Thirty Minutes After Midnight – II

Episode 2 – A Race against Time

            “I suggest you hurry. The fuses are set for thirty minutes after midnight and you have a long way to go.”

            The projector clicked off and began to rewind automatically.

“So, we have intruders?” The voice came from the door

            Outside, Jack sat bolt upright and nudged Alex. Four Chinese figures were approaching the car; four more were going into the door of the restaurant.

            “You will surrender and come with us”. The speaker was a Chinaman, wearing a red headband. Flanking him were two others; both wearing headbands.

“Why? Where are we going?” countered Yozmodius. He glanced at Dr Zeus.

“You are going downstairs. Lady Sin wishes you to speak to her.”

“I’m going nowhere.” Yoz went to pull his gun; the nearest Chinaman leapt across the room and made a series of lightning-fast karate chops at him. Yoz was Shaken and Wounded! Another Chinaman attacked Zeus; with a similar result. They needed no further prompting; they both surrendered. *

Outside, Jack and Alex watched the Chinese approach the car. They closed the windows and prepared to sit it out. This changed when one of the Chinamen threw a burning firecracker / flare into the the car; it missed but it freaked out Jack. He floored the gas and threw the car round the corner; out into the street. The Chinese made no moves to stop them. They drove through Curtistown for a time, then returned to the ‘Wing Yip’ to observe from across the street.

Yoz and Dr Zeus were taken downstairs into the basement and locked in a cell. Two Chinese stayed on guard; they would not respond or communicate with the prisoners. Sometime later the door opened and in walked a stunningly beautiful Asian woman, wearing a Cheongsam; flanked by two hard-faced Chinamen. She gestured with a hand and one of the guards began to fill the cistern of the Water Torture device. She walked close to the bars of the cell.

“ I am Lady Sin. I work for the Shadow Sun Syndicate and I am Lo Fat’s chief interrogator. You will eventually tell me everything I want to know. Who of you wants to be the first?”

“Me!” yelled Dr Zeus. He then proceeded to tell Lady Sin of everything that they knew about the bracelets; what they were and the plot to destroy the Combined Fuel Depot, **

“There,” cooed Lady Sin. “That wasn’t so hard, was it? The Syndicate rewards those who help it.”

Without warning; both Yoz and Dr Zeus had bracelets snapped around their wrists.

“You have seen the film. The fuses are set for thirty minutes after midnight. You have seventeen hours.”

Dr Zeus called after her. “I’d like to see you again.” Lady Sin turned and smiled. “You would not ever want to meet me again, the pleasure would be mine only.”

Outside; Jack and Alex saw Dr Zeus and Yoz run from the building and noted the bracelets.

“Drive!”, yelled Yoz. “We have to get to the bunker and the keys.”

The drive from Port Douglas to the fuel depot took eleven hours ***. The depot was up a dirt track off the main road. A large hill with a set of double doors was surrounded by a wire fence; a few lights on poles illuminated the inside. Guarding the fence were three soldiers wearing US military fatigues. A fourth soldier manned a .50 cal. MG mounted on a jeep ****

The plan they came up with was so convoluted that it just had to work! Jack and Alex boldly marched up to the main gate and asked for directions to Boston (about 2880 miles!). They then started arguing in a mixture of Spanish and Italian; distracting the guards while Yoz and Dr Zeus broke in though the fence. Zeus used his Invisibility Belt and Yoz managed to sneak across to the warehouse door. The main doors were huge, but there was a smaller access door. It was locked, but Yoz used his lockpicking skills to open it and they got inside.

The depot was huge, large warehouse-sized rooms filled with drums of fuel oil, gasoline and aviation fuel, lit by the occasional bulb. There did not appear to be any guards inside. They began searching everywhere for the keys to the bracelets. ***** With about two hours remaining they actually found three keys; they unlocked their bracelets and left the third key in plain sight. They succeeded in sneaking out again through the hole in the fence and ran down to the road, where Jack and Alex were waiting in the car.

“Drive!” yelled Yoz, “there’s only about thirty minutes left.” Sure enough, the bracelets were growing warm and beginning to sizzle; giving off acrid fumes. After twenty minutes they pulled up by a lake; Zeus and Yoz hurled the bracelets as far as they could into the water; then they drove off. Shortly afterwards there was a muffled explosion and a ball of white flame rose over the trees behind them.

Back in Port Douglas, Jack was relieved to find that his apartment had not exploded in flames. However, Swallow’s body and the bracelet were missing. The window to the apartment had been forced open. A note was on the fire mantelpiece, it read

“You have not heard the last of me”

XP = 2

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GM notes

* Pulp Benny awarded for surrendering to overwhelming force.

** Hindrance: Big Mouth

*** Used a modified Dramatic Task to determine how long it took

**** An anachronism – the Jeep was first produced in 1940. This was probably an experimental Chrysler model.

***** They were firmly convinced that there were no keys and that they would not be able to remove the bracelets (GM: The Shadow Sun Syndicate aren’t that evil – or are they?)

* Has anyone spotted where the inspiration for this adventure came from? It would be FAB if you did.

Thrilling Adventure Stories – 3

Thirty Minutes after Midnight

Part 1 – Secrets of Chinatown

After their stay in England as guests of Lord Starling and a tour of the British Isles (Stonehenge, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, Buckingham Palace) Jack, Dr Zeus, Yoz and Alex returned to Port Douglas. They spent some of their money on various things; Jack bought his apartment in the Garment District, overlooking the river, and Zeus invested in a posh car, a Chrysler Airflow.  It was whilst out in the car one afternoon that the incident occurred: –

“What the deuce!” exclaimed Jack, who was driving. He wrenched the wheel to the side as a light grey sedan sideswiped them as it sped past. He was able to keep control and sped off in pursuit.

“My car,” wailed Dr Zeus. “They’ll pay for that damage.”

Jack managed to keep the sedan in sight, but it was a faster car and was slowly pulling away. Jack pulled out all the stops and closed up to about 30 feet behind the other car.

