SHC4 Episode 13: To the Centre, Part Two: Cleaning Up Lebanon

When Zombies Attack

Sandi opens up: two of the zombies fall immediately, and a third staggers slightly from the impact of a couple of slugs. Paul, still focusing more on where Lois has got to than the peril of brain-lovin’ zombies, rips the zombie-child apart with a volley of arcane blasts, sparing one for the nurse-revenant. He joins Sandi on North Chestnut:

“We should probably go, though I’d love to stay and have words with the diner woman. Any idea where Hitchcock took the others?”

“They zapped up to sniper-boy. Just one moment…” Sandi swings her Glocks over to cover the zombie nurse, who’s now rushing after Paul. They roar again, and the nurse explodes into bloody gobbets. Sandi swings to gesture down North Chestnut:

“Look, there’s Hitch now…”

Paul can’t currently hear what she’s saying since the Glocks were fired only feet from his ears, but follows the gesture. The other three can be glimpsed atop the tallest building on the block.

“Let’s go then!”

Hitch levitates the sniper back up onto the roof away from the reaching zombies. “Dan, this fellow’s hurt,” the soft-hearted Mancunian urges.

“I think I’ll clear the street – then heal him,” Dan replies coolly, eyeing the zombies gathering below. Beside him, Cliff steadies himself at the false front’s coping, and fires a test shot, the G3 punching a hole right through one of the zombies, to no noticeable effect. As Dan edges to the roof corner, Hitch studies his rescuee and begins to think he made a mistake. The man is dressed as a NFF soldier, complete with tactical accessories and a walkie-talkie, which crackles into life:

“Frank! Frank! Are yuh in position?”

Cliff’s about to select auto-fire when Dan, setting the still-muffled lance aside, holds the cup forth and calls on God’s holy power to cast away evil! Four zombies closest to the building immediately disappear in a shower of holy dust!

“Bugger!” Cliff exclaims.

Without waiting to see if Paul and Sandi need help, Hitch turns his attention to Frank. Cliff grabs his radio as Hitch props Frank up to a sitting position:

“OK: what’s the plan? What’s supposed to happen next?”

“Don’t know whut yuh talkin’ about,” the NFF soldier snarls.

“Things are going to get much worse for you if you don’t heed this man’s words,” Dan threatens. Hitch’s phone rings, he opens the channel, and Paul and Sandi appear on the roof. “I did warn you,” Dan says smugly.

“Damn! Thought I saw that waitress,” Cliff growls, then swings the G3 back and opens up on the next swathe of zombies, hitting a couple.

“Muh laig – it’s really hurtin’,” Frank hints. Dan grudgingly begins binding it, but is interrupted by Sandi’s voice:

“OMG! Zombie alert – We got suicide zombies with grenades climbing the south wall!”

Frank clutches at Dan as though to grapple him, but the big lay preacher, warned, evades his grasp. With a huge effort Frank pushes himself upright and throws himself backward off the false storefront again! (And this time, it’s fatal.)

Making his way to where Sandi is, Hitch looks down. Sure enough, a zombie pyramid is forming, the zombies crawling over each other and steadily climbing the building in their efforts to get to those tasty brains! These are much riper, putrescent or desiccated corpses. Perhaps only Sandi’s trained eye could have picked up the grenades wedged in mouths and rib-cages. Hitch casts his eye over the town layout, and rapidly formulates a plan. In the next few seconds, Cliff sends another volley of area fire into the massed pyramid, and the two men retreat to the far end, joining Sandi and Paul. Sandi switches to regular magazines since zombies are a waste of “sparkly” ammo. That leaves Dan alone at the zombie end. Retrieving the lance, he positions himself right above the zombies, and once again calls on God’s power – then flees, careless of balance!

BA-Ba-Bannnggg!!!

As the zombies dustify, the grenades go off – then in a chain reaction all the other grenades go off. Fully half the building is destroyed and the roof sags dangerously toward that end. But the campus is already climbing off the back, down to an adjoining single-storey and off to Grove Avenue.

Doing the Right Thing

Smoke rises from the city centre, and screams can be heard.

“Let’s book!”

Keeping to Cliff’s pace, the team races away from its immediate objective and across to Maple Street and there find a three-storey backpackers which is ablaze. There’s no sign of a fire crew, and three people are trapped up on the third-story balcony.

“Weight a line, Cliff! You can make that throw!”

At Sandi’s urging, Cliff drops the heavy bag, and from it disinters a good climbing rope and a couple of carabiners. Hastily fastening the alloy links together to create a makeshift weight, Cliff swings the line lustily, paying it out as he swings so that enough momentum will be generated. The team, well spread out, uses as much cover as they can, in case of more hidden snipers.

