Day 2: Feral Nightmares (Five Klicks)

From the Journal of Maya Ceros, Day 2.

    Crawlers. Why did it have to be crawlers? 

    We stuck close with the trade caravan for the better part of the day, but trouble came when we stumbled right into the middle of a crawler nest.

    Thing about crawlers is that they move fast. They're easy enough to see coming, mainly on account of the fact that they glow even in the daytime, but that doesn't make them any easier to hit.

    Ordinarily, we'd just burn on past something like this, but crawlers tend to dig deep warrens, traps waiting for the unwary, and when two of the caravan's vehicles went down, their wheels stuck in the rough, hollow soil, I slammed on the brakes.

    Couldn't just leave them to be eaten alive. Had to get between our new friends and a horde of crawlers.    

First thing I noticed when boots hit the dirt was the slaughter-box. Judging from the glint of steel gripped in the hands of a skeleton in the center of the barricades, we weren't the first to make a last stand here. Should have taken it as a sign to pull out. Instead, I got cocky, figured that some jersey barriers would be more than enough to keep the crawlers off us.

They seemed so far away at first, and a lot less threatening than they became when their teeth were at our throats.

(Post-Play note: I started tracking turns using this 12 sided die to see if I could finish a game within 8 turns.)

Typical formation-- half of us up front, the other half hanging back to see what the enemy will do.

Kate was the first to reach the shiny object and the skeleton. . .

. . . only to discover the glint was nothing more than a crumpled beer can.

Dora, Caroline and Kara rushed to the jersey barriers and started firing, even though the crawlers were still at extreme range. Dora's scrap rifle jammed immediately, and that was when I started to get a bad feeling about this whole thing. I kept looking at that skeleton with the beer can in its hand, kept wondering if we were all about to end up like that.

Two of the crawlers were delayed, pulled in by shiny objects, while the rest rushed toward us.

They were close, but not close enough.

The crawler furthest back squealed, then about-faced toward some point nearer the craters that must have led down to deeper nests. The closer one dislodged something-- a crate? Hard to tell at this range.

The rest of us stepped up and formed a line, started firing even though we were all still at extreme range. Sally's rifle jammed immediately, and none of us hit anything.

Combined fire from Sarah and Dave did manage to pin and delay a couple of the ugly buggers, though.

Adrenaline started pumping. Dave, Kara and I started firing immediately.

The crawlers were still at extreme range, and every shot we put into the air missed its mark.

One of the crawlers started rooting in the ground, chasing after something glinting in the sands.

One of the crawlers shook himself out of his shellshock.

And in the space of a breath, they were on us.

Everybody who could fire started spraying. Sally tried to clear the jam in her rifle, but it wouldn't budge. The beasts after Kara and Dave took hits that didn't even slow them down. Sarah's shotgun clicked dry, and one of the horrors got close enough for me to smell its acrid breath before Kara put a round in it, dropped it right in front of me.

The crawlers jumped at us. . .

. . . bouncing off Sally and Kara, while the one that went after Caroline got a face full of pike and went squealing backward.

That was when I heard Dave scream. That was when I saw the crawler fall on him and tear out his throat.

As the Crawlers made another rush, I shouted and put a bullet in one, sending it shrieking toward cover. 

The click that came after, the dry click of a non-functional rifle, put all my hairs on end. Three rifles down, four if you count Dave, and so far, we'd only managed to piss the crawlers off.

What I didn't know at the time, was that the one crawler who had been dancing over the openings of their warrens was scaring up backup, calling out to something still deep in the nest.

The crawlers rushed us again. . .

And when Kara pulled the trigger on her shotgun, the blast bounced all around inside the slaughter-box, knocking everyone nearby off their balance.

It was quickly devolving into utter chaos.

The crawlers rushed us again. . .

. . . pushing Sally back and tearing at her armor.

Dora and Caroline were pushed back by the assault, but it was Kara who got it worst. I saw her fall, heard her scream as the crawlers pushed her into the dust with their teeth and claws.

And I remember thinking that things couldn't possibly get any worse.

I think seeing Kara fall gave us the strength to push back.

I tried to clear the jam from my rifle, but couldn't get the damn thing to work again.

Meanwhile, Caroline, the only one of us that could still take a shot, went for it, and missed.

The crawler that had been too shell-shocked to move all this time finally recovered. . .

and rushed us along with the rest of the swarm.

They hit us hard. . .

And though we pushed a couple of them back, I saw one go for the face on Kate, drop her into the spreading dust with a screech and a squeal.

And that was when two more crawlers showed up, or rather, two squat mutants who seemed to be living with the crawlers, running and fighting like them every step of the way.

They had us on our heels, coming at us from every direction.

Closing the distance with their snarling jaws and terrifying claws.

Caroline managed to hit one right between the eyes before they leapt at us.

The next attack came. . .

And the push-back followed.

Dora beat one of the horrors to death with the stock of her scrap rifle, and though I tried to catch the horror coming after me, I ended up with its teeth in my arm instead.

It was overwhelming-- we couldn't keep up with them. All of our guns were out or down except Caroline's.

And still the crawlers kept coming, with the two squat mutants going straight for Caroline and Dora.

Caroline took her shot, but the crawler was too quick, too hard to hit.

