Post-Cold War Champions 2016

Doubling down

Season Finale:

After combing through Roland Johnson’s records, the PCs learn that a new experiment is being scheduled in two days at the new prison facility being built in Central California. They are able to access early building schematics, but decide to do some reconnaissance and then wait for Johnson and his people to arrive. Rebecca goes inside under cover of invisibility to check things out firsthand. The prison complex is maybe 85% complete – an amazing feat but no surprise given they had help from Quantums during construction. Apollo and Skyrocket stay near the cell tower they all arrived at and keep an eye out. Rebecca notices that the prison is not empty; there are a handful of armed guards there. Not too unusual for a construction site, but their heavy weapons make it obvious they aren’t your standard private security team. While walking down the steps of an unfinished stairwell connected to the central tower, she manages to find the one that hadn’t been firmly attached, making quite the racket and alerting a nearby guard. She manages to stay quiet and evade him (being invisible seems to have helped), then continues looking around. She finds the basement level and a room with large power cables neatly tied up along the floor, but not yet attached to anything. Hardly seems like their permanent configuration. Some time later, Skyrocket and Apollo see the convoy of trucks and Escalades with tinted windows – like the ones Skyrocket had pulled Abigail out of back at the Cancer facility – heading toward the rear of the prison complex. She can see the occupants from the small, second-floor windows adjacent to the elevator room. She watches as both Roland Johnson and his mentalist wife exit the Escalade, quickly followed by VP Candidate Rod Santoro, and a woman they don’t recognize. The rear doors of the transport vehicles open up and three of the cryogenic prisoner pods are wheeled inside the building. In addition, a figure wearing an unusual suit of high-tech armor with a mask that hides his features entirely, exits the back of one of the transports. Rebecca can hear as the elevator goes down to the basement level.

Rebecca describes what she’s seeing to her team as they decide how best to handle this. She’s very concerned about whether they can handle these people by themselves and even more concerned about herself. Perhaps having been reverted back to her “normal” appearance reminded her that she’s still just 16 years old. Secretly, she’s hoping she can make a graceful exit from what’s about to go down. While she’s dealing with her self-doubt, Apollo and Skyrocket make their way inside the prison. The central section of this tower complex is open from the basement all the way to the top, with walkways and unfinished prison cells along the perimeter of each floor. The tower design allows quite a bit of natural light inside, which is good news for Skyrocket. Rebecca, still invisible, can see the armored figure standing in the doorway of the room where she had seen the power cables on the floor. Doubt still racking her mind, the overconfident Apollo and Skyrocket decide there’s no time like the present and they need to stop Johnson. The details of his experiment aren’t entirely clear, but now that he has the enchanted blade similar to the one Ruth had to prevent Quantums she killed from healing and knowing the secret she carried – that a Quantum killing another Quantum increased the killer’s own strength – was not a secret that ever needed to escape these walls. It would cause pandemonium across the globe! Taking a page from one of Apollo’s scripts, they come down and do the “superhero 3-point landing” and engage them.

The armor provides the figure inside with jump jets and a weapon with a variety of settings. His mobility allows him to harass Skyrocket by keeping the distance short and the reflective shield in his armor makes him think twice about each shot. Frances Johnson is quick to engage Rebecca from inside the room, using her Mind Scan ability to locate her and, using her Mind Control, convince her to teleport home for her own safety. As tempting as it may seem to her for a brief second, she resists Johnson’s attempts to control her mind multiple times, frustrating her enough to make her switch targets and blast Apollo’s mind instead. The unknown woman wearing Scorpion Technology emblems on her clothing engages with Rebecca, thinking her an easy target. The blades she throws and gas attacks she launches are ineffective against Rebecca, however, as she turns into mist, rendering the attacks harmless. From inside the room, Santoro bellows a bestial roar and comes charging from the other door and slams into Apollo, the human figure now replaced by what can only be described as a minotaur! Rebecca sees that Roland Johnson is in some kind of chamber or pod, inside of what looks like some kind of chitinous chrysalis; it is connected to three prison pods and everything is connected to a computer system. From the notes they found, his chrysalis form is part of his power set – it’s a process that takes a few hours and when he emerges, his other powers change. The equipment is here to make sure the prisoners “expire” at the right moment so that he absorbs their power before emerging. Inside the three pods she sees Reaper and the two quantums who had tried to break their cartel leader out of prison some months ago. Undoubtedly someone thought them perishing here was ironic.

The figure in the power suit knows what he’s doing and had Frances Johnson been a better strategist, her mental blasts would have knocked out Apollo or Skyrocket quickly. The battle is tough, but the Vanguard team prevails!

The Aftermath:

The team contacts HQ and Patrick, Cole, and Eddie all arrive a few minutes later to help with securing the Quantums in their custody as well as dealing with the fact they have the Vice Presidential candidate here, unconscious, in a very compromising situation.

While Cole takes care of securing everyone for temporary containment, Patrick and Eddie get the scoop from the team. Things will get ugly quickly no matter what they do. They decide they will need to get DOSA involved to take over Supermax prison. Any of the entities currently working on it will be removed from power and investigated – this includes a number of the “Zodiac” companies tied to Supermax as well as Sagittarius because of the T.A.U.R. robots and their relationship to the prison complex. DOSA takes over and decides that a new procurement process will need to be started and that a steering committee will be included to better vet the bidders. Public outcry is huge – it’s the second such scandal in a short period of time. The fact that many of these Zodiac companies were run by Quantums casts a lot of doubt on how much Quantums can be trusted here. Vanguard does not reveal the information Johnson got from Ruth; it is deemed too dangerous for public consumption so even DOSA is left in the dark for now.

Rod Santoro is dropped from the ticket immediately. Walker drops out of the race as well because of his ties to Santoro and the growing distrust of Quantums being in positions of power. His constituents in Central California support him for all the good work he did for them for decades, but he says it might not be the right time for a Quantum to hold the highest office in the land. He’ll go back home and continue helping the way he always has and show people Quantums are no different that anyone else; there are a few bad apples that spoil things for others. He does send Patrick a private message saying he is once again in the team’s debt and that despite him having to drop out, they did the right thing by turning in Santoro and the others. “No one should have that kind of power,” he writes.

