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ALASTAIR ([personal profile] futurologists) wrote in [community profile] epidemiology2016-10-22 07:37 pm

EVENT ★ GHOST TOWN

BONEYARD JUNCTION


Thanks to efforts from your teammates, the path to Boneyard Junction, the abandoned town at the end of the rail line, has been cleared. The train will not go this far, so recruits will have to walk the rail from the next stop over at the Fracking Fields. Most of the danger has been removed, but there still may be a few straggling giant lizards or bandits along the way, looking for a quick meal or an easy robbery.

The ghost town itself is smaller in scope than Perdition's Rest, with several familiar-looking buildings -- the mayor's office, the sheriff's office, a general store -- but the main difference is that the town is halfway sunken into the desert. The ground here is shifting and unstable, with sinkholes and quicksand a constant threat. Venturing inside the crumbling buildings, left to rot in the desert for the past thirty years, is equally dangerous; there's a good chance that upper stories will simply collapse underfoot or overhead, and many venomous, aggressive reptiles and arachnids have moved in since the Qorral moved out.

The Qorral have not been back here since abandoning it, so there is a lot to scavenge, from tech to money or tools to toys, both businesses and residential buildings are ripe for the plundering. The bandits have been through here in the past three decades many times, stripping the town of many of its valuables, but determined recruits ought to be able to find secret caches or overlooked boxes.

Those who venture into the lowermost parts of buildings, however, will find objects of the greatest value, though not necessarily monetarily -- familiar-looking tech, corroded with sand and rusted with age, is littered about basements filled with sand and debris, as if the further the buildings sank into the desert, something beneath the town rose up to meet it. Upon further inspection, the tech will react when placed next to jewelcomms, lights blinking and static-filled screens turning on: this tech once belonged to ALASTAIR, its age clearly dating it much further back than the Qorral's arrival on this planet.

But before Audentes can investigate further, there's an interruption . . .

AMBUSH


There's a sudden cacophony of shouting and gunfire from all sides of Boneyard Junction as heavily armed figures storm in, on the attack. They aren't from Perdition's Rest. They could be bandits, but bandits usually ask for money first -- plus, these people seem much too well-equipped to be bandits. Their clothing isn't haphazard, their weapons are well cared for.

If recruits survive the initial onslaught (better be good at dodging bullets!) and pay attention to the shouting that can be heard above the gunfire, the identity of the attackers may slowly become clear: they speak of salvation and digging deeply. These are the Deemers.

Previously unseen and ostensibly peaceful, the Deemers are now showing themselves to be anything but. They fight recruits with a savage intensity, injuries seemingly not slowing them down. Their only weakness appears to be injury to the head, after which they will immediately disengage and attempt to flee. Though they shout about salvation as they attack with a religious fervor, they also occasionally say something about recruits getting too close to something -- perhaps something in Boneyard Junction itself.

Jonathan Black, leader of the Deemers, makes an appearance, spouting fire and brimstone in an unnaturally loud voice that can be heard above the gunfire and screaming. Any attempts to confront him will be met with vicious attacks from his bodyguards, a pair of shrouded Deemer women who fight with curved swords. Eventually, though, one recruit manages to break through.

Once Black is dead, the Deemers will fight with more desperation than before, now trying to flee rather than attempting to kill recruits. Any Deemers that are captured will not share information, even under torture; they will only babble about deliverance and redemption found through drilling deeper into the planet. After they are driven off into the desert (or disposed of in other ways), the rest of Boneyard Junction is free to be explored without interruption. Perhaps collecting more ancient ALASTAIR technology will bring answers.

OOC NOTES

IMPORTANT: After the Deemers have been driven away, upon return to Perdition's Rest, Miz Poppy and a vast majority of the saloon workers have mysteriously vanished. The remaining workers have no idea where they've gone. All entertainment at the saloon has been postponed.

