The Red Menace

The Big Finish
Episode 23

image.jpgCharley communicated with the human grafted onto the Tower’s computer, and it volunteered to lock down the area and keep the martians away. He asked for 10 minutes, but it told him that it could not hold them for more than five. Dash pushed the grey martian — dead but still hovering — out of the chamber and into the hall.

The remaining grey martian had pushed Percy and Frankie to the end of the passage, but could not land a telling blow. The hatches on either end of the hall opened and wind swirled down the passage. Charley activated the x-ray displacement engine and Dash managed to heave the unconscious Opal atop the floating martian corpse. Big Joe picked up her rifle and fired at the remaining foe while charging down the hall.

Meanwhile, Penelope and Crispin were flying the ornithopter around the tower. She managed to regain her wits in time to take over the controls and land the machine on the edge of a balcony and run toward her comrades. As she entered the gray brought his sword down on Percy, nearly ending his life. By this time Joe had reached the end of the passage and brought his own blade to bear, shearing through the beast.

The enemy down, they quickly gathered on the balcony and set up Edison’s kinetoscope. When they activated the device, however, nothing happened. When Crispin looked inside the case he realized that the internal workings had been removed and replaced by weighted junk. Cursing Dally, they tried to figure out another way to escape.

Penelope readied the ornithopter, and Crispin remembered that there was a central shaft in the House Kartogian building that was very much like a giant cannon. They decided to make their way there. Dash removed the flotation collars from the dead martians and discovered they were mentally operated. They attached one to big Joe, and followed up with a jolt from the martian stimulant, and he managed to get it off the ground. After a stumbling efforts, he gained control and took off after the ornithopter with Opal and Percy. Dash put on the other collar, grabbed Charley and Frankie and followed as well.

As they flew through the city they could see explosions and mayhem beginning to break out. A pillar of black smoke was spotted coming from the base of Seshat’s tower. Penelope banked up and landed on the roof, hoping for the base. They tried to call to Seshat, but there was no reply. Dash plugged his portable device into the house system and tried to access the ballistic vehicle, but learned access to limited to House members only.

Charley took the machine, and suddenly access was granted. Seshat told them that there was fighting below, but she had it contained. She directed them down to the office, where the entry elevator to the ballistic chamber was hidden. They hurried to the elevator, went down to bottom, entered into two hardened metal carriage ‘shells’, and fired themselves to Earth.

Nine days later, they crashed into the shallow waters of the south China sea near Sanya. There they found out that Edison died in the hospital, and that Chaplain’s studio burned down the same day. But more importantly, they needed to get home.

To be continued…

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Hits and Flops
Episode 22

We began in the air, as Penelope and Crispin raced toward the market. As they neared the open space, they were spotted by a martian atop a guard tower. He ducked down and Crispin sent out a flock of paper birds from his sleeve to distract their fire.

Other turned to see the cause of its concern and began to fire. Penelope swung the airscrew wide and descended to avoid their fire. Shots were exchanged and Penny was hit, but held firm on the controls. As the reached the center of the market, they spotted two of the flying spheres dogging their path. The machine was struck by gunfire and the two realized their goal might be too dangerous to reach.

They decided to crash the airscrew into the Tower of Light and Life instead. She banked right and raced just a few feet above the busy market while Crispin activated the bomb. The two shadowing machines seemed to be unwilling to descend to their level. Unfortunately, she had to ascend to get to the tower’s main door and the two spheres closed rapidly.

They exploded as Crispin released the lever dropping them into the ornithopter. Penelope was stunned by the blast, but had enough of her wits about her to talk Crispin through the controls of the strange machine. He managed to pull up and away from the looming walls of the tower as fire and debris rained down on the crowd below.

Meanwhile, the group inside was being surrounded by enemies. Charley, Joe and Dash had moved paste and reached the door they believed held their goal. But it was sealed by an electric curtain and a gray martian and tow green guards waited within. They also noted that the control box had what seemed to be a human head grafted onto it.

Two green martians rushed out of the darkened chamber at the other end of the corridor bringing their blades down on Opal. Percy was gripped by a strange fear from the darkness and stepped away from the entry. With no other choice, Opal swung her rifle at the foes.

