Saturday, April 30, 2022

WoAF - Game Session 31

Once again we find our heroes having split the party three ways from Sunday.  

Far, far away, Jacob and Vallnam were crouching at the hanger bay entrance of Eisenhelm, the ultra secret Nazi base situated beneath a starkly shadowed crater somewhere in Mare Frigoris at the north pole of the moon. Beyond, in the outer darkness were the last dying embers the wreckage that had been their stolen Nazi UFO. Nothing but the fading orange glow could be seen in those pitch black shadows about a half mile to the south west.  Vallnam's attention however was focused entirely on the giant Nuclear Missile Robot that had landed at the edge of the crater a quarter mile to the west.  It was scanning the wreckage with a bright beam of light.  

Now that they had unlocked the hanger door, Jacob craned his neck around from the shadows to take a quick glance inside the hanger bay.  There were red lights flashing, broken glass and metal shards everywhere, and sparks shooting out of a number of computer banks nearby and the constant muzzle flashes and ratta-tat-tat of machine guns firing. A haze of smoke filled the enormous chamber, but was quickly being sucked out into the vacuum of space as the enormous hanger door continued to open.  Stately rows of disk shaped UFOs were half concealed by shadows, but Jacob quickly counted thirteen of them.  Suspended from the ceiling of the hanger was the control tower. Suspended through a shattered window was a dead body, while smeared against the broken glass could be seen the bloody corpse of the Commandant.  Jacob remembered with satisfaction how he had ushered  the vicious Nazi along to his demise utilizing his Mentarian Psychic Jujitsu before crash landing their ship on the lunar surface.  The third officer in the control tower couldn't be seen, but was likely dead at the feet of the Commandant.  Jacob briefly wondered if he might have escaped somehow, but it was a moot point.  If they encountered him again, they'd finish the job then.  Jacob checked his pistol and made sure the safety was off.

Nearby, about twenty yards inside the hanger, a Technician in a dark green Nazi spacesuit who had been sucked along the hanger floor by the sudden torrent of wind, was scrambling, trying to pull himself onto the metal leg of one of the UFOs.  The last of the machineguns could be heard firing in the distance as the factions of Nazi officers and troops who had been battling one were busy retreating into the interior of the complex. Jacob watched as the Technician, unarmed, but with a tools satchel at this side, pulled himself along with some difficulty to gain his footing.  He began walking himself along the trestle work towards the interior of the hanger.

Our heroes briefly debated their next course of action.  Vallnam could, he suggested, use a Mentarian Power known as Narcoleptic Beam to put the Technician to sleep, but he was, after their long fought Psychic Combat, feeling rather low on energy, and decided it would be wiser to conserve as much as possible for whatever might lay ahead.   

"Should we bum rush him?" asked Jacob.

"Well, I do have a flame thrower," offered Vallnam.  "I also have a knockout gas grenade, and, oh yeah, I have one more Thermobaric Grenade!"

"Oh sure, let's just blow the hell-- well, anyway, that's a bit of overkill, I think."

"Yeah, hehe.  I also have a Springfield Rifle," Vallnam added, patting the wooden butt that was extended above his shoulder.  "You can always count on your trusty ol'reliable, the Springfield."

Jacob scrambled inside, using the door frame as a brace against the gusting wind.  He remembered vividly watching one of the Nazi Officers who got caught in the vortex a few moments earlier.  He was unceremoniously sucked outside and thrown far out into the darkness of the crater, dying near-instantly from frostbite and the shock of the violent decompression.  He wasn't keen on following him outside and so he edged along using whatever he could get his hands on to brace himself against the wind.  Fortunately his pressure suit, that purplish colored, living, quasi-intelligent thing that protected him from the elements in a dozen different ways, had footware that gripped most surfaces regardless of how slick they might be.  He made his way after the Technician with some difficulty at first, but quickly gained speed and was on his way to catching up with him.  

Vallnam remained behind for a few seconds, watching the giant robot on the rim of the crater.  It formed an ominous silhouette against the black starry sky, barely visible, except for the lights on its gigantic body frame, it's dark red insignia, and the yellow-orange glow from its vizor.   He could see it was scanning the crater in the direction of the smoldering ship.  It was undoubtedly looking to see if there had been any survivors.  If it caught sight of their footprints, it would know there were two.  Vallnam scrambled inside, following behind Jacob at a distance, dodging behind sparking computer cabinets as he went in order to remain unseen.

Jacob followed the Technician as he made his way back towards the interior of the hanger.  Suddenly the sound of the still-opening hanger door stopped with a resounding "Klang", and there was absolute silence, except for the howling of the wind as it escaped out into space.  Then with another "Klang" the hanger door began to close, slowly, grudgingly.  Someone in the interior of the base must have regained control of the hanger's operational system, thought Jacob as he followed behind the Technician and caught up with him after a short sprint.  

"Kamrade!", he shouted to the Technician in reasonably good German.  "Hey wait up!"  The Technician stopped, still holding on to to a metal bar.

"Thank goodness you're ok!"  shouted Jacob over the howling wind.  "If we hurry we still have time!"

