Glasgow Nights (Doctor Who RPG)

Episode #2: A Touch o’ the Henrys

14th – 16th November, 2016

With their previous investigation in the bag, the team had decided to travel to Islay to investigate the reappearance of the Tesseract.

But then a second Henry Taylor entered the Torchwood Two HQ, accessing the biometric scanners, and collapsed to the floor. He had been badly beaten.

“Fuck,” the first Henry Taylor said flatly. As he reached to help the second Henry, an explosion of Artron Energy washed over them and threw them each across the room. Elizabeth Davies was caught in the explosion as well, as she had seen the event almost in slow-motion, but she weathered the storm pretty well. The energy tripped all the breakers of the HQ’s ground floor and shorted out all of their electronic devices. The energy spike tripped a sensor in the laboratory, drawing the attention of Trevor Rothberry, who recalled Charlie Williams and Alice Kingston to the office.

While Elizabeth went about checking on the two Henrys, she discovered a crumpled and bloodied sheet of paper had fallen from the hand of the second Henry: the Durdin File. While Charlie dragged each of the Henrys to a containment cell, and placed the Cherub Figurine outside the first Henry’s cell, the rest of the group discussed the contents of the Durdin File. How did the second Henry have access to the document? What did it mean? Was Mr. Franklin’s first name really Alastair? Had the Cult of Durdin really been searching for the Williams Necklace all this time?

Trevor went about examining the Williams Necklace, which the group surmised was the Blue Star, as mentioned in the Durdin File. A cursory examination concluded that the gem might fit into one of the eye sockets in the Evolution Artifact, but no one wanted to find out for sure at this time. More detailed examination indicated that the necklace emitted some of the same energies as, and might be a sort of control matrix for, the Evolution Artifact. There were also some markings around the setting in a strange (nonhuman) language, which Elizabeth found (in what little files from the old Torchwood Two she had smuggled out in its collapse) to be Zygon.

It was at this point that Trevor began a new project, to build and grow a neural net AI. He began to develop it in secret, and he named the growing program Neuromancer, in homage to the title character of the novel by William Gibson. He gave to it Asimov’s Laws of Robotics:
0. A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.
1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

Trevor added an additional Law to the slate:

4. Neuromancer must work toward the general well-being of Trevor Rothberry, except where those directives would conflict with the prior Laws.

Charlie let the first Henry out of his cell, and on the way upstairs, he smashed the Cherub Figurine with his foot.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth interrogated the second Henry, who seemed cooperative as he provided the following information:

  • He had been attacked by a pair of undercover UNIT agents, either to recover the Durdin File or to prevent him from reactivating Torchwood Two (whose actual reactivation is not widely known).
  • He was sent by his boss, Katherine Byron, to deliver the Durdin File to the reactivated Torchwood Two. Byron knows of the reactivation because she has seen funding begin to flow again to the office.
  • Byron received the Durdin File in a package from UNIT agents. Henry did not know what else was in the package, but Byron told him the package was sent in an attempt to derail her bid for Prime Minister.
  • Henry had questions about the first Henry, but nothing to which the group gave him substantive answers: “Did that other guy have a bomb? (the explosion at their first meeting) How did he look like me?”

Satisfied with their earlier conversation, Elizabeth let Henry out. On the way out of the containment area, Henry asked about the oddity of leaving a figurine on the floor. The Cherub Figurine had somehow reassembled itself!

It was at that point that the first Henry had the strange feeling that the Cherub was feeding on his fear. He had somehow created his own monster. Henry attempted to pick it up, but suffered an intense wave of fear that drained his resolve slightly, confirming the conclusion of psychic phenomenon. Trevor detected that it exhibited something like life signs, but he decided to smash it and place it in a box confined enough that it would not fit if it were to reassemble itself, and he set Neuromancer to watching the box for signs of the Cherub’s reassembly.

After this, the group decided to split up: Charlie, Henry, and Alice would travel to Islay to investigate the casting call and potential appearance of the Tesseract, while Trevor and Elizabeth would meet with Melanie Bryers to follow up on that investigation and see if they could find the shrine she had mentioned.

Trevor and Elizabeth drove over to Witch’s Brew, where they found Melanie Bryers working. Trevor approached her at the counter, slipped her an extra twenty quid, and asked to meet with her. She readily agreed to go on break, and Elizabeth noticed the other barista rolled her eyes as if this happened too frequently for her taste.

While Melanie could not recall Harry’s address, from which she had taken the Williams Necklace, she was able to lead them to the building. Elizabeth noticed as they were driving by the building for the second time that the second Henry was just entering the building and there were two men in cheap suits observing him from a car parked across the street. Elizabeth dropped Melanie off so as to keep her out of what might follow, but not before Trevor and Melanie exchanged phone numbers. By the time Elizabeth parked her Land Rover, the two men were entering the building, so she and Trevor rushed in after them. When they arrived, they found the two men kicking in the door of the very flat they were seeking, and one of them had already entered. They attempted to sneak up on the two men, but Trevor was too noisy, so Elizabeth went for the intimidation route which caused the man in the hall to freeze long enough to defuse the situation. They found the man inside, in the process of arresting Henry. He identified himself as a UNIT agent, and after a short but tense discussion he agreed to allow Torchwood access to Henry for interrogation, but he would take Henry to UNIT.

