The Story So Far

In the first session of the campaign, some apparently random sorceror, Ali Maimun by name, offers the team complete maps of a zone that has just arrived in Nexus in exchange for delivering a package to a certain Mr Atanasov before the next dawn. Then they find out that according to Cress's psychometry the package doesn't exist, that the address they've been given has recently burned to the ground, and that the local police wants to arrest them for the murder of Mikhail Atanasov.

After dealing with these problems in various arguably appropriate fashions, the team find Mr Atanasov, still alive as ever, lurking ominously in an crypt on the other side of a very peculiar interface. Just as they're about to hand over the package (which, within the crypt, does exist), three gentlemen in black suits show up, introduce themselves as concerned citizens, and explain that Atanasov wants his whatsit back so that he could destroy Nexus. Atanasov refusedsto state a definitive goal, falling back on property rights, so after some misgivings the team decides to follow Cress' lead in running like hell and not giving the package to anyone. At this point, Atanasov turns into phosphorescent slime and engulfs the concerned citizens and almost the team. As they run out into the dawn light, Atanasov reforms, waves pleasantly and says, "See you tomorrow night.".

The team's brilliant plan to find a powerful magician or sun god or something to pawn the package off on is derailed when it puts out the holy sunbeam inside the Aztec sun temple and they have to run for it just ahead of several dozen screaming Aztec warriors. Gwyn doesn't make it out, but the rest of the team figures they had better deal with the package first, since Gwyn isn't likely to be sacrificed before the next dawn. The backup brilliant plan, looking up a magician of Cress' acquaintance (Virgil), gets them a geeky apprentice magician (Arvid) who follows Christina around panting, but no actual help.

The backup backup plan encounters fewer difficulties, but is no more successful: the crazed researchers at the Institute For Pre-Nexan Studies confirm that the roughly-carved blue-green rock inside the package is Very Interesting, and cannot be proven to not be pre-Nexan, but don't have any solution to the various problems associated with it. Late in the afternoon, as the surveyors and the researchers are preparing for Atanasov's arrival, the three Concerned Citizens show up and make their pitch again. After some discussion, it is revealed that the Concerned Citizens work for the Nexus City Government. After carefully not inspecting this common ground too carefully, the team hands over the rock to be interred in a Hazardous Materials Containment Facility, and the CC agree to return before sunset to help deal with Atanasov.

Shortly after sunset Atanasov shows up, in a shiny black chauffeured limousine, and explains that the Concerned Citizens won't be coming back from the hazmat facility, and that he would really like to have his rock now. "They locked it away behind four walls, but I extinguished the wall of light, climbed up the wall of gravity, and outlived the wall of time. That leaves only the wall of law. Sign here, please." Although initially peaceable, the encounter quickly turns ugly when the team refuses to be bribed into signing over the rock. Atanasov drives off with the avowed intention of seeing if Gwyn (who is still languishing in pre-sacrificial captivity) will be any more pliable. After a bit of argument, the team sets off in hot pursuit.

After a bit of car chase, Christina succeeds in shooting out the limo's tires enough to cause it to slew across several lanes of highway and into the path of a very large truck, where it disintegrates in a huge splash of phosphorescent slime that dissolves the truck, much of the highway, and a lot of traffic. When the local police show up, Atanasov reforms from the slime, picks up his chauffeur from the side of the road, and steals a police aerodyne.

Having avoided being dissolved thanks to Scott's brilliant driving, the team finally arrives in the vicinity of the Aztec zone, and sneak in through the sewers. Christina sets half the guards to flight with her ghost act and trounces the rest. The alarm is raised, though, so Tom and Christina seize a handy Aztec ex-maiden and her naked boyfriend and terrorize them into telling them where Gwyn is kept. The team's attempt to hide from the temple guards is blown when Arvid suffers a slight mishap with his Book Full of Awful Things and releases a swarm of very hungry, indestructible, blood-sucking pixies. Fleeing the commotion thus engendered, the team makes their way up the pyramid until they encounter the eight-foot-tall elite Aztec warriors guarding the inner temple. A well-planned but poorly-executed ambush gets Tom a couple of severe head wounds, and in the ensuing fight Christina takes a nasty slash from a sword-club. By this point, going back is as dangerous as going ahead, so they push on to the top of the pyramid, where they encounter Atanasov's chauffeur who, having been brought back from the dead by Atanasov, is now considerably more devoted to his employer than previously. Unfortunately, he doesn't have his car handy, and is therefore no match for Christina.