The Technician turned around and looked at Jacob.  His face was hidden behind the dark green glass of his helmet, but Jacob sensed that the man was surprised to see him.  After all, none of them had ever seen such a suit as he was wearing.  It would certainly seem very out of place in Eisenhelm.  But the man seemed to accept it after a moment and waved for Jacob to follow him. He then turned around and pointed to the spaceship he had been heading for, and waved again for Jacob to follow him.  Curious, Jacob followed him while Vallnam picked his way through the broken equipment along the edge of the hanger, following them at a distance.  He noted that the great metal door was almost completely shut and so wind near the door had picked up in intensity.  He scrambled forward, holding on to whatever was heavy enough to keep him from getting sucked outside.

Vallnam spoke into his helmet mic.  "Jacob, why don't I get into one of these ships?  We can use it, no?"

"Isn't that what I'm trying to do?"

"Well, why don't I do so as well?"

"Because we both need to be in the same ship," explained Jacob. "Without a crew of at least two, we can't fly the damn thing.  Besides, even if we do fly out of here, those giant robots outside... um... can we even get past them?  They zorched our last ship pretty fast, you know."

"Well, that's true.  On the other hand the ships have Auto-Pilot Robots.  We could each take one ship, and have the Auto-Pilot Robots handle flight while we man the weapons.  Or vice versa.  We won't be able to navigate, but we could have the them just fly us in circles while we attack the base.  That would at least distract the enemy while Ling infiltrates inside to find the command console for the Nuclear  Missile-bots.  If she can make it, then she can initiate their self-destruct sequence and we save earth," offered Vallnam.  

"That's all good, and possible.  Indeed.  Possible.  But really, those Robots zorched us out pretty easily.  I don't know.  That sounds like a pretty big risk."  

"Ok, but if I get in one of the ships now, at least I can use the weapons array to take out the other ships in the hanger.  At least they wouldn't be able to use those against us later, no?" asked Vallnam.

"Good point.  But let me just talk to the Technician first and see what we can find out.  Then we'll decide," said Jacob.

"Go for it," concluded Vallnam as he positioned himself near one of the UFO entrances.

The Technician had made a dash for the UFO he'd originally been working on before our heroes opened the hanger door.  Its Nazi insignia was painted in red and dark maroon circles four times on the underbelly near the rim of the hull.  Jacob followed behind him.  The Technician bent over and disappeared behind some of the equipment there, and Jacob skidded to a halt.  He proceeded forward very cautiously, his pistol at the ready.  But the Tech was bending over the other Technician they'd seen him with originally.  That man was on the ground in a pool of blood.  The Technician looked up a Jacob.  The man on the ground was moving slowly, his hands grasping and ungrasping in the air.  His suit was punctured in three places along the torso, blood splatter everywhere.

"Can you help him?" asked the Technician.  

"Ja," replied Jacob.  "You guys realize what's been going on, Ja?"

"Ja, they're all fighting!"

"Ja, they figured things out," added Jacob.  "It's finally happened."

The Technician pointed to the man on the ground.  Jacob took out one of the medical kits they'd grabbed from their UFO before it self-destructed.  He cut open the suit around the wounds.  It was bad.  Jacob knew first aid was not going to do much for him.  Not even close.  He wasn't likely to last more than a few minutes.  

As he worked on the wounds, dabbing and swabbing, he spoke about the fighting trying to cajole some information out of the Technician, but he only replied with short nods, and the occasional staccato "Ja".  In fact, it seemed the Technician had no knowledge of, or even interest in the battle.  Jacob got the impression the man considered it absolutely beyond his realm of concerns.  Which was odd, because the entire base was in a state of civil war.

"Franz," he said passionately holding the wounded Technician's arm as Jacob worked, "Franz, hang in their Franz!  Hang in there!  You can make it it!  He will help you!"

Franz stared vaguely as his eyes began to glaze over.  He tried to smile at his friend, but grimaced instead.  

"We have to stick together!" said Jacob.

"Ja." replied the Technician.  "We have to stick together," he repeated absently.  "Franz, hang in there! Franz!"

And then, with a final spasm, Franz gave up the ghost.  "Franz!" cried Jacob and the Technician together.  Jacob cradled him in his arms, truly stricken by the fact of the man's death.  It was as if it suddenly became clear to him that of all the people in Eisenhelm, of all the ruthless, diabolical, wicked and fiendish Nazi devils on the base for the past 90 years, it was the lowly Technicians alone who had retained their humanity, and were, probably as a consequence of their ongoing oppression for so long, truly good hearted people.  Jacob, felt a spasm of real remorse to have Franz die in his arms.  The Technician grieved to the core of his being, sobbing deeply.  Jacob put his arm on his shoulder to console him.

Meanwhile Vallnam had been making his way gingerly forward amid the wreckage.  He didn't want to make himself known, unless necessary, as he didn't want to alarm the Technicians.  Behind him he began to notice the sound of a loud hum.  He turned around.  The hum grew louder.  He noticed that there was a shimmer over a circular area of the hanger door, about ten feet in diameter.  It began to turn a dim red color.  Then orange.  Then yellow and it began peeling off slag metal.  Waves of super heated air were shimmering all around it.

