Sunday, November 29, 2020

WoAF - Game Session 15

And so we find our heroes hightailing it down Route 89 back the way they came.  Eastward they rumbled the Armored Ground Vehicle.  Good Captain Samwise considered their options.  If they head back all the way to Page, Arizona, they'd likely find the Paladins of the Golden Lion giving them an unfriendly welcome.  While Fred wanted desperately to head south back to Tuscon, there were really no good routes available for that, and in addition, the other members of the party decided that they wanted to complete the mission after all.

"This needs to stop," said Fred emphatically.  "Look, Captain, you almost just got shanked back there because we could not hear what you were saying because the audio equipment of the AGV is all busted.  We have all this information to deliver back to Federation Command.  We should go south, deliver the goods, re-equip, and then head back to Utah and do the mission."

"Well," started Samwise, "we're halfway -"

"No! We're halfway to nowhere!" interrupted Fred.

There was a fierce debate.  Guns suggested going back to Tuscon to get Rocket Jets to go to Tuscon.  There didn't seem a practical avenue to accomplish that. 

"The question is," said Sam, "has the team given up on the Mission?"

In the end, the answer was no.  And so when they came to Johnson Canyon Road, they cut a sharp left turn, and headed north.

They passed derelict burned out farmlands, and into a canyon valley that snaked along a windy little river. About 15 miles in the road turned westward.  They drove through the forested hills, and at one point they passed what looked like a small cluster of houses high up on the ridge of a cliff.  There showed no signs of life, so they continued westward into a region of ever thickening forest.  In the air there were orange sized dandelion puffs floating by the hundreds, then thousands. They passed a herd of deer that stared out at them from within the covert of a shadowy wood, several of which had eight legs and six eyes, and bizarrely shaped horns. Samwise noticed that all of the fauna in the region appeared to have been mutated.  Wherever the puffs landed, they began sprouting leaves and vines within a few minutes.  The number of these puffs increased steadily the further west they went.  It was not entirely comforting.  They secured the ventilation system and kept moving westward.

The road entered directly into a long wall of dark and gigantic forest.  The trees grew to the size of Sequoias, the tallest towering nearly 300 feet into the glowering sky.  The forest appeared to have grow up around a regular forest, whose thousands of oaks and pines formed a skeletal under-forest, dead, leafless and decomposing.  Amid the dead branches of the under-forest a murder of crows was seen flocking, cawing, and staring at the passing AGV with a strange intensity.  The giant trees seemed to crowd in on the road, and roots of those trees had begun to break through the road in certain spots.  From the high branches enormous vines draped down, crossing ominously above the road.  Guns thought they seemed to be moving sinuously, but it might just have been the shadowy light playing tricks with his eyes.  On the other hand, he also thought the vines could be sentient.  He wanted to shoot them.  The good Captain gave the order.

As the machine gun fire hit the enormous vines they shattered, and flocks of crows scattered cawing madly in all directions.  They continued forward cautiously. The vines grew thicker, and the trees closer.  It grew darker beneath the enormous cathedral of trees, until not a hint of sunlight could be detected.  It was nearly pitch black, and they travelled very slowly so as to not lose the road.  Guns swiveled the turret randomly picking targets in the foliage, but not firing at anything. 

Eventually, they came to a dark burbling stream crossing the road.  The water was about 3 feet deep and deep mud covered the banks.  Up the stream, about 50 feet or so, on the edge overlooking from a little cliff that hung over the stream bed, they saw the corner of an old dilapidated wooden house.  Guns aimed the machine gun at the house.  The porch was obscured by trees and deep shadows.

"For all we know, this house could be full of Tech," said Pita.  But no one wanted to find out.  And so they rumbled slowly past, wondering if 'old granny' had put out warm ginger cookies for them.  Yep.  No one wanted to find out.  They crossed the stream and kept going.

After a long slow drive, the forest began to thin out, and after some time the trees lessened in size and eventually they came to a river, the crossing of which allowed them to leave the forest behind.  Good riddance, they said.

