Eternal Lies: The Masks of the Liar

Episode XVI: Ashes to Ashes (Part 9)

The rain came down in sluices of icy water the night of January 13, 1926. From their vantage point on a low hill off the road, Jimmy, Ruby, Millicent, Geronimo, and Dr. Orange watched a line of cars snake down the Valley toward a small farmhouse that was brightly lit from the inside.

Somewhere out there Ramón Echevarría was going to try and end the world.

They came down off the hill and made their way cross-country to the farmhouse. As they approached it, the swirling rain and fog giving them cover, they could see a ring of people circling the farmhouse and chanting.

“Why are they so happy?” said Millicent.

“They’re all on Nectar,” said Jimmy. “We need to figure out how to mix in with them.”

“Don’t worry,” said Ruby. “I know how to act like a Nectar addict.”

They waited until another group of revelers arrived and then walked into the circle. Some men in black robes—Jimmy recognized the original Samson Trammel as one of them—were trying to coordinate affairs.

The door to the farmhouse opened and Ramón Echevarría stepped out. “Good, good,” he said with a sardonic smile. “Keep it up.”

The crowd turned toward him and shouted ecstatic encouragement. In the confusion, Jimmy and company crept up to the side of the farmhouse and crouched down in the shadows.

[Reassurance spend by RP to keep them incognito, Stealth by MP to get them close.]

The rain slackened for a moment and Millicent pointed over the hills, toward where the glow of lights from Los Angeles lit up the clouds. The light began to fade.

“The blackout must have started,” she said.

“They’re powering up,” said Dr. Orange.

Millicent peaked into the farmhouse through a crack in the clapboard siding. Inside she saw something that took her breath away. With her head held at just the right angle, the back wall of the room went away, and she could see a large concrete amphitheater behind it, packed with people wearing yellow robes.

“My god,” she said. “It’s the same as on the plans we saw before we left 1937!”

The ground began to shake behind them.



“All right, we’re done here. You guys are doing great, but we gotta get back to Mr. Trammel,” Dr. Orange told the guards at the door of the generator room.

“All right,” one of them grunted. He slid back the door and they sauntered out, turned a corner, and began to run.

Behind them they heard one of the dynamos begin to make a horrible, rending screech. There was a sound of something heavy giving way, mixed with screaming.

The lights began to flicker. Arc lights began to explode. In the amphitheater, Jimmy took advantage of the confusion to draw his gun just before everything was plunged into darkness.

Slowly a light began to glow at the edge of the amphitheater. It was unearthly, and Jimmy had the experience to make that call, filling the arena with an actinic blue glow. He tried to stare at the source of the light.

It was the Singularity.

He couldn’t really see it of course. His mind had a vague impression of some kind of vortex bound in spherical form, but in truth his conscious mind revolted at even trying to parse what he was seeing.

[Indeed. 4 points of Stability lost here.]

Beyond the Singularity in the shadows, he thought he saw someone spin around with a gun. He began to take aim but suddenly realized that he couldn’t see Edgar Job anywhere.

He jumped down to the ground just as he heard a shot ring out. Someone behind him shouted in pain.



As the ground shook in 1926, Jimmy caught sight for a second of the amphitheater. He saw someone in the crowd draw a gun, so he fired off a shot at him. Unfortunately the man had jumped out of the way and he just hit someone in the crowd.

Something burst from the ground behind them. Something that stank of Nectar. Something with long arms, a headless, flabby, humanoid. Ruby felt her mind begin to go. She turned and began to run at the monster, all thoughts of self-preservation evaporating in the siren call of this monstrous being.

Dimly she heard Echevarría shouting from inside the farmhouse. She threw a brief glance backward and saw Jimmy charge into the farmhouse. In a flash, she Vince Stark holding a shotgun on Echevarría, Jimmy raising his Xoxul war club to strike down Edgar Job…

And a woman in a frowsy black dress.

“’Ello, love,” she said. “So you remembered my gift.”

“Take them back,” panted Ruby as the Liar opened Its arms to receive her. “Take the last five minutes back!”

“You can expect some paradox, you know. But I’m in a hurry, gotta meet Geronimo a few minutes from now in 1937. Cheerio.”

…the door to the farmhouse opened and Ramón Echevarría stepped out. “Good, good,” he said with a sardonic smile. “Keep it up.”

“Go, go now,” said Ruby to her friends. “All of us into the house!”

“You seem awful sure,” said Dr. Orange.

“She’s seen the future,” said Jimmy. “I know what that sounds like! Let’s go.”

While everyone stared at Echevarría, they made a loping run for the farmhouse and circled around the back, next to a dilapidated side door. Inside they could hear Echevarría talking with someone.

“We need to go in and look at the Singularity,” said Millicent.

“Wait,” said Jimmy. “All the people out there have to die to preserve the timeline.”

“I don’t see what that has to do with seeing the Singularity.”

“Let’s wait until we feel the ground shake, then go inside in a rush,” said Ruby.

The rain came down harder. They felt a distant tremor in the earth. Jimmy nodded, and they kicked in the door. As he came in Jimmy bumped into the back of Vince Stack, who stumbled forward and put a round into the ceiling from his sawed-off shotgun.

Echevarría tore his eyes off of Walter Winston. “Who the hell are—YOU!” He pointed a finger at Jimmy.

Geronimo fired both barrels of his shotgun in Echevarría’s face.

As the cult leader fell, Millicent saw Edgar Job hiding behind a bale of hay. He seemed to have some rainbow edge around him, at least to her eyes.

Behind them, they could hear something tearing itself out of the ground.

“What have you done?” shouted Winston. “Well, I mean…good, saved us the trouble…wait…what the hell is that outside!”

Geronimo wiped his shotgun down with his handkerchief and handed it to Vince Stack,

Millicent ran forward. “It’s Job, it’s Job!” she shouted. “He’s the Singularity!” She tackled him, stabbing at him with her knife. Job stabbed back with his ceremonial knife, but she knocked it from his hands and it rolled over to Jimmy. Millicent and Job rolled on the floor closer and closer to the threshold of the Singularity, until they rolled over it…and vanished.

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Episode XVI: Ashes to Ashes (Part 8)

The day of Trammel’s ceremony—in 1937—a long line of cars snaked up into the Valley as people drove out to see the Reverend Doctor Goodman White’s final sermon. Jimmy and company were already camped out there in one of the houses in the abandoned development Trammel had used as a cover for his own construction.

The New Temple of Joy was a surprisingly large structure. Most of it was taken up by a large open amphitheater, shaped like half an ellipse; behind it was a squat concrete building with two stubby wings breaking away from the ellipse. Heavy power cables were connected to the north wing.

“Herr Doktor, you’re in charge of taking out the power,” said Jimmy. “Without being seen.”

Dr. Orange opened up a suitcase and took out a bunch of yellow silk robes that he had collected on their travels around the world. “These should match what they have,” he said.

“Suit up,” said Jimmy.

They crept through the parking lot and then got on line with everyone else. As they came up to the entrance on the south wing, they could see Trammel’s rather large door guards—and the concrete machine gun pillbox that had been installed in the lobby of the entrance.

Ruby had been put in charge of their disguises this time. So they looked good. And also not like themselves—which was good, as Trammel almost certainly had them on a ‘terminate on sight’ list.

“Oh my god,” chattered Jimmy in a most un-Jimmylike manner as they approached the entrance. “I am so glad we were able to come to this. Hey guys! Great day for it! Looking forward!” His patter distracted the guards, who waved them inside with a sigh.

[Disguise check by Ruby, then Flattery spend by Jimmy to get them past the guards.]

“Where is the crowd heading?” asked Ruby.

“West, to the arena,” said Jimmy.

“Then Geronimo and I are heading east. I don’t want to be around any Nectar that Trammel has.”

“We’re going north,” said Millicent.

“I guess I’m going to the show,” said Jimmy. “I guess I don’t get a buddy.”

“What about Kakakatak?” asked Ruby. They had stashed the Yithian inside a panel truck parked nearby.

“He’ll come when I call, but he’ll come hot and hard,” said Jimmy. “Let’s put that off for a while.”

Jimmy vanished into the crowd without looking back.



The amphitheater was surprisingly classic for something made of poured concrete. Jimmy could see a strange oval shaped house that pushed out past the edge of the arena…almost as if it was projecting into where some kind of elliptical energy field that was going to be generated around it.

On a raised dais between the two arms of the amphitheater Jimmy saw Trammel talking to Edgar Job. They were surrounded by bodyguards. Something was odd about the way Trammel’s robes bulged out in the front.

“He couldn’t…not…Ruby’s arm,” muttered Jimmy to himself. He pushed himself lower down the banks of seats. Someone tried to stop him but Jimmy socked him in the gut and kept going.



The interior of the building proved to be surprisingly mazelike, but Millicent and Dr. Orange were able to navigate it after a few false starts. Eventually they came to what had to be the power generating equipment, based on the smell of ozone and sounds of dynamos spinning up.

The doors looked very solid and were guarded by a couple of gorillas in boiler suits.

“Robes off,” said the doctor. They slipped the silk gowns to the floor and strode forward wearing boiler suits remarkably like the ones the gorillas were wearing.

