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Sunday, 23rd November, 2008, 12:15 PM #351
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Cold War: Part 4 – The Ceremony
“This is no ordinary snow globe,” said Archive, pointing to drawings of the snow globe, among other sketches.
According to the specifications, it was a simple glass sphere about four inches in diameter.
“The inside of the globe has a small representation of this rest stop, and tiny flakes flurry downward without every settling. You don’t even have to shake it.”
“The Eye of Ithaqua,” whispered Stride, who had followed Hammer over. “It is a powerful focal point for cult rituals, and serves as a conduit between Ithaqua worshipers and their cold god.”
“Where is it?”
Archive pointed to Jim-Bean, who was stumbling over to them. “I gave it to him.”
“Great,” said Hammer.
A blast of freezing cold wind shrieked through the front doors, nearly blowing the glass doors off their hinges.
Jim-Bean tried to grab the donut counter. He was barely audible in the shrieking storm.
“I know…who the murderer…is…” he slumped to the floor.
Hammer’s Glocks were out again. The blowing snow inside the donut shop made it impossible to see. “You lost the Eye, didn’t you?”
Jim-Bean didn’t respond, shivering.
Outside, the other cultists were all running through the snow, chanting something at the top of their lungs, shedding their clothes as they did so.
Hammer could just barely make it out.
“Ia! Ia!--Ithaqua! Ithaqua!
Ai! Ai! Ai!--Ithaqua!
Ugh!--Ia! Ia!--Ai! Ai! Ai!”
“Fools!” Stride shook her head. “Zelazny said he needed five sacrifices to perform the ritual!”
Hammer, Archive, and Stride jogged to the front of the rest stop.
The gnoph-keh had built a great snow mound in the center of the parking lot. An older man was there, standing naked with the snow globe lifted high overhead.
“Hodges,” said Stride. “That’s our murderer.”
“Ithaqua, my lord!” shouted Hodges. “Bestow your blessing upon your faithful servant!”
At first there was only the horrible howl of something carrying on the icy wind. Soon a pair of red stars were spotted in the sky – as they watched, the stars appeared to get larger and larger. It became apparent that the stars were getting closer, and quickly the monstrous form of Ithaqua could be made out, the red stars its glaring eyes.
The howling reached a terrible crescendo, deafening, before the wind lifts, rising upward as if from the earth into the sky, drawing leaves and dead brown pine straws and flakes of ice with it; then, after a moment, with absolute abruptness, all five of the Cult of the Windwalker lurched into the sky in an impossible gust of wind. Their screams faded slowly and were gone.
Hammer took careful aim. With a squeeze of the trigger, Hodges’ extended wrist holding the Eye of Ithaqua exploded in a geyser of blood and flesh. He shrieked, clutching the bloody stump of his wrist.
The summoning had not gone as Hodges had planned. Ithaqua’s terrible gaze fell upon him.
Hodges screamed again, but this time it was an agonized wail. He doubled over. A terrible transformation took place as Hodges’ skin sank into his bones and his hair turned white. His eyes lost their pupils, all to the litany of Hodges’ screaming. A moment later and he too spiraled upwards in the grip of his god.
Then the giant turned skyward, too, lifting its talons high, growing into the sky until, distended, it bent its inhuman legs and leaped into the ether and ran on great webbed feet along the shimmering Auroran light into nothingness.
“The Eye!” shouted Stride. “Is it still here?”
The snow globe rolled down the huge hill of snow to land at his feet. “Yes,” said Hammer. “It’s over.”
Stride shook her head. “You don’t understand. Hodges received the blessing of Ithaqua. I don’t know if he fully understood what that meant. It transformed him, warped him. We have to destroy—“
Before she could finish her sentence, a white moving blur swept Stride up in mid-sentence. Her screams disappeared into the wind high above.
And then her screams returned all at once as her flash-frozen body smashed into one of the cars, shattering into a million bloody chunks.
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Monday, 24th November, 2008, 11:34 AM #352
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Cold War: Conclusion
Archive handed the Eye off to Hammer. Hammer ran for the rest stop.
