“Straight from the Headlines!”
“Incredible! Trail of the Midnight Star!”
By Hunter (Skull Man)
(There are a few times in the day where all Comrades and affiliates can be found in a single place at once. Most of them are at meals, and otherwise...)
Ring Man: Mail time. *browses through the mail* Bills, RPD letters...
Kalinka: I'll take them.
Ring Man: "Funny Cats Magazine" ...
Pharaoh Woman: Grant me this item, o Minister of Hula Hoops! *browses through* I shall never stop worshipping you, Mister Pettypaws.
Ring Man: Death threats, blackmail ...
Dive Man: If no one wants 'em, I'm game. *rips an enveloppe* Hey, sweet! It's th' robo-phobic dominatrix! And she's whippin' my deactivated body! Aaaah, good times.
Ring Man: Hm? "Mourner Weekly".
Skull Man: Mine. *reads it* "How to cope with the existential void the passing of your relatives will open". A reprint article.
Dust Man: Brr. Ah, I see you have "The Technobabbler".
Ring Man: Here you go, and take the "Moscow Mail" for Jet. And ... hey, who reads the Midnight Star?
Over-1: WHAT?! I wrote them personnally NOT to deliver anything here anymore!
Bright Babe: *walks in* Never knew you felt so strongly about something. What's in it, anyway?
Over-1: Complete hogwash. How can I do my work when some yahoos are peddling garbage like this, and claim it's the "only reliable newspaper around"?
Nastenkà: *grabs it* Hmm... "Sasquatch revealed to be Elvis!"
Gunker: "Lenin Mummy actually a Disney animatronic"? Is lies!
Bright Babe: "Vampire Cat prowls White House"? And people think it's for real?
Skull Man: At first glance, they seem no weirder than whatever extradimensional peril we faced so far. ... "Florida Man eats entire house, found it stale". I stand corrected.
Ring Man: This looks to be a mistake. I mean, who's demented enough to trust a tabloid like this?
Drill Man: *bursts in* Someone who wants the TRUTH to be set FREE!
Ring Man: ... I should've known.
Bright Babe: Just ... how long have you been waiting here?
Drill Man: Long enough to realize none of you take your work seriously!
Dive Man: Or long enough ta make a dramatic entrance.
Drill Man: And so, we shall investigate on the first article I see in today's issue! *flips through* Hmm ... There! "Fishman runs for Senator!"
Over-1: It's a made-up article with a stupid Photoshop for a picture. Are you really going to investigate that?
Ring Man: Eh, we have no other job to do.
Drill Man: Fine, then! To ... Kansas?
Dust Man: This may be the last place I'd go to in order to find a fishman.
Drill Man: Which makes it a perfect cover! Prepare your gear, and then, to Kansas! Meanwhile, I'll read the article.
(And after a teleport to Topeka, Kansas...)
Drill Man: Now, be on the lookout for anything suspicious: fishmen, witches, people winking at John...
Ring Man: You're never going to drop this, are you?
Drill Man: Tell that to your winged monkey masters.
Skull Man: *points at a rally in progress* I may have spotted the reason of this nonsense.
Dive Man: "Philip Sherman Blacklagoon"? Ya sent us on a wild goose chase cuz of a bad pun? Screw this, I'm gonna get wasted.
Dust Man: While we're here, we may as well have a look.
Drill Man: Perfect idea, Sean! Unlike some, you actually help our investigations.
(At the rally, Mr. Blacklagoon is actually a normal-looking man.)
Blacklagoon: Ah, I see we have been joined by members of the RPD! Step forward!
Pharaoh Woman: *hops on the podium* It must be declared that the Kingdom of the Russian Nile supports your cause wholeheartedly! As long as, you know, it's not hurting people or discriminating them. And, uh, that you're not affiliated to Sobek's kind, I guess.
Blacklagoon: A round of applause for the Cossack's Comrades!
Drill Man: And a round of gasped surprise for a dirty fishman! *rips Blacklagoon's face off*
(Said once-future Senator falls to the ground)
Bright Babe: We ... AM, we were just starting to have people get over the Murmansk Bridge! And you pull THAT off!?
Skull Man: "That" being the face, or the stunt?
Bright Babe: You're not helping!
Dive Man: Yeah! Extreme violence is kinda my schtick, boss.
Drill Man: Maybe, but I was right! *throws Blacklagoon's face at John*
Ring Man: AAAAAAAAH- Hey wait. It's just a mask.
?: I've been found out!
(Surprise ... The Senator was actually a fishman!)