Please direct all questions pertaining to the mission to the dossier page to keep questions and responses in one place for easy player reference. General game questions should be directed to the FAQ.

If you haven't already, make sure you check out the Bounty Board for side missions! Remember you can also request bounty missions or submit player plots at any time.
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[personal profile] friendlykillingmachine 2016-10-24 04:45 am (UTC)(link)
[Conveniently-timed hand at your service! Rocky rounds the corner of the house in time to spot Riza crouched before the heap blocking the doorway. Not one to pass up an opportunity to be of assistance, he approaches, the screen of his TV head lit with a smile.]

Hi there! [His voice sounds very close to human, albeit absurdly cheerful.] This place sure is a dump, huh! I can help you clear some of that stuff away if you want.

[He offers, climbing the steps onto the cracked and crumbling porch, half of which is slanted and buried in a drift of sand. Once at the top, he appraises the heap and starts moving aside some of the loose debris.]
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[personal profile] strictdiscipline 2016-10-26 12:37 am (UTC)(link)
[She registers the voice before she turns to look, one corner of her mouth lifting up in appreciation as she speaks.]

That would be wonderful, thank—[a brief pause as she finally twists her head to look]—you.

[Thankfully, she's seen enough Weird Stuff™ during her travels with ALASTAIR that she handles the sight of Rocky's unique appearance with a reasonable amount of grace. Still, she's never even seen a television before this, let alone a television attached to an otherwise mostly normal seeming body.

But she's not about to turn down an offer of assistance, even from a guy with a TV for a head, so she's quick to lift up back onto her feet and step aside, grabbing a few small pieces of debris so he's not on his own.]


I haven't seen a place this abandoned in a long time.
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[personal profile] friendlykillingmachine 2016-10-26 04:29 am (UTC)(link)
Me, neither!

[Wood cracks and dust billows as he starts pulling away fallen beams and tossing them over the side of the porch as if they're as light as dried bones. Rocky continues to chat her up while he works, his voice free of strain.]

My name is Rocky, by the way. [He says, swiveling his boxy head to give her a friendly smile as he picks up the next piece of debris.] ...You know, after seeing their town collapse and knowing what's to come of this planet, you'd think the Qorral would be looking for a new place to call home.
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[personal profile] strictdiscipline 2016-10-27 02:20 am (UTC)(link)
[And in return:]

Riza.

[Hard to tell if he doesn't have a surname or simply chose not to give one but regardless, she's content to match his level of formality for the moment. A year with ALASTAIR's loosened her otherwise stiff exterior, but Rocky's good cheer sets her more at ease.]

One would think so, but if they're anything like humans, they have strong attachments to the things and places they've known all their lives.

[She can't fault them for it, if so. It's not easy, losing everything one's loved and grown up with. But he brings up a good point - maybe it would be for the best if the Quorral left.

With the two of them, the debris is cleared away sooner rather than later, leaving the slowly rotting doorway open for business. Riza gestures towards the darkness doorway.]


After you.
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[personal profile] friendlykillingmachine 2016-10-27 06:58 pm (UTC)(link)
They do seem an awful lot like humans, that's for sure!

[Destructive, unwilling to change even when fully aware that their own actions are leading to certain demise? Pretty much exactly like humans! When the debris is cleared, Rocky is naturally inclined to head in first. Inside, the integrity of the structure looks about as dubious as it does from the outside — the floors are uneven, deep fissures run along the walls, a large section of ceiling has come down over what was once the dinner table.

