Heroes from Another Time

The Fall of Fabien von Hölle
...When a Dark Apostle's Plans...

…Are First Thwarted by…

The Punishment Street Irregulars.

CSI Officer Civitas could see a faint green glow coming off the Imperial Gendarme who had broken the Pax Civitas. As a police officer he was accustomed to having his orders followed — especially by other officers of the law.

Sure Imperial had its issues with Capitol, but they had agreed to give the Luna City Police Department its authority — just as long as it accepted Imperial recruits as well as recruits from the corporation which had once tried to abandon them on Mother Earth. But Civitas was beginning to learn to trust his second sight, which had been ringing bells since he first laid eyes on him.

Apparently Russel didn’t need second sight because he immediately ran over and began using the non-lethal-force version of his nightstick to convince the gendarme it was unwise to disobey the direct order of an LCPD officer in an emergency situation.

The Rat tried to tackle the gendarme, but the lack of police training betrayed him. Instead of using unarmed combat per standard police procedures, the newly deputized criminal tackled the Imperial as if they were in some weird kind of sporting event. The gendarme, obviously better-trained than Harry, deflected the attack and threw the Rat to the ground.

“So much for the Stainless Steel,” thought Civitas, as Det. Russel Compton demonstrated the value of good old-fashioned training and took advantage of Harry distraction to knock the gendarme unconscious.

Two Mishimi Samurai came around the corner in time to see this beatdown. When Compton joined his own calls for everybody to stand down — using the unconscious gendarme’s body as an exclamation point — Civitas heard one of the Samurai say, “Maybe they’re on our side,” as they sheathed their swords.

It was not yet clear if the gendarmes got the message, but Harry Harrison definitely did not. Opening fire with his assault rifle, The Stainless Steel Rat once again demonstrated his disregard for standard police procedure. Det. Compton promptly arrested him, but Civitas was not sure whether that was just for show.

The gendarmes had no way of knowing that the Rat had been deputized — he certainly hadn’t been acting like a cop — so Civitas hoped the Imperials might fall for such a deception. Harry made a run for it shortly after he was cuffed by Compton.

But the Imperial Gendarmes were not convinced, they opened fire and most of their shots went wide or were absorbed by the body armor most LCPD officers wore as a matter of course. It didn’t take long to take them all down since said officers had much better fire discipline.

As soon as the seal on Pluto was broken, the Dark Apostle sent out a message to her most technologically sophisticated Arch-Heretic — an insane scientist named Fabien von Hölle. He told her their plans had been thwarted. He had constructed the network and the antennas. He had assembled the Conduits. He had even gathered three-quarters of the Dark Symmetry he needed to open the rift and bring her through…

Harry Harrison was sure why Det. Compton arrested and cuffed him. But, when the cop whispered in his ear that he should run for it, he wasn’t going to argue: Cuffs or no cuffs, it was time to get out of there.

Rounding a corner, the Rat spotted a welcome sight: an abandoned weapons store.

“Clerk must’ve taken a powder when the rioting broke out.”

Harry was low on ammo, so he decided to help himself. He found a reload for his assault rifle, but the weapons were all in locked cases on the walls and there was no armor to be found. “Damn handcuffs,” he complained when the cases stymied him.

Once the shooting died down outside, he came back out and found his “fellow” officers talking to the Samurai about the situation, amid a pile of dead and unconscious Imperials.

Seemed like Harry’s original assumption — that crashed lifepod was from the Mishiman attack ship and the Samurai were defending it from the Imperials — was wrong. The Samurai told them that lifepod was from the freighter — which proved to be true. They were convinced the captain of the freighter was on the lifepod and needed to be arrested for their investigation into the cause of the crash.

“Looks like a setup to me,” thought Harry, who had seen his share of frame jobs. They told the Samurai to sort through the survivors on the lifepod. Compton ordered them to take anybody they arrested to the LCPD, suggesting the Precinct House might be over-crowded.

Harry got the clear message that only the captain was to be detained, and it looked like the Mishimi Samurai got the same idea.