“We’re here to check the regulators,” said Dr. Orange to the head gorilla. “We don’t want anything to blow up. You don’t want stuff exploding, right?”

“No…” said the goon. “But I thought everyone was already inside.”

“There’s a missing part,” said Millicent.

“Trammel said it would be best to have someone bring it,” said Dr. Orange.

The guards shrugged and slid back the door.

[This should have been an interpersonal spend but there isn’t one on the recording."



Ruby and Geronimo were wandering through a series of cube-like rooms. Each was very similar, with metal fire doors at the junctions. The distribution of entrances seemed random—some rooms had four exits, others only two.

They came to a room that was painted blue. As Ruby walked through it, she felt a plate in the floor move slightly under her weight.

“Ger—” she said, right before the explosion.

It threw her bodily across the room. She slumped against one of the heavy doors. Geronimo picked himself up from the floor and stumbled over to her. His head was ringing and dust choked his eyes and mouth.

There was a lot of blood around Ruby.

A PA system activated. A man came on, speaking English with a pronounced Siamese accent. “Hello, Miss Ruby,” said the voice. “How do you like my first delivery?”

“Pramoj,” muttered Ruby. “He promised me a long correspondence.”



The power room was full of equipment even Dr. Orange was at a loss to understand, but there were several large turbines spinning up. The room was crowded with oilers and electricians. A few men patrolled catwalks, holding rifles.

They walked up to a man in a labcoat who was yelling at some technicians. “Check dynamo six! It’s burning oil! What do you two want? Did Trammel send you? That idiot!”

“I know, I know,” said Millicent. “What we can do?”

“Go degauss number three.”

“Sure.” They pushed their way over to one of the turbines.

“We need to sabotage this in such a way that we aren’t here when it happens,” muttered Dr. Orange.

“I can break spacetime…” said Millicent.

Ja, let’s try to avoid it. Let me see if I can set this thing to overload.”

Millicent helped cover for him as he slipped behind the machine and took some wrenches to the machinery.

“How’s it going?” asked Millicent.

“Let’s just say that I’m sure I’ve done something.”

They began to make their way toward the door.

[Stealth check by MP, then Mechanical Repair by the Doc.]



“There’s a button in the room I’m in,” said Pramoj over the PA. “If I press it, it will alert security that there is an intruder in the room. I haven’t decided if I’m going to press it. Mr. Cuevas, my beef is not with you. You’re free to leave any time you want.”

“You know I can’t do that!” shouted Geronimo.

“I might be inclined to let you live a little longer, if you can tell me where James Wright is. I know he’s with you.”

“James is here,” croaked Ruby. “Helping us to do something right. Why don’t you join us?”

“I prefer to continue our correspondence.”

“Look, you can have your petty revenge, or you can help us do something worthwhile.”

“I already helped you do something worthwhile, so I’m pretty much in the petty revenge section of this.”

“Fine. James is out there, but if you could, don’t kill us until we’ve completed what we want to do.”

“I’ll let you find your way.” The door they had come in through slammed shut. Too late Geronimo realized Pramoj had simply been plugged into the PA in the next room.



Jimmy saw Edgar Job step to the front of the dais. “It begins,” he intoned, in a voice that filled the amphitheater even without a microphone. “I am Daoloth, the Render of Veils! AND THERE’S THE APOSTATE!”

He pointed a finger directly at Jimmy Wright. Everyone turned to face him.

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Episode XVI: Ashes to Ashes (Part 7)

“How are you going to convince them you’re on Nectar?” demanded Geronimo when Jimmy explained his plan.

“I’ve worked in L.A. for years now. I know how to play drunk and suck up to guys at parties while staying stone sober.”

[Actually, JP said “I’ve got tons and tons of Flattery” but this is probably what was meant.]

“But Mr. Wright, if you’re the only one not having…coitus…won’t they notice?” began Millicent.

“Jimmy, it’s a hard road,” said Ruby, twisting the knife.

“I’ll just have to take the bullet,” said Jimmy.



He drove down into Beverly Hills, to the address he’d gotten from the socialites. It was a smallish house for the area, not much bigger than a concert hall. Some hard cases gave him a once over on the way in, including a particularly tough Mexican who took his gun.

“Evening, Walker,” Jimmy said.

“How do you know my name?” said the future Captain Walker.

“We’ve met. Eventually.”

Inside the party was already in full-swing, although most of the glittering crowd was still wearing their clothes. He caught sight of a young Olivia Clarendon in one corner. Standing by a punch bowl was a rail-thing young man. His hair was a bird’s nest and he wore thick glasses.

“Edgar Job,” muttered Jimmy to himself. A naked woman walked up with a tray of shotglasses full of Nectar.

“Drink and enjoy,” she said. “It’s part of our ritual.”

“Of course,” said Jimmy. He took a shotglass, turned slightly as if he had caught sight of someone he knew, and poured out the Nectar on the floor. When he turned back to the naked woman, his glass was full of honey cut with grain alcohol, a concoction Ruby had helped him make. She’d been very particular about the color.

Just then Ramón Echevarría walked into the room through a pair of French doors that led out to the garden. Jimmy began pushing through the crowd and bumped into a smallish man in an ill-fitting suit.

“Hey, watch it,” said the man with a pronounced New York accent. “Who are you? I ain’t seen you here before.”

“I’m the new guy. From the Canadian.”

“Right. Samson Tramell.”

“Victor.”

“You want we should do a shot of Nectar together?”

Jimmy paused.

“It’s all right if you’re shy,” said Tramell.

“No, it’s all right,” said Jimmy. “I don’t need that to be ready.”



Around midnight, Jimmy made his way back to the main room. He noticed a distinguished man with a somewhat European air standing at the edge of the room. From the way he was watching events, Jimmy thought he wasn’t on Nectar. The man caught his eyes and frowned, as if he recognized that Jimmy wasn’t on Nectar either.

Jimmy sauntered over. “You are not on Nectar,” the man said. He had a German accent. “Why are you not on Nectar? Are you not here for the party? Or are you here gathering information.”

“Let’s say I am very curious person.”

“Listen my friend. Do not step on what we are doing here. I’m watching you. Clear? What’s your name?”

“Victor.”

“Victor, I’m Walter.” He pronounced it the German way: Valter. “Last names are a little…I don’t know if I trust you yet.”

“Last names are baggage.”

Ja. Perhaps we should talk outside?”

“I was just about to suggest the same thing.”

They sauntered out as nonchalantly as one can when one is sauntering out of an orgy, and walked along the driveway, Walter leading the way, Jimmy with his hands in his pockets. Suddenly he spun around; he’d felt eyes on his back.

[Sense Trouble roll by JP.]

He saw a stockily built man in a battered slouch hat emerge from the ornamental hedges along the driveway, his sawed-off shotgun leveled at him.

“Whaddya want me to do with him, Mr. Winston?” said the stocky man. He had a New York accent.

Jimmy’s eyes went wide. Walter Winston, he thought. Janet’s father.

“Vince, put the gun down,” said Winston. “I don’t know what you are trying to do, Victor, but we have a very specific goal that we are following and we don’t need any outside interference. Verstehen?”

“Got it,” said Jimmy.

“On the other hand, if we could trust you, you might offer some assistance, I think. You look like the kind of man who’s seen some action.”

“I’m a useful person to know. I know my way around, if you catch my meaning.”

“Tomorrow. Musso and Frank’s cafe, in Hollywood. You do know where that is, ja? Good. Are you alone?”

“For the moment.”

“Do you have anyone else in on this? I don’t need bunglers!”

“You can be assured that anyone with me is…damn well skilled for it.”

“That may be. We’ll be watching you.”

He faded back into the shadows. Vince Stack—the man with the shotgun—grinned at Jimmy and walked back up the driveway.



Jimmy caught a cab back to their flop. “Mr. Wright, are you okay?” said Millicent when she met him at the door.

“No. But it’s not the first time. Threw up in my mouth a little.”

“Let me get you some…are you a tea person or a coffee person?”

“Brandy.”

“Oh.”

“I made contact with the Winston Circle.”

“What is our plan?” said Ruby.

“I’m going to meet them at a steakhouse.”

“Do you want us there?”

“It’s probably not a good idea,” said Geronimo.

‘Yeah, Ruby you’re too memorable. Geronimo too."

“You are definitely not as ruggedly handsome as me.”

“I’ve accepted my lot in life.”

Ruby left them to decide who was the most handsome and went outside to smoke a cigarette. She thought she saw somebody watching her from a car parked across the street, but she couldn’t be sure, and anyway he drove off before she finished her cigarette.



The next day Jimmy walked into Musso and Frank’s. It was just as he remembered it…would remember it; the first time he’d visited it was still six months off. He smiled at the green leather banquette booths, the brass finishings, and the smell of black coffee, illegal rum, and charring meat. He almost asked the headwaiter for his regular table, but caught himself in time.

He found Winston sitting at one of the booths, along with Stack and another man, a short, wiry looking fellow with a clean-shaven face and a devilish grin. It took him a second to place him.

It was Doug Henslowe, ten years younger and without his wild riot of a beard.

“Hi,” said Doug. “Followed you last night. Where’s the rest of your friends?”

Jimmy tried very hard not to glance over to where Millicent was sitting three booths down. “Taking care of their own things.”