At long last, the team meets Atanasov again, just outside Gwyn's cell. Tom, wounded, tired, and angry, delivers an extended rant about how Atanasov will never get his damn rock no matter what he does, for as long as the Nexus City Government endures, and finishes off by applying his stamp of authority to a document saying the same thing and then to Atanasov's forehead. Atanasov, unperturbed despite the Nexus City Government seal burned into his forehead, replies, "See you in court." and walks off.

Freeing Gwyn from his bonds is the work of a moment, but nevertheless takes long enough for the guards and the animated statues from the front of the pyramid to catch up. The grenade-like widget provided by the Institute and a bit of rear-guard heroism by Gwyn stymie the pursuit, though, and the team escapes down the now-unguarded front stairs of the pyramid, only to meet up with the nine-foot-tall Aztec high priest awaiting them in full ceremonial regalia and priestly dignity. Both sides attempt to use heroic dialog on each other (while in the background Atanasov and his chauffeur can be seen slipping away), but to no avail. Seeing that words have failed, the priest produces a talisman and flings it at Tom, only to have Christina, in an astounding display of gunplay for someone whose good arm is held on by duct tape, shoot it out of the air. Undaunted, the priest makes Christina his next target, but Gwyn dives in the way and instantly bursts into flame. While the rest of the team watches in horror, Gwyn wrestles the priest to the ground and strangles him before finally collapsing into ashes.

Fleeing back to their truck, the diminished team sets off in search of someplace with comfortable beds and good medical care. Unfortunately, the best trauma center Tom knows of in the local area has just been demolished by a falling aerodyne. Along with the patients who made it out, the team goes to the nearby temple of Gorgo (a saurian deity of the rains that restore life) to get Tom and Christina patched up. Despite the soggy and crotchety nature of the care, they return substantially more intact than when they entered the temple, and have acquired a junior acolyte who wants to see Nexus and spread the word to the heathens. There is some dubiousness about her suitability, but she's willing to take the Surveyor's Oath (consisting of the single word 'Onward!' according to Tom) and Cress is all in favor of having someone large to hide behind, so Zelda is duly sworn in.

It being day again, the team heads off to Virgil's to return Arvid. Arvid wants to stay with Christina, but after finding out that the team is on Ali Maimun's bad side, he exercises the better part of valor. (Ali Maimun is apparently major bad news, having melted an entire street full of magicians and rearranged large pieces of geography.) Virgil's reaction is much the same, only more polite; he invites the team to tea, introduces them to his sweetheart Risha (who makes eyes at Tom when Virgil isn't looking), and lends them a terminal before suggesting that he has things to do but they really should stop by again in a few decades and let him know how things went.

Using Virgil's terminal, Tom managed to get paychecks and expense funds, so after finding a bank that would recognize the validity of their checks, the team goes to Zelbrow's, a local sporting goods store, and restocks most of the truck, although the selection of weapons and ammunition is rather lacking. Scott wangles a 15% discount by agreeing to plaster Zelbrow's ads all over the truck, but the expense funds still take a severe blow.

Tom coughs up the money to stay at a nice hotel with room service to bring goat for Cress and a jacuzzi for Zelda to sleep in, but while the team is getting the first good night's rest they've had in three days, Tom and Christina are awakened by alarming dreams to find that the hotel is being pushed out of Nexus by an incoming reality. Abandoning the building out a window and into the pool, and dealing summarily with some petty criminals, they zoom away into the night, staying well away from the slowly manifesting zone lest they get pushed out of Nexus and end up paying another visit to Atanasov.

After an embarrassing incident in which Tom has to resort to the use of a map, he declares their current location safe and has Scott pull over so they can catch a few winks before surveying the new zone. The team is once again foiled in their attempt to get a few hour's sleep when the criminals they thwarted in the hotel parking lot return and flip the truck upside down before being driven off. Quite a crowd has gathered to see what profit can be made off the new zone, though, and Tom is able to use beer to bribe a local hang-gliding club to push the truck back over.

When the sun rises, the new zone is revealed to consist of a 400 meter square and 200 meter high block of black stone, suspiciously but not perfectly squared off, with water pouring over the sides into equally square pools extending another 400 meters or so on each side. The lights seen earlier at the top turn out to be holes about three meters wide lined up just beneath the top. Inspection from the ground reveals nothing of interest, even when Zelda swims out to the wall and prays at the top of her lungs, so Tom gives one of the hang-gliders even more beer to fly him up to the top.