"Um... Jacob.  I think we got to get the hell out of here.  Now!"

Jacob took his hand from the Technician's shoulder and said, "They must answer for this." 

"Ja," replied the Technician.

"Are you prepared to do what is necessary?" asked Jacob in his sternest tone.  But the Technician simply blinked and looked confused by the question.  

"What is necessary?" 

"Ja.  For justice.  For vengeance.  For Franz," answered Jacob grimly.

"Vengeance? For Franz? Aaggghh.  Franz!!  Aggghh...", he cried out weakly, looking more depressed than angry.  It didn't seem that the Technician was capable of the emotions that Jacob was trying to evoke.  The Technicians simply had no warrior instincts at all.  The Technician it seemed was the proverbial nice guy.  Wouldn't hurt a fly if it landed on him.

Vallnam interrupted over the Comm.  "It looks like someone, or something, is boring a large molten hole through the hanger door with a beam weapon.  A large beam weapon.  Either it's one of the giant robots, or another UFO.  Either way, we don't have long before the hanger door melts through.  30 seconds maybe.  Tops."

Jacob looked at the Technician solemnly.  "We don't have much time.  We need to get out of here.  We need to live so we can save others from the fate that Franz has suffered."

"Ja!" 

"We can't stay here. We can't fight the Robots.  You have to take us further into the base."

"Alright. Come with me!"  

Jacob waved Vallnam forward, and then took off after the Technician who had bolted towards the north west corner of the hanger.  They scrambled over broken equipment and bodies, dashed around electrical equipment spewing showers of sparks, and through clouds of smoke until they came to an area of towering computer banks, through which they ran until they stopped in front of a small, heavily braced steel door at the very far corner of the hanger, shrouded in shadow.  Meanwhile, Vallnam, who was running a good sixty feet behind them, could see the wavering yellowish light from the molten door reflecting off of equipment as he ran.  He began to feel waves of heat at his back.  It was not good.  Suddenly a loud buzzing sound and electrical crackling came from behind him.  There was an explosion as the door suddenly ruptured.  Equipment and glass went flying, skidding across the polished floor around him.  Vallnam ran like hell.

The Technician frantically pressed buttons on a metallic keypad next to the door.  It made a series of clicking noises, and then slid open silently.  

"Quickly!" shouted the Technician.  "Inside!"  Jacob leapt through, and was followed immediately by the Technician who began to shut the door behind him.  But he was prevented by Jacob who held the door with his strong right arm.  "Wait, there is another!  He's with us!" he shouted.

Vallnam ran to the door and when he got there he spun around, and hurled his Thermobaric Grenade as hard as he could over the equipment towards the hanger door, and then turned to dodge inside, planning to slam the door shut behind them.  He could see the hanger door was melting and the blazing beam was now busy melting through ships and equipment alike.  The only thing that saved them was that they were not on the direct line of the beam itself.  Shimmering waves of heat were igniting everything flammable within 20 feet of the beam's edges.  The floor beneath it began to boil into molten slag.  Fortunately the beam was being directed to the south east side of the hanger, rather than the north.  Otherwise they would have been instantly incinerated.

Jacob shoved the Technician further into the room, which in fact turned out to be a stairwell descending and ascending up and down into inky darkness, "Go!  Save yourself!  I will take care of the door!" he shouted.  The Technician ran to the stairs and then stopped and turned around to wait. If things went south, they'd all die together.

Vallnam had hurled the grenade with all of his strength.  But unfortunately, he hurled it at just the wrong angle, and against improbable odds it hit a metal plate that suddenly fell from the ceiling, and so the Thermobaric Grenade bounced off of it... and came tinking along the floor - tink-tink-tink-tink!  As it happened the grenade was tinking directly towards the open doorway.  Jacob, thinking fast, threw the satchel he was holding at the grenade, but it flew over it uselessly.  It didn't seem that there would have enough time to gain entrance to the stairwell before the grenade made it through.  He looked at the bouncing Thermobaric Grenade, sighed, and resigned himself - he was going to leap onto it, grab it, and run with it towards the hanger door in the hopes that he could at least take out the giant robot as it entered the hanger chamber.  At the last second he changed his frantic mind and leapt through the door into the stairwell... the Thermobaric Grenade bouncing gleefully through the doorway behind him.  

 * * * 

Meanwhile, back on Earth, good Captain Samwise was lying on his side, in the cockpit of Brain V's Ultra-Science Mech, now a ruined pile of wreckage.  Sam was badly wounded, and nearly swooning from pain and blood loss.  Through the shattered window he could see that Penelope had landed on the road about a mile to the East with her parachute intact.  He wiped the blood from his forehead with his arm and tried to extricate himself from the belts that held him securely in the commander's chair.  There was no chance of jettisoning at that angle as it would simply rocket his chair directly into the ground in front of the ship.  He'd have to climb out, if he could manage it.  On the radio he heard Fred from the AGV shouting, "Hang in there Captain! We're on the way!" 

