Near Midnight, Day 4
Anthony and Saul desperately try to overrun the Light Armoured Vehicle before the shadow blinded gunner can bring its gun turret to bear.
Meanwhile Belinda holds herself ready by the hydroelectricity plant’s roller door. As the army dudes inside rush for the entrance to rescue their mate Belinda steps forward to unleash a long burst at the first man to cross her sights.
She slips on piece of litter. Reflexively clenching the trigger she empties her uzi’s clip, sending a spray of bullets ricocheting from the concrete floor, off machinery, and up into the recesses of the hanger like shed’s roof. It’s a clean miss on the startled army dude, but doesn’t seem too bad for a triple botch, except for that tinkling of glass from somewhere above…
The army dude that she was shooting at stares at her in shock for a second before dropping to one knee and returning fire, a long burst from his assault rifle. Belinda catches several bullets, blood spraying from her body.
“Get in the vehicle!” The Lieutenant yells at the gunner, obviously aware that his squad are in great danger if these civilian attackers capture the LAV.
Gunner: “I can’t see!”
Lieut: “Jeff. Get in the fucking vehicle!”
Gunner: "I can’t see Sir!
Standing atop the hull Anthony heals himself and manifests more petal fall aura as he chops a quick blow at the gunner with his short brush hook. Seated and half blind the gunner can only try to duck, taking a deep cut to the shoulder.
The gunner tries to scoot down from the turret into the hull of the LAV, but Anthony grabs him and hauls him back out by the scruff of the neck. He’s got heaps of strength now and third level Potence activated as well. Note: That type of reactive grab roll shouldn’t actually be a thing unless its readied, but that’s my mess up – I might change the name of the sticky hands type block maneuver.
Saul manifests more shadow essence and tries to send it to reinforce the shadows smothering the gunner. But he botches, dissipating some of the existing shadows. He tries to climb the side of the lav but slips, “fuck it’s dark out here!”
Just inside the hanger style door of the hydro plant a big piece of curved glass crashes to the ground between the army dudes inside and the characters on the lav. The glass bears smears of glowing yellow goop. One of the army dudes inside the hydro plant looks up toward the roof where the glass fell from, the spot where Belinda’s ricocheting bullets caused a tinkling sound…
Dude: “Sir! Sir… I think we’ve found it!”
He backs away firing his assault riffle up toward the ceiling as a gigantic black mutant fish thing uncurls and lowers itself down before dropping the last few meters to the concrete (you’ve seen The Host you know what I mean). The fish thing lands next to the army dude in the entry way that Belinda exchanged shots with earlier. As it lands it catches the man’s head in one fin / hand and slams him bodily to the ground, crushing his skull like a watermelon.
There are traces of glowing goop all over the mutant fish’s body. To Spirit Sight it seems like a potent magical material. But even as the character’s look at it the goop is absorbed into the gigantic fish thing’s black skin. The fish itself seems like flesh with churning spirits of dynamism bound within, twisting, enlarging, and empowering its form, making it brutal and insane.
The surviving army dudes inside the hydro plant fall back among the machinery, emptying their assault rifles into the monstrous fish thing as they do so. The Lieutenant is screaming and praying:
“Fire Lords help us! We’ve found it! Help us! God’s of the Mountain hear my cry! We need help now!”
Screams and gunfire echo from inside the hydro plant as the fish monster charges over to where one of the army dudes is hiding. Its prehensile tail whips forward, dragging the poor man into the open even as the lumbering fish smashes bodily into him. Its jaws extend forward over him in four separate pieces, scissoring closed, cutting off his screams and leaving only blood and a severed arm behind on the concrete.
Back on the Lav Anthony hauls the gunner up in one hand and chops down with his brush hook in the other. The poor, shadow blinded gunner takes another deep wound and it’s enough, combined with the suppressing effect of Saul’s shadows, to make him fall unconcious.
