Fiction: Chapter 1 – Further on up the road

About a year before Session 1

Description:

“Where the road is dark and the seed is sowed. Where the gun is cocked and the bullet’s cold Where the miles are marked in the blood and gold. I’ll meet you further on up the road. Got on my dead man’s suit and my smilin’ skull ring, my lucky graveyard boots and a song to sing, I got a song to sing, it keeps me out of the cold.” – Further on up the Road; Johnny Cash

Ben was nineteen and would be out of the Legion soon, but he wasn’t out yet. Sitting in the back of an air transport he was wearing light arcane armor and the call sign Whiskey was stenciled on his helmet. Four others from the unit were in the back of the transport with the rest of the squad in another. Ben held a silver cross in one hand and a fireball wand in the other. The battle in northern Tazos had been raging for over an hour and several units were being scrambled to provide support. As they approached the drop zone the aircraft began flying a more erratic pattern and the sounds of energy weapons and explosions could be heard. A voice came over the intercom saying, “Move up and start dropping.”

A panel slid open and the chamber was filled with gusting wind as the members of the unit stood up, Ben moved to the front of the line turning each of the other four invisible before they jumped out of the aircraft relying on feather fall rings to drop them safely to the surface. He used a more advanced form of invisibility on himself and jumped out. It was relatively dark and below he could see explosions, fires, and the beams of energy weapons. His magical flight wasn’t fast, but it would allow him to control where he went and as he got closer to the ground he could see large masses of zombies and animated skeletons, not the biggest threats but foes needing to be dealt with none the less. Ben took the fireball wand and started firing into the densest concentrations seeing similar blasts he was sure were coming from Zelda’s wand. Each blast would explode into a ball of flame forty feet across scorching the zombies and skeletons to ash. After ten blasts Ben headed back to where his squad had landed knowing the invisibility would wear off before he returned and remaining in the open with no cover was foolish at best. Landing among the other troops Ben put the wand away and readied his blaster rifle. Chopper was a dwarf in heavy battle armor carrying a plasma rifle who motioned forward saying, “Come on, time to put some bodies back in the dirt.”

Flares, fires, and weapons fire provided intermittent light as the squad moved between piles of rubble, old ruins, and blasted tanks. The Imperial forces had a huge advantage in technology, but the undead had taken to picking up the weapons of fallen soldiers as well as somehow gaining access to old guns, often from Earth, meaning it was getting more dangerous to fight them. Chopper’s squad was heavy in magic and scouting capabilities, Chopper was mostly fire support with Hammer, Blitz, and Fury rounding out the regular soldiers each being equipped with an assault blaster with an under barrel grenade launcher. Shamrock was a combat wizard with an assault laser and grenade launcher to back up his lightening and fireball wands. Boondocks was the priest carrying the assault blaster and wands of flame strike and curing. Ben, or Whiskey, was the Utility Wizard, but still equipped with an assault blaster and wands of fireball and make whole. Zelda was the theurge, skilled in arcane and divine magic so she was equipped with both a fireball and a curing wand in addition to an assault blaster. The team also had two elven snipers Ghost and Firefly both equipped with wands of invisibility and true strike as well as plasma rifles. Most of the unit wore combat jumpsuits while Chopper wore the heavier armor with Ben, Shamrock and Zelda wearing the light armor which didn’t inhibit arcane spell casting but offered less protection. Firefly and Ghost turned invisible again moving ahead of the rest of the team as they moved up through broken rubble and burned out wrecks. There were combat walkers, hover tanks, and war robots scattered throughout the ancient ruins, some from the most recent engagement and others which hadn’t been salvaged from previous battles. Shortly after vanishing Ghost called over the radio, “About two hundred skeletons coming up the ridge at two o-clock with lots of firepower.”

Waving out the directions Chopper called, “Swap out to concussion grenades, Hammer and Shamrock go up around that tank on the left, Blitz and Fury to the stone wall right, everyone else with me.”