They rushed us again. . . 

And when I saw two of the horrific buggers fall to Dora and Caroline, I started to feel hope again. 

I started to feel like we might actually have a shot, that we might actually get out of this dust-up, instead of ending up like the skeleton with the beer can that was now utterly heaped in the bodies of the dead and dying.

Only Sarah seemed pissed off enough to keep pushing, throwing the giant rat intent on eating her back again and again.

The crawlers came at us again. . . 

And that was when everything went dark. 

I found out later that Dora had fallen too, that the two of us had gone down almost at the same instant, howling as the horrors carried us into the dust.

With most of the team down, Sally, Caroline and Sarah were up against the swarm alone, fighting as hard as they could to push back the enemy and keep them from eating all of us alive.

Caroline took a shot at one of the mutants as they rushed her, but the shot went wide, missing utterly.

It was four on three, and all rushing in for the kill.

Caroline managed to push back one of the mutants while Sally barehandedly beat back another.

Everything was desperate, chaotic. There was so much dust in the air that I doubt anyone could clearly see anything.

That was when the mutants split, one going after Sally while the other pushed toward Caroline.

In the chaos, Sally went down. Sarah beat her target enough to wound it, and Caroline was sent stumbling backward.

I heard afterward that in the moment of calm that followed, Sarah and Caroline exchanged a knowing look, neither thinking that any of us was going to survive. 

Sarah shouted something and closed ranks on her target while the mutants converged on Caroline.

I wish I'd have been conscious enough to see Carline take down one of the mutants. I heard later that the shot was glorious, a final kill before her rifle jammed.

The horrors rushed in to meet Sarah and Caroline.

And as Sarah dropped her target and turned to check on Caroline, she saw her friend go down in a hail of dust and blood.

Now it was down to two. Sarah, and the one mutant left on the battlefield.

She got the jump on him, but without a working rifle, all she could do was scream and beat him with the stock.

The hit was clean. . .

Sending the mutant sprawling, but otherwise unharmed.

Sarah rushed him again. . .

. . . hitting him with all her rage and fury.

And this time, the hit drew blood.

But maybe, maybe that was only enough to really piss the mutant off.

Because he turned around and hit Sarah hard enough to kill her.

I think it would have ended there for Valkyrie Convoy if it hadn't been for the trader caravan and the rookie we had with us. I remember being barely conscious, watching the last mutant limp away, snarling and howling into the wastes as he went. Hands reached out for us, lifted us out of the blood and the dirt. I learned later that the rookie had done everything possible to try to save Caroline and Sarah, finding them in critical condition, but they were too far gone for anyone to help. In the end, we had to dig three graves for three really fine people. Dave Macready, Cutdown Caroline and Sarah Aldrin. At least they went out fighting. Hell, I think Sarah even saved all of us in the end. If it hadn't been for her, I think we all would have been a lot worse off.

As I picked myself up, I learned that Rookie had found a Mental Implant in the guts of one of the Crawlers. It was clean enough, and tested as still functional, so we took it with us. We put Sally in Mudrunner to rest and redistributed the gear of the dead to those still lucky enough to be among the living. I got cleaned up at the doc while Kate fixed up her rifle, having nearly lost it in the fray.

It turned out to be a good day for dealing with the trade caravan, as even in her injured state, Sally managed to talk the traders out of a Tech Blade and a Heavy Melee Weapon. Suppose they were grateful for the protection, seeing how many of us fell to those horrors to keep them safe.

At the end of the day, we parted ways with the trade caravan and set out west again. Just before dusk, we came up on a fire in the middle of nowhere, found another survivor staked in the dirt by raiders, with everything they'd had stolen or missing. Turns out this one has military experience. A little bread and broth, some light conversation, and I think we have a new potential recruit to help round out the losses in the squad.


Maya leveled up! +1 to Combat Skill!

Sally Levelled up! +1 to Combat Skill!

Items obtained:
Mental Implant
Heavy Melee Weapon
Tech Blade

Convoy did not level up.

New recruit joined the roster! An unnamed "Ready to Serve" with a Pre-Collapse Military Base Background and Militia Training.

Post-Play Notes:

  1. I made two major mistakes in this mission that probably cost me at least one squadmember. One was, throughout the entire session, I forgot to roll for morale for the crawlers, so they were basically utterly fearless. Now, crawlers have a high Nerve score, they're psycho and they're melee only, so it might not have made much of a difference, as I'd have had to roll pretty high on two dice to get any of them to rout. The other mistake I made is that I didn't dash them initially. In their first move, they moved about half what they should have, putting them at extreme range for the first volley of fire when they should have been in a comfortable range, out in the open.

  2. I found it a lot easier to track multiple brawls by rolling a red die together with a green die for each conflict, with the green representing the friendly unit and the red representing the enemy unit.

  3. I'm excited to see what happens on Day 3! I have a few things on my checklist for Day 3 so far: Namely, I have to define names and miniatures for the two recruits who are joining the squad. It's really relieving to have the new one with a +2 to combat skill, as going into another battle with six squad members already sounds super dicey. Other than that, I need to finish printing and painting my proper buildings, along with a unit of impassable terrain. I also need to print more blood splat markers, as I ran out halfway through this battle. Back to the workshop!


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