The Battle of Cascata di Lares

Playlist: We Fight for Love - The Power Station

The Power Station at Cascata di Lares- click it for larger image!

Inside the Power Station, Cascata di Lares, Northern Italy, May 14th, 1940, 13:13

Carefully, Joe pushed the door into the power station proper open and peered through. Immediately on the other side, he could see the form of an Italian soldier on guard, but luck was with him; the man was facing the other way. Swiftly, the commando stepped forward and flicked the garotte wire of his Mclaggen-Peskett over the guard's head. His target jerked in shock, and reacted just in time to get his hand up between the wire and his neck, preventing the intended strangulation. Bracing himself, Joe gripped his victim and slugged with the cosh end of the weapon, ducking as Cyril's mis-aimed punch nearly caught him in the side of his head. The guard's knees folded and he slumped, Joe following him down and punching his ticket for good as they reached floor level.

Power Station Ground Floor - click it for larger image!

Looking over him from behind Cyril, Marcus and Gregory were able to get a better view of the interior of the power station. The guard had been standing in a cement-floored area 50'x40', open at the far end to a sloped drop into the torrent where the river flowed through the building. Leading up from the floor were two steel staircases, linking to mesh gantries crossing the river above the four huge turbines located in the flow. Where the gantries reached the centre of the turbine hall, a flight of steps led on up to a higher floor, and a third gantry led downstream to the generator hall. A single Regio guard was standing at that junction, staring towards them and fingering his rifle. At the far end, the gantries descended again to a similar open area; this wasn't very visible from their current position but was likely to be very similar to their current location.

As they watched, the soldier lifted his rifle and prepared to take aim. For some reason, Gregory bounded past Joe and out into the room, snapping a pistol shot at the guard more as a distraction than with any hope of hitting...

Outside the Power Station, Cascata di Lares, Northern Italy, May 14th, 1940, 13:13

Fiat Armoured Car

As Anné clambered down from her sniper perch to join him, Birapeer eyed the vehicles parked outside the power station and considered their escape options. He reckoned the rattly old tour car wasn't going to be the best choice, and eyed the Fiat armoured car parked next to it. He'd never driven one before, but there was a first time for everything. He opened the driver's door and climbed in. A press of the starter and the motor fired; cautiously he tried the controls.

Parked a bit close, did we sir?

Compared to the cockpits he was used to, visibility was rubbish, but it was fundamentally like a large car or a small truck, and after a few scrapes and jerks he got it turned around so the passenger door faced the building. Waiting until Anné had disappeared inside, he carefully drove up and parked it against the door, blocking entrance to the building, with the passenger door only a step from the radio hut exit. Then he jammed the driver door and top hatches and climbed out, leaving the engine ticking over, to join the rest of the group.

Inside the Power Station, Cascata di Lares, Northern Italy, May 14th, 1940, 13:15

From the doorway of the radio room, Marcus and Cyril both tried pistol shots at the Regio soldier as he lined his rifle up, but the range was very optimistic for a pistol shot and the bullets went wide. Joe, exposed inside the anteroom, slid forwards to his belly, pushing the guard's corpse out ahead of him to make a sandbag, and dragged his MP38 forwards to the ready. Not far away, Gregory lined up a shot and fired, winging the guard, who retaliated by firing at Gregory; the bullet glanced off the cement floor with an angry whine. Then the MP38 burped out three rounds and the man staggered, toppled over the railing on the gantry and vanished into the torrent below.

As he did so, another came into view along the gantry leading to the generator room, staring at the spot where his comrade had disappeard and then across at the two perpetrators. He, too, started to lift his rifle, though hesitantly as he looked at Gregory in his Italian uniform; but from behind Joe and Gregory came the distinctive heavy cough of l'Etranger and the soldier staggered and fell.

This seemed to have cleared resistance on the ground level, so the party moved up the stairs and along the downstream gantry towards the ascending stairs. In the everpresent thunder of the roaring water and bone-deep hum of the massive generators next door, it was quite possible that people elsewhere in the building might not have heard the shots - certainly, the party themselves couldn't hear much.

As they reached the stairs, another guard came into view, solemnly patrolling the far anteroom area and so far unaware of their presence. Joe nodded to Anné and she lined l'Etranger up again. She stroked the trigger and for a moment doubted her sanity; the entire end of the building beyond her target vanished in a flame-cored explosion which hurled his body across the anteroom and into the river. Thick smoke filled that end of the building. A little puzzled, the group stuck to their mission and sprinted up the stairs.

