Through the Gate

Prologue: No good deed (online group)

November 9, 2012

One day, friends and business associates Sophia (formerly Joseph) Manheim and Taylor Swift (…no, not that one) were sitting and chatting in a Starbucks in San Francisco. As they talked, they noticed an attractive young man staring at them from across the room. Although they found this odd, they ignored him and continued talking. After a while, the man stood up and dropped a folded note onto their table, the quickly walked out.

Intrigued by the man and his mysterious note, Taylor opened the note and read it, then passed it to Sophia. The note was written in a difficult cypher which was familiar to Sophia, as she was the one that had come up with it. After spending a few minutes deciphering it, the two girls read the note, which said, “I have information on the government’s investigations into the Seconders, including the illegal methods they have been using to find out what makes them able to pass through the gates more than once. If you are interested, meet me at the gate on the quad at San Francisco State University at 10 P.M. tonight. -Jerry Hoenheim” This piqued Sophia’s interest, as the reason she had become such an infamous hacker was to expose the government’s secrets to the world. The two agreed to meet at the university just before 10 that night.

Ever paranoid, Sophia decided to do some research on this “Jerry Hoenheim”. By searching the net for his social networking sites, emails, etc, she pieced together a few facts about him. Pics of Jerry show him as being much older than he was when Sophia and Taylor saw him. This, combined with the fact that he looks like a fresh-faced teenager now, indicates that Jerry is probably a Seconder. Also, Jerry was recently fired from his job at a religious nonprofit due to his interest in the gates (and the multiple sex changes).

At the meeting that night, Jerry explained that he had heard that Sophia was the kind of person that would both have the skills his group needed and be interested in the illicit doings of the government. He then outlined what he needed from Sophia: A few friends of his, all of whom are Seconders, were kidnapped by the FBI and taken to a heavily secured building just outside the city’s limits. Jerry’s group could deal with the physical security, but would need Sophia’s help with the building’s electronic security systems. Once those systems are down, his group could get inside and rescue the kidnapped Seconders and escape. In exchange for her help, Sophia would get physical and documented proof of methods the FBI is using to detain and extract information from the Seconders. Sophia and Taylor agreed, and later that night began the operation.

Sophia’s plan was to exploit vulnerabilities in the building’s backup power systems to keep them offline while simultaneously shutting down the power grid in that area. She first obtained some satellite data on the area, and forwarded it to Jerry via the disposable phone that he provided her. Then, after parking her van in an out of the way area, she hacked into the building’s remote power management system and the city’s power grid, and took those down. So far, everything was going according to plan.

After 20 minutes, the disposable phone rang. When she picked it up, Sophia’s ear was blasted with a loud screeching sound, almost like that of an old dial-up modem. She quickly hung it up and went back to her work, since the power company had begun to get the grid back up. After another 20 minutes, both the disposable and Sophia’s personal phones rang. This time Taylor picked it up and heard the same thing, but quickly hung up. After another 20 minutes of trying to keep the power grid down, Taylor looked out the window and noticed an unmarked black car pull up near the van. She mentioned this to Sophia, then suddenly the area around her van was flooded by the lights and sirens of several police cars. They had been found!

This began a frenetic street chase, with Taylor and Sophia taking turns in the drivers seat as they desperately tried to avoid the cops. Sophia, thinking quickly, enlisted the aid of her hacker group, Etaoin Shrdlu. Together, they came up with a plan: Hack into the Department of Transportation’s systems and turn all the traffic lights in the city green. The chaos that would ensue should allow the two women to escape.

Sophia had to lend the group her skills to disrupt the DoT’s cyber security measures, but eventually she and her group managed to turn all the lights in the city green. Since Taylor had been driving during this time, and because she tends to get lost fairly easily, Sophia immediately switched seats with her once the DoT’s systems had been compromised. Amidst multicar pileups and the other events that occurred because of the traffic lights, Sophia and Taylor made their escape and headed back to Taylor’s house after losing the cops.

Over the next two days, Taylor built a few things: auto-balancing stilettos and an electromagnetic pulse pistol. Sophia disposed of her van and, using a new identity, bought a Jeep. Little did either of them know that during this time, they were being watched…

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2 of America's Most Wanted (Online Group)
The story so far for the (real world) week ending 3/13/12

First, a note. I’ll be posting summaries of the online game’s happenings every Tuesday. Hopefully, this coincides with the Monday tabletop group’s session summary, which I should be posting on either Tuesday or Wednesday.

