Unauthorized Excavation

Digging in the Dirt - Peter Gabriel
Keeper Note: With four players back in after last session, there was considerable debate about the plan as written...

Ridge above Makren Jirma, East of Cairo, 17:00 June 18th, 1940

There was some discussion as to what to do next. After some time, it was agreed to wait overnight, then sneak Anné and Francoise into sniper positions where they could cover the whole site. After that, the others would drive in aboard the truck and present themselves as British Authorities come to close down an illicit dig (not so far from the truth in point of fact). Organizing watches, they camped out in the gulley where their vehicle was concealed and waited for morning.

Ridge above Makren Jirma, East of Cairo, 06:00 June 19th, 1940


Francoise

Early the next morning, before the site started work, Birapeer guided Francoise back down off the ridge to the point he'd observed from the previous day. She settled into place with one of the rifles SIME had provided, covering the northern end of the site. Anné had already set off to work around the bowl valley to cover the south end. As the pair walked, Francoise blinked and looked down sharply. Crossing their path was a line of tracks - footprints of some kind - though nothing like anything they had ever seen before. Birapeer had come this way the previous evening, crouched low to avoid observation, and was certain they had not been there then. Francoise wanted to stop and examine them in more detail, but the Sikh hurried her on to the hiding place [marked X on the map below].

Makren Jirma, East of Cairo, 07:33 June 19th, 1940


Desert Truck

The main party comprised Birapeer in his traditional robes (and weapons!) as "driver", Joe in his uniform plus tin hat and Sten gun as "officious bastard", Cyril and Marcus as "archaeology experts" and Gregory as "bag-carrying servant". Loaded into the truck, they roared down the track into the cam just as the day's work was getting started.

Ignoring the overseers who tried to flag the car down as it came off the slope, Birapeer took it right round the ruins in a cloud of sandy dust before bringing it up to a halt next to the "finds" tent. Leaving the engine running, he dropped his right hand casually down to where his terrible short shotgun was tucked under the driving seat.


TacMap S8- click it for larger image!

Joe, Marcus and Cyril leaped out, Joe marching up to the first overseer to reach the tent as if he owned the place. "You - plese - stay with vehicle!" said the man sharply, "private property - private dig!" Joe nosed up to him with all the arrogance of the British Empire. "No," he said, "it is not private - it is illegal. I will speak to whoever is in charge, and I will do so now!" Marcus, standing close, nodded in emphasis and Gregory mowed along with the bags, really getting into his role as the unobtrusive servant lad. As they did this, Cyril had barrelled into the "finds" tent and was shouting at the two Europeans he found inside, trying to get them to leave, but without getting very far.

Another European reached the tent, a skinny, rather greasy man of either Spanish or South American extraction, equipped with a holstered pistol and a whip. "I am Carlos Ortega," he said impatiently, "what's all this nonsense about our dig being illegal? We are properly registered with the authorities - see here - " and he handed Joe some documents - "You must leave immediately!"

Joe glanced at the papers, and Marcus looked over his shoulder. They looked much like the real thing, but the signature at the bottom was meant to be that of Lucien Kutay of the Antiquities Museum. Marcus happened not only to have corresponded with M. Kutay but to have met him a couple of times. He ran a finger down the document to the signature and shook his head. It was close, but it wasn't Kutay's signature.


Carlos Ortega

"These are forgeries," declared Joe, slapping them dismissively back into Ortega's hand. The site boss's eyes flickered left and right to his minions, whose hands drifted down to their pistols. Gregory, stepping forward slightly, made a quick pass of his hand in front of Ortega's face, trying to hypnotize him, but saw Ortega's concentration falter as he did so, his mind not steady enough to pay attention. Something in Ortega's eyes clicked for Marcus; He's on the edge, he thought, mind hanging by a thread.. he may not do the sensible thing after all .... "Get out!" shouted Ortega, "we're on a schedule!" His hand moved towards his holster and Joe slugged him with the Sten gun. It was an impressive blow; though meant to stun, a splash of blood arced into the sunlight as the man went down bonelessly. Then all hell broke loose.

From the south came the distinctive rippling crack of l'Etranger and one of the overseers on the edge of the confrontation sprawled forwards, half his head gone. Inside the "finds" tent, Cyril cleared leather with his Browning and covered the two men in there. "Don't move! Guns on the table!" he yelled, only slightly contradicting himself. The two, more historians than guards by the look of it, nervously dropped a pistol each onto the table in front of them.

Outside, in the truck, Birapeer could see things kicking off and the overseers around the confrontation drawing pistols to attack Joe and Marcus. He lifted the sawn-off shotgun swiftly from its' concealment, levelled it and fired both barrels. Two men went down as if snatched away. A third returned fire, the bullet glancing off the site of the truck and away as the Sikh leaped over the side, dropping the empty shotgun. More bullets ripped across the site, Gregory and Marcus both picking up glancing wounds. Two rounds tore through the "finds" tent, and Cyril's two prisoners hurled themselves flat on the ground, hands clamped over their heads in terror. He scooped up their pistols and headed out of the tent. Francoise, finding a clear shot, took down another foe as Marcus, realizing that he'd been shot at from behind, spun and fired; his target ducked out of the way, however.

