Actual Play – “Kill the Blue Crimes Unit” (6/14/2012)

Director: Leonard Balsera
Cast: Rich Rogers, Scott White, and Sean Nittner
System: Prime Time Adventures
Show: Blue Gene

To be clear, the Blue Crimes Unit, or the BCU, is the very small unit of LAPD in charge of solving Blue Gene Sequencing Crimes… in other words, us guys!

Some really cool and interesting things happened in this game.  And, motherfucking all of them were because of us collaborating as a group, including a retcon that REALLY saved a scene. I love it.

Act 3 – Scene 0

Lenny showed us a scientist observing mass manufacturing with a lot of machinery that ended in a substance that looked just like syrup one would pour onto a…

Cut to a father and son delightfully looking at a snow cone as it was being prepared for them. Menacing!

Act 3 – Scene 1

Scott set up this scene to see Frank impressed by the new forensic officer Indraa Khandaar. We hadn’t played in a while so we were all warming up to the game.  Lenny talked to us a little about leaving this crime open to be something that could be threaded through multiple episodes, so that we shouldn’t worry about trying to wrap it up this session.  That put a little slack on us regarding framing “plot” scenes but Scott was still looking for something that was about the case, and a chance for Indraa to shine.

Scott opened it up in front of a sugar factory. He and Sloane staking the place out based on a hunch from Indraa that the bad guys might be using sugar to dispense the phase two component of “the bomb”.  The two veteran cops almost ready to call it quits when they noticed one crate separated from the rest an a few circumspect figures negotiating an exchange. Lenny jumped in and had Indraa show up undercover as an inspection agent.

The question we came up with, was can Frank give Indraa the assist she needs to arrest these blue-sugar-bomb dealers on her terms, or would he trample all over her case to make sure it was done right. A good question to address the burdens of command. And the flip said yes. So rather than jump out and take them down guns blazing he used his remove surveillance to identify the perps as well as sources of danger, and then hack into her com unit to convey the data to her as she needed it. The bust went like clockwork. Indraa nuetralized the one armed perp, as another ran off, he came to a dead stop with Sloanes gun in his face, and Frank never had to leave his car to make it all happen.

Fan mail worth line: “Indraa, that was some brilliant police work there. Never do that shit again!” – Frank

Siddig, had he been there, would have been tickled.

Act 3 – Scene 2

I was contemplating an investigation scene with Siddig, one where he was infiltrating the dudes, but after Frank’s scene that seemed redundant. Luckily there was an even better scene rolling around in my head, or rather a better question. Can Siddig convince Curtis to help him fight Alisha Cross?

We opened in a garden, playing some crazy 3D chess that Curtis always wins. The discussion was about Hunter’s dream for re-sequencing, not that it was a super-steroid, but that it was the next step of human evolution. Curtis showed that he, like all other great scientists who explored for the sake of knowing, rather than the sake of doing, that he was an artist.

Siddig, well, his motivations are a bit more base. He wanted to solve the crime and he wanted to stop Alisha from ever, EVER, getting the drop on him again. He knew that Curtis hadn’t told him everything about his re-sequencing, and if it is possible for him to evolve, he wanted a way to fight Alisha’s suppression technology. I won the flip (finally, I had been getting my ass kicked every scene last session) and we learned the following:

  • Alisha used to work for Curtis, he fired her over a conflict of interest
  • The government wanted Curtis to build an “off switch” into his re-sequencing. He refused, but obviously Alisha was able to do it. He found the whole idea abhorrent.
  • He also said that his technology, by design, could not hurt someone. It couldn’t turn them into a bomb because that would be a detriment and his design perfected the human gene sequence, not corrupted it.
  • Siddig took from that that it must be a former student of Curtis, who took the technology and warped it. A list of suspects started. The symmetry of whoever was making this bomb corrupting Hunter’s work and Alisha Cross corrupting his work was apparent but not explicitly said.
  • There is no way that someone could have the “bomb” without also getting some of the other benefits of re-sequencing, because of this, we should be able to identify them in much the same way we currently identify blue’d perps.
  • Some other bits which we later wove into the plot.

Curtis agreed to help Siddig but my “last word” on the scene was that would require him to get into Alisha’s lab. We’re bringing the old man into the action!