“I’ll stop them,” said Yozmodius; pulling both his guns he leant out of the window and loosed off a series of shots at the rear tyres. The results were spectacular; the car spun and exploded in a white-hot ball of flame; one body flying out of the explosion.

“What did you hit!” said Jack, aghast. Dr Zeus looked more thoughtful. “That’s not a normal gasoline fire. Stop the car.”

The heat from the fire was intense; the metal was beginning to buckle and melt. There were two bodies in the car; there was no hope of saving them. Yoz and Jack went to the other body. It was a white, middle-aged male wearing a business suit. He wore a wristwatch on his left wrist and a curious metal bracelet on his right wrist. It was metal, broad, thick and heavy, with a series of red panels set in the upper surface. Yoz tried to take it off; it was locked on, with an intricate lock. He tried to pick the lock but it was not a normal one and he couldn’t do it.

Zeus looked in the man’s billfold; his name was Herbert Swallow, an agricultural machinery salesman with an address in Gloverton. There was a photograph of an attractive dark-haired woman, $50 in cash and a matchbook bearing the logo of the ‘Wing Yip’ Chinese restaurant, in Chinatown.

There was a car approaching, a black Duesenberg. It slowly drove past, the rear window open; then speeded up and off into the distance. They put Swallow’s body into the trunk and headed back to Jack’s Waterside apartment.

Zeus took a closer look at the bracelet, but was unable to find out anything more. They decided to split up *, Yoz and Dr Zeus decided to play the part of detectives from the PDPD and Jack and Alex went to check out the ‘Wing Yip’.

The address in Gloverton was typical for the area, a grassy yard and a detached house in a friendly street. A dark-haired woman answered the door. Some fancy (and lucky) Persuasion from Yoz convinced her who they were and she invited them in. She was Jennifer Swallow, Swallow’s wife, and was visibly upset at the news of his death. They were able to find out: –

  1. a) Swallow was a salesman, he worked for Argyll Agricultural & Tool Suppliers, based in Newton. He left for work this morning as usual. He caught the bus, he didn’t drive. **
  2. b) He wasn’t worried or concerned about anything as far as she knew.
  3. c) His job involved selling tractors and ploughs and stuff to farmers.
  4. d) She gave him the watch for their wedding anniversary; she didn’t know what the bracelet was. They had been married for twenty years.
  5. e) They had never been blessed with children.
  6. f) She would, of course, give the police her full co-operation.

They left and headed off into Newton, to check out Argyll Agricultural & Tool Suppliers.

Jack and Alex headed off through the Curtistown Tenements, heading for Chinatown.

“Watch your step here,” warned Alex. “Even the big gangs like my old lot don’t mess with Chinatown. This place is run by the Shadow Sun Syndicate; has been for years. Head guy is called Sun Lo Fat.”

Jack laughed at this. Alex glanced at him, alarmed. “That’s what I mean, bud. Them that laugh at the guy’s name have things … happen to them.”

The ‘Wing Yip’ was a non-descript building on a side street; with an alleyway down one side. There was an upper floor with a few windows. The outside was hung with Chinese lanterns. Inside was a décor of Chinese motifs in red, yellow and gold. A smiling waiter approached them.

“You want table and see menu? We offer plenty good food, the best in town.

“We’d like a table upstairs”, said Jack. “You know … upstairs?” ***

Still smiling, the waiter shook his head. “No upstairs. Private. You order now?”

Jack and Alex ordered a Chow Mein with crispy noodles each while they thought of a plan. Doing some observation, they saw a door behind the front counter that had some stairs up. While Alex paid, Jack tried to go through the door, but was stopped by another waiter.

“No go here. Private.”

“Sorry, I was looking for the restroom”.

At Argyll Agricultural & Tool Suppliers, Yoz and Dr Zeus spoke to the manager. Swallow didn’t turn up for work that morning. Everyone else clocked in as normal. When asked about the ‘Wing Yip’, the manager was surprised that Swallow would go there as neither he nor his wife liked foreign food. Swallow was just a regular guy, he was ok at his job and produced results. A look round his desk produced nothing ****

Back at the apartment they pooled notes and formulated some theories.

  1. a) Swallow left for work that morning and never arrived
  2. b) He was thrown from an exploding car that afternoon, wearing a strange bracelet that cannot be removed.
  3. c) The bracelet must have been put on after he left for work
  4. d) Everything points to the ‘Wing Yip’, but Swallow hated Chinese food.

They climbed back into the Chrysler and headed back to the ‘Wing Yip’. It was in darkness. Yoz and Dr Zeus left to check out the building; Jack and Alex stayed in the car.

The outer door was locked; Yoz was able to pick the lock easily. The rear door led to the kitchens; there were stairs up and down. Yoz produced a battery torch and went down. The basement contained a series of barred alcoves with lockable gates; cells designed to hold humans. In the centre of the room was a stone bed with chain restraints; over it hung a water-filled stone pitcher. A device to inflict the Chinese Water Torture! Yoz looked for some way to break the infernal device, but there was none. At the far end of the cellar was an area of wall blackened and burnt from intense heat; the remains of part-melted chains hung from heavy staples set in the stone.

Calling to Zeus to follow, Yoz went upstairs. A locked door led to a room with four beds and half a dozen chairs facing a screen. In front of the screen was a cine reel projector. Zeus clicked the switch to ‘on’ and the film began to play.

The film showed a curtain, with a shadow behind it. A voice speaks, a Cultured American, with a trace of a Japanese accent.

“Gentlemen. You have been selected for a mission. Please look and listen carefully to these instructions. There is not time to repeat them. Please watch the film.

The film shows a huge underground warehouse, filled with barrels of fuel oil and aviation fuel.

This is the Combined Forces Fuel Supply depot, in Oregon. Your mission is simple. You will travel there and leave behind the bracelets that you are wearing.”

Pause

“Do not attempt to remove them, the steel is unbreakable. They can only be removed with the correct key. That key is inside the depot. Each bracelet contains a powerful incendiary explosive; timed to go off at thirty minutes after midnight tonight.

Pause

“You doubt me? Then continue to watch the film. This man laughed at my name.

