The Road to Hell

That's a mighty big axe you have there...

Having fled from the onslaught of the bots that slew Samuel Koch and Project 32, Red and Jack were found in the middle of the road to Natchitoches when Emily came looking for them. They seemed…disjointed. Confused. Idiotic, even. Much of what they said made very, very little sense, the two having seemed to have inexplicably lost all mental capacity, nevermind the ability to describe what had happened.

Emily, for her part, had not returned from her scouting alone – she’d found a trader and his bodyguard along the road (todo later – insert descriptions/names of new characters!), and convinced them of the safety in numbers. They seemed rather dubious when confronted by the lunacy of Jack and Red, but decided they were going into Natchitoches anyway, so might as well check it out. Emily stripped out of her power armor and donned Red’ lighter combat armor, and joined them. Their trip to Natchitoches was uneventful – Chuck never even came out of the town hall, saying they didn’t need anything other than gasoline. The would-be traders turned around and left.

When Emily and her new friends returned, she found Red and Jack not only confused, but positively paranoid about the plants in the area. She finally managed to squeeze the story of what happened out of them, and eventually the posse decided to head back in and give the town what-for.

They started out by taking a pot shot at one of the security cameras…and then shooting at a chopbot as it came out to repair the camera. A few minutes later, the chopbot was joined by a much bigger security bot – which promptly started launching grenades(tear-gas), and shooting bullets(rubber) and shotgun slugs(beanbag rounds) at the posse as Emily tore into it at range with her rifle all the while the man with the big axe was charging forward. By the time he reached the security bot, it had already taken a hell of a beating from Emily’s fire, and with a few blows from his massive axe he managed to disable the thing – which promptly exploded.

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Automatonoarachnophobia

The posse had returned to Natchitoches to do some trading, and found the place pretty much unchanged – manicured lawns and trimmed hedges all. Chuck met them again, and they got to talking business. He was a bit bemused by the posse’s request for holy water, but promised to send someone to go look for some. As for what the posse had to offer – all he was interested in was the gasoline the posse had gotten from the former residents of Bluebird Hill.

The negotiation got fairly heated at points, annoying the hell out of Samuel Koch when Chuck raised the price of the holy water when he realized how badly the posse wanted it. Negotiations concluded, and the posse was again escorted to a windowless inner room to bed down for the night. Sam wasn’t taking the slight with the holy water lightly though, and snuck out in the middle of the night to try and steal it. And steal it he did…but not before he overheard a very sinister sounding conversation between Chuck and another man, perhaps implying that the townsfolk were going to kill and rob the posse as they were leaving.

Understandably, the posse was very cautious leaving the next morning, but they managed to make it to the edge of town without incident. Once they did however, they heard a serene, androgynous and slightly mechanical voice informing them that they were looters and that they would have to surrender their ill-gotten gains. The posse debated what to do while unslinging weapons…and then dog-sized mechanical spider-like bots with sawblades where mandibles would be started to clamber out of the surrounding area and surround the posse.

Project 32 shot first with a brain blast, and blew one of the bots to smithereens. Moments later, the bots were on them, sawblades whirring and slicing. Project 32 went down quickly, eviscerated by one of the chop-bots. Sam and Jack stuck close to each other, fighting valiantly, while Red started to back up rapidly out of town firing as he went. By the time Sam was cut down, Red was in full-bore retreat. Jack went down soon after, though by then the robots had given up their chase of Red… Hoping the robots had no further interest in eviscerating him, Red crept back into town to check for survivors… 32 and Sam were both dead, but Jack was still breathing so Red hauled him the heck out of there…

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Exodus

The posse had managed to fend off the Nosferatu attacking Bluebird Hill, but not without cost – the bloodsuckers had taken away several of the remaining residents, leaving the town in even worse shape than it had been previously. Concluding that chasing after those taken was impossible, and remaining in the town was infeasible, the posse instructed the locals to pack up – they were going on the road.

The next day, the posse and the townsfolk started heading south on I-49, with Natchitoches or Fort Alex as the end goal. Going was slow, seeing as they had a group consisting largely of children and the elderly, not all of whom could walk. They passed by a recent battleground, scorched from a large explosion, and handily dispatched the walkin’ dead who lurked nearby. The black rain that came upon them a week into the trip caused more panic than the dead, but through the heroics of Emily and Project 32 everyone got through it alive.

Real worry happened when a few bikes sporting armed men spotted the little group and then sped away after being fired upon by Samuel Koch, only to return a few hours later accompanied by a technical and several well-armed men. There were some tense moments, but negotiations were opened and it turned out they were a trading convoy of Ravenites. After talking with their leader, Jesse Taken-Away, the posse arranged for the Ravenites to take their load of refuges on to Fort Alex in return for payment.

