Black Box

Camp Dreamland
Losing an ally, gaining some powers, going slightly nuts...

Approximately three months ago, five Toronto residents began suffering from similar symptoms including insomnia and an insistent rushing sound in their ears. Speaking to various doctors, each were directed to the Toronto Sleep Institute (TSI), and thence to Camp Dreamland under the care of Dr. Cornelius.

Two months pass, during which the group is required to spend all their time at Camp Dreamland and undergo numerous treatments to help alleviate their symptoms – the most concerning of which appears to be their inability to achieve REM sleep. As time passes, the group becomes much closer: Pete Lewis, a musician and layabout; Vanessa Scott, a kindergarten teacher and budding kung fu master; Phia Walker, owner of “Papyrus Dreams” and aspiring novelist; Suzan Mancetti, a recently graduated sexual psychologist; Professor Eugene Donovan, a brilliant physics professor at UofT; and Terry, a young man still trying to decide what to make of his future.

Along with firearm practice, obstacle courses, and mental examinations, one of the primary treatments is sleep inducement via a cocktail of sedatives and targeted electrical current to the subjects’ brains. Disturbing though the treatment is, it appears to be successful such that the group begins to sleep and dream more frequently. With the success of the treatment, and tired of putting their lives on hold, the group petitions to be allowed to leave the confines of Camp Dreamland. Dr. Cornelius agrees, with the condition that the group meet every Wednesday for a therapy session, and continue to spend their weekends at Camp Dreamland for treatment.

After one such weekend, about a month after returning home, interesting events begin to occur. Copies of Phia’s book begin to fly off the shelves of her store, in one case literally and hits a customer in the chest; the Professor’s lovely assistant finally begins to warm to his advances; and Terry has difficulty at work when he apparently throws a video cassette at a customer. More strangely, when the group attends a performance of “Frank and the Castles” (Pete’s band), they observe as the entire bar appears to become hypnotized by the music.

Discussing these events the following morning, the group agrees to tell Dr. Cornelius about them. However this fails to occur, as no one wants to be the first to mention such oddities. The group is also introduced to Dr. Kennedy, a new researcher brought on to the team by the TSI. Phia takes an immediate dislike to the new doctor, and does her best to avoid him for the rest of the weekend. Vanessa and Suzie, however, take turns trying to warm the doctor up, both failing miserably. Eugene fares similarly in his attempts to engage Dr. Kennedy in conversation.

The next week brings more strange occurrences: Vanessa accidentally breaks her sifu’s ribs while sparring, Pete’s normally staid drummer opens up to him about an extremely embarrassing problem, the Professor’s crystal ware explodes, and one of Suzie’s therapy couples has a miraculous breakthrough. More concerning, however, is Terry’s absence at the weekly meeting on Wednesday. Phia calls Terry on his cell, and later at his parents house, to discover that both numbers are unassigned. Concerned, Phia gets in touch with her contact at the police department, Sgt Michael Fields, and asks him to check into whether something has happened to Terry and his family.

The weekend rolls around, and the group returns to Camp Dreamland to find that Terry is still missing, and Dr. Cornelius is feeling ill. Dr. Kennedy appears, and Pete and Vanessa suddenly feel very uncomfortable in his presence. Dr. Kennedy tries to have the group begin their daily tests, but is interrupted with questions about Terry. The doctor seems extremely confused, as to his recollection there has never been a sixth patient. The group insists that they need to speak with Dr. Cornelius.

Ushered into the good doctor’s office, the group is knocked off balance when the constant rushing sound stops for the first time in almost four months. Dr. Cornelius seems far more reserved than normal, distracted and upset. Asking him about Terry, he mutters something about “they didn’t do a very good job”, but is confident that “they don’t know where the rest of the files are”. While trying to figure out what the hell the doctor is talking about, the group is stunned when he declares he can’t take this anymore, and brings a gun to his temple. Pete reacts immediately, and manages to get his hands on the gun just in time to burn them when the doctor fires.

Screaming and freaking out ensues. Paramedics and police arrive, and the group is taken to a small meeting room to wait. They all realize that the sound has returned, although none are sure when it came back. Detective M(somethingorother) arrives to interrogate the group. They explain what happened, that they tried to stop the doctor but there was nothing they could do. The detective then proceeds to ask them about Terry, confirms that they all remember a sixth patient, and then informs them that there is no record of such a person.

Because Dr. Cornelius survived, although in very poor condition, the detective admits that there is currently no criminal investigation. Still, he has them brought to the police station for fingerprinting.

With nowhere to go, and no plans for their first free Saturday night in several months, Eugene invites the group out for drinks. They go to a nearby lounge, and discuss matters. Various theories are suggested and dismissed: mass hallucination? dangerous chemicals introduced to their brains? Terry black-bagged by government agents? They agree to meet again on Wednesday, and to stay in touch to make sure no one else disappears.

