Ten Minutes into Day 5
Midnight has just passed. Red, gold, and blue stars twinkle. The wind is cold off the lake.
Anthony, Belinda, and Saul stand in the ruins of the Wivanhoe hydroelectricity plant staring up at the two sound canisters bolted into the roof space ten meters above their heads. The canisters are quite large. They seem to have been up there a while, definitely since before the apocalypse as it’s quite a professional setup. Each of the intact canisters contains at least two tons of the glowing yellow goop and has a black, meter long monster embryo floating within it.
The embryos look like big catfish with hand like fins. There is some debate over whether they’re less developed specimens, but Anthony remembers how little of the goop was left over from the broken canisters and the way in which the monsters which got loose seemed to absorb the glowing fluid through their skin. Saul theorizes that the canisters are suppressing the monsters.
The trio discuss how they should proceed.
Saul suggests abandoning the Suv and traveling with two people in the Lav as he can’t drive during the day anyway: “And if we run into any issues during the night we got someone on the gun.”
Anthony is keen to take the canisters in the Gwagon: “Just in case the fire guys were looking for them. We don’t want to leave them here.”
Belinda: “That’s fine buy you should probably drive in front then, just in case they get out.”
Anthony: “Oh no! I’ll go behind, so if there is an issue I’m not in front with the breakables!”
Belinda is the most skilled driver. She jumps up on the forklift to figure it out while Anthony digs through the fire guys’ tool kits and Saul equips himself with the dead sergeant’s assault rifle (the one with the under barrel grenade launcher). The army dudes had fired themselves dry but Saul finds spare ammo in the GWagon as they move all the stuff there into the Lav.
Anthony and Saul jump on the forks and Belinda raises them up into the roofspace under the canisters.
Anthony: “Up a bit. Up a bit. Woah!”
With the tines up under the middle of the first canister Saul manifests Roots Aura and uses it to Entangle the canister and forks. Meanwhile, down in the driver’s seat Belinda is estimating leverage and angles trying to decide if this forklift is really meant to be able to carry two tonnes at full extension. Anthony whips off the bolts and the forklift sways as it takes the weight.
Belinda eyes the canister and her two companions swaying ten meters up above her head for a moment. “It’ll be fine,” she decides and starts to lower them down. But the lever is a bit twitchy (single botch). Saul and Anthony clutch for dear life as the forks lurch down. With an effort of Will Belinda smooths the descent instead of bringing them to a hard stop. The canister flexes but does not crack, and she lowers them the rest of the way to the floor.
Anthony and Saul jump off and Belinda goes to load the canister into the GWagon. On another single botch she clips the back of the truck, but with another expenditure of Will manages again to avoid smashing the canister open and gets it safely loaded. Eyes wide she wipes off sweat as she drives back inside to line up the forklift for the next canister. Will depletion is causing her instability to have a larger than normal effect, pushing her up into the Exhilarated Temptation state. She almost wants the next canister to break just so she can fight the inhabitant…
Saul: “Starting to get good at this. Next one will be a peace of cake!” It’s noticeable that he’s standing close the Lav and its big gun.
Belinda raises them up smoothly until the tines are just touching the canister. Anthony starts to loosen the bolts while Saul prepares again to Entangle. But Anthony rounds off the second bolt he comes to (botch). Ten meters up they consider the canister.
Belinda: “Should we just leave it there?”
Anthony: “Toss us up that crowbar over there…”
Saul: “We could just go down, come back up and start again.”
Belinda: “But then I’ve got to raise the forks again.”
Anthony: “On second thoughts take us down.”
Belinda: “I guess it does sound better.”
Saul: “Better than throwing crowbars…”
And so (much to the storyteller’s disappointment) they opt for the safer course, lowering down again and searching for other tools among the electricians’ kits. Anthony leaves the oxy torch, opting instead for a battery operated drill and hacksaw.
Back up against the roof again Anthony drills and cuts the stuborn bolt away before Saul Entangles and the other bolts are undone. Belinda lowers them super smoothely and slides the canister into the back of the GWagon like it was her day job. Both Saul and Belinda make their stamina checks but Anthony fails his. His headache, the first since Awakening, reaches blinding proportions as he takes a level of aggravated damage.
Belinda: “How are you going to drive?”
Anthony: “I’m gonna get rid of my headache.” He draws on the Tree to regenerate the damage.
