The City of Lives

Atomic Robo Playtest Parts 1 & 2

One of Tesladyne’s facilities, the mycological research institute Biome 3, had failed to check in. Atomic Robo decided to assign one of his most reliable teams of action scientists to find out what had happened. This team was made up of:
-Doktor Sprache: A specialist in linguistics and former Stasi agent, the pseudonymous Sprache can speak any language, mimic any accent, and identify a person’s hometown from a few sentences. His background in the East German secret police makes him a dangerous man to encounter.
-Frau Doktor Lise Meitner: One of the pioneers in nuclear physics in the early part of the twentieth century, Meitner spent sixty years in a Nazi cryogenic storage facility before being revived by Tesladyne. She has long been ignored by the scientific establishment, and her desperation to prove herself has driven her more than a little around the bend.
-Saliah el-Amin: A consulting detective on Tesladyne’s retainer, Saliah’s expertise in forensics is matched only by her arrogance. She can read people like a crime scene, but never learned to actually treat them as anything but tools.
-Dr. Aster Levine: An up-and-coming expert in quantum physics, Levine suffered through a botched experiment in quantum teleportation and is now partially out-of-phase with reality. Her unstable molecular ray gun creates as much chaos as it does benefits.

After a short briefing, the team headed to Oregon. On the plane ride, Sprache attempted to engage his colleagues in conversation, but found himself rebuffed.

Eventually, the team arrived at Biome 3, and rang the intercom. They spoke to Maslin over the intercom, and Sprache determined her hometown of Calgary while Saliah listened and realized that Maslin wasn’t following correct protocol for a communications blackout. However, neither was paranoid enough to assume that Maslin was compromised, so they headed into the airlock and waited patiently (after Aster determined that the decontamination procedure was reasonably timed and not a trap). Speaking to Maslin in the living quarters, the team heard that the satellite uplink wasn’t working. Lise offered to fix it, but accepted Maslin’s excuse that it was already being worked on, and while Saliah determined that Maslin was telling half-truths, she decided not to act on her intel yet. The team accepted Maslin’s offer of a tour of the facility, and while they saw that the biology lab had been abandoned in a rush, they continued to follow Maslin into the rainforest biome.

Saliah listened to the strangely quiet biome, and then heard the sound of something moving, when Maslin had said nothing was around. She confronted Maslin with the fact that Maslin had been giving half-truths; the scientist collapsed under Saliah’s relentless questioning, and began talking. She told the detective about the Ophiocordyceps fungus, how it began to spread. She told her about the colony, and how miraculous it was to become part of it. She told her about the two scientists who shunned the colony, as well as the power of Gazenko, who now led the colony’s spread. Saliah decided to head for her colleagues and warn them about the mind-controlling spores. She was headed off by a colonized monkey, but managed to hide from it.

As soon as Maslin was “caught” by Saliah, a boar rushed out of the forest, attacking Aster and Lise. Coincidence, or the colony protecting itself? The boar, covered in fungus, attacked mercilessly, and was shortly joined by a small pack of vicious monkeys. Lise zapped the boar with her weapons-grade laser pointer after it failed to bite through her super-dense Meitnerium cloak. She then realized that the rampant radiation poisoning that has long ailed her would be very harmful to any animals that managed to bite her. Aster fired her molecular ray at the monkeys. One was struck, and while it was burned, it also increased in size, becoming an eight-foot-tall “Mega Monkey,” though it seemed more confused than super-strong.

Sprache entered a handful of the most commonly-used 4-digit passcodes, hoping to escape the dangerous situation. He succeeded, only to see a fierce-looking military man (Dr. Morrow) rushing down the umbilicus. Morrow slammed through the door and tried to shoot Sprache in the face. Sprache wrestled for the gun, twisting his ankle as he tripped and sending the bullet into the fire alarm system, setting off the sprinklers. The heavy water fall punctured the fragile mushrooms, spreading spores through the air, but all but Lise closed their mouths and kept the spores away until they fell to the ground, waterlogged.

Sprache headed out through the umbilicus and smashed the keypad on his way out, shutting the door for good.