Jim-Bean met him at the door. “Hodges killed Zelazny and Ko! He set it up so that—“
“We KNOW!” shouted Hammer.
“We have to destroy the Eye!” Archive shouted over the screaming wind. He had his own pistol out, scanning the sky, trying to look everywhere at once.
“You can’t,” said Jim-Bean. “It’s indestructible. Trust me I tried!”
Hodges appeared in all his terrible glory. He had turned into a huge, stretched parody of his former self. Frozen drool continued to drip from a vicious maw of canine teeth. His nose was gone, his hair whipping wildly behind him. Wicked claws jutted from his fingertips. His legs ended in burnt stumps; there were no feet to speak of. He floated thirty feet above the parking lot.
“GIVE ME THE EYE,” he snarled, audible over the wind. He pointed, and a blast of white energy sizzled past Archive, just missing his head.
“Fire!” shouted Archive.
Hammer turned and fired both Glocks at Hodges. A direct hit. Chips of ice fell off of him.
“No, I mean USE fire!” shouted Archive.
Hammer got what he meant. He passed Jim-Bean and ran with the globe towards the gas station.
Hodges swept down, quicksilver-fast in the wind. “GIVE ME THE EYE!”
Hammer, who had been pretending he was carrying the snow globe, came up with two pistols instead. “No.”
He fired point blank into Hodges. The blast merely propelled Hodges back a few feet through the air. He looked about for who really had the Eye.
Jim-Bean hustled towards the donut shop, Eye nestled in one arm. The fryer would most assuredly do the trick.
“Hey!” shouted Archive. A pistol shot ricocheted off of Hodges’ head. This time he felt it – Hodges turned, growling.
Archive fired shot after shot from his pistol, which had an Elder Sign engraved on the barrel. “I’ve got your Eye right here!”
Inside the donut shop, Jim-Bean didn’t notice that the temperature had dipped severely. He was too intent on the deep fryer.
With a bellowing roar, the gigantic Gnoph-keh reared up in front of him. Jim-Bean skidded to a halt and looked up at it in shock.
The bear-thing speared him with its horn through the shoulder and bucked him towards the ceiling.
Jim-Bean screamed. He twisted and threw the Eye towards the fryer…
Where it bounced out of the now frozen oil and, rolling with the momentum from Jim-Bean’s throw, ricocheted towards the entryway.
Hammer charged towards it. He dove through the snow to grab the Eye. With a shout of triumph, he caught it.
Roaring, the Gnoph-keh flung Jim-Bean over the counter and took a direct path to Hammer, smashing through counter, walls, doors, and glass. It furrowed through the snow, tossing Hammer aside. The Eye rolled across the parking lot.
Hammer took aim and fired with both Glocks. One bullet ricocheted off of the globe, causing the Eye to skitter towards the gas station. The other struck a gas pump, spraying gasoline everywhere.
The Gnoph-keh swatted at Hammer with one paw, driving him head first into a snow bank. He didn’t get up.
“THE EYE!” shouted Hodges. He abandoned Archive to the Gnop-Keh, flying towards it.
The huge, hairy monstrosity barreled towards him. Archive took careful aim. He only had one shot at this…
Hodges’ look of malevolent delight twisted as he heard the pistol fire. Archive’s shot sparked as it penetrated the metal of the gas pump.
There was the squeal of gas igniting, and then a series of fireballs engulfed the gas station. The flames consumed Hodges and the shock wave hurled him up into the air out of sight.
The four arms of the Gnoph-keh rose up. The last thing Archive thought was, “I didn’t realize they had four arms.”
Then it flew apart in a spray of icy shards as the Eye of Ithaqua became superheated from the explosion. A whirlwind of snow and howling wind danced and spun where the creature was standing. Dozens of shrieking voices seemed to gibber and moan in the wind. Then it too was gone, disappearing with the rest of the blizzard.
Archive slumped to his knees. The Eye of Ithaqua, a crack in its surface, rolled to a stop in front of him, trailing smoke.
