Issue 2 - Helping Hands

Sabine

The GM makes the Delinquent move “give them an audience” to start things off

So I’m at Hildegarde’s Bakery, up on Braver Street. The place got trashed, along with a long row of other shops, just last week. Some trash-pile by the name of Vex Venom decided he’d throw down with Silverstone, and the two of them didn’t pay attention to their surroundings. A couple of local supers are here to help clear the rubble. Hilda’s pastries and breads will go bad without proper refrigeration, so she’s giving them away to neighborhood kids.

So there’s a bunch of little kids, grade schoolers mostly, and I’m there telling them about Sector Zero and the Science Pirates. And they ooh and ahh appropriately, as I describe my brilliant tactics and daring moves, and sit there eating Hilda’s supply of goodies. I do too, because they’re so good.

Between stories, I’m running errands for Hilda, because she’s got a lot of paperwork that she needs to file with the city. She signs it here, I run it down the hill at super-speed to CiCon, then bring back the replacement forms. I hate the goddamn bureaucracy of this city, but I will say one nice thing for it. Silverline Insurance, the only vendor in town, covers 100% of property damage from recognized super-battles or disasters related to Zeta tech. Their only caveat is that the Science Sector gets a hand in the rebuilding. Every time a place gets trashed, they get to try out their new improved tech. So it’s kind of like urban mutation, or the city going to the gym. The harder the workout, the stronger the result. Even little hole-in-the-wall bakeries like this one will soon be as tough as Fort Knox.

The GM makes the move “Announce between-panel threats”

Hilda’s got something for me, as thanks. It’s one of her specialty coffee cakes. She put two big chocolate chips on top too, just like my goggles. I can’t see it, and the spongy stuff absorbs sound waves, but it smells delicious. She’s kind enough to wrap it in plastic to keep it fresh, and bags it up for me.

This is great, and it’s a super heartwarming gift, and that’s why I’m really angry when I rez something small and fast darting at me. Before I know what it is or what happened, I feel the bag snatched away as Hilda hands it to me. She yelps, the kids yelp, then the thing darts away. What the hell was it?

I get my answer. From the buildings around me, I rez a lot more of them. They’re silhouetted against the sky for the moment, so I can get fine detail. Seems like a bunch of detached hands. Robots? Must be. They push themselves into the air and descend on me.

Am I worried? I’m furious! I’m going to get my coffee cake back!


Where did that little troublemaker go? There it is! I dart away from the scene, filling the air with the song of my speed powers.

Song? Yeah, I love talking about this actually, because of my inspiration, Wallace Sabine. Anyway, my power is to sense and control vibrations around me, right? That means sound. I can sort of heat objects up or cool them down but kinetic energy in a gaseous medium is so much easier. But it’s strong enough where I can lift myself. That’s how I fly. I also keep a shield around me when I’m fighting, a strong wall of constant vibration, so if something hits me it has to go through something like a foot of solid concrete. But that much sound energy is multi-frequency, so it’s audible to human beings too. There’s a definite beat to it, and the melody is the specifics of movement, like when I dart left - now! - to dodge an incoming attack. And then there’s chain combos and other cool stuff I do to show off, like I’m playing myself like a musical instrument.

There’s one limit. I can’t move faster than the speed of sound. I “see” with sound, and if I do that, I’m blind for real. Nobody wants to navigate at 700 mph when they can’t see where they’re going.

There’s other downsides. If there’s a lot of echo around me, I get confused or I see reflections of something that’s not really there. Every so often I duck an attack that wasn’t real, or dart away from a threat that’s yards away. Fine. Let people think I’m unpredictable, that’s another way to stay safe.

So this is scarily relevant, because I don’t know how many of these little hand guys there are, but there’s a lot of them. Fortunately only one of them grabbed my coffee cake, so that’s what I care about.

I rez behind me, checking. Yep, they’re all following me, flinging each other or skittering like insects along the road. Hilda and the kids are safe for the moment. How long will that be? And if I run out of range, will more of these pop up and grab them? Shit.

