A Gamma World® play-by-post adventure run by gammaworld_gm
Atop a dune, the lights from half-mile distant Gamma One shimmer in the ghostly schlieren caused by the village's waste heat. It's actually quite romantic, Jonn thinks, squelching a yawn with a deep breath of brisk desert air. The settlement and its Reptiloid herb peddler will have to wait, though; tonight they must rest.
He turns from the peaceful vista and walks down the dune's slope to the twin dune buggies and the rest of the crew. "Ok guys, break out the tents. We should be well hidden behind this dune until morning. At first light, we'll break camp, cover up and/or stash the buggies, and head on into town. Geo, K-11, you guys mind keeping watch tonight? I speak for myself, but this carbon-based lifeform is bushed."
Jonn starts setting up his tent as K-11 pulls out the remaining two 3-man/mutant tents. Lamia unassumingly and silently starts to help Jonn. Either the others take note, or don't notice: Jake, Kicker and Dodgers help K-11 set up a second tent, while Brimstone, Ormahzd and Geo set up the third. Leghorn, chewing his ever-present cigar, walks away from the group up to the dune's summit, until his plump roosteroid profile is backlit by the village glow, like he is waiting for dawn or something.
A short while later, Lamia finds herself alone with Jonn inside their tent. Her heart beating rapidly, she unrolls her sleeping bag slowly, listening with shallow breaths; waiting as Jonn rustles in the darkness, closing the tent, preparing his own bedding.
"You, uh, you know it's gonna get cold tonight..." Jonn's whisper emerges from the tense silence, much closer than Lamia expects, and trails off leadingly.
Her lithe body leaps effortlessly like a coiled spring into Jonn's arms as visions of Plan B dance in her head. Finally! She breathes Jonn's scent hungrily, tastes him, revels in his embrace, all in the unconscious effort to imprint this night in her memory with as many senses as possible to cement its significance. The sound of a zipper forcefully opened registers itself in her consciousness, as does the single word, "Frak!"
"I SAY, kiddos!" the Captain's voice grates from the tent's opening, "<booock> Brimstone would sooner make me a midnight snack than allow me in his tent. Damn Cougaroid's gonna be the end of us all!" The good Captain fails to notice the Gren quickly sliding back to her own bedding, as he plops his bedroll down in the middle of the tent. Neither does he comprehend the depth and pathos of her sighing.
Ormahzd winks at Howard. "Yeah, I think I know the talk that will be had." He then goes and helps set up the tents. After the tents are set, he watches as each individual heads to his or her place in the tents, and the non-carbon-based lifeforms take up the watch.
He then slowly walks to the crest of the hill, where he kneels, vibro blade planted in the sand. "I swear by all she made Holy, the desecrator of the wee ones shall live only a short while more. And then, the Hell I will take him to will be like none other described in this life. This I swear on my Oath and Reverance of her will." Thinking of the gifts bestowed upon him by her, he smiles a smile known only to the contented.
If the others knew the women were gifts, they might not understand, but they were reward enough, for the chance to rid this planet of its worst vermin. Hell, he enjoyed the pain he could cause---something his companions might not be able to stomach when the time came. But it must be done, or he would have to forfeit the....
Very nice chicken scratchings Dave. Those eminently drafted words nearly brought a tear to my eye. The words "plump roosteroid profile is backlit by the village glow" really hit the mark. Have you ever considered becoming an archivist? ;)
Howard tinkers with his dune buggy, adjusting its choke and fuel setting. That adjustment will give Howard's antique vehicle a definite horsepower edge over Jonn's.
"It would seem the reasonable thing to do," says the security robot, cryptically answering Jonn, and standing next to the much smaller Geo.
"Who does he think I am?" asks Geo, looking up at the larger security robot who does not answer. Geo searches his internal "biohazard" data base for guard duty programming. His data base archive reports "Program never finished by Maestro Assaf the Rookie."
The Gren grumbles inwardly, doing a mock stab in the oblivious Roosteroid's back, and then climbs into her sleeping bag alone. Lamia only dreams pure strain dreams.
By morning, when everyone begins climbing out of their tents, they can see many things have changed. A dark howling sandstorm has moved into the area and everything is almost as dark as nighttime. Geo is standing in front of Jonn's tent waiting for him when he exits (unaffected by the blowing sand).
The robot holds up a small transmitter, now shut off, and shows it to Jonn. "We found this on the hill up there. It was broadcasting our location. It requires a second device to use. I suggest a group wide search now! Your fly is unzipped Jonn." The robot notices Lamia looking and smiling, and then getting sand in her eyes.
The overly muscled Ormahzd (with sleepy sand in his eyes---sorry, bad pun) and the others soon gather around, wondering what you are going to do next (not knowing about the transmitter unless you tell them).
