Sunday, 5 May 2013

The Complex: Episode 5

Today's session was a blast - I had a loose plan, but the players really took things in an interesting direction for what is the penultimate episode of this season of The Complex. We'll be heading to some sort of resolution in the next episode.

Please note, although I've done a little research on Aboriginal mythology, the spiritual elements depicted in this Actual Play have been warped through the lens of TV logic, and bear little resemblance to actual mythology or beliefs.

Episode 5: Outback Odyssey

Starring (in alphabetical order):
  • +Lloyd Gyan as Aki Enoki, graduate student of biological anthropology on a gap year.
  • +David Miessler-Kubanek as Tony Pearson, the apartment's maintenance man, and an ex-hacker from California.
  • +Steve Moore as Takeshi Sekiguchi, a retired hit-man trying to keep a low profile.
Produced and Directed by Craig Judd

On the top of Uluru - Ayers Rock - a naked, dusty, and slightly sunburned Tony struggles to get his bearings. He senses the presence of a powerful spirit entity within the rock itself, similar to Sheila but different, and tries to make contact with it. He starts chanting and singing, and feels the spirit of the rock awake and acknowledge him. As he stands triumphant, he sees a figure sprawled on the ground near the base of the rock - Zoe! 

Tony scrambles down off the massive rock, but before he can get to Zoe he sees two Odyssey Tech vehicles approaching her. An Aboriginal man in tribal gear appears from behind a rock and says, "This way! Hurry!" Tony leaves Zoe, and follows the man.

*     *     *

The previous night, Aki and Takeshi free the Lizard from his cell in the old Prison, and take him upstairs to the foyer. They question him about what he remembers, and he claims to be a graffiti artist who uses the tag Zone, not Lizard. He can't remember much of what's happened for the past couple of days, but Aki turns out to have recently studied hypnotism, so she puts him in a trance and extracts the full story. He was tagging the back of the building when he felt a strange force enter him; he gained the ability to climb walls, but when he used it to tag an inaccessible location he wrote the tag Lizard instead. After that, he became trapped in his own mind as the Lizard took over. The Lizard wanted to leave this place, but it needed the Warden to free it. It felt it had done its time, and just wanted to be free. At the end, Aki implanted some hypnotic instructions not to tag, and to get a job, and brought him back. Takeshi offered to call him a cab, but apparently he lives upstairs.

Aki starts to question Takeshi about her behaviour in the struggle over the Lizard; she suspects she's used some sort of force field power, but hasn't admitted it to herself. Takeshi denies it (badly), but before they can get into a full argument Bob arrives in a panic and tells them that Tony and Zoe have literally vanished from the pub! He's really worried, but Aki says good riddance, so Bob gets annoyed and leaves. Takeshi follows him and asks to see where it happened, and Aki comes along too. There's not much physical evidence, but Takeshi thinks to check the security footage. They see Tony and Zoe struggling to flee from something and then disappearing, but the footage is interspersed by bursts of static and they can't see the entity that Bob described. Takeshi has a premonition of where to find Tony, and hands Bob a wad of cash to get a plane ready...

*     *     *

Back at Uluru, Tony is led into a cave with ancient rock art on the walls of people, animals, and a great spirit-man with yellow lines radiating from his head. There's a circle of men around a fire, and a white-bearded elder with blind white eyes. He welcomes Tony, and motions for him to sit. The others file out of the cave, and the elder explains to Tony their shared roles as Guardians of the spirits. Zoe is similar but different - her great spirit has been torn from the land and bound to her by Odyssey, and they are trying to find a way to do the same to the spirit of Uluru and probably the Complex as well. The only way the Elder knows of to unbind a spirit is to kill the Guardian, but Tony wants to find another way to free Zoe. The elder wishes him luck; after all, people should be bound to the spirits, not the other way around.

Takeshi wakes Aki as their light plane comes in to land at a remote airstrip. There's nothing but flat, red, scrub desert all around, with the bulk of Uluru standing in the distance. They take a trail bike parked against a tin shed, and roar off towards the Rock.

Having finally gotten some clothes, Tony is being guided to the Odyssey Tech compound by a couple of Aboriginal guys, who have likewise changed into everyday clothes. A dust-cloud approaches from the North, and he spots the trail-bike. Everyone meets up. Tony greets them with a smile, and announces that he's glad they're here - he needs their help to destroy Odyssey!

Aki demands to know exactly what's going on, but the others ignore her. Tony tells Takeshi that he might not be coming back from this one. Aki puts her foot down and demands to be told about everything, but Tony says he'll tell her after it's all over. She thinks it's a stupid plan, because they don't really have one, but she eventually decides to come along so she can make sure they don't kill anyone. 

They take a brief look at the fenced compound during the day, and Takeshi assesses their security. There are some guards on patrol, and a couple of prefab buildings. There's a garage of jeeps, and a helicopter parked on open ground. There's a breach in the fence where animals have dug underneath.

They return after dark, evade guard patrols and security cameras, and slip through the breach in the fence. They find a conveniently unlocked and unguarded back door on a shed, and go inside. It's mostly being used for storage, but they find some maintenance coveralls in a locker and disguise themselves as personnel before riding a freight elevator down into the heart of the facility. Tony reaches out with his mind and senses Zoe's entity deep underground, and they head down to try and find her.

On Floor 17, Tony hacks a computer terminal and locates a map of the facility. He pinpoints Zoe's location in a holding cell, but also alerts security to the breach in their computer security. He manages, though, to convince them that the alert is for another floor. The group splits up - Tony tells Takeshi where to find Zoe, and says he's going for the main lab. Aki decides to go with Tony, because she trusts him least!