Act 3 – Scene 3

Sloane and Danielle at, of all places, the fair.  It’s another cute moment the walked arm in arm. As a the camera zoomed in on them though, it was clear they were both still doing their jobs. Danielle looking for news, Sloane for crime… and he found it. Amidst the concession stands full of funnel cake and deep friend candy bars was a Red Cross booth giving out free diabetic treatments.  The the casual eye, hell even the discerning eye like Danielle, this looked like a great public service. People trying to help others be heath conscious and turning the  tide of the public’s obsession with horribly unhealthy food.  To Sloane however, he saw criminal activity. They red cross workers didn’t realize it, but the injections they were giving, were actually Blue.

The flip, which Sloane lost, determined that no matter how he pitched it to her Danielle was not going to accept that Sloane arresting all of them was the right thing to do. “They don’t know what they’re doing, they can’t be culpable” she argued. “They are breaking the law. I’m not a vigilante that gets to decide when the law is convenient and when it’s not. I’ve got to arrest them. Let them sort it out in court.” “Oh, and we’ve seen how well blue crimes are handled in court!” With that beautiful reference to the last season, Danielle stormed off.

I took the final work in this scene (thanks to fan mail) so I added in that just as she left, Sloane got the text from Siddig that the “bomb” would be administered like standard blue-ing, and as the pieces clicked into place, the shows tense music started playing. The scene cut to Danielle her car, listening to the news and hearing how Agent Sloane of the BCU had shut down the entire fair!

Act 4 – Scene 0

The same scientist standing on top of a building. “Damn that Blue Crimes unit, they are becoming a liability. Kill them.”

“Yes, sir.” The other man saluted!

Act 4 – Scene 1

Frank and Inraa in bomb suits approaching… the snow cone! A lab rat approaches, nibbles on it, and after a few tense moments explodes, covering Frank in gore! Both phases identified, Frank stepped outside of the Police van to reveal the zoo outside as everyone at the fair was being detained and de-sequenced.

Act 4 – Scene 2

Siddig was on the scene and for once not completely swarmed by researchers (they has been called to help corral and de-sequence the attendees). He spotted an extremely nervous young man and would have snuck up to him unnoticed if not for the major calling out his name “Can I get a team on Officer Siddig, we need to keep track of his vitals.” Hearing Sittig’s name spooked the young man, who ran, and then leapt over the boundaries erected around the fair. Yep, he was Blue. I won the flip and Siddig chased the kid down and caught him in the ally, with Cross a few blocks behind, struggling to keep up.

This is where Scott stepped in a really saved the day. I started narrating Siddig being pretty much a hard ass on the kid, arresting him for being re-sequenced when he was pleading “damn, I just wanted to pass my math final. c’mon.” I was acting a bit the part of Sloane, when Scott said “this doesn’t feel right in tone” and he was right. I thought about it and the important thing (the question we flipped on) had nothing to do with arresting the kid, but it had to do with showing Alisha up.  We yacked for a bit and agreed to retcon to Siddig catching the kid, hearing his sob story and, after realizing that he’d have no reason to get a diabetes treatment (because he was already Blue) he let him go. “Go fucking get a scholarship or something kid. Do something good with your life.”

Just as the kid bolted off, Alisha rounded the corner. “We lost him?” She looked very disappointed this wasn’t being recorded. “Yeah, looks like we lost him, but it’s okay, he dropped this” and Siddig produced the unused “diabetes prevention” dispenser.

Act 4 – Scene 3

Lenny had been saving his budget up for this one. Rich only had screen presence 1 and Lenny was determined to hit something home on the last scene. And he did.

The scene opened as all the fair attendees were more or less contained and being processed. A heavily armed and armored brute of a man with a face mask and voice modulation approached an fair security guard and asked in a synthesized voice “ARE YOU OFFICER SLOANE?”  The guard responded that he wasn’t and was about to protest, but was immediately filled with bullets and dropped dead. The camera revealed a whole gang of similarly armed individuals.

Sloane, meanwhile was in a comic situation, trying to make sure that a bus of elderly people were properly screened and that none of them snuck in a candy bar after having the “diabetes treatment”. His blood ran cold however, when he saw the armed men, holding a child in front of them. The boy, a diabetic kid who was just hoping that today he could have a sweet, was held in one of the massive assailants hands, a candy bar in the other.

