Have I been getting it all wrong? (Supernaturals in the Fate system)

A lot has been made of the fact that Fate is great when you first visualise an end result and then set about creating something using the rules to match your initial vision, rather than jumping straight into the rules and attempting to build something from the ground up, and rightly so, one of the strengths of the system is that the rules set is extremely versatile even without the various hacks and add-ons that are available either for free or online at a low cost.
Previously when i’ve thought about supernaturals (and in this case i’m talking specifically about supernaturals as player characters rather than as monsters or NPCs which is an entirely different subject) i’ve most often looked at an existing game (in my case generally the World of Darkness series since they’re some of the games i’m most familiar with) and how Fate could be adapted or “hacked” to create a facsimile of the game in question; however there have recently been a spate of posts on the various Fate G+ communities where people have attempting to create versions of their favourite comic/fiction characters (and others) using the basic Fate rules. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how close a lot of these attempts have come to matching their inspiration, and all mostly using the rules as presented in either the Fate Accelerated or Fate Core rulebooks. I ran a one-off game of ‘Mummy: the Curse’ recently since i’ve been dying to test it out and love the concept behind it (my review of Mummy can be found here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SrPzZ9ClGyc), now i’ve been away from the World of Darkness rules-set for quite some time, aside from a brief read-through of the updated rules booklet that formed part of the ‘God Machine Chronicles’, since i’ve been moving towards less crunchy and more narrative based systems; whilst the game was very enjoyable and we all had a good time (the background of the game being one of the best i’ve read in a WoD game for a long time) I found going back to the nWoD rules extremely strange and wasn’t completely sold on them.
This isn’t a post to knock crunchier games, because I think that different systems suit different people and it really bugs me when people damn a system just because it happens to not be ideal for them, simply to say that my thoughts upon running the game were (as they so often are when games have a great background but a rules system that doesn’t suit my style of gaming) “there’s some great stuff in this book but I don’t suit the rules, what system can I use to keep the background but make it more suitable for my style of play?” I’m sure it will be no surprise to any who knows me or reads my posts/watches my videos that Fate Core and Fate Accelerated are my go-to systems when this sort of question comes up; previously I would probably have dived straight into the system and started working out how I could hack it to make a workable version of the ‘Mummy: the Curse’ rules, and i’ve done this previously to produce some workable hacks (my WH40K hack and my (still not completed) Fate of Cthulhu hack amongst them). Recently though i’ve been playing in a Dresden Files game run by a friend of mine and, although we’ve only played a single actual session (the first being taken up by setting/character generation and discussion), one of the things that has really impressed me is how a list of Stunts and Aspect suggestions can be used to construct virtually any type of supernatural within the DFRPG universe, this, together with the recent G+ posts has got me thinking that perhaps i’m taking the wrong approach when it comes to playable supernaturals in Fate.
For example, here is an example of a vampire “package” that I threw together in about 30 seconds (using Fate Accelerated rules and some ideas from the Fate Toolkit):
Aspect: Must have one aspect that included the word vampire
Stunts:
– (must have, +1 refresh) Blood-addicted: Gives the character an additional hunger stress track of 3 boxes; at the end of any scene where the vampire has used its power it is ‘attacked’ with a strength equal to the refresh cost of the power used, stress inflicted by this is added first to the hunger stress track.
– (optional, -2 refresh) Vampiric strength: The character gets +4 when Forcefully attacking.
– (optional, -2 refresh) Vampiric speed: The character gets +2 when Quickly overcoming obstacles that involve movement, the character automatically goes first in combats unless there are other combatants with vampiric speed.
The blood-addicted Stunt is based heavily on the DFRPG games use of a hunger stress track to track vampiric hunger, and the combined package would costs 3 refresh to purchase (the standard starting amount for a Fate Accelerated character); obviously there is a lot more work that could be done and i’ve not really covered feeding or standard vampiric weaknessed (sunlight, etc) at all in the rules above, but still it’s a workable framework that could be played, created in relatively little time without a vast amount of rules hacking being required.
Looking at the Fate system in this light it has lead me to wonder whether or not, for my next game featuring supernatural protagonists, it might be an idea to present either a list of Stunts (or some amended Stunt rubrics) to my players and have them create the supernatural characters that they want rather than worrying overly much about whether the rules particularly mirror those present in some other existing game?
For example:
One of the main themes of the game “Mummy: the Curse” is that the Arisen start off very powerful but with little memory or context within which to use that power, as time progresses their magical energy (Sekhem) drains away (bringing them ever closer to a return to their death-like sleep) their memory improves, paradoxically, as they gain the memories that might allow them to use their powers more wisely, those very powers ebb away.
I might create such a creature in Fate Accelerated like this.
Aspects: 
– High Concept: Must have mention the word ‘arisen’
– Trouble: Must mention the word ‘memory’
– Must have one Aspect that mentions the purpose for which they have arisen.
I’m not sure at the moment how i’d handle something like the gradual decrease of power, but i’m pretty sure that, given enough though, the Fate system could handle it; if anyone out there has any suggestions please feel free to add them in the comments section.
Near the start of the year I ran a God Machine Chronicle using the Fate Accelerated rules and that seemed to work really well, although the player characters were only mortals in that game, the GMC game was a tester for when the “Demon: the Descent” game is released (probably in 2014); I think that when this is released, rather than attempt to mirror the rules i’m going to create some demonic powers/Stunts that are thematically similar to the ones listed in the book and then just lift the background from it. I’m also really looking forward to the Dresden Accelerated that is going to released in 2014 (further details here – http://www.evilhat.com/home/fate-core-dresden-files-accelerated/), but until that comes out there’s a lot of potential ideas for supernatural powers as Stunts in the existing DFRPG that can be tapped and the Fate Toolkit offers a lot of advice on making different types of Stunts.

God Machine Chronicle – The World According to Maggy Pike : Part Four

IC blog of fourth and final God Machine Chronicle Session
Written by Kelly Grimshaw
Reproduced with permission from the author.

