Black Box

Actions & Reactions
Every action causes an equal and opposite breakdown of the plan.

Crowded in the parking lot of Camp Dreamland, the group discusses what to do next. It is suggested that another crystalized brain might be on-site somewhere, but no one has any idea how to locate it. Eugene says the best way to figure out which, if any, of Dr. Cornelius’s experiments triggered the group’s psychic abilities is to try continuing the research currently being done with a new flock of subjects. Handily, there is already a half dozen people at Camp Dreamland. It is also suggested that the group tries to get their hands on Dr. Kennedy’s research notes.

Thus, a plan of action is put together: Eugene will position himself as a doctor on staff, Phia will act as Dr. Kennedy’s assistant, and the rest of the group will patrol the grounds to keep an eye out for intruders.

The group figures they have a week before the patients (Rachel, Amanda, Becca, John, Rodney, and Bill) would normally leave. To make things simpler, Phia implants a command in each of the patients to trust Pete, Suzie, Vanessa, and Terry. She doesn’t bother to give a specific reason, so the patients end up mostly disregarding the group’s presence.

After a few short hours with Dr. Kennedy, Phia is able to take a look at his notes. There appear to be several files missing, and when Phia asks to see them Dr. Kennedy gets very uncomfortable, muttering something about “the results were odd, there was no group D”. She eventually realizes that he’s trying to protect her by keeping the notes hidden, because he is afraid of what they say. Pushing harder, she eventually gets him to admit that he buried the files in the woods. On one of her breaks, Phia also takes some time to check her email and online store, only to find that both have been deleted.

In the meantime, Eugene enlists Suzie’s help to examine the experiments that are being conducted. She pulls Dr. Cornelius’ abilities as a neurologist, and is able to understand everything that is being done. Unfortunately, that does nothing to narrow down which experiment may have triggered a psychic episode.

With that lead dismissed, Phia gathers the group to discuss going after Dr. Kennedy’s notes. Rather than risk bringing the doctor with them to search, Suzie pulls the location from him. It is a fair distance into the woods, meaning if they left immediately it would be dark by the time they arrived. The group decides to wait until the following morning. As an added precaution, Phia reinforces her commands to trust the group – Dr. Cornelius’ command will last for a week, and Dr. Kennedy’s for two more days.

The group wakes early the next morning to find they’ve somehow been transplanted to the set of a horror movie. A heavy fog has rolled in, deadening sounds and limiting vision to no more than a few feet. They decide to set out anyway. Suzie borrows combat training from Terry, everyone puts up their shields, and they head into the woods. Suzie takes the lead, mentally reliving Dr. Kennedy’s panicked dash through the forest. Eventually they reach the correct spot. Digging into the ground, Suzie finds a bundle wrapped in cloth. At Phia’s suggestion they check to make sure it is in fact Dr. Kennedy’s notes, then head back to Camp Dreamland to review them.

As they approach the Camp, Vanessa hears a car moving out of the parking lot. As it is still very early in the morning, this puts everyone on edge. Phia suggests someone should go back to the Camp to see if anything has happened before deciding whether to flee. Pete agrees, and they head back to the Camp while the others go to get the car ready.

Back at the Camp, Pete and Phia find no one missing. They are told that the fire marshal just left, after conducting a routine surprise inspection. Although this may very well be true, they decide it’s too big of a coincidence. Time to leave the Camp.

While Pete drives, Suzie, Eugene and Phia look over the notes Dr. Kennedy tried so hard to forget. They appear to be a record of the group’s stay at Camp Dreamland. In notes taken during their last week at Camp Dreamland, just before Dr. Cornelius’ mental breakdown, they find a description of an experiment but no results. Thinking back, the group does indeed remember the experiment in question. It happened while another group was at the Camp, and they were all put under at the same time. In the pages that follow, they see that another experiment using the same equipment was done. Apparently something got the doctors’ attention; they were trying to reproduce an effect without knowing what had caused it. The names of the other patients are also listed, and it is suggested it might be worth tracking them down to see what has happened to them. Their contact information could probably be located in the TSI.

Having stopped for breakfast at a small roadside diner to discuss this, their conversation is interrupted by a buzzing from Terry’s cell phone. It’s a message from Blackwood, saying that Phia shouldn’t have checked her website. Shortly thereafter the group hears multiple helicopters passing overhead. Pete checks out the window, and sees that they are flying towards Camp Dreamland.


Quotes without context

“If anything unethical did happen, this is the best way to find out.”

“I’m on the roof.”

“A recipe for humus?”