Dropping the gunner down into the cabin of the lav, Anthony takes his place in the gunnery turret. He tries with a quick glance over to work out the controls, and succeeds.
“Just like battlefield four!” He starts the turret turning toward the hanger door. “Belinda! Get the armoured car!”
Belinda races for the GWagon (basically an over sized four wheel drive with a camouflage canvas canopy on the back). Hauling herself up and inside she jumps behind the wheel and starts it up.
From within the hydro plant there are more screams and gun fire. The Lieutenant is still praying to the Fire Lords for help at the top of his lungs. Meanwhile Saul clambers up the hull of the Lav and squeezes past Anthony. He nods in the Lieutenant’s direction as he drops into the Lav’s cabin.
Saul: “This isn’t going to be that angel is it?”
“Nah,” replies Anthony, still bringing the chaingun around into position. “I don’t think so.”
Saul: “It did set fire to a lot of stuff…”
Inside the troop compartment of the Lav Saul crouches over the injured gunner. Laying on hands he tries to devour the man’s soul, but, even though he’s near death, the gunner resists.
Anthony fires a long burst from the autocannon. The whole Lav shakes. Twenty Five millimeter rounds rip through beast and machinery alike. It staggers into one of the generators as Anthony shrugs free of the gunnery seat and drops down inside the cabin of the Lav. “Take over!” he tells Saul, nodding up toward the turret as he lays hand on the dying gunner and rips out the man’s soul, absorbing a fragment of composure as the pieces flow through him into the Tree.
The Fire Lord
Inside the hydro plant a huge a Domain opens, a burning Volcano, from which steps a huge (eight foot tall) stone clad Awakened with Aura burning like glowing veins of magma within its flesh. To Spirit Sight it looks powerful, ariving at Release Level five, with five units of Aura manifest.
The Fire Lord steps between the babbling Lieutenant and the gigantic fish mutant. It’s eyes sweep over the Lav and Belinda in the GWagon.
Belinda (using mind’s reach): I think this is our queue to leave…
Saul: But we haven’t got what we came for.
Belinda: I don’t think bullets will affect that thing?
Anthony: Belinda, what’s in the back of that truck?
She looks over her shoulder but just sees a bunch of green bundles and troop carrier seats. She holds herself ready while inside the Lav the soul torn gunner dies of his wounds. Saul recalls his shadows from the man and climbs up into the gunnery turret. Guided by some shouts from Anthony he tries to work out the controls for the autocannon.
Anthony finishes devouring the gunner’s soul and climbs forward into the Lav’s driver compartment. Taking a seat he tries to work out the controls here, starts the Lav rolling forward away from the hydro plant.
Anthony: Maybe this’ll convince everyone to come out in the open…
Belinda: Should I follow you guys?
Anthony: Be ready to go, just keep us between you and them.
Belinda puts the GWagon in gear and rolls forward into the carpark, about halfway toward the access road gates.
Inside the hydro plant the Fire Lord, Awakened of the Volcano bends to scoop up an oversized handful of concrete from the floor. It throws the boulder sized chunk across the shed into the Mutant Fish. The chunk explodes sending chunks flying everywhere, rattling the roof and causing the Fish to scream horribly. It charges the magma man, smashing him back into the wall and trying unsuccessfully to close its jaws over him while the surviving army guys scatter, firing into its flanks.
Two more streams of glowing goop fall down splattering the concrete on either side of the army dude’s corpse where the fish first fell down. Anthony puts the Lav into reverse creeping back a little bit toward the plant’s hanger style door. In the gunnery turret Saul uses Spirit Sight to watch the fight between Fish and Fire Lord. Steam rises from where the magma man grips the black fleshed fish, wrestling its closing jaws back. Saul studies the connection between the Fire Lord and his Volcanic domain, and between Lord and the Luietenant who called him, a man who does not seem to bear any special mark.
Saul: Want me to start shooting?
Anthony: No, no. Lets keep a low profile now.