Ok, so now we are totally clear that Dr Who didn’t turn up to save the day. Oddly enough it was Brian and Joe, yep you did read right, Mr my mouth always gets into trouble Best and Mr I would rather knock your teeth out than talk to you Thompson came to our rescue, the most unconventional knights in battered and bloody armor ever.
Like I said before, I am writing this all down to try to make sense of it all but if I am completely honest I think it will take me more than this life time to achieve.
I left my last blog where I was about to answer a call. I really thought that my brains were going to be sucked out through the speaker or something else dreadful but I am also the kind of person that really cannot let a phone ring, you never know how much will cost to ignore in my line of business.
I took a very deep breath and pressed the answer button on my phone.
“Hello” Both I and Brian say together.
I have to pull the phone away from my ear, instead of a voice came a noise. Now, anyone under the age of about twenty five will have no idea what I’m talking about and by rights I shouldn’t know either but my father was not one to keep up with technology.
So, this noise was a banshee like screech of the sound when you pick up the home phone when the internet is plugged into the land line socket.
After the noise dies away I place the speaker next to my ear again and hear nothing but static. In the background a voice like a mouse shouting in a tin can I hear Hello? Hello?
I remembered what was said in the pub about they can hear you when you can hear static so I quickly hang up.
Brian from the sound of it though heard something and tries to engage the voice in conversation.
“Bartek? Is that you? What do you mean?
I guess that Bartek doesn’t answer, besides the fact that Brian said he was dead that is, he hangs up with a puzzled look on his face.
I presume our voices wake Catia because when I turn round she is sitting upright and has her laptop open and her fingers are furiously tapping across the keyboard.
She looks a little frustrated, there is no connection but again we hear the sound of static. This time it is coming from her speakers.
A voice sounding like Stephen Hawking’s mixed with the speaking clock is reciting numbers, the same numbers we came across a few hours earlier.
“Do you have a bible?” Brian casually asks.
“What type of question is that to ask a person? To be honest I have no idea. Go and have a look if you want.”
“Now there isn’t anything to get embarrassed about is there. Um you know, in your draws…” Brian asks, clearly uncomfortable about finding a ladies personal, battery powered devices.
“Nothing to be embarrassed about.” I smirk
“It’s not your embarrassment I am on about” He replies turning away.
“No, go ahead.”  I call to him in the bedroom, I know there are some Buddhist books and books on growing stuff but I am pretty sure there isn’t a Gideon’s in there although you can never be sure. They do seem to be popping up everywhere now.
While I am enjoying this mild form of entertainment Catia, with a look of panic turns off her laptop but the voice continues. She quickly removes the battery and stillit continues. In a desperate attempt to stop something from happening she runs over to my window and fights against the storm to open it. The laptop goes the same way my mirrors did and it turns end over end in the air before it disappears from view.
Our smack head friend looks upset seeing the laptop disappear out the window. You can clearly see I could have sold that flicker across his face before he shrugs and continues eating.
She turns back and goes to grab anything with a speaker.
Telly I am fine with loosing I am also fine with losing the land line, the only person who knows it besides the gas and electric people is my mother and I am totally fine with not hearing from her. However my stereo also has speakers and I am not letting them go. Ever.
“Don’t touch my stereo.” I warn her.
Catia is about to speak when there is a frantic banging on my door. I look through the spy hole to see the resident smack head pounding his fists on the wooden door.
My good nature overrides common sense and I open it.
He barges past me and bangs the door shut behind him, pushing all the locks into place as he goes.
“Do come in.” I say sarcastically
He leans back on the door and exhales.
“Sorry about that.” He replies to my sarcasm “but it has gone to shit out there.”
I am not sure if it is the ah-hem samples that Joe gave to him earlier or adrenalin that is making him shake but this lad is messed up. A second look at him and it is mainly adrenalin. Mainly.
He is terrified.
He sits down and tells me that he saw a group of Polish men kicking the shit out of someone on the stairs. It had all kicked off at the pub and when Joe went in to disperse the crowd it had just carried on all through the block. There was no way he could have helped the man. Although I didn’t say anything I am sure that he could have done something. so he panicked and ran to the only person he knew on this floor. Me. Lucky me.
“We cut your arm off.” Great bit of timing there from Joe informing Brian of the simple solution. The poor lad looks even more horrified.
“Cut whose arm off?” He asks, his pail completion slowly whitening more.
I tell him to make himself at home. There is food about the house and I am sure there is some beer left in the fridge and push the rolling stuff towards him in the hope it will distract him from the conversation that Joe and Brian are having about going back into the mirror world.
He grabs some left over vegetable chaw main off the table and commences shoveling it into his mouth.
“There’s a microwave in the kitchen.” I gesture with my hand. I would feel better if he nuked the hell out of it, I don’t want to add food poisoning to the lads list of problems.
“It’s working?” He asks surprised.
“Yeah, why wouldn’t it be?” I ask, just as surprised.
The power keeps going, I think the generators on its last legs to be honest, it must have been going since, err well, since, erm since the storm began I suppose.”
There it is again, not knowing when the storm hit. Once you know what to look for it seems like the clues to whatever are bloody everywhere.
“No, we haven’t been hit yet.”
“Well you’re lucky then, all the floors lights keep going out.”
He ambles off clutching his leftovers into the kitchen where I hear a can being opened and the microwave bursting to life.
The two lads get up and arming themselves with what sharp cooking equipment is left on the draining board, a fairly serviceable carving knife for Brian and an innocent bread knife that just looks evil in Joe’s skilled hands they check the spy hole and make a brake for it.
I tell Catia that I am going to grab as much stuff as I can as there are possible black outs heading our way and while I am checking the contense of the medical cabinet she informs me that if we both go to her flat then she has a lot more medical supplies there and we can stock pile between us.
I quickly run around the flat grabbing blankets, torches, batters, candles, lighter fuel and a couple of lighters and pile them around the living room before we go over to hers.
“Look at me dude.” I ask our pet druggy. “Now I am trusting you to stay here for a few minutes while we nip over the road, cross me and I’ll hunt you down.” He nods but I think from the way he has downed the takeaway, two pot noodles and is currently necking a third as long as the food keeps coming there won’t be any problems but he shaking like the devil in a nunnery and who knows when the little medicated voices in his head will flip the switch.
We time our moment and run over to her place.
Shoes, clothes, dirty plates are all scattered over the room, bomb site style as she grabs a rucksack and begins grabbing everything she can find for a first aid bag, including a couple of small bottles that she stashes away in her pocket.
Honestly from the picture perfect style of this girl you really wouldn’t think she would let her place get so bogged down but then if she is spending all her time on hair, makeup, clothes and shoes something’s have to slide.
We get back to my flat and secretly surprised that he hasn’t cleaned me out Catia sits beside him and pulls out a couple of pills from her bag.
“Oi smack head!”
“I ain’ no smack head.” He answers slightly hurt
I have to laugh; it looks like the last few days have hardened our lass’s squeamish nature.
“I take base.” He continues under his breath.
“These are a little something that will get you high but will defiantly kill you. Do not take these if you until you are sure you want to die.”
Our resident junkie looks towards me, I shrug I honestly have no idea what they are. He then looks at Catia and gratefully takes them; he has suddenly stopped shaking so much and rediscovers his appetite.
“Come and help me find some sheets for bandages hon.” I ask Catia, well I can’t keep feeding everyone tea can I?
While we route around in the bedroom I ask Catia
“So what were these Devine pills then?”
“Devine?”
“Yeah, you know, get you so high you touch heaven and want to stay there.”
Oh. Yeah. Paracetamol, ‘bout 500mg.”
“Paracetamol?” I ask flatly.
“Yeah, I can see he’s twitchy, if he thinks he has something then he’ll stop worrying. Placebo effect” She smiles.
“Ah, I see. Clever. Here these will do.” I grab an old bed sheet, towel and a pair of sheers and we head back into the front room.
We have been working on or little makeshift hospital for about an hour when, trying very hard to ignore the sounds of gun fire and screams of the riot when someone begins to bang on the door.
“Who is it?” I yell.
“We’re squishy.” Joe’s voice yells back
They force the door open as I am undoing the locks and fall through in a rush to escape all the excitement.
Brian, who I am sure, has his brain wired directly to his jaw. It is either that or his head will explode if he stops talking for five minutes tells me begins to tell me what happened.
Joe sits on a free chair, he is looking thoughtful. That is never a good thing. It usually ends up painful for someone.
“We fight out way into the corridors; everyone was out there, all fighting. In some form of blood lust frenzy. This begins to peter out after the tenth floor and by the time we get to the thirteenth floor there is no one out there. It’s all quiet like. I go to jimmy the lock when I hear footsteps coming towards us. And blow me if Bartek opens the door. Alive, well and healthy looking. In a suit fresh from the cleaners, I say fresh from the cleaners. He invites us in all friendly like, and so’s I ask about the coffee table he sold to me when I was up there last. Bartek then tells me he doesn’t remember but they are welcome to it. I asks him to oblige us with a cuppa and while he is making tea I flips the table over and tries to push me hand through. And you’ll never believe it; it was solid. Just a normal mirror. He comes back a bit quicker than we expected so Jo asks him about some weapons. As they are chatting well blow me if a cat appears from the back room and sits down and stares at us. We make our excuses to leave and when Joe shakes his hand it is the same breezeblock feeling from Miles. So what I’m reckoning is that when we heard his voice on the phone, it was the real one being uploaded into this new copy of him. ”
While Brian is talking at me Catia sits down next to him and pokes the patch of skin on his arm that has been numbed since the mechanical bagpuss bit him. Until she began testing the area around the deadened area he hadn’t noticed that it had been very slowly spreading up his arm. Well logically he wouldn’t would he? It is a numb patch of skin so no, you wouldn’t feel it. But before I manage to get this point across a soft scratching comes from the lower half of my front door. Automatically I look to the door expecting to see Luna wanting a little privet time. Luna is not there.
Now that is strange. She never leaves my side; she is like a canine shadow only much harder to remove. As I go to find her Catia shouts “Have you got a cat?”
“Cat? No. Dog, yes. That is if I can find her.” I say the last part to myself. I am starting to panic. She has not left my sight since she was a pup and that was only because she got stuck in the air ducts. I still have no idea how that happened but I would rather think about that now than the possibility that they have got to her.
Even in the bedroom I can clearly hear two sets of claws frantically scratching the woodwork to get in. I hear Catia say leave it outside to the others.
I crouch down next to the bed and look under it.
A pair of very frightened eyes look back. Luna is spooked and is not leaving the safety of the bed. I pull her out by the scruff of her neck and it is a fight. She wines, twists and tries to squirm out of my grip, she really doesn’t want to come out. I have never sensed so much fear pouring of one animal. I place her on my lap and try to comfort her from whatever is scaring her and let’s be honest I can guess it is coming from my front door. After about five minutes I still can’t calm her down so I let her go and she immediately wriggles back to the safety of the space under my bed.
“If the mirror door to Bartek has closed, what’s to say that any are still open? We need to get down to the first floor flat with the huge wall mirror. But I do suggest that the girls stay here.” I hear Joe explain to the group as I use the bed frame to pull myself up.
“Well how are we to get back outside without letting the cat in?” Brian asks as I return to the front room I feel I have missed part of the conversation but there is no time for them to go over it again.
“Open the door.” Joe commands. I would really like to see what would happen if one brave soul were to ever say no to him. I may have to try it one day, just one where he is not looking so determined.
Brian looks to Joe to see if he is ready and nods. He flings the door open and before anyone can react Joe is booting the cat rugby style and is looking for the try.
As the airborne cat shrieks its argument its instincts kick in and manages to drag one set of claws down his shin before it disappears down the corridor an angry furry flying ball of death and vengeance.
By the look of the clock about two hours go by. I know for a fact that it is not the right time, my job doesn’t have set hours but the minuet hand goes round twice so it’s an educated assumption. Our resident base head has finished his fifth pot noodle and is now dozing, with the help of a blunt that is still resting in his mouth in the bean bag chair.
“Is there anything else we can do?”
The noise out in the hall is now so loud that it sounds like it is literally outside the door. Before the lads left it sounded like any other street fight, all shouts and screams but there are more and more gun shots being heard. It sounds like total bedlam and only thing going to subdue the riot is when they are all dead.
“I can honestly think of nothing more we can do. If the lads come back injured and expecting a M.A.S.H set up and find that we are off gallivanting down the halls then that won’t help anyone.” I answer, rescuing the smoke from falling onto the chair.
Another hour goes by and the ashtray begins to over flow. As the noise of the bloodshed gets closer still, if that is at all possible.  Someone bangs on the door hard enough to knock it down.
“Who is it?” I ask exhaling bluish smoke of a blunt at the same time.
“We’re squishy.” Comes Joe’s reply again, this time though it seems labored.
“And Joe’s bleeding.” Brian continues.
They fall through door open as I am undoing the locks and force it shut, pushing the locks home again in anurgency only seen by people in fear for their lives.
Joe is indeed bleeding. There is a hole through his shoulder.
I get him to lie on the sofa while Catia attends to him.
“Got caught by a stray bullet.” Joe mumbles while being patched up.
“We need to get out. Out of the block and away from the building.” Brian tells me, he looks scared. I have never seen him look so shaken, that and Luna petrified under the bed I am happy to get away from here for a while.
I nod and start packing a bag.
“We need five ounces of your strongest stuff” Joe looks at me. He speaks more clearly now he is bandaged; I presume over ride kicked in, it has to in his line of work.
“Have you got anything to make us happy in that little bag of yours?” He asks Catia.
“Happier? Look I am all for having a session but what the hell is going on?”  As they both look at me then to each other I realize that my internal dialog has shut down and I actually said that out loud.
“We will explain outside, we have to get to the bus stop.” Brian answers. I can now see that he has a rucksack on his back with a tent perched on top.
“You” Joe turns to the junkie. “Come with me.” He is followed to the back room where I hear the door to the growing room being unlocked. I head into my room and grab Luna out from under the bed. I wrap her in a blanket, hide her under my coat as best I can and go back to the living room
“Monkey, meet the plantation.”  I hear Joe say as he pulls the door open
“What, really?”
“Yeah, sure. Knock yourself out.”
“Come on, we haven’t got time for this.” Brian says, checking the hallway through the spy hole.
Timing it carefully we manage to make it through the now almost berserker frenzy madness of the block inhabitants and after what seems like a life time we manage to get to the lobby.
“We are going to have to hold hands to make sure we don’t get lost in the blizzard” Says Brian.
“Fine, but we are going boy girl.” Joe replies.
Really? At a time like this you are worried about holding another blokes hand?
“Fine.”
We manage to struggle to the bus stop where, like before there is a tiny tropical square in the middle of Siberia.
The tent is just big enough to fit in the snow vacant space and just about big enough for the four of us to sit, snuggly inside. Well at least we are warm.
I sit and roll four blunts, so big I feel Jimmy Hendrix would be proud and with the help with, Valium I think Joe and Brian tell us what they found.
Now what you have to remember is that we were really, really high at this point so I am writing this as best as I remember it.
“After we realize that Bartek’s mirror either no longer worked or had been replaced somehow, Joe and I fought our way down to the first floor;  the abandoned flat, where we find the tall mirror, it feels like it was waiting for us; I don’t know how important it is but the door had been replaced. After Joe knock on the door, and when I mean knock I mean boot the thing off its hinges.  I pokes at the mirror and me hand goes through. I enters into the strange reflected world, where a strange iron-like smell fills the air, so thick it fills my nostrils and flows down into my lungs. After finding nothing in the flat Iwalks out into the corridor of the mirror-world. Odd red/black splotches are splattered along the walls, ceiled and floor of the corridor.
I am about to head upwards, as we agreed beforehand,when some movement outside the window catches me attention; looking outside through the flimsy, reflection of a window, they were as flimsy as the rest of the world, kinda like tracing paper. I sees a field of white with the strange black circle floating in it. Tearing the paper thin reflected window I pokes me head out and is confronted with a huge figure towering above the tenement, with pale white skin, colorless eyes, and a perfectly white suit; the hair of the figure is whipped about in the wind, but funnily enough there is none around me. It stares pitilessly down at the tower block.I waves at the humongous statue but there is no reaction and so I pulls my head back in and continues on me journey. “
Brian stops talking and motions with his hand to Joe to carry on with his part of the story.
“Not much to tell to be honest, in our world, well you have just seen how bad it was getting out of there.”
I can see that he is in a lot of pain, May be the Valium will kick in soon and he will feel like talking again.
Brian, sensing that that was all Joe wanted to say for now and continues, “Reaching the mirror world top floor, I sees that here the entire place is coated with the strange red/black substance, hell I can barely see any normal wall; I sees that there is a sky light in the ceiling but I need something to stand on. Irealize that none of the flimsy fake furniture in this mirror world will support my weight. And then I remembers that the furniture in the reflected version of my own place has been becoming progressively more solid since I had been bitten.”
“I make my way to the reflected version of my flat, I sees a shadowed figure sat watching the TV, and all too human for my liking and blow me if I don’t see my very own arm gripping the TV remote! Grabbing my mini-step ladder I attempted to leave without rousing the creature but the freakish scarecrow-like figure, with its horrible button eyes, crumbling straw and all too human arm rises from the chair and comes at me, stumbling like and hits me hard across the forehead with the remote. Thinking quickly I pin the thing to the wall using the ladder, sprays it with lighter fluid and flicks me lighter at it. The straw catches and begins to burn, flaming bits of grass and hessian falling to the ground, however the human arm burns like flesh and I feels the pain as though my own arm were catching fire and burning down to the bone. I grit my teeth against the pain and telling try to tell meself that it is not real, that was a challenge, I can tell you. I holds the scarecrow in place until it has burned completely, leaving just skeletal arm bones which crumble to dust when I touch it. After the adrenalin wears off a bit I poke at my own numb flesh and imagine my relief when it has all disappeared and back to its normal self.
I then go back to the skylight and use the ladder to pull meself up onto the roof. Coming face to face with the gigantic figure I wave and shout but I don’t think it can hear me as it just stands there staring. Care to try again Joe?”
Joe put the smoke to his lips and lit it with his zippo, he took a deep drag and then passed the still lit lighter to Catia who did the same and passed it down the line, “I had reached the top floor of the flats and after a while of talking to the door Mr Carlson eventually let me in. The pudgy man looked extremely scared, which I found rather odd as I had not spoken to him before.” Joe smirked. It wasn’t that funny but we laughed anyway.
“He was leaning on his cane hard as he let me in, as I followed him into the front room I could see he was limping. It took some persuading; after I shook his hand and I saw he was relieved to see it was a normal hand I told him that I was still squishy.” Again we laughed at something not very funny. I think the Valium was doing its thing.
“Carlson told me that he was only a middle manager. He was out of work with a sick mother and all sorts of bills piling up. A business group lead by Mr White approached him and offered to make him rich. The usual promises that would turn any man drowning in debt. They would take care of his mother and give him a place to live if he ran Spectro Vale for them.”
“Who is Mr White?”
“As I am speaking to Mr Carlson his phone rings. I pick it up and a restrained voice says our security is compromised, I would advise you to spend some time with your mother Mr Carlson. Your services will soon no longer be required.” Joe ignored the Mr White question; either that or he didn’t hear it.
“Carlson looked even more frightened on hearing the message and we head to his mother’s flat. The crazy cat lady of floor thirteen.  I have absolutely no idea how it happened as we were the only two out in the corridor but one moment he was fine the next he gave a shriek, clutched his chest and fell forward. At first I thought he had had a heart attack but when the claret started to leak through his figures I could see he had been shot. Seeing as there is nothing I can do for him, what with it being fatal and all I grab his ankles and carry on to his mother’s flat. Next thing I know the door of his dear mother flings open and Brian is standing there.”
Brian takes his queue without missing a beat.
“Ay, After I climbed back down the ladder I pushes open the door of the single top floor flat, the mirror of Mr Carlson’s and I comes face to face with a conglomeration of pipes and tubes emerging from the ceiling and pumping the red liquid into an eerily androgynous figure with a silver shine to its skin. It looked like a Giga version of a metallic angel, knife-like wings spread out behind it and its head hangs as though it was sleeping. I attempts to pull free one of the pipes but with startling speed the metallic angel’s hand, grasp mine in an effort to stop me. I pull my gun and shoot one of the pipes, at random like and, as the pipe flies free and the angel drops me. I dives to one side managing to avoid the spraying fluids. As I watch the pipe, snake like slithers back into the angels chest seemingly of its own accord and the figure goes back to sleep! I grab me can of lighter fluid and empties the tin all over the creature. I walk backwards drawing a trail back out to the corridor, I then flicks my lighter and tosses it onto the trail of fluid, watching as flame lanced out towards the, for want of a better word angel.”
“Then it gets interesting. The metal angel drops from the wall as the pipes burnt away, seemingly unharmed by the fire and began to slowly walk across the floor, towards me. Folding its knife blade wings with a noise like the cutlery draw being dropped. I draw my gun and fired it into the creatures chest; as it moves the creature seemed to be absorbing the stains on the walls and ceiling, feeding on the violence, death and pain I am guessing and apparently unharmed by the bullet. Which, again I am only going by what Joe tells me will be where Mr Carlson keels over.”
“It continues to absorb the stains of death and rage that now permeate the building, as it walks towards me and with each stain it absorbs it becomes progressively more human looking, until eventually I notice that the creature is not walking but hovers slightly above the ground. The angel seems to have no interest in me as it walks straight by me and continues to move down through the floors with me following until it reaches the 13th floor; a wave of its hand opens the flat that Irealize belongs to the crazy cat lady and I follow it inside. In the mirror version of the room, a strange metallic cockroach-like creature with a hugely distended abdomen lies squirming beneath a pile of fetid blankets, it convulses and one of the sack-headed cat things plops out of it with a sickening squelch; the angel waves its hand and the metallic cockroach begins to fall to pieces, I presume that it is no longer needed. The angel moves to the old woman’s mirror and passes through it, I follows it through and finds meself in the real world of the flat; there is no sign of the angel but the crazy cat lady lies dead in the next room, one of her cats perched on her lifeless chest. I guess that the angel had gone through the front door and I pull it open and find Joe dragging the bloody corpse of Mr Carlson. After we had exchanged pleasantries, while dodging the violence around is which at this point has reached epic proportions.”
The group goes quiet for some time. I am completely speechless. I, we had no idea what was going on in the mirror world. I can now see why the boys didn’t want us to go with them.
“I rummage through Carlson’s pocket and finding a mobile I scrolled through the received call list until I found a number marked with Mr White’s name. I pressed the call button and the same voice I spoke to in Carlson’s office answers. He tells me that the experiment is reaching its conclusion and that the violence in the hearts of all men has been awakened. He also tells me that the block will soon be shut down as the experiment ends. He is in charge of making sure that the residents of Spectro remains there, thus creating the storm. Soon however it will not be needed and he will be recycled with details of a new program. So I tell him that I will find him and ram his head up Satan’s arse. He then tells me that Satan is a prehistoric ideal and does not exist. Winner.” Joe beams and holds his thumbs up. Does this Mr White know what telling someone like Joe that there is no retribution will do?
Ok, so now the herbs and prescription drugs have well and truly taken affect and for the next ten minutes we are helpless with laughter. To tell the truth, it was a good job we were high or I don’t think we could process this story that belongs in a horror film.
“After that we begin to figure out that as violence begets violence then how about love, peace and compassion? That was when we came back to your flat and ended up here.” Joe continued, still giggling to himself.
“So what…?” I begin to ask but, as we hoped would happen, after the adrenalin faded and the drug induced sleep took us to the next day
Joe is the first to wake by something rapping on the outside of the tent; he emerges blearily into the warmth of a sunny, snowless day and find himself face to face with a policeman. As the conversation filters through the canvas we all crawl out to see Joe talking to the constable.
“Sorry sir but you cannot squat at the bus stop. People are trying to use the service.”
And yes there are people looking confused and fed up with trying to get on and off the bus while trying to navigate round a bell tent.
“Sorry officer, stag night.” I hear Brian say.
“Oh, I see. Well, I’ll take a walk round the block and if you’re not gone by the time I get back I’ll have to ask you all to follow me to the station for obstruction.”
“Alright lad? Yes I know it’s been a while, three months, really? Looks like I have some catching up to do then. Send me a car to pick up four and a staffy. We’re all going back to mine. ASAP. Cheers.”
Joe hangs up and pulls out his last cigar.
As much as we smoked last night, I really cannot be booked and searched for squatting at a bus stop, that’s how Hoover got found out. It will just open up a whole nest of vipers.
I look round to see where Luna is and I glance over in the direction of the block and all I see is an old, abandoned, burnt out shell of a building.
“Excuse me love but what happened to the block of flats over there?” I ask an old lady who is waiting for the next bus.
She looks at me slightly puzzled.
“What? Oh, Old Spectro Vale, some people went crazy in there and it burnt down when I was a girl, everyone died.”
I look at Brian, Catia and Joe while this timid octogenarian is speaking.
“When was this love?”
“Oh, it must have been fifty years ago…”
“Cars here.” I hear Joe yell and with her words echoing in my head I help Brian roughly pack up his tent and we all climb into the car and leave it all behind us.