The line arcs up, and one of the three, a young woman who looks as though she’s done some rock-climbing, fastens it securely. The first begins to descend, Cliff hauling on the base, keeping the rope taut. As the first rescuee, a dreadlocked man, reaches the sidewalk Sandi yells a warning: she’s spotted a rifle-barrel!

There’s a crack and chips fly off the sidewalk near where Cliff had been a moment before. Sweeping up his G3, Cliff blasts a volley off at the window Sandi describes the sniper as being. The frame and glass disappear, along with the rifle, but Sandi suspects the sniper had remained un-hit. She and Cliff keep the area covered as Dan uses his clumsy bulk to anchor the rope, allowing the remaining two to descend safely. Paul, shimmering slightly under another layer of arcane protection, races over to join Sandi where she’s perched on the back of a Hummer.

“Are those regular rounds? Yes? Then, have some more magic bullets Sandi!”

“Yay! More sparklies! Thanks Paul, you’re awesome!”

Fighting down the sudden spasm of nausea, Paul glances back at the three rescuees, whom Hitch is interviewing. They seem to have no idea what danger they’re in. Their names are Amy, Will and Ollie.

“But, why do we have to leave?”

“And how do we leave? We were, like, gonna catch a bus, man.”

“Yeah, not cool.”

Dreadlocked Ollie suddenly spins around, and clutches stupidly at his shoulder: the sniper’s bullet has punched clean through it.

“OMG, he just jumped down – he’s on the street – look!”

Cliff opens up again where Sandi’s pointing, but without having a good view, has no real chance. Sandi tries a couple of shots, and shakes her head: it’s almost random shooting for a pistol at that range. Then Paul unleashes another torrent of magical bolts!

“Got him!” Paul says with quiet satisfaction, brushing down his elegant suit-jacket. Turning, he realizes that three civilians are gawping, dumb-struck.

“It’s Armani,” Paul explains.

“I guess these good folks just need to get going out of town,” Sandi suggests.

“But where?” Will protests.

“Anywhere! That’s the great thing about being at the centre – like, anywhere you go, you’re totally further away, and closer to somewhere else!”

“And how do we leave?” Will grumbles again. Sandi climbs down, leans over the Hummer’s door for a moment, and swings it open.

“This looks a good ride!”

“How can we – I mean – that’s not your car is it?”

“It’s yours now! Look, people are in danger,” Hitch urges, “You’re in danger. The quicker you get out the better, so take the transport that’s on offer.”

“Say Paul, can you get this started for them?” Sandi asks.

Paul looks sourly at the red-head, as if to say, “I have a brain the size of a planet – and you think I’m the valet parking?” then rifles through Cliff’s heavy bag, comes up with a short screw-driver, walks back to the Hummer and rams the screwdriver blade into the ignition and turns it. The engine coughs into life. Will’s about to demur again, but Amy, the most practical of the three, climbs in behind the wheel. Dan helps the now-healed Ollie to the vehicle: he’s suffered no ill effect other than the loss of a somewhat dirty shirt.

And with the job of rescuing the innocent done, our heroes turn and head into the setting (well, mid-afternoon) sun.

Assault on Tower Holdings

Sandi, who’s leap-frogged to point, waves the team back into cover:

“A wire!”

The team’s reached Walnut and Oak, keeping to cover as much as possible. This is the first obstacle. Sandi waves Cliff forward:

“I’d say a blast into that will trigger it off!”

The G3 blasts out, the shots thudding into the masonry around a storefront where the wire disappears:

B-BRANGGG!!!

Glass and debris shower out across the intersection as the claymore explodes.

The team skitters across the intersection: there’s a CRACK from back down the street and Paul spins around from the impact: but his protections have saved him from harm. Both Sandi and Cliff return fire at the doorway concealing the sniper, and he retreats at a rapid combat-crouch run.

The team finally reaches North Chestnut again and at last reaches the three-storey brick building that dominates the North Chestnut and Chicago intersection! The side they’re on, there’s no cover and no entry: just boarded-up ground storey windows.

“Let’s pray for God’s blessings on our endeavors,” Dan urges, and says his blessing, while Cliff scans around, G3 leveled at the aim. Ducking his head forward for a glance around the corner, Cliff reports an old-fashioned front stoop.

Sandi runs around the corner, races to the stoop and rolls over it and into cover. She studies the front door: it seems pretty solid, and has two obvious locks.

Taking the call on the locks, Paul takes a pace or two around the corner and flicks his stylus over an unfastening spell on his PDA. Keeping her back pressed against the wall, Sandi slides up to the door and cautiously tests it: then calls back:

Nuh-uh: there’s still at least one lock. My turn now.

