Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Primordial

The adventure in Pitchblende Flats came to an end a few weeks ago. The magma pocket responsible for the earthquakes compressed the richest deposit of uranium ore in the desert, causing it to undergo fission and explode. God's Candle, the radium mountain in the center of the blast was vaporized, spreading deadly radioactive dust all over the desert. All that was left was a smouldering crater and an expanding cloud of radioactive debris.

The players hijacked a biplane in order to escape. Despite my best efforts to make them die there in the desert and face all the mistakes they made, they made it out alive. This was in spite of the sky pirates, riots and some of the most powerful monsters in the game, the Radijastsks all standing in their way. But one of the players was left behind. Obtuse Goose's character Omaru stood in the middle of the desert, alone. The town of Trinity had been annihilated. All that was left was a swirling whirlwind of dust and the rising mushroom cloud in the distance.

So Omaru wandered ground zero alone, looking for any survivors. Eventually, he found a smashed, overturned tank and a small gnoll laying in the shade of the burnt out hulk. The gnoll was delirious and covered in radiation burns, just barely clinging to life. Omaru scooped him up in his giant robotic hand. A quick scan revealed he was actually one of the Bristlefur gnolls from much earlier in the campaign, the only survivor of the player's previous murder spree.

Benny Bristlefur was too hurt to notice as the robot took him away from the wreckage. And so, they were back to wandering the wastelands. After several hours of aimless walking, they happened across a small military camp full of refugees trying to escape the desert. Every one of them was irradiated and burnt to a crisp. Some simply laid down in the sand and died, just barely making it to the edge of the camp before they succumbed to radiation poisoning. Meanwhile the medics were frantically trying to set up a triage, forcing healing potions down the throats of anyone still breathing.

Omaru walked into the camp and was greeted by awestruck stares. He towered over the hastily put together tents and half-melted military machines. A commander burst out of one of the tents and strode over to greet him. His eyes were hidden by mirror shades. He was angrily gnawing on the stem of a corncob pipe. He took one look at Omaru and started telling him the battle plan. Obviously, he was under the impression that Omaru was their backup from the rest of the occupying force.

See, Pitchblende Flats was something of a buffer state between two huge nations vying for control of the region: the Principality of Tyrak and the Akrashtk Empire. With Trinity destroyed, there was no local government and thus, no one laying claim to the region. When news broke out that the desert had been destroyed there was a mad dash to lay claim to the ruins and thus, exclusive rights to mine the region's rich radioactive ores. Tyrak made it there first and were busy escorting refugees out of the blast zone. But they had already come under attack from an enemy force that was systematically raiding their forward camps, cutting off communication from one another. The commander told Omaru that they thought it was the Akrashtk at first. But the attacks seemed to be spreading outward, directly from the center of the explosion.

News was still coming out of the front, in bits and pieces. The last the commander had heard, their main battle group was rerouted to fight whatever it was that was attacking their camps. No matter what they did, none of their weapons could stop it. He lowered his sunglasses and told Omaru that a single, massive creature had waded out of the fireball and was now rampaging across the desert.

The commander had a map brought out and did his best to explain the situation. One of their hoverships had crash landed just south of their camp and he needed Omaru to go investigate. With luck, there would be some survivors and they could tell them something useful about the creature that attacked them. But as he went on explaining their plan, Omaru noticed a flickering orange light coming out of the dust cloud.

More and more of the lights appeared, until the camp was completely surrounded. The soldiers got into position and prepared for the worst. Omaru stood in the middle of the camp and tried to make sense of what he was seeing. The lights came closer and soon they realized a horde of fire elementals were coming to burn down the camp. The soldiers opened fire from their machine gun nests. Omaru swept the entire field with his mining laser, the bright red beam clearly visible in the dust cloud. Dozens of fire elementals were disintegrated as they charged the camp, but more of them kept coming. One of the machine guns jammed and an elemental lept into the fox hole. It started cooking off entire belts of ammunition with it's intense body heat. The whole camp suddenly went up in flames. The still dying, radioactive locals started to panic. Omaru and Benny threw everything they had at the elementals. One after another, they were disintegrated, leaving heaps of ash and embers were they were cut down. Eventually, they drove off the elemental. The last few stragglers were swept away by the last working machine gun. As the whole camp burned around them the commander told Omaru they were leaving. It was up to him now to find the downed hovership and get to a working radio. It was obvious there was no salvaging this situation. All that was left was to find a way to get in touch with headquarters and authorize "protocol 2000-0-0".

And so, Benny and Omaru went south, following a tall plume of oily black smoke, fighting fire elementals the whole way. Omaru's audio sensors are some of the best on the planet and through the deep rumbling of the distant earthquakes and the sudden upsurges of magma he could hear the sounds of battle far away and a single droning growl, growing louder and louder with ever second. Huge, crashing 'thuds' were approaching in a measured, steady pace.

