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Much Ado About Ada [Spoilers]
Posted: Tue Jun 18, 2019 4:11 pm
The old Shaman Cusa looked at the hopeful faces arrayed before him. "What are you young scamps doing here? Haven't you chores waiting for you back at the fish camp? ... Well I guess you are right, that is quite a load of driftwood you have collected, I guess you could be forgiven for resting up a bit before hauling it the rest of the way back to camp, here, what say you all sit down and help me sort these while I tell you one of my shorter stories about my days in London?"
As I was telling you the other day, rich people with problems would sometimes take those problems to the Fairaday firm. And sometimes the Fairaday firm would have their solicitors try to solve the problem, and other times it would hire people (such as myself) with quite different talents. I was very pleased when a note arrived at my lodgings during breakfast asking me to call in at the Fairaday firm that very day.
This time they called in 4 of us. Myself and Catherine Montgomery, the Weird Scientist who featured in the story I told you the other day, plus two others. There was a small fellow, he introduced himself as Chimney Jack, and turned out to be a Dodger. He referred to himself as a "2nd story man" The other was Private Harlan Price, a Soldier recently wounded in South Africa so badly that they discharged him and shipped him home. He was a tough old bird though, and by the time his ship arrived in England, had almost fully recovered.
At the Fairaday firm, Mr Verne, and Mrs Kipling briefed us on the situation. A man had gone missing and his employer wanted us to find him. Everybody emphasized the need to keep the situation quite and discreetly handled. They did not want anybody, not even his fellow workers, to know that anything was wrong. He was employed by House and Thomas, a cardware firm in Hackney. The man had a weird name, Absalom Leaven. He was a highly placed employee, developing a new architecture for their cardware. Nobody had seen him since he had gone home the previous Friday evening (It was Tuesday when we were called in). They told us we could get more information from a Mr Holbert at the firm, and gave us a card with a passcode.
We did a bit of legwork. First we went to the firm and talked to Mr Holbert, and found out some minor stuff, but nothing about his outside interests, his plans for the weekend, or any indication of what might have happened to him. Mr Holbert directed us to a Mrs Stein, who worked with Absalom, We met with her at a pub called the "Shacked Pig", and she told us some more stuff, including that he was very dedicated, and had no hobbies or interests except for Analytical Engines, Cardware, and his beloved Pug - Ada (A Pug is a very small dog, a full grown one is smaller than a 6 week old Husky. They are totally useless creatures, could not pull a sled to save their lives).
We stopped by his Flat, and rang the bell, but nobody answered. The whole building had a fancy Engine security system, obviously installed as a hobby project by Absalom. We discussed it and decided it was better to enter the Flat during the daytime than at night (which by that time it was). We agreed to meet back the next Morning. Again he did not answer his bell. We discussed some simple ruses to gain access to the building. Some of my companions started to enthusiastically propose ever more complicated flourishes, but eventually we decided to have our Dodger pose as an errand boy delivering a meat pie. We picked him because he was small and could pass a boy from a distance, he claimed to be able to open locks without a key, and he sometimes had a bit of a gift of the gab, and we hoped he would do best talking his way thought the situation. We all stood well back out of sight as he rang one of his neighbors and asked to be let in. He was able to talk his way into the building, but then it turned out that he could not open engine security locks such as Absalom's flat was locked with. So he fell back upon our backup plan and waited 10 minutes and went down to the front door and opened it from the inside for the rest of us, and Mrs Montgomery, able to work unobserved in the hallway as she could not do in the street, was able to open the apartment door.
Looking around the flat, it was apparent that something was wrong. Nether Absolom, nor his Pug Ada were there, of course, but there was a knocked over, broken, lamp, and a blood-stained doily. Doing weird things with the security engine, Mrs Montgomery was able to get a list of the last times the door was opened, and discovered that it had been opened in a non-standard way Friday afternoon while Mr Levean was still at work, and once at 6:52pm Friday, which is about when he would have arrived home assuming he stopped to eat elsewhere.
