deadlands - hell on earth - monsters, muties, & misfits.pdf

Click here to load reader

Post on 04-Mar-2016




18 download

Embed Size (px)


  • By: Robin Laws, Charles Ryan, Paul Sudlow,Rob Vaux, Joseph Wolf & John Hopler

  • MonsterMonsterMonsterMonsterMonsters, Muties & Misfitss, Muties & Misfitss, Muties & Misfitss, Muties & Misfitss, Muties & Misfits

    Designed bDesigned bDesigned bDesigned bDesigned by:y:y:y:y: Robin Laws, Charles Ryan, Paul Sudlow, Rob Vaux, Joseph Wolf & John HoplerEditing & LaEditing & LaEditing & LaEditing & LaEditing & Layyyyyout: out: out: out: out: John HoplerCoCoCoCoCovvvvver Art:er Art:er Art:er Art:er Art: BromInterior Art:Interior Art:Interior Art:Interior Art:Interior Art: Andrew Bates, F. Newton Burcham, Don Hillsman,

    Ashe Marler, Richard Pollard, & Kevin SharpeCoCoCoCoCovvvvver Design:er Design:er Design:er Design:er Design: Hal MangoldLogos:Logos:Logos:Logos:Logos: Charles Ryan, Zeke Sparkes & Ron SpencerSpecial Thanks to:Special Thanks to:Special Thanks to:Special Thanks to:Special Thanks to: Shane, Michelle & Caden Hensley, Christy Hopler, Barry Doyle, John &

    Joyce Goff, the Listserv Rowdies, Jay Kyle, Jason Nichols, Dave Seay, Ray Lau, Dave Wilson,Maureen Yates, & John Z Zinser

    Deadlands: Hell on Earth created by Shane Lacy Hensley.

    Dedicated to:Dedicated to:Dedicated to:Dedicated to:Dedicated to: All the Marshals out there that keep their heroes scared and their abominations well fed.

    Visit our web site for free updates!Deadlands, Hell on Earth, Weird West, Wasted West, the

    Deadlands: Hell on Earth logo, the Hell on Earth sublogo,the Pinnacle Starburst, and the Pinnacle logo areTrademarks of Pinnacle Entertainment Group, Inc.

    Pinnacle Entertainment Group, Inc.All Rights Reserved.

    Printed in the USA.

    Pinnacle Entertainment Group, Inc.

    This electronic book is copyright Pinnacle Entertainment Group.Redistribution by print or by file is strictly prohibited.

    Add 1 to all Page Number References to account for the cover of this Ebook.

  • Table o ContentsTable o ContentsIntrIntrIntrIntrIntroductionoductionoductionoductionoduction ................................................................. 44444

    Posse TPosse TPosse TPosse TPosse Territoryerritoryerritoryerritoryerritory ......................... 55555

    Chapter One:Chapter One:Chapter One:Chapter One:Chapter One:MonsterMonsterMonsterMonsterMonsters,s ,s ,s ,s ,MonsterMonsterMonsterMonsterMonsters,s ,s ,s ,s ,EvEvEvEvEverywhererywhererywhererywhererywhereeeee ....................................................... 77777A Rovin Law

    Dogs Tale ......................................7A Saloon Girl Speaks............ 11From the Journal of

    Sebastian K. ............................. 14Combine Eyes Only .............. 20Underground Terrors ........... 23Words of a Freelance

    Librarian ................................... 26The Meaning of it All ........ 34

    No ManNo ManNo ManNo ManNo Mans Lands Lands Lands Lands Land ....................3 53 53 53 53 5

    Chapter TChapter TChapter TChapter TChapter Twwwwwo:o:o:o:o:AnimalAnimalAnimalAnimalAnimalCompanionsCompanionsCompanionsCompanionsCompanions .............................. 3 73 73 73 73 7A New Edge ................................... 37

    Creatin a Four-FootedFriend.............................................. 38

    Animal Aptitudes .................... 40Animal Companions

    & Bounty Points ................ 48

    The MarThe MarThe MarThe MarThe MarshalshalshalshalshalsssssHandbookHandbookHandbookHandbookHandbook ............................................................4 94 94 94 94 9

    Chapter ThrChapter ThrChapter ThrChapter ThrChapter Three:ee:ee:ee:ee:The CarThe CarThe CarThe CarThe Care &e &e &e &e &Feeding ofFeeding ofFeeding ofFeeding ofFeeding ofAbominationsAbominationsAbominationsAbominationsAbominations .......... 5 15 15 15 15 1Creating Your

    Own Critter .............................. 51Gettin the Most Out of

    Your Abominations ........ 59Companion Critters .............. 65

    Chapter Four:Chapter Four:Chapter Four:Chapter Four:Chapter Four:A LitanA LitanA LitanA LitanA Litany ofy ofy ofy ofy ofHorrHorrHorrHorrHorrorororororsssss ...............................................................................................6 96 96 96 96 9Alexander 9000 .......................... 70Beaded Horror ...............................71Battle Hound................................. 72Bloatbelly .......................................... 74Bloodwave ....................................... 74Bone Bot ............................................ 75Brain Buzzard .............................. 76Candiru ................................................ 78Charnel Hound ........................... 79Creepin Gulch ............................. 79Desert Gator ................................... 81Devil Bat ............................................ 82Discord Bug ................................... 83

    Dust Devil ........................................ 84Explodjinn ........................................ 85Fate Eater ......................................... 86Fizzers ................................................... 87Gallos Terribles .......................... 88Ghostrock Wraith ................... 89Glamor Puss .................................. 90Glow Worm ..................................... 91Gore Storm ..................................... 92Head Case ........................................ 93Mainliner ........................................... 94Maze Dragon ................................ 95Mind Biter ........................................ 96Mojave Rattler ............................. 97Night Haunt .................................... 98Night Stalker ................................ 99Ningyo.................................................. 101Nowhere Man ............................. 102Prairie Tick ................................... 103Predavore ......................................... 104River Worm .................................. 105Rust Mite ......................................... 107Sand Spider .................................. 108Scrawler ........................................... 109The Sob Sister ........................... 110Spider Head................................... 110Storm Crow ................................... 112Tar Monster .................................. 113Texas Razors ................................ 116Thunder Spawn......................... 117Tin Man .............................................. 119Tumblebleed ................................ 120Urban Wyrm................................. 121Wall Crawler ................................ 121Willow Wight .............................. 122

    DeadlandsDeadlandsDeadlandsDeadlandsDeadlandsDispatchDispatchDispatchDispatchDispatch ................................................................. 1 2 41 241 241 241 24

  • 6 Posse

    Welcome to the Zoo!The Hell on Earth world is a

    dangerous place, filled with malevolentcreatures, power-hungry madmen, andall manner of deadly hazards of natural,supernatural, and man-made origins.

    Of course, if youve played orMarshaled the game for any amount oftime, you already know that.

    Monsters, Muties, & Misfits takes youon a guided tour of the freak show thatis the Wasted West. Contained in thesepages are some of the deadliest andmost terrifying abominations that theReckoning has yet spawned. If youre aplayer, your hero had best keep his gunswell-oiled and his eyes peeled, becausethese critters arent big on secondchances. If youre a Marshal, its time toteach your posse a few lessons inhumility.

    Chapter OneChapter OneChapter OneChapter OneChapter One starts the ball rollingwith eyewitness accounts of some ofthe horrid Hell spawn stalking thewestern states. Well, in truth, a numberare secondhand stories because manyof the eyewitnesses ended up as somuch monster guano.

    You player types should readeverything in this chapter with a saltshaker or twopeople tend to getdetails confused when theyre beingshoved in some worm-things toothymaw. Dont get cocky either, because notevery abomination in the Marshalssection is mentioned in Chapter Onesome critters have a 1.000 battingaverage.

    Chapter TChapter TChapter TChapter TChapter Twwwwwo o o o o has all the detailsneeded for your hero to pick up a furryor feathered sidekick. (Sorry, no scalycompanions. We apologize to thosebrainers who wanted to carry theirgoldfish Marvin around the wastes.) Thissection covers everything from teachingold dogs new tricks to showing oldtricks to new dogs.

    Chapter ThrChapter ThrChapter ThrChapter ThrChapter Three ee ee ee ee is in Marshal country.This section discusses the ins and outsof creating new abominations toslaughter, I mean challenge, your possewith, and some of the strategies forgetting the most mileage out of yourhomegrown monstrosities.

    Chapter FourChapter FourChapter FourChapter FourChapter Four contains all the infoyou need to include these newabominations in your game. There arealso updates on some old critterswhove been hanging on since the six-gun days, and, as we mentioned earlier,a number of creatures that the heroeshave been given no hint of.

    So make sure youve got a full clipand dive on in!

  • PosseTerritory

  • 8Monsters Everywhere

  • 9Monsters Everywhere

    Librarians Note: The following is a series of reports relating to supernatural activityand strange creatures that have been reported in various regions in the years sincethe Apocalypse. It was compiled over a period of seven months, simultaneous to my

    travels in search of information on the Cult of Doom. The raw transcripts can be foundin files M100.1, M100.2, M100.3, and M100.4.

    Librarian Robert Goodwin

    A Rovin Law Dogs TaleThey asked me to tell you about some of the

    things Ive seen on my travelssome of theweirdness and horror spread across thiscountry. I suppose Ive gotten more than myshare, although Im still alive to talk about it,which is more than a lot of people can say.

    Librarians Note: What follows is an interview with Gary Stifles, a self-styled LawDog who claims several encounters with supernatural creatures.

    I guess Im what youd call a wandering LawDog. Like the Templars, I suppose, but withoutthe steel rod up my butt. Ive been from onecorner of the Wasted West to the otherjust

    doing my share, helping folks out, trying tomake life less miserable. Its not safe, but whatthe Hell, I can take it. Besides, its let me seethings that no one else can ever imagine. Somegood, some bad. Im here today to talk to youabout the bad thingsthe kind that rise up andtake a bite.