Home again, home again

Before leaving for Toronto to track down Dr. Cornelius, Blackwood informs the group that The Doctor has offered to surgically alter their appearances. Sitting down for a “consultation”, he explains that he will “remove your faces and give you new ones”. When asked if the group will be able to get their old faces back, he says it is “likely”. Shockingly, most of the group is reluctant to take The Doctor up on this offer, instead opting to receive a “disguise package” from Blackwood and Prudence. Pete & Phia, however, opt to go under the knife. They both end up blonde, strikingly attractive, and more than slightly “Aryan looking”.

The others receive new skills, as well as disguise kits. Eugene’s includes a full prosthetic beard, much to his delight.

With their physical cover worked out, the group reconvenes with Blackwood to discuss their travel arrangements. Somewhat nervously, Blackwood informs the group that they will be traveling by plane. When there is a stated lack of reaction, he jokingly comments “what’s the worst that could happen?” At which point the group seriously considers traveling by bus. On the bright side, they are informed that Terry has requested to accompany them. They happily welcome their former Camp Dreamland associate. As the meeting is wrapping up, Phia asks whether they will get any money or identification. Blackwood seems startled by the request, pointing out that as a group of psychics he assumed they would just brainwave people into accepting their presence. Although Phia seems happy enough to accept this response, the rest of the group pushes for more traditional methods. They are eventually given $5000 each (American, which they remind Blackwood will need to be changed), passports, and other government identification.

With all the preliminaries taken care of, the group is blindfolded & hooded before being taken to the plane. Once in the air the precautions are removed, and a short five hours later they are back in Canada, at the Toronto Island Airport.

It is summer, and a beautiful day. Phia declares that the first order of business is to go out for lunch. After taking the ferry, they find the first restaurant with a patio and enjoy their first meal as “free persons” in over a year.

While they eat, and Eugene admires the waitresses’ short skirts, they debate what to do next. Although their stated mission is to contact Dr. Cornelius to see what he knows (and what information he has hidden away), the group isn’t entirely sure how to go about it. Working under the assumption that he is still with the TSI, they consider going to the main offices in Markham and posing as patients. The idea is also raised of going to the Camp Dreamland site to see if a) it’s still there and b) whether there are any other patients being “treated”.

Ultimately, the group decides to go with the closest option. They rent a car (a remarkably inconspicuous black SUV) and drive to Markham. On the way, Phia and Suzie put up screens, and Suzie puts up a monitor. Through some experimentation she determines that she can tell when most of the group engages a process, with the exception of Terry.

Arriving at the TSI’s main office, the group decides to send in a few “scouts” rather than approach en masse. Phia & Suzie head in first, Eugene will follow, and the others will stay in the car.

Once inside, Phia pushes Suzie forward to talk, saying only that she is here for moral support. While Suzie talks to the receptionist, Phia pushes a command to “not worry” and that Suzie needs to see a doctor. The receptionist visibly relaxes, and hands Suzie some paperwork to fill out. The women retire to some chairs to wait.

Shortly after, Eugene enters. While he goes through a similar process with the receptionist, Suzie takes the opportunity to rifle through her mind and finds out that while Dr. Cornelius is indeed still working with the TSI, he is unfortunately not in the building currently.

After handing in the paperwork – which Suzie leaves blank (and Phia disguises) and Eugene fills out with false information – the trio are invited back to meet with the consulting doctor. The experience is strikingly familiar to when they each came to the TSI the first time, many months ago. The doctor explains that the best treatment for their condition is behavioural therapy, and suggests they participate in the Camp Dreamland initiative. They are handed pamphlets, as well as a relatively recent medical journal when Phia asks if there is any documentation of their work.

While Eugene stays behind to talk to the doctor a while longer, Phia & Suzie head back into the waiting room to review the literature. Suzie skims through the results. The article itself was written by Dr. Cornelius. It appears that this disorder is not uncommon, and group therapy is the best known treatment. There is no mention of shared symptoms.

While Phia heads back outside to inform the car-dwellers of their findings, Suzie takes the opportunity to pull Dr. Corenlius’ current location from the receptionist. It appears that the good doctor spends most of his time at Camp Dreamland, with the current set of patients.

Outside, Pete & Terry have been listening to loud music and smoking up the SUV. With her companions distracted, Vanessa gains some distance from the car and calls her mother’s most recent phone number. Her mother answers, but instead of risking detection Vanessa pretends to be looking for someone else.

