TimeWatch RPG Playtest Story Hour (Updated 9-2-14)

Ladybird

First Post
Episode 2, Chapter 8: All Dacia is Divided Into Three Parts

Fortunately, one of the best libraries in Rome is right here in the Forum. Unfortunately, it's evening right now, so the library is closed.

"I suppose we'll have to wait until morning," Edward sighs.

"Or," Yves points out, "we could time travel to when it's open."

So we do. Because really, what's the point of being time travelers if you can't use your powers to make life more convenient for yourself!

There are actually two libraries in Trajan's Forum, one for Greek texts and one for Latin. We head for the Latin one: a long rectangular building with columns around the edges of the large central room.

The librarian looks at us with slight skepticism as we walk in. "Are you all Roman citizens?"

"Oh, of course!" Michel says, in a Reassuring sort of way. "All of us. We would like to see books on Julius Caesar's wars."

"Oh, you mean the Dacian Wars!" the librarian says. "Everyone knows the story of Julius Caesar's conquest of Dacia."

Right then.

So, from 60-50 BCE: Julius Caesar intercepted the hostile Helvetii in the neutral lands of Dacia and defeated them. Afterwards, the grateful Dacians joined Rome. While Julius Caesar was there, he discovered some profitable gold and silver mines. There was one expedition farther north to Lachia, but he doesn't seem to have established any permanent outpost.

In our timeline, Julius Caesar did fight against the Helvetii, just in a different place. They'd left their lands because of famine and went west, where he intercepted them in Gaul. So why did they go east?

Edward looks around for some geography books, to see if there are any clues or anomalies there. Is the land or climate different in this timeline, so that the Helvetii were prevented from going west? He finds a guide to Roman roads, which tells him that the Empire includes all of the Iberian peninsula, but only southern Gaul. Britannia, northern Gaul, and Belgium are all "allied nations," but not part of the empire as they were in our timeline. The Empire goes a little farther east - to the Tigris/Euphrates valley -but not dramatically. The main expansion seems to be to the northeastern part of Europe.

Also, nobody thinks Gaul is profitable enough to want to conquer it. The Roman empire is much more interested in mining gold and silver, and that's found more in eastern Europe than the west. Because of that interest, their mining tech is slightly ahead of where it should be. It doesn't seem to be anachronistically enhanced; they've just spent more time improving it.

So we're starting to focus in on the source of the discrepancy: something made the Helvetii go east, and something made the Romans want to focus on mining.

Once we know what to look for, we see differences everywhere. Tacitus's monumental book about the nobility of the barbarians who haven't been conquered by Rome is called 'Gallia' in this timeline, instead of 'Germania' as it is in ours. In this timeline, it's the Gauls, not the Germans, who are seen as the archetypical unspoiled barbarians, because Gaul has had so little contact with Rome. Edward looks for books on Britannia, of course, but can't find any.

We still need to figure out how Apollonius fits in, so we head to the natural philosophy section next. "Apollonius was more likely patsy than timetraveler?" suggests Michel, as we wait for the librarians to deliver our next round of books. It sounds reasonable to the rest of us. Apollonius is clearly part of this, but is clearly not the first link in the chain.

"What about Apollonius's friend Damis?" Edward asks. "Could he be the timetraveler?" If Apollonius is just a pawn, then his mysterious student/best friend sounds like a good possibility for a timetraveler.

Damis turns out to be even more mysterious than we thought. The stories can't even agree on whether Damis was a man or a woman!

"Maybe Damis is wearing an unobtrusiveness suit?" Mace suggests. "That might be why Damis sometimes appears to be a woman and sometimes a man. Or maybe Damis was multiple people - a team of timetravelers, each taking turns being Damis."

While we're poking around in the natural-philosophy section, looking for information about Apollonius, Mace and Michel notice that the section is larger than you might expect. In particular, there are a lot copies of Lucretius's 'De Rerum Natura.'

Lucretius is a contemporary of Julius Caesar: he wrote c80-c60 BCE, and 'De Rerum Natura' is a seriously weird book. It talks about the origin of the universe, the nature of matter, the origins of life, the nature of the body and soul, etc. Most notably, though, it talks about atoms, and in a strangely accurate way. He didn't get everything right - for instance, he believed that worms spontaneously generated out of compost heaps by some kind of compost-to-worm matter conversion - but he did get a lot right about atoms. Also, according to our tethers, nobody really knows when or how Lucretius died. Some say he drank a love potion, went mad, and disappeared.

In the editions of De Rerum Natura that we find in Trajan's Library, all of the stuff that Lucretius got wrong is gone, and all of the discussion of atoms is correct, and even expanded. So there's more evidence that future knowledge is being seeded back into the first century BCE, and specifically knowledge about atomic theory.

"So what's their overall goal?" Edward wonders.

"Blowing up Mecca and Medina," Henry reminds him.

"Oh. Um. Right," says Edward

"It might be the work of some of those lunatic Crusader timetravelers," Henry suggests.

Edward gets uncomfortably quiet about the Crusades. Then Henry does, too. These two are definitely racking up the mutual awkward silences.

Meanwhile, Michel does more research. First, he looks into Julius Caesar, to see what other divergences he can find from the timeline that we know from our tethers. The main one seems to be that the war between Caesar and Pompey seems to have been shorter, because Caesar had more wealth in the east from all of those mines he conquered. But he still got assassinated, right on schedule.

Before Julius Caesar, everything seems to be the same. The Punic Wars go just as we expect them to, and so do the Greek wars. The first big difference looks like it's when Julius Caesar invades Dacia instead of Gaul.

Michel has one more idea for a way to find out what Roman history and culture are like: the Aeneid. Edward remembers that there's a long 'prophecy' - history, from Virgil's perspective, but future, from Aeneas's perspective. (We can relate to the temporal confusion.)