Archive tucked it into his pocket. He was only dimly aware of the Humvee’s headlights and the thrumming of a chopper overhead.
“I want a full quarantine. All civilians are out of this area, NOW!” shouted a familiar voice in military fatigues.
Archive looked up. It was Sprague in white camouflage, with an odd smile on his face.
Two men grabbed Archive by the arms. He caught a glimpse of someone being led away on a stretcher. It wasn’t Jim-Bean or Hammer.
It was Ko. He was being given oxygen as two men hoisted him up into an ambulance and the doors slammed shut, obscuring his view.
“But I work for CIFA,” said Archive quietly.
“Not on my watch you don’t,” said Sprague with a sneer.
All Archive could think was: Why would a dead man need an oxygen mask?
Tuesday, 25th November, 2008, 11:46 AM #353
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Jack Frost: Introduction
This scenario is a combination of, “Jack Frost,” from Pyramid Magazine by Shane Ivey and “Temple in the Ice” by Michael LaBossiere. You can read more about Delta Green at Delta Green. Please note: This story hour contains spoilers!
Our cast of characters includes:
Given the opportunity to link in every modern scenario involving Ithaqua I could get my hands on, Jack Frost was too tempting to pass up. Jack Frost involves Delta Green agents going undercover in a Majestic-12 operation. Since our characters ARE Majestic-12 agents, there was very little tweaking necessary to fit them in.
- Game Master: Michael Tresca
- Jim “Jim-Bean” Baxter (Charismatic Hero/Telepath) played by Jeremy Ortiz
- Kurtis "Hammer" Grange (Fast Hero/Gunslinger) played by George Webster
The scenario theoretically takes place over three days, but I counted the first visit of Ithaqua as the events of Cold War. Thus, there were just two days to figure out what was going on and resolve it. After the moral dilemma with the agents facing the pending death of an innocent, I wanted to create another morally gray situation to stop Ithaqua.
The rivalry between the two organizations of Majestic-12 fit perfectly with Sprague and Warner, who hate each other’s guts. Having them both in action and showing who they reported to helped crystallize Majestic-12’s hierarchy and bring home the high stakes that are involved on both sides.
Because the agents already knew what caused the freezing effects, much of the investigation was skipped entirely. At first I was disappointed, but then I realized that the dreams Jim-Bean was having were more than sufficient to move the plot along. I also retained the Eye of Ithaqua from the other scenario so there was a “remote control” means of conducting a sacrifice.
Finally, I introduced our Guppy stand-in, a female geek who has a crush on Jim-Bean. Of course.
Defining Moment: A downed pilot lends a hand to Hammer. Literally.
Wednesday, 26th November, 2008, 12:14 PM #354
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Jack Frost: Prologue
WILLIS, AL— The road sign was plain and green, the sort mandated by state law and never supplemented with anything more decorative: "Willis, Ala.," it read, "Pop. 819." State Highway 9 ran past the sign through deep forest and high hills. A long, narrow bridge stretched across an expanse of swampy water: always a land of endless natural waterways, the region was inundated with new lakes and streams after the Tennessee Valley Authority began damming up the rivers in a Depression-era economic booster project. A sliver of December moon was hidden, high overhead, beyond thick clouds, and the swamp and the hills and the trees were barely visible in its ghostly light.I'm Mister White Christmas,
I'm Mister Snow.
I'm Mister Icicle,
I'm Mister Ten Below.
Friends call me Snow Miser,
whatever I touch
turns to snow in my clutch...
I'm too much!
--Snow Miser by Crash Vinyl
The hills flattened out, slowly, gradually, and the forest thinned to either side. Then, ahead, came a yellow glow blinking in the air, the strobe of an ordinary streetlight to signal caution. Other lamps shined beyond it, silvery-pink and constant, illuminating the shop fronts of a handful of two-story buildings. The post office was easily the finest structure, with sculpted concrete pillars of a Classical design that seemed ostentatious among the simple businesses of Willis. Christmas lights blinked cheerfully in red and green in several windows and the limbs of trees.