She probes the door-jamb and after a short time, manages to slip another catch. But something about the door is bugging her.

Guys, seems like there’s some kind of design on the door: I can’t see it all the time, but at a certain angle I can. Hitch, you’re good with the woogie – you want to have a look?

“Sounds like a glyph of warding,” Paul mutters to Hitch.

“We could just get Sandi to set it off… she’s not been hit by anything so far,” Hitch replies, likewise in a mutter.

Uh, I think like maybe I’ll just try one of the windows up there?

“She heard us.”

“You had your mike on.”

“Oh. Okay Sandi, good idea. We’ll cover you.”

Deciding on the door-frame as the best handhold, Sandi levers herself up and begins the climb to the second-floor windows. The lads watch with interest: she moves with fluid grace despite the leather jacket and combat webbing harness she’s wearing, and her leather motorcycle pants stretch tight across her shapely ass.

Gaining a second-floor window, Sandi braces herself in the frame and begins prizing at the casement. The glass is blacked out, so she can make nothing of the interior. Suddenly, window-glass shatters outward and two moldering arms reach out, grabbing Sandi in clawed, black-nailed hands!

Sandi experiences an instant of sheer terror as the zombie, slack-jawed, leers up at her. Beyond the first, she can see a second moving to help pull her in! Using the zombie’s own grip as her support, Sandi swings her feet up so that they are poised on the windowsill, while sliding both Glocks out of their high-mount holsters, and opens up while pushing herself into a back flip: the blaze of slugs disintegrate the grappling zombie and chew through into the next as Sandi describes a double-back-somersault and tucks to a perfect landing, landing crouched on the pavement 30 feet below, guns aloft at the ready!

“So, zombies then?” Dan quips, refusing to be overawed by such coolness.

“Uh-huh, zombies. And we got a way in. I’ll just climb back up, have a few more words with those boys and drop you a rope.”

In less than a minute the waiting zombies register a lithe female form roll through the window: then their undead grey world explodes into smashing gunfire and they are leveled – and in pieces – onto the floor of the NFF briefing room. The remaining Academy members join Sandi, struggling up the rope as best they can, Cliff and Hitch heaving Dan’s enormous weight in last.

“What have we got?”

“This is like, some kind of briefing room. A really nice whiteboard. Let’s see, if I turn it on, and spin it round, they might have left something on the other side.”

“Like another glyph.”

“It’s worth a bit of risk. You did want to know the plan, remember?”

Sandi runs the electric whiteboard round and they study the marker-pen writing revealed. Somewhat disappointingly, it’s a briefing on how best to deal with… themselves. No-one tries a print-out.

“Well, I guess we search. Start with up, because we gotta go into the under-world according to the stuff we found, right?”

“Makes sense,” Hitch nods. “Let’s make sure we are as ready as we can be.”

Dan now uncovers the lance and ensures the cup is to hand. He prays for his faith to provide a defense. Hitch and Paul likewise check their own protections. Cliff pouts and scratches at his tac-vest.

The top floor is easily accessed by the stairs running up from the briefing room. It’s mainly bunk-room. Searching belongings, Dan finds a forger’s attempt to age paper and write in Icelandic. Hitch looks a little glum. However, Charles did seem to endorse the Viking document, so who knows? Maybe they aren’t simply dancing to Rieker’s tune?

The team works its way back down through the briefing room and down. The ground floor is a prosaic kitchen, dining room and lounge. The kitchen has the back door. Sandi ensures it can be opened quickly from their side but with difficulty and noise from the other side.

As the team search the rooms for signs of access to a forgotten netherworld, a police siren is heard from out on the street.

“Rieker’s reinforcement has arrived!” Hitch claims, grim-jawed.*

“Like, uh, I really don’t think that Sheriff is evil. Don’t you think he might have just been doing the best he could by getting out of town?”

Debate must be shelved: for the sound of a lawman rapping on the door with a torch-handle can be heard!

“Someone in there? Open up! Yuh got some explainin’ tuh do!”

It’s like this, Sheriff

Sheriff Arnolf raps on the door again. He has the first few lines of his report composed in his head, beginning with “Suspicious activity at North Chestnut and Chicago: witnessed an intruder entering via 2nd floor” but his line of thought is interrupted by a reply, in an agitated female voice:

“Don’t open that door Sheriff! It’s booby-trapped! We’ll let you in the back!”

There’s some muttering as well: something along the lines of “…see how the glyph works…” and Sheriff Arnolf puts his hand on the doorknob. There’s another cry of warning: he gets the feeling the young lady is serious, and stops, and heads around the back as she requested.