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Showing their hand

The PCs engage the armed men waiting in the hallways. Their armored suits provide them with some defense and their energy weapons prove to be more effective than the mini-guns the T.A.U.R. were armed with. Dr. Johnson makes an appearance and attempts to disarm the situation, but the PCs are not in the mood to talk knowing that Abigail is here and after their encounter with the other Dr. Johnson upstairs. Skyrocket attacks Dr. Roland Johnson, but his form disappears into one of the nearby security cameras before the blast hits him. The security officers prove to be tougher than they look, but not tough enough. Roland’s surprise attacks prove to be a concern for the PCs as he seems to appear out of nowhere and then grows to his normal height right under his target, his growth momentum making his blows powerful. During the fight, the PCs spot Abigail step out of a door down the hallway. She walks down the hall slowly and Skyrocket and Rebecca approach her, hoping to get her out of there. Unfortunately, she breathes out a putrefying stench, reducing his CON, but Rebecca is able to resist its effects. “Abigail” is eventually revealed to be Troy, imitating her through some form of magic. The guards are thrown about and eventually neutralized. Roland Johnson disappears into one of the cameras, but doesn’t reappear. In one of the rooms on this floor, they find Ruth. They’re not sure why she would be here rather than SuperMax or even the QMH facility, assuming she was instead admitted there. They’re not able to find Abigail in any of the rooms on this floor. They grab Ruth, Troy, and the other young people they had also found here and head back upstairs where they can get a cell signal contact Vanguard HQ. Once upstairs, they notice a fleet of black Expedition-style vehicles driving away from the building. Skyrocket flies out to investigate. He lands right in front of the lead vehicle and orders them to stop. They do and after a few seconds of stillness, Roland Johnson exits one of the lead vehicles and tells him to move out of the way. Skyrocket refuses and demands that he release Abigail. After a tense few moments, Roland seeming to assess the situation in this somewhat public area, relents and allows him to remove her from the back of his vehicle and fly back to meet the others.

The team decides to wait for Abigail to wake in this isolated area before heading to HQ. Once Abigail regains consciousness, she refuses to speak with anyone but Skyrocket. She creates new clothes for herself and sits down to speak with him away from the others. She’s not really comfortable talking to Rebecca yet, but doesn’t yet explain why, but she will talk to Skyrocket since she recognizes him from before her transformation.

She has no memory of arriving at the facility where the PCs found her. Despite what everyone in this reality (she keeps using that phrase throughout the conversation) thinks, she was not subdued after her transformation and her transformation of Troy and Rebecca. She had allowed herself to be taken away thinking it would be the safest thing for everyone else around her. She trusted the system to do the right thing. Roland Johnson changed all that.

Dr. Johnson had been using a combination of Mental Illusions (thanks to his wife) and drugs to “transform” Abigail’s mind. He’s been trying to convince her that Rebecca’s new powers have made her a threat to other people. While she wasn’t totally convinced (that’s why she managed to contact you in your dreams), she still can’t shake the images from her mind and is causing her to increasingly doubt what she did to Rebecca and Troy.

She’ll tell Skyrocket a little about Johnson’s plans. Despite his best efforts, she was able to observe him and overhear what he’s been working on. Ruth ended up in the mental health facility and has been under Johnson’s care for a while. He now knows about her killing Quantums with that dagger to steal their energy. His team’s been studying what causes breakthroughs for years now and has been behind recent events to trigger them using a certain chemical shown to increase the likelihood. Thanks to Ruth, he’s quite certain multiple breakthroughs results in weaker Quantums who are more likely to be unstable. Troy was on his way, looking like Abigail, to do just that. The video cameras at the facility were to show you guys breaking in and releasing her. (Bonus that it helped Johnson move around.) Abigail says Johnson is trying to replicate what happened to her – his key power allows him to shed his “skin” and recreate his breakthrough event, resulting in new powers most of the time. His most recent incarnation allows him to shrink down to a very small size and and essentially enter another dimension. His power level has remained about the same with each shedding, but recent notes have started focusing on timing the shedding with the “expiration of proximal Quantums to enhance new shell.” Cole’s analysis of Johnson’s experimental notes (good thing he was a biologist, not a computer forensics expert) confirms what Abigail is saying. Cole’s analysis also shows that Dr. Johnson’s records and research were being hacked from the outside. He can try tracing it, but it’ll take some time. Whoever did it was pretty good but not good enough…

She’s decided she’s going to do the same for a bit. she needs to spend time by herself for a bit and play with her powers to come to terms about what she wants to be when “she grows up.” Something with a castle and knights and maybe even some wise elves. She figures she can likely always come back to the same moment she left and catch up in case you need her. She doesn’t want to get involved with any of this right now – not that she won’t be watching since there are still people she cares about here, but shouldn’t be up to a 16-year-old to fix problems created by supposed adults.

It doesn’t take long for edited video from the day to make its way to the internet. Skyrocket and Eddie discuss ways to counter it and ask Abigail if she’ll agree to make a video saying Vanguard rescued her. She agrees to to it. Before disappearing and reappearing at Vanguard HQ, she talks to Rebecca and agrees to transform her back into the teenager she was so she can attempt to have a normal life again.

A few hours later, Cole’s analysis of Roland Johnson’s records indicates that they were being hacked for years – well, not hacked, more monitored without their knowledge, but his hardware and network were designed and created by Scorpion Technologies. There are a few pieces of hardware not available to the public but fortunately, the network traffic still needs to run across the Internet.