Slowing for the blinking cautionary light, silhouettes were visible within a building near the road ("Hank's House," proclaimed the shingle). The shadows of men and women gathered for a nightcap, perhaps, before they joined their families.
At least they seemed to be patrons; but perhaps that was a trick of the light, to make shadows look like the men and women one would expect. There was no movement to be seen, not in Hank's House, not in the streets, nowhere but for the swaying yellow light. But there, ahead, on the covered sidewalk leading to Hank's, someone was waiting.
It was a man, perhaps 50 years old and heavy-jowled in worn denim overalls and a thick fleece coat. He seemed to be waiting; certainly he was not moving.
No fog of breath billowed in the shadows from his opened mouth. His eyes stared, watching, empty, dry, and a strand of ice hung unattended from his mouth.
Then other men and women could be seen more clearly inside the tavern, sitting at drinks long since gone flat in the cool air or lying on the floor in strange positions, as if caught in the moment of a footstep and then falling in that same pose to the ground.
Outside, shapes could be seen on the ground; a dog lay on its side, legs stiff and straight. Feathery clumps marked where birds fell in mid-flight to the earth. All were frozen, through and through; all were dead with a cold that would not go away.
Jack Frost had come to town again.
Thursday, 27th November, 2008, 03:14 PM #355
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Jack Frost: Part 1 – Welcome to the Village
Willis was a small farming town in northern Alabama, some sixty miles from Huntsville and its Space Center and the military and aerospace facilities of the Redstone Arsenal. The region was utterly rural, with small towns serving thin-spread farmers among hilly green fields, cotton rows and a few cornrows, dotted here and there with livestock and long, low chicken barns. Uncounted rivers and lakes broke the forested hills, many of them formed only sixty years ago after TVA projects dammed the Tennessee River.
Escorted by hard-eyed, tight-lipped security officers in Air Force uniforms, Hammer and Jim-Bean were driven to a forest overtaken by a government camp. Wide tents were erected, jeeps and Humvees drove by, helicopters hovered noisily overhead, and soldiers were everywhere, all of them crisp, efficient, and quiet.
They were escorted, firmly but politely, to the largest tent, where they met their ostensible mission leaders. The room was occupied by six suspicious-looking men in expensive overcoats, thirteen scientists and doctors, and a dozen soldiers wearing the maroon beret of US Air Force Rescue and Recovery. Jim-Bean picked out Tucker among Warner’s men –Tucker and Hammer were what passed for diversity in Majestic-12's ranks as the only two black men.
One of the plainclothes agents stood. He was s a middle-aged man, thin and wiry, with black hair, pale skin, cold eyes, and a southern drawl.
"Welcome to Willis County," he said with a touch of irony. "My name is Alphonse Lewis, Assistant Director of the Counter-Intelligence Field Agency, and I'm in charge of this operation. With me here are Lieutenant Colonel Neal Warner, and Major Louis Sprague." He nodded to a short, graying man in an Air Force uniform, and a tall, hawk-like man with blonde feathered hair in a dark suit. "Lieutenant Colonel Warner is leading the field operation. Major Sprague is in charge of operational security. I expect each of you will listen to them carefully.
"Now," he continued, "you are here to investigate a recent …event…that transpired in Willis County, Alabama, just five miles southeast of here. We don't know exactly what happened; that's why you all are here.”
Hammer and Jim-Bean eyed each other nervously. They knew exactly what happened. Did Sprague know? Did he want them to tell their story right away?
“What do we know, sir?” asked Hammer.
“All we know is that a town of more than eight hundred souls has been killed. Frozen to death, and hardly any of them outside in the cold.”
Encouraged, Hammer became a little bolder. “Do we have any theories?”
"Most likely, this is the result of experimental weaponry fallen into the wrong hands. The Russians have spent decades on fringe weapons science." One of the Air Force men coughed. Lewis stared coldly at the man for a moment before continuing: "And we've all heard about their problems with security. In any event. You all know your specialties. Now Lieutenant Colonel Warner will take y'all to the site. Good luck to you."
