The Portland Apocalypse, Session #1: “Going off the rails”

by mshrm


  • Robert (“Bob”) T. Builder, general contractor and the voice of reason (PC)
  • Farrah Fawcett-Adler, fitness instructor and detailed map of local liquor outlets (PC)
  • Cyprys Hill, tattooed slacker and the spirit of charity (PC)
    • Stopit, Cyprys’ constant companion, a Jack Russell terrier (NPC pet)
  • Cauliflower Jones, tractor driver, gardening expert, and advocate for a more organic way of life (PC)
  • H. Oxford Killingsworth III, self-proclaimed 1%-er and one with much faith in the authorities (PC)
  • Hanna Marlow, mechanic, rescuer, and the only one who remembered to bring a rope to work that day (PC)

What Happened:

The story begins on 21 December 2012, with a MAX train pulling out from the Lloyd Center stop, east-bound. The PCs, plus around a dozen NPCs, were passengers in the rear car. The time was just about 6pm, meaning the sun had set. The temperature was just below freezing, with a 10-12 mph wind coming from the south. Most of the PCs were on their way home from work. Cyprys was mainly just riding the train, while Oxford was settling a $250 bet with a coworker that he couldn’t make it from downtown to the next major transit center on the train, actually rubbing shoulders with the little people.

Seconds after the train got going, Farrah’s phone alerted her to an incoming Facebook message, which pointed her to a YouTube video entitled “New York gone?!?” She exclaimed over the video, which showed footage from a NYC webcam: a bright light in the distance, then an oncoming blast wave, followed by static as the camera was apparently destroyed. Her exclamation led others to check their phones, too. A wave went through the crowd: “New York… London… Hong Kong…?”

Several of the passengers who weren’t distracted by their phones heard a series of booms coming from the left-hand (north) side of the train. Hanna was sharp-eyed enough (natural 3!) to see that there were lights in the sky in that direction, some of which she was able to identify as fighter jets. As she watched, one of the jets lost an engine and most of a wing in a fiery explosion. Realizing it was on a course to crash into them, she screamed and grabbed for a hold.

The jet hit the front car of the train, derailing the PCs’ car. Hanna had braced for the impact, and by pure luck, Cyprys had assumed a good posture for a crash when he had bent over in search of a coin he thought he saw on the floor. Everyone else went flying through the air as the train rolled over on its right-hand side.

The train slid to a halt (here) beside the tracks.

Jones broke his right arm and was knocked out. Farrah and Cyprys each sprained a leg: left and right, respectively. Everyone was hurt.

Hanna and Bob were the first to recover. Using Hanna’s tire iron, they got to work on opening the left-hand – now, top – door. As they got it cracked and started climbing out, Cyprys started helping the wounded towards the new exit. This led to a bit of a tense exchange with Oxford, who insisted that he didn’t need any help from somebody who looked like Cyprys. Carol, one of the NPCs, wasn’t so picky, and handed her young daughter over to him to be lifted out first.

Outside, a scene of destruction greeted them all. The front train car was utterly destroyed and clearly no place to expect survivors. Luckily (if that’s the word), the train had derailed towards the south side of the tracks, rather than going off the north side and dropping some twenty or thirty feet. Traffic on the highway was disrupted from the spectacle of the crash, but soon picked up to a frantic pace. More than one fender-bender went seemingly unnoticed in the rush to leave the area.

Pulling the survivors out of the train and getting them safely to ground level took some time. When Cyprys came face-to-face with one of the passengers who hadn’t been lucky enough to survive, he fainted, and had to be lifted out, himself. Farrah had a small first aid kit on her, and set to work on the wounded, starting with Jones and managing to restore him to consciousness. They rounded up splints and a couple of makeshift crutches from the wreckage. Jones made a point of recovering his prized bicycle.

While all this was going on, the cold was starting to bite at those who were standing outside in the wind. Their initial hopes of a quick rescue by first responders went unfulfilled, as minutes went by without anyone arriving. It became clear that they would need to seek shelter on their own.

Opinions were divided, though, on how to go about seeking shelter. Crossing the highway on foot seemed unattractive, especially considering the fences and steep climb on the far side. Some argued for walking along the tracks, either back the way they came or forward to the next station.  Oxford declared that he would walk back down the tracks and find the authorities.

Several members of the group, who happened to be looking to the north, saw a brief, bright flash come from over the horizon in that direction. Immediately, the city lights went dark and the cars on the highway ground to a halt. Oxford decided it was a fool’s game to walk along the tracks in the dark, and turned around to quietly join the back of the group.

