A Gamma World® play-by-post adventure run by gammaworld_gm
The 200 miles between Elephant Butte and Haven pass in a blur, but not before Jake proudly introduces you to Joshua in his new T3 body, and beams as his son wows you with his charm and humor. Those of you who knew Joshua when he was stuck in a K-11 security robot frame find it hard to believe the diametric change in his personality. Unnoticed by most, Jake slips off to the cargo bay after requesting Lamia's laptop so he can access the real Area 61 archives. He doesn't show his face again until you arrive in Haven, and as usual, it reveals little of the turmoil that eats him.
The sun is nearing its zenith as you deplane. A handsome young man approaches you, and he can hardly contain the excitement in his step. He spots Jonn and Lamia, and immediately vectors toward them.
"Jonn, you old geezer, how are ya? And hiya, Miss Lamia! Good to see you again. You and your crew will all be staying in my father's house. Oh, ouch... except for her," he winces, pointing to Xervian hopping off the ship. "She's got her own lair...." he whispers, winking. "Sorry, man, musta been a tough ride over."
"Ah Xerv. For once, she's in more trouble than she can cause," he winks. "Thanks for the hospitality, Abe. And it's good to see you again. How's the wife and the crumbsnatcher? These are my friends," he adds, moving his arm in a wide arc. Jonn proceeds to (re)introduce you all to Abe.
"Where's Stiles?" he asks when done.
As Geo locks up the XJ1, Abe relates that Stiles, Jonn's boss, has scheduled a conference later in the afternoon, and you can crash at his father's crib until then. You hike your stuff behind him as he gives you the nickel tour of the quaint but cosmopolitan settlement of Haven, which started life as a train stop before the Shadow Years. The tracks have long since been recycled or buried under the sand drifts, but the remnants of Interstate 25 (Main Street) and the town's central square can still be seen. You see many humanoids and other mutants bustling through the alleys, in and out of stucco shops and vegetable stands, or working in the fields. Abe says there are nearly 8000 residents in Haven at last count. There is an air of heightened awareness about them, as if they are all working hastily toward a common goal.
Abe's father's house is a humble rancher mostly carved into a knoll overlooking a modest vista of irrigated farmland on the near edge of town. You dump your loot in the comfy atrium and take a load off your feet in the capacious back deck, generously shaded by a towering willow nurtured by a small bubbling Jemez mountain stream that wends its way into the alfalfa fields---quite a welcome contrast from the arid desolation you saw coming over. Abe soon returns with his wife Bess and their newborn son Dracon. Abe's friend Mik also shows up with an icebox of bottled drinks. You spend a pleasant two hours relaxing and then it's time to meet Commander Stiles.
You soon find yourself seated around a large elliptical solid sandstone table in one of the back offices of the nearby restored train station: NARC headquarters. As Jonn sits, fidgeting with the chain around his neck, it is obvious to you that he is anxious about something. Lamia feels it too; she pulls out her laptop and turns on the power, eager for a distraction.
A man in black military fatigues barges into the room without warning and looks you over, assessing, nodding. Commander Stiles (or just "Stiles" to some) is an imposing figure who bears numerous battle scars, not the least of which necessitated the cybernetic implants in his left eye and right arm. "Dukas. Jake," he gruffly acknowledges the two NARC operatives present. "Don't get up." It sounds like his vocal cords were ripped out, stretched thin over a sharp gravel road, stomped on, run over by a battalion of Timon Walkers, shot through with bullets, then shoved back into his larynx. Backwards.
A tall impeccably dressed Pure Strain Human soon enters the room muttering to himself, and announces that he is Brinic Davis, the elected Mayor of Haven. Next to arrive is a petite ashen-skinned Humanoid with wiry white hair and solid black eyes that rival Jake's. Stiles introduces her as Dr. Chiana, NARC's top scientist. She clutches a small sack with both hands, and timidly places it on the table, then moves the sack over slightly to line up with one of the tabletop's foci. She cracks a Mona Lisa smile at the sack, and then to all of you, and takes her seat. The sack settles with a muted metallic clank on the polished sandstone.
