Day 6 - The Last Of Them, Hopefully - (Five Klicks)


From the Journal of Maya Ceros, Day 6.

    We sat around the campfire last night getting to know Peregrine, and as we got to know her, we got to talking with her about what she'd seen on the road. Turns out she'd seen a settlement about five klicks from where we ended up camping. She had thought about checking it out, but it had been getting late when she saw it, and she'd been alone, so taking a look seemed like a gamble not worth taking. Now, with Valkyrie Convoy as backup, all that's changed. We're more than willing to see if there's anyone in that settlement with anything useful to trade.

The place was a heap. Under piles and piles of rusting junk, there seemed to be a building, some kind of garage or industrial facility with the doors torn off. We found a way in through a tunnel of sea crates, but the first thing I noticed about the place was the smell. It stank like death, like rot, and that put me on edge immediately.

That, and the fact that the place looked like it had been abandoned in a hurry.

Crossing into the place, I started to catch noises, odd scrapings and clicking sounds that rebounded off the walls. I called for a stop in the entryway, and in the silence, something deep inside the humid ruin howled back, deep and guttural. 

All the hairs stood up on the back of my neck when I heard that howl. I didn't know then what we were facing, only that it sounded sickly, like something that had been human, but no longer was. 

When the footsteps started, the running and dragging sound of feet and shoes smacking against steel, it was everything I could do not to panic.

Even then, it felt like we were stirring up a nest, like some horrific hive was waking up in this half-lit hell.*

In my mind, I imagined all kinds of horrible things in the darkness, but none of them were as horrible as what we were about to actually face.

I saw looks of worry on the faces of my squadmates. Kassandra and Merlin were already getting antsy, but it wasn't until I met Sally's eyes that I realized she was ready to bug out and run the other direction.

I've learned to trust Sally's intuition. Something about the sheer number of bodies rushing toward us told me we were about to get hammered if we didn't get out of there immediately.

More screams echoed across steel, and then I saw the shadows, the flickering, juddering movements of horrors catapulting out of the darkness, their blood-wet feet slapping against steel.

A gesture, a shout, and we made the quickest about-face I think I've ever been a part of. Tense and terrified, I got everyone out, pointed out positions in the sand and waved everyone to spread out.

Hardly a peep of chatter, and we formed up on the door, reading our rifles, lining up sights on the darkness inside the doorway.

The snarling and howling inside grew louder, became screaming and sputtering.**

I was nervous as hell. We all were. 

"Hold the line," I said, trying to ignore the howling, trying to hide my fear under an iron façade. "Don't fire until they're in the light."

I barely had a chance to put both hands on my rifle again before the first of the horrors came stumbling and shrieking into the sand, broken teeth gnashing, hungry for flesh. They were blood-slick and pulsing with sores, crazed by whatever disease had eaten them down to the muscle and bone.

I don't think any of us hesitated. We fired until the barrels ran hot, fired until the horrors were nothing more than a red mist. Like hot blisters, whatever the things were, they exploded as our bullets tore into them, meat and bone flying apart and clanging off the sea-crates. Peregrine was the first to stop firing, and I realized in a sudden moment of horror that she was out of bullets, her rifle firing dry.

More shrieks tore out of the darkness, angrier and more feral than the rest. Whatever the things were, the place was still full of them. 

I readied my rifle for the next wave, then glanced at Kate and Sally. Sally's nod was firm, and as no-nonsense as she's always been. Only Kate didn't look up, her eye practically glued to the scope on her rifle.

I gestured, shouted for the group to break apart and spread out. Peregrine struggled with her rifle, but couldn't get a new belt fed into the gun. 

The first of the horrors came sprinting out of the darkness and got so close I could smell his fetid breath. As Sally, Kassandra, Polybius and I dropped back, I got a good look at the rotting man, noticed the fungal growths, the haze of spores drifting off the open sores in his back.

Without wasting a second, I quickly pushed on my breather, backed off and fired. The shot was clean, hitting the butchered bastard right between the eyes. The cloud of rot and spores that erupted from him as he broke apart was thick enough that I think everyone backed off a little seeing it. Breathers went on hastily, pushed over noses as hands fought to ready rifles in time to catch the next wave.

Kate caught a glint of teeth in the darkness and didn't hesitate to take the shot.

Just beyond the tunnel of sea crates, I heard the wet pop of a spore-infested horror blasting apart under the force of Kate's bullet. 

I had no way of knowing how many of the things were left, could only say that I was grateful that we still had ammo.

Three more of the spore-eaten rotters rushed us, one of them so studded in fungal stalks that he towered over us.

The thing moved fast, disturbingly fast, and cleared half the distance between us and the door before Polybius and Merlin finally dropped it. The explosion of spores and meat was knee buckling, even at range.

And still, the darkness was full of shrieks.

Two more of the freaks rushed us, faster than the rest had been.

They closed up on Kate and Nike before anyone could get a shot off. Kate shouted as she shoved her rifle at one of the horrors, blowing his arm off in a hail of choking spores.

Nike and I dropped back, drawing a bead on the horrors, praying inside that Kate could hold her own against them.

Sally took the first shot, obliterating one of the horrors with a hail of bullets. The crimson cloud of spores detonated around Kate, and for a moment, I thought we'd lost her in that red haze, but she held her own against it.

Nike took the second shot. . .

