Friday, February 17, 2023

WoAF - Game Session 44

Somewhere in the dark shadows of the moon, far below the frozen rocky surface, Eisenhelm, the ultimate in super-secret Nazi Moon-Fortresses, was being rocked to the core by a three way civil war, and the simultaneous Delta-Z ("Final Termination") Assault of the Nuclear Missile Robots, aka the "Apokalypse-Maschines".  It was definitely not Eisenhelm's finest hour.

The ground was shaking as Vallnam took a look around the dazzling white and chrome Control Room he had secured after his fight with the two Nazi High Commanders, now both deceased, one by him, and the other by Jacob a few minutes later. The ultra high-tech of the room seemed out of place when compared with the rest of Eisenhelm, which before discovering this hidden subsector of the complex, appeared fashioned more like a gigantic World War II submarine than anything else. 

He gazed through the plate glass window into secret Sub-Hanger B where a sleek black space ship was stationed. It was so completely light absorptive that he could not make out any contours on its surface at all. Not a seam showed, nor door, nor any other external feature. Only the two narrow windows on the nose of the vessel indicated that it was not simply a single solid object. But through the two windows nothing at all could be seen of the interior. He whistled to himself. If they could get inside this thing, and fly it... well that would be something! He gazed the ship admiringly. It sure looked pretty.  
"Rudolf," said Vallnam, "can you see if there's a way for you to gain access to that ship from here?"

"Ja!" answered Rudolf affirmatively, and began scanning the small metal schematics plates under the lip of each of the control panels. 

"It may take some time for me to decipher the schematics, but I'm trained for this, so I can do it," said Rudolf as he homed in on the first plate.

In the meantime, Vallnam took a look around for anything else that might be of interest or use. He strolled around the room rubbing his hand along the smooth white walls, looking for any catches or press-panels that might open into a closet or weapons stash. He didn't find anything. He decided to leave Rudolf to his studies and went down the corridor to the elevator. He pressed the button next to the smooth white round door and it slid silently open. He entered the small circular room and pressed the third button from the top. There was a brief descent and the door opened into Sub-Hanger B. And there in the middle of the spacious white chamber was the glorious black ship. He walked over to it. Sleek and flat black as could possibly be. Even in bright light and only a few inches away it was still impossible to see any contours on its surface.  If he didn't see it in the context of the well lit and perfectly white hanger bay, he would probably have thought it was a shadow.

He walked around the ship. When he got to the nose cone he realized they had left the body of the General on the ground where Vallnam had shot him. None of the technicians had dared to touch it. In fact, they seem to superstitiously avoid it and none them had gotten within twenty yards of the corpse. So Vallnam went over to it and bent down. The explosive decompression had really done a number on the man. He was a real mess. Having little better to do with his time, he began to loot the body. And what did he find? A pouch made of Duridium Cloth.  Not that Vallname had any idea what the cloth was, but it's supple leatherlike texture, and metallic sheen gave him the impression that it was not your typical satchel material.

He hefted the bag, and it seemed to have something inside.  Unfortunately, it was impossible to tell what it was. As he studied the cloth, he realized it would not be all so easy to open. On the flat at the top was a small burnished trapezoidal lock, like the ones he'd seen on the doors that lead into what he now called "The White Tunnel System". 

"Very interesting," he thought to himself. "I don't think even a blowtorch is going to cut through this material, for some reason." 

He brushed his fingers over the lock and noted that its shape might also designate something special as he hadn't seen any thus far that had a narrow trapezoid like this one. He examined it more carefully. He wasn't at all clear on how they worked, but surmised they probably had a similar mechanism as the other trapezoidal locks.  One key, and one passcode in combination would open it.  He gave a tug on the leather.  Then another fiercer tug.  No, that was definitely not going to tear. The craftsmanship was perfectly impeccable. 

So he went back to looting, and lo, upon removing the glove from the corpse's left hand he found a silvery skull ring. It was inset with two rubies for eyes, and tiny diamonds for teeth.  They sparkled crisply in the indigo-blue lighting that surrounded the ship. He gave the ring a careful inspection. He found an inscription on the inside rim of the ring.  It was very well worn but he could make it out. The letters looked like a set of little scratches.  An arrow, a zigzag, a cross and a few others a bit more complicated. "Most interesting, indeed," he thought.

He brought the ring up to the control room and showed it to Rudolf. The technician immediately recognized a Ring belonging to a member of The High Command. The runes he didn't recognize, but he knew what they were in a general sense. He was clearly awestruck by the sight of it.

"If you can figure out how to use it, you can keep it," said Vallnam.

Rudolf went wide-eyed at that suggestion, but immediately demurred. "I wouldn't have much luck with that, sir. But Hans may know more about that sort of thing than I do. He has always been interested in old lore and things of this kind, I think."