Upper Level, Power Station, Cascata di Lares, Northern Italy, May 14th, 1940, 13:25

The Upper Level

The stairs doubled back to come up to the upper level from the upstream side, and as they crept the last few steps they noticed the legs of two guards at the top of the flight. Anné had switched to her light, elegant French MAS pistol and she and Cyril opened fire. This was a much more sensible range for handgun fire and the two guards dropped. The party moved cautiously to the top of the stairs.

The upper level was dominated by two large control and monitoring consoles, covered in dials and switches. At the ends of the level were two offices; one appeared to have desks and a couple of soldiers in it, while the other radiated blue light - exactly the same shade as the blue they were becoming familiar with. Outside this stood a guard, but he was watching events inside that room through the window. Anné and Cyril repeated their lethal pistol fire and dropped the guard before he knew what was happening.

Birapeer and Marcus headed off towards the office on the left, Birapeer close to the upstream wall and out of view of the window, Marcus heading round the office to the downstream side. Joe and Anné took up positions, prone behind the dead guards, to control the stairs. Gregory and Cyril headed towards the glowing office.

Two men dressed in white coats were visible in the RH office, and Gregory loosed a shot at them - deflected by the shattering window glass - before Cyril reined in his enthusiasm; "We may need them to answer questions!" Tucking Nicholas Smarties away, he jogged over and climbed through the window, regretting it as he cut himself on the remaining shards. Cyril made for the door instead.

Shotgun from the wrong end!

At the other side, Birapeer reached the door and did something unexpected; he knocked. From the side, Marcus saw one of the officers stand up and walk unhurriedly towards the door, while the other watched him over his paperwork. He paused to see what the Sikh was going to do. The officer opened the door, and Birapeer let him have a 12-gauge shotgun shell directly in the face at pretty much point-blank range.

A great spray of blood and guts was blasted across the office and what remained of the officer dropped to the ground. The other man in the room jerked to his feet, his face blanched with horror, rivited to the awful sight, and Marcus was able to plug him quite calmly in the back of the head before turning away from the mess inside and squeezing his eyes shut. Both reloaded their weapons and Birapeer did a quick search of the office, disabling a telephone he found on one desk.

Meanwhile, at the head of the stairs, Joe had improvised a periscope with a stick and a mirror he'd found on one of the guards (for no explicable reason...). Trying to get angles to look down into the lower hall, he could see movement but nothing more. He returned to his guard post.

On the other side, Cyril and Gregory were inside the office. In the centre, a bench held a plinth with a 12” statue on it, matching the description of their objective, connected to a variety of boxes and devices across the room by heavy electrical cables. The blue glow was emanating from the statue. Painted carefully onto the sides of the bench, and in a circle completely enclosing it, were an enormous range of obscene-looking symbols and runes. These, too, glowed faintly with the same unhealthy cyan radiance. Both Cyril and Gregory's minds reeled at the implications of the lettering. Two men in white coats were in here, cowering against the far wall. As he looked at them, it occurred to Gregory that they seemed extremely interested in where he and Cyril were standing for some reason. One of them he recognized as Gregoretti from the book Marcus had discovered.

The two tried shouting at the two scientists in a variety of languages, and in the end English seemed the most effective; however, they still seemed not to grasp what was wanted until Cyril walked around the pentagram and placed his pistol against a scholarly head. With a click, the power was cut to the devices, and the blue glow faded and was gone. While Cyril started tying up their prisoners, Gregory walked blithely into the arcane circle, smudging several symbols, and picked up the statue. It was warm to the touch, and was made of a red metal that he recognized as the same as the Orichalum ornament on Gregoretti’s desk. Strange symbols were carved around the base, he dimly recalled were of the same sort as the ones on the three pages of the Book of the Machine. The basic form was human, and it had arms that looked as if they were meant to be movable, though they did not move when he tried them. It had blue areas on it (the same colour as Joe’s crystal and the paperweight sparks) but with the power removed, they did not glow. Cyril started taking photographs and called Gregory to watch the prisoners; he dropped the statue back on the bench and went to assist. In the pocket of one he discovered a telegram bearing the words; "Nachtwölfe ha il dott. Ehrlichmann" - Nachtwölfe have Dr Erlichmann. He showed it to Cyril and pocketed it.

Control Panel

Marcus wandered over to the control panel, and examined it. "Maybe... " he said thoughtfully, "maybe we should turn all this off. It might distract the blighters while we're trying to escape?" Joe frowned. "It supplies the whole area with power," he pointed out. "No-one knows we're here yet. If it goes off, people will come up here to find out why." Marcus nodded. "Ohhhh, yes," he said.

Suddenly, two men in German army uniforms bounded up from the landing and onto the stairs below Anné and Joe. Anné fired her pistol, but, trembling with hate, barely touched them with two of the worst shots she'd ever made. Beside her, Joe loosed off a ten-round burst, the submachinegun's voice thunderous in the confined space, and one of the soldiers slumped. The other, his face twisted as his leg began to bleed, fired back but only succeeded in hitting the deceased Italian soldiers serving as a rampart.

