Johnah Hammer wondered anew what he was doing in Finnegan’s. The tavern was loud. Even for a tavern in Qi, one of the largest if not the largest cities of the Steadfast. The celebration was not one he expected to fall into. All about him people in green tinted clothing often decorated with a four leaf clover.
It was madness.
Johnah idly wondered if perhaps he should have worn his armor after all but such worthless musings were worthless. He knew as did most others that in the city of Qi, it was… discouraged form wearing anything over say a leather jerkin. Something about looking to invite trouble.
Thankfully those thoughts did not transfer over to his weapons. Indeed, without his great maul and heavy crossbow, the ‘Hammer’ would have felt naked.
Johnah slowly sipped his beer. It was a heavy dark dry stout that resembled oil more than a good beer. Still, in his early years training in the monastery, he learned to not waste and so nursed it.
More disturbing to Johnah were those he sat with. He could not recall how they had all gathered at this particular tavern in Qi, at this particular table at Finnegan’s, but there they were.
To his right sat Dameris ‘the Immortal’. She was a pale white beauty but there was something rotten about that beauty. Despite her appearance, no one asked that ivory statuette to dance. Something about her manner unnerved even the most resolute individuals.
Next to her say Drugah Voss. He remained fairly ‘normal’ in terms of some of the things the Hammer had seen. Johnah knew that such apperances could be deceiving though.
Across from him sat Hugo Hall. Johnah shuddered. The man was more machine than meat. The eyes always searching out new pieces of Numenera either to visually fuck or to dreamily lust after. The unnaturalness about it brought a shudder to the Hammer who had to control himself from downing his dark stout.
Next to Hall sat Luselm. She moreso than Drugah was unremarkable in the loudness of Finnegan’s.
A thick mustached man with red hair pointed to us across the room. His face as red as his beard.
Next to eh man was a smaller one.
“You’re at our table. Leave!”
Johnah looked to the ivory one. “I didn’t understand him.”
“Nor I. Perhaps if he spoke normally?”
The red haired one introduced himself as Angus and demanded we leave.
The Hammer looked Angus dead in the eyes rolling his huge shoulders. “We need no anus at this table.”
The little one smirked but Angus swelled like a balloon being blown up. “What? What?”
“No anus here friend. It’s not needed.”
The little one stepped in. “What my friend means is that we would like to join you. I be Smith, Roger Smith.”
The Hammer nodded to the two who pulled up some seats and wondered again at what he was doing here. Some second hand information brought him here to seek out new work. Things had been different for the Hammer since his time at the Monastery.
Roger pulled forth a clockwork bird and began winding it up. It was gold and brass and its movements were fluid.
Hugo’s eyes glossed over and his hand reached out towards the bird. The bird lifted a leg and emitted some dark based liquid, darker than the stout Hammer drank.
Hugo stuck one finger into the vicious liquid and tasted it.
The Hammer laughed. “The bird craps and you would taste of it? This is why I often think people of the city are dirty.”
Hugo didn’t smile but the others at the table did. Hugo didn’t seem insulted by such words. Indeed, the look on Hugo’s face was almost one of scanty as if he looked past the physical nature of the waste and was determining what it was on a larger scale of things.
The tavern increased in tempo. A bard played with Numenera white gloves that left notes visible in the air that the bard then played with the white gloves as if the music were a physical entity.
The commotion became louder still. Then panic. People ran into the room screaming that “It’s Happening again!” Robots had gone mad for some reason. These security droids designed to keep the peace gone mad. Wires twisted all around a metal skeleton.
“Are you going to put that in your mouth next?” The Hammer sneered at Hugo.
“No. We should be leaving.” Hugo replied in a matter of fact manner.
Drugah disagreed. “We need to take this thing out!”
Hammer wasted no further time on talk and with Roger, the two flipped the table over to act as cover. While it looked like mere wood, the material was far stronger. People drunkenly brawled had cracked bone with the steins which shared the wood look, but also shared the far stronger durability.
Having taken shelter behind the flipped over table, The Hammer smiled. This reminded him of the many caravan trips he had made since leaving the Monastery. His skills had proven invaluable on many of this trips, saving lives and exploring the wilds.
The pulled out the heavy crossbow and fired a shot but was over.
The white one did something, but it appeared to have no effect. No, that wasn’t quite true. Something flicked around the metal skeleton and the barbed wire slashed it to pieces.
Drugah looked at one of the tables and it rose and flew towards the metal menace. The table flew into different directions.
Luselm seemed possessed of madness running towards it with a dagger. She evaded the razor wire around it and struck the creature, but it was no deer to be skinned with a mere dagger. She rolled back and avoided the thing’s wires again.
Hugo threw a mug at the creature. The mug was hit so many times by the barbed wire that it ceased to exist.
The thing looked at our group. It raised a rod with red glowing light that aimed at Roger. Angus stepped in front of the blast and smirked.
The rest of the group looked on in horror. What Angus didn’t realize at first was that a hole had formed in his chest large enough for even the barrel chested Hammer to put his arm through.
Angus twitched and fell.
This time, the Hammer paused for a moment as he aimed. The heavy bolt struck true this time into the creature’s skull. The barbed wire danced about the creature cutting those foolish enough to be near in two save for Luselm who easily dodge the wires.
“Another is coming!” A person yelled.
The Hammer wasted no time on pondering and instead loaded his heavy crossbow with another bolt.