As the team split Chopper lead a group up between two collapsed walkers and directed the spell casters, “When the grenades start dropping in call fire in across that front line, once they get down to a dozen or so start laying down suppression with the rifles. Okay, we’re in position, start the grenades in the back and walk them forward.”

Shadowy forms in the darkness were revealed to be skeletons coming up the ridge which weren’t armored but carried a wide mix of pistols and rifles ranging from the latest Legion blasters through twentieth century Earth assault rifles, and even ancient black powder guns and crossbows. The four grenade launchers started the assault blasting apart eight to ten skeletons per bright blast at first as they were tightly packed together then the wizards and the priest cut loose with their wands raining fire blasts onto the front lines then the plasma cannons started picking off stragglers. The firepower advantage was immense, but some of the skeletons still managed to open up firing back bursts of conventional rounds and energy blasts. Ben was hit in the shoulder and had to drop back while Blitz took a couple hits and wasn’t moving. The remaining troops opened up with automatic weapon fire and finished the skeletons off quickly. A couple taps of Zelda’s curing wand had Ben back up to normal in less than a minute, but Boondocks informed Chopper, “Blitz is gone, If you want him to be any good on this fight I need ten minutes and twenty-five units of dust.”

Giving a nod and motioning to circle up Chopper ordered, “Take up a perimeter and keep your eyes open.”

Boondocks pulled vials of diamond dust from her pack and started a ritual as the others took cover and watched the surrounding terrain. In the distance the flash of weapons firing and explosions could easily be made out. Three minutes into the ritual a gunship passing overhead was stuck by a missile and crashed a few hundred yards away. Chopper told Ghost and Firefly, “Go invisible and check that crash for survivors, but keep your eyes open.”

Zelda offered, “I can go invisible in case there are survivors we won’t need to wait for the whole squad to move.”

Giving a nod Chopper agreed, “Okay, but run a simple zig-zag pattern and don’t shoot each other.”

The two elves and Zelda went invisible as Ben activated a detect invisibility spell so he could cover them as they moved. Chopper walked over and Ben nodded, “Got it, I can still see them for now, but they’ll cross the ridge and be out of sight in a minute.”

Nodding Chopper went back to his position, “That’ll have to do we can’t spread any thinner than this.”

Ben could see the three scouts stop and then noticed a trio of ghouls headed in the same direction. Ghost was starting to circle around when Ben fired a long burst into the ghouls. Ghost ran forward and Ben had to hold his fire while Ghost finished the ghouls off with a pair of short swords then turned invisible again. After that they were over the ridge and Ben could only see the smoke and flickers of light from the wreck. The scouts reached the wreck and could see other bands of ghouls and ghasts coming to investigate. The pilot was dead, but the gunner alive so Zelda took out her wand and began healing the gunner first as Ghost and Firefly began firing at the surrounding undead to hold them off. Zelda told the gunner, “Our unit is just over the ridge, you’ll have to help me carry the body back.”

The gunner said, “Sparks.”

Looking at the gunner’s helmet which had Window written on it Zelda said, “Fine Window, you need to help me carry Sparks back right now!”

As Window and Zelda carried the body up the ridge the two elves fired until their power cells were empty then followed along. Ben spotted Zelda and Window come over the ridge with Sparks first and continued to watch as he could see the flashes from the plasma rifles and knew there was something just beyond his sight. Pulling his wand and holding it in his left hand as he sighted along the rifle Ben waited. Soon Ghost and Firefly came over the ridge quickly catching up to Zelda and Window before taking cover and changing power cells. A moment later a mix of ghouls and ghasts came over the ridge. Ben, Ghost, and Firefly started firing into them and hearing the close fire Hammer moved over to provide fire support while Chopper told Fury and Shamrock, “Hold your positions and keep your eyes open.”

Hammer moved up beside Ben and opened up with the assault blaster. Once Zelda and Window got Sparks up to the edge of the squad’s holdout Ghost and Firefly pulled back allowing Ben and Hammer to dump grenades and fireballs on the undead coming over the ridge. Once it was clear there were no more coming over Hammer changed magazines and headed back to his position asking Zelda, “How long for that one?”