    StormwrackedHellstorms. Those Hellstorms are alive,

    you know. Not literallybut in everyother way that matters, theyre alive. Askanybody whos ever survived onegreat,huge, living things. They got moods,emotions that you can read, and, if yourelucky, survive. They get angry and strike youdown; they can be subtle and make you thinkyoure safe. They even have a voice: that horriblescream of wind that lets you know youre in thebeasts belly. Theyre like sharks, great hugepredators spreading across the sky in a darkwave. And like sharks, they got other livingthings following them around like parasites.Ready to pick up the scraps they leave behind.

    Monsters, MonstersEverywhere

    1 1 21 1 21 1 21 1 21 1 2

  • 10

    Monsters Everywhere

    I call these parasites stormcrows, althoughthey arent birds and never have been. Theyrenot in every storm, but Ive seen enough ofthem to worry. They only appear when thefireworks are done; when the Hellstormsthrough being angry at you and moved on tomore pressing targets. You come out of yourshelter into the calm, clear daylight, and youthink everythings okay. Thats when thestormcrows hit you.

    I first saw em after a bad storm in Nebraska.We got caught unawares and took shelter inthis small town. Wasnt even a town reallymore like a collection of shacks that peoplewere staying in. There were about 25 of us.Most managed to make it to shelter, but a fewwere caught in the open and reaped thewhirlwind. A couple of others picked the wrongbuildings to hide in and paid the price. Thoselean-tos blew away in the first big gust. Therest of us, we hunkered down and tried tomake the best of it. A few hours later, the raindied off and we could hear the storm slowlymoving away. The beast was done playing withus.

    We gave it another hour or so, then steppedout into the light. We thought wed be safe.Idiots.

    Electrical DeathThe first stormcrow had already gotten there

    by the time we emerged. A big glowing ball oflightning, it was, spouting arcs of electricityfrom every angle. It was tearing into the bodiesof the unfortunates who didnt make it,wrapping them in its arcs like a blanket. Youcould smell the meat burning. When it got donewith one, it would drop him and move on toanother corpse. It didnt leave much, just acharred skeleton and a few scattered ashes.

    It was so taken with the goodies it had thatit didnt notice us for a bit. When it did, it cameright at us, flashing electricity like one of thosemad scientist gizmos from last century. Caughtsome poor girl by the throat with one of themtentacles and roasted her like a pig. Two otherstried to run and it cut them down too. (I hearone of thems still alive, but he cant talk anymore. The epileptic fits get worse every day.)The smartest ones dove back under coverbefore it noticed them. The rest of us had to

    deal with it the best we could. It killed six morebefore someone produced a grounded electricalcable from God knows where. We threw ithead-on into the crow, and that seemed to takethe steam out of its stride. It sort of shriveledup after that, like a light-bulb burning out inslow motion. Good riddance, I say.

    Deal with the DevilStormcrows at least have the good manners

    not to make bargains with other people. Thatway, you know whos on your side. With othercritters, you arent so lucky. You got a lot ofweak, spineless people out there, willing to cut adeal with the devil. And let me tell you, theresplenty of devils out there ready to bargain.

    We were on a convoy out of Junkyard,carrying guns and other essentials westtowards the Maze. Three or four of us had beendelayed and fell behind the other trucks. Wewere hurrying to catch up, which meant wewerent looking. These things were smart. Theylaid a trap for us and waited until it wassnapped to move in. I think the first truck hit amine of some sort. It went up like a firecracker.Then the crew behind them got out to see whatcould be done. Thats when they hit us. Cameout of the desert in scuttling pairs, throwingmetal spears at anything that moved. God, therewere a lot of them.

    Death on Eight LegsThey looked like tarantulasbig, man-

    sized spiders with bristling hair andmultiple insect eyes. But they movedupright and their top four limbs couldgrab thingslike those spears they werethrowing. They scuttled across theshifting sands and made these weirdhissing noises when they hit us. Half the guyswere down before we knew it; I think the spear-tips had some kind of poison on them. Theother guys fought back, and took a coupledown, but it werent any use. Too many of themand too few of us God, it was ugly.

    The driver, Stan, and I, we were in the lasttruck in the line, and got missed in the initialrush. When things started getting ugly, he tookoff; turned the truck around and made a beelineback the way we came. I tried to get him to


  • 11

    Monsters Everywhere

    stop, but he wouldnt hear of itI wouldve hadto shoot him to calm him down. In retrospect, Iwish I had. It wouldve been better for him.

    Sweetwater was just a few miles behind us,and he figured we could hole up there, getsome reinforcements maybe. We got into townand started yelling our heads off, brought everymothers son of them out. When he heard aboutthe attack, the mayor said not to worry. He saidthey had run-ins with these thingscalled emsand spidersand that they knew how to dealwith them. He took us back to his house, toldus to relax. Hed come back for us in a little bit.

    DoublecrossedA couple hours later, we heard him come

    back. The door shut, and it sounded like he hadsome people with him. We got up to see whatthey had done, and it took a minute to realize:they werent some people. They were thosespider things. Three of them, standing behindthe mayor like they were lifetime buddies.

    Sorry about this, son, he said. But they gota holy day comin up, and you two are on themenu.

    One of the spiders leapt forward and sunk itsfangs into Stans arm. He screamed and I couldsee something green and noxious dripping fromits fangs. That was enough for me. I capped offa round from my shotgun into its skull, thenswitched to full auto. I think I caught the mayorright in his lying gut. Hope so. Anyway, itbought us enough time to hightail it out ofthere into the desertI wasnt about to take onthe whole town. I had to carry Stan most of theway. His arm had swollen up all green and hisface muscles werent working right. We finallyfound a cave where we could hide, and coveredthe entrance with rocks. I think the windcovered our tracks. Stayed there the wholenight.

    I did what I could for Stan, but that toxin wastoo much. He died about 3:00 a.m., raving andspitting green foam from his mouth. It was asugly a way to go as Ive ever seen. I buried himin the cave and took off at dawn; made it backto the trucks by eight or nine. They had takenthe bodies, but the equipment was still thereIguess their friends in Sweetwater were too busyhunting me to come back and strip it. I fired upone of the trucks and never looked back.

    If youre traveling alone in Deseretoranyplace else for that mattertake care in anysmall towns you come to. Your hosts may havetrouble remembering that youre a fellowhuman being.

    Texas RazorsNeither those spider things nor the

    stormcrows, though, hold a candle to thislast critter. Sure theyre nasty, but they justseemed to be doing what comes naturally.Hunters, you know, like lions or bears. Not thatI wanted to be on the menu, but at least youcan see where theyre coming from. They had toeat just like everybody else. That thing I saw inTexas, though, it was just plain evil. It wasntkilling folks because it had to. It was killingthem because it enjoyed it.

    I had heard stories of farms in the area beinattacked by some kind of psycho killer. Offamilies torn to pieces and flung around theirhouses like confetti. The local town (a squirt inthe dirt called Hopton) sent out a call for help,and I was the Law Dog lucky enough to answer.

    A stormcrow attacks.

    1 1 61 1 61 1 61 1 61 1 6

  • 12

    Monsters Everywhere

    Whatever it was, it sounded a lot nastier thansome mutie nutcase, so I packed the heavyartillery just in case. Probably saved my life.

    A Mere Psycho Killer This AintI got to Hopton hoping to get some

    background and maybe convince a few folks tohelp me. What I found was another massacre.Apparently, the thing had moved up from singlehouses, and Hopton was its graduation present.There were 50-odd people in the main street,slaughtered like sheep. You couldnt tell onefrom the other; just a pile of guts and limbs cutinto tiny pieces. It wasnt finished with the job,either. As I sat there, lookin at the bodies of thepeople who had asked for my help, I heard thescreams and cries of survivors comin frominside the town.

    I got my first look at it a couple minuteslater. Some poor guy scampered out of abuilding, looking desperately for cover. It cameround the corner like a hurricane, and I spottedhim in a flash. It looked I dont know, like

    some twisted fusion of flesh and machine. Not acyborgnothing so crudebut a biomechanicalmonster; a slab of living steel. It had a widemouth full of shiny fangs and smiled at mewhile it took this guy down. A cruel, gleefulsmile that said it was havin the time of its life.Instead of limbs, it had these tight ropes of shinymaterial up and down its sides. Like thick coilsof razor-wire, bundled up tight.

    While its target screamed and tried to run, itshot those coils out at the speed of sound.They whipped around him in a tight ball, thenjerked tight. Snap! Instant pat. The poor mansort of slurped to the ground in a pile. Then itlaunched itself at me.

    Time for the Big GunsI cut loose with the grenade launcher the

    minute I saw it. Emptied an entire clip down thestreet in its path. It didnt seem overly perturbed,but the explosions were enough to knock it offcourse. It skidded into one of the buildings andbrought the whole thing down on top of it. Bythe time it fought its way loose from the debrisI was gone.

    Things were dicey there for a while until oneof the townsfolk lit out on a hoverbike to drawits attention. It took the bait and flew out afterhim, gunning towards the horizon fast as awhip. I had no idea something so big couldmove so fast. I knew the poor guy never had achance, but hed bought us some time, and Iplanned to make the most of it. I got six, maybeseven people out of there before it came back. Ithink that was all of them. The rest got left torot, spread out under the Texas sun like thedevils picnic. As we put the town behind us, wecould hear it starting its rampage again. As faraway as we were, it still sent shivers down ourspines.

    I dont know what the hell it was, but I hopeI never see it again.

    Starvin TimeMy last little bits from a small town

    in Nebraska, which came under attackby a horde of ravenous monsters. Out ofall of them, this was the scariest thing Iveever been through, and I still dont know howwe survived.Food processor gone bad?

    7 47 47 47 47 4

  • 13

    Monsters Everywhere

    The above ground granaries were gone thatfirst night. As in completely wiped outeverything the town had. Four bloatbelliesthats what we got to callin themgot in thereand took it all before we put them down. Thatsright, just four. Wed already heard about them,and we knew there were a lot more on the way.