God Machine Chronicle – Final Session – What has risen may fall…

Hesitantly raising their phones to their ears and through a hissing and crackling of static Brian can just about make out a panicked voice that sounds a little like to (now deceased) Bartek Prusee crying out “The room numbers, they don’t make any sense… I… I can’t see… is there anyone there?”
Brian attempts to talk back but it’s as though the voice on the other end can’t hear him and soon, it is lost amidst the screeching static. Catia has recovered after her short nap and, pulling out her laptop from her rucksack, begins attempting to access the internet, unfortunately she is unable to establish a connection as the snowstorm continues outside unabated; however after a few moments they notice a hissing static from the speakers and a quite voice reciting a list of numbers, the static resists all attempts to power down the laptop and remove its battery. Finally, worried that whatever lurks in Specto Vale may be listening in, Catia opens the window of Maggie’s flat and, fighting against the wind that rushes in, hurls it into the blizzard outside.
A banging on the door of the flat distracts them, and they open the door to see the young junky that she encountered earlier; they let him in and the panicked young man, who is clearly wired and running on adrenalin, tells them that people have gone crazy in the flats. The violence that was momentarily stopped at the Red Lion has spilled out into the rest of Specto Vale; the youth tells them how he saw a group of polish men kicking someone half to death on the stair, he was worried they were going to turn on him and so fled, he didn’t know where else to go and so knocked on Maggie’s door.
Deciding that they need to get back into the mirror-world to get some answers Brian and Joe force their way into the corridors, now packed with people gripped in throes of some unholy bloodlust; they fight their way up to the 13th floor and Bartek’s flat where Brian begins to work on picking the lock. They are surprised when they hear footsteps on the other side of the door and a far more healthy looking version of Bartek Prusee wearing an immaculate suit opens the door and invites them in. Attempting to seem natural Brian attempts to persuade Bartek that he sold him the mirror recently when he was ill, Bartek claims to have no memory of it but says they’re welcome to the large mirror, he then offers to make them a cup of tea. Brian tries to pass through the large mirror, but finds the surface normal and unyielding glass, he is prevented from going further when Bartek enters and Joe begins to engage him in conversation about purchasing some arms from him.
As they talk a small cat emerges from the back room and sits watching them, Joe shakes hands with Bartek, finding his flesh as firm and unyielding as the surface of the mirror and then, hearing a slight ticking, they bid farewell to Bartek.
Downstairs Catia has just finished giving the junky a couple of paracetamols, hoping that the placebo effect will keep him calm for a while, when Joe and Brian return, having fought their way back down the floors of Specto Vale. Brian explains what just occurred in Bartek’s flat and speculates that perhaps what they heard on the phones was Bartek’s personality being some uploaded in this new copy of him; as he talks Catia checks the patch of numbness on Brian’s arm and finds that it is very slowly spreading across his body. The sound of a cat scratching at the door attracts Maggie’s attention and she finds, to her shock, that her dog is cowering in fear under the bed. Brian flings open the door and Joe boots it across the corridor, although the little beast draws three shallows scratches across his leg.
Realising that Bartek’s mirror either no longer workd or has been replaced, Joe and Brian fight their way down to the first floor and the abandoned flat, where they find the tall mirror waiting for them; Brian enters into the strange reflected world, where a strange iron-like smell fills the air, walking out into the corridor of the mirror-world he sees odd red/black splotches splattered along the walls, ceiled and floor of the corridor. He is about to leave when some movement outside the window catches his attention; looking outside through the flimsy reflection of a window he sees a field of white with the strange black circle floating in it. Tearing the paper thin reflected window Brian pokes his head out and beholds a huge figur towering above the tenement, with pale white skin, colourless eyes, and a perfectly white suit; the hair of the figure is whipped about in an unfelt wind and it stares pitilessly down at the tower block.
In the mirror-world Brian begins moving to the top floor of the building whilst, in the real world Joe begins fighting his way through the rioting crowds to the top floor also.
Reaching the reflection of the top floor, Brian sees that here the entire place is coated with the strange red/black substance, indeed he can barely see any normal wall; he sees that there is a sky light in the ceiling but that he will need something to stand on, but realises that none of the flimsy fake furniture in this mirror world will support his weight. Suddenly he remembers that the furniture in the reflected version of his own flat had been becoming progressively more solid since he had been ‘infected.’
Making his way to the reflected version of his own flat, Brian sees a shadowed figure sat watching the TV, an all too human and familiar arm gripping the TV remote. Grabbing his mini-step ladder Brian attempts to leave without rousing the creature but the freakish scarecrow-like figure, with its button eyes, crumbling straw and all too human arm rises from the chair and advances stumblingly towards him, striking him solidly across the forehead with the remote. Reeling back Brian pins the thing to the wall using the ladder, sprays it with lighter fluid and flicks his lighter; the straw catches and begins to burn, flaming bits of grass and hessian falling to the ground, however the human arm burns like flesh and Brian feels the pain as though his own flesh were catching fire and burning down to the bone. Gritting his teeth against the pain and telling himself that it is not real, Brian holds the scarecrow in place until it hass burned completely, leaving just skeletal arm bones which crumble to dust when touched; Brian is relieved to find that the numbness in his own arm has disappeared.
Climbing up to the roof Brian attempts to attract the attention of the huge, pallid figure, but to no avail.
Joe has reached the top floor where he eventually persuades the owner of Specto Vale Mr Carlson to let him in, the pudgy man looks extremely scared and leans heavily on his walking cane, limping as he lets Joe in. After some persuasion Carlson reveals that he is only a middle-manager, he was once an out of work businessman with a sick mother; a business consortium lead by a Mr White approached him and offered to make him rich, take care of his mother and give him a place to live if he ran Specto Vale for them. As Brian waves at the figure in the mirror world, a red phone on Carlson’s desk begins ringing; Joe picks it up and a moderated voice says “Our security is compromised, I would advise you spend some time with your mother Mr Carlson, your services will soon no longer be required.”
CLimbing back down the ladder, Brian pushes open the door of the single top floor flat and sees a conglomeration of pipes and tubes emerging from the ceiling and pumping the red ichor into an eeriley androgynous figure with a silver shine to it’s skin, resembling a metallic angel, knife-like wings spread out behind it and it’s head hangs as though sleeping. Brian attempts to pull free one of the pipes but with strartingly quickness the metallic angels hand, graps his own; drawing his pistol Brian shoots one of the pipes and, as the pipe flies free and the angel releases him, he dives to one side avoiding the spraying fluids. A few moments later the pipe slithers back into the angels chest seemingly of its own volition and the figure resumes its slumber; removing his can of lighter fluid, Brian sprays the creature liberally and begins to dribble a trail back out to the corridor, he flicks his lighter and tosses it onto the trail of fluid, watching as flame lanced out towards the angel.
Seemingly unharmed by the flames, the metal angel drops from the wall as the pipes burnt away and began to slowly walk across the floor, Brian drew his gun and fired it into the creatures chest; as it moved the creature seemed to be absorbing the stains on the walls and ceiling, feeding on the violence, death and pain and seemingly unharmed by the bullet. In the real world Carlson doubled over in pain, a hole forming in his chest and blood bubbling forth from the wound; Joe grabbed his collar and began to drag him through the crowded corridor.
In the mirror world the angel continues to absorb the stains of death and rage that now permeate the building, with each stain it absorbs it becomes progressively more human looking, until eventually Brian notices that the creature no longer walks but hovers slightly above the ground. The angel seems to have no interest in Brian and continues to move down through the floors (with Brian following behind) until it reaches the 13th floor; a wave of its hand opens the flat that Brian recognises as belonging to the strange cat lady and they go inside. In the reflection version of the room, a strange metallic cockroach-like creature with a hugely distended abdomen lies squirming beneath a pile of fetid blankets, it convulses and one of the sack-headed cat things plops out of it with a sickening squelch; the angel waves its hand and the metallic cockroach begins to fall to pieces, its work now complete. The angel moves to the old woman’s mirror and passes through it, Brian follows and finds himself in the real world version of the flat; there is no sign of the angel but the crazy cat lady lies dead in the next room, one of her cats perched on her lifeless chest.
Brian bursts out of the real world flat to find Joe dragging the bloody form of Mr Carlson past the door; after a brief explanation (dodging the perpetrators of the violence, which seems to be reaching epic proportions) Joe roots around in Carlson’s pocket, finding a mobile phone he scrolls through the phonebook until he finds a number labelled “Mr White: number 111-111-11” and presses the dial button. The calm voice of Mr White answers him and, in response to his questions, tells him that the experiment is reaching its conclusion and that the violence in the hearts of all men has been awakened. Mr White tells Joe that the council block will soon be “shut down” as the experiment ends and that he is empowered to ensure the residents of Specto Vale remain there, but that his storm will soon not be needed.
Joe and Brian fight their way back to Maggie’s flat and, pausing only to grab some recreational drugs, Maggie’s dog, a small tent and some medical supplies they force their way outside to the bus stop where there is still a strange lack of the storm. Holding hands they force their way to the bus stop, set up their tent and settle down, hoping that by medicating themselves to feel no anger or violence they will not feed the thing that rampages through the tenement like a fever; eventually they all drift off to sleep as the adrenalin that has fuelled them over the past few hours fades.
Joe is woken in the morning by something rapping on the outside of the tent, he emerges blearily into the warmth of a sunny, snowless day and find himself face to face with a policeman. The policeman tells them that they can’t squat in the bus stop, people are waiting to use the bus (as a small crowd gathered around seems to verify); the officer tells them that he’ll walk around the block and that, if they’re not gone by the time he returns, then he’ll have to arrest them. Emerging from the tent and looking over in the direction of Specto Vale, Maggie sees only an old burnt out ruin of a building; as Brian and Catia begin to wake, Maggie asks an old woman standing nearby what happened to the building.
The woman looks confused for a second and says “What? Oh, old Specto Vale, some people went crazy in there and burnt it down when I was a girl, everyone died. Must have been about 50 years ago…”
THE END

God Machine Chronicle – The World According to Maggy Pike : Part Three

IC blog of third God Machine Chronicle Session
Written by Kelly Grimshaw
Reproduced with permission from the author.

The best part of being asleep is the half and half just before you wake. My mind wakes up but my eyes don’t want to open,  its cold outside of my many, many blankets, mostly knitted gifts from my mother who doesn’t understand why their only daughter doesn’t give up slumming it as she so delicately calls it and come home. It’s not pride as my father calls it, I am happy with who I am and where I am and currently so is Luna is in her favourite spot on my feet which suits me fine, I don’t have to crawl to the dreaded space called under the bed to find my hot water bottle. I turn over, find a comfy spot and pull the blankets, Luna grumbles slightly as I dislodge her and taking this as her queue she jumps down and wanders off. Something tells me it’s not so she can go for a walk, her dragging her blanket and hiding under the coffee table in the front room after our outing to the bus stop yesterday is giving me a hint and judging from the bright light trying to invade my dark little cocoon from the window tells me there is no let up from the Artic conditions outside so I don’t plan to get out of bed any time soon.

I really should have learned over the past two but eventful days that even lying in bed all day is too much to ask.

A shrill shriek of something I recognise but my brain is refusing to process splits the contented silence. 

Then suddenly I realise that it is not the alarm clock but the fire alarm.

Oh shit!

I disentangle myself from the bed, falling out in the process; grab my clothes off the back of the arm chair-another one of my little gifts from my mum. She hates waste and will gladly donate her useless crap to others knowing she has done her bit and now it falls on the luckless person to take it graciously and either dispose of it themselves or use it. Her conscious is clear.

Trying to pull on my clothes and fight my way to the living room is a gymnastic feet in its self and really I shouldn’t have to worry about cardio for the rest of the week.

Luna tries to hide as I grab her lead, something I hate and she is better off than on and as a rule if no one is around I don’t bother. But as she is a Staffy the other occupants feel safer. She is unceremoniously pulled out and the chain is slipped over her neck as I am still traveling to the door. Out of habit I grab my brolly, again something that I can do without but as the owners of the flats have forgotten how the heating works in the corridors I don’t fancy getting wet and cold just because some turnip tried to relieve the monotony by seeing if the fire system still works. Besides dredds take a lot of time and effort to dry properly.

As I step outside the sprinklers are dying off, must be frozen in the pipes and there is a slight crunch under my faithful old Docs telling me that the pitiful amount of water is icing up nicely on the industrial sized ceramic tiled floor. 

My phone rings. Now usually this is a part of everyday modern life, nothing to write home about I hear you say but since the snow started to fall it signal has been nothing at best and in all honesty I actually stand there for a moment trying to work out what the noise is.

Pulling it out of my pocket I see that Catia is calling. She I have time for.

“Alright love?”

