Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Minutes of the Lovecraft Studies Institute (# 4) [Cthulhu]



ATTENDANCE: Patrick, Bloch, King, Joshi, Cannon (Members). Five Guests.

6:30 P.M Meeting Convened

6:34 P.M. Approval of Minutes for Meeting of November 6, 2010

6:35 P.M. Chair proposes reading of "Harbingers" manuscript Chapter 4 ("Shots in the Dark"). UNANIMOUS

10:15 P.M. Reading concludes.

10:16 P.M. Chair proposes open discussion. UNANIMOUS


PATRICK: Gentlemen, I think I would sum up that chapter in one word: "wow!" Very different than anything I've read in Lovecraft's previous works.

JOSHI: I would like to theorize that in Chapter 4 we see yet more evidence of Lovecraft's intent in Harbingers to play with the tropes of the horror genre. During our discussion of the Prologue, we noted certain elements of heroic pulp fiction. Here, in Chapter 4, we see plot points drawn from the "crime" genre of the 1930s: the presence of (presumably) mob-employed gunmen with the stereotypical pinstripe suits, tommy guns, and fast-talking accents; a showdown between the gunmen and local law enforcement, in which the latter are clearly overmatched; and a vigilante-style attempt at revenge against the gunmen, which ends in a cliffhanger with the protagonist shot and perhaps killed.

KING: For once I agree with you, Joshi. I'm not convinced, however, that the genre-merging worked. Yes, it provided some action in a story that some readers might consider "plodding." But Lovecraft's greatest strength has been his slow, deliberate build of horror as the reader's anxiety mounts and mounts until it's finally relieved at the story's climax. As a master of weird horror, Lovecraft is unparalleled; as a writer of detective stories, well, I'd rather read Dashiel Hammet.

JOSHI: Yes, but --

CANNON: Sorry to interrupt you, Joshi, but you're usually the one who says this anyway. Shouldn't we start at the beginning for posterity's sake?

[unattributed: "hear, hear"]

CANNON: I'll get us going. The chapter starts with the characters right where we left off, with their having discovered the three-pronged sign etched all over Gilchrist House. Before they can react, they hear strange "thumping noises" coming from the front of the house. A quick peek out the window shows a disturbing site: a trio of white-hooded figures is burning a cross and shouting racial epithets against Wanjiku Zeituni, along with cries that "nothing bad happened in Aylesbury until you came around."

BLOCH: They're clearly meant to represent the Ku Klux Klan.

JOSHI: A resurgent group at the time Lovecraft is writing--though I'd have to check whether their activities stretched as far north as the Massachusetts/New Hampshire border.

BLOCH: Or they could be locals simply appropriating the regalia of their more famous Southern neighbours. In any event, given Lovecraft's well-known suspicion of "foreigners", the attempted intimidation of Zeituni occurs at an intriguing time. Soon after the story's main characters discover something that calls into question Zeituni's motives, they're placed in a situation in which they must decide whether to defend him against outside attackers. The characters could, after all, ally themselves with the "Klansmen" to drive Zeituni out of Aylesbury. Instead, the recently-introduced Barnabus Gallowsong character drives them away with verbal promises to call the police, and as they flee he notices they're driving a truck belonging to the Kensington Mill.

KING: I think the "Klan" incident is most likely a red herring to distract the reader from a more important incident: one of the "Klansmen" throws a stone through an upper story window of Gilchrist House. The next morning, Zeituni's butler, Penburton, is found dead--or should I say, murdered.

PATRICK: I don't follow.

KING: Well, the signs etched around Gilchrist House are clearly symbols of protection or banishment or something of the like. When the one etched on the upper window is broken by the rock, something gets in. Remember, the night before, when the characters all slept in Gilchrist House, nothing happened--the first death-free evening since the book began.

PATRICK: I guess you're right--at least that would explain Zeituni's obsession with getting the window replaced the next day. However, he dismissed the symbols as "good luck signs" from his native tribe in Kenya. And when the attack occurred in the jail, the grotesque hound-like humanoid creature was described as appearing from the corner of the room, where the wall meets the ceiling.

JOSHI: Like the "Hounds of Tindalos" Lovecraft writes about elsewhere.

PATRICK: Right. So why would protective symbols be placed on the walls and doors of Gilchrist House if the creatures enter through "angles"?

KING: That may be overthinking it. "Magic" and the supernatural aren't strictly rational. And besides, this is just a draft--Lovecraft might have planned on tinkering with some details. Or the distinction could come into play later.

BLOCH: Before we move on the next day of the story, shouldn't we talk about what happens to two of the main characters? Or should I say, what doesn't happen? The book salesman, Hoyt Symmes, utters only "The Sign!, The Yellow Sign!" when shown the symbol etched in Gilchrist House before fainting dead away. He remains catatonic for the rest of the chapter, though at one point Scarlet Warren discovers him in the library with a torn page from a book in his hand--something to do with Native American legends, if I recall. And as for the priest, Patrick Murphy, he's largely absent from the chapter as well. The others eventually are told that he's been kidnapped at gunpoint right off the street, and later discover him having been rushed to the hospital suffering from some sort of drug-induced fugue. Along with the death of Matheson and the introduction of Gallowsong, Lovecraft is clearly playing with the readers' expectations about which characters will drive the story forward.

CANNON: Well put. The three main characters who are featured in this chapter--Blackstone, Warren, and Gallowsong--have quite the day. Warren shows a previously unhinted at interest in the scientific method as she begins various trial-and-error experiments on one of the grubs taken from the grave of Gabriel Knight. This is in a bid, of course, to cure the infected Jacob Blackstone before he begins displaying signs of the digging compulsion that has already overtaken four others in Aylesbury. Warren thinks she may have hit upon a solution when the grub becomes sluggish and inert after being placed in the icebox. Warren, Blackstone, and Gallowsong collaborate on an audacious plan: submerging Blackstone in a tub of ice cold water with only one arm projecting out of the tub in the hopes that the parasite in Blackstone's skull will migrate to his one warm extremity.

KING: And if I remember correctly, it's when Blackstone and Warren leave Gilchrist House to talk to Dr. Mercer Houghton at Aylsbury Counter Hospital that Warren stumbles over two recently-delivered newspapers on the stoop. Warren sees something on the front page of the Boston Globe and hurriedly tears it off before stuffing it in a pocket. Blackstone witnesses this, but Warren refuses to speak about it. What did she see, and why would she refuse to share it with one of the few people she can presumably trust?

