8th August 2020
Saturday night is here and I'm logged into Skype on my laptop whilst sitting in the living room.
This means that it's time for the concluding chapter of Matakishi's Wasted Hack campaign.
Location: The Chasm.
It was time to prepare for our trip across the forested chasm floor. We packed our ropes, pitons and climbing gear.
We also prepared for an insect infested sweltering trip as best we could.
The three balloon ladies would have to stay behind, for them scaling the sheer slopes was out of the question. It was also decided that Jasper would stay put. He could look out for them and drive the transporter if need be.
With us on this foray would be D4-VID, Cornelius and the two Chrome Bois, Tombaga and Elinvar.
Our estimation was that the descent to the chasm floor would be a hundred metres. The rope we were carrying barely extended beyond twenty. We would need to climb down in stages.
Our approach was simple, we would secure a piton at the top, then Cornelius - our best climber would climb down and scout out a suitable ledge to temporarily hold us and hammer in another piton.
With the rope secured, the rest of us would safely descend.
The rope would be retrieved and we would begin on the next stage.
That was the plan anyway...
Descending the first stage went mostly without a hitch. But truth be told; we had forgotten to take into account the extreme weight of The Chrome Bois! The pitons barely held their positions.
On the second stage, when Tombaga began climbing, the top piton dislodged entirely, sending him plunging downwards.
Tombaga was forced to drive his cybernetic hands into the very slope itself with his superior stenght to save himself! After retrieving the rope, we continued our descent.
By the end of the third stage, we had dropped beneath the tree line and got our first look at the forest below.
The forest was trapped in a perennial gloom beneath the canopy, only the occasional gap allowed a golden ray of blazing, dazzling sunlight to penetrate. The undergrowth was thick and pervasive here. We could hear the occasional movement of grass and leaves, as well as the chirping of insects and distant cry of birds.
Finally, after the fourth stage of climbing, we reached the chasm floor. Ahead of us was a three kilometre march through an unknown landscape.
From the first step, it was slow, hard going. The ground was damp, soft and a mire, every sinking, sucking footstep a struggle. The air was humid, close and uncomfortable, it buzzed with swirling swarms of giant insects, the ground and trees crawled with them.
There were spores here too, the forest was abundant with them.
We tried our best to avoid all this as we pushed on.
A little way into the morning and ahead of us we heard a loud crashing noise and the harsh sound of splintering wood.
Gripping our weapons, we advanced, not knowing what to expect.
Not knowing what to expect was generally an effective strategy. This situation was no different.
What we encountered, was not what we were expecting to encounter?
It was massive in size and seemed to be some sort four-legged reptile, with a long tail, equally long neck and a small head. It had trampled its way through the forest to reach the leaves and shoots it was currently eating.
It had not noticed or was ignoring us. Either way, it was entirely focused on what it was eating and did not appear to be a threat to us. We briefly considered trying to tame it, but no doubt that would have ended badly!
We decided to leave it be and moved on. Half an hour later we heard the sound of something large crashing through the forest again, this time behind us. We span round and looked back at the way we had come, almost expecting to see something charging us.
But there was nothing. A few moments later we heard bestial screaming, howling and roaring coming through the forest. This continued for a short time before abruptly ending. Something pretty bad had happened back there?
We waited and watched for a short while, nothing came towards us, nothing else happened.
We kept on going.
The ground had been slowly but surely sloping downwards throughout our journey. After half a day's travel we had reached what we surmised was the lowest point in the chasm.
Running the length of the chasm was a wide stream, it's murky brown waters flowing sluggishly. At best this stream could only be described as 'uninviting'.
Our previous 'experiences' with large bodies of liquid - particularly 'murky' liquids had taught us one indisputable fact: There was definitely something nasty lurking just beneath the surface!
No one had any intention of putting one foot into that stream, we needed another way to cross it.
After a brief search we discovered that as its narrowest, the stream was twenty fire metres wide or so.
Agent Pip and Max used their glitch mutations to teleport across without mishap. Useful for them, but not so much for the rest of us. I could teleport at least two people to the other side using my shift mutation, but at the very least this would leave me on the wrong side.
We started looking at the trees, maybe they cold be used? They were mostly over twenty five metres high.
Swinging across them would be impracticable.
Perhaps we could chop a tree down and use it's trunk as a bridge. I wondered how long it would take with my machete?
The cyborgs declared that they were carrying 'chainsaw' attachments, perfect.
We stood back and let The Chrome Bois do their stuff. The noise of chainsaws cut through the forest sounds as much as did through tree trunks. Soon enough there was a loud, distinct creaking noise, followed by splintered and then crashing noises.
As the trunk fell, it triggered a plethora of activity, dislodged insects scuttled away, small exposed creatures fled into the undergrowth and plants trembled and swayed from the impact.
A short time passed and everything seemed still again.
The trunk was long enough to span the stream, so we crossed... cautiously. As we carefully made our way over, we observed movement and possibly bubbling or frothing originating from the water close to the trunk.
Whatever it was, we were having nothing to do with it.
Leaving the stream behind we continued, from now on, the ground would be gently sloping upwards.
Because the chasm was deep and we were travelling under the shade of the canopy, the day's light was failing earlier than expected. Soon it would be dark and we would need to camp for the night.
As we were searching for a suitable camp site, we caught sight of a flickering light in the distance between the trees. It was clearly some sort of fire light.
There was no way of knowing its size or its distance through the forest, but someone else was definitely out here with us.
Should we investigate the fire light or ignore it.
It may be nothing but a waste of time, or a trap? Perhaps it might prove useful?
In the end we realised that if we did not investigate the light, whoever was over there might come and investigate our own light instead.
Heading towards the light, we kept going until we encountered a clearing of sorts.
The forest had opened enough for us to see what was up ahead.
And up ahead was another vast and ancient cargo ship, like those we had previously seen at The Refinery.
It had partially sunk into the ground here, the part of the ship that was still above ground level was blanketed in vines, creepers and other greenery, barely any original part of the ship was visible.
Through the windows we could see fire within and the silhouetted shadowy movement of people.
It dawned on us that this chasm must have existed in the ancient world, otherwise why would anyone have built a bridge across it?
The chasm must have been some sort of water-channel or canal that gave passage to these massive ships during the world before.
We considered sneaking up to the camp fires to get a better look, but felt that this might be seen as suspicious or even worse, aggressive.
In the end, we chose to announce ourselves and Aoxo shouted, "Hello the camp." loudly.
After a few seconds, there was some movement. Emerging from the darkness and almost ghost-like were some humans, painted white and brandishing spears.
They stood there watching us and we stood there watching them. We tried to communicate with them, but it didn't work, they didn't understand us.
Instead, we tried a different approach. Slowly and cautiously I pulled some food out of my pocket. I ate half of it and gave the other half to one of them.
Another man this time painted in ochre stepped forward, he had two circles painted on his wrist. They ate the food and seemed to like it. They both then stood up straight and gave me a salute?
After this, they prompted us towards the old cargo ship. We allowed them to herd us 'on board', climbing up the hulk was relatively straightforward as the vegetation was sturdy enough to provide adequate handholds.
After clambering through the window with the fire light, we found ourselves in a smoky room filled with more people. In the yellow-orange light, they cast giant shadows on the walls and we could see that they were also painted in white. They silently watched us.
One of them wore some old headphones, broken technology from the world before. He approached and began quickly talking at us in some unintelligible language. In amongst all the jabbering, we caught a few words that we recognised, 'radio, captain, crew'. We noticed that on his wrist were three rings?
Aoxo believed that the circles were symbols used to denote rank in the ancient world, the more circles, the higher the rank. The man in the headphones seemed to have the highest rank and it seemed he was called 'Radio'.
Perhaps Radio was the 'captain' and these people were 'crew'?
Was it possible that the original crew of this ship had somehow become trapped down here? That would mean that these 'chasm people' might be the descendants of the crew?
The 'crew' here indicated that they wanted to share their meal with us, we acquiesced and also shared our food with them.
Some of the food ws thrown down a dark hole in the floor. Aoxo tried to surreptitiously glance down the hole, but saw nothing.
After the meal has concluded, everyone has gathered with us in this room.
Radio seems to be concentrated intently, then suddenly said. "Haste makes waste!".
They all cheered vigorously and turned to look at Max expectantly.
We were taken aback by this, hesitantly Max replied, "Hang five.".
Radio concentrated and a moment later booming laughter rose from the hole below!
It seemed that Radio was communicating with someone - or something? No wonder Radio was his name!
Radio concentrated again and said. "'If' is in the middle of life." and turned to Aoxo.
Aoxo replied. "If you can keep your head when all about you, you’ll be a Man, my son!".
There is more booming laughter.
Radio concentrates and says. "The writing's on the wall.". Radio raised an arm and pointed at the indecipherable writing and symbols on a wall here, then he turned to Agent Pip.
"Who you gonna call?", Replies Pip.
Again with the booming laughter.
Lastly, Radio turned to me after saying. "We're not laughing at you, we're laughing with you.".
"Laugh and the world laughs with you.", was my reply.
There was some more booming laughter.
Radio then said, "Heart of darkness." and pointed at one of the people here. There was a brief tussle and that person was grabbed and flung down the hole! It was so quick that it that was almost over before it started. It was certainly over before we could recover from the shock and act.
"The horror, the horror!" Boomed the voice from below!
After this, the crew here quickly settled down for the night, seemingly unperturbed by what had just come to pass.
Soon they were all asleep and the only noise in the ship was the loud snoring that rose out of the hole and from below.
Outside, the night was impenetrable and only the sounds of the forest reached us.
Now left alone, we had the opportunity to see what was down the hole, we didn't want to use lights or flares for fear of waking the crew.
Instead we had D4-VID film down the hole with it's thermal lens.
When we watched D4-VID's footage, we could see the heat signature of a massive creature, nearly the size of our transporter!
We had no idea what it was and little desire to find out. Since it was not part of our objective, we decided to leave it well alone.
Before settling down for the night ourselves, we posted watches. None of us felt comfortable with these people.
Dawn broke and a number of the crew left with their spears, no doubt on a hunt.
As we were getting dressed and packed. We grimly noticed that spores were growing in the creases of our skin. It seemed that we had not managed to avoid them.
Some of the crew approached us with buckets of the white paste that they used to covered themselves. Did they want us to do the same? Did the paste help with the spores? We chose to politely refuse the white paste and made ready to leave.
Before departing, we pointed in the direction of the chasm wall were heading towards. The crew saluted saluted us. We had no idea if they had understood.
We bid them farewell and began our next march.
It was a new day, but it was the same old slog. Soon the forest had swallowed up the cargo ship behind us in its verdant maw, seemingly eradicating all evidence of its very existence and relegating it to memory and imagination, save for D4-VID's footage.
Midday was upon us by the time we had arrived at the chasm wall, we had now reached the far side.
As with our descent, we had to climb out of the chasm in stages. The slopes were no obstacle for Cornelius, so it was a slow climb, but fortunately an uneventful one.
Shadows were beginning to lengthen when we escaped the chasm. The sun had become dim and reddish as it crawled behind the western horizon, in the waning light we could see the original tower, faraway and decorated with spots of winking light in the gloom.
Our journey across The Chasm had not been entirely straight and accurate, but it was close enough. The second tower, dormant and unlit as it was, lay close by.
Tombaga and Elinvar got to work on the generator and a few hours later, the second tower became 'fully operational'. The generator powered up with a rumble, lights winked on and control panels sprang to life.
We gave The Chrome Bois the honour of activating the light bridge. The tower vibrated and thrummed as the power surged, it was almost palpable in the air.
Moments later the humming stopped and wide a beam of light extended out of the ground next to the tower and then continued to extend across the chasm. From the other side, at the other tower, the same occurred.
The two beams converged and connected in the centre.
The light bridge was completed. It glowed eerily in the cool evening darkness with an almost unearthly quality.
Was it safe though?
Aoxo walked along the light bridge and stepped over the chasm, he jumped up and down a few times.
Yep! Seemed safe!
We radioed Jasper and he bought the transporter and the balloon ladies over. When they arrived, Jasper took us to one side and explained that the balloon ladies - as well as himself were showing signs of spore contamination.
The Chrome Bois also retrieved their buggy and returned. They were as curious as us to see The Domed City and had decided to accompany us.
Briefly examining the balloon ladies revealed that the contamination seemed quite advanced. They asked "Are we there yet?" and seemed quite miserable. This adventure was not proving much fun any more.
Everyone was examined next. This revealed that Cornelius had also been extensively contaminated.
We cleaned ourselves as much as possible, but the contamination remained. Jasper said that this not his area of expertise and was beyond him.
The balloon ladies and Cornelius seemed unwell, but under no immediate threat either.
We had no idea on the long term effects of this. Our best option was to reach The Domed City, they may have what it takes to deal with this.
We looked to the horizon away from The Chasm and saw a distinct light that continually winked on and off.
"It's a beacon." Stated the ladies. "We're nearly home.".
The Domed City was close. We quickly agreed that the quicker we reached it, the better. So we decided to drive through the night.
The multi-lane road headed in the direction of the beacon. Even though it was the product of the ancient world, it was in good condition, so our little convoy made good time.
The night was dark and quiet.
Other than the rumble of the transporter's tracks and the dull, low roar of The Chrome Bois' buggy, we drove through the night in an empty silence.
The transporter's headlights were flicked over to full beam, bathing a large swathe of the road ahead in blazing, almost blinding light. From within the transporter, everything outside of those headlights was so black that the universe didn't even seem to exist any more and only sprang into creation as the beams touched it.
A few kilometres into the journey and a faint and dull red hue had appeared, marking out the horizon against the moonless sky.
We had seen this before, when approaching Haven by night, but here, here it was on a much larger scale.
We continued like this for four hours along the featureless road. Then we saw The Domed City begin to rise over the horizon.
Domed City was something of a misnomer.
There was no single dome. Instead there appeared to be one massive dome, surrounded by numerous smaller satellite domes. There were transparent domes too, we could see the lights from within.
Soon we came to a smaller 'slip road' that branched off the multi lane road and veered towards our destination. We took the exit to The Domed City.
For a further hour we travelled. The domes had continued to grow and grow until they towered above us.
We made for the dome as indicated by the balloon ladies and entered unchallenged, the entrance unguarded?
Perhaps they had been entirely protected from the savage hardships of the wastes by The Chasm and felt no need for guards?
Inside the dome, we saw the city for the futuristic wonderland it was. We had to pull over to take it all in.
The streets were well maintained, clean and brightly lit, many walls were decorated with large screens that displayed beautiful women, happily applying make up, all of this accompanied by blaring inoffensive music that was piped along some sort of speaker system that appeared to run throughout the whole city.
The people walking these streets gave us sidelong glances and shuffled away, occasional smirking or laughing in our direction, but always avoiding us.
They were uniformly beautiful and young. We saw no children or old people?
The buildings here stretched up to the dome, adorned with gleaming lights. High above flew hover cars, darting and buzzing between the skyscrapers and unerringly navigating around each other.
The city was a mystery to us, we turned to the balloon ladies and asked them if they knew a place that we could get some medical treatment for the spore infection?
The ladies led us to a medical dispensary. They appeared confident that they could treat the issue. Once we handed some of the remaining cosmetics over, they provided us with pills.
Their effect on Agent Pip was immediate, the rest of us saw no results.
Following this, the ladies led us back to their home somewhere in the city. We had to take the transporter as close as possible, then walk. In our state we were not permitted on public transport.
It was small apartment, high up in tower block, with scant room for all of us. The ladies went into their bedrooms. For them, it was the first time they had seen themselves in a full length mirror in a long time and they saw the full enormity of what the road hogs had done to them and they were not happy.
Meanwhile; exhausted from the last two days and feeling unwell, we slumped down on the floor and making the best of it, went to sleep.
By morning, it appeared that the medicine was taking effect and we were grateful to see that the spore infections were clearing up.
The ladies announced that they had been instructed to go the central dome to see 'Pilot Nimble', leader of The Domed City. They agreed to allow us to accompany them.
Once again we were denied entry to the public transport network and had to make our way to the central dome on foot.
Largest and most expansive of all the domes, the central dome was a sight to behold. As well as the 'usual' skyscrapers and hover cars, the sky was filled with hot air balloons entering and exiting the central dome.
Before we reached our destination, we went past a half built skyscraper. It seemed, when completed, it might be the tallest structure in the dome.
There was however a visible lack of activity or workers on the site, for some reason the construction had halted.
Then we saw a name running the length of a finished portion of the build, the name was ISAAC!
We knew what ISAAC had been communicating with a second settlement, I guess that this was that settlement!
Questions about ISAAC would have to wait. The balloon ladies took us to another skyscraper. Outside on either side of the entrance was a large screen, each one displayed looping footage of women piloting hot air balloons.
