The group returned to the theater with disinfectants for Doctor Warren, who’d been hard to work on Amanda, seeing to the scrapes and contusions the wheelchair-bound woman had suffered in the car crash.
GURPS: Doctor Warren made his First Aid roll to treat Amanda, aided by Ashly. Amanda heals 2hp, and is up to 3/10… still a bit out of it, but no longer teetering on the edge of consciousness. Characters under 1/3 of their max HP have halved Move and Dodge scores.
“She’s stable, but needs rest,” Doctor Warren said. “You should take her to the hospital-”
Vera made brief eye contact with Nick, then shook her head. “Hospital’s compromised.”
“Compromised?” Doctor Warren’s face fell. “Oh no, these things attacked there to?”
“No,” she shook her head. “It’s… we ran into someone who’d been there when everybody seemed to go crazy. Attacking each other. Killing each other.”
“It sounded brutal,” Josh added.
“Holy smokes,” Jim said.
“She didn’t say anything about… creatures like these. But do you think they can control people?” Vera asked.
“No, nothing like that,” Jim said. “They’re just… all we’ve seen is them acting like dumb animals. They can fly, turn into those crawling things, into the worms-”
“Worms?” Nick asked.
“Yeah, third form is like these crawling worm things. Don’t really attack that way or nothing, but pretty gross.”
“Guy at the airport thought it might be the Soviets,” Josh said.
“I heard about Commie mind control.” Jim seemed thoughtful.
“Commies.” Adams raised his hands while the doctor pulled his t-shirt up. “Here I was, thinking it was the Iranians.”
“Oh Jesus,” Marco muttered.
“Actually,” Professor Poropat spoke up. Honestly, he’d been so quiet that Vera had almost forgotten he’d come with them. “Both the Soviets and the US engaged in psychic research in the wake of World War II. Publicly we gave it up in the late Fifties, but there’s relatively little information about what the USSR has been up to.”
“Is that true?” Vera asked.
“I… yes?” Professor Poropat seemed slightly offended. “And don’t forget poor Mr. Beacon – someone hypnotized him.”
“Soviet mind control,” Jim said. “Yeah I can see that. Maybe these things are something else they dreamed up, let loose.”
“There’s no evidence that the Soviets are behind any of this,” the Professor said.
“Yeah,” Jim said. “Could be the CIA. Or the Dero.”
“The what?” Nick asked.
GURPS: Rolling Games (RPGs) for each character, at -2 for obscurity. Josh passes.
“Evil dwarves from DnD,” Josh said.
“The last remnants of a prehuman race that live in the center of the earth,” Jim said, like it was a totally normal thing. “They kidnap surface dwellers for food and entertainment.”
“I…” Vera didn’t know what to say to that.
“Well.” The Doctor shook his head. “Well, there are other hospitals in Austin, after all. If only we could get these… things to leave.”
Jim slapped his knee. “Oh, that reminds me. My secret weapon.”
“Your secret weapon,” Nick said.
“Yeah, two of the Alpha Team boys helped me rig it up. Got it over in the Woolworth’s. C’mon, I’ll show you.”
It’ll be 10 minutes before the Doc finishes with Adams. Do Nick, Ashly, and Josh go with to see the Secret Weapon?
Nick: No, but he’s next
Josh: Yes, but he complains
Ashly: Yes, but the doctor tells her to
“I’ll go too,” Nick pulled himself up from his chair.
“You’re hurt,” Vera pushed him back down, gently.
“You’re next,” the Doctor said.
“I’ll go with, then,” Josh said. “Ash?”
The girl held up a roll of bandages. “I’m assisting.”
“Why don’t you take a break.” Doctor Warren examined Adams’s chest, prodding his ribs with gloved fingertips here. “Shouldn’t take too long.”
“Okay.” Ashly put down her bandages, joining the others.
Jim led the way back across the walkway to the paint store, through the wall to the barber shop, then through a hole in the back room to a dry-cleaner’s filled with shiny chrome machinery. Next to the cleaner, through another hole knocked through the wall was the attorney’s office that had once been a clinic, and a hole in that led to the Woolworth’s stock room, where the group beheld Jim’s secret weapon.
“What is it?” Vera asked. There was a long central shaft that seemed to be made out of heating pipes, connected to half of a sawn off bucket, and a spring mechanism. Under it all was a set of rollers meant to provide it with mobility.
“What’s it look like?” Jim asked, smiling broadly.
GURPS: IQ rolls to identify it. Vera and Josh pass, Marco critically fails.
Marco tilted his head, chin in his hand, then regarded Jim. “Go-Cart?”
Josh whapped Marco on the back. “No, man, it’s a catapult.”
“Trebuchet,” Vera said.
“Damn straight,” Jim said.
“What are you firing with it?” Oscar asked.
Jim held up a paint can. A hole had been drilled into the top, and a cloth wick inserted. “Noticed the little shits weren’t too fond of fire. Get this baby up to the roof, we can hit anything in the parking lot.
“How do you get it to the-” Vera turned, and spotted a platform and pulley system rigged up below the trapdoor in the ceiling. She gave a whistle. “Seems like something you’d come up with, Marco.”
