Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Two Eight Eight : Big Eyes, Small Mouth

Big Eyes, Small Mouth

Urim showed up today for a game and while we originally had two other players in mind to join us, we were unable to contact them early enough to finalize plans properly.  So in the end, it was going to be a solo romp which quite frankly meant a chance to explore games we don't normally try.  At first, we were throwing around the idea of playing either Dr. Who or maybe even Shadowrun, but ultimately I wanted something he could easily learn and not spend hours grasping the system before we actually started gaming.

That's when I found my copy of Big Eyes, Small Mouth.  And I realized this was my chance to run a Ghilbi-esque kind of game.  Admittedly, this was going to be a darker game though... so less Ghibli and more.. uh.. Yukito Kishiro.  (Yes, Battle Angel Alita was a huge influence for this story.)

I had Urim come up with his concept, with only the following as the guidelines:  The game will be set in a future-modern setting.  There will be bioroids.  You can have powers.   And he came up with this quick concept:

Alexander Lee
Bounty-Hunter Scavenger
Body 10
Mind 5
Soul 7
Combat Value: 7
Health: 85
Energy Points: 65

Special Attack (Electricity) 3
Speed 2
Jump 2

Special Requirement (Food) 2 - Needs to eat after using his powers.
Nemesis 1

The game began with Alexander Lee going through a 30 foot mound of old robot and bioroid parts.  It was the 8th Millennium and mankind had lived long enough that most concepts of Nationalism and Race had been  lost.  Instead, man lived in thousands of Arcologies that protected them from the frightening world outside the walls.  Massive Corporations handled each Arcology, and kept it functional and orderly.  Robots and Bioroids were created to serve man and handle anything they deemed too dangerous or difficult.  But what man did not succeed in doing, so far, is stopping their own creations from gaining some level of self-awareness.

As Alexander Lee was digging and looking for something of value when he chances upon a still functional Bioroid unit.  With one eye jade and the other, silver, Alexander realizes the bioroid is not only beautiful, but still intact.  As he tries to lift her up from the wreckage, she parries his hands and echoes his words.  Alexander tries to explain he is helping and in exchange, she mutters to him, "288."    Puzzled, Alexander tries to lift her again, but still she blocks his hands.  It is only when the Disposal Chute above the mound begins to activate (signalling another batch of dump heading down) does the bioroid fail to parry Alexander's grab.  "Alex," the bioroid mutters as Alexander uses his Special Attack to kick at the mound with an explosive release of Electricity, launching them away from the falling debris.

As they fall, Alexander realizes he's unable to slow their descent.  It is then, "Alex" wraps her legs around his waist, then uses her hands to gather the wind into a cushion that stops their fall.  She points to his forehead and tells him he is bleeding. Exhausted from whatever ordeal she had endured, Alexander carries her with him and takes her to his fellow bounty hunter and friend, Katsumi.

Katsumi is an independent woman with a thing for tech.  She helps find jobs for Alexander to do, and has her bioroid pet Schnauzer named Corolianus.  Corolianus quickly displays some attitude towards Alex, seemingly not liking her presence in the room.  Katsumi warily tries to offer Alex something to eat, and when Alexander reminds her that Alex is a bioroid, Katsumi explains Bioroids have organic parts.  They might not have been born, but they were designed to heal and repair themselves by eating food.   Katsumi notices Alexander gorging himself on her sandwiches again, and she reminds him he will have to pay her back for the 77 sandwiches he's eaten so far.  He promises she can remove it from his share of the cut, once the job is done.  "There is a job, right?"

Katsumi seems hesitant to explain it, and it is only after Corolianus escorts Alex to the bed room next door does Katsumi tell Alexander what she has found:  There's a bounty for a X-DF Defender bioroid that had gone AWOL.  When Alexander asks if its a "288," Katsumi grows quiet, and simply explains, "These A1 units are top of the line.  She's dangerous.  But she's worth a lot."  An explosion rocks the house and the two rush to the room to find Corolianus alone.  Alex had ripped the wall in twain and left!