CANNON: Well, we should keep in mind that Warren was originally portrayed as being somewhat smitten with the quite handsome Jacob Blackstone. But after he was infected and shaved his head, he probably looked much like a mental patient of the day.

BLOCH: In any event, Dr. Houghton agrees to the experimental procedure--after all, he's had no other leads and knows that soon a sanitarium will be called in for the others who are infected. The Gallowsong character goes to quite a deal of trouble to catch up to the circus which had visited during Aylesbury Days and pays the "Geek" to try and teach Blackstone how to ignore pain. It doesn't seem to really work, but it was a nice thought.

KING: I loved the depiction of the procedure--quite ghastly! Once Blackstone is immersed in the freezing water with his left arm sticking straight up, a large bulge can be seen moving up his arm, under the skin. Houghton cuts it out, and the tiny grub is revealed to have somehow grown as large as a fist-sized slug! Blackstone goes into convulsions, spraying water and blood everywhere before Houghton manages to get him stabilized. In the end, Blackstone survives the procedure but is left terribly weakened and groggy. Houghton is pleased and promises to try to convince the guardians of the other infected diggers to allow him to conduct the same sort of surgery.

PATRICK: A day passes and we're told that its Thursday, March 26, 1931. The funeral for Abraham Gilmore presumably occurs, but none of the main characters attend. They have a good excuse, however--Blackstone is badly hurt, Symmes is largely catatonic, Murphy has been kidnapped and (I think) interrogated with sodium pentathol, Barnabus Gallowsong has no connection with Gilmore, and Scarlet Warren has come across another classified ad in the Aylesbury Transcript:

Aylesbury Harbingers
Possible Solution Found
Call Immediately
Be Discreet NO-459-7250

She calls and the still unidentified man on the other hand tells her he may have found a way to remove the strange brand. He tells her to come to New Orleans immediately, avoiding populated areas, and then to call the number when she arrives.

CANNON: And Scarlet Warren falls for it? It could obviously be a trap by whoever (or whatever ) caused this "Harbinger" phenomenon to begin with.

BLOCH: Maybe--but what other leads does she have to go on? She doesn't want to remain stuck with an encyclopedia salesman her entire life. At least Matheson died, so she doesn't have to worry about convincing him to go with her.

KING: I think that's part of the reason she wants to go to New Orleans, but reading between the lines I think she's fleeing something as well: probably those mysterious gunmen who have arrived in town and are following her around. We know she knows something about it, as she exclaimed "Dexter!" in anger when they almost caught her.

PATRICK: That's getting a little ahead of ourselves. So we've established Warren is desperate to get out of Aylesbury--and she's not falling for Zeituni's attempt to get her to go to Dunwich to find his missing employees. Instead, she drags the catatonic Hoyt Symmes with her to the courthouse (along with Blackstone and Gallowsong), where "Hangin' Judge Mathis" has arrived from riding the circuit. It's a terribly cold, rainy afternoon as they wait in the hallway for their arraignment for the charges of arson and destruction of property out of the events at the Gilmore Farm.

JOSHI: I was confused by Gallowsong accompanying them to the courthouse--wasn't he wanted by the police?

CANNON: I guess he "stuck to the shadows." Nobody seemed to notice him, anyway.

PATRICK: So while they're waiting, Scarlet seems optimistic the charges against her will be dropped. The problem, as she sees it, is she can't get out of Aylesbury without Symmes because the Mark of the Harbingers seems to tie them together in some way. However, Symmes is unresponsive and obviously in no state to appear in court. Gallowsong is sent to fetch Peter Markovitch, the lawyer who coincidentally was responsible for giving Matheson the puzzle box a chapter ago. Markovitch states there's no way Judge Mathis will drop the charges against Symmes until Symmes is able to appear in court and speak for himself. Firing Markovitch minutes after she hired him, Warren then tries to convince the others to help her with a scheme that made me laugh as it seemed something right out of Weekend at Bernie's. Fortunately, lest "Harbingers" become a farce, Jacob Blackstone talks her out of the plan.


JOSHI: You forgot to mention that while Gallowsong was fetching Markovitch, he noticed a figure lurking outside of the courthouse and quickly guessed it was one of the men who had been following them around most of the day. Gallowsong approaches the figure but is told in no uncertain terms (at gunpoint, in fact) that "he better send out the dame."

PATRICK: Well, we'll get to that in a moment. So anyway, Scarlet Warren and Jacob Blackstone appear in front of Judge Mathis and, with the statements of Sheriff Glanby and Wanjiku in support, the charges against them are dropped. Given Mathis' reputation, I think they dodged a bullet.

KING: If only Gallowsong could dodge them as well!


PATRICK: We'll get to that! After leaving the courtroom, the main characters talk about what they should do about the gunsel outside the building. They decide to call Sheriff Glanby. We don't know exactly how the events transpired (I'm guessing Deputy "Bickie" Roberts did something stupid), but in any events the characters hear a spate of gunshots outside. Gallowsong peeks through a window and sees that both Glanby and Roberts have been shot. He runs back to tell the others, and they decide to hide in a janitor's closet as the gunmen enter city hall and start shooting. With the chaos and confusion, Gallowsong, Blackstone, and Symmes avoid notice until the gunmen depart in frustration.

KING: The next scene is the sign of a perverse mind. I loved it! So Gallowsong finds a phone and tries to call an ambulance for the two shot cops, but nobody's willing to come because they're all too scared. He dashes out to the front steps and realizes that only Sheriff Glanby is still alive. He drags Glanby into the back of a nearby car and manages to get it started. So here we have a midget (sorry, "little person") trying to drive a massive old-fashioned car at high speeds in the midst of a terrible rainstorm! Suffice it to say, collisions are the result and Glanby dies before reaching the hospital.

PATRICK: I agree it was funny, but also kind of sad. I liked Glanby.

CANNON: Me too.

KING: Remember, the first rule of good writing: murder your darlings.

PATRICK: Let's wrap this up, shall we? The state police eventually arrive at the courthouse, and after giving statements the main characters disperse. Symmes is taken back to Gilchrist House under the care of Zeituni. Blackstone returns to his hospital bed in a room not far from where Father Murphy is recovering. Given the way Blackstone was hobbling around, I think he's lucky to have survived the courthouse incident. Scarlet Warren decides it's too dangerous to stay at Gilchrist House (because of the "gunsels" or because of Penburton's death?) and holes up in a storage room at the hospital. And Gallowsong--

BLOCH: Gallowsong tries to play the Bronson role in Death Wish.

JOSHI: Gentlemen, you know I detest these references derived from popular culture. Especially when they are anachronistic.