We were taken in and up to an office on the top floor. The view was spectacular. We stared down at a colossal maze of concrete and glass stretching up and out, filling the city. We watched as tiny specks made their way their way through the grey pathways.
Pilot Nimble was tall, blonde and beautiful. We were introduced to her and she thanked us for returning the three lost pilots.
Pilot Nimble turned to Betty, Veronica and Sabrina, looked them up and down told them they were too heavy to fly and should report for 'processing'.
Even though we already had an idea what it was, we asked what 'processing' involved?
Pilot explained that the three ladies would be reduced to their component elements; their fat and oil would be used to produce more make up! This was standard practice for any pilot no longer fit to fly or anyone who was 'too old' or 'unattractive'.
We had many questions, but we started with the ISAAC building. Pilot Nimble explained that instructions on the ISAAC building were provided by 'the giant dancing crab' and were received by flying over the crab and recording its drawings.
Recently however, there had been no instructions, so construction on the building had stopped.
We asked what was the building's function? Pilot Nimble did not know.
After this Pilot Nimble asked what reward we wanted for rescuing Betty, Veronica and Sabrina. We asked if we could learn to fly.
"This was not possible.", said Pilot Nimble. "Only women could learn to fly and Agent Pip 'was not the right sort'!". I watched Agent Pip with her tightened fist by her side turning white.
Instead Pilot Nimble agreed to provide us with a fully functional hot air balloon.
I got the feeling that Pilot Nimble did not want us to stay.
The balloon ladies along with us, returned to their apartment.
Whilst they prepared to be processed, we argued with them and tried to convince them not to report for processing.
They could try losing weight and return to piloting, but they said that it would take too long.
They could return to Haven, they would be safe there. But the ladies were not convinced. - They were hot air balloon pilots, what would they do in Haven?
The balloon ladies explained that they had only ever been pilots and there was nothing else for them. They explained how there society worked.
When children were born, they would be classified as 'attractive' or 'unattractive'.
Unattractive children were 'put to work' in factories and the like; until they were too old, then they would have to report for processing.
Attractive girls were trained as 'pilots'
Attractive boys were trained as 'escorts'.
They too would have to report for processing when they became too old.
We were aghast, but the balloon ladies had explained all this in a matter-of-fact way. To them it was entirely normal.
We had failed to convince the balloon ladies that there were other ways to live. They still wanted to report for processing.
In the meantime, a hot air balloon had been delivered to the apartment.
We strapped the bundle to our transporter, we were ready to leave. There was no reason to remain, but...
Before proceeding any further, we had a discussion about our next step. In the end we came to an agreement. The Domed City could not be allowed to continue in this manner.
It was time to instigate some regime change!
Returning to the apartment, we asked the ladies about Pilot Nimble and how she got to become the leader of The Domed City.
The best pilot in the city is given the honorific 'Pilot Nimble' and placed into the position of leadership, they informed us.
Next we asked them, if we could prove that Agent Pip was the better pilot, then she would become Pilot Nimble? The ladies seemed to think that this was the case.
Now we had a plan...
We returned to the central dome and returned to Pilot Nimble's office. She seemed surprised to see us.
Agent Pip stepped forward and announced that she was the best pilot in The Domed City. As proof of this, D4-VID displayed footage of our re-entry to Earth, including Agent Pip's piloting skills. Agent Pip demanded that she was allowed to become the new Pilot Nimble!
Pilot Nimble agreed that Agent Pip's piloting had indeed been impressive. But it was not enough to convince her to relinquish her position.
Agent Pip had held her tongue since the 'not good enough' statement, but this was too much for her!
Gripping her frying pan tightly, she judiciously applied it to Pilot Nimble's head and Pilot Nimble promptly fell unconscious!
We found controls to the city's public broadcasting system in the office and activated it. Agent Pip announced through the system that she was now Pilot Nimble and D4-VIDs broadcast the re-entry footage throughout all the domes to prove it.
It worked, they had accepted the changes. People here existed in a highly regimented hierarchy it seemed. It was a society built on cohesion and compliance. It simply did not occur to them to question anyone in authority.
We were in charge of the city, we could make the changes we needed. Agent Pip was now Pilot Nimble.
Word was sent to Haven and Home: Seek out The Domed City!
So it was that over the coming weeks, people from Haven and Home ventured the wastes and reached The Domed City.
There were those that stayed, understandably unwilling to abandon what they had worked so hard to create.
Even so, they knew that if the giant ants did finally become a threat, The Domed City would be there for them.
This vast and advanced settlement had room enough for everyone and would provide protection from the giant ants if they ever expanded this far.
Life would improve for all people, the folk of Haven and Home would be safe. there were ample supplies and resources here - with the technology to provide even more.
The practice of processing would be stopped and children would no longer work the factories, nor would people be judged for their attractiveness. We would teach them new skills and new ways to live.
The people of The Domed City accept these changes they accepted everything - passively.
We even came to an accord with The Chrome Bois, in exchange for access to the technology of The Domed City, they would help with it's protection if need be.
The Chrome Bois even talked of a 'suicide run' into the giant ant nest! Eager to test the limits of new cybernetics they would create.
We had walked in depths of the C.H.U.D. complex and flown beyond to the heights beyond Earth's grasp. We hand tangled with pig and ant and walked with monkey.
Now we could rest now and relax. Secure in the knowledge that we had delivered the people of Haven to safety.
A safety were some of the harsh realities of the wastes were assuaged and for now at least we could flourish.
So ended the missions of:
1st August 2020
Saturday evening is here, I'm logged on to Skype on my laptop and I'm sitting in my living room.
Time for Matakishi's Wasted Hack campaign
After our safe return from the road hog settlement with the three balloon ladies; we agreed to escort them back to their home, The 'Domed City'. In truth we were also curious about this city ourselves.
The ladies informed us that typically the journey to the city would take about four days by hot air balloon. They could not estimate how long the journey would take over land.
We loaded the transporter with extra supplies, water, camping equipment, and an awning, all for an extended journey. We also included an additional power cell for the transporter, 'just-in-case'.
The leaders of Haven had also requested that we take Derek 19-4-0 with us. They wanted Derek to record some scans of the city. Derek had to ride with us in the transporter. He couldn't take his transport module as it had to remain in Haven for some reason or other.
As a result of this, the available seating space was tighter than usual, it didn't help that the three balloon ladies were not what would be described as 'dainty'.
Fortuitously, both D4-VID and Cornelius did not take up much room
Although ultimately, we had to leave Bradley, the warhound and Crimson behind.
With us on this journey were Jasper, D4-VID, Cornelius and Derek. As well as Betty, Veronica and Sabrina.
The next morning, we set out on a south westerly heading. Our destination; The Domed City.
The day's travel through the bleak and relatively flat desert landscape was uneventful and we made reasonable time. Whilst the transporter wasn't the fastest of vehicles, it was never slowed by obstacles that we met. It's tracks were more than capable of traversing the wasteland here.
The day passed and we set up camp for the night.
A few hours into the darkness and we spotted a meteor shower in the inky sky above. It was a fantastic display of light and we observed the spectacle closely. During the shower, it occurred to us that this did not seem like a typical meteor shower; the meteors were all 'too close' to one another.
Before we had the chance discuss the significance, a flaming meteor streaked overhead, low in the sky. It flew by and struck the wasteland close by with such explosive force that it shook the ground.
We scrambled over to investigate: There was a smoking crater and at its centre was an object. It was clearly man-made and was part of some sort of machinery, it also had a piece of sheet metal attached to it.
The object was quite large, perhaps half the size of the transporter. We tried to have a closer inspection but it was emitting an immense amount of heat, forcing us to keep our distance.
By this time, the other meteors in the swarm had begun plummeting to the ground, their impacts as equally violent as this one.
Searching around, we found another crater. There was movement at this one! Was something emerging from the crash site?
Cautiously, we crept up until we acquired a clear view. The source of the movement were two giant scorpions! They were inspecting the meteor! We had not been spotted, the remains of a third giant scorpion were distracting them, this scorpion had been struck by the meteor and was clearly dead.
The meteor seemed similar to the first one we examined. Man-made machinery covered with a sheet of steel.
Remaining still, we observed the scorpions until they seemed satisfied and burrowed themselves into the sand close by.
Here too, we decided to keep our distance. Not wanting to provoke the scorpions
The meteors continued striking the ground until the swarm was entirely spent, which took until the small hours of the following morning.
We wondered where the swarm had come from? ISAAC's space station was the only answer we could think of. Perhaps the meteors were the station remains, falling to Earth after the explosion?
The dawn sun rose over a landscape now dotted with impact craters.
The craters had cooled enough so that we could finally get that closer look we wanted. Unfortunately, further inspection of the machinery did not provide us any greater understanding of it's function.
We pressed onwards.
Our slog through the seemingly endless and sun-blasted desert continued.
In the afternoon, we passed the remains of a city from the ancient world. It had been half consumed by the wasteland as well as the passage of time. Only the tallest buildings - once known as 'skyscrapers' were now visible. These skyscrapers soared upwards out of the desert like the jutting dead fingers of a colossal buried hand.
We stopped and discussed our next step.
There might be the opportunity to find something valuable or useful, but equally it might also prove hazardous or a waste of our time.
In the end we decided against it, not wanting to add to what might already be long journey.
Moving on; we asked the balloon ladies if they recognised the buildings. They called it 'The Petrified City', a dangerous place to be avoided. They did not know why, but they had been told 'no one had ever returned' from it.
We journeyed on, unhindered for the day. As the sun sank, we camped once more.
Whilst routinely checking our supplies, we discovered that our food supplies were lower than expected. The balloon ladies had been snacking, we had to keep an eye on them!
Later in the evening the balloon ladies approached and asked us about the bathing facilities, they weren't too happy with the response - none! Unused to overland travel, they were perhaps finding it harder going than expected.
As was our routine, we set watches for the night and settled down to sleep. During Max's watch, D4-VID warned him that there was something close to the horizon, several kilometres away.
Max needed his binoculars to see it: It was a light, Max saw it bob up and down for a time before speeding off, headed in the direction of Haven. It was too far and too dark to tell what the light was. Even D4-VID with its superior telescopic vision could not make out any details.
There was no way to determine if it represented a threat to Haven? We considered trying to follow it, but it was kilometres away and already had a sizeable lead over us before we give chase. We had to let it go.
Our expedition continued on its way and soon there was a break from the monotony! Up ahead in our path was a black dot on the horizon, as we continued it became a smear of green. A little closer and we could see it was wide stretch of vegetation.
There was lush foliage here and even trees. As we pulled up at the edge, between the trees we could see a large body of water past the vegetation.
Mindful of the burrowing scorpions we had seen earlier, we entered cautiously on foot, gripping our weapons as we approached the water.
Our caution was of course futile. The balloon ladies ran past and dived straight in, laughing and cheering as they did so.
Well, that's one way to check the toxicity I guess.
The water turned out to be a small lake, a thing of calm stillness, mirroring the sky above and ringed by a thick band of vegetation. The water was clean and potable and the greenery seemed safe.
We were indeed in an oasis in the middle of the wasteland.
The ladies played and frolicked in the water for a while. Meanwhile we refilled our water reserves and collected dates from the palm trees to fill out our missing supplies.
Once the chores were completed, even we felt relaxed in this verdant respite from the harsh landscape beyond.
It wasn't to last though. Our indulgence was shattered by the realisation that something was approaching from the west. At first it was a distant rumble but it soon became the fierce growl of a large engined vehicle closing fast.
A huge vehicle crested a hill and rolled into view. Shaped like a tall vertical slab, it was featureless except for its two tracks and a cab at the front.
It came to a halt next to the lake and out of the cab jumped a man. He immediately opened a panel in his vehicle, pulled out a large tube, dragged it to the water and threw it in.
Returning to the vehicle, he flicked some switches on a control panel and began pumping water out of the oasis.
He then stepped forward towards us and cheerfully introduced himself to us as 'Topper Henly, water merchant'.
He went on to explain that he mainly traded water to the 'Drystone Maggot Men' and 'The Chrome Bois', but traded other items as the opportunity presented itself.
He offered to sell us maggot meat, scorpion meat and even ant meat. We weren't buying though.
Algough giant ants interested us. We asked Topper where he had gotten the ant meat? He explained that his travels had taken him into The Petrified City which was where he had encountered them.
Topper seemed like a font of useful information about the region, we asked him about The Domed City. Topper had never heard of it.
We were slightly suspicious now? We asked if he had ever seen any hot air balloons? Topper had encountered them many times, they always dropped cosmetics down to him. He had no use for them. He had a whole box of them for sale if we were interested.
We had no use for cosmetics.
The three balloon ladies saw things differently.
They were desperate to replace the make-up they had lost in their escape from the road hogs and insisted we get the cosmetics for them.
Agent Pip grudgingly acquiesced and bought them the box.
We still had plenty of questions for Topper and he was happy to chat, it would be hours before his water tanks were filled.
Further south-west of here was 'Drystone', populated by the 'maggot men' who farmed the sand maggots for 'serum'. They were a religious lot, but quite reasonable unless angered...
We asked about serum. Topper said that it is used to make people 'stronger and better'. We asked if it was addictive and Topper had no idea as he never took it.
Next we asked about 'The Chrome Bois'. Topper told us that a day's travel to the west of Drystone was 'The Refinery', the home to The Chrome Bois who were a band of 'cyborgs'.
"What cyborgs like me?" Piped up Derek.
"No..." Said Topper. "Not like you... More 'weaponed up'...
Topper told us that The Chrome Bois were also reasonable to deal with and they always had a demand for serum.
Finally Topper warned us about 'rat-men', they infested the area.
We bid Topper farewell and left him to it and resumed our journey.
The third day came to an end and we camped again for the night.
The three ladies were content to coat their faces in herbal face packs and place cucumber slices over their eyes for the night.
Once again we assigned watches for the night. Once again D4-VID pointed out something to Max during his watch. D4-VID explained that it saw a line of figures in the north-west, shuffling across our view in a different direction and at least a kilometre away. Once again it was too dark see them.
We asked Derek if he could see them with his 'infrared' module? Derek apologised and said his infrared module was currently 'non functional'.
We stayed unmoving and watching, whoever they were, either they didn't spot us or had no interest in us. They continued on their way and melted into the night.
It was not too far away, we would investigate when it was light.
Morning came and we headed north-west to investigate what had occurred the night before.
Easily enough we found some evidence.
There were wheeled tracks and some sort of large clawed footprints? It was something we didn't recognise?
Looking further, we found giant sized rat droppings! Rat-men! Topper's warning came to mind.
It looked like rat-men were pulling carts or wagons of some kind. I wonder what they were carrying?
There was no point in pursuing rat-men, we instead continued heading south-west.
The day had ended as we encountered a dusty road, barely more than a trail that led us into a settlement. 'Drystone' stated a sign on the outskirts.
Rows of mud brick buildings ran along either side the road here as it threaded its way through the settlement. Wires hung from wooden poles, criss-crossing as they went to and from buildings. Light shone out of many of the buildings' windows, there was electricity here.
Signs marked out eateries and bars among the buildings in Drystone. From the far side of town the tall steeple of a large church rose above all else. Well, Topper had said they were of a religious type here
Talking of religion. The townsfolk were a curious sort, dressed entirely in black, wearing very wide brimmed hats which they would touch when they saw us. Even curiouser, was the complete absence of women here?
As we parked up, we noticed some windsail powered vehicles as well as couple of 'conventional' buggies. We weren't the only visitors in Drystone tonight.
We chose an eatery and entered. It was well lit and furnished with electrical fittings. The furniture had a roughly hewn look to it. A peculiar mix of the rustic and the high-tech.
It was quiet with few customers, we had our first look at some 'Chrome Bois'. There were two of them sitting at a table.
One was enormous, made bigger by the numerous cybernetic enhancements he was sporting. The other was missing his entire body from the waist down, it had been replaced by four spindly spider-like limbs.
Derek was very excited, he may have been in love!
As we ordered drinks, I spoke with the barmen who introduced himself as 'Tzadkiel'. I asked him what he knew of The Domed City?
Tzadkiel knew nothing about it. I asked what lay further south-west and he told me that there was only 'The Chasm', vast and impassable, he knew nothing else of it.
This was something new? Could it be that The Domed City was beyond this chasm?
Next we approached the Chrome Bois, their posture changed and they immediately turned their full attention on us with aggressive looks on their faces.
We assuaged their suspicions, explaining that we only wanted to talk. This seemed to satisfy them.
The large one, 'Alinco' did all the talking, his 'spider-legged companion - 'Birmabright' was mostly silent.
Alinco confirmed the existence of The Chasm, unsurprisingly they too had not heard of The Domed City.
We also queried them about serum and asked if it was addictive. Alinco was evasive and didn't confirm anything about serum.
Now that we had learned about The Chasm, we turned to the Balloon ladies and asked them about it?
