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Summary[]

The party meets the architects of a possible solution as Azu offers a piggyback, Hamid washes up, Zolf is gonna bust in, and Cel gets very focused.

[Editor's note: There are some lines that are muffled on-air as a sound-effect. These are written verbatim to aid understanding.]

Synopsis[]

The party enters the second manhole, and the final squizzard closes it behind them. Barret warns the party, particularly Zolf, that they will be passing through an anti-magic field so their magical items will stop working. He also says the squizzards aren't allowed to go beyond this point, since 'the people inside' don't like them. Wilde goes through the field first, with Hamid. Through the door is a floor-to-ceiling mirror, and it is lit by electric light. The room is a box with metal grating on the other side. Hamid and Wilde step in and close the door. Nothing happens at first, and Wilde gets impatient, then the electric light becomes bright.

A crackly speaker comes to life, and a muffled voice says "show us your eyes". Hamid repeats the words questioningly, and the voice confirms "show us your eyes, yeah!" Hamid opens his eyes and tries to stare at the bright light. The voice comes through again "at the mirror, obviously at the mirror!" and Hamid does so. Wilde also does. The voice comes through: "'OK, alright, turn around". Wilde and Hamid do so. "Okay, who brought you here?" Hamid answers that it was Barret."What do you think about him?" Hamid starts to describe the ways in which Barret is the worst humanoid alive. "Yeah, [unintelligible, sounds like 'which is cool'], you can come in, one sec". The far door opens with a hiss, into a cloakroom. "Come on then!" says the voice. Hamid and Wilde head to the cloakroom. The voice comes through again: "If you could just wait there for the rest to come in then we'll, er, we'll take it from there. There's some books in the lockers!" The speaker turns off, and Hamid grabs a book.

Every other party member is put through the same situation, and is asked what they think of Barret. Azu helps Zolf through the anti-magic field, him leaning on her, and Cel feels noticeably less intelligent. Barret starts complaining about the theatricality of the rigmarole, but the others don't have time for him. The door opens, and Augusta Leigh introduces herself (starting by insulting Barret). She goes to shake the party's hands, but Azu and Cel look to Hamid and Zolf, who've met her before. They introduce her as a thief they beat up once, and who also stole the Simulacrum and killed people. She goes to the other door and gives a complex tap. She warns them, before they go in, that Tesla is a stickler for cleanliness, so could they please wash their hands before going in. Sumutnyerl goes very pale. Azu asks if she's alright. Sumutnyerl says they are, but she doesn't look alright. Cel tells her not to kill Tesla until they have enough useful information from him, and she replies that if she kills him, he wouldn't know how angry she is. Hamid prestidigitates his make-up back on.

They head into what is like the porch of a house (picket fence, astroturf and so on), but in a cellar. The characters talk about how 'The One That got Away is a rather strange name for a pub, and a strange answer to a long-standing question. Downstairs is a well-appointed 18xx salon. The fireplace is lit with an illusion of flames, and there's a grandfather clock and several armchairs. Curtains are hung over just bricks. The house doesn't appear well-lived in, and looks like it's designed to look homely rather than actually being homely. Augusta tells the party that they're not going to be done for a little while anyway, and Cel questions what she means by 'they'. Augusta says that it's herself, Ada, Nikola, Barret (who helps with odd-jobs), and occasionally Einstein comes to help. Zolf asks if they're with the Cult, and Augusta relies that they aren't. Zolf asks if Barret is necessary. Augusta looks ta Barret with cold cruelty, and says that he is for a little longer, but not to the end. Zolf asks her to let him know when Barret has reached the end of his usefulness, and Barret replies sarcastically, and goes to his room.

