When we reconvened after our brief respite, things were largely back to normal. Though I am not sure when I can fully forgive Byk – especially since he can not see that he was in the wrong – I can at least talk to him again. Soon after our return, Drake received a call from his friend at Lonestar Security that she had a job for us that they didn’t want to handle.
She arranged the meeting for us with our new client in short time, and we traveled to the Banshee to meet the newest “Mr. Johnson”.
This newest Mr. Johnson was unlike some of our other employers, and actually told us his real name, Vincent Moore. Besides him, there was an unusual woman seated next to him. We garnered the following information directly from him: Five of his employees were headed towards Tir Tairngire when their helicopter crashed in a remote area of the Redmond Barrens – an area well known as The Rat’s Labyrinth. This is one of those places that children are told about in scary stories, and where modern horror flicks take place, but no one would dare film. After these five disappeared from the radar screen, eight rescuers also disappeared, for a total of thirteen employees. After some negotiation on my part, we negotiated a fee of 180,000 for every employee returned alive, and 60,000 nuyen for every dead body returned. One particular individual, an elf was worth 600,000 nuyen for his safe return. We were given a data unit containing pictures of the missing and the last known coordinates of the rescue chopper.
After the deal had been negotiated and the information handed over, we set to work with our investigations. I first called my uncle. He was groggy sounding and seemed worried. From him, I learned that Vincent Moore owns More Electronics, which ballooned from being a small company to an international corporation, headquartered Downtown. It was only when he answered that I realized what time it was. I heard my aunt in the background asking Who is it darling?
Walter: Its our nephew.
Elizabeth: Oh, Is it Henry calling?
Walter: Yes, our nephew, Henry, is calling from his pilgrimmage to Tibet and and wants Corinna’s(otherwise known as Jemima) recipe for purple potato salad.
Elizabeth: Really? well, wake her up!
Walter: No dear, it is Charlie.
Elizabeth: Oh, him…. Hang up the phone, he can call at a respectable hour.
Walter: Sorry, Charlie, I will talk to you in the morning. Your aunt’s being a priss again.
Pariah discovered that Mr. Moore is definitely not a philanthropist and is a ruthless businessman who would do anything to squash his competition.
Drake discovered some more about the Rat’s Labyrinth and that it may be a place where supernatural beings reside.
After we make a few purchases for our upcoming expedition, we return to the clubhouse to gear up. While Pariah raids the storage area, and Drake arranges transportation, I head to my private library and search for spells that would be most appropriate. As I am searching for just the right formula, Sitra comes down the stairs and looks as gorgeous as ever. She asks me what I am up to and tells me to come to bed. I told her that we had taken on a new mission and were planning an early departure. She looked mildly upset and said that she thought we were going to look at some new digs downtown. I told her not to worry, we could do that when I could got back and suggested maybe she and Zany could go looking together and do some other activities around there. She said that as long as I come back safe, that is what counts, and of course I am to look after Pariah too. When I told her where we were going, she filled me in on what she knew about the HMHVV as she pulled out recent journal entries from the JAMA. We drank some herbal tea while we reviewed the journals. I really needed to get some rest, but didn’t have the time. Plus, my stomach was still a little queasy from that bender on New Year’s Eve.
At a little after 6, I spoke to my Uncle Walter again, as he was up early, as normal. He said that Vincent Moore is a widower, and his wife Cynthia died some time ago in a car accident, and he had no idea who this mysterious woman was.
The chartered helicopter that Drake had arranged for touched down at about 6:20, well before the sun rose. Tiredly, we loaded the gear on to the chopper and took off at 7am. We made our way towards the Rat’s Nest, and arrived there just as the first morning rays were hitting the ground. Thankfully, that was enough to give me the second wind I desperately needed. When we landed, we headed towards the crash site.
The two helicopters were there as expected, however they had been badly mangled and there were two red puddles nearby. Drake identified one as being hydraulic fluid, and I identified the other as being … gulp… blood. Pariah, after having spent some time recently in the woods, honing his tracking ability, discovered a blood trail leading to the northwest. I used an incantation I rarely used to try and locate Anthony Moore, but it revealed nothing. Previously, I had only used that spell to locate Sitra in the stacks at the university library and more recently among the racks at department stores.
