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Dacder

Text Adventure 3: The Disappearance of Tyler Ashworth

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“What do you mean he's gone?!”

 

Chaos reigned in the Giants front office. It was only a week away from the draft and news had just come in that star defensive end Tyler Ashworth was missing. Well, Ashworth didn't have the stats of a star, or the measurables, but he was Dean's team MVP of 2023 despite sitting on the bench, and now he was gone.

 

But Ashworth wasn't the only one missing. Across the league players had gone missing. Kenyatta Henderson, Aaron Shea, Keyshawn Thompson. Gone. Nobody knew where they could be. And nobody wanted to be the first to mention the only possible explanation. It was too terrifying to bear.


Anulos.

 

“Turn on the TV! Quickly, turn it on!” a frat-bro looking guy with bleached blonde hair called from the back. Hagan, the owner. Someone scrambled to turn on the old CRT monitor that was the only TV the Giants owned. Sign of the times.

 

There he was. Anulos was the same beast as always, but his form had changed. He now had the body of an alligator and the head of a jaguar. Sickening. He stood, flanked by his cronies Tyrone Jones and newly recruited Carlos Washington. Years ago it had been Kotar, until he offended Anulos. Poor bastard.

 

“It is I, Anulos, here to return to my rightful place at the top of NFLHC. This time it will be the Jaguars who shall rule. You may be wondering what I have done with your players. Rest assured, I have not killed them. Soon they will serve me. This is my official warning: if you stand in my way, you will die.”

 

Oh god. This is bad. And to make matters worse, Dean is walking towards you.

 

“Hey, listen,” Dean starts assaulting you verbally, “you need to find out where Anulos has hidden the players and recover Ashworth. He's absolutely critical to the future success of this franchise”.

 

“This is pretty important,” you begin, “Maybe you should handle it personally?”

 

“Can't,” Dean says, already walking away, “Gotta dig deeper into my research on the prospective UDFAs from this draft class. If I were you, I'd start by talking to some other general managers. Maybe Dacder out of Detroit, or something”.

 

Before you can argue further, he's gone. As you stand, contemplating the enormity of the task before you, a whisper in the wind. “Go to the pirate king, his booty shall hold the answers”. When you turn to see who it was, you see a cloaked figuring disappearing into the crowd. Where to start, with phone calls or an adventure?

 

https://www.strawpoll.me/19724377

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1 minute ago, Dacder said:

Dean's team MVP of 2023 despite sitting on the bench

Am I that predictable?

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It's probably best to avoid what Dean wants, you think. But where to find someone calling themselves the Pirate King? Wait, you've heard that title before. Davey Jones, the former Giants runningback. He went by Pirate King. And he's in Phoenix, Arizona now.

 

You book a flight to Phoenix first thing, and questions pop into your head. What could Davey Jones' booty be? How might it be connected to the missing players? Why Phoenix, with its ungodly heat? Before you can sort these questions out in your head, your plane has landed.

 

“I need to see the pirate king,” you explain to a few different taxi drivers. None understand the request. But then, hope, an Arizona Cardinals themed taxi cab. Surely this driver must know where to find Davey Jones. You hail it, and when you enter you find yourself face to face with none other than Cardinals GM papersllamasunited.

 

“Llamas? The Cards GM? You're driving a taxi?”

 

“Yeah, it's a side gig. We aren't making much money nowadays so I took this on as a part time job”.

 

“But shouldn't you be preparing for the draft? It's next week!”

 

“Oh, is it? I've been so busy I haven't even paid attention. Oh well, what can I do for you?”

 

“I need to see the pirate king, Davey Jones. Do you know where I can find him?”

 

Llamas doesn't bother to respond before putting the car into drive and peeling out. Or at least trying to peel out, the old cab he drives isn't much to write home about. You ride in the cab for a few minutes before reaching the desert outskirts of Phoenix, where llamas stops the car in front of a decrepit old store with “PIRATE KING'S PIRATED WARES” in bold lettering out front.

 

“Thanks,” you tell llamas as you give him the fare with a small tip. You walk to the dusty double glass doors that pave the way to hope. When you enter, you are surprised to find that the store is actually full of CDs, DVDs, and video games. Oh, so he's that kind of pirate, you think to yourself.