“We know something’s up. We’re going to break it up. Because we’re reasonably sure it involves the end of the world. Something’s getting summoned that we don’t want called up.”

“Summoning’s never good.”

“We asked Dr. Kullman about anyone matching your description, and he didn’t know anyone like that. And he knows everyone in this kind of work. ’Cept maybe that crazy terrorist running around blowing up warehouses in China.”

“Let’s just say I’m very good at staying out of sight.”

“How do we know we can trust you? How do we know you’re not going to run back to Echevarría?”

“Because I like living. I don’t want the end of the world.”

“You got someone you want to save it for?”

“Yes,” said Jimmy, looking at Winston. “I do.”

“Well then, if we can trust you, you stay with us. You don’t go back to your friends.”

Congratulations, thought Jimmy. You’re going to change history, Jimmy Wright.

“Look,” he said. “You have your information. I have mine. We’re working toward our plan. We don’t know each other’s plans. We’ll just step on each other’s toes. So you go your way, we’ll go ours. If we see each other, then we can help each other.”

“How do we know you won’t screw this up? We’ve planned this very carefully. Nothing can go wrong with our plan.”

“You’ve never heard of me. That’s how good my people are.”

“All right, Jimmy. That’s right. I heard the name your friends call you last night. Stay clear of us. Lunch is on you.”

[Two point Reassurance spend by JP to avoid going with the Winston Circle.]

He, Stack, and Winston got up and stalked out the front door. Jimmy sighed, waited fifteen minutes, and then ordered a steak.

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Episode XVI: Ashes to Ashes (Part 6)

Back in November of 1925…

…Chichen Xoxul stood in ruins. Jimmy and the others picked their way down the steep staircase to the Grand Plaza, which was choked with weeds and overgrowth. Fortunately they still had their machetes, so they began to hack their way through the forest.

[Outdoorsman spend here…by someone. Everyone had it by this point, I think.]

At sunset they stumbled into a poor Xoxul village. They were greeted by the elder of the village…a woman named Estrella.

Also visiting the village was an American archaeologist and his half-Mayan daughter, Nicole.

Everyone tried to hide their faces from the little girl. “We lost our way and got separated from our guide,” said Ruby.

“What a shame. Dr. Nathaniel Luke,” said the American.

“Ruby.”

“Juan,” said Geronimo.

“Well, I can get you folks up to Mérida if you want.”

“Thank you,” said Ruby. The village elder kept staring at Jimmy.

“What did you say your name was?” she finally asked him.

“Jimmy Wright.”

Estrella started to laugh to herself.

“We’ll meet again,” said Jimmy nonchalantly.

“Yes, yes we will!”



They discovered some problems with being in the past…such as their money not really being any good.

“I wish I could telegraph my father,” Ruby said bitterly.

“Great idea. Just explain how you’re in the Yucatan and at Barnard,” said Dr. Orange.

[All their Credit Rating was effectively three points lower. They also made a 1-point History spend to avoid accidentally talking about the future.]

“I could wire…I guess he was District Attorney-elect Grey in New York,” mused Jimmy. “Of course, he’s still in a wheelchair at this point.”

“I’m going to sell some jewelry,” said Ruby.

“Be careful, you might screw up the timestream…” began Jimmy.

“I bought all of this at an estate sale,” said Ruby. “So…how are we to know that this wasn’t how it was supposed to happen? Let’s assume it was, before we get headaches and nosebleeds.”

With that money they were able to book a steamer to New Orleans by way of Veracruz. Getting to Los Angeles took a bit longer than they were used to—train service wasn’t as extensive to the West at that point.

On the sleeper coach one night, Jimmy asked Ruby what she was doing at this moment in 1925. The earlier Ruby, he meant.

“I know what you mean. Hrm…getting kicked out of my third boarding school, I think. Also discovering boys and gin.”

“In that order?”

“I decline to say. You?”

“Somewhere in Shanghai, I think, meeting Lily…or maybe Singapore. Meeting Millicent’s mom for the first time.”



They lived rough, staying in the cheapest flops, living rough when they could. Jimmy began to grow an especially fierce beard. Millicent and Dr. Orange spent some time studying the rubbings they had made of the golden tablets they had recovered from the SS Mérida.

[1 point Library Use spend by MP.]

Dr. Orange concentrated on what looked suspiciously like field equations. For Millicent, however, what emerged was a fascinating story that seemed somehow related to certain Gnostic myths.

If a hole was rent in space and time, and a being bound heavily to spacetime—the Demiurge, or Yabaoleth, it seemed—and a specially prepared human was present, that human would become “The Render of Veils” also known as Daoloth.

And that would create a singularity, according to Dr. Orange, which would destroy the universe.

[I let the players make Cthulhu Mythos spends to create a “vs. Ritual” pool at the rate of 3 points of Ritual pool per CM point spent. JP and MP each spent 1 point…then even more, when MP realized that Cthulhu Mythos was an Academic skill and could be refreshed using her “Student” ability—basically, the same as the Reporter ability.]

“Well we know where and when this will happen even if we don’t know who will be there,” mused Millicent. “The night of January 13, 1926.”

“Wait a second,” said Jimmy. “Why didn’t I see this before? What time would that have been in the Indian Ocean?”

“If the ritual began when the blackout happened…around noon on the 14th.”

Jimmy groaned. “That’s when the gate opened…when I did that thing…oh God, this is my fault…”



They reached Los Angeles the day before Christmas Eve, 1925. Colored lights were strung on palm trees. In the speakeasies, bands played carols in jazz time.

They found a fleabag hotel near the railroad station. Jimmy spent a day or two seeing if he could get invited to one of Echevarría’s party. He finally found a couple of socialites who could arrange it.

“They like guys like you,” one explained to him. “You know, tough guys.”

“Gangsters,” said the other socialite.

Jimmy gave them a wolfish grin.

“Do you think you could score a case of Canadian for us as well?”

“Sure,” said Jimmy. He’d read Bernie Ohls’ notes on rumrunning in the 1920s, so he had a pretty good idea where he could hijack a shipment.

“You’re going to love this party,” oozed the first socialite. “They’re like nothing else in the world.”

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Episode XVI: Ashes to Ashes (Part 5)

Meanwhile, in the future…

Kakakatak removed their helmets and Tesla powered down the machinery.

“Do I have a mind, or am I just a brain?” asked Jimmy.

“Don’t worry,” said Tesla. “Kakakatak could explain, but only if you understand twelve-tone rows.”

“Trust me Jimmy, you do not,” said the Yithian. “Seriously, you had the worst diction ever.”

“Did anything happen?” said Ruby. Geronimo shrugged.



The next day they had a guest at the Los Angeles Society for Archaeological Studies. He was rail thin and wore a scraggly beard and had an unnatural air of silence around him.

“Dr. Ayers,” said Ruby, surprised. “What brings you here?”

“I’m glad you’re recovering,” said Millicent.

“Yes. Thank you. I am still having trouble talking. Every day. May I have water? I seem always to be thirsty. So Ramón’s work is still a problem? Can I help? I knew Ramón very well.”

They went to the conference room and made sure Ayers had a pitcher of water. He explained that Echevarría had used a lot of heavy machinery—the 1926 blackout was certainly caused by him stealing the city’s power. He huddled with Dr. Orange to go over the details.



Jimmy decided to see if any houses near the new Temple of Joy were abandoned and useful to hide out in…or as a hiding place for Doug Henslowe. He spent the afternoon down at the property clerk’s office pulling deeds for the housing development near the Temple site that had been abandoned when Trammel took over the area.

Geronimo hit his underworld contacts because as Ruby said, they were going to need guns. Lots of guns. While he was away, Ruby had another visitor.

“There’s an Ashley Murphy to see you,” her secretary said.

“Captain Murphy?” said Ruby. “Don’t tell Geronimo. He gets jealous. And he has guns.”

[I had started wondering why we never used Murphy’s first name, so I guessed it was something he might find a bit embarrassing. And then one night I was watching Ash vs. Evil Dead and it clicked.]

She walked out into reception. Murphy, looking weatherbeaten as usual, was standing kneading his sailor’s hat in his hands. A little girl, maybe six or seven years old, was standing next to him.

“Temperance?” said Ruby, clutching her chest.

“Hello, Mrs. Cuevas,” said Murphy.

“What are you doing here?” asked Ruby.

“Well, two things. First I wanted you to meet Temperance here…I wasn’t sure how to introduce you.”

Ruby walked over to Temperance, knelt down, and put her arm on the little girl’s shoulder.

“Hello,” the girl said. “Who are you?”

“I’m a friend of your father’s,” Ruby said, tears in her eyes.

“Are you a sailor?”

“I’m an aviatrix. I fly planes.”

“Like Amelia Earhart.”

“Yes, exactly.”

“She’s dead. What happened to your arm?”

“Was kind of wondering that myself,” said Murphy. “It wasn’t Geronimo, was it? No? Didn’t think so. He’s a good a man.”

“He’s a good man to me,” said Ruby.

“No,” said Murphy with surprising conviction, “he’s a good man, period.”

“So are you, when you let yourself be.”

“Maybe.”

“I hurt myself in an accident.”

“Ruby old girl, you have to take care of yourself. You’re a very dear friend to me…and Temperance. Ruby, you think we can talk in private?”