Suddenly, our communications gear went down and all we heard was static. Looking astrally, I discovered a swirling vortex to the east. We decide to head northwest, following the direction that Pariah indicated. Upon turning down Elm Street, we spotted something lumbering away from us, with what appeared to be a head in its hand. This being was certainly something normally associated with nightmares. We thought that Red successfully dispatched of it, only for it to get back up and continue ambling away from us. We followed down the street, towards it, when all of a sudden, we realized we weren’t alone. More of these ghoulish beasts emerged from doorways, alleyways and cross-streets. We huddled together and were slowly dispatching some, as others rose again to challenge us. Drake, through his odd studies, advised us that the only way to kill these creatures was to cut off their heads. Hunter zealously adhered to his words and took off after some of them, swinging his mighty axe. Unfortunately, when he did so, he isolated himself from the rest of us, and was soon surrounded and taking hits, gushing blood. Another ghoul, coming down Sixth Street, ran up and swiped at Pariah. The odds against us were soon overwhelming, as they continued to emerge and move towards us.
Pariah advocated that we withdraw to somewhere more defensible. Red advocated the alleyway behind her seemed clear, and suggested we head down that way, with her leading the way. I was able to clear a pathway for Hunter to join us, and pariah and Hunter tossed grenades in both directions to better clear our escape route.
We ran through a maze of alleyways and side streets, and emerged on Sycamore Street. Red saw a Stuffer Shack location there, just two doors down, and we made a break for it. The front windows and wall had all been destroyed, but there was a small backroom where we could hide out. After we barricaded the entryway, we looked around and discovered a few chairs and tables, with some ancient food, that I am sure only Chips would eat at this point. I first looked at Pariah, though he was less injured than Hunter. Sometimes, you have to ignore the rules of triage and go with the rules of your wife instead. When I saw the festering scratches on his leg, I admit I got queasy. The upset stomach probably didn’t help.
We knew that our time would be limited, hunkered down in the rear of the abandoned Stuffer Shack and I worked hard during that time doing what I could to attend to the injuries of Hunter and Pariah. Hunter was still hurt, but not nearly as close to death’s door as he had been. Though I would have preferred more time to evaluate those injuries, the sound of gunfire in the distance made us stand on edge.
Though I am sure someone like Byk could tell me exactly what kind of ammunition was being fired, I am oblivious to it. We hurried together toward the sound of the gunfire, and saw a partially collapsed three story house across the way, with the zombies hoarding around the entry points. Gunfire seemed to be coming from a second story window. Suddenly, the area around the front door erupts in flame from the inside, and kills one of the walking dead. Who ever is hiding in that building is in serious danger.
When I attempted to astrally project to view the situation inside the building, I was confronted by a thick blue fog, impenetrable to my eyes. Though I told my friends about this, they seemed to not care, or perhaps clueless to what I was talking about.
Drake tries to lure some of the zombies away from the building using his drones, but is only mildly successful. as others emerge from the rubble nearby. Pariah suggests that we move together towards the entry point. I regret to say that I am the slowest among the party, but even Drake’s little legs propel him faster than my gams can carry me. Hunter advocates sprinting ahead, but is quickly reminded of what happened only about an hour ago. With Pariah in the lead and Byk covering the rear, we approach the building. Upon arrival, Drake, Byk and I douse the flames, while Pariah moves to discover what lies inside.
Inside, we find some of the individuals we were sent inside to rescue. Two soldiers, nearly out of ammunition, have been defiantly defending the group, though how much longer they could survive is anyone’s guess. One of them had badly progressing wounds to his face. Also inside, were the two pilots of the helicopters, with the one having a badly broken femur and it was showing. The wound had been set, but was showing obvious signs of infection. The poor woman was sweating through her clothes in this cold weather as her body was trying to fight the infection. Besides the pilots was one of the copilots. They were all excited to see us. I offered my medical expertise, and the woman upon seeing the caduceus around my neck and my red cross bag, quickly agreed. While I was working on repairing the leg, the crew was being interviewed by my compatriots, Pariah and Drake while Byk set to guard duties, and Red was arming our new friends.
After I had successfully reset the leg, I began to work my “mojo” as Pariah calls it, and immediately saw progress, as the bone began to lace back together, and blood vessels re-spun themselves and assumed their correct position. Muscle was repaired and the skin was built up layer by layer. Even though the sounds could be unnerving, the waves of relief crossing her face told me was gratifying. When I asked her to try and stand up, she was scared at first, but when she did so, she felt so good that she was about to do cartwheels around the room.
I then turned my attention to analyzing the festering wounds of Hunter, Pariah and the dwarven defender and put a newer incantation to test. The wounds showed some improvement on Hunter and Pariah and were nearly cleared up immediately on the defender. While I was just wrapping up work on the defender, we hear a booming voice from outside yelling “Big Mon Gunna Kill Ya”. We all ran to view the man below, waving a femur at us, with his dreadlocks and straw hat – reminding me immediately of tales I had heard about users of magic in the Caribbean League – Houngan. It was then that I realized that perhaps the zombie plague was not caused by HMHVV but rather by followers of the voodoo Loa. He backed away into the rubble and disappeared into the deep darkness.