Dash saw that the doorway had a full control screen rather than the simple button panel the other doors had. While shots rang out around them, he tried to maneuver the strange interface. Joe and Charley kept guard through their wounds while he continued to work on the device. He quickly found icons for both humans and martians, and touched the human icon. The controls switched to coptic, and called Charley over to read the now decipherable controls.

The two green martians beat Opal to unconsciousness and turned on the the trio. The gray martian left his shadowy chamber and battered at Percy and Frankie. It shot a cylinder of fluid into itself and seemed to flush with color. It also seems enraged and continued to push two toward the dead end of the passage.

Charley quickly disable the lock and the two guards rushed at them. The strange bodiless head seemed to be mouthing at him, and he shot it trying to turn off the defenses. Joe and Dash moved on the guards and Dash noted the head smiling at him approvingly. He called to Charley to tell it in Coptic that they were here to help — and to apologize for shooting it. He did so and the man-machine seemed to understand.

The two guards fell before them, while the grey seemed to be frustrated by trying to control the system. He gave up and jumped atop the table and brought his sword down on big Joe. They fought while shots fired around them and brought the enemy low. Suddenly the automated weapons fired, and the two remaining green martians were felled by their own defenses.

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Action Sequence
Episode 21

We began with the quartet of Dash, Percy Frankie and Opal up against the electric curtain. Cameras gathered near, and the group tried to shoot them while Dash went through the bodies looking for something to break through the barrier.

The cameras were quickly followed by gun-bearing robots firing from the darkness. They tried to fond cover as best they could, and defend themselves from this new assault.

Meanwhile, Joe and Charley had just crawled past the windy chamber when yet another shot rang out. Joe charge the shadowy enemy while Charley tried to foil the lock on a nearby doorway. He quickly got it to open, and slipped into a chamber, quickly followed by big Joe. They were slightly surprised to see their comrades fighting unseen enemies through two electrical barriers. The far group exchanged shots with unmanned robots, but there enemies seemed to keep on coming.

Joe could not reach the panel that controlled the barriers, so he decided to jam his martian warsword through the barrier into the machine. Electricity surged through him and his consciousness wavered, but he succeeded in forcing the blade through the controls and disrupted the panel. The two stumbled into the chamber while the others fought off the shooting robots and cameras.

Joe shook off his haze, and smashed there second panel, reuniting the two with their friends. Shots were coming from both sides, and Charley sought cover down an alcove — discovering a doorway. He was soon joined by Dash and Percy. The detective lifted the scientist up to a windowed panel he had discovered, and he spotted a large grey tentacled creature working at a control panel and flanked by guards.

Apparently the noticed him as well, as a metallic panel began to slam down to shut them in. He rolled free of the door and managed to force his rapier in the opening, holding it long enough for Dash and Charley to escape. The blade was crushed by the massive panel.

The group moved out of this room toward the goal scribbled on Dally’s map. At the first crossing, a couple of guns were hidden behind electric curtains that opened up quickly for firing and shut down again, Joe’s sword failed to shut down this machine, and the group rushed pass to avoid the heavy fire.

They raced up the hall toward the goal, and Joe led the way down to the right. He made it to the second open doorway when a series of radium blasts shot out from the darkness, sending him sprawling. Charley raced up to pull him free, but his wounded state he fell too, leaving them both in the open.

Others hurried up, and Opal slid prone to fire her rifle into the chamber. Frankie flashed his lights into the large room, and showed a number of green martians hidden behind crates flanking another of the large hovering grey beasts — this one clutching two radium rifles in its tentacles. Dash and Percy pull up on either side of the entry for cover, and tried to take down the enemy.

After a brief exchange of gunfire, four of the green martians charged out with their war blades, smashing down on Charley, Opal, Dash and Percy. Charley and Opal fired from the ground, and Dash and Percy stepped back to get a better shot. After a quick flurry of gunfire and flashing blades, the four were dispatched. Percy aided Frankie to maximize the glare of his movie lights to distract the remaining martians and they hurried past the opening to rejoin the others.