Uneven floorboards groan beneath his boots as Rocky ventures farther inside, motes of dust visible in the glow of his screen as he casts about. A layer of grit coats every visible surface and he treads carefully to avoid stirring it up. ]


We've got some floorboards missing here, watch out. [He warns, stepping over a hole. Something small and dark scurries across the floor into a crack in the wall.] Any idea what we might be looking for? Because if it's alien scorpions, I think I just saw one.
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[personal profile] strictdiscipline 2016-10-30 02:42 am (UTC)(link)
[She takes his warning to heart, careful to ease herself across the floorboards rather than placing all her weight on one foot. It does make passing through slow-going, but Riza's careful to trail behind Rocky as they pass through the main foyer. The floorboards creak as they walk, and even with her extra caution she almost tumbles down as wood gives way beneath her feet to rot and empty air. She's quick to pull her foot back, though her heart takes a few more moments to settle.]

No, though I have a friend who might be interested.

[But Evan will have to wait for later. For now, her focus is on the mission objective.]

I believe we're looking for records of some sort, though I'm not sure if they're meant to be in a paper format or otherwise.

[She'd say digital but...that word hasn't made its way into her vocabulary yet.]
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[personal profile] friendlykillingmachine 2016-10-30 04:27 am (UTC)(link)
[Rocky swivels to look at her the instant he hears the floorboard break. Fortunately, she seems capable enough to have not fallen through. Seeing that she's okay, he turns and continues forward once again, sweeping his view finder across the room for anything that might contain a document. He passes the cabinets and finds them already opened, some with their doors hanging loosely on bent hinges, plates and broken glass filling the sink and strewn all over the floor below. But there's nothing inside except dust and cobwebs.

Just beyond the kitchen is a staircase — or what remains of one. The stairs themselves have collapsed and the tops of the railings have come away from the floor above. Rocky eases carefully that way over groaning floorboards.]


Looks like the second floor is off limits. [Which is fine by him. He strongly doubts it's safe for anyone to be up there. But as he approaches the stairway, he finds a gaping black abyss beneath the collapsed stairs that seems to reach down into hell itself (at least a good 5 or 6 feet anyway.)] But the basement's still open for business.
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[personal profile] strictdiscipline 2016-10-30 05:46 pm (UTC)(link)
[Basement it is then! Never her favorite place in any house - too dark and musty for her preferences, honestly - but if it's where they need to go, then go forth she will.

Except as she takes another step forward, the floorboards complete give way underneath her and fracture into splinters as she tumbles down with a surprised shout. She misses the worst of the splinters, along with any notable furniture on the bottom floor, but she still lands with a loud thud and a groan. (It's been a long time since she's taken such a topple; her creaky old woman joints aren't nearly as hardy as they used to be.)

But don't worry, she's perfectly fine. A fact she emphasizes with a loud:]


I'm fine!

[And on the bright side, as she waves away the dust rising up from her inelegant landing, she notices the room she's in is mostly still in one piece. Covered in cobwebs and dust, admittedly, but the books on the bookshelf line up neatly and every single chair still stands upright.]

It looks like they haven't touched this room.

[Come on down, Rocky. But maybe take the stairs.]
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[personal profile] friendlykillingmachine 2016-10-30 07:06 pm (UTC)(link)
[He turns in time to watch the top of her blonde head disappear through the hole in the floor.]

Riza!!

[The impulse to dive after her is strong but he knows if he does it, he'll bring the whole floor down on top of her. Instead, he remains frozen in place for a beat until he hears her voice rise up with the dust through the cracked floor. Rocky then makes an instantaneous decision to jump through the dark abyss under the stairwell and appears with a crash and explosive dust cloud across the basement from her.

The good thing is the basement floor is covered almost entirely in at least half a foot of sand that blew in long ago through busted windows. A huge sand drift reaching all the way up to the rafters takes up one side of the basement and along the edge of it is where she seems to have landed. Pushing debris off himself, Rocky is up in an instant and hastily making his way over to Riza, his posture stooped low to keep from hitting the rafters above. He skirts the drift, his steps sliding a bit, then drops into the sand beside her where he picks some rotted, splintered wood out of her hair.]


Wow! Well, that sure was the fast way for getting down here! I'm just glad you're okay.

