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Black Box

Endings and beginnings.
In which we say goodbye.

After fishing Eugene out of the lake – and discovering he is suddenly much weaker physically – the group realizes the Triplets have given them a huge boost in psychic power. The others don’t seem to be noticeably weaker, although Phia is walking a bit more slowly than normal. Recounting what she learned from the Triplets, Vanessa declares that she needs to go back to Toronto to save her mother. When the question is raised as to how they might find her, Suzie describes the map the Triplets showed her. She suggests that they should be able to “break the chain” at the Toronto node.

To try to get a better sense of what’s going on in the city, Phia calls Sgt. Fields of the Toronto Police Department. He urges her to stay out of the downtown core, as there has been some sort of bio-weapon attack. The army is apparently on the way. Phia promises the good sergeant that she’ll stay safe.

The group piles into the Impala that Suzie obtained, and Pete starts driving for the downtown core. On the way, Suzie calls her father for help. Ignoring his demands that she stay out of the city, she asks if he has any explosives handy. After a long silence, and a hurried explanation on Suzie’s part, he agrees to have one of his minions drop something off at Suzie’s favourite park.

The highway becomes increasingly crowded as they near the city. At Pete’s suggestion, all but Phia link up and are able to lift the car into the air. To keep anyone from noticing them, Phia spends all her concentration in projecting a mass hallucination that they are only a bird.

Once over the city proper, the group starts to see groups of people being corralled by trios of dead-eyed psychic puppets (drones). When a trio of drones is able to get in a triangle formation around a group, the runners suddenly became docile and are escorted towards the downtown core. Although none of the runners seem to notice the flying car, a few of the drones start to look up. TK punches start to batter the car. Realizing that the drones are able to detect the group’s psychic process, everyone throws up a screen (with Suzie screening Phia). The attacks quickly stop.

Stopping off at Suzie’s favourite park, the group picks up a suitcase with six Molotov cocktails. These, combined with two shotguns Vanessa was able to grab from a pair of highway patrolmen, make up the entirety of the group’s physical arsenal.

Eventually, Suzie’s radar directs the group to Yonge & Dundas Square. The streets have been ripped up around the Square, and the drones are directing their captives to lie down in the resulting trenches. Suzie is able to pinpoint three people with a higher level of psychic power – a tall Thin Man, an older gentleman with Watery Eyes, and a Little Girl in a pink dress.

As the car circles above the Square, the Little Girl points up at it. Quickly realizing that she was able to penetrate the group’s shields – and is likely therefore the most powerful – Suzie yells at Pete to hit her with the car. He flat out refuses, and aims for the Thin Man instead. Dropping the hallucination around the car, Phia focuses her ability on an ally for the first time and orders Pete to hit the Little Girl. Pete veers away from the Thin Man and towards the Little Girl, who puts up a shield. Realizing that the car may be destroyed by the impact – seriously injuring everyone inside it – Phia drops her command. Not soon enough, however, and the car crumples against a monstrous TK shield. Everyone goes flying. Vanessa shields herself and Eugene; Pete (well aware of the attack on his mind) shields himself and Suzie, leaving Phia with her own pitiful shield which shatters upon impact with the ground.

The Little Girl is throne back by the impact, but she remains standing. Pete, Suzie and Eugene are all unscathed, but both Vanessa and Phia are slow to get up. Trios start to converge on the group. A curb-stomp battle ensues, during which (some) of the group does their best to minimize the loss of innocent life. They are eventually able to kill the Thin Man and Watery Eyes, leaving only the Little Girl standing.

Leveling one of the shotguns at Little Girl, Suzie scans her mind to see if anything is left to save. She finds that the Little Girl is disappointed, that she knows she has failed and won’t see her reward. Digging further, Suzie is able to see part of the plan: the people in the trenches were to become cognite deposits, a power source for something or someone. With nothing else left in the Little Girl’s mind, Suzie shoots her in the face.

With the three leaders dead, the drones drop like puppets with their strings cut. None of the people in the trenches wake up. Vanessa searches frantically, and is able to locate her mother. Suzie does another scan and finds there is something holding on to her, trying to pull her down into the ground. While running her scan, Suzie is assaulted with a vision of a mob of drones trying to break down the door to the Resistance. After breaking the news of her mother gently to Vanessa, Suzie tells the others what she saw. They call Terry once more, and find out where the Resistance is located so they can come help.

Vanessa and Suzie depart to find somewhere to house Vanessa’s mother until she can come back. Pete, Phia and Eugene are to go to Toronto Island Airport, to pick up a plane and pilot to get them to the Resistance. As they prepare to leave, Pete pulls Phia aside and coolly informs her “I know we need you to get through this, but after that I’m going to fucking kill you.”

Stunned, Phia hangs back long enough to notice a group of police dressed in riot gear entering the Square. Leading them is Sgt. Fields, who stares at Phia in bewilderment. Speaking quickly, and for once reticent to use her abilities, Phia convinces Sgt. Fields that she is working for the government and cannot be detained. She explains that some bio-chemical weapon has indeed gone off (at which point one of the other officers hurriedly covers his mouth), but has since dispersed. She asks Sgt. Fields to get EMTs to take care of the people affected by the weapon, then quickly takes off.

Getting a plan and pilot is the easiest task of the day, and the group quickly finds themselves at the Resistance. Meeting them at the secret runway, Terry explains the situation. Drones have been trying to break in for the last few hours. There are a few actual psychics (Terry estimates three or four, which Phia pins down as three) who keep popping up when the Resistance forces try to make a head-on attack. As they approach the rear of the building, the group sees an eerily familiar site – the suit of a White Knight, unoccupied on the ground. A number of techs are grouped around it, and triumphantly exclaim that they’ve got it working again.

Blackwood – leader of the Resistance and devourer of brains – welcomes the group back. After a terse discussion as to who will be piloting the White Knight (and the various risks involved, including paranoia and an inability to remove the suit), Terry is strapped inside. Suzie is struck by a premonition that she will never see Terry’s face again.

Suzie suggests the group take advantage of the fact that Eugene & Phia no longer need line-of-sight to use their abilities. It is decided that the group will be stationed in a hallway near – but out of sight – of the horde of drones. With Pete and Vanessa helping her, Suzie will use her radar to pinpoint the location of the actual psychics, who Eugene & Phia can then attack. In the meantime, Terry will pull double duty as bait and a distraction, and also take out as many drones as he can.

The plan goes off without a hitch. Suzie, Pete, Vanessa, Eugene & Phia link up together for the first time. It’s easy; easy to link together, easy to snuff out their enemies. Suzie gets a hint of the massive presence she recognizes as T-0, which flinches when the group joins together.

Finally, after the last drone has been killed, the group is escorted to the Triplets. Stepping over broken bodies, skirting pools of blood and gore, they do their best to convince themselves that so many deaths were necessary.