“Sure. Temperance, you can go look around the place.”

[RP: This is the beginning of her adventures! Wandering around with all this Mythos stuff!

Then we realized that she was probably going to end up talking to Millicent…or Kakakatak…]



Ruby and Murphy sat down in her office. “Ruby old girl, I understand you’re still mixed up in something,” said Murphy without preamble. “I want to help. I know what you’re going to say—look after Temperance. But let’s face facts, old girl. Probably I’m not the best father in the world. I want to be. But I also want to help you.”

“I could use your help. Of course, I’d absolutely love for you to take Temperance far away from here and teach her to fish with a spear…”

“A normal childhood, sure. I already did that.”

“Damnit Murphy, I never thought I’d say this again, but…round up the boys! We’ve got some trouble to make!”



Geronimo managed to get in touch with what was left of Captain Walker’s old gang. “We’re trying to get out of the business,” said one jefe. “So it’s a fire sale.” It wasn’t hard for the Spaniard to negotiate the purchase of quite an assortment of small arms.

“I guess you know Trammel’s back,” said the gang leader. “You know, there’s still some Nectar on the street. Not a lot. He only sells it to the most important clients. But there’s still some…”

[1 point Streetwise spend by GP.]

“Do you have any plastic explosive or dynamite?” asked Geronimo.

“Everything must go, friend.”



Geronimo returned to the old hacienda-style house that LASAS used for its headquarters, the trunk of Jimmy’s armored car stuffed with guns and explosives. As he walked into the building, he heard the sound of laughter coming from the dining room they used for a commissary.

Then he heard Murphy’s voice: “Before we say anything else, we gotta say something in the memory of a great man. To Charlie!”

“To Charlie!”

There was the sound of shattering glass. Geronimo pulled a shotgun from the bundle of weapons he was lugging with him and ran into the dining room. He saw Murphy, several of his piratical looking henchmen, and Ruby sitting around a table littered with empty bottles and platters of cold cuts.

“Geronimo, don’t shoot!” said Murphy.

“What are you doing in my house?” said Geronimo.

“It’s not your house,” muttered Jimmy to his scotch.

“I come in peace, Geronimo,” said Murphy.

For the first time Geronimo noticed the small girl standing near Murphy. “I apologize, young miss,” he said, lowering the shotgun. “It was not my intention to frighten you.”

“You should hold it more against your shoulder. It makes it easier to work the pump. Daddy told me that,” said Temperance.

“You must be Murphy’s daughter.” He turned to Ruby. “Ruby, explain.”

Ruby screwed her arm back on straight. “In private.”

They went to Ruby’s office. “I can understand if you’re upset,” she said. “Murphy showed up out of the blue, with my daughter. And we don’t know what we’re up against, and we could any help we get in case we get shot up full of holes.”

“We’re going to get shot full of holes anyway.”

“But at least this time there will be less chance of it happening. You don’t have to worry about anything untoward.”

“You seemed to be having a very good time.”

“Geronimo, it’s the end of the world. Of course I’m going to try and have a good time. You should join us. Have a drink for Charlie’s sake. For our sake. That maybe we’ll have a future.”



Jimmy went to his office, fed up with Murphy’s gang of salty dogs. As he closed the door behind him, he heard a gun cock. He turned slowly and backed toward his desk.

Doug Henslowe came out of the shadows, holding a mean looking .45. “Don’t you try to stop me—” he began.

“Get you a drink?” asked Jimmy, going to his bar.

“Um, sure. Job’s crazy.”

“We’re planning on stopping it.”

“Good. I want to be part of it if I can.”

“Was already looking for you.”

“I don’t think Job’s human anymore.”

“You should see what’s in my basement. We’ll handle it.”

“So this is going to put everything to rest? Good. By the way, I may be wanted by the LAPD. Near as I can tell, they’re in the pocket of some crazy guy named Trammel.”

View
Episode XVI: Ashes to Ashes (Part 4)

That night, Ruby dreamed.

In her dreams, she wandered through Chichen Xoxul. The city was deserted, the jungle silent. The great pyramid loomed against a twilit sky.

In the plaza, she found Belacazar, wearing shining armor. He was surprised to see her. “You know how to do this too?” they said to each other at the same time.

“The queen showed me how to do this,” said the conquistador. “I will never return to Spain, but in my dreams I can go there and walk the streets of Mérida. Sometimes it looks very different. Are there flying birds of metal where you are from?”

“I used to own one. It was beautiful, a beautiful machine.”

“They seem to be loud and noisy and smell bad.”

“Not on the inside.”

“If I’m ever eaten by a large metal bird I’ll keep that in mind. When did you learn how to speak Castilian?”

“My husband taught me.”

“Hrm, well he doesn’t seem like a hidalgo…but wait, when you thought of your husband just then, he looked like someone else. Are you unfaithful? And if so, why not with me?”

“No…what we have been through is even more complicated than what we are doing.”

“Very well. What are you here to do now? Perhaps I can help. I can take you on a tour of Mérida, best place to get sopa ajo, so good…”

“How far forward or back can you see?”

“I don’t know how to control it. The queen only taught me a few tricks.”

Ruby tried to concentrate on Queen Morning Star…Mérida Echevarría…but she ran headlong into a wall of spacetime.

[3 point Stability loss.]

She swung her attention to Queen Evening Star. She found her meditating on top of the pyramid.

“Who are you? Only gods and demons come to me in dreams. Which one are you?”

Ruby unfolded two visions of the future: one where the Queen helped the visitors from the future, and one where they didn’t. She made sure the second one was horrific.

“Well,” said the Queen, finally. “We were going to have a quintuple sacrifice in the morning. But all right. We will help you.” She woke up, and vanished.

Ruby stood alone on top of the pyramid. “Belacazar could visit the future…and Millicent walked out of the dreamtime…maybe it is possible to visit 1911 that way…”

She waited until her friends were asleep. Fortunately that was in dream time, so it took not a moment.



As for the others, the Xoxul had graciously provided soporific drugs for everyone, just in case the sacrifice was still on in the morning. As they drifted through sleep, they seemed to be moving through a fluffy white cloud, toward the sound of music.

Gradually they became aware of their surroundings. They were seated at the bar of what looked like the saloon of a steamship. A band was playing gentle waltzes quietly at one end of the room. They were wearing evening clothes: dinner jackets for the men, and a dress with a narrow skirt and a bustle for ruby. She had trouble catching her breath; she was wearing a corset.

“Would you like another drink, madam?” said the bartender. She looked at him. He looked exactly like Charlie, except for the missing tattoos.

“Thank you,” she squeaked.

“Very good, Miss Ruby.”

“Jimmy, Dr. Orange,” whispered Ruby, “you are our resident getting in trouble people. You go investigate the various rooms. Geronimo and Millicent will case the place. Then you can go find trouble.”

“Why should I go looking for trouble?” said Jimmy.

“Because you’re Jimmy Wright.”

“I don’t look for trouble, trouble finds me.”

“Then we’ll help it along.”

Ruby turned back to Charlie. “Have you seen the Echevarrías? We have an appointment with them.”

“Ramón and Mérida? They’re on the ship. They fight a lot. You can find them in First Class.”

“Shall we?” said Ruby to Geronimo. He took her arm and they went off in search of a purser.



“What,” said the First Class purser. “Terrible, second class people coming up here…”

“I would like for you to hold on to my necklace, if you may,” said Ruby, beaming and fingering the enormous diamonds suspended from her neck.

“Fine. I don’t know why you didn’t store them when you boarded, or why you’re taking it off before dinner…” He wrote her out a ticket and stalked off in front of the ship.

Millicent slipped out of the shadows and followed him up the companionway. She watched him enter a room marked “Crew Only” and heard the door lock behind him.

Fortunately it wasn’t locked in any serious way.



Ruby and Geronimo entered the First Class dining hall. After a few whispered words to the maître d’ about how much they enjoyed the food and had met the most charming couple the other night and couldn’t he just seat them over there with them, she so liked the way people treated them on the ship…they found themselves seated at the same table as the Echevarrías.

[Flattery spend by RP.]

Ramón was easy to recognize from the several photographs they had seen of him: a dark Latino man, with a formidable charisma and a strange aura of power. The woman…

They recognized her features. They had seen them in pictures of a poor singer who had become a monster in Mexico City, in the cheekbones of Xoxul queen, and in the portrait a lovesick hidalgo had hanging in his sitting room.

She had black hair and black eyes. There was an air of indefinable sadness hanging around her, despite the fact they were both having a very loud and angry discussion.

“Your plan is insane!” she said. “You should—”

“No, No! But you don’t understand! We must do this, in order to achieve what we have hoped for so long…pardon me, senor. Darling, there are some other guests. We will discuss this later.”

Ramón stood up and kissed Ruby’s hand, then bowed to Geronimo. “I am Ramón Echevarría. This is my wife. At your service, señor.” They all sat down.

“I am Geronimo Cuevas. This is my wife, Ruby Fitzgibbons.”

Enchante, madame. I detect a Spanish accent, señor?”

“Yes, I am from Aragon.”

“I recently returned from Spain.”

“I have not seen it for many years. I have been spending my time in the Americas.”

“What is your line of work? I can tell you are a man of business, not a gentleman of leisure.”