 

“ARRGH,” a loud voice rings out from a barely-lit corner of the store, “What brings ye here to me storefront?” A man with a full beard, an eyepatch, and a peg leg steps out. Oh. So he's that kind of pirate.

 

“Davey?”

 

“Aye, that is I”.

 

“How...aren't you a running back?”

 

“Aye”.

 

“With a peg leg?”

 

“Aye, when I tore me ACL they couldn't fix it, so they cut the leg off and gave me this. I tell ye, it's been rough goings. I spent me whole life on the eastern seaboard, chasing down and plundering the gold-laden cargo ships of Spaniards. I terrorized the shores of Virginia in college, then Maryland and New York state professionally, but now I'm stuck. A landlubber.”

 

“Well, Davey, I'm sorry to hear that. I'm guessing you've heard about the disappearing players?”

 

“What disappearing players?”

 

“Well the best player from each team in the NFL was taken by Anulos. You didn't hear anything about it?”

 

“Nobody was taken from the Cardinals as far as I'm awares”.

 

Figures.

 

“Well, do you have any booty to show me? I need it to help fight Anulos, I guess”.

 

“Aye, I've got booty for ye. Two of the finest CDs ever made, I reckon, on sale for bargain prices. Take a look”.

 

He hands you two CDs. Both are plain CDs with marker drawn on them, clearly bootleg. The first reads “J.M. Jacob – Heart of a Lion”. The other, “Kotar's Christmas Carols”. Could this be what the mysterious figure meant? Did you need to seek out one of these two? Would they be able to provide the answers? It might be a reach, but it's the best you've got now. Or, maybe, Davey is hiding something?

 

https://www.strawpoll.me/19729702

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18 hours ago, Dacder said:

“Well, Davey, I'm sorry to hear that. I'm guessing you've heard about the disappearing players?”

 

“What disappearing players?”

 

“Well the best player from each team in the NFL was taken by Anulos. You didn't hear anything about it?”

 

“Nobody was taken from the Cardinals as far as I'm awares”.

 

Figures.

See @cultur3? To think you were salty when Aska didn't make the Pro Bowl, turns out it saved him from getting disappeared.

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Right. Kotar. You're aware that he used to be a servant of Anulos before they had a falling out. But you were pretty sure he was dead, so if he wasn't, it will probably be hard to find him. Nevertheless, it is clear to you that Davey Jones has no true insider knowledge of what's going on, so you'd better just try and find Kotar on your own.

 

Okay. Research time. To start, you type Kotar's name into google...and find that he's hosting a fan meet and greet on Monday. That's tomorrow. It's being held in Boston, so you'd better catch a flight quick. But you could have sworn you'd heard he had died?

 

Your trip to Boston is uneventful, and you have no problem finding the Denny's that the meet and greet is being held at. You enter the building, and sure enough, there is Kotar, in the middle of eating a grand slam. He has a small booth with a card in front that says “free autographs from a legendary player”, but nobody is paying any attention.

 

You walk up to the booth, and Kotar looks up at you, first in disbelief, then with a massive smile. It's clear that you are the first person to approach him for this supposed meet and greet. Several empty glasses and plates sprawled in front of Kotar indicate that he's been waiting quite some time for this moment.

 

“You here for an autograph? Or to ask a question?” he asks excitedly.

 

“Yes to the latter,” you respond, “but I'd like if we could talk somewhere more private”.

 

“But I'm eating,” Kotar says to you as he wolfs down another large bite of egg. It's clear to you that Kotar has put on some serious weight since he retired from football. “I guess we can go somewhere else to talk though,” he relents as he washes the egg down with a large gulp from his mimosa.

 

The two of you leave the Denny's, Kotar leaving a large tip with his empty plates, and head to a local park where you begin talking in hushed voices.

 

“Look, Kotar, have you heard the news about Anulos?”

 

“Of course. You mean about the Titans, right?”

 

“What do you mean? I was talking about the one player from each team being kidnapped”.

 

“Oh, yeah, but last night someone found the entire Titans team dead. Turns out their medical staff had given them Kool-aid, Jonestown style. Their doctors really were working against them all these years”.