“Actually no.” Catia sounds flustered, but more so than usual, she had to drop out of nursing due to squeamishness and bless her it really doesn’t take much to make her flap.

What does she mean no? Come on woman your English even in the event of a bomb dropping on your home you say can’t complain or muss’nt grumble or the false safe yeah fine, what about you then gently ease into what is really bothering you.

She continues without pausing for me to respond or even breathe.

“there’s a riot at the pub, a kid got stuck in the middle, I got hit so set off the sprinklers to try to calm them down can you get hold of that guy, tall, dark hair, always wears a suit…”

“Yeah, Joe, I can try.” 

Ok so I take back the bit about the turnip, seems that she just panicked and tried anything.

I go back into the flat, let Luna off her lead and while I am hanging up my coat and brolly I check the signal on my phone. One bar. I have to chance it, a lot of good things Catia is, her ability to keep a clear and level head is not one of them. I flick through my last call list and hit Joe’s number.

After what seems the longest five seconds of my life so far a broken ringing tone can be heard.

“Yep” Joe answers, always the conversationalist.

I have no idea how long I have until I loose signal so I try to keep it quick.

“Catia just rang; apparently there is a riot at the residents meeting.”

“Say again?” I can hear his confusion and to be fair I see his point, a few old ladies who usually come for a moan about the youth of today and all the free tea and biscuits they can eat rioting, it does seem a bit overkill.

“Riot at the residents meeting, Kid got stuck in the middle, Catia got hit…” I pause for effect, one of Joes rules is no women no kids so this should be sorted soon.

“Where?”

“Red Lion.”

I hear a click as he hangs up. Well that’s my job done; Catia is now in the care of one of the people I trust so me going down as cavalry won’t do any good. 

I flick the boiler on; with all the adventures we seem to be having I have missed a couple of showers. Having almost a floors worth of plants growing around me doesn’t mean that I have to smell like a gardener’s armpit.

As soon as I flick off the shower the phone rings again. Twice in twenty minutes, must be my lucky day.

Drying off as quick as I can I see Joe wants a word.

“Hiya.”

“All sorted. Bring shovels.” As I hear the click of him hanging up telling me that is all. I stand in the bathroom bring shovels, what the fuck has he done and why do I have to bring the disposal gear? I dig out some clean clothes out of my laundry bag and quickly look round the growing rooms believing I will find at least one shovel I damn know I don’t have and after grabbing a couple of trowels and the entire spoon section of my cutlery draw and stuffing them into a embroidered draw string rucksack that already has my emergency stash of papers, green and other rolling stuff I may not be a clairvoyant but I can see a lot more stress that I can deal with sober in the not so distant future. I check Luna is ok for food, water and comfort I drop the latch and pull the door shut behind me.

Bugger, bugger, buggeration. Ok the pitifully small amount of water spat out of the sprinkler system has now frozen. I believe I need say no more than Bambie on ice. Got the picture? Good, let’s move on then.

I pull out my phone to ring Catia when I walk into her. 

“Strange question, do you own a shovel?”

I can see the swelling and violent colours of a black eye appearing whether they meant to hit her or not they caught her a good one.

“Erm no.”

“Come on then I shall explain on the way.”

“Where are we going?”

“To the pub.” I call over my shoulder.

Queue duet of Bambi on Ice. No its ok I can wait a minute.

Stepping through the remains of the double doors of the Red Lion we meet an obliterated room of kayos.

There is not a complete piece of bar room furniture left in the place. Glass is everywhere, pool cues snapped into matchstick sized shards, bits of cushion litter the floor. Oh no not even stuffed not so funny mascot survived.

Ron the ever fateful landlord is pushing the debris around with a broom. He looks done in. The way he occasionally jabs at the pile with the broom but doesn’t actually move it any wear shows just how defeated he is.

Reg looks up, terrified. He seems to relax when he sees me and Catia and leans on his brush.

“Sorry ladies can’t serve you right at this moment.” He points to the rubbish with a haunted look that only a man watching his livelihood going down the swanny can achieve.

“No worries love, it’s Joe we came to see and I was a bar maid once.” I try to sound cheerful.

“Oh well just serve yourselves and leave the money on the, on the…” he sighs and carries on.

Over to one side, at the end of the bar is Joe. Standing in his once immaculate suit, his not so highly polished shoes and the forever faithful Dell boy sheep skin coat. In his hand is a lit cigar, the first one stubbed out in a lonely ashtray that amazingly survived. On the remains of the bar are an empty bottle of scotch and half a bottle of Bourbon with a glass tumbler two thirds full and a pint of dark beer. Joe’s idea of a relaxing drink. 

I ignore the large heavy set and above all unconscious man laid out near to Joes feet and as I move round to perch myself on the pool table I also fail to mention the bean pole like figure of another who obviously choose to fight the wrong man today.

“I have trowels and spoons.”

Joe looks at me with a distinct lack of patients over the glass of bourbon.

“We don’t own shovels.” I explain as I pull out my emergency rolling kit and begin to build. Catia and Joe have a conversation that I will be honest, was not listening too until I hear Joe say “we can steal the digger.”

“Do you fancy that” Catia says

“What?” hoping that I would get a bit more of an explanation.

“Fancy stealing a digger.” Well that was stupid of me wasn’t it?”

Fuck it why not “Well I don’t have anything else planned today.”

Sweet baby Jesus on roller skates it is cold. I am sure I mentioned in earlier musings that I thought the Arctic was trying to broaden its horizons, we I know now that it has succeeded.

After I really don’t know how long we almost hypodermic three break through the wall of snow and begin to walk westwards. 

I have no idea where our destination is so I follow Catia and Joe as the look as if they know where they are going. This cannot be the case however, after a few minutes we turn the corner and low and behold in front of us is the glamorous entrance of Spectro Vale. 

Catia is convinced that we got somehow lost in the snow, it is a fair point, visibility is practically zero. But Joe doesn’t seem to have the same unshakeable belief.

“Where’s that bus stop.” His voice is almost lost to the moan of the wind.

I shout out instructions and we trudge on.

Hahaha! Yes one to the stoner! We struggle through to the sign poking out just above the snow line into a void of snow.

“SEE, SEE TOLD YOU!” I couldn’t help doing a little happy dance but stopped when I met Joes stare.

He seemed thoughtful for a second then spoke.

“Stay here, it’s safe and warm. Stay here until I come back.”

He builds a ramp to get over the wall and aft about ten steps he disappears into the blizzard like Scott of the Antarctic.

After about ten minutes the sound of snow being crushed underfoot is heard and Joe reappears with a perplexed bordering on angry look on his face.

Getting back to the cold but snow free shelter of the block we seem to be steered there by Joe to flat number thirteen on the first floor. It is easy to get into as the door is still missing and inside is completely unchanged. Off white paint all flats start with, the oval mirror draped in a dust sheet the sparse furniture also covered, hold on; there is something different. It is the flat we walked into yesterday. All furniture is in the proper place, not moved around as we left it. It seems strange that the janitor feels the need to tidy up but leave the door. Maybe they didn’t have one spare, what with no deliveries getting in and all.

As I am pondering the future of self-re-arranging furniture Catia has pulled off the sheet covering the mirror. She stairs into it, trying to find her own refection.

Deciding it will not appear; no matter how hard she looks Catia replaces the dust sheet and mutters “How is it connected?”

“Dunno, the snows not normal though.”

“Where were you going?” Catia asks

“To the building site but came back to the flats then same thing happened at the bus stop. Like it was making me double back.”

Joe explains that although he was tracing his steps so’s as not to cross his own path he seems to have been looped back regardless and cannot leave the safety of the block or the bus stop. 

Ok so we seem to have some form of tampering only so far known in fairy tales so that the huntsman gets lost in his own forest for all time. Oh joy.

“Like a mirror reflection” Catia replies looking at the huge oval outline.

“Yeah.” Joe answers following her gaze.

This is getting far too scary for me so while they are having this conversation I wander into the bedroom to look for more mirrors.

There is a familiar theme to the decor. Bare room and a space where a bed should be. There is one piece of furniture not covered by a sheet. A dressing table. 

Possibly no need for it being on its own in a sentience but don’t forget that a very humble wardrobe contained a whole other world.

On the dressing table was a small old hand mirror. Its mottled surface noticeably dull compared to its much bigger brother in the other room.

I pick it up as if it is about to explode and very carefully peer into the glass.

Nope no white rabbit, just me.

I sigh and with a small amount of confidence I brush the surface with my thumb. No ripple. 

I walk out of the room with it still in my hand and look at Catia.

“Is that one?”

“No, normal, well my hand doesn’t disappear.” I say slightly manically

“Does it reflect?” She asks

“Yeah, look.” I reply holding it up to her.

I go over to the mirror and I cave to the strange compulsion to put up the hand mirror to the other to see infinity.

While we are trying this little experiment Joe is repeatedly picking up the mirror moving it several feet, pushing his hand through and beginning again.

Catia positions it to show Joe. As he puts his hand into the mercury surface he disappears from the hand held mirror. We look at Joe, half expecting him not to be there and watching the actual him pull out his hand he reappears in the looking glass.

“I say we smash it.” He says biting his thumb and indicating to the domineering oval.

“It wouldn’t smash” I reply.

“What about smashing the frame?” He replies.

“I want to put Miles in front of it.”

“What? Go into his house and hold it in front of him like Nosferatu?” 

Before I have time to reply to Joe he takes the mirror out of my hand and pushes it through the silvery doorway followed by his head.

“This doesn’t reflect in the mirror world, it goes black.” 

“How many mirrors are there?” Catia asks with a look of quiet desperation.

“That we know of, four ish.” Joe replies calmly.

“I want to put them into each other.” Catia whispers.

“Welcome to the end of the world.” Joe mutters.

The shrill sound of a ring tone cuts through the silence. Joe pulls out his phone and looks at the screen. He swipes over the answer key.

“Morning Brian”. Believe it or not it is only half past nine in the morning.

“A riot.”

“Err yeah, downstairs.”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah.”

“Mirrors. Hold on.”

With the phone still to his ear Joe sticks his head through the portal. Pulls his head back out and for a moment the cool, calm, murderous exterior slips. He looks extremely flustered.

“Morning.” Brian’s northern tone comes from behind us.

“Come in I’ve got a job for you.”

Brian looks us up and down. For saying it is still early we are all looking a little worse for wear.

“What’s been going on? 

“Tried to leave and came back on ourselves.”

Brian, with a slight look of confusion waits for an explanation that makes sense.

“Try walking to the bus stop.” I add.

“We tried to walk from the block to the building site across the road and ended walking back to the front doors. Then we tried to go from the bus stop to the building site and the same thing happened again.” Joe explains further.

“You’re pulling me leg!” Brian says raising his voice.

“Yeah Brian, its all fun and games.” Joe answers dripping with sarcasm.

I have had enough of this. Why would we be making all this shit up as the boys continue I grab my bag and start rolling?

Catia flops down onto the sofa. She sighs loudly; it appears that all this is getting too much for the poor girl.

I finish rolling something Bob Marley would be proud of, plonk myself next to Catia and offer her first dibs.

“Go back into the mirror; go up to Miles’s flat.” I hear Joe say to Brian. 

“Ooh, phone, take it with him.” I say exhaling while I speak. 

“No, doesn’t work, when I stuck my head through I got a well-spoken voice saying “what has risen may fall and what has fallen will rise again.” Oh so now I know why he looked shaken after pulling his head back out.

“What do you mean, like a PA?” I ask

“No, through the phone as in speaking to you.” Joe explains.

Brian makes some sort of Star Trek reference, I can’t really remember what it was, I am a Dr Who girl meself and steps through.

It took about fifteen minutes for Brian to go his work and as I was stubbing the nub out on the sole of my boot he re-appears.

“Well that’s a bit of a bugger.” He remarks.

“What did you find?” Joe asks.

“Miles room has been swopped over.”

“What?” Joe questions

“Well, you know I said before that in the reflection everything was like props on a set? All cardboard and no substance yeah? Well Miles flat wasn’t like that. It was all real, tins were proper tins and the sofa was well a sofa. And it was the shit tip that we left two nights ago, complete with blueprints. But all the writing was in reverse, like when you hold writing up to a mirror,” Brian pauses for us to speak, or take a breath, he was getting quite flustered over the next bit of information.

“I remembered what you said about your phone not working properly so I tried ringing you. But what I actually got was the sound of static and a faint voice saying:

“1…13…2…48…3…18…4…26…5…35…6…19…7…20…8…32…9…29…10…25…11…15…12…23…13…0…14…25…15…1”

“Go back and find a mirror. Take this, it will turn black.” instructs Joe, handing him the seemingly innocent hand mirror.

“Aint the strangest thing that’s happened.” Brian replies. As he reached out to take the mirror, it must have brushed over where he had been bitten because he began to poke at his hand.

“Doesn’t feel right.”

Catia, with her nurses’ instinct reaches out to Brian and pulls his hand towards her.

“Where the bloody thing bit me.” He continues looking at Joe.

“What bit you?” Catia asks in the calm, careful tone of nurses training.

“Yesterday, clockwork things.” I think Brian has possibly lost a small amount of his power of speech. I noticed that where two puncture wounds should have been but was now just a patch of dry flaky skin but I didn’t say anything, we had enough to worry about.

“Something creepy.” Catia shudders.

“Check your room too.” Joe orders.

“Sacrificial lamb here.” Brian replies before vanishing again.

Joe pulled out a map and began to cross reference the numbers. 1 13 corresponded with the flat we were currently standing in but as that was the only match it was put down to coincidence.

As we had nothing else to do until Brian came back we began to come up with ideas for the numbers. Some of the less elaborate were for how many were either in control or not on each floor. How many mirrors were on each floor? How many people were in the building?

While we were discussing the infinite number of possibilities a horrible feeling began to creep up on me. The kind of feeling that starts as a shock in your stomach and falls down your legs making you cold as it goes.

“Has anyone checked their own mirrors?” I hesitate, I am not totally sure I want to know the answer.

“I don’t have any.” Joe shrugs.

“I am just going home for a moment.” I say as I back out of the door.

As I turn the corner onto my floor I see a hooded figure at my door. I hang back for a moment; I think they may have come to get me.

The hood moves, indicating that the figure has just checked to see if anyone is around, then begins to knock frantically. Personally I don’t see the clockwork men knocking.

“Can I help you luv?” I step out of the shadow of the stair well I can see one of the local ASBO crew.

He pulls down his hood to reveal a sweating, pasty looking, shaking mess of a lad not too much younger than me. I sigh inwardly I really don’t like seeing a body beginning cold turkey; it just shows how sad people let their lives get.