Zelda let the body down and got into her pack saying, “I’ll be done before Boondocks, just doing a raise, five units and a minute of work then we’ll send them back to base.”

As Zelda got into her pack Window asked, “You have a teleporter, it’s still pretty hot to get a transport in here.”

Chopper answered, “Getting lean on magic here, I’ll give a call and see what it looks like.”

Shamrock called over saying, “If they send a transport we could use some grenades and power cells if they want us to keep advancing.”

Holding a hand over his ear Chopper called into his communicator, “This is chopper, we have a couple grounded birds looking for a quick exit and we could use some grenades, power cells and rockets if there are any to spare.”

Fury spotted several zombies coming through the rubble and opened fire with the assault blaster calling out, “Party crashers on our five.”

Hammer, Ghost, and Shamrock moved over to help shoot the zombies while Firefly moved up into Shamrock’s position to keep watch for other threats. After another thirty seconds of laser, blaster, and plasma fire the zombies were cleared out. A short while later Sparks gasped coming back to life, but not fully functional. Chopper received a call then answered it and turned to the squad, “Okay, got it, thank you. Alright look sharp, there’s a swarm of gun birds on the way with transports, but we need to hold out for another five minutes and according to the radar all of necropolis is moving through our section.”

The squad kept watch for another minute with it being relatively quiet and Window walked up next to Ben asking, “Could I get that rifle?”

Ben handed over the assault blaster and the six remaining power cells for it taking the wand in one hand and a blaster pistol in the other, “Take it, you’re probably a better shot than I am anyhow.”

Over the next few seconds the area became much more active with Shamrock opening fire and calling out, “More coming in five o-clock.”

As Hammer, Ghost, and Fury joined in with Shamrock another wave was spotted and Chopper opened fire, “Twelve o-clock.”

Zelda moved up next to Chopper firing her fireball wand and then Firefly said, “Incoming at two and eight, we’re surrounded.”

Sparks pulled a blaster pistol and squatted next to Boondocks who was still in mid ritual to bring Blitz back from the dead while all the others engaged targets in their area. Flashes of fireballs and grenades flashed all around along with the smaller flashes of blasters, lasers, and plasma beams. Return fire was mostly conventional guns and lasers as the undead thankfully had few explosives. Dropping the empty wand Ben started firing the blaster pistol and could hear the explosions and plasma fire drop off as the other members of the units were forced to switch over to their sidearms as well. When Ben’s pistol was empty he patted Window on the shoulder pointing back, “Move back behind that walker leg.”

As Window moved back Ben pulled back behind the cover to let some undead close and pulled out his cross. As a group passed the block Ben was hiding behind he held the cross up and called for divine help causing a burst of energy to drop the undead around him then he headed closer to the rest of the team asking, “How close was that support?”

Chopper and Zelda were coming back off the walker they had used for cover as Chopper answered, “Should have been here by now.”

A scream called their attention back to Window as a specter came through the walker and Window was struck by the numbing cold touch before trying to pull back. Zelda held up her cross channeling force into the specter and drawing it’s attention. Ben had expended everything from his energy reserves and weapons as Zelda and the specter faced off with it trying to slash her while avoiding her wand of curing. As explosions began to flash all around the groups position announcing the arrival of the gunships the other members who had holy symbols closed around the specter and blasted it with enough holy energy it dissipated. A few minutes later Blitz was back on his feet and a group of transports moved in to pick up the team. They would be able to pull back to base and recover before going out on another offensive.

The team was back at the base sitting around their barracks after resting and recovering their magic energy and replenishing their supplies. A djinni supply master with the call sign Mork drifted in saying, “Your squad goes through supplies faster than most entire platoons, but I’ve been ordered to give you whatever you need for your next assignment. Seems Taz has decided to wake up again, and after losing a dozen tank squads high command has decided to send you miscreants in to put it back to sleep. Remember lasers and plasma are useless against it.”

Chopper stood up stretching, “Yeah so is everything else, it’s armored like a battleship and can recover in just a few minutes after a hit from a sixteen inch cannon. Even ghost and firefly won’t be able to hurt it.”