                [A horrible scene; a prisoner wears one of the bracelets, chained to a stone wall. The bracelet explodes into a burning white-hot flame that engulfs the prisoner; burning them to ashes. The chains have melted; the stones are glowing from the heat.]

“I suggest you hurry. The fuses are set for thirty minutes after midnight and you have a long way to go.”

The projector clicked off and began to rewind automatically.

“So, we have intruders?” The voice came from the door. *****

Outside, Jack sat bolt upright and nudged Alex. Four Chinese figures were approaching the car; four more were going into the door of the restaurant.

Stay Tuned for the next issue of Thrilling Adventure Stories – A Race against Time

 

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GM notes

* Again! Every Game they do this.

** I did have to keep reminding the players of the time period – not everybody drove or owned a car; not every house had a telephone.

*** Jack was hinting at a private club / speakeasy; even though Prohibition ended in 1933; such clubs continued until the 1940’s, and still do today in the guise of ‘Gentlemen’s Clubs’.

****     Harry “Does he have a computer?”

Matt “In the 1930’s, a computer would be as big as this house”

***** Chandler’s Law

GM: There is an Easter Egg here; has anyone spotted it? Comments welcome

Thrilling Adventure Stories

THE FOLLY OF THE WISE

Part 3 – The Pit of Peril

 

            Ferguson stood there, gripping his shotgun. “You had to interfere, didn’t you? Well, you’ll not stop me getting my share”. With that, he discharged both barrels of his shotgun through the gate and into the tunnel …

 

Jack and Yoz threw themselves to the floor of the tunnel and the shotgun blast travelled overhead; they got some minor stinging cuts and weals from the rebounding pellets. Both drew their pistols but Ferguson had disappeared into the dark. They went back to examine the gate; it was a heavy wrought iron affair but it was hung on a simple hinge. Yoz exerted all his strength to try and lift the gate; he failed and nearly ruptured himself!* Jack decided not to try; he offered Yoz another humbug and; once the sun had risen; started shouting for help. Eventually Alex and Dr Zeus arrived and using a crowbar from the garage, levered the gate open.

They carried Yoz back to the house where he retired to bed. Mrs Dalby, the cook, made him a warm custard and gooseberry pie and prepared a hot mustard poultice to apply to his injury.

Alex, Jack and Dr Zeus went out onto the estate and visited Ferguson’s cottage. There was nobody there; inside they found a part-burnt letter in the fireplace. It was from Alan Longbaugh; offering Ferguson 10% of the money if he helped him inherit; the letter pointed out that even without the further inheritance, Starling had far too much money anyway. There were some drawings on how to prepare a crude hydraulic device rigged to flush at irregular intervals; the water draining into one of the hollow support columns of the pagoda would make it act like a giant organ pipe. On the kitchen table was a receipt from the village store for “Plumbing items £2 10/6”. In the bedroom, under a loose board; Alex found £500 wrapped in waxed cotton; far too much money for a man in Ferguson’s position to have. They waited around at the cottage for most of the day; but Ferguson didn’t show.

In the late afternoon the air grew sultry and the clouds massed; another storm was brewing. Jack went out looking for Ferguson, Alex returned to the house and Dr Zeus stayed at the cottage, armed with his Lightning Gun (which he was carrying around in a fishing tackle box). Yoz awoke, feeling much better and went downstairs. Longbaugh was reading in the library, sounds of laughter from outside indicated that the others were on the tennis court. Groves, the butler, approached him.

“Excuse me sir, but have you seen his Lordship anywhere? He was due back this afternoon”

“I thought he was stopping in London overnight at the Savoy?”

“A change of plan sir; Fermi could not make the luncheon engagement. It is unlike his Lordship to be late. He is due to open the village fete tomorrow.”

“Perhaps he missed the train. I’ll go to the station to ask.”

“Very good sir. Perkins will drive you in the Rolls.”

It was growing dark as the storm clouds massed overhead when Yoz arrived at the station. The stationmaster was surprised at the query.

“Lord Starling? He came in on the mid-afternoon train. He was met by Ferguson; his groundsman”

Yoz ran back to the car, calling to Perkins. “Back to the house, as fast as you can. Lord Starling is in danger and I think I know where he is.” As they reached the house the storm broke; lightning flashed and thunder roared. Yoz ran into the study; as he suspected, the key to the pagoda was missing. At that point; Alex and Jack came in, followed by Longbaugh.

“Starling’s in danger. Ferguson is holding him in the pagoda. I think he’s intending to push him into the pit. Remember what Starling said about being hit by the pendulum?”

Longbaugh went pale. “This wasn’t supposed to happen. No-one was meant to get killed”

“No-one will get killed. But we don’t need you. Go back and read a book or something.”

They all ran across the lawn to the pagoda; to their surprise they found Dr Zeus waiting by the door. Inside they saw Starling standing by the edge of the pit with Ferguson pointing his shotgun at him. Ferguson was yelling over the eerie swish of the pendulum; interspersed with the crashes of thunder.

“I’ll get my share. I’ll not be cheated again.”

Starling was just about to speak when Jack ran forward and grappled Ferguson; trying to wrest the shotgun from him. Yoz pulled Starling towards the door; only to see Longbaugh blocking it. Yoz didn’t give time for Longbaugh to say anything; a swift punch left him dazed.

Alex ran forward and hit Ferguson’s gun with the crowbar; sending it spinning into the pit. His second blow hit Ferguson’s legs, causing him to buckle. Alex then went to deal with Longbaugh in the door; Ferguson jumped up and aimed a punch at Jack. Jack spun out of the way and Ferguson overbalanced and fell into the pit. Jack grabbed his hand as he fell; he couldn’t hold the grip and Ferguson fell directly into the path of the pendulum.

EPILOGUE

Back at the house; Longbaugh confessed all. The whole thing was a set-up to try and get his share of the inheritance. He recruited Ferguson and Mariam but he did not believe that Ferguson would go that far.

Starling vows to stay in touch with Dr Zeus [Connection] and paid all the PC’s $1000 each

XP = 2 each

—————

* Another Critical Fail, this time on a Strength test! He gained 2 Fatigue.