[Relieved, he smiles and offers a hand to help her up. Though the room around them is filled with sand and cobwebs, it doesn't appear to be ransacked like the floor above.]
strictdiscipline: (086)

ugh, sorry for the delay!

[personal profile] strictdiscipline 2016-11-06 04:07 pm (UTC)(link)
[Rocky's timing is impeccable - as soon as Riza manages to expel the dust from her initial landing from her lungs, another storm whips up, this time caused by her larger companion taking the easy way down. Thirty seconds and a second bout of coughs later, she's finally able to grab onto his hand and pull herself up.]

Thanks.

[She's covered in a visible film of sand now, particles clinging to every fold in her clothes, but the discomfort fades quick as she peers around the room. The bookshelf naturally grabs her attention first, but there's plenty scattered around to dig through - a desk, several boxes, a large pile of trinkets in one corner.]

If we're looking for records, it might be best to look through those books first.

[Her image of 'records' is pretty narrow though, limited to the barely present technology of 1900s Amestris. If there's anything else that might remotely slot into that category, she certainly won't recognize it.]
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[personal profile] friendlykillingmachine 2016-11-07 07:59 pm (UTC)(link)
[Rocky's visualization of 'records' is much the opposite. He's more used to the concept of digital data packets streaming between mega-servers at light speed, or stored by the billions on microchips smaller than the head of a pin. Even his concept of 'books' is radically different from the physical objects that sit on a shelf and it takes him an extra second to process her words.]

...Books. Oh, right! [His screen displays a sheepish grin.] I'm used to them looking a little... less physical.

[As they approach the bookshelf, an angry arachnid emerges from its sandy burrow just below and comes charging toward them with fangs glistening and claws raised. Rocky, his arm now a gun from the elbow down, hits it with a blast of bright red plasma, setting off the creature like a confetti popper. Evidently, watching your step applies just as much down here as it did upstairs.]
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[personal profile] strictdiscipline 2016-11-10 03:13 am (UTC)(link)
[The hiss has her spinning on her heel, one gun - smaller, far less impressive than Rocky's own - pulled from its holster and aimed right at the dark mass. But Rocky's faster, and the spider's reduced to a few wet splatters on the wall, steam rising and then quickly fading in the cool winter temperatures.

Riza gapes and looks up at Rocky, interest in the bookshelf dashed momentarily in the wake of this new (and quite frankly, more interesting) revelation.]


How did you do that?

[Almost like Fiona's derringer, but far more explosive.]
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[personal profile] friendlykillingmachine 2016-11-10 04:33 am (UTC)(link)
My arms come equipped with handy-dandy high energy plasma cannons! All part of serving and protecting my human allies.

[Comes the upbeat, dutiful and somewhat well-rehearsed response one might expect from a machine. As he speaks, the weaponized arm transmutates in a blur of rapidly shifting technology until it once again resembles a humanoid hand and forearm. As it would seem, he's equal parts quirky robo-companion and glorified weapon. Smiling, he bows and extends an arm toward the bookcase as if to say 'shall we?' Of course, the gun in her own hand and the way she holds it doesn't escape his notice.]

I bet you would've hit it if I hadn't already. You look like you know what you're doing. [Built-in night vision technology might have given him a slight edge in this case, but he knows a gun-handler when he sees one.]
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[personal profile] strictdiscipline 2016-11-11 01:57 am (UTC)(link)
[(Does he ever talk in a tone that isn't cheery?)]

Military.

[That answer's automatic, born from years of training, and though she's not officially part of the military anymore she can't deny the impact it's had on her, both good and bad. She follows him towards the bookcases and selects a slim volume off the shelf, though a good portion of her attention's still lingers on Rocky rather than the objects still scattered around the room.

He doesn't seem as robotic as Melan, but her knowledge of robots is, admittedly, atrociously slim.]


Are they—modifications of some kind?
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[personal profile] friendlykillingmachine 2016-11-11 04:45 pm (UTC)(link)
Well, that would explain it.