Once everyone has returned to the car, they decide to head to Camp Dreamland next. After crashing at a Motel 6, they arrive at the camp early the next morning. There are several cars in the parking lot, including one they recognize as belonging to Dr. Cornelius. The reception area is empty when they enter. While trying to decide what to do next, Dr. Kennedy appears. Phia quickly pushes “trust me”, and convinces him to bring the group to Dr. Cornelius’ office for a surprise visit.

After a brief wait, Dr. Cornelius opens the door. He comes to an abrupt stop in the doorway, completely shocked by the presence of 6 people in his office. Phia does a quick scan of his brain and finds that it has been drastically altered with surgical precision. Cursing under her breath, Phia sends a telepathic message to Suzie of her discovery. Checking for herself, Suzie pulls to see if she can find any memories at all. In her zeal, she actually causes more mental bruising. Shaking her head, she tells the rest of the group that there’s nothing to be found. After Phia orders the doctor to forget he ever saw the group, his eyes glaze over and he wanders away.

With their hopes of a quick resolution dashed, the group decides to see if they can pull anything from Dr. Kennedy. They return to the reception area, and Suzie does a quick once over. She finds that Dr. Kennedy is absolutely terrified – he knows something has happened to Dr. Cornelius, although he doesn’t understand what, and there are gaps in his memory that he can’t explain. Digging further, Suzie discovered that he has incompletely memories of the group, and that he is worried about something in his lab journals. Unwilling to risk damaging his brain by digging yet further, Suzie hints to Phia that he should forget the group was ever here. Phia is happy to oblige, and Dr. Kennedy walks off in a daze.

Returning to the parking lot, the group holds a quick conference about what to do next. They decide to stay at Camp Dreamland, to try to reproduce Dr. Cornelius’ research in hopes of determining the information that triggered the events of the past year. They also plan to check the new patients for psychic tendencies, in hopes of saving innocents from what they have had to endure.


Quotes without context

“Have fun with your new faces, your C-Canadian money…”

“Suddenly a beard walks into the room, followed closely by the man its attached to.”

“My name is Paul Redwood. I’m a lumberjack.”

Sparring and flying and cake
oh my!

Time passes much more productively in the halls of the Resistance than it ever did at the Department. Eugene continues to examine the strange sample he liberated from Ascar’s lab. Work goes relatively quickly as the Resistance has provided several research assistants (a few of whom are occasionally poached by Suzie for her more recreational pursuits).

At the same time, Phia continues her efforts to break through the security on Ascar’s laptop. One of the Resistance members offers to help, but Phia declines saying she’d rather do it herself. It is fairly obvious that she still doesn’t entirely trust the group’s new associates.

Eager to explore her new abilities, and also brighten her friend’s day, Suzie invites Vanessa to a unique sparring match. As Suzie has the ability to borrow skills from other people, she attempts to download Vanessa’s fighting skills. Vanessa enthusiastically agrees and, after a brief painful moment during Suzie’s process, the two fight. They are well balanced, but Vanessa is still obviously the more skilled.

Pete, meanwhile, explores his own abilities by trying to figure out how to fly. Jumping off a ledge in the gym (careful to select an area with high ceilings), he forces a TK “kick” through his feet and launches 15’ through the air. Giggling in a fantastically masculine way, he rushes off to teach Vanessa and soon the two are bouncing all over the gym.

Later, perhaps inspired by Suzie’s example, Eugene suggests another alternative for Vanessa to challenge herself in the sparring ring. On their way back to the gym, Vanessa asks if Eugene can conjure a hallucination of chocolate cake for her to eat. He does so quite willingly. Vanessa munches happily on cake (that is a lie) until they reach the gym. Eugene leads her to a padded area with plenty of space, moves out of the way, and conjures a series of ninjas to keep her entertained.

More time passes. Vanessa is finally permitted to start teaching, and ends up with a small class of 10-14 year olds. She is given a curriculum that focuses on a historical look of important social issues.

At the same time, the group is provided with the Resistance’s T-0 report. It seems to repeat much of what Blackwood already told them, just in greater detail. The Resistance is of the opinion that T-0 is some sort of memetic mutation, propagated by a cult of psychics. Resistance operatives have run across heavily damaged agents of T-0 on multiple occasions, who seem to be working at cross-purposes to both the Resistance and the Department. They have also documented several shrines with similar imagery to what the group saw at the Muscular Woman’s house in Buffalo: fetal imagery, the idea of being watched, and always underground. There is some recorded discussion of trying to partner up with the cult as allies, since they seem to be more anti-Department than anti-Resistance, but the idea has been dismissed as untenable.

One other theory on the source of T-0 is a hive of linked psychics, but it is extremely speculative so far. Also included in the report is a section called “T-3 Triad Investigations”. It is a list of words & images – specifically “disease, cancer, god” – that seem to be linked to the shrines.