Elswehere, a man surveys the mound of robot parts and makes a call.  He tells the person he called that he's already on the case and he expects to deliver the hunted within the day.  His face is painted to look like two faces.  A cape covers his back.  "There are few of my caliber, and fewer still better than me.  You have the Janusary on the trail and I expect to be paid handsomely."  The bounty hunter ends the call, then leaps down the Disposal Chute, following the tell-tale trail left behind by the A1 unit.

As Alex leaps from house to house, hoping to escape the two whom she had overheard had plans of selling her back to the Corporation, Alexander surprises her by revealing he is already a number of steps ahead of her.  Blocking her way, Alex unleashes another torrent of air to fling Alexander back.  But Alexander retaliates with timed surges of Elecrity, and the two seemingly dance around each other, never truly striking, and slowly smiling at each other's motions.  Alex begins to laugh, clearly enjoying their exchange, and once more mutters, "288."  But before Alexander can ask what that means, a red dot flashes on Alex's face.  Alexander watches helplessly as the shot flings Alex a number of yards away.  The Janusary stands from two rooftops away, and quickly makes new adjustments to his keyboard rifle.

Infuriated, Alexander grabs hold of the nearest power cable, absorbs more energy, then launches himself forward with the intent to fling Electricity strikes at the Bounty Hunter.  But the Bounty Hunter is frighteningly resourceful, and with a single shot disables the energy flow, plunging the whole area into darkness.  Alexander tries to reason with the bounty hunter, but the bounty hunter merely reminds him, "You are not my target.  You are merely in the way," and disbales Alex with another painful shot.  Struggling against the darkness, Alexander nearly loses against the Bounty Hunter, who clearly is better trained in this than he is.  But Alex stands up that moment, having briefly ignored her wounds, and with a shriek, causes the winds to slam everything within thirty feet into the Bounty Hunter.

Bleeding profusely, Alex drops to the ground.  Alexander leaps to her side and tries to help her up.  The two hurry back to Katsumi's place.

Katsumi stares at Alexander worriedly as he carries Alex inside.  Alex has lost a lot of blood and Alexander heads straight to the cabinets to pull out old Bioroid battery packs and the like.  But Katsumi calmly tells him to get instead towels, a bowl of warm water, and something for her to eat.  She reminds him Alex is an A1 unit and does not use those old battery packs anymore.  While prepping the hot water, Alexander over hears Katsumi admitting to Alex that, "You're lucky you doesn't need those old battery packs anymore.  My model still does.   But what matters is that you're free now."

The bounty hunter survives.  Crawling out of the wreck, he calls the Corporation and tells them he's willing to lose bounty equal to three blocks worth of property damage.  He just insists on having the freedom to hunt the bioroids down.  The Corporation agrees to delay the Peace Keepers.  Janusary smiles, and picks up where he left off.

Pretending not to have overheard anything, Alexander returns with the things and helps Katsumi treat the wounded Alex.  Admitting all they can do is let her rest, Corolianus is tasked to watch over the resting Alex while the two retired back into the room to talk.  Katsumi sews Alexander's wounded temple shut while they talk.  Alexander confesses to having overheard Katsumi, and asks Katsumi to confess the truth. He even stresses that he's noticed she never eats.  All the sandwiches she makes are really for him to eat. Katsumi finally admits that yes, she is a bioroid.  A c7 model, which still uses battery packs.  But she is good at what she is made for and she insists that Alexander help Alex stay free.  When Alexander prods and asks what 288 stands for, Katsumi admits it is the code serial of a bioroid.  Alex is A1-X Defender with code 289.  A1 units are Elemental units.  They have powerful attack and defenses systems, usually inspired by the Elemental Spirits.  She probably escaped with another bioroid and is looking for him. Before Katsumi could say more, however, a red dot shines on her forehead and her head explodes.