And as the horror hit the ground, it exploded with enough force and with enough jagged shards of infected bone to knock Kate sideways, leaving her stumbling through the sand.

As the dust cleared, I noticed that the base had gone quiet.***

My hands shook against my rifle as I waited for more of the horrors to come, but nothing new broke from the darkness to rush us.

When I finally found my resolve again, I gave the order to rush the settlement, with the goal of cleaning it out and securing it. With Kate injured and Peregrine cradling a non-functional rifle, I thought it would be best for them to wait with the convoy until we could get the place safe.

I wasn't convinced the place was empty. I had to see up close for myself.

Kassandra and Sally were feeling confident. Kate, myself and Nike, less so.

I never have to put Kassandra in the lead, she just naturally rushes into that position. With Sally and Polybius at her back, the three led the way deeper into the fetid facility.

We were halfway in when I realized what a labyrinth this hole was. 

Against my better judgement, I finally gave the order to split up, and ended up sending Kassandra to check out a sudden clattering noise further inside.

What she found were two more of the fungal horrors tearing themselves out of the wall, rising from a bed of crimson mushrooms.

With a calm and determination born of staring down death countless times in the past, Kassandra rolled a grenade between the two horrors. The adrenaline in her throw bounced the grenade to the center of the room, where it went off, blasting one of the shamblers to bits and pelting Kassandra with burning fungus.

The remaining shambler rushed out of the fire and the haze, closing with Kassandra in an instant, teeth snapping inches from her throat.

There was a tense moment where everyone froze. The sound of the explosion, of howling and of Kassandra's battle cry echoed through the facility. I learned later that Sally and Polybius took up positions in adjoining doorways, ready to move in if Kassandra needed backup.

Wounded by the grenade and still burning, the fungal horror clawed at Kassandra, its broken fingers scratching the steel of her armor, desperately seeking to break through skin.

I heard Kassandra's shotgun bark, then click dry. 

The horror leapt onto her, but she pushed it away, backing further down the passage.****

Hitting the ground with a wet squelch, the horror immediately catapulted itself at Kassandra again, barely held at bay by the stock of her shotgun.

Screaming in the face of the fungal nightmare, Kassandra tried to jam home a fresh shotgun shell, but the creature hit her and the last of the shells went flying.

Knowing things were desperate, Kassandra shoved the horror back, dropped her shotgun and, in one smooth movement, pulled her spear and drove it deep into the creature's chest. Shivering and shrieking, the thing gave one last gasp, then exploded with enough force to knock Kassandra back. When we found her, she was covered in spores and rotting meat. A little bruised, but otherwise okay, completely saved by her armor.

In the end, we ended up burning out most of the hive with gasoline and road flares. A few more half-formed horrors tried to rise as we set fire to the place, but quick, precise shots put them down easily enough. Heading back to the convoy, I pulled a pressure washer off Mudrunner and sprayed everyone down enough to get the gore and spores off us. Last thing I want is for any of us to end up like the poor suckers in that horrific nest.

Sorting through the stacks of what we'd found inside, I have to say that it was a decent haul, maybe worth the sweat. A few boxes of canned peaches, a few cans of usable fuel, odds and ends, but best of all, we managed to pull a couple of suits of scrap armor out of the mess, along with a working set of defusing tools, which I'm giving to Sally, either to trade or to keep handy in case we need them at some point.

Must have been the smoke and the noise, but we also attracted a new member of the Convoy today. He calls himself Thallo Greene, and he's a traveling merchant who looks cleaner and sleeker than most of the rough skinned survivors I've seen out here. He's not bound for anywhere in particular, but sees a significant opportunity in traveling with us as we make our way through the wastes.

Polybius and Daedalus also approached me in the evening and told me a plan they have to wire all of our experimental cybertech into Polybius to make him into some kind of super soldier. The operation should be pretty easy, given how Polybius is half machine already, but he will need to rest for a little while after Daedalus gets everything plugged into him. With Dora now fully recovered, I gave them the green light, and expect I'll be impressed once Polybius is back online again.


Kassandra is MVP
All others gain +1 XP
2 AP spent on searching for scrap: no scrap found.
Loot: Scrap Armor
Trade: Scrap Armor and Defusing Tools
Convoy leveled up! +1 Resources

New recruit: Thallo Greene, an Ash Merchant from a Safe City.
Polybius to rest next turn.
Dora returns to the squad.

Post Play Notes:

* I don't know what I was thinking when I started rolling 1d6's for the enemy discovery of Suspicious Activities, but I quickly rectified it. It seemed to make sense to leave the bit of disgorged bony terrain in the doorway though, so I left it and re-rolled the first Suspicious Activity with the others in the next turn.

** My other major faux pas this session was forgetting that reinforcements come on a die roll of 5-6, not just six. I rolled fives a couple of times before I finally checked (and promptly face-palmed.) Fortunately, it made for a much more interesting game in the end. If it had popped reinforcements when I first rolled a five, the game would have been over a lot quicker and would have been far less entertaining. In the end, I'm glad I forgot, because it gave Kassandra a chance to really shine again.

*** Technically, the Fungal Shamblers were all dead, but since I didn't see a specific entry in the rules errata saying that the reinforcements don't come if you kill the last of the enemies, I decided that it would be more fun and more thematic to try to "secure" the base by reaching and deactivating the reinforcements marker.

**** Looking back, I think Kassandra actually won this brawl, but I counted it as a draw in the heat of the moment.


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