CANNON: You know, when the circus dwarf tracks the gunsels down to an abandoned sugar mill during a rainy thunderstorm, I was thinking to myself the whole time "Dude, don't go in there!" It's like watching a co-ed decide to investigate a strange noise during one of those Friday the 13th movies.

JOSHI: People!

CANNON: Sorry.

JOSHI: I'll take it from here, lest we never finish. Mr. Barnabus Gallowsong pays the local taxi driver, Joe Bicks, an exorbitant sum to drop him off near the mill with instructions to "go get help" if he doesn't come back. Gallowsong, who has outfitted himself specially for an attack, spots an expensive car partially hidden by brush near the abandoned mill. Creeping closer, he peers through a crack in one of the mill's many doors and sees a flickering trashcan fire inside attended by one of the gunmen (we haven't sufficient evidence to conclude that they are mob-affiliated, though I concede they do "fit the bill"). Sneaking back to the gunmen's car, Gallowsong douses it with kerosene and lights it on fire before proceeding to take up a hiding place nearby. Contrary to expectation, however, the gunmen do not come to investigate the burning car. Instead, they flee out of the back of the mill into the rain-soaked woods. Gallowsong gives chase and throws a blade at one of the fleeing gunmen, but the strike goes awry and the dwarf is lucky to duck below the spray of bullets one of the gunmen fires in retaliation. Undeterred, Gallowsong follows the gunmen into the woods, now armed only with a small hammer. He tries to sneak up on one of them, but steps on a dry twig. The gunman whirls around pointing a revolver in Gallowsong's face and says "Drop it!" Still undeterred, Gallowsong raises the hammer and is shot point blank in the chest and collapses.

KING: Now that's what I call an ending.

PATRICK: But you were just complaining about this entire storyline!

KING: Well, if you're going to do it, have it climax in a taut encounter at an abandoned factory during a thunderstorm. That's all I'm saying.

CANNON: I agree it's well-written, though I'm again unsure of all of the character motivations here. Why does Gallowsong take such increasingly foolish risks? I suppose he could be trying to stick up for his associates in the Gilchrist Trust (though they seem to plan on abandoning him for New Orleans) or he could have a prickly sense of honor that was infringed by having had a gun pointed at him outside the courthouse. But even then, it just doesn't seem to be enough motive for someone to premeditate a solo attack on two gunmen. Especially if all you have is a hammer!

BLOCH: True, but if everyone is perfectly rational there's little drama. If every character in a horror movie was smart enough to lock all the doors and call the police instead of investigating, we'd have some pretty bland horror movies.

PATRICK: I suppose we should leave off here. Thank you all for the discussion of an interesting and surprising chapter--I'm very curious to see what will happen next.

11:30 Motion to Adjourn. UNANIMOUS.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Fantasy Football 2010 Week 11

Well, the big game was a bust and I'm now two games back with just two games left. Barring a big turnaround, I'll end up second place in my division. The good news is I still have strong odds of being in the top four teams with a shot to win it all during the playoffs. For next week, I'm starting my backup QB (Matt Ryan of the Falcons) instead of the possibly-injured and under-performing Tom Brady, and I'm benching Ahmad Bradshaw since the Giants have said he'll be the # 2 back going forward because of his fumbleitis.

The Wife's team had the unusual result of tying, so her record is now 5-5-1, good for third place in her division and the # 5 seed in the playoffs. A couple of solid wins and she could easily make it into the final four as well.

Accelerated Sun Runners (75 Points)

QB Tom Brady 15 Points
RB Peyton Hillis 19 Points
RB LaGarrette Blount 8 Points
RB/WR Ahmad Bradshaw 0 Points
WR Terrell Owens 12 Points
WR Jabar Gaffney 3 Points
TE Marcedes Lewis 12 Points
D/ST Jets 2 Points
K Sebastian Janiskowski 4 Points

McDonald39 (105 Points)

QB Joe Flacco 14 Points
RB Frank Gore 5 Points
RB Knowshon Moreno 17 Points
RB/WR Calvin Johnson 10 Points
WR Mike Wallace 18 Points
WR Mike Williams 11 Points
TE Brandon Pettigrew 7 Points
D/ST Steelers 19 Points
K Adam Vinatieri 4 Points

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Planet Stories # 9: The Samarkand Solution

Gary Gygax's The Samarkand Solution is the third book in a trio featuring Magister Setne Inhetep, a priest-wizard detective in a quasi-Egyptian fantasy world. Although Planet Stories published the three books out of order, each is a standalone novel and (as far as I can tell) no mention is made of the other stories in each book.

The mystery starts out quickly in The Samarkand Solution, as Inhetep spots a well-known assassin in a pub and trails him to the grounds of a Temple of Set. Inside, Inhetep discovers the Prince Governor in the midst of a mysterious gathering of foreign dignitaries. Seconds later, the Prince is murdered by presumably mystic means, but no trace of magic remains. Unlike previous books in the series, Inhetep investigates this mystery without the help of his loyal bodyguard Rachelle. Instead, he's joined by a local law enforcement official named Tuhorus (Inspector Lestrade to Inhetep's Sherlock Holmes, as it were). Along the way, they rescue a nubile slavegirl named Xonaapi, and some of the funniest passages in the book come from her attempts to seduce the quite proper Inhetep.

As before, Gygax has created an interesting fantasy world that is quite distinct from the generic medieval England fantasy worlds that serve as the background for so many novels. The characters and dialogue are good, and the combat scenes fairly interesting (though one can detect some D&D tropes in Gygax's penchant for secret doors and underground labyrinths). As a mystery novel, there are some flaws that could be frustrating to some readers: crucial clues necessary to the discovery of the murderer come from out of left field and are not known beforehand to the reader, so even a clever reader who carefully assembles the evidence, parses dialogue, and assembles a timeline would have no chance of solving the mystery before Inhetep announces the solution. As a fantasy novel this book is solid, as a mystery novel not so much.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

My Hardware Expert Job

In my senior year of high-school, I got a job at a department store because the manager was a good friend of my dad. I was assigned to the hardware department and the toy department, and my job was (ostensibly) to answer questions from consumers. I knew, and know, absolutely nothing about tools. I was not good at this job. Fortunately, it was actually quite rare that anybody actually asked me a question. I spent almost all of my evening shifts just wandering around my departments, "keeping an eye out for shoplifters" (never found a one) and, as I was told to do, "keeping the stock nice" (this involved making sure all the products were lined up perfectly on the shelves). I did this for hours at a time (at $ 4.25 a pop), punctuated only by a 15-minute break. I think I was quite good at this part of the job.