“Oh yeah?” Jim asked. “You SCA or somethin’?” Jim asked.
“No, man,” Marco shook his head. “Just a… a game we play.”
“Dungeons and Dragons,” Josh said. “Marco’s always coming up with crazy plans. Drives Nick nuts.”
Jim’s voice lowered. “So you guys are… Satanists?”
“What?” Marco asked. “No man, what?”
“It’s 1992,” Josh said. “Satanic Panic yo.”
Marco shook his head. “Man…”
“1992?” Jim’s eyes widened. “Are you guys from… the future?”
Vera sighed, then turned to Marco. “Might as well tell him. He’ll probably believe it.”
“Yeah I guess. Cards on the table. It’s… weirder than that.”
“What are you guys talking about?” Oscar said. “We just flew in from San Francisco.”
The professor was watching them thoughtfully, but without skepticism.
“Hold on,” Jim said. “You guys hungry? This seems like the kind of story you tell over beer and fried rice.” He nodded towards the west wall. “There’s a Chinese restaurant over there, got half of Everest cooking let’s get some grub and then I want to hear what you have to say.”
Jim led the group out of the storage room into the darkened Woolworth’s, then across the walkway to the west side of the mall through the door of Bob’s Hardware Store. “Y’all need any weapons this is gonna be yer best bet,” he said.
“Oh man, they got chainsaws?” Josh sounded like an excited kid.
Jim chuckled. “Yeah but we’re using all the fuel in the generators. But hey man, they’re not as useful as the movies lead you to believe. Least, not the modern ones with all the safety features.”
“Awww.” He folded his arms and waited with Jim and the professor while the others scoured the aisles for anything useful.
GURPS: Vera, Nick, Oscar, and Marco all fail their Scrounging rolls and don’t find anything better than their straight razors. Josh doesn’t bother looking.
They all came up empty-handed, finding only bags of fertilizer, clay pots, and plastic implements.
“Yeah, I was afraid of that,” Jim said. “We done picked it over pretty clean. Let’s head on to the restaurant.”
A hole in the far wall led into the kitchen of the China Buffet, where four adults were busy cooking – a very pregnant woman, an old woman with a steel walker, an even older and very frail man, and a teen with his leg in a cast and his arm in a sling were operating the industrial fryers, washing vegetables, and preparing fried rice baskets.
Jim gave them a wave. “Myra, Eddie, Bob, Fred, these are a few newcomers, flew in from the airport, barely made it here.” He indicated his staff. “This is the other half of Everest, making sure everybody stays fed. Say, where’s Sylvia?”
Bob, the old man, wiped his hands off on his apron. “Had some of Alpha wander on in, she’s serving up some grub.”
“Fair enough,” Jim said. “C’mon, let’s get something to eat and you guys can tell me your story. Man, Time Travel, I knew there was more to this!”
That drew some odd looks from the kitchen staff but Jim didn’t elaborate, instead leading the group out of the kitchen and into a sterile looking early 90s fast-food dining room. Booths lined both walls, and simple metal tables ran down the center of the restaurant. Here and there, alone and in pairs, members of Alpha Team were sitting and eating. Jim gave a few a wave, then slid into a booth. Vera squeezed in next to him, while Marco, Nick, and the professor sat on the other side. Oscar grabbed a nearby chair and sat at the end.
“Okay, so,” Jim began.
“Jim!” A woman standing just under five feet tall made an unsteady way to the table. Her face was broad, her nose flat, and she spoke slowly. If Vera had to guess, she’d say she was in her late twenties. “You you’re buh-back!”
Jim gave the woman a big hug. “Sylvia, these are some new friends of mine, just showed up.”
Sylvia’s eyes widened. “Past the muh-monsters?”
Jim nodded. “Damn right they did.”
“Wow!” Sylvia seemed impressed. “Did you see Mah-Mark?”
“Mark’s her brother.”
“No, sweetie, I haven’t had the chance to go looking for him yet.”
“Oh okay. Can I geh-get you all something to eat?”
“What’s on the menu?” Nick asked, smiling.
“We we got fr-fried rice an and-”
A sudden crash came from the kitchen, followed by the sound of hissing and screams.
“Shit,” Jim said, and then he was moving, pushing Vera out of his way, knocking her down in his haste to get out of the booth, pulling the knife out of his boot before he took off running towards the kitchen.
Sylvia had backed away, frightened by the noise or by Jim’s sudden explosive action.
Nick grabbed Vera by the arm and was hauling her back onto her feet. “You okay?”
“Come on!” Marco’d pulled his razor out of his pocket, but hadn’t opened it yet. He started towards the kitchen, followed by Oscar.
“Let’s go,” Vera said, making sure Nick was following her.
The PCs and Jim are in the dining room, along with Sylvia and 5 members of Alpha Team.
Myra, Eddie, Bob, and Fred are in the kitchen.
Three creatures in worm form break into the kitchen.
Myra and Eddie fail their fright checks. Bob and Fred pass. Myra loses 6 FP and is stunned 4 rounds, Eddie is stunned 6 rounds.
Bob grabs a bread knife.