The Lizardmen in their tanks were on their way, too, and would likely be in position to fire on the Mech within five minutes.  There were canyons to work their way through, and so it was likely they'd arrive in two groups, one above the Mech to the north, and another group, moving more slowly due to the steepness of the incline, would likely arrive directly East of his position.  He looked around for a medical kit.  In fact he believed he knew where it was likely to be.  He crawled his way along the oddly tilted wall, and made it to the white metallic cabinet in which he expected such things as a medical kit would be located.  When he got to it, he slid the panel open and indeed inside was a medical kit, and a rather nice looking dark blue glass bodied beam pistol of a make and model that only Brain V could have designed.  It was in a drawer on an inside panel.  "For Emergencies" read the label above the panel. It was as sleek and dangerous looking as Mech V had been pristine and elegant.  He took the Med-Kit, hefted the sleek blue-glass pistol once or twice, and took it too.

Then he climbed painfully up to where Penelope's ejector seat had rocketed from the Mech a few minutes earlier.  There was an opening where the seat had been, and he climbed outside.  He slid down Mech V's smooth white metal casing to the ground.  He looked around.  There was debris all around. Across the flat valley floor it was sand and rock to the east, and a tall ridge to the west, snaking north and south from his position.  He saw the road on which Penelope was making her way north.  The ridge rose up about one hundred feet along slopes which were covered with a sparse forest of pine trees and a good deal of underbrush.  He thought he could likely hide there and remain unseen from above, at least for a while.  He contacted Fred on his Comm.

"Fred, come in, Fred.  Do you read me?"

"Yes Sir!  We're on our way!"

"Ok, pick me up just north of the Mech, about 300'.  We'll then swing around and get Penelope who's making her way north along the road west of my position."

"Roger that!" said Fred, and he slammed on the gas, roaring the AGV full throttle to 80 mph.  They headed south, first over some scrub land towards the road that followed the valley southward, having decided to avoid the upper ridge road. 

"Captain Samwise," Squawked the radio.  "Captain Samwise, this is Major Sekston.  Can you read me? Over."

"Yes, Major, I read you," replied Samwise.  "We've been hit.  Mech V is destroyed.  I'm wounded, but heading north on foot.  My men in the AGV will pick me up in 4 minutes."

"I saw.  I'm on my way to take on the tank column," she replied.  "I have line of sight on the lead tanks now.  I'll keep you informed as to their movements."

"Very good, Major.  Thank you!"

Fred launched the AGV's phalanx of mini-drones into the air.  He knew that the Lizardmen were likely to already have their own mini-drones up there somewhere, but they'd be very hard to spot.  Just like his would be for them.  He was reasonably certain they had used mini-drones to target Mech V when they took it down.  The AGV Drone-Swarm took to the sky.  Each one was shaped like a little  dragonfly with electronic eyes and ears.  He sent fifty drones due south towards Mech V so he could keep tabs on that area.  Another 25 were sent south-west to try to get a bead on the exact location of the tanks, which were not in line of site of the AGV.  Fred was taking the low road along the valley floor to avoid direct fire.  He controlled the groups of drones with a controller-glove as he drove the AGV with the his other hand.  He sent the remaining drones high, about a quarter mile, and fanned them into a wide array in order to gain visibility on the entire Lizardman force, and mitigate the chances of their being shot out of the air.  Meanwhile in the Perch, Guns was calibrating the Plasma Cannon and prepping it for mid-range fire.  The system's AI took in his instructions without a qualm, all target vectors and emitters were aligned with their targeting controllers.  He was ready. The AGE lurched downward as Fred departed the east road at the point where a depression dropped down off the road onto the desert floor.  They bounced over a series of dry stream beds, and launched due south across the desert, leaving a long cloud of dust behind them.

Captain Samwise appraised his medical condition as desperate, but he was not mortally wounded, and in no mood to give up fighting.  He hustled over the rocky terrain with some difficulty and entered a grove of pine trees.  He hid in the bushes and tended to his leg.  The med kit had all the first aid equipment he could ask for, and so he began dressing the wound. Above, over the crest of the hill, he heard a loud explosion.  

"Captain, that was the Rhino.  Major Sekston hit one of the three tanks still on Route 89 with an Anti-Tank Guided Missile.  It's hobbled but not out of commission.  All three are firing on her position now, but she's pretty damn good with that Mech, Sir.  She just ducked down below the hill line - almost got hit by the 105, but ... oh damn, I lost sight of her... hold on - I can see on the drone-screen that she's moving laterally, probably angling for another shot.  Yup!  There she goes."

And so Fred gave Sam a blow-by-blow account of the battle on the other side of the ridgeline as he sped the AGV to Sam's location.  Up in the Perch, Guns took control of two mini-drones and tried flying them down the cannon barrel of one of the tanks, but it was too windy, and the AGV was bouncing too much - he couldn't finesse it.  "Damnit," he grumbled under his breath.  

