Disclaimer: The Secret World and all associated characters, settings, and situations are the property of Funcom and Electronic Arts. All use of them here is purely for entertainment purposes, without permission or intention to profit.
Thursday, November 2, 12:35PM
Sheriff's Office, Kingsmouth, Maine
While Kaiyo talks to the Sheriff about where the three of us can have a private discussion, I go to change. Andy opens the safe for me and I retrieve the white, button-up blouse the Templars gave me and a bra—my only bra now. I suppose I could always ask Sonnac to send me a new one, but asking my employer for replacement underwear isn't exactly something I'm comfortable with at this point.
I lock myself in the bathroom and change. The old blouse is no great loss: it's the same one I was wearing during my final exam by Lethe and was already ruined by a hole and a large bloodstain on the lower right-hand side, in the back. The hoodie, however...I sigh. Half the front is gone to charring. There's no way it's salvageable. I'm extremely lucky that only the corner of the map in the hoodie's pocket got burned. Sadly, I fold the old black-and-white striped hoodie up and place it tenderly in the trash can. Goodbye old friend, I bid it. You were warm and comfortable, and I loved you. Then I turn away and finish dressing, putting on the borrowed over-sized army coat again (the blouse is too thin to ward off autumn chill outside). As I unlock the door again, I wonder wryly how I'll face a real loss, if I can get this sentimental about an old, sorta-ugly jacket.
When I come out of the bathroom, Kaiyo and Dan are outside waiting for me. Kaiyo grabs my hand. "Come on! Dan found us a place where we can talk privately!"
"Couldn't we just use the bathroom?" I ask, confused.
"Girls go to the bathroom in packs, not Illuminati," says Dan. "Besides, it's bugged."
"It's bugged?!" I say, eyes wide.
Dan rolls his eyes. "This is practically Illuminati Island," he says. "Lots of places are bugged."
"But I just changed in there!"
"Lucky break for whoever's watching then." Dan smirks. "Maybe I can get him to send me the videos."
"Do and you're dead," I warn, gritting my teeth.
"Can't we have our talk first?" Kaiyo asks, eyes pleading. Dan rolls his eyes and lets her take his hand with her free one. Then she leads us both outside and around the side of the building, under a wooden exterior staircase. There's a gap there where we can all stand between the makeshift barricade and the Sheriff's Office. Once we're all there, Kaiyo lets go of our hands, turns and tucks a strand of raven hair behind her ear. "Okay, now we can get started!"
Dan waves his hand impatiently motioning for her to continue.
"I wanted us to talk about working together," says Kaiyo.
"We are working together," says Dan. I nod in agreement.
"I mean really working together," says Kaiyo. "I mean, right now, Chris wants you dead and you're being all cagey with secrets and stuff."
"I don't really want him dead," I say, and it's at least mostly true—though I admit the prospect of him being in pain does cause a certain morbid satisfaction.
"I'm being straight up with you," says Dan. "I don't know anything you guys don't already know."
Kaiyo bites her lower lip, with a notably pointed tooth, and says, "Alright, if you guys don't want to play, then I guess I'll keep everything I've learned from talking with the survivors all to myself!" She closes her eyes, crosses her arms, turns, and starts to walk away.
"Hold on!" Dan says. "Maybe I was exaggerating…there are a few things I know."
"And?" Kaiyo prompts.
"…and I'm willing to share them," Dan mutters.
Kaiyo smiles and turns to me, eyes expectant.
"I promise not to kill Dan," I say, and I mean it. He may be an enormous irritant, but I don't want him dead. When Kaiyo keeps looking at me, I add, "I also won't let him die or get hurt, if I can help it."
"Good enough, under the circumstances," Kaiyo declares.
"Hey, what about you?" Dan asks.
"Oh, well, I promise not to kill any of you unless I have to," says Kaiyo. "And I'll share anything important I find out."
"Those promises seem...a little lax, by comparison," I say.
"Yeah, who's to say what's important?" Dan says.
Kaiyo wrinkles her nose. "Good point. I guess I'd just use my own judgement…unless you think the unusually dark color of the ichor in these zombies is important. Do you? I thought it might be due to contaminants, but it could also be post-mortem clotting interrupted by a reanimation spell of the Eturian Family, possibly an Aderastrium variant mixed with something more primitive and potent. According to my spellbook, it also contains about two orders of magnitude more erythropoietin than normal blood, which is probably due to drowning. And then there's the flavor—"
Oh, God! I interrupt the tirade by putting a hand on the Japanese girl's shoulder. "Why don't you just use your judgment?" I suggest quickly.
Kaiyo grins at me. "Okay!"
"So, what did you learn?" Dan asks, then quickly clarifies, "Anything important?"
"Only a little," Kaiyo says. "I talked to the survivors and asked them, you know, how they survived. Turns out about half of them were like the Sheriff, out of reach of the Fog when it came, some physically and a few, like the doctor, were in places that must have been warded or had some other kind of protection, like the Wabanaki Indian grounds. All four of the others were in the fog and said they heard this sort of whispering that got into their heads and made them want to walk into the sea."
"But they resisted it?" I ask.
Kaiyo shakes her head. "A couple of them waited it out in the jail cell here in the Sheriff's Office. A guy named Bill Dexter was being put in for drinking when he and Deputy Jackson heard the whispers. The policeman was smart enough to lock himself and the other guy in and throw away the keys before the Fog got to him. The others let them out after the Fog passed. Then there was this biker, Moose, Deputy Gardener saved his life by throwing a rope around him and dragging him back to the Sheriff's Office."