Anyway…

November 12, 2012

While checking her email this morning, Taylor noticed one from her mother, Sharon. The email contained a forwarded email from Kaoru Takahashi the oyabun of the San Fransisco yakuza. Attached to that email were three pictures: Shots of Taylor and Sophia pulling up to the former’s house in Sophia’s van, another shot of the duo getting out of the van, with a full face shot, and a third of Sophia disposing of the van later.

Taylor showed the pics to Sophia, who did some digging around in their exif metatag data. She expected to find information on the type of camera used to take the picture, the date it was taken, and maybe a geotag if she was really lucky. What she found instead indicated that the jpgs were not originals, but printed and scanned copies of the original pics. Digging around for information on the web about Kaoru, Sophia found out that he has been blackmailing/extorting Taylor’s parents for some time now, and that he keeps an office in downtown San Francisco. Due to his Luddite beliefs regarding technology (as revealed by… his facebook page), that office does not have any technology in it more modern than a phone.

Sophia then headed out to do some shopping while Taylor made some calls: First to her mom, then her brother Joshua, and finally to the Golden Gate Detective Agency to set up a job with them. From her mom, she learned that her dad called Kaoru, who denied dictating that email. From her brother, she learned that her dad is beginning to spin the story about his delinquent daughter just in case it gets out that she’s been associating with the most wanted person in San Francisco. Joshua gave her the name of the detective agency mentioned above to try to find out who’s behind this blackmail attempt.

After Sophia got home, she changed her hair length and color, as well as eye color via contacts, then did more research. She hacked into Kaoru’s email account, gaining access to his address book and a database file with some of his passwords in it. While looking at the database, she noticed a commented-out section in the database that read: “G- Predictable. I expected a hacker of your caliber to have no trouble hacking the big G’s servers. Don’t bother attempting to trace the IP; I assure you that I am not in Zimbabwe (GM: This is where the IP ultimately originated from). Let’s cut to the chase: I am going to ruin you. I am tired of hearing about your crimes on the news, tired of reading about your exploits on the underground scene boards, and tired of you ruining people’s lives through ID theft. I will bring you to justice, and I will see you burn for your crimes. -GtW”

Thinking for a bit, Sophia remembered someone with a handle on some hacker messaging boards that had those initials: gandalf_the_white. Gandalf is known as a white hat hacker, but it seems that he does not only use his skills for helpful ends. After finding this out, Sophia decided to leave Taylor’s house, so as not to incriminate her more. Taylor insisted on going with her, but needed to tie up some loose ends first…

Which will likely happen this week (real world).

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A Chance Encounter (Tabletop Group)
An odd begining.

Date: November 17, 2012.
Location: The lounge in the Park Inn Heathrow Hotel, just outside Heathrow Airport in London.

Four friends and business acquaintences met unexpectedly in a pub: Jesse Deluca, an FBI cybercrimes agent who is in London to give a seminar to local and national law enforcement, and who recently met her father, Jouni Deluca, who was also on a business trip. Jenny Jones, whom, until a year ago had been James Jones, was taking a break from her duties as a campus security coordinator at San Francisco State University. Cain Masterson, a detective from Florida who was on vacation in a cottage on the outskirts of London until a storm damaged it, forcing him to seek out a hotel room in the city. And finally, Greg Forceps, a skilled construction foreman who was overseeing the shoring up of Big Ben’s foundations.

The four acquaintences sat down at a table in the pub and caught up, introducing each other and remarking on how surprising it is that they are all in London at the same time. They chatted for a while, then suddenly there was an earth-shattering explosion at the airport down the street. The building shook, and the screams of the terrified pub patrons filled the air.

After the dust settled and everyone in the pub was found to be unharmed, the group moved towards the window to see what had happened. Jesse saw a group of people armed with pistols and rifles and dressed in old military NBC suits fleeing the airport. The stopped for a bit and set up defensive positions, then killed the airport security that came to stop them. After a while, several vans came and picked them up. Jesse, who had snuck to a better vantage point about a block from the fight, took a video of this on her phone.

