The creatures are about 4 metres long, with thick chitinous armour, particularly about the head region. Long claws and mandibles give them a considerable reach, and they move much too fast to outrun on their multiple legs. The attack pattern fits that of an unintelligent creature, driven by ravenous hunger.
I saw Jose Parnaby killed by one of the creatures as his father and I tried to fight them off. John Parnaby was being dragged away screaming when I managed to escape the fray amidts the stiltgrass and return to the farmhouse. He is still missing. Kotin is desperate with panic and her two younger children are quiet with fear. Sirene is attempting to keep them all calm.
Jang is increasingly worried about Connor, the other farmhand who we haven't seen. He has been away for two days now, and should have returned well before the long night caused by the gas giant eclipse began. We have grave fears for his safety, now we know that these predators exist.
Spanners has joined the helicopter now on its way out from Smit Town. We need to formulate a way of getting into the helicopter when it arrives. Then we should do a search for John Parnaby and hurry back to the town to report on what has happened here.
Ogier: Serron is going out in the airlock to shoot one of the creatures and create a diversion so we can jump up to the roof. You can lift us off from there.
Spanners: Okay, just be careful with the low gravity. You don't want to jump too high and hit the helicopter blades.
Ogier: Right. Serron has blasted one of the creatures... all the others are eating it. We're coming out now. Jang and Sirene are taking Kotin Parnaby, I've got one of the kids, and Max has the other.
Unfortunately, Kotin's young son Jake managed to wriggle free of Max's grip as they came out of the airlock. The boy ran out across the yard area with Sendak in hot pursuit. When he got past the garage, there was a creature lurking there in the shadow. Max shot the animal and grabbed the boy, but he got free again, this time running back towards the house. He finally got hold of him and got him up to the roof so we could get away.
We did a brief search for John Parnaby with the searchlight, and found some remains about 200 metres from the house. Serron jumped down and gathered some bones and clothing for identification. Fortunately Kotin was unconscious... apparently Iki knocked her out when she went hysterical inside the house. Jang and Sirene had to carry her out. We didn't think Iki had the strength to do anything like that!
Ogier: They're 4 metre long insectoids, with lots of legs and very sharp claws. They move very fast. Two or three blaster shots seems to be enough to stop them, but needlers and lasers have virtually no effect against their hard exoskeletons.
Serron: This is one of their claws! I cut it off a dead one.
[Gasps from crowd. Murmurs.]
Sara Hercule: Order! Marshall Lavilli, how many weapons do we have?
Marshall Yvonne Lavilli: My constables and I are armed with heavy lasers, and we have two blast rifles and two gauss needle rifles in the office. Sergeant Greener here and his powerplant guard troops have 7 heavy blasters. There are 5 lasers, 2 blasters, 3 laser rifles and a gauss 3.5mm in the store. And there are... 26 lasers, 11 blasters, 9 laser rifles and 6 blast rifles registered among the populace. If the lasers really are useless, that gives us about 24 effective weapons against these creatures.
Sara Hercule: Can we rig up some more weapons?
Holden Greener: We can, ma'am, but it'll take time. And I don't want my men leaving their post by the powerplant. If the power or the environmental system goes we'll all be frozen solid before we have to worry about anything else.
John Fergy: Yes, yes, fine, but what are we going to do about these creatures up on the surface? They're probably eating all the dashgoats. Since we started farming on this world the natural population growth has been slowed dramatically. If these monsters are on the rampage, they might be able to wipe out the entire dashgoat population. And I don't need to tell you what happens to this colony if we lose our only source of income...
[Murmurs from crowd...]
Iki Piki: We don't have enough firepower to take these things on on the surface. We need to form militia from the townspeople and arm them against the possibility of these creatures getting into the town.
Marshall Yvonne Lavilli: Now hold on... I don't want civilians wandering around with guns without a couple of days of training...
Sirene: Hey, we don't have a couple of days! If one of these things gets into the air ducts and down into the town and you don't have an armed response team ready and waiting, people are going to die. We already have two dead, probably three.
[Loud crowd reaction... murmuring..]
Sara Hercule: Order! Order! Yes? What is it? .... Order! I've just been handed a message. There's been a distress call from the MacInray farm. They're under attack from the creatures.
Serron: We'll go in the helicopter and rescue them.
