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Occult underground: Synthpunk, NYC

Troy Swain

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Benazir Shirani, a charismatic con-artist.
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Benazir's family comes from Faisalabad, but she was born in NYC and grew up in Jackson Heights. She recently dropped out of FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) but hasn't told her parents. She didn't want to go to college, but didn’t want to live with her parents. She's learned to work her conservative parents and everyone around her, and has learned how to get what she wants from people. She has an older brother, Saeed, and an older sister Molia. She got into fashion mainly because she likes how people use uniforms to fit in. She's very persuasive. Benazir is sometimes lovers with Dalton.

"Bren" Schmitt, a resourceful comic-book writer.
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Brendon is from Naperville, Chicago. He moved to NYC to go to Cooper Union, but before was secretly in seminary school (Irish Catholic), and was a missionary in a still to be determined foreign country. His webcomic is fairly well known. He's quite but good at calming down violent situations; very good at getting in people's heads as if they were characters; and although he keeps to himself, he has a lot of nerdy online friends who are willing to help.

Cody Stevenson, sound engineer and hacker.
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Cody's dad, Slade, was recently institutionalized and his mother, Sabrina, died in the famous East River Explosion of 1995 (during an illegal art show where one dangerous, and occult, electronics piece was tapped into the cities power grid and blew up; six people died; the organizer, his mother's best friend, went to jail). Cody is quiet and makes synthesizers. He learned how to hack from his dad and has been doing it most of his life. He recently graduated from Cooper Union. His dad believes his mother is still alive. He also deals Adderall and weed on the side and is really good as sizing up danger. He's in a band, INIT, with Dalton, but thinks Dalton is dick.

Dalton Rose, secret rich kid and musician.
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Dalton comes from a wealthy real estate family. He's an enterprising punk who was a child musical prodigy. He's in a band, INIT, with Cody, but thinks Cody is a bitchy baby. Still, they make good music together. Dalton is too cool for school and is great as coasting by. But he's also obsessed with never asking his dad for anything, and never using any of his family's money.

Episode 0: The impossible Sex Rox 7" flexidisc

Cody finds a live Sex Rox / Bait Chickens split flexidisc (7") of "Bottle Rocket" / "Ass Kisser" in his dad's record collection. (Sex Rox is a band the players made up in an earlier Fiasco game set in 1978 NYC.) He brings the 7" to his house mates, who love Sex Rox, and who live in a dilapidated brownstone in the still non-gentrified part of Bedstuy, Brooklyn. The 7" is hand labelled: "Sex Rox, Apostle Club 06/23/78" on one side, and "Bait Chickens, Apostle Club" on the other side, both in faded magic marker. That show is a famous show. It was a show that never happened. Mickey Feral, Sex Rox's guitarist, OD'd in the green room right before Sex Rox was supposed to go on stage; meanwhile, a fight happened, which led to a riot, which led to a fire and two deaths, which closed down the Apostle Club. Oddly, only the Sex Rox song "Bottle Rocket" plays. No sound comes out of the Bait Chicken side. They also can't record the song, and even weirder, every time the song finishes the song repeats, quietly and with a slight reverb on every single speaker nearby, even if the speaker isn't powered. They then realize that after the song "ghost repeats" the sound keeps going and they can hear Sex Rox's crowd in the background, very faintly. It sounds like a fight, and it sounds like a riot. The background noise isn't on the 7", and is longer than what's possible to be played.

A few days later, they record the song, but when they wake up, the 7" is missing. On top of that, they can't upload the FLAC file OR copy it OR record it on any device. And when they open the sound file in any sound program there is NO sound waves (and the file is only 903k) just a flat line with occasional blips.

Cody and Dalton run analytics and play the file over and over. They listen to the crowd in the background. They try everything they could think of to record the song. Also, Cody accuses Dalton of stealing the 7", and then accuses everyone in the house of stealing it. Finally, they decide to reach out to Stephanie Stain, the former lead singer of Sex Rox, who is an acquaintance of Cody's dad (Cody's dad, Slade, is a well known electronics artist in the downtown NYC art scene and knows the older punk scene pretty well). Stain tells them that, yes, the Sex Rox show at the Apostle Club never happened, and Sex Rox were definitely never recorded at the Apostle Club. And as far as she knows the Bait Chickens were never recorded at all. But when they play her the file, she breaks down into tears and confirms that the guitarist on the file is definitely Mickey Feral. And when they listen to the crowd chatter after the "ghost repeat," Stain can hear her own voice, and can hear the fight she had with the bouncer that started the riot. She breaks down sobbing, asks for the file, and Cody and Dalton promise they'll bring her a copy as soon as they figure out how to copy it.

Later, they meet with their older musician friend, Cynthia (also a friend of Cody's dad, and who also lost her two sisters in the East River Explosion of '95). They all decide to play the file backwards. Immediately there is a painful ear-piercing digital squeal/screech that comes from every near speaker. The sound is barely fading away when everyone's phone goes off. The number is unlisted on all phones. Dalton answers, and it's their roommate Kim, crying and screaming for them to help her, please god, please, oh please, please help me..." The phone clicks off and they call Kim who is in the room next door working and can they please keep it down? Everyone freaks out. They ask Cody if he can see if Kim's phone made the call (Cody is a hacker). He says that's some serious illegal shit, and he simply doesn't have access to the phone company's internal info.