Morrow, seeing that one of the two uninfected action scientists was where he could no longer reach him, started sprinting towards uninfected Aster. Meanwhile, the remaining monkey gathered up a handful of mushrooms and rushed towards Aster, ready to hurl them into her face. Saliah shouted at Morrow, using her knowledge of psychology to convince him that he didn’t really want to shoot Aster. Aster decided to escape Morrow and the monkey by phasing through the dense foliage to the east—where she saw a gigantic hole cut into the dome, with huge and mysterious tracks leading away…

Aster had just phased through the forest to avoid mushroom-throwing from the monkey. She saw a hole in the wall, with giant tracks leading away from the building. Even more distressing, a GIANT FUCKING BEAR, dressed in human clothes, was sniffing at the tracks (which were even bigger than the bear). She decided not to worry about the tracks, hoping that the bear would kill anything that runs. She headed back in behind Morrow and pointed her molecular ray at the back of his head, saying “don’t move.”

Outside, the bear, one “Grisly Adams,” stared at the hole in the biome with great concern. Since he had been rescued from the Great Time Dilation Disaster of 2007, he had been working for Tesladyne: Officially, he is Test Subject #2453, but in practice he functions as a security consultant, using his skills as a former police detective from the extinct bear civilization from inside the time dilation field. Several days ago, he had been sent out into the Oregon wilderness by Dr. Gazenko to track down a missing laboratory monkey. However, the monkey had taken him on a long wild-goose-chase, eventually leading him back to Biome 3, and the angry bear was looking to find out what the hell had happened to his workplace. He raced into the middle of everything, reared up to his full twelve-foot height, and shouted “Will someone kindly tell me what the fuck is going on here?!”

Lise was concerned that the fire suppression system would send up further spores or damage electrical equipment, so she made some jury-rigged repairs.

Morrow tried to convince Grisly that the Action Scientists were invaders, but Grisly’s long-term detective training meant that he didn’t buy it, and realized that Morrow was acting out of character. Given his history with “mad scientists” and clean-up teams (being created and tested on by the former and rescued by the latter), Grisly decided to trust the Action Scientist clean-up team over Morrow.

Aster fired her molecular ray at Morrow as the doctor tried to run, but the military man dodged out of the way at the last second. The monkey, still armed with mushrooms, hurled them at Aster. At this moment, she happened to see a discarded wrench on the biome floor and leaned down to pick it up, with the mushrooms flying over her head through pure coincidence like she was the Road Runner in a Looney Tunes cartoon. She then fired back at the monkey, who hid in the dense foliage.

Grisly shouted loudly at Morrow, citing the Tesladyne regulations for emergency procedures and the fact that he knew Morrow was acting out of character, demanding that Morrow “sit down, shut up, and give me the gun.” Morrow, cowed by the bear, sat down heavily and flicked the safety on his weapon before sliding it to Grisly. Meanwhile, Lise cut through the monkey with her laser pointer, filling the biome with the scent of burnt flesh and toasted mushrooms.

Lise introduced herself to Grisly, who responded with “nice to meet you, ma’am,” and asked for more. He then recognized Lise Meitner as another person pulled out of their proper place and time and rescued by Tesladyne, and relaxed—and the idea of starting a support group for those of Tesladyne’s employees who were officially test subjects, like Lise, Aster, and himself. He casually commented that “For a clean-up squad, you sure made a hell of a mess,” then introduced himself to the rest of the team.

From outside the dome in the PNW darkness, the team saw a flash of lightning and heard a sonic boom reverberate through the structure, and then footsteps running through the forest outside. A rather muscular figure approached through the hole in the dome. In the buff, he shouted “Am I too late? Where is the moss man? Am I in the correct timestream? Talking bear, I was not informed of that… I apologize for my appearance, every piece of matter takes more power to transport through time.”

The nude man explained that he was from the future: “I come from a future too horrible to contemplate, overridden by the fungus… It has repopulated the earth with its vile fungal essence. I am here to right the past and prevent this horror from ever taking place.” He wanted to take Morrow’s clothes, but the team advised him that they could be contaminated, and he ended up wrapping himself in Grisly’s oversized shirt like a toga.

The team began to talk to the time traveler, who said his name was Jones, asking if he knew how to cure the fungal infection (as the majority of them were infected, it was of definite interest). He replied “No. A small rebel contingent has sent me back as a last resort. There is no cure as I know it. I am here to prevent it from ever happening.” Aster quipped back drily “Then you’re going to have to go back another week.” Hearing that, he was extremely upset, and explained that his time machine runs on a very rare element, Meitnerium, and he had no more—the 3 whole grams the rebels had managed to create were gone. Lise Meitner quietly neglected to mention that she had an entire cloak made of a Meitnerium alloy.

