Heroes from Another Time

A Castigator Rises on Luna
...and Falls

Harry Harrison always considered himself a student of police tactics.

And his release into the Punishment Street Irregulars detail proved to be an excellent opportunity to study the police up close and personal.

“More like a kidnapping than a release,” he mused. But the LCPD officers he was working with quickly confirmed his oldest theories. “These guys are impatient and willing to use their authority any way they can to get ahead.”

They talked to the old lady who phoned in the complaint first. She lived on the second floor in an apartment she kept in remarkably clean and neat condition. Especially considering the mold and mildew infesting the rest of the building.

She assured them the screams and loud bang had been truly terrifying…but not as terrifying as the silence that followed.

They didn’t ask her much about her fellow tenants (those who didn’t call in the disturbance) but the Stainless Steel Rat figured they were the investigators, so he kept his questions to himself as well.

“Leave the detecting to the detectives.”

Harry noticed a kinda weird dynamic between Det. Hab and Det. Civitas, when the CSI officer brought out his equipment. It started when Civitas opened his briefcase the first time. Almost looked like he was surprised at the equipment he found inside.

Then, when he fumbled around with it for awhile, Det. Hab took over and did most of the CSI work.

“Looks like another veteran from the military who signed up as a cop when he mustered out.” The Rat knew a lot of guys he served with who did the same. “Probably decided the CSI spot sounded like a cushy job and worked favors to get the transfer. Doesn’t seem to have studied much. Maybe he’s planning on using his GI benefits to go to school later for the technical stuff.”

All the victims seemed to have lived on the third floor. Four victims, three apartments.

But it was the first apartment where they got their big surprise: some kind of message was scrawled on the wall. All three apartments had tiny droplets of blood on the wall, but the first had “handwriting” on top of the blood. Some kinda message from Det. Civitas.

“Either I’m a sleepwalking time-traveler…or something really weird is going on.”
Civitas

A few minutes after the CSI officer uttered the immortal words for which he would become famous, Civitas realized that all that was required was that his future self would become a sleepwalking time-traveler.

And all that was needed to explain the ritual he found on the wall at Straffan Gafar 39 was the time-traveler part.

Being a sleepwalker was not necessary at all.

The blood droplets led Ambrose Hab to the stairs up to the fourth floor. But the stairs were blocked with sparking and writhing electrical cables. He knew the voltage was high because he saw some of the sparks jumping across gaps of more than a foot.

“We can hope the amperage is low,” he said aloud. “Yeah, that must be why the cables are so thick.”

They decided to climb to the fourth floor on the scaffolding outside the building. A bit rickety, but if it held up the building, it might support their weight.

The scene up there was terrifying: The interior walls of the fourth floor had been torn down. To Hab’s experienced eyes it was obvious that junkies had torn them apart long ago to get to the pipes (which might be sold for scrap). There was rubble everywhere.

And the rubble was covered with writhing, twisting cables. The choking smog was thicker up here, and everything dripped with oily moisture. The stench of burning plastic and flesh filled their nostrils.

And Ambrose could hear the Stainless Steel Rat coughing behind him.

As they climbed up, pulses of a sickly, blue-green light at the heart of the level were distantly visible. As they approached, they saw a crackling energy field surrounding the twisted body of what once might have been a man.

Det. Hab wondered if this was one of the victims. “Or maybe the perp.”

The energy field looked impervious enough to the CSI officer that he immediately opened fire on the giant antenna in the middle of the level.

The body was bloated and had been transformed.

“Musssst casssssstigate,” it whispered before convulsing with pain.

Throbbing cables pierced its body at the wrists, stomach, thighs, and elsewhere, almost convulsing like veins. He seemed dead, until his eyes snapped open and the “castigator” emitted a terrifying wail of misery.

Something had stretched and warped the body of the original host. Its grey-green skin was pierced in multiple places by rubbery cables that sparked, and dripped oily black mucus.

The face of the castigator was that of a human, but twisted into an unnatural, frozen…

“Rictus,” the detective said. “It’s always gotta be a rictus grin of death and agony.”

Powerful bony claws had erupted from the guy’s ruined fingers and toes, and his jaw had become distended and unnaturally large.

”Help me!” it cried. “The pain!”

Then it asked, "Where am I?” and “Why can’t I see?” pleading “Please, I don’t want to die!”

Later, as he fought the creature, Ambrose’s observational skills would help him understand these were nothing more than the last thoughts of the victim as he was transformed into the castigator. But at the time he heard these cries, he had not yet understood the cruelty of the entity which had taken over the body.

He could not yet conceive of something that would repeat the echoes of the dead, just to revel in the torment.

Civitas’s assault on the antenna went well.

Det. Hab had been paying attention to the newscasts of the past few days about the terraforming of Pluto. He had even been casting his vision to the portion of the sky where Pluto currently hung.

And he couldn’t help noticing that the antenna was pointed to that section of the sky through a hole which had been cut through the higher floors of the 10-story building.

