Apr 12 2012
I just finished GM-ing an entire Savage Worlds RPG-adventure called Zombie Run (To this day, I still don’t know if the Zombie Run title is supposed to be like “Cannonball Run” or “Zombie! Run for your life or he’ll eat your brains!”). Every Tuesday night for about two months, the boys and I would play a 2.5 hour session, properly fueled by booze and snacks. As an aid to memory, I grew accustomed to writing a roundup of the gaming session and emailing it out to the players.
I thought it would be amusing to post all of my notes from the adventure here and see if any other gamers have comments. (Disclaimer: if you’re not an RPG gamer, you can probably skip this blog post).
One note for anyone who’s run through this module before and wants to know what the deal is with all the Russian spy stuff: well, I actually started the adventure without any module, planning on running a complete zombie adventure just in New York City (since I’d just taken a vacation there and was feeling inspired by the return of the Walking Dead television show). I put the characters into a 1960s Cold War environment. But after the first session, I was Googling for ideas and realized Savage Worlds already had a cool zombie adventure that starts in NYC. Zombie Run looked better than what I had planned — so I just continued the adventure using the module, occasionally injecting menacing Soviet weirdness just for continuity. It added a little extra flavor to the adventure.
Without further ado, enjoy my account of our RPG adventure, Zombie Run.
THE ZOMBOCALYPSE BEGINS
Zombies have infested Manhattan — and for all the heroes know, the rest of the world, too.
A mean old ex-cop, a rotund yet fiendishly clever property manager and a hottie nurse armed with a kitchen knife discovered their apartment building/survivalist refuge was inhabited by what seemed to be a CIA spy.
Even two weeks into the zombie apocalypse, this guy seemed to be awfully focused on shenanigans happening at the headquarters and residence of the Russian consul in NYC (normally just an hour’s scenic walk away from our heroes, but in present circumstances, a bit dicier to reach). Well, he was focused. Before he shot himself in the head. When the heroes find him, he’s already dead… for good, unlike all of the zombie hordes out there.
Our heroes decided to head towards the source of the mystery. Along the way, they bumped off a few zombies, picked up a 12-year old with a gun, took refuge with some old cop buddies in a police station, sped through a potential drama involving Molotov cocktails and well-armed hicks and ultimately made their way to the Russian consul building.
A couple of cop NPCs in red shirts got munched before the heroes made it into the building. When they got in, they met up with some spooky Russian dude who called them imperialist stooges and didn’t give them any useful info before he offed himself with a cyanide capsule.
In the burnt out building, the only interesting thing they discovered was a blackened canister marked UV-571 that seemed to have survived a recent fire. Does the canister have anything to do with the heroes’ troubles? Is it just a robust 1960s prototype of a fleshlight used by horny Communists banned from fraternizing with Americans? Who the hell knows?
ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK
Over the next few days, the heroes are finding Manhattan to be kind of a zombie-infested dump where food is scarce. They picked up a weak radio signal from Phoenix, Arizona, where some people have apparently cleared their city of zombies and are rebuilding. Heading for warming climes and refuge from the walking dead, the heroes hook up with some other survivors on a bus who also heard about Phoenix. They hit the road.
The heroes get to a small town about eight hours from NYC (Well, eight hours of clogged roads and secondary routes later, anyway). After exploring the town, they find the residents made a “last stand” in a church. A grim discovery of some starved child zombies in a room full of canned food (sadly, with no can opener) means at least the heroes won’t run out of food in the near term. They start moving supplies back to the bus…
Our heroes end up in a really tiny town where they meet a young couple (who later turn out to be brother and sister) Elijah and Mary. They talk a lot about Jesus and then they bring the heroes to their farmhouse.
Things seem kind of nice at the farmhouse at first. They’ve got crops coming in, a garden, some horses — food isn’t endless, but they’ve got enough. There are 12 people living on the farm, including the father of the household, Zachariah, a Baptist preacher and owner of the farm. Him, his family and the neighbors who are sheltering on the farm all seem to have bought into his “revelation” that the zombies are sinners and that only their innocence is persuading God to leave them alone.
The heroes join a pleasant lunch in back of the house. Meanwhile, Mary seduces Luigi, and takes him for a walk around the farm. They end up back at the barn — where Elijah comes out of a horse stall swinging a sledgehammer. Luigi is nearly killed — when he is discovered by Timmy two hours later, he is covered in blood, his breathing is very shallow and he’s got a big chunk of flesh missing from his left arm. Luigi is brought into the farmhouse, where his wounds are tended by the doctor, Travis. It’s not looking good for the fat man.
