6/9/PCF 085, afternoon
Poking her torch inside the Round metallic door, Jenny sees a large tunnel of almost-round cross section made of some smooth wet stone; the floor is littered with puddles and debris. The group make their way in leaving Song’s wolf outside, as it seemingly refuses to enter.
After only thirty metres it becomes clear that this cannot have been the main entrance to whatever lies below, as the tunnel ends in a small room with a narrow shaft, made of some remarkably smooth stone – worked by some unknown hand – descending into the cold darkness below.
Following Jenny’s lead the group descend one by one on old iron rungs set straight into the stone, and they become keenly aware of the growing blackness and increasing chill. Finally, at the bottom, they hit a corridor and what appear to be a series of small empty chambers, each filled with dust and accumulated debris – bits of stone, rotted trash, and bundles of wiring, piping, and twisted iron bars fused in some great catastrophe long, long ago.
Their footsteps echo eerily into the darkness as they pad along to the end of the puddle filled corridor. At the end the trickle of water falls off into a void. The last doorway of the corridor shows a wide but completely collapsed stairwell, once leading up.
The corridor ends in a large cylindrical shaft, and into what appears to a large metal cage and platform. The cage is contained within a framework metal shaft which stretches upwards about sixty feet before being blocked by a tall lump of collapsed masonry; by the light of their torches the group can make out that there is further damage to the roof area, which is dome shaped with rusted cables and pieces of unrecognisable machinery hanging down from it. It is Jenny’s opinion that the roof looks like it was once a kind of door, which opened.
There are two alternative routes down the cylindrical shaft-a ladder enclosed within a series of metal hoops leading down the side of the metal frameworks, or a circular metal stairwell which leads around the walls of the shaft in a spiral fashion. Jack tries the stairwell but is unhappy with the slight movement of the metal platform, and so the group decide to use the protected ladder.
The climb is a long one, and there are frozen fingers and aching arms by the time the group reach the bottom. The descent into darkness has covered perhaps sixty feet, and finally comes to an end at the great central shaft’s end. But the area at the bottom of the rickety iron stairs is no less cold and lifeless as the chambers above. What few lights the group have illuminate the open metal elevator shaft that continues on down past this area as well into more darkness below. A careful look over the edge shows a calm, black water has filled up the shaft nearly to this level, and there is no telling what lies further down the flooded shaft underwater. The stairs, too, continue on under the murky water, slipping out of sight due to the weakness of the groups torches.
Along the surface of the walls of this area sits find a small alcove; here stand a pair of truly gigantic metal doors, each several feet larger than the tallest man, with powerful hand wheels on the outer surface on each door. The metal surface of the doors is marked by old graffiti from unknown visitors to the caves, no doubt many of which are decades old. Luckily, the massive metal doors stand permanently ajar; beyond, only darkness can be seen. Jack however, detects a strong scent of carrion. One of his boots kicks something metallic and kneeling down he finds a handful of ammo casings for a 9mm pistol; Jenny checks near the massive metal doors and sees that there are a couple of hits clearly marked on the metalwork.
Beyond the massive portals of steel lies a strange tunnel, itself leading off into more unrelenting darkness. A strange feeling of alien-ness strikes Song, as if he has entered a place both forgotten and forbidden. Indeed, the very nature of the tunnel seems strange to his unaccustomed eyes – not at all like the naturally occurring caves he has seen or heard of in the desert.
This tunnel is oval in its bizarre shape, and seems to actually be made of a corrugated metal
- heavily rusted, but easily differentiated from the stone he expected to see. Trash, bits of fallen stone, and lengths of discarded pipe lie everywhere. The groups first careless footsteps echo through the eerie emptiness, answered only by the gloomy sound of dripping water in the distance.
“The smell is coming from this way” indicates Jack, turning left into the corridor and cautiously moving along it. Jenny moves close by with a torch held aloft, while behind them the rest of the group nervously follow.
Ahead on the left a wide doorway or opening appears, and lying in the corridor are half a dozen corpses- no more than a couple of weeks old but now gnawed by rats or something worse.
“What done for them?” asks Biff. Jack kneels down and examines the nearest corpse; Jenny is curious but puts her hand over her mouth and then vomits against the wall.
It is clear that these people have been shot. A lot. There are multiple holes in them and they have obviously received a high volume of fire. Jack retrieves a functional .45 pistol and a black powder rifle from the bodies, while Jenny picks up a spear and discards the old metal fencing pin she has been lugging around from the railway yard. It is then that Jack notices the red lights ahead in the darkness of the corridor.
“Odd”, he thinks, “I never noticed them before.” Then the lights appear to be moving upwards. All hell breaks loose.
Streams of energy burst from ahead of him. Striking the metal ribbed wall near Jack’s head. Reacting quickly Jack races for the gap ahead of him slightly and to the left, seeking cover from what appears to be fire coming down the corridor. As usual, Jenny is close on his heels.
