Fairly or Reasonably Deep
or, The Fall of Gregory Snickers

Falling - Tobruk
Keeper Note: No Loz nor Lizzie this week, so they were the escorts back to Cairo on the lorry. Neat, huh?

Makren Jirma, East of Cairo, 11:48 June 19th, 1940

With Achmed at the wheel and Anné and Francoise as escorts, the lorry rumbled out of the site and off towards the Cairo road. Not quite as tuned to desert driving as the light car, the lorry was likely to take three hours or so to make the trip each way. Given the speed of military bureacracy, it was unlikely reinforcements would appear until the following morning.

Nevertheless, the agents decided to explore the mines immediately, concluding from the evidence that anything really dangerous would be under the ruins - now blocked by the truck they'd backed into the entrance. Gathering useful equipment together and carefully reloading their weapons, they ran the last truck into the mine entrance and switched on the headlights, illuminating the first twenty yards or so of tunnel.

Mine Tunnel

The mine sloped down quite steeply, and beyond the reach of the lights they could just see a pale purplish illumination. The sides of the tunnel were peculiarly even; not especially smooth, but very consistent, not typical of native hand working at all.

As they walked, they checked the ground for tracks. This wasn't difficult as nearly a hundred workers had been steadily plodding in and out of the place for weeks, but with a little searching around, some more of the mysterious tracks sighted above were discovered in the layer of damp sand on the floor. There was some debate as to which was the front of said tracks, but as they were discovered pointing in both directions the point was moot for the moment. Marcus compared them to his (brief) memory of the Byakhee they'd encountered in Cascata di Lares but there was no similarity.

The source of the purplish illumination came into view as they walked, and turned out to be a hemisphere attached to the wall by unknown means, around the size of half a football. The domed surface was translucent but opaque, and produced a bright, steady radiance bright enough to light a good handred yards' radius. There were no signs of external power connections nor of visible fixings. Wondering, the group continued on.

Mines under Makren Jirma, East of Cairo, 12:38 June 19th, 1940

The tunnel continued, sloping down all the time and dead straight, for a little over a mile. Then it terminated in an archway which appeared to lead into a larger space beyond. For some minutes, a susurration had been audible, finally resolving into the sound of many voices, conversing in what sounded like Arabic. Creeping slowly forwards, the group reached the arch and discerned what lay beyond. Gregory, holding aloft one of the special matches, strode boldly forward twenty feet or so into the cavern before looking around.

The open space was a large cavern, two hundred yards across and fifty high. In the centre was a bowl-like depression fifty yards across and fifty feet deep, with a column of rock that remained at the height of the cavern floor in the middle. At the far side of the cavern, opposite the entrance, was a dark opening in the floor, again around fifty feet across. The whole space was illuminated by the same purple light generators, these mounted on the ceiling.

A couple of dozen of the local workers were huddled in various places around the central bowl, mostly talking quietly. Some had small camp-fires lit. By the looks of things, these were the workers who'd either been in the mine or between the gunfire and the mine when it all kicked off above in the morning. Scattered baskets on the floor with spilled mineral and loose rock seemed to bear this out.

The Creatures

Mounted atop the central column above the bowl was another alien machine, with various glowing areas on it. However, the most significant sight there was the two creatures standing next to it. The utter uncanniness of these beings' appearance made the men's senses reel with horror. They seemed to be large, pinkish, fungoid, crustacean-like entities the size of a man; where a head would be, they had a convoluted ellipsoid composed of pyramided, fleshy rings and covered in antennae. Numerous sets of paired appendages sprouted from their bodies, as well as a pair of membranous bat-like wings.

As the strange, segmented heads turned to regard the humans, Gregory's mind, still unsteady after his earlier experiences, buckled under the horror and evil with which he was confronted. His perception of what was around him was overwhelmed by hallucinations and he began babbling incoherently and waving his arms around.

Marcus Brody

Marcus, wondering if negotiations might be possible, stepped forwards and raised his hat politely. "Hello!" he called, "We are here representing the British Government!"

Whether this had attracted their attention to himself specifically, he never knew, but suddenly a droning, buzzing voice, audible only to him, filled his head. It spoke English, it seemed to him, but with odd spaces in the sentences and other words run together.

