The Mysterious Note

Steal Head: The Story In Full.

The great thing about multi-participant roleplay is the sheer scope & inventiveness of posts and photos that people post to their blogs. Unfortunately it can mean that it’s hard to follow the ebb and flow of the tale and sometime you can miss whole chunks. To try and address this I maintained a record of everyone’s posts and listed them in a chronological order that made sense to the tale. If you’ve never read “Steal Head” before, or are returning to re-read it, I hope this guide helps you find your way through what proved to be an amazing four months of my life 🙂

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The tale begins…

All across Steelhead, people start having nightmares… ((An OOC call to join in the nightmares!))

Dr Beck writes to the Town Council for the first time…

A vandal paints graffiti around town

A message is revealed and the Sentinel is on the case!

Dr Beck writes to the Town Council for the second time…

Dr Beck writes to the Town Council for the third time & Capt Creighton delivers a photograph…

Steal Head Arrives in Town!

Lunar calls for an expedition to the site of the photograph.

Dr Beck writes to the Town Council for the fourth time & Capt Creighton delivers a photograph from the expedition…

More from around Steelhead on the spate of vicious murders! ((An OOC call to join in the murderous fun!))

Dr Beck falls to the creature and a rescue is undertaken.

The end of Steelhead’s nightmare, yet Ya Yiwama claims one final victim…

In the murky waters of Steelhead’s Shanghai port, the legacy of evil battles on…

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Steal Head: The End.

All “Steal Head” posts can be read on my blog here and on the Steelhead Ning here.

Intermission…

Poor Old Dr Beck, trapped in Ol’ Steal Head’s lair for what seems like forever as our typist tries to find enough time to finish off his tale, the shame of it! Well in the meantime, and spurred on by Bookworm Hienrichs’ wonderful tale of the most recent zombie outbreak in New Babbage, I thought you might like the chance to re-read Dr Beck’s close shave with the foul undead in last year’s New Babbage zombie uprising. I don’t know, once seems like bad luck whilst twice seems a tad… careless if you ask me. Still, it is with great pleasure that I give you Dr Beck and his tale of The Mysterious Note! Enjoy… mwahahahahahahaha!

Steelhead: The Mysterious Note

p.s. The Steal Head tale will be resuming (and completing) very soon. Honest.

Snatched From Steelhead: Chapter 3 – Back to New Babbage

The owl gazed at Dr Beck with eyes as inscrutable as time itself. For his part, Beck stared back with his one open eye full of confusion and sleep. He propped himself up on his elbows and blinked a few times. The owl sitting on the back of his chair failed to vanish and instead stared coolly back him.

“Erm, hello?” Beck mumbled. The owl blinked once very, very slowly. “You’re one of the Mayor’s owls, aren’t you? One of his messengers?”. Blink. Beck stood up and gingerly walked towards the owl as if it were a fiver pound note on a windowsill in danger of blowing away. The owl just sat and watched him. “Do, er, do you have a message for me then?”. Blink. Beck waited. The owl watched him. Beck shuffled his feet a little. The owl tipped his head almost imperceptibly in such a way as to make Beck feel decidedly nervous. “If you do, may I have the message, please?” he asked. The owl did nothing for a very, very log second before tucking its beak under its wing and pulling something small out from its feathers and flicking it towards Beck. The still sluggish doctor missed it and it fell to the floor at his feet. He bent to examine it and saw it was a small, folded piece of paper roughly half an inch square and one eighth of an inch think. “Thank you. Does the Mayor expect a rep…?” he stopped as his hair was ruffled a sudden breeze and he looked up to see a small cloud of soot fall from his chimney as the owl left. “…ly. I’ll take that a no, then” he completed to himself. He looked at the paper in his hand for several seconds before unfolding it. It was a letter from the Mayor himself, handwritten in his swirling spidery script…

To: Dr. R. Beck.
No. 13 Shamian Alley, Shanghai, Stlhd.

Dear Sir,

Following your rather vocal appeals to the citizens and civic leaders of New Babbage over the recent incident involving one Captain Kuroe I have been visited by a representative of Mayor Tenk who wished to discuss the matter as well as possible solutions.

