Previously, Marco delivered a rousing speech to convince the passengers to sit tight a bit longer while the group made sure the terminal was safe. They have been joined by a professor of psychic phenomena, the wheelchair-bound pilot, and Flight Engineer Allen. First stop – the control tower!
Vera took the lead, through the security doors into the control tower’s base.
GURPS: There’s an encounter hook to be heard, here, so everybody gets a Perception check.
Vera, Ashly, and Marco succeed, Marco critically.
I won’t bother rolling for the NPCs in this instance, but the PCs who hear it have to make – you guessed it – Fright Checks. Vera and Ashly pass, but Marco fails by 4. He’s stunned for 2d6 seconds.
She stopped. A low drone was rising up around her, an almost physical thing that she could feel to the bone. It wasn’t loud, but it was intense, felt more than heard.
“What is it?” Nick asked.
“You hear that?” She cocked her head.
“What?” Josh asked.
“A low hum,” Ashly said. “Marco?”
Marco’s face had gone still, sweat beading on his forehead. Seconds ticked by before he could respond.
“Not. Not a hum. A moan.” He pointed towards a door leading to the tower’s basement. “Came from over there.”
Do we investigate?
2: No, but we secure the door.
“Want to check it out?” Nick said, head tilted.
Marco shook his head. “Not why we’re here. Let’s stay on task.”
“We’re here to make sure the place is safe,” Josh said, folding his arms.
Vera understood. She’d heard it, Ash had heard it, Marco had… but the others hadn’t. The sound had pierced her as deeply as the zombies’ teeth, that same sense of wrongness, leaving only dread in its wake. Somehow she knew that investigating it would make their tense situation worse.
She grabbed a bench and dragged it over, wedging it under the door. “Sometimes it’s better not to know.”
“If you guys say so,” Nick sounded uncertain.
Vera didn’t care about his misgivings, maintaining eye contact with him as she thumbed the elevator call button.
Amanda looked over from the directory next to the doors. “Radio’s on the sixth, though if it’s not working we’ll need to check out the gear on the fifth.”
“Don’t the air traffic guys have radios?” Josh asked. “Up on the top floor?”
“Short range,” Amanda said. “Good enough to talk to the birds in the sky, but if we want to reach Camp Mabry we’ll need more range.”
“Least we don’t need to go all the way up,” Marco said, rubbing his arm, eye on the door Vera had barricaded.
* * *
It would take two trips in the elevator to get everyone to the top, with the extra space Amanda’s wheelchair took up. Since she had the pistol, Vera went up first, with Marco, Amanda, and Josh, to make sure it was all clear.
The fifth floor opened up into a hall containing several different radio and radar related offices.
Immediately opposite the doors was a big sign reading “Radio Room.”
Vera could hear low electronic tones and a tapping sound coming from beyond the door. “You hear that?”
“Someone’s in there,” Amanda said.
“Marco, get the door.” Vera pulled the Tec-9 out of her waistband, keeping her finger alongside the trigger guard and barrel pointed at the floor.
“Ready?” Marco asked, standing next to it, holding the knob.
She nodded and he pulled it open, slowly. Inside was an array of radio equipment. A dark-haired man in dirt-streaked denim coveralls was leaning over the console, pressing buttons and turning knobs. “Mueller airport to anyone listening. Come in. This is an emergency situation.” He had a slight accent – Spanish, Vera thought -definitely not the voice that’d called them in to land.
She handed the pistol back to Amanda and pushed the door open all the way. “Hello?”
The man spun at the sound of her voice, eyes wide, sweat glistening on his forehead, hands balled into fists. “The fuck?”
“Sorry, didn’t mean to startle you,” she began. “We heard your voice… thought you might know what’s going on?”
GURPS: When we’re not sure how an NPC will react to our presence, we make a Reaction Roll for their general attitude. There are a number of traits that impact this – appearance, charisma, social standing – but Vera doesn’t have any. However, the NPC is Paranoid, so everyone gets a -4 from him. Unlike most GURPS rolls, with a Reaction Roll higher results are better.
11: This is a neutral reaction, probably better than we could have hoped for.
The man looked past her to make brief eye contact with Marco, then turned back to his console. “No, I… no.”