The group — bloodied by unbowed — moved toward the area marked on Dally’s map, determined to set the X-ray displacement engine of die trying.

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Hitting the Airways
Episode 20

We began with Penelope and Crispin beginning their aerial assault. She managed to get the airscrew aloft and they started moving toward the edge of the city’s platform. While they were flying they heard a substantial explosion from inside the city, but could not tell where it came from.

They were spotted by the flying globes and soon they were being pursued by explosive projectiles. Penelope banked up back into the streets and worked to avoid the hurtling orbs. Flying deftly, and protected by the rifle-toting pacifist Crispin, they managed to dispatch a quartet of the orbs without suffering damage.

But their evasive maneuvers had driven them deep into the city, so she decided to make her way across the market in a direct line to drop their payload on the bridge that connects the towers.

Meanwhile, the others were moving toward their goal inside the Tower of Light and Life. As they turned the corner they heard the noise of fans winding up. They chose to split up, with Joe and Charley going forward and Dash and the others trying to find a parallel route. As the two moved into a very tall circular chamber, the winds built up and they were forced to their knees. As they tried to drag themselves across the grated opening, they were spotted by a camera bot that rode on the rails of electricity running throughout the complex.

In the other passage, Dash, Percy, Opal and Frankie ran into a squad of green martians. Frankie lit up the hall and the two groups exchanged fire. Opal and Frankie were hit, but in the end our heroes triumphed. They moved forward into a room crossed by a channel of water with two electric curtains. They tried to breach the curtain but pulled back from pain. They attempted to push a martian’s body through the curtain, but again the current proved too much to bear.

By the time Joe and Charley had cleared the blowing fans an armed robot had arrived on the scene. It managed to graze Charley before they could take it out, but it was obvious that their presence had been noted.

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The Big Break
Episode 19

Dally gave them an approximation of the layout of the tower and where they could place the device, and wished them luck. Once again our heroes returned to House Kartogian armed with questions — along with a fertilizer bomb and the x-ray displacement engine. Penelope and Crsipin went to the top level figure the best way to attach the bomb to the airscrew while keeping it aloft. The others gathered around to question the expert system about how to defeat others of her kind.

She told them that the greatest difficulty she faced was splitting her processing between multiple groups. She also said that while electronic doors are difficult to override, she had programming that forced them all open in case of fire. Finally, she said the easiest way to forge an order would be to have a noble ‘djed’, which is carried by all martians of substance.

Recalling the dead martian left in a doorway, the set out to retrieve the djed. En route, Charlie and Joe stumbled into the path of a martian palanquin and had some kind of filth thrown at them. They bowed subserviently and jumped out of the way, letting it pass.

When the arrived at the abandoned building where they left the bodies, Charlie spotted a moving flash of yellow in the darkened entry. Joe stepped up to lead, and they snuck across the lit street into the shadows. As soon as they arrived, a sea of small palm-sized eight-legged scavengers boiled out of the darkness overwhelming them. Charlies flashed the beam of his light about, but the creatures seems too drawn to them to flee.

Joe fired the electric net, but it failed to grab onto anything in the mass. Charlie stomped to minimal effect. The tiny arthropods stung their exposed flesh and leaving acidic burns. Charlie was nearly taken down by the swarm, but managed to stay on his feet. Leaping from the shadows on the far side of the street, dash appeared and fired both barrels of his shotgun into the mass.

Bony chunks scattered and acidic blood splashed the other two and the remaining tiny scavengers fled into the night.

They retrieved the djed, along with a radium pistol and jeweled armor plates, and hurried back to Seshat. She created the order and treated Charlie’s wounds while the others got what rest they could. In the morning they packed the x-ray engine and their weapons in one water barrel and Opal and the camera in the other, and set off to the Tower of Light and Life.

They wound their way through the city and ended up in the line of palanquin out in front of the tower. After a couple hours, they were ushered within to wait for their order to be processed. While they waited Charlie felt a deep rumble in the earth, as if a bomb had gone off. People started looking around and he shouted in coptic, “what was that, a bomb?” This aroused more confusion and people started moving about the hall. They took this opportunity to grab their barrels and run for the opening in the sliding door at the rear of the hall.

