Act V - Jihad
With Denna once more in the land of the living, the crew sets out for the City of the Ancients. They cross the mangrove forest without problems and give the monastery a wide berth. Then, after a few days of travel across the endless mists, a sentry spots smoke rising in the distance. The smoke is coming from a small village located on an outcrop of rock that rises above the mist. The houses were torched just a few days earlier. Corpses are piled in the middle of what was once the town square, with a flock of vultures feasting on the remains. The crew's envirolyzers indicate residual traces of radiation in various places around the village.
Drabor's phobia of wide open spaces has been giving him some trouble, and some of the crewmembers decide to try and get a hat from one of the corpses, thinking that limiting Drabor's vision might help. Willow and Fox get out of the ship and wave their arms at the vultures hoping to scare them away. Most of the flock indeed takes off, but one vulture does not and instead pulls a laser pistol from beneath its wing. The two crewmembers are taken completely by surprise and Willow is nailed by a laser blast, killing her on the spot. Fox draws his own weapon and manages to get off a shot, but misses. The vulture's next shot does not.
With two of the crew dead, the others decide to move on. When they finally approach the City of the Ancients, the ship is spotted by some mutants. The Windwalker easily outruns the pursuit and the crew decides it would be wiser to keep the ship away from the city for now. Instead, Drabor flies over on his own, landing among the encampments that cover every available inch of ground. Once he has found a relatively secluded spot, he uses his radio communicator in the hope of contacting Tula. He succeeds and they agree to meet in a few hours.
While waiting for Tula, Drabor witnesses a raid on the encampments by a heavily armed flying platform that came from the giant metal dome of the city. The thing describes a circuit across the landscape, blasting everything in its path seemingly at random. The battle is hard to follow since every mutant in sight seems to want be in on it. Despite the unleashed force of the mutations, the platform manages to return to the city, leaving destruction in its wake.
A short while after, Drabor finally meets Tula, who has slightly altered her appearance in order not to attract attention. Her ears are now green and fan-like, with yellow spines arcing backward. Drabor carries Tula back to the Windwalker. After getting reacquainted, Tula explains to the crew what's been happening.
The shielded city is populated by the descendants of the ancients. The original inhabitants were in stasis during the disaster that hit the Warden, because they wanted to be present when the colonyship arrived at its destination after lifetimes of travel. They wanted to be part of the colonization, instead of just leaving it to their descendants. Upon arrival, they were awakened and discovered to their horror that the outside world was not the same as the one they left behind. By that time, the entire region had already been colonized by mutants.
The inhabitants of the city, unable to contact the Warden's main systems or others of their own kind, decided to try and make contact with their new neighbors. They sent a delegation to establish friendly relations. At first, it seemed like they were going to be successful. The local religious leaders seemed friendly and open, however strange their religion might be. Still, the delegates reasoned, for a primitive culture it was only logical to worship things they couldn't understand, such as radiation.
While the delegates were talking to the priests, the real leaders of the Order were discussing the awakening of the city. One thing was clear: the inhabitants of the city were untouched by radiation. They were not Children of the Glow. And so, while the envoys talked, the Inquisitors of the Order prepared.
Two weeks after the first contact, the preparations were complete. The delegates were immediately irradiated, resulting in the death of most of them. At the same time, mutants and monks started turning up everywhere in the city, snatching people and irradiating others. The inhabitants were unprepared for the violence and for the powerful mutant abilities and could offer little organized resistance at first. Finally, one of the commanders took control of the chaos and directed all battle droids and soldiers in an effort to slaughter every mutant with whatever means necessary. The brutal violence the city unleashed was enough to drive the mutants out, after which the commander took the battle outside in order to get back the kidnapped citizens.