Further southeast, Fred watched Penelope scrambling north, dodging from cover to cover as she made her way north back toward Panguitch, staying just east of the road.  He switched views over to the mini-drone aerial overhead.  Of the eight tanks, one of which was burning, five had left the Route 89 and were heading to the ridgeline from which they would be able to fire on Mech V.  But they had canyons and steep slopes to overcome.  It would take them a few minutes.  Two of the tanks had taken the southern route through a small canyon, while the other three had taken a northern route that was a bit straighter and had a slightly easier incline.  That group of three would likely arrive at the crest of the ridge first.  He calculated that the AGV was approximately 2 minutes out from where Sam was hiding.  Fred plotted a path to curve around the south of the wreckage of Mech V and wheel around so that has he approached Sam's position the AGV would be facing the ridgeline where he expected the leading tanks to show up.  Fred relayed this information to Captain Samwise.  

As the AGV cleared the wreckage he spotted the first of the tanks arriving on the top of the ridge.  Guns fired the Plasma Cannon, but the shot missed and sizzled over the top of the tank.  A flash of light and smoke from the tank's cannon showed that it fired immediately.  Within a second the AGV jolted as the shell glanced off its right flank armor, causing a huge shower of sparks and smoke.  Guns took another shot with the Plasma Cannon as Fred slammed the breaks on the AGV and geared into reverse.  The bright yellow-orange beam grazed the tank's treads, melting and fusing them into place.  It wasn't going to go anywhere, but from where it was it had a commanding view of the entire desert plane on his side of the ridge.  Fred eyed the drone-screen to see what the two tanks behind it would do.  One continued up, while the other stopped and out clambered a squad of Lizardmen who began ascending the ridge slope through the pine trees.  They'd have a bead on Sam's position in a minute or so.

Due to angles of fire that the Plasma Cannon's gimbaled mounting allowed, Fred decided his best tactic would be to risk taking another shot from the tank, and drive directly below it.   From the base of the ridge he could get a shot directly upward, and from there the tank's angle of fire was such that it could not return fire.  It would be a sitting duck.  So long as he could make it to that position without getting blasted to pieces.  He counted that he'd already taken four shots with the Plasma Cannon, which meant they only had four shots remaining.  They'd have to make them count.  

Meanwhile Samwise craned his neck around the cover he was hiding in to glance at the tank above his position.  The smoke from the treads told him it wasn't going to move anytime soon, but he could see the machine gun turrets, which meant if they spotted him, they'd have line of sight on his position.  He ducked back behind cover.  He guessed that the Lizardmen who exited the third tank were on their way to make repairs on the treads of their lead tank (this was not in fact the case, as they were fanning out to get a bead on Sam's position which they had already spotted using their own drones a few minutes previously).

He decided to climb upward through the woods towards the ridge line.  He wanted to intercept the Lizardmen and try to pick them off one at a time.  He figured he could probably catch them by surprise.  If so, then he hoped to force the other tank to stop its ascent towards the crest of the ridge, which he hoped would give Fred a chance to get the AGV a bead on the damaged tank's underbelly and take it out with the Plasma Cannon.

[GM's Note:  they had picked one of a number of possible tactics and chose based on gut instinct in the heat of battle.  However, there were other options.  It was known that the AGV's Plasma Cannon had far greater range than the Tank's shells.  They could have taken the more distant route along the east road and hid on the far side of that ridge line, and taken carefully aimed shots with the Plasma Cannon at the tanks as they crested the hill from a safer distance.  While this would have likely maximized their chances of preventing the tanks from getting line of site on Sam's position, it would have left him vulnerable to being pinned down by Lizardmen ground troops.  So it was a toss up.  Which  tactic would have served best is hard to tell.  There were risks to either plan, though from a purely clinical perspective they had a higher chance of more people surviving had they kept their distance, but might have sacrificed Sam in doing so.  On the other hand if the AGV gets destroyed by any of the five tanks they will all likely die.  A tough choice to be sure, but having made their decision they went for it with gusto.]

Good Captain Samwise slowly made his way up the side of the ridge, dragging his wounded right leg painfully behind him as he struggled through the undergrowth up the slope.  Fortunately, the tank above him was situated at an angle where its cannon could not fire on Sam's position, and while there was a machine gun, apparently the gunner there had not seen him, or was occupied dealing with the damage the AGV had inflicted on the tank, or maybe he was even dead.  No way for him to know. And so he clambered through the thickets as quickly as he could... which was in fact, quite slowly. 

* * * 

Meanwhile, 24,000 feet below an unremarkable salt flat in Utah, Pita and Linda stood in silence before the Queen of the underworld city of Lemuria.  The magnificent beauty sat majestically upon her ruby throne, gazing at them with a glimmer of amusement in her keen, imperious eyes.  The great cavernous and beautifully ornate city was visible through the enormous crystal windows that encompassed the throne room.  Then the Queen adopted an expression of curiosity mixed with no small amount of disdain.  Then she smiled vaguely. She stared first at Linda, and then at Pita.  Back and forth her eyes cast their imperious gaze over them, assessing their every move and expression.