[Rocky pulls a book from the opposite end of the shelf and begins leafing through it. The text inside is unrecognizable and he's unable to tell if he's holding it upside-down or not but in the end, it really doesn't matter. He's happy enough to answer whatever questions she has for him while he scans through the pages.]

They could very well be! Different parts of my body have been modified in the past. I have no memory of it since it happened before I was "Rocky", but it's normal for robots to get damaged and their parts replaced. I've been told this is my third head!

[He gives the book a shake to see if anything falls out, then puts it back on the shelf and takes another.]
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[personal profile] strictdiscipline 2016-11-12 01:26 pm (UTC)(link)
No memory....?

[She'd cracked open her book to a page of illegible scribbles and a picture of a complex series of tubes, but her gaze drifts back up to Rocky once again. Robots and their life (?) cycles remain wholly a mystery to her, but somehow she'd never imagined their knowledge and memories would be so easily reset.]

And that doesn't bother you? Not remembering the things that happened to you before?

[As soon as she asks, she realizes it's probably a stupid question to ask. It doesn't seem as though he has much control over damages and repairs, after all.]
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[personal profile] friendlykillingmachine 2016-11-13 04:33 am (UTC)(link)
Sometimes it's better not to remember.

[He answers, his focus on the slow flutter of pages before him as he continues his methodical search. When the last page flips by, he stares unmoving at the back of a blank page for a moment, considering.]

Of course, there are some memories I'd really hate to lose. But if they somehow got erased, I guess it wouldn't matter because I wouldn't remember what I forgot, ha ha!

[Closing the book, he looks up at her with that same poker-faced smile.] Do you believe that memories are what make a person who they are?
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[personal profile] strictdiscipline 2016-11-13 05:02 pm (UTC)(link)
[A few more page flips through the book reveal nothing of worth, and it goes back on the shelf before being replaced by another. This one stays closed awhile longer, her attention largely on Rocky.

She'd thought him simply friendly at first, a person (robot?) naturally predisposed towards being kind. But the even timber of his voice grows stranger the longer they talk and the longer it stays cheerful and upbeat. Clearly she's spent too much time around humans and their constantly shifting moods and tones. To answer his question though:]


I think so. Both memories and experiences, though it's hard to have one without the other.

[The thought of losing all her carefully earned memories fills her with a sudden wave of sadness. How can he seem so nonchalant about losing his.]

There's no way for you to be able to—save your memories somehow? In a journal, or somewhere else?
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[personal profile] friendlykillingmachine 2016-11-15 02:51 am (UTC)(link)
I used to think the code in my programming was what made me who I am. But I've started to think otherwise.

[Rocky slides the book back onto the shelf and grabs another, repeating the search process. Based on the diagrams inside, whoever lived here must have known a thing or two about building machinery.]

Back home, my memories were copied and saved automatically onto a digital network every few minutes as long as I had a connection. It's not like that here but I'm not worried. As long as my central processor isn't damaged, my thoughts, memories and personality should remain intact.

[He glances to Riza at his side while he speaks and pats his chest, indicating where said 'central processor' is located behind smooth titanium plates.]

But that's not a bad idea you had! Maybe there's a way to backup all our memories onto ALASTAIRS' network. You know, just in case.
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[personal profile] strictdiscipline 2016-11-16 03:02 am (UTC)(link)
[Another few page flips, another book back on the shelf. Whatever it is they're looking for, she's beginning to doubt that they'll find it on this particular bookshelf - and perhaps not even in this house.

Her eyes flick back over to Rocky. Most of his explanation makes only the fuzziest of sense to her - digital network? central processor? - but she supposes it doesn't really matter if Rocky's got it all under control. She finds herself more curious about his first comment anyway.]