Once more in the Triplets’ inner sanctum, the group links up and reaches out to them. The Triplets are very weak. Eugene asks once more “how do we stop it”, to which the Triplets reply “go to Arizona”. Vanessa asks “how can we help you”, and if the Triplets still want to die. They are quiet for a moment, perhaps considering the question. Eventually they admit that, while their time is done, they may still be needed. They give the group an image of the desert, two days from the former site of the Department. In the desert is a cave that runs deep underground. “Destroy the source, and all of us will fade in time”.

Finally, the Triplets show the group how to turn psychics off – it requires that they all be connected and working together. It is immediately obvious that reversing the process would enable the group to activate new psychics. The Triplets warn them that some people make better candidates than others, but yes it is possible.

Breaking contact with the Triplets for the last time, the group realizes that Blackwood is standing in the room with them. Phia sends a psychic message to Suzie, asking if they should turn off his psychic ability. Considering it, Suzie gets a premonition that “it won’t be that easy”. She shakes her head and mentally informs Phia that they’ll deal with Blackwood later.

Without any discussion, it becomes clear that Blackwood and Terry will accompany the group to Arizona. The flight is tense, as no one is entirely sure what will happen when they get there. Sitting by herself, Phia stares out the window and has an unbidden thought: “when the time comes, it should be you”.

Leaving Terry to stand guard at the cave’s entrance, the group and Blackwood begin the descent into the earth. It is a long and arduous journey, Pete ends up carrying Eugene much of the way. Suzie quickly turns off her radar, as it is overwhelmed by T-0’s presence. Hours after they began, and unknown meters underground, the group enters a large cavern. Their flashlights can barely penetrate the gloom, but they can hear a strange rustling sound around the edge of the cavern. There is a sense of power, and a rushing noise as all the loose rocks in the cavern fly upwards and start to spin. Their impact against the cavern walls sends off sparks, illuminating the space enough that the group is able to see a figure hanging above them.

It is, or was, human – with an over-sized head and small withered body curled beneath it. The group is reminded of a fetus, hanging from the cavern ceiling with a stalactite through the back of its head. T-0.

Leaving Blackwood to the side, the group links together and tries to negotiate with this man turned god. T-0 informs them that he created them to be rulers; that he raised them above all his other children to see what they would do. When Phia argues that they didn’t command any psychics to take over Toronto (or New York, or any of the other cities they saw news reports about on the plane ride here), T-0 seems unmoved. He declares that the actions of all psychics are because of his wishes. That he demands new cognite, and so will have it. The group may rule, or not, as they choose, but they cannot hope to impinge on his wishes.

Momentarily ignoring the fact that T-0 is hanging directly above them, the group debates what to do. There is concern about whether they are in fact able to do anything against a creature of such power. At this Blackwood laughs, saying only that T-0 is lying. Suzie quietly reminds everyone that T-0 flinched when they joined together for the first time.

As the tenor of the conversation moves towards turning T-0’s abilities off, Phia worries about the fact that this would end their abilities as well. In the face of the rest of the group’s combined reminder of how much trouble T-0 caused, Phia eventually agrees. The group focuses their abilities and, after expending almost all of their energy, are able to shut T-0 down. With a sickly slurping noise, he slips off the stalactite that had been holding him up and drops in a boneless heap to the cavern floor.

Seconds from collapsing themselves, the group is stirred into action by Blackwood’s laughter. He nears T-0’s body, and they can almost see him begin to devour what’s left of his consciousness. Pete & Suzie empty their guns at Blackwood, while Phia demolishes T-0’s skull. Through their combined attacks, Blackwood drops dead.

Silence falls for a long moment. The group are all incredibly weak, and can sense they have all lost access to most of their abilities. Stirring enough to find her phone (which miraculously still has coverage), Vanessa calls her mother to see if she’s woken up. Suzie has another premonition that “it’s not that easy”, and tells Vanessa that her mother isn’t awake yet. With T-0 dead, and no one to counter what he had done, all the comatose victims are stuck.

Their eyes drawn up towards the cavern ceiling, the group gets a sense of hunger. The earth wants someone new, another source for psychic power. Avoiding eye-contact with Pete, Phia says “We all know I’m not getting out of here alive anyway.” Turning to Vanessa, she adds “I’ll wake your mother up, I promise”.

The rest of the group immediately starts arguing, to try to keep Phia from taking T-0’s place. After letting them speak for a minute, Phia simply reaches out to the earth to take her. Vanessa & Pete both rush to stop her, Vanessa mere seconds behind in reaching to offer herself instead. But it is in vain as the stalactite drops and impales Phia in the back of the head, then drags her up to the ceiling.

Her mind floods with knowledge and sensation, suddenly she is connected to every human on the planet – both psychic and non. True to her word, she wakes up everyone who had been affected by T-0’s drive for new cognite. Within minutes Vanessa’s phone starts to ring. It’s her mother, in the hospital, asking what happened. Vanessa is able to calm her down and promises to call back.

With the civilians restored to normal, Pete quietly asks Phia to come down. She refuses, simply stating that there must be a source in order for the group to keep their powers. She has to stay, or else they’ll never be safe.

With no way to change her mind, the group leaves the cavern. The walk back to the surface is slow and silent. At the cavern entrance, they discover Terry, having taken his mask off, looking confused. Scooping him up with minimal explanations, the group returns to the plan and flies back to the Resistance. Vanessa & Suzie have a promise to keep to the Triplets.

When they arrive, however, they are stunned to find one woman and two men sitting in the Triplets chambers. Awake and totally without psychic ability. Phia had shut them off.

The group filters back to Toronto and tries to resume their lives. Eugene finishes the semester at York, then appears at Vanessa’s school, resume in hand, and asks if the science program needs a new teacher. He becomes a favourite of the students, and only occasionally uses his abilities to keep someone on the straight & narrow.

Suzie returns to her practice. She uses her abilities only when necessary to read what her patients can’t, or won’t say.

Pete retreats from the others. He dedicates his life to survivalist training, and ends up traveling the globe to deal with rogue psychics. As the years pass, however, the number of other psychics drops dramatically. After which he focuses his energy on other injustices, never staying in one place for long. Every once in a while, when he finds himself in civilization and passes by a bookstore, he can’t help but buy Sophia Walker’s one and only novel (a #1 Best Seller for a number of weeks after her death was reported).

Vanessa continues teaching. She eventually marries and has a daughter of her own. Some four years after T-0 died and Phia took his place – and a year after seeing a single psychic outside of the group – Vanessa calls everyone together. After stilted small talk, she encourages her daughter to show them her special trick. And a salt shaker lifts off the table.

Quotes without context

“Let your daddy do this for you, what do you want blown up?”

“Great, we’re just going to have to come back here and do it again!”
“You just broke my heart!”

