It was a quiet day at the Amherst Hotel and everything was going precisely according to schedule; the cooks cooked, the housekeepers left out chocolates, and the customers were content.
Down in the main entryway of the hotel, in the middle of his annoyingly perky introduction, the desk clerk's face abruptly froze in a curious mixture of horror and disapproval. A disprepuably dirty and wind-swept woman in a scruffy pilot's outfit had confidently swept into the hotel, leaving oily footsteps in her wake on the white marble.
Striding up to the counter, Camille nonchalantly rang the bell - when the clerk ignored her in favor of cleaner guests, she called out somewhat louder than neccessary, "M'excuser, monsieur?" When she finally had his (albeit not respectful) attention, Camille inquired what Mr. Starkweather's room number was, as she urgently had to speak with him. She was informed in return that Mr. Starkweather was out on business for the day, and would she care for a refreshment in the nearby bar and salon?
Deciding that yes, she did, within the next five minutes Camille found herself nursing a single glass of gin on the rocks (hold the gin) and glaring at the response letter to the odious expedition leader. If giving her less sarcasm-filled version to the Times hadn't gone off so smoothly, she'd be well on her way to joining the enebriated fellow to her left. Glancing over at the snoring sod slumped over his glass and that day's paper, she wondered if he'd notice if she did his crossword.
Hold on a tic... Snatching the paper out from under the man's beefy arm, Camille's eyes's excidedly scanned the headline and following words. "Mayor to deliver opening words at S-ME Fundraiser... ...to be held on August 14 at the Amherst Hotel ballroom." "Well well, Monsieur Starkweather. I think I found my invitation." Now to see about getting a room...
As Camille flew into New York, New York, she was greeted with her first view of the majestic, sprawling city. The Statue of Liberty welcomed her to the harbor, numerous large ships were moving amongst their docks, and the island towers beckoned. Passing over the city, she saw the flow of civilization through its arteries and many connecting bridges. The dark green of Central Park stood in stark contrast to its surrounding concrete barriers.
After landing and shutting down her craft, she collected her things and opened the hatch, immediately finding herself assaulted by a wave of simmering, heavy July heat. She was expecting some relief after many hours in the hot, stale confines of the plane's cabin, but instead found it difficult to breath and extremely uncomfortable.
But, as one who enjoyed a challenge, she quickly shouldered her gear, climbed down the short ladder to the runway, and began the remainder of her journey to the Amherst Hotel.
Departing from your transport in front of the Amherst Hotel, one block from Times Square, you stand, sweating in the sticky heat, staring at the large, stately edifice. Despite being dwarfed by the many new skyrakers in the city, it possesses an impressive charm and elegance. As the buses, automobiles, and pedestrians swarm around it through the streets, you gaze at the granite arches rising up to meet story upon story of the deep-red brick exterior with tan edging. Terraces of greenery are perched at the upper levels.
You move towards the massive entranceway and a doorman, outfitted in deep burgundy trousers and blazer trimmed with gold, opens the door for you while smiling and pleasantly announces "Welcome to the Amherst Hotel."
The hotel lounge is expansive, inviting, and the smell of fresh-cut flowers wafts past you on a slight breeze. Deep burgundy rugs, ornamental gold trim, and an amazing white marble lobby desk catch your eye.
The coral-colored clouds in the azure sky herald the rising sun as the Hidatsu Maru sails up the East River, the twin-red-striped white flag of the NYK Line snapping in the breeze. The change in the pitch of the engines as the pilot boat came alongside the passenger-freighter woke Paco in his stateroom, and he made his way on deck to stand in the moist, warm morning air to watch the ship’s arrival. Across the Lower Bay he can make out the Statue of Liberty, to the northeast the skyline of Manhattan.
- / -
The announcement of the gala celebration for the expedition caught Paco by surprise. He quickly dashed off a note to Starkweather indicating that he would do his best to be in New York City at the appointed time, followed by a feverish request to the American consulate in Santiago for the necessary visa. Next came arranging passage on a ship from Valpariso to New York. What seemed like many weeks suddenly seemed like only a moment as Paco hastily made his preparations.
- / -
The South Street Seaport is rousing along with the rest of the city as Paco walks down the gangplank, carrying his trunk on his back, the orange-and-green NYK luggage tag dangling as he steps onto land. Inside was his clothing and gear, save for his skis and snowshoes – there was simply no way to fit them efficiently into the trunk, and the experienced mountaineer knew that the sea voyage could be unkind to the polished wood. Wagering that he could purchase a new pair in America, Paco stripped off his bindings and straps and packed the hardware for the trip, leaving the boards with the matron at the hosteria for his return.