"So how'd Gardener make it out?" asks Dan.
Kaiyo shrugs. "Not a clue. He said he heard the whispers, but they didn't affect him like they did the others." She purses her lips. "There's something strange about him…his blood smells different."
I'm about to ask how she could possibly know what his blood smells like, but then I decide I don't really want to know. Instead, I decide to report my own findings. "The Fog's still out there, just beyond the harbor. It doesn't look too weird until you get closer up, then there are these…tendrils moving though it." I shake my head and try not to shiver. "Whatever it is, it's not natural."
"No shit," says Dan. "Anything else you'd like to share, babe, like what caused your wardrobe malfunction?" He winks at me.
I glare at him. "I got burned by a robot with a flamethrower, alright? Leave me alone, and don't call me babe!"
"A robot? Like a mecha?" Kaiyo asks.
"More like a rust bucket, and not much taller than me," I say. "It was guarding the hardware store in town."
Kaiyo glances at Dan but he shrugs. "Don't look at me. We had nothing to do with this."
She glances back at me. "You said you got burned? Are you alright now?"
I nod. "I used a spell to drain anima from the robot and heal my burns. I just wish it healed my clothes too."
"Hmm…there's probably a way to do that," Kaiyo says. "But that it worked at all on a robot is interesting."
"There are plenty of anima-powered robots," Dan counters. "My boss had me recruit a guy once who built a dozen of 'em and killed his whole fucking family."
"You recruited him?" I say.
"Of course we did! We keep him hopped up on drugs, but the kid's got talent," Dan declares. "Point is, it's not all that uncommon. Pretty much anyone with enough mechanical and magical aptitude could've built one rusty guard-bot with a fucking flamethrower."
"But do you know of anyone here in Kingsmouth with that kind of power?" Kaiyo asks.
Dan frowns. "Can't say as I do, not outside of Innsmouth Academy anyway."
"And what about Innsmouth?" I say. "Why didn't you tell us about it sooner?"
"Wasn't important," Dan answers casually. "Sure, we got an alarm from it, but it was just a general alert for a perimeter breach from the outside. No clue has to what it was or how it got there. The Academy's as much a fucking victim as the rest of this island."
It lines up with Sonnac's theories, but I cross my arms, pretending to be unconvinced. "Anything else you want to share with us? You know, before we figure you're holding out and decide to leave you to the zombies?" I wouldn't really do that, but the last thing I need is him bringing up some other conveniently forgotten fact—like the bathroom being bugged—when lives are at stake.
"I'm not leavin' anything out, I swear," Dan says. "We had a few places warded, like the Academy and the church here in town, but no idea if the wards held. We had a few places bugged, like the Sheriff's Office here, but all those bugs went offline when the fucking Fog rolled in. I only restored the one in the bathroom while you were out grocery shoppin' and playin' with robots." He smirks at his own joke, then continues. "There's the Idol of Nergal, but—"
"The Idol of Nergal is here?!" Kaiyo says, suddenly leaning forward. "Where is it? I've always wanted to—"
"It's in a cave somewhere, behind Illuminati wards that have got to be under a shitload of stress. There's no way you're going near that thing!" Dan says. "Last thing we need is someone like you bumping the wards over the fucking edge and this thing summoning undead all over the place, supposing it isn't already."
"Wait, this idol summons undead?" I glare at Dan. "Why didn't you tell us this before?! It could be the whole reason the Fog came here in the first place, the explanation for the whole zombie apocalypse on the Island!"
Kaiyo blinks and gives me a startled look. Dan also seems surprised. "What? No, you got it all backwards! The Fog isn't Negral's style."
"He's right," Kaiyo says. "Negral is the ancient Akkadian god of the underworld, or a demon, in your religion," she says to me. "In any case, he lost all his worshippers a few millennia ago and didn't deal with it very well."
"Went fucking paranoid," Dan explains. "Thinks the world is out to get him and that stupid rock he's bound to, so whenever he can he summons undead Mesopotamian warriors from hell-knows-where and forces them to guard his sorry ass. Made for one hell of a début when we presented the find to the Council of Venice."
"Negral doesn't have the power to control anything like the Fog or even to make zombies out of local corpses," Kaiyo says.
"And even if he did he'd have them all standing around his fucking cave on fucking guard duty, not running around the island trying to kill off survivors."
Kaiyo nods and waves a hand at the island and its evident horrors. "He can't be responsible for all this, but he is famous. He's even mentioned in the Bible!"
"And you're not meeting him for so many reasons!" Dan insists. "First of all, living dhampir vs wards only meant to stop the fully undead. You'd short 'em out! Second, if you think Negral's crazy paranoid right now that's nothing next to the shitstorm of insanity you'll get if you put that stupid idol of his in the room with a dangerous monster like you. No offense intended."
Kaiyo smiles, and her grin shows a pair of pointed incisors behind her lips. "None taken," she says brightly.
Suddenly, there's a rap on the wall near the stairs behind us. We turn to see the Sheriff standing there next to a long-haired, bearded man in a black leather jacket. "Pardon me. Mind if we interrupt for a bit?" she asks hesitantly.
Dan glares at her and I'm a little preoccupied trying to figure out what all she heard, but Kaiyo smiles brightly and says, "Sure thing!"
"Thanks," Bannerman says. She gestures to the big man next to her. "Moose here managed to rig up a PA system and had a few parts left over. I thought you could help."
