Rapture & Ruin

Gone, But Not Forgotten
Miryam's Journal

Nil’s gone.

The town’s still there, the buildings still standing, the walls still proud, and its wealth of water beneath still remains . . . but the people that made it what it was, they’re gone. Some vehicle tracks, some journals and audio logs, and some bodies — Elder Elijah died in my arms — told a tale of heartless betrayal. Chief Ward, bought by raiders, opened the gates, apparently just for a bit of cash. The guy who was apparently so set on being Foreman was in reality just set on selling the Foreman and the rest of us into slavery.

As luck would have it, we got some info — we know Ward’s out there. We have the name of a raider: Carmichael. And we know that the Foreman had some clue we didn’t suck, and that Elijah told Constantine that we reminded him of the Hand, whatever that means.

We also know that Jessica had a thing for Rubbish and that apparently James Santangelo was wayyyy more into me than I expected. If he’s alive when we find him and if he survives my kicking his ass so hard he has to stick his head in the toilet to take a shit, we will have to find him a woman.

We also may find out something from this female raider when she wakes up. Oh, I hope we do. She and her buddies thought they could just come back and take even more, but they didn’t plan on us being there. Ward didn’t think we’d survive, but not only did we live, we may survive long enough to make damn sure he regrets this.

Beyond Nil
From Nil to Rooster Field

As unlikely a group as any that had roamed Ruin, Cody, Sin, Rubbish, Miryam, and Mark were united by nothing more than a shared day off from work duty – a day that would be anything but restful. The Nillers gathered around the Pinkertons as they packed their wagons and carts, hoping to catch one last morsel of wonder before the caravan departed for yet another long year. Jessica, having caught the wandering eye of a caravaneer was allowed a peek at a beautiful article, one which the Foreman himself quickly took interest in, and one that the other Nillers were kept from seeing. But aside from the mysterious item, the villagers had plucked the caravan dry of all there was to be had and left with nothing to peruse but junk and defunct tech.

As if to break the impending monotony of sand and sun, Nil’s oil depot exploded and quickly began to burn away the village’s limited fuel supply. Perhaps worse, the Foreman revealed that Jessica was inside, finishing a final tally before the Pinkertons departed and took their oil for sale with them. Cody, Sin, Rubbish, Miryam, and Mark, five young individuals who had never formed even the semblance of a team, converged before Gregory Ward’s security force or fire brigade could respond. They split, equally addressing Jessica’s rescue and the threat of corrupted mechs drawn by the oily plume beginning to crest the depot. They emerged victorious, having fended off several stray mech birds and simultaneously rescuing a shocked Jessica.

Their reward: a scolding from a rattled Foreman.

The village’s leader trundled off, herding his beloved daughter as Nil’s leaders each shared their opinions – all too late – with the party. Why hadn’t Cody and the security force raked the local sands to break the oil leaks? Rather than blame Ward, whom Cody claimed had never issued the order, somehow the party became the brunt of this potentially lethal mistake. Not one word of thanks was uttered – and worse, the party discovered the source of the explosion; Jessica was smoking a cigarette within the depot, an act of grave disregard and stupidity. And an act that she, so far as the party witnessed, was not chastised for.

Doing their best to shrug it all off, the group disbanded and went about their individual days, but nonetheless each was drawn together again by a series of tasks set to them. Cody was approached by Jessica, now mostly recovered, and revealed her lingering feelings for the angsty security officer, and asked if he would prove his own love – and worth – by acquiring the Pinkertons’ mysterious ware, a rare diamond. Coincidentally Miryam was also asked by Barbara Wilks to retrieve the diamond as an optical focus for a project of hers and Wayne’s – a potential new power source for Nil, a photonic reactor. Rubbish, of course, upon learning of the diamond’s existence simply needed to possess the shiny rock. Mark was informed by Wayne that a good portion of Nil’s oil was now burned away and the town needed something to carry on. He explained that local animals could be hunted and cooked to melt away their fatty tissue into oil and that Mark should begin the process now. And lastly, Sin was tempted by the Pinkertons’ own caravaneer, Enrique, who claimed to have not only a tale of Sin’s infantile discovery, but an heirloom from whom the very same incident.

But nothing comes easily in the wastes of Ruin, and each found that the Pinkertons would not part with their most valuable prize so readily. And Sin was prompt;y told tthat nothing, not even a story, was free. They would need to locate and obtain mutated giant ant eggs for the Pinkertons’ western sales, where giant ants were employed in new farming techniques. Sand this was a task that Mark could join to accomplish his own task.