Luselm began looking over the metal corpse. The rod it used to kill Angus shattered into powdered metallic glass that dissipated into the floor.
Dameris, the white beauty stood over Angus. She placed hand on neck and the Hammer wondered, “What the hell was she doing?” Clearly Angus was dead. Past all hope.
Drugah looked over the creature with Luselm. His intention seemed more investigative. His eyes more interested in what was happening behind the scenes. “Perhaps they have been hacked? This would seem to be a mode designed to repel intruders.” He said what many of us though.
Hugo examined the fallen creature as well. Was he seeking to incorporate it into his own man machine frame?
Hugo unlike the other two investigators, became one with the machine. The Hammer could see numbers and data actually flashing over Hugo’s eyes. It was a terrifying change of man from machine.
The screams became more audible. Another of the metallic skeletons were approaching. Hugo went to one side of the door and Luselm to the other.
Before it entered though, Drugah’s pop’s a pill. His face took on a look of effort and outside, one of the poles housing a glow globe smashed down upon the metal enforcer.
Dameris walked outside ignoring the hysteria of the ‘common’ people. She straddled one of the corpses outside and injected it in the neck with a needle while kissing the dead forehead.
The thing that was once dead screamed. A final breath shot out of its lungs. It began to rise, picking up a piece of debris as a club. It then moved onto the machine.
The Hammer took a moment to aim and smiled. Be a shame if he hit the newly created zombie but firing into combat was a risk he was willing to take. Undead and machines? Either one would make a good target.
But his aim was true. The bolt smashed through the skull casing again.
The Hammer went outside. It was chaos.
The machines fought each other. Those that were in ‘red’ mode were easily defeating those in ‘blue’ mode. People were losing limbs and others were exploding.
The Hammer pondered the end of Qi.
Hugo looked at us. “We need to find a hub. At this hub, there is something infecting these creatures.”
Luselm has a look of confidence on her face. “I know exactly where we can find this local hub.”
The people in Finnegan’s barricade up. They failed to appreciate that one had come in through the roof. The sounds of their slaughter is not pleasing but there is no time to waste.
Luselm’s mastery of Qi is unprecedented as she leads the group through the city. Through alleys and under spires. Through quick underground passages and abandoned buildings. Most of the group walked like mere mortals but Drugah? He rides a disk of mental energy his arms folded across his chest.
After a few moments, all of us are lost. Hugo cries out, “You’re lost aren’t you. You’ve doomed us!”
Luselm’s smile reveals that we are not lost as she leads us into an elevator shaft. “We’re here.” The elevator leads us down and ahead we know that there are guards.
Dameris sends the undead thing forward and the guards obligingly follow it.
Drugah summons a extra hand that grabs a baton from the walkway.
And the cause of all this madness?
A preteen wearing a uniform of the Aeon Priests. His mad laughter is directed towards a holographic series of images ahead of him. Plugs and jacks go from his shaved skull into a variety of machines under him. He doesn’t sit but rather floats above the chair.
Hugo pays these things no mind and instead tries to seize the boy’s head and electricity crackles from his hand. The two engage in something not quite a battle of wills but neither moves for a brief few seconds which stretch into eternity but it does reveal that the child is surrounded by something. Some sort of barrier.
“You would stop the Doom Ladden? Prepared to taste pain!” The voice that comes from the child? It’s not child’s voice. It is one of cold and metal. Worse still, when it speaks, red lights spill forth from its mouth.
Luselm moves so stealthily that even as the others watch the scene in front of them, she disappears for a moment and then appears again and brings down her dagger into the seeming child. It does not take the stabbing as the field that protected it from Hugo’s hand of death, easily deflects the dagger.
Drugah commands his extra hand wielding the truncheon to smash the youth and with his own power, pulls forth a piece of stone. Both attacks seek to smash the youth. Some of the ports and cables are knocked loose from the child’s skull but it does not fall.
The Immortal smiles and looks deeply into the youth’s eyes. “How dare you!” The child cries out. “You think to best me?!?” And the Immortal’s perfect smile cracks and blood seeps from her nose.
Johnah tries to avoid shooting his comrades and gets the right angle, the right position and the right time. The heavy crossbow fires true but the thing grabs the bolt from the air and flicks it away.
Between Hugo and the child, the air weavers. Hugo cries out “No!” and apparently isn’t consumed by whatever the child was doing. Hugo pauses for a second, catching his breath. And without warning, reaches forward, ignoring the child for a second, and pulls at something behind the child, a cord leading into it’s back.
Then the field surrounding the child, the wavering energy flux, fades.
Luselm’s smile is not friendly as she realizes that the child’s defenses are gone and she doesn’t hesitate as the knife comes down.
Drugah continues to focus his dual efforts, the truncheon and the sheer force of his will, against the child. The concrete slab smashes against the child knocking more wiring lose and almost crushing the child’s skull.
The child falls from the air unto the floor. Metal plating revealed under the torn skin. One eye looking to the right seeing nothing.
But it still lived.
The Immortal sneered at the child seeing it weakened. She raises a hand and energy crackles at the tip of her finger.
The child laughs and Dameris’ finger explodes in blood.
The Hammer walks forward past the white one.
The child looks up. It’s one good eye focusing on the heavy crossbow.
“Free me!” It begs and for the first time, it’s in a human voice.
The Hammer does.