There are several differences in the section that Edward and Michel check. The original said that Augustus would extend the empire from East to West, but here it says 'from the frigid waters of north to the warm waters of the Indian Ocean.' Again, there's that northward focus of the empire. The original had a few references to Lucretius the Wise, but this version gives Lucretius a long monologue, and quotes extensively from De Rerum Natura. Finally, there's a difference in Virgil's career overall. In our timeline, the big work that got Virgil noticed enough to get the job writing The Aeneid was a long poem called the Georgics, about farming. In this timeline, it's a poem about mining. By Virgil's time, the Roman Empire's biggest point of pride was its mines.

So we've got several places to go. Where do we go next? To talk to Apollonius? To talk to Lucretius? To check out the mine? To see what's going on with the Helvetii?

We decide on Lucretius: he's the earliest chronologically; he's a single person who's easy to locate in geography and time; and he shows obvious changes in his work that suggest some time-traveler interference.

Next time: off to find a crazy philosopher!
 

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Ladybird

First Post
Episode 2, Chapter 9: Poetry (and Poets) in Motion

We decide to look for the poet/philosopher Lucretius in 56 BCE, when he;s is in the middle of writing, or has already completed, his great work De Rerum Natura. That's also when Caesar's conquests are going on, so maybe we can get some more reliable info on what he's doing too, and why he and the Helvetii are all going east instead of west.

It's an easier trip than usual, since we're only traveling in time, not in space. We land in another Roman alleyway, which looks pretty similar to the Roman alleyway we landed in a few hours ago and 150 years in the future. The Romans outside the alley don't look the same, though. There are more people wearing togas, and fewer people who look like they've come from places outside Italy. We're definitely still in the Republic, not the Empire.

Michel, being Streetwise, finds a reliable-looking Random Roman to ask directions. "Have you heard of this poet Lucretius? I wanted to give him a commission."

Random Roman looks surprised. "Oh, yes, Lucretius Carus. He lives on the Aventine. But my good man, if you want to commission poetry to give your girlfriend, don't go to him. He doesn't write anything that she'll like. You know who you should go to instead? Catullus! Now he can write a poem that - "

"Oh, no!" Henry cuts him off, before Random Roman can talk in any more detail about exactly what kinds of poetry Catullus writes. (The answer: poetry that, when I read it in my intro Latin class in college, made me learn all sorts of new, interesting, and R-rated vocabulary words.) "He's planning to send it under the name of his rival," Henry explains. "That way, she'll think the rival is not only unromantic, but also missing something upstairs."

Random Roman is confused in a whole new way now. "Wouldn't it be easier to just send flowers?"

"Well, yes," Henry concedes, "but you're missing the difference between normal people and people like him." He gives a pointed look at Michel.

We've got our directions now, and we head up to the Aventine, into a neighborhood that's fairly swanky, but mostly apartment buildings rather than single-family villas. Most of the residents seem to be young wealthy bachelors. Yves feels instantly at home.

A slave greets us at the entrance to the building. "What are you doing loitering around?" The presence of slaves makes us feel uncomfortable again, but not as bad as it did in 1790s Georgia.

"Loitering?" Yves begins grandly. "Oh no! we are here to visit the great poet Lucretius!"

The slave regards Yves suspiciously. "What are your names?"

"Je m'appelle Yves…"

"…and we are representatives of a patron who wishes to remain nameless," Michel finishes smoothly. Equally smoothly, he slips the slave a bribe.

"Oh!" says the slave. "I understand. Second one on the left."

The apartment where the slave directs us is off of a central courtyard, its doorway covered by a curtain. Since there isn't a door, we knock on the wall.

Lucretius is on the border between middle-aged and old, with a whitish-gray beard, middle height, dark eyes, fairish skin for an Italian. His clothes are high-quality, but old. Most of his possessions are, too - he's clearly got money, but doesn't bother spending it very often.

But the most notable thing about Lucretius is that he seems a little…off. Our Timecraft-senses are picking up something odd about him. He's not out of his own time like Forrest, but he's a little wavery like Elizabeth. Not the most chronally stable of people. We're not surprised - we'd guessed that either he was getting help from timetravelers or traveling himself - but we're on our guard.

Yves takes the lead, since this is his sort of neighborhood, and since he's good at talking to wealthy poets. "We'd like to talk to you about your poetry," he begins. "We're great admirers of your work."

Lucretius waves a hand modestly. "Oh, I'm really just following in the footsteps of my masters, like Epicurus."

"But you have ideas that Epicurus never dreamed of!" Yves persists.

"Oh, no," says Lucretius. "I'm just putting it in language that Romans can understand."

"No, no, you're being too modest!" says Yves.

Michel does not Detect any Falsehoods, but we all detect some BS. Lucretius is telling the truth when he says he got some ideas from Epicurus, but he definitely isn't telling the whole truth.

Edward tries a slightly more direct approach: "We were very interested in what you had to say about atoms."

Henry becomes even more_direct. Intimidatingly so, even, as he begins to play Bad Cop. "Some highly placed people in the Senate are interested too," he says, looming closer to Lucretius. "We know you're passing secret military messages through your poetry. We need to know who you're sending them to."

Lucretius backs away, terrified and bewildered. "What? I'm not doing that! And - and - I have friends in the Senate too! Titus Memmius! Caesar! Cicero! Who sent you? Why are you doing this?"

"I'm not going to answer any of your questions!" Henry shouts. "You're going to answer mine!"

"Nobody gave them to me!" Lucretius flails.

"Then where are you getting them?" Henry presses.

"From great philosophers!" says Lucretius.

"From unpublished works?" Michel asks skeptically.

"Yes!" Lucretius says. "I'll show you!"

We all follow Lucretius very closely as he goes to get some scrolls. Henry cuts out the 'following' step and just barges into the apartment, with Edward right behind. We don't want to let Lucretius get away.

