Black Box

Join the Resistance!
And spend XP

Upon the group’s arrival at the secret, underground base of The Resistance, Pete is immediately whisked away to be looked at by a doctor. The others are brought to an operating theatre and introduced to The Doctor, who will be removing their spikes. Suzie, wary of these new allies, asks to watch her friends’ operations. Surprised by the request, David Blackwood nevertheless agrees. Eugene and Phia are selected to be operated on first, followed by Suzie and Vanessa. Before going into her surgery, Suzie makes sure to ask Phia to keep a close watch as well.

The surgeries go smoothly, with no obvious evidence of tampering. It is clear that The Doctor is using some kind of psychic process during the surgery – an extension of TK that promotes healing. Freed from their spikes, the group is brought to a recovery room. While waiting for Pete to join them, they are visited by Terry. He brings their spikes – actually flat, slightly curved pieces of metal – saying that some people chose to keep them. Vanessa and Phia find the idea appalling, and hand them over to Eugene for study. Suzie chooses to keep hers, planning to make a bracelet out of it.

Hours pass while they recuperate in the recovery ward, where they are left mostly by themselves. Phia continues her efforts to hack into Ascar’s laptop. While she does make some progress, it soon becomes obvious that the security is quite extensive. Eventually the group receives clean clothes (matched to their individual tastes) and guest passcards. Their weapons are not returned.

The next morning, David comes to visit. Before anything else, Vanessa asks to be able to go shopping. David seems taken aback by the request, and leaves the room for a while. He returns with wallets, and gives everyone $200. Asking Vanessa to be patient, he suggests they go on a tour of the lab after which they will stop by the cafeteria for something to eat.

On the tour they are shown various rooms – a gym, operating theatre, lounge. Other than an upgrade to “business chic”, the group starts to get heavy deja vu about their first days at The Department. On the way to the cafeteria, Suzie gets a strange feeling that seems to be emanating from behind a door. Stopping, she asks David what is in that particular room. Clearly uncomfortable, he answers “that’s where we keep the triplets”.

Entering the room, they are subjected to a security sweep. Alarms go off as the scan picks up their spikes. David assures the guard that the spikes have been deactivated, and they are permitted to enter a secondary chamber. Inside they see a pillar laced with electronic equipment, with three sleeping pods hooked up to it. Inside the pods are three apparently sleeping figures, two women and a man. They are white, bald, and evidently the term “triplets” is accurate. While the group stares at the figures, the man’s eyes open, seem to focus on Suzie momentarily, and then shut again. David hastens to tell Suzie that it is a frequent occurrence, and unlikely the man was actually looking at her.

At the group’s questioning, David explains that the triplets suffer from a sort of “psychic MS”. They are incredibly powerful psychically, but completely incapacitated physically. They are also largely unable to control their abilities, and have a difficult time communicating. The Doctor theorizes that they are very psychically active, but that their minds operate very differently and that they have no real attention span. David also explains that they are recoveries from The Department, and that he considers it a major coup to have obtained them. During the conversation, Phia tries to communicate psychically, prompting a myriad of alarms to go off and a death glare from David. After the alarms have been reset, David asks Suzie & Vanessa if they would be willing to spend some time with the triplets – to try to reach them as a psychologist and a teacher. Vanessa eagerly agrees.

Leaving the triplets, the group goes to the cafeteria where an impromptu market has been set up for them to “shop” for food. Vanessa is unimpressed, stating this wasn’t what she had in mind, and returns the money David gave her. The rest spend their money on food, with the exception of Phia who hangs on to hers.

After breakfast they are brought to a training area, which basically looks like a well-appointed fitness club. After they have changed, Vanessa challenges Pete to a fight. Still recovering from the wounds he sustained, he declines. Instead, David agrees to fight Vanessa. He suggests that he could teach her something new, but she turns the opportunity down saying she just wants to fight “like normal people”. Although David clearly knows his way around a fighting ring, the group is unsurprised to see Vanessa triumphant.

With the “normal people” fight over, David takes the opportunity to show the group how to bolster a punch with TK. The group practices on some gym mats, although Phia looks less than thrilled. David states that “we can’t ignore the body in pursuit of the mind”, using the state of the triplets as a sort of worst case scenario.

Eventually Phia asks whether the Resistance does training for any of the other process types. David hesitates, but eventually agrees to show the group something for the pushers. They are brought to another lab environment, which has a lot of equipment they recognize from their time with the TSI. They enter a dramatically white room with a black foor and ceiling, where a lone woman is sitting in a white bucket seat. She is introduced as Rosie Macintosh, one of the Resistance’s non-psychic subject volunteers.

Before the disapproving eyes of Pete & Vanessa, Eugene & Phia are taught about prolonged commands. Phia pushes the taste of lemon candy on Eugene, after which he is told it will last for the next 12 hours. Before Eugene’s turn, Phia hopefully asks for the taste of strawberries. With a smile, Eugene instead takes the opportunity to push an elaborate hallucination of an open field, comfortable chair, and a bowl of strawberries. Phia is suitably impressed. During this training, it becomes evident to Phia & Eugene (and likely their companions), that with enough time and careful focus, they could potentially permanently effect someone’s mind.

After the pushers have had their fun, Pete asks about the healing process Terry was able to do while they were in the field. David warns Pete that he (David) would have to hurt him (Pete) in order to teach him. Pete agrees. The group heads back to the gym, where David uses psychic brawl to punch Pete in the stomach. Pete flies backwards and hits a wall – apparently David hit him a bit harder than intended. While Pete is gasping for air, David instructs him to use all his processes to damp down the damage. Pete is temporarily healed. David explains that the effect will last only as long as Pete is concentrating, and suggests he wait for a nurse to arrive before dropping his processes.

Finally the group is brought to their quarters – which again look eerily similar to what they had at the Department. Eugene & Suzie disappear into his room, to see if they can “share” a hallucination (for science!). Phia goes back to working on Ascar’s laptop, and Pete and Vanessa head off to speak privately with David. Although they planned to do so separately, they manage to arrive at the same time.

Pete simply states that he wants to ask David about the Resistance’s stance on psychic ethics. Vanessa, more blunt, says that she wants to speak about some people in her group. David, choosing his words carefully, explains that the Resistance differs from the Department in some important respects regarding psychic rights. He believes that psychics should be free to use their gifts, as long as they do so responsibly. He also admits that the Department does a good deal policing rogue psychics, and that he isn’t sure what will happen once the Resistance achieves their goal of wiping the Department out and bringing psychics into the open. When Pete pushes for a more definitive answer, David simply states that he doubts he will be among those making the decisions once the revolution is complete. With regards to the rest of the group, David says that he believes Eugene & Suzie could be very helpful as researchers and that Phia, while she may not look it, would make an excellent operative (like Terry). Whether Vanessa is reassured by this remains unclear.

The group is given the run of the facility for the next few days. Terry is around, but seems to be very busy. In one of his few conversations with the group, he asks if they would be willing to participate in some experiments. When the group dithers, he says they don’t have to decide right away.

Taking advantage of the Resistance’s research facilities, Eugene begins to examine the sample he liberated from Ascar’s lab. He determines two things: first, that it doesn’t match any material known to science, and second, that its origin is not geological.

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There Is No Plan
And we're still fucked.

Concerned for the well-being of the damaged Department folk, Vanessa, Pete and Suzie carry Alpha, Bravo, and Ben out of Ascar’s lab. Phia and Eugene stay behind for a few minutes to gather as much of Ascar’s research as they can. Phia settles for a laptop (the only computer equipment she can find), while Eugene rifles through papers and frantically examines a large blackboard covered in strange equations. They also both spot a strange geological sample – a large rock that seems to be weeping some sort of fluid. As they get close to the rock, they realize it is emitting the familiar white noise. Eugene put’s the rock in his bag, and tells Phia to join the others, that he will be along shortly.

Meanwhile, the others have made it to the cargo room above the trap door. Ben, who’s phone finally has a signal, tries to contact the Department. Seeing a chance to escape, Vanessa grabs the phone away and dashes it against the wall. While Vanessa & Ben face off, Suzie dips into Alpha & Bravo’s memories to try to determine what happened to them. She gets a vision of the restaurant, the Chinese psychic (who had been allied with Ascar and killed by Vanessa), shots being fired, and then nothing.

Vanessa tries to convince Ben to let the group go, but he refuses. Phia, having rejoined the group in the middle of the confrontation, tries to mentally manipulate Ben but is unable to penetrate his mental shields. With no other option, Vanessa tries to knock Ben out, and manages to grab his gun away. Realizing that he is heavily outnumbered, Ben gives up.

Unfortunately, bypassing Ben is now the least of the group’s problems. Just as the situation calms down, they begin to hear screaming from a higher level of the museum. Vanessa, Phia, and Suzie go to investigate, Pete goes to make sure Eugene is okay, and Ben is left to guard the unconscious bodies of Alpha and Bravo.

The girls find a woman in the balcony room, screaming at the carnage they left behind. Phia obtains the woman’s trust while Suzie examines her memory. Pulling harder than she ever had before, Suzie feels something snap in her mind. She also discovers that this woman was a prostitute in the 40 Tribes, and was brought here several weeks ago. She has been kept in some sort of prison with several others, and has no idea what is going on. A short while ago, likely while the group was confronting Ascar, the prison doors opened all on their own. The woman was the only one brave enough to try to leave.

With no time to help the woman, or those she left behind, Phia silently commands her to not tell anyone the group is here, and to lead her fellow prisoners away.

Pete, meanwhile, returns to Ascar’s lab to find it in even greater disarray. The research has been tossed, a blackboard overturned and smashed, and Eugene is gone. After another moment’s examination, he realizes the body of the Russian is also gone. Apparently he wasn’t quite as dead as the group thought. Spotting the hidden entrance to a tunnel out of the room, Pete doesn’t think twice before running down the hall in search of Eugene.

With the strange woman taken care of, Vanessa runs back to make sure the others are okay, yelling at Suzie & Phia over her shoulder to wait with Ben. Suzie hurries to follow, but is suddenly overwhelmed by a feeling of doom and yells a warning of “danger”. Phia catches her up, and hurries her along.

When they reach Ben, Phia tells him to make a choice: come with the group or stay behind with Alpha & Bravo to face whatever danger is approaching. Agonized, Ben cannot leave his compatriots. Suzie tries to stop, to stay with him, but is dragged away by Phia.

They rejoin Vanessa in the lab. The girls search the room for any clue as to where their friends have gone. Suzie stops and stares at the blackboard, saying “why is he leading us underground, it’s time to wake up” in a dazed tone of voice. Spotting the door to the tunnel, and frightened by Suzie’s apparent warning about going underground, Phia closes and stands in front of it.

Vanessa demands to know where Ben is. At Phia’s explanation that “he made his choice”, she starts to run back to get him. Hearing gunfire and shouting in Russian, she comes back to chase after Eugene & Pete. Phia tries to convince her it’s safer to hide, that the others may already be lost. After threatening to force Phia out of the way, Vanessa is through the door and down the tunnel, followed closely by Suzie. Phia follows as well, at a distance.

