“I can’t help but wonder if this whole undead business is restricted to humans or if it affects animals too.” –Riley, pondering the effects of “the wave.”
“You do know humans are just another animal in the grand scheme of evolution right? –Renee, showing off her intellect yet again.
“Ssh! Not so loud, you might tempt fate into having us find out!” -Heather, displaying an unusually superstitious fear of fate. (And of tempting the GM)
After returning to war wag one the group carefully secures the vehicle, Heather making sure to check underneath the truck and in back for any unwanted passengers, her dogs continually glancing back up road at the wreckage of hamburger lane in the distance, faint shadows of movement visible in the fading light.
As darkness falls over the group they quickly discuss whether to abandon war wag one until dawn and seek safe refuge elsewhere for the night, or to make the repairs using flashlights and quickly leave the area before their noise and commotion draw more undead down upon them.
Renee helpfully points out they have no clue where a safe place to spend the night even is, and they would be burning even more fuel to return and repair the truck the next day, the group reluctantly agrees to make the repairs that night, Riley mentioning the cigarette light adapter for the soldering iron should prove sufficient to make the repairs inside of a couple of hours.
While Riley and Thomas struggle to repair the holed radiator the rest of the group set up a defensive perimeter, with Renee laying on top of war wag one with her rifle to pick off any incoming corpses while Heather and her dog walk Patrol, Jessy heating up dinner for everyone using a few cans of sterno and a portable camping stove in the back of war wag two, grateful for a chance to be off his injured leg; the bullet wound from over a week ago still not fully healed.
No sooner did everyone stop to eat, when they noticed Heather’s two dogs abandoning their meal to growl at the darkness beyond the headlights of war wag two, the low rumble of the trucks engine drowning out any attempts to hear what within the shadows. Suggesting it was scavengers drawn by the smell of the cooking food Renee flicked on the light under her shotgun and swept it across the cornfield, the swaying stalks making it impossible to see more than a few short feet within.
Dropping their food the group draws their weapons and Heather’s dogs back up closer against her they hear a faint moan, echoing on the wind, joined soon after by a half-dozen more, the origin unknowable in the wind and darkness, although Jessy insists it’s from up the road where Hamburger lane is located.
Forming into a defensive circle the group decide to quickly refill the still damaged radiator and put as much distance between themselves and this area before the vehicle overheats and forces them to stop again, Riley certain the few leaks that remain would allow them to make at least twenty miles or more.
All seems quiet as they split up into teams and start to re-enter war wags one and two, (with Thomas offering to ride in the back of war wag two with Heather’s dogs) However, as heather steps up to enter war wag two’s driver seat, (and botches her perception roll) she catches a flash of a black shadow from the side seconds before it slams into her, sending her tumbling sideways into the cornfield and out of sight, a predatory growling arising from the blackness as her dogs leap from the back of war wag two to the rescue, Renee blinking in surprise at Heather’s sudden disappearance.
(GM note: Originally I had planned to attack the last person to enter a vehicle with this deadly aggressor, which I expected to be poor Thomas. However, Heather made sure her pups and Thomas were loaded first before entering the vehicle herself, making her the unlucky target.
Botching her perception roll, and then failing her unarmed combat/dodge rolls made this attack far more effective than I originally planned, but since this is a survival horror game I let the dice fall as they wished and ran with it.)
Screaming out a warning Renee dives back out of the cargo truck and charges into the cornfield after her girlfriend, the frenzied barking of Heather’s dogs, and the screeching of the unknown attacker drowning out all attempts at normal conversation, Jessy and Riley running close behind as fast as their injuries would allow.
Roughly eight or so feet inside the cornfield Renee’s shotgun mounted light highlights a scene of gruesome carnage, with Heathers’ bloody form lying in a patch of broken corn stalks, one of her dogs broken body limply splayed across her, a bright spray of arterial blood and entrails covering them both, to their right, mere inches away Heathers’ remaining dog rolls in a tangle of fur and fangs with a heavily muscled black shape, the twisting and thrashing of their forms making identification of the monstrosity all but impossible.
Raising her shotgun Renee fires blindly into the tangled mass, fearing more for her safety then the life of Heathers’ canine companion. Her shotgun slug misses both creatures, the loud explosion of sound panicking the attacking monstrosity as it rolls backwards away from the blood soaked dog, hissing in outrage; Heathers’ light illuminating the sleek muscled form of a blank panther. (An escapee from the zoo months earlier.)
As Renee racks the shotgun to chamber a fresh round Jessy and Riley arrive on the scene and open fire with abandon into the panther, sending it spinning into the cornstalks in a shower of blood and fury. In the aftermath Renee collapses to her knees, cradling Heathers’ head in her arms and crying, Jessy choking back the taste of bile as it rises in his throat, Riley, remaining eerily calm as he recalled he’d seen lots worse in his tour of Iraq, and deeply wishing they had a real doctor for situations like this.
Pushing the gutted canine from on top of her, Riley does a quick examination of Heather, noting the large welt on her head and the deep lacerations across her ribs and shoulder, reassuring Renee that while seriously injured and unconscious, she was still alive, but needed stitches and a compress to stay that way.
The quick sense of relief at his news vanished as more gunshots are heard from behind them, back at the parked military vehicles, the bark of Thomas’s .308 Springfield a sharp reminder danger was still close at hand. Rising to the occasion Jessy tells the rest to “Get Heather and her mutt loaded into war wag one, I’ll help Thomas hold off whatever else has found us and follow you in wag two.” before charging off into the darkness towards Thomas, ignoring everyone else’s protests.
Leaving the rest to care for Heather, Jessy emerged from the cornstalks to find several undead scattered across the road, Thomas gripping a .45 1911 in one hand while leaning out of the back of the truck, giving Jessy a silent thumbs up, offering up only six words in explanation. “Stayed behind to watch your back.”
Nodding to Thomas who began to reload his rifle, Jessy wastes no time running back to the front of the truck and pulling it around behind war wag one, sighing in relief as Heather and her surviving dog are loaded into the back by Renee and Riley, Renee returning to the driver’s seat and pulling away, leaving Riley in back to apply first aid, Jessy following close behind and hoping his trucks light will help Riley see well enough to tend to Heathers’ Injuries.
Upfront in war wag one, Renee struggles to keep sight of the road through her tears and makes a panicked distress call over the CB, asking for anyone in range with medical skills to please respond, anyone…
* * * * *
Will Heather and her dog survive their injuries? Will the partial repairs to war wag one prove sufficient? Will Renee’s distress call be answered? Find out in the next adventure synopsis #21, coming November 6th!