An escaped sex slave, a one-armed builder, an “herbalist”/sniper, and a cat-lover head into their third week of survival on a forgotten world. Hilarity ensues. Or perhaps blood. Bloody hilarity?
If you’re new to the series or need a refresher, go check out Part 1 or Part 2. Steerpike still owes me a Swedish massage, or at least a bag filled with money and drugs. (I promised him a cookie bouquet and nothing more —S)
Week 2 Recap
They have taken the bridge and the second hall. We have barred the gates but cannot hold them for long. The ground shakes, drums… drums in the deep. We cannot get out. A shadow lurks in the dark. We cannot get out… they are coming.
— Gandalf the Grey
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Everything was beautiful. We covered some of the sandy floors and stored considerable amounts of food. Every colonist now has a private bedroom, and a sanitized med-bay stands ready to nurse our wounded.
But I was deceived. I was beguiled by an unfortunate marriage of arrogance to inexperience. While we were building and cooking and farming, our enemies, the Gray Cliff People (GCP), were marshalling their strength. Five times they raided us, and five times we drove them back, killing their Chief and a few others in the process. It was more of an annoyance than a threat, save for when a lucky GCP arrow somehow severed poor Doyle’s left arm.
But the GCP remembered. They seethed and plotted. They selected ten (I miscounted in Part 2) of their finest warriors for one final, decisive strike against my band of interlopers.
They are coming.
Death in Fire Part 3: The Battle for Black Mesa
Day 15, Continued
The GCP are primitive, not stupid. They don’t attack immediately, instead choosing to lurk in the outskirts while they plan their assault. I curse myself for not sending Juli, the GCP raider we wounded and nursed back to health during Week 1, back to her tribe with some “special” blankets. (if you could actually do that it would be freaking awesome. Feature request for the next release!! —S)
I’m also cursing my decision to not prioritize automated gun turrets in my research. Colonists can only research one technology at a time, and Randy Random fooled me with a illusory learning curve and his steadily-but-slowly rising numbers of attackers (One, two, three, four, four, f***ing TEN). And even with the technology, we’d still have to supply the steel and components necessary to build them and power them, which, given my limited resources, is no small task. I don’t even have the time to bolster our defenses with deadfall traps, and even if I did, I don’t have enough wood and they’re too easy to avoid without choke points.
All of this is academic, anyway. The GCP is here now and outnumber my fighters three-to-one. Only Ko is worth a damn when it comes to making things dead with bullets, and Tetsuya is only marginal with his plasteel knife. I’d like to pretend his knife is something Rambo-sized, but I can’t stop picturing something more suitable for spreading butter.
There’s a chess adage that says “A bad plan is better than no plan.” All I have at my disposal now are bad plans, so I settle on a plan I hope is the least bad: decapitation. Kill Priscilla, their chief. Break their morale and drive them back into the wilderness. If we somehow survive this, then proceed directly to turrets and steel-mining. Do not pass GO and do not stop for old ladies with walkers or small children.
It’s a desperate plan that will only succeed with an incredible amount of luck. Good plans tend not to rely on luck as a primary tactic, but it’s all I’ve got. With the raid on hold, I direct Emmie, Ko, Tetsuya, and Doyle to go sleep. They’re gonna need it.
At dawn’s first light, it begins.
Our primary target, Priscilla, pushes to the south. If we can take her out, the rest might turn tail and run. Hopefully, they’re the spineless variety of vengeful warrior tribespeople out for blood-soaked vengeance and blood.
Being so outnumbered, I have no choice but to group everyone together. Ko and Doyle take up their positions behind the sandbags, with Tetsuya standing beside them, ready to poke holes in someone with his plasteel wedding gift.
Ko’s rifle barks before their arrows fly, scoring a headshot on Monkey, one of the charging club-wielding attackers. Monkey hardly breaks stride as she continues to rush our position, which doesn’t bode well for Operation Demoralization.
The GCP splits into smaller groups, looking to surround our position. Priscilla and Camba continue to sprint along our southern border for reasons unknown. Chasing them down would mean leaving the cover our sandbags, which would mean arrows in face.
Ko and Doyle pepper them with bullets, but score no kills. Monkey finally reaches the sandbags, but Tetsuya buries his butter knife into her vital organs. Tona, another woman wielding a club, hops over the sandbags. Alone, she falls to knife and gun, alive but unconscious.
Then… wait. Priscilla. Monkey. Tona… all women? I count. Nine women, one dude — Camba the Boy-Child, a 16-year old Medic I assume they use for their Amazon Breeding Program.