Looking over at Zelda and back to Chopper Ben said, “Ghost and Firefly can hurt it, just not kill it. We need a few old guns from earth, some quick and dirty enchantment, and a five mile buffer between us and any friendly troops.”

Groaning Chopper complained, “I hate working with these lunatics.”

Hammer smiled and added, “But you like winning, so you put up with us.”

Shifting Mork asked, “What’s it going to cost?”

Ben motioned to Ghost and Firefly, “They need twenty millimeter anti-tank rifles with distance enhancement and enough juice in the form of scrolls or oils to push them to category five plus a load of brilliant energy rounds for the same and scrolls or other items to give them gravity bow enhancements. We need an air transport with a good pilot so they can lead Taz into a trap.”

Ghost nodded confidently, “We can do that, probably drop it without the trap.”

Nodding Ben offered, “Maybe, but I want two traps just in case. Trap one will be a ton of plastic explosives rigged to detonate when the air team leads Taz over the trap, it will need to be in a canyon with tall enough walls to get the beast to stay on the ground and into the sweet spot.”

Chopper stroked his beard, “I don’t even want to ask.”

Winking Ben said, “No need, I’ll wait at the primary kill zone, if Taz goes down I’ll drop a wish and put him back into hibernation. If it fails there’s always resurrection and a backup plan.”

Shaking his head Chopper added, “My stomach is telling me the next part is worse.”

Pointing to Boondocks Ben continued, “Boondocks leaves a reverse recall item at zone two, everyone else waits with old auto-loader tanks like the Abrams to get Taz to stop in the box canyon and Zelda pops him with a hydrogen bomb, the recall item pops, Boondocks miracles Taz into hibernation and over the next couple weeks resurrects the rest of the team.”

Leaning back with his hands on the back of his head Hammer said, “You forgot to say simple at the end of that plan.”

Shrugging Ben said, “It’s unstoppable and unkillable with built in antiaircraft defense and immunity to most weapons, there is no good plan.”

Shaking his head Shamrock suggested, “He’ll just burrow to avoid the attacks.”

Firefly argued, “Not if he’s that aggressive. He won’t be able to resist killing anything that managed to hurt him.”

Ghost agreed, “If we stay fifteen hundred to two thousand feet ahead it should think we’re reachable without being able to hit us, but we need a really good pilot to keep us at the right range in the canyons.”

Blitz protested saying, “It sounds like my only part in this plan is to get blown up in a nuclear blast. I think I’ve died enough already.”

Fury nodded, “Yeah, in this plan if I shoot it’s only to get blasted in a nuclear bomb, why shouldn’t I just stay home or ride on the transport?”

Boondocks pointed out, “I don’t have a part in the plan unless everyone else is already dead.”

Ghost pointed at Firefly and said, “We might live, we’ll be flying away.”

Shaking his head Hammer countered, “You’ll be in ground zero with the rest of us, being in the air won’t help.”

Holding his hands out Mork said, “Stop, I don’t care who’s dying in the plan, The Legion isn’t buying you a hydrogen bomb to blow yourselves up.”

Chopper turned to Ben and Ben nodded saying, “The Legion doesn’t need to buy us a hydrogen bomb, just the guns, ammo, plastic explosives, and tanks with the enchantments and enough diamond dust to bring us all back along with the transport crew. Zelda will make the hydrogen bomb if we need it, it’s a last resort and she’s the only one with enough skill in physics and engineering to make it. If the plan works like I hope none of us will die and only Ghost and Firefly will have to shoot Taz.”

Drifting out the door Mork commented, “You’re all insane, but orders are orders.”

Chopper looked at his watch and barked, “Okay, back here and ready to go by o-five-hundred with your full repertoire of magic and faith, that’s it, get outta my face.”