Finally Xervian arrives in all her usual glory, causing the Mayor to roll his eyes upward and avert them fastidiously. Xervian slips sultrily into her seat and then Stiles closes the door and sits down next to her. Jonn completes the introductions for the benefit of the Havenites, and then there is a tense moment as Stiles inhales an immense breath through his nostrils.
"Jonn, I assume you've informed your troop of our predicament, and that they are here to help, so I'll cut to the chase. When Xeva betrayed us, we knew NARC's blissful obscurity in Haven was compromised. Last intell before comm silence shows that Timon is mobilizing. He's ramped up production of his Walkers (TWs) and is maneuvering to cut Hampshire out of the slave trade. Our plan to divorce Timon from the Mages' support appears to have failed. We underestimated Timon's ability to weasel himself out of the trap, and Hampshire was just too convenient a scapegoat, I'm afraid."
"Scape-pig," she grins, her sharp teeth flashing.
"Whatever. As a result, we're hearing less from Hamp as he scrambles to keep his former suppliers, and he is becoming a dangerous liability to NARC."
"Not to mention expensive," adds the Mayor, straightening in his chair and pointing a finger at Stiles.
Stiles ignores the Mayor, who slouches back into his seat and nurses his well-trimmed beard as if it were an extension of his slighted ego. "Hamp did do us one last favor," Stiles says, thumbing towards the sack and nodding to Dr. Chiana. "And the contents of that bag have us, frankly, crapping bricks."
"Lovely imagery, Stiles," she frowns, then pushes her chair back, stands up sprightly, reaches into the sack and takes out a chunk of metal, about twice the size of her fist, and coated shiny red on one side. Her movements are quick and precise, like that of a bird. "OK people, this was salvaged from the hull of a TW that became the salami in a rubble sandwich during a skirmish in downtown Datil less than a week ago." She passes the tortured chunk of metal around.
Jake remembers the TW ambush that Freya foiled back in Datil. It seems so long ago. He can't help wondering if the chunk of metal in his hand came from the very Walker that was crushed when her explosives felled a derelict building on top of it. He shudders with the memory of her death soon thereafter.
Dr. Chiana continues with her crisp delivery, "We knew the Walkers were made of tough duralloy, but when I field tested this baby, hoh-hoh! Nothing we currently carry penetrates it. The red coating is a micron-thin ablative organic superconducting paint the late Ancients called 'SplatterKote™'. It rapidly dissipates all radiant and kinetic energy directed at it, up to a certain saturation level."
A split-second psychometric vision of agony washes over Kicker as she handles the TW fragment. Its driver suffered a horrible death. Good riddance. "How much?" she says, passing the sample on to Lamia, who glances at it briefly, gives it to Jonn, then types something into her laptop.
"Well, I did some extrapolations and the fit looks---well, let me put it this way. If you shot a Pulse Rifle at the exact same spot on this armor thirty times a second for five minutes, you have a good chance of burning a hole through the first layer."
"And it's sprayed on in fifty layers," she smiles mischievously at Jonn.
The room becomes silent, save for Lamia's typing.
"I say, I say, where's that mangy Cougaroid and his talking gun when you need him?"
Geo chimes, "Brimstone would need 45,000 atomic energy cells to burn his way through!"
Joshua adds, "Not to mention someone to keep the TW still!"
cool cool cool
Jonn shakes his head, as if to wake from a bad dream. "How come I've never heard of SplatterKote? Something like this should've prevented the Apocalypse!"
"Or started it...."
Dr. Chiana replies, "The NARChives only mention the stuff once, and it's an obscure reference at that. Maybe---"
"It has a weakness," Lamia softly interrupts as she pours over some scrolling text on her laptop's screen, "that rendered it useless." She looks up finally at Dr. Chiana. "And here... it is." Tapping a key, she swivels her laptop around so that all can see the display: a rotating 3-D model of a highly magnified rod-shaped object that makes your skin crawl.
All heads turn toward Lamia and her laptop. Dr. Chiana looks at the display curiously, with mouth partially open, and tilting her head like a robin listening for a worm.
Lamia explains. "There was an intense focus during the late Shadow Years in the field of biogenetic engineering. These are microbes, B. phagocis---more affectionately called PhagoBacillus™. They were specifically designed to attack superconductive polymers like SplatterKote, and eat through it. Ravenously. It says here that the Ancients invented the bugs in a converted biotech lab situated here in the San Matoe Range. Even gives a map! But who knows if it survived...."