Showing the other officers the gun shop, he was surprised to find the clerk back at his post. The others were able to buy reloads for their weapons. Then Harry remembered he was out of ammunition for the grenade-launcher on his weapon. He tried to light-finger a couple, but Det, Compton noticed and raised an eyebrow, so Harry had to wait for a better opportunity.

The scene he are presented with as they entered the Capitol Entertainment Network Tower was not what Harry had been expecting. Most of the lighting that normally made the foyer as bright as day had burned out and that which remained flickered erratically.

The huge screens that should have been displaying the CEN’s television shows were showing either static, or — far more worryingly — a giant eye that appeared to be scanning the room.

Thick, rubbery cables dangled from the suspended ceiling. An electronic howl filled the air.

“Sounds like a scream,” Harry thought. “Perfect distraction for a heist.”

Too bad they weren’t planning a heist. “With the police now.”

Capitol executives, security personnel, and staff were rushing back and forth in a state of confusion. “Good side to this chaos: should be able to bluff or bully our way past the nervous looking security who are guarding the lifts.”

“Downside: If we mess up they will likely start shooting.”

Outside, Harry could hear a series of explosions as wreckage from crashing air vehicles hit the ground.

Harry overheard an executive talking to a maintenance worker about how the building was
being overloaded by huge power spikes from somewhere between floor 191 and 193. He took the opportunity to grab the worker’s toolbox and got in the freight elevator with the other cops.

No button on the elevator for the 192nd floor so they went up to 191. Civitas wanted to try the 193 button and “blast our way through the floor,” but Russel Compton was reluctant to pass through 192.

Those power spikes had him nervous after Straffar Gatan.

They found the ceilings in 191 to be quite high: Apparently the enormous rooms were some kind studios for shooting TV shows. When they tried to use the stairs they found no doors to 192, but there were six flights of stairs to get to 193. The floor was too thick and strong to punch through easily, so Harry had to show the police how to break into the elevator shaft so they could climb down to 192.

Just as they got the doors pried open, the CSI unit sprang to life: “Antenna position identified: Percentage of Lunar antennas pointed at Pluto: 89 percent: Anomaly level: moderate:”

“Not exactly the most opportune time to get that information,” he pointed out.

“Moderate anomaly level: higher than expected percentage: Possible explanation of anomaly: Public interest in Pluto: Interest in Planetoid Pluto: High due to start of project: Project Pluto: Highly difficult terraforming project: Pluto: Most hostile terraforming project ever attempted: end report:”

He wasn’t strong enough to pry open the doors to 192 by himself, but when the others clambered down, they were able to force them open.

Harry peered into the studio-within-a-studio of the Giant Eye, the show that does not exist. Thick, tangled, rubbery cables cover the floor, and he was reminded of the scenes Straffar Gatan.

“Not a good memory.”

…But the Dark Apostle’s plans were disrupted. Three LCPD officers broke into the studio at the last minute. One of them single-handedly severed his connection to all five Conduits, while his comrades held off the Minions. Then he destroyed the power supply. Fabien von Holle didn’t know this officer’s name, but he would never forget the face — he transmitted the memory of the face to Pluto — the face of Luna City Police Detective Russel Compton.

Looking past the Stainless Steel Rat into the studio, Det. Compton saw it was split over two levels, the lower being the studio floor itself – a big walled space with an access corridor running around it — and the upper level housing the Production-Control room, the lighting rigs and gantries.

The two floors wer connected by a stairwell in the western section of the outer corridor and another in the northeast corner of the main studio. The production control room had two other doors that led out onto the gantry suspended six meters above the main studio, where they were standing.

Directly in front of the Rat, the three occupants in the room didn’t quite block their entrance to the room, so Russel slipped past into the main portion of the room while Harry engaged the three cameramen, each of whom had been converted by the Dark Symmetry into obscene necrobionic machinery.

Their bodies were pallid and the smell of decay was strong in the room. Thick rubbery cables punctured their flesh and ran into their ruined eye sockets, nostrils, mouths, and ears.