“I am a jewel merchant,” said Geronimo casually.

“Fascinating trade. My family grows sisal. It is a remarkable source of wealth. You are traveling to New York?”

“Yes. We were celebrating our honeymoon.”

“Congratulations, señor. Madam, you have a remarkably attentive and attractive husband.”

Mérida shot her a look like daggers.

“May I beg you the pleasure of a dance?” said Ramón to Ruby.

“Of course,” she said smoothly.

“And may I ask señora Echevarría for a dance?” said Geronimo.

“Con permiso,” said Ramón.



It took a few minutes, but Millicent was able to force the lock into the storage room. Most of what she saw was routine items—mail, supplies for the crew, that sort of thing. In the back however, she found a large safe.

She spread out her tools and went to work.



Jimmy found the purser and tried to bribe him to find Ramón’s stateroom. Fortunately he remembered that his money—either because of magic, or an overly literal mind—would be suspiciously out of date.

He tried offering his watch.

“Who wants to wear a watch on their wrist?” said the purser with a snort. “It’s too big to give to my wife.”

[Wristwatches for men didn’t become fashionable until WWI.]

“How about these cufflinks?”

“Hrm…all right, I can take you there and forget that I did. Of course, if you’re discovered, I’m going to rat you out.”



Ramón Echevarría was, unsurprisingly, an excellent dancer. He led Ruby expertly through a slow Viennese waltz. She chatted him up about her travels around the world.

“Have you ever been to Siam? It’s to die for.”

“I have never been. But I have long wished to go there,” said Ramón. “I have recently returned from Ethiopia.”

“So many beautiful things there as well. In Siam, we heard that there was a place where men kept tigers as pets.”

“That seems a foolish extravagance.”

“I agree.”

“A true man of power would not need to make such displays. The polite thing, if he were a man of culture as well as power, would be to not display it at all. You would not be aware of his power.”

Not far behind them, Geronimo danced with Mérida. “What do you think you are doing?” she hissed at him. “My husband will of course know who you are.”

“What do you mean?”

“You did not board this ship in Havana, did you? Whatever it is you intend, be careful. My husband is a jealous and violent man.”

“Why do you continue to be with this man, who treats you so? You deserve a lot more respect.”

“I do not in fact know myself sometimes. But we share a bond that is particularly strong.”

“I guess you know your own heart…but you should treated with more—”

“You did not come alone. I don’t mean your wife. I should have sensed this sooner. Whatever you’re doing, I suggest you get out of here very soon.”

“But we are enjoying this dance so.”



Most of the Echevarría’s stateroom was taken up by their clothes, of course; Ramón was vain, and he dressed Mérida in a manner befitting his magnificence. But then Jimmy found the books.

“Again with the books,” he said, showing them to Dr. Orange.

“Jimmy…I think those books were some of the ones we found in Trammel’s place, back in 1937. Maybe we should…”

“Keep them? and change history? Don’t fuck with the timeline.”

“Don’t forget, the ship is going to sink. Maybe we’re the ones who rescue them.”

He recognized some of the books. He had read some others. But the ones that were written in Coptic, that were clearly of Ethiopian origin, those intrigued him. But not as much as Ramón’s diaries.

“Hey doc, do you speak Spanish?” he asked.

“I’m going to let you read that. I don’t want the book bound in human skin.”

Jimmy sighed, and borrowed Spanish from Millicent. Most of the book was about Echevarría’s travels, or Chichen Xoxul, which he had visited many, many times (after all, it was in his backyard.) There were also many pages describing the Liar, and how to summon It, and the Mouths, and what you could with Nectar.

And of course notes on the First Mouth.

Jimmy found himself reading on despite himself. He found himself fascinated by Ramón’s damaged character, his desperate pride, his moments of grave self-doubt, the private triumphs that he could never share with other people. I know this guy, he thought, without irony or self-awareness. And I can use that to fight him.

[I gave JP a 3-point “Fighting Ramón” pool in exchange for a 1-point Evidence Collection spend.]



Millicent gave the dial a final spin and pulled open the safe door. Inside she found a great deal of money in both gold and paper currency, some very elegant jewelry, and several large tablets made of gold, covered with Mayan style hieroglyphs. She found a suitcase left by a passenger in the storage room, emptied it, and dropped the tablets inside. She dragged the suitcase out into the companionway and closed the door behind her. Then she walked toward the saloon, lugging the suitcase with it.



The music ended and the couples made their way back to the table. Ramón tried to say something to Ruby, but Mérida angrily cut him off. “I don’t want you talking to that girl anymore!”

“Let’s discuss this outside,” snarled Ramón, seizing her by the arm and dragging her through a pair of double doors and out onto the deck.

Ruby and Geronimo went back to the saloon. They could see the Echevarría’s still arguing outside as a fog bank rolled in. Ramón seemed to be alternatively demanding and pleading. At one point he said something to Mérida that caused her to recoil and push him back from her.

She took a handkerchief from her reticule and held it aloft.

Ruby shook. Even from this distance she could smell the delicate scent of Nectar, the sweet smell of Mexican Nectar that was already beginning to erode her resistance…

Something large began to loom out of the fog.

“That’s the Farragut,” said Ruby as Jimmy, Dr. Orange, and Millicent burst into the saloon. As the ship began to shudder in the bow wake of the approaching steamer, Ruby concentrated on waking up



……and the rising sun bathed them in the humid heat of a Yucatan jungle. The cries of jungle birds singing at the break of day were all around them, shrill and piercing. They were lying on some palm frond pallets, under a lean-to near the pyramid of Chichen Xoxul.

Next to Millicent was a suitcase. When she opened it, gold flashed in the red rays of dawn.

They brought the tablets to Queen Evening Star. “Your mother told us to return these to you,” said Millicent.

“You are very interesting…strange alien devils,” said the Queen.

“Gods,” said Geronimo.

“Fine. What can I do for you, ‘gods’?” said the Queen, making the Xoxul equivalent of air quotes.

“If we can depart the way we came with what we brought with us?”

“Ah, the arquebuses. The very small arquebuses. Belacazar was shooting them before.”

“So amazing,” said the Spaniard. “You can shoot them twice or more! I found that out by accident!”

“So did he,” muttered Ruby, looking at a Xoxul with a bandage wrapped around his leg.

“We should police that brass,” said Geronimo.

“No, leave it,” said Dr. Orange. “There’s some research grant money in that, in five hundred years.”

“Please allow us to leave, as your mother wished,” said Geronimo.

[Reassurance spend by GP; the queen was still distrustful.]

“Very well. Oh, you,” said the Queen, pointing at Jimmy. “One of my warriors wants you to have this war club. He said you fought reasonably well with him yesterday.”

“Thanks,” said Jimmy, fingering his battered nose. “It was worth it.”



They were taken to the top of the pyramid. The Xoxul priests opened up the trap door using some human blood, which they happened to have lying around.

“Water works just as well,” said Dr. Orange.

“No, it has to be blood, for the psychic energy!” the priests said.

“Doctor, stop insulting their culture,” said Ruby. “You know what happened when Germans started insulting other cultures…”

“The Enlightenment?”

They climbed down into the secret chamber. Dr. Orange went to the controls and studied the stone dials. He took out his notebook and consulted it while fiddling with the dials and levers.

“I think it’s set to 1926,” said Dr. Orange.

Millicent studied it, looking on with borrowed knowledge of physics. “Yes,” she finally said. She grabbed the lever and pulled it down.



View
Episode XVI: Ashes to Ashes (Part 3)

Ruby gradually came back to her senses. Everything hurt. Her tongue was thick with thirst. The air was muggy and humid, and she could hear strange bird cries coming from the forest she could see in her peripheral vision.

She and the others were suspended from a wooden pole. Behind her she could hear people speaking a language she supposed was Xoxul. Her wrists ached horribly from ropes binding them to the pole…

Wrists.

She stifled a sob. A very bedraggled man wearing a rusty steel cuirass leaned into her field of view. “Ah, you’re waking up!” he said in Spanish. His accent was strange, definitely European Spanish, but not one she was familiar with.

“The queen wanted to talk to you,” the Spaniard said. “But you pulled that lever and all passed out.”

“Ask him how long we’ve been out,” said Jimmy.

“A day or so,” said the Spaniard after Ruby relayed the question. “We will talk to her now,” she added.

“Yes, I think so.”

“Please let us down gently.”

“That’s not really up to me,” said the Spaniard nervously. “It’s up to the men with the wooden clubs…”

“Can you speak their language?”

“Yes?”

“Can you speak English?” asked Jimmy.

Que?

Some Xoxul cut their ropes with obsidian knives and they collapsed onto the stone flags of the massive courtyard of Chichen Xoxul. They all got up slowly. Millicent recovered first and made her way to the Spaniard.

“Are you Senor Francisco Belacazar?” she asked.

“Si, Don Belacazar at your service.”

“He’s the ancestor of Francisco de la Vega,” said Millicent to Ruby.

“Hey, we could nip this in the bud,” said Ruby. “Kakakatak never said we couldn’t mess with events that have already happened to us…”

“Don’t mess with the timestream,” said Jimmy.

“Then why are we here?”

“We are here to deal with the singularity. We need to stop the first ritual. This is a pit stop.”