I pour on the speed, trying to get ahead of the little sneak-thief. Can I do it? I sure hope so. I didn’t spend five years in Wushu Sanshou for nothing. Like a noisy lightning bolt, I throw myself ahead and unleash a burst of sound, hoping to catch the hand off guard.

Sabine just wants the coffee cake back, and a single handbot isn’t enough to merit Directly Engaging. However, she has a move called “are you watching closely” that lets her mislead, distract, or trick someone. She rolls that move and gets a 10! She needs “you get an opportunity” to get her snack back, and takes “expose a weakness or flaw” and “confuse them for some time” as her other two options.

Sure enough, whatever collision detecting tech it’s got notices me in a big way, and it lets go of the bag in its haste to dodge. Wait, how is it holding onto the bag? Ohhh, I see! There’s two hands, one riding on top of the other. Clever little buggers! So you can coordinate.

I speed back toward Hilda and the kids, as I remember that I need to check on their safety. I remember after a moment that there’s a throng of these things already chasing me. Can I dart through, or over? Sure! But are they safe?

Sabine wants to Assess the Situation - what’s controlling these hands, for example? She rolls a 9, enough to ask one question. She asks “what here is in the greatest danger?”. The answer is “you” - the kids aren’t being targeted. Sabine gets +1 ongoing to deal with the hands.

The kids are fine. There’s no handbots near them - they’re all targeting me. Wait… what are they carrying? Oh god dammit, handcuffs. Whatever villain is doing this, at least they’re on point with their theme.

“Well, well, hero!” This is a female voice, over some kind of loudspeaker. Where’s it coming from? Oh, there we go. I rez several hands, each carrying some kind of portable Bluetooth speaker. Clever. The villain could be anywhere. “Sabine! I challenge you! I am the great inventor… Handmaid!”

Young, probably cute, definitely naive.

The kids applaud.

Good god.


Guardian Ghost

My monitoring system includes a lot of intel sources. One of those is KAPE, the unofficial reporting outlet for Silverline City on all superhuman activities. KAPE has drones covering the city’s airspace, using cameras to look for super-battles or property damage. Once some is spotted, they dispatch the drones to get on the scene, identify people involved, and generally just make sense of the chaos. The drones are brightly lit and stay well out of range of anyone, so most people just ignore them. CiCon doesn’t like KAPE messing with things, but they don’t like anything, really.

The GM makes a move, “bring them together”.

KAPE reported an attack on the Cleveland mansion, with police responding. I knew that was Pelagos, and portaled there to check in. He’d handled it. Good enough. But now KAPE has another call. The super-vigilante Sabine is under attack. Two of my teammates being attacked in such a short amount of time? Is there a larger pattern of attack? No, there’s no major incidents reported right now. This smells.

I didn’t teleport away from the Cleveland house. Far from it - I’m still there. I want to learn more about the attack, but the cops won’t necessarily talk if they know someone’s listening. So I’m invisible. Not that it’s doing any good. It’s just routine. Should I keep an eye on Ricky? Probably. What’s the best way to do that?

I reappear near the Clevelands. “Sir, ma’am, I know the police are processing the situation, but I’d like to talk to your son. He may have vital information about a possibly related case.” Thankfully, they both nod immediately - I’m the Ghost, after all, right? - and I go find Ricky.

“Come on,” I say. “Something might be up. You might be attacked again.”

“What’s going on?”

I hear the fear in his voice, see it on his face, and try to put him at ease. “Sabine is being attacked. She’s pretty capable, but I want to check in on it anyway. And I need to know you’re safe.”

“I can help!” Ricky protests.

Can you? I mean, he was useful earlier, but he doesn’t have the training, the experience–

I realize I’m channeling my father. I’m not so certain he’s wrong, though. “Alright. We’ll see whether Sabine needs help from any of us.”

We teleport away.


Sprout

We do the sparkly shiny thing and we moved again! I don’t know where I was before but I know where I am now! Back in the city! I can see the walls.