The cables pulsed and throbbed as they pumped the bodies with a mixture of electricity and necrobionic liquids. The few unconnected cables in the room writhed around, looking for new hosts to interface with.

Von Hölle had set up his machinery in the center of the studio, from where he was guiding the arcane process like a twisted parody of a conductor. He stood in a metal cage that was already crackling with energy.

Civitas told Compton it looked like the energy field which protected the Castigator from any direct attack. So he looked around for an indirect attack.

Surrounding the mad conductor and the central console were five people in vertical, clear, plastic tubes with antennas on top. Compton recognized them as Jenny Green, Markus Peterson, Clarence Beeks and his wife Mary Beeks (the missing residents from Straffar Gatan) and Sandrine Peterson.

Each of the five was unconscious; their eyes were rolled back into their heads, and they were strapped into what looked like some kind of cryopod. The cryopods were in turn linked to the main console by more of the organic cables and also by clear tubes that were full of a green liquid.

The cryopods were slowly filling with the green liquid and it was clear that little time was left. Already he could see the liquid eating away at the victim’s clothes.

Det. Russel Compton knew his job: Save Sandrine Petersen, her uncle — he had been helpful in the interview, if slightly rude — and the other victims. The tubes feeding green liquid into the ’pods were the most vulnerable part of the whole aparatus, so…

He jumped into action, racing across the room to where the tubes linked von Hölle’s machine to tube where Sandy Petersen’s face pressed up against the clear plastic. Extending the blades from his nightstick, he started cutting on the tubes, which actually seemed to be pulsing like veins.

“Some grenades would be handy right about now,” the Rat was screaming as he distracted the hideous cameramen by pumping bullets into them from his assault rifle. Officer Civitas was shouting as well, something about the body parts strewn around the floor.

Scattered around the room Compton could see the remains of about 20 people. Most appeared to be in Capitolian suits, while four are wearing black, unmarked jumpsuits. Their faces had the melted wax look of the cameramen, but they also looked drained and shrunken, like empty husks.

Civitas identified them as some kind of ninja, but Det. Compton figured they must’ve been sent by Jaeger to find and eliminate von Hölle. “Probably brought by Markus Petersen,” thought Compton. “They must’ve come straight over here from JaegerCorp. I guess Petersen ran into more than he expected here.”

The tubes running to the closest cryopod proved to be more heavilly armored than he expected, but he threw everything he had into his attack and cut the cables as well as the pulsing tubes. The ’pod immediately opened and the body inside — it looked like the wife of the missing factory worker from Straffar Gatan 39 — slumped semi-conscious to the floor.

Civitas was screaming something about the bodies twitching and pouring Bolter slugs into the inert forms.

Von Hölle reacted to the destruction of his cryopod by pointing at Compton and screaming something. But his words were lost in the noise of his machine and in the green energies that wrapped around his cage.

After von Hölle gestured at the four bodies of the creatures Civitas identified as some kind of ninja-assassin, he went back to his mad conductor routine with renewed vigor as the energies gathered around his cage.

The gestures had brought the dead ninjas back to life — or what Compton saw as some kind of undead life — with distorted joints sprouting strange claws and horny armor. They could now stand on two legs or run on all fours like some kind of malignant predatory beast.

As he moved to begin chopping on the umbilicals pumping green acids into Sandrine Petersen’s ’pod — Russel figured she was the primary victim he needed to save — he noticed the Stainless Steel Rat was using a different strategy on the cameramen. Instead of cutting the power lines which had them tethered to the giant circuit box on the far wall, Harry was machine-gunning the man-camera hybrids with his assault rifle.

And still complaining about the usefulness of grenades.

“As long as he keeps them off my back while I do the real work.”

It appeared that Officer Civitas’s Bolter shells had penetrated the heavy armor on the circuit box before he had turned his attention to the Malignants. But now he was doing his best to keep the predator-ninjas off of everybody’s backs. One of them got Civitas’s leg, but he kept firing with his Bolter.

