The second session for Tales From The Loop was delivered last night….
Reflecting on the previous session, I realised I was using an older version of the rules and therefore I deleted that eBook and grabbed the final version which I had stored in my iCloud. this meant success would be much more in the grasp of the players but was far from guaranteed. Mike (Olov) was unwell but we were joined by Barry so we also had a little bit of work on how to introduce a new character to the Kids.
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The scenario opens a couple of days after the last Mystery with one of the twin 13-year-old Hellström brothers (Olof, the Jock) being laid up with a sprained ankle after a fall in football.
Friday 4th May 1984
Kennet (the Weirdo) is browsing through the shelves in the small record store in Stenhamra, summoning the courage to one day ask Ingrid, the shop assistant out on a date. She’s four years his senior so it’s going to need a lot more courage. He spots another face in the store he knows well, it’s Asbjörn Norberg, a Troublemaker in his class. Asbjörn is 14, already having been held back a year due to absenteeism and “trouble at home” and he’s roving through the heavy metal collections looking for something that suits his mood. The air is filled with the saccharin sound of The Herrey’s, fresh from their Eurovision win with “Diggiloo-Diggiley”. It’s possibly the worst environment for a metal head but the store owner wants to make sure everyone knows Sweden won.
Kennet is bored. He’s found Olov to be an incessant whiner when it comes to being an invalid – shouting for a drink, shouting for help on something else. – so Kennet took off. Eventually he tires of ogling Ingrid (did she spot him looking at her just one too many times) and he takes his burgeoning stalker-passion off on a bike ride to the rusting ex-Magnetrine hulk they encountered last session and have since adopted as a Hideout. They’ve salvaged some old carpet off cuts for a more comfortable flooring and one of the lockers serves as a “safe” and “pantry” where they keep their pilfered sweets and biscuits. But Kennet isn’t the only one who’s bored. Asbjörn is also looking for something to do. It’s ages until the Pizzeria opens and he can go down there and pick a fight with some of the popular kids down there. So, he jumps on the jalopy of a pushbike his mum got him and pedals after Kennet.
Asbjörn comes from a single parent home, much like Kennet and Olov. But whereas Camilla Hellström keeps a good home and has a good job, Ms Norberg is a mess. Strung out on one drug or another, with a new stepfather for her son every six months, she exists in the half-state between twilight and night on her good days. Asbjörn is left pretty much up to himself for everything. As a result he’s independent, tough, suspicious and sometimes destructive. Kennet represents the opposite – smart, not physically-gifted, polite, well-mannered and with a relatively stable family home.
When Asbjörn arrives at the hulk, mere minutes after Kennet, he suspects something might be up so he pummels the metal sides of the hulk with a broken branch until Kennet appears. The two have an awkward conversation but Kennet, eager to impress, eventually reveals this is the Hideout, tells about their encounter earlier in the week and Asbjörn is hooked. He’s attracted to the counter-culture, the danger and the unknown and despite his misgivings about people, he really needs some friends. He advises that there was no way that Kennet could have seen him approach so they should build in some booby traps (early warning systems). The boys agree – with Asbjörn promising that he can get fishing line, a torch and some duct tape “easily enough”, eat some biscuits, chew the fat and then head home. Asbjörn doesn’t mention that he’ll be using his own five-fingered discount at the store in the morning. Just before closing time, Asbjörn had popped into the store, attempted some shoplifting and been almost caught (being rocked to Push his roll, taking on an Exhausted Condition) but he’d gotten the things he needed, the things he promised.
Grimtooth Would Be Proud
Saturday morning (5th May 1984) sees Kennet racing to meet his friend at their appointed rendezvous spot. He finds it a little weird that he couldn’t call for his new friend at his home but Asbjörn was adamant. The two cycle out to the Hideout and spend the entire morning laying catgut and stringing cans. Kennet muses that Asbjörn is so good at laying traps that they should get a copy of Grimtooths Traps and see how they get on with that! They start the afternoon eating a plate of sandwiches, cold meats and other finger foods that Camilla Hellström had bought for a date night later that week. Kennet already knew he’d blame Olov for that. They get back onto the subject of the frogman and wonder where he came from. – resolving to see if they can get some maps from the boaters down at the harbour. they cycle in and (with a stunningly good roll) catch the attention of Johann Löfgren who’s spending his Saturday sanding down and varnishing wood on his little launch “Grágás” (the Grey Goose). They strike up an easy friendship even after Asbjörn realises that Löfrgren is a retired policeman. He takes them out on the launch, shows them how to helm, how to tie up and when it’s time for home, hands them each a brace of Björkna (White bream) to take home. Kennet lands home to his mother who is delighted to gut and cook the fish for the evening meal. Olov complains that he got a bone in his fish. Meanwhile, across town, Asbjörn starts to gut and cook his own fish.