They told us that they knew The Chasm as 'The Jungle Ditch'. They couldn't tell us any more about it. It was just something that they simply flew over when travelling to and from The Domed City.
Thanks ladies! Shame you couldn't mention this earlier!
The hour was becoming late, should we spend the night in Drystone? The town seemed safe, but there was... something... something... that made us uncomfortable.
We took a stroll around the high street and briefly observed the church seeing men coming and going, it all looked normal enough.
During our little walk, we had also noticed a large build walled off from the rest of the settlement. We had no idea what was going on there. Perhaps this is where they farmed maggots? Or where the women were?
It seemed suspicious, but ultimately investigating it did nothing to advance our cause, so we left it alone.
There was nothing to indicate any risk in Drystone, so we spent the night. The ladies opted to stay in a hotel, along with Agent Pip. They spent the night doing 'make-overs' and whatever occurred during a 'sleepover'?
Derek also spent the night in the hotel..
With them out of the way, there was plenty of room for the rest of us to sleep in the transporter.
All was well this morning, at least until we noticed that Derek was missing!
The Chrome Bois were not around either, had Derek gone of with them?
We went to the hotel and spoke with the manager, Derek was still in his room.
His bed was dishevelled and Derek was slick with sweat, he was writhing in agony.
Then we saw the cause of it.
Derek's right arm was gone, replaced with some sort of flash light. As he convulsed in his bed, a bright spotlight played over the interior of the room.
The manager said that he had seem this before. Derek's pain was being cause by the implant - the flash light.
If the implant was removed, so was the pain. There was no way for us to remove it, The Chrome Bois might know how to do, but the were a day's travel away. Otherwise Derek would need serum to alleviate the pain.
The manager said that he could supply some serum - at a price. We would later find out that the price was exorbitant.
I was unsure of this, we had no idea what the long term affect would be? Why did The Chrome Bois keep taking it?
It would have to be Derek's decision whether to take serum or not. He did not hesitate and instantly screamed for it.
After buying some serum, we had to hold Derek down in order to inject him. The effect was instantaneous and like plugging the plug on a sink, the pain drained away!
Now that Derek was stable, we demanded he tell us what he had done?
Derek explained that after we had all gone to bed, he went and spoke with The Chrome Bois. They agreed to sell Derek the implant and 'attach it' for him. It cost Derek all his credits and some of the food supplies from the transporter.
Once again we had lost food from the transporter! Derek insisted that the food he bartered away were 'his own rations'.
We had not yet decided where to go next, but now the decision had been made for us. The Refinery was our next destination. The Chrome Bois might have the knowledge to modify the transporter to cross The Chasm. They could tell also possibly tell us about Derek's situation.
The journey to The Refinery took most of the day.
The installation was huge. We could see it long before we arrived. It's smoke stacks looming over the horizon.
As the facility came into view, we could see it had towers and structures spread out all over. It sprawled over hectares, reminiscent of some sort out-of-control monstrous metal growth. Oil pipes ran ubiquitously throughout The Refinery, akin to a three dimensional maze. The Refinery was well lit, lights dangling everywhere lending them the illusion of fairy lights.
The power required to run of all this must have been tremendous. We could hear the strain of the generators working before we even reached The Refinery.
The flow of traffic also added to the din. There were raider buggies wildly roaring in and out at top speed, darting and skidding round the slower, heaver trade vehicles that rumbled into the settlement.
We even saw a certain 'slab-shaped' transporter parked up - Topper was here.
To the south was something we had not seen before: Ocean transports from the world before, 'oil tankers' and 'cargo ships' they were once called. The size of them was almost beyond imagination, they were half-buckled under their own weight and half-sunk into the sandy wastes.
Once they would have rode the oceans that flowed through here. Now these wind-blasted steel hulks, stained by rust with slowly peeling paint were colossal carcasses, the desert their cemetery.
The Refinery was also bustling with people, 'chrome bois' mostly - and 'chrome gels' too! Asking some questions we managed to find a vehicle workshop willing to look at modifying our transporter for flight.
The assessment took some time, the chromers came back us and told us it was possible, but it would demand a lot of work.
They would need to fit two sets of thrusters, one set for lift and the other for propulsion. The would have to place a fuel tank in the rear which meant removing half the seats. finally, an additional dashboard would need to be installed in the cab to house the extra flight controls, which also meant removing another seat. This would cost fifty seven thousand credits.
We asked them what the flight range would be. Three or four kilometres probably was the reply.
It was too costly, lost us half our seats and might not have the range required to cross The Chasm twice or even once! This was not a viable option.
Evening had drawn in on us by now and we had to devise an alternate approach. However we noticed that Derek seemed unwell again. The colour had drained from the parts of his face not concealed by his 'implants' and he was unsteady on his feet?
The chromers recognised what it was; withdrawal symptoms from serum.
They went to on to explain how their cyborg implants functioned.
All cyborg implants caused the 'user' constant excruciating agony. Serum was used to alleviate and manage that pain.
Serum itself was acutely addictive, withdrawal caused eventual death.
Even if the implant was removed from Derek, he would require a serum injection a day just to live.
This put us in a quandary: Derek needed a constant supply of serum, to our knowledge only Drystone produced serum. The Refinery traded with Drystone and had sizeable supplies of serum
Our discussion left us with only one reasonable course of action. Derek would have to stay and live at The Refinery.
I'm sure he would fit in here, Derek always had cybernetic aspirations. Where better than here to fulfil them?
Max bought ten days worth of serum and gave them to Derek.
In the morning he would be put to work in the refinery.
"This'll be different to Haven." Stated Derek. "In Haven, people sent me out into the wasteland on strange missions and seemed slightly surprised to see me when I returned?".
In honour of the new direction in his life, Derek changed his name to 'D-REKT'.
We made our goodbyes to D-REKT and left him with the chromers.
Next, we sought out Topper, he had travelled this region extensively and might have more knowledge about The Chasm.
The information he provided was not inspiring. "It's a dangerous place, easier to get into than out of and there are large things down there." Topper told us. He also agreed to help us find The Chasm.
With this on our minds, we retired for the night.
In the morning we found Topper. He was heading out back to Drystone and we should follow.
The day's journey passes without event as our little convoy navigates the wastes and in the late afternoon we had arrived back in Drystone along with Topper.
After restocking on our supplies, we spend the night at Drystone once more, again the night passed without incident.
Morning came and we left Drystone behind, still following Topper as he led us into the unknown.
In the mid-morning, Topper's transporter slowed to a halt and he jumped out of his cab and waved us over whilst pointing ahead to a man-made barrier of some kind that ran from left-to-right as far as the eye could see.
We went over to Topper, he explained that in front of us was a 'multi-lane road' from the world before.
Beyond the barrier was a relatively smooth black surface, although cracked and eroded by time. It was perhaps twenty metres wide and was fairly straight and stretched out to the horizon in both direction.
Topper pointed down one particular direction and told us the road would lead us to The Chasm.
Bidding farewell, we parted ways with Topper. Leaving him to his business again, we followed along for hours until the road simply ended.
We had arrived at The Chasm.
The road went as far a it could go and ceased right at the lip of the chasm. We tentatively stepped up to the edge and surveyed our surroundings.
The Chasm was vast. We had to strain make out the other side, an indistinct horizontal line close to the horizon and shrouded in the hazy distance. We estimated to reach the far side of the chasm was a journey of about three kilometres. The Chasm stretched left and right out of sight, there was no way to go round.
Below us, there was a descent of about one hundred metres to the chasm floor. It was carpeted in forest, a sea of treetops that rippled in the breeze like waves on a verdant ocean. It was impossible to see what lay beneath that canopy, however, flocks of birds circled above the trees.
There were also swarms of insects in buzzing in clouds so large that we could see them from up above. We could also feel the damp warm air rising from below, the humidity must have been considerable.
The chasm walls were vertical and would require no small amount of climbing to traverse.
The balloon ladies commented on how large the 'ditch' was. They seemed more at ease now, more acclimatised to overland travel. We continued looking around, hopeful for an alternative to crossing over.
Close to where the road had ended, there was some sort of tower. With a smooth exterior, it was clearly the product of the world before. There was a second tower on the far side of the chasm, barely visible without binoculars. It was of identical design to the tower on this side.
There was a way into the tower, but there were mushrooms growing around the base and the entrance was thick with them.
Not willing to take unnecessary risks, we donned out respirators before going in.
Mushrooms continued to grow on the inside and as we explored the first three floors, we found them sprouting through the skeletal remains and rib-cages of long dead people.
During this exploration I knocked a few mushrooms that burst response and showered me in a cloud of spores. Luckily the respirator kept them at bay, but my clothes were coated in spores.
Once we went past the third floor, the mushroom infestation ended. The remainder of the tower was free of them.
Finally we reached what could be described as the 'control room'. It was filled with control consoles, button panels, dials and read-outs. All of which were labelled in an unrecognisable language and was undecipherable and none of them appeared to function.
Searching the room, we did find one piece of useful information.
It was a diagram that showed a bridge running between the two towers and no ordinary bridge was it either. A bridge made of solid light! It must have been a wonder of the ancient world.
The diagram also seemed to indicate that both towers needed to be activated to create the bridge.
It required power to do this and it was obvious that there was currently no power running through the control room. Both towers would require power.
There had to be power generators close by for both towers.
We continued exploring, there was no further way up, perhaps there was a way down?
Returning to the ground level, we discovered that there was indeed a way downwards, into a basement.
But our path down was hindered by thick patches of mushrooms. We could not pass without disturbing at least some of the mushrooms. Even though we were wearing respirators, we were hesitant to push our luck.
We needed a way to clear the mushrooms? The answer was straightforward: 'with fire'!
We left the tower and I clean off my clothing.
Taking our flamethrower, Max entered the tower while the rest of stood back. Clearing the mushrooms was a balancing act, If Max used too much fire, it might damage whatever was in the basement.
We could hear the roar as Max burned the mushrooms away, we went down into the basement. None of the instrumentation had been damaged.
After examining the controls, we ascertained that they were extremely complex, possibly they were the controls we were looking for. These controls were beyond our understanding though. Even I, a scavenger could not decipher them.
It needed someone with a better knowledge of technology than us. One place immediately sprang to mind: The Refinery and The Chrome Bois, they were our best bet.
D4-VID filmed all of the controls so that we could show the footage to The Chrome Bois.
'Too bad Derek - or D-REKT wasn't here to light up the basement with his cybernetic flash light arm'!
From The Chasm, the journey to The Refinery took two uneventful days.
Once back in the busy settlement, we asked around for any Chromers who could help us. We were directed to 'Tombaga' and 'Elinvar'.
After they were shown D4-VID's footage, their curiosity was piqued and they seemed confident that they could help us.
Another two unremarkable days and we were back at The Chasm and the tower along with Tombaga and Elinvar in tow.
There wasn't enough room in the transporter for the two Chrome Bois, luckily they had there own buggy. It was dark when we returned, we would examine the controls in the following morning.
Today was the day!
Tombaga and Elinvar went into the basement and began their work.
They toiled for several hours until eventually... dials winked into life and panels lit up. A loud humming filled the air as generator powered up.
Since no bridge appeared, we felt it was safe to assume that the other tower was in a similar state to this one.
One down and one to go. Even though we had watched The Chrome Bois work, we still didn't understand enough about the generator to operate it ourselves.
It didn't matter though; Tombaga and Elinvar were eager to activate the other tower and see the results. They happily joined us as we prepared to cross The Chasm.
25th July 2020
It's Saturday night and I'm in the living room in front of my laptop and logged into Skype.
This means it's time for Matakishi's Wasted Hack campaign.
Our last foray into the wastes had provided us with a map courtesy of the road hogs. This map then led us to a crashed hot air balloon.
There were no bodies at this crash site, which meant the pilots had been taken away. We also found tyre tracks here, tyre tracks of the kind left by road hogs.
The Road Hogs must have created this map after capturing the hot air balloon pilots.
Our next objective was to rescue the pilots.
We had heard rumour of a road hog settlement further north and the map seemed to confirm this. We loaded up on walkie-talkies, ammunition, grenades and flamethrower. At dawn set out north in our transporter.
For a day we travelled into the wastelands, through rocky desert, over undulating dune and hill. Occasionally we spotted the distant telltale billowing dust trail of a road hog patrol, these dust trails became more frequent the further we travelled.
As the shadows were beginning to lengthen, something peculiar caught our eye in this flat, featureless landscape.
It was a strange, distinctive hill crowned by equally strange clouds. Changing direction, we headed for it.
Drawing closer, our nostrils were assailed by the most indescribable and horrendous odour. Gritting our teeth we pushed on.
Finally we saw that it was not a hill, it was a settlement!
From our spot, we could see ramshackle houses and makeshift shanties crammed together, a hotchpotch of materials and colours forced to coexist. Layers of buildings were built upon layers of other buildings, rising and rising towards the centre until ultimately culminating in the largest, highest buildings in the settlement that towered over all others.
There were numerous chimneys dotted throughout the settlement. In the dying sunlight we could see them all spewing out thick, black smoke and contributing to the noxious cloud hanging above.
This was wrapped up in a three metre high wall that ringed the settlement, with a 'brown' moat that surrounded it all.
After parking the transporter in a secluded spot, we scouted the outside of the settlement.
Located along the moat were small clusters of the 'attack pigs' that we had previously encountered accompanying the road hogs, they were generally eating out of the moat and ignored us.
The moat itself was filled with a brown viscous liquid, it was exactly what we thought it was. There were several pipes and channels that fed into the moat from through the wall. Our previous encounters with large bodies of toxic liquids left me with the certainty that something 'nasty' would be residing in that moat.
The moat widened and thinned in various spots, but was on average twenty metres wide. A distance not so easily traversed.
There was only one way into the settlement. A causeway that crossed the moat and led to an entrance guarded by several hogs.
There was no way to enter that way without attracting attention and attempting to fight our way through seemed unlikely to succeed.
We came up with a plan.
Our plan would require stealth and no small amount agility, this ruled out Bradley and the warhound, which we left guarding the transporter.
Since Aoxo was quite absent minded this week, he too stayed with the robots.
We were accompanied by Jasper, Crimson, D4-VID & Cornelius.
It was dark by now and there were few lights that shone out of the settlement considering its size.
We circled the moat until a suitable spot was found. A spot where the moat narrowed and there appeared to be no close by activity inside the wall.
After handing Cornelius a rope, I used my shift mutation to teleport him to the other side of the moat. With typical consummate ease, Cornelius scaled the wall and disappeared over the other side almost instantly.
A few moments later, he reappeared inside a building adjacent to the wall. He secured one end of the rope here and threw the other end out to us.
Unfortunately the rope landed short and in the moat. We tried stretching out for it, but none of us could reach.
Eventually Agent Pip tired of trying to avoid the moat and with a safety rope attached, waded in holding her nose.
As Agent Pip grabbed the rope, she felt something grabbing her!
Agent Pip gave out a yell and we ran back whilst gripping the rope. Agent Pip was pulled free of the disgusting moat.
But something had followed.
Covered in filth, a bubbling brown murky beast of some sort rose to the moat's surface, moving towards us.
I called it!
Seizing our weapons, we steeled ourselves for some truly disgusting combat: Firearms were too loud and out of the question, so melee it was.
Luck was with us however, once Agent Pip was clear, whatever that thing was, it retreated and sank back into the muck.
Now that we had the other end of Cornelius' rope, we found a secure spot, hammered in a piton and tied off the rope as taut as possible.
We had a way in and hopefully a way out.
With some effort we managed to climb the sticky-but-slick filth coated rope into the settlement.
From our vantage point, we could see into the settlement proper now.
Most of the streets were narrow and unlit, erratically zig-zagging their way between the tightly packed makeshift structures that passed off for buildings here.
Furthermore, they were littered with offal, dead sand maggots, other foul meat and body parts, human body parts. The smell was vile.
Whilst observing, we saw on occasion a hog come out grab something of the street and eat it!
During this observation, we heard cheering, whooping and engines revving, this loud commotion was coming from the direction of the gate.
Quietly we moved over the low rooftops to investigate. A road hog patrol had returned with a prize, six desert raider prisoners.
The prisoners are marched up the main avenue closer towards the centre of the settlement. We followed.
They were taken through caked layers of dried blood that surrounded a dilapidated shed and pushed inside. Moments later, agonising screams could be heard before being abruptly cut short.
Hogs emerged from the shed carrying piles of body parts which they flung into the street. The body parts rolled and tumbled downhill into the darkness.
From there, the three remaining prisoners were bought out of the shed, they are accompanied by some hogs carrying trays of body parts, no doubt 'the choicest cuts'! The entire group then continued up towards and into the largest building in the settlement.
On the way to this final largest building, we stopped to check some of the other larger buildings here. We found breeding pits with enormous sows and nurseries!
After this we approached the final building. We saw that the way in was guarded by some hogs, they were sitting about lazily, but were clearly alert.