“Yeah. Erm me mate said.” He can hardly get his words out he’s got the shakes so bad. He thrusts his hand into his pocket and pulls out a handful of notes. He would gladly give me everything he owns at this point for a fix.

“Look, can we go inside. I don’t really want to do this out here.” I am surprised, most would gladly swop cash in a police station the state he’s in. I am hesitant though, the last couple of days have made me question everything.

I look him up and down, if the clockwork men can do such a bang up job of copying this wreck then we’re all doomed, we just don’t know it yet.

“Come on in.” I unlock the door and walk in. Luna goes crazy at my return but she quickly goes to her bed after a bit of fuss.

The lad sits down but he can’t sit still. I pull out a shoe box from under the table and look for my medical strength, this lad needs calming down. I roll a blunt and offer it to him. He takes it great fully and after a few drags it seems to help a little. 

“What can you get?”

“Just weed luv.” I reply taking the smoke.

“Don’t you do owt harder?” He looks crestfallen.

“No I just do weed.”

“Look, please, can’t you ask someone. Because of the snow no one has anything. We are getting really desperate. Please.”

“There is someone I can try. Do ya want a brew?”

I go to the kitchen and check my phone. Well will wonders never cease? Still one bar but it keeps disappearing. Ah well you never know.

“Yeah.” I hear Joe say.

“Don’t suppose you have anything stronger than weed on you?” There is no point saying hi its Maggie to this man, he really doesn’t do phone calls and the last time I said it his reply was yeah I know, the display screen told me. I took the hint after that.

“Not much, few sample bags; why?” 

“I’ve got a lad here with the shakes so bad I think he would give anyone with a fix everything he owned right now.”

“I’ll take it.” Joe replies without skipping a beat, a business man to the end.

“Well knowing where you are I can’t really send him to you.”

“Find out his address and I’ll drop by later.”

“Ok cool, listen, he says there are a few of his mates looking around too, there is almost nothing left because of the snow.”

“Yeah, yeah I’ll sort it.” And Joe hangs up.

“What’s your flat number luv? The lad I just spoke to is a bit busy right now but he can come round later.” I shout through to the front room as I finish making the tea.

“Second floor flat eighty one.” He answers relief dripping off his words like syrup.

I grab my phone and quickly text the address to Joe. My memory is worse than a rusty sieve.

“Thank you, thanks. Nice one, thanks.” 

I look up and he is closing the door behind him, well the state he was in at least he said thank you before he left. I pause; I know I came here to do something. I look round Oh yeah, mirrors.

It doesn’t take me long to dig out all the mirrors I own I am not the kind of gall that when asked if she is ready shouts back I said I would be ready in five minutes, stop asking every half hour! And it’s not like you need one to wash your face or brush your teeth.

I fight to push the window open. Eventually after I managed to shift enough snow and ice to home a penguin from around the frame I have a gap large enough to throw through and waste no time in doing so. On the last mirror though I something horrible. As it spun end over end I saw a pair of eyes that were most defiantly not mine staring back at me. No I agree it is not as horrible as some of us have seen (Brian) but when that happens to someone when they are not expecting it, it can throw you off.

It was only a brief glimpse, but to be honest that was enough before it was lost to the fog. I heard the smash then quickly shut the window, just in case. That and I was rapidly losing heat.

I grab the medical strength off the table and role another blunt. It is a bloody good job I am harvesting soon; with all the drama of the last few days I am going to be smoking my profit soon.

Slightly unsteadily I go back down the first floor, fault thirteen; I am not staying on my own for the foreseeable future.

“Oh Fuck! Oh Fuck! Oh Fuck!” Is just about all I can manage about now.

As I explain what happened to Joe, Catia is checking around behind me through her mirror compact. An action which is defiantly not helping my mood right now.

“Was it your reflection?” Joe askes without a trace of humour. Second straw braking.

“Look, I may grow strong shit but apart from today I have never touched it. And that was not me.” I say quietly through gritted teeth.

“I hate this building!” Joe says throwing his arms out wide.

“I want to burn it down? Why don’t we burn it down? In fact fuck it! Let’s burn it down.” Joe’s crusty exterior slips slightly again as he has a conversation all on his own, then suddenly, as if he realised what was going on it was back up.

“It isn’t snowing outside.” He said to me. 

Ooookay it isn’t back up it has totally cracked.

“Yes it is I got a face full of it when I was generating around.” I pause and do some rough maths work with the aid of my fingers. “Twenty eight years bad luck.” Shit, really that much?

“No, I rang the boys up earlier and outside this building as in the streets around the area are all clear. It is not snowing.

“Yes it is.” I say slowly and carefully, as not to excite him.

“Yes, here it is but not everywhere else it is not.”

“Well why not? What with everything else happing around here.” I concede. 

“Now I don’t know what usually happens, I’m not a Sy fi fan.”

Ah ha just my field.

“Well what usually happens is Dr Who turns up and saves the day.” I answer confidently.

“I don’t know who the hell you’re talking about but he had better hurry the fuck up.”

As we study the mirror again, willing it to show us something we hear a cough behind us.

Brian is in the doorway.

“Not disturbing you am I? Have I been through some shit today?”

“Really?” I ask a little manically.

“Really, really.” Brian answers mockingly.

I open my mouth to rip him a new one when he pulls aside his coat to reveal a mass of blood and bandages.

I shut my mouth again.

“You have, he has. Maybe it will make sense if we…”

I shush Joe into silence, a risky manoeuvre I know but it is worth it.

Sqeeek, sqeeek. Slurp splat.

Shit it’s the only understands English when it suits him cleaner.

Without a word we all come to the conclusion to leave the flat in the opposite direction, handily which is towards the Red Lion.

Which now sadly looks like a bad day in Bosnia, Sat at the end of the bar is Reg. Very drunk with a shot glass and an almost empty bottle.

Reg slides the bottle over to us and after fishing out some un-unbroken glasses and join him in a drink to mourn the passing of his livelihood 

“What a day.” Reg says to himself. He pours another drink for the group and in silence we drink our drinks.

Brian chooses this to be the perfect time to show is what he saw in mirror world.

Brian shows us all the picture of inside his flat, his own apartment; it seems, like almost every other reflection version of a place that I have heard him describe, as an imperfect reflection of his apartment. Brian explains he is about to leave when he hears a low snoring sound emanating from his room. Warily venturing in the sound appears to be coming from a pile of covers on the mirror-version of his bed, he pulled them back carefully he exposed a hessian sack made into a horrific likeness of a head with two large round button eyes and thick black stitching making a straight line for a mouth, the snoring appears to be coming from inside the sack and it looked like the scarecrow figure is wearing Brian’s pajamas. Drawing back in horror, he caught the the covers with his foot exposing the arm of the scarecrow, he nnoticed with terror, there was fear in his voice. That there is a small patch of perfect human skin on the right hand of the creature, corresponding with the number patch on his own hand.

There was the same scarecrow copy of Brartek sitting in Barteks flat which was disturbing enough but the video clip of the thing moving only its head when he says his name backwards was worse. 

After he had managed to jimmie the door open and walk inside, he can just make out a barely visible figure sits with its back to him in Bartek’s high backed chair, as he circles round the chair warily he saw another scarecrow like figure, this one clad in the same charcoal grey suit that he last saw Bartek wearing; he attemps to talk to the figure but got no response until he tried speaking backwards. The head begins to move on the screen, following him around the room, soulless black button eyes staring blankly at him. Even though Brian is not in the picture it is easy to hear him trying to breathe slowly clearly uunnerved by it. He writes ‘who are you and what do you want?’ backwards on a piece of paper and tthrew it onto the lap of the scarecrow; it reachedd up slowly with its other arm to retrieve the note. There is a sharp intake of breath and the picture zooms on to its right arm. It is almost entirely human. Again Brian attempts to speak to it backwards saying “Who are you and what is this place?”

The screen goes blank.

“At this point my phone rings. When I answer it over the crackling staticy noise he hears a voice that sounds like Barteks but only speaking backwards. He says wwhat are you doing in my home? I thought that you would have bought you friends again. Realizing that I am speaking to the scarecrow and that it seems to have Bartek’s memories. I drag the downward facing mirror that was being used a table in the apartment upright and points it at the scarecrow, when he looks into it he sees the real world apartment and the real Bartek sat on his chair, he looks pale and very unwell, he is rubbing his right arm with a pain expression on his face. Which was a bloody shock; I say a bloody shock I can tell you. I then step into the large mirror, and emerges under the table in Barteks apartment, when I crawl out and attempts to speak to Bartek, the old man fires an antique pistol from beneath his blanket, hitting me square in the shoulder, the old gangster then shouts at me Which one are you? I’m the real one I reply, showing the blood from the hole in his shoulder, this seems to mollify Bartek somewhat who then directs me to some appropriate tools to remove the bullet and cauterize the wound, clean meself up like, in his bathroom cabinet. When I returns, having cleaned meself up, Bartek (after some small prompting) explains that he originally used to live on the tenth floor of the building, but after he noticed some strange goings on and that they seemed to focus around the thirteenth floor he bribed his way into possession of his current apartment; it was when he moved in he found the mirror and realized that it was potentially a gate to somewhere else, unwilling to go through but not wanting to dispose of it unless someone else was tempted by it Bartek pointed it at the floor and disguised it as a simple table. Bartek asks me whether he has seen the original blueprints of the Specto Vale block and, when I look at him blankly, he explains that there was no thirteenth floor listed on the original blueprints but there is one on the revised blueprints made available to the public; he also mentions to me that no-one in the flat seems to remember exactly when the storm began or how long they’ve been trapped here, most people don’t seem to want to know. Well you can imagine my surprise when I can’t remember the exact dates or times either; I then attempts to show Bartek some photos on his phone but Bartek tells me not to use a phone saying that people in the block only get a single when ‘they’ want to listen in on us. 

Brian shakily tries to explain to Bartek about the scarecrows and that he believes both himself and Bartek are having their life drained away into their duplicates, as represented by the slowly spreading numbness in his hand and Bartek’s useless right arm. When I wait for him to reply I realise that Bartek has not moved or said anything for several minutes, I leans over to check his pulse and I finds that the old man has died quietly. He took a deep breath and drank from the glass in front of him. Then he dipped into his pocket and dropped the bullet onto the wooden surface with a final thump.  

Brian, if you do ever read my diary then I am truly sorry. I was as high as a Hindu cow and obviously did not know what I was saying.

I am not one to blame the weed for people’s reactions. Usually I would say that whatever was said or done while high was what needed to be said or done anyway. However I may have to re label this particular stem of medical strength marijuana as I have absolutely no idea why I said what I said next.

“Well did you have someone elses reflection staring at you through your own mirror in your own home?”

Clearly Brian took a dim view on my attitude and we spent the next ten minutes arguing about how I could have been hallucinating and him not taking me seriously.

“Enough!” Joe shouts in his dad voice. We stop dead and Brian turns to Reg as if nothing has happened.

“When did it start snowing?”

“What?” Reg slurs.

“When did it start snowing lad?”

“I dunno.”

“Oh c’mon Reg, you must know.”

“I dunno why?” 

“Well Reg, you have to keep the bar and cellar stocked. It must be running low as no deliveries can come in.”

“We’re pretty well stocked. Ha well we were.” Reg 

“So if it’s pretty well stocked, as you say then you should have had a delivery quiet recently. So Reg, when did it start snowing?”

“Look I don’t see how this is going to help get my pub back to the way it was.” Reg starts getting very irritated about this line of questioning. Just like Brian said.

He storms off and possibly raids his personal stash of black label Vodka as he comes back with a full one in one hand and as he walks past the row of pint glasses he plucks one out and in one swift movement has filled it up four fingers from the rim. Skilfully done. As I am not much of a spirit drinker I feel it is time to roll another.

Brian is saying something about not wanting to go back to his flat, I don’t blood blame him. 

“I’d rather sleep in the cab and freeze to death than go back there tonight.” He says to Joe.

“Crash on my sofa and shut up.” I reply licking the paper and running my finger over it. 

He looks at his spaz hands as he called them and carried on the conversation with Joe.

I now give up.

However Joe does not.

“…there are none in her flat; she just chucked them all out the window. Brian that is not a good idea”

“I plan to take out my sack” I cannot help but to snigger slightly at this innocent remark “What was your plan to save my life?” Brian askes.

“Cut your arm off.” Joe says. Did I mention his people skills are epic?

I look to Catia f or a bit of female solidarity but the whole day plus a couple more smokes she is used to had all become too much for her because she is fast asleep curled up on the pool table. Letting the conversation roll over me my brain tries to grab my attention. What I have been hearing is a hissing sound coming from the speakers rigged up on the wall. Proper huge tatty 80’s jobs that probably fell off the back of the lorry but from the state of them weren’t caught in time.

“Reg?” 

“Yeah?”

“Are those speakers on?”

“Yeah, their plugged in but the mic’s off behind the bar.”

“Boys? The speakers just started hissing.”

“I am off to my bed” Brian announces, casually. 

He then writes down on his note pad Bartek said that the more you notice them, the more they notice you.

“Well I aint going with you.” Joe answers nodding his head. “Let’s have a chat outside.”

Joe picks up sleeping beauty and slings her over his shoulder. 

“Take her back to my flat for now.”

“Then I am going to smash the mirror” He calls over Catia.

Suddenly all four of our mobiles. Unknown number is flashing on the screens.

Joe sends it to answer phone while I and Brian press the answer button.

I try to ignore the feeling that I am about be sucked into the phone line.