They set out and returned with the desired ant eggs – and two corpses. Sin and Mark had fallen in a grisly battle with the ant queen.

Naturally the survivors were not met with sympathy, welcome, or relief at their success – they were greeted by an outraged Foreman. Why hadn’t they told anyone where they were going, or what they were doing? And how dare they put themselves in danger and allow two members of the community to die? Cody punched the Foreman as response, Miryam suggested the old leader step down, and Rubbish quit the group to find safety in trash collecting for the remainder of his days. Cody and Miryam’s arrest was interrupted by the sudden emergence of an Old World mech, Unit Twelve. After shock and hostility had settled the new arrival explained that he had been sent by someone to assault somewhere and this had all happened some time ago – but it was unable draw specifics. Unimportant, thought the young Barbi – another Niller – who saw the potential to make a new and unique friend.

The sun had begun its slow descent towards Ruin’s horizon when Gregory Ward gathered with Cody and Miryam to finally thank them for what they had done, to explain that the Foreman was upset at their neglect, and that he would do his best to see the whole incident smoothed over. He suggested they remain under house arrest until he had a chance to present circumstances to Nil’s leader from a less bitter perspective – and besides, Ward explained, the old man was currently having his metaphorical ass handed to him by Babs and Stacy.

Perhaps things wouldn’t be so bad. Sin’s and Mark’s deaths were commemorated by their allies’ eulogies, the Pinkertons departed after eagerly relinquishing the diamond and some free parcels to Barbara and the survivors, and Nil settled down for a night darker than most.

The town was awakened by the gate alarm and the last dying shouts of the watchman, “Raiders! Raider attack!” Indeed, Nil was under assault. Raiders poured into town, breaking into homes, and killing the small, weak, or old. But Cody and Miryam needed to vent, and Barbi and her new friend Twelve were eager to meet the threat. Together they fought off the raiders throughout Nil’s southern quarter while Ward and the security force supposedly battled off those to the north. And this time the small group of youths and Twelve were thanked – of course, the Foreman was also nowhere in sight. The next hours were blood and sorrow as they milled throughout town assisting the wounded and seeing to the dead, during which Jessica approached Cody and told him that she had something important and strange to tell him, when things had settled down. Nil had suffered a devastating blow, more than was immediately apparent, Ward revealed, when he told the small group that the raiders had found their way into Wayne’s shop and damaged the water filtration unit.

Once again the group was dispatched to save the town, but this time their trip was detoured by Elder Elijah whom advised them to visit the mysterious Constantine’s watchtower before heading into the dangers of Rooster Fields – the place that Ward said was most likely to have a water filtration unit for salvage. But don’t expect much from Constantine, Elijah said as they departed, he’s not good with people. And truer words are seldom spoken. Constantine’s welcoming party was a band of mechs that dragged themselves from his expansive mech junkyard and attacked the four, and would have ended their task then and there were it not for the timely arrival of another of Nil’s tower watchmen, Dante D. Preston. With Dante’s help they put down the mechs and headed for the tower atop the plateau to find that Constantine was not present.

Instead he arrived a short time later via a battered motorcycle and leveled an assault rifle’s barrel at them. They quickly disarmed the tension and the watchman begrudgingly let them into his tower where he gave them a jammer device that would keep them safe from the weaker mechs in Rooster Field – a necessary tool , he said, since mechs emit a cumulative signal which lures more, thus increasing the signal further to draw even more mechs. And that meant that Rooster Field housed a horde of corrupted mechs. Among Constantine’s other articles the party found and traded for some superior equipment, and gathered that Constantine is both an engineering inventor and enthusiast, and probably not entirely human.

Off they went to Rooster Field, signal jamming device at the ready, and plunged into the Old World ruin’s mass of corrupted mechs. Constantine had been correct about the mechs’ numbers – one wrong step outside the jamming signal and they would be torn apart. But they prevailed through the odds, battling through those mechs that could override their jammer, and gradually uncovering Rooster Field’s distant and more recent past. Finally they stood before the deactivated mech control unit’s stasis chamber, behind which, they had discovered, lay the stairs leading down into the pipeline networks of the Old World factory. Several attempts saw the control unit activated, and it materialized into holographic life – and immediately attacked the party. They battled the hologram despite its ability to hack into their very minds to disorient and puppet them against their very allies, and at the very cusp of life and death, destroyed the control holo. Scrambling to resuscitate their fallen allies, they piled into the holo’s stasis chamber and discovered that it healed every scrape and cut while holding the Fright at bay for a decent night’s rest. From the tech of the pod they were able to gather components for and assemble a curative focus for Barbi’s restorative radioactive powers. And then down into the bowels of Rooster Field they went to rummage among the old and broken plumbing – at long last locating and salvaging a single water filtration unit. And with it in hand they walked from Rooster Field and headed south once more – mission accomplished.