- / -
The Hidatsu Maru traveled the west coast of South America, passing through the Panama Canal, then crossing the Caribbean before striking the east coast of North America. By day Paco spent his time on deck, weather permitting, watching the restless sea, the passing shore, the dolphins that congregated at the bow, the birds that tailed along behind. To keep fit he performed calisthenics, chinning himself on overhead pipes in the passageways, chimneying the space between bulkheads, stretching his muscles to keep limber. At night he would practice his English with one of the stewards, a young fellow named Kogi from Yokohama, or study the map of Antarctica that José has so thoughtfully sent to him.
- / -
The port official studies the passport and visa carefully – apparently something about a Chilean arriving on a Japanese passenger-cargo ship doesn’t sit right with him, or perhaps the novelty sparks his interest. Paco shifts uncomfortably in his shoes. He considers showing the little man the copy of Starkweather’s letter – that may only confuse things further, he decides at last, and continues to wait as the official considers the documents. Finally he stamps the passport and the visa and hands them back to Paco, a hint suspicion at the corners of his eyes – the date on the stamp reads 10 August 1933. I have three days, Paco thinks, pleased at the timing.
Exiting the terminal at last, Paco finds a taxi. “Grand Central Station, por favor,” he says, a bit nervously.
- / -
The city was overwhelming.
Nothing in Paco’s experience prepared him for the looming skyscrapers, the throngs of cars and people, the rush and bustle of activity that seemed to be carrying him along like a stick in a mountain freshet. The cabby was surly but efficient, delivering the mountaineer before the impressive portico of the railway terminal.
A burly police officer twirling a baton on a lanyard watched Paco closely as he waited in line at the ticket counter. Reaching the window at last, a pretty girl in a print dress gave him a business-like smile as he pulled out a slip of paper from his pocket and slides it across the counter. “New Paltz, por favor, señorita,” he says with a shy smile.
- / -
The Wallkill Valley line of the New York Central follows the winding path of the Wallkill River on its way to New Paltz. The trip takes more than an hour, but Paco is relieved to be out of the city and among the hills and forests of the Shawangunk Mountains.
The humid air is thick and warm as Paco finally reaches his destination in the late afternoon. Stepping onto the platform of the tiny rural rail station, he gazes past the town at the rocky ridge beyond. It is as he pictured it from the descriptions from Franz Weissner quoted in the Club Andino Bariloche newsletter that José forwarded before he left Valdivia.
Paco arranges to leave his trunk at the railway station, shouldering only his rucksack containing his climbing and camping gear as he sets off to explore the crags a few miles distant. Saturday I am yours, Señor Starkweather, but until then, I climb for me.
"Room service! I have the information you requested," Piped an irritating, nasal voice through the door of the suite. Without waiting for a response, a rotund, graying housekeeper shoved the door open, triumphantly brandishing a stack of paper. The poor housekeeper's face twisted in confusion at the perplexing sight he saw.
A miniscule French woman dresssed in a pilot's uniform was curled on top of a nearby footrest, tugging on a pair of steel-tipped boots using her mouth and right hand and attempting to spray what smelled like aftershave on herself with the other hand. The reason why the bed wasn't used instead was immedietally apparent: the entire surface of the bed was covered but numerous pamphlets and flyers as well as various pieces of her flight ensemble.
The portly housekeeper nervously edged into the room, looking ready to bolt. He cautiously asked where he should put these new papers down, as they would topple the already-untidy stacks on the bed.
Jerking her head in the general direction of the bed, the tiny pilot spewed muffled blasphemies in a mix of French and Russian as whatever was in the spritzer bottle caught her full in the face.
The bi-lingual cuss did the poor cleaner in: pratically throwing the papers at the bed, the corpulent housekeeper fled out the door.
Giving an irritated sigh, Camille finished tying off her footwear and commenced gathering up the discarded paper and adding it to the pile on the bed. Camille sank down on the bed and started sifting through the piled up agglomeration.
Camille had gotten her idea by studying the article about the gala even further; there had been mention of the fundraiser being open to university students. Thus, the idea: disguise herself and/or pull enough strings to do the equivalent.
