A Gamma World® play-by-post adventure run by gammaworld_gm
Music with full stereo surround sound continues playing inside the Starport gift shop. A very ancient voice sings:
Now somewhere in the black mountain hills of Albuquerque
There lived a robot named Xxi
And one day his merchandise ran off with another guy
Shot young Xxi in the chest, Xxi didn't like that
He said, "I'm gonna get that boy."
So one day he walked into town
Booked himself a room in the local saloon
Xxi checked into his room
Only to find Gideon's Bible
Xxi had come equipped with a gun
To shoot off the legs of his rival
His rival it seems had broken his dreams
By stealing the merchandise of his fancy
Now Kramer and the man who called himself Chuck
Were in the next room at the hoe down
Xxi burst in and grinning a grin
He said, "Chucky boy this is a showdown."
But Chucky was hot---he drew first and shot
And Xxi collapsed in the corner
Now the doctor came in stinking of gin
And proceeded to lie on the table
He said, "Xxi you met your match."
And Xxi said, "Doc it's only a scratch.
And I'll be better, I'll be better, Doc, as soon as my software is able."
Now Xxi he fell back in his room
Only to find Gideon's Bible
Gideon checked out and he left it no doubt
To help with good Xxi's revival
Xxi touches its vulnerable midsection as he stands to peer out of the gift shop window. After pausing a moment, it reaches up and adjusts the off-kilter sign that reads, "We're closed for Easter."
"O Great Motherboard, what have I done to deserve this affront?" Xxi emits resentfully as he remembers the mortal danger of almost being liquidated by the horrible Human. Periodic thoughts scroll through Xxi's mental software. "Roman numeral one:"
Xxi also considers the famed "Ferret Legging" punishment for Chuck:
"Roman numeral two: basically, ferret-legging involves the tying of the trousers at the ankles and subsequent insertion into those trousers of a couple of peculiarly vicious fur-coated, foot-long carnivores called ferrets. The punishee's belt is then pulled tight, and he is forced to stand there and accept his punishment, while animals with claws like hypodermic needles and teeth like #16 carpet tacks try their damnedest to get out."
"Chuck, I am going to get you," it brandishes its baseball bat threateningly. Then it thinks more on its predicament. "You're out there somewhere," it says, but implores, "Where? Where? That 'somewhere' is...? May the next time we meet be under more... felicitous circumstances. When I'm through, you won't set foot in this Starport again. I can be very, very persuasive," it taps the bat in its hand and stares blankly.
Xxi plots its revenge, dictating to itself: "Roman numeral three: surprise Chuck in bed... and, er, disembowel him! No, I don't like that 'bowel' in there," data is erased from harddrive. "Gut him! Ah, le mot juste. Ooh, a plan fiendishly clever in its in-trick-asies."
My apologies to The Beatles Rocky Raccoon for disemboweling it.
"We sail the ocean blue
And our saucy ship's a beauty.
We are sober men, and true
And attentive to our duty..."
Lucifer's beard, my post has ended!!
"Hello... Ormahzd, you just gonna stand there lookin' pretty or what?!?!"
Hee tee hee, life is a game none will win, but here you just might. You could complain because the rosebushes have thorns... or you could rejoice because the thorns have roosters, er, roses I mean.
Half of being smart is knowing what you're dumb at... so now show me if you can answer the questions below:
The questions come from the NARChives and the The NARC Files.
The first person to answer all of these correctly will be... umm, er... the winner.
As Howard has spent time in captivity under Hampshire, would he already know Shadow, assuming she was there at the time? It would be interesting to know for dialogue.
Shadow knows of Dodgers---everyone who's anyone in Datil does---from Hampshire's heavily-billed (ar-ar) arena contests featuring his favorite slave. As to whether or not Howard was Hampshire's prisoner during Shadow's tenure as one of his Gamma Girls, that depends on when Shadow started her current job and when Howard was Hamp's prisoner. Both are details I'll leave to gammaben and coraxgirl2001 to decide. I will say this: Gamma Girls have a high turnover rate.... Go figure.