The group fled to a hotel several blocks away from the airport, where they stayed until they learned that police and the military had discovered high concentrations of radioactive material near the source of the explosion, which was found to be a dirty nuclear bomb planted near the sex gate inside the airport. A group called the Archangels of the Gates claimed responsibility for the bombing, and said that as long as the unworthy infidels of the Church of the Gates continued using the gates, the Archangels would continue to defile them.

After hearing this, everyone in the hotel fled the area, as the military had declared a 10 km radius around Heathrow Airport to be dangerously contaminated with radioactive fallout. The group commandeered a taxicab, probably left behind during the latest exodus, and drove it to Greg’s office at Big Ben.

Everyone settled in at the office, which was spacious enough for both the group and Greg’s employees, and rested for the day, reasonably sure that they were safe inside the old stone clock. Midway through the night, one of Greg’s crewmen, Stu, stumbled into the office bloodied and cut up. He said that he was at the airport before the bomb blew up, and that he overheard the people who set it up thinking that the bomb they were setting up would defile the area around the gate for a hundred years. When he heard this, he ran as fast as he could out of the airport, but got cut up while fleeing.

Jesse, Cain, Greg, and JJ gathered around some cots in the office and had a discussion. After putting their heads together, they realized the following things about the Archangels of the Gates and the other militant factions of the Church of the Gates:

  • Some of the suspected leaders of the AotG include
    • Michael Dartsmouth, an Englishman who was a former preacher of the Church of the Gates;
    • Kyle Winn, a survivalist from the U.S. who laid claim to a gate that appeared near his mountain retreat;
    • A woman calling herself Artemis, who seems to be the mastermind behind the cult in the UK;
    • And Hayfa al-Jizahi. Not much is known about Hayfa, except that she has ties to both Al Qaeda and Baghdad University.
  • The AotG stated mission is to defile the gates in populated areas where many people are members of the Church of the Gates. They do this by making the area around the gate either deadly to enter (as shown in this attack), or by randomly shooting anyone they see near a gate until people are too afraid to go there.

Jesse had her contacts in the FBI and MI-6 look into the names she discovered, then the group fell asleep.

November 18, 2012

Today, the group checked into a hotel outside the exclusion zone and checked out a local gathering of the members of the Church of the Gates. Under the guise of new parishoners, they verified the information about Artemis they had discovered yesterday, and spotted a strange man watching the church from outside of the skate park that the service was being held in. Jesse got a picture of him before he fled, but unfortunately nobody saw fit to chase him down before he made a clean getaway on his skateboard.

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Fallout
Sophia and Taylor start to feel the consequences of their actions

November 13, 2012

After arranging communications with Taylor, Sophia bailed on her and headed south, towards Richmond. After circling a few blocks to make sure that she wasn’t followed, she went wardriving until she found an open wifi access point, then began hacking. She first contacted her group, Etaoin Shrdlu, and told them that they were going to start hacking into likely places to find information on gandalf_the_white, including his or her real name, address, background, etc. They combined their efforts and began digging.

Sophia started out by modifying the botnet that ES uses to harvest credit information, and turned it into a platform from which to launch distributed denial of service attacks (a maneuver that places a DDOS the connection aspect on the scene).

Gandalf seemed to be prepared to defend herself once she kicked the hornets’ nest that was ES, however, and quickly activated a series of _Honeypot_s in places that she thought hackers would look for her real information.

The next hour became a series of back and forth exchanges, with either Sophia or ES trying to find someplace with Gandalf’s personal information, and Gandalf either redirecting them elsewhere or watching as they get stuck in the honeypots. Finally, Sophia had had enough and decided to pull the plug on the operation. As they left, however, Sophia set up the botnet to continually DDOS attack the places that they had already checked, figuring that restoring at least some of them would require Gandalf’s personal attention. Both Sophia and Etaoin Shrdlu then concluded their attacks and logged out.

November 13-17, 2012

Meanwhile, Taylor’s relationship with her parents soured even more. In an attempt to distance himself from his daughter’s actions, Dominic Swift began speaking to his associates and some of the family’s close friends. He spread rumors of his daughter going rogue, and associating with various unsavory types, completely against her parents’ wishes. Once Taylor caught wind of this, she called her parents to rant at them, then decided to divorce herself completely from her family, packing up what she could take with her and fleeing south to join Sophia.

The pair then decided to lay low for a while and work on their own projects, possibly to get back at GtW.