"I've still got four hundred-foot CCTV cables in good condition. I figure we rig up a few cameras at strategic places, and we got ourselves a genuine early warning system to complete this makeshift fortress of ours," says the big man, Moose—if that's really his name. "That'd free up some people from standing watch, and it would give me a chance to work on putting together an offense for these zombies."
"Don't tell me you want me to run fucking wires for you, man," Dan says. "I'm a man on a mission from a very important agency, not some shit electrician's assistant."
"I'll run the wires," I volunteer, glaring at Dan.
"Actually, it's not the runnin' of wires we need, though that'd be mighty helpful. What we're missing is the cameras," says Bannerman.
Dan shakes his head. "You've got to be kidding me."
"Afraid not," says the Sheriff. "It sure wasn't in our yearly budget to put the town under martial law! No, the good ol' boys on the council were all about thrifty spending—at least above the table. Can't say as I ever got invited to the midnight meetings at town hall. Reckon I must be all thumbs when it comes to secret handshakes." She pauses. "Point is, the police department couldn't afford 'em, but some private businesses got some for security and I've got a list. We take their cameras and re-purpose them, we can make this work. Problem is gettin' out there and back. That's where you three come in."
"No, I'm not a fucking errand boy," says Dan.
"Aww, come on! It'll be fun!" Kaiyo says. "And think of the advantage this would give us! You wouldn't have to wait around here, bashing the same old zombies over and over again. Besides, I'm sure your boss would love to see the videos. All our bosses would." She gives him a conspiratorial wink and dodges his attempt to elbow her in the ribs.
"I'll go," I say. "Kaiyo and I can handle it ourselves."
"And you can set up the surveillance system on the computers here," Kaiyo suggests to Dan. "You're good at that right? Computers? Surveillance?"
Dan glares at her for a moment, while she gives him a hopeful grin with head cocked and eyes wide. One fang is also visible between her lips. "Fine. I'll do it," he says at last. "Just stop giving me that look. It's fucking creepy."
Kaiyo just laughs.
"Just make sure you forward the surveillance to everyone," I say.
He winks at me. "Anything for you, Chris-babe."
I grit my teeth. Somehow that's more annoying than when he was swearing at me and calling me a noob.
"I'll get the cables set up," says Moose. "They'll be ready to roll out when you are."
Sheriff nods then waves to us. "Miss Yako, Miss Warden, let me show you the list I got."
We follow her back out under the exterior stairs and into the Sheriff's Office, where she opens up the phone book on the wall to the local yellow pages and circles three businesses: Kingsmouth Savings and Loan, Sycoil Gas Station, and the Franklin Foundation Mining Museum. "Four cables, but only three businesses," I remark.
"The Savings and Loan and the Gas Station only got one camera each, but the Museum's got a few to spare. You should be able to find plenty in good working order between the three of 'em," says Bannerman.
I nod and open up my map. "The Gas Station and the Mining Museum are both on Belmont Avenue, which runs along the harbor."
"Yeah, the Gas Station's just at the corner of Elm Street and Belmont, right down this road straight outside," says Bannerman, pointing over the barricade. "Museum's right next door. Savings and Loan is down Lovecraft, not too far from the Museum on the other side."
"Hmmm…why don't we split up?" Kaiyo suggests. "I'll go down Lovecraft, you go down Elm, and we'll meet in the middle."
I'm not very keen on splitting up and potentially facing another unexpected and terrifying opponent alone, but I'm even less keen on spending a lot of time out there hunting down cameras. I fold up the map and grab my backpack (which is once again empty). "Let's get this over with," I say.
We go to the gate again. The black policeman (who I presume is the Deputy Jackson that Kaiyo mentioned) unfastens the chain and lets us out. Kaiyo goes skipping straight down Arkham Avenue toward a small pack of zombies while I turn right to reach Elm Street. I cut through a yard with brown, bloodstained grass. Its white picket fence has been torn up to be added to the barricade, which completely blocks off this end of Elm Street and is made up of everything from road signs to deserted vehicles. There's even a rowboat propped against the fence to shore it up.
Elm Street itself is eerily deserted. The street slopes gradually down toward the sea, and nothing moves on it. Picturesque houses line the road, some even with Halloween decorations and carved pumpkins already out, but there's evidence of the disaster. Several sections of white picket fence have fallen. Halfway down the road I see a blue sedan that has been driven over a parking meter, through a fence, and into somebody's porch. Some steam is still rising from the crumpled hood, but I don't hear the engine running. I do hear zombies though. Their gargled screams echo down the street. I keep my shotgun out and ready.
A little further down from the wrecked car I find the first group of zombies. There's a body, still vaguely recognizable as that of an older woman, bent over a picket fence. A couple zombies are tearing at the bloody dirt on either side, stuffing it into their mouths, as if completely unaware of the corpse hanging between them. I avert my eyes, fight down the urge to gag, and continue down the street.
The slope becomes steeper here and I catch sight of Belmont Avenue, and the gas station. It's a large, square white building with a rather ugly yellow trim, made even more ugly by the evident smoke damage. All the windows are completely blackened with soot and gray smudges trace their way upward from every door, window, or vent from which the smoke may have escaped. The building inside must be completely gutted. I sure hope the camera wasn't in there. I sure hope it wasn't around back either. There are a group of three zombies loitering by the dumpster there.
