Session Summary #10 -- "Transformations"

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Mutant Barney
Dead Lands Session Summary #10: Transformations

Our heroes journey from the town of Hickory Bend and the Opryhouse westward in search of a town called Hope. Along the way, their supplies dwindle, and, one night, they hear the sound of a truck driving off, and awake to find both Yotee the Coyote and Leonard gone. (At least Leonard left his horse behind.) That leaves just Karl Dracomortat, Barney, Bluefeather and Neo-Samurai Jim in the group, but they meet up with a cowgirl by the name of "Sweet Sue" along the way, shortly before arriving at some ruins of what might be the town of Hope. Little do they know that they are being watched by multiple parties when they arrive: a cyborg pinned under a wrecked truck, a mountie and a Doomsayer lurking behind a wrecked helicopter ... and a town full of insectoid mutants.

Number Thirteen The group investigates the ruins, and soon discovers a big red cyborg pinned under a military truck. It's a close combat unit, armed only with a powersword, with no ranged weapons, and quite evidently stuck. Its markings show it to be from the USA, and thus with the Northern Alliance, though questioning the robot reveals it to have suffered some memory loss and systems damage, as it is not aware of how much time has actually passed since the Last War. (Thirteen years have passed, but it thinks that only four have passed.) The robot asks the Posse about their affiliations, and Barney reveals that he was with the Red Mesa Research Facility, and thus aligned with the Confederacy. The cyborg demands that Barney remove the vehicle so that he can arrest him. Barney wisely chooses not to comply. However, in order to pacify the cyborg, Karl and Sweet Sue make a show of "arresting" Barney and "tying him up" with some rope. While this is going on, Mountie Samuel Steele reveals himself to the group, and comes over to see if he can lend some assistance.

Jim, meanwhile, spots some movement in the buildings, and heads over to investigate. He discovers a man who introduces himself as Doctor Clint Williams, who claims that there are high levels of radiation and toxins ahead, and that a vaccine is required to continue. The Doomsayer, Brother Joy, chooses this time to alert Jim of his presence -- and of his suspicions that Doctor Williams' claims of a "radiation vaccine" are highly dubious at best, and that claims of there being high-radiation zones ahead are patently untrue.

The group parlays with the so-called doctor -- and several obviously mutated townsfolk. The "doctor" invents several excuses as to why they should try his vaccine, but his story-telling gets no better. However, a new problem arises, as the weather continues to worsen, and Brother Joy is able to determine that the Black Rain is coming -- a storm that showers the land with toxic rain that burns skin on contact. Despite misgivings about this "doctor" and the mutant townsfolk (and the curious common mutations that make them look like humanoid insects), the group rushes to get their horses under the only (mostly) intact structure with a roof.

Dr. Williams seems not the least bit worried about the onset of the Black Rain, and in fact seems to be celebrating in it. When questioned, he changes his story several times, but at last claims that the Black Rain will bring the "next stage of evolution" for the townsfolk, and the fruition of his "experiment". Bluefeather is alarmed by this, and starts performing a sand-painting ritual in hopes of driving away the storm.

Dr. Williams Transformed Bluefeather's plan works ... much to the disappointment and then anger of Dr. Williams. He accuses the Posse of ruining his plans ... and then proceeds to transform before their astonished eyes, growing in size and becoming a monster that seems part man, but mostly alien -- with insectoid, reptilian and even fungal features. The creature attacks with an organic "cannon", lobbing acidic gobs and poisonous spores. The Posse spreads out in a panic, as the heroes go for their horses. Barney, Jim and Sue ride over to free the cyborg in hopes that it will help them, while Karl, Bluefeather, Brother Joy and Samuel Steele face off against the monster, and the townsfolk mill about in confusion.

Jim and Sue work together to hitch their horses via rope to the truck pinning the robot, and Steele's horse, Cretien, goes over to help as well. Bluefeather tries to help Karl by grabbing him up as she rides past on her horse, but she ends up falling down, knocking him down and Brother Joy as well. They all get hit several times by blasts from the monster's weapon, and Brother Joy's attempts at using the Glow on it seem disappointingly ineffectual. Karl opts not to use the rocket launcher at such close range. Steele manages to avoid attention as he dutifully gets his gun ready, then begins unloading bullets into the monster. Brother Joy's pet wall-crawler joins in the fray as well, coming from hiding to leap upon the monster and tear into him. At last, with combined fire from the heroes, the monster goes down. The townsfolk, angered by the death of their leader, converge upon the heroes ... but their attacks are so pathetic that most of the time they can't even connect, and when they do, they do no damage.