Rooster Field Expedition
Miryam's Journal

Constantine rolled up on his motorcycle just after the fight with the mechs . . . his junkyard mechs, apparently, used to make all the tech he has in his tower. Was going to shoot all of us except Dante until we mentioned that Elijah sent us; was probably still going to shoot Twelve eventually until he decided he liked Twelve’s feet. He gave us some more information on Rooster Field, and had a handy emitter that reflects many mechs’ programming back on them, telling them they’ve done their job on things within its radius. He has one he uses on himself, but had a spare for us. Constantine indirectly hinted several times that he’s not a normal human, and possibly not human at all, but whatever. Explains how he’s been sitting there for 50+ years, and as long as he does his job, it’s cool I guess; he’s kind of a laconic dickbag toughguy so it’s just as well that he’s not been in Nil in the history of ever. Why aren’t other people ever happy to see us, even though we are doing a good job and saving the whole fucking town? If Constantine’s such a badass AND has time to take motorcycle jaunts around for whatever, why isn’t HE getting the water filtration chip? Also fuck Elijah for not radioing ahead. What is wrong with these people?

Got a nice robotic headband Constantine had lying around; don’t know what he meant for it to do, but it seems to give me a little bit more focus when trying to shake stuff off. Constantine also said that Rooster Field attracts all defective mechs within some massive radius, which explains why it is crawling with them.

And crawling with them it was. Rooster Field was as frightening as promised and then some. FUCK MECHS EVERYWHERE FUCK, and one false move out of the signal’s radius and we were dead meat (tried it with the concentration trick I learned — blasted instantly). The place was some sort of factory, I guess, before our brave new world; we found some ancient PDAs along the way that suggested the mechs they’d ordered to save a little on human resources ended up costing them ALL of their human resources when the mechs just went berserk on them. Some of the mechs weren’t fooled by Constantine’s little device, and they were definitely tougher. Dog mechs — with FUR, for fuck’s sake, how does that happen? — and corrupted maintenance bots and mining bots proved to be the most challenging.

At least until the end, anyway. I’m still finding spots of drying blood — my blood — stiffening my clothes. We activated the stasis pod and after that it’s a shuddering blur of blood and pain and dirt. The control hologram had some kind of neural control device that could force us to attack each other or run off out of the safety of Constantine’s signal device, and we couldn’t get out of its attack range without leaving that signal radius voluntarily. There was literally nothing we could do except bleed and die. Last thing I remember of the fight was getting a blast from that thing right in the head. I don’t know how, but luckily I came to and the thing was dead, but Dante and Cody were bleeding out on the ground. We pumped them with healing potions and did CPR and everything we could to bring them back, then dragged our sorry asses into that stasis pod for a much-needed rest . . . and for this here diary entry while the others sleep. Except Twelve, who doesn’t sleep. He’s been handy, but it’s just as well I learned how to get rest through meditation, since it’s an extra-bright idea to keep an eye on mechs.

Miryam's Journal

The battle with the ants and their queen was too much for Rubbish, but in freaking out he did manage to snap us out of our stupefaction at what had just happened. We wrapped and dragged the bodies of Sin and Mark Adder back to Nil, along with the eggs, oil, and carapaces — without incident, somehow. One shocked and sympathetic guard gave way to the raging Foreman, picking up right where he left off the last several times we’ve seen him . . . Cody punched him, and it’s probably just as well. If he’d punished us in any significant way, I fear I’d have done worse. The people of Nil deserve better than what he’s giving them right now; I’m no fan of Chief Ward, but I do know he isn’t distracted by a well-meaning but inept kid like Jessica. I mouthed off a bit, but got dragged off to house arrest like Cody . . .

. . . or would have, if a gift from below hadn’t popped up. I cannot believe I am even writing this, but: a millenia-old mech broke out of the ground in town. No fucking shit. Two thousand years old, sent to destroy some city it doesn’t even know. One tense staredown later, it was deemed harmless for now. Barbi took a rather abrupt and extreme liking to it; not sure what’s up with that but I can only imagine it helped later. We got the diamond from the caravan and got it to Chief Engineer Wilks; she figures she’s a year or two from making it work, but that’s better than when we started. Mark and Sin got heroes’ sendoffs, and rightly so; we’d all be dead if it hadn’t been for them. Cody and I gave a bit of a eulogy; even Rubbish spoke well at the funeral, but I don’t think we’ll be seeing him again soon. I also picked up an interesting metal rod from the caravan — I don’t recognize the material, and I could feel, as soon as I saw it, that it somehow focused the energy of the radio waves that buzz around me all the time. This bears further investigation.

