You are Jake, having been sent to a nearby NPC-PS teleport point, and a car is waiting for you.
You've been driving for about two hours now, the GPS system in the NPC-PS car beckoning you ever closer to the location where Jaden's mother is being held, and you've grown weary of corn. Endless fields of corn, who needs all this corn anyway? How much corn can one person eat?
Finally the GPS counts down to zero miles and you pull into a driveway that winds its way up to a farmhouse that seems abandoned. Animals like chickens are running about, and you see a couple of horses in a fenced off area, but no people. You turn the car off and wait, wondering if something is going to attack you or not, but apart from the chickens coming back, there's no movement around the car, or in the house that you can see. Your Premonition isn't sounding warning bells, so you figure you might as well take a quick look around the premises before stepping out physically. You relax, close your eyes, and make a Bilocation check, getting a seventeen. You venture out of the car in your ghostly state, having pushed your senses beyond your body, and pause to look around again, making sure nothing springs out now that your body is helpless. You hate to do this without backup, if your body is moved while you're away, that's it for you, but it really can't be helped. You turn and speed off, checking the barn first.
At first glance it seems perfectly ordinary. There are some cows in here, and the back is opened up to a field with a fence around it, so they can come and go as they please. You also see some pigs over in a corner, and of course the horses out by the side. You take a second glance, then a longer look, and yes, it still seems perfectly ordinary. You really hope you have the right place, it would be very embarrassing to show back up at headquarters saying "oh, it was 1923 Noplace lane, I thought it was 1293 Noplace lane, how silly of me!"
Still, there should be people here, where are they? The animals have food and water, so work is being done here. Strange.
You speed into the house, and the story is the same, empty but lived in. Okay, this is starting to creep you out, has O.I.F done something to the people here? Everything looks put away, you don't seem to see food out or dropped books indicating something happened while they were unaware, could they have packed up normally and departed? There are several bedrooms, none of them look like kid's rooms, but all are in various states of cleanliness, so someone is living here, or at least was. You might have to come in here and use Postcognition on things to see what happened, homing in on the last activity and proceeding from there. You head back out to your body and settle back in, blinking against the fading daylight as you carefully open the car door and step out.
You glance around, noting that nothing has changed, but a chicken does comes over to you and looks hopefully up at you.
"I don't have anything for you," you say, knowing that to tease a chicken may invite disaster. At least, that's what certain video games have taught you. You step around the chicken and head to the house, gravel from the path crunching under your feet. You decide that, as empty as the house looked, it would be impolite not to at least knock on the door before phasing your way through it, so you raise your fist to knock.
Between the first and second knocks there's a piercing shriek and something lunges at you through the door! You jump back and a hideous looking ghost... thing emerges, shrieks again, and flies off, making you jump out of the way. Belatedly, you realize your Premonition wasn't warning you, so it was probably an illusion. You look again, and the door is now open, and a ghostly figure is standing there. It looks like a farmer, or more properly the ghost of a farmer, hovering a few inches off the floor. You are compelled to make a REAson check, getting an eleven, unfortunately whoever created this got a fifteen, so you're not sure if it's real or not.
"Jaden, you've come!" the figure says. "Quickly, you have to hurry, you can still save my family, and your mother!" He beckons you inside. "Hurry. Hurry!"
Okay, this thing just called you Jaden, and last time you checked you were Jake, but... yup, still Jake, looks like the old switch-a-roo plan worked. Still, you did fail your REAson check, so that aside, you aren't sure if this is a real ghost or not, and decide to see what you can see. You head toward the open door-
And bang your face on the still closed, very solid, covered by illusion, front door that still bars your way into the house. You hear mocking laughter, and the image of the inside of the house fades as you stagger back, holding your nose.
You do a quick Healing Acceleration on yourself, spending a little energy and blinking water out of your eyes. Stupid wizards. Not you Rose, you think to yourself.
"Sorry about that," says a voice behind you, and you whirl around to see a young boy standing there. You make another REAson check, but your five reason works against you yet again, and you fail by two, so you aren't sure if this is an illusion or not. "The bad person came and did things to us. You'll find us in the basement, which is around the back of the house and through the wooden doors."
