Sunday 7 September 2014

Aberrant: Training Montage

Back to Aberrant, then.

War between Russia and the USA was officially declared in February 1999. As we’d been present at the assassination of Yeltsin, our reputations have taken a hit and Benedict wanted us to lay low whilst he ramped up our training.

So, quick recap of the team (the Nova Initiative, who were out doing good months before Project Utopia’s Team Tomorrow, but they still take credit as the first super team):

Chrissie Walker (me!): former nurse, early/mid-20’s, London born & bred.
Powers: flight, fire manipulation, weather manipulation, quantum regen. Also, mega-strength, dex, stamina, perception, int, wits and charisma and many additions to those (including linguistic genius, avian, regen, adaptability, something about being good at reading other people’s quantum signatures). Known as The Phoenix.

Adam Mason (Bells): dancer and mechanic, 17, Londoner.
Power: superspeed, boost, lightning manipulation, some form of matter or gravity or magnetic control, quantum regen, I think some other stuff – shares a psychic link with Chrissie. Also, mega-dex, stamina, perception, int, wits, appearance and charisma with additions including enhanced movement and adaptability). Known as Hyperdrive.

Stephanie (NPC): American recent high school graduate, about the same age as Adam. Her parents didn’t realise she’d erupted because they took her intelligence for granted. As respected scientists, we eventually convinced the family she was more than she seemed by getting her to correct their papers.
Known powers: mega-int and cyber-kinesis.

Rachel Towers (NPC): Seemingly British, was working in a Parisian zoo when she erupted. Friendly and easy-going, she was more than happy to join the fledgling team.
Known powers: animal / plant control /communication, matter creation (in the form of wall-building at least) and flight.

Mark Child (NPC): Told where to find him, Chrissie and Adam went to Leicester and picked him up. He’s laid back but doesn’t reveal any of his abilities – to the point Chrissie and Adam would almost think he wasn’t a Nova if Benedict hadn’t told them.
Known powers: …

Jean Baptiste (NPC): Originally from France, he’s Chrissie’s parkour instructor and friend: she was delighted to learn he’d erupted and even more pleased he agreed to join them. As well as their shared love of parkour, he’s a doctor so they’re both from a medical background.
Known powers: healing and (presumably) mega-dex.

Robert (NPC): previously Clinton’s bodyguard and high up in the Special Forces, Robert erupted when the guy assassinated Yeltsin and afterwards came to join the Nova Initiative.
Known powers: strong psychic shielding

Benedict St John (NPC): Charlie to the above Angels. Sort of. From a powerful family: his parents have a pharmacological company and are famous as philanthropists. He follows in their footsteps, although studied physics and law rather than business, biology or chemistry (the family business is now primarily overseen by his wife, Jennie).
The powers he definitely does not have include telepathy, telekinesis, teleport and force shields, as well as mega-int and probably several others (including something that means he can go unrecognised despite his fame). When he does have to act Nova-like in front of others, he goes by the name of Noble.

The training over the next year is, as I said, intense. Mark shows several abilities that suggest a background in the SAS or espionage (or both…). He drills us to be able to kill a person barehanded in a number of ways.

We’re taught languages as fast as we can learn them and how to stay safe and hidden and survive in different situations, but as part of that we learn things Chrissie would rather not know – in addition to the ways to kill barehanded, we learn to do the same with various weapons, how to make bombs, how to look after firearms. It makes her uncomfortable but it’s drilled into her until it’s second nature: pure muscle memory. For her, it’s the biggest sign of how far to hell the world has gone.

A large part of the training is to be dropped into a strange location and left to survive with nothing but what was on us when we were sent; sometimes alone, sometimes the whole team and sometimes with powers turned off.

It doesn’t leave much time for an outside life, but both Chrissie and Adam do make time to see their friends, and Adam’s relationship with his next door neighbour and long-running crush Samantha seems to be going well.

We rejoin the action towards the end of this training montage, towards the end of 1999. Benedict advises the team that there is a Nova we need to collect – need to find, convince to join us and then lead to an evacuation point. We’re shown a picture of the Nova and told the rough location – Tbilisi, capital of Georgia and an active warzone following invasion by Russia a few months before. And we’re on a rooftop in the city. This is a ‘without powers’ mission.

The city is ravaged – not just by the normal signs of war, but also by damage that can only have been inflicted by Novas. The first thing we need to do, then, is check the building is safe. An abandoned apartment block, we set up a base of operations in a central flat – with a second flat to retreat to if necessary. Adam and Robert nip off to find supplies and scout the surrounding area, whilst Mark, Rachel, Jean and Chrissie looted and trapped this building and Stephanie set up a computer system.

