Mytholder (mytholder) wrote,

Strike Force JANUS - Episode 5

The team are not going Nazi-hunting as they planned.

They're going to a funeral.

December Black - Dr. Black's grandfather - is dead. He was one of the first JANUS psychics, so the team are being sent to provide an honour guard. They fly into Heathrow and make their way to the Black estate near Norwich. As they approach, they notice a heavy security presence. Not only is Director Graves of JANUS here, but there are numerous politicians, diplomats and intelligence spooks.

Welcome home, Dr. Black.

While Black meets (or, rather, communes) with his family, the rest of the team look around. Evans admires the animal heads and curios decorating the halls. Hunters, he can understand, and a Black in passing promises him a chance to go clay pigeon shooting later. One painting catches his eye - most of the portraits are obviously members of the Black dynasty, all gaunt and eerie, but the woman in this picture is oddly out of place. She looks somehow as if she was dressing up in 1920's period costume.

LeBlanc looks at other family portraits and photos, concentrating on the World War II period. The Blacks were involved in Allied intelligence back then, he discovers. He does find one photo of December Black as a young man, during one of the early Antarctic expeditions to investigate the Erebus Rift. The photo shows Black with four others, all dressed in cold-weather gear. One of the four is wearing his parka hood up, obscuring his features. Another has a large harpoon gun.

Evans initally attacks the cucumber sandwiches, but is then drawn into a conversation with Director Graves and several other JANUS veterans. He notices that all the veterans have been severely injured during their careers.

A bell tolls, summoning the guests together. They make their way to the village church (the villagers shutter their windows as the funeral procession passes through) and listen to Vicar Black give a sermon about the patriarch's life, the early death of his wife Eve, and his accomplishments in various fields. The coffin is carried across to the graveyard. As they cross the road, one of the pallbearers slips...

...and the team find themselves in a ruined tunnel, under attack by glowing giant centipedes.

Act II
After blasting the centipedes with ineffective bullets and much more effective electricity, the team try to find out what's going on. They're wearing JANUS boxes, but they're much older models. Between their equipment and their weapons, it looks like they're sometime in the 1980s. It doesn't seem that they've actually travelled in time, as they all look identical. Either they're psychically inhabiting the bodies of others, or this is all some sort of hallucination or projection.

They manage to make contact with someone else in this ruined research facility, and navigate through a maze of tunnels, battling weird monsters. It is as though some force has twisted ordinary things - insects, animals, people, even a tree - into dimensionally-shifted horrors. (Evans gets a psychic flash of bearded men with axes dancing around the tree when he looks at it.) The person at the other end of the radio channel orders them to descend into the depths of the base and blow the reactor, shutting the facility down. They recognise the voice as Raymond Cole, who they met in Japan.

In the depths, they find a horde of monsters trying to get into a sealed room. They try to sneak to the reactor, but they're spotted. While the rest of the team hold the freakish horrors off, Evans runs to the reactor control room. A bank of monitors displays various rooms in the complex. All the staff are crowded into the sealed room, which is dominated by a strange spinning device that appears to contain a Rift, just like the one in Erebus. Cole orders them to blow the reactor, saying 'we'll take another way out'. Evans flicks the switch...

...and they're in a VW van, driving across a desert that looks like New Mexico. They check the van for clues. They've got a load of guns and ammo, but they always have lots of guns and ammo. They are all carrying ID cards, with names they don't recognise and birthdates in the 1940s. It appears they've landed in the 60s. All the cards have a number on them. LeBlanc and Smeil both have zeroes, Black and Evans have an eleven and ten. Psychic potential, they guess.

LeBlanc finds that he has at least three currencies in his wallet - dollars and two weird types of bill. A map in the glove compartment reveals that the United States is divided into half a dozen kingdoms. It's Psi-Lord Earth.

They stop at a gas station, where the owner warns them that if they keep heading west, they'll run into the 'Sweepers'. While parked, they spot three vehicles coming from the east. They're being followed. The gas station owner suddenly freezes and stares at them. They recognise it as psychic possession, and leave hastily. They spy on the convoy, and discover they're being chased by two vans and an 'armoured popemobile' containing a psychic.

Stuff blows up, where 'stuff' includes both jeeps, the gas station and quite a few grenades.

As they flee the popemobile, they notice someone waving them down on the road. It's a woman, who jumps into the van as soon as they slow down. 'Drive' she screams at them, and they do. Smeil manages to take out the popemobile's wheels despite the psychic shield, and they flee west. A flock of psychicly-controlled birds swoops down on them, but the team are able to shoot them out of the sky before they turn down a side track.

'Welcome to the Resistance' says the woman.

Act IV
And they're on a plane, over Germany, and it's 1944. They jump out, landing in the forest. 'I know the way to go' declares LeBlanc, 'I've been here before'. As they sneak through the forest, he reveals his background to the rest of the team. In 1944, he was part of a mission to destroy a Nazi research facility run by Doctor Tannhauser, who was experimenting with some sort of superweapon. He blew up the lab, but there was an accident, and he found himself flung forward in time to the year 2000, where a JANUS team found him.

With LeBlanc's advance knowledge, the team are able to navigate through the castle defences easily, and reach the Tannhauser labs far more quickly than LeBlanc's team was able to do originally. They arrive in the great hall of the castle and discover two things.

The first is the big spinning Rift-machine, just like the one in the ruined research facility in '83.

The second is the brigade of Waffen-SS troops, who are marching into the portal.

Smeil takes a snap-shot with his sniper rifle, blowing Dr. Tannhauser's head apart.
LeBlanc hurls grenades into the machinery, while Black fries the lab's electrical system.
Evans psychically contacts one of the Nazi technicians near the portal, and throws him through. On the far side of the portal, Evans sees the cave under Erebus, where the Rift is. The huge cave is full of Nazi troops and war machines. There are four prisoners in the cave - it's December Black's Antarctic expedition from 1922.

Tannhauser's laboratory explodes...

...and the team find themselves in the Antarctic, near Erebus. They've jumped into the bodies of that expedition team. Warily, they approach Mount Erebus and the Rift chamber, watching for time-travelling Nazis. There's no sign of anyone as they enter the cave, just the weird Rift swirling and writhing in the air above them.

The Rift convulses. A woman falls out of it. She is dressed in a bizarre armour of silver wire. It's Eve, December Black's wife from the portrait in Black Hall.

She looks up at the JANUS team and whispers 'we're losing'.

...and they're back in England, in the rain, as December's coffin is being lowered into the grave.

Post-Game Analysis
* If SFJ was Firefly, this was our Objects in Space. Or possible a "we're being cancelled, use up the budget!" episode.
* 'cos things are being put on hiatus so we can switch to a Traveller playtest game.
* Bits were horribly railroaded, but as the whole thing was probably a psychic memory, that's justifible, right? :)
* More prep time would have been nice, but that's my constant complaint.
* Who knows what the ruined facility in the second act is? It's easy enough to guess if you know your conspiracy theories...
Tags: actual play, gaming, janus, runequest

  • redirection

    I noticed a bunch of sites still link to this defunct journal - if you're looking for me, I'm much more active on twitter ( @mytholder) these decades.

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