GHOSTS IN THE MACHINE
by John M. Kahane
Edward Blake, Kelasa Vostune, and Gayle Tarrant are shocked and surprised by what they hear, but this quickly changes to action as Eric Hale seemingly loses control, screaming that they're lying. He opens fire on the technician and the security guard, as they continue to chant all the time, begging for help and freedom. The two Nordstrom workers go down under the fire of Hale's weapon, and Hale only stops firing when he is tackled by Edward Blake. The two Nordstrom security guards return the bodies to the Infirmary, but Marion Harper pronounces them dead. They were very much alive, but have died of their gunshot wounds.
Meanwhile, Blake wants to take Eric Hale into custody, but is prevented from doing so when, in a burst of strength, Hale breaks free. He goes into the Infirmary, to check up on the state of the two Nordstrom employees, and to seek some medication. Blake takes Gayle aside, while Kelasa inquires of Marion Harper if she can be of assistance. The other woman is glad that she has volunteered. Meanwhile, Blake learns of Gayle's talk with Dennis Wade, and learns of Hale's odd behaviour immediately after the thunderstorm several weeks past. David Anderson III and Thomas Magnuson rejoin their UNIT team mates, and are briefed on what has occurred.
Several of the surveillance cameras and televisions in the infirmary area come to life, and show the images of several of the dead and/or missing personnel from Nordstrom. They appear to be holding out their hands to the viewers and pleading. When Edward Blake goes in search of Eric Hale, he learns from Marion Harper that Hale has left. Blake is furious, but decides to first get in touch with his superiors. He orders Kelasa to take David Anderson III, and check out the central surveillance center of the Nordstrom building. Gayle says she'll go with him and see what the UNIT bosses have to say. Thomas Magnuson says that he will go with them, as he wants to talk to Edward.
Kelasa and David reach the surveillance centre of the building, to find that the Chief Technician, Edwin Wintervane, won't let them into the centre without permission from David Whitaker. When they attempt to find Whitaker, they learn that no one has seen him during the course of the day. Kelasa worries it has something to do with the disappearance of personnel and their mysterious reappearance on surveillance cameras and monitors. The two head back for a chat with Edward about Wintervane's unwillingness to cooperate.
Blake, Gayle, and Magnuson return to their base of operations in the conference room assigned them by Hale, and Blake contacts his superiors at UNIT HQ in London. He is told that Nordstrom Worldwide is concerned with matters at the London office, and that he is to use whatever means are necessary to get to the bottom of things. They are interrupted as Hale and several of his security guards arrive, and disarm them, telling them that Hale is taking charge, and the UNIT people are not wanted here. It is the timely arrival of Kelasa and David that turns the tide back in favour of the UNIT personnel, and Blake is able to convince Hale to get Wintervane to allow them access to the main surveillance rooms.
While Blake prepares to go down to the surveillance room and Kelasa gathers up her equipment, Magnuson takes Blake aside to talk. He tells Edward that there is something going on down on the second sub-basement level, as that's where the technician and the security guard were found. Blake dismisses their concerns for the moment, and tells the others that it's time they found out what was going on at Nordstrom. Blake does ask Hale what is down on Sub-Level Two, but Hale says that's where the power generation systems and equipment can be found.
The group arrives at the Nordstrom surveillance centre, and Hale gets Wintervane to allow the UNIT personnel inside. Blake tells Kelasa to check out the set-up, see what's what, and determine if there's anything unusual going on. All of the security monitors suddenly light up, and the images of various people appear on the screens. Blake recognizes the dead security guard and technician, and is told they are Hank Marshall and Wilma Federer. Gayle is shocked and surprised to see Ellen Halvors, the secretary that she talked with when the UNIT personnel first arrived, who disappeared in a shower of orange and yellow sparks! When the UNIT personnel question Wintervane and several of his technical experts, they learn that these "system glitches" have been occurring since the thunderstorm several weeks earlier. Gayle tells Blake that they are lying, and that Wintervane and the others are concealing something. Meanwhile, after her examination of the technical systems, Kelasa tells Blake that there's something strange going on here - there appears to be some sort of alien technology that has been fused or merged into the Nordstrom technology and surveillance systems.
Before Blake can ask her any more questions, Wintervane says that he has some other things to show Kelasa, but says that since the rest of the UNIT personnel are not technical staff, perhaps it would be best if they leave, pointing to the wires running all over the ceiling, walls, and floor, and the limited amount of space. Blake agrees, but tells David Anderson to stay with her as a precaution. David is miffed at this, seeing as how his knowledge of technical stuff is somewhat limited, but does as his superior requests. Blake, Gayle, and Thomas leave the surveillance centre and head for the elevators, but not before Gayle notices a sense of relief on Wintervane's face.
Back in the surveillance centre, Wintervane and several of his staff are helping Kelasa come to grips with some of the surveillance and security equipment there. Kelasa strips open a small unit, and is surprised to find alien technology there...and recalls seeing something like it at one time, but can't identify it. She continues to work, unaware that Wintervane is communicating with someone. Before she can do anything else, Wintervane says, "You have seen too much", and then he shoots her with a weapon of some sort, the electricity arcing through her body. She collapses to the ground, and before David Anderson can react, a second blast rings out from behind him, and David goes down in a heap as well. Both he and Kelasa have scorch marks on them. Wintervane says to Hale, "Now, we can proceed with our plans", and Hale replies that he'll take care of the rest of the UNIT personnel.
Meanwhile, Blake, Gayle, and Thomas are in the elevator, descending to the floor where their conference room is set up for them, when the elevator jerks to a halt. While they are a bit perturbed, the UNIT personnel are not overly alarmed - at least, not until the elevator begins to accelerate downwards. Eric Hale's voice comes over the loudspeaker, his tone somewhat icy. "You know too much, and you cannot interfere with our plans. I'm sorry that things must end this way, but we'll chalk it up to a terrible accident. Goodbye, Sergeant Blake!"
TO BE CONTINUED
All in all a really fun session, and the players are enjoying themselves tremendously.
I have to say that using the GM Screen to run the game on the Sunday group was really worthwhile, and that I'm looking forward to doing so again today, as well as on the Friday nighters. Will let folks know how that works out.
This last session involved the use of a lot of Story Points on the players' part for several things, but what's really neat is that the players have used the fiat concept to actually gain Story Points by hindering their own work and plans. A good example of this was early on in the Infirmary, when the players of Gayle and Blake decided that it would be better if a) both the security guard and technician died of Hale's gunshots and b) that Hale would be able to get out of the Infirmary and avoid Blake's questioning as long as possible. Later on, the player playing David Anderson overcame the attack roll in the surveillance centre, and used his fiat to reduce his success to a failure and was taken down by the attack. Very cool stuff on the players' part.
Also notice that all the way through, the players have been avoiding another trip down to Sub-Level 2. They all know something's up down there, but have been stretching things out. Kind of neat, that. Furthermore, they've been deliberately throwing up obstacles to their own dealings with Eric Hale, much to my surprise and enjoyment. So far, the ride is pretty good.
So that's the wrap-up of the third session of actual play. The players are enjoying themselves and love the Doctor Who "feel" that I've been able to give the game, and are finding the mechanics to be really easy to work with. After we finished playing, the folks decided that they wanted to see the final two episodes of the William Hartnell story, "The Dalek Invasion of Earth", so we did that. I'm definitely looking forward to the next session.
In the meantime, got to get ready for this afternoon's game of DW: AiTaS...