Now, it’s worth noting that before this scene ever happened, all of us agreed we didn’t want see children used as a bomb, we all knew that “does the kid blow up” would never be a question. Knowing that allowed all of us to play up the tension of what would happen, without worrying about consequences we weren’t comfortable with coming up. This to me, is the perfect use of lines.

Sloane left the van and crossed the fairgrounds to face off against the man. “ARE YOU OFFICER SLOANE” he asked again. Sloane identified himself and told the man that he was under arrest. There was a moment of tension, and I was just itching in my seat to burst that bubble.

Meanwhile Frank had stopped his examinations and was watching the scene unfold, getting ready for the soon to be gun fight.  Siddig arrived (from chasing down the boy), saw dead officers on the ground started shouting “officer down” and then his attention was drawn to the boy by Major Alisha Cross. She turned off the recording equipment (note on this below) and told him to use all force necessary.  Where as Sloane told them they were under arrest, Siddig just yelled “Fuck you motherfuckers” and started firing. The first three shots rang out and the armored man’s hand exploded in a spray of bullets and chocolate. We all knew that was the key to the bomb and Siddig was going to neutralize it.

The assailants attacked and their leader, Lenny made a point of mentioning, didn’t say “open fire” or “let em have it”, he said “Kill the BCU!” (Hence the title of this AP post. It’s nice to feel loved.

As the right raged on, it was Sloane though that rescued the boy, got him to safety, and led our forces against theirs. They had us out gunned, out manned, and out-blued.  Every single one of them were gene freaks in full body armor with assault rifles and incredible training. All that, against the three of us. And the question was, to really drive home on Sloane’s issues: Do we need Yamamoto to bail us out of the fire.  Lenny blue the rest of his budget on the flip, and despite our fan mail, he had us dead to rights. We needed Yamamoto’s help.

The way it unfolded was the three of us pinned down by gunfire. Siddig pulled out what was literally an emergency beacon Sopha had given him if he needed help. He turned to Sloane to get his approval to call in the cavalry, but the supercop denied it. Sloane shook his head. Siddig did it anyway.

From the rooftop above, we saw Yamamoto and Sophia in her power armor. “Well, Sophia, you said you wanted to try out some upgrades. Now seems like as good a time as any.” And with that she leapt from the building to jump/fly/glide/something down into the fray. Between her and and a few more of Yamamoto’s operatives it was just enough to help us turn the tide and defeat the assailants.

The episode ended with us just fighting them back.  Arresting a few,  some getting away, others being put in body bags.

Thoughts on this game

I mentioned this in the body of the AP, but it’s worth highlighting as well.

Scott’s call that “this doesn’t feel right” was spot on. I had been channeling some Sloane and was playing “by the books” to impress Cross, but Scott was dead on, that isn’t Siddig, and since the stakes were that I did get away from her, it didn’t matter how I handled the kid. I was a lot happier, sending him off an telling him to get a scholarship or something. It also reflected Siddig getting over some of his self-hatred for being a re-sequenced. He still hates his dependence on it, but the idea of being changed itself, isn’t as inherently repulsive to him, which was also a nice throwback to Curtis Hunter’s remark about the technology not being something to be a super steroid, but the evolution of humankind.  Nice subtext and all!’

I love that we stated way up front that the kid was not going to explode. It was a safety net that allows us as players to keep pushing on the hostage situation (thought I personally was pretty trigger happy, but that’s just because I like Siddig getting to shoot things) without a fear of it going to a dark place we didn’t want. Yay, for talking about that stuff in advance.

Lenny’s decision to have Cross exhibit some humanity when she was otherwise a stone cold bitch, was an interesting one. He said, you know, because I need to keep her ambiguous. Honestly, wanting to protect a child isn’t all that ambiguous, it’s pretty deeply ingrained in a lot of people (parents or not), so I didn’t think it stretched the character in an unpredictable way, but it did give her another dimension to play upon, which is good for a nemesis. Edit: As Lenny said below in the comment, by new dimension to play upon, I mean that she has a human element, that she can’t be seen as ubiquitously evil, and that we can empathize with her. All things I luurve in a good nemesis.