After running quite a ways down the narrow, dimly lit tunnel, they reach a more open area. In the middle of the floor is Pete, lying in a pool of blood, with two armed men standing over him. A flurry of gunfire follows, but the girls are faring quite poorly. Phia & Vanessa hear a familiar male voice echo in their minds, saying “Get back into the tunnel”. Phia grabs Suzie (who happened to be closest to her) and drags her back. Suzie in turn grabs Vanessa, who is unable to reach Pete, and they run.

As they turn back the girls see Pete’s body fly into the air, a grenade drop into the room, and an explosion. One of the soldiers is obliterated, but the second is somehow left standing. Vanessa TK punches him but is unable to knock him out. Phia sends a command, and he shoots himself in the head.

Searching for Pete’s body, they discover it up on a catwalk, next to a familiar shape. It is one of the “black knights”, the armed division of The Department. He takes off his helmet to reveal a familiar face: Terry!! Despite their shock, there is no time to ask questions other than where Eugene might be. Terry has no idea, and seems to be quite worried that the Professor isn’t with them. Declaring it is too dangerous to stay in the tunnels, Terry leads them outside to a waiting van.

Inside the van, he gives Pete an injection which immediately wakes him up, and also sets off some sort of process that dampens the extensive damage Pete has endured. Suzie & Vanessa perform rudimentary first aid while Terry drives and gives a brief explanation of what’s happened. He was taken by “The Resistance”, and has been working with them ever since his disappearance from Camp Dreamland. They thought he was “the only one”, and didn’t know about the rest of the group until two months ago. Terry was then dispatched to save the group from the Department, which he first tried to do by crashing the plane (evidently he was the black knight with the grenades).

Once they have reached a “safe” distance, Terry stops the van and calls someone to check in. After a tense conversation, he informs the group that they are going back to rescue Eugene. The Professor has been taken by the Russians, and needs to be reclaimed before he vanishes underground.

Vanessa, Suzie & Pete are all still in extremely bad shape. When Vanessa points this out, Terry explains that there is no time to waste, and promises they will be brought to a doctor as soon as Eugene is safe.

They are driven to a helicopter, where they are introduced to David Blackwood, the leader of the Resistance. He assures the group of his confidence that they will be able to rescue Eugene. In fact, he states proudly, “the largest concentration of psychic power in the region is in this helicopter”.

They reach the landing strip just as the cargo plane holding Eugene takes off. Bolstered by Terry’s psychic abilities, David chases after the plane with the helicopter. As they get closer, the cargo door of the plane opens and the group can see Eugene and the Russian facing off.

An intense psychic battle follows, in which both the plane and helicopter almost crash (the helicopter largely due to the Russian being ordered to jump out of the plane and subsequently falling through the copter’s tail-rotor). Eugene also ends up flying through the air, although in a more literal sense as he manages to make himself hover for a few precious seconds – long enough for the group to grab him and pull him safely inside.

Landing safely, the group hobbles to a road to wait for the promised doctor. Another van appears, driven by a woman (introduced as Prudence). She checks everyone over and briskly announces they’re “fine”. Nevertheless, they are driven to a nearby town where they are treated by an actual doctor. All but Phia are very badly hurt.

With the group reunited, and evidently “safe”, they take the chance to talk to David & Terry. They ask whether the Resistance was responsible for opening the jail cells back at the museum, or for causing Eugene’s captors to turn on each other. Judging by David & Terry’s shocked expressions, it seems unlikely.

Eventually it is agreed that the group will stay with the Resistance for a while. At the very least, they will be flown back to North America and have their spikes removed. Whether they will become “freedom fighters” remains undecided.

On the plane, the group is given a separate section. This seems to be for two reasons: to keep them from determining the location of the Resistance’s base (as there are no windows), and to give them a private smoking section. It also serves as a good place to hold a private conversation, which Phia quickly takes advantage of and asks Pete & Vanessa to speak with her. Suzie & Eugene join as well.

Phia points out a few ways that the operation to take on Ascar could have gone better – and seems to feel that the group was simultaneously not ruthless enough (against the guards), and too quick to shoot (against Ascar). She explains to Vanessa & Pete that, while she understands their reluctance to take a life, she fears they are putting the group in greater risk by not doing what is necessary. When Pete retorts that he doesn’t want to become the monster that Phia is, she agrees that is fine. She will be the group’s monster, as long as the rest of the group stays out of her way. She tries to convince the others that her only concern is doing “what’s best” to keep them safe. Pete points out that he can’t always trust Phia’s judgment, and Vanessa simply states that if she were to let Phia kill someone, it would be just as bad as killing them herself. Overall, the situation remains unresolved.

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Improvisation is Key
When the plan is fucked

Dramatically silhouetted against a darkening sky, the group stops to observe their destination from a distance. The now defunct Lenin museum is in the middle of a park, built into a slightly recessed concrete block. The main entrance is boarded off, and the group can see no way to enter there without making a lot of noise. The back entrance, they discover, is a large loading dock with a service door. Unfortunately the door has no handle on the outside. Pete and Vanessa volunteer to force the door open. Ben agrees to the plan, and orders Eugene and Phia to stand ready to “push” any guards who may be nearby. Suzie is to cover the group with her gun and Ben himself will “supports as necessary”. Before approaching the building, Ben reiterates the importance of obtaining Ascar’s brain – ideally attached to the rest of his body, but not necessarily. To that end, although they have been issued tranquilizer darts, they are of a much lower potency than would normally be used. He cautions everyone that the darts may not be immediately effective.

They reach the service door and see that it has a view hole. Perhaps slightly keyed up by the importance of their mission, Pete & Vanessa are a bit overzealous in their TK on the door, which flies over everyone’s head and cartwheels into the night. Standing in the now open doorway is a lone guard, too stunned to bring his gun to bear. Phia reacts first, and shoots a quick (unheard) command for the guard to bash his head against a wall. The guard disappears from view. Pete enters the building and sees a second guard who quickly pulls his gun. Pete beats him, draws his gun and orders the guard to surrender. Entering closely behind, Eugene ignores the guard that Pete has under control, and turns to see the first one braced against the wall, about to hit his head. Reacting quickly, he instead orders the guard to go home. Vanessa, Suzie, and Ben are the last to enter. Vanessa takes cover and watches for danger while Suzie pulls the location of their target (Ascar) from the remaining guard. She is treated to a visual tour through the building, leading her to a broad metal door somewhere two stories underground. The guard is confident that Ascar is behind the door, and is dreadfully uncomfortable at the thought of approaching it himself. After making sure that Suzie has the information they need, Ben knocks the guard unconscious.

While Ben is glared at for his suddenly harsh behaviour, Phia hears the sound of voices deeper inside the room. She creeps around the tarp-covered stacks and peers up a long aisle. She can see one guard, who she orders to go home. He does so, prompting a shocked response from a companion Phia can’t see. Pete carefully goes in search of the remaining guard, but is unable to move fast enough to get eyes on him before Suzie simply walks out into the open and calls out “hey!” Ben, shocked by Suzie’s brazenness, is slow to react. The last guard comes out, grabbing for his gun, but before he is able to draw down on Suzie, Eugene sends him home. The guard changes his intention and starts to try to help Suzie out of the building. As they pass by Vanessa’s hiding spot, she hits him with a might TK punch. He cries out in pain. Worried that he might alert his comrades, Phia orders him to smash his head against the floor. Which he does, with a dull, wet crunch of bone and flesh.

Horrified by this treatment of a seeming innocent, Eugene and Vanessa check to make sure the guard is still alive and perform first aid. Ben reminds everyone that “these are very bad men”, and tells them not to worry about it.

Suzie takes the lead as the group moves further into the building. At Eugene’s suggestion, she undoes a the top buttons on her shirt, and moves only semi-cautiously. As they pass by one of the shipping pallets, Eugene checks to see what’s hidden under the tarp. He discovers plastic bags full of what looks like powdered cement. Dismissing it has having no intrinsic value, he continues along with the others.

The group comes to another large open area. They are on a balcony overlooking a lower level, dimly lit by only a few flickering halogen lights. Suzie looks around the doorway to check for enemies. Not seeing anyone, she confidently steps into the open and is immediately shot in the shoulder.

Again quick to react, Phia takes a closer look at the shadows and spots three men – red shirt (who’s smoking gun indicates he shot Suzie), and blue shirt on the main level, and a third man on the lower level. Incensed at the damage done to her friend, Phia orders blue shirt to shoot red shirt.

Eugene, more immediately concerned about Suzie’s well-being than revenge, pulls Suzie back behind cover and makes sure she is alright. Judging by the strength of her cursing, she is in no danger of expiring anytime soon. Moments later a second gunshot sounds, despite the fact that none of the group is standing in the open. Pete, looking carefully around the doorway, sees blue shirt standing out of cover, his gun pointed at red shirt who is apparently bleeding. Taking advantage of the guards’ confusion, Pete yanks blue shirt off the balcony and drops him to the ground. His screams are accompanied by a spectacular noise, as he lands directly on an empty glass display case. Vanessa, having traded out bullets for tranq darts before entering the building, shoots red shirt in the neck.

Suzie, meanwhile, shakes off Eugene’s concern and looks around the corner again. Seeing that blue shirt is trying to get up, she grinds him down against the shattered glass. Phia, perhaps watching Suzie’s actions a little too incautiously, is shocked when a bullet bounces off her TK shield. Diving recklessly across the opening to the other side of the doorway, Ben shouts at Vanessa to “save the tranqs for Ascar”, and shoots blue shirt in the back. Not surprisingly, blue shirt stops moving.

Red shirt, shaking off the effects of the underpowered tranq dart, shoots at Phia. Unfortunately for him, the bullet bounces harmlessly off her shield, and she is able to order him to brain himself against the wall. At the same time, Pete drags the third guard into the open and lifts him up slightly so he can barely touch the ground. Eugene orders him to surrender, and he throws his gun away. With only one target left, Vanessa punches red shirt, who slumps into an unconscious heap.

Newly cautious about moving into open areas, Suzie makes doubly sure that no guards are left. Aside from her companions bickering about what should be done, all she hears a thumping noise in the distance. She also pulls from the still-conscious guard, to make sure they are heading in the right direction. She sees the same visual fly-through of the building, to that large imposing door. However, she also stumbles into an apparent memory of the guard’s, in which he watches as an unconscious woman is handed off to someone behind the door.

After Suzie informs everyone of what she saw, Phia orders the guard to follow and protect the group. Suspicious of her intentions, Pete tells her not to use the guard as a human shield. Phia agrees with a complete lack of sincerity. Disgusted, Pete, Vanessa, and Eugene all hit the guard in the head until he is unconscious. After ordering Ben not to shoot him, Vanessa vaults over the edge of the balcony and lands, cat-like, on the lower level. Pete and Ben follow suit, their shields absorbing the impact. Suzie begins to do so as well, then stops when she remembers that she’s been shot. Instead, she accompanies Eugene & Phia down the stairs.