What do you think makes you who you are then, if it isn't your programming?
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[personal profile] friendlykillingmachine 2016-11-17 12:43 am (UTC)(link)
My experiences. [He replies, putting the book back on the shelf.] Which depend greatly on the people around me. So you could say the people around me and my interactions with them are what make me who I am. That's what I think, anyway!

[Riza isn't the only who is beginning to doubt they'll find any clues in the bookshelf. Rocky has already taken to peeking behind the bookcase and into cracks in the walls. He turns then to look toward the rest of the room: a workbench, some chairs, a shelf lined with jars of something (argecite?), an old chest, the sand heap (could anything be buried underneath?)

His viewfinder lands on the chest, highlighting it and bringing it into focus in his own mind's eye view. He ventures over to open it and finds an usual contraption inside. To anyone else, it would like look an ordinary gramophone with a brass horn and disc player, but Rocky has never seen tech this old before. However, he is aware that some data used to be stored on discs long ago which is why he gets a little excited when he finds a large black disc hidden in some kind of paper sleeve with pictures on it.]


Hey, Riza! Have you ever seen a thing like this before? Do you think there could be records stored on it?
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[personal profile] strictdiscipline 2016-11-19 05:49 pm (UTC)(link)
[Being alive - and indeed, being human - has never been a particularly moral dilemma for her. She's got emotions, a heartbeat, memories and experiences tainted only by the natural inclination of the human mind to forget and redraw. But clearly it's a different story for Rocky, with circuits instead of veins and some sort of drive to which all his memories are stored. She wonders what he must feel like, completely fails to imagine it. (But her respect for him does grow a few points.)

All other idle thoughts are chased away by his excited shout, and she's quick to step over piles of sand and debris to crouch by his side.]


A record player... [Or it may as well be, as far as she knows.] They play music, where I'm from, but there's no restriction that says there couldn't be something different recorded on the discs themselves.

If you put the disc on, we can try playing it.
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[personal profile] friendlykillingmachine 2016-11-20 08:11 pm (UTC)(link)
I'll give it a try!

[He's glad someone knows what things are around here, and while he has no idea how to play the record, logic tells him the disc probably goes on the round disc-shaped thing on the box. Once it's carefully set it place, he hunts for a way to make it play but finds no ON button or power source, just a hand-crank on the side. That's when he realizes he'll probably have to take the player out of the chest.

But something unusual happens as he leans over to lift the machine. The blue jewel attached to a chain around his neck starts to glow and flicker, though he seems totally unaware of it.]
Edited 2016-11-20 20:12 (UTC)
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[personal profile] strictdiscipline 2016-11-26 10:07 pm (UTC)(link)
[Rocky might not notice but Riza certainly does, eyes immediately caught by the sight of light in an otherwise dark and musty room. One hand reaches up and out instinctively, though it falls short of its intended destination.]

Rocky, your jewelry—

[The closer it dangles, the brighter the light flares, illuminating the scene in a soft blue. But what does it mean? She's never found any fragments before and she has no more in depth understanding of how the jewelry works than she had when they'd originally been assigned out. Clearly something's happening though.]

Is it—reacting to something?

[Faintly, almost indiscernible, garbled noise rises up into the air.]
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[personal profile] friendlykillingmachine 2016-11-29 10:18 pm (UTC)(link)
[Rocky looks down in surprise to find his jewel aglow, its light losing intensity as he straightens his back. Though he'd come from a technologically advanced world far in the future, he knows just as much as Riza does about how the magitech jewelry works. All he knows is that he isn't the one currently activating it.]

Beats the heck outta me. [He answers, watching the light gain intensity as he leans forward some.] But if it is reacting to something, whatever it is must be close.

[And whatever it is must be low. On hands and knees, he moves over the sandy floor at a slow, experimental pace. A few feet from the chest, the noise grows louder and the jewel stops flickering, its bright glow steady and unbroken. Here, he starts to dig into the sand, overturning stone and broken bits of earth.]

Riza, I think there's something under here!

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