I'm running a three session Tales from the Loop game.
SESSION THREE: OVERLAP
SESSION THREE: OVERLAP
Recap: Emma throws a metal chair at the cyclotron. Electricity arcs up. A crack in reality opens. Snow drifts out...
...Followed by a wooly rhino with the words NO FUTURE spray painted on its side.
"Kill NODWARC!" bellows the rhino, and charges the maintenance bots.
Flashback: 18 months ago. Spike's father is taking him on tour of the construction site for the Advanced Nuclear Research Facility. "This bit will be the cyclotron chamber" he says. "This is the future, right here." The ground rumbles and suddenly gives way. Spike pulls his father back to safety. The dirt stops falling, revealing an abandoned mine shaft.
Present day: Alarms ring. The wooly rhino and the robots clash. Blood splatters. Clare, Emma and Gemma try to escape via the lift. Spike, ever impulsive, runs to help the rhino.
Shrike appears on the balcony, holding her ZX81 hooked up to an info-pad, flanked by two sentry-bots. "Cancel the shutdown," she orders. "And capture those outliers!"
Spider-bots swarm across the ceiling.
Spike reaches the rhino, grabs its wooly fur, and leaps up onto its back. "There's a mineshaft behind you," he shouts in its ear.
On the balcony, the lift opens. The girls run to get in, until they see the guard-bot inside.
Clare tries to hammer the door close button. Misses. But luck is on her side: Gemma buys her a few more seconds by tangling the robot's lets with her camera strap. Clare hits the button. The robot is trapped. The girls run.
The rhino smashes through the chamber wall into the old mine.
Gemma and Clare run after it. Emma tries to sneak up behind Shrike and steal her computer. She accidentally kicks a spanner. The robots turn. By luck, a lighting bolt hits the Facility, causing the robots to stagger. Emma grabs the ZX81 and runs for the mine opening too.
Four humans and a wooly rhino run into the old mine.
They lose the spider-bots. Spike notices how wounded the rhino is. The students ask her who she is and where she comes from.
"Me Crusher," she says. "Me scientist! From Kraw Doom."
As they approach the exit, they hear voices from a side tunnel calling "Help us! Please! Help us?"
The students go to help. Crusher stays behind trying to break an old support beam and trap the spider-bots in the tunnel.
Down the side tunnel, the students find two of the people that had been listed as missing in the newspaper: the school caretaker Randir Singh and the footballer Sam Spalding. They're locked in an iron cage. Gemma picks the lock.
The spider-bot get close. Crusher manages to bring the beam down in time.
The group runs out the mine entrance... into a world of snow.
The sun is like a dying ember. Crawdon Woods are nothing by dead trees. The ruins of ancient buildings surround them. Snow is everywhere.
"Kraw Doom," Crusher tells them. "Home."
She takes them up the hill to Kraw Doom's version of the cyclotron: a huge rusted piece of machinery surrounded by standing stones. Other punk-rock rhino scientists work the machines. The students eat from massive bowls of stew and huddle against the wooly rhinos for warmth as the scientists explain.
"NODWARC future. One future. Many others. NODWARC spreading. Eating futures. Must stop. We scientists. Build machine. Fight NODWARC!"
Gemma tests the ZX81. There are three programs built into memory: Communication, QSI Control and Space Invaders. Space Invaders is just Space Invaders. Communication states it is "Unable to contact NODWARC..." QSI is the remote control program for the quantum superposition inducers: they can use to it to turn the one Spike found in the woods on and off, but they can't reach all the others from Kraw Doom.
They need to go back.
The rhino scientists connect up their cyclotron to the stone circle using massive cables. They wish the students farewell. Then they start chanting. The cyclotron fires up, there's a flash... and the students are back on High Street in Crawdon/NODWARC.
Hovertrucks fly past, carrying workers in orange jumpsuits to help build the mega-inducers that will allow NODWARC to spread to first Millthorpe, then the world.
The group sneak onto school grounds, and gather in the caretaker's shed. Mr Singh shows them his hidden stash of Tunnock's tea cakes. While they all recover, Gemma plays with the ZX81 again.
