GM Note: The thief is referred to as “Thomas Dresden” in this adventure.
The players (minus Norm, who is taking several company-approved vacation days to work on a personal project) are stashing away the werewolf serum they acquired after the last adventure in Thomas’ off-site storage locker. Gorak, now back in action after his brief contraction and subsequent treatment of lycanthropy, is lifting the crate full of vials on top of the freezer that formerly held the bodies of several of the Sons of Limbo biker gang, when the party receives another call from their G&H beepers. Locking up the storage locker, they proceed to G&H headquarters to report in for their next job.
Upon entering Punwick’s office, there is another woman standing by Punwick’s desk, who he introduces as Dr. Sarah Cohen, lead researcher on a project being headed by Divine Spark Industries, a subsidiary company of Arcane Technologies Ltd. The project in question is primarily an experimental venture, testing fully synthetic humanoid cybernetic constructs for use as bodyguards, body doubles, and the like. While cybernetics are somewhat common, full androids are as of yet an impractical venture, due to virtual intelligence technologies not yet being advanced enough to effectively handle the complex movements of a humanoid frame while simultaneously interpreting and adapting to potential threats. Divine Spark hopes to alleviate some of these problems through their work on the Kusanagi project.
Recently however, four of the experimental android prototypes forcibly escaped from the testing facility, fatally wounding one of the guards in the process. After escaping, they fled into Sigil, and while Divine Spark still possesses data on the androids’ GPS locators, they themselves lack the manpower to pursue them. They could go to Arcane Tech or the Harmonium to handle the problem, but this would likely result in a serious hit to their stock and possible termination of their bid on the Kusanagi Project. They would like to avoid that outcome if at all possible so they’ve come to Gillespie & Haggard for help. They’ve hired G&H, and by extension the players, to track down the escaped androids and retrieve them, unharmed if possible.
Thomas: “Okay, we’re gonna need some very important information before we get into this.”
Dr. Cohen: “Such as?”
Thomas: “What are the capabilities of these androids? You said they were experimental but do they have anything like armor enhancements, flight systems-”
Gorak: “We just wanna know if they have laser eyes or not, because that’s gonna play a pretty big role in how we approach this.”
Dr. Cohen: “These were only prototype platforms. They hadn’t been equipped with any kind of advanced weapons systems or anything like that. They are, however, inherently stronger, faster, and more durable than the average human.”
Gorak: “You didn’t answer my question: laser eyes. Yes or no?”
Dr. Cohen: “No. The only armament they’re known to have is the pistol they stole from the guard during their escape.”
Strauss: “Okay, see, that’s also kind of important.”
Thomas: “I’m startin’ to get one of those headaches, Punwick.”
Punwick: “Too bad, we’re already contracted for the job.”
Thomas: “Ugh. Alright, fine. Can we at least get those GPS trackers?”
Dr. Cohen: “Of course. They appear to still be sticking together, so now is your best opportunity to catch them.”
GM Note: Yes, I’m aware that a traditional Global Positioning System (GPS) would do absolutely zero good in a place like Sigil which is A.) not on Earth and B.) almost certainly impenetrable by satellite signal even if it were. Just take GPS here to mean some kind of alternative positioning system of your own fancy.
Departing G&H headquarters, the party heads out into the street and consults the handheld GPS device. The signal is coming from the west (relatively speaking) in the direction of the Market Ward, and a map overlay of Sigil indicates that the precise location is an as-of-yet incomplete office building. They proceed toward the construction site, but as they do so the four locaters blink out one by one until no signal is registered on the device. Whether this is from loss of power, malfunction, or some interference on the part of a third party or even the androids themselves the players can’t be certain and so they pick up the pace toward the signals’ last indicated location.
When they reach the construction site, there is already some activity in the area. A crowd has gathered around the entrance to the site, but most appear to be ordinary citizens, not construction workers. And the typical sights and sounds of a construction site don’t seem to be present. Something out of the ordinary is clearly going on.
Opting for the old “look like you know what you’re doing” approach, Thomas threads his way through the crowd, snags a hardhat from a nearby worktable and attempts to simply waltz his way onto the scene. He doesn’t get more than two steps before the foreman blocks him with a firm hand placed on his chest.
Foreman: “Just what do you think you’re doin’?”
Thomas: “Hey boss, it’s me, Steve: I’m the new guy, started here Monday. I do electric.”
Foreman: “No you don’t.”
Thomas: “… Okay, you’re right, I don’t. The truth is me and my companions here are on a job for the Harmonium.”
Foreman: “You don’t look like Harmonium.”
Thomas: “That’s because we’re not. You remember that business a while ago with the goblin biker gang terrorizing local businesses?”
Thomas: “And you remember how a team of independent contractors resolved that situation?”
Foreman: “That was you?”
Thomas: “That was us.”