I heard of the Embassy Sector from some giants one time and it sounded really exciting. Everyone there is from different places, so I should blend in just fine. Plus they have statues and stuff, to all the heroic mutants who did good things for the city. That’s the sort of person I want to be, too.

Hisako is here with me too. I thought she was a giant but now I know she’s like me, so she’s an especially important friend. I want to show her all the amazing things I’ve heard about.

There’s so much green here, and so many places to go. I see giants moving around in groups, pointing and talking and holding up those glowy wood blocks. I’ve always wondered about that, and Hisako is from Japan and Japan has high tech and it might be tech soooo–

“Hisako, what are those things they are holding up? The glowy things? Is that like what you have?”

She looks, and pauses. It’s sweet how her face gets so weird when she does that, like she’s shy and not sure how to answer. I want to tell her it’s all gonna be okay when she does that.

“They are… cell phones.”

“Cell phones?”

She looks at me strangely. “Don’t you have…? Well. No matter. It is a communication device with many other functions. They are… Taking pictures, I believe. Yes, it is photography.”

“Oh.” I have no idea, but it sounds neat. I think back to what Miguel said. “Can our millipedes take pictures?”

“I don’t think so. The technical schematic from my early analysis indicates no camera.”

This sounds like very high tech talk, so I nod along to look smart. “I should get a cell phone too!”

Hisako blinks again. “Well. I suppose I ought to as well. To … fit in.” She gives me a knowing look, and I grin back. Yes, we are the same!

But then she asks a troubling question. “How do you intend to pay for it?”

Pay? I understand currency. Back Home we trade useful stuff at market, stuff we Borrowed or made. I scoop a slingshot and a Pez dispenser out of my pocket and hold them up for inspection. “You think this will get me one?”

Hisako looks stunned. To be fair, it is a really nice slingshot.

My millipede buzzes. I think hers does too, because she gets that unfocused look again. And I hear Miguel’s voice. “Pelagos was just attacked at home. I have him, he’s safe. Sabine’s currently under attack. I’m on my way to her position. Sector 5, Braver Street area, moving down the hill rapidly toward Embassy Sector. Sprout, Astralis, you might be targeted as well. Report status.”

Hisako seems to know what she’s doing! She puts a finger to her ear. “Astralis, with Sprout. We’ll rendezvous with you.” There’s another pause, and she looks at me. “I know the way. Come on.”

Yaay! More adventure!


Sabine

I’m really not a fan of Handmaid.

I’m trying to lead her handbots away from crowded residential areas, to keep people safe. But these little twerps keep leaping at me from out of nowhere, and snatching the coffee-cake bag out of my hand again! Then they dart off, and I have to change course.

I vault over a picket fence, while the little sneak thieves scurry and fling themselves one over the other to escape me. What is going on here? Are they just sadistic? Is Handmaid ordering them to toy with me?

Down an alley, off the trampoline, up onto a nicely shingled roof, past a yard - ooh, someone’s sunbathing down there, how you doing? - and I dart across the gap in the street using my powers. I can fly, but I like running too. Keeps the heart rate going, keeps the blood pumping, keeps me focused.

There! The little bugger who stole my cake. It’s leaping through the air, right along my line. I snatch it back and shout triumphantly. Then I rez the kid, standing in the next yard over. He’s got some kind of weapon in his hand - no, it’s harmless, it’s a water pistol, I can tell. “Get outta the way!” I call.

More hands are darting for him. Before I can do anything, they grab the water pistol out of his hand. But not him. Huh. Oh! They’re disarming him!

He starts to cry. Now I gotta get that blasted pistol back.

“Fu fu fu,” comes the voice over the speakers. Handmaid. “Is there nothing you can do to stop my precious pretties? Run, run, Sabine! That’s all you can do!”

I don’t care how cute she is, I’m going to punch her.

Well, at least her robot hands are nice. They’re just grabbing anything out of the hands of people in the area. Must be some kind of basic programming. Doesn’t stop them from being annoying, though.