The entire planned experiment (SOP) along with the equipment specs are in their hands. It’s not clear whether this would work with anyone other than Roland Johnson though – it all seems to hinge on his Quantum ability to morph his power set. Johnson figured out that Ruth’s dagger suppressed all powers of those she killed, which prevented regeneration and healing, but it was act of killing another Quantum in such close proximity that allowed her to “absorb” their power. He did not include that in his notes, however; putting that in writing was far too dangerous a prospect. What’s worse is that the gas attack that Troy was going to conduct (while looking like Abigail) was only one of about a dozen scheduled to take place this week. The gas contains the chemical shown to increase the likelihood of breakthroughs, but with a side effect of often making them mentally unstable. The operation was code named “Quantum Harvest” – the growing number of unstable breakthroughs and a possible connection to the gas at the attacks would increase the population’s fear of such attacks, the unstable Quantums created, and concerns about who was susceptible to becoming a Quantum.

Johnson and the others would then announce they had a genetic test to look for a marker. It doesn’t really work, but their research would be corroborated by other Zodiac-affiliated companies. Roland knows the gas works, but he’s still not sure why; he doesn’t really care as long as he feeds people into the system. Getting people’s genetic material on file is simply a bonus – it might actually allow him to figure it out more quickly.

Final notes: A new experiment is scheduled 2 days from now. Skyrocket will go on a media blitz. Won’t hide from the press and give his story and save his reputation.

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The wheels of the bus...
If I were a troll, where would I go?

The PCs spend some time deciding their best course of action and finally decide to check out the location where they think Troy told John to meet him. They arrive a few blocks from the address and see that it’s a condemned bar in the Santa Ana area. The front window is boarded up from the inside and the alley door is locked from the outside. Rebecca enters by going desolid and, after lighting one of Skyrocket’s road flares for light, opens the main door so that her friends can at least hear through the locked metal screen door; they don’t want to break it down without good reason. The alley door was part of the bar’s storeroom and is littered with rotting, putrefied food. The bar and seating area is dirty, but not as disgusting as the back room. As Rebecca walks by the bar, she can see a figure on the floor. She recognizes John and alerts Apollo and Skyrocket to what’s happening. They break open the door and Skyrocket flies him to the nearest ER. Meanwhile, Apollo and Rebecca check out the rest of the bar. The men’s room is set up like a laboratory – well, a lab with a makeshift cauldron made out of a metal bucket. There are a number of bottles (1 liter bottles and mini-booze bottles) filled with oddly colored liquid. Based on Rebecca’s knowledge of Arthurian legend and Abigail’s fascination with the “Merlin” TV show, she remembers that trolls from that series are hideous beings, but with powerful magic. They are able to brew potions, cast love charms, and use a form of earth magic. Despite their appearance, they were thought to be quite clever. Their best guess is that Troy created a potion to imitate John and steal his identity; they’d witnessed his ability to remain unseen in crowds, but traveling this way and being spotted by cameras would not allow him to get anything done. They also find a laptop in the breakroom and its browser history shows his obsession with Rebecca and Abigail. Seems he was able to find out all Quantums deemed “mentally unfit” were sent to Quantum Mental Health in the Central Valley. They contact Cole, who’s able to track John’s credit card at a nearby bus station and again in the Central Valley.

The team heads back to HQ to decide where they should go next and, after much debate, decide to go to Austin and check out Cancer Medical Research. They arrive via cell tower about a mile away. Skyrocket flies around the facility to scout out any security, but it appears the only cameras are at the main gate by the security checkpoint. The cameras are likely CCTV since the only EMF is coming from the communication device security is using. After watching a vehicle enter, the team decides to walk up to security and ask to speak to someone. Skyrocket tells the guard he has information regarding possible illegal activities. The guard says he’ll contact someone inside, since he’s not in charge here. He makes a call and says someone will be out in 5 minutes. Dr. Frances Johnson & Jerry Lee walk out and greet the PCs. They say they should speak inside, rather than out in the open. They enter the building and enter a conference room on the 2nd floor. Security is tight and there’s not much visible to the public eye. Dr. Johnson is not terribly forthcoming and Skyrocket’s direct approach inquiring about Abigail’s whereabouts. Her responses lead Apollo to think she’s pretending not to know anything. After a few minutes of pointless banter, Rebecca falls through the floor to investigate the 1st floor of the building. She doesn’t find an elevator, but does discover an empty room that looks like it’s for sleep research. Dr. Johnson becomes irate when Rebecca slips out of the room and demands that Apollo and Skyrocket make her return immediately. When they don’t comply right away, she stands up, slams her hand on the conference room table, points at Skyrocket and launches a Mental Blast at him. It’s not enough to stun him, but quickly ends any hope for a civil discussion. A quick comment from Apollo brings Rebecca to the room. The fight doesn’t last long and hole in the wall created by Skyrocket’s laser blasting Dr. Johnson through the wall eventually leads them to a hidden elevator down to the basement. Skyrocket sets off the fire alarm so employees have a chance to escape the building. The team enters the elevator using Dr. Johnson’s ID card, exit into the basement, and down an old freight elevator with 15 underground levels. Rebecca scouts ahead by going desolid and invisible. She spots 2 teams of armed men waiting on the 5th floor and enters the floor to look around. The men are wearing goggles, but don’t appear to see her. She checks out the 4 rooms along the end of the corridor nearest the elevator. The first two rooms are empty, while the other two are occupied: the first by a young girl about 16 years old, the other by a young man in his early 20s. Both are attached to a number of sleep monitors and an I.V. Rebecca attempts to contact Skyrocket and Apollo, but something appears to be jamming their Vanguard communication devices. The freight elevator reaches the 5th floor and the solid door opens automatically, while the folding gate remains shut though providing no real cover from the men waiting down the corridor. Skyrocket’s suggest they are not using communication devices either.