To cut a long tale short the accused will receive a fair trial in a location still to be decided (although I favour Steeltopia, it is possible that Caledon may be chosen). In the meantime, and following rumours not only of limb amputation but also of beatings meted out to the prisoner, I have agreed you will travel to the William Wilde Hospital in New Babbage and act as his personal physician and, after a fashion, his guard until the trial is completed and justice seen to be done.

I realise you are a busy man and therefore I have booked you on the noon steamer from Steelhead Harbour to Clockhaven.

Travel well and I know I need not remind you to uphold the proud reputation of our city at all times and be the best ambassador we can expect, so I won’t.

Respectfully yours,
TotalLunar Eclipse.
Mayor of Steelhead & Environs.

Beck read and re-read the letter several times as the full weight of its message sunk in. He had to go back to Clockhaven. Today. Now. He had to pack. He had to be ready and on that steamer in time, Steelhead was counting on him. “Oh God, I need a cup of tea,” was all he could say.

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Half an hour after the Clockhaven Queen had paddled away from Steelhead and out to sea with a nervous Beck onboard a tall, worried Chinese man was knocking on the locked surgery door. He was scared and upset. Back at home his wife had sunk further in to the darkest places of her mind and had become all but lost to him. He was sure she was in danger from herself and he needed the English doctor to come and help. The doctor had been so good to his wife since their child had been snatched and killed. The doctor would be able to help. The man knocked louder, “Dr Beck! Dr Beck! Li Fe father! You come help Dr Beck! Please come help!”

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To be continued…
All the “Snatched From Steelhead” posts can be read here.

Links to other blogs and stories:
1) The background to the Ashiko Kuroe case can be found here.
2) Captain Kuroe’s letter to Steelhead can be read here.
3) The appointment of Mr Byron Wexhome by Mayor Tenk can be found here.
4) Mr Wexhome’s initial investigations can be read here and here.
5) Mr Wexhome’s proposed Plan can be read here.
6) The terrible tale of poor Li Fe can be read here.
7) Dr Beck’s near-fatal last trip to Clockhaven is journaled here.

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Spooky Tales in Old Steelhead!

When I agreed to read a short story at the second of Steelhead Library halloween events, little did I know how much it would at first scare and then exhilerate me! I decided to write a story for the occasion, but with RL being a pain I ran out of time halfway through (I’ll finish it soon and post it here – never waste anything!) I decided to edit together my recent blog tale, The Mysterious Note, and read it out in… *gulp!*… VOICE!

I’ll leave out the details of how much trouble and hassle it was getting voice to work for me, suffice to say that it only snapped in 30 seconds before I was billed to start – talk about working up a sweat! I actually read as Ryne, after all it was he, not me, that fought the zombies in New Babbage’s sewers and as he’s from the same part of the world as me, my RL voice fits him rather well, I think (1).

I had to leave after my tale for the Tri-Cities Halloween Parade, but then I returned (as a sauve HBA) in time for the first of for Dio’s readings – RL took me away before the second but I really enjoyed what I managed to catch (go and read them here) and I’m looking forward to the next event Riven puts on 🙂

The crowd gathers…
Steelhead Spooky Storytime - 1st Nov 09

Lunar & Maxim – Lunar is Da Boss!
Steelhead Spooky Storytime - 1st Nov 09

Riven never appeared for me 😦
Steelhead Spooky Storytime - 1st Nov 09

Dio did 🙂
Steelhead Spooky Storytime - 1st Nov 09

Ain’t I a peach!
Steelhead Spooky Storytime - 1st Nov 09

(1) I was amazed to hear so many other Steelheadian’s voices – I *love* an American accent – always sounds so… cool 😀 And I guess the various ages at 40’s & 50’s (maybe a couple beyond?) which is something that constantly amazes me about SL. I think the older ages helps make SL, at least my SL, a more mature place and I like that – after all, I’m an old fart myself 😀

My tale:

Steelhead Short Story – Death in the sewers!