Under the bed Chimney Jack found some coins stacked in an odd pattern. Mrs Montgomery said it was a very common code called Morse Code, and spelled out the letters D O V E R O W. I started to speculate what Dover OW could mean (My first guess was Dover Outer West), but Chimney Jack thought it might be meant to spell Dove Row, which is the name of a local gang that operates in Hackney. They mostly specialize i thievery and underground fight clubs. They are said to be headed by a Crackman named Bonnie Betty.
Re: Much Ado About Ada [Spoilers]
Posted: Tue Jun 18, 2019 4:17 pm
We were discussing how to best investigate the Dove Row gang, including trying to figure out where their headquarters was, where and when their next bare-knuckle fight would be, where they might hold somebody, etc, when one of us (I can't recall if it was Chimney Jack or Harlan Price), tripped over a loose rug and knocked several things to the floor. This brought the neighbor who had let Chimney Jack into the building around to check on the noise. Chimney Jack tried resurrecting his delivery-boy excuse, but since it was now over 20 minutes later, and there were now 4 of us, and we were inside, this was not working very well. I tried our planned back-up excuse of needing to deliver an urgent message, but again, since we were clearly already inside his empty flat, that was not going over any better. Fortunately for us all, Catherine managed to piece together a good story, which is that Absalom had given her a key flat, and that she was wondering where he was. It was Her that got from the neighbor the crucial piece of information that some men from Roper and Sons (handymen) had been around to repair Mr Leveans windows Friday. She very clearly recalled their horse drawn wagon had the words Roper and Sons written on it, and a sign with crossed hammer and saw.
We went to Roper and Sons, and found a commotion going on. The proprietor was yelling at a half dozen Peelers that his wagon had been missing for most of a week, and how incompetent the Peelers must be if they had not yet found it. I decided to check out the stable, and spoke to one of the Sons, a young bookish sort. At first I thought he was the bookkeeper for the business, but eventually it turned out that he was a student. I told the Son (truthfully) that we were private investigators, and that we were willing to help him track his missing wagon for a very small reward. Of course I did not mention to him that we wanted to find the wagon for another case we were already working on. We struck a deal that if we could locate the wagon (locate only, retrieving it was not part of the deal - since I suspected that a violent gang that had a lot of experienced fighters was probably involved - so locate the wagon only) that he (or more properly his dad) would pay us the low price of 2 pounds sterling. I sweetened the deal by saying that if we did not locate the wagon, then he would owe us nothing. Since he figured he had nothing to loose, he agreed and let us into the stable.
In the tack room I found some curry combs that had horse hair stuck in them. And in the manure pile I found manure. I took my time and slowly, carefully, and with every advantage I could give myself, summoned a spirit that could magically track the horses. And failed miserably. So I tried it again and succeeded. The spirit only manifested momentarily to sample the essence of the links that I had collected, so other than that one glimpse of the large husky dog shaped spirit inside the stable, I was the only one who could see it as it bayed and ran from the stable. We followed it back to Mr Levines boarding house, where the spirit made clear the wagon had stopped for a long time, but the spirit eventually was persuaded to continue tracking the horses movements The spirit lost the trail a few minutes from the boarding house, but it was clear that it was moving towards the Marshes to the East.
At the edge of the Marsh, we observed that there was was a small, rarely traveled lane that entered the marsh. We observed that there was lots of brush and whatnot that could easily hide even a tall enclosed wagon such as the Roper and Sons van. I summoned a small spirit of Air to search the marsh for ether a wagon with a crossed hammer and saw painted on the side, or some horses. The spirit quickly returned with a report that it had found the wagon.
Young Roper had been acting strangely, as if he was growing worried, and suspecting that going into the marsh might be dangerous. He said he was going back home. We sent Chimney Jack to trail him to see if he made contact with any gang members, but young Roper just went to a pub, and Chimney Jack decided to break off surveillance at that point. Mrs Montgomery did not wish to enter the muddy marsh, so Private Smith and myself followed the air spirit alone. We followed the lane for a ways, then turned off onto a rough trail that would barely be wide enough for the wagon. At the end we found the wagon abandoned. There was a dock there with a small boat. I asked the Air spirit whether it would be possible to reach the river at the edge of the marsh with the boat, but after looking around the spirit said that you could not get to the river from there, and that the only man-made thing you could get to was a large house not far away inside the marsh.