Marco pushed past the door, eyes sweeping the radio room. “We just flew in on Flight 13… we’re passengers, I mean, the Captain and Co-Pilot are pretty out of it, and we got caught in that storm… Someone here guided us in.”
The man gazed down at the panel. “Wasn’t me.”
“No, yeah, no,” Marco said. “It was like… twenty, thirty minutes ago? Called us in from the tower, had us land, then just left us on the runway?”
The man looked up. “I don’t know anything about that, sorry. I’ve been alone in here for an hour.”
“Is there anybody else in the tower?” Vera asked.
“Why?” The man’s eyes narrowed, hand hovering over the controls.
She exchanged a glance with Marco. “So we can find the guy we talked to?”
“I told you, I been in here. Maybe there’s somebody else on one of the other floors. Any of the controllers could have reached you.” He patted the console. “This radio’s just for longer range communication.”
“Do you know what happened here?” Vera asked. “The whole place is empty. Where is everybody?”
“I don’t KNOW!” The man banged a fist on the console, then visibly composed himself. “Whole city’s gone to shit. Fighting in the streets. Things I seen…” he shuddered.
“That’s why I need to contact someone. It’s gotta be Castro. Or Gorbachev. Who knows who’s pulling the strings, FUCK. The military, I need to reach the military.”
Amanda wheeled through the doorway. “Do you mind if I try? I know General Carter at Camp Mabry.”
He spun away from the console. “Go ahead! Try! I’m not reaching anybody. Anybody!” He covered his face in his hands.
GURPS: Perception roll for Vera.
Watching the man with a mixture of concern and pity, Vera couldn’t help but notice the terrible state of his torn fingernails. Trailing her eyes down his wrist, she came to a large fresh scratch on his forearm… and then realized that the streaks on his coveralls weren’t dirt and rust, but blood. She put a hand on Amanda’s shoulder as the woman wheeled past her.
GURPS: Vera rolls Fast-Talk to calm the man down.
“Actually, you know what? We’re going to check the rest of the tower first. See if we can find the guy who we talked to before. So… we’ll be back to try later?”
The man had already turned back to the controls, dismissing them. “Yes, fine, later. Whatever.”
She backed out into the hall, followed by Marco and Amanda, just as the rest of the group arrived in the elevator.
“There’s a guy in the radio room,” she said. “Sweating like crazy, trying to use the equipment. Acting real weird. But his clothes are covered in blood, and it looks like he’s been in a fight. Keeps talking about communists.”
“It’s 1992,” Josh said. “What year did the Soviet Union collapse?”
“What?” Amanda asked.
“What?” Josh asked.
“Ignore him,” Vera shot Josh a look, trying to convey the message of shut the fuck up about time travel when we’re around the locals. “He’s an idiot. But I don’t trust that guy.”
“We outnumber him,” Josh said. “If he tries anything-”
There was a sudden movement from the other side of the door, and the unmistakable click of it locking.
“He was listening?” Marco asked. “Shit.” He knocked on the door and raised his voice. “Hey! Buddy? Can we talk?”
There was no answer from inside.
“I gotta use that radio, man,” Amanda said.
“We can take him,” Josh said. “He’s just one guy.”
“You can try, motherfuckers!” Came the muffled shouted response from the other side of the door. “You’ll never take me alive!”
Vera did a mental double-take at that. “Take him alive?”
Amanda pounded on the door with the side of her fist. “We don’t want you, asshole, I just need to use the radio.”
Does the delusional paranoid take drastic steps?
4: Yes, but the situation is not entirely lost.
“So you can contact Castro? Never!” A great sound of smashing and crashing came from within. “Now what, you commie bitch? Now what?”
Amanda’s face paled. “Did he just… get that door open!”
GURPS: Josh makes a ST check to bash down the door, vs the door’s HP of 18, with a bonus for Marco’s help.
9: Fail. Unsurprisingly.
Nick and Josh stepped back and, on three, smashed their ample frames against the door, only to rebound away from it.
“Hold on.” Ashly pushed past them, kneeling in front of the door with a hairpin.
GURPS: Ashly tries to pick the lock. -5 for using a hairpin, +5 because it’s a cheap lock.
“You know how to do that?” Vera was impressed.
“Kinda… shit.” She pulled the pin out of the lock, now bent. “Anyone got another hairpin?”
“Don’t bother.” Amanda wheeled away, pissed. “Not like any of us can fix whatever he did in there. We’ll have to find another radio.”