Dear fellow citizens, let me assure you that the tale I am about to impart is in no way manufactured and remains as real and as horrible to me here now as it did that on fateful day a mere three weeks ago. In all truth, the day had started so innocently with no indication that within hours I would be fighting for my very life in the filthy sewers of New Babbage, but before I leap ahead too far let me start at the beginning with the note I found and the two assumptions I made which, in large part, led to my peril with the unfortunate creatures cruelly overlooked by Death and his minions.

It was a Sunday morn and despite the fact it was a day of rest I had left the slums behind and headed into the city to pick up vital supplies. As I found myself passing the town hall, and recalling that I had heard rumours of some proposed new building developments, I decided to wander in and study the town map displayed in the foyer. The town hall itself was quiet and empty and I studied the map in peace for many long minutes before I turned to head back home. It was then that I saw the note lying on the floor. I looked about for someone who might have dropped it, but the town hall was, as I had mentioned, empty save me. So, feeling somewhat like a snoop, I picked up the note and read it.

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Hubert,

I am not going to tell you again! Make the delivery to Salde Outfitters. Leave it in the basement. You’ll need the code to get in: 1253echo. Just say it to the console or the door. You shouldn’t have any trouble as long as you follow my instructions. Just don’t lose this note, ok?

X
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My mind raced! What on earth could this ‘delivery’ be? Why would it be locked in a cellar with a secret code? Could there be agents of the Bing Kong, the tong running every nefarious criminal activity in the slums, working all this way out in the city? And if so, what evil could they be spreading? I had to find out and my first port of call had to be this Slade Outfitters!

Here, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you both of the erroneous assumptions that were to put me on a path with near death (and worse!) beneath the streets of New Babbage. The first incorrect assumption was that of tong involvement, which served only to blind me to any other possibility as my hatred of my adopted home’s cruel and merciless masters is fierce beyond measure. The second incorrect assumption was that Slade Outfitters had a shop in New Babbage alone. If only I had known that I were but mere feet from the newly opened Steelhead branch I could have saved myself a considerable amount of trouble, not to say terror.

Alas, I was blind and ill-informed and therefore already committed to a path and incapable of veering off. A few hours later I was onboard the Clockhaven Queen and sailing for that most fair city to uncover just what the vile Bing Kong tong were planning.

The journey was pleasant enough, the day slipping into late afternoon and then into a brilliant sunset as the all-but-deserted ferry pulled in to port. I disembarked and walked along the stone quay towards the nearby shop. Above me seagulls cawed and squawked loudly, no doubt looking for scraps to feed upon. Something in their manner, something odd about their calling, caused me to glance up and I gasped with surprise to see them being joined by birds of all types. From crows and ravens to the humblest starlings and sparrow, the darkening sky was filling with all manner of flying beast and all of them without exception flying out to sea, away from the city. I stood with the sailors and watched them go until the cacophony of their cries subsided to nothing, before I turned to look at the city from which they had apparently fled.

I was suddenly aware of just how awfully empty the streets were. A chill wind blew between the silent buildings, a strange keening sound only just evident over its whispered hiss. I was certain I picked up a familiar scent wafting in from the city too, a sickly sweet smell that I knew all too well. Death, it would seem, was in the air. Suddenly I did not want to be there and I hurried off as I resolved to find out what I could and wait back on the Queen for a return sailing.

The shop I was looking for was on the waterfront and the note had said to look out for a console or door which would open with a voice command and grant access to the cellar. I searched high and low but could find neither – the front of the shop was simply open and given the shop’s position on the quay any cellar there was likely to be a very damp affair indeed. The only door I could find in the shop was a curiously placed porthole at the back, but there was no console nearby and it opened perfectly well with a simple pull. I say curiously placed for the simple fact was that it opened, by the smell of it, into the sewers of Clockhaven, the wide, covered canals which took the waste of the city away into the sea and were rightly regarded as an engineering marvel across the steamlands.

But was this the cellar door the mysterious note alluded too? If so were the sewers the means of delivery for the Bing Kong? And what were they delivering that was so important? There was only one way to find out: I had to enter the sewers and see where they led and to do that I would need a boat. There was only one place in Clockhaven I knew of where one could find such a vessel and I turned on my heels and headed into the darkening night.