    I figure these bastards serve the ReckonerFamine. Youve heard about the Reckoners,right? Like War, Death, all those guys right outof the Bible? Well, these bloatbellies hafta workfor Famine. They look like mutie corpses,skeletal and emaciated like theyre starving todeath. They got three big claws and hugeglowing blue eyesyou can spot them with onelook in the dark. But the most telling thingabout them is their stomachs: swollen,distended, bloated up with gasses like theyreready to burst.

    Yeah, thats why we call em bloatbellies.

    Head Shots, Only!Anyhow, its those guts you gotta watch out

    for. The gas inside them is toxic and can spreadreal fast. You can shoot em in the head or thelimbs and they bleed just fine. But puncturethat stomach, and suddenly youre sittin in acloud of this noxious gas, like some sort ofnerve gas from the war. It attacks your skin andlungs, eating through tissue like battery acid. Ifyoure not in a gas mask and covered from headto toe, youre going to feel every searing bite ofit. They can shoot that gas out of their nosesand mouths, too, although it doesnt spread asfar as a ruptured gut does.

    It does the same thing to food, only worse.Meats, grains, anything edible that touches thegas gets turned to poisonous sludge. The critterso much as coughs on it, and its done. Evencanned goods and freeze-dried stuff getsspoiled; dont ask me how. You get a bloatbellyin shouting distance of any kind of food, youllbe eating boiled sand all winter.

    They Know What Theyre AfterThose four who got in past the wall that

    night knew what they were doing. They madestraight for the grain silos; had the wholeharvest turned to muck by the time we gotthere. Youd think the damage had been done,

    but things got worse. The first team didnt knowwhat they were dealing with, and walked inblind. Bobby got scratched by one of them; theflesh around the wound shriveled up likeleather. Another guy got a face full of gas;melted through to his brain. By the time we gotthere, we couldnt tell which puddles were foodand which were the first team. All of that wasfrom a scouting party. From what wed heard,there were almost 60 of them massing for thereal attack.

    Then they came. We lasted the night, andonly took about 20 or 30 casualties, but thebloatbellies managed to take out most of theremaining food supplies. The community brokeup soon thereafter. Last I heard, Mr. Rhodes, theguy that was in charge of that town, was upsomewhere near Omaha. Hes a good source ofinformation on these creatures. If you needmore, it might be worthwhile to look him up.

    A Saloon Girl SpeaksIve been a saloon gal what feels like a long

    time now, and I seen and heard all kinds ofstrange things. Im in the mood to talk, so ifyoure in the mood to listen, you might as well.

    Librarians Note: These are the words of Cynthia Billings. She works at a bar in NearWichita. There she comes into frequent contact with travelers, Convoy drivers, and

    others with specific experience with unusual creatures.

    Jumpin Jehosephat!Yever hear tell of the candiru? Its

    something to think about, especially youmale types, when youre out in thewilderness and you decide to head downto the creek when the bladder calls your name.

    The Little FishFirst theres your regular candiru, a tiny little

    fish the size of the first two joints of your babyfinger. I hear that before everything got allmessed up, they lived in the Amazon River, butnow somehow theyve ended up in America, inscattered rivers here or there. The candiru hasan unwelcome habit, you see. It tends to swimup the humanwhaddaya callit?oh yeah, theurethra. It swims up your urethra. I dont think

    787 87 87 87 8

  • 14

    Monsters Everywhere

    it means to do itits just that it can sensetemperature changes in the river water. Usuallyit uses this sense to zero in on the gills orwhatever of other, bigger fish. But when itdetects the warmth of a fresh stream of urine,why it swims right up the stream and shootsup into that there urethra. And from there,things actually get worse. It puffs out a wholebunch of spiny stickles, lodging itself rightthere in the midst of your privates, so thattheres no way on earth its coming back outthe way it came in. The only way to preventyourself from getting fatal blood poisoningwhen your system backs up is to have a doctoramputate your thingus.

    Sorry, boysI can see this topic is makingyou squirm around on your bar stools. But thatisnt the half of it. Thats just the regularcandiru. Then you got your mutated candiru.

    It Just Gets Worse!Theres the driller candiru, that leaps up at

    you and tries to bore into your flesh. Theyvegot these hard, bony noses that can piercethrough thick cloth, so you get a spiny fishstuck into your flesh like it was shot out of agun at you. And again, the only way to get emout is to have a doc cut out a whole, big chunkof flesh. Sometimes youll run into trogs orwalkin dead which are full of these drillercandiru, Im told. The candiru only live in thosekinds of hosts as a last resort. They like warmflesh better. So theyll unhook themselves fromtheir hosts, squirm around, and dive right backat you in the middle of a fight. Youll be worriedabout the zombie or mutant on one hand, whileat the same time trying to dodge these killermissile fish.

    You look really ill, boys. I wont tell you aboutthe giant flying candiru, then. What else can Itell you about instead?

    Soda Pop JunkiesOh, theres the fizzers. Theyre a bit

    gross, too, though. Pale complexions.Glazed, sunken eyes. Flat, lifeless hair.Awful clothesalways pre-War T-shirts,three sizes too small, peppered with

    holes and stained with Bubbly-Fizz Cola.But thats not what I was talking about

    when I was talking about gross. The pus, thatsgross. Im not sure whether its the oozing,volcanic zits that bubble and fizz from everyinch of exposed flesh, or the little daubs ofdripping green goo that bead along their rancidgums where their rotted teeth used to be. Ifthey didnt travel in packs, and werent insanelyviolent when you cross them, I wouldnt let nofizzers come into this saloon at all.

    Every week or so they come by, always withthe same question. Do I have any Bubbly-FizzCola? They know we dont. They can smellBubbly-Fizz Cola half a mile away. But theyreunable to restrain themselves from checking,just in case. Theyre addicted to the stuff. Theykill for it. Its like they worship it, even. They livetogether in roving colonies, always hunting formore. Sometimes they hunt a long time. All theBubbly-Fizz bottling plants were leveled duringthe war, of course, so they live to find bottlesand cans produced back in the old times.

    Just Leave It Out for EmCouple months back, a tribute caravan came

    by here. Soon as I saw the ancient carton withthe red and green B-Fizz logo, the staff and allthe regulars dashed for the fortified basementwe got here and locked ourselves in. Inretrospect, we should have let the stupidbastards in the shelter with us, leaving the cansoutside. Not a concern-for-my-fellow-man thingso much as nerves. Hearing the howling of thefizzers nearly drove us beyond the bend. Fromthe sounds of the gunfire, the caravaneers putup a valiant fight. But there were too many ofthe fizzers. There always are. Then came theechoing fizzer yelps as they battled one anotherto suck down the precious carbonated liquid.We didnt venture out for days. The shelter inthe basement is well-stocked, you see.

    What kind of mutation makes you hanker fora particular soda pop? Good question. Whateverit is, it breeds true. Youve never been revolteduntil youve seen a zit-spotted infant fizzersucking on its mothers festering teat, wishing itwas drinking Bubbly-Fizz, the Cola What Is.Social niceties, forget it. They can barely carryon a conversation. When they do talk to you,the subject always turns around to B-Fizz.Mostly they chant the old slogans. Be the Fizz.Add Fizz to Your Life. And its not like theyre

    8 78 78 78 78 7

  • 15

    Monsters Everywhere

    good neighbors when the soda isnt around;theyre vicious raiders and scavengers whorespect nothing but whats inside the barrel ofyour gun. The only difference is, when the Fizzisnt involved, theyre cowardly slimeballs whollfight only when cornered.

    You think I only tell revolting stories? I get nothrill from nauseating people. Okay then, Ill tellyou a sad story. About what happened at thelast place I worked.

    The Sob SisterNot sure why I survived this one. Maybe

    because I was still mourning my little Rocky.When she walked into the place, all the heads

    turned. Not just the mens heads, neither. Astriking-looking woman, she was. Neatly dressed,

    though with a bit of dust on her old duds.Hair up in a bun. Little glasses.

    Wasnt her appearance that goteveryones attention, though. Somethingin the air. This terrible sense of sadness

    around her. One minute everyone hadbeen laughing and boozing and kicking it

    up. Not me, thoughI was polishing glasses andthinking of the sound of Rockys feet runningall around. Then she came into the place andeverything got all quiet like. Automatically youknew she was grieving for something. Youwanted to help her, ease her mind.

    Mr. Crown went to her first, took her hand,led her to the bar. The Vertebreaker gave her ahanky, which he had to take from Lilith. Arnieoffered her a drink on the house; all she wantedwas water. Everybody in the whole placegathered round her.

    She said she was glad for our kindness. Toldus not to bother ourselves. Shed be on her way,soon as she quenched her thirst. But everyoneinsisted. Asked her for her name. It was AnnieSuggins. Arnie pressed some sandwiches on her.They tried to get her to tell them what wassaddening her. But she was tight-lipped. Finally,Vertebreaker, whos lacking for subtlety, up andasked her what it was. Just everything, she said.

    She tried to leave then, but Arnie said shewas obviously tired and needed a room for a bitof sleep. He offered it to her free of charge,though usually hes the kind of man whodshoot you and then send you a bill for thebullet. She protested, said she wasnt tired, then

    undercut her own argument by falling awayinto a dead faint. They took her upstairs to thePresidential Suite.

    Great Gobs o GooIt was while she was upstairs that people

    started to melt. First they got sweaty, then theygot shaky and couldnt move too good.

    It was Deadbolt Clements who said it: Oh,its the Sob Sister. We hadnt heard of her, butapparently shed walked into other places,getting everybody to feel sorry for her, thenmelting them. The ones thatd been closest toher was first to go, in order of contact: Mr.Crown, Vertebreaker, Lilith, then Arnie. But youdidnt have to have touched her to start todissolve. We rushed upstairs to ask her to leave;nobody wanted to even look at her now. Weshouted at her through a door. We wanted tokill her, but somehow nobody could bringthemselves to lay a hand to gun butt. She left,and said shed tried to warn us, she was sorry,she just needed a drink. She left while we hidfrom the sight of her.