Anyway, they have only five warriors remaining in close proximity, but they’ve successfully spread into a crescent moon around our position, giving them numerous great angles around our sandbags, which feel smaller with every passing second.
I pause to evaluate the s(h)ituation. Ko’s taken an arrow to the kidney. No problem. Tetsuya’s taken one in the arm and another in the leg. He’s still on her feet, but the leg wound will slow him down. Doyle sports a bruise from the fallen Tona’s club.
Truth, terrible truth, suddenly rains on my parade like an exploding outhouse: the five nearby GCP warriors have all found positions and now are unleashing arrow after arrow at our much-diminished cover. We’re practically surrounded.
We can’t hold.
No! Take out Priscilla. We’ve killed three of them, one more makes four, and then killing us becomes a chore. Haha, I’m a poet and didn’t know it and we are so f***ed right now.
Priscilla, escorted by Camba, pushes past our position to the south of the complex and into the birch farm. If we stay here, we die, that much is certain. I order Ko, Doyle, and Tetsuya to sprint back into the complex as arrows rain down all around them. We’ll cut through the complex and hit Priscilla while she’s separated from the main group.
I don’t expect all of them to make it. Tetsuya’s leg wound means his “sprint” is more of a clumsy shuffle. Finally, we catch a break, and all three of them manage to haul ass into the fleeting and feeble shelter of the common room.
We’re coming for you, Priscilla.
With the main assault force now banging on the doors and hammering at the wood walls, we don’t have time for subtlety or subterfuge. Ko, Doyle, and Tetsuya launch a direct attack on Priscilla and Camba. Priscilla takes cover behind a birch with her great bow, while Camba charges with club held high.
Ko uses the corner of the main structure as partial cover, while Doyle runs for the sandbags, with Tetsuya lagging behind on account of the wounded leg.
Priscilla looses her first arrow with terrifying precision, piercing Doyle’s arm. At least it didn’t come off this time. Ko fires at Priscilla, but misses, splintering the birch tree now serving as her cover. To my horror, Priscilla is not only accurate, but quick, and another arrow grazes Ko.
Camba, wielding a club, rushes Doyle, who’s made it to the sandbags. Her pistol rings out only once before Camba’s club connects with her skull, knocking her out.
Thankfully, the rest of the GCP is still pounding at the common room’s eastern door, giving us at least a handful of seconds to assassinate Priscilla. But there’s no way we can kill that Amazon before we take out Camba. Tetsuya makes it to the sandbags and lunges at Camba with his knife, but Camba easily parries and connects with his club, sending Tetsuya into a coma.
Only Ko and Emmie remain — and Emmie, as we know, does not fight. The GCP has now breached the common area, putting it to the torch. Everything is falling apart.
Hear me now… Take the shot. Drop Priscilla. It all comes down to this moment, this lynchpin in our colony’s history. Be the hero we need, not the hero we deserve, and we will sing your praises to you and Emmie’s grandchildren!
Instead, Priscilla the War Chief is the one who makes the shot for the ages and she sinks an arrow between Ko’s eyes, killing him instantly.
Time to run, Emmie. I wake her, though in my head, she’s cowering in bed, not because she’s a coward, but because the violence triggered her PTSD. I send Emmie to hide in the rocky crag to the north.
The GCP raiders, drunk with victory and vengeance, now do what raiders do. They raid. They torch the birch farm. The destroy almost everything of value: the solar panel, the wind turbine, all the workstations. They will let the growing fire do the rest.
Then, Randy Random manages to find a way to make this nightmare even worse:
The GCP elders want retribution. They want a trophy, or perhaps a sacrifice to their primitive, angry gods.
Priscilla throws Tetsuya over her shoulder and heads west.
Meanwhile, the fire rages, hungry and insatiable. Worse, the GCP is taking their accursed time following the order to depart. There’s no time to wait. Emmie — my cook, my carver, my savior, and now my firefighter — scrambles to smother the fires threatening the freezer holding 2 weeks’ worth of food.
The GCP, who are now all dawdling on the other side of the complex, either don’t see her or don’t care. The unconscious Doyle, however, does not escape their notice. They peel her unconscious, one-armed body off the ground and follow their chief west.
The Gray Cliff People finally leave the fiery ruin of Black Mesa behind them, and I know Emmie will never see Tetsuya or Doyle alive again. No time to grieve, Emmie. Grief and survival are mutually exclusive. This is battlefield triage now. Spend time only on what we can save. Let everything else perish.
