Friday, October 02, 2020

WoAF - Game Session 12

Pita was dreaming.  He was back in Seattle.  The year was 2027.  The city had already been rebuilt, several times, as it had come under severe attack before.  But this was an Inter-War period.  The suburbs had been consumed by the city, and every neighborhood was replete with at least one major military installation, a host of garrisons, and a small but efficient downtown district of gleaming steel towers, shops, parks with moto-causeways connecting the various Zones of Control.  These were the good old days... before the end.   Pita was passing a glowing animated ad on the wall of a local Nutrients & Body Care shop.  It was Elon Musk in a space suit, smiling, waving, and beneath his image the bold steel-blue letters spelled out "Proximatics Industrial, Inc".

Pita woke up in the dark cool shade of the AGV.  Light was coming in through the diamond-glass of "the Perch" where the 50 cal. machine gun was manned by Simon "Guns" Gunnison.  He rubbed his eyes, and was feeling a little nostalgic from the dream.  He remembered that particular day well.  He had a date with a pretty nice girl named Sally-Mae and was on his way to pick her up.  He never made the date.  His memory-dream left off moments before The Western Bombardment of 2027.  

It was just sunrise. Outside he heard the sound of crows cawing. He climbed up to peer out the from the turret.  There, about a football field distance from the old abandoned Mech Base 12 was a small forest of twenty-five very tall pine trees, a very dark green-black color, amid which an enormous murder of crows was cawing.  There must have been tens of thousands of them. The entire flock extended across the sky in a long thin line from the south to the north, and around the cluster of trees a broad wide cluster of crows was swirling, diving, circling and cawing.  They'd land on the branches, and instantly the pine needles would seem to arch themselves over in a cluster like fingers of a hand and grab them, surrounding them, and within moments there was a loud caw, crunching sounds and a minute later all that remained was a small bleached crow skeleton, which would fall in tatters to the ground with its feathers fluttering to winds. The crows seem to be irresistibly attracted to clusters of small dark berries that were on the branches of the trees. And at that point, Pita realized two things. One, the trees were swaying. The branches looked a bit like long arms swaying and reaching out towards the crows, almost as if they were gathering them into their folds. The other thing he realized was that the trees had definitely not been there the last time the party encamped at Mech Base 12.  Definitely not. And that was only three days ago.

Captain Samwise, observing all of this, manually swung the metal door of the AGV closed and battened down the hatch.  Hearing the screeching sound of the door closing a sub-division of crows wheeled through the air and landed on the AGV.  Pita scrambled up topside to observe them through the diamond-glass of the Perch where Gun's was still sleeping, his arm slung over the 50 cal. machine gun.  The birds, he observed, despite mad pecking at the surface of the AGV, did no appreciable damage other than to leave the occasional scuff mark. He got the distinct impression as he watched one hop along the top of the AGV to the turret and peck first at the glass, then at the rim around the glass, cocking its head and watching Pita's reactions, that these crows were intelligently inspecting the AGV with great care, searching diligently for weak points.  "Interesting", he murmured to himself.  At that point Linda came up the ladder to try to see what was going on.  Pita explained what he was seeing.  She seemed to want to climb up, so he climbed down to give her room.  However, once he was down, she appeared to lose interest in the turret after all.  He took her by the arm to the front of the AGV as he explained further about how the birds were moving, and what the sky looked like, and how its' amazing color couldn't compare to the color of her eyes.

Meanwhile Fred was investigating the coffee machine.  All of its electronics were burned out, but he managed to use his Retro-Tech skills to fix it well enough for it to brew a pot of acceptably robust coffee.  The enervating aroma filled the cabin, and it was good.

Samwise took a look around the area with his optical goggles in manual adjustment mode, which still worked well enough for this purpose. Like most equipment in the AGV, there was a hardware based underlying system, despite their having lost all of their electronics components in the EMP blast at the end of their last battle.  He spotted a series of shadowy figures dodging between the rocks on the far side of Highway 89. Lots of them. Eventually, as the sun rose higher, he identified them as Lizardmen. A large number of Lizardmen were moving fast in a long column northward like army ants. The team hunkered down in the AGV and stayed as still and quiet as they could. 

After about a two hours both the shadowy Lizardmen and the crows had passed to the north.  The team began to debate their next course of action. Captain Samwise was of the opinion that most team members felt that the AGV was no longer functional, and therefore they should call it a day, and head back to Kitt Peak.  

