Episode 6: Burnout!

Based on and modified from an idea by Thamilion, at RPG.Net

The machinegun fire clacking of a keyboard that shouldn’t exist in this time and place was an exclamation point on the urgency of the moment. A tension so thick it was like velvet curtains hung in the air as the Taskmasters Stiffly moved amongst the developers, who scribbled, typed, and muttered with blank, zombie-like expressions locked on their faces. To the last, the workers’ bodies were dripping with sweat, their heart rates high and their breathing rapid and shallow.

“Will configuring the fluctuation of the dysfunctional phasers increase the confinement of the electron field?” a Taskmaster demanded.

The developer nodded mutely, then said, “Configuring the processing array of the neutron flow. The strength of the neutron flow has been increased.”

“Very good, slave. Activate the configuration of the neutron flow.”

Another developer called out from across the room, her eyes scanning readouts flashing across a screen in green-and-white monochrome glory. “The polarity of the phasers has decreased. Wait...Taskmaster! The core processing of the inertial compensator has been destabilized! Configure the processing array of the omega pulse!”

The heat in this room was getting high, both figuratively and literally. It was nearly time for the Taskmasters to take their leave.

“This is unfortunate,” a Taskmaster whispered to his companions. “This one is going to fail as well.”

“No matter,” replied another. “With each failed attempt, we come closer to success. Consider also the energy we are gathering in the process.”

“We should leave, now,” said a third. The other two nodded in unison.

The Taskmasters joined their fellows at the doors of the complex and watched as the fires erupted, one after another. Machines sprang to life with an ominous hum and rattle. The Taskmasters sighed.

“Well,” one said. “This time, At least, the machines survived. Let us begin again...”

* * *

After swinging by home (miraculously, only a day after they'd left) to drop off Chuck, the gang heads to 1969. They emerge from the TARDIS onto a field littered with hundreds of thousands of hippies in various stages of dress, undress, and sobriety. A celebratory cloud hangs over the air (both figuratively and literally). From the fact that the fences are still intact, the Cast deduces that they've arrived before the concert started. The Cast are dismayed to discover that the TARDIS has taken the form of a military issue pup tent. The Artist decides to spray paint it, and the ship seems to knock the can right out of his hand!

Before the Artist can do anything to reign them in, they hit the wardrobe and scatter to the four winds:

Don goes to find some weed. His outfit: jeans, boots, and a tie dye shirt. James goes to find some Hell's Angels (outfit: no change), with Davan in tow (outfit: 60's era military fatigues). Emilie just goes exploring. Her outfit is described as "totally bohemian." The Artist gets a DNA track on everyone from the TARDIS so he can find them, then makes funnel cakes. Susan strips to the waist and goes looking for boys to play with, determined to enjoy her new young body to its fullest.

Day one goes without incident, the Cast enjoying the warm-up acts and looking forward to all the really big names hitting on Day two. Emilie is entranced by Joan Baez's set at the end of the first day. Amongst the highlights of the day: they witness the pop-historic announcement to avoid the brown acid.

As they return to the TARDIS (all except James, who passes out with his newfound biker friends), Don is approached by a hippie girl who is practically nude, soaked in sweat, and tripping balls. She's wandering around aimlessly, asking if anyone's seen "Freddie." Don manages to get out of her that Freddie is her boyfriend and he'd better not be off with "those two chicks. It ain't sharin' if it's cheatin'."

Don has some fun with getting her talking in circles, until she's saying, "It ain't sharin' if it's sharin'," and asks her for a description of Freddie, who apparently looks like every guy at the concert. Eventually, she flashes a peace sign, says, "Frodo Lives, man," and ambles off into the crowd. Don thinks he hears her mumbling advanced math calculations and something about the imperative of reversing polarity in the neutron flow, but shakes it off as him being stoned.