"Youare... mizztaken, we arezzuppozed to ... be here. Thiz doez not conzernyouhuman. Be off allofyou and trouble uzno ... more."

As it spoke, a sensation of dawning enlightenment washed across Marcus. Of course, it was right - why were they mere humans daring to interfere with the business of the Masters? He began urging the others to leave immediately, inisisting that this was not a place where they should be.

Meanwhile, Cyril had unslung his Lee-Enfield and was drawing a bead on one of the creatures. Joe and Birapeer dived on Gregory and dragged him back into the mouth of the tunnel, disarming him of Nicholas Smarties and clicking a pair of handcuffs onto him to prevent him doing anything dangerous. As they turned to Marcus, wondering what he was talking about, Cyril squeezed off a shot. The bullet ripped through the monster on the left of the platform; though it was a good hit, it seemed to Cyril that it hadn't done as much damage as he would have expected.

The other creature's wings blurred, and it lifted into the air, flying rather clumsily towards the party, a large boxy object clutched in two of its appendages. Cyril worked the bolt of his weapon to chamber another round. As Birapeer unsuccessfully tried to slap some sense into Marcus, Joe raised his Sten and sent a long burst of automatic fire at the approaching abomination. Again, as the bullets ripped through, it seemed to him that they were doing less damage than they should; perhaps the creature was less dense than a man? However, eight 9mm rounds were more than enough it seemed, and it plunged out of the air in a shower of black ichor to splatter on the floor half-way to the central bowl.

Sten Gun

The remaining creature, gripping a similar boxy object, dropped off the far side of the pillar, spreading its wings as it did so. Cyril hesitated, frustrated as he lost his target, and Joe and Birapeer sprinted into the cave to try and get an angle. As they did so, the creature reached the far side of the bowl and climbed to just above floor level, swivelling in the air and lifting the box. With a terrifiying crackle, an eye-aching bolt of what looked exactly like lightning erupted from the front surface, tore across the central pillar just above floor height and on towards the two humans. Both stared in horror as it approached, then relaxed as it petered out around half-way to them. On the central pillar of the excavation, the alien machine erupted into strange-coloured flames, bits of its casing flying in all directions.

Joe lifted his Sten and sent another deafening hammer of automatic fire back in response, holding his finger down until the gun clicked empty. Bullets ripped through the monster and it dropped to the cavern floor, its weapon bouncing once and coming to a halt just short of going into the pit at the back of the cavern.

As this happened, Marcus blinked. What had he been saying? Why on Earth would he want to run away? Something had invaded his mind, dominated it utterly! He shuddered. As he thought this, the natives in the cave suddenly lost their previous composure. Shouting, screaming, some weeping with fear, all signs of their previous lassitude gone, they broke and fled for the exit, flowing around and past the agents without pausing.

Joe and Birapeer walked cautiously at the downed monstrous form. Its carapace was split and punctured and black slimy ichor was leaking from it in several places. Is it dead? thought Joe to himself. It looked like it should be dead; but it was so alien, so unearthly, that he had no real frame of reference to evaluate its status. He kept expecting it to suddenly bunch and hurl itself at him, and it grated at his nerves. He clicked another magazine into the Sten and emptied it into the protruberance located where a human would keep its head, reducing it to black paste. Nothing happened, but he felt a bit more confident in its' demise. He carefully repeated the process on the other creature.

Lightning Gun

Birapeer had picked up one of the boxes - obviously weapons - that the creatures had been carrying. He turned it over in his hands, looking at it. In design it resembled the processing machine; it had similar lights and flat panels of indecipherable symbols on. A couple of cylindrical shapes with glass or crystal ends protruded from one end - lenses? External controls there were none. He stashed it by the tunnel entrance to take back for the boffins to look at.

Blauer Krystal

At the other side of the cavern, Joe Vandeleur had gone through a similar process with the second weapon. As well as a visual inspection, he had exerted his embryonic magical talents and directed some of his life energy into it. Nothing happened. Out of interest, he tried the same process with the Blauer Krystal he carried around his neck; it glowed slightly in proportion to the effort he exerted, but nothing else happened.