Mrs Montague wanted to run her simulation program to see what we could expect at the house, so we considered where we could find an engine that could be used. We considered breaking into the Electrical Works, which happened to be right next to the Marsh, and whose doorstep we were practically standing upon, but instead decided to wait for morning and ask Mr Holbert to use one of his companies analytical engines. We sent a message to him to meet us at the Shackled Pig for breakfast, and he agreed to personally give Mrs Montague a "Sales Demo" of "their cardware" on one of their engines. It was a great success, and Mrs Montague's software produced a picture and a map of the house. It did not show where within the house Mr Levine was being held, but we figured we could simply search the whole house easily enough once we had dealt with his abductors.
Re: Much Ado About Ada [Spoilers]
Posted: Wed Jun 19, 2019 2:43 pm
So far so good... and predictive cardware, very interesting. Horsehair on the currycomb, Morse code coin stacking, intriguing clues.
Re: Much Ado About Ada [Spoilers]
Posted: Wed Jul 03, 2019 3:47 am
Old Cusa looked at the circle of young faces across from him as they finished sorting the last of the reeds. Cusa rose to fetch a small basket, took a handful of the berries it contained, and passed the basket to the nearest youth.
Where was I? oh yes.
Catherine Montgomery had used her strange card deck to obtain for us a map of the old house in the middle of a swamp. She returned with it to the "Shackled Pig" pub where we awaited her, and we decided to proceed back to the swamp immediately. We took a Hackney Cab to the Electrical Works at the edge of the Hackney marsh. We had no difficulty retracing our steps back to the abandoned wagon, and found no evidence that anybody had been near it since we had left the previous sunset.
We took the skiff and set off in the direction that the air spirit I had summoned the other day had indicated. I, of course, am Aleut, and Private Price also had skill with small boats, so between the two of us we handled the skiff well. Our only problem was navigating the twisty waterways. We knew we wanted to go East, but no path that we choose ran to the East for very long before it twisted off into some other direction. At one point our channel briefly narrowed and we got high centered on a mud bar. Chimney Jack got out of the skiff to push us over the bar, and was attacked by a marsh spirit. By now I know that these types of spirits are called "Water Horse", but back then almost nobody had ever encountered one. I just thought it was some sort of swamp monster, I did not know anything about the swamp monsters of England. I did not even recognize that it was a spirit, so I cast Entangle upon it rather than Spirit Hold. In retrospect it turns out that Entangle was the much better choice, since it held the spirit for much, must longer than Spirit Hold would have. Anyway, the others beat it up and shot it for a bit, then Chimney Jack hopped back into the skiff and I rowed us away from the wounded spirit.
Eventually we found the house. We noticed a faint wisp of smoke from the chimney, The house was decrepit and old. It was built on pilings above the water. We approached quietly, and did not see anybody. but we had used a gunshot just a hundred yards away just a few minutes ago, so I knew it was likely that anybody there was on high alert. We pulled around to a dock at the back of the house and quietly de-boated. We peered in the windows, oiled the hinges, and Cathryn walked into the kitchen to explore. After a few seconds I did as well, but mere seconds later the two outside whispered for us to come out. I returned outside, but Cathryn continued to explore the various rooms of the house. Outside I found Price and Jack talking to a man that they introduced as being from the government. He said that we needed to follow him along the walkway to the front dock so he could explain things. I made certain I was between him and the rest of the party, and cast Spiritual Defender on myself, just in case he was leading us into an ambush. It turns out he was leading us into an ambush, there were two people with Invisibility cast upon them waiting for us at the front dock. One tried to push me into the water, and on the 2nd attempt succeeded. I waded to a fairly good vantage point, used Astral Sight to spot targets, and attempted to cast Entangle. Upon my 2nd attempt I succeeded, catching the two foes remaining on the front dock. I then climbed into the skiff and from there to the dock.