Ready to act watch the two gigantic combatants slug it out for another round, idling by the entryway while the army dudes fire desperately from inside the building.
Anthony: I was hoping they’d come outside.
Saul: Think this base is stuffed, and there’s more coming down…
Anthony: Maybe they’ll be smaller… I’m gonna try drag that human corpse in.
Saul: I’ll cover you. Belinda, you want to come take driver’s seat in the Lav?
Belinda reverses the GWagon back alongside and climbs across and into the Armoured Vehicle. Anthony gives her a quick course, “So I learned wheel, pedals, don’t know what this or that does…” and she settles in.
Two more mutant fish drop down in the entryway between the Lav and the fight.
The Fire Lord seems to be marginally winning his struggle with the original monster, holding it in place between banks of generators while his men fire clip after clip of bullets into it. The new fishes’ attention seems drawn by the fight so Anthony climbs out the hatch and jumps (noisily) down from the Lav’s hull.
Belinda: You want me in forward or reverse?
He holds, one hand on the hull, ready to climb for dear life if either of the new fish turn his way. Saul meanwhile crouches over the autocannon’s controls, ready to let rip. While making sure the Lav is in forward gear Belinda notices an amphibious mode leaver which is pushed fully forward. She leaves it that way.
The magma man smashes the fish with burning fists. The fish’s jaws close over one of his arms cutting it away and heavily injuring him.
Anthony creeps forward to look up and under the hanger style door.
Belinda: Really want to draw their attention?
Anthony: Just want to check the ceiling…
Concentrated gunfire from the remaining army dudes finally starts slowing down the first fish. The two newly emerged fish charge in on either side of the old one. One clambers over machinery to get at the cowering army dudes. The other manages to catch a soldier in its jaws, chomping him down.
Belinda and Saul hold, watching the show as the Fire Lord now struggles against three gigantic fish.
Anthony moves forward to the goop on the floor. He touches the glowing slime with his hand, noting the glitter of metal specks within it. It’s a high grade magical material. Scooping some up he swallows a mouthful of slime, Devouring it internally to convert 2 points of quintessence into Essence that flows into the Tree.
Looking up into the roof space Anthony spots broken lab style canisters each about two meters long with big electricity cables running in. They’ve been mounted to the roof and hidden behind false ceiling panels. He can see some writing on one of the canisters but the curve of glass is broken there.
Anthony: Nothing else here.
Belinda (from the driver’s seat): Are we going in?
Anthony: I’d say those three fish will slaughter everyone else in there soon…
Belinda: We may as well go. Bring the corpse.
Full Metal Fun
In the gunnery turret Saul glances at the four boxes of autocannon ammunition at his feet plus the open box beside the cannon holding the belt of ammo currently fed into the inport. He estimates there should be about two hundred rounds per box.
Saul: Fuck it. I say we open fire! Come back and reload for me.
Anthony: I’ll be back momentarily.
Saul holds down trigger, and keeps it down beginning a round of continuous fire. The whole Lav shakes. The belt fed, chain driven, automatic cannon fills the hydro plant with roar and boom as the incarnate aspect of Roots sweeps devastation across the room.
There is no room for finesse here. Saul sweeps a forty five degree arc over generators, army dudes, machinery, fish monsters, and Fire Lord alike with 25mm rounds firing on full auto at machine gun speed.
The army dude on the left of the fight is torn apart. The fish atop the machinery is mauled but still alive with huge holes punches through its hind quarters and back. The original Fish collapses, taking too many hits even for its spirit enhanced flesh to bear, while the fish on the right takes horrific damage but still seems agile.
The Lieutenant, Fire Lord, and two remaining army dudes all get some shelter from the machinery and Fish Monsters, but the Lieutenant catches either a round or some shrapnel and goes down in a screaming heap. The Fire Lord manages to shrug off most of the metal hitting him and Saul manages to sweep the arc of fire up over one of the last two army dudes but catches the other square in the chest, killing him instantly.