“Your father is acting really weird”
“He’s gone outside”
“There’s a thin man here”
“He’s unconscious, we’re at the hospital”
“Everything’s fine”
“Buy milk”

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Staring into the void
One last powerup.

While the rest of the group is busy tearing around in Scarborough, Eugene is otherwise occupied. His assistant – who had recently been avoiding him due to cognitive dissonance – appears at his apartment door. She’s crying, terrified that something is horribly wrong with her mind. She has memories of a tall, thin man, but has no idea where or when she met him. Ushering her into his apartment, Eugene gets her a drink and a pen & paper, to try to help her remember. The Professor starts to feel increasingly uneasy as she writes furiously. Peering over her shoulder, he discovers that she is in fact drawing what looks like a fetus. Her voice dropping to a monotonous drone, she informs Eugene that “it’s the start of something new, and she wants you to be a part of it.”

Before he can react he is thrown backwards, through a window, by a wave of TK. Acting on instinct he is able to put up a shield before he hits the ground to minimize the damage. He quickly takes off, the pavement behind him exploding from another TK punch as he runs.

Happily, Eugene had his cell phone in his pocket when he was forcibly ejected from his apartment. He calls Vanessa as he runs. He hurriedly informs her that his assistant has gone crazy, and he thinks it has something to do with T-0.

The Team Mindbeam phone tree is activated, and soon everyone congregates at the UofT Student Centre, where Eugene is hiding. While the others get the full story, Suzie puts up her radar. There are psychic pings going off all over the place, with the closest only 10 minutes away. It’s quickly decided to flee back to Pete’s parent’s cottage.

Gathered once more in Pete’s parent’s hummer, the group tells Eugene about their evening’s adventures. He is not in the least impressed that Suzie told her father everything, which prompts Pete to get angry. In his opinion, Eugene is one of the last people who can claim the moral high-ground.

The argument is interrupted when Suzie feels an explosion of psychic pings all over the city. Although none of them feel very powerful, the sheer volume is unprecedented. The group briefly discusses returning to the city. Before they can come to a decision, Pete’s phone rings. It’s Terry, warning the group to stay away from other psychics. There is some kind of disease running through the psychic population, driving them all crazy. Terry is unable to further explain the situation, as there is a flurry of gunfire in the background and his phone cuts out.

After a long debate on who would be the most dangerous if they were to be infected, the group decides to send Suzie & Vanessa to find an isolated psychic on the outskirts of Toronto, knock him/her/it out, and bring it back for study. Pete, Eugene and Phia will stay within close driving distance, in the hopes that they can control any wayward psychics.

Suzie & Vanessa are able to locate a group of three low-level psychics. One is dressed in pajamas, the other two in suits, and they appear to be wandering the streets looking for something. Suzie also notices that their pings are echoed by something much bigger, further inside the city. With the next closest pings 20 minutes away, the girls decide to go ahead with the snatch & grab. They arrange a pick-up spot with the others, and Vanessa readies a “plan is fucked” message on her phone to send out if necessary.

Suzie arms herself with the nearest abandoned vehicle (a black, ’67 Chevy Impala). It turns out not to be necessary, as Vanessa takes the three baby psychics apart in a matter of seconds. They bundle one into the car Suzie stole and take off to the meeting spot. While Vanessa drives, Suzie examines him. He is still emitting a faint psychic pulse, but it grows steadily weaker as he is taken further away from his companions.

Once everyone has arrived at the cottage, they tie up & blind fold their prize. Suzie sets to work examining him. His mind has obviously been manipulated, and she finds a lump of cognite in his brain, growing there like a tumor. His memory shows that he was coming home from the bar, heard a buzz, got a headache, and then nothing.

After relaying this information to the rest of the group, Suzie turns on the radio to find out if the news has picked up on any of the strange goings-on. There is indeed an emergency report going out: people are leaving their homes, and the authorities are advising against trying to stop them. Prompted by this revelation, Vanessa calls home to check on her mother. There is no answer.

Hoping for a better result, Pete calls Terry back. Terry does in fact pick up, and is able to pass on a bit more information. The Resistance building is overrun with drones, and all the non-psychic volunteers are suddenly activating. It seems like they’re all trying to get to the Triplets. Before hanging up, Terry repeats his warning to stay away from other psychics.

While the group tries to figure out what to do, Suzie checks everyone for cognite. She doesn’t find any, other than the usual amount in herself.

Vanessa suggests the group reach out to the Triplets, to see if they have a better idea of what’s going on. While giving her pitch, her phone rings with her mother calling back. Vanessa’s relief turns to horror, as her mother reports that dozens of people are wandering the street, that she has spotted a thin man who seems to know what is going on, that everything is fine and everything is fine and everything is fine.

Taking the phone away from her, Phia quietly repeats that the group can’t risk going into the city. They decide to go with Vanessa’s original plan and reach out to the Triplets. Going down to the dock, Eugene, Vanessa & Suzie link up, while Pete & Phia stand guard.

For several long minutes it feels too far to reach, but then something hooks. Pete & Phia start to hear a drone in the back of their mind. The others see the consciousness – large, but different than the one that attacked them before – turn towards them. It starts to send a command, but is intercepted by the brilliant white light of the Triplets.

With the interloper beaten back, the Triplets send a simple question: “what do you want”. Vanessa replied “how can we help everyone?” while Eugene asks “how can we make it stop?” It is unclear which question the Triplets are answering when they send a vision of the continent, crisscrossed with veins of white light leading to several larger nodes. One node is under Toronto, it pulses with light that is sent through the veins to the other nodes. Vanessa, Suzie & Eugene get the impression that the nodes have been moved from where they should be. They all try to trace the source of the network. Although it is obscured, they are able to narrow it down to somewhere in the South West US.

Separately to Vanessa, the Triplets say “save your family, break the chain, come find us”.

Just as the break contact, the Triplets send a huge burst of power through to the group. Pete & Phia see a massive impact roll through the lake, before they are hit with the upgrade as well. Everyone collapses, Eugene rolls into the lake, and the connection is gone.

Quotes without context

“Follow the sound of my tears.”

“There’s some grit in your pudding.”

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The Importance of Communication
Or: Too Many Chefs Ruins the Car Chase

After being thrown around by the dead-eyed home invaders, Vanessa manages to climb out a window. As she runs down the street (bare footed, in her pajamas), she can hear things being smashed in her apartment. She calls Suzie as she runs.

Meanwhile, having invited her father (the crime boss) into her home, Suzie learns that he has surveillance photos of the group. Suzie tries to brush of the association, reminding him that she joined group therapy to deal with her sleep issues last year. Her father, far from being dissuaded, informs Suzie that he knows Vanessa is involved with strange activities in Scarborough, and that he can’t keep any of his employees in the city.