The road snaked westward through the hills.  They spotted another cluster of lifeless buildings up on a hill, and passed by.  After a time they came to the town of Glendale.  

Captain Samwise stopped the vehicle, and they surveyed the town from a concealed position.  Glendale had activity.  Military activity.  Jeeps, tanks, troops, and there were occupied houses, and people on the streets.  It looked busy-busy down there.

"At this point in time, I do not really want to tangle with the U.S. Army.  I don't think we can assume a friendly response," said Samwise.  He was inclined to go off road.

Pita recommended they find a place to hide and do any necessary repairs on the AGV before heading off road. They plotted a course on the maps that Fred had been able to recover from Mech Base 12.  They headed up a backroad up towards a nearby lake that looked unoccupied.  The area around the lake was desolate.  They parked and Linda suggested that she could transmit to Federation Command using the Ultra-Low Frequency transmission.  It would take a minimum of four hours to transmit and receive any reply, which coincided roughly with the amount of time it might take to effect repairs.  

It was early evening, and would get dark in about an hour.  Guns thought that it might be better to do what they need to do during the day, rather than at night.  Linda, for her part, liked the spot because the terrain would help to transmit as the area around the lake was flat.  They decided to transmit for two hours, provide a time to recommend Federation Command to transmit their reply, and effect some repairs.  Fred and Sam suited up and stepped outside to work on the AGV.  

Guns wanted a half hour to stretch his legs and scout around a bit.  He donned the heavy armored suit, and took his trusty Springfield rifle, Ilene, and headed out for a half hour perimeter search.  He climbed up on a hill to the north, found a concealing spot, and with his binoculars took a look around.  He was able to see the military forces in the town from his position, and noted that there were no military forces north of the town.  All activity seemed clustered around the south side of Glendale.

Meanwhile, Pita took the time to take a look at the AGV's electronics to see if he could repair anything else.  Linda transmitted to Federation Command.  Samwise climbed up into the Perch to keep a lookout.

By the time the ULF transmission was complete, it was dark, but the moon was shining brightly, and there were no clouds.  High above, the sky was pierced by the never ending multi-colored coruscating bands of radiation in the upper atmosphere, making their characteristic high pitched twirping-hissing sounds.  Then they heard the sound of Thunder in the distance.  

Samwise decided to travel northward without lights, to try to avoid observation by the military.  As they drove the sounds of thunder grew fast and furious and the trees lit up with reflected flashes of light.  But no storm approached.  Guns swiveled the turret around in all directions, and to the south he saw what it was.  Over the horizon, beyond the mountains, perhaps 20 miles southward, massive explosions were lighting up the sky and creating a thunderous display.  It looked like a full scale war to the south west.

"Bombs bursting in mid-air, gave fruit to the night", intoned Guns somberly.

"Fruit to the night?", asked Samwise.

"I always wondered what kind of fruit that was," replied Guns thoughtfully, scratching his chin.

The team moved slowly forward, Pita guiding the AGV along a back road towards Golden Haven Ranch.  There was activity there, but not of a military nature.  They slowly passed by, trying not to draw attention.  They got back on 89 and headed north.  Sam was surprised it was that easy, but no one came out of the ranch house, and so they took their good luck and ran with it.

"If we stay on 89, we can almost make it all the way to the Salt Lake," said Sam, to Fred's intense annoyance.  They poured over the map carefully.  He recalled that originally Alt-X had recommended coming in from the west onto the Salt Lake Flats, so he looked for a route up 89 that would get them to the west side.  It was midnight.  The roads were desolate.  It would be about 100 miles before they intersected with Route 70.  Samwise estimated they would arrive there by the morning, if all went well.  Fred was no end of annoyed by these plans.

Behind them the explosions continued beyond the mountains.  

"Well, at least nothing is going on up here," said Samwise to the crew.

"Wanna see me tempt fate?  Thank goodness," replied Fred with a snicker, and popped a couple of pills and went to bed.  