Thus unburdened, the posse made considerably better time. Just two days later, they found themselves once again wandering into pristine Natchitoches

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The Battle of Bluebird Hill

Several Nosferatu came streaming over the walls. The posse turned an ungodly amount of firepower on them in turn, of course – Red and Samuel Koch opened up with their assault rifles, while Project 32 let loose a barrage of syker attacks. (Jack, for his part, was still in some kind of crazy trance he didn’t shake til halfway through the fight)

The posse’s attacks seemed to slow the Nosferatu down, but didn’t put them down permanently. Sometimes the vamps would seem utterly unphased, and at best they’d be put down for a few seconds before gathering their wits and leaping back up to attack. The head vampire was seemingly off chasing Emily through the bush, while the more feral vamps started trying to drag whoever was at hand back out of the Bluebird Hill compound and into the darkness. The elderly defenders put up a valiant fight, but it wasn’t long before several were grabbed and being hauled, kicking and screaming, out into the night.

Things weren’t going well for the humans in this nighttime battle… After emptying his rifle into a Nosferatu with little effect, Sam was grabbed by the creature and started being dragged off…but not before a stray attack of 32’s almost tried to pull Sam’s ribcage out. 32 wasn’t faring much better, being taking a slash across the arm that led to profuse bleeding and him collapsing, clutching it… Jack seemed unable to get into a position to make an accurate attack, and Red was being forced back on the defensive even as most of the creatures started leaving with their prey.

Cornered on top of an RV by one of the Nosferatu, Red found himself out of ammo and so quickly pulled out his hatchet, ready to go down swinging. In an act of desperation, he aimed for the thing’s neck, hoping to lop its head off… In a series of grisly blows he struck at the thing while it tried to rip his face off before he finally succeeded in decapitating it…and then the thing fell back, convulsing, as it appeared to boil in its own blood before settling down into a mess of unmoving gore. It appeared he had finally been able to kill one of the damned things.

Meanwhile, Sam and 32 were both in danger of being dragged off by Nosferatu. Red and Jack managed to scare off the one that had been about to disappear with the moaning and defenseless form of 32, before Red sprinted after Sam. Sam was already on the ground outside the computer, almost vanished into the night, though still struggling. Red leaped down to go to work with his hatchet, and as the surprised Nosferatu released him, Sam smashed a vial of holy water in its face. The water didn’t seem to do much damage, but it definitely had an effect, and combined with Red’s hatched, the vamp was persuaded to flee off into the darkness.

The survivors surveyed the damage and bandaged their wounds. Three more of Bluebird Hill’s occupants had been dragged off into the night, which only left three residents who were fit to fight, plus the posse. It was settled that the people would have to move before the Nosferatu came back, at least temporarily. Come morning, they started packing…

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Trailer Trash

The posse ran into Emily again not long after passing through the ghost storm surrounding Shreveport, and informed her of what they suspected had befallen Lee. With heavy hearts, the posse continued to move toward Bluebird Hill.

They were tromping along Barron Road near nightfall when Emily spotted that the church they had sheltered in before appeared to be occupied. Approaching closer, she found it was a single lone traveler who had set up camp there, and after a cautious approach, the posse introduced themselves and the man, Samuel Koch, invited them in to spend the night. Seems he had just come from a survivor settlement near Thibodaux or, at least, what was left of it. Comparing notes with the posse, it did indeed seem that Thibodaux had been wiped out by the same vampire-like creatures as the posse had found in Shreveport, and Dr Jean-Marie Seward confirmed that Thibodaux had reported abductions and raids before the same had befallen Bluebird Hill.

Come morning, Koch joined the posse in traveling to Bluebird Hill – he had been heading there when they found him. The posse continued down Barron Road, passing by Bluebird Hill airstrip before coming upon Buena Vista RV & Trailer Park – which had been turned into a nice little fortified compound by circling many of the trailers. They were hailed by an elderly woman on the roof with a shotgun, and Dr Seward led the posse in, introducing them to an old man in a wheelchair, Felix Abbotaway, who was what passed for leadership at Bluebird Hill. Seemed most of the young and strong had already been killed or taken by what the posse now suspected were Nosferatu, leaving the settlement with less than two dozen inhabitants, mostly old men, old women, and children.

The posse explained the situation as best they could, and threw down their hats to offer to help. Sensibly, Felix largely stepped out of the way to let the posse organize the defense. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the posse spent some time that first day fashioning crosses out of debris, and spent a long and somber watch on top of the trailers, staring out into the darkness, but that night the creatures did not come. The next morning, Alt put himself into a strange trance, surrounding himself with the crosses, while Emily and Red headed out to inspect a nearby church, which they found in greater disrepair than the Barron Road church.

