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Session 2: When It Rains, It Burns
VAULT DWELLERS: Elrond (72-yr old Russian sleeper agent) and Wren (27-year-old rodent taxidermist)
ABOVE-GROUNDERS: Zeke (the faceless, security at the infirmary)
ADAPTIVE CONCEITS: Elrond has passed out due to his gunshot wound and Wren has become neurotically glued to his side. She will not leave him for an instant. We plan to stick him in a sickbed and give her a chair. Zeke has gone out to patrol the airport perimeter. He does this all the time anyway, so it makes sense.
LOVE LETTERS, in which we learn a few interesting things:
Joel (Vault Dweller) - Seeing Elrond get shot really hit him hard. He kinda wants to go back to the vault.
George (Vault Dweller) - Having taken the lives of two men at the end of his makeshift sword, ripping their bodies open with a savage rage that he never knew he had inside, George feels strong, powerful, and newly assertive - perhaps a bit too much. In fact he's a little psychotic right now. He considers himself an unstoppable warrior, the fearless protector of the vault-dwellers.
Dez (Angel) - She got paid by Jak's dad, the agricultural projects organizer at Phoenix Farms, who also says he owes her a favor. And she almost forgot to send a shipment of reloaded narcostims up to O.G.King, the head guy over at Golden Gardens on the Strip. (As we shall see soon, she still hasn't remembered).
Dodge (Driver) - The vault he came out of is located on the map, but it is entirely caved in and exposed. When asked about the fates of others inside, we learn that Dodge has a mother out there somewhere who went AWOL years ago. We also learn that Dodge's knowledge of the various settlements on the Strip is very keen. And there's been a lot of "Cordies" (Cordyceps victims) on the east side lately. The more advanced victims develop finger-sized wormlike growths that protrude from the body in random places.
Madame Tulu (Brainer) - It’s gonna take more time and meditation to discover the true meaning of her maelstrom vision this morning.
Dip (Ruin Runner) - She's met some of the Eastside Raiders, a local motorcycle gang who Dodge knows by their newer name, "The Reapers". They're not such bad people, at least if you're a kid. She also found a strange object in the mud out by Dez' dropbox: it's a 1-inch diameter gold-colored button that says "Cannonymous". She doesn't know what that means, but she pockets it.
Squaids (Hocus) - Having traveled long distances and always hungry, it turns out that the Squaidists have often eaten human flesh. In fact they have been known to capture Cordies who they "harvest" for their tainted blood (a key ingredient in his own custom myco-drug). If the infection is not too far along, the cultists will eat the organs of these damned souls because, well, you gotta get your protein. Squaids has heard that there's a slave corp called "Anthropos Industries" from northern Cali that's been pushing down into the Los Angeles area lately, setting up branch offices and foodslaving facilities throughout southern California. This is pissing off the hardholders who live down in SoCal (who are mostly descendants of today's LA gangbangers), although you gotta admit, it has caused a huge boom in the local slave trade.
WHEN IT RAINS, IT BURNS
WE START WITH SQUAIDS, who sends a group out to do some beginning-of-session foraging. The sky is covered with grey clouds and the air is getting humid. After a couple hours the forgaging group comes back with three Cordies, two of whom are far along and will be used for extraction. The third will be killed and eaten. Starvation has been set back for another day.
CUT TO THE AIRPORT/INFIRMARY RECEIVING ZONE. Dez is examining the pinched finger of young Dip when Dodge pulls up into the passenger receiving zone outside Terminal 1. Dodge gets out and the vault-dwellers emerge from the vehicle, carrying the unconscious Elrond. Dez and Dip go out to meet these strangers who wear matching brown jumpsuits. It seems the old man is the only one needing medical attention. The girl is just hysterical. They lay Elrond out on the trunk of the car, and Dez begins cleaning the wound. Dodge gives her a short version of the Silverton Hotel story, opining that there will be repercussions now that the Hubbards have been taken out of the local slave trade. Dez continues digging for the bullet. George attempts to read the situation, which gives him a levelup. In keeping with his new psychotic angle, his player chooses to take "Merciless" from the "Battlebabe" playbook ("When you inflict harm, inflict +1 harm").
It's about this time Joel suddenly realizes that he forgot to close the vault door when they left. He kinda wants to go back to the vault anyway, but he doesn't want to let these new people know about the huge stockpile of food and water they have stored there. He also wants to keep George from finding out that he messed up so badly, so he pulls Dodge aside, trying to come up with a fake reason to bum a quick ride back to the vault. But George, with his newfound aggressiveness and patronizing attitude, comes over to barge in on their conversation. Joel clams up. Dodge and George continue talking. A sudden cold wind comes downward and spreads throughout the parking area.