Emerging from the tent, Cyril lined up on the man who was shooting at Marcus and drilled him quite neatly in the temple, killing him instantly. Joe, passing Birapeer going the other way, hosed automatic fire at another before taking cover behind the bonnet of the truck. Birapeer's run took him right up face-to-face with the man who'd just shot at him, and obviously rattled him because instead of shooting he swiped at him with his pistol. Birapeer weaved out of the way, tulwar flashing from its' sheath. Poor Gregory, whose attempt at battlefield hypnosis had put him right in the line of fire, was hit by two bullets at once and staggered, badly hurt. Marcus changed targets as his first one had dropped dead and promptly killed two more opponents, not bad for a professor. Despite his injuries, Gregory pulled Nicholas Smarties from his pocket and took down another.

Keeper Note: There was some debate as to how many were captured, but from writing up the combat notes here I count 12 casualties leaving three prisoners plus Ortega. .

Tulwar

The supply of targets was drying up as Cyril accounted for another and Anné and Francoise each prevented a reinforcement from arriving. However, it was the sight of Birapeer's tulwar flashing in the sun as he neatly beheaded the man he was confronted that broke the courage of the few survivors. Weapons hit the ground and the shooting stopped.

Unsurprisingly, the native workers had scattered and fled into the surrounding hills for cover.


Blauer Krystal Necklace

Only one overseer from outside the tents had survived, winged by Marcus, and the academic roped him up along with the two sorters from inside. The casualties were dragged into nearby tents and out of sight. As this was going on, Joe noticed a flicker of light deep in his Blauer Krystal pendant as he passed the "finds" tent. Initially he thought it might have been picking up on the departing life force of the dying man he was carrying; however he discovered a similar piece on one of the tables in the tent. Joined by Marcus, he examined the tables in a little more detail.

One table carried the expected Egyptian artifacts, pottery and stele adorned with heiroglyphs, unusually all almost all intact, and smaller items stacked rather haphazardly. Some of the symbols, while . The other table bore a much smaller collection of artifacts of a different design, not Egyptian in appearance, and with radically different inscriptions on them. Looking more closely, they realized that the alphabet on these was the Atlantean one. Each had a small metal tag attached, and imprinted into these were what they realized were symbols - another script entirely.


Gregory

Birapeer had waved and called Anné and Francoise from their sniper positions, while Cyril was bandaging Gregory's bullet wounds. Fortunately, each one was relatively minor, and the bullets had passed right on through; collectively, though, they were painful. Gregory looked reassuringly at Cyril. "I don't die today," he said with enormous confidence. "I've seen a vision of how I die." Joe's dry voice drifted out of the "finds" tent. "We've all seen visions of you dying," he said, making it quite clear that he personally found those visions rather entertaining.

Keeper Note: No Mythos magic is ever simple, safe and easy. Every last time, it involves connecting your soul to the horrors that lurk at the edge of reality and accepting their tainted aid - to one extent or a greater.

With the youth stabilized, Birapeer turned to their prisoner. The head wound looked quite nasty, and he wasn't sure if they were going to get any kind of coherent answers out of him anytime soon. Rather than basic medical treatment, he decided to attempt the newly-learned Healing magic Deadman had taught. Laying a hand on Ortega's head, he started to chant the words he'd been taught, shaping his thoughts in the difficult and tortuous ways the spell required. Slowly he felt the connection build to ... somewhere else. Then, in a rush, a tiny opening seemed to appear in his mind, a pinhole between the real world and somewhere utterly unspeakable. For an instant, his control of his sanity flickered, and then it was under control again - though the nightmarish glimpse he had been given would haunt him for days. For a moment he felt exhausted as the energy flowed out from him to work the healing. Incredibly, the bloody gash in Ortega's head closed, knitted back together and finally faded altogether, leaving unwounded flesh with blood smeared around it.

As the man came round, Birapeer very pointedly cleaned his tulwar of blood on Ortega's jacket before sliding it back into its curved sheath. "That's better, isn't it?" he said gently. Ortega blinked, realizing that the expected pain and headache was entirely missing. He nodded. Birapeer slapped him violently, and Ortega reeled back, crying "Master! Master! Help me!"

Birapeer and Cyril blinked at each other. Who? "Why are you here?" they asked him, punctuated with another slap. Nothing more coherent was forthcoming, so they changed tack. "What happens to the material made in the process tent? Where does it go?" Ortega's brows furrowed. "We... er... we deliver it. Once a week. Yes, deliver..." Cyril frowned. "To where? To whom?" Ortega looked around, looking lost. "I... don't remember. We deliver it to.... someone... somewhere..." He was slapped again. "Master! Master! a'cha'tachan, nuuurzzznn grzzznnn ftagn l'ostht!" he cried, slipping into complete gibberish. Clearly, his mind was completely going; he was increasingly agitated and panicky, and they sedated him back into unconciousness. His pockets clarified nothing; some ID, some coins, some personal effects.