Dr. Chiana smiles at Lamia, incredulous. "Damn, you're good, girl! And who said Grens were afraid of tech? Where'd you get that relic?"
Lamia blushes, looking over at Jonn. "Long story," she sighs.
Xervian mouths Lamia's words mockingly, then hisses at Jonn's hush.
Stiles elucidates, "Lamia's laptop is the buzz of the Wasteland right now. It contains complete classified records of the Ancients' military installations in this region of the continent. Timon was looking for it.... Crikey, Jonn, tell me that wasn't compromised too!"
Geo answers for him, "The Gamma Girl did not grab a single byte."
"Good. That will make your job much easier."
Jonn looks up at Stiles suddenly. "Wha?" He whispers, "Ralph, I actually wanted to talk with you about---"
Either Stiles doesn't hear Jonn, or he ignores him. "I will only allow a handful of you to go, however. The Mayor needs every spare hand, telekinetic or otherwise," he nods in Jake's direction. "Your T3 will be invaluable, and if there are other healers among you---"
Jonn finally gets the drift. "Y-you're sending me back into the Wasteland?!"
"To find the microbes. Besides, we both know this town's too small for both you and Xervian!" he cracks a quick grin that buckles his copious facial scars like crepe paper. "Those damn bugs are Haven's only hope, as clichéd as that sounds. Take your message rocket with you, and fire it off ASAP with as many as you can cram in there."
"I'll go with you, Jonn. Somebody's got to keep you out of trouble with Howard gone," she smiles. "And we won't get there without my laptop."
Jonn, speechless, wonders anew at his soulmate's courage.
Eventually, some of you start filtering out of the room for further debriefing. It is decided after much soul searching that Jake and Kicker will stay to help the Mayor upgrade Haven's defensive and offensive systems. Frieda and Joshua also agree to complement Haven's medical staff. All four give Jonn and Lamia their goodbyes and goodlucks. Geo, Captain Leghorn, Mycinod and Rhyn wait in the back of the room, still undecided.
Jonn catches Frieda before she leaves. "I know this isn't what you had in mind coming to Haven, Frieda. I do hope that when this all blows over you find a new life here."
"We'll see," she says, giving Jonn a wry smile that reveals much of her acceptance of---and eagerness to face---the challenges ahead. "Be careful." Her words say so much more on their shared PSH wavelength.
As much as she is disappointed that she won't get to collaborate with the bright Gren, Dr. Chiana accepts the situation, and wishes Lamia good luck. "Before you leave, I'd like to copy down whatever data you have on SplatterKote and the PhagoBacillus. I can continue my field testing and get some delivery vehicle in place for your bugs."
Lamia obliges by displaying the relevant information, and Dr. Chiana scribbles the data on a small notepad. When she is done, she nods a snappy salute in Lamia's direction, then Jonn's and Stiles', and swivels on her heels, leaving the room with her Timon Walker paperweight.
Stiles finally turns to Jonn. "Crikey, don't do anything I wouldn't do," he says coarsely and sighs, "And try to get back here---"
"I know," he says, grasping and pumping Stiles' left hand with his own, "In one piece. And when I do get back, I'm tending my NARC resignation, Ralph. I'm getting too old for this."
The news hits Stiles like a duralloy sledgehammer, but you wouldn't know it. "Your call, Dukas. Let's just hope you have something to come back to," he finally manages to say, barely containing his visceral disappointment. He barges out of the room and into the hall, where he stops and vents his frustration on a support column. <Kick!> "Dammit!" he limps off, muttering. "Too old for this, my ass!"
Xervian approaches Jonn but en route stares down Lamia, who avoids eye contact as if there were snakes writhing on the Reptiloid's head. Xervian snaps her eyes onto Jonn's face, daring him to escape her gaze southward. Not surprisingly, he doesn't. Chivalrous to the end. "You... you take care of yourself," she says, poking him in his abdomen with one claw.
She turns halfway to Lamia, saying to the space between them, "...of each other." Nearly to the door, she says in profile, "You do know NARC won't survive without you, Jonn."
