Balli the Scientist

Snips and the Wasters V – Blood & Stone

Another delve — this time with Wispa and Old Man Wishum again.

Dante hired a big, strong sidekick — STR 18! — who was aptly named “Arnie”.
Messy noticed a ratty fellow with high DEX and four pistols. “Hey, you, with the face!” he shouted. “Come with us! Earn 100 $ now and 100 $ when we come back!” The guy with the face gave him the finger and warned everyone in the room to stay away from that loonie. But one guy had only WIS 4. He signed up to be Messy’s retainer, even for that shitty amount of money. He was named “Bozo”.

Otherwise it was, once more, Snips the Sniper with her retainer Pretty Boy, freshly levelled up to a shotgun-wielding Ronin with way better saves, and with a raise: He got promoted to receive a full share of the loot now, an equal member of the team. Also back in action: The snotty teen infiltrator Wispa and grizzled veteran Old Man Wishum with Max Brainpower, the expensive hacker who earned more money than any PC while doing way less. And Asher, the traitor Messiah of the pale boys.

10 little indians

10 strong! More people than ever.
Messy tried his best to buy ammo for his grenade launcher, but grenades are rare — he had no luck and had to leave his nice toy behind.

Fearful of “Mr. Jelly” the wall-sucking slime-skeleton, the party took the smaller lift, the back entrance, and had to go in two groups to fit in. For Wispa and Wishum this area was new, so the others explained everything on the go. Getting into the cave, there were once more piles of clothing and bedrolls. Old Man Wishum would have walked right into them, but the others warned him, and chucked a stone at one pile of rags. “Ow!”
Pale boys and girls climbed out of the rags and stared at the party.
“Shoot them! Shoot them now!” cried Snips, but the others were hesitant: You don’t just shoot a couple of teens who wake up.

Then it was too late: The teens came on like a tidal wave, roaring bloody murder and swinging axes, daggers, pipes and spears.
“Throw a grenade!” cried Snips, but Wispa, who had the thing, thought that was overkill. The kids started stabbing and hacking, and finally the team shed off their moral impediments. Alas, too late! Big, strong Arny was the first to fall under the hacking stone blades. Years of pumping iron, for naught.

Bozo was next. He got off one shot that blew an attacker off his feet … then he took a spear to the chest and one to the face. 4-pistol-boy had been right after all. He shouldn’t have come. Bozo drowned in his own blood while the fight raged on around him. Thus ended the careers of both new retainers, in the very first room they saw.

Stone axe to a gunfight

But then the advantage of being organised, better fed, better armed, and armored, turned the tide. Pistols popped, Sniper rifles boomed, Shotguns roared. Old Man Wishum pulled his sword and cut the young fanatics down like wheat. Even Max Brainpower got his hands dirty and chucked a throwing knife into an oncoming, frothing teenager. Bodies piled up quickly, until the last couple of survivors fled into the darkness.

The dead were stripped of anything valuable (“Don’t let them turn our own weapons against us!”), and the group decided to go south, to the revolving door. But on the way there, they met 18 more of the pale kids! This time, the grenade came out. Wispa did not have the heart to use it: She gave it to Old Man Wishum, who chucked it at the wild kids as they stormed at the party. Woom! 11 of the 18 were cut down by spinning frags. The rest fell under a hail of bullets, only four ran away, shrieking, into the darkness.

Suddenly a squishing sound behind the group!
“Mr. Jelly!” warned those who had seen the unstoppable-seeming horror. Their fear was contagious, so Wispa and Wishum let themselves be swept south with them.

They found the four survivors of their attack cowering at the revolving door and shooed them away, sending them north, in the hope that they might slow down “Mr. Jelly”. We see that the quick loss of Arny and Bozo had eroded their ethical qualms considerably.

Messy Montez, the daredevil, went in to find out where the revolving door led — he went in counterclockwise and found a stash with another shotgun to the north, then a long, long corridor to the west … and he kept going to report this, only to find a deadly laser grid to the south. Skin smoking, some hair scorched off, and wobbly in the knees, he fell back out, alive, to tell the tale.

So everyone piled through northways, and then Messy came up with a fun idea: He blocked the counterclockwise-spin of the door with a steel spike, to force Jelly-skeletor, once he would come, to go through the laser grid.

A Tale of Two Miniguns

The long, long corridor terminated, to Messy’s surprise (as he had judged the distances wrong) right about ten feet south of the end of the dreadnought room. Asher checked first left, to see two doors… then right… to see the robot standing right there — only a bit too big to come in and trample the whole party. Big shocker. Asher shot him, just to see if the thing was awake. It was … and opened up with its miniguns, turning the short N-S corridor into a killing field. Luckily, Asher was quick enough to dive out of the way in the last split-second. (initiative close call)

The Robot of Doom

Cowering in the east-west-corridor, caught between “A Rock (Gunship-Robot) and a Soft Place” (Jelly-Wallcrawler), they came up with a plan: Old Man Wishum and Messy would stay here and keep the Dreadnought occupied, while the Snipers and Max Brainpower – who owned a remote-detonated charge – would prepare a nice deathtrap for it.

