Steampunk Monster Hunters #4: “Fly By Night”

The lesson of this session, for me, was that I’ve been underestimating how effective the team is in a fight.

Who’s Who

  • Esmerelda Wagstaff, Accidental Hero Inhuman Changeling, better at disguise than acting
  • Lucretia Gasser Buttersnaps, Philanthropist Commando, lush gunslinger
  • Margaret Anne Chapman, Accidental Hero, Sleuth, “World’s Greatest Girl Detective”
  • Mercy Patton, Philanthropist Sage, magical governess
  • Nayler H. Knuer, Philanthropist Techie, inventor and balloonist
  • Tommy Nine, Operative Experiment, mechanical man

What Happened

The morning after the seance, Saturday, June 14, 1851, the patched-up group gathered for breakfast at Mercy’s with Ann Bell, who was still recovering from her near-zombie experience. They questioned her further about Wormley and Minister, establishing details of their schedules and how the salon was organized, learning that Wormley was older but remarkably vigorous, while Mr Minister was bookish and nervous. Hearing this, they began to re-think their infiltration plan. Instead, they decided to kidnap Minister and interrogate him.

Accordingly, after breakfast, they split up to work on different tasks. Nayler took Ann home in his steam carriage, then took the rest of the group back to his house to help prepare his balloon for flight, as their plans relied on a quick means of escape from the scene of the crime. Meanwhile, Esmerelda and Margaret disguised themselves, each in her own way, and staked out Wormley’s Physical Culture Salon, watching for a chance to trail Minister.

As they watched, they actually got a look at Wormley, in person. At one point during the morning, he came outside the salon to smoke a cigar. Margaret got close enough to determine what brand of cigars he favored. Later, she would arrange to obtain a box of them, as part of a possible long con that never came together.

Late in the morning, they saw Minister leaving the salon on an errand to pick up office supplies, and shadowed him in turns. After several uneventful stops, late in the day, he returned to the salon and went upstairs to Wormley’s office. By this time, the others had silently arrived in Nayler’s oversized balloon, newly-equipped with a mounted version of the grabbering-gun.

Margaret took advantage of her own grabbering-gun and youthful agility to sneak to a position outside the office window, where she applied a stethoscope to eavesdrop on their conversation. From what she was able to make out, Minister was warning Wormley that someone was “onto [him]”, that they would be coming for him soon. Wormley expressed defiance, dismissing Minister, who left the office and the salon.

Esmerelda followed Minister closely, with Margaret trailing behind. As soon as Minister turned off the main road to take a shortcut through a narrow alley, Esmerelda quickly and quietly stepped up behind him. She ran up behind him and punched him once, decisively, in the base of the skull, immediately knocking him unconscious. Waving in the air support, Esmerelda and Margaret loaded the unconscious man into a cargo net to be hauled aboard, then used Margaret’s grabbering-gun to join the others themselves.

As the sun went down, they tied up Minister and gave him first aid, bringing him around to be interrogated. Under their questioning, he explained that Wormley was on high alert, knowing that someone was after him. Which someone, he wouldn’t say, only remarking that Wormley had many enemies from his travels around the world and extensive adventures. Minister claimed that Wormley had “learned secrets of the Orient” on these travels, presumably the source of his vitality and other abilities. Esmerelda had speculated that Wormley was actually a psychic vampire, and this seemed to support that theory.

Despite the fact that Wormley was on his guard, the party decided to attempt a direct assault. Leaving Minister tied to Nayler’s cot, they turned the balloon back to the skies over the salon.

In an attempt to take Wormley unawares, Esmerelda descended to the ground and entered the salon through the front door, taking on the appearance of Mr Minister. She went to Wormley’s office door. Finding it locked (and forgetting that she can pick locks), she called out to him, claiming to be Minister, returned with news. He threw open the door, grabbing her and dragging her into the room. As he did, he revealed that he had seen through her deception, activating his vampiric powers to drain the life from her!

