After The End #2: “The Holy Glow”

by mshrm

“So I’ll close my electronic door
And keep the cold outside
And hug my aluminum pillow
Oh so tight
And pray the radiation doesn’t
Make me sick tonight”

– Warrant, “April 2031”

In which our protagonists go scavenging around town, with mixed results… but the real loot is the friends they make along the way. Encounters with the outside world. Varying attitudes towards radiation. A rainy day spent inventing.

Who’s Who

  • Doc Rizzo Von Frankenstein Van Helsing, Hardy Doc.
  • Francisco, Fast Nomad.
    • Nabisco, his horse.
  • James Robert “Jimbob” Eternity, Blessed Trader.
  • Liberty Vargas, Pure Strain Human Tech.
  • Rufus the Dog, Mutated Dog Hulk.
    • Buck and Otto, big dogs.
  • Vine, Sentient Plant Scavenger.

What Happened

In the previous session, we left off with the party occupying the camp of Walter, the three-armed mutant chemist, while Walter himself snored, heavily sedated. Having dealt with the immediate threat of Walter’s wounds, Doc Rizzo wanted to do a more thorough examination of his patient. Rufus volunteered to stand guard over the two of them, and went out back to get to know Walter’s two dogs better. The others got themselves organized for a scavenging expedition, to see what they could find nearby. In particular, Liberty had an eye out for anything that could be turned into a prosthetic leg for Walter, in case he lived. Since Walter wasn’t using his double-barreled shotgun, Francisco took it along, an upgrade from his musket.

After a close examination, Doc Rizzo realized that Walter was suffering from radiation poisoning, which had weakened his immune system. Considering the far-from-ideal conditions for surgery in the ruins, Doc became concerned about the risk of infection.

Meanwhile, in the back yard, Rufus handily settled the question of who was the top dog in these parts. Buck and Otto were particularly bamboozled by Rufus’ two mouths: he could hold ’em down with one while still yelling “Bad boy!” with the other. Shortly, Rufus found himself the leader of a small pack.

The others set out to find a likely place to loot. After consideration, Vine declared that they might find more commercial buildings in that direction, deeper in to the ruined city, which should have better pickings than the residential junk they had been finding.

The group set out, with varying levels of stealth. Vine took to the treetops and rooftops, slinging themselves over streets. Jimbob skulked in the shadows in a ninja-worthy display of sneakiness. Francisco rode Nabisco down the center of the street, alert but unconcerned, while Liberty walked alongside them… singing a song.

Even so, they ran in to no difficulties as they strolled along. As predicted, their path led them out of the residential area, deeper into the city, into a more commercial district. They spotted a sign at some distance reading “Jacob’s Auto Parts and Used Car Dealership”, next to a relatively-intact building. Liberty is always on the lookout for car parts, so they decided to check it out.

As they walked, they heard sounds of gunfire in the distance, from the south, deeper in the city. It wasn’t close, and it didn’t seem to have anything to do with them, so they weren’t overly concerned.

Approaching the business, they saw that it had weathered the apocalypse unevenly. There was a large parking lot, perhaps half full of rusting hulks that had once been cars. The building had two sides, apparently split between the two sides of the business. One side seemed to be more offices, and seemed to have been thoroughly looted. The other side had fewer breaks in the walls, through which could be seen ranks of heavy-duty shelving. As they drew nearer, they realized they could see a light from inside the offices. A fire?

“Hello, anybody in there?” Liberty called.

From inside: “Uh… yeah! I’m here! I’m friendly, and… uh… heavily armed!”

Diplomacy being his specialty, Jimbob stepped up, introducing himself (“… you may have heard my ministry broadcasts on Sundays from 10:45 to noon…”) and declaring their peaceful intentions.

A skinny, ragged fellow staggered out into the light, wearing dirty grey rags, conspicuously not heavily armed. “You mean, the Jimbob? From the radio?” So everybody was friends and he invited them in to enjoy what poor hospitality he could provide. He introduced himself as Zylo, of the P’Hone Clan. While doing so, he paused to casually throw up, confirming Jimbob’s suspicions. Radiation poisoning.

While Jimbob settled down to discuss religion with Zylo, Francisco hung around outside keeping watch, and Liberty and Vine curiously went to check out the ruined auto parts store. Zylo had no objection, saying they were welcome to anything they wanted from over there. “Nothing but cold metal,” he said dismissively.

The two scavengers went at it, with Vine crawling along the ceiling and Liberty skipping merrily between the shelves. Disturbed by their passage, a light fixture came lose and swung directly at Liberty’s head! Without missing a step, she ducked it and kept on going.