Three events stand out in my memory. First, I used my store credit account to purchase my first ever Compact Disk: The Cure's Staring at the Sea. Second, one night I dashed off in the middle of my shift because I received a startling call from my best friend: he had been arrested at the site of his own job (a grocery store) because he had been doing "whippets", which apparently involved sucking the compressed air out of whipped cream aerosol cans. After finding several empty cans, the grocery store's manager set up secret video cameras and my friend was caught in the diabolical sting. Third, I almost got fired because I had just discovered the joy of role-playing games and kept calling in "sick" on Sunday afternoons.

So the bottom line is this: if you have a question about hardware, don't ask me. If you need someone to wander around a store for hours at a time doing little, I'm your guy.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The 1920s Investigator's Companion [Cthulhu Review]

The 1920s Investigator's Companion (2007) for Chaosium's Call of Cthulhu game is a 125-page black-and-white sourcebook that incorporates some material previous seen in the fifth edition of the core rules as well as the the two volumes of the Investigator's Companion books.

The book begins with a brief overview of the 1920s. Topics such as the Ku Klux Klan, Prohibition, fashion, and more are addressed and the chapter includes lists of famous films, books, and sports of the time period. A two-page chronology of major events finish the chapter. It's pure "fluff" but a very efficient way of getting across some of the flavor of the time period.

The next section, the longest in the book, is a detailed collection of occupations. Each occupation includes a brief description, an earnings estimate, suggested contacts, and occupational skills. Many of the occupations also provide a special feature providing a mechanical advantage in gameplay--for example, Gamblers get to add +2 to their POW score for the purposes of calculating Luck, while Judges get a bonus to their Credit Rating skill and Stunt Men reduce falling damage. Most of the bonuses are fairly minor, but some min/maxing players might be tempted to pick certain occupations solely for their special features as the occupations are not strictly "balanced": the "Uniformed Police Officer" occupation provides a +1 to Strength, a +1 to Size, 50 bonus points to any weapon or melee skills, and resistance to Sanity loss for witnessing violent crimes. Wise Keepers may want to retain a veto if choices aren't being made for their role-playing possibilities.

To my mind this is the most important and useful chapter in the book, as it provides players with far more options than those presented in the core rules. Indeed, sometimes it seems like there are more variants of certain occupations than are strictly necessary--in the "Criminals" section alone, there are write-ups for Bank Robbers, Bookies, Bootleggers, Burglars, Con Men, Fences, Forgers, Gamblers, Gangsters, Hit Men, Hookers, Loan Sharks, Pick Pockets, Punks, Shifty Accountants/Lawyers, Smugglers, and Spies. In addition, this chapter includes brief biographies of famous people that fit into each occupational category--the "Performing Arts" section has one- to two-paragraph long bios for Lon Chaney, Bela Bartok, John Barrymore, Will Rogers. No stats are provided, but some made-to-order NPCs are easy to envision.

The next chapter is titled "1920s Skills" This chapter reprints the skill descriptions from the core rules, but for each skill a short description of how it applies in the 1920s is included. The description of the "Listen" skill, for example, includes details on how phone taps in the era were made. Again, very helpful for a 1920s game even if not strictly necessary.

The next major section, broadly titled "Tools of the Trade", features a miscellany of information. Several pages cover research in the 1920s, including the availability of public records, newspapers, libraries, consultants, and more. This information is all "real-world" with nothing Mythos- or mechanics- specific. The "Transport & Travel" section offers plenty of useful tips on things such as how much taxis cost, what rail travel is like, and what types of autos were on the road. Some of it is almost too-detailed for use in normal gameplay, but I find it handy to flip through now and again. Finally, there's a section on equipment and weapons, including prices. Again, detailed but helpful: who wouldn't want stats for nine different types of knives, and damage ranges for common weapons around the house (everything from ice picks to scissors)?

The last section, "Words of Wisdom" contains two chapters. The first one, "The Professional Investigator" contains general tips on criminal investigation. The second one discusses forensic crime scene investigation and coroners in the 1920s. Both chapters are factual with no reference to Mythos phenomena or gameplay mechanics.

All in all this is an excellent resource for 1920s campaigns. The chapters on occupations, skills, and equipment can directly impact game mechanics, while the other sections help the Keeper establish a more-or-less accurate atmosphere for the time period. Good work Chaosium.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Minutes of the Lovecraft Studies Institute (# 3) [Cthulhu]



ATTENDANCE: Patrick, Bloch, King, Joshi, Cannon (Members). Five Guests.

2:34 P.M Meeting Convened

2:40 P.M. Approval of Minutes for Meeting of October 23, 2010

2:42 P.M. Chair proposes reading of "Harbingers" manuscript Chapter 3 ("The Unearthing Sin"). UNANIMOUS

6:15 P.M. Reading concludes.

6:16 P.M. Chair proposes open discussion. UNANIMOUS


PATRICK: I suppose I'll begin with a general comment. After an action-packed, almost pulp-flavored beginning, the last two chapters of this manuscript have been more sedate. Do we think Lovecraft decided a change in tone was in order, or are these chapters the veritable calm before the storm?

KING: I suggest the latter. Every story requires a certain degree of build before becoming impactful. The setting must be established, the characters given personality, and the nature of the threat slowly introduced before the reader begins to really care about what's happening. And I wouldn't say "sedate" is an apt description. In this chapter alone, we have the characters digging up a corpse, Jacob Blackstone becoming infected with a strange wormlike creature, and the death of Harleigh Matheson, a character most of us assumed was to be a major part of the book.

PATRICK: True . . .

JOSHI: I find this jumping back and forth extremely unhelpful. I propose we stay focussed and address each chapter according to its internal chronology.

CANNON: There's no reason to be pedantic. We all know what we're talking about--we just read it!

JOSHI: For posterity, gentlemen.

PATRICK: Although I agree with Peter that a certain flexibility is necessary, there's no reason we can't begin at the beginning for now. Chapter Three, titled "The Unearthing Sin", begins with Kurt Caughey, the imprisoned young mill worker, being hustled off to the hospital for treatment for a broken or dislocated shoulder. Father Murphy decides to accompany the boy, and is then "off-screen" for the remainder of the chapter. A curious omission. Has Lovecraft grown bored with the character already, or will the character return bearing some sort of vital clue to propel the story forward?

JOSHI: I would like to make a general point that my research indicates the medical services and payment schedule for Depression-era rural Massachusetts is depicted inaccurately in this chapter.