As confusion reigns in the party Tom fires a burst ahead into the darkness, but the volume of fire only seems to increase and only Jubal’s body armor saves him from a serious wound. Most of the group race after Jack and Jenny.
“Uh guys there are more lights behind” Trinia informs the group, narrowly avoiding a series of energy bolts.
Before he ducks into the side opening Tom fires another burst, and this time thinks he hits something-but it is impossible to see.
Meanwhile Jack and Jenny find themselves in a strangely-shaped chamber, as if it were the top part of a giant, cross-sectioned sphere. The air is damp and musty, punctuated with a sharp stang of ozone and the zing of energy bolts behind them in the corridor. The footing is very uneven and Jenny almost trips – the floor being extensively damaged and littered with broken stone, discarded pipes, and rusted metal panelling. Past the entrance area this changes from bare concrete to a black and white checkerboard towards the rear – as if a wall once separated this area into two distinct rooms. The wall, however, is long gone.
The south part of the room is sectioned off by a cracked stone wall, and an open doorway sits empty in its face. A narrow set of stairs, and a fallen-away elevator can be seen near the entrance tunnel, and strange graffiti covers nearly every stretch of wall. On the remnant of an old desk Jenny spies what appears to be a battered and water-stained old leather bound diary. It appears to be written in the ancient tongue and she struggles to read it, while mayhem plays out around her.
Back in the corridor Ricky has decided to stand his ground, and hitting the floor aims carefully at the two sets of red lights ahead of him. Ignoring the bolts which bounce all around him he has the satisfaction of seeing one set extinguished with a loud metallic clang, and then the adjacent set with a minor explosion. He starts to squirm round to face the shots that are now coming at him from behind.
Biff meanwhile manages to completely and magnificently miscalculate the situation. Having rescued (in his eyes) Trinia from the corridor by pulling her the last 3m she needed to cover to get to the safety of the spherical room, he rushes out into the corridor, grabs Ricky by the hair as he is struggling to turn round, and drags him out of the corridor into the side room. Ricky drops his rifle in the process.
“Boy will he burn knowing I pulled his fat out of the fire” chortles Biff to himself as he lets go of Ricky. Ricky however is not amused, and getting to his feet pulls out his shiny new kukri.
“You total fucking asshole what are you playing at!” he spits, and lunges at Biff cutting a nasty streak across his cheek as he jumps back. The commotion causes Jack and Jenny to turn round.
“Uh Guys our OTHER problem?” yells Trinia, positioning herself behind a large chunk of fallen masonry, and facing the doorway.
Song and Jack intervene, interposing themselves between the two glaring villagers. “This is foolish”, states Song calmly, “We have enemies here enough.” After huffing and puffing the two move apart,and relative calm is restored.
“All gone quiet out there” says Jubal, who is backed against one side of the door entrance. At that point he is interrupted by a staccato mechanical sound, which persists for about fifteen seconds before going quiet again. Although distant, it seems to come from the corridor to the left-the way that they were heading. Jack looks out and then ducks back in as he is blasted by more energy bolts.
Jenny is still reading the old book she has found, and then closes it with a snap. She says nothing and no-one has been paying attention to her anyway. Ricky finds an old locker containing a couple of blue plastic suits, and an old revolver and some ammo. Tom heads over to a console which seemingly has some lights still flickering, and absently fiddles with a few buttons. Suddenly a screen flickers on.
It displays a schematic of what he soon realises is the complex they are in. There appear to be dots of light in the round chamber in which they are present, and in a couple of other location in the south east and west of the complex. Then the staccato mechanical noise starts up again, for about 12 seconds this time. Tom notices that as long as the noise lasts, a new dot of light appears down the western end of the long corridor outside the chamber. It vanishes when the noise stops, and reappears again when the noise starts up again about a minute later.
“Each time it lights up when the noise starts the dot gets a little bit nearer I think”, says Tom.
“And we’re bottled up nicely” says Jack. “Lets have a look”. With Ricky’s help he pushes the large desk on its end, and they shove it out onto the eastern side of the doorway into the corridor-hopefully blocking any shots coming from that direction. Jack then casts a torch westwards up the corridor but his throw is hopeless and it only goes a few metres. There is still no indication of what is actually shooting at them.
Ricky and Tom get ready to take up position in the doorway and Jack and Jenny advance westward, crouched along the corridor, pushing a couple of piled computer chairs in front of them. They immediately come under fire, and there are several near misses. Tom manages to bring one of the shooters down however, and Jack reaches the fallen torch and casts it further along. More shooting from Ricky and Tom slilences the fire ahead, and cautiously the group reach an angle in the corridor ahead. Scattered on the floor are 3 or 4 largish globes of 2-3 feet diameter; there are obvious weapons built into the bodywork. The globes have serial numbers stencilled onto them- J1-1, J1-3 and so on.