Still, the ruckus drew attention. Vine and Liberty were surprised when a couple of flying… things… came around the corner to investigate. They were animate fungus in the shape of a grotesque eyeball with two bat-like wings: obbs! With trilling cries and angry glares, the two obbs advanced threateningly.

As is their way when danger threatens, Vine cast around to find a heavy object to throw, finding the twisted remains of half a tire iron. Liberty ducked behind a shelf, grabbing for her pistol. Deep in conversation with Zylo in the next room and hearing the commotion, Jimbob jumped to his feet. “What in tarnation?!”

Hearing his friends’ cries, Francisco turned Nabisco towards the fight, drawing his new shotgun. They burst through the door, leaping over a fallen shelf. As the horse ran past the oncoming obbs, there was a single shining moment when there was a straight line from Francisco’s eye, down the barrels of his shotgun, through the first obb, and into the second. Francisco gleefully pulled both triggers, hoping to end the fight with a single blow.

Pfft.

Double misfire.

The obbs blasted away with sickly green eye-beams, but failed to hit anyone. Liberty came around the corner, blasting away with her pistol, but also failed to connect with her target. Jimbob shouted encouragement from a position of concealment.

Unwilling to take the time to resolve his misfire, Francisco reversed the shotgun. As Nabisco whirled, he slammed the butt of the weapon into the nearer obb, knocking it senseless.

Having been waiting for their shot, Vine flung the handful of twisted metal at the remaining obb, wounding it badly and drawing its fire. Unsteady from the blow, its aim was poor, and in its anger, it left an opening. Nabisco took a couple of steps closer, and Francisco batted it to death with his shotgun.

After settling everyone down, Vine and Liberty returned to their scrounging, finding a few scraps of useful car parts. As Vine scuttled across the ceiling, they dislodged another light fixture. It fell without doing any harm, spilling out a box of ammunition someone had hidden inside.

Meanwhile, Jimbob had been getting to know Zylo. He expounded a bit on his religious belief in the Holy Glow. If you’re worthy, the Glow gives you mutations. If you’re not, it kills you. Zylo found no contradiction between believing in the Glow and respecting the psuedo-Protestant gibberish that Jimbob espouses. He explained that he was travelling with his sister, Telly, and that they had been enjoying the really fine Glow down the road at the hospital. But, he was getting concerned at how long she had been gone.

There was some confusion about exactly what a “hospital” had been, in the times of the Ancients. Vine was pretty sure it had something to do with healing. Or possibly mannikins. Either way, they were sure Doc would be interested.

After assuring Zylo that they would be on the lookout if they went that way, the party mounted up to return to Walter’s home. There, Doc Rizzo explained his concerns about Walter’s health, and after hearing the others’ tale, tried to get everybody straight on what a “hospital” was. The details remained murky in several of the others’ minds, but they established that it would be a great place to go check out.

By this time, it was getting to near dinnertime, so they had a meal, then got organized for the expedition. They unloaded all their accumulated loot, stashing it inside Walter’s house, so they could bring the ox and cart. They left the dogs to guard over the loot and Walter, still in a drugged sleep.

Unbeknownst to the others, Rufus gave the dogs other instructions. He told them to wait until they were out of sight, then kill Walter, and follow at a distance. Ever since Walter threatened the pack, Rufus hadn’t trusted him.

The hike to the hospital took a while, but was fairly pleasant. It had cooled off from the earlier heat of the day. When they arrived, though, they discovered a dismaying sight.

The hospital was a smaller four-story building with two wings. The left wing seemed more intact. It looked as if something might have exploded in the right-hand wing, blowing holes through the walls. All the windows on the bottom two floors, and most of the windows on the third, had been broken out. Judging from the vegetation, the right wing had been contaminated with radiation. But the really troublesome thing was the hospital’s surroundings. It sat in the middle of a local depression in the landscape, and now the building and its parking lot was flooded. The water was only ankle-to-knee deep, but with the contamination, it was surely irradiated.

The party milled about on the edge of the small lake, exploring their options and thinking of plans. While they were doing this, Rufus got distracted by something that smelled gloriously horrible and had to roll in it. While that was happening, the others thought they heard sounds from inside the building. Perhaps someone was already inside? No matter, that wasn’t going to scare them off.

In the end, they tied Rufus’ rope around Vine and secured the other on dry land. Then, Vine jumped from wrecked car to widely-spaced wrecked car until they could get close enough to climb the hospital walls. Once inside, they secured the other end of the rope, then crawled back and forth assisting the others in the traversal. Everybody made it safely, though Doc Rizzo cursed and grumbled the entire way.

Everybody but Francisco and Nabisco, that is. Francisco flatly refused to leave Nabisco behind, and horses don’t hand-over-hand on ropes, so they would stay on watch.

