|V. Cain by K-Bonifield|
The Roster (with Fate "high concept" aspects, followed by traditional Rifts O.C.C.s)
Arisis Solstice, Radiant Daughter of Atlas (female titan Cyber-Knight), played by Felix
Katrina Mansfield, Mutant Psi-Stalker P.I. (female mutoid Psi-Stalker), played by Chris
Max Parkinson, Runaway Teenage Mystic (male human Mystic), played by me
Valerie Cain, Amazon Cyborg Wildchild (female Praxian Headhunter), played by Kent
The group is confronted by the defenders of the scrapyard settlement known as Big Heap. Their leader, the mutant bird of prey Ortio Caracara, is vocally displeased with our heroes for drawing so much trouble into their community, but the other members are less confrontational. One of them, the dwarf woman Grooma, even offers to help repair the Sunstar Aegis and to try to unlock the stasis box.
They are soon joined by a group of Big Heap movers and shakers, led by one Mrs. Velasco, who introduces herself as the town's mayor and demands to know "what, exactly, have you brought to my town?" Kat speaks up and offers to help repair any damage, and (accurately, but rather rudely) points out that "this shitstorm was already headed your way". Max successfully smooths over the situation, explaining his team's mission and mentioning the devastated villages they found in Zaal's wake before arriving in Big Heap. He points out that Zaal, the Prince, and the ogre pirates would likely have wreaked even more havoc had he and his friends not been there. Having won her over, at least momentarily, he then tries to get more information out of Velasco, asking if Bastille Impenetrable might be coming after them, and if Big Heap is aware of any Coalition activity in the area. Velasco responds that in the wake of the chaos in which they were involved, it's likely that Bastille has issued bounties for all of our heroes, but is mystified by Max's question about the possible involvement of Dr. Stakes or his agents. The Coalition is a nation of which she professes only a vague awareness. The mayor seems more interested in what our heroes will do with the corpse of the neuron beast, Zaal. Valerie suggests sending his head back to Havana as a sign of a mission accomplished.
Caracara interrupts to insist that Max and his friends track down Prince Osange, lest he and his retinue return to menace Big Heap again. Arisis flatly refuses Caracara's demands, arguing that she and her companions have invested too much time (and blood) into retrieving the stasis box to even consider leaving it behind to blindly chase after the villains. Caracara, for his part, does not back down until Velasco suggests everyone reconvene at her mansion that evening to discuss matters in a more relaxed environment. Kat, for her part, quietly dispatches a catlike robot drone to try and hunt down the Prince and his men in the meantime.
Velasco's suggestion proves to have been a wise one, as tempers have cooled considerably by the time the two groups arrive at the mayor's "shabby chic" mansion. Max finds himself discussing the supernatural with Nina, one of Big Heap's defenders, who seems legitimately interested in what he has to say on the subject. Arisis is fascinated by the strange music played by Mayor Velasco's husband, though he shrugs off the idea of allowing the titan to record him. The topic of Prince Osange is hardly even raised until well after dinner, when Kat's drone returns and plays back surveillance video of one of the Prince's ectoplasmic-armored comrades, his mecha apparently badly damaged, heading toward a ravine. The defenders immediately recognize the locale, and our heroes consider leaving the mansion to investigate. Arisis remains reluctant to leave the stasis box behind, however. She seems dead-set on carrying the box with her into the scrapyard until Grooma volunteers to protect it. Max, who has been observing the Defenders intently all night, telepathically assures his titan compatriot that "we can trust this woman," and the mystic's word is enough for the cyber-knight.
Our heroes ride a giant elevator up to the top strata of the Pile and begin to follow the trail laid out by Kat's feline drone. Even here, where the detritus of an otherworldly war still rains down, humans eke out a living, and before long one of this blasted region's inhabitants flags down the group. The man informs them that a monster has occupied his home, and begs them to remove the beast. Though the group is concerned that the trail will go cold, they agree to help, and Kat climbs up to see what has taken nest in the man's ramshackle dwelling, which is built atop an inert walker mecha. She finds a strange hybrid creature, seemingly part lizard, part porcupine, with what appear to be "Crazy" implants in its head. The psi-stalker sneaks back and relays this information to the group. Max volunteers to try and magically entrance the beast, but is concerned that the cranial implants might interfere with his attempt to dominate it. Flying up to find the creature feasting on the contents of the man's freezer, Max soon finds that he was right to be dubious -- his Trance spell is a failure, and the creature is now aware of his presence. Luckily, he manages to slink away unscathed, and with Arisis immobilizing it, Valerie quickly puts it out of its misery with her CADS-1 blades. Max opines that the beast is similar to those he, Valerie, and Arisis faced in Serendipity earlier -- chimeric predators evidently created in Lone Star by the elusive Dr. Stakes.