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Life on the Run (Online Group)
Media blitz and a meeting with some Seconders

November 17, 2012

As the day broke, news about the suspects in the hacking of San Francisco’s Department of Transportation’s computers spread like wildfire over the internet and traditional news outlets. Of particular interest was a series of pictures released by the NSA’s signals intelligence office. These pictures were taken shortly after the last transmissions between members of the infamous hacker group Etaoin Shrdlu, and depict the suspected leader of this group, as well as the dilettante daughter of a local businessman. The FBI has issued an APB on the two, the hacker known only as “Sophia”, and the other named Taylor Swift, both of whom are wanted for multiple crimes in connection with the events on November 10th.

After learning of the news, Sophia exchanged emails with the Seconder she helped that night, Jerry Hoenheim. In them, she demanded to know if he had a plan now that they were free, and also demanded help in return, since she was now wanted by every lawman on the west coast. He sent back only a single reply, a message encrypted with an algorithm that Sophia herself wrote. The message contained coordinates for a location in Mt. Diablo State Park, and a time to meet him there. Both she and Taylor agreed to go, after they had cleaned up some loose ends.

Sophia immediately contacted members of Etaoin Shrdlu and assigned them a mission: Saturate the media with stories that make the FBI and police look bad. They were to use some of the information captured on the night of the 10th, as well as making up their own plausible stories, to accomplish this. The main theme of the stories was that the three Seconders that the FBI kidnapped were tortured and detained unlawfully, and that these reports were not the only ones that existed, just the only ones that were taken.

Over the next 12 hours, the group went on a media blitz, publishing edited documents that Sophia grabbed that night. These documents were edited to protect the names of the captured Seconders, but what was revealed proved damning: Evidence of torture, and of the Seconders’ unwillingness (and in some cases, inability) to answer the FBI agents’ questions. Eventually, a few of the stories went viral as the members of ES got into the game and made it look like the FBI had killed a few Seconders whose names were not in the original documents. They did this by faking video “confessions” of the escaped Seconders in which they said that the names of the people they killed were removed from the official records in an attempt to cover up their deaths.

After taking a beating in the media, the FBI used their trump card to counter ES’s propaganda: They released the full versions of the records that ES had released earlier. In these records, it was revealed that although none of the Seconders were able to speak about any of their passages through the gates under coercion, they all came through with verifiable telepathic and empathic powers. The reason that this information was kept secret was to prevent public witch hunts of the world’s Seconders, but they hinted that the fact that the documents released by other sources so far omitted this information was because those doing the releases had a hidden agenda, and either were Seconders trying to hide their powers, or someone who planned to use them for some nefarious end.

Eventually, the news about the Seconders and the FBI drowned out the stories about the Green Light Incident, relegating that to a matter local to California only. After twelve exhausting hours of hacking and manipulating the media, Sophia crawled into bed and passed out.

November 18, 2012

While Sophia slept, Taylor was busy making some calls. She contacted people close to her family to deny the rumors of her involvement with the criminal Sophia, and called her father to denounce his dragging of her name through the mud. In several angry phone calls, she severed her ties to her parents and some of those that took her father’s side in this argument, then packed up her bags and equipment and loaded up Sophia’s Jeep, preparing them for the trip to the park the next day.

November 19, 2012

Sophia and Taylor drove up the winding mountain roads to the meeting site that Jerry set up. As they approached the site, they saw a few suspicious people: A couple camped along the road, then an abandoned van, and finally an RV camped within a few hundred feet of the given coordinates. Smelling a setup, Sophia began turning the Jeep around when suddenly an image popped into her and Taylor’s head. The image was that of a tree split by lightning growing near a road, and the words We’ve been discovered. Go here. The last part of the message was that the tree was along Morgan Territory road, about 8 miles from their current location. Surprised, but intrigued, the two girls drove out to the given site.

At the site, they met up with Jerry and his associates, the Seconders that he rescued on the 10th. Together, they headed to the cabin of one of the Seconder’s, Sasha’s, aunt. The cabin was practically unknown to most people other than Sasha’s aunt, and would make a good hiding place for now because it had no connections to the outside world.

At the cabin, one of the Seconders, Tasha, lit a fire in the large stone fireplace and everyone settled in to discuss their future.