The shadowed streets of Clockhaven were narrow and echoed with my lonely footsteps. More than once I was certain I heard distant shouting and unclear sounds of some commotion or other. The strange keening. howling sound I had detected as I disembarked the Clockhaven Queen had grown steadily louder and I was sure now it was more than simply just the wind whistling through the alleyways.

The alleys themselves proved disorienting to the point I was convinced I was lost. I fought hard to hold my rising sense of panic down as time after time I turned, sure I was being followed, only to see no one in the gloom. I hurried on, desperate to reach my goal, a large brick building where small steam boats were made, and found myself nearly overcome with joy as I came upon it. My joy was short lived however as I saw it was as dark and as quiet as everywhere else in this eerie ghost town.

I toyed with the idea of leaving, of forgetting the whole damn foolish endeavour and returning to the relative safety of the slums, but it would be another two hours before the Queen would slip out of harbour again so I was going nowhere. Beside, I chided myself silently, I was letting my fears take hold of me. I pushed my shoulders back and made my way inside to where the boats were launched into the sewers. Looking up at the launch ramp, to where the small metal-hulled vessel for one was waiting to sluice its way into the waters that led to the sewers, I had the feeling that it was going to be a bumpy ride.

I was not proved wrong! The launch was a decidedly uncomfortable affair with many a bump and jolt as I slid down the helictical trough and into the basin. The steam engine behind me hissed as the drive gear slowly pushed me forward into the gloom of the brick tunnels. Slime and other unmentionable detritus could be seen all around and I knew that to fall into the water would be almost certainly fatal, so with a renewed effort to keep the small steam skiff on an even keel I gingerly coaxed it forwards in what I estimated was the direction of Slade’s. Sure enough, a few tense minutes later I did indeed come to the brick step that acted as small dock to the shop but even here, aside from a small sign indicating I had indeed found Slade’s, I could find no discernable clues that in anyway corroborated the contents of the note.

Maybe I was too late? Maybe the illicit goods had already been delivered and moved on? Maybe, just maybe, I told myself, I was barking down the wrong sewer and on the end of an elaborate practical joke. I was just toying with that thought when I heard a loud splash, as though a substantial weight had hit the water, followed by a long, low, near-animal moan that turned my blood to ice. It was a sound I hoped I’d never hear again. It was a sound I hadn’t heard since the fall of the second Lincoln Line back in ‘85. It was the sound of a soul trapped between life and death. It was the sound of one no longer human. It was the sound of one of Feg’s own. It was the sound of a Zombie! And it was here in the dark sewers with me!

Fear gripped me tight and by the time the paralysis lifted I had steamed past Slade’s dock and into a narrow section of tunnel that precluded any thought of turning the small skiff around. I desperately twisted and pulled at various controls on the engine, but in my panic I simply could not find a reverse gearing system. The small boat, and I with it, moved with grim inexorability towards the moaning and splashing monster somewhere in the dark sewer ahead.

Suddenly there was another splash somewhere further along. And then another. More moans, guttural animalistic cries of hunger, joined the first. I was facing at least three zombies and found myself armed with nothing more than my satchel and this boat.

The boat! Of course! I had been desperately trying to get the boat to go backwards and away from the terrors that lay ahead when I should have been looking at it as my source of escape and protection through them!

The stench of the sewer, whilst always bad, increased in its foulness as it mixed with the terrible miasma of rotting flesh. The tunnel ahead was dark and heavy with shadows that seemed to peel from the walls and flee ahead of my boat only at the last possible second.

And the seconds in this vile place felt like hours as I crept forward seeing nothing in the gloom until! There! In the sewage before me a creature loomed large, its arms stretched out in front, a shaft of wood thrust fully through its body and, most terrible of all, an axe buried in its ruined skull! Its dead eyes fixed upon me as its slack jaw released the unmistakable howl of a flesh-hungry zombie!

With a spine of pure ice, I opened the little boat’s steam valve as far as it would go and kept a steady hand on the tiller as I began to speed through the foul water. I aimed squarely at the poor devil and braced for impact – there was a dull thud as his head hit the hull and the boat leapt up in the air, riding over him as if over a ramp! I held on tight, fearing I would be thrown from my craft, or worse still, it would capsize and sink, but the steady vessel came down true and splashed back into the murky waters.