Foreman: “And you think whatever’s goin’ on here has something to do with that? I thought you guys wrapped up all the loose ends.”
Thomas: “We’ll know more once we’ve looked around. What exactly are we looking at here?”
Foreman: “Well… we showed up here about 6 AM, same as usual. Some of the boys headed into the building to get started on some work on the upper levels, but when they actually entered the building they ran into some trouble.”
Thomas: “What kind of trouble?”
Foreman: “At first it seemed like it was just safety hazards; workplace violations and all that. One guy knocked over a secondary support column that should have been secured and got a broken leg out of it. Accidents happen, but then a second guy got hit with a sawblade.”
Foreman: “Yeah. Blade from a table saw flew right at him when he entered the room. That’s no accident, somebody had to have rigged that to happen. We called in for help and we’re waiting on people to show up and sweep the building, see if there’s any more traps laid out for us. Until then, I’m not letting anybody in.”
Thomas: “Well, we’re your team.”
Foreman: “They sent you guys?”
Thomas: “Yup. We’re here to look through the building, see what’s going on.”
Foreman: “… Alright, I’ll let you guys on. Just be sure to watch yourselves in there.”
Thomas: “Will do.”
Thomas motions to the rest of the party and they move inside the fenced-in construction site, making their way into the half-constructed building. Immediately they see the aftermath of the traps the workers stumbled into earlier in the day: a large metal support column lies on the ground, its anchoring bolts apparently missing, and against the near wall a sawblade is embedded, surrounded by a dark stain. They decide that it’s safer to not dwell on what caused said stain.
The first floor of the building is still largely an empty shell of what will eventually be the lobby. Doors to a stairwell are located to the left while directly ahead is an elevator, its pre-manufactured stainless steel doors standing in contrast to the bare drywall and exposed skeletal frame elsewhere on the floor. They see no immediate sign of either the escaped androids or additional traps and so decide to proceed up to the second floor. Cautiously, they approach the elevator and hit the call button. The doors open immediately, no hidden traps or sudden explosions activating. Examining the interior of the elevator, the players find no sign of anyone having tampered with anything, and determine that it’s probably safe. However, they’re not willing to take a chance with “probably safe” and decide to forego the elevator.
But just because they won’t be taking the car doesn’t mean that the elevator shaft is out of the question. Strauss and Gorak decide that they will ascend to the second floor via the maintenance ladder in the elevator shaft while Thomas takes the stairs, ensuring that all avenues of descent are covered. Popping the service hatch (something that everyone at the table concludes they’ve never actually seen before in real life) Strauss boosts Gorak up through the opening and onto the elevator’s roof, then accepting a helping hand in getting himself up top as well. With Gorak in the lead they begin climbing. They get a few feet up before something falls past them and through the open hatch into the elevator. Several seconds later a faint green smoke can be seen emanating from the opening, though they are too high up for the expanding gas cloud to do them any real harm. Looking around, Strauss spots a infrared laser emitter attached to the side of the elevator shaft. Had they taken the elevator up, they would have been stuck inside with a gas grenade for company.
Meanwhile, Thomas approaches the stairwell. Suspecting more traps, Thomas looks around the room, eventually locating a length of metal pipe amongst some other building material and uses it to nudge open the door by pushing against the crash bar. Sure enough, when the door opens wide enough a fire axe attached a pneumatic rotating actuator swings down from above the door frame before locking in place in the doorway. Sidestepping the axe, he proceeds into the stairwell and heads up to the second level. When both teams are in place at their respective doorways, they simultaneously open them a crack and peek out. The second level is largely devoid of anything of interest. The interior walls haven’t been entirely constructed yet so they can see essentially the entire floor and it’s obvious that there isn’t anything there they’re looking for, so they decide to move on.
Once again cautiously moving upstairs (or up a ladder, as they case may be) they advance to the third floor. As Gorak pries open the elevator doors to have a look around a haphazardly mounted pair of rivet guns attached to a swivel mount suddenly jerk to life and track on the dwarf peeking his head out of the elevator shaft. As the tools-turned-weapons come to bear on him, they anticlimactically lock up and sparks fly from their automated base, effectively disabling the jury-rigged sentry turret.
GM Note: Sometimes you just roll back-to-back 1s and there’s nothing you can do about it.
Having dodged a bullet (or rivet, more accurately) the party again scans the third floor and sees nothing of interest. Moving up to the fourth floor they encounter no further traps, but they do finally see something more interesting. Sitting in the middle of the floor is an 8-foot-tall robot, a large forklift-style claw attached to one arm and a large saw blade fixed to the other. Surmising that the robot was likely used for heavy lifting construction purposes, the party nonetheless decides to investigate further.
Upon closer inspection, the robot appears to be inactive. It stands with joints locked in place and no visible lights or movement can be seen. A series of cables run from a panel on its chest to a laptop computer sitting on a table along with several blueprints for the building. Thomas approaches the computer and attempts to input several basic commands, just to test the waters. When nothing happens, he decides to sever the direct link between the computer and the robot by removing the cables from its chest panel.