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Hitting the Fan (Tabletop Group)
Another nuke, and the incompetence of MI-5

November 19th and 20th, 2012

In order to force the Archangels of the Gates out of hiding, Jesse concocted a plan built to take advantage of their hubris: She would, with the British MI-5’s assistance, create a news program in which she would portray a scientist. Using bits of news stories and scientific articles, she would show that the AotG’s dirty nuclear attack on Heathrow Airport’s gate would not have as serious an impact as first thought. Based on the rate at which the cleanup crews were working, she estimated that it would take no longer than a day or two to get the airport up and running, at least in a limited capacity, as well as cleaning up the radiation in the four reservoirs near Heathrow.

Jesse worked on this all day, and after 16 hours of collecting data and filming, she decided to wander around MI-5’s offices to clear her head. She ended up in an evidence collection room, where she found some tabs of extacy and sneaked out with them. She popped one with some of her precious remaining water on the walk back, then decided to stop at a toystore and buy out all their remaining Domo-kun plushies and took them back to the suite. She threw them all on the floor and rolled around in them for a few hours while listening to trance music. Then, when Greg came back to the suite after an unproductive day at work, ended up seducing him. They were up for hours after that pleasuring each other.

While this was happening, the other people in the suite were busy doing their own thing. As mentioned above, Greg went to work at Big Ben. He had to pick up some iron bells from the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, so he took the company truck to the foundry and picked them up. There, he met the forewoman of the foundry, a tough woman named Annie, who considered him stupid for coming by himself to lift 5 2000 lb bells into his truck. She grudgingly lent him her men and tools to get the job done, then he headed back to the old clock, but got stuck in traffic for three hours due to all the water trucks parked in the road to alleviate the water shortage.

JJ stepped out to find a water truck after hearing about the shortage on the news. After standing in line for two hours, she got fed up and started shoving people out of her way, using her skills in krav maga to get her to the front of the line. Unfortunately for her, Scotland Yard did not take kindly to her display of martial arts prowess, and arrested her. They left her to rot with her bucket of water until the next day, when she was turned over to the US embassy. The US ambassador admonished everyone that had been dropped off at his office for petty crimes, and confined them to city arrest, fitting them all with gps anklets. He then let them go, and JJ headed back to the suite.

Cain decided to do some investigations of his own after seeing a street preacher claiming to be a member of the Gatekeepers, a sect of the Catholic Church fed up with the demonic influences of the gates, on the news. Cain went out to the site of the news story and learned that the preacher had been arrested, so he went to the police station and asked to visit the man. The preacher was suspicious of Cain at first, but warmed up to him after Cain claimed to hate the Church of the Gates as well. The man, who gave his name as Duster, bristled when Cain asked him if he or his organization was connected to the terrorist bombing at Heathrow. After Cain was convinced that he had nothing to do with it, he casually revealed that he was in fact a member of the Church of the Gates, which pissed him off enough for him to call his guards, who escorted Cain out.

The next day, on the 20th, a lone member of the AotG planted a mechanical bomb near the gate at Trafalgar Square, which later went off. Cameras in the area show that the man went up to the gate, dropped a bag, passed through the gate, went to the bag and got dressed, then left quickly. A bomb robot purported to be resistant to the technology-deadening effects of the gates was dispatched to recover the bag, but shut down inside of the gate’s tech-killing field. The bomb then blew up, scattering shrapnel and what was later found to be strontium-90 powder over a 1 kilometer area, and further spread by the wind.

Jesse showed up to the area dressed in a containment suit, furious at MI-5 for allowing this to happen. MI-5’s investigation revealed that the shrapnel consisted of a kind of iron normally used in bellmaking, and dispatched agents to the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, where they arrested the woman seen exiting the gate at Trafalgar. After berating the incompetence of MI-5, Jesse decided to pick up the pieces of the investigation and continue it with what they currently had. She stalked off to consider what the Archangels’ next move would be.

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Investigations (Tabletop Group)
Some retcon, investigation into the AotG, and a rugby game

Note: I may start doing adventure logs this way, if I become rushed for time. If anyone in either group wants to do a log for extra xp, let me know.

Note 2: This log covers the in-game period of 11/20-21/2012

Jesse traces the emails back to their owners, and learns the password of one of the founding memebers of the AotG. The email that she manages to get from hacking google’s servers shows that this member told the rest of them to go into hiding. She also tried to get surveilance video from the internet cafe that the email was sent from, but the fat sweaty guy at the counter would only trade that for a date, which she refused.