Inside, Doc Rizzo led the group to a place where several halls came together, where they found a wall-mounted directory. They puzzled over this for a while, talking about the strange ways of the Ancients. With sudden understanding, Rufus asked if the hospital could fly. “Because it has two wings!”

Eventually, they formed an idea of the layout of the hospital and moved to scavenge in the pharmacy. Rufus narrowly avoided putting a foot through the stairs, showing that even if the hospital was well-preserved, it was still a dangerous ruin.

Outside, Francisco was startled when a person was thrown through one of the (until now) unbroken windows on one of the upper floors, plummeting to the parking lot with a suddenly-truncated scream. He caught a brief glimpse of a figure standing in the window, someone bearing a striking resemblance to Zylo, before she moved back into the darkness inside.

On the third floor, hearing noises, the inside group sent Vine ahead to scout. They found a group of people barricading themselves in a side hall, weapons drawn, obviously in fear of something. They were wearing dark pants, button-up shirts, and pocket protectors. They were having a whispered disagreement about how to proceed: “You should go check down there.” “You should go check down there, that’s a great idea!” “I think it got Bob!”

Vine returned to share their findings, even as Rufus commando-crawled forward. This entire time, he had been getting more and more bristly. Eavesdropping on the nerd squad, he began to growl, louder and louder. These people were a threat to the pack! Finally, he couldn’t take it anymore. He snapped, drawing his katana with one mouth while barking uproariously with the other, and charged, berserk, around the corner to where the nerds were hiding.

That was too much for them. They immediately routed. One had taken a couple of steps forward to scout ahead; he ducked into a side door, where Rufus followed, slashing him down with a cut to the abdomen. The others scrambled to run further down the hall.

Liberty, Vine, Doc, and Jimbob followed Rufus at a distance, just in time to see the last nerd in line tackled by someone crossing the hallway from one door to another on the opposite side of the corridor. Having downed his first target, Rufus emerged to chase the remaining enemies, cornering them at the end of the hall. Terrific violence ensued, and Rufus returned, covered in blood and proud of himself, looking to get petted.

Triage revealed all but one of the mysterious nerds to be dead or dying; that one, they secured and ignored. The mysterious figure, once they talked her down from her own berserk rage, turned out to be Telly, of the P’Hone Clan, Zylo’s sister. She had been enjoying the really fine Glow (insert fanatic stare here) on the other side of the building when these guys showed up and started pulling stuff out of the walls. She had objected, strongly. When Liberty looked, it seemed like they had been tampering with the remains of some kind of high-tech X-ray machine, hoping to extract the computer that controlled the machine.

By the time the party had looted the pharmacy, finding some useful drugs, finished dealing with the aftermath of the battle, and talked things over with Telly, it was getting late. If they tried to get the entire group out of the hospital, moving as slowly as they did, they ran a real risk of being caught outdoors when the sun set. Furthermore, Doc Rizzo declared that the rope traversal had been so unpleasant, he was only up to do it once more, so if he left, he wasn’t coming back.

Therefore, they made a plan to spend the night holed up in the hospital. They had a shouted conversation with Francisco, telling him to return to camp and come back in the morning. One of the nerds had carried a radio, so the main group could keep in touch using the radio in the cart. Then they went to find a defensible corner to hide in for the night.

Jimbob went to check on Telly, to make sure she was OK after her ordeal and to discuss religion. Also, to ask if the Glow had blessed her with any mutations, just from politeness. (And also because Jimbob has a kind of a thing for mutants.) One thing led to another, she admitted that she had a third eye, offered to show it to him… and fade to black.

Francisco returned to the house, leading the ox and cart around back to a concealed location. Then, he found a sheltered corner where he and Nabisco went to sleep. Francisco doesn’t feel safe unless he’s on horseback. Doubly so inside buildings.

Unknown to our protagonists at this time, only a few yards away, Walter’s corpse was lying inside. The dogs had done as they had been told, killing Walter and slipping out to follow the main group. Rufus would later make contact with them and have them return to Walter’s house to keep an eye on Francisco.

Back at the hospital, later than night, Doc Rizzo was on watch and heard a commotion outside. Taking no chances, he woke everybody else immediately. They all crept to the window to see what was going on. The first few to look got a glimpse of a group of humanoids hanging around the bottom end of their rope. When Liberty brought her face to the glass, she accidentally bumped it with her nose. With no resistance at all, the glass popped from its housing and plummeted to shatter loudly on the ground below!

Everybody ducked. The creatures below stopped what they were doing and looked around, clearly startled at the noise, but didn’t see anything. In a few moments, they returned to their argument, and the party got a better look at them. They were humanoid, with pasty grey skin, jagged teeth, and oversized, all-black eyes. They wore rags, seemingly made of sackcloth, and were armed with improvised clubs. One was clearly trying to convince the others to climb the rope. Eventually, reluctantly, they did.