Chief Ward appears to respect us now, which is a little creepy but it beats the yelling . . . we each got a dose of REM from him, and another still from Stacy Harden. The good times were short-lived; middle of the night, the fucking alarm was raised. Raiders. Some fires, some casualties. Barbi and her new metal friend fought one giant turd from the wasteland, and kicked some ass. When Twelve (new mech) went down, Barbi took off, but I’d have done the same thing if some disgusting dog from the wastes three times my size charged me yelling about rape. But raiders, here? The Pinkertons can only make it here once a year, and raiders are within the walls the same day? Something’s not right. Maybe the Pinkertons got raided in turn and gave up our location; maybe somebody in that caravan, or in Nil, isn’t who he or she seems to be. Problems for another day . . . problems for Chief Ward.

The problem for US, though, is that the water pump was damaged in the raid. Water, AKA the only reason worth coming to Nil, and the only reason we can live here. Chief Ward sends us to ROOSTER FIELD. Goddamn it. Maybe he’s just graduated from harassing us to actively arranging our deaths. Elder Elijah recommended we detour to talk to Constantine, and I agreed even though he’s full of shit sometimes. We may as well shed some light on Nil’s mysterious guardian angel and get some help and advice before we go into the deadliest known area in the vicinity of Nil. I guess that’s the wasteland for you. The approach to Constantine’s tower was a mech graveyard, and it seems the dead there do not all rest easy. Were it not for the timely arrival of a stranger, I might have had some more dead bodies to explain to Chief Ward — or I might have ended up as dead as those mechs.

Sacrifices for the greater good
Miryam's Journal

Battered and bruised after our encounter with the scavengers, we took what we could of value from their corpses — beetle and scorpion carapaces might be worth something when we get back to town . . . if we live that long.

Things did not go well. Not well at all. Mark Adder and Sin are dead, while Cody, Rubbish, and I are badly injured and exhausted. We are holed up in one of several anthills in the area, and we didn’t tell anyone where we were going. We had to do something . . . but maybe we could have done this better, I don’t know. We can debate tactics later during whatever shit-duty punishments Chief Ward or the Foreman or whoever else gives us for trying to save Nil, if we live.

We tracked the ants back to a colony of several anthills; I used my extra sense to do a little reconnaissance. Ants down one way, nothing but a pool of water down the other. The insects were aggressive and fought hard, but we got them in a bottleneck the first time and were able to knock some into a pool of water in the second fight, drowning them.

We headed south, and that’s when things went south. The ants spotted us while we went back and forth about our tactics. Flying ants were able to buzz over any coordinated front . . . and the queen marched steadily onward, despite our best efforts. Our strategic withdrawal got a lot less strategic when our exhaustion took its toll, and we just stopped landing decent blows and stopped making shots we used to make with one eye closed. Rubbish went down, then Sin, then Mark and Cody. There was nothing I could do — the queen was coming too fast for me to drag them out of the way and half of them were on the other side of a pit, so we’d all have been caught in the acidic miasma surrounding her. I lured the queen away from the others and somehow, Cody came to during all this and brought Rubbish back from the brink; Mark and Sin were already dead. Just before I was about to make a run for it back to Nil, Cody shot the queen from behind, killing her.

We are not giving the fucking diamond to Jessica. It’s for Nil.

Nil: 21 Years Before (2)
Somebody's poisoned the waterhole!

The Abolitionists came for trouble, and they found it in Nil.

James Santangelo, Barbara Wilks, and Cpl. Gregory Ward could only watch as the Abolitionists browbeat the Foreman, threatened Elder Elijah, and — when the Elder ducked out of a confrontation with a red-headed terror, Priest Major Leslie Byrd — went on a Nil-wide manhunt for him to wring more out of him . . . all for the whereabouts of “Constantine”, a one-time companion of Elder Elijah. Their furtive chat with Elijah revealed that Constantine left years ago, though, and Elijah had no idea where he was now. James, Babs, and Gregory were in no position to take on 50 soldiers in armor, the only harm done was Elijah’s black eye, and every authority figure in town took the time to scold them for being involved even tangentially . . . so the three retired to their homes.

