Session 5: A Meeting of Minds
ADAPTIVE CONCEITS: Joel is in the infirmary room with Wren, who remains under sedation. Silas is sleeping off a round of hard drinking in an upstairs office in Terminal 1.
Squaids (Hocus) – In keeping with his promise to Zeke, Squaids selects six members of his cult to send away. He separates them from the others. “Your loyalty is especially strong,” he tells them, “and I have a special mission for you: a spiritual journey”. He explains that they are to go out and scout for signs of BrightEyes, locate her and make a pilgrimage to her location. He tells them that he will contact them when the time comes, and that they are to stay away from Airport. The six cultists nod in agreement, honored to be sent on a special mission. They gather their things and leave, heading north.
Meanwhile, the Hubbard slaves have regained their strength enough to start talking. It turns out that they’re refugees from Los Angeles, on the run from slavers who work for Anthropos Industries. The corporation has expanded their Southern California operations all the way into what once was Orange County, and these refugees have knowledge of the terrain between here and LA. Squaids reconsiders his plan. He decides he won’t sell these people after all. Instead, he begins trying to convert them. His initial efforts are not successful, but he remains hopeful at the prospect of new followers.
Dez (Angel) - As soon as things calmed down a bit, she sent Dodge and Zeke up to Golden Gardens, where they made the dropoff. OG King wasn’t pissed, they were only an hour late and he seemed preoccupied. The pair got back safe a couple hours later, bearing a trunk full of fresh linens and ammo. All good. Later that day Vision and Jak came by from Phoenix Farms and dropped off a load of vegetables as barter for this month’s medical services. For the extra trouble of tending to his son, Vision also slipped in a pound of bacon. Dez hid that package from the others, keeping it cold in a secret minifridge upstairs.
Though the day turned out okay, Dez can’t shake a sense of depression gripping her. She’s starting to realize just how many people depend on her, and how easy it would be for something – like a gang war, for instance - to destroy all the progress she’s made. Hell, it almost happened this afternoon, and that was just a tiny firefight. She knows Shig and Mox try their best, but Shig plans to leave Vegas and become a farmer one day, and Mox is too ditzy to run Airport. Neither is capable of stepping up any more than they already have. This is a problem. She needs to find another Angel.
Finally, needing to choose an improvement from her levelup last session, Dez’ player chooses Battlefield Grace.
Dip (Ruin Runner) – Dip isn’t so sure how she feels about all these newcomers - the vault people, the bikers, the cultists, and the mysterious Madame Tulu - but she holds her tongue and watches carefully. She’s the only person here who hasn’t been wounded yet, and she wants to keep it that way.
Tulu (Brainer) – Tulu spent a couple days resting, not really doing much except for some quiet conversation and keeping an eye on Squaids, whom she hasn’t yet figured out. She’s decided that she likes it here at Airport and she wants to stay – this place seems more like a “family” than anything she’s known for years - but she isn’t sure whether the others will accept her. She decides to talk to Zeke about it.
Dodge (Driver) - After pounding back some hard grain alcohol with Silas, Dodge drove Zeke up to Golden Gardens to make the trade. As he waited in the car he was eyed suspiciously by a nearby group of G.G. thugstas the whole time, but he also managed to overhear their conversation: they were talking about preparations for the monthly open market called “First Friday” – the day after tomorrow. Looking around casually, he noted a platform-mounted machinegun on either side of the tower overlooking the market area, as well as a potential escape route from the marketplace: a haphazardly-secured parking area beneath the north tower, leading out onto Desert Inn. Then Zeke returned with the goods, and they hightailed it back to Airport.
Zeke (Faceless) – With the help of his new gang “The Triggerheads”, Zeke learns what he can about the Reapers’ hold. They’ve taken over the UNLV campus, and they’re all over it. Everybody has their own room or building. There are about 100 members and maybe 30 slaves. The Reapers treat their slaves well; they consider themselves sort of an extended family. They hate cannibals and kill them without hesitation. There are defenses and booby traps all over the campus, which are moved frequently due to paranoia and indecision. Megadeth’s prize possession is an operational Browning M2HB tripod-mounted machine gun. Some of the top names in the Reaper camp are: Megadeth (The Leader), Head (Mechanic), Beer (Security) and Tequila (Gang Girl).
Mental then drops a bomb on Zeke: He wants to go back to UNLV and get Tequila. Says he can’t leave her there. And he says if Zeke lets him go get her, she’ll bring all her girlfriends with her. Zeke refuses. “The only time I’ll be heading up into that campus is the time I’m ready to take Megadeth OUT,” he says. “Not before then.”