The Frogman Returns
Early next morning the boys meet again at the rendezvous and head to the Hideout. When they arrive, they notice one of the alarms has been tripped and when they go inside they see a pair of black, rubbery flippers on the ground. Kennet races up the rusted steps to the Hideout proper and finds “Max”, their Russian frogman, devouring the remainders of their pantry. Max explains that he had to come back as, in truth, he is in big trouble. A hundred of his friends are trapped in a submarine stuck on a rock just off the mini island of Munken, only a few hundred yards away. They’ve been down there too long, finding it increasingly hard to replenish air, running out of food and some of the men are getting very sick. Max, or “Ivan” as he prefers, looks pretty awful. He begs the boys to help him – he needs a tugboat to pull the Submarine off the rocks so they can escape. He paints a picture of a tin can with a hundred corpses just off the coast and claims the Kommisar will shoot anyone who tries to desert. Asbjörn asks for a reward, suggests Ivan give him his gun. Ivan refuses. Kennet suggests he’d like a Captains hat. After much discussion and a brief exchange of commerce, the boys agree. They don’t want Russian ghosts in the area, after all.
They head into town, down to the marina and then they spot the object of their desire. A Magnetrine tug, pride of the marina, floating at the commercial area of the pontoons. Asbjörn contrives a plan to create a distraction by untying some of the smaller boats and launches and then stealing the Magnetrine tug. They kick the plan into action – Asbjörn untying boats while Kennet secures the tug, right when Mr Löfgren calls out “Kennet! Good morning!”. He’d have been stuck there for hours if not the boats coming adrift – Mr Löfgren yells at him to fetch the harbour master and Kennet runs off to do so. Meanwhile, Asbjörn has made his way to the tug where he waits for his co-conspirator. With the harbour staff and customers all distracted by the drifting boats, Kennet climbs up to the floating tug and they cast off. Asbjörn revels in the freedom of driving a flying vehicle and speeds quickly up the edge of the coast towards the isle of Munken.
At the island, four men wait, holding thick ropes and chains. They move the tug into position and Ivan climbs aboard and secures all the lines. Asbjörn then has the experience of pushing a Magnetrine vessel to it’s infrastructure limits. The conceit is that Magnetrine plates can lift almost anything but the metal infrastructure is what gives out first (thus explaining all of the rusting hulks, stripped of their Magnetrine plates). With a sickening crunch, the chains start to slice through the winch holding and the ropes begin to strain and pick apart. But there’s a sudden release and the resistance drops off immediately. Ivan is delighted and sets about securing the ropes.
The boys head out on deck to see a Russian submarine surface and the hatches open. About fifty men quickly disembark and take grateful gasps of air. After a couple of minutes they’re ordered back below by a man in a peaked hat. Ivan thanks them and hands them the spoils. – a Russian divers knife. He slides down the rope and rejoins his vessel after speaking with the man in the hat. He takes an oilskin bundle from the hatch and the Captain hands over his hat. Ivan places them on the island and waves. Then he rejoins the vessel once more, climbs in, seals the hatch and the submarine descends into the waters.
Kennet pilots the tug over the island and Asbjörn shinnies down the ropes to get the bundles. the hat, a gift for Kennet, is worn proudly and inside the oilskin bundle are Russian momentos. A hand-carved Matryoshka doll, a crucifix, trinkets and ornaments, Russian coins and even a couple of bullets. Delighted, the boys pilot the tug over to the Hideout where Asbjörn disembarks with the loot. Both of them realise they are now “Pirates” as they’ve stolen a ship, and have booty!
The Biggest and Best Lie In The World
The problem remains how to return the tug. Asbjörn refuses to return to town with it – suggesting that the authorities would send him to prison. The first idea is just to leave it drifting but Kennet has an idea. He pilots it alone back to the Harbour and the staff relieve him of his command. At once he is surrounded by a dozen fingers pointing and shouting. The biggest and best lie ever needed, requiring Three successes issues forth from his mouth, telling a tale of spotting the boat saboteur heading off and only seeing the tug as the way to catch him. They almost don’t buy it but Mr Löfgren intervenes (using up the last of the Charm successes they got on him earlier)and vouches for the boys character. Satisfied, they take Kennets vague description of a saboteur and form an opinion it must have been a local called “Bernd” who no-one likes anyway.
Mr Löfgren makes it plain to Kennet that he knows he was lying. And then makes a not-too-subtle suggestion that he should bring some fish up to the Hellström home and have dinner with his mother. Slightly disgusted, Kennet waves off the suggestion and retrieves his bike to go and meet his friend.
Kennet returns home early enough so his mother doesn’t fuss and wrestles with how he’s going to tell his twin about the adventures he’s just had, about how their gang are now Pirates and how he has brought in a new member without checking first. Luckily Olov is whining about his sore leg and how his weekend was ruined and Kennet quickly forgets his feelings of guilt. He can only think of his new hat.