While Eugene takes some time to give Suzie some morphine, Vanessa does her best to patch up blue shirt. She is able to stabilize him, but knows she cannot guarantee his survival unless she stays behind. Deciding that the mission is more important, she leaves him behind.

The group continues on, following Suzie’s directions. As they walk, Eugene makes a suggestion on how to approach the next battle. Since the group has already discovered that they can stack shields, he suggests that Vanessa & Pete shield himself and Phia, so they can order their next opponents to surrender without a fight. Vanessa suggestions an alternate arrangement in which she and Pete receive extra shielding, since they can already take a greater amount of damage and would be able to knock people out more quickly. The discussion turns somewhat heated, with Phia especially becoming annoyed. Eventually Ben takes control of the situation and orders everyone to go with Eugene’s original idea. A complicated chain of shielding ensues in which Vanessa & Pete shield Eugene & Phia (so they have no free processes themselves while Eugene & Phia both have two), Suzie shields Vanessa & Pete, and Ben shields Suzie and himself.

Having thus girded their loins, the group descends the final set of stairs before the large metal door. Their preparations immediately bear fruit as gunfire comes up the stairs, bouncing off Phia & Eugene’s shields. Phia orders him to surrender, and Eugene sends him home. The guard squeezes his way past the group, making it as far as Ben who knocks him out.

Finally, they are in front of the door. It is just as large and imposing as Suzie described. The group wonders how they will possibly be able to force it open, until Eugene suggests they simply try to handle. Vanessa does so, and is shocked to find it swings open.

As they move into the room, the group is struck by a familiar white noise. Phia, worried that their spikes have some how reactivated, tests her mindbeams. The relief of finding that her processes are still free is balanced by dread when she realizes why this sensation is familiar. It is the feeling she and the rest of the group had for months while at Camp Dreamland.

Moving cautiously, the group reaches a T-intersection where the hall branches off to either side before disappearing around a identical looking corners. The group’s debate on who should go where is interrupted by a voice saying “welcome, my guests. Please come in.” They split up in two groups of three and go down either side of the hallway. Both groups reach the same large room, wherein 4 armed men glare down at them from catwalks. They find themselves standing on one side of a shallow aqueduct. On the opposite side are several stainless steel gurneys, with what look like over a dozen human bodies covered with white sheets. The group also recognizes some of the equipment (Eugene moreso than the others), from their time at Camp Dreamland. Looking more closely, Eugene realizes that there is equipment from a variety of fields here – including physics and geology. In the middle of all of this, with his back to the group, stands a short Mongolian man. Ascar.

When he turns to face the group, they are confronted with the face of a man who has not slept in weeks. He seems quite willing to talk, and explains to the group that he is trying to find a way to “silence the voice”. Although he clearly despises The Department, he assures the group that their companions (Alpha and Bravo are unharmed.

Taking advantage of his seemingly relaxed mood (and careful not to use their mindbeams) Phia & Eugene try to convince him that they could be allies. He argues that this is clearly not the case, gesturing at Ben. While Eugene demures, Phia states that they are not with The Department by choice. Ben, having had enough of taking the backseat, says “yes you are” and raises his gun at Ascar. Phia (via mindbeam) asks him to trust her, and convinces him to lower his gun. Having watched Phia apparently order Ben to stop, Ascar asks again whether the group is with the Department. After Phia answers in the negative, Ascar orders his men to shoot Ben.

The group reacts quickly, but not quite fast enough to stop one of the guards from getting a round off and hitting Ben. Improvising wildly, Pete and Vanessa partially unshield Eugene & Phia and pull down the catwalks, scattering the guards into the aqueduct. Phia, meanwhile, throws caution to the wind and tries to force Ascar to tell them what he knows. Her mental attack is not quite strong enough, and Ascar simply smirks at her.

Suzie yanks a gun away from one of the guards and holds her own threateningly at a second guard. Pete, focused on the main threat, tries to drag Ascar down into the aqueduct. When his attack bounces harmlessly off he realizes that there are multiple shields up. He shouts this to the rest of the group. With everything spiraling out of control, Vanessa physically shoves Ben towards the door and yells at him to run. As he is stumbling away, Eugene emphasis the order with a mental push. Muttering “you bastard” under his breath, Ben leaves the room.

Apparently satisfied that he now has the upper hand, Ascar says “let’s keep this in the family”. Two more psychics – a large Russian man and a smaller Chinese man – move out from behind Ascar where they were evidently shielding him. All three of them stretch out a hand, and three of the soldiers kill themselves. The fourth soldier also kills himself, at Phai’s order. “Good,” she says. “Let’s talk.”

With no immediate danger of anyone being shot, Phia invites Ascar & his companions to come down from the catwalk, as she is “tired of looking up”. They do so, with Ascar standing quite close to her. They talk briefly. Ascar, identifying Eugene as the brains of the group, offers him all of his research. In return, he asks only that he and his companions be permitted to leave, and that neither group sees the other again. Phia asks about Ascar’s belief that some force is trying to bring all psychics together, reminding him that they may be destined to cross paths again. When Ascar smiles and says “with luck, that will not happen”, Pete takes this as his cue to let loose with the automatic rifle he picked up.

He empties a clip into the Chinese man, who somehow remains standing long enough to be turned into a fine red mist by Vanessa and Suzie. Ascar mentally attacks Phia (who foolishly did not shield herself), but is too distracted by the slaughter of his companion to achieve anything. Phia shoots him, but the bullet bounces harmlessly off his shield. Furious with this entire situation, Pete destroys the Russian man with a single blow. Vanessa, pausing only long enough to switch her gun to full automatic, screams and obliterates Ascar.

Eager to leave, the group nevertheless takes a few moments to wrap up some loose ends. Eugene & Phia search Ascar’s research area. Phia hurriedly picks up every scrap of paper she can find, along with a laptop. Eugene stares for a moment at a large blackboard covered in calculations. With no time to copy it down, he photographs everything with his cell phone.

Pete & Vanessa find that Alpha & Bravo are indeed unharmed, although unconscious. Picking them up carefully, they prepare to carry them out. Ben, having finally shaken off Eugene’s command, limps back into the room. He stares at the ravaged remains of Ascar’s oh-so-precious brain, moving only when Suzie gives him a shoulder to lean on.

Having failed to obtain their target, compromised their morals, almost lost their Department assigned trainers, and discovered heretofore unseen evils in each other, the group departs.

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Whore O'Clock...
...and all's well! Ish.

On Alpha’s orders, the group heads off to “The 40 Tribes” to see if they can find the hiding place of Ascar Whosit, the unsecured psychic they’ve been sent to bring in. They have also been given the name of a politician thought to be in Ascar’s pocket, who is thought to frequent the brothel and might have some information.

On their way, the group discusses tactics. Ben, far more practiced at this type of mission, points out that they hardly need to pull anyone inside to interrogate them. Thanks to the benefit of their gifts – which still seem to be working without authorization, altho no one says that aloud within Ben’s hearing – all they need do is see their target to pluck the information from their brain. Phia also reminds everyone about the difference in texture of a mind that has been toyed with – such as the Giant and Muscular Woman – so they should keep an “eye” out for that. As Suzie has the greatest skill in “pull”, it is generally agreed that she will be in charge of gathering information.

As planned, they arrive at “The 40 Tribes” at peak hours. It is a decadently decorated room, crowded with rough looking men and a few corporate types. Shortly after entering they are approached by a handsome woman who introduces herself as Ms. Isla. She asks what they are looking for. The group waits for Ben, who remains silence. Instead, Suzie takes charge. Through careful diplomacy she convinces Ms. Isla that they are a group of tourists, touring various brothels and sex clubs around the world. Directing the group to the bar, Ms. Isla asks Suzie what organization she represents. Thinking quickly, Suzie says “Exxon”.

At the bar they are given the first round on the house, as well as a selection of cigars and cigarettes. They all indulge, with Pete in particular quite happy to take a marijuana cigar. Worried about Ben noticing she doesn’t need authorization, Phia experiments to see if there’s any way to scan nearby brains without actively engaging any processes. Sadly, she is unable to do so.

After Ms. Isla moves away from the group – after assuring them the prices are “quite reasonable” – Vanessa and Eugene ask Ben for authorization. Receiving it, they scan the room while Phia watches to see if anyone seems to notice. Vanessa & Eugene identifies a man with a psychically damaged mind, and no intent to harm. At the same time, Suzie scans Ms. Isla’s surface thoughts. The madam is sceptically curious, she feels that something is strange about the group, but she is not concerned. Her primary concern is to try to sell the group more to drink.

Suzie leads the group to a booth. After they have taken a seat, Vanessa directs Suzie’s attention to the man she identified. Ben points out someone else. Suzie examines the memories of Vanessa’s target, and finds obvious seams in his memory where things have been implanted or tampered with. The implanted memories appear to be of the man’s girlfriend, their daughter, and a man in a suit with a hazy face. His most recent memory is of coming from his apartment, and he is looking forward to returning there. With closer examination, she sees a Soviet-era building with a statue of Lenin in front of it. She recognizes it as the old Lenin Museum, and informs the group that it is a place of particular importance to him.

Having apparently discovered the location of Ascar’s hideout, Ben prepares to leave. Much to his surprise, Suzie calls over Ms. Isla to talk about the brothel’s selection. After inquiring about Suzie’s tastes, Ms. Isla has six individuals (four men and two women) brought to the table. Suzie tries to scan them, but is too distracted to do so. She hints to Phia to do so instead. Scanning for intent & surface thoughts, Phia finds that one of the girls is extremely anxious. Flashing a quick mindbeam to Suzie she passes on the information. Suzie, in turn, selects the anxious woman and one of the men, and takes Pete along to have some fun.

Ms. Isla looks expectantly at the remaining four. Phia informs her that she and Ben are not quite finished with their drinks. Giving Phia a dark look, Vanessa says that she is only here to buy a gift for her husband, Eugene. Bright enough not to look a gift-whore in the mouth, Eugene goes off with an exotic-looking woman.

When it becomes apparent that the remaining whores aren’t going anywhere, Phia pushes Ben forward to distract them. With a resigned sigh, Ben takes one of the mens’ hands and goes over to the bar. Evidently satisfied by this, Ms. Isla leaves Vanessa and Phia alone.

Talking quietly, they realize that no one has yet scanned the man that Ben pointed out. Since neither of them are particularly skilled at pull, they create a hasty plan B. Phia invites the man over via mindbeam, and orders him to be honest. Over the course of their conversation – with Vanessa doing most of the talking – they find out that this is Ascar’s politician friend. He tells them he has powerful, wealthy friends who he does work for, and ruefully brags that he has some importance in this country. When it becomes clear that he has no real information to impart, Phia sends him away.

