GURPS: Red Sky

Clean Slate, Chapter 4

Howard Lee is bored. Bored, bored, bored, bored. He is sitting in the lobby of Wolfram and Hart, outside the office of Lilith Morgan which Aoibheal entered over an hour ago, and he’s getting tired of it. That said, he has been quite interested in the variety of weirdos that have passed by him while he’s been sitting here.

A few moments before he stands up and barges into Morgan’s office, he observes a pair of very large, very hairy men bump into a woman wearing a strange veil. Though they knock her down, this does not seem to be enough for them as they then begin kicking her brutally. Upon seeing this and noting that both are wearing pro-communism shirts, Lee intercedes and shoves them both.

Naturally, this starts a fight.

Both of his foes are incredibly strong and supernaturally durable, which quickly forces Lee onto the defensive. He connects with several would-be crippling shin strikes that seem to barely faze the monster-things and, the longer they engage him, the more bestial they become. After narrowly evading their latest strikes, Lee backpedals and tries to draw the ASP Baton sheathed at his back, but instead, Ævenchos comes out. This changes the entire tenor of the fight.

In seconds, one of the creatures is on the ground, his head separated from his body, and the second follows soon after, missing one arm and with another crippled. Lee grimaces at the mess he’s created but notes that no one present, not even security, has made any efforts to stop the bloodshed. In fact, more than a few are eying him with more respect or perhaps interest.

Still gripping Ævenchos, he helps the veiled woman to her feet. She thanks him through winces of pain and then clearly declares that he is in the wrong place. Lee doesn’t know what she’s talking about until she touches his hand and suddenly, he’s experiencing a flash of memory that he hasn’t had yet where he sees his partner, Carter, lying still in a pool of blood. Above him, emblazoned on the wall, is the logo of the Sweet Tooth manufacturing plant…

Bullets are whizzing by the heads of the two OSBI agents following Jack Carter’s loud order to ‘lay down your weapons!’ Staying low, Carter dons his ridiculous-looking cape once more as he creeps toward a parked forklift nearby; Wufei Qing, for his part, returns fire with his pistol, though it is ineffectual thanks to the body armor worn by the shooters. He is then forced to dive for cover when they orient toward him instead of just utilizing suppressing fire.

After first dialling 911 on his phone and sliding it away, Jack clambers into the driver’s position of the forklift and takes a second to orient himself before starting it up and jamming the accelerator. As the lift starts to pull away, Woo grabs a protruding piece on the back so he is dragged along; he twists his body around a bit so he’s on his feet – this is the first time he’s been grateful for the slick dress shoes he’s wearing as they allow him to slide along the concrete easily enough.

All three of the shooters orient on the seemingly driver-less lift and empty their magazines into it, though two of them only have a few shots left and immediately start reloading. In that brief lull, Woo slides out to one side while still being dragged and pops off several shots at one of the hostiles; it takes the man’s leg out from under him and he falls with an agonized shout. At nearly the same moment, Jack slides out of the slow-moving lift and then football slams another of the shooters, knocking him to the ground; he follows up with a powerful kick to the man’s jaw that knocks him straight out.

With only one shooter still really a factor, Jack charges him as well, once more knocking the man flat; they promptly begin wrestling with Carter emerging victorious and managing to get the man face-down so the OSBI agent can zip-tie him. While this is going on, Woo scrambles into the now abandoned driver’s seat and orients the lift on the shooter whose leg he crippled; his intent is to trap the man in place with the box on the lift’s forks until they can handcuff him as well. There is a single gunshot from the man’s pistol and Woo will later discover that his opponent ate his gun.

After thoroughly zip-tying the conscious (and struggling) man and then doing the same to the unconscious one, the OSBI agents check the facility for more and instead discover a grievously wounded woman bleeding out. Clearly the origin of the screams that Woo heard through the portal that resulted in them coming here, she moans and whimpers and pleads for help; Jack springs forward and stabilizes her, though he recognizes that she needs immediate medical attention. He is about to ask Woo if he still has his phone when a loud booms echo from the loudspeakers, like a bass line for an especially obnoxious rap song. It shakes the walls. And then repeats. Again. Again. Like a heartbeat.

“Oh, hell,” Jack murmurs, comprehension coming suddenly.

And in that moment, the three shoots begin to smoke…

Colin Jenks looks up. He is momentarily startled to see a young woman at the top of the stairs – apart from the bizarre mask she is wearing, there does not appear to be anything about her really out of the ordinary … though the dress she’s wearing definitely does look expensive. She glides gracefully down the stairs, declaring that it has been a very long time since a Fool has been chased to ‘her city.’ As she demands Colin’s name, he feels an urge to spill out his entire life’s story to her but manages to ignore this likely magical compulsion.

He does note, however, that the big, strong, fierce lofas seem absolutely terrified of this slip of a girl.