    Beware women with a tale of woe.

    1 1 01 1 01 1 01 1 01 1 0

  • 16

    Monsters Everywhere

    It took them all a surprising long while tomelt away completely. They laid suffering andmoaning in a half-melted state for nearly threedays before finally succumbing, dissolving intosalty tears and bitter bile.

    Youre right, that was gross as well as sad.Well, I cant think of no creatures that aintgross in some way. Maybe one of yous got arequest for information I can help you with.

    Head CasesThose floating heads down by the I-35

    off-ramp? Sure, son, I know all aboutthose. An old regular here, BrianBanchy, got himself caught by them,sorta enslaved for a while. He called

    them head cases. Guess thats as good aname as any. Though they didnt care for

    it much themselves. Theyve got an awfultemper, thats the first thing youve got tounderstand about the floating heads. They dontwant to hear you making jokes about theirputty-colored skin, or about the trouble theyhave operating simple things like guns and doorknobs. And they most especially dont want tohear you make jokes about their not havingbodies no more. They really resent those of uswho are still walking around.

    Slave DutyBrians main job when he was enslaved was

    to find them fresh corpses. They kept trying tofind ways to revivify dead bodies for the headcases to sew their necks onto, so they wouldntbe floating heads no more. Never seemed towork, not during Brians enslavement. He saidhed explain to me how they make their headsfloat, but I dont think I ever heard that part.Maybe they float by sheer psychic power, ormaybe through some junker stuff. They lust fortechnology, keeping junkers as psychic slaves.

    Brian knew how you turn into a head case. Ithappens to people who think too much. If youhad too big a brain when Judgment Day came,all the demons and whatnot, they played a jokeon you and kept your head alive and killed offyour body. Even now, people who think toomuch are liable to find their bodies allcrumbling to dust on them. Especially if you gointo certain ruins. Especially old strip malls forsome reason.

    They hate mankind, to hear Brian tell it. Theywant to conquer the world. What else? Oh yes,they can pop your brain with their psychicpowers. A popped brain, it makes a high, hissingsound like a potato in a microwave. Then itdribbles out your ear.

    Sorry. Got gross again at the end there.

    From The Journal ofSebastian K.

    Librarians Note: This section is transcribed from a handwritten journal recovered inthe Arroyo Grande region of the Maze. The complete name and identity of the author isunknown. Its clear that not all encounters occurred in the Maze region, but the exact

    location of each encounter is not always indicated. Note the datessome of thisinformation may be obsolete.

    Missing PersonsFeb 19th, 2087: Feb 19th, 2087: Feb 19th, 2087: Feb 19th, 2087: Feb 19th, 2087: In the morning, Lefferts was

    gone. Hed taken the last shift of watch duty.Turned out our watcher needed a watcher. Weknew he hadnt just up and walked off on us,cause his gear was still all neatly arranged bythe rock hed last been seen sitting on.

    We looked for signs of an intruder. No tracks.And the sandy surface of the mesa shoulda lefttracks. Randy found just the few tiniest beadsof blood in the sand. Lefferts, we figured. Noneof us had heard nothing, and both me andJoline are real light sleepers. The mules werentspooked or nothing. We scanned the desertbelow and didnt see no movementwhatsolutely. Even though Lefferts couldnt havebeen taken moren two hours before.

    Predavores?Predavores, said Kills-The-Bear, all

    knowingly-like, taking a perversesatisfaction in having the answer.

    He was recent to the team, and Iwasnt sure what he was full of (ceptinmaybe himself). He kept on about thepredavores, how nobodys ever seen one, howthey strike at night, with impunity, taking theirprey without so much as a whisper. Theyswallow the victim up right on the spot, leavingno trace of his existence. They take people,cattle, buffalo, horses, dogs. Never leave a trail.

    9 39 39 39 39 3

    1041 041 041 041 04

  • 17

    Monsters Everywhere

    All at once everybody was spouting off thevarious theories theyd heard of what thepredavores were. They was ghosts, saidZakerlee, insubstantial and vengeful. Aliensfrom Faraway, said Joline, who take the victimsoff to another dimension in space and time. ButKills-The-Bear said that couldnt be, explainingthat sometimes the bones of their takings isfound miles away, stripped clean and poppedopen for the marrow. The only clue to them isthe mysterious long scratches along the bonesaint no regular teeth makes those marks. Itssome kind of meat-eater nobodys seen yet,with fearsome powers to avoid detection.

    I said it was all a bunch of bison bombs.Obviously a whole lot of different unexplainedincidents had been piled together with a bunchof rumors and nonsense to make up the legendof the predavore. A cougar attack, a humanambush, a voluntary disappearanceany ofthem could be described as the work ofpredavores. Saying that a predavore got Leffertswas the same as saying we didnt have no ideawhat happened, but wanted to pretend we did.

    We divvied up Lefferts gear, and Joline said afew words, even though there was nothin tobury. We broke camp and continued our searchfor the underground mall. That night, we set upin a hollow and posted watches.

    But this morning, Zakerlee was gone.

    Good Luck Gone BadMarMarMarMarMarch 20th, 2087: ch 20th, 2087: ch 20th, 2087: ch 20th, 2087: ch 20th, 2087: Its a day tocelebratea year to the day since I freedmyself from the Fate Eater. Over fouryears since it first captured me. I thinkIm ready to write about it now. `Though

    my pen shakes even at the thought of him.Only sometimes could I see him. Out of

    the corner of my eye. When the light was acertain way. Like at dusk. Or when there was areflection. And in my dreams. Sometimes Icould see him just fine in my dreams. Indreams, he looked almost normal. Likesomebody from before the Judgment. Middle-aged. Glasses. Balding. Plaid shirt. Beige slacks.Loafers. Any other time I caught sight of him,he was ghoulish, with glowing eyes, and thiscreepy expression. I dont want to picture himtoo clearly. I dont want him to haunt me nomore.

    HouseworkI first came upon him when I was scavenging

    through the ruins of Pocatello, Idaho. Theres apart of it still mostly standing. Wasnt too nearground zero. House after suburban house,standing there, emptymostly untouched, backthen just a few years after the bomb. So I waspicking them over.

    Inside one of the houses, I suddenly feltsomeone had walked over my grave, like. I feltthis thought in my head: I got something foryou to do for me. That thought, I banished it.Went about my business.

    Then everything in my life turned to crap.Scavengers like me, we rely on a little bit ofextra luck to keep ourselves alive. Starting rightthen, my luck went away. First time, driving thatmotorbike along an empty stretch of road, Ipopped a tire. Found myself sliding along theroad andbam!straight into an old post.Nearly killed me. Then I heard the voice again,louder this time. I got something for you to dofor me.

    Predavores: fact or survivor myth?

    8 68 68 68 68 6

  • 18

    Monsters Everywhere

    these days. Had to fight off a dozen differentkinds of freaks, muties, and demons to get allthe stuff, and to guard the place. Twice theycame and ruined everything. For three years ofabsolute hell I was trapped in Regs old home,tending and guarding that lawn. Stomping outcrabgrass. Warding off dandelions. Slowly goingnuts.

    Finally Reg appeared in my peripheral vision.Said Id finally got his perfect lawn for him. Hegave me my luck back, set me free. You shouldaseen me when I next got in a fight. I was theluckiest man alive.

    A Dance with DeathJulJulJulJulJuly 1st, 2087: y 1st, 2087: y 1st, 2087: y 1st, 2087: y 1st, 2087: Damn, what a day!

    Pede was ready to kill mebut first hewanted to play that damn-assharmonica of his. That same awfulmoaning tune over and over. Pede. Hewas just like that. I couldnt move; he hadme securely chained to a mess of twistedgirders. He finally got bored and whipped outhis Tokarev. I closed my eyes.

    Then I heard this awful groaning sound, likethe air itself being torn inside out. The noisecame from behind him. Thought at first it wasKills-The-Bear, coming to rescue me. But then ithove into view. A man-sized twister yawing andweaving across the rubble of the ruined city. Iknow that describes a dust devil, but this wasworse than that. This was a heaving, bubblingvortex of blood and muscle and bone. Ascreaming storm of gore and flesh. Headedstraight at us.

    A Bad Day to be PedePede saw the terror in my eyes and turned to

    face it. He emptied the machine pistol into thething, to no avail. It stopped for a moment, as ifto gloat. Then it advanced. A hook of sharp boneshot out from it. Connected with Pedes face,neatly flaying the meat from the right side of hisskull. Plain as day, you could see the skin andflesh and eyeball from the brainer whip aroundthe thing a couple of rotations, after which itbecame part of the vortex. Thats when I puked.

    Pede didnt let having half his face off stophim. He drew his knife and stood his ground,blade outstretched. Another swipe of the vortex,

    Happened a couple of other times. Each timethings went disastrously bad for me. Each time Iheard the voice. So I know for sure, Im cursed. Icall out for the thing that cursed me. Nothingbut echo. But that night it appeared in mydream. Said its name was Reg. Said it was killedin the blast. Said its got unfinished business.Said Im going to complete that business, or Illnever get my luck back. And without my luck,sooner or later, Im dead as he is. So I promisedthis ghost Id do what it wanted.

    Lawn and Garden DepartmentReg was entered in a perfect lawn care

    contest before the war started. Lawns were hishobby. Reg wanted nothing more in life than tohave the ideal lawn. Then the tanks rolledthrough. Then he got drafted, after all theyoung soldiers were used up. With no one hometo tend it, his lawn was overrun with weeds.

    So I had to go back to Pocatello. Find grassseed. Find fertilizer. Set up a sprinkler systemwhich wasnt any easier back then than it is

    Pede is about to meet his Maker.