While the others are diverted, Dez slips the wristwatch off the old man's arm and puts it in her pocket. This is barter, she thinks, just in case they don't have anything to pay with. (Note: This watch is one of Elrond's personal "special items", and it has a piano-wire garrot hidden inside it.)
CUT TO MADAME TULU, who has entered the airport perimeter and moved to an observation position not far from where the others are standing. Crouched behind a rusted car, she watches closely and tries to identify these brown-suits. She opens her brain to the psychic maelstrom. The vision she receives is short and dim, but she senses there is another force, like her, somewhere here in town. This force is, like her, searching the maelstrom on a daily basis, and looking for something. Then the vision ends. Tulu decides to get closer. She takes a chance at running for cover behind an empty bus nearer to the terminal doors, but drops her Violation Glove en route. Offered the hard choice of leaving the glove laying there in full view, or going back to try and retrieve it, she opts for the latter and is spotted by Dez, who happens to look up at that moment.
BACK TO THE RECEIVING ZONE. Dez says nothing of what she sees, but watches as Tulu moves back behind the bus. She glances down at the wounded old man, and then has a sudden desire for psychic guidance herself. She closes her eyes and opens her brain to the psychic maelstrom. The vision she receives is like nerves and arteries branching onward and onward, unraveling in pathways that indicate people, places, events and their meanings, but it's all too abstract for Dez to understand. Suddenly she hears a disembodied voice speaking very clearly, close to her. It asks "Do you like boys or girls?" And Dez feels compelled to answer. "I... like... girls" she says, quietly but out loud. The vision is over. Dez shakes her head and wonders what the hell *that* was.
Dip, the only person who has been paying attention to the sky, suddenly feels a drop of rain on her nose. Waiting for a couple seconds before wiping it off, she gauges the burning sensation it causes and finds it's quite extreme. The rain varies in intensity; sometimes it's mostly water, sometimes there's a lot more petro in it. This is going to be a bad one. But of course that's good news for the gasoline distillers down at the Pyramid. She goes to Dez to tell her, but before she can get a word in, the sky opens up and a torrent of toxic water begins falling. "Holy fuck, my paint job!" shouts Dodge, and hurries to move his car under the second-level footbridge nearby.
Dez goes over to the others. "We're gonna have to get this man inside" she says, gesturing back toward Elrond, "We can't stay in this rain for long." Everyone hurries into the lobby, wincing and twitching at the irritation seeping into their skin.
CUT TO SQUAIDS. While the cult members are hacking up their Cordie victims, it begins to rain. It's a strong one. Like many people, the Squaidists use a system of filtration and separation to extract a low-grade liquid fuel from the rain. Squaids makes sure the rain collecting tarps and separation funnels are all set up properly, then scouts for some cover for his group. Next door are the ruins of the Natural History Museum. The building yields some interesting dinosaur bones, but the roof has collapsed all the way to the floor, and the interior affords little protection. Across the street is the Children's Museum, which still has most of its roof intact. The cult moves its operation to the west side of Las Vegas Boulevard.
CUT TO THE INFIRMARY INTERIOR. Dez continues speaking once everyone gets inside. This is her place, she's in charge here. "Now there's also the matter of payment" she says. George and Joel look at each other. Joel tells her that they have no place to stay here in town, and asks if she could accommodate them. Dez thinks it over. She wishes Zeke was here. She has no security right now and she doesn't know shit about these vault people. However, she does think their blood might yield some interesting results if tested. "I can let you stay here for a limited time" she says, "but first I have to make sure you're not a threat to us or any of my patients. Are you carrying any infectious diseases? Lie to me and you'll be kicked out." The vault-dwellers tell her that they have no diseases. "You'll have to submit to a blood test, of course" she adds. Joel agrees without argument but George, apparently feeling put-off by this woman's third-degree, tells her "You can take it from my penis."
Dez stares at George for a moment and asks no one in particular, "Did he really just say what I thought he said?" Everyone else looks at George too. "Hell yeah I said it" replies George, staring right back at her.
Dez sees red. She points to the door they just came through. "Get the fuck out of my infirmary, you sexist piece of crap." Joel tries to intervene, but George shrugs him off and walks toward the door. "I don't need to take your shit," he says, and heads outside into the rain. Joel stands there, totally unsure what to do.
CUT TO MADAME TULU, who has opened up the bus doors and climbed inside to seek cover from the rain. She rifles through the glove box and back seats (finding nothing; the infirmary crew stripped all these vehicles long ago). She watches through the windows as the group inside has a conversation. It looks like an argument. The big guy has been kicked out. He walks out into the rain and stands there looking around. She reads the situation, gaining a levelup. Her player chooses In-Brain Puppet Strings.