The rest of the heroes scour the farm for zombies and don’t find anything. Frank’s old cop instincts kick in when they investigate the barn. The closest horse stall is open, there’s bales of hay stacked up inside that might have been used to hide someone — and if a zombie had taken a bite out of Luigi, why hadn’t he gone on to eat the rest of that spicy Italian?
A late-night investigation is convened later in the barn. Zachariah and Frank take turns interrogating everyone on the farm. Elijah and Mary don’t confess, but they do break down under Frank’s relentless questioning.
Unfortunately, the coffee Frank and his team from the bus were drinking was different from the coffee Zachariah and his family were drinking, thanks to a healthy dose of horse tranquilizer. As Frank’s team starts nodding off, Elijah attacks Frank. The rest of the family joins in. After a struggle, Frank, O’Neil and Betty succumb to the sedative. (Though Joe is outside, hiding in the shadows while all this is going on, like the scared Yellow coward he is.)
Frank, Luigi and little Timmy wake up in a 10 by 10 cell made of brick walls and a thick wooden door. A man screaming can be heard from the other side of the door. Luigi is still in really bad shape (-3 wounds, just one hit away from incapacitation), but he’s already looking at ways to dig his way out of this hellhole with his MacGyver skills. Frank is ready to tear someone limb from limb. But how the heck are they going to get out of this jam?
THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS
The action is fast and furious this time. Joe the cowardly ex-journalist was wandering outside the barn when Frank got captured and he hid when he saw what was going down. Now he rolls well on his gut checks and transforms into a strong, sexy god of war. He singlehandedly guns down most of the Mathis family, including the patriarch, Zachariah.
Meanwhile, Frank and Luigi pull on the bars of the window of their cell until one of them comes loose. When Elijah comes in to investigate, they bash his head in, steal his gun, kill two more of their captors, take Grandma Mathis prisoner and free the remaining half-starved people in the cells. The rest of the cannibals on the farm flee to avoid the wrath of our heroes.
Our heroes decide to search the house and the barn to see if any other bad guys are lurking around. They find a trap door in the barn that leads to a secret basement stocked with a very powerful radio transmitter, a Russian pistol, recording equipment and many notebooks with Russian writing in them. Too bad no-one reads Russian. Still, at least the farm is in their hands. They can look forward to a little down-time.
In the next chapter of our heroes’ adventure, they answer the question: “Which are worse? Brainless undead cannibals or sentient folks who prey on their fellow human beings?”
Frank Drebin’s Answer: “Who cares? Shoot them all in the head and let God sort ’em out.”
Luigi’s Answer: “I’ll have a response for you just as soon as I’ve finished rigging up my flamethrower chainsaw.”
Joe’s Answer: “As a war correspondent, my experience tells me… what the f*ck is that? Come on!? I mean, what the f*ck?! Shoot it! Kill it!”
SOMETIMES YOU GET THE ZOMBIE BEAR…
Having rid the farm of all bad dudes, you guys rested up for a week. There’s a new sniper’s nest on top of the barn and the fence has an extra line of wire to keep out wildlife and undead. Even though it’s been a week, you haven’t been able to get any information out of grandma in the basement, because YOU ALL TOTALLY F*CKED YOUR PERSUASION ROLES EVERY SINGLE F*CKING TIME.
Although things had calmed down since you first were thrown into Zombie land, some people did not adjust well to having a little time to just sit and think. Lovebirds Chris and Christy ended up killing each other in a suicide pact. Morale was never all that great on the Mathis farm and it plummeted to an all-time low, only saved by an inspiring speech from Frank Drebin.
Interrupting the funeral, a traumatized, half-dead lady in a bathrobe and no footwear walked up to the gate of the farm and collapsed. Thanks to some bad rolls, the only information the heroes could get out of her was that “The bad men are coming. They’re coming after me. They’re coming for you.”
The rattled residents of the farm are on guard through the day, but nothing else happens… Well, not much. Called in to assist the nurse with their seizure-ridden new resident, Luigi fucks up some healing rolls, so the chick lapses back into a coma, without revealing any other info about her pursuers that might have come in awfully handy at some later point. That’s really too bad. Like, really, really, too fucking bad. The dice really weren’t with you for most of the night.