    9 29 29 29 29 2

  • 19

    Monsters Everywhere

    and the knife was clattering to the pavement,his arm gone from the elbow on down. Hissevered hand and forearm were orbiting aroundthe thinglets call it a gore stormwith eachrotation being broken down into smaller andsmaller bits of carnage. Meanwhile, blood wasspraying out of Pedes wound like from a hoseunder pressure. It was also being sucked intothe vortexseemed as if it were feeding on it.Damned if the cursed thing wasnt gettingbigger as it feasted on Pedes bits. Maybe I wasjust imagining this last part, but I swear that ahundred laughing mouths and two hundredleering eyes formed themselves in the surfaceof the vortex for just a moment. Taking delightin what it was doing to Pede. Nearly felt sorryfor the man. Nearly.

    As Pede shook off the shock and groped forsomething in his money belt, the gore stormlurched towards him and sawed him to bits likea lawnmower or a lamprey or I dont knowwhat. Then it came towards me.

    Thats when Kills-the-Bear finally appeared todo his cavalry number. He hosed the thingdown with a burst of liquid nitrogen originallyearmarked for Pede. It made a weirdly humansound of pain and annoyance, and went offbehind some stadium bleachers.

    We didnt pursue it.

    Headed for the MazeOctober 23, 2087: October 23, 2087: October 23, 2087: October 23, 2087: October 23, 2087: Reached the Maze after a

    hell of a trip from Portland. Damn, what aplace! I never had the chance to get out herebefore the war, but it looks even cooler than itdid in the old vids. We saw something yesterdaythat sure didnt show up on the TV before thewar.

    I once heard that the local Indians had alegend about the Great Maze. They say thathundreds of years ago, an old medicine mansacrificed his only daughter and painted therocks on Carillo Plain with her blood. When thewhite men came, that blood would release apowerful magic and turn them back. It didntwork, though. Instead, it threw the coastlineinto the sea and created the Great Maze. Bunchof superstition, Id have said before the war. Butwhen we saw that creature pull that boat apart,I couldnt help wondering how muchsuperstition is the real truth.

    From where we were travelling down theruins of I-3, we could see the boat slippingthrough the mesas all day. It was good to seeother people, even if they were far below us. Wetalked to them on the radiothey said theydfought off a band of croakers the night before,and were anxious to put some distancebetween them. They were making good time,and staying alert as well; we could hear themshooting at the sharks every now and then. Forall of that, they didnt know death was uponthem until too late.

    Death from BelowIt started with the water. I could see

    it clouding up from our position abovethem, turning this sorta crimson color. Ithought at first that it might be the mud, thatthe boats prop had churned up some clay thatwas coloring the water. Only it kept deepening,getting redder and redder. After a hundredyards, it looked like they were paddling througha sea of blood. The strange part was, it wasonly red around the ship; the water behindthem faded and turned back to its normal color.

    Joline started yellin in the radio, but by thenthe crew of the boat had noticed it alreadythemselves. They gathered around the sides andfingered their guns. Probably assumed they hadhit a Maze dragon or somesuch with the boat,and that it was going to rise up in a rage onthem. They were right, at least partly. It was thewater itself that sprang up: a huge tower of itwith arms and hands, and what almost lookedlike a face. It rose right up in front of the boat,blocking the causeway with its bulk. It wasbloody red like the sea around it, and sent outa howl that rattled our teeth.

    Don t Shoot ItYoull Only Make It MadThe crew opened fire, for all the good it did

    them. Bullets passed right through the thing. Ittore into their boat, grabbed the bow and rippedit apart. Not just small chunks, either: it rippedthe whole boat up the middle like a wishbone.The ship went end-up, spilling men andsupplies into the water around it. The entirecraft sank inside of five minutes. The creaturedropped down beneath the waves, then poppedup again around the survivors, grabbing them

    747 47 47 47 4

  • 20

    Monsters Everywhere

    and thrusting them underwater. Poor sods. Afew of them tried to swim to shore, but themesa walls were too steep. Even the four whopulled themselves out of the water couldnt gethigh enough before the monster went for them.It swatted them against the stones like flies. Ithink a few got away, but the rest were crushedagainst the stone. Those who didnt reach themesas were all drowned by the creature.

    Randy fired off a few shots, and me too, butwe were too far away to help even if our gunswould have done any more than theirs. Thecreature didnt even seem to notice us. Itvanished beneath the waves, and the waterslowly turned back to blue. The boat was gone,all but a few shards and the corpses of its crew.After a few more minutes of watching, Jolinewished their souls Godspeed, and we continuedon our way.

    The Black MesaNoNoNoNoNovvvvvember 10, 2087: ember 10, 2087: ember 10, 2087: ember 10, 2087: ember 10, 2087: Weve traveled to the

    southwestern part of the Maze to check outrumors weve heard of a black mesa made

    entirely of ghost rock. Sounds too goodto be true, so it probably is, but younever know.

    NoNoNoNoNovvvvvember 12, 2087: ember 12, 2087: ember 12, 2087: ember 12, 2087: ember 12, 2087: Turns out theplace does exist. This morning we

    sighted a mesa that was black as pitch.We circled it a few times, and it turns out

    that that description fits better than I thought:the sides of the mesa are covered in a thick,black tar that seems to be oozing out of therocks themselves. Theres a small area on thenorth side that is clear of the tar and looksclimbable. Were going to head up there andcheck things out after lunch.

    Tourist TrapNoNoNoNoNovvvvvember 13, 2087: ember 13, 2087: ember 13, 2087: ember 13, 2087: ember 13, 2087: Youd think by now wed

    have learned that if things seem out of theordinary we should just leave them the Hellalone. We were lucky to get off that damnedmesa alive. As it is, Kills-The-Bear got a badburn and Joline broke her leg.

    I guess what we found up there shouldnthave come as too much of a surprise; we knewwe were in the vicinity of where Los Angelesslid into the ocean back during the Great Quake

    of `68. Still, it was kind of a shock to climb upthere and find a deserted museum.

    Up on top of this mesa are the La Brea TarPits, complete with museum, replica mammothsand sabre-tooth tigers, and a gift shop stillstocked with hats, mugs, and I heart the TarPits T-shirts. Not a nugget of ghost rockanywhere in sight, of course. (Although we didgrab some shirts. The ones were wearing aregetting kind of threadbare and a little rank.Joline also grabbed a stuffed mammoth doll.)

    The place had been quite a tourist attractionbefore the War, but I had never heard of it wason being covered in tar. Near as we can figure apostwar quake or maybe the shock of a nearbynuke must have fractured the mesa and allowedsome of the tar to start seeping out the sides.

    Things went downhill after we left the giftshop. As we got close to the pits themselves,the tar began to boil and then it rose up in wallbefore us. Before we could say merde, thisropy string of tar whipped out of the mass andslammed Kills-The-Bear back about ten feet.

    We didnt need to see anymore. We took offrunning. The thing belched a burning ball of tarafter us and some of it splattered on Kill-TheBear, giving him third degree burns on his leftshoulder. He didnt even stop, he just kept onrunning until we reached the rope we hadsecured at the edge of the mesa.

    We were going to climb back down, butabout then a new horror popped its head up: asabre-toothed tiger skeleton covered in syrupytar came running toward us. That was enough.We all looked at each other and then jumpedoff the mesa into the water. I cant imaginewhat that salt water felt like on Kills-The-Bearsburns. He remained as stoic as ever, of course. Itwas about a forty-foot drop. Joline hit the waterat a bad angle and snapped her leg. It was aclean break, though, and it looks like it willheal up just fine.

    We all threw away our T-shirts.

    Ghost-rock FeverDecember 4, 2087: December 4, 2087: December 4, 2087: December 4, 2087: December 4, 2087: Got to Mesa Prada

    yesterday. Soon as we got there, this fellowapproached us and started goin on about somepenny-ante ghost-rock mine not too far off.Apparently, the locals believe its still intact, andseveral have disappeared while investigating it.

    1 1 31 131 131 131 13

  • 21

    Monsters Everywhere

    Guess they took a look at our guns (not tomention Kills-The-Bear) and figured we gotwhat it takes to help them out. They promiseda share of the mine should they get it running.A pipe dream, I figure, but what the heck (wenever learn).

    So we made our way out to the mineshaftwith two guys from the town, out on the lip of amesa a few miles offshore. We set up camp andhad a look around. I doubt this is the cash cowthey hope itll be; Joline says there isnt even anugget left in that burnt-out hole. But we mightas well give them the chance to check it outthoroughly. Who knows, it might pay after all.

    Ghosts in the NightDecember 7, 2087: December 7, 2087: December 7, 2087: December 7, 2087: December 7, 2087: It happened last night.

    This creature came out of nowhere and took theguy from town who was sitting guard duty on

    the north end of the camp. Since thatwhole predavore thing, Randys taken tosetting up a vid camera at nightthistime it paid off. The camera got all of it.

    Its hard to see on the little cameramonitor, but it looks like a ghost or spiritor something, a glowing green apparition

    in the rough shape of a man. It appeared on theedge of the shaft, coming out of the darknesslike a beacon. The guy yelled out at it, thenopened fire. The bullets passed right through it,and the holes closed back up as it moved in onthe guy. When it got close there was like thispulse of sickly green energylike radioactivefirewhich seared him black. He froze and thenpitched over, all covered with burns. If you justsaw the body and not the vid, youd swear thefellow died of really bad radiation poisoning.

    Kills-The-Bear wants to leave, but Jolinetalked him out of it. Weve got our rad-suits,and she thinks theyll protect us if the creaturereturns. Seems shes changed her mind aboutthis mine shaft, but I still got my doubts.

    Curiosity Kills the CatDecember 9, 2087: December 9, 2087: December 9, 2087: December 9, 2087: December 9, 2087: Another attack. It got

    Randy this time, and Kills-The-Bear. Along withJoline, that just leaves me. Now that that otherguy from town ran off with the boat. Guess Imnext, since Im stuck here. Oh well, at least Iwont be missin Joline for too long.

    It appeared in the mineshaft again. This time,it moaned, kinda the way ghost-rock doeswhen it burns, and glowed ever more fiercely. Italmost seemed like it was in pain. The radiationsuits didnt do us much good. Sure, it stoppedthe toxic glow a bit, but when it saw that, thewraith just reached out and touched Kills-The-Bear, right through the suit. I could see itshandprint eating through it, right into his flesh.He screamed as it hit him. Gunfire, knivesnothing did any good. Randy tried to run, but itcaught him easily. The burns on their bodiesmatch the creatures handprints exactly.