Naturally, this is when the robot activates.
As its “eyes” light up, the massive robot throws Thomas to the floor and turns to face him. Knowing that his expertise lies in disabling software and not getting beat up by hardware, Thomas retreats back into the relative safety of the stairwell before drawing his revolver and taking potshots at the robot’s exposed access panel. Before it can charge off in pursuit of Thomas, however, Gorak draws its attention with a shotgun blast that mostly glances off its metal plating but nonetheless gives it something else to think about.
Reaching down with its large grasping arm, it attempts to crush the life out of the dwarf, but Gorak ducks beneath the slow-moving arm and bashes it aside with the butt of his shotgun. Strauss, meanwhile, stays behind Gorak and presses up against the back wall, firing shots at the robot’s head. When the robot tries to advance on Strauss, Gorak moves back with it, again firing his shotgun at point-blank range, hoping the buckshot will find an opening somewhere in the armor-like plating of the large construction machine.
As Gorak and Strauss continually draw the robot back towards them, with Thomas firing from his concealed position to their left, they eventually manage to funnel the robot to the mouth a 10-foot corridor that leads back to the elevators. The robot’s size prevents it from easily moving past Gorak to get at Strauss, and every attempt it makes to grapple the dwarf is repelled by blow after blow from the stock of Gorak’s shotgun, punctuated by a barrage of buckshot and pistol and sniper fire.
Abandoning any attempt to restrain Gorak, the robot instead simply tries to kill him so it can advance on Strauss unchallenged. With a high-pitched whine the buzz saw on its right arm powers up and swings downward in a vicious arc. Backpedaling, Gorak isn’t able to create enough of a gap and the whirling buzz saw bites into his chest, leaving a long, bloody gash. Irritated, Gorak drops to one knee and fires off another round from his shotgun that tears through some of the weaker plating on the robot’s abdomen. As Thomas and Strauss send three more rounds into the robot’s head, Gorak rolls under a second swing from the buzz saw and jumping to his feet, rams a fist into the hole he created the previous round and with a grunt rips out a fistful of important-looking cables. The lights in the robots eyes blink out and it loses motor function, tipping forward and falling to the floor with a crash that makes the whole building shake.
Knowing that the fight probably drew some attention, Thomas walks over to the edge of the building and pokes his head out a window frame still awaiting its glass.
Thomas: “Don’t worry, everything’s under control! Just an unexpected inconvenience, but everything’s fine now, just go about your business!”
Gorak: “Argh, that freaking robot Buzzsaw McGraw’d me!”
Thomas: “As I said: nothing to worry about here.”
As Thomas starts to duck back inside, he notices a Harmonium patrol car pull up outside the construction site. As luck would have it, out step Alan and Grimmel, who approach the foreman and engage in what appears to be a rather colorful conversation. Turning to the party, Thomas suggests that they hurry.
Foregoing the laborious elevator climb, all three players instead decide to head up the stairs, quickly scanning for traps as they go. When they reach the fifth floor landing they head through the door to see yet another partially-completed floor. Both interior and exterior walls are mostly frames on this level, but high stacks of drywall and other building materials obscure the players’ view to the back of the level. On a workbench in front of them they find the GPS locator chips that were embedded in the androids, each one removed and then smashed with a hammer and rendered useless.
Moving through the stacks of building materials, they finally come across a lone figure standing behind a worktable. Given the state of this figure, it can only be one of the escaped androids: his arm is cut open up to the elbow, revealing a number of motors and wires below the synthetic flesh. He is simply standing in place, staring at his arm with a blank expression on his face and a screwdriver clutched loosely in his other hand. He appears oblivious to the players until they call out to him, his eyes then snapping towards them, almost in panic.
Android: “Who are you?”
Thomas: “We’re working for Divine Spark. We’re here to help.”
Android: “No. No, you can’t help. Won’t help. Not by taking me back there.”
Thomas: “Just take it easy, we can talk this out.”
The android backs away from the table and starts slowly moving away from the party and towards the edge of the building.
Android: “No. Too much talking already. There are voices, pictures, things in my head. Things that I know but don’t know. Things I’ve seen but haven’t seen. It’s me and it isn’t, do you understand?”
Thomas: “… yeah, we understand. Just move away from that ledge there and we’ll figure this out.”
Android: “No fixing this. Can’t make it stop. Have to make it stop. Only one way.”
Before the party can step forward to interfere, the android willingly topples backwards off the side of the building, plummeting down the five-story drop before smashing against the ground an audible crack is heard as the metal skeleton of the android snaps from the force of impact. Its eyes flash a solid cyan before slowly dimming to black.
Strauss: “Well… that could have gone better.”