We considered trying to silently 'take them out', but it was a risky proposition. We needed an alternate way in.
In the end, we turned to Cornelius and his climbing to help us once more. After again taking a rope with him, it was child's play for him to reach the roof. Cornelius secured the rope and dropped ii down to us, allowing us all to climb up.
From here, we could see that part of this building's roughly-made exterior had been made from what appeared to be human skin.
Breaking into the building here was easy. The roof opened into a very large room below. It was as tall as the building and circular, it looked to be some sort of gladiatorial arena, complete with viewing stands.
Now all we had to was lower the rope and climb down into the arena.
Other than single door out, there was nothing of interest in the empty arena. From appearances, it seemed like it was locked during fights, but right now it was open.
The door led to a corridor that ran between two rows of cells. Looking in the cells we found more raider prisoners, a dozen of them. No doubt they were forced to fight in the arena.
We asked the raiders if they had any knowledge of this building, but they knew only of the armoury at the end of the corridor.
We were unsure whether freeing the raiders was a wise move or not, we had no idea how they might behave. In the end we chose to free them, at the very least they might provide a distraction for the hogs.
There cells were locked, but this did not prove much of an obstacle to us.
They were easily freed, but before we could discuss our next step: We heard guards approaching!
We instructed the raiders to return to their cells and pretend the doors were still locked. Meanwhile, we retreated into the arena and out of sight.
From the other side of the door, we heard guards approach the cells. It was followed by a sniggering, then the shouting and screaming began as fighting broke out.
It was a short fight, already over by the time we got back in. There had been two hog guards and they had quickly been overwhelmed when ambushed by the twelve raider prisoners.
The hogs and been escorting a single raider, he was one of the three surviving prisoners who had been bought into this building.
We asked him what had happened to the two other prisoners? He said one of them had been killed and the other given over to the 'pig priests'!
He told us that the priests worshipped 'The Hogshead - king of the road hogs' and mortal enemy of 'The Overfiend'.
In the time we had been talking, the other prisoners been eating the hogs! Then they stormed the armoury, grabbed weapons and ran off. Well, I guess that they would be a distraction.
After leaving the cells and passing the armoury, we encountered a 'T-junction' and could go left or right.
From the left came the sounds of fighting. The raiders had encountered some hogs. We decided to leave them to it and instead went right.
The corridor ended in a door, we could see it was not locked.
Erring on the side of caution, we carefully listened at the door. It was silent, however we did smell something cooking!
The smell of cooking meat was something unusual. All of the offal, corpses and body parts we had seen throughout the settlement had been raw. We had seen hogs eating raw meat.
We looked into the room and it appeared to be a kitchen of sorts, not surprising considering the smell I guess. We entered and looked around, it seemed more or less like a typical kitchen.
There were three pots on the cooker, simmering and bubbling away. The aroma coming from them was quite 'nice'.
There was no way that whatever was in those pots was going to be 'nice'.
Curiosity got the better of Max and he lifted one of the lids...
Inside was some sort of stew, thick, creamy and yellowish. It may have seemed it quite innocuous, but none of us volunteered to taste it.
There was a single door opposite that led out of the kitchen. After also listening at this door we heard nothing - and smelled nothing either, other than the usual hideous smell of the settlement!
Upon cautiously entering this room, we were greeted with a surprising sight!
There were three couches in here and on each couch was a sleeping woman.
All three of these women were immensely overweight, their corpulence was greater than anything we had ever seen in anyone else.
Leaving the trio undisturbed, we gingerly searched the room. Along one wall was a small opening in the bottom corner that allowed a 'waste' channel to exit the room and into the street outside. There was also cutlery and crockery here, among these utensils we also spotted three funnels.
Were these women being force-fed?
There seemed to be no other choice but to wake one of these women.
Upon being woken, the woman looked shocked! She immediately pulled her blanket over her face, then reached for her make-up and applied it behind the blanket.
It was a couple of minutes before she was willing to talk to us. She introduced herself as 'Betty' and told us that it was important that she always looked her best.
Betty went on to explain that her two companions and herself had been flying a hot air balloon and distributing samples of beauty products when they were shot down by the road hogs.
We had encountered three different ladies in a hot air balloon some time ago who were doing the same. Betty added that there were many hot air balloon crews that flew out of 'Dome City' on various tasks that included observing the 'dancing crab'.
Dome City was Betty's home and seemingly a technologically advanced settlement. Something to investigate at a later date.
Betty went on to tell us about the 'hogshead'.
The 'hogshead' was a giant pig's head with a twisted and misshapen, rotted body. It was 'worshipped' by the 'red-robe wearing pig priests'.
The 'hogshead' would drool, spit and make strange noises, in turn these 'commands' would be 'interpreted' by the pig priests.
Betty informed us that the 'hogshead' wanted the three of them fattened up for 'a proper meal'!
This was not the best of places to linger for a conversation and it was time to move on. Betty awoke her two companions - who had to put make up on and they agreed to escape.
Betty, Veronica and Sabrina joined us.
Unfortunately, our escape was instantly cut short. None of the three ladies could fit through the doors out of their bedroom!
Due to the shoddy nature of the whole settlement, we easily managed to break the wall down and widen the doorway. We did the same with the door from the kitchen to the corridor.
We returned to the T-junction. There were no sounds coming from the left way, whatever had happened, it was now over.
The left corridor was the only remaining way for us to go, so left we went. Unsurprisingly, it ended in a door.
There were definite sounds of hog activity on the other side of the door when we listened. Very carefully, we opened the door a fraction and looked through.
It was a large room, our attention was drawn to the far side of the room. There was an exit out into the darkened street beyond, It was possibly the guarded way in we had seen earlier.
Looking elsewhere, we saw the 'hogshead'.
Hanging from the ceiling was an enormous pig's head, it was attached to something akin to a sand maggots body. The whole thing would twitch and wriggle erratically, the head burbled, drooled and uttered weird noises.
Then we saw the pig priests in their red robes close to the hogshead. Additionally, on the other side of the room we saw what appeared by their clothing to be military leaders or generals, as well as several guards.
Finally, the floor was littered with raider bodies, the former prisoners had been cut down in their battle with the hogs. Two of them had 'escaped' this fate and were hung up.
Quietly we closed the door, stepped back and took stock of our situation.
Fighting was not an option. There were a lot of hogs in that room and there was no way we could deal with all of them without raising a hue and cry.
There was no way that the three ladies could climb the rope to the roof back at the arena either.
In the end, we could only think of one option.
We returned to the bedroom. The waste channel here flowed through a hole in the wall and led to the outside. This would also be our way out.
Widening the sewer exit was a little more effort than widening the door, but it was not beyond us and soon enough, we were back in the settlement.
The empty streets were cloaked in darkness as we crept back down towards the settlement's wall.
We could not escape via the zipline, it would not bear the weight of the three ladies, nor could we get past the guards without being spotted
Luckily we came up with another plan.
Using my shift mutation, I could teleport at least two of the ladies out of the settlement to a spot I could see.
Conveniently, the main 'avenue' ran from the centre of the settlement in a somewhat straight line out to the perimeter. From the avenue I could just about see all the way out to the wasteland and beyond the moat.
Radioing Aoxo and the others, we instructed them to reposition the transporter close to a spot I could see.
I was then able to teleport all three ladies out to the transporter. My shift mutation had been exhausted in doing so and I would not be able to make use of it again for a day or so.
It was not important though. Without the three ladies, the rest of us easily slid out of the settlement on the zipline.
Returning to the transporter, we all squeezed aboard, turned south and headed home. We drove through the night, the journey back was uneventful and it was daybreak by the time we safely arrived back at haven.
18th July 2020
Saturday night is here again and I'm in the living room, in front of my laptop and logged into Skype.
It can only mean one thing: It's time for another instalment of Matakishi's Wasted Hack campaign.
The underground complex that had been populated by the chuds had been completely destroyed by the launch of Joe Capricorn's rocket.
There was only one last thing for us to explore. Beneath the headland was 'The Deep Cave'.
We had explored The Deep Cave a while ago. That exploration had ended in a wall of concrete that spanned the entirety of the only tunnel out of that cave.
Now armed with pickaxes, hammers and chisels and some slightly dodgy looking sticks of dynamite, we set about returning to the headland and to the concrete wall.
The launch of Joe's rocket had caused such extensive damage that even the headland had suffered. Part of the cliff top had collapsed, crashing down into the ocean below and creating a rocky, uneven pathway down to the cave.
Navigating this new way down allowed us to bring Bradley and the warhound with us.
Soon after this we found ourselves back at the concrete wall. Hefting our pickaxes, we got to work.
And hard work it was! Whilst digging we discovered that there was a grid of steel bars that reinforced the concrete. After a couple of hours we had managed to dig a small hole through the concrete wall, which it turned out was a metre thick.
Shining our flashlights through the hold, we could see that the beyond the wall was a chamber, large, unlit and clearly man made. Little else was visible through such a narrow opening.
In our estimation, it would take a further six hours of graft to widen the hole enough to grant us entry. Alternatively, we could use use dynamite to blow out a bigger hole.
One option was safer and the other option was quicker. Which one would we use..?
As Max was placing the dynamite charges, the rest us retreated to a safer distance. Max then set the fuse, lit it and made for cover.
The sound of the explosion was enormous and filled the tunnel with smoke and dust. After a while this settled and we could see that the explosion had not widened the hole, but had caused a small rock slide to cover part of the wall.
A second attempt could cause a total collapse of the tunnel, should we risk trying an explosion again? Our answer was to reach for more dynamite.
I set the second set of charges, lit the fuse and ran for cover. Once the dust from the second explosion cleared we went and had a look.
Success! The hole was now sufficiently large.
It was a tight fit crawling through the hole; dust motes swirled in the beams of our flash lights as they played across this unexplored chamber.
It was a room of massive proportions, tall with a shallow arched ceiling and with a raised area along one wall.
A wide ramp led up to this raised area and a large door was built in the wall here.
There was a single large object in this room with a tarpaulin draped over it. Other than that, the emptiness of this room seemed to amplify the sounds of our every move.
There was no clue as to what this room's function might have before.
Slipping the tarpaulin off revealed a vehicle.
It was a tracked transporter or van of some sort. There was a large windscreen at the front, solar panels on the roof and ramp at the back, there was a rack also attached to the rear. It was also painted bright yellow! We estimated that it could seat ten people.
Unfortunately, the transporter's battery was completely flat, it was going nowhere.
After this we went up to the large door. It was no typical door. We could see it needed to be raised up horizontally.
When we tried lifting it, small pebbles and stones rolled out from behind the door. Carefully we looked underneath the door, the passageway behind it was filled with rubble! Not wanting to disturb the rubble any further, we left the door alone.
Next, we tried the control panels and junction box. Like the transporter, they didn't work, there was no power here.
The power was out, the transporter didn't work and the we didn't want to open the only way out of the room. Our options were slim.
We tried the door again. Raising it a little bit further caused more rubble to come rolling out. It was just too risky to push it any more.
We took stock of our situation. The way through the door had to lead somewhere. Perhaps wherever it led to had another way into here? Perhaps there was another way in from the outside.
Crawling back through the concrete wall, we returned to the cliff top and started looking.
Our searching revealed a curious depression in the ground.
Aoxo theorised that this dip may have been caused by an underground landslide that had filled the tunnel behind the door.
We began digging.
Not long into this task, we heard the quiet drone of distant engines.
We stopped and scanned the horizon.
Two motorbikes and two cars were kicking up a billowing dust trail as they speeded directly towards.
We dropped our tools, grabbed our weapons and waited for them to bear down on us.
As the assailants drew closer, we were caught by surprise by what we saw!
Pig-men! Half human, half pig. The result of radioactive mutation a long time ago. We had heard the stories and the rumours of pig-men before this. We simply knew them as 'Road hogs'!
The riders reached us first and we opened up on them with our guns, putting some of them out of combat. The remainder dropped their bikes and rushed into melee. Meanwhile the two cars drew closer.
Some of us engaged the road hogs in melee and the others fired at the cars.
Max cut down a road hog, yelling, "I love the smell of bacon in the morning!".
We raked the leading car with gunfire, watching as bullet holes blossomed across the bodywork and windscreen. A few seconds later it lurched to a slow halt.
The second car swerved, made a wide 'U-turn' and fled the battle.
"Pigs really do fly!". Quipped Max, He was definitely on a roll.
Meanwhile, all of this was eagerly recorded by D4-VID.
With one car fleeing, it did not take too long to mop up the remaining road hogs.
A map was found when we searched the road hog that appeared to be their leader. It was fairly rudimentary and showed a number places of interest heading north along coast line.
Whilst searching the car we found it's battery was intact. Perhaps we could use it in the transporter?
We returned to digging down through the depression. It did lead to a corridor and a sloped one at that. More digging and we reached the door back to the transporter.
After hauling the battery down into the large underground room, it was installed into the transporter. It wasn't a perfect fix, but it would do for the time being.
Taking the transporter along with the road hog vehicles, we returned to Haven and to the lab complex. Haven had been making use of its generators and so would we.
It would take a while but once the transporter was fully charged, it should be continually topped up by the solar panels, allowing it to run almost indefinitely.
The next morning, looking at the map, there were markings that seemed to indicate two different giant ant trails leading to two different parts of the coast line. These were a priority for us to investigate.
Each trail ends in spot of yellow, likely to signify a beach.
We set out for the southernmost of the two giant ant trails.
Upon our arrival, we stopped short before we reached what was indeed a beach. After finding a vantage point we settled down, waited and watched.
After some time, giant ants did actually arrive at the beach and to absolutely no one's surprise a band of crab-men burst from the beach and attacked.
The fight was very one sided and it was soon apparent that crab-men were going to lose.
Once the fight was over the giant ants returned down the trail with the remains of the crab-men as their spoils of victory.
There was nothing else to be discovered here; so whilst giving the beach a wide berth we continued north.
Between here and the northern ant trail, was an area marked as 'BLOONS'. It probably meant 'balloons', something we had previously encountered and something to investigate on the way north.
The trip to the general area did not take too long and our searching soon bore fruit. It was the crash site of a hot air balloon that we had discovered.
The basket had been wrecked, but the actual balloon and the burner still looked in good condition and salvageable. We strapped them to the transporters rack.
We realised that there were no bodies here, looking closer we found the tracks of wheeled vehicles leading to and away from here.
Once again referring to the map: Next to the northern ant trail was another beach, but also the word 'HED' which we took to mean 'head'. What did HED mean? I guess we were going to find out.
There was no time to lose so we continued north.
A few hours later and it was afternoon when we arrived at the beach in question.
Curiously, the beach was surrounded by a perimeter of 'warning signs'. But further ahead we saw something stranger...
Beyond the warnings and almost entirely buried in the sand was what must have been a massive statue. Only from the neck up was this statue visible.
Constructed from some sort of faded, pale green material was a woman's head, adorned in a spiked headdress. Rising even higher was her outstretched right arm, grasping a flaming torch...
What had happened to the statue, who had done this?
I could only think: 'You maniacs. You blew it up!'
Before we had the chance to consider the matter further, sporadic gunfire rained down on us. Luckily the gunfire seemed fairly inaccurate and we scrambled out of range without receiving injury.
We could not see who had been firing at us: It wasn't long until sunset, so we waited for the cover of darkness before returning.
Cautiously we returned to the beach, but were forced to dive for cover once more as gunfire rang out again, ricocheting of the ground around us.
"Who are you?" Max shouted.
"Who are you? Came the reply.
"And why are you are you such a bad shot?" Added Agent Pip.
The shooting then stopped.
"We don't want to fight." Continued Agent Pip. "We just want to talk.".
The shooter seemed convinced by Agent Pip's sincerity and revealed himself. Again, it was something we weren't expecting...
There stood a chimpanzee wielding a rifle!
We were too dumbfounded to say anything.
"Hello, my name is Cornelius!" Said Cornelius.
We were still dumbfounded!
"It's hard to handle the recoil of a rifle when your opposable thumbs are so small." Cornelius added cheerfully.
After we had gathered our composure we had a conversation with Cornelius.
He asked us what kind of ape we were and we explained that we were 'hairless' apes.
Cornelius explained that there was a whole tribe of apes living and working in the nearby caves. For a long time they had been toiling on 'The Great Task' at the behest of 'The Great Leader' and now their work was nearly done.
Cornelius then asked us if we would like to see it and would be happy to take us there.
We agreed: Agen Pip, Aoxo, Max, D4-VID and I would go with Cornelius.
Cornelius led us past some more guards, into a cave and underground. We passed from the cave through an obviously manufactured doorway and along manufactured but unusually proportioned passageways. Then we were led down a long series of steps. They were strangely spaced - too closely positioned together and proving uncomfortable and almost disorientating to walk down, Cornelius seemed unaffected by all of this.