God Machine Chronicle – Man in the Mirror

Catia is sat in the Red Lion, a rough looking pub built in the lobby of the apartment block, although it’s not been trading much recently given that fresh deliveries have been entirely cut off by the snowstorm, the manager Redge has a long standing arrangement that he allows the Resident’s Association to use his backroom for meetings; normally the meetings consist of a few busy-bodies who meet up, rattle on for a few minutes and drink the odd shandy or lager, not today though, today the meeting is full of riles up residents who have been trapped in the apartment block together since the beginning of the storm, food is starting to run low and tempers are running high. Despite repeated calls for calm from the few cooler heads in the room (including Catia herself) and chance collision between a youth and a polish gentleman turns first into a shoving match and then into a full scale brawl with parties on both sides wading in, the English blaming the new wave of immigrants for stealing their friends houses, and the immigrants complaining at how they are being treated like dirt and spat upon; during the chaos Catia attempts to duck through the crowd and get clear, she pauses to snatch up a bewildered child on her way out, getting bumped and jostled in the progress, and delivers the young boy safely to his worried mother before advising the woman to take her son back to her own appartment and stay there. Thinking that some sort of distraction might stop the fighting Catia presses the emergency fire alarm, remembering too late that it will also set off the sprinklers in the corridors, they spray a brief gout of water onto the floors of the corridors throughout the building before the frozen pipes seize up and the water flow stops.
In her own room Maggie wakes up from an uneasy sleep to sound of a fire alarm ringing, she looks out the spyhole on her door and notices the slick wet floor of the corridor that has already started to freeze in the cold temperatures, before she can do anything more her mobile phone rings, it’s Catia who tells her what’s going on with riot and asks whether she’d be able to get Joe to help calm it down; Maggie says that she’ll see what she can do, rings Joe and tells him what’s going on in the Red Lion. Wasting no time Joe storms down to the pub where he finds the riot in full swing, spilling out of the pub into the foyer of the building, pushing his way through the crowd, staring down anyone who dares challenge him, Joe finds Redge crouched behind the bar; grabbed a pool cue he smashes it across the chest of the first person who gets too close to him and sends the man crashing to the floor, as a youth spins around with a flick knife Joe picks up a second pool cue and breaks it around the youths head, causing him to crumple in an unconscious heap. As a moments hush falls over the room and the riot pauses momentarily Joe says simply “Enough. Go home.”
Seeing the known to be ruthless criminal standing there holding half a bloody pool cue with two broken bodies lying at his feet the riots think discretion is the better part of valor and begin to disperse, although it is clear from the angry looks being exchanged that the matter is not over, it has just been paused momentarily, the main storm of protest is still to break. Joe checks his phone and is surprised to see that for the first time since the storm started he has a single bar of signal on his phone; ringing one of his boys he receives a garbled response before hanging up:
“Jo…ere ou…een…oads are…in…kay?”
Joe phones Maggie and asks her to bring Catia and meet him in the Red Lion and to bring a shovel, Maggie is only able to locate a small shovel that she uses for potting on her plants but she meets up with Catia and heads down to the pub, by the time they arrive Joe is drinking at the bar with Redge; initially the barman/owner looks a little worried that the rioters might have returned but he relaxes when he sees the two women and goes back to sweeping up the splintered furniture and smashed glass that the rioters have left in their wake. As Joe explains what has happened and that he thinks they should get out of the building (although he has not been able to get in touch with Brian yet), Catia recalls seeing a JCB on a building site to the west of the Specto Vale block just before the storm really kicked in, she suggests that they head to the site, take the digger and use it to make a break through the snowstorm. The three of them dig their way out of the front door of the tower block (which is now massively snowed in) and begin walking to the west, however, after a few minutes they find themselves approaching the Specto Vale entrance again; Catia thinks they must have got turned around since visibility is practically zero, Joe is not so sure though. Deciding to head to the bus stop they arrive and find that there is a still an area around it not touched by the snow, as Maggie described to them previously, Joe tells the girls to stay in the shelter and keep safe whilst he heads of to the building site; however, sure enough, a few minutes after he has left Joe finds himself heading back towards the bus stop, certain that something unusual is going he suggest that they return to the block.
Once they get back inside Joe directs them to the unoccupied flat 113 that they visited previously, the door still hangs in tatters where Joe kicked it off its hinges and the oval mirror is still inside; once the dust sheet is removed from the mirror Catia can see that the room is reflected in it but that they aren’t. Exploring the apartment Maggie finds a small hand mirror abandoned on a dresser in the bedroom, she takes it with her and hands it over to Joe who, acting on a hunch, puts his hand through the liquid-like surface of the large mirror whilst Maggie and Catia look at his reflection in the little mirror, they are surprised to see that his reflection in the little mirror disappears the moment his hand breaches the surface of the large mirror, and re-appears when he withdraws it. Taking the small mirror Joe plunges his head and arm through the surface of the large mirror, on the other side he sees the strange reflection realm, but the surface of the small mirror has turned black and non-reflective, although it returns to normal when he emerges from the large mirror back into our world.
Meanwhile Brian has woken up in his apartment, the sound of the fire bells having roused him from a nightmare about cogs, whirring gears and a strange ticking noise, looking outside his door he sees a frozen skin of water coating the floor of the corridor, confusing he picks up his phone and punches in Joe’s number; Joe explains to him about the riot and, on impulse, puts his phone holding hand and head through the large mirror whilst talking to Brian. Immediately Brian’s voice is replace by a crackling of static and just below it, a business-like voice repeats the phrase “What has risen may fall, what has fallen may rise again.”
As he heads down to meet the rest of them Brian notices that the wounds on his hand appear to have disappeared but there is a small patch of skin near his thumb where he appears to have lost all feeling and sensation.
Having trouble dealing with the concept of these strange mirrors and feeling beaten up after her experiences of the riot Catia flops down in a chair, a shocked look on her face, trying to be comforting Maggie pats her on the back and passes a large joint across to her, whilst this is going Joe has emerged from the large mirror just as Brian meets them in the flat. Joe suggest to Brian that he enter the mirror-verse and go to Mile’s room, nodding Brian enters the large mirror and makes his way through the twisted reflection version of Specto Vale to Miles room where he finds not the tidied up sanitary version of the room from their last visit but the messy, cluttered survivalists hidey hole of their first visit, however everything in there feels real and solid, not like the flimsy fake furniture and items in the rest of the mirror world, he pockets the blueprints he finds on the walls there and, thinking about what Joe has told him about phones in the mirror-verse attempts to make a call on his mobile. He is rewarded with the sound of static and a faint voice saying:
“1…13…2…48…3…18…4…26…5…35…6…19…7…20…8…32…9…29…10…25…11…15…12…23…13…0…14…25…15…1”
Unable to make sense of the number sequence Brian hangs up and heads to his own apartment; it seems (like almost every other reflection version of a place) as an imperfect reflection of his apartment and he is about to leave when he hears a low snoring sound emanating from his room. Warily venturing in the sound appears to be coming from a pile of covers on the mirror-version of his bed, gingerly pulling them back he exposes a hessian sack made into a horrific likeness of a head with two large round button eyes and thick black stitching making a straight line for a mouth, the snoring appears to be coming from inside the sack and it would appear the scarecrow like figure is wearing Brian’s pajamas. Drawing back in horror, Brian knocks the covers exposing the arm of the scarecrow, he notices with terror that there is a small patch of perfect human skin on the right hand of the creature, corresponding with the number patch on his own hand.
In our world Maggie has returned to her own flat, she is determined to throw all of her mirrors away but is distracted by the appearance of a jittery youth who is obviously some sort of addict experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms, he claims to be from one of the second floor flats and says that there aren’t any drugs coming in and that things are going to start getting ugly if people don’t get their fix, he’s heard that perhaps Maggie could hook him up. Maggie only carries weed and so she rings Joe who has a few small samples of harder stuff and agrees to sell the guy some if Maggie gets his apartment number; satisfied the grateful addict leaves and Maggie begins to systematically hurl all of her mirrors out of her apartment window where they shatter on the snowy floor below, however as she throws the last one Maggie swears that she sees eyes not her own staring back at her and then the mirror tumbles into the whiteness and crashes to the ground below.
Brian has traveled through the mirror-block of flats to the reflection of Bartek Prusee’s flat on the 13th floor, he jimmies the door open and walks inside, a barely visible figure sits with its back to him in Bartek’s high backed chair, as Brian circles round the chair warily he sees another scarecrow like figure, this one clad in the same charcoal grey suit that he last saw Bartek wearing; Brian attempts to talk to the figure but gets no response until he tries speaking backwards at which point the head begins to move, following him around the room, soulless black button eyes staring blankly at him. Unnerved Brian writes ‘who are you and what do you want?’ backwards on a piece of paper and throws it onto the lap of the scarecrow; it reaches up slowly with its other arm to retrieve the note and Brian is horrified to see that its right arm is almost entirely human. Again Brian attempts to speak to it backwards saying “Who are you and what is this place?”
Suddenly his phone rings and, when he answer it, over the crackling he hears a voice that sounds like Bartek speaking backwards saying “What are you doing in my home? I thought that you would have bought you friends again.” Realising that he is speaking to the scarecrow and that it seems to have Bartek’s memories, Brian drags the downward facing mirror that was being used a table in the apartment upright and points it at the scarecrow, when he looks into it he sees the real world apartment and the real Bartek sat on his chair, he looks pale and very unwell, he is rubbing his right arm with a pain expression on his face. Brian steps into the large mirror, and emerges under the table in Barteks apartment, when he crawls out and attempts to speak to Bartek the old man fires an antique pistol from beneath his blanket, hitting Brian square in the shoulder, the old gangster shouts “Which one are you?”
“I’m the real one” replies Brian showing the blood from his fresh injury, this seems to mollify Bartek somewhat who directs Brian to some appropriate tools to remove the bullet and cauterise the wound, that he has in his bathroom cabinet. When Brian returns, having cleaned himself up, Bartek (after some small prompting) explains that he originally used to live on the tenth floor of the building, but after he noticed some strange goings on and that they seemed to focus around the thirteenth floor he bribed his way into possession of his current apartment; it was when he moved in he found the mirror and realised that it was potentially a gate to somewhere else, unwilling to go through but not wanting to dispose of it unless someone else was tempted by it Bartek pointed it at the floor and disguised it as a simple table. Bartek asks Brian whether he has seen the original blueprints of the Specto Vale block and, when Brian looks at him blankly, explains that there was no thirteenth floor listed on the original blueprints but there is one on the revised blueprints made available to the public; he also mentions that no-one in the flat seems to remember exactly when the storm began or how long they’ve been trapped here, most people don’t seem to want to know. To Brian’s surprise he finds that he can’t remember the exact dates or times either; Brian attempts to show Bartek some photos on his phone but Bartek tells him not to use a phone saying that people in the block only get a single when ‘they’ want to listen in on you.
Brian attempts to explain about the scarecrows and that he believes both himself and Bartek are having their life drained away into their duplicates, as represented by the slowly spreading numbness in his hand and Bartek’s useless right arm, at the end of the conversation he notes that Bartek has not moved or said anything for several minutes, checking his pulse he finds that the old man has died quietly. 
Walking back down the first floor, the others are surprised when Brian walks in through the door rather than emerging out of the mirror but they don’t have much time to talk as Brian and Maggie (who has been explaining about the face in her mirror) hear the sound of a janitors wheeled cart approaching; still unsure of what is going on with the odd monosyllabic janitors they duck out of the apartment and head to the Red Lion where Redge has swept all the debris from the riot in a single pile and is now getting drunk. Brian shows the photos and video clips he has been taking in the mirror world on his smart phone and also the bullet that he removed from his shoulder, a brief argument breaks out when Maggie brings up the subject of the face in her mirror about whether she or Brian has had the worst day, this ends when Brian asks Redge about how his stock levels are doing and if he can remember what date the storm started; Redge seems to ponder it for a second before getting very irate and changing the subject, Brian holds this up as proof of what he has been saying to the others, they are not where they think that they are.
As Redge heads into the back room to get some more drinks Maggie notices a low hissing from two speakers fastened to the walls beside the bar, although Redge dismisses it as feedback from cheap speakers when asked, the group decide to ajourn their conversation to Maggie’s flat where Brian outlines his plan to re-enter the mirror world; Catia, obviously tired from her exertions during the riot falls asleep on one of the comfy chairs in the flat. At this point everyone’s mobile phone begins ringing simultaneously, Joe switches off both his and Catia’s phones whilst Maggie and Brian reach for theirs and press the answer button.

God Machine Chronicle – The World According to Maggy Pike : Part Two

IC blog of second God Machine Chronicle Session
Written by Kelly Grimshaw
Reproduced with permission from the author.
After last night’s fun and games I had planned for a nice quiet day in the house with Luna. As the phones are still out from the Arctic deciding to try to move its boarders to England I guessed that I wouldn’t be getting much in the way of business either so the day would be spent checking the plants, harvesting, drying and bagging. No. 
It started out promising; I got up, made breakfast- a smoke and a cup of tea, fed the dog, checked the plants, bit cooler than yesterday, I guess there was more snow so will have to start thinking of bringing more lamps in.
Started to weigh and bag when there was a frantic knock at the door, I pocketed then bagged up the stuff and swept the rest into a bin bag and stuffed it under the sofa; all the while this person’s knocking was getting more and more frantic. Looking through the key hole I see the youngest of the Lung’s looking frantic so after last night I opened the door to let her in.
As soon as I open the door she starts waving a roll of cash at me tied up with string, now it can’t be a Christmas present as we don’t know each other well enough to be exchanging that kind of a gift; looking at it, there was roughly 500 quid there and for her safety I pull her through the door, shutting it behind her. She starts to talk at me in Chinese, now I know the language to the extent where I can say hello, thank you and goodbye but I had no clue what she was saying so taking a wild guess I pull out a 10 bag and offer it to her; nope not that then, she looked at me puzzled for a moment then starts talking again. 
I am totally befuddled at this point and try small words, “Follow you?”
Bingo, she pauses for a moment while she works out what I have said and nods.
Now I know that the woman opposite speaks Chinese as she was interpreting last night but I also know that she was working this morning (some sort of Resident’s Association meeting or something) so there was no point knocking to see if she could help so it was just me and Su-ling. She is still talking at me as we walk down the stairs but I have no idea where I am going or what I am going to see when I get there; she is looking more frantic when Brian walks round the corner. I have never wanted to talk to him so much since I met him.
I know he works for Joe, Smokey to most people but according to him I am not most people, I don’t know whether to take that as a compliment or not; 
I explain what has happened and he tries the old English holiday fail safe that has made locals cover their ears and cower for generations, he speaks loudly and slowly at her. Now I could have tried that but we all know that it doesn’t work and she just waves the roll of cash under his nose. Brian takes it off her and counts out 500 quid, right there in the middle of the corridor. Subtle this man is not.
After announcing to the world in general that there is 500 in cash he pockets it in front of her; I hope that this is a clumsy sign of keeping it safe, she looks at me and just pulls at my sleeve to continue our decent into the rabbit hole. As we enter the lobby (ha! It’s a pair of double doors that shield the stairs from the outside world but I really can’t think of another name for it) I realise that we are going back to the Chinese take-away. I am starting to panic now, if she wants me to check on her dad then we need Catia for this,  she’s is the nurse after all, all i’ve got is basic first aid (and a bit of chemistry). There is a figure in the door way looking like he’s trying to enjoy a quiet smoke, it’s Joe.
I’ve worked for him for a while now but over the last 24 hours I have spoken to him more than I think he would like; I ask if he speaks Chinese, hope must have been radiating off me like the sun at this point but it turned out he also knows the extent of the menu from the local takeaway; I really feel like I should be taking lessons soon. Su-ling tugs on my sleeve again, a little harder this time so I nod and leave the lads to it, hoping they will follow. Not for any help from the looks of it but sometimes it helps to spread the confusion.
She leads us into the kitchen of the take-away and points to the freezer; all of us hesitate, I did not see this myself but the lads told me this is where they found the frozen cat that defrosted at mine and I swear was still part catsickle when it sauntered out the door. Brian, being Brian is the first to pull himself together and opens the chest freezer. Cautiously we, not so happy three, peer into the frosty depths to be greeted by the sight of a frozen bin bag; looking closer the shape of the bag isn’t a lump of something but more cylindrical. Brian, who for reasons that will become clear later seems to have no sense of self-preservation AT ALL reaches in and pulls out the bag, he looks in and pulls out rolled up sheets of paper secured with elastic bands.
While he unrolls one of the tubes I ask Su-ling if anyone else is in the house that can explain what she is so upset about, she vanishes into another room and re-appears with her older sister who looks just as confused as the rest of us, “Um, hello?” she says slowly.
I explain, again, why we are here and she turns to her sister and there is a frantic conversation. Looking a little annoyed at her sibling she explains that the same man who paid her father to store the invincible feline came banging on the back door during the night, he asked her to hide said bin bag and pushed a roll of notes into her hand.
“Brian is looking after it for her, I thought it was a little dangerous for her to be waving it around” I interrupt. Let’s see what happens. Slightly to my surprise he nods and pulls out the cash and hands it to Su-ling.
Her sister takes it off her and continues, “I have been tending to father since you kindly saved him, my sister didn’t want to disturb him so took the money and knowing that father had done this before she just did the same.”
I look over to the lads who have closed the lid and were now using it as a crude table; the rolls of paper seem to be blue-prints of our building with tiny holes that could be pinpricks highlighted in red, a form of spider web in the same red ink linking places together and there were also crude stars in black ink scrawled over certain parts of the block. Two on the Thirteenth floor, flats 1313 and one that is so covered in red ink it is hard to decipher.  One on the first floor flat 113 and one at the bus stop-oh look route 13! Why do I think it isn’t going to be lucky for us?
They explained that the man with the tin foil hat- Miles I think his name was, had been almost having an episode trying to tell them that something was happening, he said that he had seen cats that couldn’t die.
 