 

“Oh my god,” you hadn't heard about this tragedy, but it made sense. The Titans had been a title contender for years, Anulos needed to get them out of the way just to secure the AFC South. “Well, look, Dean-”

 

“Oh god, don't make me do it,” Kotar cut you off at the mention of Dean, “I don't wanna be a tight end. I tried it, I failed, Anulos almost had me killed but instead he just cut me from his league of evil. I can't see Dean again. I'm too scared,”

 

“Well, look, you don't need to see Dean. I'm just working for him, trying to find answers, trying to find Tyler Ashworth. Do you have any idea where I might be able to find some answers? Maybe with J.M. Jacobs, he's a guy on the inside now isn't he?”

 

“Jacobs is working for Anulos. He's a puppet who was installed after the Alien decided to retire from Anulos' service. He is not to be trusted”.

 

“Okay, well, then do you know anybody else who might have some idea? Anybody else at all?”

 

“Hmm,” Kotar sat and thought for a moment, “He'll be hard to find, but The Man With the Answers might know”.

 

“The Man with the Answers? Sounds promising”.

 

“Yes, but I'm not exactly sure where to find him. You'd need to go talk to the last person to see him alive. Pumph, over in Los Angeles”.

 

“Okay. I guess I'll go there next. Thanks for your help, Kotar”.

 

“Wait!”, he said, “Please, let me come with you. I have nothing here. You're the first person who's looked me in the eye in the last three months. I can help you. I promise I won't get in your way”.

 

You look at the sad, pathetic, fat, washed up, bust, former quarterback/tight end sitting in front of you. Your emotions are a mixture of pity and disgust. On the one hand, maybe he'll know some more info. On the other hand, yikes. What will you do?

 

https://www.strawpoll.me/19738730

 

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This travel schedule is absolutely brutal. From New York to Arizona to Boston to Los Angeles in the span of only two and a half days. Still, your work is of critical importance not only to the national football league but to the universe at large.

 

Once in Los Angeles, Aaron Kotar rents the two of you a car, explaining that public transit is an east coast invention. After a short two hour journey on the freeways, you arrive at the home office of the Los Angeles Chargers. Unlike the Cardinals and Giants, the Chargers have a genuinely impressive, modern office with all the fixings. But something still strikes you as odd.

 

Out front, men are stood upon podiums. Each has a name plate underneath, and you realize quite quickly that these are Chargers players.

 

“And here we have, dare I say, our finest player on the market today,” a loud voice rings out. You look over towards it and see Pumph, the Chargers general manager, standing in front of one of the players. “Justin Way, Offensive Tackle and Guard, out of Marshall, it's entering the final season of his rookie deal. Its career was set back by an early injury, but it’s bounced back to be what it is right now – a solid, versatile backup lineman. Go back and look at its draft materials. You’ll see why I fell in love with it. You will too. I'd take a mid-to-late 2025 pick, or a swap of 2024's in my favor. That's right, just one mid-to-late 2025 pick, or a swap of 2024's in my favor, and you can have the one and only Justin Way”.

 

The crowd murmurs in slight interest while Way looks humiliated at the top of the podium. This isn't right, you think, but there's nothing you can do about it now.

 

“Going once, going twice, well it's not sold, because nobody has bid on it yet.”

 

“Excuse me, sir, but isn't it wrong to refer to a player as 'it'?” a concerned voice calls from the crowd. Pumph laughs without responding, then continues to the next podium.

 

“And here we have M.L. Kriewaldt, one of the league leaders last year in recieiving before an injury ended its season-”

 

“Wait a minute, he's dead!” a voice calls out. Indeed, Kriewaldt has a slack jaw and appears to not be breathing. In fact, on further examination, it very much appears that he's been embalmed. “Are you trying to pawn off dead players to us?!” the voice continues.

 

“No, never; my friend M.L here has nothing more than an ACL rupture, any appearance of death is a mere optical illusion, heh, nonetheless I suppose my asking price for him is quite low. In fact I’m in no hurry to move him, as his value will only go up as he shows he’s still a big threat in the slot and teams start to lose receivers due to injury. But I’ll listen now, knowing that this will be his final year in powder blue, and we won’t be a contender.” Pumph rattles off his speech, but by the time he's finished the jig is up, and the crowd has moved on. Pumph kicks Kriewaldt's body in frustration, but the corpse doesn't react.

 

“Hey, you're Pumph, aren't you?” you call out.

 

“Yes sir, yes I am. You're an assistant junior technical scouting director for the Giants, aren't you?”