The figure vanishes, and you could facepalm, of course you didn't check for a basement in your Bilocation form because you didn't see any stairs leading down inside the house. Of course there might be some outside in an old building like this! Stupid, stupid, stupid. Of course you haven't visited a lot of old farmhouses either, but still.
You make your way carefully around the house, and see the wooden doors the ghost? illusion? the whatever told you about, and take a long look at them. They are locked with a simple padlock, which you poke with a stick to make sure it isn't an illusion. It seems solid enough, so you look it over and decide the best way to get rid of it. You touch the top part and use Cryokinesis to slow molecular motion in the metal, making it colder and more brittle, getting a twelve on your check and making the TR 4 metal TR 2. Then you step back and use Rend, spending five energy for a total of-
Son of a... Monkey. Spank. Hate. Kill. Stupid lock! You then spend two energy at a time, getting a three, a four, and a three again on damage, rolling HDL per attack and taking the lock out. It's a little trick you figured out in conjunction with your Energy Boost skill, which allows you to roll a check after spending energy. As you spent only two, and for every five you roll on the Energy Boost check you get one back, you only spent one per attempt, rather then two, in the end. You roll at least a five per attempt, given your skill and stat, so low energy things like this don't bother you too much. Should have done that in the first place rather then trying to show off by busting the lock in one action. Who's around here to see you? Idiot. Well of course the Observer might be, you think, if you believe in that sort of thing, but you don't have to impress them, you aren't being graded on style. In any case, you're down to 47 energy, and can now proceed.
You creak open the doors and peer down into the darkness, seeing nothing but a drop down into an underground passage. Shouldn't there be stairs here? Well, maybe O.I.F. took them out, not that a drop like this would give Jaden any pause. You start to swing your legs over when your Premonition gives you a tingle and you hesitate, getting out your flashlight and playing it over the floor. You make a REAson check, this time succeeding by one, so you realize there is something fishy about this passage, but you can't be sure of what. Either there's a trap here covered by illusion, or a long drop covered by an illusionary floor. You look around for something to drop until you realize, hey, you have a stick in your hand still! You drop the stick, and it goes clattering to the floor.
You see it sticking up at an angle and decide there may be tiny spikes on the floor here, so you walk out to the barn, find a piece of wood that's nice and flat, but not too thin, and drop it down into the hole. Dropping down on top of it, you feel the wood flex as it's held up by the points of the trap, and hop off to investigate. You feel around, and come to realize there are small spikes here on the floor, obviously not there to kill, but rather to maim, and quite painfully too. You'll have to be on your guard for more illusion magic.
You walk a ways down the passage and realize this is not a normal basement, but more like an underground tunnel, distention unknown. It seems to slope downwards a little bit, and you haven't gone too far when you feel a force pushing you back, and you can't go any further down the hallway. You put your hand out, and there doesn't seem to be any sort of barrier here that you can feel, but at the same time, you can go no further. You pick up a chunk of dirt off the ground and toss it through, and it splatters down the hall a ways, meaning it's more magic, something that will keep living things out but not objects. You look around but can't seem to see any indication of where it's coming from, so you back off and try jumping through the area. No luck. You don't really know anything about magic, but you could try calling NPC-PS and getting some help, so you reluctantly get out your cell phone and see what kind of signal you can get down here.
Super. You head back to the opening and heave yourself out of the pit, walking a ways away, but still, nothing. You belatedly realize that one, you are out in the country, so why would there be a cell signal here? And two, Clayton ran into the same issue when he was kidnapped, so obviously there may be a jamming field around this house. You sigh and wonder if you should head back down the road, see if you can get a signal elsewhere, but really, you should hurry in case O.I.F realizes what's going on and changes the game on you again.
You head back down and meet the force again, and wonder if you could just wait it out. Magic doesn't last forever, that much you know, so it's possible. You scuff at the area and think it over, then finally it dawns on you that maybe this is some kind of earth spell (it isn't) that keeps creatures out. Maybe if you were "flying" it wouldn't function, being tied to the earth! So you levitate yourself down the passageway with Telekinesis, getting a 12 to lift yourself over the area. That's enough to lift-
twenty five pounds or so?
You weigh more then twenty five pounds, so you try again.