Fishman: My plan to flood the center of the United States has been foiled! How can I gain control of the inter-USA economy now?
Drill Man: The Midnight Star had mentioned all your business plans, Blacklagoon. Like, setting up a boating company in the Oklahoma.
Blacklagoon: And I would've gotten away with this, if it wasn't for those robots and their journal!
Dust Man: *as cops escort Blacklagoon to prison* So. That was a thing.
Skull Man: In total flagrance of logic and sanity, the first article you picked was revealed to be true.
Drill Man: It's no coincidence! EVERYTHING they print is true!
Ring Man: So we'll investigate next week, with the new issue of Midnight Star?
Drill Man: ... How did you read my mind? Stop it, now!
Ring Man: *sighs*
(Later, at the base...)
Over-1: Ah, back already? Was the story ... 'reel' enough?
Gunker: Feathered-boa comrade spent entire day coming up with a fish pun. Gunker's patience is being very stretched.
Drill Man: I scoff at your skepticism. Behold! *pulls out photos*
Over-1: Hmm... *checks on the RPD channels* Hold on. I checked on Mr. Blacklagoon when the Midnight Star first released an article about him nine months ago, and he was certified as a human!
Dust Man: If you don't believe in what this journal releases, and don't read it, how can you know such precise details?
Over-1: ... It was a slow day, and he had basically bribed Crorq into certifying his humanity.
Drill Man: An elaborate ruse!
Ring Man: ... I don't know. He could have been replaced, or a fishman the whole time, but ... Eh. I'll think on that later.
Kalinka: And rightly you do! We have a Dragonborn riot near Wilnius!
Dive Man: Th' scaly kind, or the shouting kind?
Drill Man: Back into action, Comrades!
(Later that night...)
Ring Man: Phew! Who would have thought Attacks of Opportunity were such a useful move? Well, off to bed!
Skull Man: John.
Ring Man: Ah! *turns back* How long have you been in my room?
Skull Man: It doesn't matter. You were wondering about the Blacklagoon case earlier.
Ring Man: Hmm ... Ah, yes. It's a bit wild, but I've been thinking: we saw he had set up his businesses six months ago, right?
Skull Man: A verifiable fact.
Ring Man: But had they been set up six months earlier yesterday?
Skull Man: You suggest reality has been rewritten.
Ring Man: I don't know! I've seen it happen before, so maybe we have to go through it all again?!
Skull Man: I shall inform Over-1 of your theory. But for now, rest. Do not hasten your demise with undue stress.
Ring Man: Thanks, I guess?
(On the next day...)
Drill Man: Look alive, people! We have a new case to investigate!
Nastenkà: "Computer virus contaminates humans"? Wow.
Drill Man: Nah. Could be a cyborg who downloaded malware. Now this sounds juicy!
Pharaoh Woman: "Talking pony works in petting zoo"? Is that not the natural order of things as Ptah created it? Maybe not the talking bit. Perhaps this pony is blessed by Resheph, the god of horses and chariots?
Drill Man: Look below.
Pharaoh Woman: "- As Cashier"? Strange. Servants of Resheph are not big on accounting. I suppose.
Drill Man: Then it's agreed! To the petting zoo!
Dive Man: Only movin' fer alcohol.
Ring Man: Geoff, you already got the turtles from the Moscow Vivarium drunk.
Dive Man: So what? Excuse me fer sharin' my message with understandin' people!
Ring Man: You were bored.
Dive Man: *shrugs* Everyone's interested in free booze.
(Later, in Scotland...)
Pony: So, what's it gonna be? Seven paying adults?
Drill Man: Give me your secrets, tiny horse!
Pony: Suuuuure. Six paying adults, and a half-price nutjob.
Ring Man: What my friend is trying to say, I guess, is "how did you get a job as a cashier"?
Pony: Well, I started doing the usual gig, you see? Giving rides to the kids, getting my mane brushed, the whole business. Then, I realized something.
Pharaoh Woman: And what is it, scion of Resheph?
Pony: Kids suck! I can't end a day without a lollipop stuck in my mane, getting my tail pulled or what have you! And I don't know that Refresh guy! I'm a proud Colton, third of the line!
Dust Man: And what led you to the cash machine?
Colton: The old ticket-seller started getting weak eyes, so I got to try for his spot. I've got good enough, and here I am! It's not the best-paying gig, but it's a start.
Bright Babe: Saving up for something?
Colton: Yep. Me and Sarah -she's right over there with all the kids- we're to be engaged. Hey, Sarah! *waves*
Sarah: *waves back*
Skull Man: The previous ticket seller. What happened to him?