“Didn’t you say something about the fifth floor?” Josh asked.
“Some of the radio’s guts down there, but we’ll still need the terminal to use it.”
“I’m sorry, Amanda,” Vera said. “Maybe somebody on the plane knows how to…”
Amanda paused. “Let’s just… secure the rest of the terminal, okay?”
It didn’t take long to do a sweep of the rest of the tower. Each floor was empty, radar stations unmanned, headsets left on consoles as if the owners had merely stepped away to take a break.
“This is really, really wrong,” Flight Engineer Allen said.
Nick put down a phone. “I got it to ring 911 but nobody’s picking up.”
“The guy in the radio room said the whole city’s gone to shit. Do you think it’s all like this?” Ashly asked.
“Maybe,” Vera said. “I don’t think we’ll be so lucky.”
“What do you think the deal is?” Amanda asked.
“Maybe it’s a rage virus, like in 28 Days Later,” Josh suggested.
“Like in what?” Professor Poropat asked.
“It’s a movie,” Nick said, quickly changing the subject. “But I don’t feel safe leaving that guy behind us in the radio room.”
Do they decide to deal with him?
1: No, and it’s not deemed a significant threat
“No, I… you saw how scared he was. We’d have to seriously hurt him to get him out of there.” Vera put a hand on the butt of her pistol. “And besides, if he’s holed up he won’t be causing anymore trouble.” She looked to the flight engineer. “Allen, could you fix the radio he’s busted up?”
Allen shook his head. “I mean, if I had the parts? It’s… probably easier just to find something else.”
“That means leaving the airport,” Marco said.
“I don’t see that we have much of a choice,” Amanda said. “But if the city’s as dangerous as he says, we should try to find some way to protect ourselves.”
“One thing at a time,” Marco said. “Let’s finish checking out the airport, so we can get everyone else off the plane. Feels really… exposed to have them all sitting there. Yeah?”
“As good a plan as any.” Vera’s finger drifted down the elevator’s panel, hovered over the Basement button, then back up to press the Lobby button.
* * *
Josh pushed open the doors to the rest of the terminal. “Hey guys, I’m feeling snackish, gonna hit the gift shop and grab some chips or something, you want anything?” He pointed down the row of departure gates to the small inset store.
“Anything chocolate,” Professor Poropat said.
“Keep an eye out for anything that you can use as a weapon,” Nick said.
“Won’t be anything dangerous like that this side of security,” Flight Engineer Allen said.
Does Josh find an improvised weapon?
5: Yes, but it’s just a mop. Treat it like a broadsword at -1 to skill that does swing crushing damage.
Damage with hand to hand weapons in GURPS is based on the user’s strength – characters get Swing damage and Thrust damage based on how the attack in question is made. Swing Damage is greater due to better leverage.
Further, there are several “types” of damage done – Crushing is basic, and covers most blunt trauma. Cutting damage is for attacks that break the skin, and generally do 50% more than what you roll. Impaling attacks do twice as much when hitting something other than an extremity. Guns tend to do Piercing.
“Oh no?” Josh stopped next to an abandoned janitor’s trolly, pulling the mop out of its bucket. “This should make a serviceable bokken.” He unscrewed the head, leaving him with a wooden rod, and took a few practice swings before heading towards the gift shop.
Vera turned away from his dumb bullshit, and looked out the window towards Flight 13. The lights were on, and she could see people moving around through the windows. All of those passengers depending on them – those were the stakes, and she could feel the weight pressing down on her. “Let’s just hurry.”
The rest of the group progressed slowly, peering towards each gate, looking for stragglers or a sign of the weeping woman they’d spotted earlier. Each was empty, most with some signs of being hastily abandoned, a chair tipped over here or there, tickets left on the ground, and even a few abandoned backpacks.
“Let’s check these out,” Marco said, unzipping one of the packs. “Maybe we’ll find… something. But don’t take too long.”
Josh returned while the group was making their way through the half-dozen gates, carrying a plastic bag full of candy bars and a few magazines. “Think fast!” He threw an object at Vera.
She caught what turned out to be a roll of quarters. “What’s this?”
He gave her a wink. “In case you need to teach a fool some respect.” He made a quick punching motion, mop handle tucked under his arm, then handed out similar rolls to the others.