"So, we go now to the village, and 'talk' to our friend, yes?" says Ormahzd. As he asks this, he notices that Jonn is carefully scrutinizing the entire party, and can't help but wonder why. Has something happened? Will he share the info? What does Lamia's smile mean---did they...?
"What is our plan of approach? I would like to meet up with it, before it can run again. I have much to 'tell' it." Ormahzd damn near spits those last few words. He also notes the non-carbon-based lifeform staring intently at Jonn, as if waiting for something, but what?
Geo waits patiently in the storm until the Pure Strain human pokes his stubbly face out, and then exits the tent. Crumpled and disheveled, Jonn doesn't look much better for the night's rest. In fact, Geo conjectures that he couldn't look worse if the mutant plants back at the Starport had dragged him to their lair, chewed him up and spit him out when they realized he didn't taste all that good. Well, his conjecture did have a 0.32577 percent margin of error.
Jonn interrupts Geo's silent contemplation with an answer to his private revelation. "Geo, I can't handle this right now. I didn't sleep a wink and I'm not thinking straight," Jonn shakes his head in an effort to settle his brain <sploosh>.
The robot notes Jonn's wistful look back inside, presumably at Lamia, who had just unfolded from her fetal position in her own sleeping bag next to the still-snoring Captain's bedroll. Geo also makes a note of this, and points out Jonn's fly to test Lamia's response. The Gren struggles out a smile, confirming Geo's suspicions. "What happened last night?" the robot asks innocently, "I couldn't cut the tension in there with a vibro dagger!"
"Rooster happened," Jonn replies gruffly. This elicits a strange look from Geo, as he sifts through his Pure Strain lexicon to find the hidden meaning. Who says robots don't like juicy gossip?
"Listen, Geo," Jonn continues, whispering as well he could amidst the howling sand gusts, "You, Dodgers and Lamia are the only ones I trust. As we're breaking camp and packing the buggies, try to search everybody's gear to find the matching gadget. Let me know if you find anything, but we should keep a low profile for now. We were all up atop the dune at one time or another, some of us more than others," Jonn thumbs the snoring Roosteroid in his tent, "It could be anybody, but the mole in our midst may have already ditched the unit, and we don't want to raise suspicions without proof."
Jonn joins Geo as he walks over to the congregation in front of Jake's tent. Everyone but Lamia and Leghorn are there, squinting through the blowing sand. "OK, here's the plan. We take the buggies into town, as we'll never find them again if they get buried in this storm. Let's pack up the tents and move out, people!"
Jonn heads back to his tent, weary eyed and feeling the biting sand sting his stubbly face and exposed skin. Inside the tent, Lamia is packing her bedroll purposefully and silently. Every now and then she knees the Roosteroid in the attempt to wake him. Jonn packs his own stuff, then quickly rifles through Leghorn's gear, stopping before Lamia approaches.
"Jonn. Last night..." she stumbles for the words, which by her downcast gaze should be somewhere between her green feet.
Jonn interrupts her, putting his finger to her lips. "Hush, luv, I'm not going anywhere," he whispers, drawing her eyes up to meet his. And no more words needed speaking.
"Well I'll be a Rhode Island Red," the Captain stretched in his sleeping bag, "Amazing what a good night's sleep does for the ol' gizzard, eh Jonn? I say, boy, look at me when I'm talkin' to ya!"
Through the dust storm's swirls of sand, and through the light blue-tinted plastic casing of the swimming goggles he donned to keep out the sand, Howard notices the grim visage of his friend. He represses the urge to nose, er, that is, bill into Jonn's most likely recent purely strained human experience.
Feeling refreshed from a great night's sleep---after all, his fowl manner of ignorant, blissful rest allowed him to ignore the variety of snores, growls and whimpers of his team---Howard packs his gear and preps his superior dune buggy for the race to Gamma One and it's fascinating wavy lights, though he can see none of them through the storm.
"Hey Big-O," Howard speaks up, catching the giant's attention with an on-the-spot sobriquet intended to relieve the Duckoid from the terrible weight of having to remember and pronounce the newcomer's name. "I'm glad we're not leaving the buggiesth behind," he confesses as the bronze-skinned humanoid once again takes the shotgun position in the buggy.
"What does the complexity of computer algorithms have to do with taking or leaving the dune buggies?" Geo queries of Howard. "You are making my internal circuitry work double time. It is bad enough I have to keep up with all of Jonn's human emotions and your Duckoid grasp of the English language. Please don't add the mathematical theories of computer science to my headache!"
Brimstone uncovers his talkative weapon as Howard starts the dune buggy up. "To enter Gamma One, don't be greedy!"