 

“How...how did you know that?”

 

“Well, you see, unlike most other general managers in this league I see the value in research. So, I've memorized the names, faces, addresses, social security numbers and credit card information of all staff members of every team”.

 

“Uh, right, well anyway me and my friend Aaron Kotar here were wondering if you could direct us to, uh, The Man with the Answers,”

 

“No,” Pumph responds curtly, “I will never lead any to him. He ruined me. I will not stand to have him ruin any others.”

 

“But we need him to stop Anulos! Didn't Anulos take one of your players?”

 

“Yes! He did! Anulos took Matty Swift...the only player I've ever loved...for Matty Swift is in fact my son! For years I housed and protected Matty. No matter how many mistakes he made I never benched him! I've always told Matty, my boy, my only child, that he would always have a place on this roster. But now he's gone. Taken forever by the cruel hands of fate! It's not fair, dammit! I could have gotten a 5th rounder for him if I had known!”

 

“It might not be too late!” Kotar shouts, “The Man with the Answers might have the answers!”

 

Pumph is sniveling and crying, but composes himself, and wipes the tears from his eyes, “Perhaps...perhaps if you would give me a 2025 7th rounder. Perhaps then I could lead you to the Man with the Answers”.

 

You aren't sure what to do. You aren't technically authorized to make trades, but maybe you could just this once? After all, it's only a 2025 7th rounder. But what if deandean is opposed to it? You could go behind his back, but might that only sabotage your efforts further?

 

https://www.strawpoll.me/19763281

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TIME SKIP

 

You've done it. By giving up only the Giants 7th round pick you've managed to save the universe. Surely you'll be celebrated as a hero.

 

Coincidentally, it's day two of the draft, the 7th round, and Dean is up to pick....or so he thought. Only at this point does Dean realize that you've traded his 7th rounder to the Chargers in exchange for information which saved the world.

 

“You're fired!” Dean says in a fit of rage as he begins tossing objects around the room.

 

“But, Dean, it's just a 7th, it onl-”

 

“NO! IT IS NOT JUST A 7th! IT'S A BETRAYAL! AND I TOTALLY COULD HAVE GOTTEN ONE OF MY SLEEPERS WITH THAT 7TH, NOW I'LL HAVE TO FIGHT FOR THEM IN UDFA! IT COULD HAVE BEEN A GAME CHANGER! AND AGAIN, YOU BETRAYED ME! YOU DIDN'T EVEN ASK FIRST!”

 

You have been fired. And, as is customary in this universe, getting fired means getting thrown into a massive furnace. Like Nebuchadnezzar Dean cackles manically as you burn.

 

You have died. You have two lives remaining. It was foolish of you to go behind Dean's back...maybe if you just asked, he would agree to give up the 7th? Or, you could try getting information another way.

 

https://www.strawpoll.me/19879995

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You decide that going behind Dean's back is a bad idea, but surely he can't refuse to give up a mere 7th rounder for potentially universe saving information? You take out your phone...

 

….“No,” Dean flatly refuses your request. Before you can even try to explain why this is a trade he needs to make, Dean has hung up the phone. Well, looks like you won't be trading a 7th after all. You turn to Pumph.

 

“Are you sure you can't just give me the information?”

 

“Absolutely certain. Now, if I can't get a 7th out of this, I'm afraid I'll have to ask you to leave. I'm a very busy man after all.”

 

Defeated, you step outside. You'll have to find the man with the answers without the aid of pumph. But who could it be? Where could you even begin to look? Perhaps he's on a submarine in the middle of the ocean, far away from Soluna's grasp. Maybe he's hidden in plain sight, betting that Soluna doesn't have the surveillance and intel to find him?

 

Only at this point do you notice a massive poster on the building across the street. THE MAN WITH THE ANSWERS: Q&A. My god! He's right here! You check the time and the Q&A is actually already ongoing! You and Kotar rush across the street, but then...

 

Tragedy strikes. Kotar is hit by a bus. It's only going, like, 5 miles per hour, but Kotar is still lying on the ground, seemingly unconscious. But something doesn't add up...