    It let me be after killing them. For somereason, before it disappeared I called out and itstopped. It turned and looked at me. It seemedsad to me, somehow. Lonely and piteous.

    December 10, 2087: December 10, 2087: December 10, 2087: December 10, 2087: December 10, 2087: Radiation burns gettingbad; no time to patch them up though. I guessthisll be the last entry in my journal. When itappears tonight, Im going to try talking to it.Maybe it can tell me what it is, and why ithaunts this lonely place. Maybe itll let me live.If it doesnt, though, then I have other plans.

    What killed Sebastian K. and his friends?8 98 98 98 98 9

  • 22

    Monsters Everywhere

    Ghost-rock is highly flammable. It may beimmune to regular weapons, but fire firessomething else entirely. A well-thrown roadflare may just do the trick.

    No more time theres that odd wailing soundit makes. Guess I find out now whether eitherplan is any good.

    Combine Eyes OnlyLibrarians Note: These reports are from a dataslug found in the possession of an

    alleged Combine agent working in the Santa Fe region. The individual had already beenkilled by local townspeople before my arrival, so its authenticity cannot be confirmed.

    Field Report on Rogue ArmamentThis agent has infiltrated the military

    organization of subject. I am now a trustedoperative with access to much sensitiveinformation.Subject appears to be a heavy battle tank

    of Northern Alliance manufacture; specifically,a Schwartzkopf M4A8 main battle tank withsignificant modifications. History of subject isas follows: apparently subject was engaged inhostilities in NorCal theater on J-Day. Allegedlya soldier onboard subject, in contravention ofregs, installed computer game Alexander theGreat, a strategy simulation of warfare in 3rdcentury B.C., in subjects local mainframe. EMPpulse from ghost-rock detonations in vicinityappear to have interacted with computer gameto invest subject with A). artificial intelligence,and B). personality of Alexander III, King ofMacedon. Exactly how this transformation tookplace is still being investigated.

    Infantry SupportSubject has gathered a small force of

    mercenaries and scavengers to further its goalof conquering the west, and from there, theworld. Subject secures their loyalty withpromises of booty and political power in itsprojected kingdom, New Macedon. These troopsappear to be motivated not so much by fearand retribution as a curious loyalty and pride.Soldiers show a surprising degree of disciplineand esprit de corps for such a ragtag assembly.It is as if the machine is actually a charismaticleader.

    Subjects forces are small, no more than 50reliable irregulars, but recruitment continues ata rapid pace. Recruits attracted by steadysupply of rations and legend of intelligent tank.Subject and its forces always on the move,showing sophisticated grasp of 21st centuryarmored vehicle tactics. Given this mobility,subjects precise whereabouts at any given timeare difficult to predict; subject might beencountered anywhere. Raids to secure rationsand materiel both constant and merciless.Equipment and skills of average irregularequivalent to average Black Hat, though withoutaccess to elite officers and intelligenceoperatives (such as this agent). Subject directlysupervises efforts to educate soldiers in ancientGreek language, history and culture. This agentwas startled by the quality of their amateurproduction of Sophocles Oedipus Rex.

    Blowin Stuff Up Real GoodSubject is said to be headstrong, intelligent,

    and focused on problem-solving, especiallythrough unconventional means. Modificationsfrom standard Schwartzkopf M4A8 tank designinclude double-reinforced armor, fullamphibious capabilities, full leather interior.Functionality of last-mentioned modification isquestionable, but widely regarded amongsubjects forces as wicked-A cool. Mainarmament appears to be a 125mm cannon, theM4A8s standard armament.

    AnalAnalAnalAnalAnalysis: ysis: ysis: ysis: ysis: While subjects militaryorganization is no current threat to Combinesecurity, its potential for growth should not beunderestimated. Subject itself is a considerabletactical threat to any team unlucky enough torun into it head-on. Recommend immediate anddecisive action against subject.

    Report From a Combine TownSubject Jessica Travers (A94-48222) was

    discovered by local Black Hat patrol nearvillage of Clearwater in violation of localcurfew. Although tattooed barscan confirmed heridentity, subject reported feelings ofdisorientation and confusion. Subject claimedignorance of proper designation, friendships, andbasic layout of native village. Complete memoryloss and deep amnesia apparent.

    7 07 07 07 07 0

    1 021 021 021 021 02

  • 23

    Monsters Everywhere

    Subects husband, Walter Travers (A94-48296)was interrogated, along with additionalClearwater personnel. Transcript of testimonyfollows:

    Jess had stepped outside for a moment tocatch a breath of air. She was standing out inthe moonlight, when this fellow kind of sidledup to her. He had a long, billowing coat and awide-brimmed hat, so I couldnt see what helooked like. I thought he was nuts violating thecurfew like that. I mean, what makes someonetake a chance like thatit even occurred to methat maybe shed taken a lover. But she lookedsurprised to see him; I heard her give a shortgasp, and saw her eyes widen in the moonlight.Then he was next to her and wrapped her up inhis great coat. It seemed a very gentle andtender motion, like a father protecting hisdaughter. Except that his hands were pressedagainst her temples like he was trying to pushhis fingers into her brain. Ive never seenanyone embrace quite like that.

    He held her for a long time. I wanted to saysomething, but was scared Id bring the watchdown on them. Maybe if he left, he wouldnt gether in any trouble. Finally, after what seemedlike forever, he let her go. She swooned for aminute and I thought shed pass out. But thenshe regained her footing, and it seemed like shewas okay.

    The fellow, he didnt waste any time with herfurther, but trotted back the way he came.Before he left, though, he turned back and Icould see beneath his hat in the moonlight. Hewasnt a mannot even a mutantbutsomething much worse. Something not of thisworld.

    He had no face. Just a blank sheet of fleshwhere his eyes, nose and mouth should havebeen. He stood there beneath the moon andlooked right through me, looked at me witheyes he didnt have. Ive never seen anything sofrightening in all my life.

    Then he was gone, and I could turn back toJess. She had wandered down the street in adaze, and didnt show any signs of coming backto the bunkhouse. She seemed confused, likeshe didnt know where she was. She wasstaggering straight down the middle of the road,just begging to be noticed by the guard. Howshe got past the perimeter guards is anybodysguess.

    I didnt go after her. Scared that Id be caughtfor breaking curfew. Now I wish I had. In fact, Iwished Id made a fuss while she was locked inthat things grasp. You can call it a mutant orsay I just got confused by the dark if you want,but Ive seen itIve looked into its face. Itwasnt a man and never was.

    This agent remanded Jessica Travers (A94-48222) and Walter Travers (A94-48296) intocustody of automaton L9484 for termination.Usual local unrest quickly put down byCombine forces.

    AnalAnalAnalAnalAnalysis: ysis: ysis: ysis: ysis: No physical evidence of reportedcreature could be found. Testimony is unusual,but no alternative explanation for subjectsmental state exists. No further incidents haveoccurred.

    Based on these facts, this agent concludesthat this alleged creature or person is of noconcern to Combine forces. Resourceexpenditure unnecessary to counter threat.Recommend database creation to catalogfurther encounters and closure of A94-48222and A94-48296 files.

    What really happened to Jessica Travers mind?

  • 24

    Monsters Everywhere

    Second Incident FollowsNo survivors available for interrogation.

    Excerpt from tape recorder found amid thepartial remains of one August Razor

    McGinnis (no known file number), whowas not authorized or known to bepresent in Clearwater region or anyother sector. Four other unauthorized

    humans discovered in immediate vicinity.Identification of bodies was impossible.

    Transcript of recovered tape recording follows:Didnt need those fellas anyways. Always

    gripin an shootin their mouths off. It neededwhat they had moren they did, I figure. It keptits end of the bargain, fair an square, and youcan take that to the bank.

    We had taken down a pretty good haul thatafternoon; a buncha nomads had some primepickings an didnt wanna share. Tapped acouple o their kids in the back of the head,straightened em out. Me an the boys strippedem clean an left em out on the highway to die.Serves em right, getting uppity with us.

    Fifty miles down the road, we bed for thenight. I draw first watch; dumb luck, I guess. Itsabout midnight when the robot shows up.Damndest thing I ever seen. It looked like oneof Throckmortons beasties, only different, youknow? Shiny and metal, with a wicked badchain-gun comin out of one arm. But the weirdthing is, it aint all metal. Parts of it is skin, too;one of its arms, a thigh, a couple of chunks ofits torso. I even thought I could see guts insideits circuitry: a heart, an intestines maybe,buried there under the wires an gears. It wereno cyborgtoo much metal fer that. But itwasnt just a robot; more like a robot with littlebits of meat to patch up missin parts.

    Anyhow, its sittin there in the dark, watchinme watchin it. I figure it wouldve attacked assoon as it could, but it didnt look interested.Just scopin out the situation from the shadows.I dont want it to get any ideas, so I says:

    Whachoo doin here?Parts, it says. Needs parts. It holds up its

    meat arm an points at it. Guess it wanted toadd to its collection.

    Well then, we got ourselves a problem, Isays. My buddies an I aint in the givin mood.

    Make it worthwhile for you, it says. I keeplistenin. It offers up the gun on its arm, plus thetruck it came ina hummer hidden a little waysoff. I look down at my compadres, and figurethey dont give me anything I cant getelsewhere. So I says go nuts.

    It jumps into the campsite, swift an quiet,an starts puttin the boys down. Gunshots tothe head, most of em. Sammy, though, he getsgutshot; wakes up screamin an almost getsaway, but the robot still wont shoot him in thehead. Guess it wanted the equipment there. Afew of em woke up in the middle of it an wentfer their guns, but it took them down lickety-split. Made me glad I didnt open up on it.