Hamid asks if they're affiliated with the Harlequins, and Augusta gives a rundown from her perspective: The party captured her after the terrorist incident, but it was Tesla who was financing them. She was then locked up for a while, then Nikola and the others went off and did some computing of their own. Hamid asks when Tesla, Ada and Babbage came back from the Americas, and she merely says that they're here now and that Babbage didn't make it- they lost him a few months ago. They've created an engine, which, if combined with a device generated in the early design stage of the Simulacrum (with help form Edison- she also advises them not to say Edison's name here), might be able to revert everyone rather than just kill them. Cel says they'd like to go through the plansproperly to make sure the plans won't actually just kill everyone. Hamid also volunteers to help, and mentions Skraak's engineering knowledge would also be very useful here, too. Skraak pokes his head out, and Augusta seems very interested in them. She greets him, and he cautiously says hello.

Augusta mentions that she had found out that Shoin was taking part in all this, and that kobolds were involved, but that she's never had the pleasure of meeting someone from the kobold community before. Hamid says that to describe the kobolds' 'involvement' in such terms is a gross understatement, and that Augusta should be very careful. This looks like news to Augusta, and Azu adds that Shoin was a terrible human. Hamid says he'll let Skraak speak for themself if he wishes to. Skraak looks Augusta up and down, gives a snort, and declines to elaborate for her.

Hamid asks if there's any food, and the group settles in. Augusta goes down some more stairs to find the others and see if they're ready for the group.

BREAK

In the room, Skraak kicks a log in the fireplace. Sumutnyerl looks like they feel very uncomfortable in the space, like she doesn't want to touch things. Wilde is lounging, and starts reading a book. Hamid looks through the food, and finds mostly tins of peaches and soup, dry biscuits, and so on. Cel finds the veneer of comfort very odd, and wonders why everyone seems so obsessed with seeming more superior than each other.

Around five minutes later, Augusta gestures them down, and Cel is again struck by the artificial casualness of their manner, given so many people are dead. Wilde remarks that these people just need a good bucketing, and Zolf retorts that he doesn't do that any more. The group heads down through more floorsof pseudo-house, including sleeping quarters. Finally, they get to the bottom set of stairs and reach a steel door. A sign tells people to wash their hands, and everyone (except Zolf, who's in a foul mood) does. They head through an airlock system of doors ,and find themselves in a lab. 'All the science' is going on. There are sections for chemistry, electronics, animal work, and so on- a bit of everything. This lab looks like a workshop to make parts for more science going on further into the lab system. Cel asks where the 'real lab' is, and Augusta points to the door on the far side, which opens.

At the door is a very tired, wizened, old man, walking with a cane. It's Nikola Tesla. He should be in his 50's but he looks like he's in his 70's due to tiredness and stress. His hair has turned white and he is wearing thick glasses. He greets the party, and Cel looks at Sumutnyerl, who has deliberately obscured herself at the back of the group. Tesla informs the party that there's a component that they can't fabricate in the lab, and that that will need fetching; it then needs to be installed in the 'beating heart'. Azu brusquely asks for more details, and Tesla suggests showing them the device first. He asks if this is their whole party, and he looks like he's looking for someone that isn't there. He sees Sumutnyerl, and greets her cautiously. Sumutnyerl looks to be furious, and Zolf thinks she might actually lose control and transform into a bear in this small room and attack Tesla, so he readies himself. Tesla says to Sumutnyerl that he knows that nothing he can says will make things better. He also tells everyone not to touch anything, as the equipment is very delicate and he can't face rebuilding it again. He looks like he's going to cry. Sumutnyerl is breathing heavily, then turns and leaves the lab. Azu remarks that they looked like they thought they might have smashed things, and Zolf replies that they weren't far off that. Wilde compliments her self-control.

The party heads down more steps, and hear the ticking of a mechanism. To Hamid and Zolf, it feels like the non-Mr-Ceiling part of the Ordinateurs in Paris. They enter a large, brightly-lit space, which is filled with banks of machinery. It looks like an interaction of machinery, fluidics, organic components (including tree and root parts), and a Mr. Ceiling-style brain vat. There appears to be a miniaturised version of the elemental-crystal power source that powered Mr. Ceiling and which was being worked on by Liliana, Newton, and Kafka. In the vat is a single brain. Hamid asks whose the brain is. Tesla replies that it is what is left of Babbage, and confirms to Hamid that Babbage did more than consent to this; he volunteered.

