Friday, June 10, 2016

Divine Blood - Wasps Among Butterflies - Fifth Session - Semi-Naked Infiltrators

This session involves three characters:

  • Arianrhod Monica Trengrove (aka Aria), the succubus and Perfect Yandere of War who believes Psyche is Doing the Right Thing and is Lost Outside the Hierarchy
  • Sophia Ecks, Voyeuristic Visionary and Virtual Apex Predator who lives on The Bleeding Edge
  • Sarah Gow, a Napoleonic Werepanther from an Urbanized Tribe who's a Practiced Shapeshifter

Only a part of the story

In the wake of the incident with the malfunctioning upright Sarah arrives from the doctors after being treated for her injuries, still feeling a bit out of sorts but feeling as if she's soon on the mend. She comes in as the other two are talking about the previous adventure and the message that they had left with the Private Post Box. Not content to simply wait for their unknown enemy to respond to the message, the three decide to stake out the facility.

Aria haunts the area beside the PO box invisibly, and also naked for no other reason than because she has apparently watched Ghost in the Shell too many times. Meanwhile, Sophia monitors things from her facility behind the paranaturally enhanced firewall of her computers and smartphone. Sarah meanwhile is prowling about out of sight and watching what is happening. Fairly soon, a rather bland looking intern gofer sort of person comes by with a key to collect the mail within the box and the three set to following him in different ways as he gets on the bus.

The invisible succubus slips into the bus rather quickly behind the errand runner and is almost noticed but a distraction occurs in the form of a teenager also trying to cheat the bus fare without benefit of invisibility. While Aria sets herself up to hold herself by the hand rails to the ceiling of the bus, Sarah checks out the bus's route and sets about trying to head it off when she notices that one of the stops is within 2 km of the fashion agency that they had discovered was connected to the yakuza. For extra cover, she decides to shift her human form into an appearance of Faith from Mirror's Edge just to throw people off while she's free-running through the city. Sophia runs a facial recognition and confirms that the errand runner is an intern at the suspicious agency and a fashion major at the Edo University.

Sarah just barely arrives at the bus stop slightly out of breath and with barely anytime to get in position while Aria's corruption from the upright encounter tries her endurance and makes her hands sore as she holds herself to the ceiling, but she manages to keep from dropping on top of the passengers below her. Luckily the intern himself is a bit unaware of his surroundings and walks right past Sarah without even noticing the Faith-cosplaying kitty dart behind a tree.

The wasps find themselves in front of a building that is either one story with very tall ceilings or two stories with very low ceilings. The front door is flanked by two rose bushes beautifully managed and the entire building seems to have something of a rose motif going on. Unusually, it is a building dedicated entirely to the one business: Edobara Fashions; rather than being a taller office building renting out to multiple businesses. Aria proceeds to follow the intern through the main doors while Sophia starts cracking the computers and Sarah catches her breath. 

When Aria passes between the rose bushes, she feels a tingle as something tries to filter out her psychic abilities, but with some effort manages to maintain her invisibility. Realizing that the roses are some sort of modified plant made into a defensive tool, she decides to contact the others. However, fear of discovery caused her to leave her smartphone behind (not that she had any pockets to hold it anyway) and thus instead of calling Sophia or Sarah she goes toward the receptionist's desk and roots about for pen and paper while the receptionist is distracted. In the process she notes that the receptionist is bizarrely attractive and even has dressed and made-herself up in order to de-empathize her natural beauty. With that in mind, she holds her note up to a nearby camera containing the message for Sophia to warn that the roses are there to filter out psychics.

Sophia facepalms a bit and contacts Sarah who decides to head toward one of the side alleys to see about climbing to the roof. She fails to notice the now active and patrolling security but luckily just barely manages to avoid getting seen by a guard walk right past her and then starts climbing to the ceiling as Sophia relays the official layout to Sarah's smartphone.

Within the building, Aria finishes her note and rushes to get into an elevator near the back where she sees the intern vanishing too. Unfortunately, she doesn't quite make it and the elevator door closes around her arm, sending her wheeling into the wall. Her invisibility holds but the intern is spooked and everyone on the first floor turns to look just as the elevator doors close. Security now starts moving into a more agitated state as Sophia monitors the radio chatter trying to produce a number of false alarms to send the guards on wild goose chases. Within the elevator, the intern is cautiously fumbling about worried about mechanical failure or (and he doesn't want to admit it) ghosts. The fumbling forces Aria to once again start trying to use her upper body strength to grasp the maintenance shaft and hold her to the top of the elevator roof. 

At the roof, Sarah finds a large air vent and decides to  make use of her small size to slip into her panther form and move through the vents, very cautiously listening for the presence of guards and patiently waiting for them to pass before traveling along. Unfortunately, she comes to a weak spot in the vents and in moving quickly enough to avoid falling through the vent creates a lot of noise and the vent panel still falls down to the ground just as the intern and Aria come off the elevator and are coming through the security in the hallway. Everybody catches a brief sight of a panther's face before it vanishes deeper into the vents and security becomes a disturbed bee hive.