"Welcome to the kingdom of Lemuria," said she in highly accented English, speaking slowly, with pauses between each word.

Pita bowed demurely.  "Thank you for having us, your Majesty."

"It is extremely rare for us to allow Over-Worlders to enter our domain.  You are our guests.  You are welcome," she said looking directly into Linda's crystal blue eyes.  "You must be tired from your long journey.  Please.  I will set before you food for you to enjoy, and rooms for you to relax within and refresh yourselves."

"Thank you, your majesty," answered Linda bowing gracefully.

"When you have refreshed yourselves then we will speak again," said the Queen and she waved her hand theatrically to the Captain of the Guard.  He bowed low, and gestured for the couple to follow him.

They were led to sumptuous chambers in which were all manner of beautiful furnishings, food, clothing, and a breathtaking view of the city.  There was a dining room, a kitchen, a bath, two luxuriously caparisoned bedrooms, and an large stately main room into which they had just entered.  Following behind them servants in pastel colored robes wheeled in small tables with dishes of food.  All of the dishes were vegetarian, made from a wide variety of mushrooms, tubers, and other vegetables.  After the dishes had been transferred to the main table in the central room, the servants, and the Captain of the Guard, turned, bowed, and then left the room, closing the doors behind him with a gentle whoosh.  

"I could get used to this," remarked Pita, whistling through his teeth in amazement.  

"Wow," said Linda, "get a load of this place."

(Somewhere on the moon, at this very moment, Jacob was pitifully cradling a dying Nazi Technician in his arms, amid the smoke, chaos and wreckage of the drear and dreadful fortress, Eisenhelm, facing almost certain incineration from the baleful gazes of the giant Nuclear Missile-Bots.  Had he only known the disparity of fates between himself and that of his compatriots back on Earth!)

Linda walked to one of the gorgeously carved stone tables, long and wide, upon which were three large flat platters, made of gleaming gold trimmed with gemstones, upon which were loaves of what looked like bread.  She looked around the room at the burbling circular fountain in the center, the deep and lush carpets, the exquisite draperies, and delightful statuary.  On the far side of the room Pita stepped out onto the marble balcony, its pillars and railing made of highly polished blue banded jasper, and capped with smoothly fashioned serendibite which formed curiously interlocking geometric designs. The city was lit by long beams of gently colored lights that ascended upward and disappeared into the dark hazy vaults of the enormous cavern.

The helmets that they were wearing could not be removed, Pita found.  He took some time to examine his in one of the tall mirrors that graced the bath.  It was very curiously crafted.  The helmet itself was made of shining silvery metal, smooth yet ornately etched with elegant swirling patterns. Over the top was a smooth ridge  that formed a stately crest, reminiscent he thought of a Spartan helm, though far more efficient and compact.  The face plate, he discovered, was not actually glass at all, but a kind of crystal clear force field.  It kept the air in (or out), but allowed him to touch his face if he moved his fingers through it slowly.  He felt a tingling sensation over his hand as he did so.  Along the jawline where several buttons, and he examined the compact cylinders that he took to be miniature gas tanks.  The helmets, aside from being life saving at a lung-crushing depth of 24,000 feet, were works of art - like everything else they beheld in the fabulous city, a fantastical mix of utility and design.

He returned to the balcony where he found Linda still admiring the view. She lifted a silver pitcher and sniffed at the liquid.  Water, she thought.  Pita took a glance over the edge of the balcony as Linda walked up to join him.  There was a vertical drop of perhaps a thousand feet or more, down into a distant roaring river that snaked its way along the cliffs of the canyon bottom, white foam frothing over enormous rocks which they could see by the dim green lights that illuminated those nether realms.  They returned their gaze to the astonishingly vibrant city.  Huge curving towers capped by onion shaped glistening opal turrets, enormous shaded archways, long narrow bridges lined with graceful parapets, wide and gracious stairways made of glinting pale green amazonite, ramparts of glinting quartzite, and numerous tall slender temples made of iridescent ammolite, all dotting the landscape with scintillating elegance.  The sheer opulence of the city was utterly breathtaking. 

"Did your vision show you anything of this?" asked Pita.

"No, not at all. I'm as surprised as you are," said Linda awestruck.

"You know, they've been quite hospitable, thus far," replied Pita. "I think we should go along with them and see where this leads," he concluded without any particular sense of apprehension.

"Yes, I agree.  And you know, we've had a long journey.  I think I'd like to take a bath, and relax for a change."

"I think I could use a shower by now, too," said Pita sniffing at himself.  And so they took their time, relaxed, bathed, nibbled at the strange tasting breads, drank liberally of the pure clear goblets of scented water, and donned the luxurious apparel they found available in the bureaus.  

They decided to take a stroll into the city, but that was not allowed just then.  While the doors to their chambers were not locked, there were two guards outside who halted them before they could walk father out than a few steps.  They could not, it seemed, speak English, but one of the guards spoke something into a small broach on his lapel and in a few moments the Captain of the Guard returned.

"May I help you?" asked the Captain.

"We were wondering if we can stroll around?"