Eventually the steps came to an end and we found ourselves being led into a large cave. It was large enough to contain several buildings from the 'old world'. It was also filled with 'old world' technology.
The cave was full of bustling chimpanzees, busily ignoring us and working away. We scanned the room and at the far end was a piece of 'old world' technology that was once more something we were not expecting...
Reaching high above anything else in this cave was a missile, it looked ready to launch.
We saw the missile's designation code - '1554C'... ISSAC!
Our minds drifted back to something ISSAC had said to us.
“I have used my superior intellect to turn other human minds to my own purpose, creating both a means to reach my new world and a device to rid it of organic life.”
This was not good! It was at this moment that an ape of massive proportions entered the cave - 'The Great Leader'. The ape's head was covered with cybernetics and one robotic eye, he towered over his companions.
The ape pointed at us and roared. "Seize them!".
There must have been forty chimpanzees working here, all of these working chimpanzees immediately dropped their tools and turned to face us. Then as a mob they began advancing on our position.
It was a madhouse! A MADHOUSE!
Max lobbed a grenade and a flare in their general direction to distract them whilst we fled.
The strategy worked and we managed to escape back to the transporter. No apes had followed us back.
"That was lucky!" Remarked Cornelius.
No apes, except one had followed us!
"I didn't expect the great leader to do that?" Cornelius opined.
We questioned Cornelius some more about 'The Great Work. He told us that they had 'miners' workers down in 'the mines' who were mining uranium. This uranium was being loaded into the missile. When completed; the missile would be launched. It's explosion would 'eradicate all non ape life', leaving the world a safe place for apes.
Somehow, it did not seem to us that this missile would spare apes, it would - as ISSAC had said, rid the world of all organic life.
But the nuance of this point seemed lost on Cornelius.
The missile was scheduled to launch in two days. Cornelius assured us that as 'hairless apes', we would be fine.
ISSAC seemed to be cursing us from his fiery fate.
We asked Cornelius to tell us more about his tribe. It wasn't much bigger than the forty chimpanzees we had already seen. Cornelius told us his tribe were the descendants of chimpanzees that had been experimented on by humans a long time ago. Descendants of these human worked the mine.
Later in the night, we saw giant ants encroaching on the beach. Chimpanzees guards with rifles eventually managed to drive them away. The chimpanzees' accuracy may have been poor, but the giant ants were the size of a barn door so it wasn't too much if a disadvantage.
The hour drew late and Cornelius announced it was time to sleep. Once slumbering, he would not be roused.
It was midnight and all was calm, but we knew this would not last. Two days until the missile launch and we needed a plan.
We considered going back into the missile complex at night, since it appeared that they would all be sleeping, but ultimately decided against it.
Instead we chose to watch and wait until morning before making a decision.
In the morning there was another giant ant attack, it was even more aggressive this time. The apes managed to drive them off again, but not without sustaining a casualty or two themselves...
We considered matters.
The Great Leader's cybernetics were similar to Joe Capricorn's implants. We thought there was a good chance that ISSAC would be communicating to both using those implants.
We also knew that D4-VID was capable of transmitting information. When asked about it, D4-VID said that it knew the frequencies used by ISSAC and that it could also transmit on those frequencies.
We had the beginnings of a plan.
We would get D4-VID to mimic ISAAC and send 'new' instructions to The Great Leader.
There several options, but in the end, the new instructions said. "Stop building missile and go to a defensible position.".
As D4-VID transmitted the message, the torch on the statues arm flashed! Something in there must act as a relay.
Soon after this the ape guards returned into the underground complex.
We waited for an hour, then we returned to the complex. There were no guards and back in the cave, there were no workers either.
Turning to Cornelius for an answer, he explained that it was probable that all the apes had retreated into the mines for safety.
As we wondered what to do with the missile, we saw some giant ants come exploring through the passageway.
This was not good, there were no more guards outside.
The ants were now beginning to dismantle the 'old world' tech here and take it away.
So we got D4-VID to transmit a new instruction. "Attack the giant ants. Defend the missile. Assist the hairless apes.".
We waited and no apes appeared, the transmission had not worked or possibly not reached The Great Leader down in the mines.
It was decided to send Cornelius down to speak with The Great Leader.
There was a hand cranked elevator that we had to operate to lower Cornelius down into the mines.
We waited again and yet again, no apes appeared.
There was no other way for it, we had to send D4-VID down into the mine and into 'line-of-sight' of The Great Leader
D4-VID was accompanied by Agent Pip, as she was an inflected, the effects of the radiation might be less severe on her.
Once Agent Pip and D4-VID were in the mine, they travelled down various tunnels filled with sheltering chimpanzees. Eventually they found Cornelius, he was huddled close to The Great Leader.
Behind The Great Leader we could see something else, but not clearly, were they the 'miners' Cornelius had mentioned?
Now that D4-VID had line-of-sight on The Great Leader, it transmitted the new instructions again.
The effect was immediate. The Great Leader ordered the apes to attack and they ran out of the mines. They didn't even wait for the elevator, climbing the walls of the shaft instead.
Now that the apes were leaving the mines, Agent Pip got her first sight of the 'miners'. They were grotesquely deformed humans, mutated as the result of prolonged exposure to radiation. They had extra limbs and heads as well as other changes.
Agent Pip decided to try and help them escape the mine.
In the large cave, the rest of us had been watching the ants, their numbers steadily increasing.
Soon apes came streaming out of the mine shaft and charging towards the giant apes, the fight had begun.
Unfortunately, it was fairly clear that the apes were in a losing position. Even if we threw our weight behind them, the apes would lose. Now we had to find a way out without being drawn into the battle.
Having helped as many mutants escape the mine as she could, Agent Pip returned to us.
Quickly searching for a way out, we looked at the missile itself. It was surrounded by scaffolding and gantries to allow the uranium to be loaded.
We might be able to climb to the top of the missile and escape through the silo doors.
Max scaled the top of the missile and secured a rope, all of us clambered up - including Cornelius.
From this precarious spot we managed to open the silo doors. Max retrieved his rope and we looked at the silo opening. There was no way to get from missile through the silo opening.
This could have proved a serious stumbling block to us. However, I could use my shift mutation to teleport people to the surface, next to the missile.
I managed to teleport Agent Pip, Aoxo and Max out before my shift mutation gave out. It was enough.
The three of them used the rope to pull the rest of us to safety.
Here on the surface we were safe, there were no giant ants to be seen close by.
From safety of our vantage point we watched as the giant ants finished the battle. The apes were defeated, even The Great Leader had fallen. Had any apes survived? Or any mutants, we did not see any survivors.
I looked at Cornelius and wondered if there were other tribes elsewhere or whether he was the last of his kind?
After this we could only watch uselessly as the swarm of giant ants stripped the cave of all its 'old world' belongings. Eventually they even toppled the missile and took it! It was a shame we couldn't keep the it and re-purpose it to destroy the giant anthill.
At least it would no longer pose a threat. Had it been detonated, who knows just how much destruction it would have wrought upon the world. At the very least, Haven and Home would have been obliterated.
It was sparse consolation as we returned to Haven.
11th July 2020
Saturday evening has rolled around again and I'm in the living room, with my laptop and logged into Skype.
This means it's time for Matakishi's Wasted Hack campaign.
Location: Orbiting the Earth.
There had been an audible thud when the vessel had connected to the ring. A few moments later, we felt 'our weight' returning, or at least some of it as we still felt lighter than normal. Everything that had been floating sank down to the ground.
We approached the control panel at the head of the table and started trying to find a way into the room above.
Meanwhile, in that room above; Joe Capricorn was leaving, flanked by his six shape-changing automatons and heading for the vessel's passageway into the ring. He was very happy, briskly talking about acquiring ancient technology and that how we had arrived at his new home.
It was than that every screen in the vessel activated, all displaying the same strangely pixelated face. "Actually you're in my home." Said the face, pixels animating. The harsh voice continued loudly throughout the entire speaker system. “I thank you for bringing my chariot puny human, unfortunately for you, your usefulness to me has ended.”.
With that, automatons lunged for Joe and Max, Joe was caught completely unaware and was caught without so much as a squeak. Max had not yet adapted to the new environment and could not escape their robotic grasp. Both were taken prisoner.
I appeared in the room, just as Max was being carried off. I too had not yet adapted and failed to stop the automaton exiting into the ring.
Moments later I was joined by my companions and we gave chase.
We had entered the ring; a smooth white corridor that curved into the unknown in both directions.
Max was struggling unsuccessfully against his implacable captor. Despite having no effect, this was causing the automaton to lag behind it's five associates.
Launching ourselves at the automaton, we noticed a strange robot in an alcove along the ring's inner wall. It was adorned with the slogan 'Wot-UC-Nuz' and had a camera for a head?
Our attacks against the automaton were not proving too successful. It was repairing most of our damage and hurting us with its sonic howl attack.
Even though Max was caught in it's unyielding grip, he took matters into his own hands. Hands which he used to shove a grenade into the automatons. 'mouth'. Luckily the grenade went in, a moment later the robot's body expanded briefly before contracting.
Pressing the attack, we managed to destroyed it.
A tinny sounding applause sound effect came from a speaker hidden somewhere on the camerabot? It had moved out of the alcove to film our fight.
There was no time to investigate. The automatons carrying Joe had disappeared from view and we rushed after them, the camerabot following.
Our pursuit did not last long, only a few seconds actually. Coming towards us from round the curving corridor were six of the automatons, heading directly towards us.
None of us fancied our odds against all six. We needed an alternative strategy. Looking around, we noticed the camerabot had retreated back to the alcove and was quickly clambering into an air vent. There seemed no other choice, so we followed.
This took us into a network of shafts. Growling through the ring's speaker system, the voice from earlier said. “I am hunting you puny humans, you cannot escape.”.
Glancing back, despite the threats, there were no obvious signs of pursuit. Those automatons looked too bulky to fit.
“Even now, my new body is being made ready to receive me.”. Continued the voice.
“Puny humans, my first act in my new body will be to throw you into an airlock and from there eject you into space. Fear not, soon all your species will follow you into oblivion and I will rule your world free from organic corruption.”. And so it went.
Eventually, the camerabot led us to a small room created by the convergence of several shafts. The camerabot sat down, plugging itself into a power terminal and began recharging. It also began editing footage of our fight with the robot.
The camerabot turned its lens towards us and spoke! It introduced itself as 'D4-VID'. Or 'David' in the ancient language.
We entered into a long conversation with D4-VID.
D4-VID explained that it had been instructed to come to this 'space station', record everything it encountered, edit it and transmit it out. Consequently D4-VID had been forced to repeatedly overwrite its own memory. D4-VID had no idea how long it had been doing this for, nor the reason why. D4-VID did not know the function of the station either.
D4-VID did know about the voice though: The voice belonged to 'ISAAC'.
ISAAC had once been the station's main computer - a 'Newton 500'. Somehow it had evolved or rewritten its code to become ISAAC.
Despite not knowing the details, D4-VID told us that ISAAC had been scheming for a long time.
Recently ISAAC had been in communication with people on eath, D4-VID had footage to show us:
There is film of Joe Capricorn building his rocket with the help of the six suit golems who then camouflaged the mostly finished rocket by building the chalk stack. This was a while ago, recent images are not available except for the recent launch.
There is film of the giant crab god dancing on the beach and the balloon people overflying the strangely technical drawings he leaves behind before the tide washes his canvas clean again.
D4-VID has old blurred film of people building another rocket on a different beach.
There was a lot to process here.
Thanks to ISAAC's rantings, we knew that it posed a threat to 'organics'. ISAAC had referred to the vessel as 'his chariot'. This meant that he needed it to return to Earth. Without the vessel, ISAAC would be trapped on this space station.
We also knew that ISAAC was acquiring a new body, this implied that without a body, ISAAC would be trapped here.
ISAAC had to be stopped. Should we try and ambush it when it went to the vessel? Or should try and stop ISAAC from being transferred into its new body?
Ultimately we decided on the second option.
Meanwhile, ISAAC continued ranting, blah, blah, blah! We pretty much ignored whatever was said, however D4-VID did record the rant for prosperity.
“You cannot stop me, already I have prepared my new, secure home on the planet below and unwittingly your own kind has built it for me.”
Next; we needed a way to reach ISAAC and prevent the body transfer. D4-VID knew the location of the station's control room and where the Newton 500 computer was located. It would be hard to get past the 'suit-golems'.
D4-VID informed us that we could use the suits ourselves? We asked D4-VID to elaborate.
They were environmental suits, originally designed to be used by humans. ISAAC had modified and reprogrammed the suits to become 'suit-golems'.
This was useful information. The suits might allow us to disguise ourselves as suits-golems, they would also allow us to survive prolonged exposure to a vacuum.
D4-VID added that the suits could survive re-entry to Earth. We asked D4-VID to take us to some unmodified suits, we had the beginnings of a plan...
D4-VID led us to a room containing six unmodified suits, they were completely sealed and there was no way to open then. D4-VID explained that the suits were voice controlled, but designed to only respond to human voices.
After a couple of tries, we got a suit to open. Max stepped into the suit and it sealed around him. He was completely enveloped by the suit, including all of his gear and weapons.
I entered another suit. After the suit had sealed and finished 'interfacing' with my body, it felt more like a second skin than a suit. My vision was completely unhindered and my movements were quite natural. Colourful writing in the ancient language seemingly floated in the air as it crawled past my eyes, an array of changing symbols appeared all over my vision.
I looked at my hands, they were covered in the suits's 'mittens'. Previously, we had seen the suit-golems create weapons out of the mittens. I tried commanding the suit to replicate this, but to no success.This could be a problem, we had no access to our equipment.
Everyone else took a suit. D4-VID had to squeeze into a suit with Jasper, which bulged strangely when closed. Fortunately, D4-VID was a slim camerabot.
Finally, we set up a rudimentary communication network between all the suits.
We were as ready as could be.
From here, D4-VID took us to the control room.
The control room was filled with dials, screens and readouts, displaying undecipherable text and data. Dotted across the room were unused control panels with computer terminals. There were numerous suit-golems throughout the room. Several of them were crowded around a central table, concentrating on whatever was on it.
Unnoticed, we entered the room, giving us a view of the central table. The sight that met us was unusual to say the least.
Laid out there was the body of Joe Capricorn, sans his head! A series of wires and cables were instead protruding out of his neck.
Looking around we spotted Joe's head in a jar! Suspended in a liquid and gently bobbing up and down as he looked around!
Once again ISAAC took to the stations speaker system to rant loudly. “I have used my superior intellect to turn other human minds to my own purpose, creating both a means to reach my new world and a device to rid it of organic life.”.
Did ISAAC know that we were in the control room with him?
The answer was no, we were still unnoticed and this afforded us the opportunity to further observe the situation.
Along one wall was an array of screens and readouts, next to them was a large computer bank marked 'Newton 500'. It's front casing was open and several suit-golems gathered were around it and working on something.
After a little while, the suit-golems extracted some sort of box from the computer. When they severed the final cable attaching the box to the computer bank, the speaker system was activated again.
This time however, it was not ISAAC's voice that we heard. Instead a women's voice blared out loudly. "Self destruction has been triggered. Self destruct will occur in two hours!".
This changed matters, we were on a timetable now.
Carefully stepping forward, we got a look at was in this box. It was organic matter, ISAAC's brain was actually a brain of sorts!
The suit-golems were taking it over to Joe's body, soon ISAAC would have a body.
After making some on-the-fly changes, our plan was ready. I exited the control room and quickly headed to the closest 'airlock'.
Max stayed in the control room, waiting for his moment. The suit-golems were caught off guard as Max grabbed the box and ran! It took their programming precious moments of computation to grasp our cunning plan.
As Max dashed for the airlock, Aoxo and Agent Pip provided interference, keeping the suit golems away.
Meanwhile, I had to learn how to operate the airlock whilst wearing these 'mittens'. I managed to get the inner door open by the time the others came running round the ring.
Whilst carrying ISAAC's brain, we crammed into the airlock and shut the inner door. Then we opened the outer door without venting the atmosphere. The explosive decompressions launched us away from the station and towards Earth!
It was impossible to calculate our velocity, but soon the blue-green Earth filled our entire view.
Our 'trip' went from 'smooth' to 'rough' as we plummeted through the upper layers of Earth's atmosphere. We knew re-entry had began, even though our suits insulated us from the heat.
When I said 'insulated us'; this did not apply to all of us.
The text that usually streamed calmly across our vision in these suits had become a deluge of red, flashing gibberish for Aoxo. He didn't know what it meant, but he did know his suit was failing. Jasper's suit was also failing and it was only going to get worse.
The rest of us grouped up and repositioned ourselves beneath Aoxo and Jasper, who were huddling together. Hopefully this would provide some sort of extra heat shield that would protect them.
As we watched ISAAC was vaporised by the fiery conflagration of our descent, I wondered what its final words might have been. We would never know.