They passed several empty and desolate towns, such as Gravel Pass, and Hatch, as the road snaked its way through hills.  They came to the intersection of Route 89 and Route 12.  It was about 3 in the morning.  

Guns was the first to spot the circle of crosses on the side of the road.  On it were chained skeletons.  A storm began to come in from the north west.  The wind picked up.  Scanning around with his binoculars by the flashes of lightning, Sam saw that every house nearby was covered in massive vines, through the doors and windows, and through holes in the rooves.  As the storm was approaching rapidly with wild flairs of lightning, the Captain decided to hunker down and bolt the AVG's pilons into the ground.  He directed Pita to a spot about 1500 feet to the west of the road on a flat area.  They talked about waking Fred up to handle the Retro-Tech required to drive the pilons into the ground, but he had drugged himself into a virtual coma and was snoring away in a deep slumber.  

Sam gave Fred a little kick, to which Fred flailed his arms, fell off the couch and smacked his face on the floor.  This woke him up.  The Captain directed him to use the manual override to drill down the pilons, and Fred shook himself, and prepared.  It would require going outside and manually running each pilon using the gear mechanisms.  He and Sam suited up, and went outside.  The winds had picked up to 70 to 80 mph, and a driving rain began to fall.  Enormous strikes of lightning began peppering the nearby hills.  They scrambled around the AGV, and a couple of times nearly got blown away by huge gusts of winds, but their tethers held and they managed to complete the job and scramble back inside.  

The storm flooded the area with a three foot deluge, and they found themselves bolted down in the middle of fast moving river.  By morning, however, the storm began to abate.  They remained hunkered down for a few hours to let the waters recede while Linda worked the ULF receptors, and at about noon she picked up a signal from Federation Command.  Her rig, full of vacuum tubes and sparking wires, managed to receive the message.


"Your dad would want us to bring you home safe and sound," stated Fred.

"I think my dad would want us to complete the Mission, actually," replied Linda.

There was another fierce debate about what they should do next.  At this point Fred had gained the support of Guns, who also began to think that they simply were no longer equipped to handle the kind of terrors they were inevitably going to face.  Linda, on the other hand, was determined to complete the mission, and Sam felt the same way.  Pita agreed to do whatever the Captain decided, though personally, he felt Fred and Guns were probably right.  They went back and forth on the question for quite a while, covering all possible pros and cons.

Eventually, the good Captain decided to forge ahead.  Fred popped a pill and went straight back to sleep.

They withdrew the pilons from the ground, and made their way to the road.  Passing the circle of skeletons they got very bad feeling.  Pita took a glance over, he couldn't help himself.  He noticed that every skeleton in the circle had its head turned towards him, and was staring at him with their dead and empty eye sockets.  A wave of hopelessness came over him like a tsunami.  It suddenly seemed to him that death is inevitable.  There was really just no point in fighting it.  There never had been.  As this feeling washed over him, he maintained just enough wit to activate his Mentarian Mind Shield.  Unfortunately, while he was able to see the attack in time to prevent it, his poor luck came into play once again, and the Mind Shield fizzled into nothingness before the inky darkness of the Rays of Un-Life that overwhelmed him.  And so, having lost control of his mind, he took his foot off the gas, put it on the break instead, ground the AGV to a sudden lurching halt, and threw the gear into park.  Without further ado he slumped over in his chair, and limply slid to the floor of the AGV waiting for the end to come and put them all out of their misery, forever.  Such is the spiritual wickedness that has engulfed the world after mankind's fateful decision to wage the Ultra-War. 

"Pita," yelled Guns, popping his head upside-down from the turret, "what's going on down there?  Why'd we stop? You ok?"

"It's just not worth it," moaned Pita from the floor, drool running down his cheek to the floor.

"You know when I'm feeling down, and I feel like the whole world's against me" said Guns encouragingly, "I take out good old Ilene and and shoot things until I feel better. What do you want me to shoot, man?  Name it!"

"You might as well just shoot me," said Pita in the most despairing voice any of them had ever heard.

