System.open(“Nostromo”, “Augmented Icarus”)
“Hey, how was your day?”
“Fine. Tested a new flight system, travelled faster than light and got stuck in some imaginary world.”
That sounds about right. I've been waking up in different worlds for who knows how long, and each time it feels like I'm being hammered deeper down the rabbit hole. And now I'm here, wherever “here” is.
I like to think I'm quick on my feet, so I made sure no one knew who I was. Not that it matters. If this is just a hallucination, then I'm really just lying to myself. If not…
At least I know my pistol is still around. By around, I mean I can bring it to me from some unknown place and send it back again. And I've somehow managed to get some credit, bits are what they're called here. I don't know the exchange rate, but one bit buys a guy a bottle of water.
At least I won't die thirsty.
Mantle: Probability Engine
High Concept: Entangled Test Pilot
Trouble: Stranger in a Strange Land
Aspect: Napana, Manifestation of Reflections
Quick Route to Power costs two Stunts and was also created with the Venture City SRD to represent Napana’s abilities.
Quick Route to Power: As I learned a Quick Route to Power, once per scene, I can use Napana to create a clone of myself. If I succeed with style, we may attack multiple targets in the same zone or inflict a Confused (fleeting) condition. We can take duplicate actions, splitting shifts between the two of us, but the clone can not succeed with style. With extreme effort, I can create another duplicate for help. However, I have Short Range Control, limited to being in the same zone and risk attracting attention from The System. I mark one box of Empowered when used.
Stress      
In Peril 
Indebted [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ]
Empowered [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ]
Charged [ ]
Grounded [ ]
The street level of The Core is a chaotic merge of affluence and destitute. The night sky is clouded, keeping the dark alleys in impenetrable shadow. The buildings downtown look like black plastic with blue or orange neon corners marking their boundaries. Vehicles drive by on wet asphalt, and people walk briskly on their way home or late night errands.
Vince walks by one alleyway and hears a muffled wet sound followed by a coarse, low voice. Another, higher pitched, voice responds and is met with another muffled impact.
I check my watch out of habit, mostly as a distraction while I consider what I'm going to do next. Anonymity is the safest course of action, but…
I step into the alley and crouch down when I'm far enough in to not seem suspicious. I want to see what I'm getting myself into.
System Enforcer, Legalized Thug
+2 when Fighting and Interrogating
-2 when Blending In
Stress      
Vince rolls Create an Advantage using Guile against Difficulty +0. Result, +2 and adds Came From Nowhere to the Enforcer with one free Invoke.
“We got a message that an unauthorized program is running around The Core, and you pieces of shit don't know anything?” he asks, adding another kick for good measure.
His appearance is the polar opposite of the victim lying on the ground: upscale, a suit that barely fits his muscled frame and silver hair. The guy on the ground facing Vince has dirty ripped clothing, matted brown hair and no shoes.
Vince Creates an Advantage using Force against Difficulty +0. Result, +3 and adds Pushed to the Ground to the Enforcer with two free Invokes.
I don't like bullies. Especially ones that sound smug while they're doing it. I step from the shadows and shove him hard from behind, Napana materializing in my hand. He falls back against the brick wall and slides along a garbage container on the way down.
“Problem?” I ask, the Thunderbird aimed at his face.
Vince rolls an Attack using Flair and Invokes “Came From Nowhere” and “Pushed to the Ground” against Difficulty +0. Result, +6 and inflicts 6 Stress on the Enforcer.
“N-no,” the thug stammers. “We were just looking for…”
His eyes take in the Thunderbird, black duster with silver trim and Vince’s not so pointed ears.
“Found me. Good job. Who wants me?”
“The System Manager wants to meet with you. See where you came from. Talk.”
“So you thought beating on homeless guys would help. Leave.”
The thug gets up in a mad scrabble and takes off out of the alley. Vince turns and finds the beaten man looking at him intently, half awed and half frightened.
Anonymity. Guess that didn't last as long as I had hoped. Napana dissipates into a wireframe model and collapses back to nothing.
“Why was he bothering you to find me?” I ask.
He’s hesitant. Understandable after just being kicked a few times and helped by a pistol wielding stranger. “I know people in the VIU,” he says, “He thought I might have heard something.”
“The Virtual Interface Underground.”
He looks into Vince’s eyes, disbelief written on his face. “You really don't know, do you?”
“Yeah, let's make fun of the new kid. Alright, the VIU. Any way they can help? Keep me underground?”
The hesitation grows solid; he changes from a simple, bullied homeless man to calculating and distant. Several moments pass as he appraises Vince.
“Go Downtown, the Progress Bar. Tell the bartender Les wants to go shopping.”
Les gets up and walks past Vince, “Be careful. The System will be watching.”
The Progress Bar. Cute.