The posse settled in for another long night of watch as the sun set once more, some perhaps hoping the creatures would come quickly, others perhaps wishing a confrontation could be put off another night. The former would get their wish – in the middle of the night, the first of the creatures swarmed out of the darkness, encircling Emily as she lay in the brush outside the compound, and jumping up and onto Red as he took a break from watch-standing to relieve himself. Battle was joined.

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Lee's Last Stand

The posse was now pretty convinced they were fighting vampires. Some of them went down relatively easy, though they didn’t exactly die. One of them just kept coming – the one that was faster and more human than the others – even as the posse fought a retreat back to where they came from. The posse almost fought free and then, standing outside in the daylight, Lee poked his head back in to try and fire off another shot…and got gutshot for his troubles. He was pulled free by the rest of the posse, who beat a hasty retreat.

They didn’t go far – they couldn’t afford to, with so many of them wounded. They found a collapsed retail store, and Red went to work on Jack’s injuries while Dr Jean-Marie Seward settled into what was looking like a long surgery to see if she could patch Lee back together. With Project 32 meditating, Jack and Red decided to wander off to go scavenging in the hour left before sundown while Seward continued to work hard on Lee.

When they returned, Lee was gone. Originally Seward claimed Lee had slipped out without her knowledge, but then admitted to 32 that Lee had asked her to let him slip away, and she had acquiesced. With dusk quickly approaching, Seward, 32 and Jack decided to hoof it as far as they could before finding a place to shelter for the night, while Red was nowhere to be see.

The night passed uneventfully for the others, aside from a few muffled shots off in the distance near sundown, and another barrage of automatic gunfire sounds in the early morning. Come dawn, Lee did not return, and the posse made their way free of Shreveport, heading towards Bluebird Hill where the doctor had originally came from…

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"One thing I never could stand about the post-apocalyptic wasteland..."

The posse went exploring inside the ruins of the old apartment complex, finding the remains of many muties, killed like so many others they had seen. The complex was not entirely abandoned, however – on the top of it, they found their supposed sniper. After a tense conversation, they worked out she was Dr Jean-Marie Seward – and she was looking for the same people they were.

From the top of the apartment building, Lee managed to spot a line of street that had seemingly been cleared…as well as glimpses of whatever it was that Jack had summoned. The posse decided to make a bee-line towards the parts of downtown that were made accessible by the cleared roadways.

Once they got there, they found an old stone warehouse-looking building that seemed a likely candidate – especially since its entrance seemed to have been secured. After some clambering around, they cut their way in and found the interior was an old strip joint. They briefly scanned, and then managed to find their way down into the basement.

Proceeding cautiously into the dark, it didn’t take long for all hell to break loose as fanged creatures that were once men, with bat ears, bald heads, and sharp claws came running for them. The posse beat a fighting retreat, but these creatures were incredibly hard to put down. The worst of them seemed more or less human except for the fangs, and moved impossibly fast, pursuing them back up the stairs as they retreated.

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Something Wicked

Upon spotting what might be a distant sniper, Lee dove for cover, and urged the rest of the posse to follow him. The sniper threat never seemed to materialize, however, and so the posse got to searching the abandoned community center their assailants had emerged from. They found the place was a mess, and had clearly been lived in for some time. Tons of scavenged pill bottles, broken syringes, and empty packages from a wide variety of drugs were found, and there were only a scant few that hadn’t been completely consumed. Perhaps more disturbing was a corpse in a bathroom that looked like it had been attacked, possibly by whatever had killed the muties they’d found the previous evening.

After catching their breath a little, the posse got on the move again, moving towards the apartment building where Lee had spotted the sniper previously, yet trying to stay out of the sniper’s line of fire. Along the way, they came across a burned out house – hardly unusual, except that the fire seemed to be recent. Inside, they found more corpses and signs of a struggle, including two children in the basement.

Continuing on, the posse came to the sunken ruins of the interstate. Crossing it would leave them exposed, so they decided to do so in pairs. Project 32 and Lee went first…and they seemed to freak out in the middle of the interstate, at least to the observing Red and Jack. Once they finally got across, Jack and Red quickly followed – though they had a few issues with the rope. Red, in particular, had a hard time getting up over the retaining wall on the far side…just when Lee and Jack saw some shambling forms running down the interstate towards him.

Jack leveled his plasma pistol and took a shot and…something happened. The burst of energy didn’t seem to so much impact the ground as go through it, and then something tried to force its way out. There was a haze of energy over it that rendered it impossible to see details, but whatever it was reached out a massive hand to scramble for purchase, almost casually crumpling a car in the process.

Needless to say, the posse high-tailed it.

