Act III - Wartorn

The Windwalker honors its name and enters the next level of the Warden in a storm of dust and earth that has been displaced by the opening of the passageway. The new world looks desolate, a bleak and barren landscape, with a storm brewing in the sky.

After about an hour of travel, the crew spots the first sign of animal life: a white bird. Fox uses his binoculars to follow it in its flight until suddenly three red dots appear on the animal. A second later the bird is blasted from the sky. Frantic searching reveals a spiderlike droid crawling out of the ground a few hundred meters up ahead. The Windwalker has no trouble outrunning the droid, but the crew discovers that the landscape is prowled by other such warbots. After having damaged their ship by ramming one of the bots, they decide to try and avoid them in the future.

Just when it seemed the wasteland would never end, a sentry spots buildings in the distance. The ship arrives at a ravaged metropolis. Some of the crewmembers leave the ship and go into the city to scout. Once in the city, Drabor uses his summoning ability in an attempt to find humanoid lifeforms. Unfortunately, the ones that show up are feral mutants and Drabor is forced to flee. Another setback is that the city turns out to be as infested with robots as the surrounding countryside. Warmachines of all sizes and shapes move through the streets seemingly at random.

During their explorations, Drabor and Jingles discover a small cube sitting in the middle of a street. When they approach it, it sprouts spindly metallic appendages and legs it. The two pursue it around a corner, and almost run into a 2 by 2 by 2 meters large cube, from behind which the smaller cube is peeking out at them. When the larger cube starts extending its arms and legs, Drabor and Jingles make a run for it. The cubes don't pursue however and move off. Drabor and Jingles follow them at a safe distance to a cube the size of a building, which has smaller cubes of many sizes working in its vicinity. After some initial communication problems, Drabor and Jingles manage to establish contact with the cube community.

While the crewmembers are discussing things with a representative of the cubes, news arrives that one of the smaller cubes has been carried off to the rooftop nests of the predatory birds that prowl the sky over the city. The cubes aren't very good with heights, but the crew has no such problems. After a short fight with the birds (which have a strange metallic sheen to their wings) they manage to rescue the small cube (as well as stealing a metallic disc from the nest). In gratitude for their help, the cubes promise to protect the crew while they are with them. The group decides to bring the Windwalker into the city, escorted by a group of the larger cubes.

The cubes provide the crew with information, including the location of a mutant spider who might be willing to bargain with them. They visit the spider and he identifies the disc-shaped item as being a pressure-mine. They also trade with him, acquiring some laser absorbing paint. When the crew returns to their ship, there is disturbing news waiting for them. Cube scouts have discovered that the robot manufacturing facility to the south of the metropolis has begun construction of a strange craft. The cubes suspect that the craft is being specifically constructed to deal with the Windwalker.

The crew continues to explore. In the southern point of the city, they discover an irradiated blast crater which has uncovered (and opened) part of an underground tunnel. Fox enters the tunnel, quickly crossing through the radiation, and finds an ancient transport craft. During the night, the crewmembers who stayed outside the crater hear sounds. A few streets away, they discover a tree which has a woman's body hanging in its branches. Jingles climbs the tree to examine the corpse, but to his surprise the woman is very much alive and tries to blast him with radiation from her eyes. Jingles quickly dispatches her with some well-aimed slashes of his vibro dagger. The crewmembers win the fight, although the tree got away and Jingles was knocked unconscious by the sneak aerial attack of a mutant vulture, who hit him on the head with a large club.

Meanwhile, having inspected the transport, Fox follows the tunnel further down. After a long walk, he comes upon an underground station. The main doors to the surface are inoperational, but an emergency escape, similar to the one the crew encountered during their mission for Tula, provides a way out. The small tunnel comes up in the ruined lobby of a large building somewhere in the northern area of the city. Fox contacts the rest of the group and they set out to find him. On the way, an unseen assailant shoots Vzzzbx from the air. Jingles (who was riding on his back) tries to pilot him down. Leaf uses his powers of levitation to save Jingles but unfortunately hanging in mid-air makes Jingles a great target and he is also shot.