"Captain, request permission to blow the shit out of those skeletons," said Guns, his voice trailing off as he eyed the crosses with furrowed brows, a sense of dread and doom overwhelming him. He imagined that they would all be on those horrible crosses soon.

Fred was dreaming.  It was a nightmare.  He was running through the fields, but he had no legs.  He looked down and saw his body was a poisonous snake writhing in the mud.  Skeletons on crosses were reaching out for him, and lifting him up, nailed him onto one of the crosses, their empty eyes staring at him with a terrifying gloom.  All around him in every direction was pitch black horror.  The horror of a universe dying.  He could not move.  He lay on the couch, drooling.

Samwise leapt over to Pita and tried to rouse him with a violent shake.  That however, only solicited a dismal groan from the poor miserable hero.  Sam jumped into the pilot's seat, grabbed the steering wheel, flipped the gear shift into 3rd, and slammed his foot on the gas.  This caused the AGV to lurch forward suddenly and descend into a muddy ditch, unfortunately.

Meanwhile, Linda had managed to spring into action, having activated her Mind Shield in time.  She ran over to Pita and used her Mentarian Power of Influence Emotions to try to rouse Pita from his despair.  With all of the mental energies she could put into it, it would last only two minutes at the most. With her best and most encouraging words, however, she was unable to rouse him. Sam was trying to get the AGV out of the ditch.  He revved the engine three times, turned the steering wheel wildly, and commanded the vehicle to move forward - to no avail.  It just slid around in the mud uselessly.

Guns, who was also being infected by waves of despair, decided to focus all of his attention on taking apart Ilene, cleaning each part carefully, and reassemble her with great and unerring care.  This actually worked wonders to keep him from becoming immobilized.  However, he wouldn't do anything at all but that.

"Pita, come back to me!" yelled Linda, throwing her arms around him, and putting everything she had into it.  When Pita heard her voice, he realized how beautiful she truly was, and this brought him back to his senses.  He grabbed her by the shoulders and kissed her.  The sense of being alive filled him, cleared his mind, and he immediately grabbed the wheel from Sam, pushing him out of the way, and floored the gas.  Pita, unlike Samwise, was an expert Pilot. At first the wheels slipped and slid sideways, drifting the massive vehicle leftwards about 10 feet.  But Pita also had The Gnack.  

"Common, baby," he cooed has he gave the dashboard a whack with his fist. The AVG engine roared, and slid to the right about 15 feet.  He stacked his skill of Insane Persistence on top over everything else, and tried one more time.  This time the AGV gained traction on the rock base beneath the mud, and suddenly the vehicle lurched out of the ditch.  

This all took about 45 seconds. Across the floodwater flats towards Route 89 they roared, and without a hitch Pita got the AGV back onto the road, flooded as it might have been.  They roared northward. The further away from the Skeleton circle they got, the more Fred's dream went from nightmare into bizarre drug induced fantasy.  Crushing the bones of the skeletons onto a mirror he happened to be sitting in front of, he proceeded to snort the white boney powder like a mad man.  All kinds of bizarre images were flashing through his incoherent.

Pita drove furiously, sweat pouring off his brow.  But before they could get entirely out of the range of the Skeletal Horror... the wondrous Influence Emotions wore off... it had been two minutes, and now he realized that it was all a dark ruse.  There was no way to escape the skeletons, and they were all doomed no matter what.  Even if they made it up the road, death would soon find them, encircle them, drown them, kill them, ransack their souls, and feed them to the Maw of Horror.  Despair covered him completely.  And so, he slid quietly back to the floor and laid down, drooling to himself incoherently.  The AGV came rolling to a halt. 

Meanwhile, Fred failed to snort enough of the skeletons, there being hundreds of them in his nightmare.  He began to see boney fingers protruding from his snake body.  The sky was bright pink and green, with dark holes in it leading beyond into a sky of infinite blackness.  There were no stars up there anymore.  He vomited. 

Sam leapt into the pilot seat and attempted to take control of the AGV.  Once again, a deficit of skill and luck lead the AGV to drift sideways, but this time Sam managed to gain control of the situation and kept the AGV on the road.  The vehicle churned through three feet of flood water.  They could mark the road only by the signs that stuck up out of the water at various tilts.