(Retcon): JJ is now a nurse who used to be an army medic/ranger. She is on vacation in London at Jonny’s request (see below), to possibly patch him up after he does his stunts. She pulls clockwork parts out of the victims of the blasts and hands them over to Jesse, who sends them to Langley for analysis.

(Retcon): Greg is now Jonny Skulls, a daredevil and stuntman. He calls the media to tell them about his next stunt: Swim across one of the contaminated lakes with no suit, then run to and climb Big Ben. He is turning it into a charity event to support the victims of the blasts. He also plays rugby with some local players on a field, and earns their grudging respect (and gains the aspect Friends of the Whitechapel Football League).

Cain goes out to look for clues, and ends up in the hospital that JJ is working in. He questions a man suffering from radiation poisoning, who turns out to be the one that took pictures of him while he was at the Church of the Gates meeting at the skate park. The man gives Cain the number for his contact, which Jesse tracks to one of the members of the AotG.

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Questions and Answers (Online Group)
Sophia and Taylor pump the Seconders for info, then come up with a plan

After settling in front of the fire, Sophia and Taylor asked the group of Seconders a bunch of questions.

(What follows is a transcription of the conversation)

*Jerry considers Sophia’s question, then answers:*

<Jerry: The government is very interested in what makes us special. Apart from the whole telepathy thing, which we’ll get to in a moment, have you considered what it means for people who can pass through the gates multiple times? As long as they exist on Earth, we are effectively immortal. Those in power desperately want to know how this works, and more importantly, how they can make it work for them.>

<Alfred: To answer your question, Taylor, we’re not sure. We are the only Seconders that we’ve had contact with, and the only thing in common between all of us is our telepathic and empathic powers. All of our powers seem to take the same form, although some of us have developed better control over them than others.>

<Sasha: And I suppose you consider yourself one of those? I believe I saw some blood coming out of your nose when you came back to that tree. Dei vulnera, you’d better not overdo it.>

*Sasha looks at Alfred worriedly*

<Sasha: Actually, Alfred, I’m not so sure about that. Ever since my third passage, I’ve notice that my mind is becoming a lot sharper. I was already fluent in 8 languages, but only recently have I found myself pensante en lingvoj… excuse me, “thinking in tongues”. It seems to be much easier to think in any language I know now.>

<Sophia: Do you know why you can pass through the gate more than once? If we can figure it out, if the whole world knows how the gates work, then you wont have to live in hiding anymore.>

<Tasha: Of course not. That’d be too easy, wouldn’t it?>

<Jerry: Given that we seem to be improving mentally everytime we pass through a gate, I’m sure we’ll figure it out eventually. We don’t know what the risks of passing through multiple times are, though, or really anything about how the gates work.>

<Sasha: I’m sure we can come up with some way to test any theories we may come up with.>

<Taylor: What appears to be the range of your powers?>

<Jerry: It seems to depend on the person. I can barely project my thoughts more than 20 feet, but Al over there can project and detect thoughts at well over a hundred.>

<Al: That’s actually why I was sent to deliver the message. I mean, besides the fact that y’all sound like a marchin’ band in the forest.>

<Taylor: How did the government discover you guys?>

<Tasha: Snitches. For me, at least. While they were interrogating me, I overheard one of the agents thinking that the emails they’d sent out to all government employees had pulled in a haul this time. One of my co-workers probably ratted me out.>

<Al: I got no idea how they found me out. Guess it coulda’ been cause I always went to the same gate in Enoch City, but then again, that town only had one.>

<Taylor: Are you instantly aware of another Seconder [within] your vicinity?>

<Sasha: No suele. It’s not like we’re very distinctive other than the fact that we have that “Just passed through a gate” glow to us. It is easier for us to initiate a telepathic link with others like us, but otherwise, we have no way to tell Seconders from any other person that has been through a gate at least once.>

<Taylor: Are all of you fluent in multiple languages?>

*Sasha snickers, and mutters under her breath, <Luj el ni apenaŭ povas paroli unu flue.>, and casts a sidelong glance at Alfred.*

<Jerry: Nah. Just Sasha over there, but I hear that she was a linguistic genius even before the gates.>

<…>

<GM: After a contemplative lull in the conversation, Sophia says,>

<Sophia: I wonder if there is some common factor that we can start with. Since you can all pass through more than once there is probably something that you all possess or something that you all have in common that might give us some clues.>

<Sasha: That’s a thought. Nema, hvar byrjum við? There are a lot of variables to sort through.>

<Sophia: Have you always gone through the same gates? Maybe the secret lies in certain gates. Is there anything else you can think of?>

<Al: I’ have, but I’ve o’ly been through twice. Like I said, that there gate was the o’ly one in town.

