Dead Reign

Day 16

The Dark Beneath

The heroes found they way to the hidden entrance to the Mount Weather vault, discovering that Dr. Lee’s instructions had been correct. The normally-locked exterior airlock had been left in cycle mode, allowing the heroes to bypass the usual security measures and enter what seemed to be an enormous loading dock. They quickly discovered a huge “parking garage,” a cavern filled with vehicles that looked as though they had belonged to the survivors that had come into the vault months ago. They also found some electric carts that would make exploring the vault a bit easier.

Their initial explorations revealed no survivors—no sign of life at all. A side trip toward the Administration wing saw them finding signs, but not of life. Behind a locked door of bulletproof glass, pitted and scored with violence, they saw an empty situation room, the monitors and furniture streaked with dried blood and gore. Something terrible had happened here, but it was long since over.

Unwilling to open the doors and possibly let out whatever was in that wing, they backtracked to the Medical wing, hoping to find Dr. Lee or other survivors. The entrance to the Medical wing was equally locked, but Rosalie proved able to open it in a fairly simple procedure. The interior looked like a pleasant hospital setting, complete with bubbling fountains and artificial sunlight—but again, no people at all. Remembering that Dr. Lee had talked about putting himself in isolation, they made their way toward the isolation suite.

Another locked door stood in their way, but before Rosalie could get to it, the lights in the corridor behind them began to flicker off, one by one. Conrad put on his nightvision goggles—and suddenly wished he hadn’t, because the hallway was full of awful things, barely human-shaped any longer, crawling toward them. Suddenly, Rosalie needed to get the door open as fast as possible, before the darkness and the monsters were on top of them. Working hurriedly, with Rasheed using his powers to buy a little more time, she managed to open the door into a long hallway filled with gas dispensers, letting it close and lock behind them to keep out the creatures.

Though the heroes worried about being gassed in the “kill corridor,” they made it out the other side safely into a series of rooms that led toward the isolation ward. A decontamination chamber blocked they way, but they quickly figured out how to fool the automated systems in it, only to leave the chamber and come face to face with a hazmat-suited man leveling a machine gun at them. Conrad tried to talk him down, but wound up having to disarm him before he would listen to reason.

The man took them back to his comrades, a group of interns and residents working with the CDC before everything went to hell. They had been trapped in the isolation ward for over a week, ever since the alarms went off and everything locked down without warning. The lockdown had ended a couple of days before, but none of them had been brave enough to venture back out to see what was going on. They had decided to wait it out and see it anyone came looking for them. The gun had been taken from a soldier who was trapped with them, but who had turned out to be infected; when he started turning, they threw him into the isolation chamber and locked him in.

Several of the scientists were in complete denial about the “zombie” thing, while others were more prepared to listen to what the heroes had to say about the matter. They revealed that they had Dr. Lee’s research into the virus, including an experimental anti-viral that seemed to slow the infection rate enough that a person could sometimes fight the virus off—but not always.

The most interesting thing to Rasheed was the three-dimensional molecular model of the virus they had generated. The pieces of the virus looked like words to him—a visual representation of the glossolalia he used when he did his “magic.” Indeed, the shapes reminded him of cuneiform in the same way that a cube can remind a person of a square. He asked for a chance to use their synthesizer and began inputting his mental models of his “spells” into the analyzer as rendered shapes.

Several times, he found himself falling into a strange fugue state, at the end of which, messages would be spelled out on the screen—messages he didn’t remember writing, which begged him to stop what he was doing. Rasheed fought the terror that built up within him to push through to the end, finally creating a molecular model of… something new. The scientists were stunned at its complexity and elegance. They had no idea what it would do, but he asked them to start using the synthesizer to create a sample of it.

While they were waiting, the scientists offered to do blood tests of each of the survivors, since they had managed to come up with a fairly reliable, quick method of testing for the infection. While Conrad, Governor Byrne, and Brad were all clean, they noted a genetic abnormality in Rasheed that gave them cause for concern and were saddened to inform Doris that she was infected. Strangely, her infection didn’t seem to be progressing, and they were interested in doing some more tests.