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It's not paranoia if they're really coming to get you

The team arrives back at Vanguard HQ to examine the T.A.U.R. mini-gun that absolutely doesn’t belong to Sagittarius and to question #RobotOverlord; The Technomancer isn’t trending on social media. Cole takes the weapon to his lab to examine it. Rebecca, more convinced that she’ll find several more groups with Zodiac-related names tied to Walker or Santoro, his VP running mate, does some more searching, but without much luck. Eventually, their prisoner wakes up and they go down to question him. Robert Longo is sitting in his cell, mask off, looking somewhat resigned. Robert is pretty chatty – he says he knows he’s never getting out of the “kinder, gentler” SuperMax no matter what they say. He’s been working with computers since he was a kid – he’s 24 now. He never had a breakthrough or a triggering moment like other Quantums; his abilities started out somewhat minor but he kept practicing and trying new things. He makes his money mining bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies – that’s what the hardware in his business space were for. The drones are mostly just toys to help him fine-tune his powers. Then he started hearing about what Sagittarius was working on – hacker forums posted photos of early prototypes of the T.A.U.R. Someone on the inside was able to provide him with the date and time the truck was heading out that morning for testing and he just couldn’t resist taking a closer look. He hired some guys to drive the truck – he hadn’t even met them before but they were a referral and trustworthy enough for what seemed like a basic heist. He didn’t think Vanguard would get called – he figured Sagittarius would keep it on the down low and he’d be able to hide from them. He didn’t count on those videos getting posted to social media being enough to track him. Once he got inside the truck, he was able to “mind control” the robots – their computer brains were complex enough to do that, but, fortunately, not AIs. Not that he really expected that to be a thing, but there’s weird shit happening in 2016 and some days are worse than others. He had one pop the lock on the box inside the trailer and was suddenly nervous when he spotted the mini-guns – they’d obviously been designed to attach to the robots. He knew they’d be coming after him now and would not play nice – he’d be lucky to get out alive so he had all three attach the weapons and prepared for a fight. He didn’t expect to see Vanguard when the trailer opened, but was in too deep to back out.

But he’s wondering: What the hell Sagittarius is playing at? Mini-guns aren’t necessary for Walker’s Mars pipe-dream – he fully expected scientific equipment to be in there and their ability to fly was new. None of the photos he’d seen of the robots showed them flying. He says he didn’t build the weapons – he’s not an engineer. He’d build drones if he could, but why just a gun for that thing? Makes no sense to him other than to shift blame to him. Who’s gonna believe him over some powerful friend of the man running for President anyway? He’s read the info about Walker and Santoro – he’d dismissed it all as conspiracy theory nonsense. Now he’s worried since SuperMax is run by a friend of Walker. With any luck, they’ll just put him in cryo and won’t wake him up until they need him to fight SkyNet or ED-209.

The PCs setup a meeting w/ Patrick, Eddie, Cole that morning and fill them in. Rebecca fills them in on her research – but they already knew because, well, company network and devices. Cole did some follow-ups based on her line of questioning and checked public records regarding ownership and business affiliations. She had him check photos and records on Walker’s friendships from back before he got into politics. He turned up something on Gemini Inc and its owners – Jennifer and Jeremy van Hoosier – fraternal twins who went to college with Walker in the late 80s. Unlike Laura Petersen of Libra Consulting, they have no trouble being in the public eye. There are current photos of them everywhere – they do a lot of philanthropic work now – and they look like they’ve only aged five years since college. Everyone suspects they’re Quantums and they haven’t denied it, but no one knows what powers they might have. And no, their birthdays don’t make them Geminis according to the astrological calendar.

Patrick says he’ll work on getting them access to Sagittarius and thinks about maybe getting Eddie to invite them and other companies working on the Mars exploration project to demonstrate what they have since photos of their robots have leaked anyway. Rebecca and Skyrocket aren’t sure what that would accomplish since they’ll just “sanitize” their facility before anyone arrives and the demonstration won’t have them firing guns. They are concerned that Robert the #RobotOverlord’s demonstration let Sagittarius know the current iteration of the weapon had no effect on either Apollo or Skyrocket, which could be very bad the next time they run into the T.A.U.R.

Later that night, Rebecca heads to bed while Skyrocket takes some time to be seen by his adoring public. Rebecca “wakes” to find herself in the most lucid dream she’s ever had. At least she’s pretty sure it’s a dream…she and Skyrocket are summoned to a remote location. It’s night and there’s a 4-story building in front of them. No lights on anywhere. They approach the building entrance and there’s a sign: “Cancer Medical Research” but the “Medical Research” appears to have been “Photoshopped” and replaced by “Mental Health.” The doors open as they are reading the sign. There are no lights on, but enough light for Skyrocket’s low-light vision to allow him to see well enough (though it’s a dark, purple light that only adds to the uneasy feeling they get). They walk toward the elevators, which open on their own. They step inside and watch as it goes up to the 13th floor in the 4-story building. The doors open once it stops moving and they see 5 hallways in front of them: one left, one right, one directly in front of them and two diagonal halls traveling northwest and northeast. While they are deciding which way to go, a small tin car with working headlights zips down the northeast diagonal hallway toward them. It stops in front of them, blinks its headlights twice, makes a U-turn and heads back down the way it came. Rebecca and Skyrocket follow it. At the end of the hallway, the car stops in front of two impossibly heavy vault doors. It blinks its headlights twice and zips away. The doors open moments later, quietly but slowly. In the room is a large four-poster bed – it looks like something one might find at Versaille. On the bed is a young woman – Rebecca recognizes her as Abigail and she doesn’t look any different than the day of the incident that transformed her and Troy. She’s actually wearing the same clothes she had on that day. Seconds later they hear the voice of a young woman that Rebecca recognizes as Abigail. Abigail tells Rebecca that she and her “squire” need to help her right away – that the place she’s being held is trying to control her and use her powers for themselves. Rebecca knows all too well what that could mean. She’s been able to fend them off this long, but her resolve is weakening as time goes by. They need to find her and help her, but they need to beware of the Troll. He stands in their way and seeks to get revenge on both Abigail and Rebecca for what they did to him. “Hurry,” she says. Rebecca wakes and calls Skyrocket immediately. He doesn’t answer – he doesn’t actually have the dream until he falls asleep later that night. Rebecca’s odd message makes no sense until he wakes from his dream…