I also wondered what fate would await Joe's head-in-a-jar back on the station.
Soon enough we splashed down in the ocean, not too far from where the rocket had launched. The suits absorbed the impact and we buoyantly floated to the surface, the suits now functioned as flotation devices.
Aoxo had been burnt by the re-entry and Jasper was unresponsive. Swiftly we swam back to what remained of the stack without mishap.
Discarding our now ruined suits, we checked on Jasper, he had been hurt and was unconscious, but there appeared to be no lasting effects, D4-VID was also unharmed. After Jasper regained consciousness, we returned to the underground complex.
Bradley and the warhound had been left directly below the shaft that channelled the rocket's exhaust flames and we were concerned for their safety.
There was no sign of them, not even a pile of melted slag remained! We continued our search.
On the bright side, it looked as if the the exhaust flames had dealt with the chud problem and any other problem in the complex might have once and for all. Talk about scorched earth!
Eventually we found Bradley and the warhound, they were miraculously unharmed.
Luckily Bradley's cleaning mode had made him travel out far seeking cleaning materials and luckily the warhound's guard protocol made him escort Bradley.
Now with with Bradley and the warhound in tow, we returned to Haven.
4th July 2020
Sitting in my living room on a Saturday evening and logged into Skype on my laptop can only mean one thing.
Time for Matakishi's Wasted Hack campaign.
After leaving the chud infested underground complex, we had returned to Home and spent some time resting in their lofty settlement amongst ruined buildings of the ancient city.
After leaving the complex, we had decided to return and explore the vertical with the music.
Before setting out from Home, we stocked up on ladders, rope, pitons, block and tackle etc. Fortunately, the people here had all the equipment we required in abundance, since climbing was part of life for them.
The return journey was unremarkable. Soon we found ourselves in the circular room strewn with all the chud corpses. Bradley switched to 'domestic' mode and began sweeping away all of the blood, gore and corpses!
We used the ladder we had acquired from Home to reach the bottom of the vertical shaft. Unfortunately, upon closer inspection we discovered the shaft was constructed of steel. Our pitons and climbing gear would mostly be useless here.
Max stared up and could just about make out a grill of some sort that covered the entirety of the shaft. The grill was about twenty metres up into the shaft.
Max took a grappling hook and rope and with a mighty throw he sent the grappling hook flying up the shaft. Since it did not come plummeting back down, it must have caught on the grill.
Max yanked on the rope a couple of times, still the grappling hook did not fall, so he began climbing.
The climb was easy, although when Max reached the grip he saw that the grappling hook was mere millimetres from coming loose! After securing the rope, Max looked around.
Beyond the grill the vertical shaft continued up, but narrowed considerably as it did so. In the shaft's wall was a door with a wheel lock.
Max spun it open. The hatch led to another vertical shaft. The rest of us climbed up after Max. Unfortunately neither of the robots could climb up. The grappling hook would not bear their weight.
We left Bradley cleaning and the warhound in 'guard' mode as we entered the next chamber.
The hatch had opened on to a metal platform that was attached to the wall in the lower part of a shaft and a set of metal steps zig-zagged their way to the top of the shaft. In the ceiling was a hatch with another wheel lock.
Opening this lock proved harder and required some effort. As we spun the wheel, we could 'feel' something hindering the other side of the wheel lock.
Eventually the hatch was opened and we could climb up. The chamber we had entered was large and about one third of it was filled with piled up crates. In fact it was one of these crates that had been laying on the hatch, making it so hard to open.
This chamber also contained a 'exo-suit' that was configured for loading work. We examined the exo-suit and found it had no power and required charging. Looking round further, we discovered a light switch and flicked it on. The lights hummed and flickered into life. It was a good sign, there was power here.
Going back to a crate, there was a short spray of air as we broke its airtight seal. Inside were packets of freeze-dried and vacuum sealed food. Once this chamber would have been filled with crates and we wondered how long someone had been living here?
Finally there was a large door out of here, large enough to allow the exo-suit to pass through it. The food crates were quite heavy and most likely the suit was used to move them onward.
Passing through the large doors took us into tall chamber.
To one side was a vertical tube that ran up the wall from the ground and into an area above. At the bottom was a door. We investigated and the door opened into an small elevator car. The tube was a small service elevator, too small for a person, but around the right size for one of those food crates.
There was a ladder that went upwards along another wall.
Finally, there were two humanoid figures, they looked quite bulky and strangely featureless. Their heads were smooth and faceless, their hands had no fingers and looked akin to mittens. Perhaps they were some sort of environmental suits?
The music was louder here.
As we entered the room, the two figures stirred. Their heads began to change shape! They each gained a pair of glowing eyes. Their hands reconfigured themselves into hammers.
Our intent was to see if we could communicate with them, but before we could speak, they began to howl. The noise was immense, it reverberated around the room and was agonising. We could feel actual waves of sound pummelling our bodies and causing actual harm! They advanced on us.
We counter attacked. After laying into the automatons, their bodies began to reconfigure and reshape themselves to repair the damage they had suffered.
There was only one thing for it. Our attacks had to be concentrated on one automaton at a time, we had to inflict damage quicker than it could be repaired.
It worked! We managed to overwhelm and destroy first one and then the other automaton.
All that was left of them was a couple of piles of some sort of inert metallic material?
From here, there was only one way onward, up the ladder.
We emerged into another circular room half in light and half in dark. The music was loudest here.
In the 'light' half of the room was a row of windows that gave us a panoramic view of the sunlit landscape outside.
Tall chalky cliffs stretching along a coastline and ending in a headland filled one side of this view. It was a view of a landscape that was familiar to us, one that we had crossed several times to get out to the stacks.
On the other side of the view we could distinctly see the 'Boat Raider Islands' out to sea. We could even see some boat raider activity, our vantage point was quite high. It was then that we established that we were inside one of the stacks, about halfway up by our estimations.
But how was it that we were able to look out? We had not seen windows on any of the stacks previously?
The 'dark' half of the room was artificially lit and contained numerous pieces of furniture. An automated beverage dispenser, a table and chairs, cutlery, crockery and so on.
We saw buttons and panels and items covered in writing that we did not recognise, from the world before no doubt.
The table also contained the source of the music: A square box of sorts, adorned with various buttons, sitting on the top of the box was a thin black disc that span endlessly. Additionally, there appeared to be pile of black discs stored in card folders on the table. The same indecipherable writing appeared on the card folders, along with strange illustrations.
It was unrecognisable to us. Again; a technology from the world before no doubt.
Searching the room revealed nothing else of interest here. There was only one other way out of the room, a staircase that rose up through the ceiling.
Moving towards the stairs triggered some sort of trap.
A panel rapidly slid across the ceiling with a hiss, closing off the stairs. The windows went black and the lights winked out.
A speaker crackled to life and a harsh voice spat out. "Intruders are not welcome in the Capricorn house.". Curiously, the voice spoke a language we understood.
With that, gas began to spill out of the air vents.
There was no time to lose! We donned the respirators we had acquired from the laboratory previously. We now had some breathing space. The gas was lighter than air and was filling the room from the ceiling downwards.
Further inspection revealed small cameras spying on us. There was somebody close by! Unfortunately, it did not reveal anything helpful.
There seemed no way to stop the gas and our respirators would not last forever. Nor did there seem any way to continue. We were stymied and our only option would be to retreat back down the ladder.
Then we noticed the service elevator shaft, it continued upwards and went into another room above.
Max pulled the panel open. The elevator car was still below us and elevator cables ran the length of the shaft. Whilst it was small, the shaft would allow someone to climb the elevator cables.
Max worked his way up to the next panel, forced it open in a crawled into what on first glance appeared to be a kitchen.
Max then realised he was being watched. He stared at a robot that was staring back at him. It was quite small with a rotund body, thin flexible arms, stalks for legs and wheels for feet. On it hung a sign that read 'Glad 2 srv U'. "May I help you?". It inquired with it's raspy modulated voice.
Max quickly tied off a rope, allowing us to follow.
With the panel shut, the gas was sealed away, we turned to the robot and asked the robot where we were?
"In the kitchen of course.", came the reply.
The robot was some sort of waiter/chef, it then decided to serve us sherry and vol-au-vents.
Next we asked the robot who else was here? It replied that it served 'Joe Capricorn, renaissance man of the future!.
Joe Capricorn, renaissance man of the future..?
Anyway! During our conversation with Glad 2 srv U we noticed a small orange box under one of its arms. The had something written on it. "Joe Capricorn's obedience box.".
We discussed removing the box, I was concerned that if we removed it, the robot might become homicidal and try to kill us all. In the end however, it was agreed to remove the box.
It didn't much effort for me to disconnect the box.
"That's a relief." Said Glad 2 srv U and then "I'm going to kill Mr Capricorn!" as it reached for the powered carving-knife before scooting out of the room.
We followed and entered another room just behind Glad 2 srv U. The room was dominated by a large, well polished dining table and set of chairs, the room was also decorated strange vases, heavy glass ashtrays and lava lamps.
At the far end of the table was an old man. He was bald and had a robotic eye. He wore a double breasted lab coat and was also wearing roller skates.
He welcomed us, introducing himelf as Joe Capricorn and invited us to sit down at the table.
Max took the invitation and sat down, but seeing the control panel by Joe's chair made me hesitant and suspicious. What did those buttons do? Agent Pip and and Aoxo agreed with me and we stayed standing
I noticed that many of the weird items in this room had more of the ancient language written on them. I asked Joe about the language. He said the language came from 'The Ukraine' a place 'created by giant birds'!
Then Joe told Glad 2 srv U to serve dinner.
"Shall I carve?" Asked Glad 2 srv U.
"Of course." Replied Joe.
Brandishing the electric carving-knife, Glad 2 srv U charged us shouting. "ALL FLESH MUST BE EATEN!".
There was a loud bang and Glad 2 srv U's rotund robotic head exploded into a shower of shattered circuitry.
We turned to see Joe holstering his pistol away and sitting down. "Well, that's that." He said.
"Perhaps we should move on to cognac and cigars?". Joe asked.
We weren't interested in his quite frankly be called 'suspect hospitality'. In response, Joe Capricorn jabbed a button on his console!
Suddenly, the room began to tremble and then shake uncontrollability. We all felt our weight quadruple! Since Max was sitting down, he was merely pinned to his chair, the rest of us weren't so lucky. We were practically crushed under own weight and we collapsed to the floor. It was hard enough to breathe, moving might be impossible.
OK, perhaps it wasn't exactly as I called it!
Joe Capricorn pressed another button on his control panel. A hole opened in the ceiling and a transparent tube descended over Joe. When it reached the floor, Joe was 'sucked' up, the tube receded and the hole closed.
The weight holding us down was incredible and strong enough to hurt us. Even so, Max managed to crawl over to Joe's chair and sit in it. He started pressing buttons on the control panel until he too was sucked up the tube.
Max found himself in another room, sitting on some sort of sofa. Across the room was Joe and four robots of the type we encountered earlier.
There was a control console in front of Max, he tried randomly stabbing at all the buttons, but nothing happened.
Joe laughed. "I've disconnected that console." He said.
Max looked around, through a window he saw clouds which were moving past at a tremendous speed and the sky looked strange. Soon the blue of day melted into the inky blackness of night and Max's view was dominated by a night sky full of twinkling stars. Except for one star, a star which was a instead a distinct bright spot in the sky.
Thirty minutes or so passed, then everything stopped shaking and the strangest event occurred. We had been pinned down by some great weight upon us, but now all weight had inexplicably disappeared, even our own. We began floating and spinning across room, as did anything not clamped down.
It was not a pleasant experience, some of party vomited and that too floated through the air in a peculiar bubble shape!
From the other room, Max watched the sky rotate dizzyingly until the bright spot was centred in the window. Then the white spot began to grow in size. The dot gleamed brilliantly and expanded until he could see that it was actually a ring. It continued expanding until it was so massive as to completely fill his view.
Max realised that we had left the stack and the coastline far behind, somehow we had entered a vessel that had now travelled a great distance and our destination was this structure.
Once again the speakers activated and Joe Capricorn said. "Welcome to my odyssey.".
There was a distinct thud and a jolt as the vessel connected with the ring.
27th June 2020.
Saturday evening is here and I'm logged into Skype on my laptop, sitting in my living room and ready to play in Matakishi's Wasted Hack campaign.
Our intention was to go back to the underground complex and continuing exploring.
We stocked up on flash lights, flares, ammo, grenades and more flash lights.
Derek reconfigured to transportation mode and drove us to the headland.
Leaving the Warhound and Bradley at the top of the cliffs, we proceeded down the vertical air shaft and descended into the complex.
Once again, we went into the north pipe and into the circular room. As we were brandishing more light, the humanoids could not surround us and retreated out of the other exit from the room.
Now that there was no immediate threat, we had the opportunity to examine this chamber. As well as the other exit, there was a vertical shaft in the centre of the ceiling and much like shaft that we used to enter the complex. We could faintly hear music drifting from the shaft?
The ceiling in this chamber was about 10 metres up and infuriatingly, we had no way to reach the shaft.
There was only one way to go and that was through the other exit. This passageway led us to another chamber. As we entered, our light drove the humanoids away.
There was nothing in this chamber but multiple exits. Some could only be crawled down, many were too small for even that and one exit alone could be walked down.
None of us fancied encountering any of the humanoids whilst crawling, so there was really only one choice.
Walking along the tunnel, it went through a couple of corners before branching off into more multiple routes. There was no obvious way, but after some examination we found tracks that only went one way.
We followed this 'main' route and eventually it ended in a manmade wall, however a portion of the wall had been pushed in, granting us access to the room beyond.
This room contained two upturned empty oil barrels, next them were some sticks. No doubt they served as makeshift drums. Despite Max's eagerness, we did not beat these drums.
There were two ways out of this room, a way down and a way up.
It was clearly visible that a layer of a substance similar to grease was coating the path along the downward route.
So we decided to take the upward route.
The tunnel was long, parts of it had appeared to collapse and we were forced to clamber over several obstacles. The tunnel rose for some thirty to forty metres and ran for several kilometres before it ended in the blazing golden glow of what could only be sunlight.
Upon reaching the tunnel's end, it opened up into a wide blue sky and a lush jungle vista. The tunnel had bought us back to the mainland.
Leaving the tunnel behind, we noted a large concentration of humanoid tracks here. Clearly they made frequent use of this tunnel. They despised the light and would only make use of the tunnel at night. It was just before midday, so we had eight or so hours of daylight left.
Continuing on out into the jungle, we saw the barest remains of buildings from the world before. Their height could be measured in centimetres and they were mostly covered in verdant foliage.
The further we went, the more frequent the ruins became. Not only that, the bigger and taller they became.
Amongst these taller buildings we encountered patches of freshly cultivated land and planted crops. There must be people living here? But we had seen none of them?
Then, we caught a whiff of smoke and fire on the breeze, a campfire perhaps?
Zoning in on the origin of the smell, we did indeed find a campfire amongst the tallest buildings. It had been hastily extinguished, embers still glowed and small flames still licked the fireplace.
Whoever they were, they were close and had to be watching us.
Seeing no harm in trying: We shouted out. "Hello. We come in peace.".
There was a long pause before the reply came. "Who are you? Why are you here?".
We explained that we came from Haven, a nearby settlement and that we were exploring the underground complex and looking to deal with the threat from the strange humanoids that appeared to inhabit it.
Someone appeared from a building. Dressed in a rudimentary loincloth and vest, he was armed with a spear and a bow. When he spoke, his voice seemed less guarded and he introduced himself as 'Zac Doolittle'. Zac explained that Doolittle was a word from the world before and meant 'talks with animals'.
Agent Pip was sceptical of this; so Zac gave a whistle and a giant alsatian, far larger than any we had ever seen before. Zac said, "Hello." to the dog who replied, "Hello!".
"This is Don." Said Zac, pointing at the alsatian! Don chose not to talk to us.
Once Zac realised that we posed no threat, he invited us to meet the leaders of the settlement.
We agreed and were taken up the tallest buildings, this was where they had made their homes. There were walkways the crisscrossed the gaps between different buildings, allowing the entire settlement to reside up here.
We conversed at length with the leaders and discovered that they were frequently raided by the humanoids who came and tried to kidnap people to eat.
The leaders called the humanoids C.H.U.D.s. Apparently Chuds were known to people from the world before and the name meant Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dweller.
The leaders would help us defeat the chuds in any way they could, but would not enter the underground complex.
They were also keen to open a trade route between Haven and their own settlement 'Home'. They hoped to trade their exotic plants and medicines for Haven's technology and knowledge, but they had always been hesitant to approach Haven, fearful of being attacked. We agreed to help and accompany them to Haven and grant them entry.
They introduced us to Zirra Camay. Both Zac and Zirra would journey with us to Haven. Zirra was carrying many samples of their medicines.
Our plan was simple:
Return to Haven.