Yeah it’s called reincarnation, you generally have to go back to the start and try again but…”That’s not what you mean is it?” I say to the lads.
“No,” Joe says simply “he says he has seen them get hit by lorries and get up fine.”
 
I look at Brian who nods his head in agreement.
“He did say if we go back up to him he can show us what he means,” continued Brian said looking at Joe.
“Well now is as good a time as any” Joe replies.
“Wanna join us?” He asks looking at me.
I don’t think this is a good idea to be honest, a man who sounds like he is running beyond the realms of sanity and still accelerating may not want to speak freely in front of a stranger. I don’t have time to say this as I am whisked off to the sixth floor to talk to Captain Tin foil.
What answers the door is nothing I have been prepared for, a well-scrubbed man in a shirt and a woollen jumper; he seems to recognise Brian and Joe and begins apologising for his behaviour 16 hours ago. We go inside and the place is clean, I mean really clean, I mean show room clean with nothing out of place, the boys seem a little taken aback by this while the reformed Miles continues to apologise for his ranting, scaring the community and general craziness.
“What about what you wanted to show us?” Brian asked waving the blue prints at him.
“Whatever I said before, I was not myself” Miles says continuing to defend himself.
“What about the cats…?” Brian continues, in his ‘it was you wot done it, own up’ form of interrogation.
There is a strange noise coming from somewhere, it reminds me of something I haven’t heard since childhood; my father was a Chemistry Professor and one of his oddities was to wear a waistcoat and a pocket watch. Every now and again he would conduct his little ceremony of winding the watch. It would start with him taking it out, staring at it for a few seconds, holding it up to his ear, shaking it, holding it up to his ear again as if he were waiting for the mysteries of the universe to reveal themselves, huffing loudly and he would then begin to wind.
The noise I heard in Mile’s flat was a little like the noise of the cogs grinding and the spring being tightened; I looked around the room, expecting to see some form of clock when it stopped. Not in the way a clock winds down but stopped dead.
There it is again.
For some reason I look at Miles, he is paused in mid-conversation about him having paranoid schizophrenia and luckily finding someone who had the same mediation as him (someone with a stock pile) and persuading this total stranger of letting him have some until he can get to the doctors….well that certainly was convenient. Brian asks what medication Miles is on, hold on, wait, what? Brian has asked to see proof that the poor man is tormented by his own mind.
He takes out a box; it has a white sticker with the scientific name and all the stuff you usually see on a box from the chemists; and that’s when I realise that the noise is coming from him, as he pauses the mechanical whirring sound is audible then it cuts and Miles begins to speak. I stand there for a moment thinking perhaps i’m imagining it and searching for a clock. Brian, I am sure, is trying to bring the poor man to the point of another episode by arguing with him about paint, yes paint and Joe keeps asking how he got DFS to deliver a sofa in the snow.
 
Joe is quiet for a second as Brian comes in for a second wave of paint questions so I take a chance and ask Joe if his watch is a wind up, he looks at me slightly taken aback for a moment then says casually “Yeah, it’s an Omega,” pointing to his wrist.
“No, I mean do you need to wind it?” 
Again he looks at me wondering where this conversation is going to, “Nah its perpetual motion.” He seems quite proud of that fact.
“Then what’s that noise?”
Joe looks at me for the third time, “How much have you smoked?”
‘You and him are arguing with him about decorating shit and you are asking ME about being off me tree?’ I scream so loudly in my head that I am sure they should have heard it. 
“Only one but I will be rolling the mother of all of them after this” I reply; I need to talk to Brian. 
I seem to have missed the last part of the conversation as Miles is looking at me with a HELP ME! plea on his face.
“Can I see the tin of paint miles?” says Brian
“What, why?”
“He’s decorating and hates the smell,” Joe answers.
“Yeah, sure it’s under the sink.”
Brian goes on the hunt and presumably finding nothing more than a tin of emulsion he sits down again, although thinking back on this was it really only just a tin of paint, no really bear with me on this.
Using this point of confusion I do what all English people do in a point of crisis, “Who wants tea?”
Well that seemed to have worked, I pause and say “Brian, come and give me a hand.”
Brian follows me into the kitchen and while very loudly making tea and a glass of water for Miles on account of some form of gastric thing I tell him about the noise; we return wile Joe is having a go at getting information, it’s not going well and I have to wonder how he got so high up in his line of business.
The noise is there again. I nod to Brian and point to my ear; he listens and then…YES he hears it too!
I can see that a conversation with these two is beginning to exceed the limits of Miles’ medication, hell I might even ask for one at this rate. Brian sees it too and suggests that he takes his pills, giving them back to him. Miles, relief pouring off him like steam, grabs the box of tablets and takes them with the glass of water.
I watch, half expecting to see steam coming out of his ears or his neck blowing off on a spring like in the cartoons when a robot hits water.
“YOU ARE NOT MILES!” Joe decides to shout. Oh well done Captain Clever now the clockwork men know we’re on to them. Does he never watch Dr Who?
Brian also having the subtly of a rutting rhino says just about word for word what I just thought and now Miles looks as though he is about to have an aneurism; we make our excuses and turn to leave.
Joe hangs back and then loud enough so we can hear it on the landing he shouts “YOU’RE NOT MILES!”
Ah ha! Now it’s my turn for the look.
“You know when you’re holding a brick?” What the fuck! I am really struggling to hold on here. 
“Actually no, not recently” is all I can manage before sitting down to roll. I give up, frozen cats, mysterious blue prints, clockwork men and now bricks. But wait it gets better.
“I shook his hand and it didn’t feel right” Joe continued “I added a bit of hard man (not sure if I heard that bit right to be honest) pressure to the shake and it was like squeezing a breeze block. He is not Miles.”
“What if the people that the real Miles said was after him, actually got to him and somehow brainwashed him?” Brian asked. I am glad I am building a smoke at this point as I am having trouble keeping up.
“I suggest we take a look at what the real Miles wanted to show us.” he continued indicating to the blue prints, still in his hands.
“I need to take the dog out first; I’ll have a look at the bus stop.” I said as I tucked the cone into one side of my mouth
“So we’ll take the first floor” Brian replies and for now we go our separate ways. 
It seemed a good idea at the time.
Stepping outside me and Luna get Siberia in the face; luckily enough around the block isn’t so bad, Luna has a chance to run around, have a bit of a sniff and do what dogs do before we venture further out. Struggling through the snow, now up to my waist and Luna now trying her hand at pot holing, we get to the gate. After persuading the gate to open enough to let us through we manage to get onto the street. Looking down all I can see is a nose and decided to come back again after taking her home before her extremities begin to freeze, bet she’s glad she isn’t a boy.
I reach the 1st floor when what I can only describe as a sonic boom travels along the corridor and scares the crap out of the two of us; after my ears stop ringing and I have done a quick check to see that I am still alive, I still have all my appendages and that the dog is still alive and intact I hear the Northern tones of Brian and the quieter tones of Joe arguing about who blew the bloody doors off I decided to take Luna back home for her own safety.
Now dog-less I return to the gate outside the block and manage to fight my way to the bus stop.
And suddenly fall through a void. It was like someone had taken a knife and cut out the middle of a cake, the bus stop and possibly a meter square all around it there is no snow. Not only that but I was starting to get uncomfortably warm in my winter woollies and would have been quite happy to remove a few layers.
I pull out my phone and take pictures, no-one would believe a stoner when she says it was spring at bus stop 13; I also stick my arm out and take a couple more photos to prove that it is still snowing all around.
Walking up to the first floor it doesn’t take me long to locate the boys and when I arrive at apartment 113 I see a flat, unoccupied, dust sheets everywhere and at one end of the room Brian and Joe staring at an oval mirror almost the size of the wall. Now for the crazy part, yup the stuff before was confusing but this shit is just bat shit crazy.
Brian is standing there with his arm sticking into the mirror up to his elbow and Joe has his arms wrapped around Brian.
“…I could get turned on by this” Did Brian actually say that?!
“Do what you want it’s just business” Joe replied.
Looking at the mirror I see the reverse image of the room, yep all good but we are not there, Brian arm comes back out with the surface rippling like mercury. Pulling his phone out his pocket and takes some pictures from the other side, there is nothing in the mirror-room.
 
He sticks his head through then half of his body and to be honest I am half expecting a 13 Ghosts moment where he gets cut in half, but he emerges unharmed; him and Joe begin to argue whether going in or not is a good thing when a thought strikes me. Out of morbid curiosity I wander over to the fridge and open the door as Brian walks out the room with a determined expression.
All there is in there is a cheese sandwich that could very probably hold the cure for cancer in the fungus growing on it.
“Nope, no Zuul” I shout. Just thought I’d check.
Brian re-enters tying the metal end of a fire hose round his middle.
Squeak, squeak, slap, squeak. 
“Oh crap it’s the cleaner,” I hiss.
“Oh let me shut the door, oh wait I can’t,” Brian says sarcastically to Joe.
“Quick, hide” he continues and dives into the mirror with a number of choice swear words following behind him; I am quite proud of this next move, I push all the gas rings of the cooker and let the gas escape just long enough to get the smell and run out into the corridor.
“Quick, quick please help!”
The surely eastern European man stops pushing the wheeled metal water container with his mop and stares at me.
“I clean.” 
“Please you have to help there has been a gas leak in one of the flats.”
“I clean,” He repeats 
“You don’t understand a word I am saying do you?”
“I clean,” and just to make sure I get the message he slops the soaking dirty mop onto the floor and pushes it about a bit.
I give up and go back to the flat with the cleaner going back where he came from; I am finding a dust sheet to put over the door when Brian comes back through the mirror and he is failing to explain what he had just seen when there is a loud crash from behind us, spinning round we see that the real world sofa is laying on its side.
“I did that!” Brian announces proudly.
I was about to ask how when he continues to say “I moved the sofa on the other side before I came back out. Wait look,” and he vanishes back through the looking glass.
After about 15 minutes he pops back again trying to tell us that the mirror world is like a film set, all light weight and cardboard, this is when the cleaner appears in the door way shouting that we should not be here. Joe and I start arguing with him about selective English and gas leaks when Brian suggests that it is a good idea to leave.
Seeing how spooked he is we decide to go.
Heading up to the 13th floor we find flat 1313, one of the 2 flats marked with an asterisk on the blueprint map, Joe asks if I’d like to knock.
“Why would I want to do that?”
“Well Brian knocked on Miles door and I (ahem) knocked on the empty flat door so…”
“Oh it’s my turn. Yay!”
Another Eastern European voice shouts through the door “Yes, what do you want?” 
What I wanted was for there to be no-one in, but I reply “Umm, building inspectors?”
“You lie, there are no building inspectors here. Who are you really?”
Bugger. “There has been a gas leak” Joe shouts up. Oh nicking my ideas now are we?
“There has been no gas leak.”
“Yes there has, on the first floor”
“Then it is no business of mine.”
“The cleaner sent us up.”
This seemed to get a reaction, after another door full of locks he opens enough to see us, I recognise some of the tattoos on the elderly gentleman’s visible skin. Then came my second good idea.
 
“Bartek?”
“Who wants to know?”
“Erm, the older man with the walking stick?”
“Jakub?”
“Yeah him, he said you might want to start up a bit of business?” I pull a bag out of my pocket and show it to him in my cupped hand. This seems to work and he lets us into his flat. Not much to report on this one, basic set up with no mirror in site; I start talking shop with Bartek while with a lot more stealth than he has shown previously Brian starts dropping pound coins about and looking under things. In the middle of our little chat Bartek yells out to Brian to leave the coin that has conveniently rolled under a table and gives him another out of his pocket.
 