Her panther form is a bit bigger than that, actually.
Aria calmly walks with the intern into the office toward the back ignoring the chaos around her. Entering the large, sprawling office gives her an odd sensation momentarily and she briefly feels like there's something off about the room, but she is distracted by the presence of an impossibly beautiful Japanese woman angrily pacing and ranting into her smart phone about intruders and peasants interfering in her businesses. The intern very meekly delivers the messages to her and is dismissed leaving Aria to watch the woman's face turn from annoyance to sheer insulted pique as she reads their message to back off Community lands.

Noticing that Aria is no longer on any of her camera feeds, Sophia starts trying to push to find her and discovers a second, more strongly defended, computer system linked to the first. She begins to try to peel it like an onion, which is coincidentally like peeling it like an ogre, trying to figure out where Aria has disappeared to. 

Meanwhile, now that the kitty is the new goose chase, Sarah tries to get her feline throat and mouth to produce words to ask Sophia to lead her somewhere that she can hide and transform away from being a cat. Unfortunately, the effort goes a bit awry and instead Sophia assumes that Sarah wants to be led somewhere where she can kill some of the guards. Being something of a nightmare fuel station attendant, Sophia jumps on that possibility and directs Sarah toward a place over one of the many indoor topiary displays, this one coincidentally including tall grass.

In the first jousting between Sophia and the hidden system, there is a hotly contested flash of data packets which results in the chaotic triggering of every alarm on the buildings' two systems. Fire, burglar and so on.

Meanwhile, Aria's corruption flares up, momentarily disrupting her invisibility. While the woman, presumably Sokano Mei, didn't turn around in time to see anything, she certainly felt the flux of life-force in the area and begins to grow suspicious. Aria tries to distract her by inducing a sneezing fit via her biokinesis. In the midst of the blaring alarms and sneezing Mei tries her own telepathic mode of invisibility but the chaos and sneezing cause her to push too hard and too fast. Instead of casually touching on nearby minds to erase her presence, she instead is pulled into Aria's mindscape as the succubus's instinctive mental protections flare up.

Immediately the two find themselves in a realm of yellow-tinged dignity and martial nobility as Aria's self-image as the perfect lady of war manifests into her home turf. Coming from the armored form of Sokano Mei is a cream-colored realm of ancient knights and ladies and the feeling that the implacable woman at its center is the agent of far greater forces than Aria is aware of. This confirms to both sides that neither of the other is human, with Mei being sidhe and Aria being...something which the woman at first doesn't quite believe. Immediately, Aria responds by frantically remembering her lessons on mindscape defense and imagining Mei's glorious and gleaming armor turning rusty and ill-kept.

Sarah makes use of the screaming alarms to avoid being noticed when she drops down into the tall grass, like a pokemon chosen by a mildly psychotic player at a computer some distance away. She tries to say "I hate you" into her bluetooth, but unfortunately all Sophia hears is "Thank you." There is a close call when a guard hears something, but the natural stealthiness of a panther combined with Sarah's training and small size keep her hidden as he investigates and she positions herself to make a dash to a nearby bathroom.

The digital battle continues with Sophia putting as much of her resources as possible into breaking into this new system. Using her domination over the first system and her own facilities, she unleashes a fraction of her Eye of Ar firewall into an offensive variation to flood the computer systems hoping to shock the defensive specialists into hesitating and making chaos out of their systems. 

Mei notes that Aria's people should be extinct and floods the surroundings with ancient scenes of a dark-red haired woman with blue facial marks slaughtering numerous women with the same sort of eyes and a multitude of illusory demon forms similar to Aria's. In some places some of the illusory succubi seem to go insane and start helping the dark-haired woman slaughter their own kind as the woman walks through the center of the carnage. Aria immediately works to push it back ascertaining that the rumors of her extinction are exaggerated however, the mental assault touches an emotional nerve. 

Aria pushes back by updating the battlescene into a modern conflict zone out of the area of Burmese occupied East-India. Drones, ogre tanks firing rail guns, men darting from fox hole to crater to ruined building carrying rifles and rocket launchers as uprights walk about like fifteen-foot tall metal giants. The images are powerful and strong, but raising them takes its tool as Aria's lack of familiarity with Sensitive category skills and powers shows itself and she presses closer to aggravating her pre-existing corruption.

Aria's own image suddenly modifies to that of a modern tactical soldier armed with the modern gear even as Mei pushes to repair the rusty damage to her own appearance. Then the sidhe responds to the modifications of the terrain by sending a flood of knightly warriors on horseback ahead of her trying to crash through the various modern flavorings and trying  to return the mindscape to a flat un-weaponized manner. Her assault, even backed by images of sorcerers of great channeling ability, fails against the sheer brute force Aria put into her defenses.