Belinda: “Ok, so where are we taking these canisters?”
Belinda: “They’re gonna start wondering where we’re getting these vehicles….”
The Trip Home
Belinda leads the way in the Lav while Anthony follows in the GWagon. She stops halfway up the hill where they’d left the Suv so that they can strip it of gear.
Cartons of food, loot, and other stuff are all transshipped from Suv into Lav. The character’s are careful to remember Evan’s Vampiric Bone Lance and Chainsaw.
As they move off again, Saul, riding in the Lav’s troop compartment sorts over stuff. Examining the uniforms scavenged from the dead army dudes he confirms about half of them had been wearing dog tags (country, service number, initials and last name, religion, blood group). Although the electricians had the same uniform as the others no tags were recovered from their bodies. Having absorbed a lot of their soul fragments (shoot 4) Saul also comes to the realization that the Green tipped, armour piercing, ammunition in the Lav is specifically meant for anti vehicle (anti monster?) roles where as he would have expected Orange, high explosive anti infantry rounds to be more suitable for travel since its a zombie apocalypse after all.
Belinda leads them down through the hills around the lake without incident. The army vehicles navigate the storm debris much more easily than the Suv did. Down near the dam wall they smell wood smoke but there is no sign of light or life from the scattered camps of refugees at this time of night.
Belinda opts to take them the long way around, through burned out Lowood and over the Glamorgan Vale hills rather than smash through the barricades at Fernvale. The two vehicle convoy rolls along through these stretches without incident, but as they turn back onto the Brisbane Valley Highway they come across a caravan overturned in the middle of the road.
There are five or ten people clustered around the wreckage arguing. Up in the gunnery turret Saul raises Spirit Sight, but none of them seem to be zombies supernaturals. As Belinda slows the first of them steps forward to flag her down. She turns off the bitumen and takes the Lav over the roadside fence.
Saul (calling down from the turret): “We’re not stopping? They’re just humans…”
Belinda (aware of her instability): “If they yell at me I’ll kill them all.”
Saul: “We could take a few…”
Belinda: “Driving around in army vehicles we should probably be in uniform.”
Anthony follows the Lav in his GWagon loaded with glowing canisters (having made another stamina check). The army vehicles bump across the open ground without issue. Some of the humans from the caravan wreckage run out into the star lit paddock after them. Saul swings the auto cannon around to point at them, which seems to dissuade most of them. He looks for a loudspeaker switch but can’t find it, and argues instead with the voices in his mind (high human instability from absorbing those soldiers’ shoot fragments).
The crash victims are soon left behind. When they’ve gone a good distance Belinda takes them back up and onto the highway. They pass Ipswitch, which is quieter now in the cold hours before dawn. Anthony succeeds another stamina check as they pass the burned out cars and turn off the highway to cross the river at Mt Crossby.
Retracing their route through the affluent, small acreage suburbs below the southern tip of the D’Agular range forest reserves all seems quiet. These neighborhoods are still deserted, with not even the tingling awareness of zombies on the edge of their Spirit Sense.
Suddenly there is a silent nova of light far ahead. From the direction of the CBD a beam of light ascends. Spreading phoenix wings it arcs away to the north east, descending somewhere. There is the feeling both of the old sun’s golden light and the new sun’s black radiance in the manifestation. It reminds them of the angel which smote the Black Priest’s church. With his years of urban survival Saul reckons its point of impact to be somewhere around Redcliffe. The phoenix apparition itself he estimates would have about a hundred meter wingspan.
Their way is largely unobstructed moving toward the city. As they turn onto Moggil Road Mt Cootha comes into view to the north. Dark wind still spirals out from the vent there. They’re just starting to feel the prickle of life and / or zombie presences on the edge of their awareness when a centipede like creature crawls out onto the road in front of Belinda’s lights. About three meters long it makes its sinusoidal way off into the northern verge of the road as she slows to stare at it. With it gone the convoy moves on.
They bypass the survivor colony at Indooroopilly. Heading north they are crunching through the debris strewn streets of Toowong when they spot a small pack of zombies. All of them are grey and emaciated. One lacks an arm while another is hunched forward and seems to have a longer neck than is humanly possible.
Anthony: “Giraffe zombie… It’s tempting.”
The characters decide not to attack. Belinda switches off the lights and idles the Lav until the zombies wander out of sight. Then they’re on their way again. Anthony passes his last stamina check and they all make it to Bardon without further incident.