The others un-blocked the revolving door and sneaked north, painfully aware of the presence of the jelly-monster — somewhere. But they reached the secret door without incident.

Messy felt that with Bozo’s gun and ammo he had no reason to be stingy. He put the gun around the corner and fired blindly into the darkness, several times, not giving a rat’s ass if he hit anything or not. Turns out that was the right idea, because the Dreadnought had anticipated the flanking maneuver and had positioned itself right at the secret door, ready to shred the whole group the moment it opened the door. But with Messy shooting like crazy, the thing turned its hydraulic around and stomped back to the south, to unleash its hellfire into the corridor again.

No battle plan survives contact with the enemy. pLaYErS

Behind it, the other snuck into the room, as silently as possible, and Max Brainpower prepared his boobytrap. The others waited and were supposed to fire the robot in the back, then flee, while Pretty Boy held the door to make sure that everyone could get out safely. With everyone out he would close the door. Robo would stare at it in anger, and Max would detonate the mine.

After Max was ready, and left to hide behind Pretty Boy, and everyone fired at the battle droid, Dante and Asher did not flee through the door – they fell back to hide in the north of the room. Snips was confused and also stayed there, hissing questions at the dynamic duo. Only Wispa followed the plan. The robot stomped north quickly, but not on the expected route – it stayed in the center.

Rated R for excessive violence

Pretty Boy saw it moving behind the pillars. Wispa and Max hid around the corner, but he took a single shot at it, because just standing there to hold the door felt a bit hollow to a tough, heavily armed ronin of his calibre.
His bullet pinged off the beast’s armor. It turned toward him and sprayed Pretty Boy with bullets from both miniguns.
The young warrior was lifted off his feet and spun around, his body flew right back through the corridor to be ripped apart by a tornado of bullets. An arm came off, his weapons and gear got cracked and broken, his head exploded, and a torrent of blood showered Max and Wispa behind the corner. Parts of his pretty face stuck to Wispa’s shoulder — and in one of the weird twists of fate, only his storm lamp survived the onslaught, and the tactical armor that he had inherited from Ophelia. Again, someone would soon have to rinse the thing off to wear it on a delve.

The move left the gun-bot approximately in the cone of the booby-trap, though, so Max fired it up. Woom.
The war-machine made its save and got rattled, but not killed.
So Dante and Asher stormed it, shooting from the hip. Snips missed in her confusion. Wispa took pot shots at the thing from the bloody mess that was the secret door, and Old Man Wishum aimed his assault rifle. “If I die, pick up my assault rifle and fight on!” he told Messy. The young daredevil promised to do so. Then Wishum pressed the trigger. CLICK. The gun jammed.

The behemoth noticed the two guys flitting from pillar to pillar with blazing guns like Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, and let loose with a flamethrower! Fate smiled on the two heroes — they both were able to duck out of the way with only minor burns.
Snips chose that moment to sprint to the secret door.

That put Dante, Snips, and Wispa, all in a nice, tight group — perfect for the machine, which powered up the flamethrower again.

Crescendo: Swearing like an old sailor, Old Man Wishum fell back to clear the useless rifle, and Messy took point again, shooting into the back of the war-bot with guns akimbo, damaging various hydraulics. Asher fired his carbine and damaged a leg, Dante fired, Wispa fired, and Snips, right at the door, turned around for one last time to line up a shot.
This would be the deciding shot: 20 to hit. And full damage to the roll.
Just enough! Just!
The incessant firestorm finally broke the monster, and critically damaged it staggered, it fell, and it powered down.

Hidden in its cargo bay, the survivors found various drugs, various advanced gadgets to sell, a sleek high-end axe, a datastick — and a keycard! Jackpot.
They packed what was left of Pretty Boy into a couple of plastic bags and hauled loot and casualties back up to the waiting Osprey. Snips took it hard. She had come to see Pretty Boy as her regular companion, a dependable constant in her otherwise unstable life. Cruel fates!

Just this one more ….

The team returned to finally bring the key-card to bear on the key-card-door to the east, to conquer its secrets. But Messy shot up the medication in his vein and got all his laser-burned HP back. That made him adventurous again, and he delayed the move to the east. “Let’s first take a look north…”
They found a room that led to a suspiciously deathtrappy looking corridor and a kitchen, and the waste disposal ramp that would lead into the second woodchipper floor. The kitchen was surprisingly well kept, as if still in use.
Asher kicked robot parts into the trap-corridor to test it, and overloaded the laser grid! It burned down the robot parts, but then it fizzled, sparked, and died down. More robot parts got through fine. So Asher and Messy tried, and survived, so the rest followed.
They found a meditation room, and stairs down to level two! And more statues, with faces of woe and sadness. Messy shot the statues, to no effect. So he and Old Man Wishum threw one of it down the stairs, to test. Not traps — the statue just rumbled down with a racket like a car crash.

