Pax Artificium - Second Half - Thursday 03

Session start: Saturday, December 31, 2033 – 2200 PST – outside Vancouver, BC

Frank discovers his plane will not take off. Frank is convinced Daniel is responsible. Despite his anger, however, Frank decides to chill in his plane for a while. But as he waits, he begins to feel uncomfortable, with a tightness in his chest. It feels as though something is pulling him toward the city.

In the car, the strange Indian professors are escorting Betty, Erica, Dirk and Daniel to meet with their employer, who may know what has become of Erica's flute. As the car gets further from the plane, though, Betty begins to feel uncomfortable, with a tightness in her chest, just like Frank is feeling. Betty feels as though an invisible rubber band is being stretched between her and the plane. After a while, she can't stand it anymore and asks the car to pull over so that she can throw up. She tells the car to continue on without her and makes her way on foot back to the plane.

As she gets closer, both Betty and Frank feel less tense, until they feel perfectly fine when Betty is standing outside the door to the plane. She knocks, and Frank lets her in. They proceed to irritate the hell out of each other for the next several hours.

Eventually, late into the night, Frank leaves, hopping on his motorcycle and heading down the road toward the city. Again, he feels the rubber band begin to stretch, but he is intent on breaking its hold over him. He cranks the throttle, and eventually his vision begins to go black, his body goes numb and he passes out. Miraculously, he is not killed instantly. But he is lying in the ditch, possibly bleeding to death, and his motorcycle is a twisted wreck.

Meanwhile, Daniel chats it up with the professors, discussing their respective research. The professors tell Daniel that they have adapted his algorithm from plain text to function with aural media.

They proceed to a single-story ramshackle building that is not in the best of neighborhoods. Inside, the building is just as dilapidated. They are led down a hallway into a back room. Surprisingly, this room is well-furnished, even luxurious. A woman sitting behind a fine oak writing desk stands up and introduces herself as Anastassia Zelakov.

She briefly discusses the state of affairs, stating that she has taken great pains to arrange for the acquisition of an ancient flute, which may or may not be the one Erica lost. Anastassia says she will stop by the professors' lodgings later that night and bring the flute so that Erica can examine it at that time.

The professors then escort the party back to their room, a cheap motel a few miles away. They have a bunch of computer equipment inside, and once again begin talking about the prophecy they recently uncovered. They play it aloud for Daniel:

*crackling noises* *incomprehensible muttering* (deep male voice) What Babylon's Horn summons... *crackle* only Nebuchadnezzar's Crown can control... *muttering* (another voice, female, soft-spoken) If the Crown falls into shadow, *crackling* world set aflame. *crackle crackle* (androgynous voice) Foremost among wise men, mentor to those who first listen, yet a stranger *blip* accompanies the one who may possess the Crown *boop beep* place where the land once met the skies *kkk* seven roads meet.

Later that night, Anastassia arrives, and she has brought the flute. She allows Erica to take a look at it. Though Erica was previously unaware of its true nature as a shapeshifting instrument, she can sense that it is her familiar flute all the same. Anastassia makes an offer to Erica: if Erica agrees to recover the circlet from the Canadian base and bring it to her, Anastassia will return to flute immediately. Erica quickly agrees.

Anastassia then asks to speak with Daniel in private. She reveals to him that she is actually his old friend Xela, explaining that although it can be annoying to maintain an alternate persona, people just don't take someone who looks like a child seriously.

After that, Anastassia leaves. A few minutes later, there is another knock on the door. This time, it is a handsome man who Daniel recognizes as Josef, although he is not wearing his trademark sunglasses, and he is accompanied by two muscle-bound men in wife-beater tank tops and military cargo pants.

Josef moves to step inside, and too late, Daniel recognizes the mottled skin complexion of the muscley men as those infected with the Great Healer's plague. The man who looks like Josef clenches his clawed hand as he utters a word of terrible power.

Everyone within the motel room is affected, some more than others. One of the Indian professors falls down dead on the spot, while Daniel and the other fall to the ground, unable to move. Dirk fires his arm cannon at the man, but the rounds bend around him, deflected by an invisible force. Dirk panics, too scared to fire again. Erica runs out the door and hides behind a car. Even though Daniel can't move, he wields mystic energies, placing a shield around the surviving professor. Josef calls forth a dark aura that surrounds him and his thugs, then gestures toward the shielded professor. The aura is discharged, but cancels out Daniel's shield as well. The thugs then beat the professor to death.

Apparently satisfied that his task is complete, Josef leaves the motel room. He sees Erica hiding behind the car, and remarks that she has made a wise decision. She hears him speak quietly as though to someone else, and catches a glimpse of him with a fourth individual, probably the most compellingly gorgeous man she has ever seen, dressed in a well-tailored suit and carrying an elegant walking stick. He swishes the staff through the air gracefully, somehow cutting a hole in reality itself. She observes as the four men step through the gateway, which then seals behind them.

After the party recovers from their shock, they agree it is time to be leaving. Taking the professors' car, they quickly drive back to the plane at the abandoned airstrip outside the city. On the way there, they see another car pulled over at the side of the road, along with an ambulance with lights flashing.

Stopping to investigate, they find a medic lifting Frank's unconscious, bleeding body onto a stretcher. Erica tells the medic that they know this man, and Daniel tells the medic to stand aside while he administers treatment, and proceeds to channel mystical healing energies into Frank's body. As his wounds knit, the medic stares in disbelief, then stammers something about how they clearly have the situation under control, he's not needed there anymore, and he'll be leaving now.

As Frank is brought closer to the plane, he regains consciousness, asking what happened. He insists they return to pick up his motorcycle, wreck or no. When the return to the crash scene, Frank passes out again. Since the motorcycle is in multiple pieces, they manage to fit it in the trunk.

Back at the plane, Betty doesn't believe it when Frank insists that their wellbeing is now somehow dependent on their proximity to one another. He demands that they take the car away from the plane to demonstrate. Erica goes along and watches the odometer, determining they lose consciousness when approximately 2.3 miles from each other. Betty is horrified but finally acknowledges the phenomenon.

For some unknown reason, Frank's plane is now working again. They take off and begin heading back to the Canadian base.

Session end: Sunday, January 1, 2034 – 0300 PST – outside Vancouver, BC

XP: 4000