I walk up cautiously to check the front, where a large, thick, flat metal canopy covers the gas pumps. Or what's left of them. The cause of the fire becomes evident now. There's a white sedan, badly fire-damaged, sitting in the remains of one of the gas pumps. The other pump is still standing, but everything but the frame and pipes have burned or melted away. The entire front of the station is scorched black by what must have been a terrifying fireball. I see another trio of zombies by the street, just past the end of the canopy. They're feeding on something, or someone—possibly an unfortunate victim of the blast.
Something on the canopy catches my eye, though, and I go a little further down the street, till I'm almost at the corner. Then I see it: the camera. It looks like it's intact, and it's mounted on the very front of the metal canopy, overlooking Belmont Avenue. I bite my lip. There's no way to get to it from here…but I bet if I climbed on top of the dumpster I saw in the back, I could get onto the roof pretty easily. The only problem is the zombies.
I take a deep breath and square my shoulders, reminding myself of how many zombies I've already killed today. I've lost count, actually, and that makes me somehow more uncomfortable. I remember the old man's body I saw after the fight at the Sheriff's Office, and that all of these zombies used to be people like me. Well they're not anymore, I remind myself then, marching toward the back of the gas station. They're never going to laugh or cry or smile again: they're just undead monsters who want to kill you and every other living thing on the island and chew you up with their broken teeth. That thought, and the realization that getting this camera will help the survivors of Kingsmouth stay alive, gives me the courage to come around the corner firing.
The zombies in the back don't last long. They seemingly had no idea I was there until my first shot charred their legs. Three quick blasts later they're all lying on the ground, but I have another problem. I can hear choked screams from the front of the gas station. The other zombies have been alerted. I try to scramble directly onto the dumpster, but it's too high. There's a green recycling bin next to it, though, that's shorter. I try that, clambering on top and then stepping up and over onto the lid of the large dumpster.
Then the zombies come, running around the corner and waving their arms. I'm too far off the ground to use a wave of flame from my shotgun to stop their advance, so I toss my shotgun onto the tin roof behind me and grab my assault rifle, sweeping them with automatic fire. That seems to slow them down. On scrabbles at the dumpster lid, trying to reach me, but I back away, up against the wall, and fire a burst down into his head. The other two are running back and forth in front of the dumpster, seemingly unable to make sense of the obstacle. I fire an anima grenade between them and the blast causes both of them to topple.
I don't wait around for more zombies to show up. I climb up onto the tin roof and grab my shotgun. Even in late September, the metal is a little hot to the touch. I stand up on it and move quickly across the roof to the metal canopy. I can see a couple things out there. One is an ammo can, opened, with some shotgun shells scattered around it. The other is a large black hole in the canopy directly above where the car crashed. From this angle the canopy definitely looks hollow, supported only by a thin steel frame. I step out onto it gingerly, and only because the shotgun shells tell me someone else has been out on it before and it was able to take their weight—though of course, there's no sign of them now.
I collect the shells and put the ammo can in the bottom of my backpack. It's very heavy, but still manageable. There's a shotgun too, a Remington 870 like my Dad's only stockless. I check it, but it's empty. It still might be of use for the survivors, though, so I tuck it in beside the ammunition and ease out further onto the canopy.
At the edge, I look down and see the camera, mounted on a stand set into the corner. I'm going to have to undo the screws and pull it off of there without taking a fifteen-foot fall. I pull my Swiss army knife out of my pocket and lay carefully down on the edge, then scoot out till my head and arms are hanging over the camera. I pull out the little screwdriver from my pocket knife and begin carefully loosening the screws while trying very hard not to think about where I am. This becomes increasingly difficult when I get to the third screw holding the base to the metal canopy, because this one is underneath the stand, just out of my line of sight. I have to feel what I'm doing with my fingertips while keeping hold of my pocket knife in one hand and the camera and its stand in the other. Losing either at this point would be a disaster.
Finally, the last screw comes out and falls to the pavement (I managed to grab the other two, but after losing the third I decide it's not worth the hassle). I pull the camera up onto the canopy with me. It's wire trails after it, keeping me from taking it any further. Since Moose said we already have cables, I decide I don't need it. I detach it from the base of the camera and stick the camera, stand and all, in my backpack on top of the ammo box. Then I hurry off the canopy and back down to level ground. I would sigh in relief if not for the zombie corpses around me.
I head across the street, to where the map says the Mining Museum is. From this side, it looks more like a big house with a parking lot next to it, but once I'm close enough I see a large sign outside that reads Franklin Mining Museum. I also see Kaiyo Yako standing over the smoldering corpses of four zombies. She smiles at me. "Took you long enough! Did you find a camera, or build one from scratch?" she teases.
"It was on the roof, on an unstable and hot awning," I say, brushing the front of my jacket off.
"Well get ready, 'cause there's another roof you'll have to climb," she says, pointing to the second story of the Museum. There a security camera is mounted on the wall just above the slanted eves of the ground floor's roof, watching over the entrance.
I groan. "I hate heights," I confess.
Kaiyo smirks. "Fine, I'll get it. You stay here and check out the ground floor. See if you can find where they're keeping the other cameras."
I nod and head inside. The Museum's doors are wide open and the inside is a mess. A mining cart display has been knocked over, as have the postcard stands in the small giftshop. When I try to go upstairs I find the landing completely blocked by an overturned table and a jumble of other furniture pieces beyond that. Clearly zombies, or something else destructive, were in here, but there's no sign of them now. I check the main floor, but see no other security cameras, or any type of storage. There's a metal door marked with blue, peeling paint that might lead to some sort of storeroom. I try it, but it's locked. I decide not to try forcing it until Kaiyo gets back.