"The Queen requests that you remain here for the time being," replied the Captain in the stilted and highly accented English that Pita took to be the Lemurian accent.

"And therefore so we shall," replied Pita without hesitation.  "I could use a nap, frankly."

And so they rested in their chambers for the remainder of the day.  Later that evening, signified in Lemuria by the changing of the tone of lights in the city, they were summoned to dinner by the Queen.  They wore the finest apparel in their closets.  They looked magnificent, the two of them, as they strolled behind their escorts.  All who saw them stopped and stared at the handsome couple.

[GM's note:  In fact, part of the fascination was their good looks, but moreover, the fact that they wore Over-World helmets signified that these were rare strangers indeed.]

To the Great Dining Hall they were escorted, and when they arrived they were greeted with a salutation, and lifted crystal goblets by all of the noble denizens who rose to greet them upon their arrival.  Every eye was upon them.  A salutation in Lemurian was intoned with great solemnness. Pita gave his best chest-out-chin-up-shining-tooth grin, and he and Linda bowed in return.

They were escorted to the presence of the Queen on her dais overlooking the hall.  The Queen raised her glass and toasted the two.  "Welcome," said she.  They raised their goblets and returned the toast with warm "thank you"s.  And then everyone sat down, and so the feast began.  The sumptuousness of it, and the chamber in which they sat, can not be described in a way to do it justice, so I will forego on attempting it.  Let it be said that the two of them had never imagined such splendor was possible.

The Queen questioned Linda as they ate.  She asked about her life in the upper world.  And Linda gave honest, albeit curtailed replies.  

"What is it like for you in the upper world?" she asked Pita.  

"It is a rough world to live in," he answered bluntly, but honestly.

"Indeed. Your race has finally managed destroy the upper world, hasn't it?"  asked  the Queen with some disdain.  "You Over-Worlders have been insane since the beginning.  It is no surprise at all that you have annihilated your civilization and put an end to ninety-four percent of the surface world's animal life. This is why we have had nothing to do with your people for so many ages.  Your people are mad.  Here in Lemuria our people are peaceful and quite superior in every way.  We have been at peace for ages.  We have long ago put an end to strife and conflict among us.  And this is why, in fact, it is so exceptionally rare for your people to find your way to our city. It is almost a singularly unique occurrence.  We have kept our city a perfect secret from your race for many ages.  I alone, however, have watched your people from afar and observed your madness and insanity.  I do not allow my people to witness the madness your people have proliferated, lest it somehow tinge their souls, and bring unhappiness to us.  And yet now, after all this time, here you are.  What do you think of Lemuria?" she asked Pita, gazing at him intently with her crystal clear blue eyes.

"I think it's beautiful," he said.

"Indeed.  We have made it so over many thousands of years.  I am curious about what brings you here.  Can you tell me?"

"A vision, that she has had," said Pita gesturing towards Linda.

"Yes, I had a vision.  The vision brought me here.  To the desert.  To the Hawthorn tree," she said.

"Yes the sacred Hawthorn tree has brought you here to me.  Don't you wonder why?"

The two guests nodded in the affirmative.  

"Perhaps in time we shall find out why," said the Queen with a smile and a gesture of aloofness. "In the meantime you are welcome here.  You are free to partake in our society.  However should you break any of our laws, or the madness of your kind become in any way apparent in you, I shall be forced to take drastic action.  So my advice to you is to learn from our people, the calmness, serenity and peacefulness of Lemuria so that you may reside here in peace with us. What do you say to this?"

"Thank you for your hospitality, and we shall err on the side of caution, and try not to step on your laws."

"You are wise.  Wiser than others of your kind," remarked the Queen.

Pita smiled.

"There are many mysteries here," she continued. "Some may shock you. Please try to remain calm."

She looked at Linda.

"How do you feel about Lemuria?"

"Well, I feel strangely at home."

"Do you not miss the upper world?"

Linda thought about this for a while. 

"Yes, and no.  Half of me does, and yet half of me doesn't seem to at all."

"I feel you will do well here.  After some time, once you've been here long enough you will acclimate to our atmosphere and will no longer need to wear those helmets.  But it will take time.  Please be patient."

At this the Queen introduced the couple to the Nobles of Lemuria.  One at a time there were greetings, toasts and salutations, but conversation, of course, was not really possible.  

After a time Pita noted that around the hall there were boxy metallic robots doing manual labor of various kinds.  One of the Nobles with whom he was trying to converse commanded a robot to bring more food to the table.  The robot obeyed without hesitation, moving with its awkward, yet powerful limbs.  Pita noticed that each robot carried a sword that was sheathed along its spine.  None of the swords were withdrawn, but they were certainly noticeable enough.

"As you become acclimated to our climate you will be acclimated to the ways of our people, too," the Queen was saying.  "To assist you in this, I have assigned a teacher for you.  Please be acquainted with Sir Ratherror, Chief Royal Scholar of Lemuria."