Takeshi arrives at the holding cell. Through the outer door, he sees Martin Houndsly, an Odyssey executive with whom he has had prior dealings. Martin is watching Zoe through a one-way mirror; she's sitting sullenly at a table in the room beyond. Takeshi enters and tells Martin that he's taking Zoe with him. Martin doesn't try to stop him, but does warn him that she's confused and unstable, and needs Odyssey's help. He can't say what might happen if she leaves. Takeshi enters the room to rescue her, but she resists him, summoning the glowing entity to push him back. Takeshi struggles against it, and coerces Martin to persuade her to leave. After her frantic exertion, though, she collapses and Takeshi carries her out.

The main lab is a large open room of brushed steel and white plastic, but with a large circle recessed into the floor inlaid with silver tracery, creating some sort of mystical symbol. In the centre, there are four sets of cuffs on retractable chains. Aki takes photos, and Tony asks her to chain him to the circle so he can form a spiritual connection to Odyssey, free the bound spirits, and destroy the base. She's a bit weirded out, but does as he asks. She then starts hacking a computer but is distracted when  the mystical circle starts glowing and Sheila visibly manifests above Tony. Sheila tells Tony this is a bad place, and he tells her he wants to destroy it. The ground starts shaking, and the spirit of a tall, older Aboriginal man with a radiant aura around his head appears beside Sheila. 

Takeshi turns up, with Zoe over one shoulder and a gun in Martin's back. The whole base starts to shake, and they set off an evacuation alarm. Aki tries to persuade Tony to leave, but he needs to stay to act as a conduit for the vengeful spirits. He tells her it's her responsibility to make sure everyone else makes it out safely. She starts to leave, but then returns and punches him squarely in the face. "You'd better not die!" she admonishes him, before taking one of the computers and leaving with the others.

Martin leads them to an executive elevator that will take them straight to the surface, but Aki needs to make sure everyone will get out alive. Most of the staff are leaving quickly and efficiently, but there are some people trapped in a nearby room by a fallen support beam. Aki summons her concentration (visualising Tony's face blocking the doorway) and uses her force field powers to blast the obstruction across the room, opening the way.

On the surface, they use Martin to access the helicopter and take off. They see people streaming out of the compound and running across the shaking ground, before the earth opens up and the compound collapses into a dusty hole. Aki and Takeshi look down from the chopper, its blades whooshing in slow motion, as they spare a thought for Tony buried in the wreckage...

Tag Scenes

Back in Takeshi's penthouse, Zoe is recovering in his bed. Takeshi and Aki discuss what to do going forward. Aki leaves, and Takeshi returns to look after Zoe.

Takeshi didn't Challenge anything this episode, so his Statements remain the same.

Aki heads down to her room, and starts uploading the photos of Odyssey's lab to her blog - but not publishing them yet.
Lloyd changed Aki's Truth to "Seek out the TRUTH," her Relationship with Tony to "TONY may be a fanatic, but he means well," and as we completed the final step of Pathways he had the opportunity to shuffle some stuff around. As he'd never used it, he swapped Aki's Relationship with Zoe to one with The Complex at d10, with the statement "There's something more to THE COMPLEX, and I'm going to find it."

Tony slowly returns to consciousness, with a feeling of being somewhere warm and secure. He feels Sheila is there with him. When he opens his eyes, he finds himself lying in a high-vaulted sandstone cave with rock art on the walls, but a different cave than the one under Uluru. The whole place is suffused with a warm golden light, and Sheila is floating in the air, looking more solid than he's ever seen her. She tells him that he did good today, and she's glad to have him as her Guardian. She gestures at a natural stone stairway that's blocked off by an old stone wall. The wall is crumbly and Tony easily pushes it away, revealing the old prison beneath the apartment complex. He takes Sheila's hand and steps through the threshold. He puts his arm around her shoulder, and she smiles up at him.



The previous day, while everyone was out...

Brett Leeding returns to his apartment, opening the door to find a man standing in the loungeroom, looking out the balcony window. Blake Thompson turns around. "Mr. Leeding. I believe you're eager to learn about Odyssey Tech! I think it's about time we indulged you..."

Brett tries to hurry back out the door, but it's blocked by a pair of Odyssey heavies in suits. One brandishes a stun-gun and Brett's shoulders slump as he admits defeat. As the goons lead him away, Blake smiles humourlessly.


Wow, this session was intense and action-packed! I'll really have to step it up to deliver a satisfying finale next time, but I know I have a great group who can really bring the dramatic moments when it matters.

I had a pretty loose running-sheet this time, and while I did hit most of the points in the end, many of them didn't happen the way I'd envisioned. Which is great, of course. I was not expecting Takeshi to access the security cameras, or fly to central Australia, so it took the story in an unexpected direction with wonderful results. Since I wasn't hide-bound to a prepped series of events (apart from a couple of opening scenes), I was fairly easily able to adjust to the developing situation, and let this be a really player-led episode. Even though some things came out of left field, I never felt lost or unsure how to proceed.

I did have vague plans that Aki would fall into Sheila's cave if they spent any extra time in the prison, but revealing the cave at the end as Tony's place of return gave this episode a nice symmetry. I had thought he might appear naked in the Penthouse garden, but Steve and Aki decided to start their tag scenes there. So, flexible to the very end.

Stay tuned for the final episode!

>>>Episode 6

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