 

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We are going to stick with pulp action for our next SW Game. However, next up is a Game of Numenera, as I acquired this to read on holiday.

 

Thrilling Adventure Stories

THE FOLLY OF THE WISE

Part 2 -The Village of Fear

            Jack, Yoz, Dr Zeus and Alex are guests at Poolford Manor in England. They are here at the behest of Lord Starling to prove that his family folly is not haunted.

The following morning, after breakfast, they intended to ask Starling if they could look at the will to see who would inherit if he didn’t. However, they got side-tracked into asking for a demonstration of the pendulum. Starling led them to the tower and unlocked the door with a large brass key

“How many keys are there?” asked Jack. “Just this one”, was the reply. “It hangs on a hook in my study, under a portrait of my father.

The inside was eerie; several benches were spaced round a circular pit into which hung the pendulum, a massive plumb bob at the end.. The floor of the pit was laid out as a circle divided into degrees by brass strips. Looking up, the wire seemed to stretch upwards forever; inspiring a feeling of vertigo. Climbing shrubs and plants hid the uprights of the tower.

“How much did this cost to build?” “About ten thousand pounds”. Alex whistled softly “ten thousand bucks to win a hundred? The guy must have been nuts.” He caught Lord Starling looking at him. “Sorry, I guess you English call it eccentric”.

With some help, Starling set the pendulum swinging and started a large stopwatch mounted on the wall. The pendulum behaved exactly as the theory predicted; moving its plane of swing one degree every five minutes.

“Do not go down into the pit”, warned Starling. “There is a lot of kinetic energy in that bob and being hit by it would be like being hit by a steam locomotive.

Starling locked the tower and returned to the house. The PC’s headed for the village; as they were about to cross the stream they spied a brick tunnel in the bank. Investigating, they found an arched brick-lined tunnel leading towards the gardens. A large pipe came from up out of the river and a culvert had a trickle of water going back into the river. The tunnel was blocked by an iron gate; locked. Yoz was about to try picking the lock when a loud voice came from behind: –

“Be on your way. You’re trespassing.”

The speaker was a dour man, wearing a hunting jacket, canvas trousers and wellingtons. He carried a double-barrelled shotgun.

“We are guests of Lord Starling”, said Yoz. “Are you Ferguson? Lord Starling told us you were the groundkeeper”.

“Lost are you? The house is that way”.

“We are here investigating the haunting of the tower. Where does this tunnel go?”

“Don’t know. It’s been locked for years and the key’s gone”.

They headed back up to the driveway and crossed over the bridge; Ferguson watched them leave. Walking down the road towards the village they discussed various theories; it was possible Isadora Downes was doing it as she stood to inherit* Or, it was someone pretending to be the ghost of Old Harry the disappearing coachman.

“You know; Ferguson wasn’t being straight with us. As groundkeeper, it’s his job to know where that tunnel goes”.

In the village; Yoz and Alex went to the church to try and find any mention of Old Harry; or a recently-disturbed grave. Reverend Holt was quite helpful; he believes the noises are being made by the wind blowing from a certain direction. He does not believe that Reverend Downes has returned as a ghost; he was a devout man of the cloth. He has never heard of anyone called Old Harry.

Jack and Dr Zeus went to the public house (“The Starling’s Tower”) and talked with the landlord and Bert Roper; who claimed to have seen “the divil ‘isself come out of the trees at him and pursue him to the village green”. After a few drinks and some talking they decided that Roper hadn’t actually seen anything. Neither Roper or the landlord knew anyone called Old Harry. Jack left the pub a little worse for wear; not being used to English beer.

In the village store; Jack bought a quarter of humbugs** and Dr Zeus bought a quarter of Rhubarb and Custard. The shopkeeper confirmed that they could hear the ghost here in the village and that it would be terrible if Lord Starling lost his inheritance as he owned the village. Nobody called Old Harry lives round here.

Yoz and Jack found Isadora Downes working in the ‘Copper Kettle’ tea shop and café. Yoz ordered a large pot of tea and scones and butter. They learnt that she used to tutor Ethelred Starling when he was a boy; that her father was a very devout Christian and remained good friends with Lord Starling and that she was not a beneficiary of the will (by this time, they’d given up asking about Old Harry).

By now it was tea-time and the air was heavy and oppressive. Thick clouds were building up; it was obvious that a storm was brewing.

They headed back to Poolton Manor and down to the river. Something had changed; the gate now had a chain and padlock on it! Yoz set to work and easily picked the padlock and the lock on the gate. He and Jack went into the tunnel; convinced it was a secret passage leading to the house; Dr Zeus and Alex went back to the house.

Yoz pulled the gate shut behind him and tried to relock it. His lockpick snapped off in the lock; locking the gate permanently***. The tunnel was dark and they had no torches.

At the house; Dr Zeus and Alex asked if they could see the will. Starling obliged and helped translate the complex legalese. Basically; if Starling doesn’t inherit then four cousins get 25% each.

Wesler, G (England); Crossingham A (England); Longbaugh A, (USA), LaRue J (France).

Longbaugh? Just then the gong sounded; “Dinner is served, My Lord”

“Thank you, Groves. Oh, I won’t be here tomorrow; I’ve got to attend a meeting in London and then I’m lunching at the Carlton with Fermi and Heisenberg; they’ve got some exciting new ideas they want to talk about. I’ll stop over at the Savoy and be back on Friday.

Dinner was served at 7pm; when asked about Yoz and Jack; Dr Zeus made up a story about them experiencing drinking in an English pub. 8pm came; but the ghost did not appear. At 8:15pm the storm broke; lightning flashed and thunder rolled. At around 8:20 a massive bolt of lightning struck the tower; for several seconds coruscating flashes of blue fire flickered up and down it. Longbaugh and Marian looked worried; Starling was unconcerned.

“The globe is a lightning conductor”.

Meanwhile; down in the tunnel; a different battle was raging. Jack had refused to give Yoz any mint humbugs unless he did something good. They ended up fighting; Jack was shot in the foot and they ended up in a MAD situation with guns pointing at each other****. The impasse was broken by someone trying to get through the gate; they couldn’t see who it was; but the silhouette looked like Ferguson.