Also on the floor is a metallic humanoid with a rifle. J2-2 is stencilled on its bodywork. “Robots?” suggests Tom.
“Yes that’s what I assumed from the Diary” says Jenny.
“The Diary?” frowns Tom, "And it didn’t occur to you it might be important to tell us what was shooting at us? Jenny mumbles something incoherently.
“Hey Guys the ones behind us seem to have gone” calls Trinia from the rear, before adjusting her hair using her compact mirror.
“I smell gasoline ahead” , sniffs Jack. “With torches that might be a bad combination. We should be careful.”
The tunnels twists slightly to the north weat and widens out into a sort of long alcove, strewn with rubble, and the group can see that the corridor is dislocated slightly in one area-the roof looks like it has taken some punishment.
Ahead the corridor opens out into a twisted “cavern”, filled with inches of black,smelly water, reeking strongly of rot and decay, with pipes hanging with rust “curtains” from the high ceiling overhead. Tunnels lead off in every direction. Jack indicates that the reek of gasoline is very strong from the left hand tunnel, and so the group decide going that way would be asking for trouble.
A huge pile of trash and garbage rots underneath an open rusted hatch in the ceiling, and weak
beams of sunlight can be seen piercing through the darkness above.
As the group explore the mechanical clanking continues to sound at approximately one minute intervals, lasting for only a dozen seconds or so.
Song points down to the huge pile of trash and turns to Ricky. “You see? The small holes that we saw in the Ghoul shed-this damp and rot is the ideal habitat for the Borer Worms we saw.”
Biff looks interested. “Borer Worms Huh? Too chickenshit to look?” Like the idiot he is he gets down on his chest and looks down one of the holes. Song starts to protest but he isn’t fast enough.
Something pale grey and glistening shoots out of one of the hole and attaches itself to Biff’s cheek, narrow missing his open mouth. He screams as blood starts to squirt out where the disgusting creature is attached to his face. Song knows that it will rapidly bore through his cheek and then into his mouth.
Biff screams and panics, and Ricky slices wildly with his Kukri-widely missing the creature and narrowly missing Biff’s forearm.
The others turn round and then notice that from hidden burrows in the trash, numbers of other glistening two foot worm- like grubs are emerging, and homing in on the fresh meat writhing on the floor that is Biff. They frantically start stomping and jumping back towards the solid corridor, away from these revolting horrors.
Song knows that he needs to act rapidly, but unfortunately he does not have a lit torch. The others see his eyes glaze over and his body suddenly starts to writhe and whip around in a series of vile contortions. As he does this the worm detaches itself from Biff’s cheek and withdraws into its burrow.
Cursing the fact that Biff’s hair is too short to pull Ricky grabs him by both ears and yanks him back into the corridor, blood still pouring from Biff’s cheek as he screams in agony. Song staggers back into the tunnel, and then vomits against the wall as the others wave torches and stomp at those few worms which follow into the tunnel. The remainder vanish once more into the trash pile. Trinia watches Song curiously, and then turns to the whimpering Biff.
“Boy I’ve seen you do some dumb things Biff” she says , “But now I really do know you have mincemeat instead of brains.”
Biff doesn’t hear her as Song attends the bloody mess on his cheek-in the space of only a few seconds the creature has ripped almost halfway through the flesh. Song moistens some herbs from his water bottle and binds them in place using the contents of the first aid kit. He ignores Biff’s questions asking if it will scar, worrying instead about the blood poisoning that may well occur.
“You are not in your village now” Song intones to Biff, “You are in the Wastelands and here you are ignorant children. Such foolish displays will get you killed.” Biff remains silent.
Once Song is done the group decide to continue straight ahead- the sporadic mechanical noise is definately coming from that direction. Running swiftly across the trash room they enter another long corridor.
The torches illuminate only a few metres around, but after 20m or so the group see that a set of heavy partially open doors runs across the corridor. Before they can reach the cover at the side the mechanical noise commences ahead once more, and this time the group are briefly illuminated by a flickering blue light which moves across them from right to left. As the noise stops again they hide behind the sides of the doors.
When the noise starts up again Jack pops through the gap and almost immediately there is a loud explosion, and he is flung back into the corridor. Rubble falls from the ceiling and the shock of the blast is fealt by several of the others. Looking down they can see that Jack is pouring blood and appears badly wounded.
As the noise stops again Biff hauls Jack up and the group run back to the trashpile room- this time turning left into the unexplored corridor to the north. Once safely clear of the trash room Jack is deposited in the corridor, and Song again gets out the First Aid kit.
Tom turns to Jenny. “That’s enough secrets. We’re dying here- what the fuck was in that diary?” It is the first time any of the villagers have ever heard him swear.