I’m going back to where it all began. That alley. If you don’t know what Callisto Six is, I urge you to see the video linked above or google them, perhaps check out GeekAndSundry and their Twitch. If you’re not caught up to at least episode 2.8 of this series you may experience spoilers so I would recommend not reading any further. For those of you who have also been bitten by the Callisto 6 bug and are all caught up, you may scoff at this, but deep down I feel a part of this tale never left that alley. I know when I try (and fail) to write fan fiction about this, I end up there.
Origins of comic book superheroes are revisited many times thru the shelf life of any IP in this genre. Was Parker’s spider always the property of Oscorp? Were Batman’s parents always killed by Joe Chill? Was Barry Allen always his own bolt of lightning? If we were to compare this alley to other superheroes from which this game and its story are loosely inspired, Batman has his own Crime Alley, and the moment when his parents were taken from him by needless violence and insatiable greed. Often we find the story of Batman echo back in some way to that alley. Every writer of his mythos seems to want to take a crack at describing it for a new audience. From that fateful moment in Crime Alley onward, young Bruce Wayne’s destiny was forever altered. There have since been many retellings of his story, but a consistency in the thread is how that moment of pain and grief leads him into the mantle of the Dark Knight, fighting crime in a battle that seems endless and senseless in and of itself, but even after he can’t physically continue, the mantle lives beyond him.
The six characters of Callisto however, do not come into this alley forever changed out of a sense of duty or grief. What seems to haunt them is instead confusion and curiosity. Why is this happening and what can we do? However, as we learn nearing the end of the second season, this story is about to wrap around itself and may once again return that fateful alley, as it appears to have done at least once, perhaps countless times before. Or perhaps not. The game’s StoryTeller Eric Campbell may be leading us down a wild goose chase, but this looks more like an Ouroborous: the snake swallowing its own tail.
Back at the first episode of #Callisto6 about 2 and a half hours in, these six people meet, seeimingly in some cases for the first time. Anton and Hopps have known each other since they were children, but haven’t spoken in years. Luma and Lacy have been friends and neighbors for a long time, and share a mutual lost love in the form of Lacy’s brother and Luma’s ex-boyfriend, Hawke. We don’t know much about that yet, but it hovers over their relationship like a dark cloud even at the beginning. Likewise, Oya and Cass have been old dear friends for a long time, with Cass getting herself into trouble and the more level headed Oya helping her out. However, aside from these comfortable pairings for purpose of storytelling, the others really don’t know much about each other as they find themselves sitting around a table, at a formal dinner intended to celebrate the past and future of corporate giants of California and the world: Pyramid Star. Cassium. And other companies which seemed to control the economy and perhaps the lives of many of Los Angeles’ inhabitants in 2119.
Hopps just failed to tell her dad’s joke. The violence is erupting outside. These six folks are being escorted out the back. Oya & Cass are arguing over whether Cass will join in the festivities elsewhere on the compound. A brewing protest has turned into a riot outside on the other side of this building, as thousands of LA inhabitants have decided to demonstrate either for or against an impending political vote for something called “MEASURE Z.” This will determine the future of the city and how much control companies will have within it.
They seemed randomly placed together at the same table. Seemed escorted out to the alley alone. However, those of us who know about more recent turns of events.. This could have very easily been planned either by a war weary Luma or a “Fletcher” or a 3rd party. Tails? Who knows. This could also still just be coincidence. Luck of random probability? I’m not buying that either cuz where’s the fun in that? The future team Callisto 6 are taken to an elevator. A robot escorts them to ‘the fire exit.’
The storyteller Eric Campbell’s narration goes on like this, “You see a well lit alley way. Quite clean. Very large. Just waiting for you outside the door. It’s Los Angeles night.” Eric is playing this all very matter of factly. Nothing to see here. It is what it is.
We learn much later that lurking nearby is a seventh character named coincidentally “Zack” (no relation to me of course) who prefers the name Cobalt. He may be tagging a wall artistically, or escaping nearby violence by heading towards this alley. It’s not made very clear. We later discover Cobalt was seemingly accidentally also doused with.. but I’m getting ahead of myself. We don’t learn about him in the first couple episodes of this series, and neither do the players so far as we are led to believe.
We don’t know about Cobalt yet. We also don’t know if Eric knew about Cobalt yet. Did Siegel/Shuster know Kal’s cousin? Eric may have decided to ask Xander to portray a seventh Callisto Six member as an afterthought, or perhaps he had this planned all along. It’s difficult to say. We may never know the truth cuz even if Eric revealed A truth he might be lying, to keep future events more dramatic and throw people like myself who just love dissecting stuff like this off the scent. It is his prerogative.