Back at the house; after some conversation in the library; everyone retired to bed. It was in the early hours then that the ghost put in an appearance.

Down in the tunnel; having made up their differences; Yoz and Jack explored up the tunnel. There was a massive flash of lightning and almost immediate explosion of thunder overhead; in the flash they saw something gleaming white at the end of the tunnel. Yoz nearly fell into it; a water cistern with a hose rigged up to collect water from the lake overflow, with an outlet pipe leading out through the wall. He turned on the inlet tap; the cistern filled, then flushed. From somewhere outside came the horrifying sobbing groans of the ghost.

Inside the house there was a general state of alarm. Lights were lit in various rooms; several of the servants were visibly upset. Dr Zeus watched Longbaugh; he was peering out of the window as if looking for something. He saw Dr Zeus and Alex and suggested that they should hold a séance; with Marian as the medium. Both of them were dead against it.

“I am a scientist”, said Dr Zeus, “and Starling would never agree to it; he’d be compromised”

“I agree,” said Alex. “Science, not séance” *****

As no more noises came; eventually everyone settled back to sleep. Down in the tunnel; Jack disconnected the hose leading to the cistern so that it wouldn’t fill up; intending to use it as evidence. At this moment, there came the clink of metal from the gate. Ferguson stood there, gripping his shotgun.

“You had to interfere, didn’t you? Well, you’ll not stop me getting my share”.

With that, he discharged both barrels of his shotgun through the gate and into the tunnel …

Stay Tuned for the next issue of Thrilling Adventure Stories – The Pit of Peril

GM Notes

* No idea where they got this idea from

** Later to cause so much dissension and some of the best laughs we’ve had

*** Yes, a Critical Failure!

**** Ben is a SW GM so I just let them get on with it. After all of this; they ended up still as friends!!

***** Pretty good, coming from an illiterate gangster

Thrilling Adventure Stories

ISSUE 2 – THE FOLLY OF THE WISE

This adventure is based on the excellent adventure of the same name written by Marcus Rowland for his Forgotten Futures RPG. I first ran it in 2010 for the Dr Who ‘Timelord’ RPG and revived it because it is so good and atmospheric.

Part 1 – The Disappearing Coachman

Prologue:
A dark, windswept night, the wind rushing through the trees and ragged clouds scudding across the moon. A farm worker hurries along the road, glancing fearfully around and cursing under his breath. “Blast Ferguson, keeping him late. Alright for him, he doesn’t have to … Still, not far now to the village”. Suddenly, on the wind, came a long shuddering moan, followed by a sobbing wail and more moaning. The terrified farm worker looked to his left, towards the trees, his eyes opened wide in terror…

Following their safe return from the South Seas (Issue 1 – The Island of Terror), the PC’s were going about their various interests in Port Douglas when they received a summons from Dr Richard Armitage at the Port Douglas Museum of Natural History. In his office, he handed Zeus a telegram.

“I received this today. Lord Starling is an old acquaintance of mine; I cannot go due to other engagements so I would like you to check it out.”

[IMPERATIVE YOU AND ASSOCIATES COME AT ONCE. INVESTIGATION REQUIRED SUITED TO YOUR TALENTS. ALL EXPENSES PAID. STARLING POOLFORD MANOR LOWER POOLFORD ENGLAND.]

“These were delivered along with it”. Armitage dropped five second-class tickets for the SS ‘Bremen’, departing New York in three days.

Three days later they boarded the SS ‘Bremen’, noting the swastika flag flying at the taffrail and the prominent picture of Herr Hitler; Reichkanzler of Germany as they boarded.* With typical efficiency the ship departed on time and the crossing was made with ease. Jack made a nuisance of himself by making some insensitive comments about passenger liners and icebergs in the North Atlantic and received a warning from the ship’s Purser. Meanwhile, Yoz set about working out how to smuggle Zeus’s lightning gun through Customs

Five days later the ship docked at Southampton and they disembarked. Passing through the Customs shed; only Alex was questioned as he was carrying his rifle. The Customs officer accepted his story that he was a Big-Game Hunter. They went to the railway station and boarded a stopping train for Lower Poolford. At noon, with a hiss of steam, the train pulled into a sleepy little station. They were the only ones to get off; leaving the station, they saw a horse and trap waiting for them with an ancient old man driving it. He had a straggly beard, a foul-smelling pipe and wore a thick overcoat and gloves. He stank like a badger.

“Be you Lord Starling’s party?”

“Yes”, replied Yoz

“Then Old Harry is here to take thee. Mind you, sorr, oi wouldn’t go there, they say it be haunted by the divil, if oi were you oi’d be back to Lunnon while ye can, sorr”

They exchanged a few glances at this, but Harry was not more forthcoming.

Driving through the village, past the pub, village green and tea shop, then along a wooded road, Harry suddenly pulled the horse to a stop. He pointed out the top of a tower, showing over the trees.
“There it be, sorr, yon heathenish tower. ‘Tis said the demons of the pit can be heard there of an evening. ‘Twas overweaning pride that made the old Lord build it, to spite a man o’ the cloth. Much good did it do him….”
Harry swung the trap right through a set of iron gates and into the grounds of Starling Manor. The drive crossed a stone bridge over a stream, swung round a lake through ornamental gardens and up to the manor house. Across the lake from the house stood the folly, a five-sided glass and metal pagoda rising above the trees. Harry dropped them off by the front entrance; then took the pony and trap round the back of the house.

A young man, in his mid-twenties, came down the steps to meet them, followed by the butler.

“Ethelred, Lord Starling. Welcome to Poolford Manor. Armitage wired me to say you were on your way. I expect you’ll want to freshen up; then I’ll introduce you to the others. Groves will show you to your rooms; afternoon tea in the drawing room at four o’clock”

The rooms were on the first floor and were comfortable. The windows looked out onto the gardens, then to the lake and beyond that the pagoda. Yoz spent some time trying to hide Zeus’ Electrical Bolt Gun; finally he stuffed it on top of a wardrobe and put his suitcase in front of it.