On Monday Phia talks to Sgt Fields, and is informed that not only are the group all suspects but their fingerprints are all over the gun and they’re coming off as more than slightly crazy. Eugene, for his part, suffers the company of Dr. Butterman a second time, to try to determine what could have happened to his crystal ware. Dr. Butterman has a number of suggestions, none of which are particularly helpful. Eugene manages to track down the number for a slightly more reputable paranormal-psychologist/skeptic, and has another conversation lacking anything in the way of answers.

Sunday and Monday night pass with excellent sleeps for the group. On Tuesday they all receive a call from the TSI informing them that the research will continue as soon as they can find another doctor to carry on. The general response is “thanks, but no thanks”.

On Tuesday they are called back to the police station and informed that Dr. Cornelius has stabilized. He is in a coma, but does not appear to be in imminent danger of death. It is most likely that Pete saved his life, managing to move the gun just enough. With the doctor still alive, there is no need for a criminal investigation, and the group is free to carry on with their lives.

Suzie invites the group out for a drink, and at Phia’s insistence they go to a different bar than previously. Entering the bar, they are welcomed with a broad smile from the bartender and given free shots/drinks for the rest of the night. Phia and Suzie proceed to get more than slightly drunk, and are invited to dance by a random woman. They follow, and eventually everyone in the bar, save the rest of the group, are “sexy dancing”. Vanessa tries to bring Phia and Suzie back to the table, which prompts death glares from everyone else in the bar. Instead, Vanessa dances Phia and Suzie to the door where, closely followed by Pete and Eugene, they break for the exit.

Out in the street, Phia’s drunken gesturing seems to knock over a streetlight, and Vanessa’s shouting blows out every window on the block. Phia and Suzie throw up.

Notes on the Board
Experimenting, learning important lessons, time to go

After the explosion of glass, the group decides to head for Eugene’s lab to try to figure out what the hell is going on. Suzi and Phia, still both the worse for drink, stumble along behind.

Reaching the lab, the group discusses what they should do next. Phia suggests trying to get their files from the TSI, a suggestion which is shot down as unfeasible. Eugene suggests a more scientific approach should be taken, to try to determine what powers each person has, and to try to control them.

Vanessa, thinking about accidentally breaking her sifu’s ribs, tries to recreate the effect by punching a concrete wall which results in a severely bruised hand. Eugene, ever helpful, makes note of the result on his white board. Suzie gets a cold drink for Vanessa’s hand. Phia is up next, and manages to open a door without touching it by focusing on something other than what she is doing. At the same time Vanessa manages to freeze a can of pop solid and hurts her hand further.

As the group goes back to discussion, Eugene takes a turn. Trying to recreate the mental state he was in when all the crystal ware exploded in his kitchen, he concentrates and exhales carefully. The rest of the group immediately starts to feel incredibly aroused. With mixed confusion and embarrassment, people suggest that perhaps it is time to go home. Eugene, sensing something has happened, invites everyone back to his apartment to sleep, rather than trek all the way back to their own homes. Most agree eagerly, with the exception of Phia who glares at the other women as she leaves.

Upon reaching Eugene’s apartment, the strange feeling suddenly wears off. Eugene, unaware of any change, goes into the kitchen to fix his guests a drink while the others compare notes on what just happened. They agree that it must have been caused by some outside force, and wonder if Eugene was similarly affected. Overhearing the conversation, Eugene concentrates and tries again with immediate success. However, this time the others are aware of what’s happening and aren’t as easily distracted. Suzie enters the kitchen to confront Eugene, and two more of his glasses shatter. Pushing his luck yet further (in the name of science!) Eugene tries once more to force Suzie’s emotions, but instead gets a sudden chill and a feeling of imminent danger. Vanessa and Pete, both of whom went in search of privacy, feel the wave of anger and return to the kitchen. Fortunately for Eugene, he is saved by the ringing of the telephone before Vanessa can get too descriptive with her threats.

It’s Terry, with a cryptic message to “stick together”. Eugene relays the message and apologizes. Vanessa, strangely unmoved by Eugene’s protestation of the scientific validity of his methods, throws a liquor bottle against the wall and leaves for the hospital. In light of Terry’s warning, the group decides to accompany her. On the way, Suzie calls Phia and tells her to meet them at Toronto General.

By 4:00am, the group has convened at a nearby diner for breakfast and discussion. Amidst visits from the waitress with free refills of coffee (despite the more usual cost of 25 cents), the group agrees to meet a day later to continue testing their newfound abilities. Leaving one at a time, Pete, Vanessa and Suzie all leave generous tips, while Phia (her meal covered by the other’s contributions) leaves no money at all. Eugene, the last to leave, tells the waitress he paid for the meal and receives a free pie in gratitude.