As it turns out, our instincts are correct. Lucretius goes over to a wooden chest and starts to reach in…and starts to shimmer faintly.

Henry shoots the chest.

Lucretius yells. A sudden burst of temporal instability waves out from the chest. Edward manages to hold fast, but Henry - right next to Lucretius - starts to feel a little unstable. A rosebush in the courtyard is even less fortunate than Henry - it Fades out.

Edward springs forward, tackling Lucretius to the ground. As he does, he notices that Lucretius has a little wooden box in his hand, with little metal wheels or gears on the front. "Get the box!" he shouts.

The others are rushing into the room by now, and Yves tries to help Edward pin the philosopher. Unfortunately, Yves is not very used to physical activity, and doesn't pin very effectively.

Mace and Michel both go for the box - Mace misses, but Michel succeeds. He grabs the box expertly out of Lucretius's hand while the philosopher is struggling with Edward and Yves.

Lucretius manages to wriggle free just long enough to grab the box back from Michel. While the rest of us chase after him, Lucretius starts to fiddle with those little gears on the box. We can tell he's prepping for time travel, probably to a pre-set place.

Fortunately, Lucretius is so distracted with the gears that even Yves can't miss this time when he attacks. Unfortunately, Yves is just a little too late. Lucretius vanishes, and so does the box.

In his place is a very confused boy of about 12, with red curly hair, with a scrubbing brush in his hand. "Oh! Sorry, sirs. Were you checking out the room?"

No Lucretius. No box. The wooden chest is there, but it's very heavily damaged from Henry's shot.

Sometimes, when there's a burst of temporal instability and someone leaps away to a different time, the timeline replaces them with another person from the local time, just to maintain some sort of continuity. So instead of our very suspicious philosopher, we have a very surprised young member of the cleaning crew.

Yves, ever hopeful, asks the boy, "You don't know a Lucretius Carus, do you?"

The boy shakes his head. "No, sorry. I'm Aiax, I work for the manager here. Sorry, didn't mean to disturb."

"It's all right," Edward sighs. "Go about your business."
 

Ladybird

First Post
Episode 2, Chapter 10: On Bugs and Bugs

Looks like we erased our primary lead. Oops.

Edward checks his tether, and discovers that Lucretius hasn't entirely disappeared from history. There was still a poet Lucretius, and he still wrote De Rerum Natura. And, just as the tether had told us before, he disappeared mysteriously in mid-50s BCE. Looks like we know how that mysterious disappearance happened.

One thing that is different, according to our tethers, is that one of the passages from De Rerum Natura is missing:

"All things, including the species to which you belong, have evolved over vast stretches of time. The evolution is random, though in the case of living organisms, it involves a principle of natural selection. That is, species that are suited to survive and to reproduce successfully, endure, at least for a time; those that are not so well suited, die off quickly. But nothing — from our own species, to the planet on which we live, to the sun that lights our day — lasts forever."

Apparently we prevented Lucretius from finding out more about evolution.

But, as we discover when we look in the chest, Lucretius has already been hopping around in time to do his research. The chest is full of notes. Some are written in Latin, but some are in modern French, and some in modern German. It's hard to puzzle them out, because even though they're written in modern languages, there are no spaces between the words, and no punctuation, just like the Latin writing of Lucretius's home time. Plus, there are lots of complicated equations mixed in. But Michel's knowledge of Science! helps us puzzle it all out. The notes in French are about radioactivity, and refer to the lecturer as 'she'; the notes in German are about relativity, and were taken at a lecture at Princeton University. Looks like Lucretius learned physics from the best: Marie Curie and Albert Einstein. Presumably, if we hadn't stopped him, he would have learned about evolution from Charles Darwin.

The tether can't tell us for certain if this handwriting is Lucretius's, because there aren't any known documents in his own handwriting. There was only one known manuscript of De Rerum Natura, and it wasn't recovered until the early 1400s in the German monastery of Fulda. Three copies were made, but then the original was also lost.

So…now what? Our main lead has disappeared.

Edward remembers that Lucretius mentioned his highly-placed friends. Two were Cicero and Caesar, but the third was someone whose name we didn't otherwise recognize: Titus Memmius. He checks the tether, and discovers that he's the person to whom Lucretius dedicated De Rerum Natura. Titus Memmius is from a very wealthy and prominent family; his older brother married one of Pompey's sisters. Titus Memmius himself was mainly known for his scandalous romantic life - he was one of the notorious Clodia's many affairs.

"I'd think that we should try to get information out of him by seducing him," Mace muses, "but it doesn't sound like he swings that way."

Seduction or not, it might be worth at least talking to Titus Memmius about Lucretius. As his patron, he would remember Lucretius; depending on how close they were, he might remember something more.

We find Titus Memmius's house pretty easily, but the steward tells us that Titus hasn't lived in Rome for the last four years. He's retreated to Baiae for his health - there are hot springs there that he hoped would do him good. Edward's good at reading servants - he can tell that the steward is genuinely worried about Memmius, and definitely telling the truth that his master left Rome for his health.

"Do you remember the poet Lucretius Carus?" Edward asks. "Titus Memmius was his patron."

"Ah, young Lucretius!" the steward says. Which we all think is a very odd way to refer to the 60-something man we just saw. "Titus Memmius supported him when he was very young, just starting out, 15 or 20 years ago. One of many poets for whom he was a patron, but the one he favored the most." Which means that Lucretius should be in his 40s now, but the man we saw looked much older - more evidence that Lucretius has been timetraveling, since he's lived much more time than he should have.

"If there were other poets, why choose Lucretius over other talented individuals?" Yves wonders.

The steward smirks knowingly. "I'm sure I couldn't say."

Apparently Lucretius was a hottie.

We can't talk to Lucretius or Titus Memmius now, but Henry has other ideas. "I'm tempted to go back 25 years, plant bugs in Lucretius's room, and collect them now."