Meanwhile, upstairs in the orgy-room, Suzie sets the woman on Pete and scans her. Suzie discovers that the girl recently had a close friend (and fellow whore) disappear, and is worried that it will happen to her. She is happy that the strange foreigners appear to have no desire to leave the brothel, and is terrified they will ask her to go back to their hotel as she doesn’t know how she would be able to refuse. Suzie feels concern for the woman, but as her problems appear unconnected from the mission decides there is nothing to be done. Instead she joins in the fun.

Eugene, for his part, conducts an experiment to see if he can cause a woman to climax through psychic powers. His experiment is an unmitigated success.

While waiting for the others to return, and at Vanessa’s instigation, Phia pushes the man Ben is talking to to take him upstairs. They watch as a brief conversation takes place. Ben stiffens, then turns a stony look to Phia. He sends his companion away, then comes back to the booth. Angrily he upbraids Phia for treating people like toys. Unable to understand why Ben is so upset, Phia points out that this particular man is here voluntarily to sleep with people, and it is hardly a sin to help him do his job. Seemingly unimpressed with this line of logic, Ben nevertheless leaves the conversation to be dealt with later.

About an hour later, Suzie and a very sated Pete return to the booth. The group trades what they have learned, and agree that the best course of action is to go to the museum the next day. After another hour passes with no sign of Eugene, Vanessa goes upstairs to knock on the door. Eugene, quite pleased with his experiment, dresses and leaves his companion after the disconcerting discovery that she is a grad student who speaks perfect English.

The group returns to their hotel by 10pm and goes to the restaurant for something to eat. As they eat, they ask Ben what to do next. He worries that Alpha and Bravo haven’t checked in yet. Although the group volunteers to go see if something has happened, Ben decides to give it a couple more hours.

Spurred by Ben’s worry, after dinner the group goes up to check on their rooms. All three are apparently undisturbed. Ben, still more worried, tries to contact Alpha & Bravo. Unable to do so, he goes instead to contact the Department in search of instructions. He goes to the furthest room, but Phia follows to try to listen to his conversation. Her plan is foiled when she sees that he is texting.

Back in the main room, Ben informs the group that their instructions are to stick with the plan. Alpha & Bravo’s situation is “nominal”. The group is to sneak into the museum and secure Ascar.

They discuss the museum briefly. It has been out of operation for quite a while, and they are able to locate an out-of-date floorplan. However, they have no idea what exists under the main building, or how many additional exits may have been created. Ben declares that the best chance to get an “A grade” on the operation is to sneak in tomorrow night. Phia offers to go look for Alpha & Bravo in the meantime, but Ben declines, saying that Ascar is simply not that big of a threat.

The next morning is quite busy. Ben is very flustered, trying to get everything organized. At the very least, they need to have Ascar’s brain intact (alive or otherwise). Ben is confident that there can’t be more than six or seven guards. His main concern is that the building may have a bunker or cavern underneath it, with a completely unknown layout. He says that the group needs to be prepared for a fluid situation. When asked whether Ascar will have other psychics with him, Ben says probably not.

Eventually it is decided that the group will try to use stealth, relying on the push abilities of Ben, Phia, and Eugene. More importantly, they will try to stay together.

Finally night falls, and the group heads off to the meseum, wherein lurks Ascar.

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The Importance of Teamwork
Thank you for flying Air Mindbeams...

The group heads back to the gym for their scheduling training with Alpha and Penny (aka Bravo). They arrive to find five comfortable chairs, and no mats. After sitting and waiting for a few minutes, Alpha & Bravo enter carrying dossiers, which they hand out. Apparently training has been pushed off in favour of preparations for their mission, which is happening sooner than planned.

Inside the dossier there is a picture of Somethingorother Ascar, an Asian man, the unsecured asset they are tasked to retrieve. According to what they can make out of the heavily redacted pages, the man is responsible for running drugs, guns, and women. Alpha seems confident that the mission will be an easy one, and informs the group that they will be leaving in a week and a half before opening the floor to questions. The group learns that their target is thought to be a T-6, with a focus on “push”. There is also a fear that he may be going underground, hence moving up the mission. While in the field, Alpha will responsible for giving the group authorization to use their abilities if necessary, altho she assures them that it shouldn’t come up. When asked what happens if Alpha gets shot, she replies that it’s best that not happen.

In the meantime, she and Bravo will be uploading everyone with a “mission pack”, which includes language, combat, and survival skills. The upload will take place in two hour bursts for the next few days. Bravo has already been pushing the skills onto Pete, Phia, Eugene, and Vanessa, while Alpha is taking care of Suzie. Now that they are aware of what is happening, the group can occasionally feel their brains being messed with – a remarkably uncomfortable feeling.

The next few days pass very slowly. The group asks Alpha if they can test out their new skills, but she turns down the request as they shouldn’t need them in the field. Appealing to a higher authority, the group turns to Director Stern, but despite their best efforts they are unable to convince him. Instead, the group focuses on more mundane training with firearms, obstacle courses, and physical sparring (in which Eugene, slow to react in a “not me” moment, faces off against Vanessa).

The day of the mission finally arrives, and the group is led to a parking garage. They are joined by Alpha, Bravo, and Ben (aka “Charlie”), along with six heavily armed soldiers in their strange moonwalker-esq armour. The group is issued callsigns, Canary 1-5 (in order: Eugene, Phia, Vanessa, Pete, and Suzie). Inside the van, the group debates their new callsigns and starts brainstorming less ominous ones, and just in general kidding around. While the others are more serious overall, they too seem excited to be outside for a while.

The next phase of the trip takes place in a military transport plane. The group continues to amuse themselves, and sing along enthusiastically when Ben brings out an iPod and speakers. Everyone rocks out to the chorus of “Knights of Cydonia”, all but Ben very much aware of the irony in the lyrics “no one’s going to take me alive”.

Shortly after the pilot informs everyone that they have begun their descent, Phia hears something strange and turns off the music. Then everyone can hear the sound of gunfire from the cockpit where the pilot has been shot, and the co-pilot is in the midst of unloading his pistol into the control panels. The group also hears a high pitched beeping, then has the unmistakable sensation of something shutting off, and a freedom in their own minds. Not losing a moment, the group takes action.

Screaming for help, the co-pilot begins to turn the gun on himself. Pete manages to telekinetically grab the gun out of his hand before he is able to do so (thus saving someone from suicide for the second time). Eugene and Alpha sprint to the cockpit to see if there is anyway they can fly the plane, while Suzie recruits Bravo to try to lift the plane with their mindbeams as a backup. Phia, none to confident in either of those methods, searches the plane for parachutes. Finding them she pulls one on, and starts to hand them out. The soldiers seem to be reacting with confusion, except for one who stands up, arms two grenades, and tosses them at the back of the plane.

Perhaps not thinking to clearly, Pete yells to Vanessa for help, and they try to punch a hole in the back of the plane to get the grenades out. As a result the cargo ramp falls open, causing the plane to depressurize and plummet several meters. The grenades and three of the soldiers, fall out the back of the plane. Losing her balance, Suzie falls and starts to slide towards the opening, but manages to grab onto something. Ben, too, almost flies out the back of the plane but is able to grab onto the edge and keep himself inside. Phia, working quickly to find a safety line and secure herself, drops the parachutes and goes to the back of the plane to help Charlie. Altho she doesn’t have the strength to pull him in, she is able to secure him so he is no longer in danger of flying away. Two of the remaining soldiers shoot the traitor, who falls backwards and collides with the grenades just as they explode. The force of the explosion knocks the plane even more off-kilter, and it begins to roll. Eugene, with unprecedented strength, manages to right the plane on his own.

Miraculously managing to keep her balance, Vanessa pulls on a parachute and makes her way to the back of the plane, where she helps Phia pull Ben back inside. A voice emenates from one of the remaining soldiers’ helmets, saying “compromise attempt”. Before anyone else can react, the two soldiers jump out the back of the plane. The last the group sees of them is two parachutes, drifting down to the ground.

Now dangerously close to the ground, the group splits up – three to a wing, and Alpha and Eugene fighting with the controls – to try to keep the plane from plummeting out of control. There is a tremendous groan of pressure as the group, with impeccable teamwork, manages to take enough weight off the wings to keep the plane from falling to pieces. A massive impact, a sense of weightlessness, and another smaller impact follows, and then the plane is on the ground. It skids for several more minutes, then eventually comes to a stop. No one is hurt.

Celebratory cigarettes are lit, and the group debates how this could have happened. They are unsure whether the first soldier was an unsecured psychic in disguise, if he had somehow been implanted with time-sensitive commands, or if there was someone strong enough to effect minds from a distance. Alpha brusquely commands the group not to worry about it, and walks out of the plane with a map and a GPS to try to figure out where they have landed.

Left to their own devices for a few minutes, the group double checks that their powers are still working. Indeed they are, although no one is quite sure why. Choosing not to look a gift horse in the mouth, Phia searches the plane for any remaining supplies, and Eugene goes to try to help Alpha. Eventually everyone is carrying a pack of supplies and a gun, although they decide to leave the assault rifles behind in a (likely foolhardy) attempt to remain inconspicuous.

Eventually a pick-up truck comes along, its driver apparently come to investigate the crash. Bravo goes to talk to him, likely erasing his memories, while Alpha is busy on the radio. Ben informs the group that a clean-up crew is on the way, and the co-pilot will stay behind to wait for them. In the meantime, the mission must go on. On a happier note, the group has earned new callsigns: Professor (Eugene), Hemingway (Phia), Indy (Vanessa), Castle (Pete), and Fox (Suzie).

As they are relatively close to a city, the group starts walking. Alpha informs them that a taxi will be along shortly to fetch them. A white van does indeed appear and the group piles in. The driver happily chatters the entire way to the city, and drops the group off at his cousin’s hotel. With stern instructions to stay out of trouble, the group is left on their own.

Phia and Pete go to the hotel bar to try out the local delicacy – a potent brew made out of curdled mare’s milk – while Suzie, Vanessa, and Eugene go shopping. Eventually everyone makes their way to the bar. Eugene chats up a few of the local ladies, while the rest of the group commandeers a table and uses Phia’s notebook to hold a written discussion about the possibility of running. Suzie and Vanessa suggest they could just walk away, since their powers are working and Alpha & Bravo are busy with their mission. Phia argues that they have no idea whether they will lose control of their powers again, and that running in a strange country with no money, no passports, and no way to get home is perhaps not the safest of ideas. Pete, ever the do-gooder, argues that Ascar is responsible for some horrendous acts, and they have a responsibility to take care of him. The group finally comes to an agreement that they will remain to finish the mission, and then re-asses from there.