Oya reacts to something Luma and Lacy had been discussing before they left the building, “Wait. Did you just say you could stop the robots?” To which she was referring to the robots around the other side of the building from which they were escaping. Not far away was the demonstration that had become a riot, and several robots and other corporate products were on display, and ready if necessary to control the crowds.
Luma acknowledges Oya’s query, but her focus is on keeping her friend Lacy from making a possible mistake. “Technically yes but that’s not what we’re gonna do, right?” Lacy’s looks down. Luma continues, “That would be really bad attention!”
Oya’s interests have been peaked, “Are you guys hackers?” As she fancies herself one as well. Or at the very least she’s a computer enthusiasts who specializes in virtual design. Since this evening, Oya’s specialties as a virtual graphic designer have helped Lacy very much, but that’s not even a gift out of the box yet here.
Lacy says “no!” too loudly.
Eric makes a point to say doors close behind them, leaving them outside alone. He waits a beat as Luma continues to chastise, “Lacy, if something happened to you, your dads would kill me!” This is the moment. Seems fitting, perhaps too on the nose, that Luma is the one talking and everyone else is silent.
In the first iteration of the telling of this alley story, we are led to believe Doctor Patel is exactly what she appears to be. A corporate shill who has turned rebel, and is trying to undo some wrong by subjecting these six people to powers above and beyond those of mere mortals. However, towards the end of season two this story appears to be retconned, and we learn that while perhaps the first time this played out it really was Doctor Patel, that was some temporal loops ago (perhaps one perhaps several it’s left unclear). It was actually Luma, having traveled back in time, disguised as Patel, who ventured into that alley. Patel was kept safe and hidden away. This means that as Future Luma, canister in hand, having just received a mortal wound, approaches the alley, she hears her own voice shouting at Lacy.
However, the six are completely oblivious to this. Eric, again trying to make this seem routine, says, “Everyone make a perception check.”
Standard roll. 6 or better. Aliza Pearl rolls a 17 for her character Oya, but Eric makes a point to say effects only on a 19 or a 20. Perhaps that’s to educate them & us on the new Cypher System, but IF Eric knew about the retcon happening in season two, and I’m not saying he did but what if someone rolled a 20 here? What if Luma had? Would Eric have felt duty bound to add a clue here, that Oya perhaps would get a sense of de ja vu?
Interestingly Gina DeVivo rolls for Luma but then shakes her head. The other 5 pass the perception check. Gina happens to ‘fail’ then makes a point to say Luma is not paying attention; worried for Lacy. NOT saying Gina knew. NOT saying she didn’t. Just observing. So far it does seem possible that both Gina DeVivo and Sam de Leve were in on the gag with Eric Campbell, but it’s also possible they were not.
Eric continues “…and one by one you all look up because you begin to notice you’re not alone in the alley.”
Anton is the first to speak up to the others, “wait there’s somebody else here,” but Oya got a 17 so she probably noticed well before Anton said anything. It is slightly less plausible that Aliza Pearl was also in on the gag, and was just better at pretending. IF this is improvised retcon not a preplanned part of a grander design (I’m ALL FOR retcons pls don’t take this the wrong way) it could be important to note that Oya is arguably 1st to notice “Doctor Patel” enter the alleyway since 2.8 establishes Oya sent Luma back. I’m not suggesting Amy Dallen (Cass) Hector Navarro (Anton) or Bonnie Gordon (Hopps) were in on the gag. Perhaps the entire cast had been let in on it, but that’s doubtful. Perhaps only Sam and Eric knew. Perhaps only Eric. Perhaps even Eric didn’t know and this idea was devised later. There are many different possibilities here.
Eric continues, “Whoever made the perception checks, you’re glancing down, and about 40 ft away is a woman..”
Now, in the Cypher System Rulebook 40 ft only comes up a few times. It’s the upper benchmark for “short distance.” In other words it takes roughly one turn to advance that distance in combat. From a GM perspective this is convenient due to the immediate plans for this alley as a training ground for the players’ 1st impending battle w/minions. They’re in a bottleneck. “Patel” is at the alleyway’s opening. Our future heroes are at the dead end. It takes at least one turn to escape the alley. I don’t recall any of the characters testing the door they came from to retreat. Had they done so, chances are Eric would have explained it locked behind them, so the GM wouldn’t have to worry about the impending minion battle going on inside. The alley was it. This is their crucible. If they survive this, they’re for all intents and purposes the heroes of this story.
Now the variations of the Many Worlds Theory of Quantum Mechanics (which no doubt has been debunked by now but it’s such great fodder for speculative fiction so who cares) we could say there are infinite battles in this alley between #Callisto6 & a dozen or so of Fletcher’s men. Oya’s powers appear to impact at the very least SpaceTime and just as plausibly alternate realities. In some of the endless battles tween Fletcher’s guards & Callisto 6 sometimes they fail. Other times they roll all 20s. More often than not it was somewhere in between. We only experienced one instance in the 1st 2 eps, but ep 2.8 now suggests it’s not the 1st time. Perhaps not even the second time. We honestly don’t know how many times this has been going on.