The group goes about their day, each making arrangements to leave for a while if necessary. Pete quits his job, Vanessa arranges for a substitute, Suzie has her receptionist cancel her appointments, and Phia reluctantly arranges for her employees to cover the store.

Eugene, meanwhile, meets with Dr. Baxter in the neurology department of UofT. Citing vague symptoms he expresses concern that he may be developing some sort of neurological disorder and requests that Dr. Baxter performs an EEG. The good doctor agrees, after mentioning in passing that he just sent several scans off to the TSI, and they set an appointment for 11:00 that evening. During the scan, Eugene waits a brief period to set a baseline of activity before trying to activate his powers once more. Going over the scan with Dr. Baxter, there does in fact appear to be an anomalous spike in brain waves, although the doctor has no diagnosis other than encouraging Eugene to get more sleep. Taking a copy of the scan, Eugene thanks the doctor and leaves.

The following day, everyone meets up at studio space Pete rented out (more often used by his band for rehearsal). Eugene shares his discovery, and expresses his hypothesis of what might be happening. Quantum physics theorizes that the human brain actually possesses the capacity to interact with or alter the energy that exists between the nucleolus and electrons of atoms. Energy that is said to be grater then that contained within all the stars of all the sky. It is a possibility that the group has evolved somehow to gain a grater form of interaction with this energy. Or so The Professor thinks. The idea of going to the TSI to obtain their previous brainscans and other files is raised again. Agreeing that the TSI is unlikely to simply hand over their files, the group decides to wait until they have better control of their powers at which time they will be able to either infiltrate the TSI or force someone to help them.

Discussion finished for the time being, the group splits up and begins practicing their abilities again. Eugene begins to hear Vanessa and Pete’s thoughts/intentions/emotions (Vanessa’s centered on wanting to punch Eugene in the face, and Pete’s on concern of going through a wall if Vanessa hits him by accident). Similarly, Phia and Suzie begin to hear thoughts from random passers-by on the street outside. Phia, worried that the group might be drawing people to them, orders everyone to stop what they are doing and watches as the people outside wander off.

More discussion ensues, which begins to turn into an argument as a sudden feeling of irritation spreads through the group. Phia orders the rest to shut up and suggests a plan (she will speak with Sgt. Fields to find out about Dr. Corenlius, the others can contact the TSI). However it appears she put too much effort into her command, as Pete is temporarily unable to open his mouth. Apologizing, Phia goes off to call St. Fields.

After a tense discussion (and failed attempt to forcibly convince the sergeant over the phone), Phia is eventually able to have her friend agree to contact her if Dr. Cornelius’ condition changes. Passing this information on to the group, Phia then leaves to return to her store, horrible visions of what her employees might have done floating in her head. For the rest of the day, Phia pushes customers towards her book, and sells several more copies than she would have otherwise (read: sold any copies at all).

Pete and Eugene adjourn to a nearby internet cafe to try to find out any information they can about Dr. Kennedy. Although there is a distinct lack of apparent secret government organization affiliation, they do come across Dr. Kennedy’s online dating profile. With minimal moral qualms, they develop a new profile – one Kimberly Olden (?) – to entice Dr. Kennedy into conversation.

Vanessa and Suzie stay behind at the studio, to try to relax a bit. Vanessa easily falls into meditation. Suzie, normally unable to still her mind enough to meditate, finds herself much more calm than normal. As the two relax, the steady rushing noise they have been hearing for so long (although it has only been intermittent since the shooting incident) resolves into voices. It becomes apparent that they are able to hear the thoughts/intentions of everyone around them. Although they are in fact able to concentrate on single voices, it requires immense concentration, akin to grasping a handful of water.

Meanwhile, Pete goes home and contacts his parents to find out if their cottage is free. After enduring a lecture from his mother on the benefits of steady employment, Pete arranges to stay at the cottage for the next little while.

The group begins to trickle back to the studio. Suzie shares her discovery about the source of the buzzing noise. Pete restates his belief that, until they are better able to control their abilities, they are all a danger to themselves and others. As a result, he will be going to his parents’ cottage and invites the rest to go as well. As they are all able to get at least a week off, they agree and plan to leave the next day (Friday).

While packing, they all receive a call from the TSI secretary inquiring about files Dr. Cornelius may have given them. Apparently some have gone missing, and the TSI is quite concerned. Eugene receives a second call, from someone who says nothing before hanging up. Through the benefits of call-ID, he recognizes the number as the paranormal expert/skeptic from the States he spoke with previously. Calling the number back he hears an automated message: “this number is unassigned”.

Fun With Mindbeams
Anything you can do, I can do better...

