After returning to war wag one the group carefully secured the vehicle, Heather making sure to check underneath the truck and in back for any unwanted passengers, her dogs continually glancing back up road at the wreckage of hamburger lane in the distance, faint shadows of movement visible in the fading light.
As darkness fell over the group they quickly discussed whether to abandon war wag one until dawn and seek safe refuge elsewhere for the night, or to make the repairs using flashlights and quickly leave the area before their noise and commotion drew more undead down upon them.
Renee helpfully pointed out they had no clue where a safe place to spend the night even was, and they would be burning even more fuel to return and repair the truck the next day, the group reluctantly agreed to make the repairs that night, Riley mentioning the cigarette light adapter for the soldering iron should prove sufficient to make the repairs inside of a couple of hours.
While Riley and Thomas struggled to repair the holed radiator the rest of the group set up a defensive perimeter, with Renee laying on top of war wag one with her rifle to pick off any incoming corpses while Heather and her dogs walked Patrol, Jessy heating up dinner for everyone using a few cans of sterno and a portable camping stove in the back of war wag two, grateful for a chance to be off his injured leg; the bullet wound from over a week ago still not fully healed.
No sooner did everyone stop to eat, when they noticed Heather’s two dogs abandoning their meal to growl at the darkness beyond the headlights of war wag two, the low rumble of the trucks engine drowning out any attempts to hear what within the shadows.
Suggesting it was scavengers drawn by the smell of the cooking food Renee flicked on the light under her shotgun and swept it across the cornfield, the swaying stalks making it impossible to see more than a few short feet within.
Dropping their food the group drew their weapons as Heather’s dogs backed up closer against her hearing a faint moan, echoing on the wind, joined soon after by a half-dozen more, the origin unknowable in the wind and darkness, although Jessy insisted it was from up the road where Hamburger lane is located.
Forming into a defensive circle the group decided to quickly refill the still damaged radiator and put as much distance between themselves and this area before the vehicle overheated and forced them to stop again, Riley certain the few leaks that remained would allow them to make at least twenty miles or more.
All seemed quiet as they split up into teams and started to re-enter war wags one and two, (with Thomas offering to ride in the back of war wag two with Heather’s dogs) However, as heather stepped up to enter war wag two’s driver seat, (and botched her perception roll) she caught a flash of a black shadow from the side seconds before it slammed into her, sending her tumbling sideways into the cornfield and out of sight, a predatory roar arising from the blackness as her dogs leap from the back of war wag two to the rescue, Renee blinking in surprise at Heather’s sudden disappearance.
GM note: Originally I had planned to attack the last person to enter a vehicle with this deadly aggressor, which I expected to be poor Thomas. However, Heather made sure her pups and Thomas were loaded first before entering the vehicle herself, making her the unlucky target.
Botching her perception roll, and then failing her unarmed combat/dodge rolls made this attack far more effective than I originally planned, but since this is a survival horror game I let the dice fall as they may and ran with it.)
Screaming out a warning Renee dived back out of the cargo truck and charged into the cornfield after her girlfriend, the frenzied barking of Heather’s dogs, and the screeching of the unknown attacker drowning out all attempts at normal conversation, Jessy and Riley running close behind as fast as their injuries would allow.
Roughly eight or so feet inside the cornfield Renee’s shotgun mounted light highlights a scene of gruesome carnage, with Heathers’ bloody form lying in a patch of broken corn stalks, one of her dogs broken bodies limply splayed across her, a bright spray of arterial blood and entrails covering them both, to their right, mere inches away Heathers’ remaining dog rolled in a tangle of fur and fangs with a heavily muscled black shape, the twisting and thrashing of their forms making identification of the monstrosity all but impossible.
Raising her shotgun Renee fired blindly into the tangled mass, fearing more for her safety then the life of Heathers’ canine companion. Her shotgun slug missed both creatures, the loud explosion of sound panicking the attacking monstrosity as it rolls backwards away from the blood soaked dog, hissing in outrage; Renee's light illuminated the sleek muscled form of a blank panther. (An escapee from the zoo months earlier.)
As Renee racked the shotgun to chamber a fresh round Jessy and Riley arrived on the scene and opened fire with abandon into the panther, sending it spinning into the cornstalks in a shower of blood and fury. In the aftermath Renee collapsed to her knees, cradling Heathers’ head in her arms and crying, Jessy choking back the taste of bile as it rose in his throat, Riley, remaining eerily calm as he recalled he’d seen lots worse in his tour of Iraq, and deeply wishing they had a real doctor for situations like this.
Pushing the gutted canine from on top of her, Riley did a quick examination of Heather, noting the large welt on her head and the deep lacerations across her ribs and shoulder, reassuring Renee that while seriously injured and unconscious, she was still alive, but needed stitches and a compress to stay that way.
The quick sense of relief at his news vanished as more gunshots were heard from behind them, back at the parked military vehicles, the bark of Thomas’s .308 Springfield a sharp reminder danger was still close at hand. Rising to the occasion Jessy told the rest to “Get Heather and her mutt loaded into war wag one, I’ll help Thomas hold off whatever else has found us and follow you in wag two.” before charging off into the darkness towards Thomas, ignoring everyone else’s protests.
Leaving the rest to care for Heather, Jessy emerged from the cornstalks to find several undead scattered across the road, Thomas gripping a .45 1911 in one hand while leaning out of the back of the truck, giving Jessy a silent thumbs up, offering up only six words in explanation. “Stayed behind to watch your back.”
Nodding to Thomas who began to reload his rifle, Jessy wasted no time running back to the front of the truck and pulling it around behind war wag one, sighing in relief as Heather and her surviving dog were loaded into the back by Renee and Riley, Renee returning to the driver’s seat and pulling away, leaving Riley in back to apply first aid, Jessy following close behind and hoping his trucks light would help Riley see well enough to tend to Heathers’ Injuries.
Upfront in war wag one, Renee struggled to keep sight of the road through her tears and made a panicked distress call over the CB, asking for anyone in range with medical skills to please respond, anyone…
* * * * *
Will Heather and her dog survive their injuries? Will the partial repairs to war wag one prove sufficient? Will Renee’s distress call be answered? Find out in the next adventure synopsis #21!
This session got off to a late start mainly due to some rule addition/conversion ideas from d20 apocalypse Riley’s player thought would be “cool” to include, covering a bunch of vehicle maneuvers that would make chase and vehicle combat scenes more fun and faster running. (Discussing these new rules and going over a few other house rule ideas to fix some game mechanics areas not every was entirely happy with ate up a lot of session time.)
In the end we created, and started using a short “fast play” sheet of various vehicle stunts, (borrowed from d20 Apocalypse) and martial arts maneuvers taken from Ninjas & Super spies to converted to Cortex rules; giving us some stuns/martial art techniques that everyone could optionally use in the heat of combat to help things go faster rather then try to make it up on the fly every single time.
We almost didn’t play at all, but I really wanted to get them off the curbside and back on the road before the groups momentum stagnated so squeezed in a single scene/encounter that I hoped would get them re motivated; which seemed to work far better then expected in that regard.
Usually most of my sessions averaged 4-6 hours depending on everyone’s energy levels, and how much other stuff we all got happening IRL that cut into gaming.
Even in a typical session, if the group often gets bogged down with travel planning and discussion, or planning strategy it can eat up a good chunk of game time, as can descriptions and drawing up unexpected floor plans on the whiteboard.)