This is the right place and the right time to say that throughout this entire Twilight 2000 4th Edition playtest, the behavior of all NPCs has been regulated by a solo RPG device called Mythic Variations II. So I do not decide how the NPCs react to the protagonists. I only decide the actions of the player characters, then each single frame of the NPCs behavior is on Mythic.
On the same note, I do not decide how the story develops. Mythic variation II does that for me as well. So in a way I am as clueless as you readers are before I start writing an installment.
6th of January 1999 Morning shift Weather Fair
Stationary encounter for the day. Refugees, to be dealt with on next shift
“Hand me that parka, will you Sven?” Lieutenant Holtz and the old Swedish militiaman were rummaging among Sven Clothes to find something that the Italian could borrow to put over his fatigues.
“Cute little house you got here for yourself Sven!...There!...I think this one should be OK”. Holtz put on the blue windbreaker and a wool black that Sven gave him, and the two men walked back downstairs where Louise and Ottonese were waiting for them. The specialist looked bored, but his attention level was where it had to be; low grip in his down barreled carbine while keeping a vigil eye on what was going on outside. Holtz holstered his Beretta 92 under the windbreaker, made sure that the safety was on and the four of them walked outside.
“Why the civilian clothes Lieutenant” asked Sven while they were walking towards Mrs. Holmgren’s house.
“For this particular job...trust me old friend, better not to have military uniforms around”.
Sven gave him the puzzled look but didn’t add anything.
When the group arrived at destination, Ottonese was ordered to get lost. “I’ll give you back Miss Berglund when we return to Regimental HQ. If you go there now you’ll find Magli making acquaintance with your first class of students for the A1 module for civilians. Join him; that’s your job for the shift.
“Sir”, Otto chose the shortest formal answer he could give to his officer. Then he turned on his heels and started to walk back to the school.
Louise, Holtz and Ottonese climbed the stair up to the small porch, and Louise knocked at the door. After a while a woman in her thirties opened it.
“Mrs. Holmgren good morning...how are you?”
“How are you Louise...?”
“I am fine Mrs. Holmgren...did Vincent delivered the wood for your stoves that I promised you last week?
“Yes...yes he did” answered the woman with a tired but grateful expression. “He brought it here even earlier than you said he would...thank you Louise”.
“Good, good...I knew he would...I told you he is a reliable fella…”
“Look...Mrs Holmgren...this is Lieutenant Kurt Holtz, the doctor I told you about. He is with the Italian Army. We are here for Vera”.
The expression of the woman went from tired to sad. She looked at Kurt with an indifferent expression.
Louise pressed on...Do you remember?; for that thing we talked about!?”
“Yeah...Louise...I don’t know...Vera is not doing very well these days and…”
Louise put both hands on the woman’s shoulders and looked at her right in the eyes.
“That’s why we are here Emma”, Louis even ditched the Mrs. Holmgren thing, to try and be more convincing. You see, Lieutenant Holtz is specialized in these matters. He’s a military neurologist. If there is somebody that can help Vera, that is him”. Louise pushed the roll, obtaining three successes against Mrs. Holmgren’s one.
“Mrs. Holmgren” intruded Holtz…“I promise you...nothing bad can come to your daughter from this. In the worse case scenario we don’t get any benefits, but nothing bad can come from this. I’ve been working on a lot of similar situation; it always improved things.
With a resigned expression, the woman opened the door completely, letting Louise, Kurt and Sven in. Lieutenant Holtz, quickly looked around to try to understand what kind of family lived there, but didn’t see any particular difference between that home and the others he happened to visit in Stopen: wood stoves going on, modest furniture and that particular countryside smell of the northern farmhouses. For a second, flashbacks of the burnt down farm near Skara danced in front of his eyes, together with the image of the young girl shot in the face and lying lifeless in the snow stained of her blood. Holtz cleared his mind and addressed Mrs. Holmgren again.
“Tell me about your daughter...what kind of changes did you see in her after the incident” asked Holtz feeling a little out of place in defining the group rape of a 16 years old an incident.
“Difficult to say Doctor. She completely retired in an inner word and I have had big problems in communicating with her. The biggest change I have seen though, is that Vera has become very anxious (2 on the mental trauma table). She is scared by everything, whenever she has to come out of her room for anything she becomes very anxious. But I need her to help me with the animals you know. My husband has been drafted in the army and we have not heard from him in months, after the war situation has worsened. The woman erupted in a desperate cry.
Louise immediately took her in her arms, bringing her away from the immediate sight of the two men. Holtz and Sven looked at each other. The Swedish turned his look at the floor. Lieutenant Holtz approached the two women again.
“I am sorry Mrs. Holmgren I really am. We are here to help, and I am sure we can. I promise you…” he looked straight into her brown eyes…“Vera will get better...even stronger than she was.”
Mrs. Holmgren wiped her eyes with a sleeve and she tried to compose herself, Louise still holding her in a hug. “If you want to see her, she is upstairs in her room” said the woman. “I told her that Louise wanted her to meet you. She didn’t take it very well...You know...the anxiety I was talking to you about…”
“You don’t have to worry Mrs. Holmgren” Holtz reassured her. “Like I said nothing bad can come from this” then the Lieutenant turned to Sven. “Please stay with her while we are upstairs.”