In the middle of the night, Chief Holland woke Gregory — in their thorough searching, the Abolitionists were bound to find the water . . . Nil’s buried treasure. What the Abolitionists want, they take, leaving only corpses; Nil’s only hope was to kill the lot of them in the very mines they were searching. Holland sent Gregory and a couple people he could trust (Wilks and Santangelo) after the smallest group of Abolitionists in the mines.

The three took them by surprise, but they were outgunned and outmanned. Electric lances, concussion grenades, jet packs, full body armor — but somehow they fought their way through, eventually finding the Major Priest herself bragging about what an incredible find the water was. She caught sight of them and attacked immediately; Gregory Ward took an incredible beating and took blow after blow while Wilks and Santangelo rained bullets down upon Major Priest Byrd and her power-suited medic.

The Abolitionist leaders fell just as Ward was teetering on the verge of collapse; four more artillery had snuck up behind the three and might have been able to kill them, when four shots rang out and killed the ambushers. It seems everyone had been lying to Gregory, Barbara, and James; Constantine was here (and had been here all along), and there was no “smallest group”, since the mine tunnels were all interconnected. The leadership of Nil leaves a little to be desired in the way of foresight and planning; maybe someday clearer heads will be in power.

Nil: 21 Years Before
From the spring of the Water of Life

The Nillers stand anxiously and watch Pinkerton Caravan creak poorly oiled wheels through the village gates. Young Babs and Stacy squirm with anticipation while Greg and James snicker at them to hide youthfully lusty thoughts. And like a great lion overseeing his pride, Wayne Kenwood stands tall with arms crossed, a silent and large reminder for good behavior. Francis Kemp, longtime master of this Pinkerton Caravan, shoots the Foreman a wary smile and a forewarning glance behind, where a second group hustles through the gates. The caravan hasn’t arrived alone this year, and Niller eyes grow wide as The Abolition of The Ten marches into town.

Fire In The Hole
You know it don't come easy.

On their day off, Cody, Mark, Sin, Rubbish, and Miryam decided to take it easy for once — but it was not meant to be. An explosion at the warehouse ended any chance for a break, setting events in motion that would take the five out of Nil. The annual Pinkertons were heading out, and had some special secret item that the Foreman was inspecting, but it wasn’t for the eyes of anyone else.

The five immediately headed to the source of the explosion; smoke was already pouring out of the building. The Foreman yelled that his young daughter, Jessica, was still inside; the plume of smoke rising from the building was sure to attract mechs and the destruction that follows them, adding to the potential ruin brought on by the explosion of the rest of the oil within. Cody and Miryam rushed in to find Jessica, if she was within, while Mark, Sin, and Rubbish took aim at the avian mechs already circling and broke the liquid fuses set to make nothing of more of Nil. As the ones outside finished off the birds, Cody and Miryam emerged, badly burned, with a barely-responsive Jessica. Elder Elijah and Chief Engineer Wilks shooed them away, but not before Jessica revealed that the fire had started because she was secretly smoking cigarettes . . . in Nil’s central gathering place for combustible petrochemicals.

Jessica pressured Cody to get the secret Pinkerton item — a diamond! — for her as a gift in exchange for future considerations; Chief Engineer Wilks pressured Miryam to get the diamond for her new photonic energy experiments to provide power to Nil. An old Pinkerton named Enrique offered Sin information on his background and an heirloom; Rubbish was roped in by the prospect of acquiring one of the shiniest rocks on the planet, while Mark was told that more chemical fuel could be derived from the giant ants nearby. All their paths converged on getting these ants.

The five set out almost immediately, in search of a carcass large enough to attract the ants, which could be followed back to their colony. The plan to use the cattle that roam near Nil was foiled by a monstrous beast that had killed the herd, and proceeded to attempt to kill the party, as bloodbirds dove and swooped and bloodied the group.

Victorious, the party dragged carcasses to a location upwind of the ant’s known territory . . . and attracted entirely the wrong sort of attention. Giant beetles and bloodbirds spoiled the party, and the formican guests of honor arrived late and hostile. The five barely survived the onslaught, and are no closer to trailing the ants back to their colony.

The Village of Nil
Another Day in Nil

The sun rises over the wastes, too-quickly warming Nil to discomfort as the hardened villagers awake early to begin another difficult day. The town square jostles to begrudging activity while the Pinkerton Caravan prepares for any final transactions and their noon departure north along Lubbock Trail – not to return for another year.


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