Similar questioning of the other survivors produced the same sort of results; great gaps in their memories about where they took the processed materials and to whom. Gregory tried hypnosis, and managed to sink two of them into a trance - to no avail, even in a suggestible state, their memories appeared immedicably damaged.

Francoise, meanwhile, had attempted to cast the Healing spell on Gregory, but her skills with the spells they'd been taught were rudimentary and, although she thought she had repeated the ritual, the expected energy did not flow and nothing happened.


Pitchblende
Some of the agents knew that radium - commonly used to make watch dials glow - came from Pitchblende - but the uses of its main product, Uranium, were unknown at this point in history. Watch this space though....
Keeper Note: All characters get 01% in any skill they are not trained in - the chance of a ludicrously unlikely success despite complete lack of ability. In this case, Aimo actually threw 01 on Geology and knew what the rocks were!

With the prisoners secured, the party explored the rest of the site. The process tent contained a large, square machine - but a machine the like of which none of them had ever seen. While machinery of the day was generally rounded, with black bakelite, wood, brass and glass dials, this was sleep, smooth pale metal with some kind of indicators showing symbols and graphics directly on what looked like more metal. A large hopper on top appeared to accept the material brought from the mine by the workers - and scattered in abandoned baskets along the route they'd used from the mine to the machine when they had fled. A conveyor belt at the other side produced an end product - long slabs of some black, stonelike material. Clinkers came out of a third opening. Gathered around it, the agents stared at it for a while, and then some dim, buried remnant of a book he'd read flickered a light on in Birapeer's brain. "I think," he said hesitantly, "I think it's Pitchblende."

Cyril spent some time photographing the machine, after which some experiments were made with putting various objects into the hopper. Ordinary rock simply came out as hot clinker. A spare pistol captured from the overseers came out slightly melted and sliced with inhuman precision. When they emptied some of the baskets of excavated material in, as well as clinkers they were able to produce a bar of the compacted Pitchblende. On closer examination, symbols on the machine could be seen to resemble those on the metal tags in the "finds" tent.


AS.37 Italian Army Truck

There was some interesting stuff here, all right, and it needed to be taken back to civilization to be looked at properly. Collecting one of the Italian trucks from the parking area, the party loaded it with:


Beretta M.38
A heavy but excellent SMG, much admired by Italian and German soldiers.

The larger tent near the European tents yielded a steel locker which - after some violence and an accident which left Gregory with badly bruised hands - turned out to contain some rifles, pistols, Beretta M.38 submachineguns, ammunition and a payroll - e£150.0.0 which Joe took into custody. Cyril and Birapeer each took an M.38.

The ruins were unremarkable as such things went, the inscriptions on the few stones too worn to make out. The brand-new sloping trench leading down through them was more interesting however. At the bottom, about fifty feet below ground level, was a stone archway, far less damaged than the outer ruins, and with unmarred inscriptions on in both hieroglyphs and Atlantean text. Joe looked them over, but his grasp of the Atlantean language was not good enough to understand what they said.

The arch framed a pair of heavy stone doors that had been recently opened without breaking them. Atlantean inscriptions Inside, the stonework was smooth, in better condition than most Ancient Egyptian structures and – most telling – had no writings or pictures on whatsoever. For an Egyptian tomb, that’s unheard of. There was no dust or loose fragments. Cyril snapped photographs of it all.


Achmed

After checking all the trucks worked, Cyril took one and carefully reversed it down the slope, blocking the entrance to whatever lay below. People were beginning to fear the appearance of something large.

Keeper Note: The stated intention at the time was to send Anné back with the truck, as Loz wasn't present this session. With extra Fudge of Cheesiness, the person picked will be the character of whatever player doesn't make the next session. All in a good cause.

Whatever was going on here, the answers lay either under the ruins or inside the mine. For the first time, the agents began to feel that they might be over their heads, and the idea was floated of sending the truck back to Cairo with a request for some troops to reinforce the investigation of the underground areas. Someone asked Achmed if he could drive the truck. "Yes, yes, effendi, I can drive truck, wizard prang, top hole yes!", He clambered into the driving seat and pressed the starter; after some grinding of the gears he drove it competently enough around the site before bringing it back to where the agents waited and winding down the window. "Cairo Express ready to roll!" he smiled.

Back at the "finds" tent, Francoise had made another attempt at the Healing spell, and had eased Gregory's wounds. She knelt, wearily blinking back a couple of tears from the mental shock of the excercise, but smiled to see the youth's injuries fade away.

Session Date: 27th March 2018