<Tasha: I’ve been through a gate in Seattle and one in Sacremento. I used to travel a lot up and down the west coast for work.>

<Sasha: I’ve used several different gates too, including the one in San Francisco, Madrid, and Bataysk. Ugh, Bataysk. I never want to visit that zarosshie zavodi derevni again. Oh, I used to do consulting work for US embassies around the world, if that helps.>

<Taylor: What are your current plans? Are you aware of any other groups who might be trying to do this kind of research outside of government control?>

<Jerry: Well, until the pogrom against the Seconders dies down, we’ll probably stay in hiding. I think there’s something to those gates, though, and the only way we’re going to learn about them is to continue going through them. Who knows, maybe they’ll eventually make us smart enough to be able to understand them one day.

<Jerry: As for other group doing research on the gates, well, what scientist these days isn’t doing research that relates to them. They’ve been a hot topic ever since they appeared last year. I think that if we link up with some scientists that are more independent-minded (and funded), we may be able to help them with their work. But there’s a lot of issues with both the gates and the people that pass through them that we can cover. We might want to focus on a specific field of research or approach to studying them, then contact scientists that may be able to help. Any ideas on that?>

At this point, the group began planning their next move. It was decided that Sophia would look up some scientists who may have some insight into the Seconders’ issues, or be willing to research it for them. She did some digging and eventually pulled up the name of Avery Sprague, a research scientist specializing in evolutionary biology and bioengineering whose work may shed some light on the Seconder’s situation. They made plans to drop in on him the next day, at his lab at the University of California San Francisco campus.

Sophia spent the rest of the day ordering supplies to disguise the rest of the group. Then, because of the ongoing manhunt for her and Taylor, she sent out Alfred to pick up the will-call items. He came back, and the next day Sophia used the items to disguise the group (applying the Aspect, We look just like college students now! to everyone but herself). They then headed to the campus.

At the campus, they located Avery’s office, but were dismayed to find out that he was out substitute teaching for a class. They then started trying to track him down…

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Reset (Tabletop Group)
Continuity/character reset

The tabletop group will be undergoing a reset to attempt to fix several issues. They should be continuing with a new cast and storyline in 1-2 weeks.

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Hard Research (Online Group)
The group interviews a scientist

*A passing male student stops, gives Taylor a bored look, and says,*

<Student: Yeah? I’m kinda in a hurry.>

<Taylor: Hello there.>

*Taylor gives him one of her best smiles and allures him a bit with her feminine wiles.*

<Taylor: I’m so lost and I’m supposed to be meeting with professor sprague. Do you know what class he’s subbing for or could you tell me who would know where he is?>

<Student: Professor? Uh, I guess he’s a professor, although he doesn’t really teach unless he has to. Try room 104, there’s a class in there now.>

<Taylor: Thanks cutie.>

*Taylor give him a peck on the cheek and goes off to find room 104*

*Taylor peeks into room 104 and try to see if the person in there is Avery based on pictures we found online*

<(semi)GM: The information that Sophia got was only from his research papers, which mention him by name as the author and that he works in the department of life sciences at UCSF. Even without a picture, though, the person teaching the class is likely him anyway, as judged by the bored look on both the class’s and instructor’s faces. He is teaching a class on mitochondria.>

Taylor informs everyone else of where Avery is if they didn’t follow her and the dialogue that she had with the male student.

