Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Heroes of the United Worlds 9

9: The Gaia Hypothesis and the Traitor Centurion

5 The Gaia Hypothesis

A mission on Earth introduces the Centurions to Gaia Girl, but is she friend or foe? 

5.1Crops? Dusted!

At the Centurion’s base it’s time for elections – after the events of the Centurion’s Destroyed Emo Girl is more than ready to step down as leader and put someone else in the hot seat. This is a chance for any PCs who want to be leader to step forward and put their hat in the ring. Blackbird steps forward to claim the role as well. (This is the B plot for the issue – Blackbird wants to ‘win’, but he won’t break the code.)

This is when the Earth government sends a request for help. Emo Girl decides to send a team of all of the leadership applicants (plus any other PCs who for players who have PCs interested in being leader) on this mission as a qualifying test. Earth needs help investigating a series of massive crop failures that threaten the system’s food supply. The authorities have received a notice from a group calling itself the Three Earths that is demanding massive payment… or else. Some farmcorps have already paid up

5.2The Good Earth

The PCs + Blackbird take a shuttle to Earth, where they are able to do some research into the crop failures. Conditions on the recovered/terraformed earth are of course favorable, and any scientifically minded PC can determine that there is no sign of tampering in the crops themselves. The plants are just withering up as the land turns to dust and the topsoil blows away. This last part has diminished since unseasonable hard rains of started, which don’t help the crops but are at least preventing erosion. Blackbird proposes to infiltrate the local criminal element to track down the Three Earths that way.

If the PCs come up with any reasonable method for tracking the responsible party it will work, leading them to the next likely spot, a megafarm in Ohio. Blackbird’s connections will reveal much the same thing. They can stake out the site and there they will witness the crops suddenly writhe and collapse as the earth desiccates. There are any number of witnesses/suspects but two will point up in the sky at a sudden, inexplicable thunderhead containing a young girl. The rain starts to hammer down and the PCs will have their first encounter with Gaia Girl, who will do her best to escape if confronted, relying on the surprise of her strength.

5.3Reap the Whirlwind

Assuming Gaia Girl has escaped the PCs will have to go through some effort to find her. Anyone who got close to her will have seen her face and can use that in the earth police logbooks. Further scientific research will show that the problems first started not in the first notified attempt but in an inexplicable potato super-abundance, collapse and hurricane three punch in Ireland four months back. Underworld investigation will turn up an organization that is making a killing on crop futures and funneling chunks of extortion money.

All of this leads the PCs to a girl being sheltered by that organization – Siobhan Han – in a run-down part of the east coast megaoplis. This lets the PCs track Gaia Girl to her home base and confront her again, and likely prepared enough that she can’t escape. During the conflict the area suffers a sudden earthquake, forcing the combatants to shift to rescue mode. Gaia Girl does so as well, at the risk to her life rescuing people from a collapsing building. If possible one of the PCs should be given an opportunity to save her after she has saved others. It’s clear from her behavior that she’s not the villain.

5.4 Whispering to the Wind

Getting a chance to talk to Gaia Girl the PCs learn her story – the exposure to a strange mutagen on the farm in Ireland giving her powers – and that there are two other teens who were affected. She has been trying to stop them, with the help of MMH Inc – the black market group found by the PCs that she thinks are philanthropists. And the description of the two teens matches the ‘witnesses’ who fingered her back in Ohio. And the MMH offices are not far away!

The MMH offices have their friendly, hophat wearing rabbit logo as a marble statue out front. It’s obviously seen some damage from the quake but if the PCs get there in short order they can find the Terra Twins vacating their secret HQ with some bulky men carrying some of their ill-gotten gains. The PCs have a chance to attack them, but might be surprised by the breadth of their super-powers. Both use their powers effectively – Chen animates the rabbit statue and there is no shortage of plants for Yen. When things look bad Yen will generate enormous clouds of choking pollen – treat as a one use Chemical Powers attack as Devitalization (3d10 power damage) and temporary blindness. If that doesn’t work Chen will summon a dust cloud to cover their actions as darkness. If THAT doesn’t work the MMH building blows up! In any event Chen crafts a collapsing escape tunnel.

5.5 Don’t Cry For Me, Terra Firma

Assuming the Terra Twins escape (and if they don’t well, the PCs win) they will have left behind one of their boxes of loot. Much of the rest has already been laundered through MMH Inc, which has rapidly ceased to exist as an entity (and the building blows up before the PCs can investigate it). What the twins left behind is a box of wafer rubies – currency that is only used in the rough and tumble hinterlands of Neptune where e-currency hasn’t made an appearance. This should give the PCs an idea where the Twins intend to hide out until the coast clears.

Sure enough any checking of the world flight records reveals a flight plan for a private shuttle leaving from a nearby spacefield. The PCs will get them in time to either confront them on the ground or force their ship down before it leaves the atmosphere and confront the Twins. The Twins may crash the shuttle and fake their deaths, or be captured depending on what the PCs do. Gaia Girl will turn down any offer of membership since she can’t leave Earth. Any PC who performed especially well is voted the new leader (or Blackbird, if no PC wants it, otherwise he’s deputy leader).