After he freed Sandy, Det. Compton turned to the hoses to the pod housing her uncle. He was getting the hang of this now and he was able to turn his momentum on those blows into a secondary attack on the umbilicals to the next cryopod. Even before he was able to rescue Jenny Green, however, von Hölle became enraged that his “Conduits” were being severed.

The force-field around his cage suddenly turned off and von Hölle screamed.

“You don’t know what you’ve done!”

“I know exactly what I’ve done,” Compton replied. “I’ve annoyed you.”

“I was about to bring Erich through!”

“Erich is dead.”

“No. I have found a way to communicate with Erich. Through time.”

“Your friend is dead.”

“No! He’s on the other side. In a cold, dark place. I must bring him through!”

“So: What is it? Is he in a cold, dark place?” An image of the terraforming project on Pluto flashed through Russel’s mind. “Or are you talking to him through time?”

While he had the madman distracted, the Rat opened up on him. But von Hölle held up his hand and a rift appeared in the space just in front of him. The bullets from the assault rifle just disappeared into the rift.

Compton gave up on shooting von Hölle as a bad job and turned his attention to freeing last two civilians from their ’pods. When they slumped to the floor, Compton could see the other two officers were still busy with the Malignants.

“I guess I have to do everything myself.”

Although von Hölle was using some kind of Dark Lance on him, the weapon was not having much effect. He taunted the madman before attacking the armor on the Power Box with his nightstick, using it like a can-opener. Det. Compton had always thought of his nightstick with the blades extended as a medieval mace.

“A mace is kinda a can-opener. For canned Teutonic Knight.”

As the cables writhed to attack him, Russel cut the power and the tentacle-cables slumped to the ground. All the machinery went dark and von Hölle screamed.

“You don’t know what you’ve done!” And then he made a run for it.

When you can open up rifts in space and step through, running is surprisingly easy.

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Chaos Spreads
...From an Office in Old Town...

…To All of Luna City

Det. Russel Compton had already given up on his theory that the noxious gases reported by the LCFD had caused hallucinations in his fellow officers. After all, he had seen the building come alive with the same twisting cables which had thrown him out.

And then it proceeded to bury its own bottom floor.

The Crime Scene Recording Device had pretty much confirmed the craziest stuff they had found. Even had a audio recording of Civitas’s immortal line: “Either I’m a time-traveling sleepwalker…or something really weird is going on.”

Getting read the riot act did not serve to improve his mood. And now he was facing a blustering Bauhaus corporate executive named Markus Peterson.

“My brother tells me that my niece, Sandrine is missing and that you think it is something to do with bloody von Hölle? If anything happens to her I will have your badges!” the suit shouted.

Det. Compton noticed Ambrose showing a memo pad to Civitas. Covered with complex mathematics with the word “Erich” in the center. The CSI officer explained it as highly unorthodox quantum theory. But he had no explanation for the name in the middle.

“What have you discovered so far? As CEO of this corporation and a Bauhaus citizen, I demand to know.”

They also found a printed requisition order signed by von Hölle for common electrical equipment, control systems, generators, heavy duty cabling, and assorted mechanical apparatus. Seemed significant to a group of police officers who had recently been attacked by electrical equipment, control systems, generators, heavy duty cabling, and a variety of mechanical creations.

“What are you going to do about our stolen equipment? Von Hölle stole some very valuable prototypes and we need them back.”

Russel definitely wanted to know more. “What kind of prototypes? Just what are you working on here?”

The suit was demanding they turn over the investigation to Bauhaus Law Enforcement, but he did admit they do unorthodox and advanced communications devices.

“I have no idea what Operation Looking Glass is. It was a project that started before my tenure. I’ve only just found out about it. All I know is that it was apparently a cross-venture with someone within the Capitol Entertainment Network. Completely unacceptable to Bauhaus now that they own Jaeger Corp.”

“Unacceptable, hunh?”

“When I challenged the employees here, they denied all knowledge. I think they may have been telling the truth. I’m not sure Erich and Fabien were sharing everything they were doing.”