<Taylor: We found him and I don’t think we’ll be able to interrupt class. *To Jerry*: So, J-money, I’ve had this theory of my own…>

*She explains to Jerry her crazy theory about the inabiity for people who have gone through the gate to have kids and leave out the part about a genius plot to eliminate the human race.*

<Taylor: What do you think? Want to check if you have some lazy swimmers?>

<Jerry: Is that an invitation?>

<Sophia: I guess we wait until 1. Taylor, you stop him on the way out, and Jerry or someone can just pretend to bump into him while walking by. Sound good?>

<GM: Eventually, the class begins to empty out. Avery waits until everyone has left, then begins packing up his notes into a messenger bag.>

<Taylor: Sorry, Jerry.>

*Taylor gives him the elevator eyes*

<Taylor: I don’t think we’d have enough time to conduct that experiment. I guess we’ll just wait here for Avery.>

*Taylor walks up to the professor after his class is done*

<Taylor: Excuse me professor, I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions about your… Lecture. Perhaps earn some extra credit.>

*Avery eyes Taylor suspiciously, then adjusts his glasses*

<Avery: Excuse me, miss, but you must have me confused. You were not in this class today. And besides, I was substitute teaching…> Did you miss that part? <… and couldn’t give out extra credit even if I wanted to. Why are you really here?>

<Taylor: Oh! I’m so sorry! See I’ve never come to class before and my study group told me to come talk to you!

*points in Sophia and Jerry’s direction*

I’m so embarrassed!>

<Avery: Yes, well, you’ll have to go see your normal professor, Professor Brock. I am a research scientist and only agreed to substitute for him because he said he was “deathly ill”. This was really more trouble than it was worth.>

<Taylor: Do you think you could answer a few questions for me about a subject in class? Perhaps back in your office?>

*Sophia whispers to Jerry*

<Sophia: Anything?>

<Avery: If you must. Do all six of you really need to be there? You know, seeing as how you’re not actually in this class.>

<Jerry’s pool: 2 FP>

*Jerry pulls Sophia aside and says,*

<Jerry: Only surface thoughts. He’s wondering why a bunch of “kids” who are not in this class would be asking about it. And no, before you ask, I can’t tell if he’s one of us or not.>

*Taylor wraps her arm around Avery’s*

<Taylor: I’m having fun, let’s go to your office, professor.>

*Avery shakes you off*

<Avery: That’s quite enough, young lady.>

*Avery leads you to his lab, then makes a point of jamming the door open with a doorstop. He takes a seat at his work desk and says,*

<Avery: Now, what is it you want to discuss?>

<Sophia: Mr. Sprague, Have you ever thought about going through the gates?>

<Avery: Myself? No. I’m sure I still have at least 20 more years before considering that, and since it seems to be a one-way trip for most… well, I don’t want to waste years of my life if I don’t have to. Hmmm, yes. I am curious about them as a scientist, however.>

<Sophia: Doctor, Im actually doing my thesis on the gates and seconders. I have a theory that only certain types of human beings can go through, would you be willing to help me with my research?>

<Avery: Well, obviously only certain types of people can pass through. Do you have any hypotheses as to why?>

<Sophia: Well it could be anything really, but how would we find out? Could we examine each persons DNA?>

<Taylor: If we were able to give you blood samples of two different seconders could you compare them to find similar traits?>

<Avery: Hmmmm… Well, finding similar traits between two Seconders shouldn’t be too difficult, but really, for it to be a proper experiment I would need a larger sample size, and preferably some people who have been through the gates only once, as well as some healthy individuals that have not been through ever. We could also compare the DNA of individuals both before and after they’ve been through a gate once, as well as those who failed to go through at all. Collecting that data will be a daunting task, however…>

<Sophia: Hrmm that sounds like a plan, Ill start collecting the data, and Ill send it to you when Im done. Would you be willing to analyze my findings?>

<Avery: Yes. It may also have some application for… some other things I am working on. I’ll need either DNA or tissue samples from Seconders and first-timers, or the results of whole gene sequencing on the same.>

*Avery gets a gleeful look on his face, the first expression you’ve noticed since meeting him*

<Avery: Here is my email address and phone number *gives you email and phone number*. Contact me when you have the data.>

<Sophia: Thanks for helping me with my thesis!>

*Sophia leaves Avery’s office*

<Sophia: Ok, I guess thats better than nothing, maybe we should hit the other contact I found. For now, lets meet back at the cabin.>

<GM: Everyone piles back into the vehicles and drives back to the Mt. Diablo cabins.>

<Tasha: So, what’d you learn? What are we doing now?>

<Sophia: Well, hes not a seconder, but if we do decide to try and research this ourselves, he would be willing to help us analyze the results. I think we should try and meet with Zelda now, the other person I found during my search.>

<Taylor: I agree, he’s not a seconder. Although, perhaps we can check for a picture of Zelda? That would let us know if they are a seconder or not.>

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