Zeus said “I know of this Lord Starling. He’s a doctorate in applied physics and a Fellow of the Royal Society. Quite an achievement for someone in their mid-twenties.”

Afternoon tea was served in the drawing room; there were several other people there. Lord Starling introduced them: –
“Alan Longbaugh, my cousin on the American side.” “Hi guys”
“Richard Barrington-Hill; we were at college together” “H…H…Hel…lo. P..pleased t..to meet y…you”
“Marian Stevens, a friend of Alan’s”
“Michelle Heeny and her aunt Clara”. “Hello. Anyone for tennis? I love tennis. Don’t worry about Aunt Clara; she’s deaf as a post”.

Groves the butler handed Starling a message. “Isadora won’t be joining us tonight”.

“So,” said Lord Starling, “have you any ideas where to start?”

“Start! We don’t actually know what we’re doing here”.

“Oh. Armitage didn’t say anything? Well …”

Alan broke in. “Basically, the folly is haunted and Ethel here wants you to prove that it isn’t”

“It is NOT haunted and there is NO ghost”. Lord Starling’s voice was stern. “Basically, in 1895, my father had a bet with the local clergyman, Rev. Theosophies Downes, that he could prove that the Earth was round (and not flat, as the clergyman believed; otherwise how could angels stand at the four corners of the earth?) My father had the pagoda built to house a Foucault pendulum, using the resources of one of his railway companies. The pendulum worked as predicted; he won the bet but refused the money, preferring instead that the clergyman preach the truth. They became good friends until death. Now I am due to inherit the bulk of the Starling estate, providing the exact terms of the will are adhered to. The will includes the clause “must not have any belief in ghosts or supernatural happenings”, else I will not inherit. About six weeks ago, at night, terrible groaning noises started to come from the folly at irregular intervals; the locals are terrified and unless I can come up with a rational explanation I stand to lose my inheritance.”

The PC’s all reflected on this for some time.

“By the way, my groom wants to know if he should stable your horse as your driver is nowhere to be found.”

“Our driver? We thought he worked for you.”

“I was going to send Perkins with the Rolls to collect you.”

Dinner was served at eight p m, vegetable soup, a magnificent roast pheasant with all of the trimmings; followed by a rhubarb syllabub. It whilst talking over after-dinner drinks that from outside they heard a keening howl, wailing up and down the scale, followed by a deafening rumble that went on for several minutes. The howling came again and again, interspersed with the basso rumble. After several minutes the sounds died away.

“Well, there it is”, said Starling. “What do you make of that?”

At that point, Marian said in a fear-filled voice “I feel … a presence in this house” and collapsed in a faint.

Stay Tuned for the next issue of Thrilling Adventure Stories – The Village of Fear

GM Notes
Again, a fun-filled session; very atmospheric and scene-setting

* This caused some discussion. “Hitler? So Germany won the war? / No, they lost the war / But I was a flying ace in the war / Yes, the Great War / Which war was that? / World War I, World War II hasn’t happened yet / So I fought in World War I? / Yes, but it was called the Great War / Why? / Because World War II hasn’t happened yet / Could we start it early? / (sigh)

Thrilling Adventure Stories

Issue 3

 

The Tunnel of Death

 

            Having escaped from captivity on the island, Sarah has revealed that she is s secret agent working for the US Government.

 

Somewhat reluctantly, Jack steered the boat out to the artificial island where the tower stood. In the village the fuel dump was still burning nicely, although the flames seemed to be dying off. The tower island was a square, about twenty-four feet to a side. A ladder led one hundred feet up the tower to the metal ball; thick high-tension cables emerged from the concrete floor and paralleled the ladder. In the centre of the island was a hatchway.

Zeus revealed that he had two hand grenades, stolen from the guard barracks when he got the guns. His initial plan was to climb the tower and somehow use the grenades to destroy the ball. This was vetoed by the others on several grounds; firstly that it would need a better explosive like gelignite or dynamite and (OOC; that all of Harry’s characters do not have the best track record in climbing, even when using a ladder.)

Accordingly, they opened the trapdoor and went down a ladder into a basement. Jack and Yoz elected to stay with the boat; so did Helene. They followed a tunnel; the HV cables ran across the ceiling of the tunnel. At the end was a locked door; made of a heavy rubber-like material.

“Don’t suppose there’s an ‘OFF’ switch anywhere?” said Alex. “Hey, I grew up in Chicago. Always found a bullet was a good “OFF” switch there.”

“We need Yoz”, said Sarah. “I have some Lockpicking skill, but he’s better.” Grumbling, Yoz came down and examined the door. It was linked to an alarm; he managed to disable the alarm and open the door. A strong stench of ozone greeted him. “I’m going back up to the boat”, he said.

Beyond the door was a huge room. Banks of capacitors lined the walls and floor; leaving a narrow walkway to a further door. Thick cables liked all of them; there was a low, barely audible humming sound and occasionally a thick blue spark snapped between two discharge points.

“This is it”, Zeus cried, rubbing his hands together. “This is where they charge up the capacitors to fire the tower. I need to re-connect and cross-connect the input/output loop to create a cyclic loop; next time they charge them, they should go boom!” He set to work whilst Alex moved to the far door. A blue spark arced out of a terminal; hitting him on the shoulder and spinning him into the wall.

“Jeez, give me Chicago any time”.

Sarah moved up to the door and found it was not locked. She pulled it open just as Zeus announced “There, finished.”

Up on the island, Yoz found that Jack had moved the boat round to the far side of the tower island. The fire had been put out and it looked like the guards were forming up into search parties. The searchlight from the guard tower flickered into life and began searching the area. They crouched down in the boat, which was barely hidden behind the island.

“THERE ARE INTRUDERS IN THE TUNNEL. GUARDS TO POWERHOUSE AND TO ISLAND. SHOOT TO KILL.”

A squad of soldiers ran down from the blockhouse, armed with sub-machine guns. At the water’s edge, they opened up on the island; using suppressive fire. Jack peeked out and saw another group of soldiers running for the boathouse.