After conspicuous bravery leading the children to safety, Officer Civitas followed the finest traditions of Capitoline citizenship and freedom and asked how many of the students were carrying weapons. Encouraged by their enthusiastic and patriotic response, Officer Civitas recruited them into a ragtag militia which distinguished itself by securing the nearest school as an island of stability in the chaos which ruled Luna City in the first hours of The Fall. As other students arrived at the school, the militia organized them into squads which proceeded from school to school, spreading stability. This became the foundation of The First Children’s Brigade which later distinguished itself in the Corporate Wars.
— from the commendation of CSI Officer Civitas

Det. Ambrose Hab had to park the patrol car when the crowds got too thick. He could see the traffic was jammed solid. They were going to have to travel the rest of the way on foot.

Several hundred meters above their heads Ambrose could hear the roar of huge engines. Looking up, he saw a huge Bauhaus freighter and what looked to be a Mishiman Attack Ship attempting to maneuver around each other, though what either ship was doing so low over this part of the city he could not imagine.

Det. Hab was riveted in place when it became clear they were going to have a head-on collision. The pointed prow of the Attack Ship smashed into the skin of the Bauhaus freighter, piercing it like a blade.

The impact triggered a series of explosions on both ships, causing cargo pods, escape pods, and huge chunks of spacecraft to be expelled from the freighter.

At first, it appeared they were too far away to fall on any of the officers, although plenty of civilians in the crowds were going to be crushed. Then Ambrose realized — with a sudden horrific revelation — that some of the pieces had been expelled from the ship so explosively that they were falling their way.

All four officers made a run for the nearest overpass, barely making it before the rain of debris fell on the street. Det. Hab wanted to go for the subway, but Russel Compton found a sewer entrance and was arguing for an alternate route.

It did look like the crowd was going to mob the subway entrance.

I deputized the Stainless Steel Rat, fer Chrissake. That did as much good as The Children’s Brigade in the long run. Did I get a friggin’ commendation?
Lt Pierre Vordach, on his deathbed

Harry Harrison was not sure about the sewers. He had heard things.

But he did have to admit that there were no crowds in Det. Compton’s “alternate route” through the sewer. “Nobody else is crazy enough to try the sewers,” he thought to himself.

They made good progress towards the Capitol Entertainment Network (CEN) tower — at least, Harry thought they were going the right direction — before Harry’s misgivings were confirmed: The crashing space ships had apparently broken an oil pipe carrying bio-diesel.

The thick brown oil forced them to emerge from the tunnels, where they found a crashed school bus, already covered with oil. Harry knew it was only a matter of time before the spreading fires would get to the bus.

Det. Compton forced the door open — the driver was already dead, killed by a light pole knocked over by a fall piece of the Mishiman spacecraft — and Officer Civitas asked the kids how many of them were carrying weapons.

Five of the older students showed their weapons, — they were Capitol corporate citizens after all — whereupon Civitas immediately deputized them all and marched those who could walk off to safety.

Harry helped the other officers carry the injured students along behind — he was still having difficulty thinking of himself as a Police Officer and not as the good, old Stainless Steel Rat — and they got them to safety.

Looking up, the Rat could see the gigantic edifice of the CEN tower just ahead. But a firefight was about to break out between them and their goal: Some Imperial Gendarmes were facing off against what looked to Harry like a group of Mishiman Samurai who are forming a human wall between the Gendarmes and a crashed lifepod from one of the two ships that crashed earlier.

Harry was guessing it was from the Mishiman Attack Ship, though he couldn’t tell for sure from where he was standing. Officer Civitas then demonstrated his diplomatic side, something the Rat was not used to seeing in the LCPD: He tried to convince everybody to calm down and respond to the obvious chaos which was developing in the area.

As soon as the CSI officer began to make headway, Harry noticed one of the Samurai trying to sneak around behind the Gendarmes. One of the Gendarmes noticed it too.

And opened fire.

Both sides blamed the LCPD, thinking they had been betrayed. They turned to attack the officers.

The smoke was going to provide some cover, but it looked like they were going to have to fight their way through the ones who thought they had been betrayed.

Harry pulled out his assault rifle.

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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.

View
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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