Fortunately it's a short wait. A moment later Kaiyo drops to the ground outside the doors, landing in a perfect crouch. She springs back to her feet and comes running inside, waving a yellow sticky note. "This was on the camera," she announces, handing it to me.
I read it aloud. "Josiah: this is the one that needs changing. Have it done before I'm back from Bangor. New cameras are in the basement. Make sure to fill out a repair form and file it with the museum admins. Signed, James Morris, FMM Janitor." I drop the note. "I guess that means the one on the roof is busted. Let's hope the Museum had two spares down in the basement."
"And the basement is?" Kaiyo says, looking around the open first floor.
"Behind this door, I guess," I say, pointing to the locked blue door. I have no idea where else it would be. "Stand back!" I point my shotgun at the lock and ready a fireball. Kaiyo steps behind me and covers her ears. I fire and the deadbolt shatters, falling inward. Then it's simply a matter of turning the handle and walking down the stairs.
The basement is unfurnished, with bare concrete walls and exposed steam pipes. Bare bulbs provide the only illumination, but at least the lights are on. Then I see something rising from the shadows at the end of this corridor, a man in a tar stained white suit. Then the smell hits me, a rotten smell like sludge from the bottom of a dumpster. It triggers memories. That isn't tar on his shirt. A moment later, I see his face, completely covered in glistening blackness while black tendrils, like horns, wriggle from the sides of his head. Filth! I remember that word, and men like him from the Tokyo nightmare. It's all I can do not to scream.
Kaiyo stops beside me, glancing from me to the man and back again. She gives me a questioning look, but I'm only half aware of it, frozen by fear. I raise and cock my shotgun automatically, like Sarah from the nightmare, preparing to meet the Filth-man's charge.
But he doesn't charge. Instead eyes like smoldering coals lock on me and he begins to whisper. "You should go away now…you should go away! B-because I'm not feeling very stable right now." Then he turns and runs down a side corridor.
"Chirs?" Kaiyo says slowly. "What was that about?"
I glance at her, then check the direction the Filth-infected man ran. No sign of him, but he'll be back. I force myself to look back at Kaiyo for the moment and answer her question. "That man's infected…with the Filth. Don't let him touch you and watch out for any tendrils on the floor or walls or ceiling. Don't let them touch you either."
"Filth?" Kaiyo asks.
I cannot believe that there's something about the Secret World I know that she doesn't, but neither can I deny what I saw in that dream, or that the condition of that man is exactly like that of the zombies—except that he isn't trying to kill us with oil-black claws…yet. "It's…uh, it's something I saw, in a vision, I guess you should say. I think it was at Tokyo."
"You were at Tokyo?" Suddenly Kaiyo looks at me almost in awe.
I shake my head quickly. "No, but I saw it in a dream. The point is, we have to be very careful, and we mustn't let this guy touch us."
"If you say so," Kaiyo says. We advance cautiously down the corridor, till we get to the hall the man ran down. I see him there, a little ways down the hall. His hands glow with an unearthly bluish light and he waves his arms bonelessly in the air, mimicking the tentacles undulating from his skull. I point my shotgun at him and start to advance, but Kaiyo puts her arm out, blocking my path. She's surprisingly strong. "It's a trap," she says. "Can't you see them?"
"See what?" I ask.
"Oh, sorry, I keep forgetting humans don't see infrared. There are lasers up ahead, about ankle height. They could be rigged up to an alarm, but I think it's something a little more nasty," she says, then starts advancing slowly. "Follow my lead and move as I move."
"Shouldn't we take care of him first?" I ask pointing my shotgun at the Filth-infected man.
Kaiyo sighs and shakes her head. "That's typical Templar thinking. If it's not human or on your side, blast it. He's just minding his own business. Let him be, unless you think he'll help us." She looks up and shouts at the man. "Hey, Janitor-san! Do you know where they keep the extra cameras down here?"
The man makes no response but to whisper, "Go away…go away…" in a haunting, sing-song voice.
"Yeah, didn't think so. Come on." Kaiyo takes the lead, proceeding carefully down the hallway. She pauses several times to step over some unseen obstacle. I'm very careful to follow her movements exactly when she does, making sure I step over the exact same places. It makes for slow going, but eventually she turns to me and says, "We're clear. There's another bunch of lasers up ahead though. We'll have to find a control panel of some sort to shut them off. I don't particularly want to find out what they trigger."
I look toward the infected man, standing several yards down the hall behind the unseen trap, but he's still in his own mad, Filth-infected world. I would try to take him out now, before he becomes a threat, but I don't want to risk my shots setting off whatever trap he's prepared for us. I turn instead to a side room. I can hear the quiet whirring of electric motors inside. That's at least an indication that there's some sort of power, maybe a control panel.
We move inside the storeroom. There are wooden crates everywhere, most stacked up on metal-framed shelves five or more feet high. Looking to the right I see a panel of some sort, mounted just above a five foot shelf. It looks like a keypad. "That could be it," Kaiyo says, advancing toward it. "Now, if I use a precise enough electrical spell…"
I walk beside her but something stops me. There's a buzzing in my brain, like angry hornets, only I don't think they're angry, more afraid! I look up and see a security camera pointing right at us. The buzzing intensifies and I feel like I'm looking down the barrel of a loaded gun instead. "Look out!" I shout, grabbing Kaiyo and throwing her and myself backwards, out of the camera's line of sight. A moment later there's an explosion as a fireball bursts from the camera lens. Wooden shrapnel litters the floor. Some pieces hit me, but my jacket is well padded and they don't hurt me.
