Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Nightwatch #1: "The Case of the Five Strokes"

Nightwatch #1
December 9, 2007
“The Case of the Five Strokes”
Gamemaster: Lowell Francis

While on patrol, local New Orleans heroes Spectrum and Anima encountered a 45-50 year old woman who was the apparent victim of an attack by three 15-16 year old youths. Upon inspection, Spectrum discovered that the woman was not breathing. Since his energy form was not able to breathe, he convinced Anima, who was busy apprehending the attackers, to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation on the woman. Anima began the procedures, but the woman was dead. The pair noticed a glow underneath the dead woman’s sweater on her left shoulder that faded as quickly as it came.

Meanwhile, heroes Metalhead and Ochosi arrived at a sinkhole that had been plaguing a section of roadway for several hours. Emergency workers were trying to extract a car that had fallen into the sinkhole. Metalhead and Ochosi greeted each other and were briefed by the fire chief about the situation. Metalhead transformed his body into mercury and slithered down into the sinkhole to examine the car. He found that the car was still running, with one airbag deployed and an unconscious driver behind the wheel. As Ochosi summoned some earth to hold and steady the car, Metalhead noticed another passenger, a pregnant woman. He immediately transformed into iron and broke out the rear window.

Metalhead formed stairs with his arm while Ochosi waved over paramedics. Metalhead handed the woman over to Ochosi, then the man. The rescue was completed just as the car gave way and fell deeper into the sinkhole. Just as Metalhead was about to turn away, he noticed another person near the bottom of the sinkhole. Ochosi made his way down the iron stairs and found a Hindi man lying dead. A glowing symbol appeared on his left shoulder and vanished, just as had happened to the woman that Spectrum and Anima had discovered.

In another part of town, Domino, another new hero about town, investigated the death of Levon Grimes, a legal assistant in the district attorney’s office, who had been found dead after clearly being pushed off a six-floor parking garage’s roof. As Domino examined the body, he noted evidence of a defensive struggle. Left behind on the body’s left shoulder was a primitive, serpentine symbol that a witness claimed to have seen glow before fading out. Recalling the name of Dr. Necropolis, another local hero specializing in the occult, Domino analyzed his reported appearances and sought him out at a likely place.

Later, Domino and Dr. Necropolis went to the morgue to get a closer look at the body. Dr. Necropolis, who in his civilian identity worked at the morgue, was surprised to see the attendants look the other way as Domino led him to the shelf where Grimes’s body was located. Once he had seen the mark for himself, Dr. Necropolis recognized it as the same mark as one he had seen on the body of Jessica Lund, who was stored only three drawers away! After consulting with his texts, Dr. Necropolis tentatively identified the mark as being old Assyrian. As more bodies with the mark were brought in, they were identified. The woman that Spectrum and Anima found was named Nelvana Pride, and the Hindi man that Metalhead and Ochosi discovered was named Sanjay Rupa. In order to find the source of the mysterious mark, Dr. Necropolis suggested that he and Domino visit a man named Franklin Glass.

The six heroes converged on the Glass House, the tasteless bar/lounge owned by Franklin Glass. It was decorated in red velvet with nicotine-stained curtains. It had all the ambience of a bowling alley but without the charm. The bartender asked the unusual sextet what they wanted, and they replied that they wanted to see Mr. Glass. The bartender lifted the telephone receiver and spoke quietly into it. Soon, a short, squat balding man made his way to the front and introductions were made. He ushered the heroes into his office, which was decorated in even more tasteless red leather walls with brass buttons. Glass recognized the mark as belonging to Al Cipher, “a learned magus of his day.”

Perhaps sensing opportunity, Glass made a clumsy attempt to barter his information to the heroes in exchange for favors. He offered that there was a connection between that symbol and the city, specifically a local archaeologist named Mirren. Three weeks previously, a man had come to see Glass about the symbol and Glass told him the story as well.