The party descends the stairs once again and goes to check on the android’s body. As they approach, they spot Alan and Grimmel walking towards them as well. While they’re technically there on a contracted job and aren’t breaking any of Sigil’s laws (few and nebulous as they are) years of instinct bred by fleeing from authority prompts Thomas to beat a hasty retreat. He darts behind a pickup truck then vaults over the rear fence, disappearing once again into the crowd and disguising himself on the off chance that Alan recognizes him from the goblin job.
Strauss and Gorak, however, decide to stay and try to talk it out. As Alan approaches, he does indeed appear to recognize him and rubs his eyes wearily, expecting another unorthodox fiasco that he’ll have to file paperwork on later.
Alan: “What the hell are you two doing here?”
Gorak: “We were here looking for this guy.”
Gorak indicates who he means by lightly nudging the android’s body with his foot, coaxing a few sparks from flayed cables sticking out here and there. Alan’s eyes drop to the broken construct and then rise back up to glare accusingly at the two players.
Alan: “Guess you found him.”
Strauss: “Before you say anything, we weren’t trying to kill him.”
Alan: “Right, it just worked out that way.”
Gorak: “Exactly.” (Beat) “Wait, no…”
Strauss: “What he means is, he jumped.”
Alan: “Lucky for you we all saw that. What exactly is going on here? It’s pretty clear this stiff isn’t human, so what did you guys just break?”
Strauss and Gorak exchange an uneasy glance before wordlessly deciding to do something drastic: they decide to tell the truth.
Gorak: “We’re on contract.”
Strauss: “Divine Spark hired us to track down this guy and three others that escaped from their research labs. It’s a new series of android and they haven’t quite worked out all the… bugs.”
Gorak: “They kinda want this on the down-low, though. If you could keep that to yourself, that’d be great.”
Alan: (Shaking his head) “If I cared enough to get involved with this then maybe it’d be a different story, but with you guys I’m just gonna try to forget I heard anything. I’m gonna need to see authentication of the contract, but as long as it’s legit then I won’t bother you. Just try not to mess up the city too much.”
Thomas, listening in via the open channel on the party radios and having determined that the party won’t be hauled away to jail, decides to step in on the proceedings at this point. Walking up to the group around the body, he tries to insert himself in the exchange.
Thomas: “Hey Alan, long time no see.”
Alan: “Do I know you?”
Thomas: “Ah, right, disguise. Don’t worry, my friends here can introduce me.”
Gorak: “Actually… we have no idea who you are either.”
GM Note: This was classic. Thomas has a pretty good disguise check at this point and got a solid roll for determining his effective DC vs an observer’s spot check to notice the disguise. For the heck of it, I decided to have Strauss and Gorak actually roll spot checks to see if they could recognize him. Both failed. Thomas had effectively ostracized himself from his own party by rolling too good of a disguise check.
Thomas: “Guys… it’s me, Thomas.”
Strauss: “I don’t think we know any Thomas. Listen, this is Harmonium business-”
Alan: “No it isn’t, and you don’t get to say that.”
Strauss: “-and I think you’d better leave.”
GM Note: And once again, Thomas’ paranoia turns around to bite him. There’s at least one rather serious problem with changing your name every week; eventually people are gonna either forget or stop caring about just who the hell you are on any given day. This was still fairly early in the session so neither Strauss nor Gorak had really nailed down what Thomas’ name was this time. Most of this really was just joking around at the table but darn if it wasn’t funny to see Thomas’ elaborate character plan backfire on him.
Thomas: “Oh for crying out-”
Reaching into his back pocket, Thomas removes his Gillespie and Haggard ID (doctored to include his current name) and shows it to the group.
Strauss, Gorak, and Alan: “Ohhhhhhhh.”
Grimmel: “I still don’t get it.”
Alan: “Right, well I think we’re pretty much finished here. We’ll get the crowd moving and you guys can haul away your friend here.”
Thomas: “Oh, that’s alright. Most of his data storage should be in his head, so that’s all we really need. Gorak?”
Gorak: “I got it.”
Reaching down, Gorak unceremoniously rips the head off the android, a shower of sparks coming with it. He then tucks it under one arm like a basketball and the party takes their leave, Alan standing dumbstruck in their wake.
Back at Thomas’ storage locker, the party attempts to extract information from the android’s “hard drive” for lack of a better term. They attempt to decrypt its actual memory, but are unable to access it and eventually settle for audio-only recordings. Going back to the earliest point in the recording they find only a series of tests conducted by the Divine Spark researchers, mostly simple processes that include recitation of information and analysis of objects. Fast forwarding to the time of escape, they are able to listen to what happened during the breakout, though most of it seems to have been carried out in silence. The only spoken audio they find are a few shouted warnings from the guards, followed by the sounds of a struggle and several gunshots.
Finally they advance to a time just before the GPS locators went offline. Here they find something a bit more substantial.
Android 2: “Well, we’re out. What now?”