“This is Queen Estrella de Tardes,” said Belacazar. They had been brought to one end of the courtyard, near the complex of pillars they had wandered through long ago. Or…long from now.

The queen was a haughty young woman in a feathered cloak, with beautiful jade and obsidian jewelry. It was clear to Millicent and Ruby that she had some Spanish ancestry, a suspicion that was reinforced when the queen began to speak to them in Spanish. Millicent noted that her Spanish was the same as the Yucatanero Spanish they had heard back in the 20th Century.

(Oh my, keeping track of tenses is going to be a thing, isn’t it?)

“We apologize for inconveniencing you,” said Geronimo in Spanish.

“You mean how you appeared out of thin air in our most holy place?”

“Tell her that maybe we’re gods,” said Dr. Orange.

“Maybe,” said the queen. “Perhaps they sent you as a special sacrifice.”

“Stupid human sacrifice culture,” muttered Dr. Orange.

“Were you called Mérida once?” asked Millicent.

“No. Why does that word sound familiar?”

“I am from there, my queen,” said Belacazar.

“We are here because we are here to save your future,” said Geronimo.

[Reassurance spend here by GP to avoid being sacrificed.]

“You talk just like my mother.”

“Was your mother Mérida?” said Millicent.

“Her name was Morning Star. She appeared in the forest one day and married our king.”

“Did she teach you Spanish?”

“Yes, so that I would know the language of the invaders. She spoke it properly, not like Belacazar who is a peasant and doesn’t know his own language.”`

Geronimo shook his head. “We have been brought like your mother was,” he said.

“You didn’t appear in the forest.”

“We are from your future.”

“That doesn’t make any sense.”

“It does. It is what happened to your mother. She was from the future.”

“No, she was from the gods.”

“Yes. They sent her from the future.”

“How can there be a future? If we don’t make the sacrifices, the sun won’t rise. I mean…come on, people.”

“The sacrifices never end. Your line extends very far into the future,” said Ruby. “And because of your loyal sacrifices, the gods have sent us to ensure your line continues.”

[Flattery spend by Ruby.]

“I don’t know what you are yet,” said the queen. “I must pray. In the meantime, you may walk about the city. Don’t do anything stupid. We’ll kill you. If you have questions, ask the pale one. He speaks your ridiculous language.”

Millicent set out with Belacazar to find out more about the previous queen. Morning Star had not been Xoxul. She was a sad, light-skinned woman who seemed to be mourning some great wrong. But whenever anyone asked if she was happy, she would tell them that she was, adding “I came here on purpose.”

“Did she ever say why she came back?” asked Millicent.

“She would only have told such a thing to the queen her daughter.”

Jimmy wandered out into the forest, followed by his minders, two large Xoxul warriors. Large for Xoxul; he towered over them. On the other hand, a war club is a great equalizer.

He wandered over to the cenote, which quite notably did not look like a Mouth. He thought about trying to climb down, but his minders indicated graphically that this would be a bad idea.

He walked back toward the plaza, his hands in his pockets. Suddenly he stopped dead.

“My rabbit’s foot!” he said, pulling it out of his pocket. “I still have it!”

In celebration, he had Belacazar ask his minders to show him some Xoxul wrestling techniques, which they gladly did. With gusto. This expanded into demonstration of weapons techniques, including how to hamstring a running man with an obsidian-lined great club. It was a very hands-on demonstration; they used a couple of slaves to prove the efficacy of their methods. One invited Jimmy to give it a try.

He shrugged and went ahead. He wasn’t the man he used to be, anymore.



Millicent sat quietly near the queen’s pavilion, watching her pray to the gods. Eventually two of the queen’s servants brought her in front of the queen. Millicent made a clumsy greeting in Xoxul, which she was picking up rapidly.

“Did your mother explain her purposes to you?” she asked the queen. “She was supposed to have a reason to come back here.”

“You remind me of her,” said the queen. “I don’t know why. You don’t look like her at all. But there’s something about you that’s similar.”

“I don’t think I ever met her.”

“She told me once she was the daughter of a god. I don’t know what she meant.”

“I was told gods have children but not the way mortals have children.”

“That would seem to make sense.”

“A shamaness told me about this, and that there were things about my parents I didn’t know…then she was killed.”

“How unfortunate. My mother came here because of a fight with her husband…or brother, I’m not sure. She said that they were going to perform a ritual that was written on golden plates, but it sank in a great metal canoe.”

“I have heard something about this. Many have searched for the gold that was on that ship, but it was never found. Perhaps we are here to learn what you just said, and then retrieve those plates and send them to the gods.”

“Perhaps. She did not tell me. Then one day she walked into the forest and disappeared.”

[Two point Intimidation spend by MP, since she lacked Reassurance; however, Millicent was creepy enough that the queen actually opened up to her.]



Ruby walked with…

Well, not Geronimo, obviously. Geronimo had never traveled to 1519. Geronimo had been transported by Kakakatak into the body of Vasquez, one of Brooks’ men. He had been trapped in the pyramid and made the trip with them into the past.

He was still getting the feel for his limbs.

[GP lost 1d6 points that had to be spread out over Weapons, Athletics, or Health to simulate the temporary disorientation.]

He and Ruby were strolling by the edge of the forest. Behind them the great pyramid loomed, conveniently blocking the view from the plaza.

“Ruby…my love,” he said, caressing her face.

Ruby made a moue.

“It’s the same mind!” said Geronimo sharply. “Or do you just love me for my body?”

“No…how do you feel?”

“A little strange. But everything still works. Perhaps you could dream us together, if this is uncomfortable.”

“I can enter dreams, but do you think it’s a good idea here, this close to a holy site where they do human sacrifice?”

“Don’t you think that it will prove that we are not here to be sacrificed, but as a sign of fertility?”

“Uh…”

[We paused here to discuss the various ways they could get the plates, get back to 1926, and assorted other time travel conundrums. The idea of meeting Mérida was mooted, but I pointed out they would have no way of knowing when she stepped into the woods to go back in time. Which led to…

Me: That’s the problem with time travel. You need to know exactly where you’re supposed to go. Probably everybody watches the Hindenburg burn…or, you know, why there were fifteen shooters when JFK was in Dallas.
MP: Couldn’t they just meet at Woodstock instead?
Me: …you know, that’s probably why so many more people say they were there than actually went…]

View
Episode XVI: Ashes to Ashes (Part 2)

Jimmy called Ruby’s guest cabin up near Arrowhead Lake, where the Cuevases were taking their honeymoon.

“Hellooo,” purred Ruby into the receiver when she picked up.

“We’re going to be time traveling. Pack your gear.”

“James?”

“I’ll be there in about two hours.” The phone went dead.

“Geronimo,” said Ruby, when she got back to the bedroom, “We go to war.”

He put out his cigarette. “What?”

“We’ll be doing some time traveling.”

“What!”

“Is that really any less normal than what we’ve been doing? Bring your sword.”

“We finally had some peace,” grumbled Geronimo. “Some normalcy.”

“We’ve done nothing normal,” said Ruby with bedroom eyes.



They all finally met up at the old Spanish-style building that housed LSAS’s headquarters. Ruby heard banging noises from the basement and looked at Jimmy.

“It’s all right,” he said. “It’s an old friend.”

They went down into the basement, not without some trepidation. The huge iron canister that had been installed in one corner was shaking violently. Something was pounding the hell out of it—from the inside.

Rivets popped. The seams began to split. Steam and cold air puffed out. Then the canister split down the side as the final blow ripped it apart with an earsplitting bang.

Salty water poured across the basement. A cloud of condensation, cold, clammy, drifted over them. And Something came out of the ruined shell.

It was tall, perhaps ten feet tall. Most of it was a conical body, broad at the base and tapering to a height of about eight feet. It was covered in wrinkled skin, with feathers or quills ruffling along its sides. Two long tentacles sprouted from the apex of the cone; they writhed in the air menacingly, the large lobster-like claws at their tips clacking harshly. From the tip of the apex rose a long stalk, slender and flexible, and at the top of the stalk was a balloon-like head of some sort. A mass of slender worm-like flagellae wriggled beneath three goggling eyes, and flower-like growths waved back and forth even though there was no breeze. A third tentacle attached to the apex behind the stalk, and at the end of it was a cluster of four bell shaped growths that looked like trumpet mouths.

The third tentacle raised in the air, and Kakakatak spoke.

Its voice was astonishingly beautiful, filled with overharmonies and suspended tones, like a chorus backed with a woodwind orchestra. “Greetings,” it said.

“I really did sound horrible,” said Jimmy, remembering the time he had briefly inhabited the Yithian’s body.

“Yes. You sounded like a rake on a chalkboard,” came the mellifluous response.

“I’m not a savant.”

“I am Kakakatak,” said the Yithian.

“We guessed,” said Dr. Orange, clearly shaken.

If a Yithian could shrug, Kakakatak would have. “I never get to make the entrance I want,” it said.

[4 point Stability loss for everyone here.]

“Jimmy,” said Geronimo, hand reaching inside his coat for his pistol, “is this thing dangerous?” He eyed the enormous claws nervously.

“Absolutely. But he’s as much of a friend as something like that can be.”