The QSI Control program works: with some fiddling, she can shut down all the inducers. Outside, they see the barrier around Crawdon flicker and start to fail.
Then the Communication program opens by itself.
THIS IS NODWARC, it says. CEASE YOUR INTERFERENCE. YOU HAVE BEEN LOCATED.
Security-bots march across the school towards the shed. The students tell Mr Singh and Sam to run, then flee themselves. They make their way across town back towards the facility.
NODWARC keeps flickering in and out of existence as the superposition collapses. Then a giant mega-inducer emerges from the Facility, firing laser beams at the barrier. It's just enough to maintain the overlap while the workers complete the other mega-inducers aimed at Millthorpe.
Other futures flicker in and out: Kraw Doom, a primeval forest, a dark world of iron pyramids.
The students decide they need to shut down the mega-inducer and turn off NODWARC. They sneak back in via the old mine. The rubble that Crusher brought down phases in and out of reality. By timing their sprints, the students can run past it while it has phased out.
Further down the tunnel: a sentry bot stands guard, and behind it metal plates have been welded over the entrance.
Spike charges the sentry bot holding his bass like spear. Gemma and Clare distact it by throwing rocks at it. Spike's bass hits the robot dead centre of its main eye. The robot staggers back... and trips over Emma, who is kneeling behind it. It falls and smashes into pieces. Victory!
The students peer through the metal barrier into the cyclotron chamber. Huge cables snake up from the cyclotron to the mega-inducer. Dozens of maintenance-bots strive to keep to working. And dozens more sentry and guard-bots protect the machinery from harm.
Clare feels something familiar rub against her ankles.
"Warning," says the robot cat. "Warning. NODWARC is expanding. Please connect Sinclair ZX81 to mega-inducer."
The students look back through the metal plates at the crowd of robots between them and the cabling.
They make a plan.
Emma fires them up with a speech. Spike smashed the metal plates away with his bass. Clare wrenches a leg off the dead sentry-bot and steps out into the cyclotron chamber, scowling.
The robots step back, confused.
Emma leapfrogs over a sentry-bot and runs for a computer console on the far side of the chamber. The robots turn to chase her. While the bots are distracted, Spike and Gemma sneak towards the cabling.
One of the sentry-bot senses something, and turns. Spike makes a noble sacrifice: throwing his bass at the bot. The bass cracks and splinters. The bot falls, knocking over others.
Gemma and Spike reach the cables. Gemma grabs the perfect connector and hooks up the ZX81. She runs the QSI Control program. Text fills the screen:
**QUANTUM SUPERPOSITION INDUCERS CONTROL**
CONNECTING TO QSI NETWORK...
INITIATING WAVE FUNCTION COLLAPSE...
WARNING: MULTIPLE EIGENSTATES DETECTED. PLEASE CHOOSE FINAL STATE:
3. KRAW DOOM
Gemma hesitates. In Crawdon, her father is on strike and is developing black lung. In NODWARC, he's healthy, happy and employed, even if it is a dictatorship run by computer. In Kraw Doom, humanity is extinct. The students could do whatever they want.
Emma suggests pressing 4, and going somewhere completely new.
But love it or hate it, Crawdon is home. Gemma presses 1.
There's a flash. And...
...And Margaret Thatcher presses the big red button. Photographers take pictures. The PM's handlers usher her out to her next appointment, while the Salvation Army band plays.
NODWARC is gone. The students are back before the overlap. Only they remember what has happened.
The bus takes them back to school. The barrier is gone. The town is back to normal.
Except: Spike's bass is lost, trapped in a possible future. And Gemma still has Shrike's ZX81.
The students sneak out of class to the caretaker's shed. Mr Singh is hiding in there, terrified and confused. He still remembers NODWARC. The students explain to him what happened.
He thanks them for rescuing him. Out of gratitude, he says they can use the shed whenever they want.
They all drink tea. The conversation drops away. Silence descends.
Until Clare's headphones crackle.
"Warning," they say. "Warning. Affection is required. Please provide pats."
The robot cats slinks out of the shadows and curls up in Clare's lap.