With that decided, Pete, Phia, Eugene, and Ben (who has joined the group) proceed to get drunk. Vanessa and Suzie, thankfully more responsible, make sure everyone gets back to their rooms safely. The next morning, the group (including a sadly hungover Ben), Alpha, and Bravo climb back into the taxi and heads for Somecity. They are dropped off at the Regency Hyatt, and Alpha holds a briefing to inform everyone of their best leads. Their target is known for frequenting a specific restaurant, and a brothel called “The 40 Tribes”. Alpha and Bravo will be investigating the restaurant, while the rest are tasked with going undercover (haha) in the brothel. Breaking into partners (Ben & Phia, Eugene & Vanessa, and Suzie & Pete) they are to look for Ascar’s men, who will likely be extensively brainwashed. If they are able to talk to any of them, they are to try to find Ascar’s location.

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Rumble in The Department
Kicking ass and... basically just kicking ass.

Having agreed to go on the test mission, the group is informed that it likely won’t happen for at least a month. Further testing is required to make sure they are prepared to be in the field. Vanessa, ever safety-conscious, asks what the authorization process is like, specifically whether they’ll be able to use their shields without permission. Director Stern explains that, if all goes well, they may even be “powers free” by that point, and be able to use their abilities at will.

One bit of happy business occurs, in that the group receives their passes to the smoker’s lounge. Leaving Dir. Stern’s office they quickly take advantage of their passes, and head for the lounge. It turns out to be outside… somewhat. It is a 10×10 space, surrounded by grey walls that stretch at least 70 feet high and continue into some kind of red stone. Still, there is fresh air (quickly filled with cigarette smoke) and sunshine, so the group enjoys it.

While outside, Vanessa & Phia bring up an issue they had talked about previously, namely the possibility that they may all have been sterilized. Reactions to this are mixed: Suzie & Pete hi-five, Vanessa & Phia are distressed by the invasion of privacy, and Eugene seems unmoved. Eventually it’s decided that, short of trying a “test pregnancy”, there is nothing much that can be done about the possibility.

Finishing their cigarettes, the group goes back to training. It is much the same as it has been for the last week: lifting weights of various shapes and sizes. Dr. Claring continues to be the main trainer, but is occasionally joined by other observers. Today it is Dr. Sterling, who is examining a strange measurement device. Pete & Eugene are asked to lift a weight together, and Dr. Sterling is shocked by the amount they lift. He receives a stern look from Dr. Claring, and is asked to “go check his results”.

The days pass slowly. Training is the same, every day. The only area that seems to change is having the group work together. The researchers all seem fascinated by this phenomenon. In one instance, finally frustrated beyond the bounds of politeness, Pete pulls from Dr. Claring rather than helping Phia with their task. He is able to pull extreme interest and anxiety before his implant shocks him. The lights in the room go out, leaving the group in pitch darkness for a long minute. When the lights come back on Dr. Claring is gone, replaced by Director Stern. Giving Pete a severe look, he tells the group to take the rest of the day off.

Heading to the smoker’s lounge, the group discusses Pete’s findings. It occurs to them that, when Vanessa tried to TK punch, she was unable to accomplish anything before the implant shocked her, whereas Pete was able to pull from Dr. Claring as normal. Eugene is asked about his attempts to get onto the research team, and he admits that he has had no success. It appears that they are simply stringing him along, to try to keep him agreeable. The conversation devolves into angry muttering.

The group returns to their rooms to find that their schedule has been cleared. With the rest of the day free, they entertain themselves. Suzy and Eugene “test their sterilization thesis” so to speak.

The next morning they wake to find that training is back on their schedule, however Dr. Claring is no longer listed as their instructor. They also discover that Pete has a private meeting scheduled with Dr. Claring before that morning’s training.

Going to the meeting, Pete is unsurprised to find an extremely upset Dr. Claring. She seems especially upset that it was Pete who “assaulted” her, saying “I’ve read your file”. Pete apologizes, but argues back that they are being lied to and kept against their will.

Training resumes, the same as before. Phia, who has long since stopped putting effort into the exercises, suggests a course of “passive resistance”. Most of the group, with the exception of Eugene, agrees and begins to slack off. This continues for two days, with the researchers becoming increasingly more frustrated, after which they are sent away from training.

With a free day, the group turns to various amusements. In the evening they discover that the next day has “training with Agent Charlie” scheduled. The group remembers that Charlie is the call-sign for Ben – one of their captors, and victims of Vanessa & Suzie’s ire.

That evening, at 11, Ben knocks on the group’s door. He invites the group to join him for a beer. Eagerly accepting, the group is led to the cafeteria and through a yellow door #1, into another, smaller cafeteria with a small wet bar. Eugene shows off his chemistry skills and mans the bar.

As they drink, Phia asks Ben about their training for the next day. He says it is a surprise, but promises that they’ll be using their processes, hopefully at full strength. Vanessa threatens him that, if they are expected to spar each other, she will kick his ass. Ben’s expression freezes somewhat, but he laughs it off.

As they talk, it becomes clear that Ben is aware of all the activities the group got up to before coming to The Department. The casino, the trucker, the car chase, even forcing some schmuck into helping them put a motor on a boat. In response the group asks Ben about his experiences. He tells them a little about his training in The Department, all the while keeping the drinks flowing (while nursing his first beer).

Eventually it comes out that the group has access to the smoker’s lounge. Ben is completely in awe of this, as the lounge is described as Director Stern’s sanctuary. The group manages to convince Ben to come smoking with them, after which he loosens up.

The group asks about his job, rounding up loose psychics. He explains that most are peaceful and cooperative, some with very little idea of what they are capable of. The big problem are organized psychics. When asked about T-0, he says that it is nothing more than an urban legend about the so-called “first psychic”. It is considered a delusion, some sort of memetic virus that infects unsecured psychics.

Ben himself was apparently something of a prodigy. He was brought in by Alpha herself, and warns the group that they should be worried about pissing her off.

The next morning, at 10am, the group heads for a new training room, where Dr. Claring and Ben are waiting for them. The floor is covered with gym mats, and they are going to be sparring (one-on-one) with Ben. The challenge is to stand on either side of a large red circle, and the first one who can force their opponent into the circle wins. Eugene volunteers to go first, which prompts a pleased expression from Ben. Eugene allows Ben to go first despite having an advantage and swats aside his attempts at pushing. Eugene grins saying “Ohhhh Ben… you’ll have to do better then that.” Then wiping the grin off his face “Now get in the circle”. The bout lasts a mere 5 seconds.

Vanessa volunteers to go next, but Dr. Claring suggests that perhaps she would like to go last. Instead, Phia goes next. Her battle goes much like Eugene’s, with the added humiliation of forcing Ben to crawl into the circle. He is decidedly unimpressed. Dr. Claring, seeming somewhat concerned, gives Ben a warning look.

Next comes Suzie. Her battle is a bit closer, but she is eventually able to telekinetically drag Ben into the circle. Then comes Pete who, after turning Ben around so he can’t use any of his own processes, pushes Ben into the circle as well.

Finally, the main event, Vanessa and Ben square off. To begin, their fight relies on mere physical ability. It becomes obvious that Ben is not untrained, although he is no match for Vanessa’s skills. However, she also wants to humiliate him, so stops short of punching him. Next come psychic attacks, but Ben’s TK bounces off Vanessa’s shield. In retaliation she is able to punch him halfway towards the circle. In danger of losing, Ben apologizes and pushes a command on Vanessa, forcing her to walk into the circle. The group erupts with cries of “laaaaaaame”.

With the sparring done, Ben asks if the group is ready for Phase 2. They all say yes, but Dr. Claring announces that they should wait until tomorrow. She tells Ben that he disappointed her, and then leaves.

Left alone, Ben takes a moment to teach the group something new (something which he was trying and failing to do during their sparring). Phia volunteers for the demonstration. Ben asks her to allow his attack through, which she does. This results in her rolling around on the floor until she apologizes for making him crawl. Having achieved his revenge, Ben then proceeds to teach the group how to form a new kind of shield, that in theory is more powerful than their natural defenses. It is a way of damping all psychic powers around them, with the downside that it stops their own as well. When all 5 try it at the same time, Ben recoils and quickly asks them to stop.

With the rest of the day free, the group returns to their rooms. They briefly discuss the fact that they were able to learn the new process without their implants going berserk. Testing whether that is still the case, they are warned by the dreaded beeping sound and quickly back off. Whether it was something in the training room, something Ben did, or their controllers simply having a good joke, is unclear.

Checking their schedules for the next day they see that they are set for Phase 2 sparring with Alpha & Bravo (Penelope), followed by mission conditioning and briefing. Their mission is 2 weeks away.

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The Land of No Cigarettes
Happiness is mandatory, citizen.

The group wakes to find themselves sitting in comfortable easy-chairs, around a large table in what looks like an office conference room. When they first wake they are all filled with a sense of calm & relaxation, which quickly wears off as they begin to examine their surroundings. They are all wearing blue coveralls, and appear to have been changed right down to their underwear – a fact which does not please Suzy in the least.

On the table is a note (“brb, Director Stern”). There is a sideboard with muffins, fruit, and coffee. When Suzy stands up to get something to eat, Pete notices a scab on the back of her neck. A quick examination reveals that everyone has a similar mark. Infuriated, Vanessa tries to TK punch the wall to break away out. Just before she does so, she hears a soft beep and then feels a vicious shock inside her mind. Angered further, she starts to shout and threatens to throw a chair at the door. A disembodied voice tells the group to be calm, that Director Stern will be arriving soon.

While they are waiting, Pete quietly admits to Phia that she was right, and that he was wrong. Vanessa tears off a sleeve of her coverall and throws it over the camera in the corner, prompting protests from the disembodied voice. Eventually the door opens to admit an older gentleman – 50s, white hair, evidence of a smoker – who takes a seat at the table and introduces himself as Director Stern.

Vanessa & Suzy proceed to berate him for locking them away and taking away their free will. The Director allows their tirade to continue uninterrupted, until they declare that he has no idea how they feel at which point he shows them a scar on the back of his neck. It seems that Dir. Stern has been with The Department for decades.

The Director proceeds to explain how the group has been brought here for their own protection, as well as the protection of innocent civilians. He admits that they spent more time “unsecured” than is normal, which will make their transition more difficult, but argues that “you are safe here, and will become safer”.

Taking the opportunity to get at least some of their questions answered, Vanessa presses for more information. Dir. Stern explains that they are all psychics, and that their condition is a naturally occurring genetic mutation. He works for the government – eventually admitting it is the US government after much pressing from Suzy – and is part of an organization that was developed to “secure” psychics in order to guarantee the safety of civilians. Although the politics are complex, he assures them that everything has been done legally, and that as part of their training they will learn the Telepaths’ Bill of Rights.

With regard to the implant, he explains that they are all currently “white listed”, which means they cannot use any of their abilities without permission. With proper authorization – gained once they prove they can be trusted – they may gain access to some of their abilities. While they are in the facility, they will not be wired to request permission, since there is no need for their abilities to be used.

Vanessa eventually asks about returning to their normal lives. Declaring that she has no wish to use her abilities, she argues that since they are all neutered they may as well be let go. Dir. Stern avoids the main question, but tries to assure them that their lives have been “taken care of”. When the group assumes the worst, he explains that they are all simply “on vacation”, and will have the chance to talk to their friends & loved ones “soon”.

