Issue #3: Carry on for Us

This is GM Only, a look into the notes I write for the games I run. This post contains all of my notes for my third session of the Suicide Squad game I’ve been running on Google Hangouts. Since this game is being recorded you can hear what actually happened here: Issue #3: Carry on for Us.

Carry on for Us

“Get out of the Squad before it poisons you.” – Rick Flag Jr.

After taking out Baron Zemo, returning the Amazons to the control of Selene, and coming to an agreement with Deadshot, the Squad packs up and prepares to trek through the jungles. With a two-day trip ahead they have plenty of time to get to know each other, and learn a bit about the Suicide Squad from Deadshot.

This issue starts where the last left off, with the characters decision to kill Deadshot or not. Includes a meeting with Rick Flag Jr. and an off the record history lesson about the Squad. The issue ends with the characters extraction from South America and being informed that this wasn’t their first mission but their tryout.

Everything is black. The hellish trek out of the jungles and down the rivers has left the Squad wary, worn, wet, and ready for the bliss of sleep. A few hours ago, before it was too dark to travel, they set up camp on one of the river islands. Croc had caught fish for supper and most are grateful to not eat MREs. After watch was set and everyone laid down to rest most had dreams mundane and undisturbed. For Mahmoud, however, his dreams are of darker things, black things.

Mike can decide the exact details of the dreams, but he can tell that somehow his mind is still touching Selene’s magic.This will be a free Signature Asset for Mahmoud, [Dreams of Selene (d8)].

In the morning, as the Squad begins to break down camp, they hear a voice calling out to them from across the river, “Hello? Hello! I’m unarmed! I’ve come to talk!”

Across the river stands Rick Flag Jr., the father of Rick Flag III. He heard that his son was caught by the Suicide Squad and wants to help break him free. Flag is there to talk to his son, to convince him that the Squad is poisonous and to get Flag III out of there. He has a small two-person plane a stashed just outside the forest. He cares little about the rest of the team, seeing them as villains beyond redemption. Most of their conversation will happen off-screen, unless a player interferes, and will take about a half-hour. In the end Flag III will return to the Squad and leave his Father, again, unless a player does or says something about it. If any of the players want, Flag Jr. will tell them whatever they want to know about the Squad. Though his time was under the reign of Grandmother Wall.

Of course, this always opens up the option for Andy and Mahmoud to take out Flag Jr., steal his plane, and escape from the Amazon. Sure, they have a chip in their brain and are being monitored by ECHIDNA. I don’t think this is a likely option, but be prepared for them to discuss it. Should the take the plane, the game is going to change radically and it’ll be time to wing it.

If they don’t jump Flag Jr., the rest of the trip to the extraction point goes without hiccup. The team will need another [Primary Role + Vitality vs. 1d6+1d8] roll however to endure the remainder of the trip. At the extraction point the team will be greeted by Clint Barton who will give an override command to deactivate ECHIDNA. Free from intrusion Barton will invite Andy and Mahmoud to a small local canteen to wait for the chopper, implying that Croc will raise too many alarms and that Flag needs to keep an eye on Croc. When they set foot inside the place will be empty except for a table at which Nick Fury sits. Fury will start with an apology; for their recruitment, the conflicting orders, and the general mess of the situation. He’ll explain whats going on a little more in-depth, including his run-ins with ECHIDNA.

ECHIDNA, the Nick Fury Side; The way Fury tells the story: S.H.I.E.L.D. was founded in 1965, during the height of the Authority’s influence over superheroes. At that time SHIELD was a purely non-super power organization charted by the Authority. Their first and only mission was to assess and enforce the Authority’s Code. To do so, they needed some kind of threat assessment engine. This was before Nikolay Stevanovic’s past came to light and he was the top military contractor for the US Government. The project was given over to him and two years later ECHIDNA was born. Before we get too deep into it, Fury breaks down the difference currently between ECHIDNA and the “Nikolay OS”. ECHIDNA is the self-replicating hardware platform designed by Stevanovic, “Nikolay OS” is the operational program that interfaces with the ECHIDNA hardware. Fury isn’t sure on the exact reasons why, but he knows that Stevanovic used his brain as a neural network template for the system. At the start though, the two were pretty heavily integrated so, until we get to the part about SHIELD pulling them apart just focus on ECHIDNA the machine and Nikolay the person.