A petite young woman is moving through the banks of machinery, and appears to be intimately familiar with it. She gives a wave, and introduces herself as Ada. The party greets her (Cel seems particularly interested and/or enthusiastic). Ada looks between Tesla and the party, then introduces the device as... The Device. Hamid asks how it works, and what they have to do. Tesla says that Shoin's killswitch was a good idea, and that if used properly would kill the creature, but it would also kill all those infected. He says that the creature is a distributed, gestalt entity, bigger than the sum of its parts. Hamid likens it to Mr. Ceiling, and Tesla agrees, saying that Mr. ceiling was a perversion of the base principles that they're working from. People take a part of the whole, and try to make something of it- it's like trying to make a car from a car's wheel.

He says that it's not possible to take the 'infection' from people, cannot drag it from them, but it is possible to replace the emergent gestalt mind with an artificially-inserted mind- one that is benign, and willing to surrender control back to the individuals infected. The killswitch has the ability to affect all of the parts of the entity simultaneously, and that despite his abhorrent morals, Shoin did manage to solve that particular problem. By combining that aspect of the killswitch with the technology they have built here, it will be possible to interfere with the emergent mind at all its nodes simultaneously. The new consciousness (i.e. Babbage), then chooses to withdraw its influence, effectively dissipating the hivemind.

Cel casts focused scrutiny, and focuses on Tesla. They crouch down in front of Tesla and ask him if he genuinely believes that he can save everyone, and that the mess that he caused can be unpicked. He starts to cry, but adds that he genuinely believes that this solution will work. Cel believes that Tesla would tear his own beating heart out of his chest if it would help. Cel gets the impression that it's possible Ada is doing more of the intellectual heavy lifting, and the only reason it's Babbage's brain in the vat and not Tesla's is that it was the better call. They also realise that Tesla is a broken man who is only still going because of the work.

Cel says they trust him, and Zolf asks what he needs them to do. Tesla replies that they need to fetch the kill switch, that he thinks he knows where it is, and that they need to take a modified version of it to the top of the clocktower, and that if the killswitch in the clocktower is tripped at the same time as the scientists work with Babbage's brain, that will hopefully work. The group decides to undertake the plan, but Hamid isn't happy that there is a single point of failure. He says that he, Cel, and Skraak will go over their work with Ada. Tesla crumples, exhausted. Ada looks them in the eye, and says simply, 'Thank you. Just, thank you.'

Quotes[]

Cel: "Maybe just don't kill him until we have as much information as we need or want to, to, to make a good decision."
Azu: "Yes, that"
Sumutnyerl: "Why would I kill him? He wouldn't know how angry I am if he was dead."
―Cel and Azu talk to sumutnyerl about Tesla.

Wilde: "Sometimes people just need a good... well, people just need a bit of a bucketing, don't they, sometimes."
Zolf: "I don't do that any more."
Wilde: "heh"
―Wilde fondly remembers the times Zolf threatened to drown him

Hamid: "Whose brain is that?"
Tesla: "Well, if you'll follow me, that... is what is left of Babbage."
Hamid: "Did he consent to this?"
Tesla: "He did more than consent; he volunteered."
Hamid: "Very well."
―Hamid asks Tesla about the brain in the vat.


Dice rolls & mechanics[]

  • Hamid uses Prestidigitation to perfectly re-apply his make-up after the anti-magic field and cleaning procedure
  • Cel rolls Knowledge (engineering) to assess the first laboratory: 20
  • The party rolls Sense Motive to read Sumutnyerl's emotional state. Zolf: 24. Azu: 15. Cel: 10. Hamid and Skraak: under 10.
  • Hamid rolls Knowledge (arcana) to recognise the miniaturised version of the elemental power source used for Mr Ceiling: 20
  • Cel casts focused scrutiny and gives themself +10 on a Sense Motive check to see if they can trust Tesla: 30 (nat 20)

Plot Notes[]

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