Last night we picked up our Hollow Earth Expedition game after a fantastic batch of spaghetti (seriously…) right on the heels of the Astor House Job. We opened with a rainy, foggy morning in Shaghai, with Anton Vietch — the young Serbian inventor and mechanic for the Sky Rats taking his Mk I coilgun for a test run. One of the elements of the character is that he is the total gun bunny — perpetually trying to find “the best” to over come his flaw CAN’T SHOOT (which gives his Firearms skill a -2D.) He runs through the 10 shot battery charge and absolutely destroys the old post he’s using for practice. The gunshots (the rounds break the sound barrier hard enough that strange tongues of fire and conical air disruptions are easily visible) and Vietch exultation at finally finally having hit something bring the flyers out to watch. At the end of it, Vietch gets some operating cash from Colonel “Captain Joe” Porter to develop one for their aricraft — the whole system is lighter than their .30 cals and 20mm cannons, one you add in ammo.

Cut to Edmund Zelansky, PhD and head of “The Atlanta Project” — one of the main programs for the newly-formed Office of Scientific Investigations. He had contracted for the B&E on his German competition, Obersturmbahnfuhrer George Werner of the Ahnenerbe. With the photos from the Minox Riga spy camera developed, they piece together the Nazis’ intentions in China:

Werner is here at the express orders of Reichfuhrer Heinrich Himmler of the SS to find and either abduct (or convince the Chinese to do so for the Nazis) a tulku from Tibet, Rinchen Chudak. This holy man had been one of the 13th Dalai Lama’s confidants and was the man who convinced him to allow the first team of explorers through the Eye of Shambala. The Nazis think it is the key to getting to the Second Earth, Atlantia (once the “hollow earth” or “interior world”…) Werner had tried to convince the Tibetans to let their science teams use the Eye, but it has been hidden away. Chudak most likely knows where it is, but he has not left the Potala Palace until just a few weeks ago, leading one of a dozen teams into southwest China to try and find the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama.

Zelansky immediatley sets off to gather his team!

Cut to Marcel Cointreau, famous actor of the Shanghai cinema scene, and secretly the cat burglar known as “the Fox.” He wakes in pain, his leg and arm bandaged from his close escape from the Shanghai Municipal Police the night before. He is on a rickety boat, one of the hundreds that make up a boat town on the Whangpoo River. This is the Pin-Yun Bang — the boat people that his friend Pin-Lee Cheng belongs to. He has gotten medical care for his injuries, and Cheng is upset he almost got himself killed. The martial artist and stunt man suspects over the gold sovereign in his pocket. He stole from the Nazi last night, didn’t he?

Worse, his drop off of the spy camera and film had been mistaken by the cleaning staff for a burglary attempt. He had almost been cornered by the police, but managed to effect his escape, nearly passing out at the wheel of “the Bullet”, his stripped down Delage D8S barchetta. Now it’s all over The Shanghai Times and Le Jounal de Shanghai — he was prevented from his robbery by a Sikh policeman and is injured. Hospitals are on the look out for him, and even the French garde municipal, which ignores crimes committed in the International Settlement, are looking for “the Fox’s dark, fast escape vehicle.” (Which is currently under a tarp amongst other trade goods and boxes the boat people have along the quay.) It might be time to take a break, the martial artists suggests.

After breakfast and some opium to dull the pain, they take a rickshaw to pick up his normal Delage touring car from his hideout in the Native City and head back to his place so he can rest.

Menawhile, Zelansky takes a rickshaw to find his people only to have an unexpected guest jump in while waiting at an intersection. It’s Werner, and he’s very pleased to meet Zelansky. He makes some light small talk about looking for the Chinese Secondhand Store to buy the ladies back home some gifts from the Orient…oh, is he getting use of the information his thief stole? The man was quite good — only two mistakes, and only one really let Werner know the game was on. He stole a gold sovereign from his briefcase; a trophy, he supposes. Anyway, he just wanted to meet his opposite number and let him know the score — out of professional courtesy. He then dismounted at the next stop light and went back to the Mercedes that had been tailing them.

Zelansky’s rickshaw, meanwhile, had passed the Cathay Hotel, where he missed Flight Lieutenant Declan “Irish” O’Bannon, with Captain Joe and Ting Mai, their resident Chinese aviatrix, entering the place. they are hear to meet Madam Chiang, the wife of the generalissimo and the curent head of the Aeronautics Bureau. Their boss. The Japanese have lodged a formal complaint and are making “act of war” noises over their strafing the IJN Tokozuru. She understands their bloods were up after their comrade was killed a week ago by a Japanese naval air patrol near Tsingtao, and they did what they were hired to do: protect Chinese trade. The Republic of China has responded that the Japanese were engaged in blatant aggression and piracy against legitimate shipping in Chinese waters. They are, however, using the Sky Rat’s mercenary status to distance China from the actions of the Foreign Volunteer Force (the Sky Rats.) The FVF will be fined for their actions, and she suggests the Ting and O’Bannon lie low for a few weeks.

