The Empty Men, Part 4

hp-maskA news van arrived to film the wreckage of the school bus and the robot children on board. By listening to the woman news reporter, whose image had been used for the holographic news reader that Phillipa had encountered earlier, the time travellers learnt that similar attacks at taken place around the city. The big question was where were the children?

The Empty Men turned up in their own car, whisking Phillipa away and congratulating her on helping to explode the facade. At the cult head quarters a large television had been brought into the meeting room so they could watch the shockwaves across the city.

Already people were beginning to realise that no one they knew actually had any children on the school buses. People were asking questions that the government didn’t want them to ask.

Kat voiced her concerns that this wasn’t what she thought the group were about but Pryce insisted that this showed everything was meaningless. He collapsed to the floor, convulsing. Phillipa was about to provide medical assistance but was held back, assured he was just undergoing the final transformation into an Empty Men.

Novices were sent to their cells, although their doors were not locked. Phillipa and the Inspector debated what was happening, coming to believe that the population could be robots. There was much confusion about whether the Empty Men were responsible as Phillipa pointed out that if they were why were they deliberately exposing the truth?

Hearing crying next door Phillipa found that Kat had been placed in her cell. Seeing a bandage on her hand Phillipa asked what had happened. Kat explained she’d tried to reach her husband and in the scuffle she’d grazed her hand. Examining the wound Phillipa confirmed that Kat was indeed human.

Deciding that she needed help in speaking with Kat Phillipa activated the holographic Inspector. Kat understood the technology and was more impressed with the AI of the projection.

Questioning her the Inspector was intrigued by Kat’s infertility and that it was the record room which had been bombed. He suspected that the government may have been covering something up. Kat confirmed that all new arrivals at the colony worked at factories processing minerals which they’d been told were harmless but that she didn’t know anyone personally who had children.

Deciding that they had to find out what was happening to Pryce and the others in the black locked cells they told Kat that they wouldn’t forget about her. They followed the black line and joined a group of Empty Men, looking through the slot in the doors at the occupants.

Phillipa was horrified to see the occupant, Pryce, remove his mask only to reveal there was nothing there. One of the other Empty Men was released from his cell, seemly at peace with his transformation.

By talking with the other Empty Men Phillipa learnt that they were none the wiser about what happened to them and hoped that one day they would undergo the same transformation. Maybe then they’d understand.

Heading to the Leaders room she found he was waiting for her. In fact he seemed to know an awful lot about her. She asked him to take off his mask, so she could see who he really was.

“Why? So you can see if you know me? To see if I’m the one you’ve been searching for? I’m sorry Phillipa. I’m sorry I’m not the Inspector,’ the Leader said, removing his mask to reveal his pale soft face.

The Leader explained that his name was Ulla and that he’d set up the group because he felt empty inside, urged on by a voice he heard in his dreams. Only when he began questioning people about their past did he learn they all shared the same memories.

He’d made it his mission to expose the truth and had briefly met the Inspector. It was the Inspector who had pointed him in the direction of the school buses, full of children that belonged to no one. He’d said that Phillipa might follow after him and that was why the Leader had unlocked her cell, hoping she’d led them to salvation.

Ulla didn’t know why people transformed into living black holes but guessed it was something about giving up identity. He revealed he’d only partially transformed probably because his role was the only one that couldn’t be performed by another. There was only one Leader and so he had to retain so individuality.

Asked about the Inspector’s current whereabouts Ulla explained that he’d become interested in Dark Sun Travels. Ulla handed Phillipa a pamphlet announcing the grand opening, complete with a date and galactic co-ordinates.

Their discussion was interrupted when another Empty Man entered, forcing Ulla to quickly put his mask back in place. The Empty Man announced that something big was happening on the news.

Rushing into the meeting hall they saw that chaos was erupting across the city. People were spontaneously transforming into voids. Anyone that went near them were being sucked into oblivion and even buildings were beginning to collapse under the strain.

Having emerged from his cell Pryce and the other members of the group who had transformed seemed happy with this. Kat begged with her husband to come back to her but she only succeeded in knocking off his mask, revealing the nothingness underneath.

With the whole city shaking due to the plague of human black holes Phillipa decided it was time to leave. Ulla tried to follow her, asking her to save them, but was held back by his followers, looking for him to lead them.

Getting through the city was difficult. The police were trying to hold back the silent hordes but their weapons did nothing and the more black hole people there were, the greater the gravitational pull that drew people to their doom.

A public message from the colony leader asked for calm, explaining they’d only tried to make the people happy and that they had only the best intentions. Phillipa didn’t listen, she just did what she did best. She ran.

After a high co-ordination+athletics roll she made it back to the city. Getting inside she activated the controls, sending the time machine away from the city. On the scanner she watched the planet implode as a black hole formed on its surface. Seconds later the TARDIS entered the vortex.

The holographic Inspector checked the TARDIS databanks and found that it recorded the mysterious disappearance of the colony in the formation of the Talis black hole. They pondered whether time had been altered or if this was always the fate of the planet.

It is this very reason that I’m not keen on the TARDIS having a databank. It would be far to easy for the player characters to abuse it, checking on what events are going to happen to them every time they arrive somewhere. It also defies reason that the Time Lords would have detailed history banks on every planet everywhere.

Phillipa was disheartened that the first time she’d tried to fill the role of the Inspector a whole planet had been destroyed. Despite her best intentions she’d failed to save anyone but herself.

The holographic Inspector punched into the co-ordinates from the Dark Sun Travel pamphlet, musing that another name for black holes was dark sun.

There was a lot going on in this game and it was established that the stakes were very high. I’m disappointed that when faced with the crisis their reaction was to run for their lives.

On the positive side it was nice that Phillipa was much more in the lime light. She was much more capable of taking the initiative and putting things together for herself. Only in the last few minutes did her confidence break.

Now the players know that Croatoan is involved but not in what his plan is.

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1 Response to The Empty Men, Part 4

  1. Pingback: “We don’t walk away.” | Bigger On The Inside

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