“Not a coincidence,” he thought. So it probably wasn’t a bad thing when the CSI officer destroyed the support and pointed it in another direction. “That guy handles a gun better than he handles his analyzer. Must be a vet.”

The others joined in the attack on the support, but they were not able to do as much damage as the CSI guy’s armor-piercing bolter.

With a wet, ripping noise, the castigator tore free of the cables feeding it, and dropped to the floor. Then, abruptly, the energy field and the lights went out, plunging the Irregulars into darkness.

As he watched the creature drop to all fours, he was surprised at how adeptly a creature which had once been human could move like a four-legged predator. “Our knees aren’t designed to bend that way,” he observed. The knees also sprouted bony spikes and it moved like a lurker-style predator. Like a big cat.

Hab knew it was a hunter. And he knew the hunt had begun.

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Origin Story
...For the Punishment Street Irregulars

Det. Compton was sure he was in trouble when Lt. Vordach called him into his office.

Vordach sounded mad. Wasn’t hard to figure why: that officer-involved shooting.

And the officer involved was none other than Det. Russel Compton.

“The guy had it coming,” he told the lieutenant. But that didn’t seem to be Vordach’s concern.

“Next time try to see the body isn’t found. Saying he had it coming just means I gotta fill out more paperwork…paperwork documenting that he had it coming. Next time somebody ‘has it coming’ try to see that ‘it’ disposes of the body.”

“Yeah, yeah. I get it, lieutenant….”

“Or pin it on someone else who has it coming.”

Pinning it on someone else naturally made Compton think of Harry Harrison. Everybody pinned things on The Rat, but nothing ever seemed to stick. That’s why they called him “stainless.”

“What’s the punishment going to be?” Compton wondered. He didn’t have to wonder if there was going to be a punishment, not when Vordach was this mad. Compton was hoping for a punishment detail that would get him out of the lieutenant’s sight until the paperwork was done.

Vordach was apparently thinking punishment detail, too. He didn’t have to go so heavy on the Swedish word for “punishment” to get the message across.

But he did. Lt. Pierre Vordach was anything but subtle.

“Straffan Gaffar means Punishment Street in Swedish,” he told Compton. “We got a call from Straffan Gaffar 39 last night and the beat cops who responded didn’t get a chance to finish the job. Here’s their notes. Go out there and investigate. Grab somebody from CSI and pull The Rat outa the tank. We all know he didn’t do it.”

As he assembled his team, Det. Compton thought about how irregular this bunch was. At least I got a good patsy this time. Maybe we can call ourselves The Punishment Street Irregulars.

The old man was sure of one thing. Civitas would trust only one person: Civitas.

Straffar Gatan 39 was a 10-story tenement, with four remaining apartments on each floor, but only the first three floors are still inhabited. Det. Ambrose Hab could tell that the construction was undermining the structure. Detective Hab usually noticed things like this. This time it wasn’t hard. One corner had already fallen away.

He wasn’t sure it was possible, but the inside of the tenement is even grimmer than the outside.

The worn carpet on the floor made a wet sucking noise with each step, and he could smell the mold, thick in the air. Cracks ran up the walls, and in many places chunks of plaster had already fallen away, revealing cheap concrete behind, stained with rust from the rebar.

Thick, rubber-clad cables were strung across the halls, laying on the floor in haphazard bundles.

The lighting was patchy at best, and even those few bulbs that hadn’t yet burned out could be heard to fizzle and pop from time to time.

Water gathered everywhere – the walls and floor are moist, and Hab heard a persistent dripping sound accompanied by the creaking and groaning of the building. Every so often, the sound of heavy construction – barely audible over the muffled sounds of the TVs in every apartment – made the whole building shudder, and a shower of plaster dust rained down.

He explored the first floor while the rest of them talked to the manager. It took none of the “detecting” for which Ambrose was so well known to tell there was once a lift in the tenement because hazard tape is strung across the entrance to the lift shaft. A single staircase corkscrewed around the lift shaft.

He had to make sure Civitas had the means to construct a device that could do what he needed to do.

Next to the entrance, Civitas could see Apartment 101, which had a sign affixed to it, the word “Manager” barely legible on its rusted surface.

The older detective — name was Russel or something like that — knocked on the manager’s door. When he didn’t get any response, he didn’t waste any time kicking it in.

“Not much patience for a nomad of the Great Rust Desert,” he thought, shrugging.

Before they could break the door chain, Sgt. Civitas saw the manager was standing behind the door, demanding they show their badges. But the detective was making some demands of his own, even as he showed the guy his badge.

“You the supe?” he demanded.

“Manager,” the guy standing in worn boxers and a stained t-shirt insisted. Civitas remembered some kind of cultural thing about supes and managers. Something about supes just being glorified janitors, while supes handled money. At low status, small variations in status must mean more.

And Det. Russel Compton seemed to understand that. By ignoring the title on the door, he was putting the guy in his place, back on his heels, defending his status. “Nothing more than a supe” seemed just the right way to get under his skin.