Kakakatak helped build or finish building several pieces of equipment. Dr. Orange was curious how he managed to do that with such clumsy claws.

“I use my head tentacles,” said the Yitihian, using his head tentacles to solder a circuitboard.

“Can you make a charger for my lightning gun?” asked Jimmy.

“They run on alternating current. Just plug it into the wall; if you don’t have the cable, you can get one at the hardware store.”

“You never…just plugged in in?” said Geronimo.

Jimmy shook his head. “I need a drink,” he said.

The main piece of equipment Kakakatak worked on was a strange device, a headdress of some kind, a complicated affair of lenses and mirrors—a Yithian mind-exchange device, it explained.

“You just happened to have one?” said Dr. Orange.

Jimmy shrugged. “Been doing this a long time.”

“Geronimo,” said Kakakatak, “this transition will be harder for you, since you did not make the trip to 1519. But fortunately there was another man who did; the others found him in the pyramid. I should warn you…there will be a period of adjustment.”

“What was he like?” asked Geronimo.

“Well,” began Ruby, “he was Mexican…”

Geronimo grimaced. “Will I have my weapons?”

“Of course not,” said Kakakatak. “I’m only sending your mind back. You people want everything! Anyone else personally arrive on Earth during the Mesozoic? Yeah, didn’t think so.”

After about twenty hours of nonstop work, the Yithian was finished with his preparations. “You can make the trip to 1519 as soon as you are ready,” it told them.

“I will literally never be ready,” said Dr. Orange.

The device that the Yithian and Tesla had built—they were superbly well coordinated—was a large complex of arcing electrodes, humming transformers, and clacking relays. Five chairs were mounted in the midst of all this equipment. A Tesla coil sparked somewhere behind the chairs.

They had barely sat down when Tesla threw a switch and they were somewhere else.

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Episode XVI: Ashes to Ashes (Part 1)

It seems so long ago that I asked you about what happens after the happy ending. So much blood and murder and now, maybe, we’re almost to another ending. (Happy or not I’ll leave to you to decide.) But now I want to know: would they do it all over again, if they could? And if they could, what would they change? Humans are always complaining about how the gods they despise have arbitrary powers of life and death and change. (And they always despise them, mon hypocrite lecteur, no matter what the devotionals say.)

But give humans those powers, and the story changes, doesn’t it? Then it becomes all about satisfying yourself, or at best the tragic way that you can’t satisfy yourself without making everything worse.

Even our heroes are like that, I think. When faced with these ultimate questions, when the bill for saving the world finally comes due, what will they pay?

We’re about to find out. But I’ll tell you what Jimmy will pay.

Everything that makes him a hero.



Dr. Orange had taken an office in Ruby’s headquarters for the Los Angeles Society for Archaeological Studies. While he and the others had been away, an enormous metal tank had been delivered to the Society and installed in the basement, although none of them knew who had ordered such a thing. Dr. Orange guessed that Jimmy was involved somehow. He couldn’t have been more right, of course.

He had been back in L.A. for three days when the letter from Nikola Tesla arrived.

The thick packet, written out in a cramped nineteenth century handwriting, described a process the Serbian called “Chronophotography”; it described a certain kind of film, that needed to be loaded in a certain kind of camera, and then exposed for a 24 hour period at a location suspiciously close to Samson Trammel’s new Temple of Joy. The last part of the letter detailed how to develop the film using emulsions to raise thin layers of chemicals from the film.

Dr. Orange was beyond—well beyond—the necessity of trying to understand the unusual things that happened to him; he grabbed a couple of grad students at Caltech and set up the camera at the spot Tesla indicated.

[1 point Chemistry spend to pull this off.]

When he saw the film, he was disappointed that it seemed to be solid black and overexposed. Nonetheless, he tried following the instructions and soon discovered the film was black because it contained hundreds of images superimposed on each other. As he struck prints off of the results, he discovered that it seemed to depict the same scene, over and over again, each image different to a greater or lesser degree from the rest.

Based on the angle of the shadows, the images seemed to be slightly in the future. And each showed him and Ruby, Jimmy, and Geronimo attacking the Temple of Joy and being cut down in various gruesome ways.

He took the results to Jimmy. “I got this information from Nikola Tesla. Does that sound plausible?”

Jimmy twitched. “I met him once. But he wasn’t really Tesla.”

“Good response. The results seem to show that Trammel is expecting us. That wouldn’t be good. Strategy isn’t my department, I just develop the crazy photographs…and there’s more. Based on what Job was working on, this looks like the successive iterations of a time loop of some kind.”

“We need to get plans for Trammel’s place,” said Jimmy, ignoring that last part.

“Already done. At least, here’s the plans he filed with the city. As for the rest, well, Tesla said he’s coming to L.A.”

[Bureaucracy spend by the Doc.]

“Let’s make lunch plans.”



Jimmy, Dr. Orange, and Millicent met Tesla at Musso and Frank’s, which seemed an appropriate place to have a kaffeeklatsch about the end of the world. Also, the brisket; have you tasted it there? Tesla greeted them warmly. “Dr. Orange, a pleasure to meet you. Still thinking spacetime is curved? I’m very happy to see you. As I am to see you,” he said, looking sharply at Jimmy, “old friend.”

Called it, thought Jimmy.

“Allow me to explain,” said Tesla. “The person you know as Nikola Tesla is a complicated multidimensional entity. Oh, he was born a human in Serbia many years ago, as you can see—this body is kind of falling apart here. But Tesla was a very strange human being. The Great Race of Yith is generally able to swap consciousnesses with human beings, sending the human mind into the Yithian receptacle. But for a very small number of humans, it is possible for a Yithian mind to coexist with the human mind in the same body. This is what our Renegade did. He was my job to catch, which is how I met Jimmy all those years ago.”

“So the body you’re using is the body you were sent to catch?” said Millicent.

“Yes.”

“You never caught him?” said Jimmy.

“He went through the portal, remember? The point I’m trying to make is that I was going to return home to the Yithian consciousness.”

The others stared blankly.

“Right. Let me explain. Yithians can project their minds forward in time. Obviously, this will change time when it happens. So we branch. There are separate iterations of our ‘selves’ that exist throughout the timestream. Periodically, we merge them back together. There is a Yithian group consciousness. Not a hive mind, but something we all share; this is how we can look at time and say, ‘this can never be, this is all right to change, and this must happen.’”

“So Yithians are fifth dimensional beings is what you’re saying,” said Dr. Orange.

Tesla chortled. “Oh, you’re so cute! It’s like watching a kitten play with a string! Five dimensions…to continue, in late 1926 I planned to return to the Yithian consciousness only to discover that we all were trapped inside a time loop between 1926 and 1937. We are approaching the period where the loop will turn and we will return to 1926…not that any of you will remember.”

“Is this like running a simulation, like they were telling us, over and over?” asked Millicent.

“No…well…maybe. We don’t know. We understand the simulation hypothesis. Some of us believe it enough that we have begun making a world outside of time that we can live in. You’ll be pleased to know that we’re using human as the baseline for the form we will take on that planet.”

“Really?” said Jimmy.

“Yes. We’re going to add some improvements. Some…redundancy in the major organs, I think.”

[Perhaps I should have had Tesla wear a long striped scarf…]

“So we have the time loop, and outside the time loop, and outside the world,” began Millicent.

“We say loop. It’s more like a vortex. It keeps coming back and back and back…”

“So like when you flush a toilet.”

“…yes. Later events can affect prior events…but prior events have an inertia that draws them into the vortex. If you went back to say 1519—I’ll get to that—you’d have no way of avoiding being drawn into the time loop even if you tried to jump past it. The only way to stop the loop is to go to 1926 and stop it.”

“But we can’t travel in time,” said Dr. Orange.

“I’ll get to that too. But first I think we need to consult with my colleague. The Prime consciousness.”

Everyone stared blankly again.

“Right, I left you behind again. Sorry.”

“You’ve got multiple yous,” said Millicent.

“Precisely. But more importantly, there is one version of Kakakatak that was placed in a very special body we constructed back in the Pliocene. Because we knew that someone was going to try and pull a Yithian out of time. We made a trap body, a body advanced enough that its consciousness is preserved through the time loop. Unlike Tesla’s body; every time I go through the loop, I have to be updated by the Prime.”

“This is why the pantsuit was so important,” said Millicent.

“Yes. Wait a minute…Ruby wasn’t wearing a dress? Is your insurance paid up? Asking for a friend.”

“Well, I don’t have a company anymore, so no,” said Jimmy.

“Ah. Because of the pantsuit…well…yes, but not exactly…imagine a butterfly…”

“Mr. Wright, was this something I did?” asked Millicent while Tesla tried to draw a butterfly in the amazon and an earthquake in Crete on his napkin.

“It’s what we all did,” said Dr. Orange, “all of us in this loop. But if we go forward to the past, we can fix it.”

Tesla, disappointed nobody was paying attention to the diorama he was constructing with a pair of peppermills, looked at Dr. Orange. “You do know where a time machine is, of course.”

“The pyramid in the Yucatan,” said Dr. Orange.

“Yithians understand time machine technology, but we don’t use them.”

“You don’t seem to need them.”

