"You got that look again," said one man to the other. "I thought that you'd really dig the One Roll Engine. Please tell me that you're not going to be one of those guys who thinks that the first system that he played will always be the best."
"It's not that," replied the other, looking away.
"Well, you seemed to get along with Mutants and Masterminds well enough, and I've always thought that the O-R-E was a cooler system, anyway. But this is like Don't Rest Your Head all over again! You never tell me what you don't like about the systems."
"It's not the systems," he answered, looking back.
"Well, what's wrong with the settings? Arc Dream has made like a dozen settings for their supers games. I'm sure that we could find one that you'd like."
"It's not the settings, either. It's just... . They remind me of my old GM, is all."
His friend was understandably puzzled.
He laughed, and he looked away again. "Back in the '80s and '90s, we had this GM - my old group, that is. Well, they were my old group because of him, actually. He recruited us, and swore us to secrecy. He said that he was developing some games, ... ."
There was a long silence between them.
"You said that the settings remind you of your old GM," prompted his friend, thinking that he'd lost his train of thought.
"Not the settings. Well, sometimes the settings, sometimes the games. I try to forget about it, but lately I keep seeing them. They're just like the games that he said that he was designing. We were kind of playtesters, y'know? We were having fun, at least, and we weren't about to spoil that. I mean, they were nothing like anything that was available in stores at the time." He said that last part almost in awe. And then, almost in shock, he said, "They were years ahead of anything else."
"So... You think that someone stole his ideas and sold them to various publishers?"
"I wish that it were that simple. I probably sound crazy to you, but it's not that that bothers me. There's just one thing - and I wish that I'd never heard it. Ever since then, it all fits together so well. In the '80s, he was always on the bleeding edge of technology, with a PC with amazing graphics, from which he'd run his games. Once he got a good laptop, though - good for the time, that is - he suddenly lost interest in when the latest and greatest would come out. And he kept that thing forever, and it never failed on him." He began to shake his head, "But, one time, before he left, he let something slip out. And I could tell from his reaction that it was an accident, and we never spoke of it again. It was just some numbers, y'know?" And he started to rock, back and forth. "They didn't MEAN anything to me, but the way that he never said anything about it again, maybe hoping that I'd forget, and I almost did, but it was like he'd just come out of the closet or something, and it means something now, and ... I think that he was from the future, OK? There, I said it." The tension was relieved, if only for a moment.
His friend sought to comfort or console him, but also thought that he just might be losing it. He asked a question that he wasn't sure that he should ask: "What did he say? What did you hear?"
"Just one time, as we were wrapping up our longer campaigns, and I was wishing that he could have stayed - in town or in state, I though - stayed longer, he said... . I knew that it was still several months out, mid-1999, but... he said that he had to leave before Nine Eleven."