At one point, Eugene pipes up to say that this all makes perfect sense (much to the rest of the group’s horror, for various reasons). As they all have the potential to be incredibly dangerous, he fully supports the idea of limiting their abilities for the greater good. This gains him much disapproval points among the rest of the group.

Wrapping up the informational portion conversation, the Director reminds them that they are also here for their own safety. There are many unsecured telepaths in the world, who can be incredibly dangerous. When pressed, he refuses to give any information regarding T-0. He also admits that, while The Department wants a good relationship with the group, the primary concern is to keep the citizens safe. They would like cooperation, but will proceed without it.

As the length of their stay is indefinite, the group asks after their belongings. The Director says that they are all safe, although he seems slightly unsure about their clothing, and that everything will be returned after it has been catalogued and sterilized. They are also able to talk their way into access to the smokers’ lounge, after a combined death-glare when Dir. Stern mentions the possibility of them all quitting.

When asked about what their training will entail, he says they will primarily be learning how to use their abilities properly. They will also learn the Bill of Rights, as well as have some classes on ethics (prompting Pete to give Phia a significant look).

Next, the group is taken on a tour of the facilities. Dir. Stern mentions blithely that there is surveillance in all of the common areas, so if any of the group wanders into an area they should not be, they will be escorted out shortly. He explains the colour coding of the access areas, and recommends they all stay in the green zones.

First they are shown to their quarters. Much like a suite in a dormitory, they have a common room, 2 bathrooms, a kitchenette, and 5 bedrooms. In each bedroom is a bed, a desk, and a small dresser. They are also shown the cafeteria (hot dogs for lunch, but the dinners are usually pretty good), the gym (with a pool, hot tubs, sauna, track, and weight machines), an arcade (Area 51, haha), and tuck shop. Phia asks about money, and is told that they will be compensated for their time with “Department Bucks”. Along with a daily allowance, they can also garner extra funds by doing voluntary tasks. Upon closer inspection, it appears there are no cigarettes in the tuck shop. The tour ends with the location of Director Stern’s office, where they are invited to come any time if they have questions or concerns.

Returning to their dorm, the group’s first task is checking for cameras. They are unable to locate any (but some don’t necessarily trust that they aren’t there). Then, they split off, everyone trying to deal with these new developments in their own way. Phia manages to locate some paper and writes. Pete, Suzy, and Vanessa go to the gym. And Eugene goes to talk to Dir. Stern.

Eventually they all meet back at the dorm. Pete apologizes to the group, saying that it’s his fault they came here without finding out more information. Phia accepts the apology with ill-grace.

Ben, one of the agents who was sent to collect the group, appears at the door pushing a small cart with all of their belongings. Phia throws her pencil at him, Suzy throws her pillow, and Vanessa punches him in the face. Pete, horrified by this behaviour, apologizes profusely. Ben leaves, and the group goes through what was returned. All of their clothes and any personal belongings appear to be here. Their wallets were included, but all money and ID are gone. Pete’s drug stash has also been removed. Phia searches her laptop for evidence of tampering or key-logging software, but is unable to find anything.

At dinnertime they head to the cafeteria. It is fairly full, with about 50 people sitting and eating. Some are wearing lab coats, some are wearing jeans, virtually no one is wearing coveralls. They see Ben and the young woman who was involved in their capture sitting alone at a table, talking animatedly. Eugene, considering how long he is likely to be in this place and the slim chances of any of the women in his immediate company sharing his bed, goes over to make friends. The rest go into the kitchen to grab their food. Suzy and Vanessa move quickly, and then march over to where Ben & the young woman are sitting. Suzy tries to hit the woman with a tray, but misses. Eugene tries to move between the woman, but is too slow to keep Vanessa from dumping pudding onto the young woman’s head. The woman bellow’s for authorization, but the only response is a loud alarm and flashing red lights. Everyone else puts their heads down. Pete and Phia quickly find seats and do so as well, and Pete is quick to learn that the group is already pretty unpopular with the rest of the inmates.

Eventually Director Stern appears, accompanied by Alpha. Sparing a disapproving glance for Pete & Phia, he walks quickly to the area of interest. Alpha asks the woman (Penelope) and Ben to come with her, much to their disgust. Dir. Stern instructs the others to “play nice”, which prompts unkind words from Suzy. However, no punishment is forthcoming and the Director simply leaves.

Most of the group sits together at the abandoned table, with the exception of Eugene who sits by himself. Pete, at his charming best, tries to find out why the group is so hated already. He is told that they’re getting special treatment, and they almost caused a lockdown. The woman, Kathy, eventually comes to sit at their table and explains that she is the “unofficial cruise director”. It turns out that she has been in The Department for 5 years. Through careful questioning the group learns a few important things. First, they seem to be more powerful than they should be for “beginners”. Second, there is a ranking system for strength, that runs from T-5 to T-1, with T-1 being the most powerful. A light dawns among most of the group with regards to the name T-0.

They also find out that they have apparently been here for two weeks – or at least, that is when rumour of their presence started. Kathy says it’s quite irregular for them to be in “gen pop” so soon. When she arrived, she was in orientation for over a month.

Asking after the group’s background, she’s surprised to hear that almost all of them are from the same city (Phia lies and says she’s from Saskatoon). She says it’s incredibly rare for more than one psychic to be brought in at a time, and is incredibly confused when the group admits that they all knew each other before they were secured. Eugene, having joined the group, asks whether a man matching Terry’s description has been brought in. No.

The next morning, at about 10:30, a woman named Dr. Claring arrives at the dorm. She explains that they will be doing tests for the next few days, to sort out their current ability levels. The group finds out that she’s read all of their files, Eugene’s research papers, and Phia’s book (which she was apparently not much of a fan of).

The next few days are spent with quizes, surveys, psychological interviews, and tests of telekinetic ability. They are also continually asked what they can do, what they have already done. If any in the group starts to give specifics, they are brushed off as “not necessary”. It is also quickly apparent that Dr. Claring has no scar on her neck, suggesting she is either not a psychic, or has escaped being secured.

There are also group discussions, primarily on the issues of ethics & free will. Eugene explains that free will is an illusion, especially in light of the abilities that the group has.

Two concerns come up over the course of their testing. First, with regards to their abilities, they are only focusing on TK skills. When Phia asks whether they are going to be exploring other avenues, Dr. Claring asks what else she might be interested in doing. Demurring, Phia simply says that she is getting bored of lifting weights.

The second concern is Pete’s: that the group has received no information regarding the so-called Bill of Rights. He asks Dr. Claring several times and is put off. Eventually he is summoned to Director Stern’s office and given an envelope with the bill of rights inside. After decifering the thick legalize, it becomes clear that psychics have zero rights when their actions would interfere with a czitilizan’s ability to live without fear of mental manipulation. Although they are guaranteed food and shelter, it is clear that they are guaranteed Department food and shelter. In fact, it becomes clear that the document could more accurately be titled the “Civilians’ Bill of Rights”.

A few days after waking up in the boardroom, they are all summoned to Director Stern’s office. He asks whether they would be interested in gaining more privileges/trust. He explains that the problem of unsecured psychics is a global one. As the Soviet program (which had been quite highly regarded) fell apart when the rest of the Soviet Union did, there are several unsecured psychics in that region of the world. In fact, most of modern-day Russia is apparently controlled by the manipulation of psychics who were trained in the Soviet program. The Department has gained a lead on someone, and will be sending a team to secure them. As a test of the group’s abilities, they are to shadow the collection team and help where they can. They are told that they will be able to use their abilities, with authorization provided by Director Stern.

After some discussion, the group agrees that they will go.

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Commands & Consequences
It's all fun and games until someone is black-bagged by the government

As Vanessa Scott walks away in protest to the group’s decision, those left behind all feel a snap of psychic energy. Concerned, Phia Walker chases after Vanessa to make sure she’s alright. Catching up with the infuriated teacher, Phia finds out that Vanessa didn’t feel anything and has no intention of returning to the group just yet. Phia returns to the group.

Eugene, meanwhile, checks on Muscular Woman and is unable to find a pulse. Suzan Mancetti says to get her into the car, responding “I know” when Eugene says the woman is dead. Suzie, somewhat more abrupt than usual, tells the group to get the woman into the car which they will bring to the lake where she dumped the Giant’s car, and they can throw all the evidence into the water. Phia worries about leaving Vanessa behind, so Suzie and Pete Lewis go to retrieve her while Eugene and Phia get the woman into the car.

Neither wishing to touch the body, Phia & Eugene use their mental abilities to hoist the woman into the trunk. While doing so they are surprised to find that they are able to work in tandem, rather than individually. Once their task is complete, Phia sits down on the trunk of the car and pulls out her laptop to write. Eugene, reading over her shoulder, realizes that she has been chronicling the group’s activities in the form of a novel. Asking her whether she thinks this is a wise idea, Phia defends herself by saying she’s stopped posting anything online.

Suize & Pete [CONVERSATION I DIDN’T HEAR].

Eventually they all return to the car, and follow Suzie’s directions to the waterfront. Once there – keeping a close eye out for passersby – they transfer the woman into the giant’s car and try to push it into the lake. Eugene shares the discovery he and Phia made about being able to work together. However the group quickly discovers that only two people can work together at a time. Although they try several different ways, they are unable to use their mindbeams to force the car into the water. Instead, they push it in manually and watch as it drifts down into the murk, hopefully never to be seen again.

The group, exhausted by having been awake for more than 24 hours, heads for Niagara Falls. Phia, waking momentarily from her stupor asks if they should stay closer to Toronto in order to better invade the TSI before heading to Buffalo. Unwilling to leave themselves open to discovery, it is decided that they will spend the night in Niagara Falls and make up their minds in the morning.

They arrive in a seedy motel and secure two adjoining rooms. Finally succumbing to sleep, the group dreams. They dream of being far, far underground, unable to move because of the sheer weight of the earth above them. But far above they can feel the tiny footprints of humans walking above, and were they merely to move their shoulders they would send the humans scurrying like ants. And the phone rings.

Waking to find the phone is actually ringing, Vanessa answers it. She hears what sounds like static from a cassette tape, and then voices: “Technically we only need 3 of them . . . we can’t take that risk”. Vanessa tells the other girls what she heard, after which Suzie goes to wake up the guys and tell them.

Discovering it to be 4:00pm, the group adjourns to the Denny’s across the street for something to eat. Phia reminds everyone to bring all of their stuff, as they will not be returning to the motel. As they eat, Phia puts her foot down about going to the TSI. When asked about her plan, she declares that she will simply walk up to reception, ask for her files, and get them.

Eugene, still in very poor shape after being battered by the muscular woman, comments that he might like to seek medical attention. However, after thinking about how much time it would take and the potential of police involvement, he decides that he’s not feeling quite that bad.