A Meeting of Minds
With all these new people coming and going, Dez feels it’s time everyone got on the same page. She calls a round table meeting and lays down some ground rules. “There will be no weapons inside Terminal 1, except for my own security staff” she says. The Triggerheads are dismayed at this. They don’t like the idea of being disarmed, and start to shout their resistance. Zeke uses his Pack Alpha status to shut them up. They go outside to work on their bikes. After some discussion, Zeke and Dez decide that the gang will move their base of operations across the street to Terminal 3, and will help patrol the perimeter on a regular basis. They can do what they want on the other side of the road and while out on patrol, but they’ll need to check their weapons before entering Terminal 1. Squaids and his remaining cultists, meanwhile, will be allowed to set up camp in the Cinnabon shop upstairs.
Dodge isn’t so sure about having one of those “Brainers” around. Tulu seems nice enough, but as everybody knows, Brainers can read people’s minds. It’s creepy, to say the least. He’s even heard tales of Brainers making people do things against their will, using some kind of psychic mind control. This makes him uncomfortable, but he says nothing. Instead, he tells the group about First Friday, and what he overheard at Golden Gardens. The thugs said something about “a lot of fresh trash coming in from Cali”, which probably means slaves. Which means slave traders.
Dez realizes that with the Hubbards taken out, the power vacuum that has been left will attract even more slavers, and at a moment when Anthropos is already making aggressive moves toward expanding their powerbase in the southwest. If Anthropos slavers get a foothold in Vegas, that will be the beginning of the end. She begins to formulate a plan, and tells the group that she will no longer provide any services for anyone who buys or sells slaves. Furthermore, she plans to contact King, Vision, and all nearby hardholds and settlements, to try and get local solidarity on this important decision. It doesn’t sound like an easy task. But there is no disagreement.
Recognizing that he needs to earn his keep if he plans on staying for any length of time, Squaids volunteers his cultists to assist in securing the Airport perimeter. They’ll be paired up with Triggerheads, riding in the available sidecars. Zeke and Squaids begin planning the patrol schedule together. The meeting is adjourned.
CUT TO ZEKE’S ROOM.
After the meeting, Zeke and Tulu find some time to talk privately. He asks why she came all this way to find him, and her response is childishly simple: “You said ‘I’ll see you in Vegas’ – so, here I am!” she says. “Can I stay here with you and your… family?” He remembers this girl; she was young and impressionable when she lost her own family, to the same people who claimed his. He doesn’t know what to say. It’s not his Airport, after all. He tries opening his brain to the Psychic Maelstrom, but all he gets is a mass of swirling colors and cacophonous sounds, until a whispering voice speaks in his mind: “What are you most ashamed of?” He is stunned but reflexively answers without any hesitation: “My face,” he whispers.
The vision is over. Tulu is looking at him expectantly. “Yes, of course you can stay here” he tells her, “but you’ll have to clear it with Dez.” He doesn’t have the heart to tell her that the “Vegas” thing was just a figure of speech.
Suddenly Zeke hears the sound of several motorcycle engines revving up and taking off. He heads outside to find Mental. But Mental is gone. Red Jesus jerks his thumb northward. “Mental, Poptart, Oz, Foster and Cali,” he says. “Gone after the girls.” Zeke ponders this. “That stupid bastard,” he mutters. Red Jesus pats his rifle. “You want I should go take him out?” he asks. It’s clear that he’d love to take Mental’s place as second in command. “No, let it go,” Zeke says. “It will be a lesson for them.” He sends Red and some of the guys out to circle the perimeter, just to keep them busy.
CUT TO DEZ’S ROOM.
Secure in Zeke’s support but unsure of her status with everyone else, Tulu decides to approach Dez directly. She finds the Angel sitting on the floor in her room, brooding over the suddenly-chaotic state of things in her infirmary. Everything seems to be spinning out of control. Dez reveals very little of her concerns but Tulu can tell she’s stressed, and tries to put her at ease with an in-brain whisper of “Relax”. Unfortunately her attempt backfires and Dez reels over, holding her head in pain. She’s almost in tears now. Tulu doesn’t let on. She calmly strokes Dez’s head, massaging her temples and whispering soothingly. Eventually Dez relaxes, although her head is still dully throbbing. “I wanted to ask you if I could stay here,” Tulu begins, “I like it here.”
Dez straightens up and looks at her, squinting. She feels an affinity for Tulu, perhaps even a little attraction, but the infirmary is not a charity mission. She needs everyone to make some sort of contribution if things are going to keep running. “Listen, we can’t just house everyone,“ she says, slowly removing her coat to display her breathtaking figure. This seems to have the desired effect on the Brainer, who glances at her body coquettishly, and then averts her gaze again. Dez continues: “Everybody here has to have a job, unless they’re a patient. So. What would your job be?”
