The Mesa

Cast of Characters

The PCs:

  1. Jack McClellan
  2. Speed Demon
  3. Ronan Callaghan

The NPCs:

  1. Dr. Donna Larock, Ph. D.
    1. Professor, University of Arizona, PCC
    2. Doctorate in Archaeology
    3. Hermetic magician ("diviner")
    4. Greying brunette human female, late forties; athletic build (fieldwork)
  2. Dr. Emilia Tondreau, Ph. D
    1. Postdoc at University of Arizona, PCC
    2. Doctorate in Archaeology from Lille University (France)
    3. Graduate work under Dr. Wainwright
    4. French citizen; applying for PCC citizenship (on visa)
    5. Blonde, pale-skinned, and somewhat skinny human female, mid 20's.
    6. Hermetic magical adept (sorcerer, focusing on detection spells)
  3. Roger
    1. Grad student at U of A
    2. Unofficial "site coordinator" - has good "business sense"
  4. Steve
    1. Laborer and dig mechanic
    2. Maintains cars, trailer, generator, equipment, etc.
    3. Overall handyman
    4. Potty mouth
    5. Has been with Dr. Larock on 6 digs; knows his way around a site despite not being a trained archaeologist
  5. Shot Up Dude
    1. Member of team that Jack and Speed Demon found breaking into the site trailer
    2. Shot twice by sniper
    3. Stabilized by team and sent to hospital
    4. Large, muscular human male with bald-shaved head
    5. Tire tracks tattoo on left arm and back
    6. Red "5280" tattoo on back of neck
  6. Team 1
    1. Four ski-mask-clad people caught trying to break into site trailer
    2. cf: Shot Up Dude
  7. Team 2
    1. Four Lucha Libre-masked people that were also trying to do something at dig site
      1. Magician with wicked kris-blade knife weapon focus
      2. Sniper
      3. Spotter
      4. Rigger with HMMVV but apparently no drones
    2. Attacked Team 1, Jack, Speed Demon

Key Points

  1. Kokopelli Statue

Chapter Narrative

Jack's Dream

Non-cleaned-up chat history - needs to be narrativized

Okay. We're going to start in early-to-mid January of 2073. It's not that bad weather-wise in most of CA, but right on the water it does get cold. It's been a while since you were last on a dig. You've been spending a considerable number of nights researching where something might crop up with little success.

You've had some dreams about Coyote howling at a star, but you've not been able to place the star or the meaning. You can remember little of these dreams other than Coyote, a mesa, and a single, bright star that seems to offend Coyote's sensibilities in some way. Inevitably, when you awaken after one of these dreams, you awaken to the chill of the cold winter wind blowing in off the bay. (Jack doesn't interpret this as a message from Coyote).
The grand features of this dream are recurring, though the details may or may not be. You get the feeling that the details may change from dream to dream, but you don't remember them.

Jack goes looking for references to Coyote and a star and mesa, focusing on desert legends in the American Southwest.

Jack has spent… let's say the past month poking this in a lackluster fashion, but he's not found any mentions of a Coyote Mesa or any news of mesa coyotes… Jack's search agent finds him some stories about coyote sightings in Mesa, AZ, PCC, but he doesn't think that's very applicable. Jack is going nuts pages through book after database after book. It's time for a change of scenery. Jack's gonna head up to the local planetarium/stellar observatory/etc. to take a look at the stars, Mesa, AZ in his mind.
Jack meets up with a rather pleasant older gentleman at the planetarium who is an amateur astronomer. He manages to pull together some incidents that might've caused a "bright star" in the sky - Halley, supernovae, etc. He gives you about a dozen different incidents that might've happened over the past, say, few thousand years. He'd also tells you that his data might be incomplete, since he doesn't know where it might've happened, and the whole sky hasn't been surveyed completely by any means.
Before going to bed, Jack would take a ride out somewhere outside the city, and do some stargazing, hoping to trigger some inspiration. While sitting, looking at the sky and the horizon, trying to find some inspiration, Jack suddenly feels himself weightless and floating up, seeing himself dozing lightly.
You feel yourself begin to slowly spin, and the landscape shifts as you turn. You're now looking out from a distance at a mesa in the middle of a desert. You see a lone coyote struggling, climbing the mesa slowly. On the desert floor below, dozens or hundreds of snakes, scorpion, rabbits, and other animals sit calmly, patiently, waiting. When the coyote finally reaches the top of the mesa, he turns to the gathered animals with bowed head. Suddenly, he looks up as a new star blossoms over his head. (You look up, trying to burn the image of the star and it's position in your mind.) He turns to the star and howls a sad cry that seems to go on for hours. When it finishes, the gathered animals bow their heads (well, the ones with necks), and the coyote turns slightly to look at you. You suddenly startle awake, having started to slide off the hood of your rented car.
You're not really an astronomer, but you think the star was nearly dead east.