"Wow, subtle trap!" Kaiyo says, wriggling out from under me and brushing herself off. "I almost didn't detect it."
"You knew it was there?" I ask, disbelieving.
"Well, sorta, like in-the-back-of-my-mind sort of know, you know?" She helps me to my feet. "I was a little too caught up in picking the right elementalism spell to realize I was about to be the target of one. Thanks!"
"You're welcome." I say. I see another security camera on the other side of the room, swiveling slowly on a motorized mount. "I'm guessing that one's rigged to kill us, too."
"Yeah, my thought is avoid all cameras at this point," says Kaiyo. "Hopefully we find a box full of un-enchanted ones at the end of this that we can use."
We pick our way around the periphery of the room, using the crates and shelves as cover to stay out of the cameras' line of sight. When we do cross open ground, we're careful to be sure the cameras are swiveled away from us. Eventually, Kaiyo reaches a stack of crates she's able to climb up onto to get to the control panel—without having a killer security camera pointed at her. She reaches an open hand toward it and miniature lightning bolts arc from her fingertips, dancing delicately across the keypad. Thin tendrils of smoke rise from the panel and the cameras stop swiveling. The whirring of their motors dies and the buzzing at the back of my brain goes silent. "I think you've disarmed them," I say.
"Hmm, subtle and hard to say," Kaiyo mutters. She pulls that giant leather-bound book from her backpack and mutters something in a language I can't understand. A moment later, she shuts the book and shoves it back in her backpack. "Yup! That did it! You could sense the anima from the trap and the disarming, though. That's kinda impressive."
"I…thanks," I say. That's probably the first time someone has really complemented me on my powers. I raise my shotgun and change the subject. "Let's deal with the Filth-infected man and see if he left us any cameras we can use."
Kaiyo nods and jumps down from the shelf, humming to herself. I can tell she's not as carefree as she seems, though: her right hand closes around her razor-blade pendant the moment she hits the ground. She skips through the doorway while I make my way around the crowded shelves of the storeroom. I'm just rounding the final corner when it happens: the Filth-infected man comes out of nowhere and lunges at Kaiyo.
I shout a warning, but I know I'm too late. The man's hands end in Filth-black talons. He claws at Kaiyo. She gasps, but has only time to pull her hand down off the razor blade and open it. Fortunately, that's enough. Tendrils of blood like veins branch out from her open palm and form a scarlet barrier between her and the Filth-man. His claws rake off the shield in a spray of red. I wonder how long Kaiyo can keep the shield up, or if that alone will kill her!
I'm not about to wait to find out. I drop my shotgun—there's too much risk of hitting Kaiyo. The rifle, similarly, will be a liability in these closed spaces. I pull open my jacket and draw the pair of pistols. I open up with alternating shots from the pocket .45s. Anima slugs slam into the Filth-creature, and I make sure each one saps his strength. He swings again at Kaiyo, but misses. Then he turns to me and gives a blood-curdling shriek. He charges, talons extended, eyes literally flaming. I remember the charging zombie outside the Sheriff's Office, the very first I took down with my pistols. Without thinking, I cross my arms again and work the triggers as fast as I can. Impacts shred the Filth-man's head, then his whole body begins to dissolve into a puddle of smoldering ooze on the floor. I stand over it for a second, pistols ready, before realizing that it's over.
"Nice save," Kaiyo says, and I look quickly at her, afraid I'll find her in a pool of blood on the floor. But to my surprise she's standing in the hall, grinning, with no blood at all on or around her. If not for the cut on her right hand, I would have thought I imagined everything. "Blood shield," she explains. "Angelic Aegis, technically. It's not a fun spell when you have to cast it really suddenly like that, but it's saved my life more than once. I'll be fine in a minute."
"You wouldn't have had to cast it at all if I'd shot that guy the second I saw him," I say ruefully. I holster my pistols and pick up my shotgun before stepping around the pool of goo—and black-stained clothes—that are all that remain of the infected man.
"I'm generally against killing people unless it's for fun or a really good reason, but in future encounters I'm gonna have to agree with you: Filth things are kill-on-sight," Kaiyo says, helping me past the puddle. "On the other hand, though, you can't blame yourself, Chris. You only saw this Filth stuff in a dream. You didn't know…which reminds me. As soon as we're here there's someone I'd like you to meet."
"Who? A survivor?" I ask.
"Yup!" she says. "I found her holed up in the basement of this house while I was waiting for you. She does stuff with dreams and visions and stuff. You should see her. Her room as a treasure trove of magical things—cheep magical things, a lot of them knockoffs, but still magical."
"Let's concentrate on getting the cameras for now." I see a large metal box at the end of the hall. It's partially open. I carefully use the barrel of my shotgun to open it the rest of the way, in case it's a trap. Instead I'm greeted by the sight of two pristine security cameras lying in foam padding at the bottom of the crate. They're even still in their protective plastic bags with brief instructional fliers in the bags with them.
Kaiyo grins. "Score one for Team KCD!" she says, scooping them out and putting them in her backpack.
"Team KCD?" I repeat.
"Yeah, that's us!" she explains. "Kaiyo, Chris, and Dan…or maybe YWM for Yako, Warden, and MacFadden, but that just sounds too formal."
I smirk. "I didn't know we had a name."
