Operation Justice Unlimited: Blood And Bones Behave Classily

Arrived: 20:04 Solved: 21:16 Hints? No Official Game Control site: Spatial_Delivery

Team Mystic Fish departed Emeryville; teams with a relaxed attitude took some time in Emeryville to dine at the local restaurants. Team Mystic Fish passed around sandwiches and grabbed caffeinated drinks out of the cooler.


We were in Emeryville, going to San Francisco. We were approaching the Bay Bridge on a Saturday night, which meant that we were stuck in traffic.

Our van shuffled along. Ilse, the talking GPS unit sarcastically piped up once every few minutes to say "continue along this course," subtly pointing out that we were still a long ways from our next turn.

It felt like we were in a slow lane. And maybe we were--because now we looked beside us and saw that the Blood and Bones team van had drawn even with us. Alexandra rolled down her window, a Blood and Bones guy rolled down his window, and some chatter took place. Then our lanes changed speeds and our vans drifted apart. And then the lanes changed speed again, and we started to drift back together again. And then we had a brilliant idea: we threw a Hostess fruit pie into their van.

"He was starting to roll up his window."

"He had the right instincts."


[Photo by Wesley Chan: on the rocketship]
Wesley's photo shows someone from Blood and Bones on the rocketship

We made it to San Francisco and drove south along Third Street. It was a pretty bustling place on a Saturday night, and plenty of folks stared at our van covered with Team Mystic Fish decorations. And then we drove through empty streets up and up to Hilltop Park. We piled out of the van.

We found our goal--a spinny rocket play structure--pretty easily: a Gamer already stood in it, shouting that a tall person would be useful. That was my cue. There was some yelling back and forth about where the clues hid (in the nose of the rocket) and how to reach them. She had been thinking that I could reach the nose if I stood in the right place--but no.

And then someone from the Blood and Bones team was there. He climbed up onto the rocket structure, past the other Gamer, and up to the nose. Soon he had a clue in hand for his team. It was at this point that the other Gamer piped up: "Give me one, too, or I won't let you get past me." She was obviously kidding--she couldn't block him from getting down. Yet I cringed--I'd heard rumors about Gamers, frustrated and sleepy, making similar threats seriously.

But the Blood and Bones guy showed poise and class: he tossed a clue to her, and tossed one to a Mystic Fishie as well. I told him he was my new favorite person in the universe. And then I ran back to the van. It was time to get solving.

Wordy Puzzle

Soon there were a few vans by the park with doors open. Teams huddled, talked quietly amongst themselves.

The clue was a plastic rocket-shaped container containing a rolled up piece of paper. We deployed various tools to destroy the container and extract the precious roll of paper.

[Scan: Krypton puzzle]

It looked like an alien telegram. At the top it said "A Message from the Planet Krypton!" in plain English, but below that it was in some alien font. There was a lot of writing. Even if this turned out to be a simple substitution cipher and we figured out which symbol stood for which letter, it could still take a while to decode the whole thing. Someone got the laptop ready with an automatic substitution cipher solver program.

This puzzle had some logistical hurdles. Physically, it was very wide and short. It was too wide to fit on our copier. The print was somewhat pale on a yellow background. So when we tried to make copies that fit on one sheet of paper by means of making a copy of a copy, the second-generation copy was too faint to read. Eventually we had readable copies for everyone, but it pointed out how spoiled we were--we assumed we'd have copies of the data for everyone who wanted it, almost immediately.

One pair of solvers was up at the front of the van, plugging data into the automatic solver. It was a slow process because they couldn't just type in the data--it was in an alien font. So they had to assign a code letter to each alien letter and make sure that they were consistent. After a few minutes, they had a few words' worth of letters plugged in. And what message did they get: talon heat invincible super lois olsen olsen. A bunch of Superman-related terms which weren't adding up to a message. Olsen olsen--the Olsen twins? No, that was silly.

But the folks in the back of the van had noticed something: Several symbol-clusters repeated. Given two clusters, if they were not identical, then their first letter was not identical. So the theory was that each cluster represented one letter. And we didn't need to use every symbol to get the message--we only needed to use the first symbol of each cluster.

At this point, the strong solvers stepped up. Questions and answers barked around the van: "Do we have 'S'?" "Yeah, it's the dot-eight" "Do we know what the diamond is?" "That's 'O'".

And soon they had it solved: We were going to McLaren park. Our next clue was up on a tower there.


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