Louise delicately knocked at Vera’s room door. The girl who had heard that somebody had been talking with her mother, was expecting the visit.
“Louise is that you?”
“Yes Vera...can I come in?
Louise opened the door just enough to stick her head in. “Hi sweetie, how are you doing ?”
“I am ok...are you alone?” asked the girl perfectly knowing that Louise wasn’t.
“I brought with me the doctor mamma talked you about. He is a very good doctor...I would like you to meet him.”
“I am fine Louise. I am well”
“Oh I know you are Vera” said Louise still peeking into the room. “I just wanted you to talk a little bit with him. You know...he helped me a lot with the war and everything that happened with it, and I thought he could do the same with you. You know...I know what I am talking about. Have I ever given you any bad advice Girl?” Louise gave her friend a roguish smile.
Vera gave her an uncertain smile. “No you haven’t” she said and she slowly got out of bed to open the door all the way.
Behind Louise Kurt appeared and greeted the young girl, unsuccessfully trying to fake a teenager tone that he had actually lost a long time before. Vera went back into the room and sat at her desk chair.
“Hi Vera. I am Kurt...Louis told me a lot about you” Began Holtz trying to make Vera talk.
Vera curled up in her chair hiding her head in her knees a little bit, but said nothing.
“She also told me that lately you had some problems helping your mother with the farm” continued Kurt. “Because you are very unhappy for what happened to you months ago when those soldiers came to take your supply of milk and food for the winter.” Holtz got to the point immediately. No point in going around it. “I am here to help. You see?...all we want is you to be you again, like before”.
“I don’t think I can” answered the girl.
“Oh...I know you don’t Vera...but you know...I have helped many girls who had happening to them what it happened to you, and they didn’t think they could do it either.” Holtz purposely cut the sentence at that point.
“Here?” asked Vera
“No in Africa years ago. You know...there has been a terrible war going on in Somalia. An even older war than this one. I was there at the beginning of the nineties and we had to deal with a lot of girl women and also children who had the same troubles you went through. Like I said, they also thought they couldn’t make it.”
“But I really can’t” Vera started to cry… “it has not been my fault” she started to cry even more… “it was their fault, I didn’t do anything to them” she screamed.
“Shit” thought Holtz, while Louise took her friend in her arms to try and calm her down.
A few seconds after, Mrs Holmgren stormed the room, to see what was going on. She looked at her daughter and then at Holtz and Louise with an expression that clearly meant that the situation had been a common occurrence for months.
Holtz decided to change his strategy and go into patient agitated mode. He prepared his 2d8 persuasion dice and his counseling specialty, which would boost one of those to d10.
“We all know it wasn’t your fault Vera. We all know it was theirs. But we cannot change what happened. What we can do, is to engage you in something that will help you regain the power and the confidence you had before. And if you let me, I will help you doing just that.” stated Holtz very assertively. The girl had cut short any chance of soft approach from the very beginning and it was the time to force the issue. 30% of sessions went like that.
Lieutenant Holtz decided that he had to risk to meet Vera’s reaction head-on. She looked at him, looking for answers, but he hit her with questions:
“Do you feel powerless??” 7-7 Two successes on persuasion
Do you feel like your confidence had been robbed from you together with your body??” 4-10 Two successes
Louise and Mrs Holmgren were astonished but didn’t interfere.
“Do you feel like you want to dish some of that pain back?” 3-5 push roll 4-9 One success
“Yes!” She started to regain composure.
“If you work with me, you will have your ego back, your confidence back, together with you power and I will teach you how not to let anything like that happen again to you or to anybody else you care about...do you think you want to do that?...No more fear, and no more pain. Do you want to get there?” 2-1 push roll 6
Vera looked at him with a firmer expression, tears coming down her cheeks. Her lips were quivering.
“I will try”… “fuck the meager six on my push roll; success but not great” tough Holtz before pressing on.
“You will not only try; you will succeed!!” He looked at her defiantly now. 8-6 Two successes.
“OK” answered Vera.
“There is a friend of mine. He is an expert in self defense techniques. He is a very funny guy”, lied Holtz on all accounts about Ottonese. You will start to work with him; he will teach you military hand to hand combat. At the same time you will be focusing on something specific, which will keep you busy and out of this room. After he is done with you, nobody will be able to lay a hand on you again unless you want them to”. Holtz stopped and looked for her reaction after he implied than in the future she might want to have someone touch her again; a critical element in all cases of sexual abuse.
“Then you come to me after each session to tell me how you did” He stopped again.
“Then you promise me that you will help mamma again with her things. I’ll be there for you to help too any time I can.”
“YES! OK” Vera projected ahead with her mind and her answers became more assertive.
“And then I have a secret for you. We are thinking about a project to reopen at least one school in town. We will put all the bad things behind us and we will learn to deal with them...what do you think?”
“I will kill you if you have the school reopened.”
They all laughed. And that was a progress already.
Vera on her way to the first session of Mr. Ottonese's Alpine Recon Hand to Hand combat course