“We’re going to have company.” Scrabbling around under the stern sheets, he found a knife. Yoz calmly pulled and checked his two 1911’s; then blazed away at the soldiers on the beach; taking out two of them. One returned fire and Yoz fell back; a bullet furrow across his cheek.

Sarah stared through the door in horror; six soldiers filled the tunnel leading to the basement of the power plant. Without hesitation they opened fire; Sarah jumped back as one bullet hit the door jamb and a second bullet grazed a furrow across her shoulder. She took out one soldier; Alex joined her and shot another; who staggered backwards.

“Get ready to close the door” yelled Zeus at Alex. “I’m going to throw a grenade.”* The grenade bounced off the walls of the tunnel and exploded, taking out four soldiers. They all ran for the far end of the power chamber; the electrical discharges were increasing in frequency as the cyclic loop built up; both Alex and Sarah were caught by stray bolts of electricity.

On the surface, Jack heard the sound of an approaching boat. He put the knife between his teeth and started the boats engine.

“Arr me hearties, ‘tis Captain Jack be coming for ye” **

He took the boat round and headed on a collision course for the boat with the soldiers. Yoz origami folded his top hat into an Admiral’s fore-and-aft cap and twisted his teapot into a parrot-shape that he put on his left shoulder. *** Despite desperate avoiding action taken by the soldiers; Jack rammed the boat and leapt onto the foredeck. The collision knocked three soldiers into the sea; Yoz shot one of them and Jack knifed the other whilst grabbing his sub-machine gun.

“WUNDERBAR, NOW VE TEST THE WEAPON AGAINST OUR ENEMIES”

A hammering came at the far door; Zeus turned to see Sergeant Fujimo enter; at this point the rumble of the diesels increased and the generators began to whine.

“Run”, yelled Zeus to Alex and Sarah; as he left the Power room the generators noise rose dramatically. They got up the ladder to the island; behind came a massive explosion and the sea and part of the beach erupted. From the blockhouse and power house came massive blue electrical flashes; there was an explosion of flame from the power station. A rumble beneath their feet; they all dived into the water as the island cracked in two. The tower swayed; then fell back across the village; the metal ball crushed the blockhouse into rubble. Zeus grabbed the megaphone and said in a thick German accent:-

“Zere is room vor one only mad scientist in zis vorld”

AFTERMATH

Jack steered the boat (which hadn’t been badly damaged) back round to the beach and they retrieved their weapons. Sarah went to inspect the burnt-out airplane, looking for her luggage.

“What was in it?” asked Zeus. “Agents gear, a radio, spy cameras, code books, that sort of stuff?”

“No”, replied Sarah. “Three brand new dresses, two pairs of shoes, six pairs of silk stockings and a brand new hat”.

Later, at sea.

“By the way, does anyone know where we are?”

END

XP awarded = 3

————————–

GM Notes

* Again, the use of a weapon he doesn’t have any skill in.

** I have no idea what suddenly brought this on

*** I know. Probably best to just go with it. Xref Toht’s coathanger scene in Raiders

Everyone really enjoyed this last session; there were lots of inventive ideas coming out. Some comments were: –

“I like fantasy, with swords and stuff; and I like secret agent stuff with guns and gadgets. Pulp combines both.”

“This is great. It’s so over the top; it’s like Indiana Jones meets The Expendables”

 

“I know what I want my character to do. When’s the next Game?”

“Did anyone survive on the island? I want my character to meet that Japanese guy”. (GM: so we have at least one survivor/Bad Guy)

Thrilling Adventure Stories

Issue 2

 

The Metal Tower

 

            Yozmodius, Alex, Zeus, Jack, Helene and Sarah have crash-landed on an unknown island somewhere in the South Pacific.

           

            Yoz glanced around and noted the absence of Zeus. He handed over both his 1911’s.

“Can I retain my top hat? A gentleman is never fully dressed without his hat.” The soldiers glanced at each other; then the leader barked “March!” “How far are we going?” asked Yoz. “No questions. You walk.”

“Another adventure”, sighed Sarah. “Say, where did Doctor Freeze go?”

After a few hours of trekking through the jungle; following a faintly discernible path; they topped a low rise. Yoz let out a low whistle; Sarah said “Now, will you look at that.” They were looking east, out over the ocean. The ground sloped away from them, down to a large metal fence enclosing a set of buildings. They could make out a gravel airstrip and a hangar building, several stone and wood buildings grouped around a guard tower; a wooded jetty with an attached boathouse and a large windowless building made of concrete. A smaller building next to this had several exhaust stacks and from inside came the heavy throb of diesel engines. The most striking thing was about 400 yards offshore was an artificial island with a tall metal lattice tower on it. Atop of the tower was a large metal ball. As they watched, the pitch of the diesels increased.

“Move. Walk down slope to fence” said the soldier next to Yoz. Yoz took the time to study the man. He was obviously Asian, but Yoz could not place his nationality. He didn’t ask, somehow he doubted the man would tell him.

Reaching the fence they saw there was a gate; guarded by another soldier. Looking up, the guard tower had a searchlight, two Tannoy speakers and a machine gun. There were two guards on duty.

“ATTENTION. TEST WILL COMMENCE IN FIVE MINUTES”

The voice over the Tannoy was harsh and guttural. The soldiers took Yoz and the girls to a large building; a barracks. Yoz was intrigued to see a screen and film projector, plus a stack of Western films starring famous stars like Buzz Barton, Bill Cody and Hopalong Cassidy.

 

“ATTENTION. TEST WILL COMMENCE IN THREE MINUTES. LAUNCH THE BOAT”

“What test?” said Yoz and Sarah simultaneously. “No questions”, was the reply. “Doctor speak to you later”.

The door opened and Jack and Alex were ushered in at gunpoint.

On the beach, the machine gunner on the boat had got the drop on Alex and Jack. Jack held up his gun and made a show of ejecting the magazine; a burst of bullets around him from the machine gunner convinced him to drop the gun. “After all,” he thought, “I can always come back and get it. If they take it and drop it in the lagoon then it’s gone for good.” On the boat, the gunner moved to cover them as they sat in the stern; whilst the boat heeled round and headed north-east.