The chain driven auto cannon is still firing. This is the full round continuous fire maneuver. Saul manages to start barrel sweeping back the other way over the field of fire before it reaches Anthony’s position, but the noise is thunderous, there are holes in the walls, and much of the machinery is slagged.
Belinda holds with her foot on the break.
The Fire Lord regenerates, drawing more aura from the Volcano Domain until the veins of magma in his flesh are flaring. He throws himself over the last surviving army dude and begins to fade from reality, Spirit Stepping toward the Volcano with his follower in his arms. Of course Saul is still firing. More slugs and shrapnel slam into the Awakened’s stone like flesh as he does this.
Belinda: Those Fish will target us next.
Saul (still firing): But one of them is down. I think we can do this.
The mauled fish slithers down behind the machinery. Taking more shots as it does so it tramples over the semi corporal Fire Lord and the soldier he’s sheltering. It crawls deeper into the hydro plant, desperate to find shelter from the rounds smashing into it.
The other surviving fish also races away, chunks of flesh flying under the sustained fire. It starts climbing the storage racks in the shadows at the back of the hanger like plant, getting about halfway up toward the roof. Even as he fires on them Saul is watching carefully with Spirit Sight, somewhat reassured when he sees no signs of the fish regenerating.
Under cover of the deafening racket Anthony hoists the corpse he was retrieving up onto one shoulder and races for the corner of the building, (remembering he’s now built and inhumanly strong). He can’t find a switch for the roller doors so heads back toward the side of the Lav.
Anthony: Hey Belinda, start edging backwards. See if you can get inside.
While Anthony spots using Mind’s Reach, Belinda backs the Lav up, managing to crunch it in under the plant’s roller doors with only a little bit of metal crunching involved, (Saul ducks).
In the turret the last couple of rounds on this belt of ammunition whip into the autocannon. Saul pushes the empty box aside and reaches down by his feet to drag on of the remaining four ammo boxes into position. He manages to get it open and work out how to load the first shell on the fresh belt of ammo into positon.
“Hey Fire Guy!” turning the cannon to track the fleeing Fish Monsters. “No hard feelings right!?”
He opens fire again. Another round of continuous thunder as Anthony races for the side of the Lav and climbs in.
Saul: “Burn it all!”
Saul avoids the Fire Lord, instead sweeping a diagonal arc down the length of the hydro plant as Belinda backs them into a central vantage point beside the forklift.
The climbing Fish manages to cling through the first pass as the cannon blows big holes through its body. The slinking fish collapses however, barely able to claw its way forward towards cover. As it tries to move Saul brings the cannon sweeping back over it and it stops moving under the hail of heavy slugs.
Saul: “Smoke em if you got ’em!”
The cannon is chewing up machinery and punching holes through the plant’s back wall as Saul sweeps it back toward the climbing fish. Meanwhile the Fire Lord completes his Spirit Step. Both he and the follower in his arms, who is probably dead of his wounds by now, fade completely from reality as the connection to the Volcano Domain closes.
Saul completes his round of fire, riddling the climbing fish as it tries reach the shadowed ceiling spaces. It stiffens and falls, torn apart by the last few bullets from that belt of ammunition.
Their ears recover to the sound of screams as Anthony, inside the Lav, devours the soul from the corpse of the army dude he recovered. Fragments of electrician craft skill, and shoot flow into the Tree.
Saul reloads. Winding down from the rush he recalls his Shadow aura as Belinda and Anthony emerge from the armoured vehicle.
They have captured the hydro plant, and in the process totaled most of the machinery within.
A tricky bit of soul looting follows. Anthony’s first attempt to Devour the soul of one of the Fish monsters reveals that they are fundamentally different from the humans and human like creatures they’ve encountered so far. These are Spirits magically bound into flesh. They’ve been blended together and pumped through with lots of quintessence but their nature is fundamental Other to the half human Awakened.
