Er, that is, Friday we had a session of Mutants and Masterminds.
It started out with a riddle. "The tears of today are washed away by the tools of the tears of tomorrow." Web searches weren't as helpful this time -- one search pointed to an ancient song ('The tears that we will weep today will all be washed away by the tears that we will weep tomorrow'), another to a histrionic screed about the evils of jump-drive technology, which 'tore holes in space'.
But there *was* a jump-ship in-system, which was unusual since New Avalon was such a backwater. A Chrrr'kt merchant vessel was in orbit awaiting a customs inspection, which meant a simple shuttle trip could get the party up there.
...but they weren't really sure it was really HAZARD's objective. They started looking through traffic patterns to see if they could find any evidence HAZARD people had taken a shuttle up, but it was impossible to find anything suspicious about the traffic heading to the spaceport since there was so much of it. But wait a minute, what was this? A special convoy given priority traffic clearance through HAZARD territory, that looked like it might be heading for Tenebra's old apartment complex?
Pocket Fluff teleported over to scout it out. It looked like... a single van. A single ordinary, unmarked van, that was somehow opaque to x-ray vision, and nullified his powers when he teleported on top of it. The ordinary-looking driver got out to yell at him for traffic-surfing, apparently a common pastime in HAZARD territory, and Pocket Fluff apologized and teleported home.
Fractal tried to hack into the van, but the security was *crazy* good and she couldn't. And crap, it was at the apartment now... and the records said it had come from the Illian embassy? HAZARD getting its hands on Illian tech couldn't be good.
So they teleported to stop it, and tried to hide on a nearby rooftop while they figured out what was going on. Flamboyance didn't hide well enough, and got nullified by an invisible ray from somewhere. PF still couldn't look into the van, but he *could* look into the building and woah, the whole Danger gang was (out of prison apparently and) lying in wait in all the apartments on the first floor.
So the party tried to get down off the rooftop to intervene, and LiquidFist got spotted and nullfied as well. But Fractal managed to look inside the van to see a mysterious device and a metric shitload of Illians in military-looking (but still awfully cute) gear, and Pocket Fluff managed to get his hands on one of the Dangers and teleport them to the van, shouting 'did you know that you're about to be ambushed?'
That was enough to taunt the Dangers into starting their attack before their target was in position, which ruined the ambush, and the van got away. CONTROL reported that the Illians were highly amused by the entire episode, and that the nullified heroes would get their powers back in a couple hours.
It turned out that Psychohound was 'bedridden' and couldn't come to the embassy to get his powers back, so they'd brought the 'soul-forge' to him to give him his powers back. Only it was a trap, so they didn't get the chance. It wouldn't have worked in human hands -- the expertise required to operate it properly was extensive -- and instead would have turned anyone it was used on into a monster! The heroes figured that was probably what the Dangers had been planning, since monsters would be loads more effective than the non-superpowered gang members had been to date.
Psychohound (still without powers, and not looking very bedridden) did show up to the skate park after school. They traded barbs ("Nice party you sent us to." "Well, thanks for the party you threw at my place.") but he wasn't the source of most of the stress -- the other kids reported that a bunch of their classmates had gone missing, and no one was doing anything about it. CONTROL said that no kids were reported missing...
The kids gave the heroes some names, and Morph and PocketFluff (as Batman and Robin) went to investigate. The houses in question had seen heavy traffic recently, and there was a strange, newly applied sticker in the window -- a triangle with a circle in it, and 8 rays of light extending out from it, four on each side.
Fractal acted as a Decker, and looked through the security camera footage of one of the houses that belonged to a CONTROL family (the schools were run by NETWORK, but kids came from all guilds) to see when the kid had last been seen: going apparently willingly into a car, with a suitcase. The car made several stops (hardware store, grocery store, church, school) before being returned to the rental place, but kept out of camera view at each stop. Which was kind of suspicious.
And wait a second, that church had the same symbol as was at the house. And x-ray vision revealed that the symbol was *everywhere* in the house, including on some cookies the home-making mother was decorating.
PocketFluff: "Yep, it's a cult."
Morph: "Are those 8 rays of light, or 8 legs? I bet the nef are behind this."