“Are you quite done?” asked Snips, anxious to finally get to the keycard door.

But right here, to the east, one more door. Messy figured that it must be a dead end, considering the layout of the rooms — so it would not hurt at all to try that one more door?

Here, at last, they found a survivor. A real one. A surface-human, a woman, in a room full of lab-stuff and with a computer. Nice looking too, or so Messy thought. She backed away from them, was fearful and afraid, and worried if the big boss of this whole lab would punish her for not snitching on them. Big Boss? Yes: a smart, rich, privateer genius called Xixi, according to her. He had turned himself into a jelatinous entity with a metallic skeleton to cheat death.
“Ah, we met him!” thought everyone, but she doubted that. “If it was Xixi, you would know. He will talk your ear off, if you meet him. What you saw was just one of his experiments, weak prototypes,” she said with derision.

Max versus the Machine

The woman’s name was Balli. A scientist, the last scientist here, she claimed. Smart, she claimed too. If there was a way out for her, she was the one who would have found it. Held against her will, she claimed, but she was very protective of her data. Not a friend of Xixi’s, she claimed, but she tried to dissuade the team from stealing his work. She wanted to go, she claimed, but she could not leave, could not go too far, lest her ankle cuff would turn her into stone, like it had done with all the others.

Suddenly the staggering number of weird statues made sense — and yes: A doublecheck revealed that the statues wore, indeed, ankle cuffs. (And suddenly the sinister manacles from earlier made more sense). Snips checked the ankle cuff and gave up: Too complex, and likely triggering if the lock was tampered with. Messy was busy calming the woman down and holding her hands, while Dante repeatedly suggested that it would be best to knock her out or saw her leg off, or both.

Snips smelled foul play, because the detail of “Miss Clever”s story did not quite add up. (Afraid to leave the room — but fetching water from the kitchen *beyond* the laser trap? Afraid of Xixi, but not wanting to have anyone grab his data? Barricaded in the room out of fear, but, again, fetching water from the kitchen?) Snips was torn between gunning the woman down and slapping her until she told the truth, but Messy felt she was a victim here, worth saving. “She is a liar and a fraud!” “She is afraid! We must get her out of here.” The whole team was pretty unclear on how to deal with this weird woman.

Bit by bit she relented, until she accepted that Max Brainpower could have a go at her computer – but warning that one false move would alert Xixi and end them all.

And in this decisive hour of need, finally, the retainer with the big paycheck pulled his weight. Like a pro he outsmarted the security programs, cracked the node, and downloaded the data — all of the data!
Success! Mission complete! Max had earned his keep, and deserved his status as the financial top-dog in the crew.

Balli was surprised and shocked, and wanted to go closer to have a look, but when everyone reached for their guns, she relented. “I am just a weak woman! Please don’t hurt me!” Messy assured her that she was safe as a baby with them.
Download complete, Balli tried to convince them that they would should better stay, lest they would be killed by an assortment of monsters of various kinds. But Snips insisted that Max and the Data had to get out of here pronto.

Damsel Trouble

“No! Please, please don’t leave me!”
Dante suggested again that a hard punch to forehead might shut the girl up, Wispa suggesting that a cybernetic leg was just as cool as a meat one, and that was the way to get rid of that ankle thing right quick. But the woman shied away from losing any legs. In the end, the party split — most went to protect Max on the way out. Messy and Old Man Wishum stayed to protect the pleading lady. Then finally, Messy had an idea: He had a blowtorch, carried it along all the time, never finding any use for it. Now was the time!
He warned Balli that it would probably hurt, that it would burn, but that it would be alright.
She bit her lip and allowed him to do it. And he cut off the deadly bracelet! Hooray, success!
Old Man Wishum took the front, and Messy carried his sweet damsel, who felt weak. She sighed some last thanks, clinging to Messy’s neck: “Thank you for being so nice to me!”, she breathed into his ear, then she lost consciousness. “Quick!” urged Messy, and they pushed through to the lift, hastily checking for any last second ambushers. They made it! But the woman stopped breathing on the way up.

They flew home, everyone chatting and making big plans how to spend their payout, and what to do next – like going after the treasure hinted at on the data stick from murder-bot. Even Snips, amid plastic bags full of Pretty Boy, felt pumped and happy to have won the day, and to go into a bright future — only poor Messy Montez was silent and withdrawn in his own thoughts, with the woman he had just met, and who had slipped from his grasp just as quickly, still fresh on his mind.


Image: Pexels, Gustavo Fring

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