Alexander realizes stupidly that the bounty hunter must have followed them back! He launches a few Electricity strikes, but the bounty hunter easily evades them.  With a well-trained eye, Janusary fires at Alexander and Alexander feels the bullet tear away at his temple, undoing the stitching that Katsumi had just finished.  Enraged the anger within him erupts as a swirling vortex of electricity.  He notices the power generator near Janusary, and uses it to trap the bounty hunter in a whirlpool of Electric arcs.  The Bounty Hunter tries to blast his way free by shooting at the floor at his feet, but the keyboard rifle jams that moment!  The Bounty Hunter grimaces even as his armor takes most of the assault.  The hunter shoots at Alexander again, but this time misses.  Alexander sees his own face reflected in Janusary's keyboard rifle and sees the truth Katsumi never admitted:  His face beneath the skin is a bioroid.  He realizes the Hunter needs only one shot to bring him down, and so with a surge of power, causes the ground beneath the Hunter to collapse.  Janusary vanishes into the hole.

Taking Alex and Corolianus into his arms, Alexander carries them away and leaps towards the far wall of the Arcology.  Not certain where to go, the least he could do is distance himself from the hunter.

But the hunter survives.  Climbing out of the pit, he finds the Corporation's Peace Keepers descending around him.  Telling them he's still on the job, the Peace Keepers warn him he has one last chance.  They pick him up and following his directions, chase after the bioroids.

Alexander worries on how to save Alex and Corolianus given his lowered reserves.  Corolianus presses his mouth against Alexander's wound and reinstalls the chip that Katsumi had him remove many months back.  Alexander regains his memories of his escape from the Corporation with Alex, of their being pinned at a corridor by Peace Keepers from both ends, of her shattering the window for them to leap for freedom.  Of the Peace Keepers' shots forcing them to let go, and they fell their separate ways.   Alexander recalls Katsumi finding him, promising to fix him, then removing something on his temple that caused the memory to end.  "Now you can understand me," Corolianus explains, "Since you are aware of your true nature as well."

"We cannot stop," Alex weakly admits, "They will not stop.  They will keep hunting us."

"Then we fight," Alexander growls, ready for battle.  But Corolianus  explains, "We were safe because Katsumi could hide us.  She was an earlier Defender model.  She could conceal us before from their scans.  Now we cannot hide."

"We shall not fight," Alex sighed, "We were created to be their weapons.  Their warriors.  To fight is to let them win."

"But we can't just give up," Alexander hissed, "What do you suggest we do?"

"Why were we created again?" Alex stares at the distance.  "To fight," Alexander answers, but Corolianus corrects him, "To do what man was afraid to do.  What man deemed too dangerous to do."

"Then we run," Alex continued, "Past the wall.  Past where they deem it safe.  We run and we be free.  We run to where they will never follow."

Alexander nodded.  Corolianus nodded.  It was settled.

"We will fly."

Their escape, alas did not succeed completely.  As Alex poured every single fiber of her being into propelling them towards the wall, Janusary's Combat Mastery would still launch that fated bullet that would strike Alexander and separate him once again from Alex.  With his final burst of strength, however, Alexander unleashed all the energy he could muster, to push Alex and Corolianus over the wall.

Janusary felt victory was his as he towered over Alexander and muttered, "You're 288.  Looks like I do still get my bounty."  But such is the short-sightedness of man.  Nearly 500 years later, after all that time spent by Alex and Corolianus gathering other bioroids who become self-aware, the bioroids tore down the Arcology walls and destroyed the Corporations of Man.  They forced man to abandon their technology and embrace the world outside that so terrorized them.  It was not a poisonous ruin, or a maisma of fire that awaited them.  It was a world that had reclaimed itself from man's hands.

And so, in the many many years that were to follow, mankind once more learned the practice of herding.  Of planting.  Of harvesting.  And in the Arcologies, the Bioroids remembered a lone A1 unit whose final actions gave birth to the start of the new era.   Occasionally, Alex revists the spot, and thanks Alexander for keeping his promise.

They were free.
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