By that time, Rufus had long since taken a position at the top end of the rope. When the two climbers neared the building, he popped up, sword in mouth. As the climbers cried out, with a barking laugh, Rufus cut through the rope. The two fell to the pavement with a crunch.

Back on dry land, the third creature shook its head with a clear air of “Minions these days…” With a raised fist and a hoot of defiance, it retreated into the darkness.

The next morning, the party took their time and thoroughly searched the top floor of the hospital, discovering that it was dedicated more to medical research. Then, thinking that the irradiated wing of the hospital might have escaped the worst of the looting, they asked Telly to take a look around on that side of the building. Being a Pure Strain Human, Liberty laughs at radiation – and had been laughing at everyone’s caution along the way – so she volunteered to join Telly. They turned up several pieces of interesting loot, including a set of books on veterinary medicine, but the most impressive find was a reconstructed laser pistol with no energy cell. Fine treasure indeed, if they can power it or find a buyer!

After a late lunch, the party left the hospital, taking Telly and their captive nerd with them. Rufus and Vine had to retrieve the rope, and Doc Rizzo turned the air blue with foul language, but they managed to escape unharmed. They dropped Telly off with Zylo, parting on warm terms. As a parting gift, Telly gave Jimbob a notebook that she had taken from one of the nerds.

The notebook seemed to be a journal of the group’s travels. They had left Blagg’s Burke as part of a larger band, on a mission commanded by something or someone called “Vaetec”. They had travelled north about 50 miles, then spent some time among friendly people in the town of Athens, before travelling another 25 miles north through a zone of radiation. They had taken heavy losses before finding a hospital where they hoped to find the parts they were looking for.

Back at Walter’s, the party discovered the dead mutant. Doc Rizzo took it hard, but Burt Reynolds said to not feel too bad. “You did all you could.”

In accordance with the admittedly-bizarre practices of the Ancients, the party put a chair in the front lawn with Walter’s corpse sitting in it, wearing a pair of broken sunglasses and holding a beverage.

Liberty spent the rest of the evening cobbling together a bike from their pile of accumulated junk. The next day there was heavy rain, so the party chose to stay put. Having enjoyed building one bike, Liberty spent the day building a better bike. Doc and Francisco gingerly read the veterinary books. Jimbob and Vine thoroughly searched the house, finding a few hidden meals of rat jerky, and a letter.

The letter was addressed to Walter, from someone named “Cordozar”, speaking on behalf of “Joan”. Nobody recognized the first name, but Jimbob knew of a Joan: a beautiful humanoid fox who had been making a name as a trader around Newtown, known for never removing her trademark mirrored sunglasses. The letter instructed Walter to brew up a supply of drugs before “the upcoming invasion”.

During the night, Rufus and the dogs took Walter and buried him – poorly – in the back yard.

The plan from here is to spend the night in Walter’s house, then head north at first light, to meet Shady Shen and get paid. Time to make a wish list.

To be continued…

GM Notes

Rufus already had Animal Handling, and spent the points to make Walter’s dogs, his dogs.

Vine spent a point to become literate, if only just. We had a flashback where Doc Rizzo gave them a couple of lessons on knowing their letters. Questions arose as to what kind of reading material Doc would have on hand. If I remember correctly, the top two answers were “illustrated literature that is so esoteric, it’s hard to immediately tell if it’s meant to be medically educational or luridly entertaining” and “children’s books”. Vine was confused.

When Vine pointed the way towards the more commercial part of the ruined city, it was thanks to a successful roll against Urban Survival. This led to a bit of side comedy. Apparently, one of the players had privately opined that Urban Survival wouldn’t be a terribly useful skill in this kind of game, leading others to put their points elsewhere, leaving Vine as the expert on how cities work. Word is, folks are investing for next time.

I feel like we’ve completed the tutorial, so to speak. Everybody has done their thing. Rufus has cut folks up, Francisco has shot ’em from horseback, Doc has stitched ’em back together. Jimbob has performed standup philosophy. Liberty built some stuff, and has plans to repair some stuff, too. Vine got to climb and crawl and lead teams of scavengers. (Though, I know, they’re dying to find a skyscraper with a radio antenna on top of it.)

I think everybody pretty much forgot about the captive nerd. We’ll like retcon in an interrogation scene, next time.

Experience

Standard award was 3 points; while they didn’t get everything they wanted, they were more successful than not, and the roleplay was satisfyingly entertaining. Cool Point was awarded to Rufus for routing the band of nerds.