Eventually the group is invited to meet with Blackwood once more. Before he is able to begin, though, Phia asks about the possibility of contacting friends & family that were left behind in Toronto. When Blackwood dithers, saying that it might cause serious confusion depending what the Department has done with their memories, Phia & Vanessa request that the Resistance at least try to find out if everyone is okay. Blackwood agrees.

With that out of the way, he informs the group that they represent a rare opportunity to locate and infiltrate/attack the Department. He would like to have the Triplets pull from everyone’s memories, to see if they can put together a comprehensive image of where the Department’s headquarters is located. There is some debate about what would happen after that. Pete & Phia (in a rare moment of agreement) are all for charging into the Department and liberating all the psychics trapped within. Vanessa is worried about the chance of civilian casualties, and Eugene says that a frontal attack will just prove that the Department is right in limiting psychics’ powers.

Blackwood interrupts the debate to remind the group that even with the Triplets’ help it may not be possible to locate the Department. Whether that happens or not, he would like to know what it would take to convince the group to join up and fight with the Resistance. There is some hemming and hawing, so he suggests the group talks about it before making a decision. In the meantime, he has cleared everyone for training and hands out a syllabus.

Taking the syllabus, the group returns to their quarters to discuss matters. Pete & Phia manage to convince the others that joining the Resistance is the only way to ensure not only their own safety, but to help all other psychics. With that settled, they look at what sort of new things they can look forward to learning. Many things on the syllabus are skills the group has already started practicing, but one in particular jumps out: the ability to screen when one is performing a process. Pete’s reaction is one of studious calm.

Training begins in earnest. Similar to their training with the Department, the group is strongly encouraged to practice linking their processes together. Terry often sits in on these sessions. Phia also asks Eugene to help her practice screening. He agrees, with the condition that she use TK rather than push. Much to her delight, Phia is able to lift a pencil without Eugene picking up on her mental efforts.

One training session, Eugene’s beeper goes off, summoning him to the lab. He arrives to find that the results of his latest tests have arrived. The various research assistants seem completely stumped, and apologize profusely for making what was clearly a mistake. They promise to re-run the test. Eugene, staring stone-faced at the results, agrees that they should check everything thoroughly and re-run the test. Leaving the lab techs to their task, Eugene gathers the rest of the group back in their quarters to explain what he’s found.

Uncharacteristically solemn (and pulling his glasses on and off, for some reason), Eugene informs the group that what they originally thought was a rock is actually a crystallized brain. The group begins theorizing on what could cause that to happen. A new level of psychic ability that renders a physical body obsolete? Some sort of experiment gone horrible wrong? Their debate is interrupted by a beep from Ascar’s laptop, chiming “decryption complete”. Phia immediately grabs the laptop and starts going through the files. Unfortunately, it appears the hard drive has been corrupted and only a few text files remain. Reading aloud to the group, she shares what appear to be the five most recent entries in Ascar’s journal.

With Ascar’s ramblings to augment their theories, the group wonders if Cognite is the name for the crystallized brain, or some other substance that Ascar was trying to mine from the bodies in his lab. They also wonder if the “node network” refers to a sort of living brain using samples buried all across the globe to act as axons/dendrites would in a normal brain, turning the Earth into one big active.

One thing the group can agree on, they are all extremely uncomfortable with the idea of the brain-thing just sitting around, unshielded in any way. They decide to tell Blackwood what they found, and let him have a voice in what to do next.

Surprised to see the group back so soon, Blackwood is initially amused by the group’s story. However, the more they talk the more serious he becomes, until he is very obviously worried. Although he brushes off Ascar’s writings as those of a madman, he does say that the sample will be shielded and stored somewhere safe. Eugene may continue his research, but only under strict surveillance.

On a somewhat happier note, Blackwood informs the group that he has been looking into the people they left behind in Toronto. Apparently Dr. Cornelius is out of the hospital. There is still no sign of his notes, or whatever files he once hid from the TSI. Blackwood admits that he is surprised Dr. Corenelius is still walking around, rather than being disappeared by the Department. He suggests that the group returns to Toronto to re-connect with their former caretaker, and see if they can find out whether he knows anything of use. After voicing concerns that it might be a trap, the group agrees that it’s a worthwhile risk. To Toronto they will go.


Quotes without context

“Your ability to keep her tied up is limited only by her interest in fighting ninjas.”

“My work is suffering for your . . . appetites.”

“If your cock wasn’t such a terrible scientist…”

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 Pete “test” the sterilization thesis.

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. 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.

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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