Saturday, November 27, 2022 (DD 987)
Langston’s lab is set up, and although electricity is at a premium, it is being supplied. The community has already gone to half-rations in preparation for winter (and although she objects, Natalie receives a small amount of everyone on the team’s rations in addition to her own due to her condition. In order to both keep the peace and keep any one person from pushing too much of their own rations on her and therefore going too short, she shuts up and simply accepts it). Aquaponics and hydroponics are discussed regularly in the evenings, and a plan is slowly forming to take the team north a ways to get equipment for Sandra, as agreed.
Flashback: Shortly before initial return, Ang and Langston have a meeting — Langston is seeking Ang’s opinion on whether the initial decision to destroy Sandra was the right one. He is no longer certain. Ang’s take is still “why risk it?” It was a complication she didn’t and still doesn’t want to deal with. She also makes a point of warning Eric that due to the report that has to be filed with the Council, his status as a former Power is probably going to come out.
Because the electronics that Sandra has asked for are not run-of-the-mill items, it is determined that the only place we might locate them are in the industrial area to the north of Refuge Point — same place that Eric originally crashed. With all the dead people up there, the group is a little worried about the possibility of contagion, Langston and Melody finally have the equipment necessary to study the samples of fungus that were originally obtained up there. Their investigation produces the information that there are similarities in the fungal infestation to the nanobot virus and that infection by the fungus is likely to have about a 90% mortality rate. The other 10% of infected beings would “change” but he could only conjecture that it might create Twisted.
Lore: It was known that the nanobot virus killed non-Powered people outright. Twisted may have been Normals in that 10% who mutated, and it lends credence to the idea that anyone who survived without becoming Twisted was a latent Power. However, it’s also clear the fungus has been changed by the nanobot virus too — the original nanobot virus left scales on all the people it killed and on SOME of the Twisted but not all.
It is decided that because of the distance to the industrial center, we would travel the 3/4-day distance to City Museum and stay overnight there before continuing on the next day. City Museum is kind of creepy and the group sets a watch detail. Nothing remains of Sandra’s original machine, but Maddy did secret away some of the bits and pieces from that machine when we first encountered Sandra and she fetches them now. Meanwhile, Langston and Ang look around to see if there’s anything here that might assist them in destroying the AI. It takes a long time, but they do find some things that MIGHT work.
The next morning, it looks like snow is coming. The group completes their trip to the industrial center in about half a day. Once there, Natalie and Melody locate a good number of the pieces that Sandra wanted, and they also manage to locate a bunch of other useful things for Refuge Point. Maddy is thoroughly distracted by everything around her and gets completely derailed from the original search by equipment that would be perfect for hydroponics. Langston and Ang take up watch positions, and unbeknownst to everyone else, Langston falls asleep at his post. Ang, however, notices signs that there have been people here in the not-too-distant past. From her post, she thinks she hears someone in pain and goes to check it out.
Laying in the rubble of one of the buildings, Ang finds a single person laying under a shelf unit. The voice is familiar, but not so much that she can immediately identify it. The person is not thrilled about being “rescued” for some reason, if his voice is anything to go by. When she steps cautiously into the room where he lays, she identifies the man as Orlando Kelly, one of the religious folks at Refuge Point. Ang steps outside to summon Natalie by radio and everyone but Langston arrives. Ang gets them up to speed about what she’s found, and they step inside… only to have Natalie accidentally draw the attention of some unexpected company: The Cult of Memory and Thought have arrived from a rear door, past the sleeping Langston, and are intent on taking Orlando — who happens to be a blonde, Nordic-looking man — with them. Against his wishes.
Ang immediately steps in front of Natalie, shielding her, and pulls a gun on the Cult members. A brief moment of talk ensues where Ang informs them they’re not taking Orlando and they disagree before she goes ahead and shoots the lead one in the chest. Melody hip-checks Natalie still further to the rear of the group while she and Maddy spread out to flank Ang’s actions. The gunshot wakes Langston and he starts to make his way toward the sound. A firefight ensues between Ang, Melody, Maddy, and the cultists. Natalie slips out the side door merely to stand guard and be out of the way. Langston arrives and comes from the far side of things to make it sound as if Wolf may be coming to join the fray.
Ultimately, the battle goes badly for the Cultists. The leader and one of the others are killed inside the room where Orlando had been trapped. The other two cultists manage to extricate Orlando and themselves through the back door, and Mel and Maddy chase after them through that same door while Ang heads out the side door to flank the retreating kidnappers. Ang and Maddy fire on and hit the same guy, leaving only one remaining cultist holding a badly injured Orlando. He’s quickly dispatched.
During the battle, Ang is hit by friendly fire (Melody shot her inside the small confines of the room). Natalie handles binding up and treating Ang’s injury while Langston sees to Orlando. He has a broken leg and he is heavily infected by the fungus that seems to be taking over in the area. He’s covered in scales, and he claims to have gone through the infected part of the complex two days previously. Because we’re not sure exactly how long it is contagious, masks and gloves are donned by all. Orlando is taken back to Refuge Point with the group. The return trip is pretty uneventful.
Once back at Refuge Point, Orlando is quarantined and members of his (crazy) church are asked about whether they will care for him. They agree to, and a couple of days pass. Late in the day a volunteer comes to let Langston know that Orlando’s fever is spiking pretty severely. Langston has, in the meantime, learned a good bit from Orlando’s blood sample. The man is super-infected with spores of the fungus throughout his entire body — tissues as well as bloodstream. By all rights, he should not still be alive at all — he should have either healed it already or been dead already. This fact alone calls into question some of the original theories about survivors all being Latent Powers and/or about what effect the nanobot virus is having on the flora of the area and how it may be mutating. The volunteers from the church are pulled from their nursing duties and Ang stands guard. Heat begins to radiate from Orlando’s quarantine space, and he begins screaming. There is a sudden, loud whoosh and then silence. All volunteers are quarantined and Maddy rigs a bunch of fire extinguishers to hopefully corral and trap any spores that might be free-floating inside the room Orlando died in. It requires 2-3 additional days before Langston and Dr. Nona deem it “safe enough” to go in there in what passes for hazmat gear and check it out. There is nothing left of Orlando but bones and the spores that coat the place.