Colton: Oh, he bought the farm.
Ring Man: Sorry to hear that.
Colton: Why? It's a real nice place in Ireland. It was a bit too pricey to my taste, but he was quite pig-headed.
Bright Babe: Let me guess. He went the whole hog on the deal?
Colton: *narrows his eyes* Watch your words, miss. He happened to be a real good pig.
Drill Man: A whole society of talking animals! Are you planning to overthrow your human masters?
Colton: Why? He's paying our salary, and handles the food and lodging. *to Ring Man* Is he always like this?
Ring Man: I'd like to say no.
Dive Man: Bah, screw this. Where can I get booze in this joint?
Colton: Go and see Barry. Tell him I sent you.
Dive Man: And how do I spot him?
Colton: Ah, there he is. He's a hairdresser on the side, you know?
Pharaoh Woman: We shall take leave of you, lord Colton, and enjoy your palace of cuddly delights. May Horus watch over you, scion of Shetland!
Colton: I'm not a Shetland! Ain't my fault grandpappy went and settled here! I'm an Australian pony and proud of it!
Bright Babe: Fine. I'll go and see the guine pigs, I think. Especially if they offer therapy.
Drill Man: If there's a groundhog, I'll deal with him. This whole winter thing is truly shady...
Ring Man: *as they all left, save Hunter* A last question, Mr Colton. Have you always been, you know, talking?
Colton: Since I was born, lad.
Ring Man: Ah, but is there a point in your life where your memories get, I don't know, clearer?
Colton: Hmm ... I do guess some points in my life past yesterday are blurry. Guess kids were really brats these days, eh?
Ring Man: I don't doubt it. Come, Hunter. Anything you want to see in particular?
Skull Man: Anything that is doomed to oblivion, as we are all.
Ring Man: Riiiight. I've always wanted to see a llama up close, y'know.
(And such the hunt for other phenomena went on, with such highlights as "Living Lightning Bolt Found Wearing Drag!"...)
Citizen: I saw it as I saw you! Some weird human-shaped lightning bolt, that stole and wore my uniform!
Bright Babe: What kind of uniform, Miss?
Citizen: For my daily job. I'm a nurse at the Central Washington Hospital.
Ring Man: Hmm-hm. Could you describe it a little more?
Citizen: Well, it was mostly yellow, with red highlights. And apparently it was called "Rab".
Dive Man: What, did it leave ya a card or sumthin'?
Citizen: No, it just kept repeating "Me Rab, Me Rab" over and over.
Pharaoh Woman: May Set enlighten us on this manifestation of his powers! If that is him, right?
Drill Man: Truly, the Illuminati manipulation of the weather patterns works in mysterious ways.
(... or "Visitors From Future Find Present 'Kinda Boring'!" ...)
Skull Man: What year do you claim to come from?
Pegasolta Eclair: Why, the only year that matters, 22XX, for it has been blessed by my radiance!
Dive Man: And what's so boring here to yer poor lil' future-bots hearts?
Deaththanz Mantisk: It is filled with people respecting the rules, rules. Where we come from, the world is at war with the lawbreakers, breakers. I need to dispense justice, justice. My blades are thirsty...Very thirsty...Thirsty...
Bright Babe: ...Could you stop doing that...?
Deaththanz Mantisk: Doing what, what...?
Bright Babe: Being crazy. At least stop repeating the last word at the end of your sentences. With that sibilant voice of yours, it's kind of freaky!!
Deaththanz Mantisk: I talk strange, strange?? You keep forgetting a word at the end of your sentences, sentences! How do you think I feel, feel?
Dive Man: Ah well, ya shoulda come twenny years earlier. Then, you'd've seen real action.
Pegasolta Eclair: Hah! As if your feeble 20XX technology would provide foes worthy of our attention!
Deaththanz Mantisk: Foolish Judge, Judge. Any death of a lawbreaker is a worthy one, one.
Drill Man: *to Hunter* Apparently, you make it to 22XX. Don't you dare forget about us in the meantime!
Deaththanz Mantisk: *stares at Hunter* Hmmm, you look friendly, but unfamiliar, unfamiliar.
Bright Babe: Seriously, stop that, that!!
Deaththanz Mantisk: Why are you talking so strange all of a sudden?
Bright Babe: AGGHH!!
Ring Man: ...And uh, why did you end up in 20XX anyway?
Pegasolta Eclair: *shrugs* Holidays.
(... and so many others!)
Ring Man: *coming back to the base* Well, that solves the mistery of the Bat Boy. Aren't you glad, AM?