The multitude was mostly made up of college flyers and applications; names such as the Columbia Institute of the Chiropractic and St. Joseph's College and were quickly replaced with such things as the New York University College of Dentistry. She eventually decided on a physic's student from St. Joseph's College.
All she had to do now was look like a student and act like one, as well as convincing the universities' scholars to go along with whatever she did. Luckily, she had an advantage in this area: her mother's best friend, Turiau Allvoz, (he whom had driven her to New York) had connections in just this college, which was why she had chosen it. She just had to find Turiau at wherever he was staying, chum up with him while he chatted about the old days, then dress the part. Easy as pie.
Quickly running over to the adjoining lavatory, Camille ran water over her face to dilute the overpowering funk of the remaining aftershave. That done, she pulled on her pilot's jacket (with her response to Starkweather in the pocket) and sprung out the door, leaving swirling letters in her wake.
Vittorio stretches his limbs as he exits from the passenger car, the long trip from Chicago finally over. The Wisconsin air is fresh and mild, and he easily finds a cab driver willing to make the four hour journey to Sayner. Vittorio reads over the short response from Eliason regarding his visit once on the road. Its tone was very positive, and Vittorio had a suspicion that he might be the most important client the inventor had received yet. Pulling into the small town, the Italian easily found Eliason’s General Store and Supply. Entering the small but well-equipped establishment, he found an uninterested clerk who pointed him around back.
The workshop was obviously tacked on to the back of the larger building, but it was well-kept and clean, even though if one looked carefully one could see the cracks in the walls where the structure was less than perfect. A slender man stood working over a welder, mounting a subframe to a bulky metal lattice. When Vittorio approached, he whipped off the face shield and introduced himself with vigor. “Carl Eliason at your service, sir!”
The next three hours were spent in conversation regarding the capabilities of the motor toboggan. Vittorio came away from the experience confident that the sleds could be of use in the harsh terrain of the Antarctic, but relieved that Starkweather had agreed to bring a full set of dogs as well. While Eliason obviously put his heart and mind fully into each of the creations, every sled was in practice a prototype, with improvements made to each one as it left the shop. Eliason had already taken the time to contact former buyers and found three persons willing to sell their sleds during these summer months.
It took over a month to complete the construction, but Vittorio learned quite a bit regarding the construction and upkeep of the sleds during his stay. Come August 7th, five Eliason Motor Toboggans stood packed in travel crates at the train station in Green Bay, with a third crate full of maintenance supplies and extra parts, including two extra complete engines. The trip back to New York went without drama, and come August 14th, Vittorio was standing at the entryway of the Amherst Hotel’s luxurious ballroom, tugging at the tails of his tuxedo and straightening his bowtie in a vain effort to look comfortable in the formal clothing. Finally giving up with a harrumph, he strides into the room with the gait of a mechanic, a sore thumb among the social elite of the scientific strata of New York.
ooc: My roll was a three which means two new and three used toboggans, right? I’ll edit if need be.
Annie is sitting on the sofa in her living room, a glass of dry white wine in her hand. A breeze that falls just short of being cool comes in through the wide open windows, stirring the curtains.
Her friends are here now. They have come to say goodbye on this, the night before her departure. By the fireplace stands her best friend and tennis partner, Louise, a statuesque blond; she has brought along her bland husband, Kenneth. Also in attendance are fellow faculty members Gary McDonald and Geoffrey Cancilla. It was Geoffrey who had come to her and prevented her hasty departure last month. Stay and finish your contract, he'd pleaded. And she had listened.
Now she glances uneasily at the trunk and assorted bags at the front door. What am I heading into? What can I say to Mr. Starkweather to ensure a spot on the expedition?
"Well," she says at last, smiling and turning back to her friends. "I'm currently trying to choose between seduction and blackmail."
Louise laughs loudly, tossing back her head. "That's my girl!" Her husband looks mortified.
Gary smirks and sits on the arm of the chair opposite Annie. "I don't see why you should have to choose. Do both!"
Annie shakes her head, laughing. "Seriously, though. I don’t think Mr. Starkweather is the type to toy with. He strikes me as powerful and dangerous. I’m sure I’ll come up with something once I’m there."
"If he doesn't take you, then it's his loss. There's no one better," says Gary, refilling her wine glass. "You can always come back to the hospital anyways."
Annie grimaces. "I think I'm through with the hospital. I want more, and while I'm still young."
She gets up from the sofa and walks over to one of the windows. She will miss, she realizes, this little apartment and the scents rising up from the surrounding gardens on these perfect summer evenings.