After 25 years, we collect the bugs a few minutes later.

We discover that most of Lucretius's time is filled with a) writing, and b) not being there. There are large chunks of time in the last 25 years when Lucretius wasn't at his apartment. He appears, pays his rent, goes away, and comes back looking much older.

There aren't a lot of visitors. The most regular one is a heavyset man, about 20 years older than Lucretius, who started visiting 25 years ago - before Lucretius's first timetravel absence - and stopped visiting about 5 years ago. Presumably, that's our man Titus Memmius. Is he a timetraveler, we wonder? Well, he doesn't have anything anachronistic on him as far as we can tell, but our bugs do pick up a few odd things. First, despite our expectations, he doesn't touch Lucretius - if they were ever romantically involved, the relationship is over now. Second, there's a slight odd noise that goes with him - a faint humming/buzzing/whirring sort of sound.

"I'd like to get the people back at Timewatch to isolate and analyze the noise," says Edward, "but that would take time."

"We have time machines!" Yves points out. "We have all the time in the world!"

"Yes, but we don't have all the chronal stability in the world," says Mace. Jumping back and forth to HM Timewatch HQ so many times would be risky. Fortunately, Mace has a few of the relevant skills himself, so he starts working on the audio analysis.

After a few minutes of fiddling with the equipment, Mace manages to isolate the buzzing noise. On its own, it sounds almost like an insect. It starts up every time Titus Memmius speaks, a fraction of a second before we hear the Latin words start, and stops a fraction of a second before the Latin words end - as if there's something translating the buzzing noise into the Latin.

"It sounds like a cockroach," Mace decides. "A very large, very loud cockroach."

"Titus Memmius is a bug person?" Edward boggles.

Also: ew.
 

Ladybird

First Post
Episode 2, Chapter 11: The Hardworking TimeWatch Team

Something about this rings a bell with Henry. "Some of my fellow agents in HM Timewatch have encountered giant cockroaches before," he remembers. "In the mid-1960s - they had something to do with the Cuban Missile Crisis. They kept trying to start nuclear wars." The giant cockroaches are called Ezeru, and they can make themselves appear human, but the telltale buzzing gives them away, and they can't touch anyone or anything.

"Nuclear wars," Edward sighs. This is starting to make more sense. "Isn't that what they say - that after a nuclear war, the only things left will be cockroaches?" So by starting the nuclear age 2000 years early, the cockroaches are trying to clear the way for themselves.

Besides Titus Memmius, the other person who visits Lucretius a lot is Julius Caesar. He, thankfully, does not buzz.

"So has Titus Memmius been replaced?" Henry wonders.

"He must have been," says Edward. "He can't always have been a cockroach - he was famous for having sexual affairs, and you have to touch people for that!"

"Well, we know that he wasn't replaced 30 years ago when he had the affair with Clodia," Henry agrees. "But maybe Real Memmius was elsewhere in Rome while Cockroach Memmius was visiting Lucretius."

"I think we should try to talk to the man himself," Edward decides. "Shall we go visit the seaside?"

Henry grins. "Nothing wrong with having a nice seaside vacation on the clock. As it were."

Mace grins too. "I like the idea of a seaside vacation that might involve a giant cockroach."

"Um," says Henry. "Your idea of vacation and mine are different."

So we rent a carriage and some horses to take us to Baiae, a seaside resort on the Bay of Naples. Henry volunteers to drive, and we're all happy to let him - none of the rest of us know much about Vehicles. Edward and Michel know about horses, but that's about it.

It's at that moment that we realize that nobody has ever asked Henry what his day job was before he became a Timewatch agent.

He was a spaceship pilot.

**

"Can't these things go faster?" Henry shouts, as we careen around a corner on one wheel, horses panting and lathering.

"No, they can't!" Edward shouts back frantically. "They're animals! You can't treat horses like that! Look at the poor things - they're nearly falling down!"

"But they're going so slow" Henry groans.

"And they will go even more slowly if they die," Michel points out. "You will observe that these are the only horses we have. We cannot exchange them at the next post - we must conserve what we have." Fortunately, he manages to persuade Henry to share driving duties with him.

[sblock] If you're the type who likes to imagine a movie soundtrack, at this point in the movie, there is a montage. It alternates between peaceful slow music while Michel drives along at a nice moderate clop, and VERY LOUD FAST MUSIC while the horses gallop along with Henry at the reins.[/sblock]

Baiae is a resort town, with a lovely natural harbor and beach below layers of terraced cliffs going up the hillside. The Mediterranean sparkles a beautiful blue, and the sun shines down brightly.

Our two objectives here are to find out whether Memmius is a cockroach, and to lie on the beach.

We decide to tackle our second objective first: BEACH DAY.

It turns out that Baiae's celebrated beach is in fact a nude beach. So we lie around naked on the beach, while bath slaves offer us fruit juice and chilled wine and whatever the Roman equivalent of drinks with umbrellas in them are. One even brings around some peeled grapes. "I didn't think that actually happened!" Edward marvels.

Yves flirts a woman into a cabana. Edward eats peeled grapes. We all have a wonderful time.

Your TimeWatch dollars at work, folks!
 

Ladybird

First Post
Episode 2, Chapter 12: Bug Bugs and Buzzbuzz

And then, after a lovely afternoon on the beach, we finally get down to business. We ask around after Titus Memmius, and find out that at this time of day, he's usually in the tepidarium room of the baths. So that's where we go.

It's easy for us to find Titus Memmius, and also easy to determine that, fortunately, he is not buzzing. He doesn't have any kind of chronal instability, either. He's still overweight, just as we saw in the video footage from our bugs, but thinner than he once was, and his skin has a sickly grayish look to it. Just as the servant said, he is here because he's ill. These symptoms look very familiar to Michel - he's seen them before in patients who had long histories of using drugs and alcohol. It might be withdrawal; it might be hepatitis; it might be both.