You succeed this time, and awkwardly float your way down the passage, past the area you couldn't seem to get over before. ESPer powers for the win, you suppose. Moving further down the passageway you come to a room off to the side, and cautiously look into it. Looks like a storeroom, there are some rusty shelves along the walls, and a table piled with junk. Some shovels and other tools sit in a rack to the right, and jars of unknown content sit on the shelves to the left. None of it looks particularly useful, and you turn to go, when your Premonition goes off again, a little too late. You make a dodge back down the hallway but you get a six, your minimum, and the chains and rope that had been sitting on the table are now wound around you tight, and you topple over.
This is certainly undignified for you, you think. You wiggle around, but you don't have an escaping skill, so it almost seems to make things worse. What you do have is ESPer powers, and while it might take a little finesse, you can see a way of getting yourself out of this. Of course, with your hands bound like this it might be tricky because you need to gesture in order to use your powers, but still, you have a plan.
Your plan is to push yourself upright with Telekinesis, then use phase to get the bonds off by just passing through them. Here goes!
You roll a sixteen, taking your minus four penalty into account for your Somatic Powers weakness, and easily give yourself a burst of motion. Then, before you topple over again, you use Phase, putting energy into REsolve because your penalty for this is equal to your skill rating! The fates smile on you, getting another 16, and the chains and ropes fly off of you as you again tumble to the ground. Brushing yourself off you warily watch them for any further sign of animation, but there is none, so you carefully step over them, retrieve your fallen flashlight, and continue down the passageway.
Suddenly, it seems your light goes out, and you are plunged into darkness. You immediately stop moving and listen, also making an ESP check, getting an eleven and not sensing anything. Your Premonition is also quiet, meaning you probably aren't in danger, physically, but you might trigger something stumbling along in the dark. You reach out for the cave wall, and carefully start moving forward again, keeping your ESP going as you move forward. Just as well, it warns you that there's a tripwire up ahead, and you carefully step over it to prevent the total collapse of the tunnel you're in. You also sense you're nearing the end of this leg of your journey, there's a large open area up ahead. Passing over the tripwire, you find you can see again, and proceed.
You now come to the mouth of what looks like an underground cave, or at least something that's been hollowed out, and flatten yourself against the wall, clicking off the flashlight. You're pretty sure you caught a glimpse of what looked like ice in the center, probably the frozen form of Jaden's mother. You again listen, and make an ESP check, getting another eleven because that's how these things go. Still, it's enough to tell there are four objects in the room in front of you, and if your senses are right, three of those objects are coffins!
You inch your way forward, dreading what you're no doubt going to find in these coffins, and feel a funny tingling in your body. You are compelled to make a RES check against a sixteen difficulty, which you do. Or so you think, with your eighteen. Sadly, the Narrator got card 13 which means he spends the 2 XP that gives him against you, making you fail, and the tingle passes.
That was odd, you think. Still, it must not have been dangerous as your Premonition didn't warn you, right?
As you enter the cavern lights come on, illuminating the objects within and showing you what the last spell you didn't fight off did. It shrank you, and you are now about a quarter of the size you used to be. How lucky for you, to see things from a whole new perspective! Like the three pale, gaunt figures that are rising out of the coffins with murder in their eyes. They're wearing fancy clothes with red capes, and your Premonition is screaming danger at you.
This is not good. Can you even take one of these guys in an unfair fight? You don't thinks so... where did O.I.F find three of them, and get them to do this, anyway?
"That can't be her?" the one on the left says. "That's a bleeding boy, isn't it?"
"I think it just might be," says the one in the middle. "Aw, the invisible one's not going to happy about that, are they?"
"What are you doing down here boy?" asks the one on the right. "This isn't any place you should be, you know?"
Wait, this might be okay after all!
"I, I don't know Sir, please, where am I?" you say, getting a twelve on your acting check, the maximum you can roll. Luck be a lady... Good thing you took that acting class in High School, even if it was to get closer to that cute- focus Jake.
All three don't seem very INSightful, and make a check to see through your spot performance, but don't even get close. They seem to believe you.
"This is a farm in the middle of nowhere kid. Did you get lost?" says the middle one.
You take a step back as though terrified. "Are you all, va-va- vampires?"
"Sort of. What's your name anyway?"
"Joe!" you say, the only thing you can come up with on short notice like this. Note to self, have better cover story next time.