Vince flags down a cab and takes a ride Downtown. From the freeway, The Core exists in greyscale bordered by cyan and pumpkin. The buildings are the same black plastic blocks with glowing strips of light on their corners. Passing vehicles mirror their surroundings; their drivers with skin like ivory or darkening shades of grey. Everyone with pointed ears.
The vehicle stops in front of a moderately busy bar. Smoky windows offer a shadowed glimpse at the patrons inside. A large display that spans across the front of the building shows a grey box with a cyan bar stretching 70% across the sign. Music drifts faintly through the thick windows.
System.theme(“Noir Deco”, “Future to Fantasy”)
Stepping out of the light rain, Vince enters a bar filled with people, smoke and music. The bartender cheerfully produces a variety of drinks for a waiting customer. A bald elf, mid grey skin, a leather vest with matching pants.
I walk up to the bar after a quick glance down the counter. Hopefully, ordering a bourbon doesn't sound out of place.
Rand, Friendly Neighborhood Bartender
+2 when Mixing Drinks and Knowing Things
-2 when In Front of the Counter
Stress      
In Peril 
Vince rolls to Create an Advantage using Intellect against Difficulty +0. Result, +2 and adds Knows the Passcode to Rand with one free Invoke.
When the bartender hands me my drink, I make eye contact and mention Les wants to go shopping.
The bartender stops turning away to help another client and focuses his attention on Vince. “Sorry, have we met?”
Vince rolls to Create an Advantage using Intellect against Difficulty +1. Result, +1 and adds the Demonstrated Good Will Boost to Rand.
“No,” I reply with a shrug. “We might know someone in common. Homeless. Jumped by a thug.”
“Is he alright?” the bartender asks, narrowing his eyes with slight suspicion.
Vince rolls to Overcome using Intellect against Difficulty -1 and Invokes “Knows the Passcode” and “Demonstrated Good Will.” Result, +7 and inflicts 6 Stress and adds the Friendly Terms Boost to Rand.
“He walked away, if that's what you're asking.”
The bartender nods, satisfied. “I'm Rand,” extending a hand.
I shake hands and introduce myself, “Adam.” No use using my first name. Besides, the biblical influence seems fitting.
“Adam. If Les wants to shop, then he goes shopping. The door by the restrooms. Exit, go left, second door.”
I offer a friendly smile I don't quite feel but head toward that direction. “Thanks.”
Leaving the music and clientele behind, Vince steps out into the alley behind the Progress Bar. He turns left, heading to an unmarked second door. The door opens to a stairwell that leads beneath the street.
When he steps through the threshold, cyan code slides around him, a curtain of glowing characters. The stairs fade, becoming transparent, and a bustling market takes its place. Stalls with all kinds of merchandise form a structured grid.
“Where am I?”
A voice from above emanates to the people below.
“Welcome to The Market. If we don't have it, someone will find it.”
The scene stops as the sky lights with blue white clouds. A trio of figures fall from the energetic portals, landing near Vince. An amplified voice proclaims, “This is an illegal operation. The System demands all transactions halt immediately.”
Great. First, random thugs; now, I'm part of some raid.
Rookie System Agents
Aspect: We Do As We're Told
+2 when Intimidating or Shooting
-2 for Individuality and Blending In
Stress      
Vince rolls to Create an Advantage using Intellect against Difficulty +0. Result, +2 and adds Distracted to the Agents with one free Invoke.
I pull Napana from nowhere and press against a nearby stall. They haven't seen me yet, but I think I'm not what they're after.
The three step down one of the channels formed between the stalls, pushing people ahead of them. Someone in the crowd shoots toward the three System Agents, forcing them to take cover at an intersection.
Vince rolls to Create an Advantage using Intellect against Difficulty -1. Result, +2 and adds Under Fire to the Agents with two free Invokes.
I smile, this one genuine. If they're taking fire and pushing forward, they haven't noticed me. I glance at the Thunderbird and calculate how I'm going to attack three armed Agents. At least they're distracted.
The Agents return fire, bullets piercing indiscriminately through a few customers. The gun fire within the crowd stops as people scream and break into a panicked run.
Now or never.
Vince rolls to Attack using Force against Difficulty -1 and Invokes “Distracted” and “Under Fire.” Result, +9 and inflicts 10 Stress on the Agents.
I step from cover and target an Agent in front of me. A pair of 10mm bullets erupt from Napana, hitting him between the shoulder blades and back of the head. The second Agent turns and Napana hits him twice in the chest. The last Agent sees me, eyes growing wide in fear as another pair of 10mm rounds fly from the Thunderbird and rips a hole in his chest and face.
It feels like Napana exhales a held breath. Calm. The task done.
Anonymity. Would’ve been the safest course of action.
System.close(“Colossal Trailer Music”, “Withering Bones”)