KING: Moving right along, the other main characters (excluding Matheson) contact Sheriff Glanby about his brother's newfound compulsion to dig in the backyard of his clinic. They discuss several aspects of the strange events in Aylesbury. Noting that the one thing all of the compulsive diggers have in common is physical contact with the corpse of the hobo found between Aylesbury and Dunwich, Scarlet Warren concludes that the body is the key to solving the mystery. Speculation of what in any other context might seem far-fetched begins: is there a vengeful ghost? Soul possession? The decision is made to exhume the body, and Jacob Blackstone suggests an immediate trip to St. Mary's Cemetery in order to check on the only other person known to have had contact with the body of the hobo: Roddy McCallister, the grave-digger. However, the others persuade Blackstone that keeping their dinner appointment with the mysterious Zeituni Wanjiku at the Gilchrist Trust is more important.

CANNON: Solid reasoning by the characters here. There's nothing more frustrating than stories where the characters miss clues right in front of their eyes. You forgot to mention what Matheson was doing during this time, however. He meets with Peter Markovitch, a lawyer described as a tall fellow with a thick black beard. Markovitch explains that he's the lawyer for the recently deceased Abraham Gilmore and that the man's farm and what little is left of his personal property will be seized by Aylesbury County for payment of back taxes. However, Gilmore left a small, strange gold-colored box in safety deposit at Aylesbury's bank. A frustrated Getrude Masbry spurned the worthless keepsake, and since Gilmore has no other friends or family members, Markovitch offers it to Matheson in the hopes of avoiding paperwork. Joshi, if you'll allow me to anticipate some facts not revealed until later in the chapter: four sides of the box have strange patterns and symbols. One appears to be a star pattern, another a grouping of irregular shapes that seem to move slightly when touched, a third has words in an unrecognizable language, and the fourth words in Latin: "When the Stars are Right, and Forgotten Tongues Speak, the Earth Tremors, and the Old Ones Wake." How Gilmore ever came in possession of the box is not known.

KING: And perhaps not important. I'm sure, however, the box will come into play in a later chapter--often things like this are a seed planted by a writer who's not even sure himself what it does.

JOSHI: That may be how you work Mr. King, but Howard Phillips Lovecraft planned his stories very carefully.

PATRICK: We should spend a few minutes on the scene with Wanjiku, as I'm guessing it may set up several events later in the manuscript--once we get those chapters decoded we'll know for sure. Matheson rejoins the others for this portion of the chapter.

CANNON: Well, we know Wanjiku represents himself as an agent of the Gilchrist Trust for the Propagation of Theosophical Knowledge, an organization interested in the spiritual and occult. He insinuates that the Aylesbury branch is just one of numerous branches throughout the United States and possibly the world. He's unashamed to use his friendly relationship with Sheriff Glanby (and the possibility of getting the charges dropped) as a lever in his dealings with the main characters of the story.

PATRICK: That's right--he positions the investigation into the strange digging compulsion as a "test" of whether the protagonists are capable of serving the Trust as "research associates." He tells them that three of his recent "researchers" disappeared on a survey trip to nearby Dunwich. The investigators were a Ms. Francesca Olivetti, an Italian Nun; a Mr. Gabriel Knight, a private investigator; and a Mr. Basil Basingwaite, a gentleman of leisure in the parlance of the time.

KING: And don't forget Basingwaite is the missing "Master" that Harleigh Matheson has been looking for all along.

PATRICK: Very true, though given subsequent events that may be a red herring. In any event, the protagonists seem undecided whether Wanjiku is trustworthy, but they're more than happy to take advantage of the Trust's library and sleeping accommodations.

KING: I understand their skepticism. He is in a sense extorting their services. "Help me out or you'll face Judge 'Hangin' Tom Mathis without an advocate."

CANNON: Really? I didn't see it that way. Although I think his speech is imprecise, I understood it more as his indicating that the protagonists seemed to already have some knowledge of strange happenings in Aylesbury and that as payment for their help in finding his missing employees he'd exert his best efforts with Sheriff Glanby and Judge Mathis. We're told Wanjiku knew the Glanby brothers from a stint at Harvard, and he may have had some sort of relationship with Mathis as well.

KING: But it's not as if they could turn him down either. Are they going to flee the county with charges hanging over their heads and become fugitives?

CANNON: Well, that depends on what type of story Lovecraft was planning on telling. There is that intriguing classified ad from New Orleans. I'll guess we'll find out soon.

JOSHI: If I may interrupt, gentlemen. I believe we've skipped over several crucial details. Each night, someone near the sleeping Harbingers seems to be attacked--but not when they stay at Gilchrist House. And the dreams--those of the Harbingers' have certain similarities to the ones they had in the previous chapter (except for the carved stone totems), but Blackstone's is quite different! Not only that, Blackstone shaves his head and begins using--

PATRICK: We'll come back if time allows. The protagonists visit St. Mary's and speak to the gravedigger, Roddy McAllister. He's a strange, creepy fellow with bug eyes, a disturbing voice, and a love for his work. At this first meeting he doesn't seem to have succumbed to any unusual digging compulsion and is able to point the protagonists to a recently dug grave in the paupers' area of the graveyard. And the wooden cross thrust into the ground has the name "Gabriel Knight" scratched into it.

KING: One of Zeituni's missing researchers. The protagonists make the connection quickly, and learn that this Roddy fellow found the name sewn into the corpse's underpants. A strange detail.

JOSHI: Actually, the practice was quite common during a period when many urban bachelors regularly visited Chinese laundries where language barriers caused frequent mix-ups.

PATRICK: Okay. Later that evening they return to the graveyard after having convinced Sheriff Glanby to order the body of Knight exhumed. The Sheriff is apparently quite distraught over what is happening to his brother, and is willing to grasp at straws.

KING: The next scene is an instant classic. Knight's body is swollen and distended, his bloated face barely recognizable, and as Blackstone and Matheson approach to look for clues it bursts open and releases a nauseating mixture of foul gases, vile liquids, and thousands of tiny grubs. Later the two realize they've been infected by the grubs, suspect they're the cause of the digging compulsion, and try to cut them out. Impromptu surgery saves Matheson (for the moment!), but Blackstone has no such luck. Lovecraft sets the clock ticking, as the reader assumes it's only a matter of time before the famed debunker starts digging.

JOSHI: "Gross-out" factor aside, the scene reveals a crucial fact. Knight's clothing was torn and dirty, his face was unshaven, his nails uncut. It is no surprise he was mistaken for a "hobo", but what accounts for his body's location halfway between Dunwich and Aylesbury? Does any of this tie in to Symmes' findings that the whole area has been rumored since pre-colonial times to be filled with underground caverns full of dark and strange monstrosities? Is the abomination beneath Gilmore's farm related?