Ben walked out of the barracks which set in an area of new development surrounded by ancient ruins worn down from time and endless battles. It was dark, but the air was warm and dry with traces of dust, chemicals, and death lingering. Ben lit a cigarette and watched the lights of aircraft lifting off to head out on patrol or transport soldiers to and from Zor, the only advanced city on the planet. Blitz walked out lighting a cigarette and asked, “Why do you spout off crap like that, I don’t like getting killed even if I can be brought back.”

Tapping the ash off his cigarette Ben asked, “Would you prefer to just let it chase us until we couldn’t run from it anymore? It sort of works, but it never gets tired so you usually still die in the end.”

Taking a drag on the cigarette Blitz asked, “Why kill all of us? From the sound of the plan it could be you, Zelda, and the two elves.”

Looking up as a pair of gunships flew past Ben said, “It may not just follow the path we lay out for it. If it goes up over the canyons or gets distracted we need to convince it to come down to us.”

Blitz went to say something else but was drown out by a line of eight hover tanks blasting past and he had given up on the thought by the time they all passed. Walking away Blitz turned back and asked, “You headed to the club?”

Shaking his head Ben pulled out his datapad, “Need write a letter for the folks back home and get it sent off before we head out tomorrow.”

Blitz continued walking away, “You ever tell them about us all killed?”

Opening up a letter he had started earlier Ben replied even though Blitz was too far away yo hear, “Not worth upsetting them.”

The next morning seemed to come quickly and while members of the team had been in a bar brawl the evening before they seemed to be fully recovered by the time of the briefing. Chopper went to talk to Mork and came back, “Okay, we have four transports ready to go. Those exotic guns you wanted came up along with a half ton of plastic explosives, instead of tanks we got antitank missile launchers.”

Looking at the supply crates Boondocks asked, “Did we get the dust?”

Chopper picked up a bag and tossed it to Boondocks saying, “Two hundred fifty, but not to be used unless we absolutely need it.”

Ghost and Firefly began examining the sniper rifles while Hammer pulled one of the missile launchers out asking, “Will these even slow it down?”

Letting out a huff Chopper scoffed, “Hardly, luckily you only need to get his attention. Whiskey, you’re on number two, Ghost and Firefly on number one, Hammer and Zelda you’re with me on three, Blitz, Fury, and Shamrock load up on number four. We’ll hit the target zone in thirty minutes and get set up for Ghost and Firefly to bait him in.”

Ben loaded on the transport aircraft with the explosives which looked quite small even though he knew there was about ten cubic feet in the stack and he hoped it would be enough to do the job.
(More to come) . . .

Bio:

This is a background story based upon the player character team’s activities before going independent to explain their link to each other, skills, and show the types of equipment and missions they might have experienced when in the Legion.

Chopper: NPC Dwarf commander
Veteran gunner with Legendary toughness

Ben (Whiskey): PC Human Utility Wizard (my character)
Veteran driver, Legendary wizard (general), Legendary charmer
Equivalent of Doctor in engineer skills

Blitz: NPC Human Soldier
Elite gunner, Elite toughness

Boondocks (Asteri): PC Human Priest (Jen’s character)
Legendary cleric (specialist), Legendary Awareness, Elite Willpower
Equivalent of Doctor in medicine and science skills

Firefly: PC Elf Sniper (Amanda’s character)
Mythical Gunner, Legendary Awareness, Legendary Stealth

Fury: NPC Human Soldier
Elite gunner, Elite toughness

Ghost (Simo): PC Elf Sniper (Erik’s character)
Mythical Gunner, Legendary Awareness, Legendary Stealth

Hammer: PC Human Soldier (Matt’s character)
Legendary brawler, Legendary gunner, Elite negotiator, Elite toughness

Shamrock (Darius): PC Human Combat Wizard (Galen’s character)
Legendary wizard (specialist), Legendary gunner
Equivalent of Doctor in engineer skills

Zelda: PC Human Mystic Theurge (Liz’s character)
Legendary wizard (specialist), Elite cleric (general), Elite gunner, Veteran driver
Equivalent of Doctor in all medicine, engineer, and science skills

Fiction: Chapter 1 – Further on up the road

Arcane Empire Gcconklin