Late at night, trouble still hasn’t shown up at the farm, so our heroes decide to go out and see if they can find the “bad people” before the bad people find them. Frank and Joe try to track the half-dead chick’s footprints through the snow to see where she came from.
They roll very poorly on their Tracking checks and promptly get totally lost about 10 feet away from the farm. Naturally, that’s when they run into an undead bear.
Our heroes actually manage to kill Zombie Bear, partly thanks to one of its legs just falling off on its own when the beast rolled a 1.
Luigi joins up with our lost friends and turns out to have some awesome tracking skills (Finally, some decent rolls for once), getting our heroes back on track.
The adventurers brave cold, dark and unknown hazards lurking in the night before they come upon a Super 8 Motel/Restaurant/Gas Station. There’s a humvee, a pickup truck, two minivans and a couple of motorcycles in the parking lot, perhaps indicating that THE MOTEL HAS A WHOLE LOT OF BADASS MOTHERF*CKERS INSIDE WHO COULD BE WELL-ARMED AND IN NO MOOD TO CHAT WITH STRANGERS AT 1:30 AM. THESE ARE NOT FOUR-FEET TALL GOBLINS WITH CLUBS IN SOME D&D FANTASY ADVENTURE, BUT MAD-MAX TYPES WITH ALL KINDS OF GUNS THAT CAN KILL WITH A SINGLE SHOT IF THEY GET A GOOD ROLL.
I really forget what happens next. Maybe I just had too much Winter Ale. I think were just going to have to play from this point on.
I’m sure that whatever happened, our heroes would not have been so unwise as to just run in guns blazing. I mean, that would have been suicide.
Wish I could remember.
Anyway, we’ll pick things up from the parking lot, with our heroes scouting out the place.
THE MOTEL ON THE HIGHWAY
On the brink of rushing in to the motel to take on unknown threats, our heroes decided instead to cause some mischief. Luigi successfully MacGyver’d most of the gang’s vehicles into very poor working order while Frank kept a lookout and Joe snooped around. After scoring a 26(!!!) on his Notice check, Joe found a flamethrower just hidden under a tarp on the pickup truck. Luigi hotwired that vehicle and the heroes fled the area, trading single shots with the dudes inside — whoever the hell they were.
On the way back, Luigi ran over a zombie. There is now a large dent in the front grille of the truck and some frozen chunks of zombie flesh in there that you’ll need some barbecue tongs to get out later…
Next, our heroes made it home around 3 am and briefed the still-awake sentries about what they found. Utterly exhausted, they turned in and didn’t get up until 9 am, when…
Dum! Dum! Dum!
The sun came up. Phew!
The people at the farm are on edge. While guards look out from the barn and the house, Luigi’s MacGyver skills were in use all day, rigging a truck parked up front to blow and using Joe’s great find to turn an ordinary van into a mobile armored flamethrower van.
The lost lady who ended up at the farm the day before finally came out of her traumatized state and gave the people at the farm some basic info before she lapsed back into silence:
1) The dudes at the motel are bad, bad men who like to rape villages and pillage women.
2) These bad dudes are scavengers employed by the town of Flagstaff to pick up supplies and anything else they can find.
3) Her name is Jane.
The heroes spent the last part of the afternoon pretty much just sitting around, waiting for action. As the last light of the day flickered on the horizon, they spotted two camouflaged dudes approaching with leopard crawls, one from the road and one from the fields, towards the fence. Joe was feeling particularly trigger-happy and in no mood for dialogue and managed to take out the guy near the fence with two shots.
Frank yelled at the other guy to surrender, but he just huddled up against the truck and yelled back that the farm was surrounded. When Frank mentioned the truck was rigged to explode (much to the consternation of our other heroes), the guy seemed to panic and started crawling back through the snow. Joe shot the guy twice and he stopped moving.
Apparently, Joe really likes shooting at people from a distance — and he’s getting pretty good at it.
Our heroes went out to collect the bodies, putting a round in their skulls for good measure. No other bad dudes were seen. The people on the farm were feeling down — sure, their heroes had just fought off an attempted infiltration, but how many more were out there? What was happening? Frank managed to calm them down with a heroic speech… because he’s Heroic. It’s a Flaw. But it’s also just who he is.
Sadly, our ex-cop’s heroism was undermined just a few notches around 1:30 am, when our heroes were woken up by a woman’s anguished scream. They figured it’s coming from somewhere in the direction of the road, but it’s dark out there and no one can see anything.