The monster's corpse, meanwhile, begins to swell menacingly. Jim and Sue get the truck off the cyborg ... then, seeing the swelling monster, opt to ride off at full speed, the cyborg following. Bluefeather and Karl ride off in the other direction. Samuel Steele manages to ride with Cretien to the other side of a wrecked building, and Brother Joy just barely manages to strap himself onto the back of the wall-crawler, which runs up on top of one of the nearby buildings ... right when the body of the monster explodes. Barney, missing most of the action, manages to get caught in the outer ring of the blast ... suffering no damage, but getting caught in a cloud of spores and inhaling quite a number of them. The mutant townsfolk, who were congregating around the body right when it exploded, are wiped out when it goes.

The Posse regroups outside of town, and Brother Joy uses the power of the Glow to put up warding markers around the town to warn any travelers of a potential bio-hazard. He finds some water to wash himself off, not allowing himself near the rest of the Posse until he can be absolutely certain that he doesn't carry any of the spores. By scrounging about in more ruins, the group manages to find an old bathtub and they plug the bottom, then get some water from a contaminated stream. Brother Joy purifies the water, and the group fills their canteens, and they do some hunting and scavenging for food, then they set up camp.

The night watch is mostly uneventful, save for Brother Joy's wall-crawler wandering around a bit more than most would like. However, come next morning, it's evident that Barney looks ... different. Brother Joy declares that Barney has become one of the "Chosen", by becoming a mutant, though the others argue whether Barney's transformation is necessarily a good thing. He still looks human, but his facial proportions have changed considerably, making him look a bit odd, more feral.

The group continues traveling along, relying upon some navigational data they get from the cyborg. Due to a bug in the logic of the cyborg's directives, it accepts Samuel Steele as a superior officer, and Steele makes a point of not reminding the cyborg that Canada was actually fighting against the United States of America during the Last War. Instead, he does his best to carefully give the cyborg new "orders", hopefully grooming it for a role as a sort of cybernetic "Law Dog" roaming the west ... though for now it seems content to follow the heroes.

The group sets up camp again ... and the next morning, Barney has changed even more, looking unmistakably like a mutant. Once again, Brother Joy downplays any harm in the change, emphasizing the importance of mutation as furthering mankind's "evolution".

At last, the next evening, the group comes across a settlement, and observes a battle raging. Bluefeather had received a vision from "Grandfather Bear" about a conflict here, and warns the group that there are forces at work here, manipulating two peoples (the people living in a settlement, and some nomadic mutants) into fighting each other for no good cause. The Posse plans its course of attack, and then splits up into groups: Bluefeather remains behind, working on a weather spell to conjure fog to fill the valley, while Karl and the cyborg guard her. Sweet Sue, Brother Joy, Barney and Samuel Steele head for the battle, trying the direct approach to hopefully call a halt to the action. And Neo-Samurai Jim tries to sneak toward the mutant camp to do some spying.

Anti-Templar Kane When the main party reaches the battlefield, they find "normal" humans clashing against mutants, using melee weapons and bows rather than guns. The human side seems to be led by an Anti-Templar in black armor on a hoverbike, while the mutant side is directed by an armored mutant that Brother Joy recognizes as a Vengant of the Cult of Doom. Samuel Steele, exercising his amazing power of presence, manages to surprise the skirmishing parties and verbally throw them into disarray with his arrival and commanding tone. The Anti-Templar and the Vengant seem unaffected. As the Anti-Templar heads over toward the group, the Vengant knocks him off of his hoverbike. The hoverbike spins out of control, headed right for Brother Joy, but Brother Joy goads his wall-crawler into making a heroic deflect of the bike with its scorpion tail, saving the Doomsayer from a messy encounter. The Vengant then charges the Doomsayer, and makes an attack that would have taken the Doomsayer's leg clean off, if it weren't for the partial armor (and a good dose of heroic fate).

Vengant Slate Barney and Steele take down the Vengant, and Steele heads on toward the fallen Anti-Templar -- Sweet Sue lending some help with a good supply of rope, and Brother Joy rushing along as well. Barney decides to loot the body of the fallen Vengant ... but he is strangely overcome by hunger, and gives in to unholy temptation, gorging himself on the mutant's remains. Brother Joy is taken aback by the display ... but opts to keep his distance, as the mutant was already dead. The Anti-Templar turns out to be unconscious, and the Posse quickly binds him up ... giving Barney plenty of room.

Doombringer Crown Meanwhile, Neo-Samurai Jim arrives at the mutant camp in the wake of the sudden end to the conflict, and he tries to sneak into camp, but when he approaches a mutant, the mutant rushes off to inform their leader -- another Doomsayer -- of an intruder. The Doomsayer comes out, and commands that Jim come with him. Jim refuses, and combat ensues ... ending with the Doomsayer failing to affect Jim with a couple of spells, and only lightly wounding him with another one ... though a side-effect of the spell is that he suffers horrific mutations in the process. Jim, however, manages to slice and dice the Doomsayer, then rushes off as the Doomsayer expires in an explosion of green flame. Back in the camp, Jim uses his miraculous abilities of healing to restore himself to normal. After a night's rest, however, Barney seems to be even more drastically changed this time...

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