Saturday, 29th November, 2008, 12:58 AM #356
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Jack Frost: Part 2 – Christmas in Dixie
The town of Willis was comprised mostly of businesses serving area farmers and the houses of those who work there. Highway 9 ran through the middle of town, bisecting it, with the post office and town hall sitting on either side. Other businesses were in walking distance, including the offices of Joe Little, Esq., attorney and tax preparer, the offices of Elizabeth Brown, the town doctor, Ed Loche, the town dentist, a modest used car lot owned by Lester "Less with Les" Cabe, and, of course, Hank's House. A popular restaurant was a greasy barbeque called Hog's Heaven, famous for their iced tea and their special sauce, and the local Winn-Dixie supermarket did moderate business. Houses in the town had wide lawns with sparse green grass and dark dirt, with rusting metal toys and tools easily found in many yards.
By the time they arrived, the Counter-Intelligence Field Agency had quarantined the town of Willis in an emergency lockdown.
“What happened?” asked Jim-Bean out of the corner of his mouth.
Hammer had been studying the reports over his cistron. “Near as I can tell, Ithaqua froze more than just the area near Exit 23. That’s when Sprague and Warner got called in.”
“And their boss, Lewis.”
“Which makes him our boss,” reminded Hammer.
Only a small investigative team of government researchers and intelligence agents was allowed within the quarantined perimeter of Willis County. The team consisted of three distinct units. The operation was commanded by Lt. Colonel Neal Warner, U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command, whose fifty "Blue Beret" troops from Aerospace Recovery were charged with finding and containing debris and biological hazards or other evidence, using equipment ranging from sophisticated radio and radiation sensors to heavy-lift and reconnaissance helicopters; Warner was actually a high-ranking member of the top secret Majestic’s Delta division.
Operational security was directed by Louis Sprague, listed as a Major in the U.S. Army, Defense Intelligence Agency; Sprague led 24 other dark-suited agents with DIA credentials, all of whom were covertly assigned to the officially-nonexistent Pounce division of the National Reconnaissance Office, the Majestic group's security task force.
A team of specialists from a variety of fields conducted on-site analysis; some were from other projects of the Majestic group, while others were included only to be fed a cover story by Sprague and Warner that they could deliver credibly to the media and external investigators.
The Majestic team had an impressive array of materiel at their disposal. The nuclear physicists had bulky testing chambers, trucked into the command post by the BLUE FLY team; the medical team had a field station set up with full biological quarantine capability; the BLUE FLY team and NRO-Delta agents used two reconnaissance helicopters and two heavy transport helicopters, as well as two boats equipped with heavy-hauling equipment and powerful sonar, and several heavy ground vehicles and Humvees. The teams were heavily armed.
“Looks like Major Sprague has been tasked with security for the operation, including physical security for the area and informational security: no information pertaining to the operation is to leave the site except by his or Warner's reports to their superiors.”
It became clear that the rest of the team immediately disliked Sprague's agents as unpleasant necessities. Almost everyone was afraid of them.
“Let me get this straight: We work for Sprague. Sprague’s team is in charge of security. So we can requisition whatever we want?”
Hammer nodded. “Pretty much.”
“Good,” said Jim-Bean. “Because I’m requisitioning a flamethrower.” He clicked the request through his cistron.
Lt. Colonel Warner and his men spent most of the day conducting physical examinations of the territory, conducting slow helicopter flyovers of the area and using advanced "sniffers" to measure various energy levels in the ground and foliage in an effort to locate a possible landing or crash site for an alien craft.
Jim-Bean stopped at the ammunition tent and picked up his flamethrower. He strapped it on.
“You know this wasn’t an alien craft,” said Jim-Bean to one of Warner’s soldiers, who provided the weapon.
“Sure it was,” said the soldier.
“It was a big wendigo thing,” said Jim-Bean. “Ate a bunch of people. Pass that on to Tucker.”