Following this, Elizabeth and Trevor searched the now-vacant flat. They found, and seized, the shrine with daggers that Melanie had mentioned. Part of the shrine included a crude map with locations marked that corresponded to Ayr, in Scotland, and Lancaster, in northern England, which confirmed the inclusion of those two locations in the Durdin File.

Charles, Alice, and Henry arrived by ferry to Islay near the town of Lagavulin, and they rented a Mini at the dock so they could have more freedom of movement than the bus system would provide. They drove a few miles to Rockside and found the casting call at the Rockside Inn. They got in line to speak with Vincent Cullen, who was leading the casting interviews and passing out cards to collect casting information. He seemed impressed by Henry, not so much as an extra but as a potential star, but he seemed as impressed with Alice’s ability to blend into a crowd, which he called an essential talent for an extra.

Following the casting call, Henry experienced a strange vision, during which he saw a lighthouse and unintentionally intoned the phrase, “mad woman of Islay.” Checking around, he found a local legend of the Mad Woman of Islay, who resided in the Rinns of Islay lighthouse near Portnahaven, on the western tip of the northern section of Islay.

Once the three agents checked into rooms at the Rockside Inn, they resolved to drive out to the lighthouse. As they were getting out of their car, they noticed the beacon looked abnormal for a lighthouse beacon, and Alice recognized it as looking like the fissure through which she had seen Henry arrive in this world. The windows were all covered by blackout curtains, but the front door opened before they could knock and they met a pale woman in a flowing white dress. She introduced herself as Fiona, indicated she had been expecting company, and invited the group inside. Inside, the style of housekeeping might have been described as “a struggle ensued”, but it became clear as the conversation continued that Fiona was both blind (her eyes milky white as if suffering from an extreme case of glaucoma) and, she admitted, not entirely sane. She offered them tea, but they refused out of fear of being drugged.

She offered a Tarot reading for Henry, and Charlie slipped away to explore. Fiona, Henry, and Alice sat around a small table while Fiona laid out the Tarot cards, never looking at them but instead staring at (or possibly through) Henry throughout the reading:

z_-_Tarot_reading.jpg

“Your brother is in a cage,” Fiona told Henry, and the group concluded Fiona somehow knew of the arrest of the second Henry. This seemed to confirm their suspicion that the Mad Woman of Islay was indeed a genuine psychic. “It’s a fear you cannot overcome,” Fiona continued as if seeing a film unwind in Henry. At this utterance, Alice began to squirm in her seat. She had heard this sentence before; later she would reveal in confidence to the group that the Doctor had said this to her when she met him some time ago. As if to exacerbate Alice’s dismay, Fiona turned to her and added, “Your friend is only a lost cause insomuch as you let her be lost. However, she is in danger.”

Near the end of the “Tarot reading”, Fiona’s eyes glowed as she went further into trance. During her trance, she described a ritual in which nonhuman creatures were using a small statue of an ape-like creature ( The Evolution Artifact). In the course of the ritual, one of them would shed blood and then change into human form. The group concluded she was talking about Zygons, and she told them she had seen this before while gazing into the “crack” upstairs, which Charlie confirmed from her explorations was a spacetime fissure like the one Alice had seen before.

The group decided to explore the beacon, and found that the Fresnel lens had been tossed aside years—if not longer—ago. In its place was a spacetime fissure, flickering like a giant electrical arc in the night. It was still functioning as a lighthouse, though, spouting a beam of light that streamed across the sky as the phenomenon rotated. Alice quickly moved to evade the beam, but it flashed across Henry. As Henry stood transfixed, he heard the voice of his old girlfriend from the parallel universe, beckoning him to step through and come home. He might have done so, if not for Charlie and Alice snapping him out of his trance and coaxing him back downstairs.

Henry complained to Fiona about the ordeal, but she chided him to look at the sign at the door, a carved wooden sign reading “Don’t blame the psychic for your life.” As a peace offering, or sage advice, she gave him a parting gift, a copy of William Gibson’s novel, Neuromancer. “This will help with your problem.”

Meanwhile, the infant AI Neuromancer alerted Trevor that the Cherub Figurine had reassembled, shattering the too-small box that had been containing its dust. As Trevor went to build a lead box around it, he found his own paranoia made him vulnerable to the object’s psychic attack. He did manage to build the box, however, so it looked as though the Cherub were contained, albeit within the Torchwood Two HQ. He then fed Neuromancer a library of information, ordered it to execute a Monte Carlo style growth process, and then requested a set of hypothetical scenarios to provide possible solutions for the disposal of the Cherub. It output three possible solutions:

  1. Bring the object into range of a stronger psychic signature that would overwhelm it.
  2. Throw it through the spacetime fissure.
  3. Subject it to a large enough explosion of Artron radiation that might disrupt it.

Additionally, Elizabeth provided a fourth solution from her occult studies: If the Cherub were indeed a psychic vampire, perhaps it could be starved to death.

At this point, the group made a conference call to update each other on their findings. Finally, the decision was made to pick up Melanie, whom they thought was in danger, and then Elizabeth, Trevor, and Melanie would meet the rest of the group in Islay with the lead-boxed Cherub.

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