The two of them compare notes and realize they had the same dream. Apollo doesn’t seem to have had it, however. Rebecca thinks back to what she remembers about Troy and Abigail and that fateful day. She hasn’t seen Troy since he appeared in a photo of a crowd at a PR event Eddie had organized back in March. He stood in a crowd, but no one seemed to notice a troll-like figure standing among them. She’s not really sure what kinds of abilities he has other than hiding in plain sight. Given Abigail’s love of Arthurian legend, his powers might be based on that, but those vary depending on the source. Since she can’t sleep, she starts searching for clues on where he might be. A few hours and a few Internet rabbit holes later, she manages to find some information on Troy though her quest for information on the Cancer Medical Research facility turns up nothing. She finds some social media posts from high school friends of Troy. Mostly the usual nonsense from high school football players, but one thread between John Hagerty (he used his real name instead of a pseudonym) and “HornyDude69” talking about Troy’s disappearance led to a final post “check ur PM.”

Disturbed by their dreams, Rebecca and Skyrocket meet with Cole and Patrick in the early hours of the day. They tell them about their dream and what it might mean. First, they have Cole check records for Cancer Medical Research and a description of the facility as they saw it in their dream. Patrick says that Abigail would have been taken to Quantum Mental Health in the Central Valley, CA. It’s where most of the Quantums who have a mental break when their powers are triggered end up – mental health care is the first option with these individuals and only those who can’t or won’t be treated end up in cryo back at SuperMax. It takes Cole some time to dig up a possible hit on Cancer Medical Research (CMR), but he eventually finds information on Dr. Roland Johnson. He and Walker were friends back in the late 80s/early 90s. Johnson eventually went on to medical school where he studied pathology and oncology. He is a known Quantum – his powers were triggered before the Superhuman Registration Act was repealed. He was working abroad studying native plants for their curative properties when he contracted a skin disease that should have killed him. Eyewitness accounts described a rather gruesome process where Roland’s body seemed to absorb moisture from the air, creating space between his skin and his body. After about 15 minutes, he seemingly extracted himself from his old skin. According to scientists, the process mirrors that of a crab when it molts and casts off its exoskeleton. Johnson kept his old “skin” for research purposes and, because there were witnesses, registered his “regenerative” powers when he returned to the U.S. He also claimed to have minor hydrokinetic powers, which allowed him to absorb the water from the atmosphere. No other powers were confirmed, but rumors about him being able to transform his skin to chitin and regenerate from wounds suffered in a boating accident a decade ago persist. CMR is based in Texas.

Cole is also able to “access” the PM sent to John Hagerty. It was sent some days ago and told John to meet at an address near their old high school.

To be continued…

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Your horoscope says...

Rebecca’s attention has been caught by Alan Walker’s recent public appearances and announcements, all of which have been the subject of conspiracy theorists since he first announces his candidacy. After announcing his choice of VP, they’ve been sighted together at events more often than would be expected – candidates usually campaign separately to cover more ground. One thing of interest for conspiracy theorists everywhere has been the lapel pin worn by each candidate – Walker wears the symbol of Aquarius while Santoro that of Taurus. After a few late nights and several incidents of Rule 34 gone terribly, terribly wrong, Rebecca is reminded of Walker’s connection to Libra Consulting – the company that took over when SuperMax couldn’t contain the super-powered prisoners in its facility. Libra was affiliated with a company called Scorpion Technologies as well as Aries Construction and all of them had ties to Alan Walker before he stepped away to run for President. The conspiracy theories seemed a little less far-fetched all of a sudden. No has been able to confirm whether Santoro is a Quantum or whether Laura Petersen, CEO of Libra, is a one either, but Rebecca wants to know more and whether there are other members of what’s starting to look like a Zodiac group involved in politics. She does find photos of Petersen with Walker, but the photos are OLD – likely from the 80s based on how they’re dressed – but she’s not wearing a lapel pin and recent photos are nearly impossible to find. She seems to do a good job of staying out of the public eye.

Vanguard is alerted to a possible truck being hijacked near Torrance. It wasn’t reported by the company, but showed up via social media reports that Cole monitors. People have video of masked men standing in the street and the truck slowing to a stop. There’s partial video of a third man approaching the back of the truck but the video is cut short after catching only a few seconds of a man in clothing that’s much more “costumed” in appearance. The truck drivers are forced out of the cab at gunpoint, but are left unharmed on the sidewalk. Eyewitnesses saw the truck heading south toward the freeway onramp. Subsequent photos and videos are posted to the same social media sites originally tagged by Cole saying they identified the truck, but none of them managed to include the same partial plate though they were heading south via the 405. Patrick contacts each of the PCs and they arrive at HQ a few minutes later. Skyrocket decides to fly above the southbound freeway hoping to catch a glimpse of the truck in question. Rebecca and Apollo decide to head over the location where the hijacking took place. When they arrive, everyone has departed and the drivers are nowhere to be found. A quick survey of the immediate area reveals a few industrial buildings on one side of the street. One of them is a plain, white building with no markings other than a street number. There’s a closed, metal gate blocking the view from the street level, but Apollo uses his flight to get a better view from several feet off the ground. He can see two large, roll-up doors shut tight, but several workers in hard hats entering and exiting a small door between the large metal doors. The hard hats have a logo printed on them, but he can’t quite make them out even after he moves closer to the gate. As he flies closer, he’s spotted by the workers who almost casually head toward the door and disappear inside the building.