PATRICK: All good questions. Before we disperse for the evening, we should address the most startling scene in the chapter. The next day, Harleigh Matheson decides to visit the graveyard alone in order to pick up a photograph of Knight's body that the gravedigger took and promised to develop overnight. It quickly becomes obvious to Matheson that Roddy McAllister has succumbed to the digging compulsion. Forgetting what happened to Kurt Caughey's father, Matheson grab's Roddy's arm and tries to get him to stop digging. With one swing of the heavy shovel, Roddy caves in Matheson's skull and then goes back to work. By the time the others come looking for him, Matheson is buried under a pile of dirt with only his shoe visible.

KING: A grisly, but very Lovecraftian fate.

PATRICK: And as the chapter winds down, Roddy is forcibly restrained by Sheriff Glanby and Deputy Roberts. Stunned by the shock of their companion's sudden murder, the others return to Gilchrist House. There, Zeituni introduces them to a new character--one of the strangest we've seen so far. This "Barnabus Gallowsong" is a circus dwarf who seems to have recently come under Wanjiku's employ. Symmes overhears a conversation between Barnabus and Wanjiku indicating that Barnabus is responsible for assaulting a priest and is wanted by local law enforcement.

JOSHI: That's not quite accurate. The Gallowsong character is introduced before the others discover Matheson's body.

PATRICK: Apologies. In any event, the chapter ends with Gallowsong waking the other characters up with an intriguing discovery: all the doors and windows of Gilchrist House have a symbol etched into them: a symbol that matches that branded onto the backs of the Harbingers . . .

7:45 P.M. Motion to Adjourn. UNANIMOUS

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wuthering Heights [Worth Press]

Wuthering Heights is a paradigmatic example of gothic literature. It has it all: windswept moors, drafty mansions, tortured obsession, and love beyond the grave. It's my favorite of the Worth Literary Classics so far, as the story compels you to keep turning the pages to find out what happens next. Heathcliff and Catherine are justly famous and the force of their personalities leap off the page. This isn't a traditional romance, and nor are there "good guys" and "bad guys". It's a dark story, but a fascinating one that remains a classic for a reason.

UPDATE: I completely forgot to mention the Worth edition's two essays. Edward Chitham provides a brief but interesting account of Emily Brontë's life, while Ann Dinsdale talks about the real-life geography in England that may have inspired the novel's setting (unless you're well-versed in English geography, the essay will probably be a complete mystery).

Next: Jane Austen's Northhanger Abbey

Fantasy Football 2010 Week 10

My third straight win comes with a 108-73 victory. The win takes me to 7-3, but still a game behind in my division and tied for the second best record in the league. My running backs were solid all around, with Peyton Hillis, LaGarrette Blount, and Ahmad Bradshaw getting double-digits. Tom Brady (32 points) turned what would have been a close win into a blowout, and put together his first big numbers since Week One.

The Wife's team lost again and is now at .500.

Next week is probably the biggest game of the season, as I square off against the team leading my division--if I win, I'll own the tie-breaker and be first. If I lose, I'll be two games back with only two games left and have to hope for a lot of luck to win the division.

Accelerated Sun Runners (108 Points)

QB Tom Brady: 32
RB Peyton Hillis: 14
RB LaGarrette Blount: 15
RB/WR Ahmad Bradshaw: 13
WR Terrell Owens: 6
WR Jabar Gaffney: 11
TE Marcedes Lewis: 5
D/ST Jets: 7
K Nick Folk: 5

KY Cooks Browns (73 Points)

QB Matt Schaub: 21
RB Maurice Jones-Drew: 24
RB Ricky Williams: 6
RB/WR Miles Austin: 12
WR Steve Smith: 0
WR Braylon Edwards: 5
TE Jason Witten: 0
D/ST Titans: -1
K Rob Bironas: 6

Monday, November 15, 2010

And Lo, There Was Much Rejoicing

It's done! After three years, I have slain the beast named dissertation. There's some good stuff there and I'm proud of it. It's not done done--I still have to tinker with some footnotes, write a quick introduction, etc. But all the substantive research and writing is finished and I can move on to whatever life has in store for me next.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Clone Wars Campaign: Session Recap # 42

This was the penultimate session in the story arc which pitted the PCs against Purity First for control of Mongui. It started off with a bang (literally) when Bel Sekand tried to flee the planet; although the coast was clear, his surprising sentimentality delayed his escape just long enough for Purity First warships to get into position. The player running Bel had a choice as his freighter reached the edge of the atmosphere and saw a small capital ship directly ahead: try to race past it at top speed to get into position for a hyperspace jump immediately, or take a more oblique angle and be fired upon by small star fighters while staying out of the range of the capital ship. The player chose the first course of action and his movement took his ship directly adjacent to the capital ship. It all came down to a single attack roll; if the capital ship misses, Bel lives to fight another day. But if it hits . . .

On behalf of the capital ship’s turbolaser batteries, I rolled a natural 20 critical hit and Bel and his freighter were destroyed a few times over. Them’s the dice.

Planetside, this was a very soapy session for Arresta and Stefan. There was bickering, making up, more bickering, scheming, strange dreams, contact from a former lover, a memory wipe, and then then they went to blow some stuff up. (admittedly that last one isn’t particularly soapy, unless we’re talking Sonny and Claudia on GH).

The big assault on the Purity First communications tower was fun, but not as challenging as I had planned. Stupid ascension guns. They were the bane of all kinds of exciting things I intended to do throughout the campaign, because they removed all challenge of climbing (and made the Climb skill pretty useless). I had a bunch of cunning traps set up inside the tower and it was completely bypassed by the players who, at this point, were justifiably paranoid.