"Linda, send one more message on ULF telling them we are returning to base," said Captain Samwise.

"... in shame," she added.

"Well, ... in shame ... yes," admitted good Captain Samwise.

"Captain," inquired Guns from the Perch, "when they write down 'success' or 'failure' for this mission, is that for just you, or all of us?"

"Well, it's all of us, but you probably have a black mark on your record anyway, so it doesn't really matter.  And so far I haven't heard any objections to my rulings, so I'm continuing."

"Wait, we can object?", asked Guns enthusiastically.  "Well I object!"

"But I thought you were advocating we give up on this mission because the AGV is kind of wrecked and ..."

"Oh, no, sir.  I haven't given up on this mission.  I'm advocating we complete it.  I just think should stop visiting every tourist trap and taking a damn picture of the place, if you know what I mean," stated Guns emphatically. 

Only Fred completely disagreed. He very much wanted to head back to Kitt Peak and be done with the mission.  Pita seemed ambivalent and deferred to the Captain, while Linda raised her hand to vote for moving forward and completing, despite the damage they'd taken to the AGV.  "Common guys, we can do this," she said with conviction.  And so, it was decided to head back north to the town of Page, and from there on to the Salt Flats of Utah, which was their ultimate destination.  Their mission was to investigate a possible survival group at a secret scientific facility known only as Black Wind V, from which Alt-X reported observing distant, partially triangulated, garbled, and possibly random radio transmissions.  At that point Federation Command had not ventured further north than Tuscon, Arizona, and they thought that part of the country was likely completely desolate.  That proved to be quite wrong, as our heroes found out along the way.

At any rate, the AGV, repaired to some degree and certainly driving more smoothly, took off and turned north on Highway 89 once again.  They made it the same 500' as the last time, and there on the porch of the Navajo Trading Post was the old Indian smoking his pipe.  They stopped the AGV and Samwise got out to have a chat with him.  Guns, Pita and Linda joined him and the old post master offered them stew.  Once again, it was the best stew any of them had had in what felt like ages.  And though the Indian was not a talkative man, he conveyed what information was most important in a few words.  When asked if he had seen the Lizardmen and the crows, the old man replied "The army of the Shadow moves north.  War is brewing." And when they mentioned their battle with the Black Manticore outside of Page, the old man nodded and said, "It is strange. The Shadow Beast does not move beyond his territory lightly. Why did he battle with you?"  Samwise explained about the iron chain, known as "The Chain of Thanatos".  To this the old chief nodded again, "Yes, he wanted that badly enough."  They shared a rare shot of "fire water" that the old Indian had in store, and continued on their way.  Samwise, Pita and Linda all had a shot.  It was strong.  But afterwards they all felt stronger.  The Indian gave the Captain a small wooden totem as a gift.  "It will see you on your way, and bring you good luck.  The Kachina spoke to me.  The Kachina likes you.  She watches over you.  Beware of the shadow, and avoid the Great Canyon.  There is a war to the west."

"Are there fighters for the Light, like those we met in Page?"

"All who can fight, fight," replied the old Indian chief.

And so they departed, heading north in their AGV.  The old chief waved his hat, and went back to his porch to smoke his pipe.  Samwise hung the totem pole on the front window of the AGV, and off they went.  

It was a long, bumpy, hot and bone rattling journey.  Eventually, they came to Cameron, Arizona. There they found signs of a short, harsh battle, and small number of people who had managed to be clinging to on to life in that place were found dead, some half eaten, and there were tracks of Lizardmen everywhere.  They continued north on 89 to Bitter Springs, and all around that place there were the tracks of Lizardmen.  Guns got out of the AGV to take a snoop around, and determined that the Lizardmen had gone west along 89A over the Marble Canyon Bridge.  They estimated that there must have been over a thousand Lizardmen all told. A small brigade of about 50 appeared to have broken off from the main body and continued to 89 North, towards Page.

Just south of Page they came to a highway bridge spanning a 40' gully.  It was getting dark so they decided to head 10 miles off-road and camp out for the night.  It was uneventful, except on Linda's watch she noticed large silent flashes of light over the mountains to the west.  She didn't mention it as whatever it was posed on threat to them, but took a note on this in her journal.