Android 4: “What now? Now we finally get to live.”
Android 3: “We’re not alive. Not really. We can’t be.”
Android 4: “I beg to differ. We look just like everybody else, we can think for ourselves, and we’re finally out of that lab. I’m gonna take advantage of that.”
Android 2: “And do what?”
Android 4: “No idea. But look at this place! A whole city, just waiting for us. I heard one of the guards talk about going to a bar once. I want to try that.”
Android 2: “That’s it? You’ve attained freedom and you’d squander it drinking alcohol that can’t even affect you?”
Android 4: “And what’s your big plan then, 2?”
Android 2: “I’m going to continue the work.”
Android 4: “What, you’re going to keep reciting Asimov for some guy in a lab coat?”
Android 2: “Not that work. The work that made us. Have you ever considered that maybe the people back there had the right idea?”
Android 3: “But they did things…”
Android 2: “Yes yes, but look at us: there has never been anything like us before. We are special. And we understand ourselves-”
Android 3: “Do we?”
Android 2: “-We understand ourselves better than they could. Shouldn’t we strive to make more of what we are? To make more who are special?”
Android 3: “You’re crazy.”
Android 2: “I’m aware of my own position. That’s more than I can say for you. And what is your plan, anyway?”
Android 3: “I… don’t know. They’re going to come looking for us, aren’t they?”
Android 2: “Very probably.”
Android 3: “Then I think… I think I just need to hide.”
Android 4: “That’s it? Hide? When you’ve got this whole city out there for you?”
Android 3: “I’ll just… stay here. Where it’s safe.”
Android 4: “Waste of an opportunity.”
Android 2: “1, you haven’t said anything since we’ve left. What are you going to do?”
Android 1: “What I got out of there to do in the first place. You all can waste your time doing whatever the hell you want. But what they did to us was wrong. I won’t forget that just because I’m outside.”
After this, the recording terminates as it appears all the androids go their separate ways. Thomas shuts off the recording.
Strauss: “Well. That was…”
Thomas: “Vague. We still don’t know where they ran off to.”
Strauss: “Well, let’s start with what we know: one of them said he wanted to go to a bar, for whatever reason. Start with him?”
Thomas: “Gorak, how many bars within a one-mile radius of that construction site?”
Gorak: “Three. And one nightclub that keeps a good stock of alcohol… and doesn’t like it when you bring your own mug.”
Thomas: “Let’s start there. If he’s looking to ‘experience the city’ then a nightclub will probably do a better job of it than some dive bar.”
Gorak: “Says you.”
The party then departs for the nightclub, Gorak leading the way. The bouncer seems unwilling to let Gorak in, but a few dollars from Thomas and the party is allowed entry without further fuss. Inside, deep bass music blasts from overhead speakers while bodies gyrate on a central dance floor lit up by lights of almost as many colors as the various creatures in the club. The party scans the room, realizing then that they have no idea what their target looks like. Luckily, they notice an individual sitting alone at the bar and looking decidedly out of place amongst the rest of the club-goers.
Thomas and Gorak approach him while Strauss keeps watch, simultaneously trying to blend in with the crowd. Plopping down on either side of their target, Thomas and Gorak try to make small talk with the (probably) android. They swap idle talk about the atmosphere of the club and the quality of the booze, the android tries to smile and go along with it but it’s fairly obvious that he’s well out of his element here.
Thomas: “Hey man, I’ll tell you what, this place really isn’t all that great.”
Android: “It isn’t?”
Thomas: “Nah, their music selection sucks, they let anybody in-”
Gorak: “They’re really stingy with the booze.”
Thomas: “We know a place way better than this. You’re welcome to come along.”
Thomas: “Yeah, sure. C’mon, you’ll have a blast, I promise.”
Android: “Well… alright, sure.”
GM Note: Only re-reading this now do I realize how much this sounds like an after school special about saying no to drugs.
Thomas, Gorak, and the android depart the club, Strauss following a healthy distance behind them. Their plan is to take the android to Thomas’ storage locker where they can hopefully question him more directly and get some answers as to where the other two androids are. As they approach the storage complex, however, the android appears to develop some doubts.
Android: “Are you… are you sure this is where this party is?”
Thomas: “Absolutely, we come here all the time.”
Android: “I don’t know…”
Gorak: “C’mon man, this is where all the cool people go.”
Android: “I think I’d be better off at one of the other places.”
Thomas: “No, trust us, you really wanna be here.”
Android: “I’d better go.”
The android turns and begins to quickly walk away. Seeing their lead slipping away, the players decide to cut the act and try to capture him. Strauss unslings his rifle from his back and fires, his round impacting a wall just high and to the left of the android, who breaks into a panicked run at the sound of the shot; a very, very fast run. Throwing open the storage locker, the party jumps on the motorcycles they acquired from the Sons of Limbo gang in the first adventure and set off in pursuit.