"Well, I for one have no idea what I'll do without you around, Annie," announces Louise. "Where will I find such a good tennis partner?"
"And with whom will I share brunch and faculty gossip on Saturday mornings?" asks Geoffrey. "You always seem to know what's really going on."
"I say we all have a drink to the lady of the hour!" says Gary, lifting his glass. "To Annie!"
Annie blushes, raises her glass with the rest of them and drinks, but then turns her back once more to look out the window. Then Geoffrey is next to her, bumping her gently with his shoulder.
"It's not too late to back out. Are you really sure about this?" he asks quietly.
She nods. "I've never been more sure."
* * *
The following afternoon, Annie has left it all behind and is aboard a train travelling across the lush green landscape of New York, but thinking about the barren ice plains of the Antarctic.
“Ah, Mr. Starkweather’s Expedition. And your name?” asked the smartly-dressed manager behind the lobby desk. Receiving your response, he expertly thumbed through a leather portfolio of 5” X 7” cards and crisply snapped a blue one from the pack.
“Please verify this information for our hotel and sign the bottom,” he requested, handing you the card along with a stylish black-and-gold fountain pen.
While you looked over your card and added your signature, the clerk pulled a keyring from his pocket, selected one key from among many, and used it to open a cabinet behind the desk. A shiny bronze roomkey attached to a leather keyring was produced and he immediately relocked the cabinet. The clerk turned and signaled a bellhop, who quickly moved behind the desk and received instructions.
The bellhop then retrieved a small cart and asked you to point out which luggage items were yours. He carefully placed each item on the cart as if it contained fine, crystalline glassware, then snapped to attention, looking back to the manager.
The manager smiled and briefed you about the hotel itself, where you could find the dining room and Amherst ballroom, mentioned their new elevator systems and trained operators, and provided instructions about how to reach the switchboard operator from your room if you needed anything. He then checked to see if you had any messages waiting for you (none were found), gave you your key, and pleasantly said “Our bellboy will now escort you to your room with your luggage. Please let us know if we can do anything to improve your stay.”
*************************************** INITIAL PLAYER ROOM ASSIGNMENTS
6th Floor – Room 623 (double occupancy room, paid by S-ME) Martin Leblanc James Poole
3rd Floor – Room 305 (single occupancy room, $10 per night, personally paid by Camille) Camille Bardier
4th Floor – Room 414 (single occupancy room, $10 per night, personally paid by Annie) Annie Mahoney
OOC - This is what I term a "setpiece event", an event in which all characters will essentially be presented with the same sequence of activities and/or interactions. There will be a number of these as we begin our campaign. Although it seems like I'm playing your character for you, you actually have the option of deviating from this script if you so desire. Simply describe in a post how your character reacts differently from the described event and we'll work through how your unique actions change the script for you. Be careful not to describe how the NPC's react since they may have objectives and motives that you are unaware of.
Jim Poole steps off of the train into the bustle of Grand Central Station, not for the first time. It has been quite a while since he has come to New York, and as before things change quickly in this town. He collects his trunk from the baggage car, and calls over a valet. "I'm headed to the Amherst hotel." he says straight to the man, his Midwest accent coming through all too easily. The colored man replies that there are cabs on the ground level, and proceeds to wheel Jim's trunk up the platform, and out to the main plaza. Again, it is a throng of people, each with their own agenda, each with a meeting to get to, a lover to greet, or a train to catch. Jim Poole just smiles a bit and follows the man out onto the street.
New York has changed a bit. A lot more automobiles are on the street now. So many in fact, that they rent themselves out as taxi services, like the coaches a few years back. Some are so bold as to advertise their services in bold colors emblazoned on the side of their autos. Henry Ford must be bendin' his britches over this, Jim thinks, seeing cars that are a color other than black for the first time. The valet loads his trunk in an auto, and he tips the man some coin. In a thick Eastern European, perhaps Jewish accent, the cabbie turns and asks, "Where to, buddy?" Jim smiles as he sits back, and says, "Amherst Hotel." He cab takes off like a bat out of hell, and after one of the wildest rides in Jim Poole's life, he pulls up outside the Hotel lobby.
A bellhop retrieves the trunk engraved J.R.P. from the back, and with the clink of some coins, the taxi tears off again. Jim steps into the grand lobby, and approaches the front desk. "Afternoon." he says, taking off his hat. "My name's James Poole. I believe I'm expected?"