Sunday, October 23, 2022

Pulp Cthulhu - The Two Headed Serpent (North Borneo Part #3)


Zeke Broda (Grease Monkey / Mechanic)
Ivy Guinness (Outsider / Nurse) 
Nigel Thorne, VC, DSC (Thrill Seeker / Explorer)
[Oz the All Knowing (Mystic / Entertainer)]

After brainstorming a range of ideas for getting past the night gaunts, the team decide to simply sneak past. Zeke goes up the ragged cliff face first, followed by the rest of the team roped together like mountain climbers. Except their guide Abidin, who wisely stays hidden in the tunnel entrance in the clearing. They make it without arousing the interest of the perched monsters, and find themselves in a hexagonal tunnel. It glows with a white light, and is made of some seamless rock-like or concrete-like material. It leads into a large hexagonal room, 20 feet in height. Standing in the center of the room is a six-sided step-pyramid of polished metal, and hanging in the air above the pyramid are two hexagonal frames. In an adjacent room there are control panels inscribed in Nacaal and other weird symbols, while three walls are coated in a glossy glass or some similar material. Zeke gets down to work trying to figure out the controls, and is successful in bringing up an image on the three flat glassy panels. They show a map, which after some confusion they realize shows the earth millions of years before. There are some spots on the map in red, and Ivy sketches it all in her notebook for future reference. 

After some further fiddling about, Zeke powers up whatever is in the the adjacent room. The low hum he heard earlier now intensifies, and the team glances in the pyramid room to see the two hexagonal frames now circling around in the air. After a few moments, the two overlap and lock together. Where before is was possible to look through the individual frames, they now showed only an inky blackness. Ivy and Nigel clamber up the pyramid to look into the frames, and Ivy's keen eye's spot movement in the darkness. A huge worm-creature chewing through rock, much like the description the ghouls gave them of the creature that dug the tunnels in the clearing. The party surmises this is the portal to another dimension through which all the weird plants and monsters have travelled, and they decide to destroy it. Prying open one control panel uncovers what looks to be more serpent person technology of intricate brass gears and moving gyroscopic parts. They also finds fragments of writing in Nacaal that Oz tells them refers to Tsathoggua, which suggest the involvement of the Inner Night and further convinces them the facility needs to be destroyed.

The party is just wiring up the last of the dynamite when to their surprise Quintin Shapiro enters the chamber. He is shocked to see what they are doing, saying they need to stop so they can all shelter here. He has discovered there is no cure to the Yellow Death and they must stay here to be protected from the Haftorang device when it blows, a course of action now necessary to stop the infection from spreading. The team is suspicious. Zeke notes Shapiro is not acting like himself, being very cavalier about the death and destruction that is about to be released. Ivy notes that he is also not sweating at all; unusual for an out of shape scientist whose just climbed through the hot jungles and up the cliff face. They try to bluff him and proceed with rigging the demo charges. Quinten responds with an inhuman scream, threats of death and destruction to the human race, and leaps at Zeke. The mechanic dodges, and Nigel guns down 'Shapiro' with his Webley. When they examine the body, they find it unnaturally cold with oddly inhuman features. Even though it looks like Shapiro.

They waste no further time, and blow the facility with dynamite. Immediately the night gaunts on the cliff above disappear, as does the strange dying plants they'd observed earlier.  Collecting the shaken Abidin, the team heads back down the mountain as fast as they can, determined to figure out what happened to Shapiro and hopefully get the Haftorang device far far away. They reach the armored cars just as daylight breaks, and head for Kazin's farm and the medical tent. They find Shapiro has confirmed the disease was the Yellow Death, and that is no cure producible with the viral analyzer. There is a way to delay the progress of the disease, but in the end the person would die in a week rather than a day,. There was however a curious note that read 'hybrid?' in the margin of his notebook. 

While Ivy is picking apart their erstwhile leaders notes, the rest of the party checks the rest of the tent. In the wooden chest in which the lab chemicals and apparatus had been packed, they now find a collection of human bones and scraps of flesh. But more troubling than that was the Haftorang device. When Zeke looks inside the lid, he realizes the timer had been advanced and it will now blow in less than an hour. Given the time it would take them to get out of the blast radius, they have to leave in the next 20minutes or be caught in the blast. A fast and furious argument breaks out about what to do. Nigel insists they must try and save any uninfected folk they identify using a testing solution produced by the viral analyzer. The others, though sympathetic, didn't think they have time to do that. And are appalled by the panic and angst that would ensue when separating those who could be saved from their infected loved ones who would be left behind. Not to mention how could they get them out of the blast zone in a hurry with just the armored cars. 

In the end, Nigel has to be forced into one of the armored cars, and Ivy has to persuade the crowd now blocking the road to move out of the way so they can go get help for the sick nad dying. And having quickly checked that everyone in the party, including Abidin and their drivers, are free of the Yellow Death, they head down the winding dirt road at high speed. The tear into the army camp just as a massive conflagration explodes behind them, incinerating the jungle and all in it for miles around. As ash and debris starts to fall around them, the team is met by Captain Lancaster and a pair of officials from the North Borneo Chartered Company. Once the excitement dies down, the official's  question the team. And they, with a great deal of pragmatic skepticism, buy the story that the dormant volcanic mountain had blown and wiped out the infected zone. 

With heavy hearts at their inability to save the doomed people, the team climbs aboard their plane for the long flight back to New York and another debriefing at Caduceus headquarters. 

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