Out of the corner of her eye, Tulu notices movement on the access road to the parking area in front of the infirmary. It's a pack of six sweet-looking motorcycles, their riders wrapped up tightly in multiple layers against the rain, heading north. She likes those bikes, and decides on a whim that she's gonna get one for herself. She pulls out her painwave projector and fires it.
CUT TO THE RECEIVING ZONE. The radiating waves of psychic pain explode outward from the epicenter of the bus, reaching the bikers, George, and the nearby Dodge, who throws himself down on the front seat of the car, holding his ears.
George's head suddenly hurts something fierce and his ears are ringing, but he ignores it. The rain is burning his skin, but he's ignoring that too. He's totally fixated on the pack of motorcycles he sees going down in a pileup on the road. Only one bike manages to stay upright. Its rider stops several dozen yards past the accident, looking around for the attackers, but the rain does not permit stopping for long. The rider revs his engine and takes off northbound, one fist raised in the air. George can't hear him, in fact no one can hear him except Tulu, but he's shouting "REAPERS!"
Attracted by the mayhem on the road, George grabs a nearby piece of corrugated sheet metal and holds it over his head as he begins running out to the scene of the crash. His path takes him right past Tulu's bus. Tulu, of course, sees him go by. "Those bikes are MINE" she thinks, and bounds out of the bus to catch George before he can cover the distance.
CUT TO SQUAIDS. Sitting in the ball-pit at the children's museum, surrounded by his followers who are happily munching on human organs, Squaids performs a ritual, opening his brain to the psychic maelstrom. His experience is one of myco-fibrous tendrils surrounding the world, infecting everything they touch. But his vision is distorted somehow, disturbed. It's as if he keeps trying to lay the vision out flat like a sheet of paper, but it keeps fighting him, over and over, curling up into a ball, all the corners meeting in this same point in the middle. he focuses on the point in the middle, where he sees a pair of silver eyes. Female eyes. They see him, too. He doesn't know if he literally hears it but the words in his head are "You and I want the same thing. Come to me." The vision ends. Squaids is certain the silver eyes are telling him to go to the Silverton Hotel.
CUT TO THE ROAD EAST OF AIRPORT. Two of the bikers are still alive, struggling to get up. When they see George running toward them, they draw their handguns and take aim. George keeps coming. One of the bikers squeezes off a shot, hitting George in the leg, but he keeps coming. The second takes aim just as Tulu catches up with George from behind. Her small hand - cased in its Violation Glove - reaches up and grabs him by the shoulder. "Plant that sheet in front of you like a shield" she orders via in-brain puppet strings, and he does so. The bullet PINGs off the corrugated metal sheet, leaving a deep dimple. George lifts the sheet again and continues closing the distance. He is now almost upon them, with Tulu still trailing behind.
CUT TO THE TERMINAL INTERIOR, where everyone suddenly hears gunshots. Dez rushes over to bolt and chain the terminal doors, looking out the window for Dodge. She sees him. He's okay.
CUT TO DODGE, who has recovered his senses and gotten quietly out of his car. He watches the fight on the road, reads the situation, and draws his magnum. He also levels up, his player choosing +1 Hard. "This is the second time I've watched one of these idiots run directly *toward* the most dangerous thing" he says to himself. Remaining under the covered walkway he gets as close as he can get without exposing himself to the rain, and casually draws a bead on the fight scene.
BACK TO THE ROAD. The bikers fire again, striking both Tulu and George. Both take damage but manage to remain standing. Tulu pinches George's shoulder once more with the glove. "Now swing that sheet and decapitate that man!" she orders. He attempts to comply, but the wind whips the sheet out of his control like a mad kite and it dives downward, digging forcefully into his lower leg just where the bullet hit him. This is finally too much pain for George to bear. He winces and crashes to his knees. He's bleeding really badly now, and his skin is starting to peel in some places. He's gonna need medical attention very soon.
Both riders take aim at Tulu, but not before she decides to let loose with another blast from her painwave projector. The radiating pain takes out one man immediately, his eyeballs bulging out of their sockets, blood dripping from his ears. The other one screams in pain but raises his gun once more. Just as he's about to fire, a bullet hole appears in his chest and he drops to the ground. Dodge has taken him out.
# # #
END OF SESSION TWO.
We leave the players wondering what will happen when that escaping Reaper gets back home and tells his gangleaders that his squad was taken out while riding past the infirmary.