Join Alex, Helen, Bryn, Lydia, and Ben in this week's episode of Brorb Chat!
Editor’s note: the interrogation section is mostly chronological, but there are instances of OOC questions that the players have that call back to earlier sections, so I have tried to keep it as comprehensible and narrative as possible instead of jumping back and forth between sections.
The party continues to interrogate Shoin; the more that questions deal with giving him a chance to show off, the easier the drawings come. He locks in on the kraken stuff when they ask.
The kraken info doesn’t come through the drawings. Shoin talks about how he tried, semi-successfully, to create a network of krakens to use across the globe. He didn’t do a great job, though, of “creating copies” of himself. It mostly led to some obnoxious krakens around the globe, but doesn’t completely achieve what he wanted to achieve. When asked, he implies that the kraken network has been done in thanks to the party dealing with the lightning rods and the power, and then goes off on one talking about the limitations of the system. The party understands that, basically, the krakens will wear themselves out because what Shoin did in his experiments: he recreated the brains using a blank template and stuck them in a robot body with some biological material and let them go wild (under his orders, of course), using them to operate as a cohesive group. Importantly, he doesn’t know how many there are.
Shoin’s goal with the krakens was “to hold the world to ransom”; Cel, however, reminds him that he never gave anyone a ransom note, and Shoin insists that he did. Both Zolf and Hamid tell him that no one’s heard of him, and that their group only went looking because a plethora of adamantine was being shipping out toward his island. Zolf pushes Shoin’s buttons, talking about how everyone knows Tesla, Newton, and Henri, and that sends Shoin into a bit of a tirade, explaining how Henri was useless. The only thing he respected about Henri was that he did everything for the benefit of himself, just like Shoin did.
Hamid starts trying to compliment Shoin about how he was able to beat the infection, but Shoin seems to be confused, not understanding what Hamid was getting at. He starts getting distracted and stammering, and the image on the page changes to a drawing of an excellent surgical diagram of the human brain and how one would separate the corpus callosum. Additionally, he adds root structures around the edges, and it seems as though it’s portraying building a sort of tinfoil wall in between the two hemispheres. He successfully built a wall in his brain to quarantine an area of the infection, and then let it run wild.
Cel pulls everyone else aside and asks what they need to know about the infection to move forward; Zolf says that they know it started in London because of the other drawing Shoin made, and that they need to know how the infection actually works and if they can find an external way to duplicate what Shoin did to wall it off. They decide to have Cel continue asking questions designed to keep Shoin talking, and they’ll examine what comes out on the drawings. Hamid asks quickly to review the diary, because he recalls Shoin mentioning the infection; they confirm that in the diary, Shoin talks about a way to beat the infection. He clearly had a method to stop it from progressing in his own brain, and thinks he has a way to end it and hopes he can implement it. He didn’t, however, write down what this hypothetical way to end the infection would be. Basically, he does have a way to stop its progress and may have a idea of how to stop it completely. However, his solution is largely unworkable at the moment, because it would require intense brain surgery, hence why Zolf asks about an external method to create the same effects.
They return to the room, and Cel asks about the infection again. Strangely, Shoin doesn’t seem to know about the infection. When Cel asks about it, he becomes confused, and the speaker starts to stall, as does the robotic arm, becoming more erratic. Zolf and Azu make a Heal check on Shoin to see what’s going on. Zolf isn’t able to glean much from it, but Azu is able to tell that the concepts are excellent but that they would be very difficult to actually pull off. Based on her experience, she thinks there’s some form of aphasia at play, which is not unheard of in patients that have TBI. It’s also highly likely that he has memory loss.
Cel asks instead about the simulacrum, and he goes off on one about it. However, he continues to draw based on the previous question Cel asked about the infection. Shoin explains that he thinks the simulacrum is a waste of time, has no real advantage, takes ages, and is inefficient. He doesn’t see the point in simply making a humanity replica when you could simply build something better. Cel continues to agree with him, and Shoin goes on, talking about how he’s unimpressed with Newton, moans about having to pay the bills, and then talks about how he was hired to refine and ship out fluidic systems for the simulacra in Damascus.