The nine of us departed the ruins into the streets and made our way towards the direction of where our new friends indicated that the other employees, including Anthony Moore or Anthony T, as they knew him, had gone. Using Hunter and Pariah’s tracking skills, we followed a trail leading towards the crash site of Flight 361. There was a swath of ground that had been charred by the initial crash, but now had been overgrown with new lush growth. As we approached the plane itself, zombies emerged from the brush towards us and were quickly dispatched of by the team. This, coupled with the slowness of our movement due primarily to me, makes me realize that I am fairly ineffectual when it comes to certain types of combat. I hope the team realizes my value when it comes to other situations though.
We made our way slowly to the remnants of the fuselage of Flight 361, and dispatched of zombies emerging from the brush, then moved at a run. We were stopped in our tracks by the emergence of a dozen large zombies, and possibly, their creator – another Houngan magician. Could this be the “Big Mon” alluded to earlier? – this one saying “You all gonna die now” in a thick Creole accent, like this was Port-au-Prince and not Redmond. Instinctively, I placed myself and members of our group under some magical protection.
The minions swarmed our group and began slashing at various people with their long, gnarled hands and nails. Most of us got a few shots in before the enemy magician. When I noticed him enchanting his spell, the stress from the casting was visible on his body, as burns and open wounds erupted on his hands and face. I know I was able to block some of it, but the power of the spell was too much to overcome. Whatever was coming at us was going to be potent. Suddenly, a virtual storm discharged over us, and acid rained from the sky. Not acid rain mind you, as the Salish council complains of, but pure acid. I heard some of my friends scream in pain as their skin melted. When the rain stopped, there was a thick fog surrounding us. I heard gun shots around me, so I knew that not everyone had fallen, though I was in serious pain as I could feel my fingers scorched and my neck searing. I advised my friends that the fog would soon lift and called out to my friends, and received positive responses, though Red was obviously badly hurt. Hunter did not reply.
When the haze lifted, the magician lay dead on the ground, having been overcome by the power of the spell. Hunter was a smoldering lump of flesh, and Red wasn’t much better. Drake was complaining about his drones and Byk was lamenting the loss of his “cannon”. I could see that my engagement ring was badly damaged and some of the charms on my necklace had melted. Byk and Pariah covered the area while I set to work reviving Hunter and curing Red. Though they were certainly both much better off, the wrapping around their wounds makes them a little mummy like. Though we were victorious, this is one battle we won’t soon forget. All of this before lunch time.
After I complete my work of providing first aid to everyone possible, we continue to the remains of the fuselage of the downed jet airliner. Entering cautiously, we spot a heap of fresh corpses inside, and one of them is moving. It appears to be Robert Goldstein, company leader. When he sees us, his eyes flicker open, as he begins to recount the details of the recent debacle with the walking dead. I largely ignore what he is telling us – only hearing something about people being marched into the school nearby, as I frantically attempt to save his life. Though I am able to save his life, and patch him up, somewhat, I fear some of his wounds may be permanent.
After he is patched up, we decide to head towards the remnants of the school house. I remembered that since the death of that Houngan, I didn’t use my abilities of astral perception and decided to do so. Though I noticed the swirling vortex around me, I was clearly entering into the center of this astral storm, where there wasn’t much interference.
Entering into the schoolhouse, I couldn’t forget the dreams I had as a kid of being an educator, and what had happened in my life since that point. All that time I had spent in the library, escaping the drama at home, tutoring fellow students had led me down that pathway, but the realities of life, love and future earning potential led me to change paths, which has led me to who I am and what I am doing today.
I asked the others to keep an eye on me, while I scanned our surroundings in astral perception. There were clearly members of the walking dead on this floor, vibrant life forms beneath us and a impenetrable sphere not too far away. Besides this, I could sense various emotions of joy long passed, and the terror of that fateful day of the plane crash just outside this edifice.When I returned to normal vision, I suggested we should make our way towards the administrative offices, because there should be a map of the building there, including rooms not normally seen by the public. As we made our way down the corridors, Pariah saw that we were following heavy traffic through the dust that had accumulated over the years. Abandoned lockers and classrooms were to our sides, as we followed the signs. Strangely enough, the offices seemed to be very close to where I had witnessed that impenetrable darkness.
The first office we enter is the general office, where the secretaries and lower level administrators would sit and beyond the doorway would be the principal’s office. I reminded my compatriots that there is something unnatural beyond there.