The soldier rolled his eyes. “It was an alien weapon.”
“Really? What kind of weapon?” asked Hammer.
“You’re not cleared for that.”
“Why was it used?”
“You’re not cleared for that.”
“You don’t have the slightest idea why or how either, do you?”
The soldier didn’t say anything.
Jim-Bean tested the flamethrower’s ignition. The flames roared.
“Let’s go visit Hog’s Heaven and barbecue something up,” said Jim-Bean to Hammer. “I don’t know about you but I’m hungry.”
Saturday, 29th November, 2008, 06:48 PM #357
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Jack Frost: Part 3 – The Ghosts Speak
The investigation wasn’t going well. Jim-Bean tried to torch organic material in the restaurant, but it was unaffected. When he set the flamethrower to frozen burger patties, they remained frozen.
Jim-Bean went to bed hungry. That’s when he had the dream.Jim-Bean woke up, sweating and hungry. And all he could think of was Archive and his bloody finger.Jim-Bean saw bloody snakes across a frozen wooded landscape and writhing in the loins of shrieking women and men, their fangs dripping blood and poison. Glowing mists shimmered and swirl in the vault of an enormous cavern, coalescing into cold green stars. The stars were eyes, great, distant eyes, cold and malevolent and hungry.
Toward the end, an enormous mound of red earth rose above the trees and the writhing bloody snakes, sucking the stars and shimmering mists into its bulk.
He stepped out of his tent for a smoke…and bumped into Hammer.
“You can’t sleep either, huh?”
Jim-Bean shook his head. “This is dumb, we know the answer to what happened here, we should just—“
A plain-looking woman walked up to them. “Are you Agents Hammer and Jim-Bean?” she sniffed.
“Yeah?” said Hammer.
“I’m Dr. Lisa Howell,” she said. “I’ve been assigned to your investigation. If we can find the epicenter of the freezing blast…”
Jim-Bean looked her up and down. Howell wore thick glasses to compensate for her nearsightedness. With stringy blond-brown hair tied into a haphazard ponytail, she wore a physician’s coat over a simple pantsuit. It was clear she didn’t care a great deal about her looks.
“We know where it is,”
“How?” Howell adjusted her glasses.
"Because we were there," said Hammer.
Monday, 1st December, 2008, 11:42 AM #358
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Jack Frost: Part 4 – The First Night
Hammer pulled a Humvee around. The base ran round the clock.
The night air in Willis was wet and as cold as the ice that pierced cloth and flesh. The air billowed in sporadic bursts of painful wind and snow, driving the cold deeper into blood and marrow. The stars shone brilliantly in the indigo canopy overhead; as the storm subsided, Orion stalked at a strange angle among the constellations of winter.
Hammer pulled up to the remains of the rest stop. The entire area was cordoned off. The blackened husk of the donut shop was all that was left. A blackened crater replaced the gas station.
“There,” said Jim-Bean, pointing to the huge mound of snow the Gnoph-keh had built. “That’s the epicenter.”
“Really?” Howell tapped her own cistron. “That idiot Bimmel should have guessed this, but they’re so obsessed with finding an alien craft…”
“So you don’t think it’s an alien craft?” asked Hammer.
“I think the alien craft is probably buried right here,” said Howell. “I bet we can get a view of the entire area from here. This probably acted as a sort of antenna…” She began climbing the slope.
Hammer rubbed his forehead. Sprague’s behavior was starting to make sense: the revocation of Archive’s involvement in cases, the change in focus from cult investigation to alien and terrorist threats. Majestic-12 was crawling with skeptics who believed in their own brand of the paranormal—the kind that came from the stars. Any evidence that didn’t fit into that world view was either ignored or justified to fit it.
“Coming?” asked Jim-Bean.
Hammer shook his head. “No thanks. I’ll stay in the car where it’s warm.”
Jim-Bean followed Howell up the slope. He looked around after the long climb.
“Wow, you’re right,” he said. “It is a beautiful view.” Jim-Bean took out a cigarette and lit it.