The all pervasive doom had Pita, Fred and even Guns in its horrendous grip one way or another.  Linda went around to each of them in turn to find out how they were doing, and try to provide comfort.  When she got to Fred her voice invaded his dream, and so he somehow managed to mumble "my bag... my bag".

She looked around and found a small bag on his belt, and intuiting that this was significant, she opened it.  Inside she found a number of bottles, carefully labelled.  Drugs of various kinds.  Lots of drugs.

She took the bag to Sam who was struggling to keep the rig on the road, and he listened as she listed the names.  Sam selected Sertraline IV, a powerful anti-depressant.  Linda gave one to Fred, who swallowed it in his sleep, and one to Pita.  Guns declined and stuck with assembling Ilene.  The effect of the drug was somewhat negligible, but it did help to some degree to keep Pita and Fred from the worst of the Despair. Their drooling lessened a bit, and Linda took this as a hopeful sign.

Eventually, however, Sam drove them far enough away, and by the time they arrived at the southern edge of Panguich, the influence of the skeletons had abated.  Although the sense of misery, loss and absolutely pointlessness still clung to them, they had mostly shaken off the worst of the effects.  After a few fits and starts, Fred, who woke up by then, took a few steps, fell, smacked his face on the floor, and then slowly, groggily stood up again.  He seemed more or less back to his usual self.  Pita, not to be second bested, also stood up, wiped the drool from his chin, smiled faintly, and took the wheel of the AGV.  He did not feel well at all.  But he could still drive.  However, Sam, seeing the look in Pita's eyes, said he could continue to drive for a while, and sent him back to recover.  He promptly turned and went to the back of the vehicle and laid down next to where Linda was sitting.  She put her arm around his shoulder and they sat quietly as the AGV rumbled along.

The weather was gloomy, clouds churning darkly in the sky, the cold winds howling.  The road turned west, and there ahead they caught a glimpse of the township of Panguich.  Biological assault was evident everywhere.  Tall spindly orange colored vines with unnaturally phosphorescent blue flowers clustered everywhere.  There in the mud to the right was a creature slithering towards a rocky mound protruding from the swirling waters.  The creature had the upper body of a pig with the lower body of a giant fat worm.  Near it a 40 pound toad sitting on a moldy purple tree stump belched a spray of green acid at the pig.  It squealed and slithered away.  Further ahead, on the road a man in a torn trench coat was staggering down the road.  He was missing the top part of his right thigh.  His face looked partially torn away.  He swayed his arms as he staggered towards the AGV.

Good Captain Samwise wished very much to skirt the town.  He didn't want to go towards the staggering man, and looked around for another way to go, but the road seemed the only path forward, as on both sides of them was a huge mud waddle which he thought the AGV would simply get stuck in.  The shambling man made bizarre gestures, and flailed his arms as he approached he uttered strange gurgling noises.  He appeared to be trying to intercept the AGV.  He did not look well at all.

"That's a zombie, isn't it?", asked Fred craning his head to get a view of it through the wind shield.  "I say we blow him up".

Sam ignored this and rolled the AGV past the creature.  The zombie tried to grab on to the side of the vehicle, possibly, or something.  It was hard to say because they lost sight of it as they rolled past, but they heard some banging sounds, and in their rear view mirror they could see the creature slashing around in the water, groaning horribly and making loud and bizarre guttural noises.

"Friendly," commented Sam.  "You know, I don't like the look of this town," he added thoughtfully.  "The welcoming committee hasn't impressed me as much as I had hoped."

"We could try to befriend them," said Pita, his head laying on Linda's lap.

"Well, that has worked like never before," replied Linda stroking his hair.

And so Captain Samwise rounded the bend and they took a first look out at the ruins of Panguich pensively.  It looked like a bio-war horror show.  What to do?  What to do?

And so we left things there for the night.

Fun times for the Heroes of Federation Command.