So did someone keep Memmius drugged for long periods of time so that the cockroach could take his place? Anyone who wanted to get close to Lucretius would know that Memmius was a good way to do that - he's the person to whom De Rerum Natura was dedicated.

We go back to re-examine the video footage from our bug, trying to figure out when Cockroach!Memmius shows up, and when Lucretius starts timetraveling.

Lucretius's timetravel device appears to be the little wooden box that he was so anxious to protect. It's about as big as a shoebox, and looks like this.

It first appears fairly early in our surveillance period, around 79 BCE. Lucretius brings in an amphora, opens it, and takes out the box. He looks very surprised at the box, and a bit confused, too - from the expression on his face, it looks like he was expecting to find something in the amphora, but was surprised to find that. For the next few weeks, he studies the wooden box, trying to figure out what it is.

Mace focuses on the amphora to see if there are any inscriptions on it. There are two marks on it: first, on the amphora itself, the seal of the island of Rhodes; and on the top, a Roman seal with the word Sullani - ie, the army of Sulla, who conquered Greece and the Near East.

The box itself has some markings on it too: there are Greek letters on bottom that spell out "Archim"

"Archim?" Edward reads. "Could that be Archimedes?" It could be - he lived about 200 years before the time when we are now.

"Who was in Rhodes," Michel wonders, "who could have had Archimedes' things?" Lots of people, we realize, when we think about Ancient History. Rhodes was a major center of math and science research at this time. It was especially known for mechanical inventions - even automata.

Edward checks the tether to see if anyone in Sulla's army was particularly interested in science - ie, if there was anyone in particular who would have been gathering up items like this to send to Lucretius, and therefore who might be another timetraveler - but he can't find anyone. So instead, he focuses on the amphora itself. If we track that, maybe we can find who sent it to Lucretius.

We go back to the video footage and concentrate on the day that Lucretius brought the amphora home. We see a slave come in and hand Lucretius a message; when we zoom in on the message, we see that it says: "Sulla's expedition is selling off interesting trinkets at harbor that you might like to take a look at. -- Memmius"

So someone - presumably one of the cockroaches - knowing that Lucretius would trust his patron Memmius, forged a message from him to get Lucretius to pick up a time machine.

So where next? Caesar's campaigns in Dacia in 60 BCE? That's a long time after Lucretius gets the box. The first radiation spike, with Apollonius in 50 CE? That's even longer.

"I want to gank Buzzbuzz," Henry declares.

The premodern majority of the team stares.

"Attack the cockroach from behind so that we can interrogate him," Henry explains.

"But won't that create a paradox?" Michel wonders. "We cannot prevent either Actual Memmius or Roach Memmius from talking to Lucretius."

"We could have one of us pretend to be Roach Memmius," Henry suggests. "We can go to him and buzz."

"Or we can plant a device that buzzes?" Michel suggests.

"We'll plant a bug bug!" says Edward.

Instead, we do another round of time-traveling and Spying to plant some bugs in Real!Memmius's house 30 years ago to see what he knows.

And sure enough, our surveillance shows that there's a night when Titus Memmius is passed out drunk and a 7 1/2 foot tall cockroach appears in his bedroom.

Michel hits stop. "I do not want to see what happens next."

Edward grimaces. "Neither do I."

"No, no," Michel explains. "I do not wish to see what happens next, because we are about to change it."
 

Ladybird

First Post
Episode 2, Chapter 13: Roaches Check In, But They Don't Check Out

We start our preparation to capture Roach!Memmius. But Edward has a few words before we go: "Just to be clear, because our last target got spooked and tried to get away - our objective is to capture and interrogate.”

"So…no going in with blasters firing?" Henry asks, a little disappointed.

"No!" This is, in fact, exactly what Edward is trying to prevent. "No blasters!"

"PaciFists?" Henry is less interested in this than blasters.

"Yes! That!" says Edward.

"So what happens if he uses force or tries to run?" asks Henry.

Edward, being a Prepared kind of guy, goes back to set up some nets over the bed. That way, we can trap Roach!Memmius so he doesn't try to flee.

With all that in place, we jump back to 80 BCE, into Titus Memmius's bedroom. All of the jumping is starting to take a toll on Henry - he's feeling very wobbly and unstable.

The rest of us are feeling uncomfortable for other reasons. First, because Memmius's room is very small. It's only 10 X 6 feet, and full of furniture - in addition to Memmius's bed, there are several wooden cupboards. We're pretty crowded. And we're also slightly uncomfortable because on those cupboards and narrow walls are paintings of sex scenes. Lots of people having lots of sex. Sometimes, with goats.

"Goats?" Edward stares. "Are those actual goats? Ew."

Otherwise, the scene is what we saw in our video surveillance: Memmius himself is in bed, snoring in a kind of deep sleep that Michel and Yves recognize: he's clearly passed out drunk. And standing over him is a 7.5-foot tall cockroach, which has just spit some kind of mucus out of its mouth at Memmius.

The net is all ready, but we're so cramped that if Edward drops it now, he'll catch half the team. So everyone else takes this opportunity to do some smacking first.

Mace Hunter! leaps in first, of course. He lands a good solid hit with his PaciFist, but the roach just hisses at him, and doesn't show any signs of being harmed. Its carapace is so thick that it's very hard to damage. When they see how tough the roach is, Henry and Yves slam into it with even more force, Henry actually hitting twice in quick succession. Through their combined PaciFist smacks, the roach is actually injured - a few of its many claws start to drag and dangle.

Finally, everyone has managed to clear the area around the bed enough that Edward sees his chance. Down goes the net! Roach is trapped!

For a second, Roach just hisses and struggles in the net - but then the pitch of its hissing changes. Instead of just an incoherent angry noise, it turns to a high piercing shriek, so high that it's at the very edge of humans' ability to hear. So high that our ears burst with pain; so high that we're very lucky that we're not stunned or driven mad by it.