They were far more interested in Rosalie, however, since she seemed to be the first immune case they had discovered! After taking a significant amount of her blood and pushing for more invasive tests, Conrad put his foot down and made them back off. He was concerned that this revelation, while it was good news in some ways, would cause Rosalie to become a point of contention.

The first sample of Rasheed’s experiment took almost five hours to create. While they were debating about what to do with it—and whether it was a cure or a weapon—the room began to shake. Before they could respond, the doors to the isolation chamber blew off, a chunk of the lab wall tore open, and a huge monstrosity with three faces, seeming to be a melted amalgam of many bodies, stood before them—along with several dozen zombies!

A pitched battle ensued, with the heroes holding the line to keep the scientists safely behind them. As they scrambled to keep the abomination back, the wall behind them exploded as well—revealing soldiers! The armored men streamed into the room, stunned to find survivors, and quickly defaulted to taking orders from Conrad. They opened fire into the mass of bodies, but the abomination seemed unharmed, no matter how many shots they put into it.

Doris, unwilling to lose their sample in the gunfight and convinced that it was a cure for her deteriorating condition, did the unthinkable. She slammed the liquid into an injector gun and shot it directly into her neck! She collapsed, blood pouring from her eyes and nose as seizures wracked her body. Rosalie couldn’t get any response from her and ran to hide amidst the rubble, convinced that her only real friend was going to die.

Doris had a strange vision as her body writhed on the floor. She stood on the shores of a great red ocean, the copper-scented waves lapping at her feet over a beach of white sand. Out from her was a black island, covered in brownish stains and circled by wheeling carrion birds. As she stared at it, vaguely aware of the agony shooting through her body in the real world, she realized that it wasn’t an island at all but rather the head of an immense stone statue. In horror, she watched the statue’s eye open—and look at her.

Then she was awake again, gasping for breath and feeling like herself for the first time in weeks. The horrible brand on her arm had faded to a nasty bruise and a clean scar, and the ravenous hunger within her had quieted. Somehow, Rasheed’s “cure” had allowed her to master the wendigo!

Doris rejoined the battle, which was going poorly. Zombies spilled forward, stumbling over their own fallen dead, as the air filled with acrid smoke. Wild shotgun blasts from Rasheed, Brad, and Doris staggered the great beast somewhat, but it wasn’t until Governor Byrne rushed it and shoved his shotgun’s barrel right into the thing’s mouth that they were able to bring it down.

While the other zombies screamed and moaned at the destruction of their vanguard, Rasheed laid down a barrier of sand and bloody earth to hold back the remaining dead while the soldiers picked them off. From there, it was just a matter of cleanup.

As things died down, Conrad realized that the men who had come to their aid were not soldiers at all, but rather mercenaries in the employ of something they called Project: Genesis. Their squad leader seemed to have a great deal of respect for an actual Navy Seal, especially one that didn’t look down on a “mere” merc, and the two of them got to talking.

One of the scientists blabbed that Rosalie was immune, and the squad leader informed Conrad that trouble might ensue once they got back to their own wing of the complex. They had come down here looking for data on the virus and hadn’t been expecting survivors at all, but they had standing orders to bring back anyone they found anywhere to their leader, Dr. Alyssa Rhodes. She could be a little “intense” and had an open interest in finding an immune case, something she had apparently posited as being possible.

Conrad wasn’t excited about the idea of going with the mercs back into the proverbial lion’s den, but they realized that the only way to ensure the safety of the synthesizer was with their help. In exchange for men staying to guard the synthesizer, they willingly went back to the Project: Genesis ward of the Medical wing.

Upon arrival, they came face to face with the stern and methodical Dr. Alyssa Rhodes, a middle aged woman who looked at them like lab specimens instead of people. When she heard that Rosalie was immune, she ordered the girl taken to an isolation chamber. Conrad began to object, but Dr. Rhodes insisted—and further ordered that anyone who got in the way would be shot. Governor Byrne and Rasheed managed to defuse the situation somewhat, especially when Rasheed mentioned that he might have created something close to a cure, but Dr. Rhodes would only give way in that she permitted the other heroes to take up an adjoining room.

Somewhat discomfited by their “warm welcome,” but trying to buy time until the synthesizer could produce more of Rasheed’s formula, the heroes allowed themselves to be taken into protective custody…

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