As for the trivia quiz, the answers are:
Heh, just kidding. You think I'd let you off that easy?
Howard bends down to cradle Irma, to help her regain her senses, and to emit an air of protection. He may have missed the peak of his inner urges, as he suddenly realizes with a bit of puzzlement, but regardless of their "arrangement," she is still his friend.
"Big-O. I'm sthory about your friend...." Howard is mortified at the bodyless head, but tries to keep his composure, as much as he can as a Duckoid-in-captivity. "If there'sth planning to be done, let usth get with it. Asth you sthaid, there'sth not much time."
Then Howard turns to the Gamma Girl. "Shthadow," Howard begins softly. "You Gamma Girlsth are always sthicking your nosthesth into other people'sth busthinessthesth. But I guessth that'sth what you're good at." He snorts through his bill airways in disgust. "Don't think I've forgotten 'sthixthy-stheven, becausthe I haven'th." Howard's reference to the year 2467, a few years ago, brings back more memories than he hoped to reconnect with, and he shudders, his downy covering ruffling briefly. He will never be able to stare down the memories of his imprisonment by Hampshire without an emotional response.
Now it is time to return the shivers, or so he hopes. It is the least he can do with such short notice; he never expected to see this woman again. Howard recalls the last time he saw Shadow---just before he escaped. In his mind, she deserves to be knocked off her cocky, mightier-than-thou pedestal, or at least partially, and, inspired by her similar looks to Xeva, he thinks of one way to push her off-balance:
"Know sthomethin'? You remind me of Xtheva. Sthe sthure wasth good at minding everyone elsthe'sth busthinessth, too. Betrayalsth asth well...." He savors the last "th" sounds and prolongs them slightly, trying to get under Shadow's skin.
For the moment, Howard ignores Shadow's earlier 'Nuker' comment. He will explain it to Irma when she awakes, and in private. For now, the tougher he seems in front of this show-off-by-nature Gamma Girl, the better. Xeva is definitely a firecracker, and he expects Shadow to be made of the same stuff.
Waiting until after Howie wakes Irma, and of course thanking Shadow for the unique gift, he clears his throat. "Look, tommorrow the games begin and we have to be prepared. Shadow, did you get the hole made in the elevator shaft for us to hide Irma? Good.
"Ok, listen carefully. Howie, there is a laser gun across from the 'royal' box. We're gonna slip you in there a couple of hours ahead of the games. I want you to take out the gunner and see if you can tinker the laser to shoot at the box.
"Irma, we're gonna hide you in an elevator shaft via a small hatch; Shadow will tap a signal to you letting you know when it's time to come out and join her. Shadow of course will be at the box door. Hopefully when the fun starts, you Irma will distract Timon's guards while you Shadow slowly slide a weapon through Timon's force shield that you told me about.
"Howie, I'm gonna need you to be a good shot. I need cover on the arena floor, but also when I give the signal to start, I need you to pound Timon's armor to help Shadow break through it.
"Now, Twoducks, you and I are gonna have a lot of fun. I fight last, so I need you to draw out your fight as long as possible, but be very careful, as not only will you face the other guy, but also Hampshire's gunners on the laser guns. Later, before the games start, I'm gonna give you a quick tour of the place---at least enough so you all get an idea of what to expect. Ok, any questions, shoot."
Did I get my equipment back? I have all my guns in my equipment!
I say, "I'll fight as long as you need me too, just as long as I get out alive. If Howard trusts you, then I do too, I guess. Who exactly will I be going up against, and will I be given any more equipment?"
Night has fallen in Haven and Killaria finds a small bar to await the coming meeting. This place is a little run-down but on the plus side, there are only a couple other patrons. Killaria finds a booth in the corner from which to observe the only two entrances to the bar. Satisfied that there will be no unnoticed entries, she signals the waitress, orders a drink and waits....
Shadow, far from being nonplussed, gets a huge grin on her face at Howard's words. "Ahh, Nuker... it's nice for a girl to know that she's been remembered. Did you ever wonder why my face was the last one you saw as you left? Always did like your attitude, so I figured the least I could do was give you a headstart. No one else saw you leave. We made sure of that, didn't we, precious?" Shadow directs her last sentence to the Mark V she's been cradling.
