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Coal Cracker Cthulhu #8: Transgression

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After their dealings with the dead rising in Harlem, the Trentons and Smitty bid the others a fond farewell (or good riddance) and departed for Boston. Dr. Millheim, Steven, and Nichols decided to stay through the New Year, up until Steven had to return to classes at Wyoming Seminary. They invited some of their friends to visit, but no one was able to take them up on their offer.


January 1923 --


Our cast:


Dr. Nathaniel Millheim: a combination of Peter Venkman from Ghostbusters and "Big Dan" Teague from O Brother, Where Art Thou? Noted parapsychologist and crackpot author


Steven O'Hara: Instructor of Mathematics and the Sciences at Wyoming Seminary. Friend of Dr. Millheim.


Brian Nichols: Former bookkeeper for "questionable" organizations. Currently working as Dr. Millheim's personal assistant as he is trying to avoid two murder raps in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.


All characters' namesakes are the actual players (Steve plays Steven, and so on...)


The academic world is a tangled web of connections and contacts, so it was only a matter of time that a Professor of Medieval Literature at Columbia University would contact the investigators in their New York hotel room. The professor, Dr. Rudolph Pearson, had confided in a former collegue, Dr. Robert Wintermute about the disapearance of a third staff member, Dr. Ephraim Harris. Pearson was worried that Harris had finally used "his brilliant mind to make bad decisions," and that those decisions were not things Pearson could convince the police about. Wintermute had since moved to Arkham, Massachusetts to fill a visiting faculty position at Miskatonic University teaching history while conducting more research. Wintermute relayed Pearson's odd story in passing conversation to colonial history expert Dr. Eric Bowsfield. And guess who was the roommate of Dr. Bowsfield many years before at the East Stroudsburg Normal School?


That's right, Dr. Millheim. If you need a drink to comprehend that, go ahead, Prohibition's over!


Bowsfield was one of the people who had been invited to the Nyc festivities, so could easily drop the investigators a pre-emptive telegram to warn them of Dr. Pearson's contact.


Pearson's story was not much helpful. Dr. Harris has been missing since just after exams in December. He is a brilliant physicist, who hates to travel, and can be quite absent minded at times. However, when he didn't show up for lectures before, at least he could be found in his lab. He left no notes or clues to where he disappeared to. For a nominal fees (enough to cover bar tabs and ensure they didn't have to sneak out of the hotel in the early morning hours), they took the case.


At Harris' home they found a cluttered apartment, with two large mobile chalkboards, covered with equations, a few diagrams scattered about, and little else of interest. Steven, after examining the boards, actually corrected some of the equation, realized the implications of the equations, and decided that while the reward money was nice, someone had to stop Dr. Harris before he did something very dangerous.



(In GM-speak, our trained physicist rolled a 02 on his Physics skill, easily passed his San check, and only lost one point of Sanity after realizing what Dr. Harris was planning to do.)



Before going any further, the fellows stopped off for a few drinks, took a bottle for the road, and returned to the hotel, where Steven tried to explain to the group what the equations and schematics were for. It was great fun to see Steve the player squirm as he tried to explain what amounted to a teleporter in 1920's terms to the investigators. It was also neat when the other players staved off San checks, because they all failed to comprehend what Steven the character was babbling about.

The next day, at Steven's insistence, they followed up on a possible lead in the newspaper. The Hell Gate Power Plant had been suffering from frequent brown outs and even a few complete failures of the grid. Knowing Dr. Harris' plans involved great power requirements, the group posed as investigators from Columbia making inquiries. The plant manager was little help, although he could provide exact times of the outages.


Coming back to the hotel, the group was met with a fearsome visage in the hotel room: Steven's wife Angela.


Angela O'Hara - a Northeastern Pennsylvanian socialite, living off the money of the coal mines. She married Steven expecting reknowned teaching positions and international acclaim. She got a prep school teacher who constantly got in trouble with his group of friends. Angela had already aided the investigators twice (see entries #2 and #6), and was well-aware of the Mythos. However, this was the first time she would be a full-fledged PC, being played by Steve's friend Jeff in a very special guest appearance.


