[Scions of Time] And We Bid You Good Night

Photo by Josh Burker.

The Scions of Time convened for the thrilling conclusion to the adventure begun in Ladies and Gentlemen, the Star Children, in which a 1970s counter-culture rock band possessed a seemingly undue influence over a steadily growing number of citizens of New York City.

As the alien Star Child declares the invasion would begin, a purple light suffuses the night sky. Lighting fixtures shine over-brightly and explode, radiating outward from the precinct. The city streets take on an unearthly guise, illuminated only by the strange purple light radiating from the night sky with no apparent source.

Challenger and his companions attempt to avoid the psychic invasion of Earth by running verbal rings around Wolfbrother. This keeps him non-plussed for a moment, but the effect of his grand declaration “The invasion begins!” becomes clear as they detect the footfalls of thousands of people marching in lockstep, converging on the precinct. Stacy keeps Wolfbrother at bay with the menacing application of hair-curling tongs.

Running to the roof, dragging the would-be conqueror along, the travelers discover the precinct building is surrounded by an eerily silent mass of people. Everyday citizens surround the station house in every direction, staring up with glowing violet eyes. Wolfbrother appears to have drastically stepped up the schedule. As the travelers gaze down on the throngs of possessed New Yorkers, they suffer a collective psychic onslaught from the Star Children below, falling back out of sight.

Just then, Stacy flees the station with the intention of getting back to the TARDIS to equip herself for the coming conflict. How she flits through the crowds is a mystery to everyone.1 She handily appropriates an abandoned squad car, making her way back to the loading dock of the Fillmore auditorium.

Meanwhile back on the police station roof, Lionel taunts Wolfbrother to the breaking point, hoping to cause him to lose his judgment and agree to a card game to decide the fate of the planet. Wolfbrother maintains his presence of mind enough to decline such an offer, instead drawing Lionel into an arena of the mind, a sandy oval in the midst of a trackless starscape. That presence of mind does not extend to what happens in the real world, as Challenger and Draketooth take advantage of Lionel’s distraction to secure Wolfbrother’s physical form.

Bereft of their leader, the Star Children below go on the move, breaking into the police station and climbing to the roof access, where a well-placed broom handle confounds their efforts. With excellent timing, Stacy contrives to contact Challenger via the telepathic circuits in the ship, proposing he instruct her on how to pilot the ship to the station rooftop. This idea makes everyone in earshot cringe, but they try it anyway. Challenger’s ability at teaching and helping people improve themselves shines here, as he breaks down piloting the TARDIS such that even Stacy can understand it. He and Draketooth are both pleased to see the amplifier case appear with a wheezing, groaning sound on the rooftop before it disguises itself as a pigeon coop.

On the astral plane, Wolfbrother’s impetuous decision doesn’t turn out so well. After an initial round of blows pop Lionel up in the air, only to land face-first in a mental representation of sand, the aging gambler and conman thinks he’s got the lay of this un-land. He summons up his memory of Trip Jacks, the horse he rode long ago when he was first dragged into this atemporal lifestyle, and gallops toward Wolfbrother, conjuring a gallows from which to hang the Star Child.

Lionel takes this respite in the action to muse about what to do with the Star Children, punctuating his reverie with the occasional reminder to Wolfbrother he’s on the end of a very short rope. He and the alien eventually come to an “accord” which bears a striking likeness to acceding to an ultimatum and depart the mental arena, opening their eyes in the material world again.

By this time, Challenger has stowed Wolfbrother’s bound body aboard the ship. Stacy concocts the idea of playing the Star Children’s music backward to free the hosts from their alien passengers. To accomplish this, she supplies Draketooth with his guitar. He enthusiastically mounts the water tower atop the roof to play for the crowd below, paying no heed to the thought of amplification. The thrill of playing for such a large audience pushes Draketooth into an adrenaline surge, capering around the watertower roof, hitting all the power chords, that Stacy’s attempt to bring him down nearly brings them both down to the street below.

When the crowd below begins booing Draketooth’s performance, it becomes clear that the Star Children have abandoned their human hosts. The travelers pile into the ship, narrowly avoiding a hail of arrows from across the street. It seems the Knights of St. Eustachius finally fought their way through the mob to reach their quarry. The knights can do little to prevent the ship from slipping into the time vortex, however.

As it transpires, Wolfbrother, unlike the many other Star Children who traveled to Earth, has no place to go, having given up his conical gastropod back on Conicalgastropodia2 to ply the depths of space as a scout. Lionel returns to the proposition of finding him a blank clone in which to settle, but Wolfbrother claims he and the host consciousness are thoroughly enmeshed. The alien takes some pleasure in pointing out anything they do to him will also injure the human host. Challenger elects to drop him at a convenient colony of psychics somewhere in the far future, where it’s likely that the local population is more than suited to deal with his shenanigans. Whether the green and rolling hillside onto which Wolfbrother is unceremoniously rolled is said colony is undetermined.

And so the travelers go off into the reaches of time and space, confident they achieved a victory this time.

I completely lost the voice of Wolfbrother in the month-long gap between sessions. First time out, I had him down as a parody of a quasi-hippie cult leader-like figure with poorly contained delusions of grandeur. That completely fell out of my head and I never quite got it back in the second part of the adventure. It made extemporizing his dialogue difficult. I think he wound up sounding far more like a megalomaniac than I originally intended. And he neglected to point out any of the reasons that might have convinced the travelers to be a little more lenient with him.

When the notion of playing the music backward to expel the possessing consciousnesses from their hosts first arose, I mentally panicked. It was a plausible idea by the measure of Doctor Who, but completely unconnected from the process that I had established for myself as the Star Childrens’ method for taking their hosts. Shutting it down because it was “wrong” would have seemed dickish, but I was reluctant to let go of my own plan. My thinking should have been “How can I complicate their solution?” Building off what the players provide ought to be more inclusive than letting them bumble about, trying things that don’t work.

In the end, it wasn’t important, happily. The players remembered they hadn’t actually heard any of the Star Children’s own songs, so Draketooth couldn’t replicate them, let alone play them backward.

1 Including me. I’m probably misremembering the order of events. Stacy did run back to the TARDIS at some point, though.

2 As Lionel nicknamed the unspecified world.

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