The GM makes the villain move “Swarm the area with an army of handbots”.

Dozens of handbots launch themselves from every angle at me, out of nowhere. Crafty little buggers. I change course, but there’s a lot of them. And NOPE, of COURSE, there goes my coffee-cake.

I need to track this girl down at the source. And I hate, hate, hate asking for help. But I need some. I slap the communicator from Ghost into one ear and wince. “Hisako - Astralis - You there?”

“Affirmative.” I hear her voice. Well that’s something.

“Can you uh, track radio signals or whatever? Got some robots here, I need a line on their origin.”

“Sprout and I are en route to you.”

“Well good, 'cause I’m en route to my coffee-cake!” I shout. “What–” is all I hear as I take the comm unit back out of my ear.


Pelagos

Ghost and I are taking portals across the city, homing in on something or other. I guess he has a way to monitor Sabine’s location. Does that mean he can find me too? I guess he can - he showed up at my house.

How do I feel about that?

Ghost and I land on a roof, looking downhill. There’s stretches of houses, the funiculars that move people back and forth from the highlands to downtown and elsewhere, side streets, people out, people playing, people watching and filming. I see KAPE drones hovering in the air, off in the distance.

There’s chaos. I see Sabine darting down the hill, across roofs and into the air, landing and taking off again, doing her best to snatch something away from a cloud of … robot hands? I tell you, this city.

“Okay, stay here,” Ghost is saying. He’s speaking into his comms again.

“Why? I can help.”

He turns, and looks at me. I can’t see his face through the mask, but god dammit, I know what he’s doing. He’s pitying me. “You’re safer here,” he says.

“I’m not here to be safe! I’m here to help!”

“What good are you gonna be here?” he asks.

The GM asks Pelagos to take a powerful blow. He has Afraid marked, but still rolls a 6!

Yeah, I just got attacked. Yeah, it was terrifying. Yeah, the police had to come save me. But you know what? I don’t care!

I launch myself into the air, using my hydrokinesis to throw myself forward, as far as I can. I was never good at athletics, but when it’s my mind directing things instead of my muscles, I’m great.

“Ricky, wait–”

“It’s Pelagos!” I shout at him.

What can I do?

Pelagos wants to Assess the Situation. Despite his Superior of -1, he rolls an 11! He asks, “How can I end this quickly?” (some kind of area-effect attack to disable machines), “What here can I use to do that?” (fire hydrants and hydrokinesis), and “who here is most vulnerable to me?” (the robots, but not their controller).

Some of the nicer houses have swimming pools. Mine does. Here on the hill, it’s less common. But they do have fire hydrants. The new, high-tech fire extinguisher system isn’t fully installed yet, since it was misused by Nebulon last year. So the old, tried and true, time-tested water system is still in place. Good. Just need to find one - there!

“Sabine!” I call over comms. She can’t hear me. I get closer. “Sabine!” I shout, loud as I can. “This way!”

She hears me, and starts flying at me, with a huge mass of hand-shaped robots behind her. She’s cradling something to her chest, like it’s a baby or something. Is that what they are after?

Okay, just need to break open the fire hydrant. Uh. I’ve seen them do it in movies, where someone shoots or hits the thing, and it cracks open. Can I do that? It’s made of steel. I guess I can try.

Pelagos wants to Unleash His Powers to get at the water inside the hydrant. With his +1, he gets a 10!

The water inside responds to my will. I urge it upward, outward - come on, break through! Don’t let anything hold you back! Get out there, and show these robots what you can do!

The hydrant fractures, and a fountain fills the air. Sabine gets it immediately, and flies toward the spray. The hands are on the way too.

I place my hand in the stream, and shout.

Pelagos is going to Directly Engage the hands. He’s Afraid, but gets a +1 for his earlier Assess. Unfortunately he gets a 5! This would normally be a miss, but Sabine wants to help out. Her Troublemaker move lets her spend Team from the pool to give a +2.