While Tom's pilot is slowly gaining altitude by flying over parking lots, Scott and Christina work on the truck and Cress goes off into the open-air market that's sprung up to cheat the natives. In a remarkable display of haggling, she trades a trinket she made out of some feathers from the Aztec headdress and a bit of copper wire for a bottled demon just like she always wanted. Zelda strikes up a conversation with a band of aquatic-yeti/polar-bear-like creatures that have come to swim in the ice-cold water, but after they figure out she's a religious nut and start being very polite, she starts trying to climb the cliff, and after a couple of tries makes it up.

Finally, Tom and his pilot reach the top of the block, at just about the same time as Zelda. For reasons which are unclear to everyone who is still conscious at the end of the sequence, Tom leaps from the glider toward Zelda, who is in one of the holes near the top. Zelda misses the catch, and Tom plummets into the pool from an altitude at which the difference between water and cement is not as large as one might hope.

Zelda, upon seeing that the yeti/polar-bears have Tom well in hand and are passing him over to members of his own species for treatment, goes ahead with the mission and continues investigating the block. Praying loudly at the dead end of the tunnel results in the wall rolling aside, and she goes into a continuation of the tunnel which contains a great many arthropods who remind Zelda of large shrimp. A ring of man-sized pink shrimp with green edges surrounds the tunnel, and several much larger blue shrimp with white edges hang back, holding mysterious artifacts. One of the pink shrimp attempts to establish communications with Zelda, but when she fails to recognize any of the alphabets it writes, it gives way to a green shrimp with violet edges and a great many antennae, which attempts to communicate with her in pictures. Although both sides seem rather confused by the other, two pictures seem to be agreed on: one is Zelda, Tom, one of the yeti/polar bears, and a spiky box entering the block, and the other is a sequence of suns and moons and lines that Zelda interprets as the night after tomorrow. Believing that an accord has been reached, the shrimp show Zelda the door and she obligingly slips and falls into the pool (but does so much better than Tom did).

Meanwhile, the rest of the team has found a doctor for Tom (a twelve-year-old androgynous very pale kid with a camel-drawn trailer) and gotten treatment started. Cress makes friends with one of the polar bears (Green-Ice-Beneath-The-Waves, or Waves for short), chats with him for a while, and then curls up in the back of the truck with him to take a nap. After a bit the doctor decides that Tom needs more help, and recommends taking him to a hospital a couple of kilometers down the road. The team (now reunited) does so, and arranges for his expenses to be charged to the departmental credit card, which is apparently valid here.

Cress finally wakes up and finds Wave's paw up her shirt. When it is explained just how many camels it takes to get to marry Cress, and that she won't settle for anything less, Waves wanders off morosely. The team checks into a nearby hotel (which happens to be shaped like a rocketship) and attempts to pass out again.

Elsewhere in Nexus: Nyara is surveying a rather dusty zone of small low-tech people who live in adobe towers when she sees a large rhinoceros chasing two thugs on a go-kart with apparent murderous intent. She manages to dissuade Velda from running up any more community service time, even after finding out the that the guys on the (now flat) go-kart launched a missile at the team's truck, but rampaging rhinos and obvious use of magic get the team run out of town.

After failing to track down the missileers, they check into a hotel for the night. Stanford vanishes to do whatever it is Stanford does, Fred spirits Velda away to wine and dine her, and Nyara bathes extensively. About the time she reaches the lounging-about-indolently stage, a grenade flies in through the tenth-floor window. Nyara bails out the window just before the room explodes and the fire alarms go off. After playing cat and mouse with the ex-go-kart riders for a bit while the occupants of the hotel flee the fire in great confusion, she sees them trying to steal the team's truck. Stanford is nowhere in sight, Fred makes a long-winded but ineffectual attempt to stop the thieves, and Velda is too busy escaping her expensive dress to be helpful, so it's up to Nyara to try to stop them. Not wanting to use her combat spells near Stanford's precious truck, she leaps into the back and engages the thieves in hand-to-hand combat as they roar off.