Anthony feels that instead of fragments of skill or knowledge he’d be able to pull large, dense, incomprehensible fragments of the Spirit away. But it is difficult. He does not manage it on his first attempt and the Tree is running low on raw essence. The fragments they have stored within are all relatively high value, having been kept aside for later Absorption.
It’s only twenty minutes or so until midnight, but by then they may have lost their chances to Devour as the souls naturally decay after death. Anthony gets Belinda and Saul to use up their remaining aura devouring the souls of the dead army dudes for whom they can find intact enough corpses. That is, the two or three who didn’t get completely eaten or blown to smithereens…
Those souls turn out to yield some pretty nice fragments however… It seems they really were soldiers, perhaps from an engineering corpse as there are a lot of shoot, brawl, and craft (electrician) type fragments. Belinda improves her Wits, passing the rest of the fragments into the Tree. Saul ends up overdrawing and causing a fragment of Occult skill, with partial knowledge of the Abyssal Threads ritual to break down within the Tree. He gets a bunch of good soldierly fragments in return however.
Anthony drops his Potence transformation to allow ‘space’ to activate Domain Dreaming, splitting his consciousness between reality and the Tree so that he can make some hard choices, breaking down zombie strength and brawl fragments to produce enough raw Essence to make further attempts on the Spirit souls within the Fish.
Extracting Primal Essence
Anthony’s attempts to Devour the first Fish finally succeed. Instead of a soul fragment he extracts a dark mass of Primal Essence.
Each lump of Primal Essence is dense with power. Unlike ordinary soul fragments the Awakened can’t (at this stage) see how they could Absorb any knowledge or skill from each piece of Primal Essence. However if they were to use it to Manifest then each point of Primal Essence, which draws just like raw Essence, would create up to 10 points of Aura (with excess being wasted). Using Primal Essence to create Aura will we a usage of Manifest Aura which I’ll add this week.
The Fish screams are truly horrible sounds, and its heavy work but finally the characters finish devouring all three of the monster’s souls. In total I think they channeled 8 units of Primal Essence into the Tree.
Midnight at the Tree
As a story bonus I give 1 experience point in Stealth to each character who snuck up on the Lav while having Stealth skill at dot 1 or less. I think this gives a few of them dot 1 in stealth.
73 points of (normal) Essence flow into the Tree. The character’s closer followers like Stix, Clara, and now Lisa all contribute, as well as a steady flow from the Bardon survivors. The thirty point or so increase is due to the crowds in Ivy’s Indooroopilly colony focusing on the characters as they debate whether or not to join tomorrows promised exodus to the Enoggra army barracks / refugee community.
Either none of the characters listened to the Cries of the World, or none heard anything. I can’t remember. I probably just forgot to prompt, and will try to remind you guys next time.
The characters Assimilate some Essence:
Belinda reduces her human instability by 3.
Anthony reduces his human instability by 1, and cultivates 1 experience point in introspection as well as one point in Aspect of Leaves, which is not enough to gain the next dot in either.
Saul reduces his vampiric instability by 3.
The characters Absorb some fragments:
Belinda increases her Wits and Shoot to excellence (dot 3), and her Awareness to professional levels (dot 2). Her human Instability reaches taint level 3 as a consequence, which doesn’t (seem to) have any real consequences.
Anthony increases his Composure to dot 5! He’s now reaching the human limits for acting with aplomb, (think Ghandi, or maybe an action movie hero). As a consequence though his human Instability has pushed up to the top end of level 4, while his vampire taint at the top of level 2, so he’s hearing whispers on the edge of him mind and getting sunburned real easily.
Saul increases his Presence to dot 2, and his Obtenebration to dot 4, gaining the Shadow Ward ritual in the process. He also pushes his Shoot skill up to dot 4! He’s both hearing voices and burning in daylight again! (“Ah what’s new… Voices / Visions, same shit…”).