With that Vallnam contacted Ling and Jacob on a three-way radio frequency. He told them what he found and described the ring with great care, in particular the runes.

Jacob added Hans to the Comm, and he commented that the runes were powerful spiritual symbols of the Elder Race that the leaders used to augment their strength and intelligence. "Whatever you do, don't put on the ring," he said. "The ring is a key, but if you put it on, it will likely kill you. Did you find a satchel, by chance?"

"Ja, I was about to get to that," said Vallnam.

"Ja, well the ring is the key to the lock, you see," explained Hans.

"Oh that's good," said Vallnam with renewed enthusiasm. "How do I use it?"

"You bring the ring over the lock. But you need the passcode. If you try the wrong code it will activate whatever boobytrap is inside," said Hans.

"Ahhh, yes, the old boobytrap trick.  I see," replied Vallnam moving satchel a bit further away from his eager face.  This might explain why the technicians declined to go near the General's body. He wondered if his skill at digital demolition might disable the lock, but it was a risky strategy. If it failed to work, he thought he would likely be killed. Hans seconded that opinion.

In this case, he decided the best thing to do would be to get over to where Ling was located so that Hans could try opening the satchel, seeing how the worthy technician clearly had far greater knowledge of such matters than he did. Since his group of technicians were already repairing the UFOs as quickly as possible and didn't need his supervision, he might as well make his way over to where the party was. 

He took a look at the Eisenhelm Sector C3 Map on the Control Room monitor. He wanted to get to Ling's Pillbox, C3-PB-A1.  But how to get there?  They'd already sealed off the main entrance to Hanger B by piling up the derelict UFOs against it.  He'd have to find an alternate route.  He absentmindedly fingered the ring in his pocket while he studied the map. 

At this moment he was briefly tempted to give the ring to Rudolf and let him put it on, just to see what might happen.  Was it poisoned, perhaps? Did it confer powers of some sort? After a moment's contemplation he decided against it. He imagined it wouldn't go well for the young technician, and Vallnam wasn't so devious as to use another human being to test the hideous powers of some bizarre Nazi artifact. He stuffed the ring further down into his pocket and went back to studying the map carefully. He decided that the secret White Tunnel System was represented by the blue lines, while a middle tier of connector tunnels that linked the Pillboxes were likely the red ones.  Or did it mean something else?  He wasn't quite sure. At any rate, looking at the configuration of the Control Room area in conjunction with the map lines, he surmised that it was likely that the tunnel entrances could be accessed by pressing the other buttons in the elevator.  After all, that would make sense, and was likely how the other High Commander had escaped after the gun battle.

"Rudolf, you carry on here. I'm going to meet up with my fellow commanders and check things out.  If all goes well we'll come back here by the time you men are finished. And see if you can get that black spaceship open. We need that so we can all get out of here before the entire base explodes."

"Ja!" said Rudolf, "I'll do my best!"

Vallnam left the Control Room and made his way down the narrow corridor, passing the glass panel windows that overlooked Sub-Hanger B. He came to the elevator with its rounded portal. He pressed the button and the door slid silently open. He stepped inside, the door closed, and examined the buttons. There were four of them, pearl-colored, with blue edges, and set in a vertical line. When he originally entered he had picked the second button from the top for no other reason than his gut feeling at the time. This had led him to the Control Room corridor that overlooks the hanger. 

He decided to press the bottom-most button. The elevator smoothly descended. Vallnam pulled out his Lewiston Beam Pistol and aimed it at the door. When the elevator stopped, the door opened onto a long straight perfectly smooth and beveled white corridor with chrome trim.  It vanished off into the distance ahead. The corridor was lit by two rows of indigo-blue lights along the right and left sides of the floor. He pointed his Lewiston into the corridor and stepped out. No one was there. He didn't see any markings on the walls, or any deviation from its design. 

He walked forward slowly. A hundred feet, then two hundred feet, then five hundred feet, and a thousand feet... he still had not reached the end, and began wondering what he could be heading into. Another thousand feet and no end in sight. He began to worry. Another thousand feet and still no end in sight. He wondered where the hell this corridor could be leading, and if he should go back. But he persevered and after another five hundred feet saw a door. It was still a hundred feet ahead. He crept up slowly. It looked like another elevator with its smooth circular outline. There was a button. He pressed it and the door slid silently open. Inside was a small circular room. He stepped inside and looked for buttons.  There were two, one on the top, one on the bottom. He pressed the top button. The elevator ascended rapidly for a few moments and stopped. The door slid open onto a large room full of activity. Inside were machinery, computer banks, soldiers and scientists in military grade spacesuits rapidly working the equipment.  They seemed to be in a terrible rush.  A machinegun toting guard happened to be looking in his direction and caught sight of the elevator door open, and he saw Vallnam inside.  He was deeply puzzled by what he saw.