Meanwhile, Skyrocket is following the freeway from the sky, high enough not to fly into signs, but low enough to occasionally wave to his fans as they take videos of him zipping past them while they’re stuck in traffic. Taking a break from yet another photo opportunity, he spots a panel truck exiting the slow-moving freeway at the last second. He comes up behind it and sees that the partial plate from the video is a match. He flies alongside the truck to ask the driver to pull over. As he comes up alongside the truck he sees that the driver and passenger aren’t wearing masks, but their clothing does match that of the hijackers from the videos taken earlier that morning. His ability to sense EM allows him to sense signals coming from the back of the truck. Skyrocket informs the driver that he has reason to believe the truck may be the one he’s looking for and that they need to pull over. The driver recognizes him and says their destination is just ahead and he’d be happy to comply. The truck drives a bit further toward a small industrial area in what looks like Westminister, pulls into the driveway of a building, and stops the truck as Skyrocket lands right in front of the truck to make sure it doesn’t go anywhere. The driver exits the cab, talking a bit excitedly to Skyrocket. The man’s clothing appears to be made of a lightweight Kevlar and he has a sidearm. The man casually drums his fingers on the side of the truck as they walk toward the back. He opens the back of the truck, which had not been latched from the outside; the passenger is not yet visible though Skyrocket saw him exit the other side of the cab. As the doors swing open, Skyrocket’s low-light vision allows him to see the three, centaur-shaped robots in the back as well as the costumed man attempting to hide in the darkness inside. Skyrocket flies backward a few yards, to put some space between himself and what’s inside the truck. He fires a blast at the man at the back, but the man dives for cover under the robot in the back of the truck. The robot closest to the back of the truck jumps out of the truck and takes a few steps towards Skyrocket’s position before firing several rounds from the mini-gun attached where its right arm should be. One of the rounds strikes Skyrocket’s leg, but bounces off his forcefield. The second robot leaps out of the truck and starts firing at him as well, but his forcefield appears to be more than a match for their weapons. The third robot hops out of the truck and closes the trailer doors, keeping the man inside out of Skyrocket’s line of sight. At this point, Skyrocket contacts Rebecca and Apollo and lets them know he’s engaged the hijackers. They get Cole on the job so he can triangulate the signal and work on getting them over there to the nearest cell tower.

Skyrocket continues to engage the robots, while the two hijackers make a run for the wall surrounding the building and start climbing over – he’s disappointed a fan didn’t make better choices, but at least he’ll be safe from these machines! The man inside the truck stays put, but the robots – each with “T.A.U.R. I” painted on their chassis – continue to fire at him, while he drains them of their speed. As he hovers directly over one, it suddenly flies up into the air and attempts to grab his ankle. Fortunately, it misses him and Skyrocket flies away 180 degrees to keep them from firing toward other businesses and homes. Barring several shots to his head, their weapons seem unlikely to do him any serious harm. Rebecca and Apollo arrive at a cell tower several moments later and make their way toward the gunfire. Rebecca teleports over quickly and engages one of the machines, but it misses her badly and the bullets hit the cinder block wall behind her. Apollo arrives and is fired upon, but mini-gun is unlikely to penetrate his defenses. As the PCs continue to engage the robots, they hear the truck start, although no one is inside the cab. Rebecca suggests he must be a technomancer – able to control machines remotely somehow. He shifts the truck into reverse and attempts to drive away while remaining in the back. Skyrocket fires his laser at the truck’s engine, damaging it, but not enough to stop it completely. Apollo decides to flip the truck on its side using his telekinesis – eliciting a yelp from inside the truck – causing one door to fall open and reveal the man inside. The robots prove to be tough opponents – somewhat resistant to Skyrocket’s speed draining attacks and Rebecca’s armor-piercing lightning attacks damage, but don’t stun, them. Apollo’s next attack knocks the technomancer unconscious and Rebecca passes through the wall of the trailer to see if there’s a way to control the robots. There’s no obvious control mechanism and a second after the technomancer goes unconscious, the robots stop what they are doing.

Cole has learned who owns the mysterious building where the truck was hijacked and lets them know the truck and its contents have been found. They tell him they are on their way. Nearby residents and business owners, attracted by the sound of machine gun fire and appearing once it stops, are now taking pictures and video of the scene. Skyrocket is there to oblige their requests for photo opportunities until the police arrive. The police arrive and set up a perimeter, keeping fans and others at bay. Once they arrive, Rebecca teleports inside the front office and opens the glass door, allowing them all to enter the building. They walk through the door into the work area and find dozens of computers, primitive robots and drones (most without remotes). They assume this is the technomancer’s base of operations. Rebecca takes the technomancer back to Vanguard HQ for holding and returns before Sagittarius arrives at the scene.

Not long after, two Land Rovers and another white panel truck pull up outside the location. Franklin Covey & Georgia Lee introduce themselves as representatives of Sagittarius Technologies, the owners of the truck and the robots. Georgia says the robots are their T.A.U.R. (Tactical Armored Utility Robot) and were designed in response to Walker’s vision for going to Mars. Only as scientific vehicles capable of traversing the harsh Martian terrain and atmosphere, of course. When Rebecca asks her about the mini-guns mounted to their arms, she denies that they belong to Sagittarius – they must belong to the Quantum who hijacked the trucks and he must be working with someone on the inside. She assures them that the person or persons will be found and dealt with – corporate espionage is not unheard of. They’ll take the robots and weapons back to their facility and research what happened. Rebecca reminds Georgia that if the weapons weren’t created by Sagittarius, Vanguard would be better suited to investigate something created by a Quantum. Georgia’s mouth opens and closes several times without a sound, but her eyes shoot daggers at Rebecca as she quickly agrees that it would be the most logical course of action. If Vanguard is interested in a tour of their facility next week, she’s be glad to make it happen. She and Franklin walk away to oversee the transportation of their assets, but she continues to seethe, clenching and unclenching her fists the entire time.

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Ch-ch-ch-changes

April 1, 2016 is the day of the press conference and when Alan Walker announces his intention to run for President. A few weeks later, after all the paperwork is filed, he names Rod Santoro as his VP.

May 15, 2016 Kinetic leaves Vanguard. The press coverage after being there for Alan’s announcement becomes unbearable for him. The types of jobs the team are picking up skew bodyguarding for celebrities and picking up new Quantums. While the number of low-level Quantums appearing seemed to be increasing the last few months, they have mostly been unstable and end up incarcerated. The PR assignments were barely tolerable a few months ago, but it’s outside Kinetic’s comfort zone now.