Emmie fights the fire alone. And by “fights the fire,” I mean “steps on it until it goes out or ignites her, whichever comes first.” Somehow, she prevails, saving the “freezer,” even if it’s now more of a pantry since the GCP thugs destroyed the cooling unit. Still, that meager progress did not come without a price and the fire has now tripled in size.
My trees! Ko, Doyle, and Tetsuya’s fates were upsetting, but helplessly watching fire consume my birch oasis forces yet another mournful sigh out of me.
No time for the trees, Emmie. We can’t eat them or sleep in them. Save the western bedrooms. Their separation from the main facility makes them relatively easy to save, even if we sacrifice the medbay and the common room with the floors we spent 2 weeks building.
Ironically, the oft-cursed sand and my refusal to build wooden floors are likely two key reasons why there’s anything even left to save. Emmie smothers the fire encroaching on the bedrooms and returns to the common area to safeguard the pantry, which is under threat again.
Then, this game… this sick, twisted, sardonic, evil little game makes me smile. “Oh, no…” Randy Random seems to whisper. “Did you think it was over? Did you think I would grant you the sweet release of death so quickly, insect?”
It starts to rain.
A foggy drizzle turns into a downpour, drowning the fires and upgrading Black Mesa from “deadly inferno” to “smoldering ruin.” I’ll take it. I’m not proud.
With the fires out, Emmie and I survey the damage.
OK. First, the good news:
- We have lots of food and intact crops. This is notable because raiders usually love to burn crops on their way out, but the GCP declined to do so.
- The northwest bedroom is completely intact, roof and all, so Emmie will at least sleep well.
- The GCP also left behind my meager supplies of steel, electrical components, and stone bricks, as well as Ko’s survival rifle and Doyle’s pistol. Perhaps their primitive minds couldn’t understand their value.
Then, the bad:
- Emmie has skill score of 1 (“Incompetent”) in Building, which means she can build, but she’ll waste resources and take forever doing it.
- Emmie is “incapable of violence,” so if we’re attacked again, her only defense is to hide and hope they eat Dulce and leave.
- Emmie also has “Incompetent” ratings in other key skills, like Medicine, Research, Growing, and Mining. Her days as a genetically engineered sex slave made her excel at Social, Cooking, and Crafting, but little else.
The prognosis, to put it mildly, is “almost certain death.” Even if Emmie somehow doesn’t spiral into a deep depression and channels her grief into rebuilding, she has no way to defend herself, which means she’ll need new friends, or at least new roommates.
Random colonists do attempt to join colonies from time to time, like Stella the Depressive and Abrasive Empath did during Week 2. We refused her, but perhaps another is around the corner. Perhaps another sex slave will fall from the sky. Perhaps…
Then, while Emmie starts clearing the rubble, I notice something interesting. Something I would even call a potential asset.
One of the fallen tribal Amazons, Tona, is still alive. Though my mind flirts with revenge, practicality feels more prudent. What…if…Emmie saves her? What, if by some miracle, Emmie actually recruits her, thereby doubling our (wo)manpower and helping solve our self-defense issues?
Emmie has no medical training and our med-bay is roofless and covered in soot, but we do have medicine. It’s a longshot at best, but it beats waiting on Randy Random’s chaotic neutral graces. She “dislikes men,” something with which Emmie can sympathize. She has decent-to-good skills in almost everything Emmie lacks, and though her “psychopath” trait does tend to stand out a bit, it’s not as bad as it sounds in game terms. Most of those qualities are, in fact, perks.
“Tona has no empathy. The suffering of others doesn’t bother her at all. She doesn’t mind if others are butchered, left unburied, imprisoned, or sold to slavery – unless it affects her. She also feels no mood boost for socializing.” See? That’s not so bad.
And if those sound like rationalizations, that’s because they are. I agonized over the decision, but Emmie literally cannot defend herself and has practically no building or research skills. Waiting for Randy Random to cough up the ultimate warrior before the GCP returns sounds like madness. I’m rolling the dice on an outside chance because outside chances are my best shot.
Emmie, you were a sex slave, but you escaped and became our cook and negotiator. Then, when everything went to hell, you fought the fires with nothing but your body and an iron will.
Pull up your sleeves, grab a tourniquet, and fetch the meds, Emmie. We’ve got work to do.
…to be continued!
Email the author of this post at JasonDobry@Tap-Repeatedly.com.