A few looked confused, and one person yelled, “you can’t go back there!” One stare by mighty Joe backed up by Dash with his hand in his tunic cowed the slave, he said nothing more. The group bolted through the doorway and slid it closed behind them.

The quickly moved to where the sealed door was marked on their ‘map’. They found a huge vault-like door with both circular sliders and a number pad on it. Charlie took a quick pass at cracking it, and determined that even if he could do it that it would take too long.

So they continued on Dally’s suggested path, over a collection of pipes and around the corner. They came to an intersection they weren’t expecting and stopped for a moment, and quickly pressed on to escape the open hallway. They turned to the right and we called it there.

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Cat and Mouse
Episode 18

Our heroes escaped the street with the palanquin by faking a martian lion’s roar from down an alley. The two hot-headed martians that were following jumped up to chase the beast— allowing the group to escape.

In the tunnels, Penelope spotted some sewer gators lying in wait. They flashed the lights and caused a ruckus, scaring most of them off but one charged. Dash blew it to kingdom come before it could come close.

They took the two unconscious slaves back to Dally’s hideout to question them. One (Ertl) was moved by the offer of freedom and ratted out his colleague (Aikon) for knowing more than he claimed. So they asked Dally to drug him and he spilled his guts. 

He told them that to gain entry to the Tower of Light and Life you could have a martian escort or an official order. You went down to the fulfillment center and waited for your order to be called and then you picked it up. He has never seen any martians down in the lower level, but had never been past the fulfillment center. His description of the area matched Dally’s old plans.

Kanaloa did not think he could forge a believable order. So they decided to return to Seshat and see what she could do, and to pick her ‘brains’ on how to defeat the expert system that runs the Tower of Light and Life.

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Knocking 'em dead
Episode 17

noble.jpgThe next day was spent in preparation. Crispin and Percy managed the final stages of their bomb preparation, while dodging any probing questions from Dally and his martian ally. The two had planned a way for the team to commandeer a martian palanquin with limited exposure, which our heroes gratefully accepted.

Meanwhile, Dash, Penelope and Charlie spent the day with Seshat at House Kartogian. Penelope focused on getting deeper understanding of the flying machines while Dash tried to learn as much as he could about the exodus of the former martian overlords. Charlie spent most of the day in the kitchen chatting with the house system.

When evening came, Joe and the others returned to the house with the ambush plan. After a brief scare when the house had been resealed, the elevators opened and the group was reunited.

After discussing the plan, they made their way to an abandoned crossroads in a disused part of the city. Penelope scouted a martian ‘fighting club’ and waited for a single cart to make its way out. After an hour or two, she found what she was looking for and rushed back to the group. They had take positions on either side of the road, and fired down on the bearers. They took out two and Crispin brought one low with the martian net gun. Joe charged and chopped one down with his oversized martian warsword.

The young martian noble tore aside the palanquin’s curtain and demanded (in coptic) their champion step forward. Joe responded that he was right there, and the armored enemy swung his own sword down on him. He shook off the blow and returned with one of his. The other bearers were dropped as our heroes stepped forward, and only one managed to pull a weapon from the cart and swing at Percy. The young noble, however, would not be bright down.

Shots tore into him and Joe swung his heavy blade, but the creature stood firm. He was finally taken down by the barrage of constant fire and the group rallied around the cart with five bodies and two unconscious slaves. They noticed at that point that another palanquin had left the club and was moving down the lane toward them.

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Intermission
Episode 16

16074466_9e3a_1024x2000.pngOur heroes spent the night with Seshat at the House Kartogian. Only Penelope accepted her offer of ‘assistance’ in resting, and Joe ran out of the room when she released a sweet-smelling cologne into the chamber. Regardless, they were all interrogated by the system well into the night. These conversations taught them that humans did indeed manufacture the green martians, and her masters fled for the blue planet over 3800 years ago. She also said that she was very rare, and that she only knew three other sentient systems— one in the Tower of Light and Life, one running the Tower of Eternity and the last serving the Shapers of Destiny.

In the morning, they were served breakfast by the same robot that shot at them the day before.