"As for you Ormahzd, the 'hole' is ready, but I still think it would be better to hang the S.O.B. But you want his death more, ah, intimate, so be it. It's your party."
"Humans! oh, well. Barkeep! Another Kahlúa n'cream here! An' another bottle o'wine for my friend!"
A waitress soon arrives with your drink and a bottle of wine for the gentleman. Under your glass you find a note card with the letters "NARC" on top. Surreptitiously (or with as much surreptitiousness as you can muster in your somewhat inebriated state), you hide the note in your paw and excuse yourself to the Ladies' Room, only stumbling twice on the way.
Once you are safely installed, you open the note: "Emergency security meeting at 2330, HQ. -Stiles" You've got ten minutes to hike it back to the train station, so you burst out of the bathroom and head for the door.
The barkeep frowns, but doesn't try to stop you. Even at 8,000 residents, Haven is still a small town, albeit one under sentence of death.
You thrust your sinewy feline form into the night, without as much as a goodbye to your drinking partner. Perhaps by coincidence, a shadowy figure in the corner also gets up, pays her tab, and exits, leaving the bar in the same direction.
The meeting is being held in the same room as the last one, a back office in the newly restored Haven train stop. A large elliptical solid sandstone table rests profoundly in front of you as Ralph Stiles, Commander of the New Albuquerque Restorationist Club, takes his seat at precisely 30 minutes shy of midnight. You (Kicker) recognize three of the four other attendees: Brinic Davis, the Mayor of Haven; Dr. Chiana, NARC's top scientist; and Xervian, NARC's second in command. Stiles soon introduces the newcomer:
"This is Killaria Wildimeer," he gestures from his chair. "She comes highly recommended by her mentor, a former NARC field officer killed back in the New Albuquerque gang wars. I've asked her here, and Kicker, on account of their talents, and the latest intell from Datil," there is a pregnant pause as if each person in the room expects what Stiles is going to say, but dreads the saying. Stiles' prosthetic right arm taps the smooth tabletop: clink, clink, clink....
"To cut to the chase," his gravelly voice continues, "we expect Timon's invasion force to leave for Haven within 24 hours. Give 'em the scoop, Xerv." He sits back in his seat, deflated, his years of service etching lines of silent protest throughout his tortured features.
The lizardwoman stands proudly (and pertly) to begin her report. She really doesn't need to stand for such a small group, but the fastidious flush on Davis' face, and his attempt to cover it with a fumbled yawn makes it worthwhile. Her forked tongue snaps in and out from between her chiseled teeth as she speaks.
"There's been a lot of radio traffic on Datil's military frequencies, and though it's encrypted, we can only surmise that Timon's mechanized columns are getting ready to march. Furthermore, the biggest arena event in Datil this year has been abruptly rescheduled for 8pm tomorrow, reputedly so that Timon can attend. These events usually last until midnight, so assuming Timon stays for the final Contest of Heros, and assuming that he wants to accompany his walkers into battle---"
"Safe assumptions, given what we know of his ego," he growls.
"We have 24 hours," she says, sitting back down.
Stiles continues, rubbing his real hand across is furrowed brow as he talks. "NARC has set up a security perimeter around Haven, but they will be no match for Timon's walkers unless Dukas comes through with the bugs."
You interrupt on hearing word of your former comrade. "Any word on him?"
Xervian's face softens a bit, and she shakes her head no. "But that's to be expected: radio silence unless absolutely necessary."
"Dr. Chiana, give me some good news, please," Stiles addresses the scientist.
Despite her natural gray complexion, Dr. Chiana is anything but ashen-faced. In a perky voice, she gives her own report. "Good news indeed. I've managed to extrapolate the data Lamia gave me on the PhagoBacillus, and in my simulations, it compromised fifty SplatterKote layers within ten minutes of exposure." Her smirk foretells even better news.
"Plus, the duralloy should become brittle in theory because we now know Timon took shortcuts in TW mass production...."