Jack heads back home and starts researching again, this time with slightly narrowed parameters. He sets his agent to find any history of a star/other object that appeared in that portion of the sky, trying to identify the mesa from his dream. He also finds some references in the legends search about certain mana spikes and stuff that sometimes correspond to mesas. One account mentions a freak lightning storm that struck a mesa over a thousand times within an hour during the Great Ghost Dance. The anecdote apparently came from a dancer who witnessed the strikes.
In a subsequent search, you find lots of mentions of different dancers gathering a mesas - apparently, they were good landmarks for gathering. There's also some historical mentions of a gathering of dancers in Mesa. Coincidentally, there's a dig outside of Mesa. There have been some protests about that dig. (Just as a heads up, Mesa is just north of the PCC/Aztlan border. Like, just north. And the dig is very close to the border.)

Dr. Donna Larock, University of Arizona, is running the dig. Jack has never personally met her. UofAz is funding it. There were some pretty stringent protests, and you'd think it'd be hard to get funding for this type of dig. Dr. Larock believes she's found records at a different location indicating that the area was home to some ancient trading center or city of some sort.

Well, this is definitely something Jack would be all up on. Jack will be making a phone call to Prof. Wainwright, and asking him if he wouldn't mind having a discussion about this. What has he heard about this dig, and does he know Dr. Larock?

He doesn't personally know Dr. Larock. He's read a couple of her papers, though. She seems to be a solid archaeologist. He's heard a lot about this dig, though, mainly because of the protests. "I'm really quite surprised the PCC authorized this project, in fact."
Jack: "Why so?"
DW: "Well, a few of the surviving Dancers were very against it, of course! The dig site is very near an early and very important rallying site for Daniel Howling Coyote."
Jack: "Howling Coyote.."
DW: "Apparently, he taught his early shamans there."
Jack: "Sam, do you think you might be able to pull some stings and get me into this dig? Consulting. Research assistant. Hell, I'll take a one-day tourist pass…"
DW: "I'll look into it, see what I can do. Maybe she's worked with someone I know…."

A couple of days later, you get a message from Dr. Wainwright. "I found out that one of my old students, Emilia Tondreau, is working this dig as part of her postgrad work. I'm sending you an image she sent me…."
Jack: "This is one of the artifacts they found?"

pcc_stone_artifact.jpg

DW: "I told her you were quite familiar with this type of artifact and got her permission to get you on-site for a two-day consult. She said Dr. Larock may not be thrilled, but she wants to meet 'someone else who survived a good Wainwrighting.'"
Jack: "I'll tell her the key is to fire a warning shot…" smirk
DW: "Anyway, she said they're shut down for a few days waiting for weather to clear, but she suggested you come out around the 20th." (That's 4 days from now).
Jack: "Thanks, Sam." continue to chat for another half hour or so

Dr. Wainwright obtained a temporary work visa for the PCC and a UofA consultant credential good for about a week, both under Jack's name.

Okay, so you make some plans on the 16th, hit the hay with plans to head to the PCC on the 20th. On the 17th, at 3 AM, you're bolt upright in bed, panting, sweating, and tasting copper (bitten tongue), with a vision of that stone artifact echoing through your mind. You feel a metaphorical presence hovering ominously over this particular artifact. You feel like it needs to be. . made safe. Maybe moved. All you know is that you have to do something about it.
Jack: Starring down at my bloody sink… "Blood… not the best omen. And just… AH!… blood spitting distance from good ol' Azzieland… Oh yeah… this is gonna go great."
Better do some more research into this Kokopelli statue. Basically, they got it out of the ground, cleaned it up, documented it, and set it aside for the moment while they finished the dig. Most of the other stuff the've found has been pottery or similar things, so this stood out. That's why the assistant sent it to you.