We left the colony administrators to handle the business of securing Smit Town. Sara Hercule agreed that we should go out to rescue the MacInrays since we had our weapons to hand and have already had experience dealing with the attacking creatures.
Most of the farmers living outside the town have now returned to Smit Town, and others are on their way, but several have not responded yet to radio calls. A few have reported seeing the centipede creatures, but so far there are no more confirmed casualties. Unfortunately, the only transport apart from this helicopter is trucks and ground cars, and some of the farmers' relatives in the town are concerned that incoming trucks may be attacked.
Still inside the building searching for any other survivors, Serron ran headlong around a corner and into the path of the creature. He shot at it but didn't do enough damage to knock it out. It then slashed at him with one of its sharp claws, cutting a gash across Serron's chest. He wasn't injured too badly though, and ran out through the window. Spanners shot the creature as it came out chasing him and we picked Serron up before any others could get to him.
Meanwhile we had rescued a farmhand from the roof of a power generator building, where he had been holding the creatures at bay with a length of metal pipe. He was lucky in that the body of his unfortunate companion distracted the creatures long enough for him to survive until we arrived.
I've cleaned and bandaged Serron's wound. It didn't cut too deeply and he should be fine to remain active until we can afford to get some serious rest. I fear that we will see a lot more action before this crisis is resolved, however.
Traffic Control: Roger.
Spanners: Hey, what's that? Over there!
Sendak: It looks like trucks... and people...
Serron: What are they...? They're herding dashgoats! Traffic control, patch us through to Administrator Hercule!
Traffic Control: Patching...
Sirene: That's insane! There could be hundreds of those creatures out there, ready to attack at any second.
Serron: Traffic control, we've just touched down. Iki Piki is going out to attach refueling lines.
Ogier: Sheesh... what idiot would have sent people out to herd dashgoats at a time like this?
Fergy: John Fergy here. Administrator Hercule is in a meeting. Can I help you?
Serron: You can order these people out here to safety! If the creatures attack them while they're trying to move dashgoats it'll be a slaughter.
Fergy: They're well armed. We need dashgoats to survive. If those creatures wipe out the whole population this colony will have to be disbanded, and I can't allow that to happen.
Serron: Can you allow civilians to be killed?
Fergy: Look, I don't have to take this from you. Either get down here or fly out and help them herd those dashgoats! The faster we get them into the town the better.
Spanners: The town!? Are you crazy? We don't know how these predators track their prey - you could be taking a huge supply of bait down there!
Serron: Great. Well Fergy, you're gonna rot in hell for this... Iki! Unhook the fuel lines! Rilanna, fly us over there, fast!
Fergy: What?! What's going on?
Serron: Your precious dashgoats are being turned into centipede food, along with some of your apparently not-so-precious colonists. Traffic control, we're flying out to assist!
Fourteen more colonists are now dead because of John Fergy's obsession with saving dashgoats. The people he sent out to herd them were mostly armed only with lasers, which are virtually useless against the exoskeletal plating of the predators. As soon as they realised this, most of them got into trucks and started driving back to the starport tarmac. By that time some were already dead and others cut off and surrounded by the creatures.
We flew overhead, with Serron, Max, and myself picking off creatures with blasters. We managed to keep them away from two colonists who were surrounded, but Rilanna refused to risk the helicopter by landing, so Serron had to go down on the rope ladder. Meanwhile Iki was running across the tarmac to the scene, providing covering fire for the trucks as they escaped.
Serron somehow managed to get the colonists on to the ladder and Rilanna flew us up out of danger. All together 30 or so colonists were saved, but we had to leave the dashgoats.
We went down to Smit Town to report to Administrator Hercule. One the way down in the lift, Maxwell Sendak demanded to be flown out to the Parnaby farm so he could recover the goods he took out there to show John Parnaby. His plan was to drive the truck back to Smit Town. Serron objected to this course of action and Sendak threw a punch at him. Serron hit back, with a hypospray in his hand, and injected a dose of morphazine, which knocked Sendak out cold.
The stress of the day finally got to Iki, who spontaneously changed from female to male and passed out from exhaustion. The rest of us met briefly with Administrator Hercule, who filled us in on events in the town while we had been away.