The battle for Mongui has taken a dark turn. After the nearly bloodless rescue of Bel Sekand, an attack on the city-state’s main power plant has resulted in a massive crater and a radioactive cloud. Now, as the inhabitants of Mongui react to these sudden changes, the rebels regroup in the sewers beneath the city. With civilian casualties mounting, just how far will they go for victory?
Corinne & Krevlax guide Bel Sekand through the sewers to the spaceport. Their destination is a scene of chaos as people attempt to flee the planet before a Purity First curfew is imposed. Corinne tells Bel that he’s a better man than he gives himself credit for, and that if the stars align they’ll meet again. Bel makes his goodbyes and reaches his ship, where Kelsa Tamarand is waiting with the engines warm. The pilot refuses to lift-off, however, because Stefan Cassadine’s veiled threats are foremost in his mind. Bel yanks the terrified pilot out of the seat and takes the controls of the Rakish Charm himself. The sensor operator reports that they have a clear shot to orbit and beyond Mongui’s gravity well if they leave immediately, but Bel has resolved to free the prisoners he met while on the “inside”. His piloting skills are a bit rusty, however, and the ship lifts off with a lurch and then scrapes along the closing hanger doors of the starport.
Out over the city, Bel sees for the first time the devastation wrought by the attack on the power plant. Undeterred, he quickly heads to the prison and blasts holes in the walls, through which several prisoners escape and come onboard. Once the cargo bay is full, Bel takes the ship into orbit. However, the delay allows elements of the Purity First fleet to cut him off: IRDs pepper the Rakish Charm with laser blasts while a small capital ship (an IPV-1 System Patrol Craft) launches concussion missiles and turbolaser volleys. Bel pours on speed and manages to avoid the worst of the barrage until he decides his only chance at escape is to fly right by the IPV-1 and escape into hyperspace.
As the Rakish Charm approaches, it receives transmissions from a cowled figure who appears to have metallic jaws. He calls Bel a thorn in his heel who is now scurrying off like a rat, and invites the Ansion crimelord to beg for his life. Bel dismisses the notion out of hand and continues his bold manuever, but just as it looks like he might escape, the Purity First frigate unleashes a full broadside. The Rakish Charm takes the turbolaser barrage at point blank range and suffers cataclysmic damage. As the ship begins to break apart and klaxons wail, Bel realizes the freighter and his escape are doomed. He uses all of his skill to steer the freighter directly into the bridge of the IPV-1. A tremendous explosion results and escape pods begin to rain down on Mongui.

Meanwhile, the Cassadines, Doxen, and Array flee through the sewers and manage to avoid a Purity First patrol (which, unknown to them, is actually searching for Bel Sekand). Above them, the city has gone into lockdown. Doxen is distracted by the strong sense that he is feeling the pain of someone else and ends up leading them in circles. Arresta remains quite cold towards her husband and he begins to become frustrated with her. Array receives a communication, with rendezvous coordinates, from what could only be a fellow Clone Commando. Eventually, the group makes it back to the salvage yard. Doxen scouts ahead and finds Corinne and her people celebrating the successful rescue of Bel. After a time, Array suggests that it is safe to move ahead, but Stefan prefers to wait. Arresta agrees with Array and Stefan grabs her arm and tells her to stop behaving this way. Array pulls a gun and Arresta quickly tells him that while she appreciates the support, she is fine. Stefan accuses her of having yet another “admirer”.
Corinne and Arresta update each other on their various missions. Corinne questions Arresta regarding the destruction at the power plant, reminding her that she plans to be the ruler of a planet, not a graveyard. Arresta admits to her sister that she had not expected the explosion; she had misconstrued the plan and believed they were overloading the computer – not the reactor. Corinne eyes her brother-in-law over her sister’s shoulder and cautions Arresta to be careful about what she has gotten herself into.
Suddenly, Arresta is overwhelmed with a feeling of tremendous pain, which she understands to be Tarn, reaching out to her again. She senses that he is overcome with a sensation of crushing defeat and mental agony transmitted to her through the power of the Force. Arresta cries out and collapses to her knees and Stefan rushes to her side, calling for a medic. She is unable to speak to her husband; she has focused all of her mental energy on using the tremulous connection to send Tarn her love and to exhort him to hold on. She attempts to obtain some sense of his location, but a new, unknown force suddenly interferes, breaking the connection between them. Exhausted, mentally over-whelmed and feeling helpless to do anything for Tarn, Arresta panics and beings to hyperventilate, ultimately requiring sedation. Doxen suggests to a concerned Stefan that, since Doxen too, suffered something similar, that perhaps this is new weapon developed by Purity First. Stefan is sceptical, especially when blood tests are negative for radiation poisoning or other toxins. Still, disturbed by his wife’s collapse, he sets out on a private mission, promising to return later. He asks Doxen to watch over her.
Meanwhile, Array takes advantage of the distraction to retrieve the stolen IRD and to contact the saboteur Blinky, setting up a meeting to retrieve his weapons. As he flies across the city, he notices a number of small ships landing at the spaceport but cannot get close enough to identify them. After flying closer, he identifies them as escape pods, but also attracts the attention of Purity First patrols. Unable to provide the daily password, they give chase and he barely evades them. He meets with Blinky and advises the saboteur to lay low. Blinky, nervous at being in the open with the stolen IRD, declares it to be a “bad vibe” and runs off.
Array now heads off to a secret rendezvous but is unable to avoid the attention of the IRDs. He is forced to ditch the IRD and make his way on foot to the now abandoned market gardens. There he meets with Kom’rk (Null-6) a member of G.A.R. Clone Intelligence. Kom’rk has been working with Kal Skirata and Walon Vau to track mysterious transfers from the Republic Treasury and G.A.R. Appropriations budgets. Kom’rk says he’s tracked several million credits sent to a man named Pedron Rhiall on Mongui. He also tells Array that it appears as though someone is funding a second Army of the Republic and things appear to be coming to a head. A plan is being developed to help those clones who wish to escape get to a safe place. Array is advised to let his brothers know when he is ready to get out.
Back at the scavenger yard, Arresta regains consciousness and discovers Stefan is absent. She takes the opportunity to speak to Doxen privately. He suggests to her his theory that this is a Purity First weapon, but she disagrees, believing it to be much more personal – at least for her. She suggests that they contact A’tel at the earliest opportunity to see if he has experienced anything odd – perhaps this has something to do with the anomaly. She advises Doxen that she may depart at some point (in fact, her intelligence network gathered her information regarding a freighter willing to take passengers off planet.) She tells him that, since she knows he wants to learn from Stefan, that she will understand if he needs to stay out of it. He tells her that he thinks that Tarn is not worth all the trouble he continues to cause, but although he disapproves, it doesn’t mean he would let her go off into danger alone.