The remaining crewmembers return to the cube base. They are unwilling to tell Denna about the death of her friends, so Fox lies to her but he fails to hide the truth. The girl goes into shock, torching the area surrounding her with her pyro-kinetic powers in the process. The crewmembers give the girl a shot of sedative and carry her aboard the Windwalker. After the commotion has died down, the cubes introduce the group to two fellow travellers: Mmrrrghnhra, a mutant lynx and Willow, a greenskinned humanoid female.

The crew asks the cubes about opening the tunnel entrance. After some investigation, the cubes agree to do this and to move their base of operations there at the same time. While the huge cube base slowly makes its way there (floating with the Windwalker held beneath it), Drabor investigates some spherical buildings and has a brief encounter with some snakes.

The cube base resettles itself, after which the cubes finish rebuilding a large machine gun that the crew took from a destroyed warbot. When the cubes finally open the entrance, the crew flies the Windwalker through the underground tunnel to the wrecked transport they discovered earlier, in order to plunder it. 

While they are busy doing this, a bipedal warbot appears at the hole to the surface crater and starts tearing it open further. The crew quickly brings the container they were carrying aboard and then pilot the Windwalker backward down the tunnel as fast as they can, getting away before the warbot has been able to make the hole big enough to fit through. The crewmembers think they've left the warbot behind, but soon learn their mistake when it comes accelerating towards them, the light from its rocket boosters illuminating the distant tunnel.

Drabor jumps behind the brandnew machine-gun tripod and lets it rip. The warbot gets caught in the hail of bullets and is badly damaged. However, it still manages to reach the ship and rip its way through the roof. A burst from the warbot's machine gun knocks out Willow and a plasma-burst from its other weapon badly scorches Mmrrrghnhra, before a shot from Fox's laserpistol finally finishes the metal nemesis off and the warbot crashes to the deck.

A final visit to the cubes is made for some repairs and the rewiring of the small machine gun that was stripped from the warbot. The crewmembers once more say their goodbyes and set off down the tunnel.

After three days of travelling through darkness, the ship reaches an underground changeover station that connects two tunnels. The remains of a transport hang in a framework on a central platform. Surrounding the central platform are twelve similar frameworks, one of which holds the stripped remains of another transport. Beneath the central framework is an inactive console table. A dim light is coming from a tunnel in the ceiling above the central platform.

The tunnel to the surface is closed by a transparent ceiling. The vehicle in the central framework turns out to be a passenger transport, inside of which are the remains of hundreds of people. The other transport has a supervisory droid lying in its cargo hold. The crewmembers fiddle with its control panel and manage to reactivate it but soon discover its behavior to be increasingly erratic.

After some initial communication problems, the crew manages to convince the droid that Leaf is in fact Mrs. Johnson. Mrs. Johnson is fined for having an unregistered vehicle inside the station, after which the droid raises the central platform towards the surface in order to expel the Windwalker and its crew. Halfway up the droid goes catatonic. The transparent ceiling is still closed however and the framework on the platform starts getting crushed against the ceiling. Fox starts bashing the console in desperation. This provokes the droid out of its lethargy. After backhanding Fox across the platform, it opens the ceiling which then divides into pie-like segments, which start to retract. Divided, the ceiling can no longer withstand the pressure and shatters, showering those below with fragments.

The platform comes up on a flat section carved into the side of a mountain. Looking over the edge, a river can be seen flowing through a ravine far below. The droid wanders over the edge and plummets to its doom.

Leaf pilots the Windwalker along the river to a great lake that the scouts have discovered. The crewmembers decide to station the ship near the coastline and prepare to replenish their water supply. While they are busy doing that, something grabs hold of the Windwalker's extended watersuctiontube and drags the ship onto the lake, after which tentacles surface and grab the ship. Willow and Mmrrrghnhra get pulled into the lake and come close to drowning, until a hail of laserfire from the other crewmembers sends the monster to its doom.

The crew moves on. After a day of travel they reach the fringes of the mountain range and discover that the land beyond the mountains is covered in a glowing radioactive yellow mist, which stretches away as far as the eye can see.

To be continued...

 

 

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