The next afternoon they try playing the 7" backwards, again. And the exact same thing happens. Except this time it's not Kim, but another roommate, Yuki, on the phone, crying and asking for help. After the call, they call Yuki but she doesn't answer. A few seconds later she texts, "In class. Sup?" The call didn't come from her.

[This was the end of the first session, which was character building and setup.]

Episode 1: An unpleasant call and unwanted visit

The next night, at about 3 in the morning, Benazir ("Bennie"), Bren, and Cody are hanging out in the living room. [The player for Dalton couldn't make it, so we decided he was at his parents, looking into the history of the Apostle Club, which is now condos that his dad's company developed. He had heard weird rumors about the condos being haunted.] Suddenly there is a call on all of their phones from an unlisted number. Bren answers and it’s Kim, their roommate, who they’re pretty sure is in the next room. The voice says, “Follow my instructions if you want to live.” The voice tells Cody to get his computer equipment and to get his roommates and to get Kim’s books and to get out of the house, now. They have a minute.

Cody knocks on Kim’s door and wakes her up. She’s obstinate and pissed, but then goes into the living room and hears her voice (“That’s not me! That doesn’t even really sound like me!”) Benazir gets Yuki, who is at first startled and then gets more and more freaked out. The Voice tells them that they will be framed and if they survive, they will be framed, and the police will be following. The Voice tells them they have 30 seconds left, and to get out of the house. Cody is packing up when he hears the front door click. He quickly and quietly sneaks out and as he's sneaking down the hallway he hears walkie talkies and several organized bootsteps searching the rooms. They all meet in the backyard without being seen. The dogs are barking like crazy. Kim’s Voice warns them that it… is losing… con… nec… tion… aaannd… wiiilll… caaallll… aaaah… Click.

They sneak out through the next door neighbor’s yard, and make their way back to The Den, the bar where their other roommate works. Bren’s twin is there, along with Björn and his bike gang. [Björn is another player's character who will be joining us next week.] Kim and Yuki are both deeply upset, but Bren is calming them down. Cody takes Kim into a booth, hooks up his computer, and starts asking Kim questions about why the voice would want her to take her books. She doesn’t know. Bren and Benazir tell the other roommates roughly what’s going on. They decide to go back the way they left and try to find any incriminating evidence.

Benazir and Bren sneak back to their house. They know their house and can quickly see where whoever-those-people-were messed with their stuff. And their house is full of planted heroin, coke, and Adderall. They double check all of the rooms together, knowing that they're running out of time. Benazir grab everyone’s computers and all the drugs and goes back outside. As they’re in their backyard, the police roll up. Benazir is already over the fence, but Bren wants to talk to the cops. Benazir points out that she’s better at talking, but Bren convinces her that he'll take care of it. Benazir takes off, and Bren goes out to meet the cops, but not through the house—he goes through the tiny alley to the brownstone's front stoop (remember, it’s now about 4am). The cops throw Bren against the wall and arrest him. He asks for a warrant, which they show him, and then they bust down the front door and search their place—but there’s nothing there.

Meanwhile, the cops roll by Benazir walking down the street with a backpack full of drugs. But “Bennie” is a smooth customer and the cops warn her to “be safe out here” and drive off.

Back at the bar, they decide to sell the coke and Adderall, but flush the heroin down the toilet.

They don’t go home, but stay at friend’s apartments. In the morning they meet at their local cafe and try to figure out a plan of action. They call Cynthia, Cody’s friend, and a friend of Cody’s dad, and ask for advice. She doesn’t know. They eventually decide to talk to Cody’s dad, who is in an institution.

Cody’s dad, Slade, doesn’t remember the 7”, and tells Cody and his friends that the show never happened, so he couldn’t have had a recording of that show. Benazir mentions that there’s a bunch of strange things that’s going on, and Slade immediately starts talking about Cody’s mother, Sabrina. Cody is dismayed (his dad’s refusal to accept Sabrina’s death is what put him in the asylum).

They leave and Cody gets out on the darkness and asks if there’s been any information about the 7”. There is talk, which, again, is impossible since no one should know about the 7”. We leave with Benazir cleaning the house (the police made a massive mess); Bren researching the 1995 East River Explosion; and Cody checking any leads on the 7” or Kim’s math shit or phone anomalies.
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Troy Swain

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In Soviet Russia, records of rock and roll were made from used x-rays. So I took one and turned it into the game's flex-disk 7".

From Left to Right: Dalton (played by Luis); Cody (played by Lauren); Benazir (played by Emily); Bren (played by Emma); Brit; Björn (played by Annalise);
Kim; Yuki; Piper; and Cynthia. All but Cynthia live in a house in Bedstuy, Brooklyn.

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