She leaves before he can comment.
Jonn turns to Geo, Captain Leghorn, Mycinod and Rhyn. "Guys, I really wasn't expecting this. I'm going to need some help out there. Geo, the XJ1 would get us there fastest, and I need to verify the lab's existence via your satellites. Captain, your knowledge of security systems will help us survive once we get inside. Myc, your bravery will bolster our chances of success. And, Rhyn... well, you can carry a gun, right? We've got to leave now if you're coming."
What do you do?
Those who stay behind in Haven will form their own group (G5). Whoever accompanies Jonn and Lamia on their mission will remain in G1. Here's the complete group listing, including NPCs in italics:
You decide to explore the underground complex some more before staking your hopes on a witch-doctor from one of the primitive villages above. If anything is going to bring back Warrr'a, it will be technology, and you're surrounded by it. You exit the cryo-chamber back into the cavernous room where the Obbs attacked you. It appears much brighter than you remember. The heavy blast door through which lies the corridor where the Unit Zed attacked you is still ajar. You hear intermittent clanking noises echoing throughout the immense room, which is cluttered with boxes and barrels filled with MERCs (army rations) and chemicals, respectively.
Katkin's keen senses locate the source of the noise: it is Tempest, climbing up the metal rungs on the room's cylindrical wall. Even thirty feet up, Tempest's hi-tech armor and weapons glint brightly in the well-lit silo. Tempest is about midway to the ceiling catwalks.
You've narrowed your choices by one: explore the corridor beyond the blast door again and see where it leads, or follow Tempest to the catwalks and pipes above and find out what his/her/its "mission" is.
Sorry for the absence. I am back and ready to go. Please place Myc in whichever group you want him and I will pick up the game from there. Thanks.
Jonathan will go along with whatever Katkin wants to do, keeping his bow at the ready. He still doesn't care much about his own life, but Katkin seems like an okay sort. He'll try to protect the furball.
"Well," Katkin says, "we need to find something to bring little Warrr'a back to us. Perhaps if we follow this tin man, he will lead us to some medicines of the Ancients. I have heard that the Ancients were capable of anything, including resurrection of the dead."
Hitching his crossbow up onto his back, Katkin motions for Jonathan to follow.
Our (much smaller now) intrepid band of adventurers once more sets off into the military installation, this time, in search of the tin man.
"I have heard that the Ancients were capable of anything, including resurrection of the dead."
"Not really," Jonathan says quietly. "At least, not while I was conscious. But as long as the brain's alive there's sometimes a chance to revive the body. But that kind of technology would be at a medical facility, not a military base."
"Surely soldiers need medical attention from time to time. There must be a medical station of some sort around here," Katkin shrugs. "We should follow the tin man. He may know a way out. Besides, it's that or go back the way that got Warrr'a killed."
Leela gives tacit approval to Katkin's plan to continue investigating the complex, though she remains ever-reticent, puzzled by what she senses from the climbing figure.
By the time the three of you mount the metal rungs in pursuit of Tempest, you have lost sight of the ominous entity in the catwalks and piping 60 feet above. The dude is fast! Nevertheless, you assume that no one present knows more of the layout of the underground installation than Tempest. Possibly, you hope, there is a medical facility to which it can direct you, and in which you can revive your incessantly perky friend Warrr'a. You miss her upbeat squeakings.
Your climb is tedious. At one point, Jonathan rests for a moment on a rung and turns to look at the room from an Obb's perspective. The open cylindrical space feels like it has an invisible, choking miasma about it. You shudder, making the sudden connection that this is a nuclear missile silo of the Ancients. Whether or not it ever held such a missile is not apparent, as the entire place is covered with a patina of rusty decay and disuse that would hide any telltale blast scorches. You peer far below at the piled-high crates and barrels you and the others investigated previously. Evidently during your long intermittent hibernation, the place has been co-opted for several uses, including storage for various chemicals (no doubt toxic) and army rations (no doubt tasteless). You resume your climb with renewed disgust for your belligerent race.