Fred moves towards the kitchen door.
Jim gets out of the booth, knocking Vera to the floor.
Aliens 1-3 start turning into Crawling Fucks.
Aliens 4-5 drop down from the ceiling in worm form.
Myra (3 rounds) and Eddie (5 rounds) are stunned. Bob starts pulling Eddie away from the monsters. Fred keeps running out of the kitchen – it’s slow going with his leg in a cast.
Jim readies his knife.
Oscar moves away from the table
Nick, Marco, and the Professor get out of the booth.
Aliens 1-3 continue to transform.
Aliens 4-5 start transforming.
Aliens 6-9 drop down in bird form.
Myra (2 rounds) and Eddie (4 rounds) are stunned. Bob keeps trying to get Eddie away. Fred is almost out of the kitchen.
Jim runs towards the kitchen.
Alpha Team members 1-5 are getting up.
Nick helps Vera get up in 1 turn instead of 2.
Marco readies his straight razor.
Jim gets into the kitchen and makes a Move and Attack against Alien 4, missing.
Aliens 1-3 finish their transformations.
Aliens 4-5 continue transforming (2/3)
Aliens 6-9 start transforming. (1/3)
Aliens 10-11 drop in.
Myra (1 round) and Eddie (3 rounds) are stunned. Bob is surrounded, and makes an All Out Attack against Alien 1, hitting and killing it. Fred makes it into the dining room.
Alpha Team members 1-5 ready their weapons.
The PCs run to the kitchen.
Jim attacks and kills Alien 2.
Alien 3 bites Bob for 2 damage.
Aliens 4-5 finish their transformation.
Aliens 6-9 continue transforming (2/3)
Aliens 10-11 start transforming (1/3)
Aliens 12-13 drop in.
Eddie is stunned (2 rounds). Bob makes an All Out Attack against Alien 3, missing. Myra is no longer stunned, and goes All Out Defense.
Vera gets her gun out.
Oscar makes an all out kick at Alien 3, missing and failing his DX roll, falling on his ass.
Marco attacks alien 3, missing.
Nick readies his kitchen knife.
Alpha Team start making their way to the kitchen.
Jim calls for a retreat, grabbing Myra, pulling her out of the kitchen.
Alien 3 bites Bob for 3 damage.
Alien 4 bites Oscar for 2 damage.
Alien 5 bites Oscar for 3 damage.
Aliens 6-9 finish their transformation.
Aliens 10-11 continue transforming (2/3)
Aliens 12-13 start transforming.
Aliens 14-16 drop in.
Eddie is stunned (1 round). Bob refuses to abandon her. Myra goes with Jim.
The PCs retreat, leaving Oscar, Eddie, and Bob behind.
The scene in the kitchen was one of nightmares. At least a dozen of the creatures had made their way inside, and even as Vera arrived a handful of flying fucks dropped down out of holes that looked like they’d been burned into the ceiling, starting to transform into their crawling forms as they landed. She stopped in the doorway, pulling her gun out, barely able to make out the Everest kitchen staff’s terrified faces amidst the swarm.
There – Jim’s large form was unmistakable as his combat knife flashed, stabbing deep into one of the dog-aliens, skewering it. But could even he persevere as the place filled with the writhing, screaming, shifting mass of alien monsters?
Oscar ran past her to try and kick the nearest monster as it finished its transformation into its hopping and biting form, only to misjudge and slip onto his ass. Almost immediately, three of the creatures pounced, teeth snapping and biting, leaving the poor family man to lie screaming beneath them.
“Oscar!” Nick cried, kitchen knife poised.
“It’s too late!” Jim backed out of the kitchen, dragging the disheveled and bleeding pregnant Myra with him. “With that breach, there’s no way to stop all those critters from getting in here.”
“We can’t just leave them!” Nick insisted.
Vera grabbed him by the shoulder. “We can’t save them. There’s too many.”
Jim pushed past them, careful with the woman he was escorting. “We need to fall back and seal the restaurant off, or the whole complex will be compromised. Then we’ll lose everybody. The kids.” He stopped, grabbed Nick by the shoulders. “Look, I’m sorry man, this is just one of those hard calls. You don’t gotta like it. But you gotta survive if you want to save as many people as possible.”
Vera didn’t like it… but she was practical enough to see the wisdom in Jim’s words. Nick, though… she hated calling him soft, but he really kind of was. His compassion was one of the things she liked about him – but here it would get him killed.
“Maybe,” he said. “Maybe if we… when you died, you came back. If we come back, can we really-”
“It was horrible,” she said, the memory of the hands, the nails, the teeth chewing her, eating her, coming back vividly. “Nicky I won’t lie, it was the worst thing that’s ever happened to me. And I mean ever. Okay? Being eaten alive…” She grabbed the sides of his head and forced him to look into her eyes, see the pain, see the hurt, something she usually tried to keep hidden, but she needed – NEEDED Nick to believe her now. “…and we don’t know if it’ll happen again. How it works. Too much risk.”
GURPS: Vera attempts a Fast-Talk roll. 7: It succeeds.
“Okay,” he said, putting his hands on hers. “Okay.”
They wasted no further time.