Leaving Denny’s, the group piles back into Pete’s car and heads back the way they came. On their way to the TSI, in Richmond Hill, a report comes over the radio. Apparently the police are seeking 6 individuals in relation to an assault on Tommy P[somethingorother] who is now in critical condition. The individuals they are seeking: Professor Eugene Donovan, Janet K[somethingorother], Peter Lewis, Suzan Mancetti, Vanessa Scott, and local author Sophia Walker. In potentially related news, a car was found 6km North of Oshawa, and it appears to have been involved in a high speed chase.

As the radio announcer goes on to other news, Phia simply states that they cannot go to the TSI. Pete turns the car around, and they head the other way.

With this new complication, the group debates about how to get across the border. Phia suggests driving to Gananoque and crossing the St. Lawrence. Pete wonders aloud at the cost of purchasing a boat. Deciding that the group’s meager funds aren’t up to the task, Pete decides to take advantage of his telekinetic powers and get cash from a casino. As they continue to drive, another report comes on the radio: they are broadcasting a retraction, apparently the police are no longer looking for the aforementioned individuals, and apologize for any inconvenience. Still wary, the group decides to continue with their current plan.

Reaching the casino, Eugene & Suzie stay with the car while Pete, Vanessa & Phia head inside to try their luck.

Waiting in the car Eugene sees himself as a sad battered husk of whom he used to be. “I used to be THE Professor Eugene Donavin. Look at me… what have I become” as tears welled up in his eyes. Suzy tried to assure him that things will be ok but Eugene took little comfort in the notion.

Inside the casino, Pete puts all of his cash into a single $1000 chip and heads for the roulette table. With Vanessa on his arm, and Phia keeping an eye on security, he puts the chip down on Red 5 at 5:1 odds. The croupier and other players all watch with interest, and then shock, as the wheel spins and the ball settles on Red 5. Pete, eager to quit while ahead, takes his chips and goes to cash out. While doing so he is approached by the manager who is pleased to offer comped drinks and a night in their finest suite. When Pete jokingly asks for a raincheck, Phia pushes and the manager is surprised to find himself happily agreeing. He takes Pete’s (falsified) contact information, and bids them a fond farewell.

Returning to the car, the group carries on into Gananoque proper. They find a place to store Pete’s car while they are gone – a used car lot where the owner promises not to sell his car. In Canadian tire they are able to purchase an aluminum boat, an outboard motor, and a roof rack for around $3600 total.

It is nearing 9:00pm when they reach the pier and start trying to mount the motor. After asking a few passersby for help and being turned down, Phia pushes and gets someone to help them. After 30 minutes, the motor is set to go. The man, confused and somewhat upset by lack of payment, continues along his way. Suzie, however, catches up with him and gives him $50 for his troubles.

They head out across the St. Lawrence, with Pete driving and Vanessa navigating. Although they have a bit of difficulty in the dark, they eventually putter their way across the river and land safely on American soil. They discover that they are 90 minutes North of Syracuse, 3 hours North of Buffalo, and there is not a car rental place in sight. They plan to hitch a ride to the nearest town where they will be able to spend the night before getting a car. Suzie acts as bait, and is able to coax an 18-wheeler to stop in short order. The driver introduces himself as Henry [SOMETHING], and seems happy to give Suzie a ride. However, when the rest of the group appears he doesn’t seem quite as thrilled. Suzie asks nicely, and Phia pushes, and he agrees to give them all a ride to Buffalo.

Eugene, Pete & Vanessa make space in the sleeper, while Suzie & Phia sit up front. Henry is a friendly sort, and chats away quite happily with Suzie. She explains that they are a group of graduate students completing a social experiment to see how far they can travel relying solely on the kindness of others. Henry admits that he wouldn’t normally pick up any more than 2 travelers, but seems content enough with the group.

They arrive safely in Buffalo, where Henry drops them at a trucker motel. Once more they take two rooms, and fall into a dreamless sleep.

They wake up at 3:00pm. After showering the group congregates at a nearby bar to get something to eat and discuss their next move. While ordering, they realize that none of them have US currency. While Pete & Vanessa start to ask the waitress if she can take Canadian currency, Phia simply pushes to have her agree, and gains a pie out of the deal. The others are not at all impressed, but Phia argues that it was faster, and hardly harmful.

Eating their food, the group figures out what to do next. Their main goal is to go to the muscular woman’s house, to see if they can find any information about either The Thin Man or T-0. The main question is whether to head there immediately, or wait until morning and give Eugene more time to recover. They let Eugene decide, who declares that staying in one place for two long is a bad idea. They decide to change their currency, buy new (common) clothes for Eugene, pepper spray for everyone, and then head to the woman’s house.

They finish shopping and arrive at the woman’s house around 6:30pm. It appears to be a perfectly normal townhouse, with no lights on or signs of life. They check the neighbours to make sure they won’t be seen, and then move to the front door. Eugene, acting as “a common man”, starts to break in while the others “look natural”. A long 40 minutes later, they enter the townhouse.

Turning on the lights, they start to search. Pete heads for the basement which is unremarkable except for what appears to be a shrine in the corner. On the wall is a picture of what appears to be a fetus, on either side of which are the Greek symbols for Alpha & Omega, and above which T-0 is carved into the wall. Beneath the picture is a bedside table with dozens of candles, each sitting in a mound of melted wax. Around the table is a circle of stones, which Pete is careful not to step within. As he turns away in disgust, something on the ceiling catches his gaze. It is a collage, made up of nine computer print-outs, that shows a massive eye looking down on him. Sufficiently creeped out, Pete heads back to the main floor.

Meanwhile, Vanessa, Suzie & Eugene make their own discoveries. Eugene finds sleeping medication in her bathroom, along with vials of the same drug that was used on Vanessa & Pete by the giant. Suzie finds a revolver (already loaded), ammunition, and $200. Vanessa goes through the garbage where they find a receipt for the Phoenix Skydock, dated six months ago. Phia, for her part, stays by the door and finds absolutely nothing.

Sharing their findings, Pete tells the group about the shrine in the basement. Suzie, Vanessa & Phia go down to investigate and take pictures of the shrine while Pete & Eugene remain on the main floor. It turns out a good thing that they did, as they are both able to see when the front door begins to open to reveal a middle aged woman, a younger woman, and an Asian man.

Despite the strangers’ apparent stronger abilities, the fight goes quickly. Eugene is able to turn the younger woman on her allies and swat aside any mental attacks, while Phia orders the older woman to give up and the Asian man to obey. Vanessa delivers a few viscious TK punches, and Suzie tries to read their intentions but is unable to do so in the heat of battle.

Under Phia’s orders the man identifies himself as Benjamin Park, from the government. He also suggests that everyone calm down, and in fact forces the feeling on Eugene. The older woman suggests that everyone drop their processes. Phia, refusing to do so, orders Benjamin to allow Suzie to scan his mind. Despite the older woman’s protests that he is not authorized to do so, Benjamin obeys and Suzie is able to read his surface thoughts. He is from The Department, and has come to bring the group in quietly and efficiently (if possible). If not, the building is surrounded by soldiers who will bring the group in by foce. He is also nervous, as he no longer expects things to go smoothly.

Phia, ignoring Pete’s demands that she drop her command, starts to ask why they were attacked. Outraged by her actions, Pete physically blocks her line of sight. They have a short argument about the morality of her actions, but are interrupted by the older woman who explains that it was a simple misunderstanding due to her “overexcited colleague”. The woman encourages the group to leave the house. Pete insists that they have some questions answered first, to which Phia mutters that she was trying to do that.

Moving to the kitchen, Pete asks about T-0. Ben and the older woman remain impassive, while the younger woman seems surprised. Pete asks next why they were targeted, and who the woman is who chased them. The older women says she was simply a delusional schizophrenic, a fanatic worshiping an entity that does not exist.

Ben, impatient, says that the group is coming one way or another, so they may as well move it. Pete tries to get more questions answered, but is only told “we are not authorized to discuss that”. When Phia sulks about being able to get answers, Pete rounds on her. He declares that it is people like her that are probably responsible for the government treating them like criminals, at which government representatives seem to laugh.

Eventually the group agrees to come along quietly. The older woman seems to speak to the air, “This is Alpha, we’re coming out”. At the name, some members of the group start to wonder if obeying is the best idea.

Coming outside, they are directed to an unmarked van sitting at the end of the driveway. Eugene spots what looks like a man in a black spacesuit on a rooftop across the street, armed with a submachine gun.

Climbing into the van, Phia dithers and is the last one in. She ends up sitting next to Ben, who asks for a drag of her cigarette saying that “there are no cigarette’s where we’re going. Good night.” And gas starts to fill the van. As they start to pass out, Phia glares at Pete who says “very well, I owe you a coke”.

Fighting off the effects of the gas for as long as possible, Vanessa tries desperately to bash the door open with a TK punch. Although the sides of the van warp, she is unsuccessful and falls unconscious.

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Hard Decisions
In which "humane" punishments are debated

As the Muscular Woman raises the blindfold from her face, the group reacts decisively – each seeming to have reached a new level in their abilities. Phia punches a command of “obey me” to the woman’s already-battered mind before shouting “stop”; Vanessa and Eugene, surprised by Phia’s words, hesitate. Pete tries to force the blindfold back down, but the woman is able to fight him off; while Suzie scans her mind and warns the group “she’s trying to scan us”.

Almost overwhelmed, the woman manages to shake free of Phia’s command. However, in doing so she forgets to raise her shields and is pummeled especially hard by Vanessa’s vicious TK punch, losing a tooth and falling unconscious.

Somewhat stunned by the speed with which the situation ended, the group nevertheless reacts with aplomb. Operating from Suzie’s suggestion, they duct tape the woman’s eyes closed, put the blindfold back on, and then put a pillowcase over her head before allowing Vanessa to perform first aid.

While Vanessa looks to the woman’s well-being, the rest of the group debates their own. Phia strongly suggests that the debate be held somewhere else, for fear that someone else might come for them. This idea is put off in light of the more pressing matter of what to do with the unconscious woman. Pete admits that there is a difficult decision facing them all. Eugene, with implacable logic, wonders aloud how much grief could be avoided if they simply kill the woman. Phia agrees, but Vanessa vehemently disagrees, pointing out that the woman is not acting of her own free will, and they have a responsibility to try to help her.

Increasingly concerned by staying in one place for too long, Phia offers a temporary solution. The group stashes the woman somewhere, invades the TSI to get their files, and then leaves town/hides out where their hunters cannot find them. Vanessa, slightly mollified by this plan, volunteers to use one of her contacts to hide the woman.

During this discussion it occurs to both Eugene and Pete that they could simply blind the woman, but neither says anything to the rest of the group.

Suzie, undecided, tries to perform a deep scan on the woman to help make up her mind. After several attempts, and enlisting the help of the rest of the group (with the exception of Eugene), she manages to breakthrough. Again she gets the sense that the woman’s mind is heavily damaged, and little of it is recent. Searching for information about T-0, Suzie gets the sense of a holy symbol, an object of worship unconnected to any physical being or location. The woman believes her abilities are a gift from T-0. She deals with another acolyte, who’s face is blurred in her mind but seems to be male. The woman herself comes from Buffalo, and had been tasked with taking whoever the Brute Doll (aka the Giant) was holding in Oshawa back to Buffalo, to deliver to The Thin Man.