After eating, Seshat allowed them to see the airships on the top level. Under a retractible dome they found four light ornithopters and two larger airscrews. Crispin was stunned when he recognized that the design of these vehicles was nearly identical to the famous sketches of Leonardo daVinci.

Seshat agreed to let them use the ships in exchange for them sending a message to her family back on Earth. She reprogrammed Dash’s portables device to work as a communicator on Earth. Penelope, Dash and Charlie decided to stay with her and learn more about these machines.

The others returned to the stage treatment plant to finish the bomb. They were met by Dally who was very concerned about their late return. When they told them about Seshat, he dismissed the idea that Seshat was self-aware and that any red martians had ever gone to Earth. The group has begun to distrust Dally and Kanaloa, and they told them as little as possible.

The bomb-making process will not be complete until the middle of the night, 16 hours after their return. Dally told them that he and Kanaloa had been working on their palanquin problem, and thought the best approach would be ambush a young martian during an evening’s revel. That way they can find one alone, and a ‘slumming’ young noble might be less likely to report the attack immediately.

The group decided that they would regroup in the evening before setting the ambush, and went back to preparing for the assault.

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Big Screen Debut
Episode 15

seshat.jpgWith the robots disabled, Penelope moved up to scout the upper floor. Sprinklers rained water down on her while cable lashed out with sparking ends. She shook off their assault and crouched behind a far column, looking to avoid as many as possible. From there she could see a third robot suit bashing on a closed hatch in a far column. It did not take long for the relentless machine to rip open the doorway and climb inside.

Inside is a service stairway the Joe had run into and slammed the door. He swiftly climbed the stairs and found they came to an end two flights up. He was listening at the top door when the robot broke through below. It came up the stairs toward him while Penelope raced across the sodden floor to follow.

When it reached the top of the stair, Joe kicked hard and sent it tumbling. It fell before Penelope who it in the power supply, ending its thrashing. By now the others had made it into the stairway, after Crispin had distracted the deadly cables by throwing a chair into floating bar.

They regrouped at the top of the stairs and decided to move on. Joe forced the hatch with one mighty heave, only to be met by four more machines. They fired into the stairwell with heavy slugs that then began to fill the crowded space with gas. Penelope and Dash went down, while Opal raced out, firing her rifle wildly. Joe followed and dropped one of the machines with his meaty fist.

Crispin pulled out his breathing device and tried to disperse the gas. Dash and Percy stumbled out, and Percy dropped one of the robots with his pistol. Joe tore through the others with his bare hands and our heroes found themselves victorious once again.

They looked around at the lobby of this high floor and saw a hallway ringing the central pillar and two black panels on either wall. These flickered into light and resolved into an image of Charlie strapped to a table with several vicious looking implements poised above him. They shouted ‘stop’ in English and Coptic.

A mechanized voice rang out from speakers around there, asking in several languages if “this was the language of your people.” Percy, who understood many of them, answered that they all were in different parts of the world. This seemed to confuse the voice, who asked which of the people were in command. They answered that humans ruled by consensus, which the voice scoffed at as massively inefficient.

Changing the subject, they asked if the voice was in charge here. It answered that it served House Kartogian and was preparing for their return. It added that members left over 3800 years ago to the blue planet, but ‘she’ was keeping things in order for them. ‘She’ asked them if they were sent by her masters. Thy implied that they at least were sent to fight the green martians, which she confirmed were a modified slave race.

This seemed to please her — she called herself Seshat — and she released Charlie and opened chambers for them to spend the night. They separated and were each interviewed at length by the curious computer well into the night.

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Split Screen
Episode 14

robot.jpgWhile the majority of our heroes were on their way to find an airship, Percy and Crispin stayed behind to oversee the distillation of beer to fuel their bomb. While they were in the lab, Percy watched as every reference to the House Kor To’gian and their airships vanished from the data banks. Crispin feared their colleagues were headed for a trap and the two — along with Opal — rushed out to intercept them.