The characters break down some of the werewolf gift soul fragments on the basis that if no one has Absorbed them yet its better to convert them to Essence and buffer the more valuable fragments from accidental breakdown.
The Tree consumes 19 points of essence to grow, achieving stage 4.
The players have another opportunity to sacrifice power to the Tree for Adaptation.
They can now assimilate 4 essence per day.
They can achieve release level 4 (and thus use 4th dot powers).
The maximum aura they can manifest is now 10 (1+2+3+4).
The Tree’s growth brought it 6 / 50th of the way toward stage five.
Anthony makes his first stamina check successfully.
Saul sweeps the concrete floor for spent shell casings from the auto cannon with an eye toward repacking the 25mm rounds himself sometime in the future I think. Out of the four hundred and something rounds fired he collects about 300 empty shell casings which haven’t been lost, driven over, crushed, or mangled too badly.
By looting the bodies, and fragments of bodies, they gain the following:
4x Austeyr assault rifles (clips mostly empty).
1x Austeyr assault rifle with underslung grenade launcher, (empty of bullets but with grenade rounds inside).
5x 9mm handguns (clips full).
2x Army issue body armour.
3x Heavily damaged Army issue body armour.
3x Damaged but fixable Army uniforms (varying insignia).
3x Damaged but fixable Army Issue gear webbing.
4x Army issue Combat Helmets (with pickups).
7x Spare clips for Austeyr assault rifles (mostly empty)
4x Spare rounds for the grenade launcher.
4x Combat Knives.
3x Usable Army issue Boots.
2x Electricians tool boxes, including some Occult multimeter type tools.
Anthony: “We might have to get Isobella to take a look at this…”
1x Personal Journal (a betting book).
1x Light armoured Vehicle and contents.
1x GWagon and contents.
Saul spots the fiber optic video pickup on the Lieutenant’s helmet and squats down to look at it.
Saul: “What you reckon these are?”
Saul: “Oh well. If you’re watching Fire guy, like I said, no hard feelings…” (he clicks it off)
Belinda: “We should worry about the army…”
Belinda notices that the Lav is parked pretty much direcly under the broken canisters. She looks up just as a big shard of glass falls down next to her, splattering her legs with glowing goop. She makes her stamina check.
Saul goes off to look around the office.
Anthony finishes packing the army dudes’ halogen lamps and batterys back into the Lav. He investigates the banks of hydro plant machinery where the men had been working, noting that they’d mainly been taking the covers off things to uncover the insides, possibly looking for those canisters.
Saul finds that the inside of the office has already been ransacked. There’s no power for the computers of course, but the paperwork has been thoroughly searched. Saul notes that the hydro plant seems to have been owned by a company called Endron International. He jots down the names of all the people he can find mentioned in the office papers and on rosters, memos, letters etc, thinking to charge up and carry some mobiles for use as cameras and note pads etc.
Meanwhile, back in the shed, Anthony gets Belinda to drive the forklift while he rides up on the forks (workplace health and safety having died out in the apocalypse) to investigate the canisters bolted to the roof.
Getting closer he notices that, for the first time since Awakening, he’s getting a bit of a headache. He successfully passes another stamina check, finding words on the broken canisters saying ’Property of Panacea Inc", and recognising that name as a company which makes cutting edge mutagenics and anti-cancer drugs, (remembering Anthony spent a lot of time in hospital as a mortal).
He makes another stamina check, feeling his headache worsen, and calls down to Belinda:
“Don’t eat the goop.”
Belinda (laughing): “That’s something you’d tell a two year old…”
There we end our session.
Note: Apologies but I messed up something fairly significant which is why I changed the order of the end bit slightly to end at this point (midnight actually came after this in game). When Anthony investigated the ceiling he should have found the three broken canisters, plus an additional two unbroken ones. I’ll start the next session at this point so that you guys can decide what (if anything) you would like to do with them
Thanks for reading :)