Searching through Leghorn's gear without permission, Jonn finds spare energy cells, a few strange looking grenades, a box of cigars (called Lewinski cigars), two X-rated comic books (one titled "Chicken Sex Run" and another about female ducks called "Take A Gander"), a pair of 100x binoculars, a nail file, assorted food, a hat, sunglasses, a mini-hand held fan, a pokeman trading card (Bandichute), a framed picture of a Henoid, several bundles of ancient money (500 dollar bills), a hunting knife, a can opener, a small army shovel, a flashlight, a can of powder (called delouser), and an instant image creating camera.
As everyone finishes packing up, the howling storm only grows more violent, limiting vision to a few dozen feet. Geo returns to the dune buggy where Jonn is. Lamia has already climbed in and put the face mask on to protect her eyes from the blowing sand.
"I found the matching gadget, as you called it Jonn. It was hidden in Brimstone's pack, as was the stolen remote control for that mini-message missile you are carrying. I also found a hand held communication device." The robot hands all three items to you. "You could probably talk directly to Timon or whoever is on the other end, and they couldn't trace you if you don't stay on for more than a few minutes. All of the devices are shut off."
Less than an hour later, you enter the somewhat walled village of Gamma One. All of the buildings in town are made of stone and look of ancient design. You hide the dune buggies behind one of the stone buildings and cover them with there protective tarps.
Packing up his camping supplies and preparing to load them into the buggy, he hears something very uncharecteristic of his pulse rifle. It's talking, but not in usual piercingly loud tone.
"Rifle, what's wrong with your volume?"
Believe it or not, I can actually control the volume of my speech.
"Why haven't you done this before? You were always so loud."
I'm a pulse rifle: it's my job. anyway---
"You mean all this time you could have been talking like this?"
I need to tell you something impor---
"All those headaches! All the embarassment!"
Listen to me, I heard some---
"Give me one good reason why I shouldn't break you in half right now!"
Well, the danger of spreading the contents of my nuclear fusion reactor is a biggie. But that's not what I---
"You are the worst product of ancient technology I've ever met. No wonder they gave you to me."
Listen! Someone was rummaging through your---
"They knew that the stupid Cougaroid wouldn't know that the rifle talks so loud, that the rifle is so frikkin annoying."
I heard someone moving things in your---
"I get no respect around here, I'm telling ya. Give a guy a single-digit mental strength score and all of a sudden he's the village idiot!"
Oh never mind. You're hopeless.
"It's always 'Brimstone's gonna eat me,' waa waa waa, or, 'Brimstone's a traitor,' waa waa waa, or 'Brimstone's always dropping stun grenades on himself,' waa waa waa.... Bunch of crying ninnies this group is. If it wasn't for Kicker---"
Suddenly, in his loudest volume: "She's a rat!!"
"What? How dare you!"
Listen to me for a sec---
"Kicker is a beautifully shaped Leoparoid, not a Ratoid! Man, is your hearing messed up? Is all this sand clogging up your holes? Maybe the duck can fix that up for ya. Glad to see your volume is back though."
As Jonn helps Geo and Kicker pull the tarp over his buggy, his mind is awash with suspicion. "Who could be ratting us out?" he wonders silently. He suspects Captain Leghorn, who has grown somewhat distant from the group in the days after Gallus' beheading at the Factory. But now, given Geo's sleuthing, Brimstone is a likely Mole too. He regrets giving him the pulse rifle.
"I've got to stop trusting people so blindly!" he thinks, finding his gaze settling comfortably on Lamia. He can trust her, of all people, right? "Frak, this is going too far!" He cannot allow Timon---or anyone else, for that matter---sowing seeds of suspicion in their ranks.
There is one he does trust---he has trusted for as long as he can remember. "Dodgers," Jonn calls, after the first buggy is secured. When the Duckoid waddles over, Jonn takes him aside and continues softly, his voice nearly drowned by intermittent gusts from the sandstorm. "Dodgers, we've got a spy among us, I'm afraid.
"Geo found these in one of our packs. This was stolen from my pack. These two thingies were used in tandem last night to broadcast our location. This is a 2-way private channel communicator. I'm sure you have your suspicions, as do I, but keep an open mind and trust no one." Jonn gives the three foreign contraptions to the duck (he keeps NARC's missile-message controller).
"I want you to activate this communicator, but mask it so that the other side only gets a garbled voice. Geo thinks we can figure out who's snooping on us without them getting a fix on our location if we don't stay on too long. I'm going to scout about for our Lizardwoman contact with the rest of the group. When you have a private moment, give it a go and let me know what you find out."