June 1, 2016 Apollo joins Vanguard. Eddie and Sheila contacted him directly, creating a bit of a tabloid sensation.

June 6, 2016: Alan Walker visits the JPL facility and tells the audience that his vision for the U.S. is to establish a Mars colony which will be used to launch mining ships to nearby asteroids. He is hoping to inspire entrepreneurs to “think outside the globe” and encourages Quantums with abilities that make surviving harsh environments to partner with these companies to improve life on Earth.

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Pulling threads

Finally encountering Ruth and feeling the effects of her powers may have startled the team. Although she was hidden from sight, her abilities were formidable. The wounds found in Mercy, Capt Parkour were mysterious. Blood tests reveal that those individuals no longer test positive as SPBs – so any regenerative abilities are suppressed or eliminated. Capturing Ruth allowed the PCs to find an obsidian blade on her person. It appeared to be hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years old. They allow Cole to run some tests on it. His analysis reveals the blade exudes a power he can only describe as “magical” in nature. He says that after examining the victims it appears the blade leaves behind a fragment of the blade in the victim; that fragment suppresses all powers, but once removed (with the help of optics and magnification) someone with regenerative powers could conceivably recover. Most SPBs, however, would remain dead. Despite the fact the weapon gets smaller as fragments break off, he could not damage it in the lab using the equipment he has. Vanguard will keep it under lock and key for the foreseeable future.

Vanguard HQ has some news. DOSA has terminated Supermax’s registration and has approved Libra Consulting Systems to handle the existing Supermax facility as well as the new facility being built, though they will need to reimburse Supermax for materials and resources already used. Patrick says that Libra’s CEO, Laura Petersen, is a business associate of Alan Walker. Laura contacted Patrick and informed him that Vanguard would need to turn over the SPBs they had on ice and transfer them back to Supermax. Winter Systems and Sandstorm Engineering are all being investigated by DOSA now. Libra’s sponsors include Scorpion Technologies and Aries Construction – all affiliated with Alan Walker.

DOSA orders Libra to transfer the prisoners from Vanguard HQ back to the Supermax facility. The PCs accompany 3 Supermax/Libra transport vehicles to the dock where they will be ferried across the bay to the prison. Lilith and a few henchmen are waiting for them when the vehicles stop; she’s gifted them with resistance. Unfortunately for everyone, Reaper makes an appearance. He manages to kill Plague and Dr. Ego, but not Ruth. Lilith shifts her priorities to defend Ruth at all costs. She attacks everyone who gets near Ruth’s transport. The PCs manage to disarm or disable the henchman. Lilith’s powers are primarily defensive and she reflects attacks back at the PCs as well as Reaper when he gets too close to Ruth’s vehicle. Reaper manages to do some damage to everyone, but eventually gets taken down.

Moments after Reaper goes down, Alan Walker and several armored security officers are spotted riding waves toward the dock. Walker’s hydrokinetic powers appear more impressive this close to a large body of water and it’s obvious the water is enhancing his abilities. He drops his security on the dock by having the waves gently deposit them on the ground; they train their weapons on Lilith’s henchman as well as Lilith. They all have obvious cameras on their persons. Alan tells them to stand down and approaches Lilith. He’s charming and reassuring and tells her no harm will come to her or Ruth. He just wants the conflict to end and more importantly, wants to get Reaper contained before he recovers. He tells his men to help the PCs secure Reaper – basically giving them all orders though he has no true authority over the PCs – so they can place him in the arriving replacement mobile containment units which will take all the prisoners to the Supermax/Libra facility.

Alan makes a big showing of how the PCs stepped into the thick of things to defend known criminals and use non-lethal force on those attacking them. He talks mostly to Skyrocket, give his love of the media and does his best to include Rebecca in what will undoubtedly be publicity shots. He doesn’t push Kinetic and respects his desire to stay out of the spotlight. The video of Walker riding the waves to the dock make their way across social media for days following the event. A week to the day, Alan Walker schedules a press conference to reassure the public that Libra Consulting has successfully transferred responsibility of the former Supermax facility and has made numerous improvements to security with the help of Scorpion Technologies and Aries Construction and have already finished work on the new facility in Central California. Both Patrick and Skyrocket are there and are thanked by Alan personally. He looks forward to receiving any new “guests” Vanguard sends his way. Near the end of his speech, he says, almost as an afterthought, he will be stepping down from the Board of Libra and other affiliated companies. A few surprised looks and several “Whys?” are quickly answered as he announces he will be running for president!

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What do you mean, they're gone?!

After conferring with Vanguard HQ, they pull some strings and decide to make a move on Supermax itself, but the non-confrontational way.
They go in with a search warrant the next morning and with 2 DOSA representatives, Jeremy Franks and Eleanore Smythe. The PCs will be escorted into a room where SPBs are kept in hibernation. A Supermax Executive will show them the records indicating the 3 who attacked them are still on ice.
Unfortunately, all 22 villains are missing from their cases. The warden and attorney knew nothing about it. The computer system indicates there were all still in there. The Warden thinks Winter Systems must be involved – they created the containment system and the monitoring software. The DOSA representatives contact their HQ to report their findings and to take temporary control of the facility while everything is sorted out. Supermax can no longer be trusted nor can its business partners.

The PCs text Mercy, Image Girl, and Capt Parkour who reply and say they are at her place. They head over only to find them sitting in chairs, lifeless. Skyrocket detects the phone signal is coming from upstairs even though they are sitting in front of them.

Primeforce, Dr. Ego, and Plague attack them, coming down the stairs of the two-story condo.
Doc from Salus Security Solutions comes by to heal Rebecca and Skyrocket; conducts a post-mortem on the 3 young heroes. Says they would was caused by a stone weapon and that they no longer appear to be SPBs based on their blood. The two criminals released will show the same result; the one who died of a gunshot wound does not appear the same.