"Come on," says the right one. "Let's get you up to the house and call your parents, okay? It should be dark enough out by now, right?" He looks at a watch. Since when do vampires wear watches, anyway? "They're probably worried sick. It's corn for miles around here, when did you get lost, anyway?"
"I just found myself here, please don't hurt me, I'll just leave, I promise."
"Wait a second, how did he get by all the traps?" asks the one on the left. All three of them are walking towards you now, and glancing over you see the frozen block of ice holding Jaden's mother, and realize you need to stall for time.
"What's that?" you ask, pointing.
"What?" He seems to be having trouble knowing who to answer first, just as you intended. "Oh, don't worry about that, it doesn't have anything to do with you."
"Wait, back up, how did you get by the traps?"
"Traps sir? I don't know what you're talking about. Can I go now, you can go back to sleep or whatever?"
"I think we better hold on to you until we know exactly what's going on," says the left one, reaching for you.
"Don't touch me!" you shout, flinging your hands out to "shove" the man, but in reality using telekinesis to knock him back. You get a sixteen, but he gets a nineteen to resist, but he takes a penalty for not being able to grab anything equal to your skill, which is an eight. You win, spending an energy and flinging him back across the length of the cave, where he smashes into the wall and takes damage. He flops to the ground, and the other two stare at you with a shocked expression for a second, then the center one yells "Grab him!" and everyone rolls initiative.
Both vampires reach for you so you throw up a barrier, crossing your arms in front of you to activate the power. You get a thirteen, they get a nine and a twelve, so their arms go skittering off the invisible wall of force you've created around yourself. They stumble a little, not expecting to be balked in this way, and you give a little wave, activating your masking skill and dropping the barrier. You get a twenty one, way more then they can ever hope to roll on a perception check (you hope) and are gratified to see them looking around for you. "Crap, did he teleport?" asks the middle one.
You think about attacking one of them with combust, if they really are vampires, and they didn't really move fast enough to be so you're still not sure, they would take extra damage. However, you have to ask yourself if that would be the honorable thing to do, and it probably wouldn't be. Of course, fighting three against one certainly isn't honorable on their part, but you're better then them, right? Still, you aren't sure how you're actually going to get out of this mess, as you can't exactly teleport, and moving that huge block of ice with telekinesis would make them notice you for sure. Luckily your Honorable weakness is balanced with your Thoughtful background, so you come up with a plan almost immediately. You carefully make your way across the cavern, opposite the three vampires and watch them swinging around trying to connect with you. The two are still pretty close together, and the third has gotten up and is looking around too. You take a deep breath and hope this is going to work!
You grab one of the vampires that's close to the other and fling him with telekinesis into the other one, knocking them both over. Vampire 3 (as you now call him) runs at you, claws extended, but doesn't quite reach you before you get to act again. You decide to set his hair on fire, and make a called shot with Combust, snapping your fingers and concentrating on making that shiny white hair become fire. You get a fifteen, and the vampire's passive dodge is a 9, plus the 3 for called shot, still not enough, so he takes fifty percent more damage to the head, a total of 6, and his hair catches on fire. He makes his RESolve check to not freak out, but knows he is going to have to put that out rather quickly or suffer rather painfully for quite a while. He lunges for the ice block and starts rubbing his head on it, hopping to smother the flames. You figure he'll be out of it for a little while and turn your attention to the other two, who are looking like they want the other to attack first. The one's left side is all beat up when he smashed into the other, and Vampire 2 (as you now call him) is keeping his weight off his right side and is holding his body. It's odd, why don't they just go into mist form or invisible. Something isn't right here.
"Truce!" Vampire 1 (you know the drill) calls to you, hopping one one leg to grab onto Vampire 2 to help hold him up.
"Truce?" you sneer. "With a Vampire? You just want a breather so you'll regenerate and all attack me at once again!"
"We saw how well that worked," says Vampire 2, rolling his eyes.
"Fine," you say, willing to give them a small chance to prove themselves. You can't just attack them now that they've called a truce, after all, that wouldn't be honorable. You ready your fingers to snap in case they try anything, and point to the far end of the cavern. "Sit down over there, backs to the wall."
"Can you put out our friend?" he asks, as Vampire 3 continues thrashing around, grinding his head into the ice block.