6 The Traitor Centurion

“Star” Zynski and his Ground Pounders are shattering Europa, and it looks like one of the Centurions is helping him!

6.1 Membership Drive

The Centurions are having their second open call for members. Again this is a chance to introduce new PCs (remember the goal for everyone to have 3 PCs – a 21stC heavy hitter, a 3 power hero and a 1 power weaker hero). Also attempting to join are Ablative Boy (another Venusian, who is rejected for not having a unique power per the bylaws), Adonis Lad (a youth who can make any woman love him – he demonstrates this by making the normally reticent Emo-Girl kiss him, but it’s too limited and intrusive a power) and Kid Destructro (who claims to be able to make things explode but actually is using a remote control to detonate pre-planned charges – he’s actually a reporter looking for an exclusive).

Once back inside the clubhouse with their new members the team leader has to explain the current mission: the Ice cities of Europa are being attacked by a small mercenary army that is eluding the Jupiter Defense Forces with high speed entries and extractions. Can the Centurions help? Team assignment is left up to the new leader (and should include one NPC) after everyone sees footage of the events and has a chance to come up with a plan. (The B Plot for this issue is one of the female PCs or if there are none, Miss Chrysalis, being enamored of Adonis Lad and wondering if he’s free for a date.) 

6.2 I don’t know but I’ve been told

The PCs arrive at wherever city they intend to defend – Demon Boy will have calculated the most likely target is a distant outpost – and get a chance to set up. (These are human cities on the surface made of carved ice, not the underwater coral cities of the native Europans). Unfortunately for them once they set up Zynski and his troops arrive perfectly prepared for their plan – he knows where they’re hiding, has weapons designed to exploit their vulnerabilities, and generally kicks them around with his superior tactical skills and high tech gear. Once he starts damaging the outpost the PCs might have to go into ‘save the civilians’ mode, but even if they don’t Zynski will have a pre-arrange escape plan.

Getting back to the base on Ganymede the PCs will have to figure out what happened. There was clearly an information leak somewhere. Demon Boy will scan the place for transmitters or bugs and find none (as can any other PC with appropriate powers). Suspicion will fall on the new members, obviously, as they don’t have been around long enough to be fully trusted but the team leader should break it up. More likely it’s some external thing, and Demon Boy rigs up a shield and they can plan their next action. Someone miht go question the faux Destructo Lad, who did want to spy on them. (During this the B Plot PC will be distracted with Adonis longing).

6.3 Time for round two

The PCs can calculate the next action to take (with whatever PCs they want to send) to protect another outpost on Europa –Demon Boy has figured that Zynski is trying to close off access to the underwater cities, taking out all the carved entrances. Again, it doesn’t matter what their plan is, Zynski is ready for it, with whatever ridiculous weaponry is needed to defeat the heroes. Maybe a giant robot is called for. Whatever they had planned, he nixes it.

That’s two times he’s spied on them through top security – there must be a spy. Eventually Emo Girl will question everyone and end up fingering the most powerful PC present as being guilty of (. The PC can protest, but everyone knows how accurate Emo Girls powers are – unless she’s the spy! Let the acrimony continue for a little bit before deputy leader Blackbird (or the PC leader) breaks it up – Zynski is going to strike again, after all. Blackbird argues that the fingered PC not be involved in the planning based on Emo Girl’s accusation, but he won’t stress it. (In the B plot the PC has an increasing distraction that she is not yet compelled to act on.)

6.4 Third Time’s the Charm?

There are only two ice doors left, and if Zynski is running true to form he’ll be at the smaller one. Unless the PCs isolated Emo Girl or made a different plan without her knowing it this assault will go much like the others – he is precisely prepared for their plan, and even has ambushes of his own set up. If this is a classic LSH style we would have a totally different team with each attack, so now Zynski and his forces have defeated the entire team.

Acrimony should be running high at the clubhouse, with such an obvious spy in their midst and there is only one ice door left – if that is destroyed the Europans will be cut off for years. During this the B plot heroine will be compelled to seek out Adonis Lad, only to find that he is not only not superhumanly beguiling but that he has no recollection of applying for the Centurions. And the only person Adonis Lad touched was…. At this point fingering Emo Girl should be obvious.

6.5 Ground Well Pounded

The PCs might handle Emo-Girl’s possession through stealth, confrontation or some other method. Sssixl will try to jump from Emo Girl to the closest most powerful PC and then turn that power against the team. If that PC is restrained it will try again (it has power enough for two successful mind controls, having recovered what it needed to control Emo Girl and Adonis Lad). Once they have done so they are free to plan things against Syznski as they wish  - and perhaps even have Emo-Girl send a false plan along as a trap (her mind is strong enough to remember what she had done).

This should make the final encounter with Zynski – perhaps with the whole team – much easier. Without advance planning he just isn’t as much of a threat. Of course there’s still the lingering question of why Sssixl wanted to isolate Europa (answer – because the Europans as water breathers are immune to their mind control and thus an impediment to their plans).