"In theory?" he splutters. "Ralph, is this all we are pinning our defenses on? A bug that we don't even have, and which we don't even know works? Surely---"
"Don't get your panties in a wad, Davis," the glare from Stile's good eye would have stifled a rabid dobermutant. "Haven's not going to be sacked just yet," he breathes, trying to reassure himself. "Thank you, Doctor. I assume the missile batteries you outfitted for the bugs are in place?"
"Abe tells me his guys will have them in position and awaiting payloads by dawn, sir."
All of this is not making a bit of sense to you, and you begin to wonder if they asked the wrong person....
As if reading your mind, Stiles turns to you both. "The main reason I called this meeting is that we have a new problem. You may not know that we had a full squad of NARC soldiers guarding the San Mateo Tunnel, through which Timon's Walkers will have to march. Had. They have missed the last two check-ins and are presumed neutralized.
"The squad captain was supposed to have destroyed the tunnel in the face of capture, but Gallus 5/13 at the Starport nearby reports no seismic readings of any relevant magnitude. Gallus also reports that Starport sensors and defenses in the tunnel went down early this evening---sabotage."
Mayor Davis bristles at the thought of collapsing the only trade route over the mountains. Nevertheless, it is called for in the Haven Constitution if dire necessity presents itself. He'd no sooner shoot himself in the foot, though, than let Stiles send Haven's economy reeling. How would he ever win re-election? His only comfort was that the remote detonator held by the captain is now presumably beyond use.
"NARC can't afford another squad to hold the tunnel, so I'm asking you two to get down there and finish the job."
"What??" he barks incredulously.
"Haven's forebearers gave us two remotes to activate the tunnel charges, even if they didn't leave us the location of their sappers' hidden explosives. NARC has kept the spare one hidden all this time. Political insurance," he turns briefly to the Mayor, concealing a slight grin.
"All you have to do is get close enough, and press this." He takes a small box from his pocket and flips up the plastic lid. A red button sits innocently inside. He closes the protective lid over the button and flips the box to you (Kicker).
Upon touching the ancient box, you undergo a rapid succession of psychometric visions: a sapper planting the charges inside a dark, massive tunnel; the view from inside a safe as it is opened; the grim face of Stiles, but not Stiles, testing the remote's range; the urgent light of a green LED glowing near a human's trembling thumb. The images are confusing at best.
Stiles interrupts your brief trance. "A green light above the button will glow when you are in range, which we know to be very close, unfortunately. Too close for escape. And that's where you come in, Killaria. Dr. Chiana has cobbled together a device which will extend your range and capacity to teleport you both near the tunnel and out."
Dr. Chiana takes a notebook-sized metal box with leather straps out of her briefcase and hands it to you (Killaria). "Cobbled indeed, Ralph. Your confidence is noted!" she smirks quickly, her head tilting birdlike. "Killaria, just wear this on your back. You have to be touching Kicker for the hypercharge field to encompass her as well. It works automatically when you 'port, but it only has enough juice for two uses, and will only extend your range to a kilometer or so shy of the tunnel's entrance from Haven. The explosives, by our best estimates, are somewhere inside the tunnel on the near side."
"Why do you need me?" you interrupt, almost regretting the outburst. Your mind still reels from psychometric stimuli, exacerbating your alcohol-induced haze.
"Whoever took out my best soldiers and the Starport's tunnel defenses without a trace may still be there. Otherwise, I'd just have you collapse the tunnel on top of the damn walkers when they came through. With that kind of an unknown hanging around, I can't risk waiting. We have the chance now to seriously hamper Timon's plans, and we should take it," he sighs, levelling the steely gaze of his cybernetic eye your way. "That, and you also came highly recommended. Something like combat/tracking skills on par with the best of my men...."
Whoa, that would be the Duke. You wonder how his rag-tag band is doing.
"I don't need to remind you that this is Haven's last stand against an imminent overwhelming invasion force. It may buy Dukas more time to get the bugs to us, and seriously stick it to Timon's plans. If you run into trouble over there, get to the Starport Bar and find Gallus 5/13, the robot head: can't miss it. Any more questions? You should leave immediately, but not before you get some coffee in your veins, Kicker," he cracks a rare grin.