Primeforce sends Rebecca a text message asking them to meet them in Long Beach at Army National Guard facility. Ed Black, Primeforce, and Ruth herself are there waiting for them. Ruth projects an Image of a soldier walking to distract the heroes, while Ed and Primeforce try to take them out. Ruth Mindscans Kinetic and then uses her Telepathy to gain information about him and the team. After seeing her minions get subdued, she Mind Controls Kinetic and convinces him to tell Rebecca and Skyrocket that she is running away and they should head away from the base to chase her down. This distraction does’t work long enough for her to get away unseen. Skyrocket’s speed gets him away from the location for a while, but not long enough for Ruth to make her escape. Unfortunately for her, she has no real movement powers and her hesitation results in her getting knocked unconscious along with Primeforce and Ed Black. Vanguard moves them to their facility temporarily while things are sorted out back at the Supermax facility.

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Should have left well enough alone

Skyrocket wants to do an intervention with Mercy and Capt Parkour. Caitlyn (healer – nurse), Dylan (martial artist – student), Zoe (Images – Artist) are all reachable. They agree to stay home on Thursday rather than go to the meeting with Lilith. They also agree to be reserve team members when the PCs head out to pay George Bennett a visit.

Emily (Technomancer – Student) talked to Rebecca and was creeped out by the whole thing and said she would never come back. Harlan (Emotion Control – Salesperson) hadn’t been seen by the others recently; they suspect he fell under Lilith and Ruth’s spell.

George Bennett plays it cool when the PCs arrive. He’s pretty loyal to Ruth and Lilith and has been part of New Light since 2003. He knows that Ruth has been eliminating these SPB criminals and has been happy to play a part in the whole thing; he’s lost family members to SPB collateral damage and wants to see them all go away. Unfortunately, he hasn’t totally thought this whole thing out and hasn’t given much thought to why Ruth, an SPB herself, would want to destroy others of her kind.

Not long after arriving, they spot an Escalade approaching their location. Two suits (one bodyguard and one executive) and 3 SPBs arrive, including two they first saw at the prison break attempt – Lightshow and Madriguera, the tunneler. This is the team’s first encounter with Reaper. Skyrocket picks up on communications between team members and as Reaper’s thirst for blood becomes painfully obvious, the executive commands Reaper to come to his side and defend him. Reaper teleports to the executive, apparently as commanded, then guts the executive. He tells George that he “knows about Ruth” and teleports away.

After some friendly discussion with the executive (Rebecca heals him and saves him from death), the team learns that Supermax has been “reprogramming” prisoners. The team stuck their noses where they didn’t belong. Had they just done their jobs and stopped the eco-terrorists and then gone home, no one would have cared. But they had now seen Supermax shuffle off normals on two occasions. They couldn’t be trusted to keep their mouths closed. Investigating the deaths of recent parolees was not something they expected, so this team of three was sent to deal with them. The plan was to release the 3 ex-convicts into society and see how the Transform worked on them. They were obviously upset when their investments were found dead. They thought they could handle Reaper, but didn’t realize his regeneration ability would allow him to recover so quickly from the reprogramming.

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A Thorn in Your Side

Four days after the Tech Noir event (Tuesday morning), the team gets a call to hurry over to base as they are needed to take care of some environmental terrorists whose antics have caused a cave-in at a site. Workers are trapped underground and rescue crews can’t get to them until the terrorists have been dealt with.

The terrorists include Blitz, Thorn, and Bulldozer. They are here because of the recent activity digging up the site when it should be closed down as it’s a Superfund site (14501 LAVA CAP MINE ROAD, NEVADA CITY, CA 95959).Thorn and Bulldozer are livid, Blitz is just there to get paid and has been hoping to run into Kinetic for some payback.

The PCs subdue the 3 and rescue the miners. Supermax is contacted to come pick them up, but the head honchos from Sandstorm show up first in their helicopter. When confronted about why their people are at a Superfund site, they claim they are doing remediation – nothing to see here, folks.

Supermax shows up not long after with their cryo-vats to take the 3 SPBs away. They wait for the PCs to leave, but when they don’t there’s some quick discussion amongst the Supermax employees and they are seen rounding up the miners and herding them into the Supermax chopper. One or two of the miners try to walk away but are forcibly restrained and walked into the chopper.

The PCs won’t stand for that and get in their way. Although one of the guards tries to intimidate Rebecca, he doesn’t have a chance with nothing more than his size and a baton. The guards let the miners go, while the PCs wait for them to head to their cars and leave and for Supermax to leave the area with the 3 SPBs they came for.

Sandstorm Engineering personnel (Paul, Eric) are alerted to the situation with Thorn and the others and are on their way to the site for “damage control” and to make sure Vanguard doesn’t get too interested in what’s going on here. Thorn, however, has already spilled the beans. He started monologuing during the fight, telling anyone who would stop to listen about how the soil here was being carted away to be used to construct the new prison and how three recent SPB parolees from Supermax ended up dead not long after they were released. Thorn’s ravings end abruptly as he remembers there are SPBs here to stop what he started and he resumes his attack.

When the team gets back to HQ, they start looking to see if what Thorn was saying had any merit. They learn that George Bennett, parole board director at Supermax, signed the release, and used to live in Texas in 1993, around age 55, started working for Supermax in 2003. He lives in Santa Cruz. They find sun/flame crest on his house. Ed Johnson & Frank Dobbs are also on the parole board.

The SPBs Thorn mentioned were released 3 months ago and all died within 3 days. PCs have asked Vanguard to get additional info on the SPBs who died. Official autopsy reports will show that none showed defensive wounds of any kind. One apparently died of what looked like a self-inflicted wound (mental/emotional powers), though the first shot grazed his head. The weapon used was manufactured in Texas in 1989. The other two (both strong characters) died from what appears to be a blade inserted into the base of their skulls. No weapon was ever found. The man who died of the gunshot wound also had a wound at the base of his skull, but it was not the cause of death.

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