Suzie’s cell phone interrupts the conversation. It’s Vanessa, calling for help. She tells Suzie that she’s running to Scarborough Town Centre, and will need back-up when she gets there. Suzie promises she’ll arrive as soon as possible, and texts the rest of the group immediately after hanging up. Her father asks mildly if anyone is in trouble, and Suzie asks if he knows anything about it. While he denies it, she pulls to find out if he’s sent anyone after Vanessa. Although he seems to have nothing to do with Vanessa’s current problem, Suzie finds out he does have a car full of goons waiting outside.

Brushing off her father’s offer of assistance, Suzie orders him to stay out of it saying “it’s bigger than you know”. To prove her point, she uses TK to crush his cell phone before he can call for back-up. Before leaving, Suzie explains that his memories were edited and warns him not to mess with Vanessa. She is stopped briefly by her father’s goons on the sidewalk outside her apartment, (one of whom she recognizes as Ricky). Her father insists they will need to finish this conversation eventually. Suzie agrees, once her friend is out of trouble, and furthermore promises to “fix his head”.

Vanessa arrives safely at Scarborough Town Centre, and texts everyone to meet her at the raised parking lot. Pete & Phia arrive first (in Pete’s parents’ Hummer, with which he managed to drive a Prius off the road on the way), followed shortly by Suzie. Everyone clambers into the Hummer and starts talking at the same time. While Vanessa explains what’s happened, Phia directs Pete to drive towards the psychic activity.

Under the assumption that the group is heading away from danger, Vanessa takes the opportunity to call her mom and ask her to stay away from home. She ends up implying that she’s in trouble with drugs again, and her mother agrees to stay with her aunt for the night.

Immediately after Vanessa hangs up, the Hummer is rocked violently. The pavement explodes behind the car from a second TK punch, which fortunately missed the vehicle. Vanessa throws up a shield around the vehicle, just in time to block a third TK punch from further up the road. While Suzie tries to pull the battle plan from the man standing in the middle of the road, Pete just runs him down. Spinning the Hummer 180 degrees, Pete takes aim at the remaining two bad guys. Yet another punch wallops the car, taking out a side mirror and window. Suddenly, after a burst of psychic energy, one bad guy punts the other off the road. Suzie yells that they’re innocent people, and Pete turns the car once more to head in the other direction. Before the group can get away, however, they see the last bad guy shot and run over by another car that had apparently been following them.

Another round of yelling begins. Suzie calls Ricky, her father’s bodyguard, to find out that they’ve been trailing the group since they left the mall. Able to get line-of-sight on the driver in the other car, Phia orders him to turn around. At the same time, Vanessa blows out one of the cars tires, causing it to roll when the driver attempts to spin the car.

After a spectacular burst of noise and spraying metal, the car comes to rest on its wheels. However, the doors are jammed shut. After Pete fails to rip the doors off, Suzie marshals her fury to send one of the doors cartwheeling into the night. Vanessa helps the bodyguards out, and stars administering first aid.

Suzie’s father pulls her aside, furious that she has allowed herself to end up in such a dangerous situation. When he ignores her attempts to explain, Phia mentally orders him to calm down and listen. Glaring at Phia’s intervention, Suzie convinces her father that now is not the time for a heart-to-heart.

Everyone squeezes back into the Hummer. Ricky directs Pete towards a bodyshop in the Beaches, where he can get the Hummer repaired before returning it to his parents. Breaking the tense silence in the back, Suzie’s father asks Vanessa what her intentions are towards his daughter (followed by hastily stifled laughter from the driver’s seat). He also asks what Vanessa has been up to in Scarborough, which everyone else seems interested to learn as well. It is eventually decided that conversation will have to wait.

They arrive safely at the bodyshop, and disembark. While Suzie’s father goes off to make a few phone calls, the group congregates outside for a cigarette. Vanessa explains what she and Eugene had been doing in Scarborough. Phia is absolutely furious at (what she perceives as) an enormous act of hypocrisy. Suzie ends up having to separate them, saying only that now is not the time.

Leaving the Hummer to the care of the mechanics, the group gathers in Suzie’s father’s office. Suzie tries to explain what has been going on, but he will have none of it. When he tries to walk out, Phia orders him once more to calm down and listen. Suzie tersely orders Phia to stay out of it.

With her father obligated to listen, Suzie explains almost everything that has happened over the past year and demands he stay far, far away from the situation. He scoffs at the mere idea of leaving his little girl alone in this. They end up agreeing to meet on Sunday to talk further.

Returning to the workshop (to find the Hummer now a different colour and with new license plates), the group decides to meet the next day to discuss Vanessa’s activities in Scarborough. Before they leave, Phia pulls Suzie aside and offers to have her father forget the night’s activities. Suzie declines, but admits it may become a necessity depending how Sunday goes.

Back in Scarborough once more, Vanessa goes to her aunt’s house to pick up her mother. She explains that they were robbed, and puts her mother up in a hotel before returning home to deal with the aftermath.

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And you may ask yourself, how did I get here?
Ladies and gentlemen, this is your life!

On the plane back to Toronto, Vanessa asks Phia why Ben seemed so focused on attacking her. The group learns that Ben had been left to fend for himself (along with the unconscious Alpha and Bravo) when they had to flee the Lenin Museum in Kyrgyzstan. Although Phia explains that her choice to leave Ben was fully justified – as Pete & Eugene had disappeared, and Suzi was in the midst of some sort of psychic fit – she admits that it’s possible Ben holds a grudge. When Vanessa asks what Phia’s plan is if Ben returns – as he escaped alive – the response is simply that the group will deal with it.

After landing in the Toronto, the group adjourns to the nearest coffee shop (a Starbucks) in which to debrief. They agree that while they are all focused on rebuilding their lives, they will still check in at least once a week lest some new threat appears and people start disappearing again. Bidding farewell for the time being, the group scatters to find out what has become of their friends, family, and occupations over the past year and a half.

Pete, Suzi and Vanessa all quickly learn they have lost their apartments. Eugene’s condo is still under his name and, although lacking in electronics (after he destroyed them before fleeing Toronto the first time), it appears to be in good order. Upon returning to the university, Eugene is asked how his experience teaching in Chile went. After a few false starts, and claims that he was instrumental in rescuing some miners, Eugene asks after his job. He is told that a Professor Brown was brought in to replace him but, as he does not have tenure, there may be room for Eugene to return to academia.

Phia, too, still has a place to call home. Both her apartment and store have survived the past 18 months intact, although apparently not without some indignities. Melody, the employee Phia left in charge, eagerly asks after the writing retreat that Phia was apparently on. Phia claims that she has a new manuscript in the works, and is optimistic about its prospects. Melody also explains that has made some significant changes to the variety of books on offer at Papyrus Dreams (including the new Stephanie Meyer masterpiece, and an entire section of “Chicken Soup” books). After enduring what little small talk she could, Phia politely asks Melody to leave, saying that the store will be closed for a few days while Phia “assesses the situation”.