Approaching the Village from the north, they saw the Metal Tower first, and then the boat nosed into the jetty and ran down into the boathouse. Out on the jetty, some soldiers were preparing a motor boat; there were three passengers in the boat.

“ATTENTION. TEST WILL COMMENCE IN TWO MINUTES. CHARGE CAPACITORS TO FULL POWER.”

Jack and Alex were taken to the barracks where Yoz, Sarah and Helene were. From outside the roar of the diesels rose to a deafening pitch.

“Where’s Zeus?” “I don’t know; he’s out in the jungle somewhere.” “Well, I hope he’s got a plan to rescue us.”

“ATTENTION. TEST WILL COMMENCE IN ONE MINUTE. ALL NON-ESSENTIAL PERSONNEL TO TAKE SHELTER”

Zeus was hiding up on the ridge; observing what was going on and waiting for nightfall. He saw his friends being taken to the guards barracks and, lifting his eyes out to sea, the motor boat and three passengers heading out to sea. Suddenly, the world exploded! A massive purple-blue electric bolt erupted from the Metal Tower and struck the boat; there was a huge explosion as the boat disintegrated.

Sometime later, they were escorted by a group of guards to the concrete blockhouse and placed in a room with a table and a few chairs. The walls were concrete and there were no windows.

“That’s obviously a new weapon of some kind. It’s like a bigger version of Zeus’ lightning gun. I wonder if he saw it; I bet he’ll be interested.”

Zeus got to his feet; his eyes had purple retinal afterimages and his ears were ringing from the tremendous clap of thunder that had followed the discharge. He checked his Belt; it was not quite recharged. He made his way down the ridge, aiming for the south side of the village by the airstrip. He noted that the centre guard tower had a commanding view of the whole camp. It was dusk when he reached the fence.

Inside the room, Yoz calmly sat down and produced his tea-making equipment from inside his top hat and brewed a cup of tea.*

“You are American and drink ze tea? You not drink coffee after your Boston Tea Party?”

“No,” replied Yoz. “I was the one fishing the tea back out of the opposite side of the harbour.”

Alex was all for waiting in ambush when the door opened; this was still being discussed when the door opened. Two guards entered, followed by a balding middle-aged man with gold-rimmed glasses, wearing a business suit. He spoke with an American accent.

“I am Dr Allenbrook. Do any of you smoke?” He lit a cigarette and leaned back in the chair. “This is rather unfortunate, you turning up like this. Tell me, were you shipwrecked or did you arrive by boat? This is a secret project being run by the US Government and you shouldn’t be here.”

Sarah spoke up excitedly. “What are you doing here? What’s the tower for and what was the clap of thunder we heard?”

Dr Allenbrook looked thoughtful. “We are working on a way to detect ships and aircraft by using sound waves. We make it sound like thunder so that any potential enemies cannot determine what we are doing or that they have been detected.”

Yoz and Jack spoke up together. “We were on an aircraft that developed engine trouble of the bullet-related kind and we crashed on the beach. You’ve got an airstrip; if you could lend us a plane then we’ll fly out of here and be out of your way.”

“Regrettably, I must say no. Our supply plane is not due yet and we do not have any other aircraft. I think you will have to stay here for some time as guests until I can arrange for a boat to take you to the mainland.”

He stubbed out his cigarette and rose. “I have other things to do now. Sergeant Fujimo and his men will look after you.”

            Into the room came the biggest man they had ever seen. He was Japanese; he wore a soldier’s uniform; a gun belt with a Colt six-shooter, a Sheriffs star and a large ten-gallon hat. His hands were the size of dinner plates and his moon face had a big beaming grin. “Yee-Haw Americans. I am big fan of your dynasty. I Sergeant Fujimo; I also Sheriff Tex. You like Western films? I have all your culture films and watch it all; Tom Mix, Bill Cody, Hopalong Cassidy. One day I meet them all and have shootout like in Western. I win and become new Big Bronco.”

They were led across the Village and locked into a bare basement with a few inches of water covering the floor.

Zeus waited until nightfall; then crept closer to the fence. A tell-tale humming alerted him to the fact that the upper strands of wire were electrified; although the whole fence was not. The airstrip was gravel; opposite was a hangar. He could make out two aircraft; a biplane similar to the one that had attacked them on the beach, and a twin-engine silver monoplane with a distinctive twin tail.  Next to the hangar was a fuel dump; drums of fuel covered by a tarpaulin. Zeus moved round to the northern section of the fence; aimed and fired a full power Lightning bolt into the fuel dump. The results were spectacular; the dump erupted into a mass of flame. Panic ensued in the Village; several troops tried to fight the fire; some went on patrol; most panicked. He made his way to the barracks; found some uniform items that fitted. He also found Yoz’s guns and a rifle.

Yoz produced lock picks from his hat and set to work on the basement door lock. A scream came from the lower cellar

Helene – “It was a rat, Cherie. Rats are not good for me”.

Yoz got the door open and peered out. There were no guards outside the door; there was a strong flickering glow through the windows. Outside, pandemonium reigned; there were further explosions. It appeared that the fuel dump had gone up in flames. The quickly made their way to the boathouse and boarded the patrol boat.

“Wait,” said Sarah. “We can’t just leave. We need to find out what’s going on here.” She spun round, pulling an automatic from somewhere under her skirt, only to lower the gun as Zeus faded into view.

“Who are you Sarah, if that’s really your name?”

“My name is Sarah and I work for the US Government. I guess you could call me a secret agent. Listen, war is coming; maybe not this year or even next year, but it is coming and the USA needs to be ready. That tower is a weapon of some kind and I need to investigate it more, as well as who Dr Allenbrook is.”

They all looked at each other and sighed. “Okay, let’s go and look at the tower.”

Stay Tuned for the next issue of Thrilling Adventure Stories – The Tunnel of Death

GM Notes

Again, another fun-filled Game; the players are really getting into the genre.

* Yes, he really does carry portable tea making equipment in his top hat. He also carries a set of lock picks.

** Sarah told them she worked for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), a slight anachronism as this wasn’t set up until 1942. Still, this is Pulp.