Then, while we're still staggering and shaken, Roach's claws - the still-working ones - poke out through the holes in the net. We'd thought we were standing back far enough to be safe, but the claws almost look like they're growing as Roach stretches them out. The claws clamp down on Edward's arm, hard. Blood gushes out alarmingly fast, and Edward yells.

Fortunately, Michel is standing right next to Edward, and hastily patches up the worst of the damage.

Meanwhile, Henry, Yves, and Mace all whale on Roach with their PaciFists, but its shell is so hard that their blows barely make any difference.

Once Edward and Michel are back in the fight, they have better luck. While Edward's first shot skitters right off the carapace just like everyone else's did, his second is a solid hit. Roach twitches violently, barely managing to stay on its feet. (or claws, or whatever)

Michel is much better-suited to close-range Scuffling than to Shooting, so he's equipped himself with a stun-wand PaciFist. He manages to dodge in between all of the shooters and tases Roach.

As Roach staggers around with its last shreds of energy, it shimmers and starts to grow wings. But that effort is too much for it, and it collapses on the floor.

As the sounds of battle die away, we start to hear some mumbling from the direction of the bed: Titus Memmius is waking up. Only now, after there's been yelling and roach-shrieking and PaciFist combat? Yes. He was very drunk. Henry revs up his PaciFist, ready for more smacking! But Michel steps in to jab him with a sedative shot. There's no need to MemTag - we think there's a good chance that Memmius was asleep the whole time, and if Memmius actually woke up briefly, he'd assume that the brief glimpse of a giant cockroach was a really bad dream.

Some people in the house _are_ awake and able to hear the odd noises coming from the room. From the hallway, a servant's voice calls, "Er. Master? Are you all right?"

We all stare at each other. Uh. Uh. What do we say?

Finally, Edward - figuring that the staff in Memmius's house are used to hearing unfamiliar young men and women calling out from the bedroom - steps up to Reassure the servant. "Everything is fine!"

There's the expected pause, and the expected, "Ohhhhhh!" when the servant thinks he realizes what's going on. "Do you need anything? Food? Drink?"

"Er. No," Edward calls back. "Just…privacy?"

Thankfully, that gets the servant to go away, so we can examine Memmius and interrogate our giant roach in peace.

First, Michel checks out Memmius, who's been sprayed with some kind of roach slime. Michel thinks that the slime has some kind of effect that's both psychic and soporific: it keeps subject unconscious, and lets you borrow their thoughts. That's how Roach was impersonating Memmius to talk to Lucretius. It's pretty powerful stuff, though - over time, its effects could cause some pretty serious damage to a person.

"It makes you really sickly and have to retreat to the countryside?" Edward figures.

"Exactement," says Michel.

So now we know that Memmius isn't in any immediate danger. And we've got a roach.

Mace: Do we really want to bring a giant unconscious cockroach to TimeWatch HQ?
Yves: It is probably the most secure facility in the space-time continuum
Edward: The other alternative is to interrogate it here, I suppose. But if we're going anywhere else, TimeWatch is the safest.
Michel: We could take it into the backyard and smack it with a very large shoe. Except that Roman shoes aren't quite that good
Edward: Can you give it a sedative?


Actually, Michel can do one better: with his knowledge of medicine and Science! he can come up with a cockroach-worthy truth serum.

Meanwhile, Edward searches Roach - we don't want Roach timetraveling away, so we need to confiscate any timetravel mechanism that it's got. But Edward doesn't find anything to confiscate. "Do these things have an innate timetravel ability?" he wonders, and checks the tether to find out. Yes, says the tether; this kind of roach manipulates sound to travel through time.

But the answer comes back through the tether much more slowly than it should. There's some kind of delay, and that bothers Edward a lot.

"Does that mean that something in the system is down at TimeWatch HQ?" Mace asks.

Edward shakes his head. When there's lag on the tether like this, it's usually because the tether is no longer the precise model that HQ expects to be connecting to it. "More likely, it means that we're moving farther away from…" He trails off. He can't say 'our home timeline,' because that's not an option right now; at least, not for any of us except Henry. He finally settles on… "the timeline we left."

Even more unsettling is that the tether problems are new. Our tethers were working just fine in 113 CE and in 56 BCE; they're just not working now.

That plus Henry's chronal instability make us decide to interrogate Roach here rather than risking a jump back to HM TimeWatch HQ.

We divide up the Good Cop/Bad Cop duties again - this time, Edward is much more surprised to find himself in the position of Bad Cop, but he seems to be the most Intimidating person around, so he'll do it. Mace is equally surprised to be the Reassuring one.

Yves, surprising no one, is disappointed that this is a situation that he can't solve by Flirting, but is just fine to not have to try to flirt with Roach.

And, most usefully of all, Michel administers his truth serum just before we wake Roach up.

Edward summons every bit of his royal authority as he stands before the roach. "You see what has come of your plans? You are no match for us. We will never let you destroy the timeline. You are trapped and powerless, and if you tell us everything, we might show you a little bit of mercy."

[sblock]There was a lot more to this speech, but I didn't actually get to write it down because I was saying it :) [/sblock]

Roach hisses back. "You are foolish! Did you think that you petty humans would rule the earth? It is we, the Ezeru, who shall rule."

"How were you planning to do that?" Edward presses. "You know, before we petty humans beat you up and captured you? We'll do the same to the rest of your accomplices, too."

"You cannot!" Roach retorts. "We are legion! Too many for you."

"Where are the others?" Edward asks. "And when?"

"Doing what is necessary for survival of the fittest," hisses Roach. "We are increasing the rate of mutation of our ancestors so that we may achieve our greatness before you humans destroy too much of the food."