Now homeless, Pete goes to his parents house. He finds his mother – on her third glass of afternoon wine – and they catch up. His mother asks after his experience backpacking in Europe, and Pete easily spins a few tales of adventure. He also learns that his father has a new job at the Cortex Corporation, which has been keeping him quite busy.

Suzi’s first stop is to check on her practice. She is greeted warmly by the receptionist, who asks after the wedding. She admits that everyone was surprised to hear that Suzi got married, but she is delighted that she also “found the Lord”. With a masterful poker face, Suzi thanks the receptionist for the well-wishes. In asking after her clients, Suzi learns that many (particularly Mr. Jones) have asked to be informed when she resumes treatments. However, her office has since been leased, so Suzi begins the search for both an apartment and office space.

Vanessa eagerly returns to Scarborough, and her mother’s home. Her mother looks well, although more tired than Vanessa remembers, and asks how it was teaching in England. After discussing the vagaries of the British school system, her mother admits that the neighborhood is going downhill. Apparently there has been an influx of drugs, and the gangs are become a greater problem. At Vanessa’s former school, everyone is quite happy to see her. Unfortunately, although they would love to have her back, she will have to go through the school board to get another job.

Weeks pass as the group settles back into their lives. Although they are able to manage their cover stories relatively well, they all have occasional problems when they are unaware of some specific detail that the Department implanted in their friends’/family’s/co-workers’ minds. Phia, having gained some new mastery in her abilities, simply re-writes peoples memories to suit when the issue arises. Similarly, Suzi is able to pull the lies directly from people’s minds, and so tailor her conversations to suit. However, she has a great deal of trouble with her father, who was already intensely suspicious of the cover story he’d been programmed with. Eugene (declining to use his abilities), Vanessa and Pete have the most difficulty. For Eugene, the primary problem is with his former intern Veronica, who eventually starts to avoid his company completely.

Over time, they all start to rebuild. Suzi re-opens her practice (to the delight of her former patients), Pete resumes avoiding his parents, and Phia reconnects with her friend Sgt Fields.

Disgusted with what has happened to her neighborhood, Vanessa enlists Eugene’s help to drive the drug pushers out. Using contacts from her troubled past, Vanessa is able to gain the names & addresses of the key players. Eugene is then dispatched to get within view of them, and strongly suggest that they rethink their lives. In seemingly no time at all, there has been a dramatic reduction in drug & gang-related crime. However, Vanessa’s contacts are also starting to talk among themselves, and some appear to be frightened to speak with her.

At the same time Pete, understandably paranoid, enlists Suzi’s help in investigating his father’s new employer. Hiding in the shrubbery outside of his parents’ house one evening, Suzi is able delve into Pete’s father’s mind. She discovers the most recent command implanted was to “take the job”. She is also able to determine that the command was given four months ago (by far the most recent command any of the group’s friends or family were given), meaning it could conceivably have been given by the Department. Regarding the job itself, it is building medical imaging machines (CAT-scans, MRIs, etc). He was apparently head-hunted by a Mr. C[somethingididn’twritedown]. As they leave the house, Pete & Suzi agree they should tell the others at the next coffee gathering.

Before the next coffee gathering occurs, Pete makes a distressing discovery. Since regaining his freedom, he has begun paying closer attention to the news (both local and international) watching for evidence of psychic disturbances. While skimming through the headlines one night, he stumbles across a story about a local author – Ms. Sophia Walker – who has been taking advantage of the “web 2.0” to publicize her new book. Following a link to Phia’s blog, Pete learns that she is planning to publish a fictionalized account of the group’s activities over the past year and a half.

The topic of Phia’s book is first on the agenda when the group next meets for coffee. Pete, Vanessa, and Eugene are absolutely livid that Phia would do something so reckless and unthinking without discussing it with the others first. For her part, Phia seems genuinely surprised that they are so upset. So argues that the details will be changed, and that she is simply trying to use the situation to move forward with her life. Hurt by Pete’s accusation that she is only thinking of herself (as always), she counters that she has only ever tried to protect the group, who she considers her family. Whether Pete is at all convinced by this remains unclear. Ultimately Phia agrees to take down the excerpts she had posted so far, and put her book deal on hold.

In an effort to keep the peace, Suzi brings up the issue of Pete’s father’s job. The group decides to look into it further. Phia offers to encourage him to leave the job, but Suzi argues that may do more harm than good.

That night: Phia takes down the story; Eugene is visited by a sobbing Victoria; Pete learns he can fly; Suzi’s dad comes to visit and inquire about her relationship with a Vanessa Scott; and Vanessa’s apartment is invaded by three dead-eyed humans. Initially confident she can deal with the problem, Vanessa begins to worry when she is tossed about her apartment like a rag-doll by a tremendous wave of TK.

Quotes without context

“Exposition Jim, you’re back!”

“I spoke Spanish when I arrived! I was charming!”

“Yes, I finally saw the light.”

“Lots of natural light, well-ventilated.”
“Well it’d have to be.”

“Unlike some people, we handle our problems with violence.”

“Athena is a great warrior. I’m exploring my feminine side.”

“In Scarborough, crime fights you!”

“You got your new rims, for your car.”
“Your parents’ car.”

“They call her . . . Mrs. Scott?

View
Here comes the new boss
Mind-melded with the old boss

Having been designated as the rear-guard, the group is dropped off at what appears to be nothing more than a rundown gas station & garage along a canyon road. The group is told that it actually houses the back exit to the Department. They are to watch for escapees while the main force of the Resistance enters from the front. Blackwood makes sure the group is armed – Vanessa with an assault rifle, and the others with small SMGs.

The group has a sister team in their mission, lead by a non-psychic named Reggie. Phia nominates Pete to be the leader for the group – which makes him the point-of-contact and (nominally) in charge.

Taking cover where they can find it, the two teams begin to wait. Suzie puts up a radar, which lights up with psychic activity. Reggie stays in close radio contact with the main assault, and reports that things are going well. Although Blackwood is injured, he is still leading the charge. Suzie reports that the psychic activity is slowly moving closer – it appears to be a running battle.

Some time later, the facade of the garage opens up, revealing a bunker leading into the canyon face. There are also two machine gun nests, one on either side of the entrance, manned by black knights. The machine guns open up as soon as they have a clear line of fire, and cut Reggie’s team in half – two volunteers and one psychic are lost in a matter of seconds.

Pete and Suzie are caught out of cover, but are able to make it back to the rest of the group without being shot. Covering their retreat, Phia is able to shoot one of the knights and yells at the other team to take cover. Focusing on the main problem, Vanessa tries to crush one of the guns with the force of her telekinesis. While she is able to damage it, it remains operational.

Combining their abilities, Eugene and Suzie yank the sandbags around one of the machine guns off the platform, leaving its knight in the open. At the same time, the other knight manages to clip Suzie.

