Monday, July 1, 2013

An Impossible Act : Fate Accelerated

06/22/2013
An Impossible Act

Fate Accelerated

Another game night at Indigo Entertainment and one of my office mates asked me if it would be okay if his girlfriend tried a game.  Having "broken in" new players before, I told him I wouldn't have any problem with that.  I quickly asked him questions that would help me tailor the game to her interest and soon enough came up with the following key words to use:  Nicholas Sparks, Science Fiction and Human Interaction.

The game would have five players in total, with none of them (including me) having tried Fate Accelerated Edition before.  So, I quickly explained the game system, on using the six-sided dice as Fate Dice, on how Aspects worked, on how the Approaches and Stunts worked and lastly, how Stress and Consequences were important in the game.

The cast of characters were composed of the following:
Major Paul Meztidrug was played by Bon.
He is a Retired Russian Major Turned American Politican.  He is Extremely Well Connected (In fact to the point of being far too connected), He is a Photoreader (able to capture a page worth of information at a glance)  and was now a Governor.

T.G.  (Tim Grasa) was played by Karlo.
He is a Homeless Bum, who had been Secretly Rich.  Most people think he's dead.  He loves to tinker with phones.  He once worked at a computer firm, but when a major Security Flaw was exposed Tim took the fall and faked his death in hopes that the company would not totally lose its credibility.

Robin Reed (celebrity name being "Twinkles") was played by Biyangka.
She was once an extremely popular young teenage star from Canada, who upon growing up had hoped to restart her life as a reporter in New York City.  She is extremely embarrassed by her stardom past, and now tries to avoid any references to it.  She is very perceptive and does however, love to drink.

Johnathan Grimm was played by Jigs.
An Ex-Navy Seal, was quite Deadly with Any Weapon.  He lives a worrisome life knowing someone out there wants him dead.  He lives alone save for his dog because he Loves Dogs.

Berm Hartic was played by Koko.
An Alaskan Crab Fisherman, Berm worked in the family business for many years.  His Single-Minded Determination allowed him to deal with most concerns in life (even if most of the frustrations he had to face were born from how his family handled the business).  He was gifted as well with a notably Powerful Stamina.  (Berm's player, Koko, had to leave much earlier than the rest, which didn't allow me to wrap his story up the way I did the others)

The game opens with New York City in a city-wide black out.  The power outage puzzled thousands of people as those who worked in the power companies claimed to be unable to find any reason for its occurrence.

Robin is pondering on how to work on her news article, given the power outage.  She had heard of talk implicating the Governor Meztidrug to some unsavory elements in the city and had been toying in her head ways to approach the article.  But one thing for certain was without more evidence, her article would sound like slander at best.  She pondered on possible contacts, anyone she personally had a tie to who could share any information on Russian military officials and suddenly realized she did know one - only it was the last person she wanted to contact.  Her old talent agent, Megan, might have known the former Major Meztidrug given she too was once in the Russian Military.

Jonathan worried over his dog.  His Siberian Husky was normally a brave companion, but lately, the dog has been staying close to Jonathan every single moment.  Ever since the power went out, the dog has bee shadowing his every step.  Today, things seemed worse when Jonathan realized his dog was trailing pee everywhere in fear.  Jonathan wondered if being cooped up in the dark condo was messing the dog up and decided to take his friend out for a walk.

Berm was delayed at the harbor.  While most of the crew were already onboard the Ardea, Berm was still at the port.  A policeman was talking to him, asking him if he were willing to accompany the cop back to the station.   They needed him to identify a body, which Berm learns might be his mother.  The woman was found dead, and of her personal belongings was a diary she kept in her bag.  The diary's first page mentioned Berm by name, and listed where he worked.  The entry said, "May you understand why I value you so much..."  Berm waved the boat to go, and wondered why his father Rick was not whom the mother had listed down for emergencies.

Governor Paul was furious.  The loss of electricity for the last few days was no longer a laughing matter.   The people he contacted could not explain why there was no power, and strangely all the machines seemed to show no actual problems.  They just were NOT registering the usage or generation of electricity.  Paul wondered if it was something else then.  An EMP perhaps?  If anything, the power outage was a huge problem now given it was winter and if power was not restored by the third night, things were bound to get... messy.

T.G. stood by the fire of the burning drum, alongside three other bums.  His friend, Paul, held his gloved hands towards the flames and mumbled to ask T.G. whether it was true that he was a wealthy guy.  T.G. brushed off such claims quickly, but was curious to where Paul heard of such a thing.  "There's a lady in the boxes over there," he mumbled, "She claims to know you.  Said your name was Tim."  Curious, T.G. visited the boxes and saw indeed another homeless person inside.  The woman seemed to be staring blankly at the wall.  When he tried to call for her attention, she seemed blind as she felt around the empty air and asked who was there.  T.G. recognizes her to be Rachel, his ex-girlfriend of four years, whom was also part of the company he had abandoned after faking his death.