“Now – what-all’s goin’ on in hyar? Durndest thing – I get a call out then that turns out to be a false alarm, than I come back an’ danged if I don’t see a pair of feet sliding inta this hyar property! Can you folks account for your presence hyar?”

“Come in, Sheriff! Sit down – take a load off and have a cup of tea, or coffee!”

Arnolf is finding it hard to stay looking stern to the cute li’l red-head blinking her blue eyes back up at him. It’s pretty easy to overlook the fact that she’s a big fan of Open Carry and two handguns sit proud above her perky boobs. He allows himself to be persuaded into a seat and a bad cup of coffee while the red-head and the overweight black guy spin him an outrageous tale of terrorist threat and Special Forces. Sure, he’s heard tell of this New Freedom Force bunch and sure, there’s a few down-home boys here that buy into the race purity line of bull the NFF hand out: but a terror cell? And asking him to believe that a couple Brits, a perky li’l red-head, and a plump black street preacher type would be part of a counter-terror squad? The only believable type is the short GI type in tactical armor. It’s a stretch, to say the least of it. But at length, as he listens to preacher Dan, he begins to see a way of writing the report up that doesn’t sound too much like more paperwork.

Sheriff Arnolf heads back to the Sheriff’s Office, freshly warned about taking people at face value.

Beneath

“We found it! A trapdoor!” Dan exults. A patient square-search of the lounge has finally unearthed their goal. Always assuming this isn’t an elaborate trap. The trapdoor, opened with due caution by Sandi, is clear of booby-traps and leads to a tunnel: a horizontal shaft.

With the time required to talk the Sheriff round, and the searching, it’s now over an hour since Sandi first cut the zombies to shreds effecting an entry. Dan decides to hold off any further blessing until they strike opposition, but urges the others to check and ready equipment. Light sources will need to be sorted out.

Sandi, NVGs in place, flips a couple of glo-sticks up the tunnel, and waits for the others to join her. Dan thrusts the lance forward and a light blossoms on its tip. That provides plenty of illumination for Sandi’s purposes, though the nature of tunnels is to condense light into a small area, leaving everything outside of around 20′ or so in total darkness.

With Sandi some dozen feet ahead, Cliff and Dan pair together next, followed by Hitch and Paul. The shaft’s sides are rough: each pair keeps as far apart as possible, taking advantage of whatever cover the walls offer. Sandi zigs across and back as she goes, trying to change angles on what’s ahead.

Vast amounts of automatic fire erupt from up the tunnel, and bullets storm around Sandi. It seems impossible that she could remain unscathed: but the shallow cover afforded by the walls, and her own evasive powers, perform the miracle. As the fire ceases and harshly echoes into silence, Sandi is still on her feet and is prepping a cylinder:

“I’ve been waiting a long time to use one of these! Cover up, guys!”

Removing the pin from the flash-bang, she hurls it as far as she can, and ducks her head away into the wall, covering her NVGs.

WHAMM!!!

Three of the four Greater Vampire ambushers are caught unawares: their screams ring out and they clutch at the walls, blinded. The fourth, however, heard enough and had covered up: and guides his fellows back around an elbow-bend and into cover. By the time Hitch lobs a fire-ball they are clear.

Dan – awkwardly – hurls a coin glowing with pure light: it lands just a few feet beyond where Sandi has advanced to. She is partially-blinded.** Sandi pushes her NVGs up, rushes forward, scoops the coin up, and flicks it a few more feet forward. Now they can see the elbow-bend. Cliff rushes to the corner and presses his shoulders back against the near wall.

The group is beginning to spread out a little. And this does seem to count under “meeting opposition.” Dan positions himself as near the middle of the line as he can, and asks God’s blessings.

As if in answer, four grenades rattle round the corner and blast red patches of fire all around Cliff. Where Sandi is the reed, Cliff is the rock: he braces his shoulders a little and shakes off the damage.

The rearguard closes up: the vampires have to be closed with. Then, automatic fire rattles down the shaft again: but this time, from behind! Looking back with the aid of her NVGs, Sandi can see someone kicking away the glo-sticks.

“The sniper’s followed us down! We have to take him out first!”

“Hitch can make a plan for this – can’t you Hitch?”

“Aye, right then. Paul?”

“Oh good. Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right. Here I am, stuck in the middle with you.”

*This sums up the Campus (barring Sandi) and authority. Blind trust or blind paranoia.

**A less cooperative PC would have done something unpleasant to Dan after this, at least the third time. Blinding your scout is a lot like shooting into melee.

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About andrewmclaren26

Weekly Roleplayer, Wargamer when I can
This entry was posted in SHC4: Season Four, Sweet Hell Chicago and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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