"Castille, the name I knew my mentor by, told me very little about his work but I knew he was passionate about it. I will help in any way I can. I owe him that much." Although I've never heard of using a "device" to enhance 'porting ability, I'm willing to give it a try.
"I'm ready whenever you are, Kicker."
"Just give me a few minutes, please. Coffee sounds pretty good---it is the middle of the night, after all. We do want to be alert, don't we?" She yawns elaborately, but with a sinking feeling she isn't fooling anyone.
Turning to Killaria, she asks, "Killaria, how well can you see in the dark? Do you have night vision goggles? If we are going to be sneaking up on an unknown enemy in the dark, it would help if we're not showing a light unless we have to. I can guide us if you trust me. Of course if you need it, you need it. We will just have to be extra sneaky."
Kicker will make sure she has enough energy cells, and grenades, etc. for her arrows before departing. After all, if the city of Townsville, er Haven, is depending on us, we wouldn't want to fail in our mission due to a lack of supplies, now would we?
She casually walks over to the coffee pot and pours herself a hefty swig, while waiting on Killaria's answer. Her blood chills, her calm mask notwithstanding. This is it: it all rides on her and this newcomer. Kicker silently breathes a prayer to her ancestors that she and Killaria will prove worthy of the task.
"Let's get this show on the road."
Kicker suddenly freezes, suddenly sobered, as a terrible thought occurs to her. "Wait a minute, Stiles," she says slowly. "What if they did set off the detonator? A detonator sends a signal of some kind, right? I don't know much about such things, but could something have blocked the signal from getting through? And," she swallows hard, "if that happens... is there a way to set it off by hand? Or...." Another thought hits her: "There are spies in any conflict. How sure are you that this is a working detonator, and not just a high tech paperweight with a pretty green light? No offense," she adds quickly. "Just my nasty habit of thinking of the worst, especialy with so much riding on it." She puts on her calmest face, hoping she hasn't permanently offended these people.
"I have no NV goggles but it's never stopped me before, although if you have an extra pair...."
The spacious foyer looks like it must have looked in the time of the late Ancients. There is not a speck of dust to be found on the shiny chrome receptionists' counter and among the series of chrome picture frames opposite. Lighting, ventilation and heating systems in the grand foyer all seem to have activated automatically upon your entrance, and the formerly cool stale air is slowly cycling out, replaced with warmer, fresher air.
Lamia, Rhyn and Mycinod are still woozy from their fainting spells suffered at the oxygen-poor entrance, and each plops on the floor to lean against the receptionists' counter.
"I'm sure that if I could gain access to that computer terminal there yonder, I could expedite the parameters of our search to a much narrower focus."
"You think it's safe down here, Jonn?"
"Dunno yet, but I'm hopeful. It would appear we're in a low-risk zone at the moment. Good thing, because you three aren't going anywhere until you can walk straight. Geo, good idea: see if you can get more info from the computers. Captain, could you help him?"
Elsewhere in the complex, Jonn's voice continues, somewhat frequency-modulated and transmitted via well-hidden cameras in the foyer: "We need to know what kind of security measures we're going to face."
"I'm on it," you emit, hopping over the 4-foot tall counter as if it were a speed bump.
"I say, me too... like a fly on dung." You attempt to hop over the counter, but hit the top edge on your shins, and fall back on your tail feathers in front of Rhyn, who gives you a feral hiss as you pick yourself up. "Now holdy there a minute, Quills, I meant, I say, I meant to do that!"
You rejoin Geo at the computer terminal after walking around the long counter. "Women," you mutter.
Meanwhile, Jonn breaks out some vittles and pie and shares them with Rhyn and Lamia. Mycinod cracks open a can of tasty (to Fungoids) fertilizer.