    When its done it pulls out this rotary sawthe kind that doctors used to have to sawthrough bonesand starts carvin the boys apartlike Christmas turkey. An arm from one, a legfrom another: everything cut really neatly, tokeep the manglin to a minimum. Sharp sawthat thing had. When it gets done, it gathers allthe bits upmuch more than it needs, I think,so I figure its got friends somewhereanddrops the chain-gun on the ground. Back soon,it says.

    What are the origins of this bizarre hybrid?

    1 1 91 1 91 1 91 1 91 1 9

  • 25

    Monsters Everywhere

    So now Im sittin here, waitin for the robotto come back with the hummer like itpromised. Shouldnt take long. Figure I didntneed my compadres anyways. Figure I can getnew ones better than them. Sides, that robotdid better by me than they ever di

    Recording ends. Subect McGinnis remains

    discovered in a dissected conditionright leg,right eye, left eye removed. Fellow unauthorizedhumans in similar condition.

    AnalAnalAnalAnalAnalysis:ysis:ysis:ysis:ysis: No physical evidence of reportedbiomechanical entity could be gathered. Despiteapparent similarities to Combine cyborgs and/or automatons, incident cannot be traced toany known unit. Recommend increased securitysweep and sensor check of all appropriateunits. Recommend database creation to catalogfurther encounters.

    Underground TerrorsYou remember those stories from before the

    war? Urban legends, they called them. Peoplein cities, tellin each other bout all the sick andtwisted things that went on between theskyscrapers. Alligators in the sewers. Babies inthe microwaves. Drek like that. My favorite onehad Mojave rattlers runnin around in thesubway system. You ever hear that? Story goesthat they wandered into a city somewhere, andliked the tunnels underneath. Kept em fromhavin to move the dirt themselves. So theystuck around an bred, gettin bigger with eachnew batch. Anytime a subway accident killedsomebody, or a gas main blew up, they said itwas the rattlers. Huntin and eatin folks theway they used ta do in the desert. Great story,right?

    Well heres the kicker, buckaroo: it aint just astory. They aint Mojave rattlers, least not as faras I seen, but there are all kinds of things livinin the subways, just like the legends said. Andhuntin humans is their favorite recreation. Iknow, cause Ive run into all kinds of em. Oneof em killed my boys.

    Librarians Note: The following accounts are from one Caleb McAllister, an individualwith an apparent penchant for underground exploration. Despite his assertions, it is

    doubtful that any of these creatures existed before Judgment Day.

    Beaded HorrorsA juicy military bunker attracts

    scavers by the droves, but more oftenthan not the only thing they manage toscare up is troublethe kind with big,sharp teeth.

    Me an Jacob an Saul (my boys) wassnooping around some old base near Amarillo,when Saul lost his footing, took a header into acrater, an disappeared from view. I fastened arope to a nearby girder and rappelled down fora closer look. To my surprise, he was alivepissed as Hell, but still breathin. Hed fallenthrough down into some old bunker.

    We found a vent shaft leadin deeper in, sowe started explorin. The upper levels werewasted, full of old office furniture, uselessdebris, and plenty of dirt. And a bunch of holesin the floors, ceilings and walls, like someonedbeen goin at them with a jackhammer. Maybesomeoned been trapped down here, Jacob said,an had tried to dig out. But that didnt reallymake no sense. So we checked our ammo andwent deeper down by way of the elevatorshafts. There werent no power, of course, andwe like to save on the flashlight batteries, sowhen we got down near the bottom Saul brokeout the road flares.

    Soon as he lit one up, the walls just seemedto come alive. A dozen rejects from a Tokyomonster vid slithered free from the walls andwere on us fastern Jacob could piss himself.

    Before we could make it back to the elevatorshafts, the scaly SOBs had blocked off ourescape and were closing in on us from bothsides. A couple of the critters kept back andbegan wheezing and hacking, til one of embelched up a fireball from its craw and sent itsingin into the wall.

    Thats when Jacob started lightin em up. Hisscattergun wasnt having much effect, but Saulhad one of them SA assault rifles, whatll punchthrough a brick wall, and that seemed to do thetrick. We managed to fight our way back to theelevator shaft and reloaded while the monstershung back and snacked on their dead. Jacob hada gash on his forehead an two missing fingersfrom his off hand, so I figured Id hold thecritters off with the incendiary rounds in mymagnum while they climbed up the shaft.

    7 17 17 17 17 1

  • 26

    Monsters Everywhere

    Guess the critters wanted more, cuz theycame on stronger than ever, hissing and spittingflame. I held the damned beasties off for longenough for the boys to get clear, then Ishimmied up right after them.

    As a parting goodbye, I dangled myself upsidedown and squeezed off a shot into one of thecritters heads. Bad move! The thing went off likeold dynamiteblew me straight up the shaft intothe arms of my boys. The fires were spreadingfast, fillin the shaft and upper floors withsmoke, an we could hear the critters burrowinaround behind the walls. So we lit out for theentrance like ol Scratch himself was on ourtails, and fled to the safety of the open wastes.

    Great Glowin Slugs!Me an the boys got ourselves a job once layin

    electrical cable for this little settlementoutside of Oklahoma City. Seemed theythought they could rebuild the wholeplace, from the ground up. Course, allthe wirin was trashed along with

    everything else, but the undergroundconduits and subway tunnels were still

    mostly intact, an we figured theyd be perfect forlayin the lines and keepin them safe.

    So there we were down in these subwaytunnels, me an the boys an this feller from thesettlement, pushin our way past debris andcollapsed spots and everythin else. As werounded a bend in the tracks, we saw a greenglow up ahead. It seemed to come and go.Countin on our hazmat gear, we drew closerand found the remains of a subway terminal.The other side of the tunnel had collapsed,creating this sorta pool of water, an thatswhere the glow was comin from. As we gotcloser, we could see a ruined train car lying onits sidesometimes theyd run those thingsdown into the subway tunnels during the war,to keep em out of the way of the bombers.Anyway, this things got a cargo of 55-gallondrums lying all around the floor, and theres agreen, hissing broth bubbling from em.

    We get up to the pool. If that nastinesswerent enough, the toxic swamp was justswimmin with wormsworms as thick as myarm and longer than my leg. That green glowinwasnt comin from the water or the oozeitwas comin right outta the worms!

    The Geiger counter was buzzing like ahornets nest, and grew even louder as welowered a line into the soup to get atemperature reading. As soon as the line hit thegoop, the counter went all postal. We were stillprobably okay in the suits, so we just stoodthere a sec, looking at the worms and wonderinif we were gonna hafta reroute our plans a bit.

    Saul takes this piece of rebar and pokes itdown there in the pool. The worms, they get allstirred up, start thrashin around. Suddenlytheres this flash, right outta nowhere, and myeyes are all splotchy like I been starin at thesun. Fried the Geiger counter, though I didntknow it till later, just like the bombs fried allthe electronics anywhere near their blasts.Anyway, soon as the flash goes off we startedhearin something scrabbling along up above, upin the darkness where the girders and concretewas all broken up.

    I couldnt see much, but I knew I didnt likethe turn things had taken. Me an the boysstarted backin towards the way wed come, butthe other feller kept sayin to hold uphe stillwanted to check the place out some more. Wewere climbin over the rubble pile when hisshouts suddenly changed tenor, and he startedfirin his gun. Jacob started to turn back, but thefellers sudden, gurgling scream stopped him inhis tracks. We turned tail and headed on out ofthere.

    Never saw what got the guy; never did finishup that wirin job. Heard the town got overrunby gangers a few months later, anyway.

    On the TownOkay, now, this one aint exactly like

    the others. We was deep in the ruins ofWitchita with this group of scavviesme,the boys, and four or five of these otherfolks. We wasnt down underground like withthese other stories, but wed holed up for thenight in this broke-down parking garage. All theupper levels were collapsed, but wed found agood spot in the basement. Wed put our backsup against the wall, all covered in old gangergraffiti from before the war, and were preparinto bed down for the night.

    No sooner had the sun vanished between thetore-up girders of the ruined buildings, than allHell breaks loose. One of the guys lets out a

    9 19 19 19 19 1

    1 091 091 091 091 09

  • 27

    Monsters Everywhere

    shout, and I spin round. Where the wall hadbeen, there was this steaming, slimy mass of Idont know what, with gaping maws and barbedtentacles all shootin out of it. Here and therewere large bulbous growths and inhuman eyesall burnin with hatred and malice. One of thescavers was already in its grasp, slidin downinto the things gullets in sickening, bloodychunks, as it spat out the meaty bones allbroken and purple.

    We pulled our pieces and woulda taken onoutta there, but one of the tentacles lashed outand got ahold of Jacob. So me and Saul fire itup, and the other scavvies are goin at it, too. Idont remember how long it went on, to tell thetruthjust that it was a long and messy fight,and the thing got hold of at least two of theothers. Finally, the last of the tentacles wassevered and the wall was running with slimeand black clots of blood. The bones of the twoor three that got et up were all piled at the baseof the wall.

    We didnt sleep much that night. In themorning, a feelin of dread settled over ourcampsite as the first rays crept through brokenconcrete. The last remains of the creature hadall but dried up and withered away, but the wallwas still there, with its faded old graffiti. There,within the horrid mural, you could make outthe faces of the three dead scavers, all twistedin fear and torment.

    One of the other scavvies had an antitankrocket, that he was savin for a special occasion.This was it. We blasted that wall, then took theHell off out of Wichita.

    Terminal TunnelThose times was pretty bad, but that aint the

    worst. The worst was somethin different, and Idont hardly want to talk about it.

    We were workin on the collapsed streetnear the old civic center in KC. Jacobuncovered a stairwell leadin down to asubway terminal. I didnt figure theredbe much left down there, but we were

    hard up fer salvage, so we thought wedtake a look. We got as far as the platform

    when it came fer us: right down the tunnel likea train. Its skin was a mottled grey, lookin likea piece of the wall had broken off and grownteeth. If the bastard werent so big, wed a never

    have seen it comin. I couldnt even see the endof it: just a long end headin back into thetunnel. It didnt have tentacles, but the way itmoved, it didnt need em. Before we blinked, itshot across the open terminal an pinned Jacobto the wall with its jaws. Before we blinkedagain, my boy was down its throat.