A dull orange light appeared over the horizon as they approached the mesa ruins, like a distant wildfire getting closer and closer. Before the explosion, the mesas were enormous pillars of red stone, which had stood there for generations upon generations. Living on top of the stories tall rocks were nomadic tribes of sky pirates and in the deep canyons were cool springs of fresh water. Shielded from the desert sun, huge clusters of fragrant cacti once grew. Wild Radijastks had called the mesas home, but no longer. All that was left were splintered heaps of pulverized rock, mountains of gravel smouldering in the dust cloud.

But they were closing in on the signal from the hovership. All the while the distant light grew brighter. Eventually, they found it. The ship had been smashed to pieces and a thin line of molten metal cut across the body of the craft, as if another laser had swept across it. Two survivors were struggling to call someone over the radio. When they saw Omaru and Benny approach they ran over and started telling them a wild story of what they had seen. There was a huge crater where the radium mountain once stood. When they went to investigate something crawled out and walked right past them like they weren't even there.

All the while the light grew brighter and fire elementals stampeded down the hill. A single, bright point appeared in the distance; a shiny blue stone, like a giant crystal appeared, wreathed in flame. It grew larger and brighter; the crystal sitting atop a swirling, churning body of fire, with three enormous legs of flame striding across the desert. Even from so far away, it was easily taller than the mesas ever were, but it just kept coming closer, seemingly growing with every long, marching step.

I expected Benny and Omaru to go run for cover. But Obtuse Goose had other plans. He stood in the path of the tripod and told me he was rolling to attack it.

I smiled and told him to go for it. He fired a long, continuous beam right into the body of the creature. It's firey skin erupted, sending small spurts of flame flying, which fell to earth and formed new fire elementals as they came tumbling down. With every step the tripod came closer, every time it's long legs slammed into the ground, a gout of flame would shoot out and two or three new elementals came leaping out of the blast. The creature flared up and let out a long, bellowing roar that rumbled the whole desert. The laser wasn't working, so he decided to charge it and smash it with his rocket hammer.

Benny and the pilots shot at the elementals as Omaru charged. One of the legs came crashing down almost on top of them, a huge ball of fire erupting from it's footprint. Omaru jumped through the air as the rocket hammer ignited. The massive hammer head collided with it's leg. The pillar of flame erupted right in his face and the bottom half evaporated into incandescent light. The creature stumbled but found it's balance and roared once more.

It reared up it's other leg, reaching high above the clouds of radioactive dust. For a good minute or so it stood there, reading up to stomp them into the dirt. The fire elementals fled and after a long, tense moment, the creature brought it's leg crashing down like a distant meteor. It slammed into the dirt and a huge shockwave bloomed from the impact, sending everyone scattering. The hovership tumbled end over end, shredding into a pile of incoherent steel.

A vortex appeared in the body of the tripod as a low humming growl reverberated through the crystal. A bright yellow, then blinding white light appeared in the center of the vortex. It braced itself...then a single explosion erupted, then another. The players caught a glimpse of a single missile flying through the air and exploding against the tripod's giant crystal. A hovership arced across the sky and started blindly firing into the legs of the creature. It's engines roared as it struggled to climb high enough to face the body of the monster.

The vortex grew as it turned to face the ship. Suddenly, a thin beam of bright, white light fired out of the body of the creature. The ship dropped altitude, the beam just barely skirting the body of the craft as it tumbled into a frantic spin, sparks flying as the beam danced across it's surface. The ship jerked upward and sped off in the other direction. The creature followed, it's long legs striding a mile with every step. And with that, the desert went dark again.

The pilots were amazed (and dying of radiation poisoning). After everything they've seen they told Omaru there was only one person left who would know how to kill this thing. They were headed to where her ship touched down, but the monster melted one of their engines before they could make it. The other pilot nodded and said "if anyone's still got a plan, it's her" and showed him their map. In the ruins of Great Dig was the last person with any idea of what this thing was and maybe, just maybe, a weapon capable of destroying it.

Omaru marched north, with Benny and the pilots resting on his shoulders. They crossed the desert, hoverships and fighter planes high in the sky. Far in the distance the mushroom cloud could be seen blowing away on the wind. A steady rain of ash pelted them as they made their way northwest. The pilots assured him they were getting closer. On the infrared spectrum he could just barely make out a small, boxy shape half buried in the sand. A single small body was standing watch, staring right back at him. As they got closer he could just barely make out the markings on the ship. A hatch opened and a small gnoll woman, her midsection wrapped in a bloody rag hobbled out, balancing on a crutch. A small, beetle or crab-like creature stepped out after her, holding a wooden stick out, ready to attack the approaching robot. They had finally found their savior: Dr. Alamos and the missing Kretak miners, neither of which were happy to see him.

She tried to waddle back inside the badly battered Kretak ship. The aliens rallied around her and started shouting at him in their strange alien language. Benny and the pilots tried to reason with them and after a long argument, they settled down to listen to what he had to say.

See, Omaru had been travelling with Haydn's character Wilfred and in all that time they did nothing but murder the locals, burn down what little vegetation they had and did everything to make themselves look like the villains. And no one suffered as badly as Dr. Alamos or the Kretak (or the Bristlefurs for that matter). All she wanted to do was uncover the mystery behind the earthquakes and in return Wilfred murdered her colleagues and planted a bomb in her truck.