Confident the area was secure, the group examined the depression in the middle; the sides were not smooth but they were unnaturally even, again nothing made by human hands. They were covered in small pieces of loose rock and of the mineral that the processing machine was converting to pitchblende, and the suggestion that the second (now destroyed) machine had somehow vibrated the rock loose and into fragments made a degree of sense.

Cyril, unpacking his camera, wandered around taking photographs of everything; the machines, the slain monsters, the pit and so on. While he did this, the others examined the light-globes that were attached to the walls of the tunnel leading to the cavern, and discovered that they could be levered off, still working, with some effort. There were no signs of external connections or attachments, but the back surface seemed to exert some kind of adhesive effect when touched. Two placed back-to-back created a glowing globe. This seemed very useful and the party determined to collect them all on the way out.

Bottomless Pit.
Does what it says on the tin...

A trail of discarded carrying baskets and what looked like the waste rock led to the circular opening at the back of the cavern. Birapeer walked up and leaned over to look down. For a moment, his pilot's instincts threw up memories of looking down from a plane towards the nighted earth below; the shaft fell vertically away into Stygian blackness. He wondered how deep it was, and unclipped a grenade. Pulling the pin, he dropped it into the hole and watched it tumble away into the dark. Five seconds later, a faint boom and flare of light briefly illuminated a stretch of the shaft way, way down. The sharpnel could be heard rattling on the sides of the shaft, but no subsequent sound of bits striking the bottom could be heard.

The Matches

Rather ghoulishly, Marcus hit on the idea of attaching one of their unquenchable matches to the alien corpse and throwing that down as a falling light source. Birapeer improved the plan by sprinkling the corpse with spare fluid for his Zippo lighter. The match was attached and the body unceremoniously levered over the edge.

It plunged into the hole, turning slowly in the air as it dwindled down the pit. No sound of impact could be heard, and it had become only a tiny point of light by the time it disappeared; whether from impact scattering the "missile", consumption of the fuel, or expiry of the match was impossible to tell.

For some reason, this seemingly bottomless pit appeared to exert an irresistable attraction on Gregory. After a brief consideration of simply jumping in, he determined to climb down to investigate what was at the bottom. Everyone had seen Gregory climb before, and knew he could scale pretty much everything, but the sides of this pit were of the same uniformity as the bowl behind them and it seemed rather unlikely that he could succeed. Then Birapeer remembered that, tucked in among his gear in their own truck, was his personal emergency reserve parachute. Seeing the lad was determined upon his adventure, the Sikh offered it to him as a safety mechanism in case he should slip. It was retrieved and strapped to the youth, and Birapeer ran briefly through the procedures of operating it as Gregory lightened his load by discarding most of his gear.

As the rest watched, still not quite believing what they were seeing, he swung confidently over the brink of the chasm and began to scramble down. His skill was beyond question; he worked his way steadily downwards, eventually disapearing out of the pool of light thrown into the pit from the light-globes on the cavern roof.

After that, no-one could quite be sure what happened. There was a short cry, a hollow thump, then, much fainter, another sound of impact. Moments later, a bloom of bright flame filled the shaft, way, way below - dim to the watchers, probably blindingly bright at its source. An instant later there was a dreadfully final crunch and then darkness and silence.

Keeper Note: Arthur made his Difficult Climb rolls for nearly 300' of descent, which was remarkable, but then failed one. He Pushed that roll, grabbing with one arm, and caught himself; then failed the next and the Pushed roll as well. Gregory lost his grip with his hands, caught a foot and tumbled, cracking his head. Failing a CON roll to remain conscious, he fell down the shaft, unable to pull the parachute's ripcord. A second CON roll to see if the rush of air revived him was also failed. As the floor of the pit rushed to meet him, the spell Cloak of Fire, lodged in his subconcious since his amnesia years before, the cause of his inability to learn other magic, triggered to defend him, and his still-unconcious form, on fire, racked with agony, only protected from 1d10+1d6 further SAN loss by being stunned, smacked onto hard stone after 700' of fall. I declined to roll 70d6 damage against his 6 remaining hit points. A magnificent character death!
Session Date: 10th April 2018