Tulu thinks about this for a moment. There are certain valuable services a Brainer could easily provide, for the right sort of client – like spying, scrying, and manipulating the brains of their enemies - but she doesn’t think Dez is that sort of client. She decides to take a less cerebral approach. She slides in closer, pressing herself against Dez as she begins caressing the Angel’s shoulders. “I know how hard it is for you,” she says, her hands sliding down the Angel’s body and embracing her from behind, “and how tense you get, with all your problems and worries…” She puts her lips to Dez’ ear and whispers softly, “I can help you relax…”
Dez is not accustomed to such close contact with others, and a shiver runs through her entire body as she falls back into Tulu’s arms. She closes her eyes as they begin kissing. Fade to black.
CUT TO INFIRMARY DOWNSTAIRS.
From the road north of the Airport, a single shot is heard. Dodge and Zeke run out to take a look. Several blocks away, they notice a small party of armed strangers taking position behind the rusted hunks of cars on either side of the street. The strangers look like wanderers, their clothes and hair covered with the powdery dust of the Mojave Desert, and they seem to be involved in a stand-off with another group in a nearby alley. Dodge says “Get in the car.”
CUT TO ROAD NORTH OF AIRPORT.
Gassing it across the tarmac and out the main gate, Dodge comes closer to the scene of the action. One of the strangers, a tall man with a hunting rifle, pops his head up from behind a car door while keeping most of his body shielded. He shouts “You’ve already taken one of ours, we’re not letting you take another!” Zeke and Dodge look at each other questioningly. The man continues: “We’re just passing through. Let us pass and there will be no trouble!” Dodge slows the car and creeps closer, staying in the center of the road. The stranger points the rifle directly at Dodge, saying “I mean it - you stay the fuck back!”
From their current vantage point, Dodge and Zeke can see the opposing force in the alleyway to the north, it’s none other than Red Jesus and his men. The Triggerheads are crouching behind cover and trying to line up a good shot. It looks like Slick has been hit; he’s grimacing as he ties a makeshift tourniquet around his arm. Zeke addresses the wanderers: “You must have us confused with someone else,” he shouts, “You’re in Airport territory. This is an infirmary.” Dodge suggests that these may be more refugees from LA. They do look tired and hungry. Zeke calls for the Triggerheads to holster their weapons and fall in. They comply.
The wanderers come out of their hiding spots and the two groups hold a tense détente in the middle of the street. Introductions are made all around. There are five wanderers, three men and two women. They had another woman with them, but she was captured this morning by a group of armed men on motorcycles who attacked from out of nowhere. The tall man with the rifle is ostensibly the leader, and he introduces himself as Tum. They’re on the run from a slaver band who raided their enclave in Orange County, capturing or killing thirty of their friends. “We’re the only ones who made it out alive,” says Tum. They look like hell. Dodge and Zeke invite the group to come back with them to the infirmary. They agree. Tum turns to Slick and shrugs calmly. “Sorry I shot you, man. It’s been a bad day.” All the Triggerheads except Slick head off to finish their rounds.
CUT TO AIRPORT INTERIOR.
Zeke and Dodge return to the airport with Slick, Tum and the other wanderers. Shig and Mox help them get comfortable and apply first aid to their wounds, which are fairly minor. As dinner time approaches, Shig heads off to start cooking while Dodge and Zeke talk with the wanderers about what’s going on in California. Squaids begins preparing a batch of mycotoxin tea.
The sounds of motorcycle engines are heard again, further off this time. Zeke expects to see Mental come walking in any moment, but that doesn’t happen. The sounds continue to be heard for several minutes, and it’s difficult to tell which direction they’re coming from. Eventually they fade off into the distance. “Reaper scouts,” Dodge warns. “We’re being reconned.”
Dez and Tulu wander back downstairs. Zeke looks at Dez, who seems much more relaxed than she was when he last saw her. “You look like you’re glowing,” he says. Dez, flustered, straightens her labcoat and opens her mouth, but says nothing. She goes to check on Mox’s work.
When Red Jesus and the patrol team get back, they have a strange tale to tell. While turning onto Paradise Road a few minutes ago, they noticed a group of maybe ten Cordies, a little north of their position. It’s becoming more and more common to see Cordies on the east side these days, but these specimens were unusual. Unlike typical Stage III Cordyceps victims, who wander around in an aimless and solitary fashion, tumbling out of windows and falling down elevator shafts, these Cordies were all walking in a single file line, their footsteps in perfect sync.
On hearing this, Tulu quickly opens her brain to the psychic maelstrom. The awareness strikes her instantly and without doubt. Her eyes grow wide as she hears her mouth form the words: “Something is calling all the cordies to a single spot.”
Squaids looks up from his jerry-rigged filtration system. He remembers the whispered words that came to him in a vision the other morning: “You and I want the same thing. Come to me.”
# # #
With all the distractions and commotion going on, it will be several hours before anybody realizes that Joel is gone.
END OF SESSION FIVE.