The sentries at the end of Belinda’s street are quite excited to see army vehicles rolling their way, blowing on duck whistles and hailing them down. They seem reluctant to move the barricade vehicles aside first until Belinda pops her head out.
Sentry: “Who are you!?”
Belinda: “I live here.”
Sentry: “Oh Hi! Where’d you get them?”
Belinda: “We… found them… along the way.”
Sentry: “Does that mean you’ve found the army?”
Belinda: “Err… Not yet.”
Anthony: “Oi! Get these cars out the way I need to park this thing!”
When their neighbours jump to clear the way Belinda guides the Lav in between the cars making up the barricades. Anthony actually decides to drive further down, pulling into the street below Belinda’s. Her downhill neighbor had a suitably large garage, once Anthony pulls the useless boat trailer out of the way, so he parks the GWagon in under cover there.
Belinda drives the Light Armoured Vehicle past her house and then turns to slip it up in the space between two of the houses opposite hers on the uphill side of the road. The Lav crunches over the fence, with just enough space to fit between buildings.
Saul: “We should probably cover this up.”
Estimating the Enoggera army base’s search and recovery efforts should be getting around to Bardon any day now Saul fetches some ropes and canvases from the samaritan’s place, making do with blankets and clothes line when he can’t get enough of the first materials. By pre dawn star light he starts stringing a tent like construction between the two houses to shroud the Lav from view.
A crowd of the Belinda’s neighbours gather to help. They seem very curious, but Belinda, who is still pushing the Exhilerated Temptation State puts them off.
Belinda: “It’s been a very long night. I need a rest. I’ll explain tomorrow.”
Saul spends some time covering the tyre tracks in the yard too, and presumably propping up the fence.
Coming up into the house from the backyard Anthony meets Quentin.
Quentin: “I see your hunting was successful.”
Anthony: “Yes, but we can cross Wivanhoe off our list of places. It was contested.”
Quentin: “Is this contestation something we need to worry about here?”
Anthony: “Well, there are some things Isobella may want to see…”
They find Isobella in the basement working with Liam.
Anthony: “We have some energy rich things you might want to see. Don’t break the glass, and don’t eat the goop…”
Down in the neighbor’s garage Isobella seems quite interested when Anthony shows her the two large glowing canisters which take up the back of the truck. She examines them carefully.
Isobella: “Where did you get these?”
Anthony: “Well. We had to see a man about a powerstation, and things came raining down from the heavens. They were stored in the roof, and there was a bit of a situation where one of the canisters broke open. The fish got quite large…”
Isobella tells him that she thinks the canisters are not the work of any vampiric tradition, but may perhaps be from human mages, specifically the Technocracy. She says she wasn’t aware the Prince had any dealings with Technocracy magi but that dealing with such factions is an unavoidable part of global politics.
The company name on the canisters seems to confirm the Technocracy theory for Isobella. On consideration she says that she thinks the occult workings on the canisters are designed to contain and compress the contents within. She’s not sure what the electricity would have been for but definitely wants to do further study.
Anthony indicate she should have a lot of time to do so, that they primarily took the canisters to keep them out of other interested party’s hands. She asks what kind of interest, Mages? Anthony indicates people like himself and the others, Awakened. This makes Isobella very interested but Anthony doesn’t give any details, prevacating a bit about what exactly happened.
Isobella asks him about the vehicles, whether they mean the army was involved. Anthony admits they’ve run into Enoggera barracks troops, (the CBF), and she asks what they’re like.
Anthony: “Let’s just say they like outdoor meals in the day…”
Isobella: “Oh… Oh dear. Well I guess that is to be expected with the infected having come from our thralls.”
She asks if the characters have seen any others of ‘high society’. Anthony tells her of their encounter with Ivy Purcel and Amelia Wright, mentioning that they promised to help some of Ivy’s humans. Isobella says she never knew Ivy very well, but that she and her coterie seemed to be sensible folk who kept to themselves.
Anthony fails a stamina test, taking a lethal damage as his headache returns.
Anthony: “I think I should absent myself. Lets just say some taste testing went wrong.”
Isobella is very interested and gets out of him that he ate some of the goop from a broken canister and has been feeling sick ever since.
Isobella: “There shouldn’t be any poison capable of hurting you from my suppositions.”