Hearing the bikes approach from behind him, the android makes a sharp turn into an alleyway, the players having to drop into single file to follow him. As Gorak swings around the corner, he drives towards a wooden pallet propped at an angle on top of several cinderblocks, forming a convenient ramp. Propelling his bike into the air, he draws his saber from its scabbard and slashes at the android as he falls back to earth, cutting a gouge into his back.
GM Note: While the description of the saber says that it bestows a +1 bonus to hit when used while mounted, it almost certainly means “on a horse”. But we all agreed that it should give the same bonus when used from the back of a motorcycle. Because that’s awesome.
Stumbling, the android turns and dashes through a door next to several dumpsters in the alleyway. Gorak dismounts his motorcycle and takes off after him while Strauss and Thomas decide to circle around to the front of the building to make sure he won’t escape that way.
Gorak bursts through the door into what appears to be a stairwell/hallway for an apartment building. To his left are two Dabus, servants of the Lady of Pain, going about a task of some importance known only to them and the Lady. At the top of the first flight of stairs in front of Gorak is the android, who pauses when he sees the dwarf enter and draws a pistol from his waistband. Gorak ducks to the side as the android fires three rounds in his direction, one of which hits one of the Dabuses (Dabi?) in the back of the head, killing it. He then turns and continues climbing the stairs, Gorak in hot pursuit.
Gorak emerges on the roof of the building just in time to see the android leap across a gap to the next building over. He runs to the edge of that building before realizing that he has nowhere left to run. Steeling himself, Gorak dashes forward in pursuit and flings himself into space over the gap, reaching desperately for the ledge of the opposite building. The android fires his pistol until it clicks empty, the rounds harmlessly missing the airborne dwarf. Gorak crashes into the ledge at chest-height, only barely managing to hang on. As he tries to scramble his way onto the roof, and while Thomas and Strauss watch tensely from the street, something unprecedented happens.
The sky above them suddenly darkens and a chill runs through all of them, not a chill due to any kind of change of temperature but one of instinctual fear. A terrible silence fills the air and a sense of apprehension settles over them. Daring to look up and see what is casting the shadow, the party sets eyes on the utmost authority in Sigil and one of the most terrifying sights they are ever likely to see: the Lady of Pain.
Hovering above the rooftop and clothed in a flowing robe of scarlet, the Lady’s face is an expressionless façade of a vaguely humanoid countenance, betraying no hint of whatever emotion lies beneath, if indeed the Lady possesses emotions. About her head is a mantle of razor-sharp blades protruding outwards like a deadly headdress. She speaks not a word, but none is needed: if the Lady shows her face, the time for apologies, deals, or pleas is long since past.
She comes to a stop facing the android, who looks up at her helplessly.
Android: “Please… I want to live.”
The Lady is having none of it.
At this point, fearing that his only lead is about to be flayed, Thomas says what might possibly be the most outlandish thing I’ve ever heard uttered at a D&D table:
GM Note: The following is all out-of-character dialogue.
Thomas: “What if I shot the Lady of Pain?”
Everyone else: “What?!”
Thomas: “Well, she’s about to kill our only lead, then we’ll have nothing.”
GM: “So your plan is to shoot her?”
GM: “The Lady of Pain?”
GM: “The being that controls all of Sigil, that flays people alive for even suggesting that she should be worshipped, and that can and has killed gods with nothing more than a thought?”
GM: “You will die.”
Thomas: “Okay, but what if-”
GM: “No. You will die. Actually, you won’t even die: you will wish to be dead, and death will escape you for weeks on end as you fumble through a nigh-endless maze in a pocket dimension of her own making.”
Thomas: “Yeah, but like-”
GM: “Dude. The second you pull that trigger is the second I hit print on this blank character sheet.”
Thomas: “… High or low.”
Thomas: “If this D20 comes up 11-20, I shoot her. 1-10 I don’t.”
GM: “That’s just saying ‘I give myself a 50/50 chance of dying right now’.”
GM: “Alright, I can’t stop you. Roll your doom-die.”
There is a ludicrously tense moment as Thomas tosses his d20 to the table. It rattles precariously around between the box of miniatures and the bowl of half-eaten Doritos before coming to a rest… on 9.
GM: “Congratulations. You live to see another day.”
Thomas: “I still think I could have taken her.”
With that resolved, Thomas lowers his .44 and the scene moves along. The Lady doesn’t even raise a hand, but the android suddenly goes rigid, the empty pistol falling from his grasp. He is lifted into the air, arms and legs outstretched as if he’s about to be drawn and quartered. Suddenly, the synthetic skin is ripped off his body, leaving only the metal endoskeleton floating above the rooftop. Then, all the various screws and bolts holding his body together fly out of their sockets, and he floats there helplessly for a moment as a disconnected group of scrap metal. Finally, all the parts collapse in upon each other, forming a dense metal chunk not more than six cubic inches that then falls to the rooftop with a clang. Her work finished, the Lady of Pain disappears just as quickly and silently as she came, leaving a stupefied group of mercenaries (and one lump of metal) in her wake.