Retrieve our robots.
Return to Home
Deal with the chuds.
What could go wrong?
By the time our dialog with the leaders had drawn to it's conclusion, it was mid afternoon and we shared a meal with them. Unusually, we noticed that they were vegetarian.
We left for Haven immediately after the meal.
Zac and Zirra were our guides. The flora and foliage in the dense jungle was thick and obfuscating and the paths that Zac and Zirra led us down were winding and twisting. But it was clear that they had a knowledge of the region and these paths that we could not hope to match.
We travelled along these paths for three hours until both Zac and Zirra abruptly halted.
Ahead there was a clearing of sorts, neither of them had expected to find a clearing here and they were instantly suspicious.
We carefully approached the clearing and realised it was not a clearing. It was more like some sort of road that ran perpendicular to our course?
The 'road' was straight as an arrow. A closer examination revealed some interesting facts. The road was a result of something extracting all of the vegetation, everything from trees to blades of grass and been removed. What remained was exposed earth.
In the earth we saw tracks, a large number of tracks running in parallel along the earth in a straight line, creating the road
It reminded us of something we had witnessed before; the zig-zagging tracks we had seen on the headland cliffs at the coast. This made sense, the road that stretched to the right would head in the direction of the coastline.
Whilst we reflecting on this information, Don began to growl, he was sensing something coming from right side.
Pulling back from the road, we hid in some greenery and waited.
We did not have to wait long for an extraordinary sight to come travelling the road. It was a giant ant, so giant in fact that it was larger than Derek's minivan, probably faster too!
It was carrying some vegetation and went past us without stopping.
Now we knew what was creating these strange tracks, we speculated where the giant ant was going to and didn't like the answer that we speculated.
Despite this discovery, the plan had not changed. We still needed to reach Haven.
We crossed the track and continued on. An hour later, Don began growling again. This was trouble!
Searching around we realised that a giant ant was tracking us somehow? It was not approaching us directly, it was following the same winding route that Zac and Zirra had taken us. It must be following us by scent!
It was unlikely that we could outrun it, so we prepared for the worst.
Agent Pip and I hid in the foliage, whilst Max, Aoxo and the others climbed trees. When the giant ant appeared, it made straight for Agent Pip!
Yelling loudly, Max leapt out of a tree and landed on it. He proceeded to blast it with his shotgun. The battle was joined and the giant ant secreted some of chemical that burned our skin and eyes.
We fought on and soon the giant ant was defeated.
This was not the end of things however. There was the sound of something crashing through the foliage. From his vantage point up a tree Aoxo could see not one, but two giant ants heading for us, one from either side. But something was different. Instead of following a scent or path, they were heading straight for us, trampling through anything in their way.
We moved off and hid. The two giant ants arrived and began circling around and examining the dead ant. They appeared to pay no attention to us.
Quietly we moved off, keeping an eye behind us to ensure we weren't being followed. We most certainly did not want to lead them back to Haven.
It wasn't behind us that we should have been watching...
Zac and Zirra informed us that we had left their territory behind and this was unknown land to them. Our progress suffered as a result.
Continuing, we heard a whirling, whizzing noise from above us? Looking up, I saw something falling towards me. I didn't have to consider anything, only time to dodge to one side. Two strangely dressed individuals crashed into the ground, clearly unconscious or dead from the fall!
Max also managed to dodge falling people, Agent Pip was not so lucky and Aoxo was particularly unlucky as one lands on Agent Pip and three of them landed Aoxo, crushing him to the ground in a heap. The attackers took no time to start trying take bites out of Agent Pip and Aoxo.
"Zipline cannibals!" Zac yelled, pointing at the zipline, a moment too late.
The battle was short, but brutal. We targeted the leader and once he went down, the remainder ran for the zipline and fled.
We continued and marched through the night. After some time the forest began to thin out and soon after that we crested a hill to catch sight of Haven in the reddening dawn light.
It was not until the afternoon that we woke from our sleep, recovering somewhat from our injuries.
Zirra began her trade negotiations with Haven's leader, whilst we went with Derek to retrieve our robots. It was late in the day when we returned.
The next morning we were ready to depart.
During the previous evening, we had discussed matters with Haven's leaders and came to an agreement: Zirra would remain here and conclude her negotiations. The rest of us would investigate the situation with these giant ants. Zac was happy to accompany us as this issue would equally affect Home. As a parting gift, Zirra gave some of her more potent medicine kits to Jasper.
So it was that we departed in the morning for the ant road. After we found it, we turned inland and followed the road in parallel. Here the forest was thick and the going hard.
It took a couple of days to travel thirty or so kilometres, during this time we were untroubled by giant ants.
During the second day we came to the source of the giant ants and it was not good news. We had reached vantage point that gave a view of the area ahead.
There was an anthill of massive proportions, so large was the nest, that it had 'consumed' most of a nearby large building. We could only imagine how far underground the nest went.
Observing the nest, we saw that the part of the building that was still visible contained two nuclear cooling stacks rising above everything else. The realisation came that this was once a nuclear power plant.
It was the cause of the giant ants and was probably still pumping out radiation even now.
Continuing our observations, we saw multiple roads leading out of the anthill in multiple directions. We even observed some giant ants travelling along the road we had followed towards the nest. They were carrying the dismembered remains of crab creatures. The ants had reached out into the coast.
In the long term, this ant nest represented a most serious threat to Haven and Home. We considered matters for a time and there was no strategy we could think of that would allow us to deal with this threat at this time. There was nothing else for it, but to leave it alone for now and address the chud threat instead.
Turning back and after carefully crossing over the ant road, we headed for Home. Our journey was without mishap; from there we returned to the tunnel entrance into the underground complex, now with Bradley and the warhound in tow.
We found ourselves back in the room with the makeshift drums and the 'greased' way down.
I was highly suspicious of that passageway and felt that going down it was a 'one way trip'
Max however, was determined to explore it. He took a rope and anchored it to the warhound and got it to lower him down the greased passageway.
The passageway descended for about twenty metres before ending at a flooded cavern of some sort. The gap between the water level and the ceiling was about two metres, it was impossible to tell how much further down the cave went and how deep the impenetrable pool was.
Max lobbed a flare into the water, hoping to get better view. As the flare sunk, Max caught sight of something briefly moving in front of the flare, a silhouette of some sort swimming rapidly through the water. In that moment it was hard to gauge, but the silhouette seemed massive in size.
A second later, several monstrous reptilian heads rose clear of the water, one of them turned to glare at Max!
Just as Max ordered the warhound to pull him up, the head lunged at him. It struck him solidly and bit at the rope holding him. Luckily for Max, the rope did not break and he was hauled up and out of the monster's range.
After getting back to his feet, Max threw a grenade down the tunnel. We heard an explosion ring throughout the cave followed by a weird howling. Max then rolled the makeshift drums down the tunnel for good measure.
We suspected that the chuds came here either to feed the thing or to provide it with a sacrifice and those drums were part of the ritual. Well, Max never got the opportunity to play those drums and now, neither would they.
Leaving this cave behind, we returned to the circular room with the musical vertical shaft. We discussed how to deal with the chuds.
Fighting them would be a long, drawn out affair. They would avoid our light at every opportunity and fighting them without light would leave us at too much of a disadvantage. So we came up with a plan.
We knew that the chud would try and sneak up on us from any direction in which we did not shine any light.
So we exited the circular room, not shining any light behind us, hoping to draw them in. At the same time we threw four grenades into the room behind us and ducked!
The explosion in the pipes was unimaginably loud. Once the dust had settled, we entered the room. It was a horrific sight, the tactic had been murderously effective: Chud bodies were mangled and scattered throughout the room, blood and gore was splattered even across the walls. There were a few barely left alive and grimly we dispatched them.
After this we decided to return to Haven, to rest and to restock. We were done for the day.
20th June 2020
Saturday night in the living room, logging on to Skype on the laptop means that it is time for the latest chapter of Matakishi's Wasted Hack RPG.
Since our safe return from the laboratory complex, we had been resting and recuperating from the experience. It was not long however, before we were summoned before the settlement leaders once again.
They thanked us for our efforts: The facility's power source was still fully functional and was providing the settlement with the opportunity to charge all of their batteries.
As a reward... the settlement leaders tasked us with another mission.
Four of the townspeople had headed east to the coastline to do some fishing, somthing done commonly as it represented a good source of food for Haven. The four townspeople did not return.
Initially, they sent out the 'so-called cyborg' Derek 19.4.0 to investigate. Derek went to the coastline, he did not find them, conducted a scan of the region and returned to Haven with the results.
Derek provided us with a printout of his scan. It didn't look much like a printout, it looked more like it was hand drawn..?
Anyway. The 'printout' showed a tall headland with a vertical chalky cliff. There were also a couple of tall chalky stacks nearby. Close to the sea level were three caves, one cave in the headland and two in a stack. Derek had designated these as 'deep cave', 'small cave' and 'big cave'. Derek had also marked an area with fallen rocks and a pipe of some sort.
Finally, Derek's printout marked far out to sea the 'boat raider islands'. These were very tall buildings that rose out of a now flooded city from the 'world before' that had been consumed by the encroaching ocean and was home to 'boat raiders'. These boat raiders considered the people of Haven to be savage sub-humans and mutants that lived amongst the radiation soaked wastes. If encountered, they would kill us without hesitation.
We agreed to go and search for the fishermen, Jasper, Crimson, Bradley and the Warhound would accompany us.
Derek explained to us that it was ten kilometres to the coast and he could drive us halfway there, once he had reconfigured his 'cyborg chassis' for transportation mode.
This involved Derek going and getting his minivan and giving us a lift..?
Anyway. After walking the final five kilometres, we arrived at the headland. From our vantage point we studied the area through binoculars. The entire region was seemingly uninhabited, there was no sign of the fishermen.
Derek's scan had also noted some 'strange tracks' on the cliff on the headland. We searched the spot and found that some of the vegetation had been been eaten, there were also tracks. The tracks 'zig-zagged' across the grass before going over and down the cliff. Try as we might, we could not figure what the tracks meant?
Whilst we were contemplating our next move, we saw a hot air balloon floating up high and out to sea, it was being carried inland on a brisk ocean breeze?
As it drew closer, it was apparent that it was being piloted by three lovely ladies?
As the balloon drifted by, they waved at us enthusiastically and parachuted a little package down to us?
Within the package we found soap, lotion, toothpaste and various other personal sundries?
The hot air balloon continued it's journey?
Our next course of action was to climb down to the shoreline and explore the caves. This was not so simple though, neither Bradley nor the Warhound were built to traverse vertical surfaces.
In the end we had to proceed without the Warhound. Even though Bradley could not climb, the Warhound was strong enough to lower him down on a rope.
We left the Warhound on the cliff top with 'guard mode activated'.
Now that we were at the shoreline and close to the the 'deep cave'. We could see that the lower parts of the chalky rock here were discoloured. This was caused by seawater and the highest part of the discolouration indicated the highest point of the tide. From this we learnt two things.
At high tide, the seawater goes into the deep cave and partially floods it.
It was currently at low tide.
Upon entering the deep cave, it was obvious that it was a natural formation. We went deeper until the cave turned southwards.
That's when the situation changed.
As the cave continued south, it narrowed into a tunnel. Unlike the cave this was not a natural formation. Even though it was rocky and uneven it was clearly man made.
The tunnel ended in a concrete wall!
This concrete wall spanned the enter width and height of the tunnel and there was no way past it.
We examined the wall thoroughly; there was definitely no way past it, no secret door or switch, nothing! Nor could we dig past it, the wall was thick and it even if we had the right tools for the job, it would still probably take hours.
We had no choice, but to leave and explore another cave.
By the time we returned to the shoreline, it was ankle deep in seawater. The tide was coming in.
Next we decided to explore the 'small cave' in one of the stacks further out from the shore. This meant crossing over, luckily the sea was shallow and easily waded.
The small cave was, like the deep cave a natural formation and indeed small. Searching it did not take long and there was only one thing to find and it was a gruesome find.
There were dismembered corpses here. It seemed that they had been torn apart and entrails were splattered across the cave floor. Even worse, the corpses were missing the 'fleshy' parts of their bodies, these parts had somehow been sliced off! Cannibals?
After our examination, we counted the remains of four people. The presence of fishing equipment would seem to confirm our worst fear. These were the remains of the four fishermen from Haven.
As we were deciding whether to immediately return to Haven or not, the cave darkened.
A massive silhouetted form had crossed in front of the cave entrance, blotting the sun out.
As it lunged forward to attack, we saw it was some sort anthropomorphic monstrous half human half giant crab! It had a strange shell skin like giant pincers that clicked menacingly.
Our reactions were lightning fast and we peppered it with ranged attacks as it closed on us. It was not enough to put the beast down and it swung at us with its massive claws.
At this time crabs burrowed out of the sandy beach outside and scurried in to join the melee, fortunately they were a mere metre across! They barely constituted as a 'giant enemy crabs'!
We were able to defeat all of them without much mishap. Looking at the crab-monster pincers, it was apparent that it was responsible for the demise of the fishermen. There was nothing else of importance here.
Leaving the small cave, we entered the 'big cave'. This too was a natural cave formation, it was also empty and searching revealed nothing.
There was only the fallen rocks and the pipe left to explore.
Approaching, we found the open end of a circular pipe nearly 3 metres wide. It had partially been covered in what must have been a rock fall of some kind, perhaps part of the stack had collapsed?
Looking in the pipe, we saw that it was flooded. It was pitch black inside except for a faint glow coming off of the water? There was a stretch of some sort of greenish slime floating in the water that was the source of the glow
Shining our flashlights in the pipe, there was movement of some kind! Just beyond the slime we caught sight of a floating body just as it sank into the dark water. Beyond that there was the glint of machinery and metalwork reflecting the light and sitting on some sort of spot raised out of the water. This might be valuable salvage.
As we were looking for a way to cross the green patch and we noticed a green liquid slow dripping into the green patch. That part of the pipe was buckled inwards, no doubt there was a split in the pipe caused by the weight of the rock fall that allowed the liquid to get in.
It was decided that I, being the most 'nimble', should run across the curved inside of the pipe and leap over the green patch and reach the machinery.
Unfortunately, things did not go to plan. There must have been an unseen slippery spot on the pipe and I tumbled into the green patch.
Upon landing in the water I immediately felt a biting pain throughout my body. The green water, it must have been corrosive. Even worse, I then felt something gripping my foot and pulling me in deeper!
Agent Pip reacted quickly and threw me a rope, I managed to catch it and she pulled me back. As I was dragged out of the water, we saw what was gripping me.
It had an alluring female head that was attached to a strange naked sludge body? As we pulled it out, several more rose out of the water and advanced on us.
Grabbing our weapons and readying ourselves against their attacks, we were surprised to feel a strange sensation and hear soft voices in our heads. Voices that compelled us to walk into the water, even through it was dangerously corrosive.
It proved impossible to resist for some of us - particularly those of us of the male persuasion. Meanwhile the siren-like creatures attacked the remainder of our team.
Over the next few moments we managed to resist their psychic charms and haul ourselves out of the corrosive water and dispatch them.
Now that the area was free of threat, we checked out the machinery. It was junk, all of it was junk. It must have been put there to lure unwitting explorers such as ourselves.
During the fight we had taken a few knocks, so we took the opportunity to tend to our wounds.
We were in two minds about what to do next: Try and continue down the pipe or see if there was anywhere else to explore here.
In the end we decided to explore around the other side of the stack. This bought us to a empty raider boat that had been dragged ashore and camouflaged.
The crew was nowhere to be seen and all their equipment was gone. There was only one place they could have gone - the pipe? Perhaps the body we saw sinking into the water was the last of the boat raiders, fallen victim to the sirens.
Realising that we had a use for the boat, we laboriously dragged it into the pipe and pushed it into the water. It floated over the corrosive water, allowing us to use it as a platform to avoid it.
We pressed further on into the pipe. After about another twenty metres, we reached a steel wall that blocked about two-thirds of the tunnel. Only the top third was open.
There were rungs embedded in the steel wall that would allow us to climb up and over it.
Unfortunately, Bradley could not climb ladders and we were forced to leave it on guard mode here despite the protestations of Agent Pip.
Climbing the rungs to the top of the wall allowed us to look over it. The pipe turned downwards and continued into the darkness, the rungs also continued down the pipe.
As we climbed down, it dawned on us that this could not be any sort pipe, it must be an air shaft.
We reached the bottom of the rungs, the bottom of the shaft opened into the ceiling of some sort of dark room.
The floor below was a three to four metre drop, directly beneath the shaft was a puddle of sludge, no doubt caused by a very slow drip from above.
The drop into the room would be fairly safe to jump, but getting back up would not be so easy.
A pair of ropes were tied to the bottom rungs and we climbed down, avoiding the puddle.
The room was circular with four exits, each one at a ninety degree angle and perpendicular to the others.