Pariah opened the door to reveal another Houngan sitting at the principal’s desk. On the floor, wall and ceiling around him were various sigils. Though I could make out some of them, it was clear to me that this is what was producing the sphere I had seen. Directly in front of him, on the desk are several makeshift dolls, which look oddly familiar. Oh yeah, that one with the necklace kind of resembles me… Could this be the Big Mon that we had been warned of earlier? Probably.
Before he could even finish his offer of letting us leave as we came, Byk not so subtly gives his response by firing at the Big Mon. The bullets bounce off of the barrier around him, like he had been firing marshmallows.
The Big Mon offers us some enjoyment, and suddenly Red. and Chiara begin tearing their clothing off, coming on to us, as the Big Mon is holding dolls with their resemblance. Chiara makes a move on me, and if I hadn’t been busy with the current situation, and remembering my lovely fiancee back home, the situation may have ended up otherwise, but I refused her advances. She next paid her attentions towards Drake, who really could use a woman’s touch. Red. was not so fortunate, and her advances towards Byk soon had her writhing upside down.
With all of the firing going on from Byk, any traditional magical barrier should be reduced by now, but this one continues to stand. Those symbols are doing their job at protecting this magician. I suggest that we make a slow retreat. Obviously, the targets of our search are not located here, and by exiting, perhaps we can lure him away from this circle’s protection.
Suddenly, I notice a shadow moving behind the Big Mon, and there is no change in expression on his face. This aura is one I have seen before, and is apparently that of the woman who was on Vincent Moore’s side at our meeting with him. She totally materializes, and erases one of the markings. With the barrier slowly disintegrating, she disappears. The Big Mon lets out a giant hissing sign, at which time Drake stammers…. Vaaampppirreee!!!! Drek!!! At this point, everyone begins to unleash their power upon him. When it seems that we are just about able to put him out of his misery, he totally recovers. Drek again. He is putting up a good fight, and I notice a little too late when suddenly I am out cold, and see my fellow DV-8s falling around me…
When I come to, distinctly remember hearing La Donna e’ Mobile being whistled and feel a stinging sensation on my cheeks. Everyone is waking at about the same time, except for Byk that is, who is standing nearby. I ask him what happened, and he said that the vampire fell on the chair. Oh year, that mass of powder and fabric must be the remains. When I asked him about why my face hurt, he said he tried waking me up. I told him to next time use the smelling salts in my bag. After a short recovery time, I tell the group to stay here and watch over me for a few minutes. I remind Byk that there is no reason to try to wake me this time. I project out of my body, and investigate the building more fully. Beneath us, there are life forms, and some that are anxious to be released. I appear before them as a shimmering apparition, telling them not to fear, that we are there to rescue them. There is another group too, which seem to be blank minded. Interesting. I come up a set of stairs and through the doorway back to the office. Byk is standing over my body, saying “Should I?” and Pariah says “give him a few more minutes”. I return to my body just in time.
Apparently, while I was out, they discovered an ancient safe in the bottom drawer of the desk. Having read way too many books, I suggest that if I use my stethoscope, I may be able to open the lock, listening for the clicks as I rotate the dial. Yes, there they are, but hard to determine. A couple of people take their turns, then Byk blew the desk to smithereens, and Pariah suggests taking it with us.
I tell the group what I discovered while I was sleeping, though they appear confused as normal. This is just apparently something well beyond their comprehension. I guess I can understand that, this is something that often drives people crazy. I will never forget the first time I used that ability on my own.
We make our way to the doorway we passed through, and I tell them that beyond is a stairway to the lower levels. Red, now clothed, at least what she considers to be clothes, opens the door and we head downstairs. The first group of people we encounter are the folks without emotions or apparently the ability of speech. They follow Drake’s commands and follow us. Next, we come upon the group including Anthony Moore. Byk fires into the lock and they are free to join us and their fellow compatriots.
Next, we need to find a way to contact the helicopter for our extraction. I look at the map and see there exists a radio station nearby which could be used to jam communications. We and our wards go over there and sure enough, Drake is able to solve the problem. Our pilot arrives, and we have a cramped journey home.
Vincent Moore suggests that we take the injured to the Overlake Medical Research Center in Bellevue and says he will meet us there. I am the only one to volunteer to meet him there though. We exchange luke warm greetings, and he promptly issues payment, though he seems slightly irritated to see that one of the people we rescued was among the living. When I ask him what he thinks we should do with the “hollow people”, he says it is none of his concern. I decide to call Dr Maroni for advice, and he suggests to bring them to the County Psychiatric Hospital and commit them. I really don’t want to do this, but have little other choice. I meet the admissions nurse there and leave my contact information, asking him to please let me know if they find anything out about these twelve individuals. As I arrive back at the Clubhouse, the sun is setting. Wow, this has been a long day.