[A.G. 1011]

As dawn breaks on Mongui, Stefan Cassadine has not yet returned, and Arresta is growing concerned. Her intelligence contact, who is among Corinne’s men, draws her attention to strange happenings outside while updating her that Purity First has announced that the Grand Inquisitor himself is journeying to the planet in response to the acts of rebellion. Their first move appears to be purging the outskirts of the city, burning buildings and chanelling the inhabitants into the city proper via Purity First checkpoints. A curfew has been established, keeping all indoors except for a few hours per day and all ships have been grounded. Public broadcasts blame the problems on acts of terrorism by Stefan Cassadine, his wife Arresta and her sister Corinne….
Realizing that the resistance is at risk of being spotted in the scavenger yard, the ringleaders take refuge in the sewer and later move to a safehouse within the city. As they journey, they realize Purity First has begun to weld manhole covers shut and install gates to block tunnels. Stefan comlinks that he is safe but trapped by the curfew. Arresta takes advantage of the time away from her husband to write him a letter which she plans to leave for him in the event that she needs to depart suddenly. The datapad is encrypted for her use only.
Stefan returns that evening and the team begins the next strategy session. Corinne and Lt. Jaarza take control of the propaganda campaign, which is designed to lay the blame for the blackout on Purity First and stir up resentment towards the organization. Arresta is to lead the team that will destroy the communications tower (to keep Purity Force from countering propaganda or calling in reinforcements), while Stefan leads a “distraction” at the starport. Unknown to some members, such as Krevlax, Stefan actually plans to destroy Mongui’s imported food and water supply (which is stored aboard several large tanker ships) by having The Knife’s Edge “surrender” so that Siege Commander Korg can come down the gangplank with guns blazing. During the meeting, Arresta continues to question Stefan’s authority. He pulls her aside and asks what it will take for her to forgive him. He offers regret for the things that “may have happened”, which Arresta refuses to accept as a valid apology. She again questions his love for her which he vehemently protests, claiming that was never in question. He also requests that she stop undermining his leadership. She admits she should be supporting him in public and agrees to allow him back into her bed so that they can present a united front to the team.
Arresta, Doxen, Array and Krevlax develop tactics for the attack on the communications facility. Arresta and Doxen will get to the roof, using ascension guns and then Doxen will plant the thermal detonator that Arresta obtained on Nar Shadda at the base of the tower in order to topple it. Array and Krevlax will provide a distraction at the front of the building.

[A.G. 1012]

While waiting for frustration over the power loss to percolate among the masses, Doxen, Arresta and Array search the sewers for the still-missing Korkoth but are unable to locate him.

[A.G. 1013]

The next evening, the teams prepare to depart. Arresta unintentionally sparks a fury in her husband when she kisses him good-bye. Her whispered “Because we used to love each other” is taken by Stefan to mean that she no longer cares for him. She claims that she does love him, but tells him that he is smothering her. She needs to be free to make her own decisions and to figure out where she wants to be. She claims that she still does not believe that he loves her for who she is. Stefan, clearly frustrated that she refuses to accept the truth of his feelings or his stated plans for their future, angrily tells her that she is making their marriage a trial.
When darkness falls, the strike team sets out for the communications tower. With Doxen sticking to the shadows and scouting ahead on the mostly deserted streets, the team has little difficulty evading Purity First patrols. The four-story communications building appears to have only one guard in front of it. Doxen manages to hotwire an unattended speeder, which Array promptly crashes into the front door as full speed. Krevlax follows close behind and attacks the guard, but his first punch is so powerful his fist breaks through the duraplast wall and becomes stuck for a few seconds. Array readies a grenade for the moment Krevlax is free.
Meanwhile, having heard the crash at the front of the building, Arresta and Doxen attempt to make it onto the roof. Although only one guard is present (an elite Purity First Inquisitor), he didn’t fall for the distraction and cuts the cord to Doxen’s ascension gun, dropping the sniper to the ground hard. Arresta, following close behind, manages to scramble up and engage the Inquisitor in combat so that Doxen is able to climb up as well. Purity First is quickly knocked back on its heels by their success—although a trap had been planned inside the building, the xenophobic group’s forces are now torn between fighting on the rooftop and maintaining their defensive positions inside. Still, as the trio of antagonists trade shots, the Inquisitor receives back-up in the form of a full phalanx of troops which emerge from a rooftop access hatch.
Down below, Krevlax spots a tank in the distance and, his blood pumping with fury at the memory of his mistreatment by Purity First, charges straight towards it. The tank opens fire, but Krevlax shows astounding speed and reflexes. He leaps on top of the tank and, muscles straining, rips off the crew hatch. Within moments, both crewmen are being crushed in Krevlax’s powerful arms. When their limp bodies fall to the ground, the Anx claims the tank as a trophy.
Back near the building, Array continues to trade blows with the front door guard. The two seem evenly matched, and each loses their primary weapon during the struggle. However, Array is prepared with a back-up vibroblade and slays the guard with a brutal slash to the throat.
High above them, Doxen carefully sets the thermal detonator while Arresta trades fire with the phalanx and Inquisitor to keep them at bay. Afraid to give Purity First any chance to stop him, Doxen ignites the thermal detonator almost immediately and the tower is rocked by an explosion. It begins to lean but several support struts remain standing. Concentrating fire as Doxen directs, Arresta users her blasters to finish the job and, just as the tower crashes down, she and Doxen manage to make their escape. The vaunted soldiers of Purity First, once reputed to be invincible, have again been soundly out-witted and out-fought by a small group of determined rebels.

Thousands of parsecs and some days away, meanwhile, Daal awakens on the otherwise deserted lifeboat of the Sun Runner II. He feels terrible, can’t remember how he got there, and his medical condition appears to have worsened. The viewport shows the distinctive streaks of hyperspace and a check of the ship’s nav-computer eventually reveals that it has been making a series of jumps along a course unknown to him. As his memories slowly begin to return, he remembers being on a strange world with darkened skies, with lightning arcing across the sky and geysers of rock thrown into the air, where strange cloaked figures hovered above the ground. He recalls a voice saying “This one shall be returned—his coming here was involuntary, and he has not long to live in any event.”. He recalls Tarn and Jocasta fighting back to back and the voice saying “These we will keep – they may prove amusing”. When the lifeboat drops out of hyperspace near Geonosis, Daal manages to override the pre-programmed jump sequence and decides to lay in a course for Etti IV in the Corporate Sector.

Aboard the Republic Acclamator Majestic, A’tel Por’Ten has been placed in a terrible dilemma. Reports of war crimes have reached the ears of the G.A.R. and someone high up in the Supreme Chancellor’s office wants the malefactors brought to justice. Unfortunately, the accused are the Cassadines, Array, and Doxen. A’tel is ordered by Admiral Wav to lure his former companions to a place where they can be arrested. A’tel tries to get assurances that they will be treated fairly and receive a trial, but the Admiral admits that these are strange times and that due process seems to be going by the wayside. A’tel reluctantly accedes and sends a message to Arresta, asking her and the others to meet him on Coruscant.