 

Wait a minute. We're in Los Angeles, and a BUS just hit Kotar? That isn't possible. LA doesn't have public transit. You look into the driver's window, and inside is none other than Raheem Robinson! Incredibly, the impact from the collision with Kotar has completely totaled the bus. Raheem gets out and makes a run for it. Raheem, an agent of Soluna, is within your grasp! But the man with the answers awaits. It's possible the man with the answers is a fraud, but perhaps he holds the key to solving this mystery once and for all! On the other hand, Raheem surely has insider information!

 

Oh right. And Kotar is lying on the ground, potentially dying. Maybe you should take him to a hospital. What choice will you make?

 

https://www.strawpoll.me/19906785

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“Go!” he shouts from the ground, “Go find the answers! Leave me!”

 

Not needing any more convincing than that, you turn away from Kotar. Raheem is sprinting off into the distance, much too quick for you to catch. You realize your best chance is the Man with the Answers.

 

You open the door to a small auditorium. The seats are mostly empty, but maybe fifteen people sit near the front. On stage is a man wearing a bird mask and a suit.

 

“...So, no, pineapple does not belong on pizza,” he says with a murmur of agreement from the crowd in response. You walk down the aisle towards the Man and raise your hand, trying to grab his attention.

 

“Yes, you, the one who just came in,” he says, pointing at you.

 

“Man with the answers, I've come seeking your help,” you begin, “As you may have heard in the news, Anulos has made a move. He's kidnapped one player from each of the thirty two NFL teams and nobody can find them. He also murdered the Tennessee Titans. I come as a representative of the New York Giants and the interests of humanity at large. Please, where has Anulos hidden the players he took?”

 

The Man With the Answers chuckles softly, “Do you know who I am?”

 

“No”

 

“I am the Man with the Answers”.

 

“Wait, no, I did know that”.

 

“Well, I also go by another name,” he says, allowing anticipation to build for a few moments, “I am Wooden. Former owner of the San Diego Chargers”.

 

The entire crowd gasps. You look the man up and down. It fits. This really is him. The Man with the Answers has been Wooden all along.

“Wooden, please, help me, where can I find Tyler Ashworth?”

 

“Do you really want to know?”

 

“Yes, please”.

 

“Anulos has taken your players away to be cloned. He has given the clones fake names, identities, and histories, and has snuck them into the pool of draft eligible players for 2024. He plans to hide the clones within the eligible players list and draft genetically modified versions of the best players the league has to offer. Then he will kill the originals”.

 

“My god,” you state in disbelief, “How can we know which players are clones?”

 

“Look at them. They look exactly the same”.

 

Too easy, you think, but there's no time to doubt the Man with the Answers.

 

“Thank you, Wooden, I will pass this message on to the general managers around the league”.

 

You leave. Kotar, you find, has been taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital. As Anulos' former minion, perhaps he has some advice to give at this junction. Maybe it's risky to immediately tell Dean and the rest of the league about Anulos' plans. Maybe you should hold on to the info and use it to make the Giants a powerhouse. Or, with the draft only a short time away, maybe you need to simply phone everyone as quickly as possible. What will you do?

 

https://www.strawpoll.me/19982931

 

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Wooden, please, I need the answers on how my BaP Steele Curtain is doing.

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Well, you should have seen this coming.

 

I mean, getting to the super bowl was nice and all but..

 

JAX 145 – 0 NYG did not look pretty. Especially not in the second quarter.

 

“What are you people doing?!” coach Hagan shouted from the sideline. Dean looked through page after page of notes, trying to figure out what was going wrong.

 

Well to you it was obvious. The Giants DID take a couple of the clones early in the draft, but while the Jags stacked their team with elite players, Dean chose to switch gears in the mid and late rounds to take random boom or bust low seventy overall players. “Tyrone Jones is Tyrone Jones, but Barack Holmes could be anybody”.

 

Was this truly Dean's fault? No, you decide. This was your own doing. You should have realized that Dean wouldn't be able to use the information on the clones as well as Anulos. And while it was cool to win the NFC, the end of the universe kinda puts a damper on things.

 

Well, thankfully, it was at this moment that Pro Bowl Quarterback Onterrio Smith used a time machine to go back to when you made that fateful decision to tell only Dean about the clones. He slaps some sense into you, and you realize your near fatal error. But now what to do? Go to Kotar in the hospital? Or tell the entire league about the clones without consulting your only true ally?

 

https://www.strawpoll.me/20159416

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