Anthony: “It may have something to do with the metal filings…”
Isobella: “Hmm… Maybe we should purge you.”
The pair return to the house where Isobella mixes up a big jug of black, evil smelling liquid, urging Anthony to partake. She indicates she wants to return to the downhill neighbors garage and keep studying the canisters, asking if she can lay wards to keep innocents and the curious away. Anthony agrees.
Anthony: “Good idea. These fish were… significant once they got out. They needed substantial dissuading.”
Left alone Anthony skulls the jug of liquid and heads to the toilet, spending several quality hours resisting the temptation to regenerate against the laxative’s bowl clenching effects.
Unloading and Investigations
While Belinda has gone straight to bed, (removing herself from potential Temptation in her Will depleted state, and Anthony is… otherwise occupied, Saul finishes rigging concealment for the Lav and starts unloading the loot in the hour or two that remain before dawn.
Removing the somewhat limited haul of small arms ammo, camping gear, and rations, Saul ponders that the army dudes couldn’t have been planning to take all five canisters with only the two vehicles they had. They also hadn’t seemed to know exactly where to look.
He notes that radios in Lav, Gwagon, and helmets are all set to the same frequency, which I’m calling channel F56. From the Tree Belinda uses Mind’s Reach to comment that they probably want to keep one of the helmet radios in the house and switched on at all times… I’m pretty sure Saul headed this.
Leaving the Lav locked with the ammo belt detached from the auto cannon and everything as secure as possible Saul stops by the Samaritan’s house to hobnob with some of the people who where helping him or haven’t gone back to bed yet. One of the survivors, an army enthusiast before the apocalypse, recognizes a badge or something from the uniforms as coming from the regiment stationed and Cabarlah Barracks on the Darling Downs, west of Toowoombah.
Calling it a night, with the sun near rising. Saul heads to the shelter of Belinda’s house to sleep.
Waking Pains – Shifting the Cargo
Waking around midday feeling empty, hungry, and still a bit headachy, Anthony heads for the kitchen. He meets his daughter Clara who is looking for some panadol among the cartons of stuff the guys looted a couple of days a go. She’s looking tired and drawn and, when Anthony asks, says she woke up with a bit of a headache too.
Belinda has woken by this stage. Her Will has recovered a little so her Temptation State is lower, but she too has a bit of a headache. Anthony calls a house meeting. With Belinda, Saul, Clara, Clara’s kids, Liam, Quentin, Curtis, and Stix gathered around table he asks.
Anthony: “Anyone feeling under the weather please raise your hand.”
Everyone does. Anthony smiles a bit grimly and ends the meeting. As the others disperse he goes down through the yard to the downhill neighbor’s garage. Bloodwards around the structure recognize him allow entry (not that vampiric wards are able to stop Awakened anway). Backing the GWagon out onto the street Anthony drives it further away, searching until he finds an abandoned house four or five streets over where the owner must have owned a campervan or something else large enough to require an oversized garage. He parks the GWagon under cover, shutting it and the two glowing canisters it carries into the darkness.
Some Time at Home
On this, the fifth day under the new Sun, Anthony and Belinda spend the afternoon training their neighbors in brushhook tactics, and helping the house stripping crew.
They note that Gary has another crew hard at work building a fence to enclose the whole colony, running it along the nearside footpath of the streets above and below their own, as well as to either side. They’re using tin panels by preference, recovered from fences between yards, but the posts are set in earth, and there will be wooden sections etc. The two vehicle barricades at either end of Belinda’s street form the only entrances.
Saul spends the afternoon indoors (vampiric taint). He spends some time considering the feasibility of digging tunnels before heading to his room downstairs. Bringing out the small jar of blood he collected from Isobella he meditates and prepares himself to cast the ritual for summoning a Shadow Servant. First Saul Cloaks himself in shadows and tries to create a Yawning Void. Unfortunately at that moment a football comes crashing through the window knocking open the curtain. Sunlight catches Saul at his most vulnerable. Screaming in agony he stumbles into the hall on fire. Anthony heals him, but Sauls chances of concentrating on rituals again this day are ruined. The kids ran away without trying to retrieve their ball.
Colony Kids: “I think we made him mad!”
The evening passes uneventfully, except that a few hours after sunset the Red Moon rises in the east. The illuminate portion is a bare sliver at first, but over the three or so hours before midnight it waxes to a crescent of brightness as it rises about six degrees from the horizon. On the very edge of the crescent the storm or eye like mark begins to rotate into view.