Meanwhile, Joe and Charlie were trapped in an elevator while Dash and Penelope were up the stairs trying to unlock the door to the next level. Dash disabled the lock and managed to force the door partially open. Through the gap he saw a spinning red light and a huge metal pincer reaching down to shut the doors. He shoved his foot in the gap to keep the door open and looked around.

From below, they heard noises and could see the board covering the portal down being shifted. They trained their weapons on the new threat and the doorway above them slammed shut. Thankfully, when the board was slid aside they found Percy, Crispin and Opal and not a new threat.

Joe and Charlie tried to remove anything possible from the elevator that could help them escape. Joe had pulled off a long piece of trim and squeezed it between the doors, but could not force them open. They felt the elevator shift slightly down and began to hear noises above their heads.

They reunited group moved to the opposite stair to avoid the pincers, and Dash disabled this lock as well. When they forced the door, they could see the underside of some kind of vehicle blocking their path. They tried shooting it and jolting it with a cattle prod, but it did not budge. Penelope decided she could squeeze through the gap and climbed up to the next level. The blocking vehicle, which seemed to be some kind of unmanned forklift with a spinning light atop, did not give chase but the other one revved up and gave chase. She hid among the crates in the darkened storage area and played a game of cat-and-mouse with the slow-moving machine.

Dash followed and fired his shotgun at the less-protect upper section. It lurched forward at him, and Crispin climbed up and swung at it with his prod. The blow struck home and the vehicle shuddered while the charge went through it. Dash followed up by leaping on top of it and firing point-blank at the lens inside the circle or red light. The vehicle lashed out wildly, and the others took notice of its distress. They followed up by firing at the light of the other forklift and shattering it as well.

Inside the elevator, they heard three knocks on the roof of the elevator. It strained upward and then the roof of the carriage ripped off showing a long shaft and three figures in the darkness above, firing downward. Joe boosted Charlie out of the carriage and onto the ladder set into the shaft. He followed after, leaping to the edge of the elevator car.

The figures above looked like martian suits without heads, and only a trailing circle of light at their necks. They fired wide-barreled weapons down at the pair, which burst on contact and starting spewing smoke. Joe leaped from the ladder to the dangling cables of the elevator and began to climb. Charlie succumbed to the power of the gas and slid down into the cloud.

Between his great strength and Mar’s lighter gravity, Joe made short work of climbing and soon found himself 40-feet up and facing the inside of an elevator door. His first swing wash’t far enough to get a good grip and he failed to pry the doors open. The three figures, one following up the cable turned to intercept. One fired from below but did not dislodge the bulky janitor.

In the storage room, the group could hear gunshots from beyond the wall, but there was no door into the central pillar. They circled around, and discovered a large elevator door on the rear side. Forcing it open(and only then discovering the forklifts featured a key-like tool) they entered a large workmanlike elevator. Dash pressed the lowest panel and the car quickly dropped to the street level. The doors opened up and the lights and other power immediately shut off.

Unable to get the elevator to climb, the group returned to the stairs. They climbed three levels up and found another sealed door with water leaking through the seam.

The water was coming from sprinklers in the ceiling above. When Joe forced the door open on this level, they started spraying down the entire open area. Joe sprinted to the window, which was covered by a thin fabric shade leaving the area in hazy shade. The robots — for that is what he determined they were — climbed through the gap and gave chase.

He worked his way around the edge and found one of the pillars was much thicker than the others. As he closed he could see the outline of a door in the pillar. He also noticed sparkling coming from loose cables that startled dangling down from the ceiling. Not will to find out what happened next, he slammed into the doorway and tried to shove the door aside. It crumpled before his assault, but not before electric lines snaked down from the ceiling and tried to jolt him. He shook off the shock and tumbled into the center of the pillar, which seemed to be a narrow stairway making its way up.

Dash made short work of the lock below and forced open the door — drenching himself and the others in water from above. This was spotted by two of the headless robots. They lumbered over and fired their gas-filled cartridges through the gap. Crispin struck the nearest with his cattle prod, but it also shook off the electricity. But the charge must have traveled through the soaked carpet above, as the other robot was wreathed in sparks and crumpled to the floor. They followed up by shooting out the power supply on the first suit — clearing a path for them to explore the fourth level.

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