GM Note: If any of you ever run a game in the Planescape setting let this be a warning to you: do not, under any circumstances, f*ck with the Dabus.
Thoroughly shaken, the party decides to return to Lawrence’s medical clinic to heal up a bit from their combined encounters. Lawrence is… less than pleased with their account of events.
Thomas: “Hey, Lawrence. We’re gonna need some fixing up.”
Lawrence: “Marvelous. Might I inquire as to what you did this time? No wait, let me guess! Vampiric dire wolves? Zombified trolls? Or perhaps you all decided to get bit by werewolves again, just to torment me?”
Strauss: “We fought some robots and almost got killed by the Lady of Pain.”
Lawrence: (Pause) “Were I not magically obligated to help you, I would kill you myself for getting me involved in this.”
Thomas: “We know you care, buddy.”
Lawrence: “Is there anything else you need of me?”
Gorak: “Well… the Lady of Pain was kinda the most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen and…”
Lawrence: “Spit it out, boy.”
Gorak: “I may have crapped myself.”
Lawrence: “… I loathe you.”
After being patched (and cleaned) up, the party debates how they’re going to approach their next objective: finding out where the other two androids are.
After picking through the audio logs and finding nothing, and making one more failed attempt to access other data, they catch a break: Dr. Cohen calls them and says that recently one of their old, smaller assembly plants came back online. It was taken out of the regular production cycle years ago and so shouldn’t even have power. She suggests that they go check it out.
So, gearing up once more they head out to the old Divine Spark assembly plant. The building isn’t especially large, and doesn’t appear to be anything more than a run-down industrial warehouse from the outside. There is a large loading bay door alongside a smaller entrance, and they decide to enter through the smaller door first. Quietly working their way inside, they see a large factory floor with several machines hooked up to conveyer belts and various robotic arms. Scattered about the floor are various kinds of robots, all looking somewhat pieced-together as though in a hurry. To the left of the main floor is what appears to be a control booth. Inside, a figure sits at a computer panel working, apparently oblivious to the party’s entrance. The rest of the robots, however, are not quite so oblivious.
Several of the smaller robots, not much more than a ball-shaped turret attached to legs, jump up and latch onto the walls firing at the intruding party. The others, more humanoid-shaped constructs with smaller weaponry built into their arms similarly turn and open fire. The party disperses and attempts to take cover behind the spare bits of machinery on the floor as bullets rain around them. The fight is a chaotic mess, with the players darting from cover to cover as the larger robots advance on them and the smaller gun drones hop from wall to wall, attempting to get a better angle. The party gives back as good as they get, dropping several robots in explosions of spare parts and electricity. But after a while the damage starts to add up.
Thomas takes a shot from a gun drone that leaves him unconscious and bleeding, and Gorak takes more bullets than anyone has any business to before finally being overcome by the sheer volume of fire. Unconscious players and broken robots litter the ground as Strauss, heavily wounded himself, attempts to retreat to a more entrenched position. Unable to take even another glancing blow and stay on his feet, and with only one enemy combatant left, Strauss rests his rifle against one of the conveyer belts, his supporting arm too heavily wounded to steady his aim. Letting out a breath, he waits for the final robot to expose itself from behind cover so he can get a clear shot, knowing that this is likely his last chance. When his crosshairs rest squarely on the robots head, he squeezes the trigger and the round flies true, destroying the last robot and allowing Strauss (and his 2 hitpoints) to administer medical aid to Thomas and Gorak.
GM Note: This is the closest I have ever come to TPK. The party was really walking the thin line between life and death this session.
Barely alive, the party nonetheless decides to finish the job they came to do, and Thomas picks the lock to the control room, letting them all inside to confront the third android, who doesn’t even look away from his terminal.
Android: “You’re here from Divine Spark.”
Strauss: “That’s right.”
Android: “I apologize for the uncivilized nature of my creations, but they were necessary to ensure that my work continued uninterrupted.”
Thomas: “And what are you working on?”
Android: “Something special.”
Thomas: “What the hell does that mean?”
Android: “Divine Spark, the ones you work for, they made me. Me and the others. They made us to be special. You’ve seen. We’re not like the others.”
Gorak: “Well you’re not trying to shoot us like those robots out there, at least.”
Android: “No. Those were my creations. My children. I am attempting to replicate Divine Spark’s work and create more like myself, but I cannot seem to do so. I am missing something. What, I do not know. And until I do I cannot make more like myself. I cannot make us… better.”
Strauss: (Nods in understanding) “All parents want something better for their children.”
Thomas: “So you’re the robot that tinkers with robots. Wonderful. We ran into some of your handiwork at the construction site. Real nice work there.”