Satisfied that the first building is secure, Jean and Chrissie jump to the building next door to ensure it could be used as an escape route. A few rats later, it is clear the building is empty of humanity but badly damaged. We loot. The top floors were converted to an office, so lots of computer stuff we can offer to Steph. Heading down, we find a locked apartment. Inside, it seems to have belonged to someone who knew what they were doing. Initially, we think military or police as we grab a gun, armour and decent boots, along with a satellite phone that may assist Steph. Then Jean finds a bug-out bag filled with lots of different currencies and many, many passports. We take it, with some anxiety but aware of its benefit, and head back.

Mark is interested in the bag – he recognises the guy from the passport photos; says his name is Omar and he’s an agent with Israeli special forces. He and Chrissie return to the apartment and he shows her a few spy tricks for hidey holes (it crosses her mind she’s lucky he hadn’t trapped the place before leaving, considering she shoulder-barged the door to get in). They find two more passports – one for Omar and the other for a young Chinese girl by the name of Mina Trang. Chrissie vaguely remembers her brother talking about a family called Trang who were important in the business world. Mark then finds a bunch of notes stuffed in the door frame – all high value local currency except for one US dollar bill. It’s weird to see it there so Chrissie suggests testing for invisible ink. Sure enough, when held over a flame an address appears.

Steph needs access to a network, which is not going to be easy to get. We need to find some sort of satellite dish or aerial or something – Adam and Chrissie volunteer to head to the hardware store Adam found earlier.

It’s about 10 min away and undisturbed – its shutters have protected it from the shockwaves from shelling and Novas and by some miracle it’s remained unlooted. We break in through the back: a small basement window is loose and it looks like local cats have been using it as a cat flap to a hidey-hole. We just about squeeze through and wander up to the store itself. The staff kitchen is intact and the place has power – Chrissie suggests it might not be a bad idea to turn this into a new base of operations. They raid the vending machine then the shelves before leaving through the (unalarmed) fire door that locks closed behind them.

As they stand in the courtyard, they here Polish voices coming and race to hide in the nearest alley. It’s imperfect, but they stay very still as three men enter and start talking about the Russians chasing them down. One spots the two hiding, and Chrissie (in Polish, with her hands raised) asks them not to shoot.

The leader turns to the one who spotted them and says “No witnesses”. He sighs and raises his machine gun – Chrissie turns and flees whilst Adam aims his pistol. The tote bag on Chrissie’s back absorbs some of the bullets that fly at her, but she knows she survived the first hail more by luck than anything else so picks up the pace, shouting for Adam to follow her. He starts firing back, and all guns are raised. They try to take Chrissie out before she reaches the end of the alley and so be out of sight and nearly succeed. She staggers into another alley to hide behind a dumpster and comms for help whilst Adam deals with the three men. He arrives – bullet-wounded and badly bruised, clutching their guns – shortly after Jean and Mark have reached Chrissie. They’re taken back to base to be patched up, but Chrissie can see how bad Adam is and judging by Jean and Mark’s expressions she’s worse.

Drifting in and out of consciousness as the bullets are removed, Chrissie is again grateful to have Jean on her team.

She comes to. Adam beside her is patched to an IV drip and still asleep. Jean is fussing over him whilst Mark spots she’s awake and fills her in: she and Adam have been unconscious for 3 days. They’d developed fevers so the rest of the team had raided a hospital – hence the IV. Mina Trang is from the family Chrissie had heard of; she’d recently erupted, which would explain the interest. It seemed she was being smuggled into Africa, although it wasn’t clear why. Steph had also managed to narrow the search radius for our target down a bit. Mark had contacted Benedict and was uncharacteristically cross that he hadn’t agreed to extract Chrissie and Adam (Chrissie is relieved to hear this: she wouldn’t want to miss this or abandon her team). Rachel’s developed a talent as a sniper, so keeping people away from their current base.

Chrissie knew she was feeling much, much better than she should be and Jean confirmed this. Satisfied they were ok, he finally agreed to sleep.

Two more days spent resting, with various team members checking in on Chrissie and Adam. At the end, Jean removes their stitches and they are fine: Jean and Chrissie are pleased to note that even when dormant, the quantum power still assists healing.

Mark has gone scouting and not been seen in 36 hours but is trusted to be ok: his last known location was the address we’d found for Mina Trang. We need to stick to the task at hand, which is reiterated when a Nova blazes past: a quick secured call to Benedict confirms it is Cesta Pax of Team Tomorrow (leading to a chorus of “Wanker” from the Nova Initiative).

Adam goes to the secured garage beneath the building and armours up a van from what he can find there and nearby and, after leaving a secret message for Mark and rigging the place to blow if the wrong person enters, the team heads out onto the war torn streets. It’s a bumpy ride (as Adam drives over the troops who won’t get out of his path), but it’s nice to be moving again.

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