It seemed as if Steven should have been home a week ago, and with a few prodding phone calls, Dr. Bowsfield gave the fellas up. After getting caught up on their "job", Angela agreed to stay and finish it and then get the hell back home.


With Angela's oversight, they searched the apartment again, this time coming up with a basket of baseballs and a rough lease agreement to a warehouse, right near the Hell Gate plant. Steve also deemed it wise to completely eradicate the equations on the board. The others just looked at him puzzledly.


They find the warehouse, knock on the door, and are responded by only a "Go away, I'm busy!" After a few more increasingly ruder back-and-forth, they mention Dr. Pearson, and the door flies open to a thin bespectacled man.


"Why didn't you say you knew him in the first place!"


To call Dr. Harris frenetic would be and understatement. As they navigated boxes, tables, parts, etc, he picked up an oblong rock with multiple runes. "I found this one in my travels isn't it marvelous!"


Dr. Millheim and Brian's heads tilted a bit towards to the side and they nodded in unison. Steven felt repulsed by the object... "Dr. Harris can we just see your project?"


Without missing a beat Harris lead them into a larger part of the warehouse. On the other side of the room stood a circular gate-like contraption. The mess of wires, cables, latches, and other mechanical parts stood 15 foot high, even more impressive as it sat on a five foot high platform.



"Hilliard, Dynakov, they knew want we could accomplish. They just needed my genius, and the rest of humanity to catch up. Wanna see where we can go," Harris gleefully said, as he flipped a giant switch. Parts spun, other parts created a growing hum. He twisted some dials, flipped a few more switches and the open area inside the circle turned electric, then purple, finally showing rock formations in a night sky with no recognizable constellations.


"This is where I found my lovely, come along!" Harris shouted, as he raced up the ramp and jumped into the gate! Dr. Millheim and Nichols chased after him like schoolboys at recess and went through as well."


"Those fools, let's get out of here, before anything happens. Your "friends" are doomed," cried Angela, tugging at Steven's arm. Steven watched the professor and hit two friends disappear behind some pillars, and then he dashed towards the tables, reading schematics, pouring over Harris' notes.


For Nichols and Dr. Millheim, the land was disorienting at best. Solid ground seemed to shift like ocean waves, and the two of them would lose each other after being two feet apart seconds earlier. It took sheer determination and a LOT of luck for them to come back to the portal and the warehouse. Finally, as the machine began to smoke and begin to make unhealthy metal on metal sounds, Dr. Harris returned...


This is where the stories deviate, in the kinder/gentler world. Steven sabotages the machine, the group goes back to tell Pearson the Harris is a lost cause, and the day they leave the Big Apple for Wilkes-Barre, they see a scholarly man on a strange winged beast, flying through the air. As the last part of a long gaming day, I made things a bit too fluffy.


In the real world Dr. Harris barely makes it back, as Steven and Angela systematically dismantle the dimensional portal, causing irreparable harm to the machine. Harris goes berserk and the happy couple barely pulls Millheim and Nichols to safety, before they barricade the door from the outside. The sparking, malfunctioning machine probably ignites the old warehouse and the everything inside. The investigators go back to Pearson and tell them (most of) the truth. But sooner or later, probably after when they return back from a few episodes of Masks, Dr. Harris will have his revenge. Dr. Harris WILL have his revenge.


I will make sure of it.


Transgression is one of the two scenarios in the back of Secrets of New York sourcebook. I chose it for two reasons: (1) Its sci-fi aspects throws everybody outside their comfort zone of walking dead and strange cultists (2) except for Steven who is a trained physicist who worked for the government during the Great War. Truly, Steven acted as he should. He was the only one who could comprehend what Harris was doing, heck he could have IMPROVED on it. Rather, he realized how dangerous Harris was, and eliminated the active technology. Of course, many of the equations are still in his head... Hell, Steven is the only character who has more Sanity than when he started! Those advanced theories are comforting to him, and although it doesn't explain the strangeness, he can accept it as part of the universe.


I fear he's going to be able to stare down an Elder God (from a safe distance), and think nothing of it. Since I'm laying the seeds for Masks, Spawn, and Day of the Beast in the next few weeks, I think the group might hope he's actually able to do that.

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