“That’s not the reason though. A time machine is a paradox generator; if you use them, you will create a paradox. There’s a much lesser chance when you use psychic time travel; the seventeen dimensional math works out much better. As it turns out, it is possible to send you outside the loop because of a curious twist of fate: in 1519, you used a time machine to visit Gol-Goroth…a completely tactless entity, we don’t like to talk to it.”

“And?” said Jimmy.

“You don’t think your physical bodies travelled into another dimension? Your minds did. When you returned, well, constructing a new, identical body for you was trivial for that entity…except for Millicent. She’s…strange. So he just asked you to reconstruct yourself, my dear, out of your own consciousness. Your original bodies are in 1519, without minds.”

“We have other bodies there?” said Dr. Orange.

“Precisely. Eventually your bodies will die, but you’ll still be here.”

“So…could we return to them? Psychically?”

“Precisely, doctor! And then take the time machine to 1926!”

“Can you return us to the same timestream if we use the machine?”

“If you can get to the singularity, we can attack it from both sides. I will use Yithian techniques to branch your consciousness; you will be in 1926 and 1937 simultaneously. Of course, we don’t know what the Echevarría ritual was precisely; I suggest you investigate this in the past.”

“So what happens if we close the loop to our bodies in 1937?” said Dr. Orange.

“There will be some…sorting out. Look, I’m not saying we’re not going to get our hair mussed on this one.”

“Will we know?”

“Yes! Probably.”

“That’s not good then. I’d rather pretend that I’m me.”

“So we’ll retain memories of all this?” said Jimmy.

“You’re time travelers, so yes…I could help you sort it out. As for me, I’ll return to the Yithian consciousness, so this branch of Kakakatak will probably be erased.”

“What are we supposed to do in 1926?” said Millicent.

Something must change,” said Tesla. “If events happen the way they did, then the loop will reoccur. But it’s not sufficient to change them only on one side or the other, because of the inertia of events. The singularity must be destroyed simultaneously.”

[GP: Ohhhh time travel…
OP: This is like Terminator time travel.
Me: I made a chart to measure paradox…and I watched Primer

In fairness to myself, re-reading this I think I laid it out pretty well—there’s a loop, it has an inertia that doesn’t let you just circumvent it, and you have to close the loop on both sides. Now, if I had paid more attention to just how that was supposed to work…]



“By the way,” said Tesla over coffee, “did a large metal container arrive at your office?”

“Yeah, it’s in the basement,” said Jimmy.

“Good, then I’m here.”

“The Prime consciousness is in the tank?”

“Yes. It took a long time to track it down in the Australian Outback.”

“I have a question,” said Dr. Orange. “What happens if you go back in time and kill your own grandfather before your father was born? Then your father never existed, so you can’t exist, but then how did you kill…”

“Yeah, don’t do that,” said Kakakatak. “Seriously, what kind of a person would you do that? If you do that, my people will fix it…and you won’t like it when we fix it.”

“I get it!” said Millicent. “Time’s a spiral!” She drew a corkscrewing line on her napkin. “Here’s us in 1937. There’s our bodies in 1519. And here’s where we’ll be in 1926. It’s like we’ll be on three different floors of a building with one of those long spiral staircases.”

“Yes,” said Kakakatak. “Like the Guggenheim Museum in New…wait. Sorry, spoilers.”

“You already spoiled me about Florida,” said Jimmy.

“You got the postcard? Yeah, you might want to be very careful during 1963.”

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Episode XV: Heart of Darkness Alibi (Part 9)

The first thing they noticed was that it was very cold. The second thing was that they could barely breathe. Most of them at this point noticed the blue sky above them.

They seemed to be buried up to their necks in snow. Ruby couldn’t see Geronimo. Mount Kailash soared above them. Some men were running towards them. They wore Thibetan clothes.

Ruby crawled up out of the snow as hands pulled her up. She began to dig around frantically. Her prosthetic was missing again.

The Sherpas surrounded them. “Is there anyone else?” one barked in English.

“Two other men,” said Millicent.

“We will look. Get poles!”

Millicent clambered up to the top of the snow. She helped the Sherpas locate Geronimo, who had been buried by a rockslide. A particularly large boulder, roughly man-shaped, had pinned him to the ground.

He was hurt the worst of them, but not seriously enough that he could not be moved after a few days. A British patrol met them at the Indian frontier a week later, after a long winding trip through the steep roads of the high mountain country.

After that their trip got much more comfortable. And so they finally came to rest in New Delhi, in a very clean military hospital.



They never did find Satan Sherpa, you know; Millicent looked for a while but never found any indication that he came down the mountain with them.

I haven’t bothered to check, but if you like you can take my assurance that somewhere at the very summit of Mount Kailash is the frozen, bare-bottomed arse of a certain Sherpa, pointed straight up in the air at the revolted heavens.

It’s what I would do.

Or if it makes you feel better, maybe he fell off the Holy Mount, tossed by an angry god or the very rocks themselves, and his broken bones are buried beneath a rockslide in some valley no profane foot would ever tread.

Make up your minds, loves. Decide which fiction you want to believe. It’s all you ever had, really, isn’t it? At least if you listen to the little man.

Or to me.



Jimmy was soon up on his feet and staying in a small guest cottage on the base. Janet finally came to see him. She was dressed nicely in a sleeveless dress. Her upper right arm was bandaged.

In her hands was a small jewelry box.

“I don’t know what to say about this, Jimmy,” she said. “Was this…just to make me feel better? Because I’m feeling much better. They had to do surgery to cut the stone out my arm…but I should get full use of it again.”

“I promised you I’d get it done.”

“Yes, you did.” She sat down next to him. “You are looking a little worse for wear.”

They stared out across the plaza as men in khakis drilled in the afternoon sun.

“So you really want to go through with this?” said Janet, finally.

“I meant it.”

“Then can we wait until we get back to Los Angeles?”

“I’d like nothing better,” said Jimmy, and kissed her.



Ruby Fitzgibbons and Geronimo Cuevas were married in a small chapel on the base, by the Catholic chaplain from one of the Irish units. Jimmy was the best man, of course, and Millicent served as maid-of-honor.

Dr. Orange cried throughout the ceremony. “Get off my man, bitch,” he muttered in German.

“For God’s sake, man up,” said Janet, who was sitting next to him.

Ruby wore a dress as white as she dared. Geronimo wore a tuxedo, rather than his regimentals; the uniform of his bleeding, almost expired nation was too painful to consider.

In the churchyard a clump of British soldiers were throwing rice at them, led by the Sparrow. “Good, you’ve got this out of the way. Some things have come up,” she said.

“I need to find my mother, my sister, and my body,” said Millicent miserably.

“Fortunately, I’m under the Official Secrets Act and don’t have to think too hard about what you just said. All of you are too, I’m afraid; anything you say about this is potentially treason against the British Empire.”

She walked with them to the staff car the Colonel of a cavalry regiment had graciously leant Geronimo. “I still have a few contacts in what’s left of Epsilon Sigma,” continued the Sparrow. “They’re not doing too well. Probably for the best…and Mina’s wrath is pretty dreadful. I hope I never cross her. She’s very scary.”

She held out a letter to Dr. Orange. “This was addressed to a Dr. Orange of the Federal Department of Health by a certain Dr. Keaton of the Joy Grove Asylum, Savannah, Georgia.”

Dr. Orange flipped through the letter. “Edgar Job escaped,” he said. “Nobody is sure how he did it. He seemed to vanish from his cell.”

“Probably did,” said Ruby.

“And Doug Henslowe attacked a nurse, stole an ambulance, and has also vanished.”

“There’s one last thing,” said the Sparrow. “I’m not sure if it means anything to you. According to astronomers at Greenwich Observatory, a dark cloud of interstellar dust is moving through our solar system at a rather high speed…and this the explanation for why the stars seem to be going out.”

Nobody said anything for a long time.

“Is there any assistance I might render?” said the Sparrow at last.

“I need a new arm,” said Ruby. “And a spare.”

“Our armorers can take care of you.”

“Is Vanessa safe?” said Millicent.

“We delivered her back to Los Angeles. According to our agents, she is currently staying at the New Temple of Joy in some place called ‘The Valley’.”

“We will honeymoon in Los Angeles,” said Geronimo.

“But not on the plane,” said Jimmy.

“Just try and stop me!” said Ruby.



Once again the Sparrow arranged for them to have clearance at British bases, with relief pilots to keep the Brightening Dawn in the air as long as possible, and refueling stops in the Azores and the Caribbean so that they could cross the Atlantic.

On the way, Jimmy put his ring on Janet’s finger while she was awake. They tried not to notice the awkward contrast between their nervous affection and the way that Ruby and Geronimo were practically bonded at several important points on their bodies.

Once they were back in Los Angeles, Jimmy got in touch with the remnants of his organization. Samson Trammell had recovered from his wounds. The old Temple in Echo Park was too damaged to even consider rebuilding. So he had bought a certain old farm, out in the Valley.

Jimmy didn’t even need to check to know that it was Echevarría’s farm. According to his people, he was moving some very heavy machinery out to the new Temple.

[So, first I gave everyone 2 points of Sanity—killing the Liar was worth it.

Geronimo made Ruby his new Solace, since he had challenged his Statement, and because it was SO appropriate.

Jimmy made a Credit Rating spend to dig up the lead-in clues for the Finale.

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