According to the net, the church wasn't a cult -- it was a longstanding, mainstream religion that had been around for 20 years, ever since religion was decriminalized with the end of the Chrrr'kt occupation. There were churches all over the planet... except that one of them was near Fractal's old house from her hometown, and she would have remembered if it existed, which it didn't. The churches inside Spectrum City seemed real, though -- or at least, they were buying enough food and weapons for a real child-kidnapping cult. No kool-aid, though.
They decided to talk to the mother, with Morph as Psylocke reading her mind while Pocket Fluff bluffed her into thinking about what they wanted to know. She said that her kid was at a special nature camp, and that's why his phone was turned off -- any distractions would defeat the purpose. She thought 'oh no, those horrible CONTROL people the pastor warned me about are here, I'd better go phone him.' She offered the party some cookies, but when she went to get them (she didn't let them inside) she actually headed for the phone (according to x-ray vision) so Psylocke wiped her memory of their visit to keep her from sounding the alarm.
So, to the church!
The church, like the van, was suspiciously impervious to x-ray vision, although instead of an alien-tech nullifying field, this time it was specifically lined with glass to specifically block PocketFluff. The pastor inside didn't know anything, and wasn't the real priest -- he was a temp hired to not know anything and not let them into the back room. So Pocket Fluff seduced him (!) and he led the apparent 12-year-old into the back room for some alone time...
The 'priest' was as surprised as anyone to see the teleport gate.
Fractal hacked it, locking it so that only the party could use it and getting its destination -- 1500 miles away, 2 miles underground, in the middle of a giant mountain range 300 miles from the nearest city. This was sufficiently inconvenient that the party decided to use the gate, even though it was obviously a trap.
Sure enough, there were guards waiting for them. They were a LOT more competent than they looked -- they looked like ordinary folks wielding off-the-shelf microwave guns, although they had tasers and sleep darts as backup for the party members who wouldn't be affected by the microwaves. They coordinated their fire like professional soldiers. But a dozen of them were still no match for five superheroes.
The subterranean complex was huge, but while x-ray vision couldn't see the whole thing clearly, it did let them avoid the enemies, who were now moving around in packs of 36. Unfortunately, avoiding the enemies only took them to the periphery of the base -- to get to the center, they'd have to punch through. So, since the 12 had *seemed* not to be able to see the party members who'd been invisible, Flamboyance and Fractal bravely flew into their guns.
Unfortunately, they *could* see invisible, and it was more of a fight than they'd hoped -- Flamboyance was knocked unconscious, in fact. But they still didn't have enough firepower to take out all the heroes before they were dispatched, so the team was through the ring! Next stop, the base's core!
In the core, about a hundred children sat in concentric circles meditating, guarded by 84 adults. Pocket Fluff decided to look inside the children and adults to see if he could spot the nef, and while the nef weren't THAT easy to spot, there were signs (and he was a jack of all trades) and... the kids were nef, but the adults weren't? Huh?
84 gun-toting, hive-mind maniacs was a bit much, so they came up with a master plan -- Flamboyance would knock as many out as possible from around the corner with his weather-control, then Morph would throw Pocket Fluff into the middle of the circles of kids to burst them unconscious with unheal. Unfortuantely, Flamboyance's low-oxygen-level power wasn't selective, and he knocked Liquid Fist and Pocket Fluff unconscious. He also got most of the guards, though... and both LF and PF recovered quickly from unconsciousness.
So Collosus threw PF into the middle of the room anyway, while Flamboyance used wind powers to pile the guards up into a katamari ball for easier fireballing. Which Metal Protector (who LiquidFist turned into when he went unconscious) was able to fireball. Well, lightningball. It wasn't *quite* as one-sided as that -- they got some shots off at Pocket Fluff, and some of them were using lethal plasma guns -- but it was pretty close.
With their guards taken out, the kids woke from their trance and thanked the party for saving them! But Pocket Fluff knew that *they* were the nef, so he burst them unconscious anyway. which seemed to free the adults from their hive-mind.
Only... the adults were still trying to fight the party, who were heretics trying to kill their new god. They just weren't very good at it anymore, without the massmind coordinating them. It didn't really look like mind control as such was going on here, it was an actual cult.
And a HUGE mess to clean up, since while they had the sleep darts to keep their prisoners from waking up, there were a LOT of them, kids and adults both.
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