Midnight at the Tree
The characters make no special effort to listen to the Cries of the World.
A solid flow of Essence comes into the Tree, about eighty points all up, mostly from their neighbors but with some substantial interest from the survivors in the Indooroopilly colony. The reserve is fuller than ever before.
The characters sacrifice Protean to the Tree to start its stage four Adaptation process:
10 successes are required (the threshold value for stage four, ie 1+2+3+4).
Evan had a couple of dots of protean, which he loses, and there were a couple of fragments in the Tree. All up the characters sacrifice 10 Protean experience points.
Eight of the sacrifices are unsuccessful, returning a point of Essence each to the Tree without progressing the Adaptation.
Two of the sacrifices are successful, meaning the Adaptation is now 2/10th of the way to completion.
Anthony aborbs two zombie brawl fragments, successfully crushing the parasytes to gain dot 3 in Brawl.
Belinda reduces her human Instability by 1, and cultivates dot 3 in Domain Extrospection (Spirit Step).
Saul reduces his vampiric Instability by 1 (to second dot of taint), and cultivates Spirit Step as well.
Anthony reduces his vampiric Instability by 2 and cultivates dot 2 in Domain Introspection (Circulate).
The Tree consumes twenty three Essence to grow. It is now 29/50th of the way toward growth stage five.
The Tree becomes Real
Belinda opts not to try out her new ability to Spirit Step but after some hesitation Saul gives it a go.
He manifests some aura and pushes on the boundary between reality and the Tree. As it gives out he starts to fade from Belinda’s house. Spending some more aura he pushes through to stand before the Tree.
Now up until this point the Tree has had no physical reality. It has existed as a spiritual archetype, a symbol between the character’s minds. When the characters’ consciousnesses ‘go to the Tree’ they are really existing within that archytype. What Saul does now is become the first to set foot in front of the Tree itself.
The domain becomes real. The Tree’s third growth stage effect kicks into play. Essence flows from the Tree to condense into matter as the Tree strives to Realise space for Saul to exist, air for him to breath, a surface for him to stand on. Where does it draw inspiration for this process? Why from Saul’s expectations of course…
The Tree looms into air that is dark and still. Saul stands on mangrove like roots which emerge from the still water of a swamp, extending around where Saul stands for as far as his eye can see (which is not all that far, he’s envisaging dark swampland around himself not an open sunlit plain).
So far thirty points of Essence condense out of the Tree’s reserve to materialize this reality. Saul opts not to ‘explore’ further just at this point, perhaps noticing the shock of the other Awakened as they feel flow of essence and the direction of the Realization process.
Anthony (with his focus on Introspection) gets the feeling that Essence invested into realizing matter and space within the Domain may be recoverable for other uses, but that this would not be a healthy for the Tree itself. Realization is definitely something the Tree is doing, not a power of individual Awakened, although references their expectations.
Considering the space around him Saul discerns that he, the Tree, and perhaps some overlooked zombie soul fragments, are the only living things within the Domain’s space. It is a real, physical existence however, and should be able to support life. He even gets the feeling that if he desired creatures to come into existence the Tree would try to oblige him, materializing essence around spirit nucli (like the zombie fragments) in an effort to achieve life. But of course it should be able to support normal people and creatures as well.
Discussing it over Mind’s Reach Belinda is cautiously optimistic. She suggests that, if necessary they could retreat their followers into the domain. Anthony seems a little more worried.
Anthony: You know canaries? Let’s try some real world creatures first before be bring people here.
Saul: Do we want to bring people in?
Belinda: If things go bad in the real world.
Saul: They might ruin our Tree…
Belinda: Looks at the swamp roots…
Looking back toward the world Saul realizes that he can most easily Spirit Step to the other Awakened, or else to Quentin (who bears his mark). The rest of the world seems rather blurry, even Belinda’s house where he’s been spending so much time lately. He realizes he could use the glimpses he gets from Cries of the World, or Spirit Sight (tracking back Essence flows) to Step, but that that could be much harder. There is the chance that if every awakened and their followers were to enter the Domain physically they could effectively ‘lock’ themselves inside.
That is were we end the session for the week.
The characters immediate plans seem to be getting hold of some buses or trucks and fulfilling their promise to the Indooroopilly survivors to convoy them to Enoggera.
Thanks for reading.