Luckily, the others hadn’t been idle while all this was going on. Also approaching from the ground, Margaret had repeated her climbing feat from earlier, placing herself outside the office window, accompanied by Tommy. Seeing that their friend was in trouble, they responded: Margaret fired her pistol into Wormley’s leg, distracting him, then Tommy crashed through the window and charged towards the villain. Finding himself under attack, Wormley waved a hand at a door across the room, telekinetically throwing open its latch. A half-dozen zombie strongmen with handlebar mustaches, formerly patrons of the salon before being drained of their animal magnetism, burst into the room!

Meanwhile, the others had been making their own approach by balloon. Spotting a convenient skylight near Wormley’s office, Lucretia had fired the balloon-mounted grabbering-gun through it, anchoring a climbing line. Using the hook handle of her umbrella, Mercy slid down the cable to the salon’s roof, where she hid among the shadows. When all the shooting started, she made her way over the roof to drop down next to Margaret at the shattered office window. When the zombies menaced them both there, she pulled Margaret’s net from her shoulder bag and threw it over the first two in line, entangling them and blocking the others.

Following close behind Mercy, Lucretia also used the taut cable to slide from balloon to salon, while Nayler locked the balloon’s brass controls and went to check on Minister. This turned out to be a good move, as the clerk was just freeing himself from his bonds. Nayler drew his shotgun, but was reluctant to fire, knowing it would mean the man’s death. (Margaret, being the group’s conscience when it comes to the matter of killing humans, had earlier mentioned that it would be poor form to murder people outright, even if they do have psychic powers, and was even now shouting “Don’t kill the zombies, they can be cured!”) As the inventor hesitated, Minister displayed his own psychic abilities, battering Nayler’s mind with waves of fear. He was able to resist, throwing the heavy shotgun into Minister’s face, again knocking him out.

Inside the office, the melee was just heating up. Tommy was a whirling form in the thick of the zombies, using his iron-shod cane to batter their knees. Taken to the ground by the pain of having her life force drained, Esmerelda took advantage of her position to quickly tie Wormley’s shoelaces together, causing him to fall prone with a squawk when he tried to move to get a better look out the window at Margaret and Mercy, hoping to use his gaze of mental domination. Finding herself in the room that the zombies had come from, Lucretia followed them, kicking open the door and setting up a stream of bullets from her newest toy: a caplock submachine gun that Nayler had given her earlier. She sprayed the zombie’s legs with gunfire (“They’ll live!” she grumbled at Margaret’s questioning look) quickly crippling them and bringing them all to the floor.

As Wormley struggled to rise to his feet, Tommy quickly approached and kicked the man firmly in the head, killing him. (Horrified looks all around!) Luckily, Nayler entered only a second later, having secured Mr Minister and descended from the balloon. He was able to use cutting-edge medical science (plus a Gizmo, plus a couple of wildcard points) to bring the psychic (barely!) back to life.

Moving quickly, the group tidied up the scene of the crime. They restrained the still-snapping zombies, hauling them and Wormley up to the balloon with the cargo nets. Everyone but Esmerelda swarmed up into the balloon and fled.

As for Esmerelda, she assumed the appearance of Wormely and went downstairs to meet the authorities. There, she told an unbelievable story: the truth. As Wormley, she claimed that a mechanical man, a twelve year old girl, and her nanny had crashed in through her office window and shot up the place before suddenly fleeing. Unsurprisingly, the bobbies didn’t believe the story, and asked if “he” could come downtown with them to tell “his” story to their supervisors. Esmerelda agreed, but asked for an opportunity to freshen up. As soon as she was out of sight, she turned invisible and walked out, right past all the unaware policemen.

In the balloon, Mercy performed a ritual to restore the zombies back to their normal, human selves. The two psychics were tied up and bandaged. Taking care to avoid eye contact, they brought Wormley back to consciousness and asked him some questions.

The counterfeiting plates? Sold ’em, he said. Long gone. Money in the bank.

What about Masham, the evil wizard with apocalyptic plans? “Oh, him,” Wormley said, “we put him and his assistant in bodies this morning.”

To be continued…

Cool Point: Lucretia, for mowing down zombies wholesale without causing any human deaths – the rules, after all, are somewhat fuzzier on the subject of kneecaps.

Booby Point: Esmerelda, for failing to remember her lock picking skills in the face of a locked door…