Day two begins; the Artist gathers everyone together and asks who wants to go backstage. The Cast is all aquiver with excitement. Davan uses his Universal Roaming to call up the Wikipedia article on Woodstock, on his PDA. They have a brief discussion about altering history when it is suggested they use their sonic screwdrivers to fix the technical problems that plague day two, and decide best to leave well enough alone.

Using his Psychic Paper, the Artist convinces the bouncers that the Cast are journalists with Rolling Stone, and they head backstage, where they meet Carlos Santana, who invites them to sit on stage as he performs. The Cast are careful to avoid mentioning songs they're not positive Santana has written yet. The Artist gives Don a Polaroid, which he uses to get pictures to remind him of this day in the future.

That's when things start to go bad. Santana's set goes off without a hitch. It's during the next act, Canned Heat, when the Cast notices a flash of light and a plume of smoke off in the distance at the far end of the field, and a small patch of chaos and panic erupts in the crowd. The Artist produces a pair of binoculars and notes that, almost as out of nowhere, the area is already cordoned off and there are men in black suits herding people away. This concerns Davan, who is worried that the MIBs are Saurian agents (see Conspiracy X for details). When he tells the Artist, the Artist leaps off stage and dashes through the crowd, the rest of the Cast in tow, save Susan, who has already left.

Susan arrives at the scene first, only to be told by the MIB's that there is no civilian access allowed, and there is nothing to see here. She reads their minds, to discover three things:

  1. These guys are not human.
  2. They're definitely engaging in a cover-up.
  3. They know she's psychic, having detected her entry into their mind.

The rest of the Cast arrives. Peeking around the MIB's, they see a charred human body on the ground. Emilie uses her own unique ability of post-cognition to discover that the poor man was dancing, uttering strange equations, and sweating, when suddenly he began to smoke, and then, with a scream he simply spontaneously combusted.

The Cast step back and exchange notes. A single case of Spontaneous Human Combustion, while incredible to see, does not unto itself indicate something out of the ordinary going on. The advanced temporal physics, however, combined with the presence of alien agents, arouses suspicion.

Davan steps away to a semi-secluded area, and sends a message to his people in 2007. The response comes back: "We have no records of this event. If Saurians are involved, proceed with utmost caution. We have no way of sending backup in 1969."

Davan starts taking notes, aware that his people have very little information about the Saurians. The Artist has a bit more, and shares what he knows with the group: these are warlike creatures, bred for battle, but not slaughter. They are a true warrior culture but the don't kill and butcher wantonly. They use biotechnology and have not, as of 2007, developed FTL flight. He was not aware that the Saurians were on Earth at all. He is even more baffled when he scans the MIBs and, despite all the evidence to the contrary, they scan as having human DNA.

The Cast question a few hippies about what happened here, and finally get an answer out of one, which amounts to, "He took the brown acid and went up in flames. Stay away from the brown acid, man. That shit'll burn you up."

The Cast adjourn back to the TARDIS. The Artist attempts to scan for alien tech, only to discover that his scans are being jammed. If he could obtain a good sample of the tech, he thinks he could narrow the focus to track similar types, but a wide-band scan is impossible. Someone is being thorough.

Don, Emilie, and James decide to "go check out the stage area, just in case." Of course, it's no coincidence that Janis Joplin is just about to hit the stage. Sans psychic paper, Emilie seduces a security guard into letting them backstage. Janis seems distracted, looking for something...until she spots Emilie and James and gives them a wink and a point, then the rest of her set goes off spectacularly. After the gig is over, she staggers over to them and says, "Hey, man, let's talk."

Meanwhile, back at the TARDIS, Susan is making the rounds in the nearby crowd with a psychic scanner, trying to find people whose minds have been opened to psychic energy. Davan goes looking for hippies bathed in sweat, tripping balls, and reciting mathematical equations. Miraculously, he finds one, who naturally freaks out when Davan tries to remove him. With a bit of smooth talking, Davan manages to calm him down and convince him that he's having a bad trip and needs to come down. Susan reads his thoughts, only to discover that there are dozens of minds linked together, all working on complex dimensional physics problems. She can't decipher exactly what they're doing, but they seem to be researching something.