In the meantime Private Price and Chimney Jack were in a rousing fight with the guy who had claimed to be a police inspector and the two invisible guys. They had made some progress, and everybody was injured in some way. I later learned that during this time, Cathryn had explored most of the downstairs rooms and climbed some rickety stairs and found a pug in a cage in the upstairs bedroom. She took the dog and continued looking for Absolom (our missing cardware designer). Back on the ground floor again, she approached the last room left unexplored, when the door opened and she encountered Absolom, a very large guard dog, and the invisible guy who had exited the fight on the front dock. She convinced Absolom that we were on his side, and got him to accompany her after she reunited him with his dog. She tried leading him back to the skiff. The very large guard dog barked at her menacingly, and discombobulated her cool a great deal.
The fight at the front dock was winding down, so Chimney Jack and I left Private Price to guard our two semi-subdued prisoners, and went in search of the other. I went around the house and back through the kitchen, while Jack went through the front room. I recast Spiritual Defender as I reentered the kitchen, which was a very good thing since I took some sort of blast that was quite painful. Between the various attacks I had suffered and all the strain I had taken, I was feeling very poorly, and since most of our adversaries were invisible, I could not guess whether they were wounded at all! Chimney Jack shot the guard dog, which caused it to quit it's very frightening barks. I cast Dispel Magic and was lucky enough to succeed against the invisibility spell, and thus a very strained looking mumper mage appeared, whom, when he attacked yet again, Jack shot into unconsciousness.
In the meantime, the water horse attacked the fake "inspector" and drug him off. Private Price bravely jumped into the marsh to face the marsh spirit on it's own terrain and rescue his prisoner. He did both of these things, but when he dragged his prisoner back onto the front dock, he found his other prisoner had slipped his entanglement and slipped away. this newly free bad guy attacked Jack and I with his hook. I succeeded in dispelling his invisibility, then summoned a spirit of fire to toast him a bit, telling the shrieking dodger that I would not release the spirit until he surrendered, which he finally did.
We got all the bad guys together and tied up. Absolom told us that the gang had kidnapped him, and with threats against his beloved pug Ada was making him give up company secrets. The gang had a portable micro-steam Analytical Engine that they were forcing him to do work on. We agreed that we would free him, and (in order do keep the kidnapping low-key and out of the press and police reports like the company wanted), that he would tell everybody that he had been called away to a sudden funeral, and that his telegram to that effect must have gone astray. Absolom erased all of his work from the Analitical Engine, and destroyed the outputs.
I rowed Absolom, his dog, the guard dog, and all of Absoloms meager possessions back to shore where we tied up the guard dog. I walked with the cardware designer to where he could catch a cab (which I paid for in advance) back to his apartment. While I was doing that, Cathryn loaded her mind reading program into the engine and they interrogated the prisoners who were awake. Little was learned about the gangs plans or operations. While Jack and Cathryn watched our captives Price and I made a few trips with both skiffs to get all the Engine stuff and everything else of value back to the shore. We made some final plans (edit note: what we planned to do is still up in the air) and hired a wagon to take Cathryn and all the Engine stuff away to her place.
I then made a last trip back to the house in the marsh to pick up Jack and our prisoners. (edit note: we are still not certain what we did with them, we ether took them to the police and charged them with theft of the Roper and Sons wagon, or we just let them go, in no circumstance do we mention kidnapping to the police).
I cast "Bathing in the Invisible River" to cleans the marsh mud from the scratches and wounds of everybody who had any. After the last one I was almost unconscious from the strain.
We then went to Roper and Sons, and told them exactly where to find their wagon. A few days later we stopped by again to pick up our 2 pounds reward, which we split up (10 shillings each).
Questions to be determined:
Do we want to bother getting the police involved in the wagon theft? (we do not want them involved in reports of kidnapping)
Do we want to attempt to adopt the guard dog? or do we give it back to the gang?