With the light pollution of the city gone, they could see the stars. They were struck by the unusual number of bright shooting stars.

Farrah and Cyprys thought the nearby storage facility just to the north looked like the best bet under the circumstances. Farrah climbed down the embankment without incident, despite her injuries. Cyprys, struggling along on his crutches, took his time and tried to slide carefully down the bank on his backside, but still managed to take a tumble, further injuring his arm.

At this point, a door opened at the storage facility and an older gentleman leaned out. “Come on,” he called, waving the group his way. While the rest of the group helped each other climb down, he came out of the building to help Cyprys to his feet. He introduced himself as Charlie, and made it about halfway to Cyprys before doubling over with a violent coughing fit. The two ended up leaning on each other for support as they staggered to the building. Cyprys indulged himself in a bit of gallows humor; remarking on Charlie’s condition, he asked if they could get some of what the old man had been smoking.

In between bouts of coughing, Charlie led the rag-tag group down a short hall to the office, explaining that he was the night watchman for the place. The NPCs made themselves as comfortable as they could in the hallway, while the PCs settled down in the office to confer. Charlie brought a flask from his desk, which was passed around just once, before Farrah drained it.

They all compared news and swapped rumors. Charlie had seen the news about New York on the television before being pulled away by the train crash, but that was all. “It’s them Rooskis,” he said knowingly. Jones agreed, but pointed out that the real fault was the violence inherent in the system, and everybody would be better off eating organic and living close to nature. Cyprys blamed space aliens, unless it was actually saber-toothed housecats.

One thing was certain and beyond dispute: they were in a bit of a situation, here. Oxford argued for sitting tight and waiting for the police, who would surely be along any minute. The others decided that they needed to take care of themselves in the meantime. Opinions differed on the first priorities, and so the group split up.

Bob felt the need to secure the perimeter, an idea that Charlie supported. Taking the watchman’s key ring, he headed out to make sure all the doors were locked. In time, he did locate a couple of unlocked doors, and made sure to lock them up tight.

Cyprys went to talk to a couple of the NPCs that he had noted earlier, a pair of teenage boys: country music fans, judging from their clothes. Cyprys explained that they were all in a bit of a tight spot, and so it was time for desperate measures. What they needed to do, he argued, was to break in to a few of these storage bays and see if they couldn’t find some useful supplies. Probably not food, but they might be able to find warm clothes, flashlights, who knows what? One of the boys nudged the other, saying “Look here, Darryl, here’s a fella who knows what’s what!” The two enthusiastically joined Cyprys, wandering the halls and quietly breaking in to likely looking doors. They eventually did find a large collection of warm blankets and quilts that would be fine if you just overlooked the smell.

Noting that they were just down the hill and around a couple of corners from a grocery store, Jones left the building and rode up there on his bike, hoping to gather supplies. His hopes were dashed when he arrived. As it turned out, he wasn’t the first to think of a trip for groceries. The place was a madhouse, being torn apart by a mob of looters. Not wanting to get involved in all that, Jones turned and headed back to the storage facility.

Meanwhile, Oxford, Farrah, and Hanna had been talking. Oxford had a fairly low opinion of the members of the group, didn’t care for the accommodations, and was irritated that the police hadn’t yet shown up to straighten things out. The discussion had just reached the point of “If you think that, why don’t you go find them?” and “I might just do that!” when Charlie interrupted. He had been weak and coughing in fits the entire time, but this time, it was clear that something serious was wrong. Farrah tried her best to help, even overcoming her distaste when Charlie started to cough blood. In the end, though, it didn’t make any difference: Charlie choked, convulsed, and died. With no better option available, they eventually decided to put his body outside, in the freezing weather. This event only increased Oxford’s desire for the arrival of the authorities, and Farrah’s desire for a strong drink.

As Jones rode back, wondering if there were any smaller stores or the like nearby, he noticed a man standing on a upcoming street corner. He had left two brown bags sitting on the curb, and was now distracted, doing the Get More Bars dance with his cell phone. One of the bags had a bunch of celery sticking from the top. Thinking fast, he rode by at speed, snagging the celery with his left hand (and thus riding no-hands, considering his broken and now-splinted right arm) and raced away, followed by the stranger’s shouted curses. When he made it back to the building, though, he found that the door he had exited through was now locked. Concerned, he began circling the building looking for another way in.