A second blood-curdling scream was heard.
At this point, Frank wanted to go out and save whoever was out there. But Joe, perhaps influenced by his Yellow flaw that makes him terrified of coming to harm, pointed out that the bad guys just wanted to draw out the heroes from their protected position. In a battle of Joe’s Persuasion vs. Frank’s Smarts, Joe’s technically logical but, um, brazenly cowardly argument to stay hunkered down inside the fence won out.
There is silence for a little while. At least, until the screaming starts again.
And that’s where we leave our heroes, until next week.
PHOENIX IN THE DISTANCE
Our heroes fend off a half-hearted but reasonably effective assault by the raiders from Flagstaff, slaying several of the bad guys in the process (and picking up an M-4 that can shoot three targets in the same action turn with crazy damage — sweet!). They also rescue Timmy’s Mom, Ramona Flowers.
Sadly, the house is halfway burnt down by some Molotov cocktails and it seems likely that the raiders are just going to keep coming back (or sending in reinforcements) if given enough time. So our heroes head out on the open road again.
Thanks to some decent driving rolls, they manage to completely bypass Flagstaff and a zombie horde, to boot. Also, Luigi found a sword on the highway. Go figure.
Next thing you know, our boys are pulling up to Phoenix city limits. Is the adventure coming to an end… or do more dangers await?
My money’s on more dangers. But what do I know. I’m just the DM.
THE PAOLO VERDE NUCLEAR PLANT
So… you guys started out in the walled-off downtown of Phoenix, Arizona. You’ve hunkered down there for a couple of weeks. Luigi has yet to make a single friend there thanks to his Outsider nature, but he diligently fixes up greenhouses and old vehicles for the benefit of the the 500 or so survivors in the city. Joe is working in the city archives and library, helping catalogue all human knowledge within city limits. Frank was told he was too Mean and too Elderly to join the police force (well, mostly just too mean — bunch of pansies running this joint) so he spends his days with Pastor Franco, clearing out old houses and burying the dead.
The heroes are starting to lose track of each other and their old NPC pals, when the Council running the city call them in for a late night meeting. Turns out they’ve decided to shut down the Paolo Verde nuclear plant before it melts down (which could happen in a week, or a year, or three years from now — but it’s definitely going to happen sometime). They just don’t have the specialists or cast of thousands to keep the place running anymore.
The heroes, being tough survivors who have shown the ability to think on their feet, are asked to escort Engineer Joseph Briggs to the plant to shut it down. They take on the job. Along the way, they run into the most inept roadside ambush ever (both snipers roll 1 — even with their bonuses, they still f*ck up). Joe fires about a clip’s worth of ammo at the one on the right and finally plugs him full of holes. Frank manages to take down the second guy as he’s trying to escape on his dirt bike.
The heroes continue on to the plant, where Briggs’ inside knowledge helps them get straight to the control room without too much trouble. Once in the control room, they run into seven raiders from Flagstaff, who start shooting immediately. Luigi burns one of the suckers with a flamethrower. In turn, Briggs gets shot in the shoulder
The good guys retreat from the room and try to intimidate their way out of the situation.
Oddly enough, this strategy actually works. Frank tells them to surrender or feel the flamethrower roasting their chestnuts. They lay down their weapons. Our heroes now have six prisoners, which is fantastic… but they didn’t come here to defeat the raiders. They came here to shut down a nuclear power plant.
Briggs has some bad news. The plant is already close to meltdown. With Luigi’s help, he manages to prevent an immediate disaster. But the cooling system in reactor 3 is all messed up and it probably has something to do with three zombies wandering around in that area.
Luigi, Briggs and red-shirt wearing O’Neil head down to reactor 3 while the others guard the prisoners. They manage to kill the zombies in the room without ripping their radiation suits, which is just awesome for avoiding all kinds of bad results. One lucky Knowledge (Engineering) role with Luigi adding a +1 helps cool down some hot rods and the plant is saved (hooray!) and all electricity shuts down throughout the American Southwest (aaaaaawwwww…).
Our heroes head back to Phoenix with their guns trained on their six sweaty prisoners, who all wear Flagstaff-brand hammer and sickle armbands. That’s weird. None of ’em look Russian. Whatever. You’ll figure it out later.