The Artist, meanwhile, has gone looking for some of the brown acid. He is told that the brown acid doesn't exist, but he gets a sample of some new drug that's supposed to be the ultimate trip. He takes it back to the TARDIS to scan, as Davan and Susan arrive with their tripping guest.

The Artist scans the acid tab to discover it's not LSD at all, but a chemical based off of an alien pest control chemical called "Burnout." But somehow this particular formula has been altered at the molecular level. He detects faint traces of something technological in the chemical, but it completely breaks down and becomes inert the moment he starts scanning it.

Susan and Davan question their guest, who starts to get more and more agitated. Eventually he starts shaking, sweat pouring off of him, and they can feel the heat coming from him. They grab the poor man and rush him to the Zero Room, but only too late. He erupts into flame, and they dive aside, barely missing getting singed themselves. Strangely, they decide to try and find another user to question.

Back at the stage, Janis leads Emilie, Don, and James to a Green Room area, and tells security to piss off. The moment the group is alone, Janis drops the stoned act and is cold sober. She says, "Always nice to meet other adventurers. Y'all Time Agents, too?"

She tells the three of them that her mission is to keep an eye on the 60's and make sure that certain historical events go off without a hitch. Being a rock star allows her access almost anywhere, any time. She wears a Vortex Manipulator on her wrist, which twinged to tell her there was advanced tech nearby (hence how she knew who they were). She's certain there's something strange going on here, that people have been disappearing, the advanced physics, and the presence of MIB's. She thinks it's tied to the Brown Acid rumors. She's supposed to meet with a contact later and promises to keep them informed if they keep her informed. They take her to meet the Artist and Susan, experiencing their first unpleasant trip with a Vortex Manipulator in the process, later described as "Feeling like ass...hit by a Mack Truck."

Janis has a hard time with the fact that some of the Time Lords still exist, but exchanges notes with the Artist and Susan, then takes her leave to meet her contact. They all agree to meet tomorrow, and the Cast go off to watch the Who perform, and bear witness to Pete Townsend braining Abbie Hoffman with his guitar. After the Who, they make their way back to the ship as Jefferson Airplane plays in the background, to rest up and continue their investigations tomorrow...

Memorable Quotes

Don: "Can I bring a gun this time?"
The Artist: "No, absolutely not."
Don: "Can I bring an ironwood staff?"
The Artist: "No. That's a weapon."
Don: "No, it's just a stick."
The Artist: "Then you can just pick up any old stick."
Don: "But it's a walking stick."
The Artist: "Absolutely not."
Don: "One of these days I'm gonna take this stick and shove it up your ass!"

The Artist (Pointing to various locations): "Pot, hash, opium, acid. Take you pick. Just be careful."

Susan (on realizing she can't just change history at a whim): "(sigh)...I guess I am a Time Lord."

The Artist (to the Hell's Angels): "It's okay, I'm a Harley-Davidson representative."

The Artist (to Davan): "For once, I'm trying to be cautious, and you're trying to stop me?"

Davan: "Camel?"
Janis (Takes a hit): "I'm gonna need somethin' stronger."
Don: "Joint?"
Janis: "Absolutely."

The Artist: "Susan, will you run another scan for alien tech using the Burnout as a base to narrow the scan? I'm going to go run some tests on the pile of ash in the Zero Room to see if I can get anything there that I missed in the drug."
Don: "Pile of ash? What did I miss?"
The Artist: "Some hippy burst into flames in the Zero Room."
Don: "Awesome! Alright! James, come here! You gotta see this!"

Don: "We're going to go check out the stage again. See if anything is up down that way."
Emilie: "Yeah, and maybe catch an act or two while we're at it."
The Artist: "Okay, go ahead. If you see any physics-spouting hippies, bring them back immediately."

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