"Oh, sorry, I don't know Pyrokinesis, fire control, just Combust, setting things on fire."
"That figures," says Vampire 1 as they both hobble over to where you pointed and sit down. You watch for awhile as Vampire 3 puts himself out, then glares at you with his charred and burnt up face.
"Your clothes will be next," you say, showing him your fingers.
"Fine, fine," he says, going over to sit with the others. He's walking slowly, and you can see he is regenerating, but not as fast as you might expect.
"So what's your deal?" you ask.
"We're cursed, in a way, sort of pseudo vampires." says Vampire 2.
"Sudo vampires?" you ask, confused.
"We're faux vampires." says Vampire 1.
"You might still be my foes," you say, not comprehending.
"We aren't real vampires!" shouts Vampire 3, annoyed.
"Well why didn't you say so? What are you then?"
"Look," says Number 2, "Some invisible person came to us like fifty years ago, right? Said she could make us immortal, and all we had to do was guard whatever she put down here. She gave us a heads up recently that an ice block was coming down here and to keep it cold, and gave us an imbued object to make more ice so we could do that. Said a girl was coming and we should capture her without fail, or they would be very, very cross with us. Anyway, all those years ago that sounded pretty good, so she made us immortal. Then cursed us to live like vampires until they no longer needed us, or died. I guess they haven't died yet, so he we all still are. We expected a martial artist, not someone that could set us on fire, so it's kind of a stalemate. We'll regenerate, but not as fast as a real vampire would. And sun burns us, but we can eat regular food still. So it's a trade off, but we like living here and don't want to die, but we don't want to get killed by that invisible person either. So I don't know what to do- you're not the person we're supposed to catch, but I'm guessing you want to take the ice block out of here, right?"
"That's right. Four people were stolen by that invisible person and we figured we would mess them up by going after a person not related to us. We figured the traps and challenges would be geared towards the person, and it seemed we were right. Jaden, that's the girl you're talking about, would have had a very hard time getting through those traps to get down here."
"Wait a minute," says Fake Vampire 1, "You're with NPC-PS, aren't you? That's how you messed us up so good."
"That's right, but I still have a lot of skills to learn and improve, as an ESPer."
"Well, if we cross you, you'll just set us on fire again," says F.V. 3, now fully recovered by the looks of it, and trying to get his newly grown hair back in place. "Have you ever been set on fire? It's not pleasant."
"No, I haven't."
"An ESPer can generate fire, but he's never experienced that fire for himself. Does that seem fair to you?"
You can't place where you've heard that before-
"We'll just be going now," says F.V. 1, getting up. "Go ahead and melt the ice, we obviously can't stop you like that invisible person said, and if they are angry at us for letting you go, well, it's been a good fifty years for us, hasn't it fellows?"
"Great job beating us, but if we were real vampires, you should have run, just for future reference."
"I know. You didn't move quite right or sound quite right, not that I've met any to compare with, of course, just something seemed off about you. Maybe my ESP told me, I don't know."
"Good luck. Hope you survive the invisible one coming after you, once they realize what you've done by switching hostages."
They file out, and you can't help but think they're pretty decent people, all told. They did what they were told in exchange for becoming somewhat like vampires without all the negatives, and knew when they were outmatched. You wait a moment, then head out yourself and grab the stick and the piece of wood, dragging them along with some cloth you found in the side room back to the ice block. You set everything on fire, then use Combust to gently unfreeze the figure within, nearly draining your energy, but warming them up enough to stop shivering and figure out what's going on. You lead Jaden's mom back out and to the car, where she is happy to drive you back to the NPC-PS building you came from while you sleep. It's nice to see some action, you think, but it does tend to tire you out when you do.
When you arrive back at the base you suggest she stay inside, and bring the rest of the family inside too, because nothing stops O.I.F from yanking them out again except magic and not knowing exactly where they are. You don't know much about magic, but you do know the spell O.I.F keeps using (you looked it up) requires you to know at least roughly where someone is, so staying out of sight until this whole thing is over is a plan she gets behind.
Lastly you ask her if she has anything for you, but claims she doesn't. You insist she check her pockets though, and she finds a storage device in her pocket she didn't know she had, which you figure must be what you're looking for. You hand it in to be checked for viruses and such before being connected to anything, and go to meet the others and see how they did.