Zelansky can’t find Cointreau, and when he goes to the Longhwa Airfield, Irish is gone and so is Captain Joe, but Vietch returns a few minutes later from his shopping trip to pick up the materials to make a new coilgun. Intrigued by his work, Zelansky and he work out some of the issues together and build a vehicular version of the weapon with a fast-charging capacitor for full-auto fire. Now to put it on a bird and test it!

Cointreau drives hom only to find there are goons from the British gangster “Diamond Jim” Greer. Greer is upset at the large amount of money he lost to the Frenchman at Pin-Lee’s fight the day before; his henchmen are there to get “something” back.  They spot each other and the chase is on! The heavy, but supercharged straight-8 powered Delage has the serious edge on the gangsters’ Citroën 7CV Traction Avant Berline (with a four banger generating 34hp!) but Cointreau is flying high on the Royal Oil, there’s traffic, and the ground is slick from the rains which favors the front-wheel drive Citroën. They race through the streets of the International Settlement and around the Recreation Grounds, the mooks blasting a .38 special at the car. Five round go into the trunk of the Delage (only one actually penetrates), and one almost hits Cointreau through the window.

A sudden clear spot allows him to use the supercharger and dodge the thick traffic, but the Citroën isn’t so lucky, bouncing off of the electric tram in the middle of the road and doing a 360 through a manure cart and its horse. He admits, Pin-Lee’s right; time to get out of Shanghai for a few days.

Everyone finally gets together at the Sky Rats’ HQ and Zelansky lays out the next mission. they have to beat Werner to the province of Qinghai, run by a Chinese Muslim socialist general from the highly powerful “Ma Clique”, and save the tulku from the Nazis. And hopefully find out where the Eye of Shambala is. The town they need to go to is Jyekundo — about 1300 miles west. That’s a 13 hour flight (the equivalent of some of the endurance racing airplanes are doing), if they had the teams and waypoints ready. Much of the interior is like going back to the medieval period! However, Werner is supposedly going by boat. that will take him 10 days. Even with stops to fuel and rest, they can fly there in two days.

They are taking the Douglas RD-3 Dolphin seaplane for the mission. It can hold six passengers and their gear, and can land just about anywhere. they decide to big up the new Mk II coilgun to the forward hatch, just in case. By sunset, they are ready. As they are working, they realize that a large group of men, 10 or so, are loading onto the Boeing 247D that one of the local cargo haulers operates. It’s Werner and he team. This race is already shaping up to be a lot tighter than they expected!

The two teams take off at about the same time, into a clearing red sky. Who will win!?!

The first part of the adventure, the Astor House Job, took a bit longer than I’d intended the other night, but the character bits — the gambling on Pin-Lee that led to a new foil in Diamond Jim, the getting shot by the police and the feeling of the law closing in, and the having to have a prize from the break-in — allowed Cointreau’s player to build a bunch of new issues for the team. The Nazis know they are onto them and that has led to a straight up race to Qinghai. There’s a completely unrelated threat from a low-level gangster and fight promoter. We got to see Pin-Lee’s boat people and also see the usually abrasive and arrogant fighter (based on the very young and cocky Bruce Lee) acting with reverence and respect for his elders. We’ve got weird science!

For only the fourth night, the campaign is running well and has easily found its footing and pace. I’m right chuffed.

Oh — new gear:

Douglas RD-3 Dolphin

The Dolphin seaplane is being used by the US president as an air yacht, and the US Navy and Coast Guard both use them for search and rescue. The Vanderbilt family has two. The aircraft is powered by twin Pratt-Whitney R-1340-1 9-cylinder rotary engines, it can seat six passengers, and has a range of about 680 miles with a ceiling of 15,000 feet. The FVF has one for cargo and observation flights called Rudy.

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Rudy, a Douglas RD-3 Dolphin: Size 4   Def 4   Str 12   Spd 150   Han 0   Crew 2   Pass 6

The Vietch MK II coilgun: See the MK I coilgun except this one is tied to a vehicular-mounted battery and alernator set-up that fast charges the coil capacitors. The stats are the same, except the Rng is 500′, Cap is 500 (a hopper of 12mm ball bearings), and the Rate is A. If unplugged from the vehicle, it’s a Mk I gun.

The Citroën 7CV Traction Avant: Size 2   Def 4   Str 8   Spd 60   Han 0   Crew 1   Pass 3

The 7CV came in a two and four door version (the Berline) and was powered by a 4-cylinder motor with a three speed (on the dash!) front wheel drive transmission. Because of this it has one of the most comfortable cabins, with no transmission channel in the center of the car.

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Note the gear shift just right of the steering wheel.

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