"Oh, but this is very clever!" Michel good-cops. "How is it that you are assured of introducing the mutations that you need?"

"The weak will die and the strong will survive!" says Roach. "We are legion! We established centers of columns of radiation in the cities where our ancestors dwelt, to feed on your waste. More pillars spreading throughout! Sooner or later the Ezeru will come. The Ezeru will grow strong."

"…I'm actually kind of impressed by this plan," says Michel. We all are. It's a pretty good plan: introducing radiation to induce mutations in cockroaches so that they grow stronger while causing humans to grow weaker from radiation sickness, and accelerating the onset of nuclear wars. "This is all very elegant! But what do you do? Destroy crops to change migration? Frighten young politicians? This seems like cheap tricks and chicanery."

"You humans are easily fooled by cheap tricks," Roach scoffs. "We foretold your future, what you thought would be your future. We promised healing, too."

"You foretold the future?" Edward repeats.

"My colleague," explains Roach. "To whoever asked him. He was very convincing."

Just then, Edward Notices that there are some bugs coming in through the window.
Tiny roaches, beetles, caterpillars - all kinds of bugs. Lots of bugs. Roach must be summoning them by making some noise that they can hear but we can't. We don't have much time….

"Is your colleague the one who was talking to Apollonius?" Edward guesses.

"Talked to!" Roach repeats smugly. "I like that."

Michel edits, "Who took the place of Apollonius?"

"There is still an Apollonius…" Roach taunts.

So either Apollonius is begin manipulated by Roach!Damis, as we'd suspected before, or he's being roach-goo-ed and impersonated like Memmius. Or something else. Either way, we know that we need to deal with him - and either way, we're running out of time here.

"I think that's all we can get," Edward says, eyeing the growing swarms of bugs coming in through the window.

Henry instantly perks up. "Can we kill it? Can we kill it a lot?"

Yes, we can. So we do. A lot. Our blasters smash Roach into little bitty pieces. Henry does not jump up and down on the bitty pieces, but he's very tempted.

As soon as Roach is dead, the swarms of other bugs immediately disperse - or, rather, just go back to wandering aimlessly, the way bugs normally do. Mace Hunter, thinks this is absolutely awesome. "Check out this grasshopper, guys!" he calls, eagerly catching bugs.

The rest of us are not quite as thrilled to be in a room full of bugs. "Is there a dustpan?" Michel asks, looking around the room in disgust.

Edward looks around too."There's, er, that urn?" he suggests. Like most of the furniture and knick-knacks in the room, the urn is decorated with all kinds of interesting sexual art. Edward might find it educational, if he weren't so busy trying to get rid of bugs.

Michel looks at the urn skeptically, but hey, it's the best we can get. He starts scooping bugs into it and dumps them out the window.
 
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Ladybird

First Post
Episode 2, Chapter 14: A Geneva Convention

So now that we've dealt with Roach!Memmius, where do we go next? Apollonius? It's much farther forward than we are now (as Michel objects), but it's a definite person who's got a location that's easy to pin down. The other main source of Ezeru interference is Helvetii, and we think they'll be harder to find.

But the logic that we should go as far back as we can is pretty convincing. So we check our copy of Caesar's Dacian Wars (which Edward has Preparedly brought along from our 113 CE library trip) to see what we can get about the Helvetii.

What Caesar says is: In 61 BCE Helvetii chief named Orgetorix started agitating to leave Helvetia and invade another land. The other chiefs called a tribal council at which Orgetorix was brought up on charges of treason - in addition to his invasion plans, Orgetorix was also trying to declare himself king, which was Not Done among the Helvetii. But Orgetorix had a huge group of warriors with him; large enough that the other chiefs thought it would be a good idea to acquit him. So Orgetorix actually did become king, and led the Helvetii east to Dacia. Eventually, he died in glorious single combat with Marc Antony.

We check that story against our tethers - which are still slow, which is still unsettling. The Gallic Wars follow the same story up to a certain point: Orgetorix tried to declare himself king, was charged with treason, and acquitted because he had a huge army. But before the council could meet again, Orgetorix mysteriously died. The rest of the council decided to move the Helvetii west, to Gaul.

So our new questions are: was Orgetorix replaced by a roach? or just influenced by one?

We give Henry some Reality Anchor so that he's more stable, and then head to 61 BCE. We land in summer, a week before the council is set to convene, on the shore of Lake Geneva. This leap feels a little harder than the last - the same lag that's dragging on our tether communication is starting to affect our travel.

Lake Geneva is very different from Rome. The lake is glittering blue, surrounded by reed-and-thatch huts. A few huts are even on the lake, supported by platforms.

The one similarity that this place has to Rome is that it's noisy and smelly. But unlike Rome, the noise and smell mostly comes from farm animals.

The people look different than the ones we saw in Rome: they're taller, with paler skin, and blond hair. At least, most have blond hair - some men (and a few women, too) have hair dyed bright blue or green. They're generally young and athletic, so we figure they're warriors. The clothes are bright, too. Most women are wearing tunics dyed in garish shades of red, blue, and orange, often all on the same garment. The men are wearing very little.

Yves's first thought is to check his Geiger counter. Fortunately, there's nothing unusual there.

Mace's first thought is to start chatting. He notices one particularly big tent being built, and heads over to strike up a conversation with the people building it.