Perhaps panicking, the knight who lost his cover throws a grenade at Reggie’s team. Pete manages to catch it in mid-air and throws it behind the knight that shot Suzie. He is thrown down to the canyon floor by the force of the explosion. Taking advantage of his inexplicable survival, Phia orders him to throw a grenade at his ally. It is a perfect throw, and the other knight is obliterated. Vanessa punches the remaining guard into the canyon wall, knocking him out.

The firefight dealt with, Suzie feels two powerful processes light up on her radar, moving quickly towards the group. Alerting the others, she also states that it’s likely not Blackwood & Stern.

Aided by the remains of Reggie’s team, the group rebuilds the barricades and points the guns back in towards the Department. The girls and 2 volunteers take one gun, while the boys, one volunteer, and Reggie man the other. In an effort to slow whatever vehicle is coming towards them, Vanessa also suggests they create a crater in the floor. Using guns & TK, she and Pete are able to chew up the cement floor.

Shortly after the preparations are complete, two white knights materialize into view, moving fast, their feet hovering inches above the ground. Eugene yells to open fire, and shoots madly at one of the knights. Most of the bullets bounce harmlessly away, but one does graze the knight. With Eugene manning the gun, Pete tries to force one of the knights to stop, and is only able to slow it slightly.

Following Eugene’s lead, Vanessa shoots the same knight, and is able to land a few bullets. One of the volunteers in the girls’ machine nest seems to go mad, and launches himself at the lead knight. A wall of TK rushes at him, smashing him against the wall before he drops lifelessly to the ground.

The knight that had been slowed sends a similar wave of TK forward. It breaks against Eugene’s shield, but launches Pete and Reggie off the platform. Eugene shoots again in retaliation, and the knight obviously begins to falter.

Fortunately still able to see the knight from the canyon floor, Pete lands a solid TK punch and knocks the knight back. The ring spinning behind him cracks and shatters. As the TK energy fails, it tears the knight apart.

Bellowing in defiance, Vanessa begins to shoot the remaining knight. Doubtful their guns will make any difference, Phia & Suzie team up to pull from the knight. At the same time, Suzie’s radar lights up with psychic artillery – Blackwood & Stern have found each other. Able to concentrate through the madness, she pulls the knight’s identity from its mind. “It’s Ben!”

Almost in response, the knight – Ben – shoots a TK punch directly at Phia, knocking her off the platform. Caught in the blast, Vanessa & Suzie are knocked off as well. Flying over the unmanned gun, Ben hovers in the centre of those who were tossed to the canyon floor. For the first time since the battle began, Phia looks frightened.

Eugene shoots Ben in the back, and Pete viciously punches him; both of which appear to do minimal damage. Vanessa leaps towards Ben, trying to grab onto the ring on his back. As soon as she hits the whirling vortex of TK surrounding him, however, she realizes this is not a great place to be. He catches her as blood starts to tear from her skin.

Pushing herself to her feet, Phia shouts “it’s me you want, let her down!” Suzie throws an extra shield around Phia before Ben accommodatingly drops Vanessa (harmlessly) to the ground, and blasts TK out at everyone else. Without waiting to see the result of his attack, Ben tears off down the canyon road.

Their attackers dealt with – more or less – the group wonders what to do next. Reggie urges them to go into the base; Blackwood & Stern are fighting, and agents are closing in. The group obeys. As they enter the base, Vanessa mutters to Phia that “we are finishing this later.”

The activity on Suzie’s radar is beginning to die down, except for two powerhouses; they feel equal in strength to the white knights. With the exception of a couple skirmishes – easily dealt with – Suzie is able to lead the group to the battle without incident. They begin to recognize the hallways from their time in the Department, although they are now dripping with blood and scattered with broken bodies.

The group reaches Director Stern’s office. Prudence is slouched against the wall outside, clutching a gut wound. While it appears she will survive, she’s in no position to stop the group from storming into the office. The office chair turns, revealing Blackwood, a cigarette in his hand. Director Stern is puddled on the floor, eyes vacant, occasionally twitching.

Although obviously exhausted, and with a peculiar new vice, Blackwood seems to have survived his battle with Stern unscathed. He congratulates the group on their efforts, and thanks them for helping destroy the Department. Brushing aside his pleasantries, Vanessa immediately asks after Terry’s whereabouts. Blackwood assures her that he had a team on prisoner extraction, and that Terry will be fine.

There mission completed, Phia asks Blackwood what he expects will happen next. He reiterates his belief that the Resistance will one day reveal psychics to the world, and begin integration into regular society. When asked who will decide when the world is ready for the news, police rogue psychics, and generally manage things now that the Department is defeated, Blackwood demurs that someone else will surely be better suited for the task.

Taking advantage of his exhaustion, Suzie forces herself into Blackwood’s mind. She learns that, while most of him truly believes what he’s saying, a small part knows he will never be able to give up his position as a leader. She also discovers a second consciousness within his mind – it is Director Stern. Although the two consciousnesses are separate (for the most part) for now, Suzie warns Blackwood that he is playing a dangerous game.

While she still has access, Suzie is able to delve into Blackwood’s thoughts on the Triplets. He sees them as a tool, indispensable, and has no moral issues with continuing to keep them alive against their will.

Eventually Blackwood is able to expel Suzie from his mind. Grimly, he informs them that they have done a great service for the Resistance, but it would now be best if they return to their former lives. Vanessa retorts that they are not leaving without Terry, so Blackwood agrees to allow them to speak with their former companion.

Escorted by armed guards, the group is taken to another section of the Department. Although he was clearly ill-treated by the Department, his mind is his own (from what the group can tell), and he is thrilled with what has happened. Vanessa tells him that the group will be returning to Toronto, and urges him to come as well. Terry explains that there is still much to be done, and he can’t possibly leave now. The group bids their farewells, some wondering if they will ever see Terry again.

Good to his word, Blackwood provides the group with clean clothes and a private plane back to Toronto Island Airport. Returning home, their work apparently complete, the group stands in silence. None of them thinks to look, or could even hope to see, The Thin Man standing on a distant roof. Watching. And waiting.

Quotes without context

“Teehee, butts. Over.”

“Leave the heroics to us.”

“I’m going to return fire from my sweet, boys-only fort.”

“We’re fucked.”

“Have a round on me, bitch!”

“I’m a secret puller.”
“So’s Eugene!”

View
No Playing With Gods In The House
or Why I Learned To Listen When Opposites Agree

Once the debate about the potential implications of being able to activate and/or deactivate psychics comes to a close, Vanessa goes to visit the Triplets. Settling into meditation, she once again feels a presence in the room with her. She gets a sense that they are waiting, expectant, that something has changed. However, no matter how she tries, she is unable to connect to it.