When they turned the machine on in 1967 the first name it game, the most dangerous threat to humanity, was Nikolay Stevanovic. SHIELD, however, was prepared for this. Stevanovic briefed them on the possibility of ECHIDNA developing a sense of self-preservation and fearing it’s creator. So, SHIELD hid Stevanovic away and reported to ECHIDNA that he was killed. That was when they found out about the missing Life Model Decoy. Sometime prior to ECHIDNA being turned over to SHIELD the machine had copied it’s programming into a LMD and sent itself out to kill the real Nikolay. In an attempt capture and deactivate the LMD, SHIELD activated a second LMD draw out the first one. Things, of course, didn’t go as planned, and ECHIDNA’s LMD killed SHIELD’s LMD, started thinking it was the real Nikolay, and fled. SHIELD chased the rogue LMD for ten years, eventually confronting it in ECHIDNA’s mainframe. SHIELD was worried that if ECHIDNA found out the real Nikolay was still alive it would attempt to kill him, so they separated the “Nikolay OS” from ECHIDNA, locked it away in the Code Zoo, and sealed the hardware off. Last year the real Nikolay passed away and SHIELD began working on a new project to harness their supercomputer. The result was the neural implants given to Andy, Mahmoud, and Kraven. ECHIDNA being the only system powerful enough to interpret multiple biological experiences simultaneously.

Before they get to the big topic at hand, The Suicide Squad, Fury wants to review the Suicide Squad’s chain of command. He wants to ensure there is no confusion over who’s giving the orders here.

  • S.H.I.E.L.D. = General Nicholas Joseph Fury
    • S.W.O.R.D. = Dr. Amanda Blake Waller
      • Checkmate =Taleb Beni Khalid
        • Task Force X = Amanda Damita Waller
  • H.A.M.M.E.R. = Norman Virgil Osborn

Here is why this is important: Fury hates Waller and how she runs TFX. Fury’s comment when they first met about having to use “forces outside of the usual channels” wasn’t aimed at them, it was aimed at Waller. Fury has stood aside and let Waller run the Squad her way for the last four years. Since the team has been successful, Fury sees it as a good allocation of SHIELD resources. However, he want’s Waller out of the picture. She’s too brutal. Too caustic. The problem is that Fury isn’t willing to blacklist himself to the other divisions of SHIELD by pulling a sub-sub-subordinate from command. This is about to be complicated, but stick with it.

Task Force X was restarted as a SWORD initiative and was signed off by Waller’s Grandmother. Fury stepped in at that point, as SWORD is his subordinate he’s able to move some weight around. Under the guise of ensuring no conflicts of interest, Fury had TFX was placed under control of Checkmate. This places a person in the middle of the Wallers as a nepotism prevention. The question, of course, is why won’t Fury just pull Waller himself. The short answer; because of HAMMER. The US Government has shifted some of SHIELD’s funding to a new private military group ran by Norman Osborn. Fury, obviously, doesn’t trust Osborn. Right now, SHIELD can’t afford any dissension among it’s ranks otherwise the government might shift full support to HAMMER.

What does this have to do with Andy and Mahmoud? Simple, Fury wants them to be his team inside of the Suicide Squad. With ECHIDNA logging their senses he figures its only a matter of time before he can pull Waller on treason. Of course, Fury knows that ECHIDNA isn’t going to go for any of this because of his blind hatred for Fury. That’s where their little chain of command lesson comes into play. ECHIDNA shouldn’t have a problem working with Taleb Beni Khalid, the director of Checkmate. Taleb is able, and more importantly willing, to bring treason charges against Waller when the time comes. A packet briefing ECHIDNA on all of this is transferring to him as we speak, briefing him on their role while omitting Fury’s involvement. Finally, to help ensure ECHIDNA’s ability to facilitate this operation they have opened a secure channel for ECHIDNA to utalize outside of Waller’s control. This will be a free Signature Asset for ECHIDNA, [Secure Channel (d8)].