"Every great cooperative effort deserves a name," Kaiyo says brightly. "And we are working together on this, after all!"
"I guess we are," I say. She puts on her backpack and starts skipping back down the hall, toward the basement door. I'm about to follow when I a motion in the shadows catches my eye. There's a box there, with a large egg inside. Small, black wriggling tentacles reach from the broken top of the egg, as if feeling for a new victim to ensnare. Filth. I glare at it. I guess this is how the survivor in the basement got infected. You're not spreading any further, and you're not infecting anyone else! I point my shotgun at the Filth-egg and hit it with a fireball at point-blank. The box goes to burning pieces and the egg is gone, replaced by a small smoldering puddle of ooze. I check to make sure that was the only one and then, and only then, do I turn to follow Kaiyo. She's standing at the intersection with the main corridor, looking back at me. "Just finishing up," I say.
"Typical Templar," she says, and smiles at me. Together, we leave the basement behind.
Author's Note: Just a quick, public reply to some of your awesome reviews. Thank you all! I appreciate the support and your ideas!
ArachCobra: Yes, I skipped the end of the "Supply Run" mission in chapter 8, and we will be seeing the end of that in a later chapter. It ends in a run to the firehouse, and since "Death and the Instruments Thereof" also takes characters there, I figured I'd do them together. Naturally you cannot do it this way in the game, but in writing I don't like to repeat scenes if I can help it. You'll notice I also left off the end of "Horror Show" in this chapter. That was in part because the chapter was already pretty long and I'd reached a good stopping point, and also because watching someone who's afraid of heights struggle to unscrew a security camera from the top of a semi-stable 15' canopy is exciting, but watching that same person screw it into a lightpost while standing securely on the ground is not. Neither is watching them "press 1 to activate surveillance camera." It'll be alluded to, but I always found getting the cameras was the fun part anyway.
Goretooth: No need to apologize. I'm also one of the ones running around killing zombies for sport. I even do it as Chris, for all the roleplay-breaking that entails. They are delightful to destroy. Among my other vices is following players during the last phase of "Elm Street Blues" and pretending I'm their support (well, I do heal them). I've even done this once while perched on the canopy of the gas station, which Chris would really not be comfortable with (a pity that, it's an excellent vantage for using an assault rifle). It does seem like there should be a way to work around the Agartha-anima problem, but then again maybe there isn't—at least not one that might not do as much harm as good. Kaiyo can travel Agartha by birthright as a mythical-creature hybrid, but Dan's ability came from grabbing a dangerous magical hammer he now has to keep with him at all times and Chris' gift destroyed her apartment and her life. Still seems like there should be some kind of third option... The ammo suggestion is good, and I may be able to sneak it in there. I've already established no-shells as a sort of trademark of Chris' magic, though, so I'm going to leave her that. The Bees/the Buzzing is/are overdue for an appearance. I have a plan for working them in as regulars, but it'll take a few chapters. That being said, one thing I like about TSW is that generally you have to solve the missions with little or no extra help from the game. Even the waypoints it gives you are probably things you could figure out yourself by looking at a map. I like that realism and I hope you enjoy watching Chris solve these puzzles too. Also, Kaiyo's backpack may or may not be a PDI, but that would be TMI, wouldn't it? ;)
Jouaint: Thanks! Thank you for reading!
And now to this chapter. There's a continuity nod at the beginning to Chris' new clothes she got from the Templars in Lit Major Shoots Lightning and to events of the final chapter there. Also, I did establish that jacket was Chris' favorite, so I had to let her have some reaction. My own reaction was more along the lines of, Yes! No more stupid prison-jacket! The Frontline Jacket is very bulky, but at least it's camo so you can look badass in it. I personally went with the striped one at character creation because I found the other options even less inspiring.
Several parts of the in-game map appear charred or torn away. Chris now has an excuse for that. Also there is no bathroom in the game (in my head it's located where the tiny storage room door is in game, but this only briefly becomes interactable at the end of "Supply Run" and cannot be opened in-game) and hence it is not bugged.
Kaiyo is so much fun to write. The crazy ones are always the best. Her TMI speech about zombie blood is partly researched and partly made up. Etruria was a region of central Italy in ancient times and, according to Wikipedia, necromancy was reportedly widespread among its ancient peoples. Aderastrium is not a real word or name, I just made it up. Erythropoietin can be found on a list of chemical components of human blood on Wikipedia (you can find anything on Wikipedia) and is apparently more prevalent in the case of hypoxia...and since drowning is just forced, lethal hypoxia, I figured it was semi-plausible that it would increase the amount of the chemical in the blood. Also I do not know what zombie blood tastes like and I would highly recommend against anyone trying to find out as many zombie infections are spread by infected fluids.
Of the survival stories Kaiyo relates, only one is from the game: that of Moose and Andy. In game there is never any explanation given, to my knowledge, of Andy's apparent immunity to the Fog. Other survivors may also have been immune, but some clearly were not (Madam Rogêt and Moose were both restrained during the Fog). Deputy Jackson is hard to identify. On the one hand, the title appears over the head of one of the guard NPCs at the gates, who is a black police officer. On the other, it can also be attributed in chat to the announcer who calls out zombie attacks in "Elm Street Blues," even though the voice is definitely female. I went with Jackson as the name of the guard, since I always assumed the announcer was Helen Bannerman herself.