Suzie also tries to find whether the woman knows anything about Terry’s location. Apparently Terry has been taken by “the heretics”, although the woman doesn’t really know who they are outside of a sense of “suits”.

The issue comes to a vote, and the group unanimously agrees (more or less) to stash the woman with Vanessa’s friends.

Vanessa calls her contact, Johnny Nickle, and heads out to Scarborough. Suzie accompanies her, rather than have her travel alone. They meet up with Johnny Nickle in a safe house, where two other men have already set up camp in front of a video game. The cost for the day is $1035, which Eugene pays on the premise that it will be along time before he’ll be able to “buy anyone something nice again”. Sending the thugs away for a moment, Vanessa and Suzie stand over the woman. Vanessa raises the option of blinding her, convinced that it would be the more humane option. Suzie suggests that they do so, call the paramedics and have Eugene & Phia convince them the woman did it to herself, so that she would be sent to a psychiatric hospital and taken care of. Vanessa agrees, and they cart the woman back out of the safe house, much to Johnny Nickel’s relief, as he found the woman “sort of creepy”.

In the meantime, while Pete goes to a nearby ATM to get as much cash as possible, Phia calls Sgt Michael Fields to see if he has found any information. The detective speaks only in a whisper, and says “because you’re a friend, I’ll tell you to be careful, but you can’t call me anymore. Get a lawyer and tell the truth” before hanging up. Phia, distressed, does not call back. Nor does she mention the results of her call to the rest of the group.

Eugene, meanwhile, has gone home to pack his belongings and make sure no research is left lying about. As soon as he enters his apartment, the phone rings and someone knocks on the door. Ignoring the phone he answers the door to find two policemen standing there. They ask where he was the previous night, and he says he went to a diner where his car was stolen. Somewhat suspicious, the police ask him to come down to the station. With a heavy sigh, Eugene orders them both to leave, which they do with no small confusion. Locking the door behind them, Eugene works quickly to dump all his home electronics into the bath, fill it with water, and electrocute them. He also packs, disconnects his phone, and leaves through the parking garage. He makes it back to Pete’s apartment without further incident, stopping only to buy a disposable cell phone from 7/11.

Upon his return he is told that Suzie has sent a text message to Phia saying “I need you, come here, bring everyone”. They head out to an abandoned building in Scarborough, both Pete and Eugene carrying their belongings, and Phia carrying only her laptop and what clothes she brought to the cottage.

Some time later, they have all gathered together once more. The debate is harsh, between blinding or killing the woman. A vote is held – Suzie & Vanessa vote blinding, and Eugene, Pete & Phia vote killing (with Suzie also raising her hand). Vanessa walks away.

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The Giant Exeunt
Driving for dummies

Eugene & Suzie tie up the giant (using some rather exotic-looking knots). While they do so, the group argues about what to do next. Phia worries about staying in the cottage much longer, since their location is obviously known. Pete wants to help the giant regain whatever tatters are left of his mind. Phia, Suzie, and Vanessa each explore the giant’s brain, getting nothing but memories of the fight and the sense of a badly scarred and callused mind.

As it is unlikely the group will be able to learn anything from the giant, Pete and Vanessa suggest they allow themselves to be caught and taken to whoever sent the giant in the first place. Phia is strongly against the idea, but Eugene agrees. He and Vanessa set up a tracking system using his iPhone and her Blackberry.

In the meantime, Phia and Suzie go in search of the giant’s car to see if they can discover any clues. They venture out into the cold, misty night. Trying to be as stealthy as possible, Suzie ends up falling down a muddy ditch. Eugene and Vanessa, reacting with admirable speed to Suzie’s shriek of surprise, run out into the night but are stopped by Phia’s mindbeam that everything is “fine”. Suzie clambers back up to the driveway, and they resume their trek to the road.

They discover the car and check for clues, but are unable to spot any telltale notes saying “I was sent by Dr. Doom, 123 Obvious Street”. In fact, all the doors on the car are locked, and there is only a single book resting on the passenger seat (shockingly not Phia’s book). Suzie memorizes the license plate, and Phia writes it down just in case. They return to the cottage and pass on what little they learned.

Suzie movies Eugene’s car out of sight, and she and Phia hide inside it. Vanessa and Pete untie the giant and lie down in plain sight, pretending to be unconscious. Eugene, careful to turn off all the lights, hides in the back hallway where he can see the giant and will be able to push “success”, so that hopefully the giant won’t look for the others.

The group waits.

Eventually, the giant wakes up. Vanessa easily feigns unconsciousness, but Pete’s breathing is far too fast. The giant seems suspicious, but Eugene pushes “success” and distracts him. Still, the giant moves towards the back hallway and starts to reach for the light-switch. Fortunately Eugene’s mindbeams take hold, and the giant leaves the lights off. He easily picks up both Pete and Vanessa, and walks out of the cottage. As he passes by Phia’s field of vision she too pushes success, just to be sure. With a sigh of contentment, the giant disappears into the mist.

The pair surreptitiously watch as the giant opens the trunk and removes a shotgun, putting it in the back seat of the car. He then proceeds to inject Pete and then Vanessa with a syringe, putting them both instantly to sleep.

Eugene reaches his car, but is stuck in the backseat as Suzie has claimed the driver’s seat, and Phia has taken shotgun. They watch Vanessa’s marker on the iPhone carefully, and watch as it begins to shift further away. They follow.

It appears that the giant is driving back to the GTA. Due to her remarkable constitution, Vanessa shakes off the effects of the giant’s drug and wakes up in the trunk of his car, her hands bound behind her back. With some effort she is able to get her hands in front of her. Retrieving her Blackberry from her sock, she messages Eugene to let the others know that she and Pete are alright(ish). She examines the contents of the trunk and finds rope, shotgun ammo, cloth, and a box of drugs and syringes. She sends the name of the drug to Eugene, where it is recognized by Phia as a common sedative.

Eventually the giant turns off into Oshawa, and drives to a newly developed residential subdivision, with much construction nearby. He pulls into a driveway, and Suzie continues past until the car is out of view. Pete & Vanessa (again feigning unconsciousness) are carried into the house and brought to the basement, where they are tied to chairs. Suzie, Eugene, and Phia debate what to do next. Phia, ignoring the late hour of 4:30am, texts Sgt. Fields with the license plate of the giant’s car and requests details on the driver. Suzie, walking carefully, also manages to get the address of the house, which Phia passes along. Sgt. Fields, most likely having been woken up by these texts, points out that he doesn’t currently have access to the police database and asks whether he should be calling 911. Phia declines, although asks that he do so if he doesn’t hear from her within the hour.

Worried about their companions, Suzie wants to go closer to the house to see if they are okay. Phia volunteers to go, since she has had better luck at stealth so far. She makes it to a window and is able to see Vanessa & Pete. Assuming that Vanessa is awake, she sends a message that the group is there. She also scans the giant’s mind, and gets a sense of accomplishment and anticipation. She returns to the others to update them. Suzie suggests that Phia & Eugene try to get some sleep, while she goes to keep an eye on the house.

Meanwhile, inside the house, Pete begins to wake up. Once he is fully conscious, Vanessa drops her act and they both stare at the giant. The group hears a familiar rushing noise, after which the giant goes to fetch a glass of water. He encourages Pete & Vanessa to drink, which they do.

Concerned by the rushing noise, Phia returns to the basement window. Suzie keeps an eye on the house from the front, and Eugene also moves to where he can see it.

After Vanessa & Pete finish the water, the giant pulls out a syringe. Pete destroys it. Phia, watching from the window, pushes doubt and remorse, while Vanessa pushes pity. The giant, confused, covers Vanessa’s eyes and hits Pete in the head. Phia is unable to keep herself from crying out. Suzie hears, and runs back to the window where she throws a TK punch at the giant, shattering the window in the process. Eugene, hearing the glass break, runs up to the front door and smashes his way in. He tries to make a grand entrance through the basement ceiling, but ends up only knocking a crater in the floor. Which was totally sweet.

As the fight continues, Suzie pulls the giant halfway through the window, where he becomes stuck. Pete & Vanessa, disgusted by this turn of events, manage to untie themselves and come up to the main floor of the house. The group gathers and tries to figure out what to do. They decide to knock the giant unconscious, and wait to see who he was waiting for.

Pete goes to retrieve the drugs from the giant’s car. While doing so he is interrupted by a neighbour who heard loud noises (shockingly). Pete reassures him that it is nothing more than a loud party gone slightly out of control. The neighbour comes down, but admits to having already called the police.

Pete returns to the house, furious about the plan having fallen apart. The group argues about who to blame and begins to trek out of the house to avoid the cops. As they are leaving, Phia sees a blue, 2-door sedan come down the street and make a U-turn away. She suggests they follow.

Pete drives exceptionally well, and easily catches up to the strange car. Phia gets the license plate, and the others examine the driver to discover a muscular woman. Pete concentrates on driving, and Eugene, Vanessa, and Suzie each shoot mindbeams at the woman’s tires. Suzie and Phia also try to invade the woman’s mind, but she resists.

In retaliation, she hits Eugene with a TK punch, easily knocking him unconscious. TK punches are exchanged, battering both cars, and Pete ends up driving the woman off the road. She ends up in a field, her car rolling several times before landing on its roof.

Pete stops the car a short distance away, and goes to investigate the woman with Vanessa’s help. Phia and Suzie stay back to check on Eugene, who seems to be mostly okay. Pete & Vanessa find the woman unconscious, badly hurt, with a weak but steady pulse. They rip the driver-side door off its hinges, and levitate the woman back into their car.

They head to Pete’s house, against Phia’s protestations (despite the fact that she has no better plan, which Pete points out). Suzie tries to read her thoughts but finds that, even unconscious, she has some innate defense. Phia & Vanessa administer first aid and, despite the bumpy ride, manage to stabilize the woman.

Reaching Pete’s apartment, they tie the woman to a chair and blindfold her. Suzie goes to dump the car near the waterfront. By the time she makes it back to the apartment, the woman has begun to wake up.

Through a combined attack, the group manages to interrogate the woman by asking questions and ripping the answers from her mind.

Q. Where were you going?
A. Needed to collect the six, test the six. T0 wants them, made them, made us all. I’ll be rewarded.
Q. Who is T0?
A. Hear her memory of the familiar rushing noise, get the feeling of “messiah”
Q. How do you contact T0?
A. He is listening, always listening. What is happening now is only because he wants it to.
Q. What are you/he trying to accomplish?
A. You will help us to kill the defenders/pretenders. ...There is no free will for people like us …What the slaves are to you, you are to T0

The woman finishes with the announcement that it is time for another test, as the blindfold lifts from her face.

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