Nachtwölfe Emblem

Birapeer, Marcus and Gregory, hearing the crash of gunfire, sprinted to the rail above the stairs, and Marcus shot downwards, finishing the soldier off. As he dropped, they got a slightly better look at him. He was wearing the camouflage jacket typical of a Fallschirmjäger - a paratrooper - and on his shoulder and helmet were a black patch with a peculiar symbol; a paw with a pale blue eye in the centre. Boots could be heard ringing on the stairs and a moment later, two more took their place.

Double-barrelled Shotgun

Birapeer leaned over with his terrible shotgun and pressed the trigger - which did not move. The left hand mechanism was jammed. With a shrug, he fired the other barrel, blasting one of the paras nearly to bits, then backed off from the rail to try and unjam his weapon. As he did so, an object dropped from the para's other hand and bounced off down the stairs. Joe shouted a warning, but the grenade exploded far enough down that the blast did not reach the defenders.

Cyril had got the two scientists flat on their faces near the shattered window, and from the cover of that aperture was ready with his pistol in case the Germans broke up the stairs. As he knelt there, he heard a faint sound and frowned. Looking down, he realized Gregoretti was muttering to himself in Latin. He swatted the man absently to shut him up, but he kept mumbling what sounded like entreaties of some kind.

Fallschirmjäger with Nachtwölfe insignia

Joe loosed another spray of 9mm slugs into the stairwell, killing the fourth para as Gregory and Marcus looked over the rail again. Marcus whipped out a notepad and took a sketch of the Nachtwölfe emblem as a temporary lull fell. Birapeer continued to struggle with his locked shotgun, while Joe reloaded, and Gregory took the paperweight out of his pocket and hefted it thoughtfully. Then Joe bellowed at the top of his not inconsiderable voice, "Was willst du hier?" His use of du was intentionally condescending and arrogant.

There was a pause, and then a voice speaking much better German responded, "Wir wollen die Statue, geben sie Ihnen und Sie können alle leben. Wir sind doch alle auf der gleichen Seite!" - We just want the statue, give it to us and you can all live. We're all on the same side, after all!" Joe paused. "Du hast nur eine Chance," floated up the stairs. Joe shrugged. "Komm und nimm es dann!" he shouted - "Come and get it then"

There flapped rhythmically a horde of tame, trained, hybrid winged things…not altogether crows, nor moles, nor buzzards, nor ants, nor decomposed human beings, but something I cannot and must not recall.
—H.P. Lovecraft, The Festival

At that moment, Gregoretti's chanting rose to a desperate scream and a flash of unearthly light erupted from the back of the office. Turning, Gregory could see ... something .. moving in the shadows inside. He caught a flash of scale, of talon, of horn, of slimy flesh between wing-joints. His mind staggered at the implications - whatever this was, it had appeared, impossibly, from nowhere.

Terror siezed Cyril and - resolutely not looking behind him - he flung himself through the shattered window of the office and went flat to the floor on the other side. A second later, a hideous something hurtled over the top of him, smashing through the wall where the window had been. As it emerged into the light, all the others (barring Birapeer, who kept his head down working on his weapon) could see it clearly and all struggled to comprehend. It was wrong, something that should not exist. Fear tore at their self-control.

In two of its' talons it clutched Dr Gregoretti, but not to injure him; it was merely holding him. His own eyes were wild with terror, as if this thing he himself had brought into the world was more than he could bear either. It rocketed through the air towards the stairs at such speed that no-one could get a bead on it; but to get down the stairs, it had to come to a halt above the flight and fold its' wings before dropping into the aperture. Everyone fired at once, but it was Birapeer and Joe that made the most difference; rather to their surprise, the bullets and pellets tore through both monstrosity and man and dropped both Gregoretti and his steed into the stairwell as a mess of mangled flesh, bone and blood. The agents looked at each other, their spirits rising. Maybe the much-feared creatures of the Mythos were not so dangerous after all?

As the echoes subsided, Joe signalled for silence. Let's see if they think it got us all, he mouthed. Very quietly, Cyril recovered the statue from the office, and Anné slipped it into her special handbag as the others considered exits. Joe hefted the blasting charge he'd been carrying, and pointed to the downstream wall - if they blew that out, they could get onto the roof of the generator hall and head for the vehicles. Birapeer pointed to the wall above where the Fiat armoured car waited and made similar gestures.

Meanwhile, from below could be heard the rattle of running boots on the steel gantries, as well as at least two pairs of slower, heavier treads. Much heavier....

Session Date: 6th February 2018