It’s not going to be enough. But Sabine knows something about sound that I know about water: it conducts sonic energy better than air. As she dashes through the spray, her sonic powers explode around her. The fire hydrant, and much of the nearby sidewalk, is devastated. But that just means more water for me.

Someone’s gonna be upset at us later.

Pelagos chooses to "take something from them,’’ namely their mobility. He’s okay taking a hit in return.

The hands get hosed down, and fall out of the air, sparking and twitching. Guess they weren’t built to be waterproof. But I also lose control of the water - there’s so much here! - and I’m knocked on my butt.

The next thing I know, there’s a very pretty girl with a very wet shirt, leaning toward me and offering a hand. “Hey there, champ. That was really nice.”

Pelagos marks Insecure.


Astralis

I unfold hard-light gliding wings. Sprout grabs hold of my collar, and we take off into the sky above Silverline. I’m able to home in on the scene of the fight. But by the time I arrive, there is no fight.

Ghost is there, inspecting a primitive robotic device. It looks to be a humanoid hand. “Humanoid”. This language of theirs. I’m “humanoid” too now, I suppose. But such thoughts are distractions. He’s offering it to me.

“Signal trace. Yes. I can do this.”

> identify the source of the signal controlling these devices
< SIGNAL DETECTED, TRIANGULATING

I look up to see what else I might do while this happens. Sabine is splitting up some kind of food product, and sharing half of it with Pelagos. His face is red. Was he injured?

> identify battle damage among participants
< INDIVIDUALS IN YOUR FIELD OF VISION ARE UNHARMED
> identify anomalous behavior in individual designated Pelagos
< INSUFFICIENT DATA

I shrug to myself. Sprout hops off my shoulder, regains their normal size, and walks over. Perhaps they will get an answer. If nobody is hurt, it’s not important. Just another human detail.

Ghost is also approaching Pelagos and Sabine. Perhaps I should follow.

“You stopped the robots,” he says. “But… you did a lot of damage here.”

Sabine smiles at Pelagos, then turns to Ghost. “I did more of the damage. He just opened 'er up, I’m the one who really let loose.”

She is providing cover for her companion. I understand this impulse. Apparently so does Ghost, who nods. “Well. I’ll give you that…” He faces the young man directly. “Right. Pelagos. I made the mistake of using your civilian name while we were engaged in battle. I won’t make that mistake again.”

Pelagos beams widely. Well… Good. He seems proud of his accomplishment.

Pelagos marks off the drive, “earn the respect of a hero you admire”, and clears the Afraid condition.

A shadow falls over us all. I look up, as do the others. A voice speaks - and I recognize it. By the sacred moons, no, it cannot be–!

“YOU DARE RETURN TO MY CITY? YOU RISK THE DISPLEASURE OF NADJA, EMPRESS OF AETHER!”


End of session!
Astralis grew closer to Sprout, who now gains Influence.
Guardian Ghost grew closer to Pelagos, who has Influence. Pelagos shifts Ghost’s Savior down and Superior up - he was pushy and critical to Pelagos and didn’t step in to help Sabine as much as Ricky did.
Pelagos grew closer to Sabine, who has Influence. Sabine shifts Pelagos’ Savior up and Superior down, for coming to assist her without having a plan. Pelagos can also take an advance.
Sabine grew closer to Pelagos, who has Influence. Pelagos shifts Sabine’s Freak up and Mundane down, for their interactions as fellow superheroes in the face of disapproval.
Sprout grew closer to Astralis, who has Influence. Astralis shifts Sprout’s Freak up and Superior down, for their bond as mutual outsiders - however, Sprout feels intimidated by Astralis’ sophistication and technology.

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Finally remembered to take time to read this and glad I did. An excellent issue and definitely looking forward to the third.

Doing fan art of the Handmaid is somewhere on the back burner.

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handmaid%20sketch
I have an unreasonably strong hope that, when finally encountered in person, the Handmaid has giant floating hands she controls via some glove.

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