As he’s going on about this, the arm is drawing something that seems like an unclear technical manual. Azu and Zolf realise it’s like one of those magic eye pictures - it’s a landscape, but he’s using technical notations for mechanisms and the like. It appears to be a barren mine, and Zolf recognises it as the entrance to Svalbard. Cel eventually realises that he’s drawn a coherent diagram/circuit to look like another thing. They ask if it’s a kill switch, as it looks like could potentially play well with the transmission stuff at the institute, as long as there was an organic component. (Editor’s note: Cel doesn’t roll high enough with a 28 Knowledge (engineering) check to know.) The robot arm carries on with the Svalbard thing, but the fissure in the rock gets larger and larger on each repeated drawing, obscuring more and more of the image, until it’s a similar shape as the metal seed.
They move on to another topic, and Hamid asks how Shoin caught the infection. Shoin stumbles for a while, and then Hamid asks about Harrison Cambell. Shoin loves Cambell, and starts going on about the book plots. Eventually, he confesses that he stole a bunch of proofs, and then starts to come apart a bit as he chats more about it.
However, the drawing applies to Hamid’s original question. This one is more difficult to interpret, and is way more conceptual, with charcoal stick figures and stuff. There’s a figure on the page, and then another, much larger figure, dominating the page. It starts off with a single line going from the small figure to the huge, and then another, and another, and starts to overwhelm the big figure from the small figure.
Hamid calls another time-out and brings everyone out of the room to discuss what they should do next. It seems as though they need to head to Svalbard to get info on the seed, and Zolf agrees, saying that Svalbard is isolated enough that it’s unlikely the infection has gotten to it. Wilde, however, focuses on something else, bringing up the fact that they don’t know who paid for Shoin to create fluidics systems, and the party returns to the room to ask Shoin.
Cel asks first; Shoin, interestingly, doesn’t struggle with this question. He talks about how Tesla is all about the theory, but theory doesn’t pay. He asks a very veiled question into where Edison is getting his money from and references the lightning rail. Shortly, he moves onto Henri, laughing at the fact that all his systems are desperately insecure, and that it was interesting when he poked around in Henri’s systems. Cel asks what he means by that, and Shoin asks what they know about religion. He goes on to explain that it’s surprisingly lucrative, especially if you have a large underground organisation.
He says he was approached by the Cult of Hades, who wanted him to make fluidics systems for them. Shoin did, but said it would never work as all of the systems he sent them were defective. He made them deliberately not work, so that he was the only person who they could come back to. He thought it would be hilarious; the system he sent over wouldn’t do anything at all. Hamid tells him that they built a huge legion, and Shoin is incredibly entertained by this.
Hamid asks who they talked to from the Cult, and Shoin explains that his contact was a posh geezer, named Wellesley, who became the Duke of Wellington (it is unclear whether Shoin is referring to the original Wellington, who died at Edison's party, or his younger relative that the party meets in Damascus). Zolf carefully stops himself from swearing. Shoin also mentions that the two cloaked ones do not react well to vinegar. Hamid asks if it matters what kind of acid, and then Shoin launches into a long explanation that is pointless to anyone but Cel.
As he’s explaining, more drawings come from the robotic arm. He starts drawing a Mercator projection (a cylindrical map projection, apparently his is very nice), and then goes back to etch-a-sketch style. He returns to London and draws a little dot, over and over and over again, getting bigger and bigger and bigger, destroying the paper. This continues as Zolf keeps feeding paper into the machine.