The Idol of Nergal is something real in-game that players may not be aware of. It's a lion-shaped black idol in an isolated cave down near where the Solomon Death Cultists hang out. It's not easy to find, but if you find the idol you can pick up a side mission to deliver it to the warded Church for safekeeping. During the course of the mission, the idol will spawn one Reanimated Warrior to attack the player every few minutes. In my own experience running this mission, these extra zombies were not a big deal. I even messed around some on the quest, detouring to the Sheriff's Office just to see if the NPC's guarding the gate would kill the new spawn for me (they certainly will, sadly once inside the compound no more Reanimated Warriors will spawn on the player until they leave—sigh, and I wanted to freak out newbies!). Reanimated Warriors are also no match for the zombie-killing doorway of the church (which is ever so much fun to play with). Overall, it's nowhere near as bad an escort mission as "That'll Leave a Mark!"
But I digress! Nergal is the actual ancient Akkadian (or Mesopotamian) god of the netherworld, among other things, and his name is mentioned in the Bible in 2 Kings 17:30 as one of the idols the people of Cuth made. His traditional depiction was as a lion. In certain demonology, he's apparently said to be a demon of high rank. Aspects of his personality are made up simply to suit the flavor of the side quest (as I found it), as are his abilities. While Nergal seems the likely culprit of the zombie apocalypse on Solomon Island, he is at worst an opportunist, at best a victim. The Templar flavor text for completing the side quest with the idol reads, in part "The Akkadian god of the underworld summons the dead whenever he feels threatened. When the Illuminati first recovered the idol, they put it on display at one of their infamous council parties. Imagine how that turned out."
Remind me not to go to any Illuminati parties!
CCTV stands for "Closed Circuit TV." I left out a lot of Sheriff Bannerman's dialogue for "Horror Show" and mixed in a bit of her dialogue on the topic of The Secret World. My biggest reason for doing this was that not only would it have made for an unnecessarily long conversation but also Bannerman's speech seems to imply that the Sheriff's Office has all sorts of security devices, including web cams and motion sensors, which doesn't make much sense to me if the next thing players have to do is go out and hunt down run-of-the-mill security cameras from local business owners. Playing with the idea of private enterprise being better funded than local law enforcement seemed like a viable alternative to me.
As for the mission itself, "Horror Show" does not require a party and probably doesn't really benefit from one either, but I wanted to show the three agents starting to work together in this crisis. The typical approach to the mission involves climbing up on the gas station and the Museum from the rear to access their cameras, but someone suggested (and I have verified in game) that it's possible to access both cameras simply by jumping near them and pressing the interact button at the top of the jump. This is not very realistic, though!
The state of the gas station is true to the game. It's actually pretty cool to look at, if you get the chance. They did a lot of detailed work there. According to a state of Arizona pamphlet I found online, gas station canopies are to be between 13' and 17' high, which would place this one in the middle. The bit about the ammo and shotgun on the roof is true in-game, though players cannot retrieve the ammunition or interact with it at all (also, the ammo can appears to be filled with large rifle bullets while the roof around it is littered with shotgun shells). No clue where the shotgun's wielder went, though there is a body, for no apparent reason, draped over the inaccessible top of the 2-story tall sign for the gas station. How someone managed to die up there is anybody's guess. The two groups of zombies around the gas station are there in game, but killing one will not aggro the other. Also, interestingly, you can engage both groups from the rooftop using an assault rifle. Even more interestingly they will engage you back using a red-beam ranged attack. Zombies will not use this in any other circumstance that I'm aware of, except when players engage them from rooftops or other jump-accessible objects.
I can't remember if I ever said Chris was afraid of heights, but she is now. I am, too, for the record, and just thinking about what she'd have done up there made me very uncomfortable.
The mining museum interior is true to the game, complete with the table blocking the stairs. It's the game designer's way of saying, "We didn't make an upstairs: stay on the ground floor!" It's clever, though. Not so clever: shooting the lock. While the Mythbusters proved that with a shotgun or high-powered rifle (not a handgun) it's a very quick way to open a door, it's also a very quick way to get metal fragments embedded in your body. It's a staple of action, though, so I included it. Plus, Chris at least has the excuse of magic bullets!
Several guides refer to the man in the basement as James Morris, but the game does not name him as such and he may in fact be Josiah or someone else entirely. Chris first met the Filth infected during the Tokyo flashback in Lit Major Shoots Lightning. It was not a pleasant experience. In-game seeing a Filth-infected guy was an oh-no moment for me too on my first play through of this mission, as I thought the next thing I knew my character would be getting jumped by all sorts of monsters from the Tokyo Flashback. Fortunately that's not the case and the Insane Survivalist just forces you to maneuver through a maze of traps to reach him and fight him. First there's lasers, which are quite visible like no real life lasers you could use for security purposes (as Mythbusters also proved; arguably not even Kaiyo should have been able to see these, but it at least sounded better than making them cheesy red beams). Crossing them results in an explosion that takes a chunk off your health. Then there are the security cameras, which inexplicably double as floodlights (so players can see their field of view) stepping into which causes an audible beeping followed by instant death in firey explosion. There are two sets of lasers and two camera-guarded storerooms to navigate, but I compressed it down to one for brevity.
-san is a Japanese honorific. In this case "Janitor-san" would mean "Mr. Janitor"...in a weird Japanese-English mashup that probably only Kaiyo uses... Kaiyo also uses Angelic Aegis, which is the most powerful blood barrier available on the inner tier. It also has a pretty creepy animation that includes veins and such. In fact there's not much about blood magic that isn't creepy...but it is cool in game!