It should be remembered at this point that Vallnam was in no wise dressed like a Nazi. He was wearing a translucent protective suit with purple colored bubbles all over it. However, due to his psychic abilities he was speaking perfect German, and he immediately ordered the soldier over to him with a wave of his arm. "Schnell! Schnell!" he demanded, though his voice could not be heard by the soldier.  The expression on his face, however, could be seen, and he looked for all intents and purposes exactly the way one would expect a Nazi officer to look.  Grim, determined, arrogant, and implacable.  He added a boost of mystic energy to his command with the use of a power known as "Psychic Persuasion". Fortunately, the soldier happened to be a dimwit. He followed the order blindly as a general habit, and so entered the elevator without question, and without anyone noticing his absence. 
"You will come with me," said Vallnam in perfect German, though the guard could not hear his voice. The elevator door closed and Vallnam pressed the down button. They landed at the lower level and he had the soldier enter the corridor ahead of himself. "Schnell, schnell," he barked pointing repeatedly. The soldier obeyed and began walking down the long white corridor.  Vallnam pointed his Lewiston and fired. A pencil thin beam of red plasma energy instantly bored a hole through the soldier's spacesuit, despite the armor.  The explosive decompression was such that he simply crumpled noiselessly to the ground and died instantly, never knowing what had happened. Vallnam grabbed his machinegun and looked around to see if anyone had followed them down. Nothing happened. He heaved a sigh of relief.

* * *

Meanwhile, Jacob was charging up the stairs to the workshop where he expected to find the four Nazi technicians they had left there because they didn't have enough spacesuits for everyone to enter the tunnels.  That had been about an hour ago. When he got to the top of the stairs he went through the airlock. It took about a minute for him to work the controls, reach atmospheric equilibrium, and get through to the other side. Since he was not taking off his pressure suit, he had no need for the careful control process usually attending such procedures, but the men inside were in open air, so the process was a requirement. Inside he found the four technicians who all stood up when the door opened and rushed over to him.  They were overjoyed that Jacob had actually come back for them. They had long since given up hope that any of them would survive the ordeal ahead, or even be remembered by anyone.

"Wunderbar!" they cried as Jacob handed them the four spacesuits. They donned them quickly and prepared to disembark. Suddenly the workshop began shaking under the concussive barrages occurring in the cavern below their chamber. Several items fell off of the clean white shelves, but they were ignored. Everyone ran for the airlock and waited impatiently while the tiny room was depressurized for exit into the tunnels.

"Which of you is Nick?" asked Jacob.

"Ja," said an elderly man, in his sixties perhaps, "I am Nick."

"Stay close, Nick. I'm going to need your help soon," ordered Jacob.

"Goot, goot," said Nick enthusiastically.

The troop ran down the stairs but when they got to the bottom doorway the flashes of lurid red light coming from the Giant Nuclear Missile Robot's Plasma Cannon in the cavern outside gave them pause.  The light of several explosions also illuminated the dark space. The technicians cowered against the wall next to the door. 

Jacob tried to usher them forward, but they were frightened out of their wits. He took a quick glance around outside. A massive battle was raging about nine hundred feet west of their position across the floor of the enormous cavern. Thousands of rounds of small arms fire were bouncing uselessly off the metal skin of the giant robot. It was returning fire with glowing red beams of thick electrical plasma. Troops were being blown to burning smithereens on contact with the monstrous weapon.  Any wall or metal surface it hit instantly boiled away into white hot slag. From an intact section of ruins that once was a squat metallic military command building further west there streamed an ongoing barrage of machinegun bullets and missiles, many of which hit, but barely scratched the colossus's outer later. After all, its skin was pure nuclear-forged Duridium, one of the most impenetrable substances known to science. The battle looked utterly futile for the Nazi soldiers. Jacob dodged back inside.

"Ok, look. You can stay here and die if you want. Or you can take your chances with me and escape down the tunnel towards Hanger B where my fellow commanders are. You might live. So stay here for certain death, or come with me and take a chance on life. Your choice!" he barked, and then leapt through the door and ran due east down the long tunnel. The men wasted no more than a second deciding. Seeing Jacob leading the way, they followed, and so the group ran pell-mell down the tunnel away from the raging battle. Jacob turned to make sure that Nick was with them.  He was.  He then scanned the Nazi detachment as it fought futilely against the robot. None of them took any notice of their little band. Fortunately, even if they had been spotted, none of the Nazis soldiers engaged in that combat were about to spend a moment thinking about them. The team escaped handily and headed east as quickly as they could. Behind them, death and destruction reigned in lurid red light and massive fiery explosions.