A few days pass before the group is called into Blackwood’s office. He appears more sickly than usual, and clearly hasn’t had much sleep. He informs the group that something has happened to Terry; he was brought down while on an operation a few days ago, and Blackwood believes he was taken to the Department HQ for “deprogramming”. Before the group can start planning a rescue, Blackwood informs them that, although Terry has been trained to resist interrogation, that will likely only delay the inevitable. There exists sensitive information in Terry’s mind, and the Department will stop at nothing to get at it. The Department likely also knows of Terry’s association with the rest of the group, which is a new variable.

Rather than wait for the Department to attack, once they have ripped the location of the Resistance from his mind, Blackwood reminds the group of a plan he had suggested earlier. Namely that they allow the Triplets access to their memories, to try to triangulate where the Department is located. The group agrees, and asks how quickly they would be able to reach Terry. Eugene points out that, while Terry may have been trained to resist psychic interrogation, there are perfectly mundane techniques the Department could use. Blackwood’s response is simply that everyone should assume the Department knows whatever Terry does, and that he is a write-off.

After the vitriolic reaction to this news has died down, Suzie asks what the plan is if the Triplets are able to get the location of the Department. Blackwood’s primary objective is simple: smash the Department. Rescuing Terry comes as a distant second.

Returning to their room, the group discusses Terry’s fate. Phia stated that Blackwood is probably right, it’s too dangerous to try to bring Terry back now. Pete is not in the least surprised, and asks what Phia would want if she were the one captured. When she says that she’d want to be left behind, Pete replies that he would never leave anyone behind. In cold rebuke, Phia says she’d leave him.

Preparations for their visit with the Triplets begin the next day. The group is coached on how to behave: they are given breathing exercises and instructed not to be afraid. They are also told not to read too much into anything they see. The day of the ordeal, the group is told that they will be sedated, and that each will have a (non-psychic) orderly with them holding their hands in case they begin to panic. When asked, the medical technician explains that the reason for the sedation is to make it easier for the Triplets. As psychic power increases, it becomes increasingly difficult to be gentle and not scar someone’s mind.

Everyone ends up in hospital gowns on gurneys inside the Triplet’s room. As the drugs start to kick in, the group becomes aware of a presence in the center of the room. It begins to expand, filling the room and overwhelming their minds. They are assaulted with random images, sounds and sensations as the presence sifts through their memories and dreams. Rather than her own memories, Suzie has a vision of three white-robed figures, siblings, pinned in place by a hand coming down from the sky. The hand is well cared for, but sickly, and she is filled with the feeling of being trapped.

Eventually, the presence recedes. The Triplets seemed gentle, but inhuman; almost angelic. The group is wheeled back into the medical bay to recover. While the drugs are still wearing off, Blackwood comes to visit. He looks excited and grateful. Suzie is cognizant enough to examine his hands, they match those in her vision.

Back once more in their rooms, Suzie tells the group about her vision. She and Vanessa believe that the Triplets are trapped here, that they want to die but are being kept alive by Blackwood. Vanessa reminds the others that she’s been visiting the Triplets for several weeks, and she has the sense that they were waiting for us to arrive. She also admits that she has been unable to truly communicate with the Triplets, and believes that if everyone works together they should be able to find out what the Triplets want.

While debating it, Eugene suggests that the group might be able to use the Triplets to turn off all psychics. Assuming the group can figure out how the process works, they should be able to teach it to the Triplets who aren’t dependent on line-of-sight to influence others. A few agree that this is a good idea, although Phia worries that the group will be caught in the line of fire as well.

Phia also suggests that perhaps the group should try leaving the Resistance bunker before attempting to communicate with the Triplets. Shockingly, Pete agrees. Suzie and Vanessa worry about being able to come back, as the group will need physical access to the Triplets in order to turn off the meds keeping them controlled. Eventually it’s decided that the group will go ahead with reaching out immediately, but Pete will stay out as a spotter to make sure nothing goes wrong. Led by Vanessa, the rest begin to meditate together. Focusing on “hope” – that they will be able to help the Triplets, be able to communicate, and be able to help themselves – the group reaches out.

They feel the attention of the Triplets start to shift towards them. Unlike the gentle touch earlier, this time the presence rips into the groups’ minds. Images begin to flash: Terry tied to a chair, hair lank; a red desert; a white-masked figure levitating with a stone ring turning behind it; Blackwood standing on the opposite side of a desk from Stern as a room is torn apart around them. They get a sense of paralysis, of being trapped and used against their will.

Then something else, a presence other than the Triplets so vast it seemed a part of the landscape, begins to turn its attention towards the group. They try to wake up, but feel the tendrils of the Triplets keeping them in place. As the larger presence continues to turn, the group can feel the Triplets begin to dither – they don’t want to let go. The group can hear alarms blaring as they start to panic, and then mental barriers slam down around them.

They wake up to find Pete standing, having thrown mental shields around everyone else. They all have stabbing headaches, and Suzie’s nose is bloodied. Alarms are still blaring. A stampede of people in white labcoats rushes into the room and starts examining the group. Under a barrage of questions, they explain that something happened with the Triplets, and that hopefully there was no permanent damage. The group is placed in wheelchairs and brought back to the lab for further examination.

After insuring that there has been no serious damage, the group is reluctantly permitted to go back to their rooms. A nurse is positioned in the rooms across the hall, in case anything else goes wrong.

Pete is told what the other saw, and the group discusses what the Triplets were trying to tell them. Regarding the scene between Blackwood and Stern, it’s wondered whether that was literal or a figurative representation of the battle between the Department and Resistance. If it is literal, the group wonders if it happened in the past or is coming in the future. Phia muses aloud about the possibility of Blackwood & Stern actually being in league together, a chilling thought.

Discussion turns next to the larger presence that began to focus on the group, and whether it was T-0. Returning to Eugene’s suggestion of using the Triplets to deactivate all psychics, Phia wonders if that mightn’t anger the larger presence. A new idea is suggested that the group may need to form their own organization, independent of either the Department or Resistance, to police and turn of psychics as necessary. Such important work should only be performed by those who can be trusted.

Blackwood comes to visit the next day. He apologizes for what happened, saying that it is harder to control the Triplets after they’ve been working. He is, however, optimistic that they will have the location of the Department in a matter of hours. Once that is obtained, he plans to set up surveillance and start planning the attack. He also wants to know if the group is willing to participate in the attack, to which the response is a resounding yes. At a conservative estimate, he believes the attack will take place within two months.

Two weeks later, they are called into Blackwood’s office. He asks if any remember hearing about the white knights in the Department. Although some recall hearing the name, no one knows any details. Blackwood shows them an image that was picked up from the surveillance on the Department HQ. It looks like da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man; a figure in white with its arm outstretched, a fifth of a ring behind it. The group is also reminded of the image they got from the Triplets. While discussing it among themselves, Eugene theorizes that the ring acts as a psychic amplifier.