In the morning they returned to the bridge, Guns got out to check the bridge out, and using Ilene's (his rifle) scope he located exactly what he had suspected he might find... thin trip wire linked to metal plates on the bridge, wired to a large amount of explosives spanning the underside of the structure.  Going over the bridge would have seriously ruined their day.  They decided to leave the explosives alone, and crossed the bridge safely by avoiding the metal plates.

Once on the other side they continued to the intersection of 89 and 98.  They went carefully over everything they knew to date, and added their conjectures in a long running conversation as they rolled along the desert road. They understood that the Lizardmen heading north are members of the Black Manticore's army.  That the Shadow Beast, as the Indian called him, had ventured beyond the range of its own territory in order to re-acquire the Chain of Thanatos.  And that there is a war going on to the west, which the Lizardmen are heading towards.  They also discussed the armaments of the Lizardmen, and Guns reminded them that six of them nearly took the party out when they encountered them south of Phoenix.   

Finally the arrived just south of Page, and stopped about 100 yards short of the intersection at 89 and 98 so Guns could take a good look. Through Ilene's scope he spotted a Lizardman crouching behind a rock.  Guns decided, to everyone's surprise, tried negotiating with it, but after three attempts and no progress, he gave up on diplomacy, climbed back into the AGV and asked Captain Samwise if he should blow the critter away with the machine gun.  A few moments later they were rifling the bloody corpse for loot and equipment. They got a sub-machine gun, three grenades, and a bag of ammunition.  

Guns commented, "Any you guys ever think we ought to team up with this folks?  They always got the good equipment and stuff, ya know?"

Taking a look a look around, he found tracks. Another Lizardman had been hiding behind the rock and escaped down a low lying gully path to the north and west.  Annoyed, but determined, they scanned the area carefully.  Using their binoculars and scope they spotted Lizardmen moving among the rocks about a mile to the north west of their location. Samwise suggested they were searching for the chain.  They were too far to be a threat, but too close for comfort.  Samwise scanned for the Knights but they didn't see any sign of them.  They figured it wouldn't take too long for the Lizardman runner to get over there and alert them, so they took off, heading east on 98.

They decided to drive into the town and visit the Knights, who called themselves the Golden Crusaders of Christ Lion.  Once they got to town, they rumbled up in their AGV to the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints and parked the AGV.  Out came Geoffrey, the leader of the Crusaders, and two other Knights. Geoffrey welcomed them and Captain Samwise provided him with information about the Lizardmen.  They looked concerned and asked how many Lizardmen they'd seen.  

"About a thousand went west, and a detachment of around 50 is scouring the rocks over by were we fought the Shadow Beast," explained Samwise. "They must be looking for the Iron Chain," he added.

"They won't find it there," replied Geoffrey.  "We have it."

As it turned out, the blunt Priest of the Crystal Light had sensed the presence of some powerful evil out there in the desert, and so he and Geoffrey made a diligent search under the auspices of The Radiant Lion at noon the previous day, located the Iron Chain, and managed to secure it.  They brought it back and locked it away in a vault, despite its best efforts to escape.  Geoffrey didn't go into details, but the Chain took more than one life on its way into captivity.  Clearly the Lizardmen were none the wiser. 

They talked about the war in the west, and Geoffrey filled in some of the details for them.  The Shadow Beast has its lair in Las Vegas.  The war is being fought presently around a town named Saint George, roughly one hundred miles due west. He told them that the Crusaders have Paladins engaged in the war, and their allies are the "Mech Warriors" of Phoenix. As a good will offering Guns gave them the Lizardman grenades he's taken.  

The Crusaders planned to attack the Lizardmen. They have three Paladins in Golden Lion Platemail, and a squad of regular Knights on horseback, and a priest. He asked the good Captain if he cared to join the Holy Order of the Golden Lion. Samwise said that his team didn't wish to abandon their own mission.  

"You can do both," said Geoffrey without hesitation.

They decided to help the Crusaders assault the Lizardmen, and while the Crusaders got themselves prepared, our heroes drove over the airport to see what they could scavenge in the way of components and weapons.  They got lucky and found quite a bit of useful material with which they conducted further repairs on the AGV, including the power train, an old navigational computer, and an assortment of additional weaponry, including a small amount of jet fuel for some badass home made Movtov cocktails, flares, and a small plane propeller they cribbed from a wrecked cub plain on the runway. Guns even found an old iron chain in a hanger which he intends to use to mess with the Lizardmen's heads.

And so they got busy gearing up for the battle with the Lizardmen.  And that's where we left things this session.

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