With a serving of Bess Saint's homemade apple pie in hand, the Gren stands up shakily, steadying herself on Jonn's broad shoulder, and walks slowly over to the pictures on the wall opposite the receptionists' desk and the giant "Ancalagon, Inc." lettering. The pictures document the site's origins as part of an American strategic defense complex, through its decomissioning in 2275, and then its subsequent occupation by a series of technology companies: the cryogenetics equipment maker Cryonix (2285), the robotics manufacturer ZedWerks (2309), the security technology firm Isenguard (2316), the biogenetics thinktank Bio Harness (2318), and finally the biotech lab Ancalagon (2320).
Lamia announces these company names and dates, and points out both the rapid turnaround of the place during the Shadow Years (2309-2322), when mankind (as the Ancients knew it) was in its chaotic death throes, and the fact that the place seems to have had no official tenant since Ancalagon. "If The Apocalypse's neutron bombs, which ended the civilization of the Ancients in 2322 and hurled the globe into the Black Years..." she pauses, "...if they also wiped out Ancalagon's employees, we might very well be the first visitors here in 149 years."
Jonn whistles in amazement.
"OK, I'm in," you say, drawing everyone's attention. The annoying Roosteroid is hovering over you and dropping cigar ashes on your head. You shift in your chair out from underneath him, but he follows.
"I say, Tin-head, nice work. You'd make a fine receptionist." Privately, you are amazed at Geo's speed in compromising the terminal's formidable security safeguards.
You ignore Leghorn's jab and load up a map onscreen. "Jonn, I've got a floor plan."
Jonn starts for the counter, but doubles back to help Lamia walk over as well. She carries her laptop. Mycinod stays behind, as does Rhyn, who double-checks her weaponry.
"Nice work, Geo. So where are we?"
"Why that's obvious: right where we are, ha-ha-ha."
You thump Geo on the head... and hurt your hand on the duralloy.
The floor plan that Geo displays on the computer monitor has no legend, but the rooms are labelled with various letters: B, C, D, F, G, K, L, M, P, R.
"Here. 'F' is for 'foyer.' And see, here's the receptionists' counter. Excuse me." You get up and move to another terminal, identical to the first, and quickly bring it online while the others examine the map and Lamia downloads the image file onto her laptop. Quickly parsing the list of available files on the second terminal, you soon confirm your prediction that these terminals don't have access to sensitive data.
As the filenames scroll up the terminal screen in a blur, one in particular
silverman.req.log.zw. You display it, instantly
memorizing its contents before you even realize it. It's a record of spare
parts ordered by a long-dead employee. Boring. "I have exhausted the
usefulness of these terminals, Jonn," you state flatly.
"Right-o, Gee-o. So that's a zee-ro on security in-fo?"
"Yes---o. These terminals are disconnected from security networks," you explain.
"For obvious reasons. This map is probably not the whole story, either," she states, bringing her laptop slowly back to her pack, where she settles down again.
You agree privately, and compute a high probability of something lying in the void to the left of the room labeled 'R'.
"We do have Tin-head's barcode," you offer, pausing when the display in front of you switches to animated flying toasters. "Hey look, Geo, yo momma!" Without skipping a beat, you continue: "But I ain't going anywhere with Quills if she can't shoot straight."
Rhyn pipes in from behind the counter where she still sits, "What makes you think I won't aim at you, Red?" You mock aim at a chrome frame on the wall as your second brain ponders viciously.
i wonder how rooster tastes barbecued
"Geo, how 'bout you and the Captain scout ahead while I stay here 'til the others are a hundred percent?"
"Oh, I can handle it!" the mushroom man says, rising to his full height, stumbling and bumping his umbrella cap on the counter ledge. "Ow," he says, slumping down again in embarassment.
Jonn sighs and checks the time on his NARC field radio. The liquid crystal display reads 2100. "We could be here a while...."
Rhyn, your regeneration ability has enabled you to recover faster than Lamia or Mycinod. You feel like you could accompany any scout party if they will have you. Geo, you rate the probability high that your serial number will get you through the far foyer door.
What do you do?
Anyone that scouts ahead has a choice of four directions as indicated on the floor plan: straight ahead, straight ahead a little further to the left (to stairs), to the left, or to the right. Please indicate marching order and direction if you leave the foyer.
This page updated: Mon Jan 09 14:22:20 2006
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