Two more weeks pass before the group returns to Blackwood’s office. This time he is dressed in fatigues. He hands the group briefing papers, the attack is scheduled for tomorrow. The group is to guard a loading dock at the rear of the building, and are instructed to lead a charge in the unlikely event that things go horribly awry. Joining the group will be three more psychics and five volunteers.

For the first time, the group isn’t blindfolded on their way to the plane. Blackwood tells them, for better or worse, everything ends today. As the plane takes off they are told that they’re leaving California, and are on their way to Arizona.

~~

Quotes Without Context

“I thought that was just friction.”
“No, that’s the syphilis.”

“Roll to boner.”

“If I could interrupt your game of Genital Scribblenauts for a moment…”

“Left Science to full!”

“It’s a coping mechanism.”

View
Building a Better World
For fun and profit

Once the helicopters are out of view, the group quickly gets back into their SUV and starts driving. Despite Pete’s wishes, the group heads away from Camp Dreamland and back into the city. Phia suggests going to the TSI office to find the files on the other group of subjects involved in the experiment that seemed to set everything off. After some discussion, the others agree.

They arrive by early afternoon and Pete & Terry head inside. Utilizing Terry’s push abilities, they are able to get the contact information (now a year old) for all of the other subjects with no trouble. The nearest address is for a woman named Becca, who lives in Scarborough. Upon arrival, Phia and Suzie approach under the guise of city employees surveying people about local construction. Phia does most of the talking while Suzie scans for brain damage & surface thoughts. The conversation drifts towards the TSI, so Suzie is able to determine that Becca did indeed spend some time there. While she isn’t able to find any memories specific to white noise, Suzie does locate a strangely vivid dream Becca had some time ago about white noise coming from beneath the earth.

Returning to the car, Suzie shares what she learned and asks to scan for a similar memory in the others. Eugene allows it, but Suzie isn’t able to find anything. Her scan of Vanessa is similarly unsuccessful. Rather than wait for Suzie’s scan, Phia tells the others about a dream she had several months ago, at the truck stop before they were captured by The Department. Vanessa, Pete, and Suzie all recall the same dream.

Suzie also admits that she has been having recurring dreams ever since arriving at The Resistance. They are about her psychic powers growing so much that her body atrophies. She says that it’s like the imagery of the fetus they saw in the T-0 shrine at Muscular Woman’s house. Suzie’s theory is that the group is dreaming of being the cognite, while Becca was dreaming of it singing to her.

They head to the next house: Rodney Steele in Brampton. This time Suzie & Eugene head up. While Eugene talks, Suzie is able to get Rodney’s thoughts about going to teh TSI and a dream about sounds coming from beneath the earth and caressing his brain.

The rest of the day is spent tracking down the other subjects. John is not home, while Amanda & Bill both remember the dream. They had it at the Camp, both at roughly the same time. It happened after meeting six other patients before some experiment. Bill’s brain is damaged during the scan. Based on the timeline in their memories, it appears that their sleep began to improve after that experiment, while the group took longer to leave Camp Dreamland.

According to Eugene, the group now has enough information to repeat the experiment. Phia’s suggestion of using the subjects currently at Camp Dreamland is shot down. Instead, the group decides to follow Eugene’s suggestion of returning to The Resistance and using volunteers there.

The group decides to take a day for themselves. Suzie & Vanessa go shopping, Eugene gets a new suit from Harry Rosen (for free), and Pete, Phia & Terry head for a bar.

The next morning they return to the Island Airport and board a plane to The Resistance. The flight takes around 7-8 hours. Once back underground, the group meets with David Blackwood and share their findings. After Eugene outlines the experiment he’d like to perform, Blackwood worries about being able to get enough volunteers. He suggests it might be easier to have five volunteers, and Eugene should stay awake for the experiment.

Blackwood also informs the group that he has looked into the well-being of their friend & family. It appears that the group has not been erased from their memories, but they’ve been implanted with ongoing processes to explain our absence.

Finally, Blackwood asks if the group knows how The Department would have located them at Camp Dreamland. No one seems to know, and Phia leaves out the fact that she tried checking her email & online store.

While waiting for the experiment to be set up, Pete & Phia go back into surgery with The Doctor to get their faces back.

That night, Suzie has another dream, which she shares with the rest of the group the next morning. She was standing in an open field, filled with a pervasive feeling of danger. Next it felt like her brain was split open; she knew where the danger was coming from, and went underground to escape it. The group debates whether the dream is a result of Suzie’s focus on pull or a strain incurred during the event at the Lenin Museum. Ultimately it is decided that Suzie, Eugene and Vanessa should spend some time with the Triplets to see if they can communicate.

Blackwood grants the trio permission to visit the Triplets, but asks that no processes be enacted as it may be upsetting. Choosing to meditate instead, they start to feel other presences in the room, possibly the Triplets’ consciousnesses.

Heading to the lab on the day of the experiment, Suzie tells the others she had a dream that the Resistance is going to hide the results from them. In her dream, Blackwood ran two tests – one fake and one real – and only gave the results of the fake test. After a hushed discussion, they decide to have Eugene stay awake.

The Doctor is quite upset when he is told about the change in plans, but eventually the equipment is re-calibrated for 10 subjects – the 5 in the group, and 5 volunteers. Under the influence of various drugs, the subjects drift into a restful sleep while Eugene watches.

Vanessa is the first to awake. It is obvious that the volunteers had the same dream as the subjects in the original experiment at Camp Dreamland. Blackwood hands over a file folder with the results of the experiment, which the group takes back to their rooms to debrief. Suzie asks Eugene if the volunteers displayed psychic activity. Eugene explains that the group’s brain wavelengths linked up after an hour, and 2-3 hours later the volunteers synched up as well. After four hours, some big mental burst struck out at Eugene but missed. He has no idea where it came from. Thinking about consciousnesses lining up, the group wonders if the Triplets have become a single mind rather than three.

Blackwood and Terry arrive. While Blackwood sits down, Terry lurks in the doorway looking uncomfortable. Blackwood asks if the group realizes the implications of what happened during the experiment: that they demonstrated the ability to activate non-psychics. He is enthusiastic about the potential this offers as a weapon against The Department. When asked by Suzie if he was planning to hide the results of the experiment, he says no with no evidence of lying.

After Blackwood leaves, the group has a long debate about the idea of awakening other psychics. Some believe the best thing to do would be awake everyone, so the entire world is on a level playing field. Others, however, believe that provides too much room for mayhem if the wrong people gain psychic abilities. The conversation takes a slightly darker turn when the idea is raised of being able to turn off existing psychics, and whether the world might be safer with only 6 existing psychics.

Quotes without context

“I don’t need psychic powers, I’m a lumberjack.”

“Giant part of homeowners association.”
“Also block parent.”

“The cognite is people!”

“M-class apartment.”

“With two beards, I’d be unstoppable!”

View
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?”

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Home again, home again
Jiggity-jig

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.”

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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…”

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