Drill Man: ...
Ring Man: AM? I know you're disappointed I wasn't Bat Boy's mother, but we'll have other things to study next week, right?
Drill Man: ... I don't think there's going to be a next week.
Ring Man: What?
Drill Man: Look here. *shows the final page to the Team*
Dust Man: 'Next week: the Crorq-Scissor Army connection! All revealed on the doublecross that fooled the world!'
Bright Babe: That's absurd! It doesn't make any sense. He made it so big by fighting them. And if it were true, he'd have to give the power to another.
Over-1: *coming in* Come next week, it won't matter what made sense then. It will make sense now.
Ring Man: You thought the one weird thing about all these cases, I suppose?
Over-1: Hunter told me of your little theory...
Drill Man: What? You investigated without my consent? What if it was to make ME the fall guy?!
Over-1: ... and I realized that, prior to the week before the 'Midnight Star' issue was released, none of what it described happened. Before the article, Blacklagoon was never a fishman.
Dust Man: And after the article was written, he had always been one, right?
Over-1: Exactly. I think we have a case of retroactive continuity.
Dive Man: Waitasec. Ya mean that these journalists can alter th' past ta create scoops? How would we know we haven't been altered from a Sixth Rebellion Team or some other shit?
Over-1: I think it was just writing about inconsequential things - who'd think of looking for a small petting zoo in Scotland? - up until now. Perhaps the writer wants to end his career with the killer title of an existence.
Drill Man: And we've got to hurry before we learn we have been SA sleeper agents since our rebirth!
Ring Man: Okay, I agree with AM here.
Drill Man: Not that it would change a thing about you, traitor!
Ring Man: *sighs* Anyway, what's the office's adress?
(It's a printing press near Hope Falls, West Virginia.)
Drill Man: Hurry up, man! We haven't got all night!
Skull Man: *picking the lock* This work requires delicate manipulation. Being meticulous is a natural part of it.
Bright Babe: Considering we teleported just out of the place, couldn't we have teleported directly inside the building?
Dust Man: Actually, the built-in homing system all Robot Masters, and current-gen mechanoids, have built-in automatically lock into an open area wide enough to allow an error margin for the long-range jump. That, and there is the matter of ethics, as teleportation without express authorization is considered as breaking-in since the Bill of 20XX.
Dive Man: Ethics, shmethics. Just say th' Mega-Twerp did it first, so people find it cool ta do like him.
Skull Man: There.
(They quickly enter the main redactor's office.)
Ring Man: Weird. It seems like there's only one person working on this journal.
Drill Man: A clever plan, to distract us from his army of ghostwriters.
Pharaoh Woman: Ghostwriters? I hereby request the assistance of Anubis! Help us lead these wretched souls to their deserved place of rest! ... Pretty please?
Over-1: Main computer here. *interfaces with it* I ... I have the article.
Dive Man: So? 'Fraid of some digital ink?
Over-1: You won't like it.
Skull Man: *looks at the screen* The feeling I have is, supposedly, close to despair.
Drill Man: "Crorq secretly a General Cutman back-up all along!"
Ring Man: "Entire RPD infected with SA meme-program!"
Dive Man: "Alcohol outlawed!"? Th' monster!
Over-1: I have good news, and bad news.
Drill Man: Bad news first!
Over-1: We'll need the original author to change the article, and successfully alter reality. Or un-alter. You see what I mean.
Dust Man: Supposedly, the good news is that we can stop this.
Over-1: Indeed. Now, to find this author...
?: That won't be a hard task.
(Stepping out of the shadows is a rather aged man, with a few artificial body parts ... and wearing pajamas.)
Dive Man: That's th' second-least impressive PJ-wearing threat we had ta handle.
Drill Man: We have come to stop your fiendish plot, reality warper! Surrender now, squeal about your Counter-Earth masters, and we will be kind to you!
Drill Man: A stupid choice! Comrades, we must neutralize ... wait. You said "okay"? A clever ruse to trap us! I should have known this was the way of ... of ... your name, sir?
"Man": Ed Leeds, officer. Just let me stop the printing press's schedule *types on the keyboard* ... there.
Ring Man: Much as I like it, we can't just save the day by just pressing "Delete" and going home.
Dive Man: Sure we can!
Over-1: I agree with John. Would you mind explaining us all of this?
Leeds: Oh, no problem. Just follow me to the break room. I'll start a pot of coffee.
(After a round of coffee, tea, and booze...)
Bright Babe: So, Mr Leeds, how did you discover you could rewrite events?