After some four hundred yards of sprinting, some faster than others, they made it to the base of Pillbox C3-PB-A1. Jacob ushered Nick up the ladder, and once inside Nick and Hans exchanged hearty handshakes and stood beaming as they stared at each other. They were surprised and delighted to have made it this far. Then Jacob explained to Nick that they had the Admiral's satchel and his ring, and they needed to him to get the Master Key from within it, presuming that there even was such a mythical thing inside. Nick took a look at the satchel and the ring, and whistled through his teeth.

"This is a dangerous assignment," he said soberly.

"Yes, we know. That's why we want the best man on it," said Jacob. "Can you handle it?"

"I can try," said Nick as he examined the burnished trapezoidal lock with great care.

Meanwhile, Ling had her Lewiston pointed a the sleeping Helmund in case he happened to wake up, which could have happened at any moment. She had been planning on him opening the door to C3-DZ-A1, which they believed was accessed through a secret panel at the back of the Pillbox. However, if Nick could get the MasterKey then perhaps Helmund wouldn't prove necessary after all. She was less concerned with who opened the door, actually, than that it should be opened, and that she could manage to get to the correct control panel to enter the Giant Nuclear Missile Robot Fleet's self-destruct codes before Earth civilization was utterly destroyed in The Final Conflagration. Since Esienhelm itself seemed unlikely to survive much longer, it was imperative they find C3-DZ-A1 as quickly as possible - and escape in the salvaged UFOs before the end. That was their plan.

"Okay, Ling, do you think you can handle things here?" asked Jacob.

"Yes, I think so," she replied.

"Good. I'm going to take the rest of these guys back to Hanger B so they can get to work helping to repair the UFOs," he replied. "Hans, you stay here and help Nick with whatever he needs, ok?"

"Ja, okay. We can do it," replied Hans affirmatively. At that moment the Pillbox shook violently. Captain Helmund fell out of his seat onto the floor, but did not wake up. Such was the power of the Narcoleptic Beam that Ling had used on him earlier. Nothing was going to wake him until it wore off. Ling wrestled him back onto the chair and strapped him into a sitting position.

And with that Jacob made his way down to the tunnel below, and headed east with the three remaining technicians. It was a long haul but they made it to the entranceway of the outer cavern without incident. They slid the massive door open using the manual gear system and slipped inside.  The cavern was completely dark, except for a single set of dim green emergency lights high up on the seventh floor of the Science Center. Jacob and his crew made it across the cavern floor using the night vision settings of their helmets. The ground was rough, and littered with giant boulders that had fallen from the ceiling in the past several moonquakes. Finally they got to the massive metal bay door of Hanger B. But it was locked, and they couldn't open it.  The technicians tried several times but it wouldn't budge.

"Jacob to Vallnam," barked Jacob over his helmet comm-link.

"Vallnam here," replied the stalwart.

"I'm with the technicians at the entrance to Hanger B. What's the problem with the lock? The bay door won't open," explained Jacob.

"Well, I'm down in a corridor at the moment and can't get up there to help you right away. Though frankly, you're not going to get inside that way even if I was there. I had the technicians pile up a few of UFOs that could not be salvaged against the inner bay door to keep it from being pried open by any Nazi forces that might try to attack us."

"Oh crap," replied Jacob. "Ok, in that case we better head back to the Pillbox.  We're not going to get inside the Hanger from here.  Damnit."

Suddenly Jacob heard a scream over his radio comm. It was one of the technicians. The other technicians started yelling "Johan! Johan! What happened to you?!"

Jacob turned around and in the dim greenish light he saw two of his men, but not the third. He looked to the left and the right and there on the ground he saw a bloody, shredded and mutilated spacesuit with a shattered helmet vizor.  It was Johan Knapp, technician 3rd Class, deceased.

"Great!" yelled Jacob. "Did anyone see what happened to him?" he demanded angrily.

"Nien! Nein!" yelled the two remaining technicians, fear crippling them to the point of near paralysis. "Johan!! Johan!!" they cried in anguish.

There was a blur in the dark space beyond where the body was strewn. Jacob tried to get an idea of what it was that he saw. It was very hard to tell, but it appeared to be a round object, the size of a car maybe, and very dark. It seemed to be rolling away from him. He then spotted a second dark round shape was heading towards them at high speed. They were pinned up against Hanger B's enormous steel bay door. A third round object came out from behind a boulder about thirty feet away and was heading along a circular path around the group. Jacob scanned the area. There was an abandoned Military Base to the south. To the north was the Science Center, dark and foreboding. There was a cluster of boulders that had landed not far away across the cavern floor from where they were. It was just possible that with a fast sprint they could make it the sixty feet and get there before the spheres could get them if they timed it right. Once there Jacob thought the boulders might offer some protection. The technicians trembled and collapsed against the wall, frightened completely witless.

And that is where we left things that evening.