We started our second Hollow Earth Expedition episode for the new campaign (tentatively titled the Second Earth) this week. We opened on Edmund Zelansky, a quasi-reputatable archeologist whose crack-pot ideas on the Hollow Earth turned out to be true. Having been supported by Admiral Byrd, who had commanded the Los Angeles mission into the center of the planet, Zelansky is now a high-ranking team leader for the Office of Scientific Investigations (codename: Atlanta Project.) Zelansky is meeting with the local US Navy Intelligence attache, who tells him that Byrd’s opposite number, Obersturmbahnfuhrer George Werner of the Ahnenerbe, who had commanded the Deutschland mission to the Hollow Earth at the same time as the Byrd mission, is in Shanghai for unknown reasons.

Following the emergence of the Hollow Earth into “Atlantia”, the Second Earth now in a trailing orbit behind our world, Werner had attempted to find the “Eye of Shambala”, the old Atlantean gate that had allowed the original characters in the first campaign access to the Interior World, in Lhasa. The Tibetan governent had hidden the Eye after the events of the first campaign, and the 13th Dalai Lama had been intransigent on saying where. Worse for the German, Tibet’s close ties with Britain meant that he was blocked at every turn by their agents. Why is he in China, now? There are plnety of Ahnenerbe agents doing research here… It is decided to find a good B&E man to go through Werner’s room at the Astor House hotel and look for clues. If they are unsuccessful, they may have to take a bigger risk and try the same on Werner’s temporary office in the German consulate! Zelansky decides to turn to Marcel Cointreau — famous B-rate actor in Shanghai (and unbeknownst to the archeologist, the infamous and also celebrated cat burglar “the Fox”) — to find someone.

We had a short interlude to show Declan “Irish” O’Bannon, a flight captain with the Foreign Volunteer Force in Shanghai (known as the “Sky Rats”) and Ting Mai, the first female Chinese fighter pilot to score a kill, responding to distress calls from freighters running from a Japanese coastal monitor, the IJN Tokozuru. The vessels are out of the north, and while they might be carrying illicit materials (or no), they are in Chinese territorial waters. Tokozuru is out of the concession port of Chefoo, and has been chasing them down to board. Irish radios the Japanese to break off and in a tense battle of wills, the Sky Rats blast the warships with a couple of strafing runs to make their point, eventually driving the Japanese off. Running on fumes, they barely make their landings in a rainstorm, on the muddy makeshift airfield in Tsingtao.

Irish O’Bannon uses a Polykarpov I-16 “Rat” fighter, as does ting Mai — although hers is painted in a striped black and yellow she called the “Bumblebee.”

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We cut back to Anton Vietch, a mechanic for the Sky Rats, who is arriving at the Union Jack Club to deliver Cointreau’s beautiful Delage D8 which he has just modified with his own designed and built supercharger.

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Cointreau is at the club to watch his friend Pi-Ling Chen fight the “Belfast Bruiser” Patrick McCoy — a bare-knuckle fighter of some note. there was some gambling and banter, then a short fight between the massive Irishman and Chen, who eventually wins the fight. This makes the reckless Cointreau £400 for the match (about $2000US and $4000Shang)…it’s a lot of money and the fight promoter, “Diamond Dick” Wilson is not happy to turn over.

After the fight, having linked up with Zelansky at the fight, the plan to hit Werner’s room is put together, with Cointreau claiming to “know a guy…” They also meet up with Irish and Ting, just back from Tsingtao, and the whole group goes out for a night on the town at the Astor House — a popular spot for the Shanghai entertainment industry. Some social and character building moments ensued, with Vietch almost getting lucky with Ting, O’Bannon and Zelansky schmoozing actresses and military figures, while Cointreau donned his le Renard gear and broke into Werner’s room, with Chen– posing as a waiter — keeping watch.

Cointreau searched the room and found a briefcase with a secret bottom containing a Walther PPK (with the red Bakelite grips emblazoned with the Gestapo symbol) set up for a silencer and with cross-cut ammunition. Werner is a serious man, it seems. There are also £150 worth of gold sovereigns which the thief struggles not to steal. with a judicious use of a style point was able to find Werner’s other briefcase, hidden in a crawlspace access in the closet. After getting the combination worked out, he used the Minox Riga 120mm spy camera (only just released that month in Germany!) he had been given by Zelansky.

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After putting everything away nearly perfectly, Cointreau simply couldn’t resist…how would Werner know one gold coin was missing?

Afterward, the group went their own ways, with Zelansky going home to bed, the Sky Rats returning to their barracks on the outskirts of Longhwa Airfield, and Cointreau heading to his secret hideout in the old Chinese City to recover “le balle” or “the Bullet” — his stripped down Delage D8S getaway car, dressing at the Fox, and going to the Park Hotel to deliver the goods to Zelansky. Did he have to be so flashy? Nope. Is it in character? Absolutely.

He gets caught slipping in by a Chinese cleaning lady, pawned her off with a wink and a kiss, but she winds up calling the police. After leaving the camera and film rolls outside of Zelansky’s door and knocking, pausing at the stairwell so he can be seen by the scientist/spy, he finds himself in a chase through the building with a Sikh police officer who wings his leg with a careful shot from his Webley. There’s a short fight scene with another cop waiting by the Bullet in a rain-soaked, neon-lit alley (because, of course it is) and he makes good his escape!

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Vietch, back at the repair shed for the Sky Rats, meanwhile, is struck by inspiration and finally uses his “Weird Science” trait, finishing the coilgun we established he’d been experimenting with. A stupendous Craft roll and a style point and we’ll be seeing the fruits of his labor next session… (and you can see it in the Vietch Coilgun post.)

What are the Nazis up to? We’ll find out next week!

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