A vicious and somewhat comic battle ensues, distracting the driver enough that the truck goes off the road and toward the cliff. Fortunately, it's stopped by a stone arch constructed at the brink, so that it doesn't go over when Nyara rips the driver's throat out. The other thief tosses Nyara out the window, which turns out to put her through an interface instead of dropping her off a hundred-meter cliff. Nyara finds herself in dark alley, Architects know where, with no apparent way back to her team, and has just enough time to begin swearing before the grenade materializes out of thin air and falls at her feet.

Meanwhile, Tom's team is passed out in the hotel. Later in the evening, Zelda is awakened by all the children leaping into the pool. Before dragging herself downstairs to sleep in the tub, she meets a young vaguely humanoid woman (four arms and a long fluffy tail) who asks if she's an avatar of Bokrug. After some discussion, it is determined that the girl is sort of a co-religionist, Bokrug being an aspect of Gorgo, or possibly the other way round, so she invites Zelda to services later that night.

Eventually, everyone else wakes up and goes out to dinner. Later that evening, as they are returning to the hotel after a fine meal of Cajun blackened frogs, a white-furred catwoman leaps out of an alley which promptly explodes. After calming the locals, the team discovers that she's Nyara, a fellow surveyor. Since their leader is unconscious and they've all had a hard week, they take her back to the hotel and crash, with the exception of Christina and Zelda.

On the way to their various night's activites, Zelda and Christina encounter Waves and another polar bear, Purple Ice Shining in the Sun, driving a hovertruck full of live fish to the pools around the new rock and Zelda buys two of the fish for dinner. Sun is heard to remark upon cuteness, but it's not clear whose.

Christina goes out to have a few drinks in memory of Gwyn. She finds a mercenaries' bar where this custom is well-known and many people are willing to drink with her, especially if she's buying. The wake passes well enough, although towards the end a pair of goblins in nice suits with big guns and swords mention that people are looking for her, but didn't pay enough to get them.

After scouting out the local religious scene, Zelda goes to services at the Temple of Bokrug at midnight. The ceremonies seem to consist of the priest praying the water in the temple pool into a tsunami and the congretation praying it back down, with sermons between the iterations. Afterwards, her new friend invites her for tea with her mother. Zelda is obviously unsuited for the local's city of bamboo scaffolding, so they have tea on the former beach until Zelda escapes.

The next morning, Christina is somewhat nonplussed to find a fish in the bathtub when she wakes up, but despite her hangover manages to resolve the situation without gunplay.

After the others arise, Scott goes out searching for someplace a little cheaper to stay for the month that Tom is expected to recuperate. After some searching around, he finds a nice (though completely indefensible) four bedroom house with a pool for Zelda for only a moderately exorbitant price.

The rest of the team takes Nyara to the local bank where they rent a terminal so that she can file a report stating that she is not missing in action and her pay should not be held back, and then send some flames to her team leader Fred. After that, the day devolves into light shopping and lying about to recover from the excitement of the past few days. Nyara goes shopping for new clothes, since her entire wardrobe is back in the hotel and probably burned to cinders. While wandering around, she meets another of the polar bears, Ice Cracking with a Thunderous Bellow, who asks her out to dinner that night. Having, so far as she knows, nothing better to do that night, she accepts.

That afternoon, the team pays a visit to Tom, who is still unconscious and expected to be that way for some time. Nyara shoos the candystriper who's been mooning over Tom out of the room, performs a brief incantation, and kisses him on the forehead. Tom's eyes open and he says "Nyara? But you're over in sector 27.". He promptly passes out again, but the doctor pronounces him ready for release after a night of observation, and offers Nyara a job, which she declines.

After dinner, it's time to decide who is going to visit the shrimp, since this is the appointed night. Zelda, having been specifically included in the invitation, feels obligated to go, and invites Waves to go as the polar bear. Thinking this will impress Cress, Waves agrees. Tom is still in hospital, so Christina goes in his place, just in case there's trouble. No one has any idea what the spiky box means, so they bring Nyara along as additional backup and hope the shrimp won't be offended. Thunder is quite distraught when Nyara postpones their date, and waits hopefully at the bottom of the cliff in case she needs help or something.

Christina and Waves go up the cliff without much difficulty, but Zelda slips and falls from just short of the top. Nyara, who has been watching from the bottom, catches her in a flight spell and then flies both of them to the top, impressing everyone.

They wait in the tunnel as Zelda did before, and exactly at midnight the door rolls aside...

To be continued...

Characters

Some of the characters mentioned above deserve more description. Some don't.


This file was last modified at 1635 on 22Jun99 by trip@idiom.com.