Right now, ECHIDNA believes that Andy and Mahmoud are meeting with Taleb, that he was disabled to ensure there is no record of this conversation. That Taleb’s plan is to monitor Waller and review the project, not to entrap her. To ensure this cover stays in place this will be the last meeting they have with Fury. From now on, Taleb will be their man. But, before they part company, Fury wants to answer and questions he can. Some of the things Fury can explain:

  • One of the first thing Fury wants them to investigate is the stories of the other inmates in the Vault. Casual interviews with everyone inside can go along ways towards building a file against Waller. Get them to talk about past missions, Waller’s involvement, and any unusual orders.
  • Fury is the one responsible for them not having bombs in their heads. He convinced Waller that these full cerebral implants means they don’t need to use violence as a motivator. Being able to monitor, literally, their every sense anywhere in the world means they can never escape. No need to threats with this level of tracking.
  • The reason Andy and Mahmoud are the only two with the implants is because Waller believes this is a test group. They are also going to work as a unique asset to TFX, not participating in standard missions.
  • As a unique unit, Fury has seen to it that Andy and Mahmoud will be held on Level 8 of the prison, the highest level they can permit based on their abilities. This helps the team investigate the facility, as every Level has access to the Levels below them, but does keep a few levels off-limits. Andy and Mahmoud will need to find a way to get access to restricted Levels (6, 7, & 12) on their own. As well as the classified 13th Level.
  • This also means they won’t have access to their powers inside the Vault. Because of the rules in place inside the facility this is non-negotiable. However, Taleb is fronting a “good behavior” initiative for Squad members. People who play ball and work well with the team can be rewarded by being moved up levels.
  • Fury regrets Waller’s instance of using Kraven to motivate ECHIDNA and the team to stay in line. This is the kind of behavior he’s sick of seeing.
  • There is a chance more members might be recruited to the team. If that happens, Taleb will make sure Andy and Mahmoud are aware of the addition before it happens. If they haven’t been cleared by Taleb, don’t trust them.

Anything the player’s want to know about outside those above facts will require a [Face + Willpower vs. 2d10] in order to get Fury to spill any additional beans

After their meeting ECHIDNA will be reinstated as everyone heads towards the chopper. But before they can reach the landing site another chopper, emblazoned with the HAMMER logo, sets down between the Squad and their exit. From the HAMMER chopper the Thunderbolts will emerge, including Trickshot (Barney Barton), Venom (MacDonald Gargan), Daken (Akihiro), Deathstroke (Slade Wilson), and Black Manta (David). They are here to reclaim their sixth member, Deadshot. It’s possible a scuffle could ensue, but if it does after a round or two Taleb Khalid and Victoria Hand will emerge from the SHIELD and HAMMER choppers and start yelling for everyone to stand down.

Hopefully the teams can come to an agreement on Deadshot. Victoria insisting that the Squad’s mission is found to be successful to she can ensure no further harassment from Waller. Taleb will place an executive override on ECHIDNA’s logs and release only his debriefing to Waller. In which he’ll say that he’s reviewed the footage, and finding it compromises other agencies, has secured it. He will confirm Deadshot’s demise however and release the footage of the assassination of Baron Zemo. Taleb believes that the assassination of Zemo proves the unit’s effectiveness far better than the death of Deadshot anyway and he’ll politic things with Waller to ensure their continued operation.

Before they depart Deadshot will take off his wrist gun and throw it to Andy. Saying that Waller won’t believe he’s really dead unless someone takes a trophy. This will be a free Signature Asset for Andy, [Wrist-Mounted Pistol (d8)]. After which the two team will depart and the Squad will be hauled back to Belle Reve. There they will be confronted by an angry and annoyed Waller.

Waller will break the news that this mission was their interview and that they all passed. She’ll give them each folders with their individual motivations spelled out for them, and then depart. She’ll make comments about being displeased at Taleb’s involvement and warning them to never go over her head again.

Once back in Belle Reve they will be locked on their respective levels, but ECHIDNA will notice he still has contact with Andy and Mahmoud. From there they can settle into their routines, meet with Dr. Caulder, and begin interviewing other Squad members. Below is a list of current Squad Members, a handful of potential past members, a few randomly generated Capers from Leverage, and a bunch of random names to fit into stories. For the most part, make this stuff up. Ask for rolls to get people to talk, Face is obvious but cases can always be made.

If the game goes on long enough and you need content, pull in John Constantine. As Mahmoud makes his way into his cell one night Constantine will be sitting inside. Describe a blonde man, chain smoking, who looks strikingly similar to the singer Sting. Constantine will admonish Mahmoud for “freeing” Selene. Explaining that the illusion of Zemo’s control was the only thing keeping her in line. That he conjured the entire absurd scenario to keep her focused and distracted on a man that could never free her. Eventually telling him that, “In your more desperate hour, when the light has you exposed and you need your precious shadows, your connection to your dark Masters will be severed. You will be left alone, exposed, and in that blindingly bright moment you will feel the blackest despair. And when you do, when your magic has left you and you’re a mortal man, remember that it’s because you choose to free a monster that John Constantine locked away.”

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