It was mid-afternoon by the time the posse found the apartment building Lee swore he saw someone on top of earlier. It was surrounded by a fence of debris and torn down fencing, and inside that perimeter a couple of bodies lay. The posse double-checked their weapons, formed up, and then headed in…

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Into the Storm

Most of the posse weathered the passage through the stormwall well, but Jack passed out during the transition and had to be carried in by Project 32. A good lesson on why one should never try to pass through a ghost storm by oneself. The posse found the interstate they’d been traveling on broke off abruptly not long after it entered the hellish landscape, and after some debate Lee tied a rope and descended to start exploring, the rest of the Posse struggling to catch up.

Just as night was about to fall, the posse found the semi-intact remains of an old hospital. Thinking they might find loot or shelter there, they clambered in through the second floor and took to exploring. It wasn’t long before they started finding the old and bloodless corpses of several muties – and then a whole room, what was once a dormitory, filled with the slain mutants. The stench of death was overwhelming but, faced with quickly growing darkness outside, the posse tried to find a secure room inside the hospital and settle down for the night. The only thing that broke their sleep was the thrashings of Red as his nightmares took hold of him, a situation that almost got out of hand but which was handled quickly by 32.

As soon as it was light enough outside to move, the posse got to exploring again, guided by the reports of Lee who had climbed to the highest point of the hospital to take a look around. Their explorations took them into a less damaged area of Shreveport, where they spotted a few odd figures lurking in the shadows of a community center. The posse approached and tried to start up some peaceful dialog, but it wasn’t long before the strange men and women attacked in a crazed state. Once they got up close, the fact that their fingertips had all been replaced by needles became apparent – and, unfortunately, the posse was able to experience their superhuman strength, too.

But the strange needlehanded folk fought without strategy or tactics, and soon they were all dead or dying. The posse breathed a sigh of relief. Until Lee spotted someone with a rifle on a distant roof…

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For the sake of a woman...

The corpse that Project 32 had pulled up out of the water was infested! As Lee investigated the corpse’s belongings, small fish, a couple inches long with sharp spines, leapt out of the corpse, propelling themselves towards the flesh of those members of the posse who were nearby. There were only half a dozen of the tiny creatures strong enough to hurl themselves through the air to try to drill into flesh, and only Jack managed to get one of them well and truly stuck in him before they could all be pulled off and either destroyed or thrown back into the river. Jack seemed just as upset about the slash Red gave him trying to get one off of him as he did the fact one of the little fish embedded itself in him and took nearly an hour of surgery to get back out. Perhaps they should have just all been happy they weren’t in the water at the time, considering what regular candiru are known to do (these were clearly the mutated variety)…

While Jack was cutting the stubborn little fish out of himself, Emily patrolled around the bridge. She found tracks of men and vehicles on the far side of the bridge, as well as some blood and the wreckage of a gun, but no shell casings. She also found the hint of a blood trail leading away from the middle of the bridge where the posse had originally found shell casings. She tracked it back to the woods near the road, and then 32 stepped forward and started tracking off into the woods. The posse found their quarry several hours later – a badly wounded man in hunter’s camouflage who introduced himself as Clayton Harker.

It was clear to those in the posse with medical skills that Harker’s chances of survival were not high – they would need to move him somewhere warm, and do something to treat the infection, and even then his odds were low. As they prepared to move him, Emily spoke with Clayton and tried to get out of him what had happened… Apparently, he was from a nearby community called Bluebird Hill, and had set out with a pair of companions to seek out some of their kin who had been kidnapped by muties during the night. They had been traveling to Shreveport when they came across some “military types”, whom a companion Clayton Harker described as “the Texan” started shooting at – the military types returned fire, Clayton was wounded and fled, the Texan was dead, and his third companion, a doctor, nowhere to be seen. More than anything, Clayton seemed desperate to find his fiancée, Mina. He spoke of her even as the painkillers he’d been given took hold, as the posse found a nearby abandoned church and holed up there for the night.

The night passed uneasily. Project 32 had performed some sort of ritual cleansing that involved cutting himself and bleeding in front of the cross in the old church, and Harker’s delirium inspired him to ramble incoherently and occasionally mistake nearby people for his fiancée. Sometime during the early morning, Clayton Harker fell quiet, and his death was confirmed. In the morning, the posse dug a shallow grave for him in the churchyard, and then resolved to go forward to Shreveport to find Harker’s fiancée.

The trek to Shreveport took most of the day, and by the time they neared the storm wall it was only an hour or two before dusk. They posse took some time to sort themselves out and redistribute the weight of their gear – undoubtedly also taking any excuse to delay their passage through the ghost storm. Finally, with the sun sinking low on the horizon, they stepped forward into the screaming maelstrom and took their first steps into the ruins of Shreveport proper…

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