“Call me CyberJinx,” he says, opting to use his online pseudonym instead of his actual Name. This minor effort of will seems to briefly impress her and she declares that he is clearly not a Fool after all, but rather a Fabulist. When she inquires why he is here, he responds with a curtailed version of his story – the Coyote-Man sent him to get a Key and open a Gate. The Regent muses briefly but then shakes her head. “_For trespassing upon the shores of my city, the penalty is … a Trial. Yes. You have three foes so there shall be three tests. I approve of this symmetry. Three tests: one of strength, one of will, and one of valor. Chose your Champion, lofas; the test of Strength shall be first._”

Jenks soon learns the rules of this: the hunter will name a task that is within doing. To prove that is doable, the hunter will first accomplish this task. Should Colin accomplish it, he then may name his own feat, do it, and allow the Hunter to attempt as well. Failure along the way results in death. The lofa champion points to a large, very heavy-looking slab of masonry and tells Colin to move it. To prove that it can be moved, the lofa digs his fingers under it and manages to lift it several inches. He then joins his comrades and laughs as Colin circles around the masonry and gathers stuffs.

That laughter ends abruptly when Jenks uses the mast from the boat as a lever. “Give me a place to stand and with a lever I will move the whole world,” he quotes with a cocky grin. Now that it’s his turn, he ponders what to do and hits upon something that he read on an online gaming forum. First, he tells the champion to ‘pick himself up’ before advancing and, with a great deal of effort, lifts the lofa off the ground. This immediately causes the creature to look around in confusion as it tries to figure out a way to ‘pick himself up.’ Unfortunately, it isn’t smart enough figure out a way to accomplish this and looks at the Regent who shakes her head. Instantly, the man with the lion-headed helmet springs forward…

And transforms into a lion as he takes down the lofa champion with a loud crunching of bones. Jenks’ eyes widen sharply but he is frozen to the spot in disbelief; one of the other lofas, however, panics and runs. He gets only three or four steps before the Regent gestures idly in his direction.

He explodes.

The Regent declares that Jenks has won the test of Valor since he did not run, so only the test of Will remains. Clearly terrified and confused, the final lofa struggles mightily to figure out how to test Jenks’ will, during which time Colin also takes action. As these lofas are clearly dumb as bricks and rely entirely on brute strength, he expects the creature to try and force him to react to an attack. To that end, Jenks discreetly erects an illusion of himself while hiding his actual self. This does not seem to fool the Regent who looks squarely at the real Colin. He shrugs … and she allows it.

After hefting the discarding ship mast – and discarding it when the Regent shakes her head – the lofa opts for the direct route. Scream a fierce battle cry, he lunges at the illusion Colin has crafted and swing his fist at its face, stopping only at the very last instant. From where he stands, Jenks realizes he would have been unable from recoiling. He then counters by having the illusion reach up and tear off its face to reveal … the Regent who points a finger at the lofa and declares, “Die.”

The lofa shrieks and spins to flee … only to be taken down by the waiting (and blood-flecked) lion.

With a smile, the Regent tells Colin that it appears he has won, though she probably should penalize him for cheating during the test of will. She decides against doing so, however, as she did name him to be a Fabulist, after all. His reward is the Key which she offers in exchange for his Coin. He is now welcome to visit the City Below at any time but his current task may take precedence. She gestures to the side and Jenks finds himself looking at a road that was not there before…

GM Notes:

Interestingly, I think I was more satisfied with this session last night, immediately after the game ended, than I am now. I’m not sure what bugs me now, but I have to downgrade my initial feeling of ‘very strong’ to ‘moderately okay.’ The session was ultimately just two fights – Lee’s fight with the ‘were-bears’ and the OSBI shoot-out – and then Colin’s escapades, and everyone still seems to have been engaged and having fun but … I dunno. Something just felt off.

During the Lee fight, Jack and Woo’s players handled the werebears which worked out nicely. The fast-healing and high DR of those creatures definitely made that fight last a bit longer than originally planned, but once Lee broke out Ævenchos, that cursed faerie sword he obtained a while back, it definitely shifted into his favor.

The OSBI fight went a lot differently than I expected it to – first, Woo nearly got perforated by some suppressing fire, then Jack decided to hop on a nearby forklift – the map I was using had one right next to where the PCs were so I rolled with it – in order to drive toward the bad guys. Then Woo basically let it drag him behind so he was sort of ‘concrete surfing.’ This was slightly more cinematic than I was really expecting, but again, I rolled with it.

Finally, the Colin ‘trial’ sort of fell on its face IMO. I mostly blame myself because it was a little too railroady with me expecting certain behavior instead of just letting it play out. Plus, it was getting late so everyone was starting to fade. I wasn’t expecting his final illusion thing, though, so kudos to Gigermann for taking my established facts – that the lofas were terrified of the Regent – and running with it. Afterward, we chatted about this and it gave me some cool ideas on how to have the Regent reappear down the road in a way that won’t be a repeat of Lee and Aoibheal. And it sort of explains why she let his cheating pass…

We were down Sofía’s player so the wizad was sidelined, which sort of works as I was planning on a quick deviation thanks to her Weirdness Magnet to delay her from reaching the climax of the story arc too soon, but now, based entirely on how the two fights played out, I may have to extend ‘Clean Slate’ to six sessions instead of five, so that scene will likely make a reappearance after all.



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