Jack decides that he might need some help for this run. Remembering Ronan from his previous Aztlan exploits, he decides he might need to ring up GoNative and book passage to the PCC. "Hey, Ronan, wanna drive down to the PCC/Azzie border with me? I got a short bit of work down there. Pay's somewhat short, but I can certainly cover gas…" sarcasm!

Ronan: "Well, I've got no current clients. If you're just talking location scouting, though, I've been to the desert. Even know my way around a bit. Or are you looking to book a tour?"
Jack: "No, I just have a dig near the border that's caught some flak from protesters and such. I'll just be down there a few days, but I've got a… weird feeling about this. So, I'd prefer to have a reliable vehicle if anything unforeseen should come up."
Ronan: "Ahh, okay, yeah, no problem. How long's your commitment? I'll book the time and file my documents." On a heavily-encrypted side channel, you'd get a "what kind of trouble are you expecting? You need me to get in touch with any… additional help? … is this gonna be as bad as Tijuana?"
Jack: "I'm hoping not. But I've been having dreams, and I don't ignore what Snake shows me. If you've got anyone else you'd like to bring along fine. Just so you know, I wasn't exageratting about the gas… I've got a total of about 1400 nuyen to my name in this world right now…"
Ronan: "Hmm. Where's this dig? I'll do a little research, see what's going on. Guess you'll just have to owe me for this one. :-)"
Jack: "Mesa, AZ, PCC."
Ronan: "I'll check it out. See you at the office (outside San Fran) on the 19th.
Jack: "Thanks."
Ronan: "Don't thank me until I call in my favor. smirk I'll be sure to pack some parts and extra fuel for this job…."

Coyle's Research

Coyle doesn't know Jack well, but he knows enough not to get involved in a run without doing a little background research first. Sure, it's only an archaeological dig… but the last dig he saw involved guys with LMGs. Besides, if Jack's having bad feelings about this, Coyle's really not comfortable. First thing's first: time to pull out the commlink and do some digging. Coyle spends a day poking around the official records for the dig, getting up to speed on what they're (claiming to be) doing and what his cover should be. He files his paperwork for entry into the PCC and files for a visitor's badge for the site. Preliminaries done, he then gets to work doing some background on the dig team members. He doesn't find anything particularly damaging, but he does note that this dig is taking longer than originally scheduled and is over budget. Pondering this, he sets some agents to work while he gives the old Rover a good once-over….
The next day, Coyle's agents come back with interesting data. The dig team has been ordering pretty expensive replacement equipment, some of it mil-spec, and all of it hardened against EM surges. He hacks into the university records and discovers that there have been very odd electromagnetic phenomena at this dig site that have slowed the dig considerable and damaged or destroyed much of their more sophisticated equipment. Even one of their Jeeps fried out completely, requiring a complete powerplant and controller replacement offsite.
Time to check in with Dr. St. James…..
"Seriously, Coyle? It's teatime!"
"As if I know where you are at any given time, Rodney. Besides, I need some information. And you still owe me for Tijuana…."
As luck would have it, Coyle's sources didn't really have much to add to what Jack had already found out. Rodney did confirm the details of the dig and read Coyle in on why the area was so important - and why the dig was so contentious. While none of the protesters had any confirmed violent backgrounds (and though the archaeologists have the backing of the PCC police), something about this dig seemed somehow… "off."
"Sure, the Rover's tougher than one of those natty old Jeeps, and the protesters don't seem to be causing too much trouble. Still… maybe I should bring one of my mechanic friends along, just in case…."

Dealing With a Demon

Coyle decided to take a long shot. Though he'd only spoken with his Rover dealer a couple of times, he got a good "gut feeling" from the big demon-spirit. Despite his appearance, Coyle's intuition told him that Speed Demon was a trustworthy… guy? Sure, guy. Time to drop by the shop.
After making small talk for a few and taking Speed Demon for a ride in the upgraded truck, Coyle broached the subject of the road trip. With promises of free access to various vehicles (after all, the archaeologists might just need another mechanic, the way things were going at the site….). With promises of a little pay and a lot of play, Speed Demon agreed to the run. Speed agreed to meet Coyle at GoNative for the drive to the PCC.
Coyle returned to the office to file the paperwork - better make sure everything's on the up and up!