Anyway, Phoenix is ahead. Home, sweet home…
FORT DRAKE UNDERGROUND
Our heroes had handed off the raiders they captured at the Paulo Verde plant to the local police force. Roughly one week later, a Phoenix cop ran into a pub where Frank and his new friend Jim Bob the Accountant were enjoying some down time. The cop looked real panicked and asked Frank to accompany him back to the jail.
Joe was walking with his new girlfriend, Timmy’s Mom, when he noticed his old buddies on the run looking stressed out and figured he’d better follow.
(Meanwhile, Luigi is off fixing one of 10,000 things that needs fixing around Phoenix).
When the heroes got to the police station, they found that four of the six prisoners were dead with gunshots to the head. A fifth had a gunshot to his chest, some awful-looking snapped bones and his head had been bashed against the wall until it caved in. The sixth prisoner standing in one of the cells (which was now open) was holding one of the jailers hostage with a gun and demanding to have a little chat with that “tough old marine bastard who captured the raiders” (ie. Frank).
On spotting the heroes and seeing Frank’s willingness to chat, the hostage taker, Sgt. T-Bolt Ross of the US Army threw away his gun and let his badly beaten hostage go. He explained that the guard was a traitor to Phoenix and was going to let the raiders go. He knew this because he’d seen the jailer just a month before in Flagstaff (“Maybe you people could do some better background checks”).
On further interrogation, Sgt. Ross gave some critical pieces of information to the heroes:
Flagstaff is essentially run by a big gang at the behest of a Sgt. Maxis, who’s apparently a total asshat that Sgt. Ross wants dead. They’ve got nearly 1,000 people and thanks to constant scavenging trips, including around American army bases in the desert, they’ve acquired some heavy weapons.
Thanks to the heroes shutting down the Paolo Verde plant, the people in Flagstaff are probably now freezing and burning furniture for heat. An eventual war between Phoenix and Flagstaff was likely, but now it’s almost guaranteed. Phoenix is on borrowed time.
There’s an army base in the desert where Sgt. Ross lived underground, guarding stuff that must have been important because it’s sealed up tight. As an NCO, he was never given access to whatever was there, but he knows that there’s also an arsenal there of lots of guns, grenades and machine guns that would come in handy if Flagstaff attacks. Sgt. Ross can take the heroes there.
The heroes decide that sounds like a really solid plan. After just 1.5 hrs, they find the “abandoned” base in the desert and the secret elevator that goes down to the underground base.
It’s dim, down there, and reeks like dead people. Sgt. Ross was hoping the soldiers down here had survived, but from the smell of things, it’s not looking good. They see the giant steel doors hiding whatever’s behind there. They’ll need to get to the control room, which is down a long hall. Some parts of the base seem shifted around — they might have done renovations since Sgt. Ross was last here a few years back — plus the dim lighting is throwing him off.
The heroes go down to the end of the long hall and are figuring out which door to check behind, when they spot a zombie. Not particularly worried about making noise that might attract other zombies, our heroes unload with all of their guns. Almost immediately after, the scent of death becomes overwhelming and lurching shadows announce a horde of undead coming from what Sgt. Ross figures is the old barracks section.
“Wait a minute,” Sgt. Ross says to no one in particular. “I know where we are now — through that door. Fast!”
There’s just enough time for our heroes to make a dash back to the elevator at the end of the hall or help the Sergeant get through a heavily-locked metal door. The zombies are closing in…
ESCAPE FROM FORT DRAKE
Our heroes face a horde of zombies coming at them from barracks, drawn in by the sound of gunfire. It’s looking dicey.
“Help me get this door open!” Sgt. Ross growls at the others. Frank jumps to it and they manage to break the lock on the door and force it open, entering what appears to be a control room. The other heroes rush in to the room before the zombies can get them. They’ve busted the lock and the door won’t close properly, but the heroes manage to throw enough furniture in front of the entrance to keep the zombies at bay — at least for the moment.
Surveillance cameras still record what’s happening in other parts of the base, including the hallway outside. Zombies are continuing to crowd into the hall and mash themselves up against the door. The hasty barricade is buckling a bit.
“We’ve got to get the other doors open so we can get around these monsters,” Sgt. Ross says. “And this is where we need to get to,” he says, pointing to a room on a screen with many racks of weapons. “The arsenal. Damn it, I was never in this room before. I don’t know how these controls work.”
Joe figures out the controls, rolls well and manages to unlock all of the doors in the base, including the big steel doors near the entrance. “We’ll get to those later,” Sgt. Ross says.