About ten years before, Mirren and some of the pieces of his archaeological find disappeared from an exhibit at Tulane University. One of those pieces was the Blade of Al Cipher, which according to legend could “carve one’s destiny.” The man who had first spoken to Glass clearly had superpowers, with strange undulating arms. Glass sold him the Gem of Alea-Ur, which was capable of tracking the Blade of Al Cipher. Anima asked if he had anything that could track the tracking gem. Glass produced another gem, which he offered for sale at $3,000. Domino agreed to the price and left to get the cash. After the sale was completed, Domino turned the gem over to Dr. Necropolis.

Finding a vacant building in a heavily damaged part of the city where they could talk in private, the six heroes shared their information, looking for common threads that bound the lives of the victims together. Grimes died from the fall. Rupa died from strangulation by a hose-like object. Pride died by drowning in her own tissues after the oxygen was withdrawn from her lungs. Lund had died from an energy blast of some sort. The only connection they could find were genetic factors, which upon closer examination revealed that the four victims were genetically identical, as if they were the same person, a Caucasian male!

A more thorough background check on each of the victims showed that they had seemingly come into existence at about the same time, which happened to coincide with the disappearance of Dr. Mirren. Further investigation revealed that each of the victims had already been dead once. They had all died the week following the disappearance. One other odd death was recorded in that same week, and that was the death of Greg Matthews, who strangely enough, was also still among the living and working as a municipal engineer.

Finding references to the archaeological exhibit, Dr. Necropolis found the same symbol that had appeared on the victims also appeared on the Blade of Al Cipher. It was theorized that somehow, all the victims shared Dr. Mirren’s genetic code.

The heroes found out where Greg Matthews was supposed to be working that evening, and made their way to City Park. As they approached the park, the gem they had purchased from Glass lit up, and a corresponding flash was seen from within the park. Standing over a slumped figure were four people dressed in costumes!

Domino charged in on his motorcycle, its headlight illuminating the scene. Two of the supers fired on Spectrum, both missing. A female villain tried to suck the air out of Metalhead, but found him to be immune to her power. Dr. Necropolis and Domino teamed up on the woman called Breath, stunning her. The man with the undulating arms, called Whipsnake responded and stunned Domino. Domino shook off the effects of the attack and hit Whipsnake in the head with his staff.

Spectrum fired a blast of energy at the woman called Kinesis, but she reflected it back at him, stunning him. As Anima grappled with Snapshot, a man with a large gun, Whipsnake tried to hit Domino with his own motorcycle. “You’d better have insurance,” Domino shouted.

Metalhead formed giant cups with his hands to envelop Kinesis, while Ochosi blinded Whipsnake with a sandstorm. Dr. Necropolis took the opportunity to smash the motorcycle down on top of the blinded villain. Anima surprised everyone by inhabiting Snapshot’s body and fired the large energy weapon at Kinesis, who had broken Metalhead’s hold. Metalhead knocked Whipsnake up into Kinesis’ force field, knocking him out. Kinesis gathered her fallen comrade up into her force field and tried to make her escape, only to be felled by a stun “pip” thrown by Domino (seen at right). Anima followed up by having Snapshot blast her again, and she went down. Finally, Anima told the team what he was up to, and Snapshot was easy pickings when he regained control of his body.

Going to the aid of the fallen Matthews once the villains were trussed up, the six heroes found that he was indeed the last vestige of Dr. Mirren. He explained that when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease ten years ago, he used the Blade of Al Cipher to change his life. Unfortunately, it took five strokes of the blade to end his suffering, and each of the strokes had created a new life in the other people whose appearances he had taken. Mirren was alive, but unhappy with the results of the Blade’s effects. He described his life as misery, since he was split five ways. His senses muted, it was a shadow of life, but he had still tried to use his new lives to help the city, from which he couldn’t stray far because he needed to maintain proximity to the Blade. The heroes retrieved the Blade with Mirren’s help and Ochosi took possession of it.

To be continued…

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