Nick sighed and put the quarters in his pocket. “Man, seriously.”
Unsurprisingly the security station was empty, with powered-down computers and x-ray machines, though it looked like people had abandoned their luggage mid-check. Beyond it was the main lobby, running perpendicular to the flight gates – the far wall directly in front of the group was mostly window, showing the darkness beyond.
Ashly suppressed a shiver and consulted a wall-mounted directory. “To the left are the airline counters. Right is lounge, baggage, and rent-a-car.”
“Which is shorter?” Marco asked.
“Let’s check left first.”
Airline counters lined the hall to the left all the way to the end, each in front of office space and backrooms.
“Anything useful in these offices?” Marco asked Allen.
“I mean-” Allen began.
A savage scream cut him off as a brunette woman in a dirt-streaked turquoise airline uniform scrambled onto the counter nearest them, baseball bat in hand. “Get back!” She spat. “Get away!”
Vera tugged the gun out of her waistband, but kept it pointed low.
Ashly took a half-step forward. “Easy, take it easy!”
“Get away from them!” The rage in the woman’s voice turned to a desperate fear. “They’ll kill you!”
“No,” Ashly said. “No, no, no – we’re friends! These are my friends!”
“The men!” The stewardess yelled. “The men have gone crazy! Berserk!”
Professor Poropot stepped in behind Vera, speaking softly. “Tell her that it’s okay, that nobody is going to hurt anyone.”
Vera looked at him questioningly.
“She can’t hear it from me now, not in her state. She’s been through something… something very traumatic.” He turned to Josh, slowly lowering the younger man’s mop handle, and gestured to Marco, Allen, and Nick. “Tell her we’re going to back off, the men are, so you can talk her down.”
Vera swallowed, then addressed the woman. “Hello? Yes, Hi.”
Amanda waved, though her eyes were fixed on the woman’s weapon.
“We’re going to send the men away, okay?” Vera asked.
“You’re not safe with them!”
Vera repeated herself. “We’re going to send them away so we can talk, okay? Just us girls.”
The woman didn’t respond, her eyes fixed on Josh and Marco, uneasily shifting her weight from left to right. She wore no shoes on her stockinged feet, and the bottoms looked filthy.
The Professor backed away slowly, gesturing to the others. “Be calm. Be understanding. We’ll be… out of sight. Back at the flight gates.”
Once they’d gone, Vera turned back to the woman with what she hoped was a friendly smile. “See? They’re gone. It’s just us now.”
The woman brushed a curly bang from her face, focused now on Vera. “Oh god, it’s not safe, it’s not safe.”
“I’m safe,” Vera said. She held out a hand. “Why not give me the bat, I’ll help you down.”
GURPS: Vera attempts a Fast-Talk roll to get the bat out of the woman’s hands.
15: She fails.
The stewardess made a face, stepping back. “You’re with them? How can you be with them? Don’t you know how they are? Do you think they’ll… they’ll kill you last?” The desperation had returned.
“Miss?” Ashly stepped in front of Vera. “Miss? Look at me. Look at me. Hello. I’m sorry, we didn’t introduce ourselves. I’m Ashly, this is Vera, and this is Amanda. We… we just got here. Our plane just landed, and we found the place deserted. If there’s a danger, we… we don’t know about it, okay?”
GURPS: Ashly is going to try and recover the situation with her Diplomacy skill. -2 due to things already being tense.
The woman’s face scrunched up and she began to cry, the bat’s end dipping slightly. “It’s the me-eh-eh-eh-en. They’ve gone psychotic! They’re… they’re killing us!”
Vera and Ashly exchanged a glance. They’d met two people in the airport so far – the weeping woman and the paranoid man, who – despite his outburts – didn’t seem particularly violent or aggressive… but maybe that was because of the size of their group.
“Something’s going on here, anyway.” Amanda said. “But so far the men in our group seem fine.”
“They can change just like that!” The woman sobbed. “Just like that! Why don’t you believe me?”
“Why don’t you tell us what happened,” Ashly said. “So. You know. We can be ready.”
The woman sat on the desk, bat across her lap. “Okay. Okay. Um. I’m Toni. I work… here, for Freedom Air. I was over at Glenwood Memorial on my break, visiting my sister.” She closed her eyes. “Oh god, Angela…”