He tried to spark the lighter several times with no luck.
Howell brought a mini-acetylene torch to Jim-Bean’s cigarette and lit it for him.
Jim-Bean grinned at her. “You know with a pixie haircut and a bit of makeup you wouldn’t be half--”
He was cut off by a terrible howling: it wavered across the earth from some point unutterably far above, deeper and more mournful than the wind or any animal of the wild, undulating slowly over endless minutes.
A moment of silence gripped the air, and then the howling begins again, filling the night. The air grew colder, achingly cold.
“Look!” shouted Howell.
Over the nearby Crow Lake overnight, hypnotic, shimmering lights appeared among the painfully frigid winds overhead. Within the drifting pastel lights black eyes stared, boundless, mournful, inhuman, hungry.
A paroxysm of terrible cold engulfed Howell and Jim-Bean, suddenly enmeshing in a thin and wispy layer of snowy ice.
Howell collapsed, shivering. Her skin cracked and she collapsed. “I can’t see!” she shrieked through chapped lips.
Jim-Bean, also covered in ice, shook free from the effect and flakes of skin and ice shed from him like dandruff.
Howell, curled in a ball, starting shivering uncontrollably.
“Easy,” said Jim-Bean, quickly recovering. He hugged Howell to him, trying to keep her warm. “Hammer! Get up here!”
Tuesday, 2nd December, 2008, 11:29 AM #359
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Jack Frost: Part 5 – The Howl of Sirens
Jim-Bean and Hammer dropped Howell off at the base. They scarcely arrived before the howl of the emergency sirens went off. Sprague summoned them to his tent.
“Fifteen minutes ago, one of the reconnaissance helicopters crashed while attempting to return to the base, probably due to the weather conditions.”
Jim-Bean and Hammer exchanged glances. They knew what caused the crash.
“We’re having the chopper defrosted now. I want you to go out there and find out what happened.”
“We know what happened,” interrupted Jim-Bean.
Sprague crossed his arms. “You can give me your report when you get back. Tucker is running circles around us and I want you two to get the jump on him before he gets there. ”
“But sir—“ began Hammer.
“NOW,” said Sprague, brooking no argument.
Hammer and Jim-Bean joined a chopper pilot at the recently defrosted helicopter. It was already gearing up for takeoff when they arrived.
Jim-Bean donned noise canceling headphones. “Does anyone else think it’s a bad idea to use one helicopter in bad weather to find another helicopter in bad weather?”.
“Don’t worry!” shouted the pilot. “The designer probably wouldn’t be pleased with this method of flight prep, the helicopter’s advanced construction makes it able to withstand the stresses of freezes and thaws. Once airborne and powered up, the heating elements incorporated into the helicopter will be adequate to keep the ice formation down to a minimum.”
“That makes me feel much better,” said Jim-Bean.
The chopper took off. It occurred to Hammer after they left that they had the only remaining reconnaissance helicopter. Tucker and his men would have to commandeer one of the transport helicopters or look for the down chopper by Humvee. Sprague had given them a jump on the competition.
“There!” shouted Hammer.
The missing reconnaissance helicopter was partially buried in snow. It seemed to have suffered little damage, although it is was laying on its side and its rotor was smashed. All of the helicopter’s doors were open, but no bodies were visible from the air.
“Can you set us down?”
The pilot shook his head. “It’s too dangerous! The tree line is so close…”
“Zip lines,” said Jim-Bean to Hammer with a grin. “Like the good old days.”
They rappelled down to the frozen ground. Jim-Bean shrugged on the flamethrower pack and lit it. The chopper took off.
“You’re seriously going to walk around with that thing on your back?” asked Hammer.
“We’re dealing with snow beasts,” said Jim-Bean. “You’ll thank me later.”
Hammer inspected the crash site. “The landing wasn’t too bad,” he said. “The crew should have survived.” Around the helicopter were thick drifts of snow.
Jim-Bean bent down to peer at a metallic object lying in the snow. “Look at this.”