A few of the predators had managed to break into the town, but their means of access so far remains unknown. Militia groups, under the command of Yvonne Lavilli, have been successful in handling these incursions so far, and are in the process of tracking down the entry point so it can be sealed off. With most residents restricted to the hospital and power plant areas, casualties in the town have been restricted to a few unlucky militia members.
Ogier and Sirene expressed a need for sleep, but Serron took a dose of superstim to lessen his fatigue and has now left with Rilanna on a tour of the farms which have not yet reported in. Requiring rest myself, I have returned to the Legacy where I feel most comfortable. On my way to the ship I had to scare off some colonists who had come up to the starport seeking a way into the ship and off the planet. Crossing one pair of arms sternly while gesturing with my weapons with the other two arms seems to have been effective.
Smit Town remains mostly secure. Only three more creatures found their way in while we slept, and all have been killed, though one did destroy a whole reaction squad of ten people before being stopped. So far there are 57 colonists confirmed dead, and another 17 missing - mostly farmers but two people are unaccounted for within the town.
It is still unclear how the creatures are getting into the town. Engineers here speculate they must be crawling through lift shafts or ventilation ducting from the surface. The rock above Smit Town is riddled with shafts and passageways connecting transport and environmental systems with the starport above, and they have not had time to check them all yet. The main fear is that a large group of creatures will discover the way into the town and simply overwhelm any resistance.
We have had many colonists approach us begging or offering cash for us to take them off the planet. However, with no other ships in port and our life support systems capable of sustaining only 20 or so people at a pinch, we would be dooming over 500 people to an uncertain future. Some colonists hve fallen into despair while others are determined to fight and defend their town to the bitter end. Hopefully things will not come to that.
Spanners has decided to return to the Legacy to work on some air filters so we can evacuate as many people as possible without overloading the life support systems, if it becomes necessary. The rest of us are staying in the town to help as much as we can with other jobs.
At that point Fergy got up and attacked me. Despite the pain when he punched me on my chest wound I managed to get a hypo into him and knocked him out. I also KOed his two flunkies for good measure. The crowd listened to me after that!
Administrator Hercule was dithering about what to do next when an engineer ran in to the meeting and announced they had found where the centipedes were getting into the town. Apparently some had crawled into air intake ducts up at the egde of the starport and been mangled in the fans. Their armour plates had jammed two of the three fans on the eastern air compressor plant, overloading the third and blowing some fuses. This has allowed others to crawl through the compressor machinery and down to the town.
With only one air compressor operating now, and air slowly leaking out through the others, the air in Smit Town will slowly get thinner and eventually virtually unbreathable without compressor masks. It will get much colder too. The prediction is that within 6 hours the air will be so cold and thin that it will be difficult to shelter everyone from the environment. We are still in the middle of the long night due to the eclipse - sunrise is still 14 hours away, when temperatures should rise back up to about freezing.
Spanners, Ogier and I have volunteered to assist a group of three engineers and six militia on a trip up to the surface to clear and repair the air intake vents. The engineers will do the work while the rest of us guard them from attack.
Administrator Hercule: Be careful. We don't want anyone falling down the air shaft.
Ogier: We're leaving the cleaning work to the engineers. We'll keep guard here in the central control room in case there are already any creatures in here.
Administrator Hercule: Okay. Good thinking.
Serron: The engineers are starting work on clearing out fan C.
Militia voice: Hey! What's that? Look out...!
[Screams and sounds of blaster fire.]
Serron: Damn! Ogier, you stay here and keep your eyes open. Iki, come on, we have to get those engineers out of there.
Engineer voice: What the...? Get down! Get down! Now!
Spanners: I can see it. Get up against the wall guys, I'm going to shoot it!
Engineer voice: Wait!! Aaaaaarrgghhhhh......!!
Serron: Militia squad! Fall back to the access building and seal the doors!
Militia voice: C'mon men! Move!
Spanners: Got it! I think it's dead.
Engineer voice: Oh man... how are we gonna clear that fan now?
[Creak and screech of bending and tearing metal...]
Engineer voice: It's gonna fall! The fan blade! Get out of the way!!
[Metallic grinding noise, snapping, crunching...]
Engineer voice: You okay down there?
Spanners: Yeah. Just. That was too close.
|Long Night on Dashgad is based on the adventure "Long Night on Dashgad" by M. J. Dougherty, published in Pyramid, Steve Jackson Games' on-line gaming magazine.|