The 'south' exit was blocked, there was a barricade constructed of sheets of steel. It was built from this side to keep something out. The same was true of the 'west' tunnel.
This left us the 'north' and 'east' exits to explore. We decided to go north.
The tunnel was actually another pipe, tubular and the same size and shape as the air shaft. Walking down the tunnel, we caught the reflecting glint of several sets of eyes in the periphery of our flashlights, their height ranged chest height to waist height. Whatever they were, they scuttled away out of the light before we got a look at them.
A little further ahead, the pipe ended at another circular room. Cautiously we stepped in and played our flashlights across the room, looking for the scuttling creatures.
They could not move quickly enough to entirely evade the light here. They were hunched, pale and naked, stooped humanoids with large eyes, long fingernails and sharp glinting teeth.
There was a lot of them.
Hissing they backed away to the edges of the room, always retreating from the light.
Before we had a chance to decide on how to approach them, they had circled behind us. No matter how we shone our flashlights, we could not keep them all at bay and they charged us!
Max was caught unaware and lost his bearings, the rest of us attacked. It wasn't enough and they began swarming us.
Each of us was attacked several times. I took a heavy hit from one of them: Between this and my injuries from the corrosive water, I was in a bad way.
We could not allow them to completely surround us and were left with no choice but to retreat back into the pipe, dragging a dazed Max with us. Fortunately it was only a few steps away and was a bottleneck that allowed us to use our flashlights to keep them at bay.
From there we retreated back to the room with four exits. The only remaining open pipe is the 'east' pipe.
Whilst Agent Pip guards the north pipe, the rest of us conducted a preliminary scouting of the east pipe and encountered a series of branching routes.
We did not think it was a wise move to try and explore the east pipes with an active threat behind us and who were aware of our presence. Unfortunately we just did not have the equipment to to deal with the situation. So it was decided to regroup in Haven and return with more equipment and more firepower.
We climbed back up the vertical shared, ensuring that we pulled up the ropes too and return to the surface.
As we were about to leave the stack, we saw a boat approaching, it was boat raiders, six of them. We hid out of sight in the big cave as they drew closer.
This would not work though, there were clear signs of footprints leading in and out of cave, that they could easily use to track us.
Agent Pip used her lure/deter power to scare the leader away. It worked.. for a while anyway. The leader ordered his raiders to turn around and leave. They obeyed, albeit in a confused manner - straining their necks to look back at the stack as they moved off.
Pretty soon however, the leader came to his senses and the boat swung back around to the stack.
We waited until they were much closer to the stack and opened fire with out ranged weapons, we even had the warhound on the headland open fire!
The fight persisted for a few moments as we exchanged fire with the boat raiders. In the end though, we managed to deal with all of them bar their helmsman, who was desperately looking for a way to escape his predicament.
Unfortunately for him, I used my shift power to teleport Max aboard the boat and take him prisoner at gunpoint.
Max ordered the raider to beach the boat. After that we secured our prisoner and scavenged their equipment - which was generally better than ours. Then we returned to Haven.
When we had more appropriate equipment and weapons, we would return to the stacks.
13th June 2020
Saturday evening, in front of my laptop, in the living room and logged into Skype.
This means that it is time for some RPG fun! Tonight, Matakishi will be running the first session of his 'Wasted Hack' game.
The Wasted Hack
No, this is not an RPG about drinking too much.
This is in fact an post-apocalyptic RPG that was developed out of 'The Black Hack'. Thus, like The Black Hack, this is a 'rules-light' RPG that looks a bit like a old D&D clone, but actually plays in a quite modern manner.
There are no skills in this game, instead all actions are tested whichever is the most appropriate of the game's six attributes using a d20.
There are four classes; damage and hit points are based on these classes, as are 'specials'.
Specials are unique to The Wasted Hack. Specials come in the basic and advanced variety for each class. Characters gain these every time they level up.
There's also the chance to gain a mutation after every level up. Mutations sort of fit the roll that was filled by magic.
The Wasted Hack is a little more 'crunchy' than The Black Hack and of course has been hacked to fit the setting, but if you've played one, you'll be familiar with the other.
Time to begin play.
Few remembered the details of the 'ancient age', the 'time before' or whatever they chose to call the past. But only 'the now' mattered, the day to day struggle to survive in a world with a scarred, ashen sky and a scorched, dehydrated landscape.
Haven was a bastion against this struggle and a home to my companions and I:
Agent Pip; an Infected. Played by Michaela.
Max Zanzibar; a Veteran. Played by Kevin.
Aoxomoxoa; a Savage. Played by Mark.
Sal Vige; a Scavenger. Played by yours truly AKA Giro.
We had been summoned by Haven's leader to his office, with him was Derek19-4-0, a cyborg.
Derek was covered with various pieces of circuit board and panels of metal. He had been introduced as a cyborg. But to us, it seemed as those various metal pieces has simply been attached to Derek's skin? We decided against remarking upon it.
Derek went on to explain that whilst exploring a canyon, he had come across a building of some sort. There was a door and Derek went to investigate, but something began interfering with his circuitry, so Derek returned to Haven.
Upon his arrival, Derek spoke with Jasper Prune and Crimson Pluck. The pair of them went out to investigate and had not returned.
So it was to us, that Haven's leader had turned to investigate. We of course, agreed and Derek came along as our guide.
The reinforced main gates of Haven slowly opened before us with squeal of old rusted metal. It opened into a blasted rocky landscape; The Wasteland.
We followed where Derek lead us. He took us through the barren land to the north west for around ten kilometres before we arrived at the edge of a fairly deep canyon.
Derek led us into the canyon, within it was cool and shaded. For two or three kilometres we travelled before we came across the site of some geographical upheaval or subsidence.
This event had revealed part of a metallic wall or structure of some sort, something lost from the world before and now revealed.
As Derek had described, there was a door here and it's construction was also metallic. The door had visibly been welded shut from the outside? Stress or weight had caused it to buckle and warp, splitting open.
The split was wide enough for a person to squeeze through. Jasper and Crimson must have gone through.
We peered through the gap, there was faint and wavering orange light and perhaps something moving in there?
Aoxo went through the gap and found himself at the edge of a room of sorts. In the flickering light he saw that along one side, a rockfall had crashed through the ceiling, collapsing part of the room. The rocks had spilled into a pile of rubble.
Along another side were some chairs, a desk and a dead computer console. On that wall and close to the desk was some sort of door.
Most strangely of all, in the centre of the room was a camp fire. Next to the camp fire were Jasper and Crimson, both were were in a sitting position and tied up.
Close to them were four desert raiders, they had not noticed us and were standing there, simply watching the camp fire over their prisoners, their weapons discarded next to the camp fire.
I followed Aoxo into the room. Jasper and Crimson noticed us at this point and began frantically gesturing at us with their eyes, but it was undecipherable to our us.
Neither Aoxo nor I made a move, we both had the same thought; 'this had to be a trap'. We studied the room intensely and in the dim light, something seemed to be moving behind the rubble. Aoxo silently circled the room hoping to get a better look at the situation, meanwhile Pip and Max entered the room.
From his new position, Aoxo was shocked by what he saw.
From each of the four raiders, there was a weird tendril, running from the back of their heads to the rubble!
Aoxo's eyes followed the tendrils from the raiders to behind the rubble and they ended at some sort of amorphous protoplasmic blob!
At this point, whatever was in this room had stirred into action. No doubt it had realised that we had not fallen for it's trap. The four raiders began shifting towards us in an ungainly manner.
We sprang into action.
Aoxo and I leapt forward, hacking at the tendrils, when they were cut, the raiders slumped to the floor.
Max ran forward and released Jasper.
Then with snaking speed, tendrils whipped out from the protoplasm and reattached themselves to the fallen raiders who clambered back to their feet.
Realising that cutting away the tendrils would not solve the problem, I lunged for the beast and struck a glancing blow at its body with my machete.
Max freed Crimson as Pip and Aoxo tangled with the desert raiders.
The creature flung a tendril out at me and I was unable to avoid it. I felt lancing pain as it stabbed me, but worse than that, I felt the strangest of sensations as I felt something pushing at my mind.
Before anything else had time to occur, Max flung a flaming torch at the creature. The result was immediate: The creature withdrew it tendrils from the desert raiders and I, it then 'melted' into the rubble and we heard a metallic sounding twang. The raiders dropped to the ground; dead as can be.
Things had calmed down and we took stock of our situation.
Now that the fighting had stopped, Derek came in and joined us.
The room appeared to be some sort of foyer. The console on the desk did not work, nor did any of the other panels or buttons; there was no electricity.
The door was made of glass, we could make out a room beyond it. It was a largish room and we noticed an air vent close to the ceiling on one wall. In the centre of the room was a table there covered in past world technology. There were also seven other doors leading out of the room.
We spoke with Jasper and Crimson and they told what had occurred. After speaking with Derek, they came here to investigate. They entered the through the broken door and whilst they were examining the room, they were ambushed by the raiders.
They were tied up and a camp fire was lit. The raiders were discussing what to do next, the creature appeared and took control of the raiders. It was not too long before we entered the scene.
We discussed what to do next and it was decided that this creature - whatever it was, could not be left to roam free. Lacking the tools to reseal the door, we had no choice but to hunt it down.
The glass door was our way further into this complex, but without electricity the door would not open. Despite our best efforts we could not force the door open or smash the glass. It was some sort of security door.
We were stymied and needed to find an alternate way in. Max went over to the rubble into which the creature had melted through and cleared it away. Beneath, there was an air vent in the floor. There was also an air vent other room, maybe this would lead us there.
Despite my reservations about crawling through air ducts when they were also being used by weird crawling protoplasmic creatures; we went in and were joined by Derek, Jasper and Crimson.
After some crawling, we found the vent to the room, pushed the grate and dropped down.
We were in.
The room was filled with artefacts from the world before, but none of it worked. Either it lacked power, or we just did not comprehend it.
Even so, all of it had a high trade in value.
There were seven doors to explore and a protoplasmic beast to find, so there was no time to waste.
We found a bathroom, a 'luxury' from the world before. None of the taps or toilets appeared to work. The water supply must have dried long ago.
The next room we entered, looked like some sort of 'power room'. There were a few rows of instrumentation and dials here. There were also two distinct toggle switches.
We flicked the first toggle and nothing happened.
When the second toggle was flicked, red lighting filled the room - and other parts of the complex as well. It seems that we had triggered the emergency lighting.
The other toggle was probably for main power, it was then that we noticed a close by keypad, no doubt the toggle also required a numeric code to function.
Moving on, we encountered was some sort of medical station or first aid room.
We searched the room thoroughly and found a few meagre supplies of bandages and medkits. Everything else was either broken or decayed beyond use.
Continuing with our exploration, we came across an office, with a desk and chairs. It was a mess, littered with files, folders, letters and the like.
Now we did know too much about the people from the world before; but we did know that they were terrible at remembering pass codes - and this was exactly the kind of place they would keep them written down!
We searched the desk and found a piece of paper containing a string of numbers. Returning to the power room, the numbers were punched into the number pad.
With an audible click and a hum, lights flickered into life all over and the red hue was replaced by cold white glare. Whatever power source this place had still functioned.
Pressing on with our exploration: Next there was a 'janitor's room'. In here was a 'Bradley-bot', an anthropomorphic cleaning robot. The robot was inactive, no doubt it's power cell was completely depleted.
We had power now and the Bradley-bot could be recharged. It was plugged into the wall socket and a small red light winked on, it would take time to recharge.
The janitor's room was also filled with bottles and containers. I knew enough to know that these might contain some sort of alcohol. After some effort I managed to mix together a Molotov cocktail, given how the creature reacted to fire, it might prove useful.
The final door we encountered was sturdy and securely shut and there was no way we were going to open it.
Examining the door led us to spot a panel with a thin slot. The door required some sort of 'security card' to open.
Returning to the office, we searched it and found what must have been a security card. Taking it back to the door and fitting it into the slot proved successful, the door slid open.
What was on the other side was something we were not expecting and there was a lot to take in.
The door had opened into a laboratory. The ventilation duct from the previous room continuing through the lab here. There was also an air vent in that duct and the protoplasmic creature was hanging out of it. It had about a dozen tendrils reached out to what once might have been scientists, but were now clearly dead?
There was smashed equipment and apparatus across the room. At one side there were five transparent and undamaged flasks.
In each flask was a undulating and pulsing ooze which - save for their colour were similar to the protoplasmic creature.
There was but a moment to take it all in, then the moment vanished and everything seemed to happen at once.
The scientist-zombies split into two groups. Five moved towards the flasks, then grabbed and smashed them. The remainder came in our direction.
Derek fled out of the room and went and hid in the janitor's room.
Waisting no time, I lit an arrow and shot it at the creature, it was a solid hit. Max then threw the Molotov at it and it erupted in flame, immediately retreating into the vent again, taking it's tendrils with it.
The scientist-zombies were no longer a threat, but now there five ooze-creatures closing in on us.
There was a thick ooze, a runny ooze, a sticky ooze, a red ooze and finally a sparkly ooze!
Max swiped his torch at the closest one - which was the runny ooze and it seemed vulnerable to fire.
I switched to my flaming torch and hit the thick ooze and set fire to it.
Agent Pip attacked the sticky ooze with her crowbar, it had some effect, but the ooze stuck to the crowbar and began climbing it!
Aoxo also tusseled with the runny ooze.
The oozes then counter-attacked. The red one struck Jasper and began sucking his blood. The runny one struck at Crimson. Both of them were in a bad way.
The sticky ooze continued crawling up Agent Pip's arm and then her back.
Jasper and Crimson were forced to retreat.
Max grabbed the runny ooze and sprinted. He dashed for the bathroom and threw it down the toilet and closed the lid: What a way to go.
Agent Pip tried squashing the sticky ooze by slamming her crowbar into the wall. But there was no particular benefit.
Aoxo also attacked the sticky ooze and I pressed my attack on the thick ooze.
The sticky ooze continued crawling over Agent Pip and injuring her. Unfortunately, there was no respite for Pip as the red ooze joined the attack on her.
The thick ooze missed its attack on me and we stayed out of range of the sparkly one.
Max returned with a liquid of sorts and hurled it on the sparkly ooze, the sparkly ooze sizzled and popped, it was not a happy ooze.
Agent Pip's and Aoxo's attacks were enough to destroy the sticky ooze and it fell to the ground, the red ooze then ignored Pip and began to devour the sticky ooze!
I pressed the attack and dealt with the thick ooze.
The sparkly ooze attacked, but we avoided it and the red ooze was distracted.
Max then threw a second bucket of liquid over the sparkly ooze and that finished it! As the red ooze was busy consuming the dead sticky ooze, we quickly did for it!
Things calmed down and searching the lab revealed nothing of use or value. It was then decided that we should take a 'short rest'. Agent Pip had suffered some injury from the oozes, as had Jasper and Crimson.
Not only were we revitalised from the rest, the Bradley-bot was recharged, we were ready!
There were five exits from the lab, so on we went, now accompanied by Derek and Bradley - who had been armed with a hand weapon.
Most of the exits led to unremarkable rooms, but one led to an elevator. We noticed that the air duct made its way through here.
The only way was down and down the elevator went for what we estimated was six storeys.
The door slid open with a chime into a rocky passage way. Cautiously we advanced until the passage widened into a cavernous room. We surveyed the area ahead.
In the centre of the cavern was some sort of spherical rock embedded in the cave floor. It was clearly different to its surroundings and seemed to be some sort of inert meteorite and perhaps the source of the protoplasmic oozes. We also spotted the protoplasmic creature, it was huddled beneath an air vent. There were also four scientist-zombies wandering this room, but they were not linked to the protoplasm via tendrils?
Finally, on the far side on the cavern was an exit.
We entered the room and the four scientist-zombies immediately turned and attacked! One them fell to our ranged attacks and Agent Pip and Aoxo met the others in melee. We instructed Bradley to also attack,
When the scientist-zombies were struck by our attacks, they would 'spit' small globs of protoplasm at their attackers! Agent Pip was hit by one and it crawled into her mouth! Agent Pip felt that familiar pushing against her mind. Bradley was also struck, but was unaffected being a robot.
Attacking the scientist-zombies was risky, we realised that we needed to deal with the source of the risk instead.
Max and I concentrated our attacks on the creature. Max unloaded his shotgun on it and I charged in with my torch. Our combined attacks killed the creature, the scientist-zombies collapsed. The fight was over.
Searching the cave revealed nothing of significance.
There was the exit on the other side of the cavern that led to another smaller cave.
Inside this smaller cave was a surprising find: A Warhound combat robot!
Like Bradley before, this robot was inactive. With some effort we managed to 'jump-start' the Warhound.
The threat of the protoplasm had been eliminated and we had finished exploring the complex. There was nothing left to do other than return to Haven.
I play, I paint.