Rachel called Megan.  Megan was thankfully happy to hear from her, having fond memories of their old show, Twinkles Star.  Rachel confirms that there is electricity at her area (Canada) and tries to ask for information.  Megan, however, counters with a suggestion:  To have exclusive rights to a show documenting what happened to Rachel since the end of Twinkles Star in exchange for the information.  Rachel tries to maneuver Megan, instead offering to introduce her to a handsome man she spotted on facebook who called himself Superman. The man, as it turned out, was Jonathan Grim.  Megan agrees and tells Rachel she will make her way there tonight!   Then, the power comes back.  Rachel quickly researches more on the Major and starts to see a possible pattern:  Given his acquisition and connections to a certain software group, he might have enough to launch a theoretical terrorist strike at New York City.  But she had no way to be certain.  Her cellphone rang, but stated it was an unlisted number.  When she answered it, no one replied.  Then her land line rang.  Still no reply.  She started to feel perturbed about the calls.

As Jonathan and his dog are walking past a convenience store, Jonathan realizes a tad too late that the store is being held up.  Sneaking in with absolute ease, he stealthily maneuvers behind the gun with a gun, and brings him down very easily thanks to his military training.  Before the shop owner can thank him, Jonathan hurries to leave but then bumps into a second guy stepping into the shop with a gun in his hand.  The first guy, as it turns out, had a companion who probably stepped away to pee or something, and had just gotten back to catch Jonathan at the door.  Before Jonathan can do anything, his dog leaps to help, but meets instead the man's foot as he kicks him away.  Jonathan tackles the guy, and pins him to the ground, but realizes his dog had landed very badly from the kick and was dead.  Anguished, Jonathan screamed as he wished he had handled things differently.

And suddenly he was back at the store, being thanked by the store owner.  He turned to see the second armed guy now stepping into the store, as if the events earlier did not happen.  Ducking from the second man's sight, Jonathan wondered on how this had happened, and dispatched the guy before he could harm his dog.   Interestingly, the moment Jonathan realized time seemed to have jumped backwards, the lights had come back on.

Berm held back the tears as much as he could.  His mother was dead.  He held her diary in his hands and listened as the cop explained she was found dead in an alleyway between two condo buildings.  There were no witnesses, and given the blackouts, there wasn't much to find either.  Berm asks the cop to bring him to the alley way and there, he fails to really find anything substantial.  He sees the people gathering outside with tables and food, hoping to eat beneath the starlight and beside a bonfire given the power outage.  A black woman named Bethesda offers her condolences, and admits the people in the area tended to be an insensitive bunch.  "People here tend to pay attention to themselves."  Berm sat down, defeated.  He opened the book and quietly read by the fire the story of a woman who claimed to have once "made a choice" and time changed to allow it.  "And that is why you are important, Berm.  You are a product of an impossible act."

The Governor finds a news clipping that bothers him.  In the report, there is mention of the death of an Ardea  Hartic, a name which means something to him.  He drops his schedule to pay the wake a visit, but seems surprised to find the place empty save for the father, Rick, who welcomes him inside.  He isn't quite sure where his son is, but asks him to stay for a while.  They talk about how the Governor was the guy who helped them move to America and how he will always be thankful of his help.  The Governor, however, hides a huge secret.  The child Ardea carried in her belly all those years back was his, and he was not certain how to ask Rick how the son was doing.  Paul invites Rick to join him for a drink, in her memory.  He agrees.

T.G. talks to Rachel about the past, apologizing for having run away and faking his death.  The Security Flaw, as it turned out, was a mistake which Rachel had done.  And T.G. had hoped to take the fall for it and allow her to still find success.  Rachel's "blindness" it turns out, was merely because she has not used her contact lenses or glasses in years.  T.G. finds himself thinking of that day in the convetion, and when his memories lead back to that fated moment, he finds himself wishing he chose to do something else.  He fixes the problem directly infront of everyone during the convention, and impresses them enough to land major contracts instantly.  But to his surprise, he turns around and discovers Rachel is gone.  Perhaps having left before the error could be explained.

Time changes.  At least mostly for T.G.'s experience.  He relives a life of success, and now visits the homeless tent city to find Rachel there.   He invites her to talk.  As the two talk in the bar, T.G. asks Rachel why she vanished.  Rachel looks at him and decides to explain why she couldn't be a part of things...