The party decides that they’ve got all they need in order to move forward, and Shoin asks if their time together is at an end. He doesn’t seem to realise that he doesn’t hold any power here, and cackles while telling them that they’re going to be uploaded to the system. Zolf, very sarcastically, says “oh no, please don’t.” Shoin doesn’t pick up on this and starts to go off on a spiel; Cel unplugs the speaker and microphone, and Zolf asks if they can put him back into stasis in case there are other questions that come up. Cel says that what they’ll do is turn the power off gradually, so that it feels as though he’s falling asleep. The party discusses what they should do with Shoin, and if they should leave him in the fugue state he had been in. The brain is much too traumatised to heal at all, and there isn’t any unscrambling of consciousness they can do to help the other people trapped in there with him.
Cel says that everyone now is basically dreaming, and that they can set it up so that it will continue to feel like this until the nutrients run out. Zolf and Azu both know that, realistically, this will be completely painless. There’s nothing else that Shoin can give them, but they are still trying to deal with him as humanely as possible. They’re not completely sure what to do with it, but they also need to be careful because there’s the potential of the infection spreading. They debate for a while, with Zolf offering to give it to the kobolds, and Wilde says that the brorb will need a guard; Cel disagrees, saying that it’s cruel to ask the kobolds to have responsibility over it. Zolf explains that he was suggesting that they destroy it first and give it to them so that the kobolds can do what they like with it. Eventually, they come to the conclusion that they will keep the brorb in the antimagic cell, in a bag of holding, until the nutrients run out. The party will not be staying at the inn long enough to monitor it.
They decide that they will be going to Svalbard next; it won’t be as easy as they think, and Wilde says that Einstein is out of contact at the moment. Zolf asks about the mobile stone, but both Hamid and Azu seem reluctant to pull Einstein away from whatever task he’s currently doing. Wilde says that teleportation will need to be outside official channels, and Zolf tells him to start figuring out their next moves. Wilde excuses himself and starts working.
Azu asks if Barnes and Carter will be coming with them, and both of them don’t seem to know. Cel suggests a trek through Siberia, commenting on how fun it will be, but Hamid is more reluctant, noting that Siberia isn’t very safe. Azu asks where Svalbard is, and then asks why they would be going through Siberia. Zolf and Cel explain that this route would avoid the populated areas, but go through the entirety of Russia; Zolf seems less enthused about this than Cel. Barnes also thinks it’s a bad idea, and Hamid asks what their other options would be, if they can’t get a teleport. Zolf says that they could get a boat; Cel suggests getting a boat to America and then trekking across it. That idea is shot down; even using a boat through the Mediterranean is going to be unsafe, with the Arctic waters up north. A single ship has never crossed it successfully. Hamid asks about crossing the poles, and admits that it sounds stupid, but that it would be the shortest route, completely uninhabited, and they don’t run the risk of running into megafauna. Barnes asks if Hamid’s ever been to the Arctic, which Hamid admits he hasn’t, and Barnes explains that Hamid wouldn’t be able to make it across the poles due to his stature and the fact that he simply can’t move quickly enough. It would be at the absolute limits of endurance for all of them; Zolf would struggle as well, and if his legs malfunction, that’s it for them.
There are no good options - the only feasible ones seem to be going across Siberia or a boat around India or Africa, depending on where the infection’s spread to. Barnes says none of these are real options, and Zolf counters that they have to be. Hamid pipes up, then, asking about Earhart. This seems to be the most feasible option they have, and Zolf goes to ask Wilde about Earhart, telling him he’ll have to swallow his pride. Wilde admits that it will be the only option if they can’t get Einstein. He seems incredibly resistant to it, still, but and doesn’t want to, but knows that he’ll have to. The two options are teleportation with Einstein, or weeks on an airship with Earhart. The other options will take months. Zolf tells him to get Einstein or Earhart, and Wilde tells Zolf to go keep morale up, and not to let people leave because he’s not sure who he’ll need to talk to.
Back in the room, Cel is absently wondering if you could ride in the kraken. Carter suggests scooping the brains out and using them to travel, but Azu is nearly certain that it absolutely wouldn’t work like that. Hamid asks Cel about potentially building something they could use, similar to the submersible, to cross the North Pole underwater. He immediately recants it, saying it’s a terrible idea and that it wouldn’t work.