Okay. We all look at each other.
I manage to get him out of the room long enough for Brian to take a look and putting his hand under the table he nods, his arse has just hits the seat when Bartek comes in carrying a black leather briefcase. Laying it on the table he snaps open the clasps and inside is stacks of cash, possibly enough to choke a donkey. Joe concludes with Bartek, promising him more business in the future and as Brian was unable to investigate further we continue to the next flat. The centre of the red web.
Outside the door is full of cats, dozens of pairs of eyes watching us approach, oh yay a crazy cat lady, just to top it all off.
Brian knocks on the door and a frail old voice answers, “Yes, who is it?”
“It’s the Resident’s Association members, love. We are investigating reports of disappearing cats. Can we come in?”
“Oh yes, of course. It’s not locked.”
The smell was phenomenal. Cat. Very much the smell of cat, piss, shit, musk, rotting meat, desiccated fish and in that nasal harmony a top note of old lady smell, it was like walking into a patio door. The owner of the voice is an old woman with cataract clouded eyes, she stares right through us as he tells us that she looks after the cats, who under advice of a caretaker, the management bought in to deal with the vermin problem.
Brian, still using the missing cats as an excuse to look for around, presumably for another mirror manages to take a look around the flat, while he is investigating I ask the old lady if she is warm enough and if she had eaten lately. Contrary to what my hours tell me she answers, “Oh yes a few hours ago dear.”
While I am trying to think of something else to ask her Brian comes in white as a sheet and gestures to one hand grasped tightly in the other; uncovering his hand he reveals two deep puncture marks dripping blood. He gestures with a nod of his head for us to leave, as we head out the voice of the crazy old cat lady follows us, “It was nice to have company, I do hope your friend is alright.”  
How did she know that? Is she the Master using the mirrors in the cats’ eyes to see what’s going on? Am I going to wake up in a snug white coat strapped to a bed with rubber wall paper?
I feel like I am in an episode of Dr Who and still waiting for him to arrive and save the day.

Fate of Cthulhu – FAe hack – rules

Having finished creating the various templates for the different professions in my FAE Cthulhu hack it was fairly easy to create some guidelines for accumulating stress when traumatic/insanity inducing effects are encountered and to note down some suggestions for derangements. The vast majority of rules can be used as per the Fate Accelerated rulebook.
My plan next is to write up some guidelines for creating a horror atmosphere using FATE (based on information from the toolkit) and jot down some possible FAE stats for the more prominent mythos entities.
The current version of the hack can be found here.

Fate of Cthulhu – FAE Cthulhu hack – Character generation

So I sat down last night with my trusty copy of Trail of Cthulhu (my preferred choice of the many, many different Cthulhu mythos flavoured games that I own) and decided that I was finally going to start banging down some of the ideas i’ve had floating around in my head for a FAE conversion/hack.

Why use FAE and not FATE core?

I’m running two games at the moment, my Rogue Trader game House of Black (run using FATE core rules) and my Secret of Specto Vale nWoD God Machine game (run using the Fate Accelerated rules); whilst I enjoy running both games, it has slowly dawned on me that there is a distinct difference in focus between the two games and, after some consideration, I believe it all boils down to how much attention the game pays to “stuff.”
By “stuff” I mean equipment and possessions specifically, in my Rogue Trader game i’ve fielded all manner of questions regarding equipment, weapons, space ships, etc that are possessed either by the individual player characters or by the Rogue Trader dynasty that they work for (the eponymous House of Black); however in my nWod God Machine game I think the only question I have been asked regarding possessions or items is whether or not someone can have an item on them to pick a lock. Obviously not all of this is to do with the different iterations of the system being used, they are certain items and objects that you are assumed to possess in a Rogue Trader game (a space ship for instance) and the setting focuses a lot more on things (unlike nWoD and some other games); however I do feel that the Fate Accelerated (FAE) system has encouraged the players to leave the equipment list checking in the background, they know what sort of stuff their player characters have access to and that I will usually allow them to have something if it appropriate. For example: Smokey Thomson is an old school criminal in the God Machine game, the player doesn’t have to ask if he has a gun or not or check his sheet, of course he had a gun; the players also seem a lot less concerned with the specific bonuses that their kit gives to them.
Another major advantage of the FAE system is that it is very easy to learn and pick up; I have only run two sessions of my God Machine game and all of the players have a very good grasp of the basic rules.
Fate of Cthulhu

I have always been a massive fan of H. P. Lovecraft’s writing and have read the majority of mythos material written by him, along with some of the later mythos themed writings, I also have a number of Lovecraftian RPGs and supplements such as Call of Cthulhu, Realms of Cthulhu and Trail of Cthulhu (to name but a few). Recently when we started up a one-off game night a friend of mine ran an investigative/horror based Hunter: the Vigil game that sprawled over the normal one session limit (in-fact we’re still playing it); it occurred to me that, although the story was good, I didn’t find the system particularly conducive to quickly creating a character and getting a decent one-off session of RP done. Wanted to address this and show how I would do it when the GMing duties eventually swung back my way I turned to the FATE system as my go-to roleplay system at the moment; i’ve already gone on loads about how I think that the FATE system places story over accurate rule mechanics in previous blog entries and so I won’t take up space doing it again, however, I thought back to how easy it had been to pick up FAE for my God Machine game and decided that this would be the game system for my horror one-off.
Having always been a big fan of the mythos, most horror games run by myself have a Cthulhu-esque flavour to them; not really wanting to create a complete Cthulhu FATE game from scratch though I turned to one of my favourite Cthulhu RPGs Trail of Cthulhu (you can see some of my thoughts on this game here) and began looking at it with a view to creating a FAE hack/version of the game.
Character generation & Occupations

Looking through Trail of Cthulhu a bit part of the character generation process is picking an Occupation, this sets your starting skills and a few other bits and pieces, you then (with most occupations) get to add one of two additional skills and tweak some little bits. Since FAE doesn’t involve skills and I was determined to maintain the basic 6 Aspect approach of FAE (to make it easier on the players and myself) I decided that I would have each player pick a template for their character based on profession.
One example of this is shown below:
Archaeologist: A person who travels to strange and exotic places in search of the past.
Starting Stunts – Archaeology, Athletics, Evidence Collection, First Aid, History, Ancient Languages, Library Use, Riding.
“Well known in academic circles” – Once per session the character may gain access to the restricted area of a museum or library by using their academic credentials.
Starting Refresh – 1.
Instead of skills the template would define a number of Stunts where the character received a +2 bonus when dealing with a particular subject; also any other miscellaneous benefits could be represented by an additional Stunt (the “well known in academic circles” listed above for example).
Once this had been done the Starting Refresh for fate points of the character would be defined by their Occupation Template (those templates with less Stunts would leave the player with more refresh points remaining); this refresh could be spent to acquire additional Stunts or saved as per the rules in the FAE rulebook.
Overall I was pretty happy with the start i’d made on the character generation session and posted a draft on the FATE G+ community to get some feedback; my next aim is to produce a series of small/compact character sheets (one for each Occupation Template) so that the players just have to pick one, jot in a few details and they’re good to go, making character gen really speedy.
The initial draft section is available here, any constructive feedback is welcome (I am aware the Scientist Occupation is missing it’s Starting Refresh rate, it should be 3).

God Machine Chronicle – So what is it with these cats?

“Smokey” Thomson stood on the threshold of the Specto Vale apartment block, the winter storm lashing down outside and coating the world beyond the block with white, contemplating the events of the day before he lit a cigar; at least that fruitloop Shepherd had promised them some answers today. Meanwhile Brian Best had just woken up in his room where he’d fallen asleep re-watching his extensive collection of Star Trek DVDs, there was a faint meowing outside the door of the apartment  he opened it to see a single feline watching him. At first Brian attempted to feed the cat some milk but it didn’t seem very interested in it, remaining watching him, so eventually he gave and went back inside.
There was a banging on the door of Maggy Pike’s apartment, she opened it to find Sue-Linn the 16 year old daughter of Mr Lung standing there, frantically trying to explain something in chinese (much to the bewilderment of Maggy who didn’t speak chinese), the young girl thrust a pile of money at Maggy and eventually communicated that she wanted Maggy to follow her. Following Sue-Linn down the hallway, her loud talking lead to Brian sticking his head out of his appartment and investigating; through his mangled knowledge of the chinese language Brian was able to establish that the man who had left a bag in their freezer had paid them £500 to look after another parcel because he thought “people were after [him].”
Making their way across the ‘lobby’ of the apartment block the small party spotted Joe smoking his cigar and beckoned him over; travelling to Lungs Chinese takeaway Sue-Linn fetched her older sister who spoke english, she confirmed that, whilst she had been in the back room caring for her father, Mr Shepherd had turned up and paid her sister £500 to hide some papers. Looking in the freezer Brian discovered the blueprints that had decorated Shepherd’s flat walls, with the red dots showing where cats congregated in the block, red lines joining these points to a 13th floor flat and a line joining that flat to one on the top floor; since the last time they had seen the blueprints, three large asterisks had been drawn on it, two in 13th floor flats (one being the flat with the red lines travelling to it), one in a 1st floor flat and the other in a bus stop just outside the apartment block.
Deciding that it was about time they got some answers from Shepherd, the group visited his apartment, finding it oddly clean and with a much saner, apologetic Shepherd in attendance; Shepherd apologised and claimed that he suffered from psychotic episodes and had been off his meds, he claimed to have little memory of his paranoid ramblings. Brian noticed that the apartment seemed to have been freshly painted but that there was no smell of paint, his continual attempt to quiz Shepherd about this resulted in nothing other than a confused silence from the man, although Maggy noticed that every time he paused to consider his answer, there was a strange metallic whirring sound (like an old pocket watch her father had once possessed) from somewhere in the room. Joe had begun to suspect there was something not right about Shepherd and shook his hand, applying as much pressure as possible, but it was like trying to squeeze a breeze-block, Shepherd didn’t even seem to notice.
“That isn’t Shepherd” – Joe “Smokey” Thomson
After leaving Shepherd’s apartment, Brian speculates that perhaps the people who were after him actually managed to get hold of Shepherd and that they had somehow brainwashed him, whereas Joe doubts that the person in the apartment is infact Shepherd. Brian wants to visit the places marked with asterisks on the map, so him and Joe had to the first floor whilst Maggy plans to visit the bus stop just outside the apartment.
Arriving at Flat 113 on the first floor they find it seemingly empty, Brian begins to attempt picking the lock when Joe, tired of waiting, kicks the door with such force that it is smashed off its hinges, the noise of the destruction echoing down the corridor. Moving inside they find a dusty, abandoned apartment with sparse furniture covered by dust sheets, at one end of the room is a large oval mirror also covered by a sheet; unveiling it the two men notice that, although the room is reflected, they do not seem to have reflections in the mirror.
Outside Maggy has waded through the waste high snow and is shocked to find that at the Route 13 bus stop and for about a metre around it there is no snow (despite flurries still falling from the sky) and the temperature is far more mild than elsewhere. Snapping some photographs on her smartphone, Maggy retraces her steps to the apartment block and goes in search of Joe and Brian, following the sound of a door smashing she eventually locates them in flat 113.
Brian hesitantly put his arm out towards the mirror; the surface of the mirror ripples like liquid and his hand passes through, Thomson grabs hold of him, worried that his driver might be pulled through. Brian puts his phone through and blindly snaps some photos, when he removes his arm and looks at the phones gallery he sees simply photographs of a reflected apartment room. Convinced there is no immediate danger Brian pokes his head through the mirror and sees a reflection of the apartment, however, something seems not right, but he can’t put his finger on what; using a fire hose as a life line and tying it around his waist Brian dives through the mirror whilst Maggy checks the refrigerator.
“Nope, no Zuul” – Maggy Pike
The sound of metallic wheels alerts Maggy to the approach of one of the apartment janitors, a surly eastern european man pushes a wheeled metal water container along with a mop. Meanwhile Brian explores the mirror world, finally realising what is wrong with everything, it all looks fake like a movie-set or cardboard cutouts of real things; he verifies this by picking up an almost weightless sofa, he tries to take it back through the mirror with him but it does not make the transition with him, falling on its side when he exits the mirror world. Maggy and Joe turn to talk to Brian and there is a loud crash from behind them, whirling round they see that the real world sofa is lying on its side.
Re-entering the mirror Brian moves over towards the window, he can see no snow outside but just a flat field of white with a round black giant object that resembles a colossal button floating in mid-air; exploring the reflection of the corridor outside the room, Brian sees the janitor shuffling away from him, although he can’t see the man’s face at all, the janitor is the first person he has seen since entering the mirror. Returning to the real world, Brian discusses what he has seen with the others, but they are interrupted by the janitor who keeps repeating that they should not be in the flat; spooked by what he has seen and unsure what is going on with the janitor Brian advises that the group leaves, they take his suggestion and follow him out of the flat.
Heading up to one of the 13th floor flats marked with an asterisk they meet the occupant, a polish man named Bartek Prusee, he has tattoos that Joe recognises as old school criminal gang markers; using the excuse of a potential drugs deal (brokered by Joe and supplied by Maggy) they are able to have a look around the flat. During his search Brian discovers that the underside of Bartek’s dining table is mirrored and he establishes that it seems to work like the other mirror he entered, however he is unable to test it further as Bartek concludes his deal with Joe (a very good deal for Joe, although as a sweetener he promises to supply some muscle if Bartek needs it in the near future).
Continuing to the other thirteenth floor flat (the one marked with red lines connected to it on the blueprint) they find the corridor outside full of numerous cats, all appearing to watch their approach; knocking on the door and pretending to be Resident’s Association members gains them access, the smell of cat urine and feces hitting them like a wall. The occupant appears to be an old woman with cataract clouded eyes who claims to care for the cats that the management bought in to deal with the vermin problem; searching the flat, Brian locates a round mirror on a dresser in the bedroom and finds himself able to pass through it into the reflected flat beyond. Poking around he finds that the cats are reflected here, although they look like small burlap sacks with fake cat masks tied around them (they remind Brian of some canopic jars he saw on a program about ancient Egypt , something wriggles inside the sacks, creating an unsettling undulating movement; Brian picks one up and is shocked when two metal, insect-like antenna tipped with sharp fangs emerge through the eyes of the cat mask and stab into his hand drawing blood. Dropping the thing onto the floor, he dives through the mirror back into the normal world as metallic legs begin emerging from the sacking.
In the normal world Brian sees that every single cat in the room is staring at him; he staggers back into the living room, showing the others his bloody hand, he gestures for them to leave. As they head out the voice of the crazy old cat lady follows them, “It was nice to have company, I do hope your friend is alright.”   

Laying out my Rogue Trader plotlines

I was recently watching a video by Ander Wood on youtube regarding how to handle plots in games:

http://youtu.be/meLrlKTDXOY

Whilst watching the video it occurred to me that there may be a better way of noting down the various plots and storylines that I have running throughout my Rogue Trader FATE core game.

I have adapted my Imperial Calendar spreadsheet to also contain a sheet where I can note down the various events and upcoming events that are to occur in my plot; please note that, because some of my players read this blog, I have blanked out everything after the current game date and have blacked out some of the more sensitive information, you should be able to get the general idea though.

Comments/suggestions welcome 🙂

You can find the spreadsheet here:
https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B3N7nFBlEi_7MU1aTHFmc3dySEE/edit?usp=sharing

(please note that the spreadsheet layout is a bit messes up in the Google preview, if you download a copy though it should look much better).