Leaving Dodgers at the first buggy, Jonn heads for the rest of the group, who have congregated against the lee side of an ancient wind-scoured building. "OK, gang, we should split up in pairs or threes, and report back here in one hour. Be on your guard, and don't be too nosy or draw attention to yourself, but keep your eyes and ears peeled for some mutant Lizardwoman named Kasteen at Podine's Powders. Don't initiate contact with her yet---just find her and/or her shop.
"Lamia, Captain, you're with me." Jonn goes with his gut instincts and decides to keep Leghorn where he can see him. As the others split up, Jonn's trio heads for the center of town.
"Okay, who goes with me. And, Jonn, if I sees it, may I bring it with me, to us? Or must we let it slime around till later?" Ormahzd asks, with all the seriousness of a giant man. His tone of voice and body stance are enough to show that he is ready to kill without hesitation. He just waits to hear who will be in his group and what his orders will be: kill, or not. He can't help but think, maybe there be women here, pretty like the Gren, hmmmmm. After the death of Timon, he would have to look about, time permitting of course.
Jonn turns around in mid-stride to reply to Ormahzd, "You won't find Timon, big guy. He probably knows we're here, and he'll find us on his own terms. Just be on guard! We're looking for the Lizardwoman right now---she has information, and that's what we need more than anything right now."
Jonn sees that Brimstone has sidled up to Kicker, and that Jake and K-11 are likewise paired. That leaves Geo and Howard, who is still by the buggies; the Duckoid would catch up with one of the other groups, he hopes. "Ormahzd, why don't you go with Geo?" Jonn offers.
"See you guys back here in an hour!" Jonn says, catching back up with Lamia and Captain Leghorn.
Howard takes to heart Jonn's suggestions and makes a few more adjustments of the camo-tarp on the second buggy. He pats the souped-up dune buggy and promises to race it good the next time out. As he pockets the transmitter and matching gadget, he makes sure both are still turned off. He wonders if Alpha had somehow been alerted to their presence because of the transmitter, and reminds himself to mention that to Jonn later. As for the two-way private channel communicator, Howard jams it underneath one of the furry wings of the toy duck he acquired at the Starport. He makes sure to cover both speaker and mouth piece, and ties up the duck with a piece of nylon rope to keep the communicator effectively muffled. He keeps the communicator off, for now, and puts the duck back in his pack.
When he's done re-packing, he exchanges his goggles and dune-buggy mask for his purple sun-glasses, through which he sees Jonn, Lamia and Leghorn grouping up. Brimstone and his rifle seem to be having a conversation much to the amusement of Kicker, and Jake stands silently with his robotic half-son, as if waiting for life to spring into his bones for motivation.
"Probably wants Geo to keep an eye on the new guy," Howard wonders un-slurringly to himself. "Maybe I'll keep an eye on him, too, and leave the rifle to chaperone Brimstone and his new girlfriend."
"Count me in thisth sthearchth party, Big-O. I gotta keep an eye on Geo." Howard says to the bronze warrior. "Besidesth, who will fixth him if he breaksth?" Howard thumbs a feather in Geo's direction and smirks. "Let'sth get going, guysth---time'sth tickin'!" He watches as the groups wander off.
"Ok, Gtheo, where to first? You got any Lizardwomen on your scopes? And sthee if you can map asth we go. I don' wanna get losth."
The buggies are parked at area 6 on the Gamma One village map. Numbers 1, 4, 8 are used to enter or exit Gamma One. All other exits (such as 3 and 6) have been closed permanently, mostly due to the 10 inch thick metal gates being rusted shut.
The storm rages on in a swirling haze of howling, blinding, blowing sand, making it appear almost dark. The four groups...
...leave the buggies, both hidden and covered in a dead-end alley.
Following one of the side streets, Jonn, Lamia and Captain Leghorn head toward the direction of area 11 on the map. Walking together in the sand storm they pass dozens of small businesses, but not the one they are looking for.
Then without warning, Lamia collapses to the ground. Laying there trembling and shaking all over, she tries to speak but is unable to say any understandable words or even move.
Kneeling down to help her, Jonn feels a sudden 10,000 volt jolt from a hand held stun device in his back, and then falls to the ground beside Lamia. Looking up in the blowing sand he sees the shadow of Captain Leghorn standing over him.
"I say, I say there boy, I'm really sorry! You've always treated me mighty fairly but they all didn't give me any choice. They've gots my family!" A sense of regret can be heard in the Roosteroid's voice.
Jonn tries to reach for Lamia's quivering hand as dozens of desert nomad-dressed figures move in from all directions. Jonn remembers hearing Captain Leghorn saying, "Wait, we had a deal. You promised me!" and then <WHACK>, and the Roosteroid slumping beside him. His last memory is of a rifle butt. <WHACK!> Painful blackness.
This page updated: Mon Jan 09 14:22:17 2006
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