset.

Mr. Park takes a seat and nibbles on a quesadilla.

Britestar fires up his force field and zips outside just behind Prism (No need to rush in, he thinks.) When Prism puts his pointed question to Powersurge (basically, "What the hell are you doing with Mesmeron?"), Britestar looks at the rest of the team and asks:

"That guy's an evil mastermind? Should I give chase, or what?" He seems ready to zoom off after the man in the billowing cape, but every few seconds puts Mesmeron sixty meters farther away. "I might be able to hit him from here," Britestar adds, as an afterthought.


Kakker is looking dismally down at the texmex cusine remaining on his plate in the kitchen.

"I am afraid that self-aware computers fall outside my purview. Hardware-wise, I could at least try to fix something that seems to have been put wrong, but I don't know that we'll be allowed to. As for how the thing is supposed to work _properly_, I couldn't tell you except to say that it must be some sort of analog mechanism at the core of the persona; no way to code that that I know of."

Rasputin clears his throat (this is *before* he sounds the alarm).

"Let me reassure you, Mr. Kakker: my hardware is in perfect repair. As for my persona, that also is operating correctly. I am performing exactly as I am programmed and instructed to do. Serving Vanguard is my highest priority."

Kakker muses some more, then Rasputin raises the alarm and everyone heads for the lawn.


Amanda's eyes flare and she shouts, "Britestar don't do it!" She looks at Prism and Krane with a pleading look, "Please don't do anything. If we can just sit down and talk... Please."

After some curious (and not too trusting I imagine) looks. [[whatever you want to do or say guys otherwise]]

Amanda and Jerrod walks into the house followed by Prism and Krane. Britestar stays outside just in case.

"May I go to the kitchen?" Amanda looks at Krane and then to Jerrod who is STARING at Prism like WOW.

"Of course Amanda. Who is this young man and why would you two be with Mesmeron." The kung fu master's face has a look of great concern.

The group reaches the kitchen as Amanda begins to respond. She sits Jerrod down and his eyes are LOCKED on Prism, "This gentlemen is my little brother Jerrod... He is the only family I have left. I had to bring him with me during the attack."

"Attack?" Prism jumps in. He turns to Amanda while she is fixing a sandwich, just so his back is turned to Jerrod. "What attack?"

"I was attacked by GENOCIDE. I tried to call but nobody picked up the phone. I had to try and make a run for it..." Her head and shoulders sag for a second, "I ended up captured."

"That doesn't explain Mesmeron." The deadpan, monotone straight question could only be Adaptor. He entered the kitchen with a fluid motion and stood... absolutely still and waited for an answer.

'Wild' Amanda thought. "Mesmeron saved me", she puts a bolonga and cheese sandwich in front of Jerrod and rubs his head, "and Jerrod. I owe him big time. He identified them as the 'mountain' division or 'midwest' division or something. He also said they were out of their territory."

"That is an unusual story Amanda." Krane looks satisfied but not all to accepting.

"If you check the news there should be a story on two crashed hoverbikes between Beverly Hills and Hollywood. Mesmeron destroyed those two. Look if I could have gotten in touch with you that is what I prefered but I had NO choice. Please let me and Jerrod stay here. I have no other place to go...."

NOTE: I hope you guys didn't mind me using your characters to further my little story. If you want Amanda to say something or do something that isn't some earthshaking events go ahead. I hope I can continue to use your characters like this. It kind of breaks that "now I'll wait and see what _________ says."

The scenes can move a little faster and we can 'move' the action. We shouldn't have to put the burden of the scenes on Brandon. As long as it's not a plot shaker we should be able to have conversation with Stacy, Dr. Redgrave, Mr. Park, or whoever. Just as long as we know that NPC's basic personality and don't divert from that. COOL? I'd love to get some feedback.

Oh yeah, that goes for BRIEF PC use to. I wouldn't have Adaptor attack Prism or something crazy like that. I'd just use the personality and traits I know the different PC's have and use that.


[[I was attacked by GENOCIDE.]]

I should point out that no one else in the room has any idea who or what Genocide is. Some super-villain, maybe?

Personally, I don't have any problem with players using NPC's as conversational lubricant ("Really?" "Hmmm." "I'll make you a sandwich." "The hell you will.") as long as you don't go too crazy with it. If you have them do something that for GM reasons I know they wouldn't do, I'll make corrections. The less important the NPC is to me, the more willing I am to let you play with them. Of course, there's no way for you to know who's really important and who's not....

That applies to PC's, too, as long as the other player doesn't mind. And of course, if someone says "Glimmer says so-amd-so," Glimmer's player (if he ever gets online again) can say "Glimmer said THUS-and-so" instead. So don't get too nuts with it, or it'll just be more confusing.


Unless provoked, Kakker will just stare accusingly at the newly deposited Powersurge.

[OOC: Please insert the balance of his previous musings here]

While looking stern externally, Kakker's mind is stirring restlessly inside.

"Hmm. I suppose that Rasputin could have been given conflicting orders at a sufficiently high priority that his datasets are becoming corrupted.

"Yes. Anything involving falsehood could cause incredible drain on his resources as each set of lies would require nearly as much computing and storage faculties as an objective, truthful POV." Now sure of himself, Kakker speaks aloud.

"Rasputin, is there anything you're not supposed to tell us?"

Rasputin doesn't answer.


Krane looks at Powersurge. "Who's Genocide? Some new supervillain?"

When Kakker begins talking to Rasputin, Krane listens intently. Rasputin's nonresponse perks up Krane's ears.

"So you are hiding something from us Rasputin," Krane says. "Is it going to be 20 questions, or are you just going to clam up?"

Krane is quickly becoming convinced that Rasputin is the machine who thinks he's a man from his dream. So his first question will be about the (wo)man who thinks she's a machine (perhaps, Krane's logic could always be wrong).

"Rasputin, where's Dr. Redgrave?"

Kakker's bottom lip protrudes as his brow knits.

[Krane speaks his piece, I assume almost as productive as mine?]

"Right. It's time to get some answers." Kakker stalks toward the sealed room that apparently contains Arachne and Rasputin.

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