Random Helvetii: Well met, cousin! This is the hall for the council. And the trial.
Mace: Trial?
RH: There are some who say that Orgetorix thinks he's better than the rest of us. Thinks he wants to be a king
Michel [shocked] A king?
RH: It's scandalous! We have never had kings! We are a free people! [spits]
Edward: [scrunching awkwardly down] "Er. what made him think he was better?"
RH: [shrug] He always has. He's just like that. But nobody can deny that he's impressive. And a brilliant war leader.
Michel: What's so impressive about him?
RH: See that man over there? [He points to a large burly man setting up a tent - easily six inches taller than most of the people we saw in Rome] Orgetorix would make three of him!
Michel: He must be very young
RH: Not that young. His father died before last gathering of chieftains - so, 4 years ago? He has a son old enough to be a warrior and a daughter old enough to be married.
Henry: I'd like to hear what he has to say for himself. Where can we find him?
RH: He's not due to arrive himself until tomorrow. But his scouts have secured that area for themselves [points to a spot at lake's edge]

It's pretty easy to tell that Orgetorix's camp has both the best access to water and the most defensible position of all of the Helvetii.

That's where we go next. Orgetorix's particular branch of the Helvetii is a tribe called the Tigurini. The man himself isn't here yet, but his advance guard is, and they all love him. "Where he's taking us, everyone can have their own herd of cows!" one of them gushes.

"Where's he taking you?" Mace asks.

"Oh, I'm not important enough to know that," says the scout. "And we wouldn't want our enemies to know. Like the Romans! You can't trust them."

While the others are talking to the scout, Edward is looking around at the other Tigurini. Nobody is acting like they've been mind-controlled; their love for Orgetorix seems to be sincere. Nobody is acting like they've been replaced, either - if Orgetorix is being influenced by the Ezeru, they're sticking pretty closely to him.

Mace also Notices that some of the Tigurini are building a ditch around their camp. "Oh, that's for bringing water," the scout explains, when we ask. But Mace and Edward can tell that it is totally a fortification. The Tigurini are preparing for war.
 

Ladybird

First Post
Episode 2, Chapter 15: Beer, Parties, and Trials

We draw back from the Tigurini, and try to figure out where to go from here.

"Maybe we can make Orgetorix die nonmysteriously," Henry suggests. "If there are lots of witnesses who see him die, then he can't be replaced."

"But our tethers say that he was killed mysteriously," Mace objects.

"Well, our tethers are going by Caesar's Gallic Wars," Edward points out. "That's the only written source that talks about Orgetorix's death. All we need is for it to be mysterious to Caesar. It doesn't have to be mysterious to the Helvetii."

Our tethers tell us that the penalty for treason among the Helvetii is to be burned, which would definitely count as public and nonmysterious. And maybe the kind of death that the Helvetii wouldn't want to talk to the Romans about.

So if we want to influence the council to convict Orgetorix instead of acquitting him - or, if we think that someone within the Helvetii wants to kill him - who are the power players? Michel Streetwises around, and discovers two other major leaders. First, there's Divico, who's the senior elder on the council. He was a war leader against the Romans 47 years ago, which makes him very elder indeed. He really doesn't like Orgetorix. Second, there's Dumnorix, who seems to be the Most Likely to Assassinate - he's got a reputation for being crafty. But that's not likely to happen at the moment, because Dumnorix is betrothed to Orgetorix's daughter. ("Good move, Orgetorix!" says Michel.)

The next day, all of the leaders arrive. Divico arrives with 150-ish warriors, which by current standards is a good-sized retinue. Orgetorix arrives with TEN THOUSAND people. Considering that the entire population of the camp before Orgetorix arrived was only 7000, this is a really huge number of people. Not all of Orgetorix's retinue are warriors, but a lot of them are. It's a huge power play, and the rest of the Helvetii are, unsurprisingly, really upset.

With that big a group, it's not hard for Michel to mill around with them, trying to get Unobtrusively close enough to hear if anyone is buzzing. Fortunately, nobody is - not the advisors, not the warriors, and not Orgetorix himself.

Orgetorix is just as impressive as everyone said he was. He's unfailingly kind to his followers, and has an enormous amount of charisma. He has a lot of physical presence, too: he's very tall and strong, with long blond braids and a huge blond moustache dyed in red and orange stripes. His mantel has red and orange in it too, but also blue and gold, and purple. In this time and place, wearing purple is a power play too: it’s a sign of royalty.

As soon as the tribal council begins, Divico charges Orgetorix with treason for his attempts to overtake leadership of the Helvetii. Orgetorix speaks eloquently in his own defense: as long as the Helvetii stay in mountains, he says, they'll never achieve their greatness. They need to go elsewhere to find their destiny.

Because of his eloquence (and also probably the 10,000 people camped outside) Orgetorix is acquitted.

Chaos breaks out in the council tent. Orgetorix's people cheer; others boo and hiss (but not hissing in a cockroach way.) Divico, trying to distract everyone, shouts, "Bring out the beer!" Will getting everyone drunk really reduce the likelihood of brawling? Maybe not, but it's traditional - as soon as Divico gives the order, women start bringing in kegs of beer, wheels of cheese, and pots of stew. Time for a very tense post-council party!

Mace Hunter! never passes up an opportunity for a beer! He starts drinking.

Michel and Yves both have the same thought: maybe they could poison Orgetorix during the party and make it look like he had a heart attack? But most of the Helvetii are drinking from horns, not cups, and Orgetorix is sharing his drinking horn with 5 or 6 friends. It would be very very hard to make sure that only Orgetorix got the poison.

After a bit more carousing, Orgetorix's men lift him up and carry him back towards his camp. We grab a last round of beer and join the fun, trailing back to the camp. With 10,000 followers, who will notice a few more?

When the crowd gets to the edge of the ditch (which is now a moat), Orgetorix asks to be put down. That's when Michel notices some people being Unobtrusive - a few people who are shorter than the others, with mantles that don't look quite right. (Maybe some of those treacherous Romans that the Tigurini warned us about? Michel can tell that they're not timetravelers, but he doesn't know enough about Ancient History to be able to tell much more than that.

Whoever they are, they're certainly treacherous. One of them pulls a knife and cuts the throat of one of Orgetorix's guards.

Michel texts: Looks like unexplained circumstances are about to start. Look out for interference.

That's all he has time to say before the knives get turned on Orgetorix.
 

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