    Saul opened up with his 9mm, but it didnteven scratch that critters hide. I knew wewerent gonna take that thing down there, so Igrabbed him and dragged him back up thestairs. Saul kept shootin an screamin fer hisbrother, but I calmed him down enough to pullhim away before it got done eating. I figured wewere safe by the time we hit topside again.Figured wrong.

    Saul was tryin to get the earthmover startedwhen it came up from under. Burst right outthrough a manhole, blowing the steel cover offlike it was paper, then hit the bottom of themover like a cannon. I saw Saul in the cabin asit flipped over, bringing shards o concreteslammin through the windshields. The wormwas racin around outside like a cat at themousehole, waitin fer Saul to pull himself free.

    Graffiti with an attitude.

    1 2 11 2 11 2 11 2 11 2 1

  • 28

    Monsters Everywhere

    Didnt even notice me down the street. So myboy pulls himself out of the cab; his arm wasbroken and he leaked pretty good from a half-dozen puncture marks. Then the worm theworm, it sorta rears back, an

    An then I ran while it ate my youngest son.Ate him up like a stick o jerky, and I couldntthink of anything but my own filthy hide. Icould hear its teeth grindin on Sauls bones,and the choked screams comin from its gullet.An I couldnt go back. Not fer Sauls life orJacobs either. Not fer anything on this earthwas I gonna face that monster again.

    Turn that thing off, mister. I dont wanna talkto you anymore.

    Words of a FreelanceLibrarian

    You want documents, do you? Well, I got yourdocuments right here. Except youll have to payfor them. And if youre thinking you canoutdraw me and just take them, think anothertime. Because Ive read all of these documentsand theyve expanded my mind, body, senses,and reaction time. I am like unto the wind, myfriend.Librarians Note: I ran into this gentleman outside of Reno, Nevada. Hearing that I was

    gathering stories, he tried to sell me several dataslugs. To my surprise, he claimed to bea Librarian, though he seemed completely unaware of our ways, the fact that I truly

    was one, and the fact that I was recording our conversation.

    But Ill tell you what. Ill give you a specialadvance preview of some of the very mostinteresting documents I have for sale. Just ahint. To wet your whistle. Then you wont becomplaining about my price no more.

    What? You just want monsters? Monsters! Ioffer you consciousness expansion, and youwant monsters. Well, Ill give you monsters. I gotone here written personally by a bona fide one-hundred-per-cent vampire. He writes prettygood, so Ill just read it to you.

    Dogs of DeathI found Igor, my faithful nosferatu servant,

    lying in a pool of ichor, gutted and partiallyeaten, behind the toppled grain silo. Seward, Itold myself, its getting harder and harder to

    make an unliving these days. Now Ill have tofind another nosferatu, bind him to my will,and name him Igor. More importantly, Ill haveto take stouter measures against the charnelhounds. Its one thing having them penetratingmy perimeter and partially devouring myundead thralls. Quite another to contemplatethem biting into my own vampiric posterior.

    This heres a double-whammy! You get astory about charnel hounds, told to you by avampire! A bargain at twice the price!

    If only I knew more about the dratted things.The accounts Ive gathered are damnablycontradictory. Everyone out around here istalking about them; it takes no effort on mypart to elicit the latest batch of wild-eyedimaginings from the locals. Thus, my interest inthe hounds is not seen as unusual. No onesuspects that I have reason for special concern.

    Some say theyre regular, mutatedwolves or dogs or canines or whatevers.Others charmingly describe them asskeletal, with bags of organs danglingand dripping inside their ribcages. Ordescribe them as radioactive. Or invisible.Or not actually dog-like at all, more like across between a crocodile and an opossum.

    The rumors all agree that the things arepredators adapted to dine on the flesh of theundead. They say a living man can stand in themidst of a pack of charnel hounds without fearof so much as a nip on the ankles. How theydistinguish the living from the merelyambulatory remains a mystery. Do we deadconsistently emit some kind of pheromone thata mutated animal can pick up on? Or are thesethings supernatural, with all of the attendantextra senses? If so, whom do they serve? HasDeath unleashed them, in order to cull theranks of his own minions? Call me anunrepentant rationalist, but the thought of acreature designed to strike fear into the heartsof the undead seems, well, rather perverse tome. Not to mention redundant.

    The list of their supposed immunities islonger than my body count. Bullets dont stopthem. Bombs only knock them back a tad. Theyenjoy being on fire, as if it gives them a goodscratch (maybe they have supernatural fleasthat eat them). High voltage is nothing to them.Neither pesticide nor biotoxin will keep themfrom their appointed rounds.

    7 97 97 97 97 9

  • 29

    Monsters Everywhere

    Likewise, each report Ive heard attributes tothem a different type of attack. Some saylightning eyes. Some say hypnotizing eyes. Theirbite may be paralyzing, or simply very sharpand muscular. They may or may not be able toleap 20 feet up into the air, run faster than amotorcycle, or squeeze through a hole the sizeof a quarter. Frenchy, who has clearly beenreading too much Lovecraft, claims they cantravel along the angles of non-Euclideangeometry.

    This could be the biggest challenge of myunlife.

    Pretty scary, hey? Oh, I have a whole diarywritten by this vampire. I just read you the endof it, but theres plenty more of interest.Provided you pay up. But I said that already.

    These Aint No Matchbox CarsYou want variety? I got variety. We just

    had a monster of the supernatural sort.You want a monster of science? Heresanother riveting first-person account.

    When I began to scan the infopacket, all thoughts of what the Librarianhad charged me for it melted away.

    See, this here ones smart. He knows its worthit to pay the traveling Librarian. But I interrupt.

    Now I know the origins of the things I haveisolated in the back container unitthe bonebots, as Hot Horton has dubbed them.

    Okay, this guy is a little long-winded, even fora science guy. Back to paraphrasing. Heswatching this monitor, which has a tape hesmade of these bone bot things. Theyre strippinga cows carcass. Hes really loving these things.They get him all excited. In a science kind ofway, you understand.

    Hes describing them: each the size of amatchbox. Made entirely from scavengedbiological parts: bone and cartilage mostly, plusa few other nonperishable items of carrion. Ifyou look at them without thinking about theirgruesome components, they look merelyawkward, constructed, graceless. Like oversizedbugs made from an old-style childrens play set,like Lego or Meccano. Most have six or eightlegs, but the design is always slightly different,based on the materials available when it ismade or repaired. Almost all have delicatewings of bone carved with microscopicprecision. Their locomotion, on land or air, isclumsy. But always they move forward.Reproducing. Building more bone bots.

    Now hes theorizing on where they camefrom. Figures theyre the end result of roboticsexperiments conducted by Professor Ruben

    What is the purpose of these grisly scavengers?


  • 30

    Monsters Everywhere

    Bombora at the Missouri Institute ofTechnology. Says Bombora and his team builtthe first SE-17s; miniature robots designed tomimic insect behavior. Though not intelligent,per se, their nanochips were able to learn fromstimuli. Their chief aim, like Mother Natures:reproduction, of course. Aint that what were allreally after?

    The original SE-17s werent made of bone, ofcoursemetal, rubber and silicon, mostly. But hesays here the similarities in design andbehavior are unmistakable. These things havecontinued to reproduce in the post-collapseenvironment. They have seized upon the mostavailable building material for self-replication:the animal world. Somehow they have learnedto carve copies of their central nano-chipcircuit boards on bone, ensuring their survivaland continued evolution.

    Each generation improves on the design ofthe last, through a process emulating vastly-accelerated natural selection. Deviations fromthe design occur frequently; each seems to be arandom experiment. Most experiments fail. Thechanges are not improvements, and the botsbearing them are unsuccessful, leaving fewprogeny. The few deviations which do representimprovements, however, are soon replicated andpassed down, quickly becoming standardizedmodels.

    Ill skip the rest. Its all philosophizing. Willthese things inherit the earth, that sort of thing.But the last bit is pretty funny. Want to hear it?The minimal risk is surely worth the wealth ofknowledge we can wrest from these tiny, self-aware creatures. The container will hold, I amsure of it.

    Ah, thats rich. These documents, theyreworth it for the sheer comedy value alone. Youknow what the common theme runningbetween these is? Its: Stay the Hell away frommonsters! And that insight is providedabsolutely free of charge, friend.

    Sykers Beware!Ill read you one more before you have

    to start paying for this little anthology. Imet the syker who experienced this. Hewouldnt give me his name, but he wasplenty talkative enough, and I took all this stuffdown myself. So this document is an originalyou can only get it from me.

    So you think us sykers are pretty bad, doyou? Think we got the edge that puts us abovean beyond whatever drek we tangle with? Well,I cant say as I blame you. After all, you dontknow any better. But lemme tell you, ainteverybody out theres happy to see us. Some of

    A sykers worst nightmare.

    9 69 69 69 69 6

  • 31

    Monsters Everywhere

    them hate what we have, and fear what we cando. And once upon a time, a few of them didsomething about itthey made themselves amind biter.

    Ysee, before the war, there were people inthe UN who were worried about us. They knewthat there were a lot of us fighting it out onBanshee, and they were scared about whatwould happen when the fight ended and wecame home. So a few of them set up a lab,captured some of the sykers still on Earth asguinea pigs, and set about solving the sykerproblem. They wanted something that wouldput us down hard.

    What they made was a nightmare. Its shapedlike a human head, and floats in the air. If itwerent for the scaly synthetic skin and thesuckers hanging underneath it like a sea-anemone, itd look like a remote sentry or someother piece of technology. But dont be fooled;the minute you see it, it may be too late.

    The mind biters got a psychic kick on it likea mule. It can send focused blasts of energy outin waves, turning brain patterns to mush andskulls into time bombs. Its bad enough for thenorms, but for us, its pure agony. If a blastcatches you unaware, it can cause an embolism,or a tumor the size of a summer squash. It canleave you lobotomized or even deton