Sunday, December 23, 2012

Rivers of Time : Serenity

Rivers of Time
Margaret Weis Production's Serenity

It was a night for another one-shot game, and I was supposed to have three players, but sadly one had to cancel due to work concerns.  So with two players, I had to figure out how to make the planned Serenity game work best, especially given one of the players has never seen the show or movie.  Thankfully, my players are geeks in their own way, and I knew I could still come up with something amusing enough and fun for two players.  Given how Jovan, the player who loved portraying Kaylee  in the last two games (save for the most recent one) I decided to give her another dive into the role.  But having thrown a Dr. Who + Serenity mash-up in the previous game, I realized this was also a chance to tie in a throw away line I had in that game.   ("That's because she "remembers" in her notes that Kaylee someday rescues her from the Dark Ages.")

So with the story in mind, I gave the other player (Dennis) some time to watch the pilot episode of the show. The geek in me had him watch the real first episode than the one the network used (The Train Job), and when he grasped the basic idea of the show, he was ready for his character.  He decided to go for a combination of Jayne and Simon; his character was a military doctor back during the war, siding with the browncoats.  After the Alliance won, he started taking odd jobs left and right, until finally landing his current job - the doctor working for the Space Cruise Liner Rosalinda.

The story begins with Kaylee chatting with Inara in her room in the Liner.  Inara, Kaylee, Simon and River decided to enjoy a trip on the Liner since Mal and the others needed to handle a mission on their own.  The trip was to be on a shuttle that would move from port, around the planet and its moon, and back.  Inara quizzed Kaylee on whether or not Simon knows, and Kaylee blushes at first as she pretends not to know what it is about.  Inara admits men tend to be dense, and offers to help her pretty up.  She makes a noted display of giving Kaylee "Roseoil, it is heat activated so while you wear it, the hotter your body gets, the stronger the scent.  I hope you both don't wait til it is a life-or-death situation before you tell each other how you feel."

Outside, Archibald Daitun watched as a young man chased after his sister.  The young woman was named River and she seemed to be amused with the musician playing at the band.  "The dogs hate the sound!  Their ears are bleeding!"  Before Archibald can act, his manager steps into view and starts loud-mouthing about how Archibald's position was not "earned" and was instead "just given out of pity" given his association with the Browncoats.  When she leaps atop a table to avoid the two from taking the musical instrument back, Archibald decides to step in and try to help.  He approaches River and she starts addressing him as her "Big nice doggie."  To Simon's relief, Archibald goes along with River's words, and as she scratches behind his ear, he hands back to Simon the musical instrument so it can be returned to the musician.  River asks "Baldy" to run with her, and the two run off.  As they run around the deck of the ship, the two eventually reach the far side of the vessel where River stops to look out into the Black and ask, "How many do you think there are?  Last time I tried to count them, I only reached seven thousand five hundred eighty two."  When Archibald muses on how many stars could be out there, River corrects him and explains, "I was counting the number of ships within sight."  As Archibald considers how to answer the strange woman, he notices something out of the ordinary in the area.  There are bullet holes on the wall.

Kaylee searches the deck for Simon, now that she has been prettied up by Inara.  Wearing a beautiful knee length skirt, lacey top with blush, lipstick and eye-shadow, Kaylee stalks the area in her geta in hopes of seeing if this time Simon would bite.  Instead, she gets distracted by the very generously stocked dessert table.  As she ponders on what to start attacking, a strange man in a suit walks up to the table and starts celebrating the variety of food that's available.  He points at a plate filled with white icing covered orbs on a string and asks what they are.  "Snow planets," Kaylee offers and gives some suggestions on how to enjoy it.  As the two exchange small talk over food, the funny man suddenly blurts out, "I really appreciate your help, but to be more direct I was actually looking for a certain miss Frye.  Rough and tumble sort of lass.  Oil on her cheeks.  Not as pretty as you.  She's supposed to help me find River, who is in quite a mess it seems."  Kaylee stares at the man, uncertain how to react having been complimented and insulted at the same time.  But she decides to slowly tiptoe away when she realizes the man is looking for HER.

Archibald slowly looks around and sees the shell casings on the floor.  He also notices a blood stain.  As he considers how to inform the staff about this, River runs off, eager to return to her friends.  Archibald carefully surveys the area and finally notices the last big detail that is out of place:  Three angel statues that he has never seen before.  All three are standing by the far wall with their hands covering their faces.   As he bends down to pick up one of the shell casings, he feels a light touch on his shoulder and looks up to see he's in a totally different... time.  Or place.