“But how are we going to get to the arsenal across the hall with all those zombies in there?” Jim Bob asks.
The team formulates a plan to lure the zombies into this room while they escape to an adjacent lounge, move down a hall and loop around the horde of zombies. Fleet-footed Jim Bob will be the bait.
Thanks to some decent stealth and agility rolls, the next two minutes pretty much go according to plan. While the horde streams into the room, our heroes move through another hall, run past a few straggler zombies after some inconclusive melee combat and zip into the arsenal room.
They lock the door behind them, which should hold the zombies for a while — though eventually, the sheer mass of them might be able to push even this sturdy metal door off its hinges. Still they’ve got a few minutes to deal with the problem. They’re in a fairly big weapons lock-up that includes a shooting gallery about fifty yards deep.
“Not bad,” Sgt. Ross says. “Fifty M-4 rifles. Two machine guns. Fifty grenades. Probably about 40,000 rounds or so in here. We could do some damage with this stuff.”
“Phoenix needs these weapons to fight off Flagstaff,” Joe says.
“Yeah, well we have to get out of here, first,” Frank says. “And there’s only one way out of this room.”
“If we start shooting at this bunch outside the door, every zombie on this base is going to come down on us,” Joe says.
“Great,” Frank says. “We could use a secret army base. Once we clear out all these dead assholes, we’re kings of the castle.”
“I like the way you think, old man,” Sgt. Ross says.
Time for Savage Worlds mass-combat rules! Normally, these only apply if you’ve got two opposing forces of dozens, hundreds or thousands of combatants. But in this case, the quality and size of the arsenal effectively puts the four characters on an almost level playing field with a giant horde of hundreds of undead. Kind of like how 100 Spanish Conquistadors in plate armor and on horses managed to mop the floor with something like 30,000 Aztec warriors. Besides, we haven’t tried out the mass combat rules yet, so here we go…
The heroes quickly set up a fire base at the back of the room. Frank and Sgt. Ross set up the machine guns on tripods. Joe will fire away with his M-4 and help the machine gunnners stay loaded up with ammunition and extra barrels. Jim Bob will trade off between shooting zombies between the whites of their demonic eyes and using his fairly-decent throwing arm to chuck grenades if the zombies start to bunch-up.
Jim Bob opens the door to the arsenal and runs like a motherfucker out of the line of fire and to the back of the room!
The heroes open up with their weapons and the noise immediately brings all the rotting animated corpses of nearly 500 American soldiers down upon them. The sound of gunfire and explosions in the shooting range is nearly deafening. For the next 45 minutes, our heroes expend nearly 20,000 rounds of ammunition, use up all of their grenades and burn through almost all of their machine-gun barrels. The end result is a big pile of corpses extending from the entrance of the room to within just a few feet of where the heroes made their stand. Finally, the last of the zombies stops moving.
The fight was not without casualties. Frank fought like a lion and managed to avoid any wounds, but Joe and Jim Bob are lightly injured by the claws of grasping zombies who nearly managed to overwhelm their position. Sgt. Ross fought hard, but ultimately he burned through all of his machine gun barrels and a few zombies managed to get some bites in on him as he switched to his M-4 rifle. He lasted until the end of the fight, but only just barely.
After a minute of silence in which it became apparent that no more zombies were coming out of the woodwork, Sgt. Ross staggered back up to his feet. “Let’s get you boys to the infirmary and take care of those cuts,” he said to Joe and Jim Bob. He leaned on Frank as they made their way through the base to the medical facility, turning paler by the minute.
The heroes bandaged themselves up as best they could; Jim Bob turned out to have only superficial injuries and Joe had got off with no more than a slashed arm (Thankfully not bitten, but -1 for his Wounds). But Sgt. Ross could already feel himself losing his grip.
“Sorry boys,” the Sergeant said. “Looks like I’m not going to get to retire in Florida after all. Why don’t you fellas just go into the other room for a minute while I take care of a little business.”
The heroes go into another part of the infirmary and hear a single gunshot. There’s not much else to say.
They make their way to the steel double-doors that looked so impregnable before. Now they open at the press of a button.
They find some interesting things. 27 landmines that are bigger than the ones Frank and Joe have seen before — and since they were hidden away in this bunker, they’re probably pretty special. 15 Carl Gustav anti-tank rocket launchers. Three big metal cylinders with very prominent bio-hazard labels on them, also marked UV-571. And 10 six foot-tall metal cylinders with large metal cones inside them; Joe figures they’re probably nukes.