Jones was surprised that Grisly would just take his word that he was from the future, but Grisly replied “After this day, yes,”—but also made it clear that the only reason Jones wasn’t on the ground in cuffs was that he was obviously unarmed (and thus wasn’t going to get to borrow a gun). Jones explained that he had gone back to “the birthplace, the foundation of the moss man kingdom. The birth of new order was established on October 7th, 2012.” Grisly replied that “Something big went that way and it smelled like wet socks,” and Jones was extremely upset that he’d missed Gazenko’s moss beast.

Grisly aside, the rest of the action scientists were hesitant to admit that Jones might be a time traveler, so asked for some proof. Jones gave his time machine (which looked just like an iPhone for camouflage reasons—though this increased the team’s worry that he was just a crazy naked man with an iPhone) to Aster to examine. Lise reluctantly handed over a small piece of her Meitnerium cloak, and Aster and Jones headed back a week to try and stop this mess before it started. However, they found themselves still in the rainforest biome, only four hours in the past—just in time to see Gazenko riding a quickly-growing fungus beast into the wilderness. Jones advised Aster that since they’d come too late to properly stop things, it would be safer to avoid “the butterfly effect” and try not to affect anything until they caught back up with the “present.” However, he left Grisly’s shirt hidden in the underbrush to act as proof that they’d gone back in time, and Aster examined the computers in the biology lab, gathering data to examine as the duo took “the slow path” and waited around for four hours. Unfortunately, Aster’s attempt to be quick taking down the data ended up in her accidentally turning off the cell tower, presumably causing her own team’s arrival.

From the perspective of the rest of the scientists, Aster and Jones disappeared and then instantly walked out of the underbrush. Then Jones, dressed in a Tesladyne uniform, went over to the underbrush and retrieved Grisly’s shirt with a flourish. He remarked that “The mayans were right, by the way. This is the whole 2012 business,” then the scientists sat down for a brainstorm, using the information Aster had pulled from the past.

Aster took initial charge of the brainstorm, using her Quantum Physics to explain how the fungus absorbed energy through “Quantum Coherence.” Jones then used his knowledge of Temporal Mechanics to realize that someone from the future had actually brought back the superintelligent fungus to the present, creating a predestination paradox with “Fungus From the Future Hitchhiking Back.” Grisly then took control and determined with his knowledge of Forensics that “ Dr. Dumbass was drinking coffee out of the beakers again,” explaining how the infection originally spread. Aster brought the ideas together into a workable hypothesis that explained everything that had happened:

“Jones was tracking through a mossy field of the future, an evolved type of moss was caught in the treads of his shoe. Upon his next mission, back in time (2009), the fungus fell out of his shoe, ensuring the death of Michael Jackson. Upon forensic teams recovery, the strange moss was taken to a Tesladyne lab for analysis. Unique properties prompted the desire to grow more for alternate testing purposes, thus it was added to the biodome, to grow in a controlled environment.

Through the course of many samples taken and experiments conducted, Dr. Gazenko, an avid coffee connoisseur, dropped and broke his favorite coffee mug. In his slightly groggy state, desperately needing that first cup of coffee of the day, he grabbed the nearest beaker he could reach and filled it to the brim with an earthy coffee.

The earthiness, while delicious, covered up the fact that he was also tasting the remainder of mossy growth in the beaker.

Through Quantum Coherence, the moss began to feed on coffee, and once entered into Dr. Gazenko’s body, had to rely on a different food source; Dr. Gazenko himself.

The first mutation of the moss was to make the human body a habitable place to live. The second mutation was more outwardly visible, as mycelia grew from Dr. Gazenko’s head; creating a source for spore production and thus fulfilling the natural course of all life; to reproduce.

Thus the spores infected other animals, changing the animal kingdom inhabitants into plant kingdom inhabitants, the first of which was our Moss monster, and offspring of Dr. Gazenko himself.”

With this hypothesis, Aster realized that the fungus beast was “Dr. Gonzo’s Baby”!

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