The Kretak didn't have it any better. They were still getting used to this whole magic fantasy world thing and were ready to worship Omaru as a god a few days ago. But Wilfred and the other player, Minamillion incited a holy war. Omaru could have helped but instead, he let them tear each other apart and now their leader was dead for their trouble. But with a single promise, he pacified everyone.

"If you help me," He said in his thick, robotically Russian accent, "I kill tiny lizard." Everyone was happy.

Dr. Alamos agreed to show him what she had been working on. She was planning to use it to neutralize the magma pocket. But that chance had come and gone, now, there was only one thing to do with it. She had the Kretak lift the tarp and unhook it from the ship. A single, long metal tube ending in a hertz horn detonator. Wires ran across it's length. In white paint, it's name was printed across the metal casing, "The Gadget".

"I didn't have much to work with," Dr. Alamos said. "But I was able to get some refined uranium and it has a plutonium kicker in the central fission mass. When that detonator goes off, the explosives in the back will launch the rest of the uranium into the mass, hopefully bringing it up to critical." She looked up at the robot. "I'm expecting a yield of 11 kilotons, maybe less. But we can't fly up high enough to drop it though."

Omaru looked out at the horizon. The tripod stood like a massive pillar of fire in the desert, growing closer and closer. "I try laser, it does not work." He said. "I try hammer, it does not work." He picked up the bomb and hefted it over his shoulder. "This? This will work."

Everyone else crammed themselves into the cramped little shuttle and closed the door behind them. Omaru ran off in the other direction with the bomb overhead. All the while the tripod came closer and closer. A horde of fire elementals followed close behind. The only light came from the massive army and the impossibly tall being that continued to spawn them. As they closed in, a vortex appeared in the body of the tripod and a beam of white light blasted the ashen landscape, searing the air with it's incredible heat. Omaru dodged and hefted the bomb high over his shoulders. He landed on top of an elemental, crushing it. Then, he hoisted the bomb like a javelin and with all the might his atomic reactor could muster, he launched the bomb through the air. Steam erupted from his joints. He watched as the bomb soared through the dust cloud. Higher and higher it went until it came crashing down right at the feet of the tripod. A bright light shone. His audio sensors screamed on every channel.

The bomb exploded, vaporizing the elementals in an instant. The tripod disappeared into the explosion. Omaru's Geiger counters went off the charts. Dr. Alamos's bomb worked, Pitchblende Flats had been nuked for the second time that day.

The journey through the desert was a long, dull one. Another mushroom cloud bloomed on the horizon. Omaru carried the remains of the shuttle on his shoulder. Benny and the pilots were celebrating, but Dr. Alamos was sitting on Omaru's other shoulder, questioning him about what happened. She was proud the bomb had worked (saying she never doubted it would) but something disturbed her. It was far fetched, but according to her calculations, the magma, nor the plutonium thought to have been under the desert was enough to make such a huge crater. That creature, had to have supplied plenty of it's own energy to make such a violent quake. Omaru asked her what it could have been, why hadn't he heard of it before?

She looked him in the eye and told him, "Tartora, the Primordial. No ones heard of it because it was last seen hundreds of years ago, when the first world war was fought. We always knew it was buried somewhere deep in Chmatra, but I never thought it would reawaken, here, now."

She told him the legend of the Primordials, Chmaku's first creations when the world was young. They were tasked with making the world full of life, but when Chmaku was split into the modern gods they lost their master. They saw the life they had created as meaningless without him there to be pleased. They rampaged across the world, destroying all they could to be replaced with new life. The gods had locked them away, banished them deep to the core of the world or into the heart of the sun. They reawoke, sometimes, some more than others, but it was always a portent of worse times ahead when a Primordial once again walked the world.

The survivors found one last hovership as it was touching down for landing. The last ride out, it was evacuating a camp. Fire elementals were closing in from all sides as they ushered the last few refugees into the cabin. There was a long, tense moment when Omaru bounded over the dunes as fast as he could. The hovership crew yelling and screaming for him to make it in time as elementals closed in on all sides. He lept over a sandbag barrier and tossed his armful of refugees into the cabin. The ship started to take off, it's massive engines roaring and kicking up huge plumes of dust. Omaru jumped and clung to the underside of the ship as it lifted off, elementals snarling and snapping at his shines as they flew away.

And as they flew off into the sunset they could see a shape forming far to the south west; a pillar of fire and the glow of a blue gem stone. Tartora wasn't going to be stopped with just one bomb. The pilot leaned back at told them the commander authorized 2000-0-0, they were officially done with this operation. The survivors sped off to greener pastures as missiles arched over the horizon. The last thing they saw was Tartora standing in the middle of the desert, watching as all of Tyrak's most powerful bombs came down to greet it. Shielding their eyes, everyone knew even this wouldn't be the last time they would see Tartora.

1 comment:

rush essay said...

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