Can we in some way swing it such that our not turning them into the police for wagon theft is a favor that the three owe us?
Re: Much Ado About Ada [Spoilers]
Posted: Mon Sep 02, 2019 1:24 pm
Dear Cusa, et al.,
It is with great regret that I must bid you farewell. I have already sent a letter to the Faraday Company resigning from their employ, but I cannot help feel that you deserve somewhat more of an explanation. I fear matters have grown somewhat too personal. You do recall, I have no doubt, the ramshackle house in the swamp from which we rescued dear Absalom, poor little Ada, and my darling Babbette? Oh, yes, my apologies - Babbette is what I have named the Engine we rescued from their grimy clutches. The poor thing was in terrible shape - the swamp is no place for delicate machinery, though it was clear Absalom had done what he could for her in his time there.
But I fear that is rather the crux of the matter. She IS a thing of considerable worth, and evidently they resented her liberation. This was first brought to my attention when a man came to speak to me, purportedly in response to some - as one might say - feelers I had sent out seeking advice in matters cryptographic, hoping I might find some aid for our conundrum with Mr. Nice's writings. The moment he was shown to my house I knew this was a ruse, however, for I recognized him immediately as the false Inspector we met at the house in the swamp! He introduced himself as Mr. Barton Hargrave, but I think we can be certain that name is as false as his moustache. I should perhaps clarify that he was indeed wearing a false moustache.
Rather more importantly, he attempted to blackmail me into returning Babbette to them! Evidently, once they found out who I am, they further surmised that some of my activities - such as slogging through swamps and engaging in heated gunfights - would prove rather scandalous if revealed to many in my social circles. This is true, but they had failed to account for two important details: the first being how little I care about a bit of scandal, and the second being that I simply will not abide blackmail. Realizing that by being somewhat circumspect about the details of my little hobbies, I had indeed placed myself in a position where such leverage might have weight, I bid him farewell and went immediately to my parents. I laid the matter out plainly, filling them in on many details which I had heretofor kept private. I will not say the conversation was a pleasant one, but it was certainly better than allowing myself to be drawn into the morass that would inevitably have followed had I ceded such ground to the likes of "Mr. Hargrave."
And it is well that we had the conversation, for not two nights later - having realized that I was not going to respond favorably to their social pressure - five men actually broke into our home! Fortunately, we were alert, and able to hold them at bay until the police arrived. I had to shoot one myself, though only in the arm. There were no fatalities, but it was quite terrifying, and had we been less prepared there quite likely would have been, and not, I fear, on the other side. As it is, the damage was largely confined to two windows, an irreplacable table commissioned by my grandfather, and the urn my mother cracked over one of their heads.
The next day we contacted "Mr. Hargrave" and came to an arrangement. Officially, father purchased Babbette from them. In practice, we agreed to give them a sum of money, and they agreed to leave us alone. However, while the matter appears to have been resolved, I am left no choice but to give up our excursions. In part because this was the condition Father gave me in exchange for, as it were, bailing me out of this predicament, but more because he is entirely correct. The consequences of my choices have proven not only mine to bear. It is simply not fair to put my family in danger for the sake of my own amusement.
I shall, of course, continue to look into the matter of Mr. Nice's journals, so far as I can do so without actually venturing into various dens of iniquity. That puzzle is simply too tantalizing to set down, and (and I have Father's agreement on this) it seems unlikely enough to draw trouble in itself. Mr. Nice, afterall, is dead. Should it prove otherwise, however, I must warn you I have promised to withdraw as promptly and thoroughly as I may. Otherwise, I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors. I have greatly enjoyed our adventures together.
Re: Much Ado About Ada [Spoilers]
Posted: Tue Sep 03, 2019 2:49 pm
What a splendid farewell. I really like that the adventure has had consequences, that the adventurer has family, and that the repercussions have involved their Connections. These things should cause ripples, as they do in real life, and I'm always happy to see a game where this is taken into account.