It was nine millimeter automatic pistol with four shell casings scattered on the ice.
They crept up to the helicopter, pistols out. It was abandoned, with snow already beginning to collect through the open doors.
“Hammer,” said Jim-Bean. He pointed at one of the drifts behind the helicopter.
A body was partially concealed, boots sticking out of the snow.
“Hello?” asked Hammer.
The body twitched.
Hammer walked over to the body. “Hello? You okay?” He brushed the snow off the body.
It was one of Warner’s men. His name tag identified him as Lieutenant Daniel Jones.
“Jim-Bean, I think—“
The corpse cracked to life as it sat straight up, moaning.
“DUCK!” shouted Jim-Bean.
Hammer flattened himself to the ground. Jim-Bean let loose with the flamethrower.
The blast of fire staggered the frozen corpse. It slowly rose to its feet.
Hammer rolled away and came up with his Glocks out. Jim-Bean stumbled as frozen hands grabbed for his ankles.
“What the hell?” The blast of flame went wide.
Another frozen corpse, a female scientist, lumbered out of the snow. Her nametag identified her as Dr. Rachel Tsung.
Hammer took careful aim and unleashed both clips into her head.
The corpse moaned and turned to face him, the shattered remains of her head chipping away. Hammer backed up and started to reload.
Jim-Bean recovered. He torched the hell out of Jones. This time the body went down, almost completely incinerated.
Tsung turned to face Jim-Bean. At point blank range, he turned the gout of flame on the corpse’s torso. It went silently down, melting into a puddle of burnt flesh and water.
Jim-Bean was still panting from the exertion. “Told you…” he said to Hammer, “you’d thank me later…”
Wednesday, 3rd December, 2008, 11:31 AM #360
Cutpurse (Lvl 5)
Jack Frost: Part 6 – Quarantine
This time they had Sprague’s attention.
“The source of the cold was the arrival of this big ice demon known as Ithaqua. He’s summoned with THIS.” Jim-Bean held up the cracked Eye of Ithaqua, which was now frozen and dark. Archive had snuck it to him before being dragged off the site.
“That’s…a snow globe, you realize that?” asked Sprague.
“Yeah,” said Jim-Bean. “But it’s something else too. Some kind of artifact. And we think this demon guy is what is animating the zombies,” said Jim-Bean. “Ice zombies.”
Sprague crossed his arms. “Oh really. And you have evidence of this?”
“Errr…” Jim-Bean looked helplessly at Hammer. “Well, we torched them.”
“You torched them? You burnt the evidence?”
“Pretty much, yeah.”
Sprague leaned forward. “Now you listen to me. This is a scientific organization that runs by a certain set of principles. That mumbo-jumbo $#!t went out with Drake. I don’t want to ever hear the Z word from you boys again. You see something moving, you CATCH it and you bring it back here. Tucker’s already got reams of evidence in town—“
“Can we see it?”
“He’s not sharing it with me,” snarled Sprague. “And so far all I’ve got is one scientist in the ER and you two talking about some kind of big ass ice demon—“
“And zombies,” added Jim-Bean.
“And zombies,” Sprague said slowly. “You want to find reanimated tissue? Fine. Order some cages. But don’t bother me with this piddly crap. We’ve got to up our game, gentlemen, before we get edged out of it. After tonight’s trouble, orders came down to seal the perimeter: Nobody goes in, nothing comes out.”
Soldiers in thick, warm camouflage were posted every fifty yards around the perimeter, supported by thermal imagers and sound-based motion sensors, with orders to shoot to kill anything that tried to escape.
“Now the boys are going to do their best to patch Howell up. She should be ready to go tomorrow. In the mean time, get some rest. And for God’s sake find me some actual evidence! Dismissed!”
Hammer was tapping on his cistron as he walked out of Sprague’s tent.
“What are you requisitioning now?”
“A cage,” said Hammer. “And bear traps.”
Jim-Bean nodded. “Then I’m requisitioning thermite grenades.”
“For the bears?”
“Right. For the bears.”