Leeds: That's a question you don't ask a lot during your police work, I guess.
Skull Man: That is a factually incorrect statement.
Leeds: Hm. Right. I think it started when I entered the local newspaper's jig. I wrote down the weather report, and quite regularly, what I sent to print matched the exact weather for the day. It may have been an exact 100% match, but I only noticed it when I had to go for a picnic that day.
Dust Man: And you started to tamper with it one day, I suppose?
Leeds: Exactly. *looks at a ring on his left hand* There was this girl I wanted to take for a picnic, and the weather that day was to be full rain. So, I tried and sent "sunny day" to the press.
Over-1: And it worked.
Leeds: People the next days started to talk about micro-weather or similar things, but it didn't really matter. It's the weather. When was the last time it was accurate?
Drill Man: Except in your town. Clever, that ; it could serve as a front for nefarious plots.
Leeds: Besides, it was a day where people wanted a nice weather. I think that's how it worked. After that, I only tampered when there were big outdoor events: sports finales in our town, expositions...
Pharaoh Woman: And did you ever misuse this gift of the Gods?
Dive Man: Yeah, did ya cheat on bets, or racing?
Leeds: I did it once. I took over the racing section as the guy owed me, and I typed in the predictions. I bet on that, got a nice sum, and never did it again.
Dive Man: Pushover.
Ring Man: Not that I disagreee with your choice, but why?
Leeds: It was too dangerous. And besides, tampering with reality just to make a few bucks ... that's not correct.
Skull Man: However, you tried it again. After you lost your family during the War.
Ring Man: Thanks, Hunter. I came to that conclusion too, but I would have led the discussion to it without the social grace of a bulldozer.
Leeds: Nah, he's right. By the way, how did you know that?
Ring Man: Your bionics. There's been a few changes in design since, and the wear on your fingerjoints seems to match an implant at that time. *sips his coffee* We're technically regular inspectors for the RPD, we don't just work on reality threats.
Leeds: Good eye. Yes, I wrote an article about "Families together after War", and snuck in a line about my wife and my kids being okay, but ... it was a lie, and I knew it. Nothing changed. Nearly got fired over that stunt, but they put it down to stress.
Over-1: And eventually, after a few years, you wrote for the Midnight Star?
Leeds: Well, I needed to change my life. Going where people wouldn't know me, and where I wouldn't remember too much. I had enough money to last me for a time, but after a while, I just had to work again.
Over-1: So, not every article is by your hand? That would explain why not everything became true.
Leeds: I wrote articles at first, but I realized that some people take this journal as the truth! If I came up with anything too over the top, some people would take it as gospel and send me pictures!
Drill Man: *as the rest of the Team stares at him* What?
Leeds: So I tried to write in harmless stuff.
Over-1: Harmless? You should take a look at this. *gives him the Blacklagoon report*
Leeds: *eyes grow in horror* I nearly caused the US to be flooded?!
Drill Man: And yet, you nearly comitted mass-scale murder.
Leeds: Yes, but ... That Crorq story was so ludicrous, even for the Star's standards? You don't really think ... *looks at AM* Yes. I see now.
Dust Man: This leaves us with a conundrum: either we let the article as it is, and we say goodbye to human civilization, or we remove it, and the Midnight Star's journalistic integrity is smeared without a chance for damage control.
Bright Babe: Actually ... there might be a way to solve both issues at once. I'll just need a phone call.
(And later that night...)
Leeds: There. It's done. And you're sure this won't cause any problems? I mean, this one makes the sleeper agent thing look reasonable.
Pharaoh Woman: It is the entire truth. This I swear on Thoth and Amon! And Isis, too. Can't be too safe.
Over-1: Now, we just need a copy. You know, for souvenirs.
Leeds: Sure thing. To think I nearly destroyed the world... That would have been a hell of a retirement party.
Ring Man: Eh, don't mention it.
(The rewritten articles include such gems as :
-"RPD agent built by former SA Captain, power could destroy the world!"
-"RPD officer cut bridges with former life -literally!"
-"'I Ate That!' - Crorq's menus: puréed Scissor Joes & other unbelievable things!"
-"Bat Bot found in Lima Cave!"
-"Murmansk RPD confirms, 'Scissor Army was full of clowns!'"
-"Bionic shark ridden to safety!" )
Over-1: "The only reliable newspaper around"? I'll drink to that.
AM as Drill Man Sean as Dust Man Geoff as Dive Man
Jet as Bright Babe Hunter as Skull Man
John as Ring Man Avi as Pharaoh Woman Flippy as Toad Man