Sunday, June 16, 2024

AG3NTS OF C0NTR0L: Operation Jarfly (Part Two)

This is the second half of a recap of the first playtest session of AG3NTS of C0NTR0L, an experimental rpg where the players were told that they would be playing "secret agents," and then told nothing else about the setting, tone, or system for the session. Things started weird and got more and more strange as the session progressed. 

The first bit is here.

Here's how things resolved.

When we last left the agents, they had just dealt with a few thugs in the back room of the El Greco Lounge. Still in pursuit of a mysterious "cipher," they searched the place now that their enemies had been either subdued or killed. Agent Vukovic located a trap door under a stack of crates. The trap door opened out to an old smuggler's tunnel running to the waterfront that was used in the Prohibition days. 

The agents were divided on what to do with the bartender, whom they had taken captive. Ultimately, Agents Romanov and Argo sided with Agent Fauchon over Agent October, clearing the way for Fauchon to butcher the bartender and the surviving goons. Of course, now that several of the agents were spattered with blood, their re-entrance into the club caused patrons and staff to panic and head for the doors. It didn't help that Agent Romanov was now openly carrying a crowbar. 

The agents were now in search of the woman with the cicada tattoo, but when they entered the door they had seen her slip into and out of throughout the evening, they did not find her. However, they did find that the hallway led to a room with multiple monitors showing locations across the city of Red Vitriol, including the alley where they had first encountered the dead man dressed as an agent. Other feeds showed the Ernest P. Lowrock Memorial Library, the Red Vitriol train station, and a neon-lit pharmacy. One noteworthy facet of this discovery: the monitoring equipment was of a much higher tech level than the 1950s-esque period they appeared to be in.

Agent Argo was able to use his technomancy on the monitoring station. He determined that there was a similar connected setup monitoring the same locations elsewhere in the city. He was also able to rewind the footage of the alley so they could watch as the agent was murdered by men in trench coats and Stetson hats. The men cut something bulky out of the agent's abdomen and stole away with it out of the alleyway. This part of their investigation concluded, Agent Romanov proceeded to smash the monitors with his crowbar. The robotic voice in their ears informed them that Melancholia was rising for all agents. 

Vukovic used her "requisition" ability, which meant asking C0NTR0L for equipment and C0NTR0L then seemingly editing reality to insert it nearby, for headlamps so they could enter the tunnel. Agent October also took the opportunity to question C0NTR0L on a few matters and was told that the R3AG3NTS were the enemies of C0NTR0L. Agent Fauchon also attempted to ask a few questions of C0NTR0L, but was denied for having a clearance level of only Chromia Green.

Agent Fauchon used his psychometric ability on the locker key they had obtained from the dead agent, but the voice of C0NTR0L informed them that their Melancholia was rising and that the agent was "beginning to stir." When pressed, C0NTR0L told them that further instances of Melancholia could cause the agent to irrevocably "waken." Agent Fauchon attempted to use psychometry on the bottle of prescription pills, but a different, raspier voice whispered "Have you ever won a war? I don't think you have the stomach for it, soldier."

The agents followed the bootlegger tunnels to the warehouse district and found the train station. Opening the locker with the key from the dead agent's pocket revealed a small item: a cicada trapped in a block of amber. Taped to the back of it was a key to another locker. In the next locker, they found a framed wedding photo of Agent Vukovic and an unknown man; there was another key taped to the back of the frame. That key fit a locker holding a weapon that Agent Fauchon reognized as the first rifle he had ever fired; there was a key taped to that as well. The key fit a locker containing a teddy bear that Agent October remembered; inside the bear was another key. The next locker held a ring that fit Agent Romanov's finger. The ring was engraved with the words "You won't sleep forever." Tied to the ring was a final key that led to a worn family Bible that had belonged to Agent Argo. Red pencil markings in the Bible were deciphered to reveal an address in the city. 

Further detail emerged as they examined these items. The back of Vukovic's wedding photo had "Your name is gone. You let them take your name" written on it in pencil; the bullets in Fauchon's rifle had words etched on them that added up to the sentence "I know what you did in Montenegro." The tag on October's teddy bear read "R3AG3NTS INC."

Arriving at the address, they found themselves at the all-night clinic. The receptionist was the woman with the cicada tattoo. C0NTR0L warned Agent October that he was in danger of stirring and that was jeopardizing "the Hypnos Protocol." Under the guise of seeking treatment for Agent Romanov's busted leg, they asked to see the doctor and were given a thick sheaf of paperwork to fill out for the patient. The first forms were standard stuff (age, medical history, etc.) but further pages asked about childhood traumas and recurring dreams. 

Instead of dealing with the paperwork, Agent Romanov made for the hallway and walked toward the only lit examination room. Inside, the agents found Dr. Legba, the man in the lemon-colored gloves. Dr. Legba identified the agents by their codenames; he seemed to know more about them than they did. Agent October tried to question Dr. Legba about the mysterious "package," but the doctor got the jump on him and stabbed him in the side with a scalpel. Romanov drew his gun and fired on the doctor; where the bullets grazed Dr. Legba's face, they tore away his flesh--revealing an insectoid mandible underneath. 

Agent October was also able to pump a few bullets into the doctor, but they were dismayed to see that his blood ran green instead of red. The woman with the cicada tattoo now entered the room and attacked Agent Romanov with a whirring bone saw. Dr. Legbaw launched himself at Agent October, pushing the scalpel all the way into his body. Agent October collapsed as C0NTR0L announced that "Agent October has awakened, maximum Melancholia has been reached. The Hypnos Protocol is failing; secure the cipher and leave Red Vitriol immediately."

Hearing the gunshots from inside the clinic, Agent Fauchon rushed into the clinic and executed the woman with the cicada tattoo. Agent Argo slammed Dr. Legba against the wall and Agent Romanov attacked him with the bone saw dropped by the woman with the cicada tattoo. Agent Vukovic requisitioned a submachinegun and opened fire, the barrage tearing away more of Dr. Legba's false human exterior. 

In a last-ditch attack, Dr. Legba launched himself at Agent Fauchon and tore his throat out with his mandibles; despite being told that he has only "close" to "awakening," C0NTR0L was lying to them the whole time to push them to disregard their safety and complete the mission. Agent Fauchon fell inert to the floor. Agents Argo and Vukovic finished Dr. Legba before he could further violate his Hippocratic oath.

Exploring the rest of the facility revealed a man on an examination table who had a typewriter-like device implanted in his abdomen. C0NTR0L confirmed that the device was the cipher they sought and instructed them to pick one of their remaining number to implant it into for "extraction." Agent Agro volunteered; Agent Vukovic cut him open and they placed the cipher within the cavity of this body as he screamed and bled. The device, a combination of mechanical bits and writhing bio-insectoid elements, devoured Agent Argo's internal organs to make room for itself. 

C0NTR0L then announced that the "Apollo Process" was beginning. The three surviving agents awakened in the bright lights of a surgical facility. Two agents, October and Fauchon, were present--though as dead bodies with sheets drawn over them. Agent Argo was horrified to see that the cipher was embedded in his waking form.

Session end. End transmission.