The guy had The Giant Eye on his TV set, which was surrounded by smaller screens, all blank. The Giant Eye was a little lowbrow for Civitas’s tastes. A prank-type candid-camera show, the pranks all seemed a bit mean-spirited to the CSI officer. But low-brow seemed to fit with the manager just fine.

When Compton asked about the smaller screens, the building manager — Lucius Diatorro was his name — said they were for a closed-circuit TV system that was out of order. Had been since he moved in, according to Diatorro.

But Civitas hardly needed the eye-roll from Det. Compton to see through that lie. The cables all over the place showed somebody had been trying pretty hard to keep it going as the power in the building got sketchy. On a hunch, he walked over and turned on one of the smaller sets.

It showed the other detective — Ambrose Hab, or something equally snooty — had already made it to the second floor. Second floor at least, since the layout was the same but there was no front door, just a window looking out over the construction site.

“I respect my tenants’ privacy,” said Diatorro, his lie unmasked. “Never tried that one.”

But Det. Compton was not having any of it and pressed the manager about the reported incidents. The guy looked really stressed and tried to swallow a bunch of pain pills, but Compton slapped them out of his hand. He managed to wash a couple down with a gulp of beer — which looked kinda stale to Civitas.

Before he knew it Compton had Diatorro up against the wall and was demanding he stop lying.

“I didn’t…didn’t hear anything. I musta been watching my favorite TV show.”

The manager had already denied having “tapes” of his tenants — Compton’s anachronistic word for video storage — but it didn’t take Civitas long to realize that Diatorro had probably taped over any video evidence from the CCTVs with reruns of the The Giant Eye.

The only information he got out of Diatorro about the residents was the fact that some “crazy cat lady” lived in Apt 202.

Once Compton got the manager to admit people sometimes used apartment 103 as an entrance, he immediately went to investigate.

The old man began to chant the opening words of the Kindred Spirit ritual…the ritual he needed to send to the CSI officer.

Rat figured Det. Russel Compton was going to knock on 103 like he did at the manager’s flat, but the impatient cop just handed him his assault rifle and kicked in the door.

But the gangers inside were ready for them and opened fire as soon as the was flung open.

Harry Harrison wasn’t known as The Stainless Steel Rat for being slow on the uptake. “Probably got a warning from the manager,” Harry thought. If the manager knew the drug-dealers were using the open window to get in and out, he probably was taking a cut and acting as a lookout for the gang.

Harry recognized them as members of The Croaks, who controlled the drug trade in this part of town.

The bullets missed Harry, but the detective got hit. Harry doubted a glancing shot like that had penetrated Compton’s armor because the big detective immediately jumped on the first Croak and took him down with a single blow of his nightstick.

“That guy might just be dead,” Harry told himself and decided not to shoot anyone. Instead he stepped around behind the other gunner and tried to butt-stroke him with the assault rifle.

To no effect.

The third ganger had a knife. She tried to attack Compton with it, but he parried her blow and floored her with his riposte.

The gunner he had tried to hit from behind was still concentrating on Compton, but his shot at the big detective went wild, hitting the ceiling. It didn’t take for the nightstick to bring him down as well.

Harry noted that Compton hadn’t even extended the blades on the bludgeon.

Once the cops had revived the girl with the knife, they started pressing her for information on the screams the night before.

“It…it wasn’t us,” she stammered. Harry got the distinct impression the gangers were just as frightened by what had happened as the rest of the tenants.

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Welcome to this campaign!
A blog for the Heroes from Another time campaign

I have:

1. Invited my players

With their email addresses. The email address of Russel Compton’s player seems to have converted to his Obsidian Portal username by some behind-the-scenes wiki-magic.

2. Edited my home page

Made a few changes to the home page and gave them an idea of what my campaign is about. That should have let them know you’re serious and not just playing with the system.

3. Chosen a theme

I used the porthole background, because it had a good Dieselpunk flavor. I made minor modifications to the color scheme, but not too many because these can go very bad in a hurry if you want to set a specific mood for your campaign and are not careful. I accentuated it by creating a top banner image using the Mutant Chronicles logo (slightly squashed).

For some reason it did not pick up a Mutant Chronicles theme from the rule-set choice and is still displaying a stylized dragon from my Fourth Edition campaign. But this does not look totally inappropriate.

4. Created an NPCs

Characters form the core of every campaign, so I took a few minutes to describe Lt Pierre Vordach.

A important tip: The “+” icon in the top right of every section is how to add a new item, whether it’s a new character or adventure log post, or anything else. It is kinda hard to find on the character page sometimes.

5. Wrote my first Adventure Log post

The adventure log is where I list the sessions and adventures my party has been on, but I waited until the second session because a “story so far” post was just not what I wanted to do.

Another important tip: I didn’t stress about getting it perfect the first time around. My experience has been that it will grow with the campaign.

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