After piling into Professor Donovan’s “sweet ride”, the group arrives safely at Pete’s family’s cottage on the beautiful coast of Georgian Bay. The cottage has 4 bedrooms, one of which is quickly claimed by Phia. The others are sorted out, leaving Eugene with the couch.

As people settle in, the power experiments continue. Eugene and Phia set up on the couch, each recording the group’s latest discoveries in their own way. Suzie stands outside, in the rain, and tries to see if she can avoid getting wet. Vanessa, joining her, tries to light a cigarette without using a match. Pete, wanting nothing more than a beer, tries to move a bottle towards him without getting up.

Eventually everyone is gathered outside, huddled on the covered porch to avoid the rain, and watches as Vanessa writes her name through cigarette smoke. Impressed though everyone is, Phia points out that such a trick would be unlikely to help them break into the TSI and fetch their files. Target practice with empty beer bottles follows, until Phia inquires about the possibility of manipulating other people’s minds. Her faint suggestion to practice on “civilians” is ignored, and it is decided instead that the group should practice on each other.

Phia manages to broadcast the number 3 to Suzie (after finding she can’t broadcast to everyone). Suzie is able to convey a sense of “paper” to Pete, but is unable to force him to any action. In response Pete tries to put Suzie to sleep, with no success.

Eugene, observing as usual, realizes that everyone has been “pushing” and decides to try “pulling”. Several intense minutes pass in which Eugene invades Suzie’s mind, Suzie is unable to block, and Phia shuts down Eugene’s powers.

A breakthrough has been reached, and the group finally understands what powers they can and cannot do. And also what paths they might be able to take in the future…

Enter A Giant
Mindbeams in battle!

Time has passed quickly at the cottage. The group has spent most of the last 5 days experimenting on each other and developing their own focuses. Eugene and Phia have begun to focus on “push”, going so far as to venture into nearby Wasaga to practice on “civilians”. Vanessa and Pete have begun to focus on “TK”, practicing their shields by running at each other from opposite ends of a field. Suzie, alone, has begun to focus on “pull”, content to experiment on the others in the group.

On the fifth day, the group gathers around a campfire to drink, eat s’mores, and discuss their next plans. Eugene shares his discovery about the ease of pushing civilians, while Phia stays quiet about her own experiments. The group debates whether it’s time to go back (as those with employment are uncomfortable staying away from their jobs much longer). Conversation turns inevitably to the TSI, and the group wonders whether the TSI knows what they are capable of, and if they have been left alone merely as a ruse to have them practice their abilities. Various options are suggested: asking the TSI normally for their files; visiting Dr. Cornelius to see whether he is awake, or if it is possible to invade the mind of a coma-victim.

With the discussion of Dr. Cornelius, Phia is reminded of Dr. Kennedy and asks Eugene & Pete whether they had any luck in finding out information about him. They admit they not only found his eHarmony dating profile, but also fashioned one of their own to attempt to lure him out. Both parts amused and perversely-fascinated, the group brings out Phia’s laptop to see what Dr. Kennedy’s response was. They discover that, even online, Dr. Kennedy is a bit of a cold fish. Undeterred, Phia puts together a reply with the help of the group to try to find out how long he’s been in Toronto, whether he’s had any success with his dating adventures, and what sort of woman he is looking for. She leaves the option of a meeting open for discussion.

The next day, the group prepares to head back to Toronto. As they are packing the cottage phone rings, which Pete picks up. There is silence, and then the person on the other end hangs up. Checking call display, the group Googles the number and discovers it is a payphone. They call back, but no one picks up.

Before they can discuss the strange phone call much further, there is a knock on the door. Shocked, the group scatters and unholsters their mental abilities, while Pete goes to answer the door. He opens it to reveal a giant of a man – at least seven feet tall and around 300lbs – who immediately reaches out to grab Pete.

Time seems to slow down. Phia, terrified, pushes that emotion onto the giant with minimal resistance. Eugene, not to be outdone, pushes shame. Vanessa lashes out with a vicious TK punch and Suzie reads his mind, receiving nothing but a long drone of “feeeeeetch”.

The fight continues, with the giant becoming ever more bewildered by the flurry of invisible punches and onslaught of emotions into his poor, callused mind. During the fight Phia tries to read his most recent memory and receives nothing but static. Before fleeing, the giant manages to land one vicious hit on Vanessa, but is knocked unconscious before he is able to escape.

Stunned by this turn of events, the group moves outside and stares at this mountain of a man. As there is no way they would be able to physically move him, Pete levitates the giant back into the cottage and drops him on the couch.

The Giant Exeunt
Driving for dummies

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

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

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

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

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

The group waits.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hard Decisions
In which "humane" punishments are debated

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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