The heroes can’t take everything they found in the base back to Phoenix in a single truck trailer. Given that Phoenix could be invaded by Flagstaff at any time, they decide to focus on the conventional weaponry, hauling the M-4 rifles, machine gun, rocket launchers and 20,000 rounds of ammo, along with six of the mines. Maybe they’ll have time to come back for the rest later.
The group heads back to Phoenix with their haul. Dead-tired from the fighting and moving weapons, nobody talks too much…
THE BATTLE FOR PHOENIX
The heroes are called into an early morning meeting with the council of Phoenix. There’s something surreal about the whole setting. The councilors seem really pissed off about something. Jim Bob looks nervous. The other guys aren’t sure what the hell is going on.
One of the councilors places a canister on the table marked U-235. It looks like the one Frank and Joe found in the Russian ambassador’s residence/KGB spy mansion near the United Nations building in Manhattan around the beginning of the adventure.
“Got something you’d like to tell us about, Joe?” Councilor Smith says.
“Nope,” Joe says. “Maybe you could fill me in.”
“Jim Bob found this in your flat,” Smith says. Jim Bob shrugs. He looks frustrated, like he’d been forced to do something he didn’t want to do.
Joe’s trying to think, but his memory is fuzzy. They didn’t take anything from the base. And they didn’t take the canister from Manhattan… did they? No. Damn it. He can’t think straight.
“Sure you got nothing to say, Mister? Why didn’t you tell us about the Russians?” Smith says.
“I don’t know what’s going on here,” Frank says. “But you guys need to calm the hell down. And I think you need to answer some of our own questions.”
The door to a corner office opens. None of the heroes had even noticed it before. It leads into a dark room. There’s a silhouette of a man smoking a cigarette. He steps into the Council Room. It’s the mysterious Russian guy from the ambassador’s residence — but didn’t he kill himself? How could he be here? Joe struggles to remember.
“No more games,” the Russian says. “Why keep playing with them? They might as well know the truth. It will make no difference now.”
Joe’s mind reaches back to Manhattan and to those bookcases of Russian notebooks he found in the basement of that barn back in the Midwest. He thinks of the hammer-and-sickle armbands of the men from Flagstaff. The big containers marked UV-571 they found in the basement vault of Fort Drake. What does it all mean?
While Joe’s mind races, Frank loses patience. “I’m going to get the answers I want if I have to knock all your teeth out, stick my fist down your throat and grab them out of your guts,” he says, crashing into the Russian and knocking him back into the room — in the process, slamming the door shut again. Annoyed, the old ex-Marine kicks the door off its hinges and stalks into the room, the rest of the heroes coming close behind.
Sitting at a desk in front of a floor to ceiling window, a bald, bearded man is sitting with his hands clasped together. “Welcome, Amerkikanskis. You have come far and fought hard. But I’m afraid your struggle has been in vain.”
Frank moves in. The man stands. Impossibly, it is Vladimir Lenin. Frank gives him a hard right cross. The old communist takes the punch and just stands there. “Ah, you rash Americans. Violence is the first refuge of the incompetent. But it is too late for you. Resistance is futile.”
Jim Bob hears a bomb falling just in time to alert the heroes. Everyone dives for cover. An artillery shell takes out the ceiling and walls. The heroes are standing on a ruined platform, looking out on Phoenix. Their sight is strengthened somehow, so they can see an onslaught coming from beyond the Phoenix city limits: Soviet main battle tanks, surrounded by massed Russian infantry in full battle gear, coming at the city in waves of organized regiments. On a closer look, the soldiers are all zombies, marching relentlessly forward. A tank aims its turret at the building where the heroes look out on the impossible invasion…
And Joe wakes up. It was a dream. But perhaps, no ordinary dream.
The heroes are drawn into an early-morning meeting with the Phoenix Council (for real, this time). One of Phoenix’s spies has just returned from Flagstaff and announced that another high-value spy needs to be extracted: Mary Kurtz. She’s close with Sgt. Maxis’ ruling circle and may have some info that could affect the outcome of the battle for Phoenix that everyone knows is coming any day — maybe even any hour.
Before the heroes leave, they direct Phoenix’s residents to start laying some mines and go collect some of the other useful items from Fort Drake (though taking care NOT to collect the U-235, whatever that is).