When the dawn came, the force field was back up over the city and the entire plateau was red with blood and covered with the bodies of the fallen. Inside, the last of the mutants that were trapped were being terminated. The inhabitants of the city turned their back on the outside world, deciding to wait until they had regained their strength and until the mutant problem had taken care of itself. They figured that the passage of time would eventually bring a change in the power structure and perhaps give rise to a more open-minded opponent. It never happened. As the years went by, the Order consolidated its position. The descendants of the original survivors hid in their safe little world and left the outside world to stew in its own problems. The current occupants of the city are extremist xenophobes and adhere to their ancient customs with a rigid and almost religious fervor.
After recounting the history of the city, Tula tells her own story. Using the component the crew obtained for her, she was able to finish construction of a transmitter. After having found and summoned a repair droid to repair the biolabs main computer, she started looking for ways to reach the Warden's Master Computer, which should be located somewhere on one of the top levels. Following much the same path as the crew did, she arrived on the current level. She discovered that the robot factories where creating warbots but there was little she could do about it. She managed to capture a flying warbot and converted it into a crude but effective transport. With it, she set out to find one of the old major cities, which would be the most likely location for another grav-transport to the next level.
She arrived at the City of the Ancients but discovered that her access codes didn't function here. She had to find another way to get in and decided to disguise herself as a mutant in order to be able to study the field from up close. It didn't take her long to figure out how it could be penetrated. Her only problem was that she lacked the complex equipment that would be needed.
She started studying the mutants, looking for those with the right mutations. After a few weeks she had found the right subjects. She changed her disguise to that of a monk and started using her newfound authority to draft the mutants into her plan. Using the combined powers of phasing, electrical generation, hands of power, repulsion field and molecular disruption in the right combination, along with electronic equipment stripped from her vehicle, the entire group managed to phase through the shield and into the dome.
The place where they entered was a public park. The panic their arrival caused was beyond description. In the resulting chaos three of the mutants were killed. Tula managed to flee into the city and hid there. Shortly after that, the city council decided to start raiding the surrounding mutant communities, hoping to kill those mutants who showed the same powers as those of the mutants who had entered. For Tula, the raids meant that she now had a way in and out of the city. For a short moment, the forcefield must be switched off to let soldiers and battleplatforms out. Tula constructed her own backdoor where she could enter and leave the city unobserved during every raid.
While in the city, Tula discovered that it indeed has its own grav-transport, just as she had hoped. However, the transport can only operate once the shield is shut down. In order for this to happen, the shield generator must be deactivated and this is something she can't do on her own. Therefore, she once again asks the crew for their help.
The crewmembers consider Tula's plan, but are unhappy about it since they can't think of any way in which they could take the Windwalker along with them should they succeed. They are even less happy about leaving the inhabitants of the city defenceless against the Order and are horrified that Tula would be willing to sacrifice those people. Tula states that the reactivation the Warden's master computer is her number one priority and that she'll do whatever is necessary to ensure it safely concludes its mission of colonization. The crew tells Tula about the underground network they have come through and argue that they might be able to reach other places where they could access the next level. They convince her to at least postpone her plans until they've exhausted all other options. Tula agrees.
Drawing on their current knowledge of the underground transport network, the crew manages to find an entrance to the tunnels below. The entrance lies beneath the mist, but a new crewmember might be able to remedy that problem. Tuco, a cyclopean humanoid, lives outside the City of the Ancients. He's the one mutant there that Tula has come to trust somewhat and therefore the crew asks him to join their depleted numbers. Tuco agrees, and it turns out that his powers of disintegration are able to destroy large areas of the radioactive mist. The crew builds a large screen from bails of fabric they plundered from the wrecked underground transport during their earlier adventures. They lower the screen into the mist and then Tuco removes the mist inside the enclosure. Before the mist has the chance to seep back in, the crew pilots the Windwalker down into the tunnel. Fortunately, the stations systems are still operational and they can close the doors behind them. Having done that, they set out for the waypoint where they originally came up into the mountains.
After a few days of uneventful travel, they arrive at their destination, and Tula begins examining computer systems there, hoping to find evidence of another city large enough to have its own grav-transport.
To be continued...
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