Quarantine is officially over, so the party all go a bit of separate ways; Zolf goes to the coast, Cel heads back to their village, and Hamid offers to help contact Einstein, along with Azu. Zolf says to work with Wilde, as they’re a team, and Azu smiles proudly at him. Zolf nods at her, and then heads out to go to the coast. Before he can, Hamid offers him and Cel a hug. Cel accepts, putting their head on Hamid’s shoulder. Zolf hesitates for a moment, and then pats Hamid on the shoulder and heads out. Hamid keeps it not very awkward, but Zolf doesn’t.
Before chatting with Wilde, Hamid goes to talk to Skraak. He explains that the party will be leaving soon, and Skraak seems to take it as ‘the party and the kobolds’. Hamid says that they’re heading to Svalbard, explaining where it is, and that he knows the kobolds will want to come, but that it will be dangerous. Skraak says that they’ll have to be careful, and Hamid says that he doesn’t want to take the kobolds into danger. This doesn’t seem to matter; Skraak explains that if Hamid leaves them behind, the kobolds will just follow him because this is how kobolds work. Hamid suggests having only Skraak tag along, instead of the rest, and stay behind with Jasper at Cel’s village. Skraak says he’ll try, and will send someone back to the island to see if everyone is okay with that decision. Hamid asks if there’s anything else he can do to help; Skraak says that the kobolds are here to help Hamid. Hamid says that he understands how the others see him, and that he’s relieved Skraak doesn’t view him in that light, but Skraak says he shouldn’t be. Hamid says that it’s hard, and Skraak tells him it should be; Hamid continues, saying he’s just trying to work out what’s best. Skraak goes to leave, but then stops for a moment, telling Hamid that being in charge doesn’t mean things are easier just because you have control over others. It means things are harder because you are expected to help more people.
Smash cut to Cel, who is on their way back to their village. The rain has finally stopped, and it’s easy for them to make decent time. As they get closer, there’s a large plume of smoke curling out of the village from what Cel can recognise is a controlled fire. They wonder out loud what Jasper’s done; as they reach the border of the village, they see the tank set up on the outside, with one of the boys from the village doing a half-hearted guarding job. The barriers around the village seem to still be in place. The guard finally notices Cel, and greets them. Cel asks if everyone is alive, and the gnome seems confused, saying that everyone is, and that they’re in town for something. The guard moves the tank so Cel can get in, and then Cel asks if anything exciting happened while they were gone; the guard just mentions it’s not raining anymore.
They head into the village, and realise a large fete (a celebration) is happening. Most of the square has started to look normal again, with a large bonfire in the middle. There are numerous tables set around the bonfire, like a street party where everyone is sitting together. Everyone is incredibly excited to see Cel, and crowd around them to greet them, thanking them for fixing the rain. They pull them into the festivities, and then Jasper comes out of the elder’s house, looking all official. Cel’s happy to see him, and congratulates him for keeping everyone safe. They start welling up, so proud of Jasper, and Jasper says that they always are.
Jasper asks if they’re here to stay, and Cel says that they’re only here to stay for a bit before heading off with their friends, but that they will come back. Jasper doesn’t seem to completely get it, asking if Cel will be fixing other skies. Cel says the skies are fixed, but admits that they’ve tried to forget about other places and how they might need help too; they cut this idea off, though, and excitedly inform Jasper that they might be making an airship. Jasper is incredibly excited, and Cel tells him that they’ve got a bunch of new friends that Jasper will love to talk to.
Dice rolls & mechanics
- Zolf and Azu make a heal check: Zolf gets a nat 1, Azu gets 29
- Everyone makes a Sense Motive check while Shoin is drawing: Zolf gets 25, Azu gets 26, Hamid gets 20, Cel gets 14
- Cel makes a Knowledge (engineering) check on the circuit drawing: 28
- Cel makes a Perception check while traveling to the village: 24