Cyprys grew fatigued at supervising the boys, so he left them to the search so he could take Stopit for a walk. He located an exit leading to a somewhat-overgrown back parking lot with a fence, opened the door, and let the little dog run out. This drew the attention of Bob, who objected to unlocked doors. Their discussion was cut short when Stopit cut loose with a flurry of barking, which turned into a burst of frightened yelps, ending with a suddenly-cut-off yipe! Cyprys staggered outside calling for Stopit, while Bob stood by the door, threatening to lock them both out if he didn’t hurry up.

Hearing the two of them, Jones hurried around the corner and approached, bearing his stolen celery before himself like spoils of war. Bob let him inside, where he proceeded on to the office. Oxford and Farrah passed him, going the other way, still arguing.

Outside, Bob and Cyprys located Stopit, lying unconscious in the middle of the parking lot. Cyprys recovered the dog and quickly retreated back inside, attempting mouth-to-mouth. Bob noticed that he had stepped in something unpleasant and unidentifiable, somewhere along the way, but didn’t see any other clues.

Oxford, Farrah, and Bob ended up meeting at the door. Oxford loudly insisted that he was going to go outside and go for the police on foot. Farrah argued that going outside right now was just too dangerous, unless it were in an effort to locate a liquor store. Bob agreed about the danger, adding that as far as he was concerned, the doors were staying locked, and that was that. The argument grew heated.

As they were talking, the door suddenly rattled, as if struck a powerful blow on the other side. For a moment, all three went silent. Then Oxford announced it was obviously the police knocking on the door, which they should immediately open.

At this, Farrah opted for direct action. Watching for her moment, she waited until Oxford’s eyes were on Bob, and then punched him in the back of the head. Farrah was trying for a knockout punch, but only managed to make him mad.

Oxford had had enough. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his pistol.

Farrah and Bob immediately gave him his space. Oxford demanded that he be allowed to leave. The other two agreed, he was free to leave at his pleasure. He shooed them out of the way, unlocked the door, and stepped though. As soon as he was out of sight, the other two hit the door, slamming it shut and throwing the lock. They crowded together to look out of the small window.

Outside, Oxford didn’t see anyone, so he called out to the police that he knew must be nearby. Casting about, he never saw the thing that jumped from the ground to smack him in the back of his head, where it clung. The impact was nearly enough to knock him down, but he managed to keep his feet.

Inside, Farrah got a momentary look at the thing on the back of Oxford’s head and screamed. She took Charlie’s flashlight away from Bob and aimed it outside, shouting at Bob to looklook at it dammit!

It was some kind of plump, round worm, somewhat larger than a human fist. It had two eyes on stalks, and a mouth full of wicked-looking teeth. It was hanging on to his head, somehow, while it reared back as if to strike. Then, it was out of sight, as Oxford flailed wildly and attempted to flee.

Outside, Oxford didn’t know what had hit him, but he knew something was on the back of his head, and whatever it was, it was out to do him harm. No matter how he ran about in his panic, he couldn’t shake it off. Oxford managed to run some distance away from the building, and fired two shots from his pistol, but in the end, he fell dead as the worm bit him repeatedly in the back of the skull.

Inside, everyone heard the shots as they regrouped in the office. They traded the news about Oxford and Charlie. It was generally agreed, outside the building was a dangerous world, best to be avoided until the sun came up.

In accordance with this vision, they set to work making a safe place to spend the night. Farrah found a break room with two vending machines, which Hanna handily unlocked with her multi-tool. Cyprys applied his knowledge of living on the streets, going through every dumpster and wastebasket he could locate, searching for anything edible. Between those two efforts, and Jones’ liberated celery, they were able to make a meal for everyone, PC and NPC alike.

They went to the top floor, found the fire escape, and made their camp in the rooms off that end of the hallway. They hung up blankets and a soda can tripwire on the interior side of the hall, to warn them in case of intruders from within. They made sure the fire escape door was barricaded, counting on the normal noises of a fire escape to alert them if anyone – or anything – tried to come in from that side.

The group set up a rotation of watches and went to sleep. The general plan was to re-assess in the morning. If the situation outside hadn’t improved, they planned to give the storage facility a thorough search before moving on.

Party Status

  • Bob: -1 hp, holding on to the key ring with both hands
  • Farrah: -8 hp, hobbling on a crippled leg until fully healed
  • Cyprys: -6 hp, also with one leg crippled until healed
  • Cauliflower Jones: -4 hp, right arm broken for 3 months
  • H. Oxford Killingsworth III: DEAD!
  • Hanna Marlow: unhurt (!), after being patched up

Cool point awarded posthumously to Oxford, to be applied to his replacement PC.

Everybody’s down some amount of Fatigue, but a good night’s sleep after a meal should have them right as rain in the morning.