Eric continues, “..looks like she is of Indian descent ..She’s wearing very fine clothes, spattered w/blood all over the side of her lab coat, staining it deeply..” The others react. Some try to formulate a response. Eric’s not done. “This is all in the moment you’ve noticed her. She’s leaning up against the wall and she’s holding something. As you notice her she’s just panting.”
One of them asks “are you okay?”
Dr. Patel’s response is: “I’m so sorry. I’m out of time.”
I used to think this was merely Eric’s tip of the hat to Dr Who’s Ten. Is it more?
If 2.8’s a given, let’s put ourselves in Future Luma’s shoes. Your friends are dead. You’re trapped in these events cuz you’ve seen it happen. You unleash the energy that traps those in this alley to your fate. “I’m so sorry.”
Certainly that makes sense. She feels like she failed her friends. The original plan was something else. Do something else with this energy, but she got shot at, so the only thing she’s allowed to do, perhaps the only thing Fletcher is letting her do, is return to this alley and start the cycle over again. In fact, if Fletcher is an interdimensional being, he may need to have this play out several times so that he can amass enough of the Callisto energy over several temporal instances to attain enough power to get off this rock and rejoin his people, or whatever it is that sleeping giant aliens want to do when they escape the confines of their Earthly prison.
Still though. “I’m so sorry. I’m out of time.” That’s the best you have to say here? This is an opportunity for Luma to pass info to the next iteration of her selves before dying. Perhaps not something that will make sense now but, “This will be the 32nd try! The moon doesn’t work! Do something else!” or even “Lacy! make Luca a Magboard!”
Also. We do not know if the first time this happened, Dr. Patel survived. Nobody shot her. She just approached the six, got very close so they’d get the maximum dose, and then open the cannister. Perhaps then she said, “they’re after me, please stop them” and she was saved. Or maybe she died in the battle. Maybe there’s a lot of instances in which there were variations on this theme. ALL of these instances would exist by the way. Unless you believe there’s only one reality and all the rest of these realities will fade from existence in which case Oya’s powers don’t really work at all do they? All these instances happen simultaneously, and Fletcher is trying to change the outcome of these instances to better its predicament.
Perhaps if Eric/Gina/Sam had planned this ahead of time.. hehe i said time again.. they chose this phrase due to the meta significance. OR it’s coincidence. Or maybe it IS yet a clue which will make sense to the players as we approach the impending battle with Fletcher.
Presumably the first time this happened, it was really THE Dr. Patel, and when Callisto 6 fails against Fletcher the 1st time, Oya hits the reset button. Then Luma takes Patel’s place.. but why? This can’t be an infinite loop. Eventually Fletcher will catch on and kill Oya first. Unless he needs many worlds.
What if there IS no Callisto energy on the Moon? What if the only energy is the canister? What’s been in Fletcher’s possession and being an interdimensional being he needs many dimensions to replicate what little energy he has? So he can suck it up in many iterations and get stronger? There’s already multiple infinities of alternate realities? What’s one more?
What if the next Luma were to instead unleash the Callisto energy on the crowd rioting? So instead of 6 ppl there’s a few thousand? How would Fletcher get his hands on such diluted Callisto energy then? He’d expend more energy to get less!
BTW I’m tempted to dissect the fantastic Eric speech that transpires at the very end of the 1st episode where he goes into detail how each of the Callisto 6 feel when Patel/Luma/whoever opens that canister. Such a great moment of storytelling. Perhaps another time.
It is my hope that others explore Callisto 6 origins with this newfound perspective and share whatever occurs to you, no matter how seemingly insignificant. Just for grins or to better understand. Perhaps debunk? Is the Patel they found really just a clone? Who knows? Such fun!
Also, at the start of the 2nd ep there’s another attempt to revive the fallen Patel, and I’ll save that for another time as well. I was just gonna make a couple observations. This got unruly.
At the beginning of the second episode of Callisto Six, Eric admits that his favorite Monte Cook game genre is probably The Strange, which he then describes as “Sliders meets Call of Cthulhu.” It feels like that’s the direction the series is going. I don’t know why but soon after we learned Kylen Krause was a clone, I began assuming the “real” Kylen Krause this “Fletcher” entity was not humanoid and if you’re gonna go THERE, then you might as well go full tilt H. P. Lovecraft with the tentacles and the big gaping maw and staring into the void which stares back and the sleeping giants from the hollow Earth and all that zany wacky scary stuff.
I’ve run out of time this evening. Perhaps I can explore it more later. I’m sorry.