Kaylee feels the funny man grab her waist, however, and she is turned around face what looks like four goons.  One has a scar over his left eye, and the three others clearly are not used to wearing expensive clothes.  "I am sorry," the funny man holding her waist says, "But I need you to stay still and hide me from those four.  They are looking for her too.  For River.  My posse and I literally bumped into them earlier.  It was quite a shooting experience.  They work for someone named Nisska and I have no idea why I should know that name."  Kaylee seizes up, realizing these people might be searching for them given what happened before with Mal and Wash.  The four men walk straight up to her and start asking her if she's seen "The Doctor."  At first, Kaylee thought they meant Simon and stuttered as she answered she did not know where he was.  (And at that point, Jovan the player turns to me and asks, "Wait, are you crossovering this game?!?!")   Past the men, Kaylee sees Riven waving at her, but then staring at the four men with an odd expression on her face.  Kaylee swoons in panic, and settles by the table.  The funny man somehow had slipped off.  The four goons move on, searching elsewhere, and River comes up to Kaylee with panic about, "Moving now before they reach us.  One.  Two.  Three.  It is your turn.  Or they move 30 meters in a single second."  When Kaylee asks River what she's blabbering about, the funny man peeks from under the dessert table to explain, "I thinks he means those.  Now.  Listen very carefully.  Don't blink.  Don't close your eyes.  No matter what, if you value your life, don't blink."  Kaylee turns to see three stone statues of angels standing a number of meters away, but clearly facing them.

Archibald realizes the dark and dismal place he is in happens to be some kind of dungeon.  Chains hang from the walls, and the only light is from the flickering of a torch.  The moonlight shines far away through a barred window.  When he tries asking the nearest chained prisoner where they are, the man merely replies, "Gaul."  A light then shines, blinding him a bit until he angles his hand against it.  Looking at the source, a wavy-haired woman in chains smiles at him and says, "I don't know who you are, sweetie.  But perhaps you can help me get out of these.  I was, admittedly, expecting a sweet girl named Kaylee."  Archibald checks his waist and confirms he still has his pistol.   Walking up to the girl, he works on the chains to free her.  "Who are you?" he asks her, "And where are we?"   She replies calmly and explains she is River Song, and as to where... that would be Gaul, Earth, just before the 1300s.  Archibald's eyes widen to realize they are on Earth That Was.

The three banter on what to do (and Willpower+Alertness rolls are made every few seconds to represent the active attempt to keep from blinking) with the Doctor finally explaining he was looking for Kaylee Frye since his friend River Song left him a note saying she can help find her, but she needs to allow herself to be touched by an angel.    Kaylee grabs River's hand and asks her if she's willing to do this with her.  River asks if it means finding Simon, she will.  But as they approach the angel, River's hand slips from Kaylee's and Kaylee alone is transported by the angel's touch.

Archibald hears the sound of approaching guards.  He asks River how this is possible, and River simply tells him, "You're a time traveler now, Archie.  And once Kaylee is here, we can find our way home."  That moment, as if on cue, Kaylee pops into view in the dungeon.  As she panics over suddenly being somewhere else without River, River Song calms her down and tells her, "You are here because I know you are going to be the person who can help us get back home."  She displays a little blue notebook and taps it against her chest, "You'll find the Doctor's Sonic Screwdriver, and eventually, the T.A.R.D.I.S."  As Kaylee admits not understanding what they are talking about, River explains, "You mentioned something about the T.A.R.D.I.S. calling out to you.  Something you could always do with ships?"

The door opens as two guards walk in.   Archibald starts approaching them with one of the loosened chains and moans loudly in hopes of freaking the guards out.  His attempt to intimidate them works and he knocks one unconscious with a swing of the chain.  He calls himself some kind of vengeful spirit, and turns to realize both River and Kaylee had run for it.  Archibald knows he has to track them, and realizes he can by trusting his nose.

Kaylee and River run through the dungeon, with Kaylee still confused how River could know him when she does not recall her ever meeting her. "The Doctor.  He realizes the anguish you will feel of knowing you've been to Earth and can never ever go back to talk about it to anyone.  He wipes away your memory to make it easier."  Kaylee trips as they run and she looks back to see the Doctor's Sonic Screwdriver as the object that tripped her.  When she questions how it got there, River admits it was in her possession when she was flung to the past.  The T.A.R.D.I.S. followed her after she used the Sonic Screwdriver to release a beacon.  But she could not get it to reveal where it was.  As Kaylee's brain instinctively begins to grasp the utility of a sonic screwdriver, she presses the right buttons to flick it on and scan for "beacons."  She detects where the T.A.R.D.I.S. could be!  River Song can only smile.  The two head towards the beacon, only to stop when a wall bars their way.  "Now what?" Kaylee groans.  "Now is when you find the right frequency to make the rock melt away," is all that River replies.  Kaylee stares at the sonic screwdriver, clearly wishing she had one of her own to fix Serenity.