In the real world, Sarah manages to reach the toilet with a quick dash while the guards are looking the wrong way. The first thing she does is get into the worker's closet and pulls out some extra janitor's clothes to replace the one's she lost when she shapeshifted. Then she adjusts her body slightly to better fit the clothes and change her appearance. Then she walks out as if just a worker and gets herself snapped at to get out of the way because the guards are looking for a dangerous cat. Sarah obliges by walking to the office she knows Aria is inside.

The succubus reaches for her mindscape radio and forms an active visualization set to attack enemy minds in the form of a stalking sniper. The creation of this image tears even more at Aria's endurance but the shot from the pet causes the sidhe a bit more concern. Instead of trying to clear the visualizations that keep her from arranging the terrain to her liking, Mei decides to simply attack her enemy directly with a barrage of thorny vines. Unfortunately, her impatience and anger cause the attack to fail and give Aria the opening she needs to push Mei out of her mind and end the mindscape conflict.

Sophia breaks through into the new system and finds its cameras just in time to see both Mei and Aria recovering from the trance they had been in while fighting on the mindscape. Seeing Aria naked, Sophia facepalms and then starts recording because she's voyeuristic. However, another thing she notices is that the office that Aria is in is way too large to fit within the recognized dimensions of the building they had gone into. Sophia unlocks the door for Sarah who slips into the room quietly, trying not to draw attention.

Cursing under her breath, Mei leaves the scene, darting for a window and leaping through it into another vista beyond showing an archaic and beautiful estate that blended European knightly flavors with those of the samurai of Japan. Where the sidhe crashed through the window, reality itself started pulling apart as the Psyche operatives recognized a cut-out shard designed to force pursuers away and prevent them getting into a more permanent extra-dimensional facility.

Sarah and Aria leave the room as the shard collapses behind them leaving the doors to the office to head instead into a bare and empty room cluttered with boxes. Ahead of them, one of the guards catches a brief glimpse of Aria before the succubus returns to invisibility. Her endurance continues to press, however, and she almost aggravates her condition. Sarah has similarly been pushing the edges of her own endurance with the amount of shapechanging she's been doing, but manages to casually walk past the confused guard who is trying to decide if he really just saw a naked woman. Before the guard can put one and two together, however, Aria makes the decision to use her biokinesis to flood the guard with sleep inducing pheromones making him think slower and sleepily. Blisters erupt along her body as she does so.

Sophia helps cover their retreat by unleashing techonological chaos including sending the buildings multitude of rhombus cleaning robots into chaotic action all at once. Aria once more tries to add to the chaos by briefly dropping and resetting her invisibility once she reaches the first floor drawing some momentary attention. The effort just causes her already pushed Essence to tear and twist in several places, causing the sensation of cold and chill that had been in her hands and the minor blisters she'd had to erupt into what seems to be a case of major frostbite across her body.  However, that moment of distraction is enough to draw the guards away from Sarah walking out and Aria's invisibility allows her to limp and drag herself to where she can lean against the therianthrope who helps her leave the area.

The hacker further covers their tracks by sending some rhombas up debris and into the vents to seek out Sarah's clothes and start a fire to destroy them. Meanwhile they had to face the realization that their enemy was the Faerie Court, self-proclaimed rulers of not only all sidhe but all mortals, one of the great evils of the ancient world and though they are much weakened in the modern days, to the point of being just one terrorist organization among many, their agents are known to be as zealous, cruel and tyrannical as ever they were in the days of their greatest power 50,000 years ago.


Semi-Naked Infiltrators Roll20 Play Grid

So, as someone noticed this is one of the first times I have ended up with a player reaching a Severe Consequence. I have been a bit gunshy about that due to a mistake I made early in my Fate GMing career where I sort of ended up accidentally pulling a killer-DM moment rather than presenting an honest challenge. My hope here is that this session will cure me of that and I'll be less hesitant about threatening players. That said, this was a very interesting session. All in all, we only had one Conflict (the mindscape) with everything else being handled by Contests and Challenges. The players still ended up winning most of the contests handily but part of that was due to Mei Sokano using all the NPC Fate Points in her conflict. 

The mindscape went well. Within the fiction, the appearance of a mindscape between mortals (and both the sidhe and succubus are mortals) represents a dangerous mistake by the psychic trying to get into the other person's mind. Usually they try to move too fast or too powerfully. The person being invaded has the natural advantage, being in their own mind. The usual goal is to force one side or another to drop the mindscape or to kick them out and that is what happened when Mei over stretched herself. Aria went for several high-difficulty visualizations to defend herself, trusting in her large Essence Stress Track to be able to handle the effort. Realistically, Mei came away annoyed but generally untouched save a near miss by the sniper visualization and Aria, untrained in telepathy, was pushed to her limits so badly that even the stuff she normally handles well (Manipulative type powers) caused her corruption to aggravate to the severe levels.

At this point, both Sophia and Aria have taken some mindscape related Advantages which will mean that they will likely be facing more telepaths. Also, at this point, I am planning to update Mei Sokano from the stats that currently exist in the draft of the sidhe species book to being a fully statted antagonist with her own Refresh independent of the NPC pool.

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