Katkin, leading the way up the rusty metal rungs, reaches the catwalk first (heh-heh, get it? Cat-walk? Heh. Oh never mind.). You find Tempest partially hidden behind some heavy, long dysfunctional coolant pipes that plunge into the wall at a point along the circular catwalk diametrically opposite you. Several brief, high intensity flares of light and faint popping noises emanate from its position, and its stretched, hunched-over silhouette flickers almost menacingly along the curved silo wall.
What do you do?
I find Jonn wherever the rat-eater is lurking. "Ah say, that thing you're all planning: count me in. Now what, I say what could have become of that sneaky scoundrel... ah, there he is, my protégé Myc. Count him in too. The force is strong in him, I can feel it. So is that weird Rhyn going wiff us? I'm sure she will, ah'ma chick magnet, ya know. She can't get enough of me---I call it mutant attraction. Any of this gettin' through to you, son?" I slap Jonn on the back.
"If you need to know anything about whozewhatzits and thingamabobs, thingamajigs or whatchamacallits, you just ask me, Jonny old boy. We takin' the conscientious objector too?"
"You know, the coward. There must be robots worse than Geo we could take wiff us."
"We checked around, there really aren't. I'm getting really tired of your Roosteroid pranks and accusations!"
"Aw, don't blame me, blame my upbringing. Your momma! Now shut up! Count me and the 'sroom in. Besides, how could you survive without me around to save your assets? In theory, your plans could work, perhaps, but you'll never find a group so willing to take on a mission so suicidally dangerous beside us. We're not gonna die, are we Jonny? Right? Right? Anyway, your missions, Jonny, are like twentieth century clothes: you give up style and comfort so they're not too tight in the crotch."
Ask about our generous brutality settlements (condemned by the Space Pope).
"I'm in too, Jonn. Just make sure you keep me well-informed about your plans. Unlike your meager memory processor, mine will remember everything with exacting precision, including holographic projections in full stereo with surround sound. I just hope you know what your doing taking a girl with two half-brains, a Roosteroid with no brains, and a weird monster who smells like he eats garbage and does. I really need a calculator to predict our odds of success."
"You are a calculator."
"I need a good calculator. Who do I look like, a Rastafarian accountant? Don't answer that! I'm programmed to be very busy; I like it that way. Instead of taking dangerous missions all the time, perhaps it's your outlook that needs changing, a ninety-degree turn to a place where happiness is perpendicular to wonderment...."
"Unlike your meager memory processor, mine will remember everything with exacting precision, including holographic projections in full stereo with surround sound."
But what does Surround Sound™ mean to Jonn, who's stuck in an 8-track, 2-channel world?
Myc pulls out a cigar and looks at Geo. "I may digest organic refuse, but at least my mother wasn't a toaster and my father an alarm clock, you rolling excuse for spare batteries." With that, Myc strikes a match on Geo's head and lights his cigar.
Howard realizes very quickly that not all is well in the Butte. And he isn't referring to the soreness in his posterior for having to carry more than a Duckoid's fair share of equipment up the stairs. "Yesth, I know you love presthensth!" he says to Irma, sincere delight in his never-to-echo voice, but concern on his furrowed fowl brow.
Howard sneaks a look toward the balcony, picks the toy duck up off the ground with a slight bend at the waist---or what passes for one on a Duckoid. In the same movement, and trying to obfuscate the double grab, he retrieves his needler pistol from where he placed it on the wooden table by the door.
Following a path to Irma between the bed and the balcony curtains, Howard waddles toward his longest, truest friend, seasonal lover, and would-be mate for life (if he would ever give up the adventuring career---then again, even with his wanderings, she always insists they are mates for life anyway, even if he doesn't stick around to play house year round).
As he approaches, Howard Dodgers of the 23½ Century gives the toy to Irma, saying, "Here, you try it! Justh pull the sthring."
He then utilizes his ability to teleport objects from elsewhere to himself, and "grabs" the curtain rod from its perch above the window, causing the finely crafted curtains to drop to the floor. If someone or something were hiding behind the curtain, they should be revealed, or covered by the curtain. In either case, Howard trains the needler in the direction of the balcony with his right hand as he teleports the curtain rod into his left. His posture is protective, and he knows he won't hesitate to activate his force field if the droppings hit the fan.
This page updated: Mon Jan 09 14:22:20 2006
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