"Greetings young Over-Worlders," said the eminent elder in Lemurian English. "I have been honored with the task of teaching you our language, ways, and laws.  It will be my pleasure to serve you in this capacity for the duration of your stay in Lemuria.  Welcome, and be at peace."

They bowed to him and thanked him.

And with this, the two began their residence in the great underworld city of Lemuria.  

* * * 

Meanwhile, back on the moon, Vallnam and Jacob watched helplessly as the Thermobaric Grenade bounced across the threshold into the stairwell with them.  There was nothing to do but wait for the end.  And so they waited.  And waited.  And the end didn't come.  As it turned out, this particular Thermobaric Grenade had a faulty ignition switch.  And so it simply didn't explode.  It rolled across the floor and came to a stop at the top of the stairs.  Jacob chalked this up to a little known Mentarian Power of his, known only as "The Glitch".  It was rumored to cause mechanical and electronic devises to randomly fail in the presence of someone with the power.  He always considered himself just that kind of someone.  After nearly passing out, and in a puddle of sweat, Vallnam crossed the little stairwell and picked up the Thermobaric dud.  

"Well, I think I'll just keep this as a little souvenir of our adventure, then," he said and plopped it into his knapsack.  

And with that the door was sealed behind them, and the three men hustled themselves down the stairs until they arrived at Sub-Level 3.  There they entered into a small chamber that served as an entranceway into the warren of workshops that the Technicians spent most of their days toiling in.  The air smelled like grease, sweat and an odd mix of chemicals.  It was brightly lit, and had clean white surfaces for the tables, and there was a lot of equipment and tools all around, on shelves neatly arranged.  There were several Technicians in the room, looking around nervously.  When the door opened and our heroes came through with Franz's Tech-brother, (his name was Hans, but he had not yet mentioned this), the Technicians leapt to their feet.  They'd never seen anyone dressed like Jacob and Vallnam in their purple-bubble space suits before, and given everything that was going on at the base, they nearly jumped out of their skins with surprise.  But Hans quickly explained that Jacob had tried to save Franz, and when Franz died in his arms, Jacob suffered as much grief and sorrow as he himself had.  He stated that these men were "Good People" with such conviction and sincerity that the others took him at his word and assumed that they must have been part of some secret and hitherto unknown Technical Squadron.  They huddled around as Jacob and Vallnam asked them questions about the base, and explained that they all needed to stick together in order to escape.

However, there was one hitch.  There was nowhere to escape to.  The base would soon be melted down by the Delta-Z Robot Force, explained the Technicians.  It was hopeless to think one could escape, they stated with blunt and factual despair.  Where could they go?  The moon was not exactly hospitable.  Jacob, however, insisted that they not give up hope, and so long as they were still alive there was a chance.  They agreed and agreed to help him make plans, despite their conviction that there was really no chance of survival whatsoever.

First, they explained that Eisenhelm was an underground cluster of complexes, with scientific, operational, and military centers, and that it extended outward through the lava tube tunnel system that linked the various sectors together.  They gave Jacob a map of the complex.  

As it happened there was another hanger bay located in Section 8. It had an assemblage of UFOs in it, though the Technicians explained that they were all in various states of disrepair, and none of them could actually fly at that time.  As it happens, there had been over the years a slow but steady degradation of capabilities in the base as the Nazi factions spent most of their time and effort on political intrigues. Nevertheless, Section 8 was about a mile eastward through the tunnels.  If they could make it to the Hanger they might be able to salvage one or more of the UFOs there, if they were lucky.  

However, there was a problem.  There were 16 Technicians, but only 11 space suits.  The tunnels between the complexes were devoid of air.  Some of them would not be able to make it.  One of them pointed to Section 4 on the map.  There was a still functional Staff Operations Center there, in which spare space suits were kept.  Some of them could go there, get the suits and bring them back, while the others made their way to Hanger B.  Since this seemed like the best plan they could come up with, they decided to go for it.

As they debated, all in German, of course, Jacob began to actually like these men.  While they were members of the never-to-be-sufficiently-hated Nazi Regime, it was nevertheless the case that these people were sincere, honest, and good natured.  It was probably likely, he thought, that this was due to the many years of oppression they must have endured under the rule of Nazi Military and Science Officers.  After this kind of oppression for so long, it may have simply driven out the "Will To Power" that dominated the minds of their Nazi superiors.  Whether they were harsh and unrelenting Military Officers, or cold blooded Nazi Scientists, it made little difference... the Technicians were all treated as inferior servants,  there only to do the bidding of whomever happen to be ordering them about at the moment.  It had been a miserable slave's life for them.  And so Jacob decided he really would like to save these people if he could.

And so they took a few of the younger and more energetic Technicians, suited them up, and climbed down through the hatchway into the Lava Tunnel.  It was enormous.  At least 60' high, and in some places up to 100' wide.  They could see by the dim lighting of overhead lamps that clung to the roof of the tunnel in sporadic lines, but much of the tunnels were shrouded in darkness.  The ground was hard packed dirt and stone, covered with tire treads.  They headed east towards Section 8, sticking close to the walls, and hoping not to be seen.

And that is where we ended the game this evening.

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