Back on the trail, our heroes soon find the ravine they seek, in an area where the earth itself is steeped in malignant, necromantic energies; a place Max glibly describes as a "bad nexus." Here, the walking dead -- only some of them formerly human -- roam freely, preying on travelers and each other. It soon becomes evident that the area is haunted, as well, as strange visions of a young girl and an older man begin to invade the edges of the psychics' senses, and shimmer across even Valerie's electronic sensors. Max, uncharacteristically impatient with the cryptic utterances and vague warnings of the ghostly child, attempts to abjure and question the spirit, but learns little of use.
Max's frustration proves symptomatic of things to come. The Prince's ecto-mecha associate, but discover that he, like everything else in this part of the Pile, is zombified, mindless and aggressive. He is quickly destroyed by the group, but before they can decide on their next course of action, an immense undead dragon lunges forth, its body torn by unimaginable warfare, yet still animate. Kat stuns the group by slaying the ancient behemoth with a single stroke of her rune no-dachi.
Valerie, pumped up by Kat's display of prowess, asks out loud "what else you got?" As if to answer, our heroes now notice an odd, mirage-like disturbance of vertical lines, which quickly "unfold" into a somewhat ragtag assemblage of heavily armed men and women:
- A pair of human(oid)s in full environmental body armor, decorated with unfamiliar insignia and indecipherable writing
- A male cyborg with extensive (and badly mismatched) bionic enhancements, carrying a sniper rifle
- A male psi-stalker, possibly of African descent, armed with a scimitar-like electrified blade
- Two terribly attractive young women (one fair, the other with dark green hair and jet-black skin) who appear to be completely unarmed and unarmored
- Nahar, an ogre juicer woman with whom our heroes have crossed paths with several times in the past, and whom they have counted as an ally, if not necessarily a friend
Nahar briefly exchanges tense greetings with the group, but it is clear that she has not come for a social call. She calls for our heroes' surrender, as one of the armored men reads off all of their names -- their true names -- and informs them that "Halcyon Reacquisitions" will be placing them under arrest and delivering them to Bastille Impenetrable. The name rings a bell to Valerie: she knows the organization under the nickname of "Hard Repo", which headhunter lore describes as a mercenary group that appears out of nowhere and muscles other mercenaries into giving up their most prized possessions. The amazon warrior has some choice words for HR, which seemingly amuses their patchwork cyborg sniper -- "that is such a Val thing to say," he chuckles, and attempts to shake hands with the Amazon headhunter, giving his name as Magnus Maddock. Max is thoroughly bewildered by the mercs' evident familiarity with him and his friends, but before he can articulate his confusion, Arisis squares off with Nahar, the titan towering over even the massive, chemically enhanced ogress, and successfully intimidates her into backing down somewhat. Nahar begins to rethink her strategy, but Valerie overplays her hand, overconfidently demanding that Hard Repo stand down and "strip."
The tension finally boils over, and both sides explode into combat. Kat and the silent psi-stalker lash out at each other, with neither one badly injuring the other. Valerie slashes wildly at Maddock, and he instinctively blocks -- with his non-bionic arm. He curses his own stupidity as he collapses, clutching the bleeding stump. Max, who has been hovering above the fray, has been unable to tear his eyes away from the pair of beautiful ladies (damn these Raging Hormones!) on the Halcyon Reacquisitions side. Unfortunately for Max, the young women seem less impressed with him, as they both take to the air (apparently under their own, unseen power) and attack. He avoids the fair-haired one's feint, but the dark-skinned one connects with a brutal kick that knocks the wind out of the mystic, sending him crashing to the ground. Arisis, unperturbed, lays out Nahar with a single haymaker punch to the ogre's face. As Nahar crumples, one of the armored Hard Repo operatives, realizing that two of their number are down for the count, frantically shouts a command into a communication device. The mercenary agents disappear instantly, seemingly flattening and folding into nothingness.
Now completely irritated, the group elect to return to Big Heap. They find the stasis box well-protected by the Defenders, though unfortunately still sealed. Grooma, it seems, has been stymied by the device, at least for now, and though each of our heroes attempts to determine how to open it, each of them fail. What next?
(If you've made it this far, thanks for reading Dungeonskull Mountain's 200th post!)