Archibald runs through the dungeon to finally see a gap in the wall itself.  On the ground, bricks lay scattered.  Confused how the two women were able to pry the bricks free from the wall so quickly, he reaches down to grab a brick and finds it wobbly and gelatinous in his hands.  Somehow, the women had turned solid bricks into soft, malleable things.  The scent of roses was still strong.  Archibald stepped through and made to follow.  But as he ran through the waist-high grass after the two, men on horseback and piecemeal armor emerged and called out for him to surrender.  Archibald fired one shot at the nearest man and shot down his horse.  The men panicked and halted, realizing Archibald was "a witch who could summon the very thunder."  Archibald realized he may have to use his intimidation to the best of his ability to survive this.  He raises both hands (while one hand still holds the gun) and starts talking about as if he were some kind of demon.  "Repent!  Bow down!  Or the heavens shall strike you down!"    The men hesitated, uncertain how to deal with this man-like demon who calls thunder that strikes others down.

Kaylee and River hear the sounds of gunshots and realize they best hurry.  River tells Kaylee to find the T.A.R.D.I.S. and get it ready, and hurries off even before Kaylee can fire out a question.  "You'll know what to do, sweetie.  I'm sure of it!"  Kaylee tracks the beacon to the closest signal and sees a standing blue box.  Kaylee sees the door left open and carefully slides it open to step inside.  Nothing can prepare her for what she sees:  a man and a woman on the ground, bleeding and wounded, with their hands clasped together... while they are being tended to by Simon Tam himself.

"Simon!"  Kaylee steps inside and Simon rushes to her.  She gasps in surprise when he hugs her tight and admits, "I wasn't sure if I would see any of you again.  This place.  This... place bigger in the inside than outside... it is their ship, Kaylee."  And that moment, Kaylee hears a feminine voice whisper, "That is true.  And it is nice to finally be able to speak to someone."  Kaylee and the voice converse, and Kaylee soon realizes it is the T.A.R.D.I.S. itself talking to her.  While it seems more direct compared to how Serenity relates to her, Kaylee feels empowered by the fact this ship actually can relate with her.  "It must be nice for you, to be able to say Hello to him each time you see him.  I haven't had the chance to speak to him.  Even if I was the one who chose him."  Kaylee stares at Simon and considers the T.A.R.D.I.S.' words.

River crawls up to Archibald, who has gotten the men on horseback to pause.  Quitely, she nudges Archibald to look down, and whispers to him how he can help her finalize a certain detail.  Ever since the Angels had sent her here, she had been mistaken as a witch by the people in this time.  This was an opportunity to close that story even more.  On the count of three, Archibald ducked down and River stood in his place, as if he had transformed into a woman.  She then declares herself free of the Church's hands, and then nudges Archibald to shoot at another man.  Archibald's expert shooting skills brings down the other warrior.  The two then hurry to get into the T.A.R.D.I.S. while the medieval men flee in terror.

Archibald steps into the T.A.R.D.I.S., overwhelmed to see how it is much bigger in the inside than outside.  River approaches the two on the ground and learns that while Amy and Rory have been treated for the gun shots, they still need better medical attention.  Archibald offers to help and River gives him directions to find the medical supplies.  Archibald finds various generations of medical supplies in the room, from herbal salves to medical tools to even tools used in Ariel and the like.  He returns with them only to be told by Simon he's already done all that can be done.  The two need a hospital.  River asks Kaylee if the T.A.R.D.I.S. is all set, and Kaylee agrees.  She hits the switch and launches them through time.

The T.A.R.D.I.S. lands on the Rosalinda and the door opens to the Doctor, who thanks them for returning and welcomes them safely back.  Archibald and Kaylee worriedly ask about the angels only to discover they are frozen in the center of the deck.  Given how there is never a time the ship is not filled with people, added to that the fact the angels are set to face one another, the angels had effectively trapped themselves forever.    River Song offers Archibald and Kaylee a glass, filled with wine, to celebrate their success.  When Archibald wisely opts not to drink it, River Song realizes she'd found her man.  The Doctor bids them farewell, and retrieves from Kaylee the Sonic Screwdriver.  River Song invites Archibald into the T.A.R.D.I.S. but then presses her hand against Kaylee's hand.  As they close the door of the T.A.R.D.I.S., Kaylee marvels as it begins to fade with its signature sound filling the area.  River leaps into Simon's arms and clearly is overjoyed to see him back.  Inara slides towards Kaylee and asks if she can explain what just happened.  She looks down and finds in her hand a stick of lipstick.  Only unlike most lipstick, this one was Sonic.


Archibald opens the door to a forest land.  River Song escorts him through the woods until they see a cabin in the woods.  "I need a hand to accomplish some of the feats I do.  Someone who has no records in history.  And someone from the future working in the past would be perfect."  Archibald admits he is doing this because he is tired of doing things and not seeing real change happen.  River Song promises him that if he works for her, real change will definitely happen.  As River leaves, Archibald stares at the night sky and relishes the fact he is now a man from the future, back in the Earth That Was, at a time before the land he is in is actually rediscovered and named.

Kaylee stares at Simon.  She wants to ask him questions but she realizes most of the memories of what happened on that cruise liner are fading away, like a distant dream.  She slides the stick of lipstick out of her pocket and stares at it, already uncertain where she had gotten it.  And why she keeps it.  All she knows, however, is that there will come a time she has to tell Simon her feelings.

But not yet.

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