Scoping the Site

Early on the morning of the 19th, the team met up at the GoNative offices outside San Fransisco. They pushed through, trading off driving duties, to make it to the motel early - Jack was very excited to get to the dig site as early as possible. The team arrived mid-evening and met up with Emilia. Dr. Larock and the rest of the team were eating supper when the team arrived, and Emilia just happened to run into Jack and the others on her way there. She directed the team to get them checked in and told them where everyone would be for supper.
In his excitement, Jack decided to scope out the dig site immediately after checking in. While Coyle was putting everything away, Jack and Speed Demon dropped into the astral and sped to the dig site to scope out the situation.
Upon their arrival, the two immediately noticed four shadowy figured attempting to break into the storage trailer for the site. As soon as Jack and Speed tried to scare them off, a previously-unseen sniper began firing off shots at the team. Two rounds struck one of the intruders, downing him and scaring the others back into their cheap rental.
Unfortunately for Jack and Speed, the second team was hardly friendly. Jack was quickly sizzled by two spells from one of the unseen attackers, forcing him to call upon a spirit and duck behind the only available cover, the trailer. Speed and the Air Elemental quickly sped toward the mesa, where Speed had spotted some auras in the distance.
Speed and the Air Elemental saw 4 runners in Lucha Libre masks: a spotter, a sniper, and an unconscious mage on the outcropping; and a rigger near his archaic HMMVV on top of the mesa. When the two spirits arrived, the spotter was treating the mage and the rigger moving toward the lines that the rest of the team had used to lower themselves to the outcropping.
Speed Demon attempted to steal the HMMVV; he was quickly thwarted by the rigger, but that took the rigger out of the main action. Meanwhile, the Air Elemental engaged the sniper; surprised and caught off-guard, the sniper lost his rifle over the edge and then followed it down soon after (ending up tangled in his climbing rig as a consequence). The elemental then turned to the spotter and the mage, as did Speed Demon. Unfortunately, the mage had by this time regained consciousness and was packing a wicked-looking dual-natured kris-bladed dagger that quickly dispatched the Air Elemental. Speed circled the mage momentarily, but after being singed by a threatening spell, he took off.
Returning to his body, Jack found Coyle and Emilia loading him up into the Rover (since he was singed and bleeding). He quickly told them to drive to the dig site; they rounded up everyone and took off, calling for emergency services on the way. Within minutes, they had reached the dig site, luckily just ahead of the HMMVV that was barrelling down the mesa and towards the site.
When the runners in the HMMVV realized that they'd been beaten to their prize, they turned and took off - there were too many archies at the scene, and the odds weren't in their favor. They scared off Speed's pursuit and disappeared into the distance. Jack and the archaeologists scanned the site but found no damage and nothing taken. They managed to stabilize the nearly-dead ski-mask-clad intruder from the first team. In the process, Jack learned that he was a large, bulky, shaved-bald human male with multiple tattoos (including tire tracks on his left arm and back and a red "5280" on the back of his neck).
Minutes later, emergency services arrived. The paramedics took the stable-but-borderline intruder; an officer also took Jack to the hospital in his cruiser. The rest of the team stayed behind for a while to give statements, then returned to the motel rather late at night. Jack also was released at nearly midnight and was allowed to return to the motel (after having given his statement at the hospital). Since Jack and Speed Demon are officially employed by the dig team, their presence and responses were not considered irrational or suspicious in any way by the officers.
Speed Demon decided to stay at the dig site overnight. He marked out the area where the background count was highest (just the the west of the dig site proper, and about a 50-yard radius circle; background ~2). He then tried essentially thinking happy thoughts all night at the angry background count. Thankfully, there were no more disturbances that night, and work was fit to resume late the next morning.

Kokopelli

TODO write up the second day

  • Jack found the Kokopelli artifact in the trailer
    • Bone, not stone, but stone-like bone
    • Old, yellowed stains (blood?)
    • No obvious magical aura
  • Trailer is surprisingly secure - double maglocked and kevlar- and biofiber-lined - expensive
  • Speed Demon told people about background count? Already kind of knew.
  • Kokopelli starts astrally glowing pink when trailer door left open for long time (~lunchtime)
    • Redder when close to background count
    • Hella bright when outside trailer
    • Could vaguely see it through F4 Mana Barrier
    • Jack told Emilia
    • Emilia told Dr. Larock
  • Lunch break, archies tried to drive to lunch, but Jeep wouldn't start
    • Speed Demon helped jump
    • Electrical system on Jeep shot
    • Batteries for the hybrid drive cracked/burst
    • Land Rover not affected

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