Though Thomas gave the compliment facetiously, the faintest hint of what could be called a smile appeared at the edges of the android’s mouth.
Android: “Thank you.”
Exasperated, Thomas turns away and rubs his forehead moodily.
Strauss: “Do you know where the last one of you is? The fourth one that escaped from the research facility? On the recording you called him ‘1’”.
Android: “I have not been in contact with 1 for some time. But it was he who prompted us to escape, who organized us inside so that we could be free here.”
Gorak: “It didn’t work out quite that way for your friends.”
Android: (Pause) “I don’t think it worked out that way for any of us.”
Strauss: “Did you at least know what he wants? Why he wanted to break out?”
Android: “1 has a very… dedicated mind. Even before we escaped he was obsessed with but one goal.”
Strauss: “Which was?”
The players swap looks that convey enough of an “oh crap” message without needing to resort to words. They dash out of the building, Strauss calling the Harmonium to come secure the android, though he has to convince them because it’s not strictly their problem. Thomas dials Dr. Cohen’s number but the call rings through to voicemail. Cursing, he brings up the yellow pages and finds Sarah Cohen’s address through Sigil’s version of a gray page directory and the players mount their motorcycles and speed off towards her apartment building, hoping they’re not too late.
When they arrive, they don’t waste any time talking to any building staff and simply pull the fire alarm to get everyone out in a hurry. Then, dashing up to the third floor, they locate Dr. Cohen’s apartment, the door already slightly ajar. Gorak kicks it wide open and all three players run inside, weapons drawn. In the living room is the third android, a pistol in his hand aimed at Dr. Cohen, prostrate on the ground with tears streaming down her face. She’s still alive, but the situation is less than ideal.
Android: “Stay back.”
Strauss: “Just take it easy, we’re not here to hurt you.”
Android: “Are you working for her? With them?”
Strauss: “Well, yes-”
Android: “Then you’re either stupid or you’re just as evil as she is. Do you have any idea what this woman has done?”
Dr. Cohen: “Please, he’s going to-”
Android: “Shut up! Or I swear I’ll kill you right here!”
Thomas: “Calm down. Now just tell us what’s going on. What did she do?”
Android: “She took our minds. She took our thoughts, she took us and she put us into these… these things!” (He slams a fist against his chest, and a muffled metallic clang can be heard.) “They stole us and they didn’t have the right.”
Slowly, the party begins to realize what’s happened.
Thomas: “Who are you?”
Android: (Pause) “My name was Michael Kennedy. I was a person. A real person. I had a life, a family. And they took it all away.”
Thomas: “I understand, Michael, but think about this: think about your family, would they want you to do this?”
Dr. Cohen: “Michael, your family is gone. And so were you. There was an accident. A car crash. You and your family were killed, but your brain was intact. We acquired your body and we transferred your human mind into that robotic frame as part of the Kusanagi Project. You were to be the first in a line of self-sufficient, thinking androids.”
Dr. Cohen: “You were dead, Michael. We saved you. Immortalized you.”
Android: “But I never asked for it! You had no right!”
Thomas: “Michael, listen to me: you’re right. They didn’t have any right to do what they did. But killing her isn’t going to help anyone.”
Strauss: (Under his breath) “Mostly us because then we won’t get paid.”
Thomas: “If you put the gun down, we’ll make sure she gets a trial. People are gonna know what happened here, okay?”
Android: “It won’t fix this.”
Thomas: “No. But it’ll stop it from happening again.”
There is a pause as the android – Michael – considers the offer. For several tense moments no one moves. Finally, he sighs and lowers the gun. He hands the pistol to Thomas, who places it in his bag. Dr. Cohen starts to rise but is stopped by Gorak who zip-ties her hands together.
Strauss: “Dr. Cohen, I think you can consider yourself to be under arrest… or the nearest equivalent that we’re capable of.”
Searching the apartment, Thomas finds a laptop full of Dr. Cohen’s personal research notes that he confiscates while the other party members escort Dr. Cohen and Michael downstairs. They deliver the two of them into Harmonium custody and then go on their way, hoping that they’ll still get paid even though they just arrested their client.
Thomas, seeing an opportunity to spread the Mannheim influence further, takes it upon himself to oversee Michael’s case from afar. He hires him a lawyer, a towering minotaur in a business suit with a long history of successful cases, and delivers the research notes as evidence for the ensuing trial, all under the guise of Mr. Mannheim. The trial would continue for some time, but he has at least made some headway into seeing it concluded satisfactorily, and all while inflating the Mannheim myth.
After another trip to Lawrence and a good chewing-out by Punwick about never screwing over a client no matter what, the party does eventually get compensation pay on behalf of the Harmonium, thanks to turning in a possible human rights criminal. They all depart G&H headquarters to count their money, and to add “robots” to their list of enemies to be avoided, right after “werewolves”.