Jonathan sees the sign at the bar stating dogs are not allowed.  He decides to walk his dog to the park where seemingly a large number of people with dogs were converging.  He shares some small talk with a guy who has a tiny dog, who mumbles about missing his Retriever.  The lights suddenly return, and Johanthan realizes the guy is gone.  He looks around and sees another person with a dog who asks, "The guy... he vanished.  There was a guy right?  With a tiny dog?"  The guy who vanished is then spotted stepping into the park, with a Retriever following him.  He looks at them and admits, "I thought you'd all be here.  We.. met right?   Years ago.  I mean... just moments ago?"  They all look at each other with puzzled looks.  It seemed once a "wish" was granted, lights return to an area.

Robin decides to hit the bar, hoping to meet Megan there.  She is talking to the bartender and he tries to share small talk about this book he's read about how wishing used to work because there wasn't much technology in the past.  The energy for a wish would easily be gathered and used to change the world.  But now, with technology everywhere, wishes cannot happen.  He then recognizes her as the kid from the Twinkle Show.  She tries to change the topic, but the guy asks the whole crowd if they recall the show.  To her surprise, most do.   The Major and his friend arrive at the bar, eager to get drunk.  Robin realizes its an opportunity to interview him discreetly.  She does not realize that at the far end of the room, T.G. and Rachel talking about how Rachel realized there were government people and military people who might use the technology to darker purposes.  Robin suspected the Major was planning some terrorist strike at the United States, but needed to confirm her information further.  Drinking, she mused, would be the way to get the information she needed.

Jonathan sees a cab arrive, and a woman in a faux fur was having a problem paying for the fare.  The cab driver was not willing to accept her Canadian Dollars.  Jonathan carefully folded a fifty dollar bill into a ninja star and flicked it into her cab to help her.  But then he looked up and noticed the impossible.  There was something in the skyline that wasn't supposed to be there.

Rachel and T.G. felt wrong about this, and T.G. looked out the window, realizing he saw something that seemed wrong.  And impossible.  Outside, most of the city of New York had regained power.  But two dark buildings could still be seen.  Buildings that shouldn't even still be there.  The twin towers.  Rachel admitted what T.G. was thinking about, that wishes were granted to those in the dark.  But Rachel raised a worrisome question, "What if one of the 'enemies' of America happened to make a wish?"  They rushed out of the bar to make their way to the buildings.  They did not realize Jonathan was already off to do the same.

Robin estimates her drinking stamina well, and very soon, Paul's drinking buddy Rick is drunk and asleep.  Paul senses she's not just some girl at the bar, but doesn't know enough to realize she's a reporter.  He decides to risk it and tries to steal her bag without her noticing.  Robin's highly perceptive, however, and given her carefulness, catches Paul's attempt.  In a desperate act to cover up his actions, Paul excuses himself and heads to the rest room.  He fumbles however and fails to realize he left his cellphone on the bar.  As it so happens, it rings that moment, and Robin picks it up to hear some heavily accented voice informing him that they've figured out the reason for the dark lights.   They tell Robin (thinking it was Paul) that they are at the World Trade Center, and are about to use the "wish" to make it that the Americans lost the war.

Rachel and T.G. are there.  And realizing the enemy is about to make the wish, they both try to wish for something else.  T.G. wishes he made a different choice again, but the wish falters given he's already altered his past!  Rachel wishes for something else, and in effect vanishes as the twin towers vanishes as well with her.

Jonathan arrives to see the empty space where the two towers once stood.  The majestic light of the 9/11 Memorial breaks the darkness and shines again.  Whatever weirdness was going on here, it seems, is finally over.

*

Epilogue:

Paul steps out of the bathroom to find the bar empty save for his drunken friend Rick, and the bartender. Robin has left.  He picks up his phone and hears from the other line, "All is well sir.  We have double checked the security and the technology will be used to keep the country safe."  Paul smiles.  He does not realize how his actions now have radically changed from earlier that evening.

Robin arrives home and goes through her notes.  She realizes all the information she has gathered points to the Major having truly made a 180 degree turn since the end of the war.  The former Major had taken steps to root out spies, and to truly solidify a stronger and safer America during his stint in governance.  She ends up finishing the article, a tribute to a man who once was an enemy but now has learned to love the country she has adopted as well as her own home.

Which is all normal and proper, given that was what Rachel had wished for.  T.G. realized in the weeks that passed since the Black Out incident that all who once had something against the country had truly made an intense change in their mindset after the event.  Almost as if their act of attempting to cause terror was the very catalyst that would make them realize their error and work instead to stop such actions from happening in the future.

Jonathan wondered if anyone would ever speak of the Black Out with the same understand he had.  But given no such articles or news reports came, he found himself wondering if it were for the best that it remained unnoticed.  He could only imagine what horrors could have unfolded if someone had used the final wish as a weapon against the country itself.

And finally, Megan stared at the disposable cellphone she purchased to make a call to Robin once she arrived in New York. She had been calling Robin's cellphone and landline, but Robin never seems to hear her.  She is starting to think she was sold a defective disposable.

Life goes on.
And the lights shine brighter than before.
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