The heroes are dispatched to rescue Mary at a nearby hotel, about a 20-minute drive from Flagstaff. Unfortunately, Joe is so focused on trying to avoid Flagstaff patrols while he’s driving the heroes to the destination that he misses something stuck in the road. Their armored battle van crashes into a tree by the side of the road. Fortunately, no one is badly injured, but they’re going to have to walk about 500 meters to the hotel, moving stealthily to avoid getting picked up by raiders in the process.
By the time the heroes get to the hotel, it looks like Mary’s in big trouble. She’s attracted some zombies, who apparently told all of their zombie friends that there was some decent grub running around their area. There are over 30 zombies outside, streaming into the building and who knows how many more outside.
The heroes fight their way to a pickup truck that Luigi tries to hotwire. Armed with the M-4s from Fort Drake, the heroes manage to fend off a small zombie horde and rescue Mary (who has a very close call, almost getting snatched by a zombie. Jim Bob shoots the one on Mary, freeing her to run to the truck). Luigi is successful at getting the truck going and his great driving rolls mean they escape the horde and avoid the Flagstaff patrol on their way back to Phoenix.
Mary spills the beans on Sgt. Maxis’ battle plans on the drive over. It turns out the gang leader doesn’t just have a numerical advantage and plenty of military-grade weapons; he’s got two helicopters with mounted machine-guns and far worse, two tanker trucks filled with zombies that he plans to crash through Phoenix’s gates to cause total chaos.
Armed with the knowledge of his entire battle plan, including numbers of vehicles and battle order, the heroes have managed to cut down significantly on Flagstaff’s advantages in the coming mass battle. It’s still not going to be easy, though.
Only a few hours after the heroes arrive back in Phoenix, the assault has begun. The helicopters fly in overhead, machine guns blazing. Phoenix was prepared — everyone is under cover and one of the helicopters is nearly downed from well-targeted small arms fire. The danger of the helicopters is neutralized.
Sgt. Maxis sends in his lead vehicles, firing away at Phoenix’s defenders at the gates. The heroes roll decently enough, providing some solid bonuses for the coming battle rolls (though enduring some light bullet wounds in the process). After a few minutes, 75 of Phoenix’s defenders are dead. Flagstaff’s forces have suffered almost twice as many losses and some burnt-out vehicles now litter the outskirts.
“Surrender or die!” Sgt. Maxis calls out over the loudspeaker.
“Maybe you should surrender instead,” Frank shouts back over his own loudspeaker. “Or die. Either way. You’re not getting in here.”
More battle follows. Sgt. Maxis decides to throw in his tanker trucks. They run into the mines Phoenix’s forces planted. The explosions are huge — those things are no ordinary anti-vehicle mines. Little mushroom clouds erupt. From the flaming wreckage, a few burning zombies emerge, chopped down by Flagstaff’s distracted forces.
Sgt. Maxis isn’t quite ready to give up. He throws another line of forces at the city. The heroes throw everything they have at the raiders to try to turn the tide. Luigi gets taken down by a sniper. Joe is flattened by what was probably the wrong end of a grenade launcher. Frank is shaken and has a bullet wound in his arm, but he’s still holding the line. Jim Bob is by his side, taking out raiders with head shots from his M-4, in between mopping up the blood seeping into his eyes from a bad wound in his forehead.
By this time in the battle, Phoenix has lost nearly 200 men. Flagstaff’s forces are down by 300. They’ve still got more forces and ammo, but their “secret weapons” are already used up. At this rate. they could take the city, but likely only at the cost of more than half of their fighters.
Sgt. Maxis’ forces are not trained soldiers. They’re raiders and riff-raff, fighting for spoils and easy gains. A few vehicles pull out of the fight, their drivers deciding it’s just not worth it. A demoralized division turns into a full-on disorganized retreat. Sgt. Maxis can’t stop it. He pulls back his remaining loyal forces (roughly half his army that remains, about 350 men) and scurries back to Flagstaff with his tail between his legs.
The battle was hard. Nearly a third of Phoenix’s population is dead. But those that remain are determined to stay and rebuild. Our heroes are utterly spent and badly wounded, but they will live to fight another day.
Perhaps they will stay in Phoenix and help this town rebuild a semblance of civilization. Perhaps they will strike off on their own again after they’ve healed, exploring this new and dangerous world and seeing if other pockets of humanity remain. Wherever they go, whatever the do, they shall remain heroes.