Almost immediately the engine began to protest and I turned just in time to find the unfortunate had his hand trapped in the gearing system. The strong little engine squealed in protest but didn’t stop, it pulled the creature into its grinding maw inch by terrible inch, snapping bone and rending flesh as it did so. Drawn in by its arm, the zombie was soon up to its elbow and then its shoulder before the gears began to bite down in the poor devil’s neck. All the while its undead, unblinking eyes glared at me and its free hand grasped and clawed as it desperately tried to reach me and pull me into its terrible mouth.

In horror I noticed that the creatures efforts were tearing it free of the boats gears! Skin and muscle tore away, bones cracked and snapped free as it began to pull itself out of the engine and towards me. With a heavy heart and the words “forgive me” on my lips I swung my satchel at its face and with a single blow pushed its head backwards into the gears whose terrible teeth took one bite and refused to let go again. The engine wheezed briefly, redoubled its effort and with a wet crunch I shall never forget cracked the zombie’s head like an egg. Blood, brains and gore erupted behind me and the creature’s body, now finally lifeless and at rest, sank to the bottom of the vile sewer. I was safe!

Ahead of me, in the inky blackness, the moaning started again. I set my jaw, eased back the steam valve and spluttered forwards once more…

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The journey through the sewers, the killing of more undead souls, the flight through the panicked streets of Clockhaven are events burnt into my mind forever by the sheer horror of that night. I can not bring myself to recount them all and I trust you will forgive me if I leave my tale of terror where it rests, at the bottom of a sewer in a foreign city whose people lost so much in one terrible night.

Yet please allow me, by way of an ending to my tale, to tell you that I did escape, as you can clearly see, and I did so unscathed. I was ushered onboard the Clockhaven Queen, this time far from empty but rather filled with the injured and dying. The smell of death and of burning was everywhere. As the Queen sailed out to sea, I remember clearly looking back to the fair city of New Babbage and seeing the night sky alight and stained red with fires that burnt all across her.

I had seen the fires before.

I had heard the screams before.

I had sorted the living from the dying and the merely dying from the never dying before.

I had looked into the eyes of the cursed and whispered “forgive me” as I killed them before.

When Lord Slough Feg and his armies had overrun Manchester I had seen what hordes of hungry zombies could do, and what little men and women could do in return, and I’m here to tell you all that whatever you hear about that terrible night in New Babbage, whatever horror stories you are told, bear in mind that when faced with such overwhelming evil, good people are forced to make terrible decisions and do terrible deeds in order to survive. If you meet a survivor of that night, I trust you will look upon them kindly, ask no questions and understand the shadow of horror behind their eyes.

The end.
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The Mysterious Note: 9 – A Fishy Tale Indeed!

Dr Ryne Beck Gravatar Though the tunnels were dark, there seemed to be a glow emanating from the rocks, albeit weak, that provided just enough illumination for my explorations. The tunnels themselves were impressive in both size and construction – vaulted brick tubes strengthen by great metal ribs, they had obviously taken some considerable effort and resources to build. But by whom? And for what purpose?
Steelhead: The Mysterious Note

What made them all the more puzzling was the inclusion of glass sections in the roof – surely these tunnels couldn’t have been open to the sky, could they? If they had, who had covered them over and why? Judging by the areas where Mother Nature had begun to reclaim the subterranean realm with rock fall and mildewed entropy, I guessed the last custodian’s of the tunnels were long gone leaving their labyrinthine secrets to the new masters of Steelhead to use as they saw fit.
Steelhead: The Mysterious Note

A ladder hung down from a manhole cover high above, and I calculated that this section ran under and along Boomtown Parkway, the street Slade Outfitters was on. I turned an looked further down the tunnel – what if other shops also had hidden cellars, I thought. Maybe some evidence of the Bing Kong could be found further ahead. Nervously I pushed on until I came to a large brick archway leading into a cellar. I peeked around and saw more crates!
Steelhead: The Mysterious Note

Could these be more of the same boxes I saw under Slades? More of the mysterious “KEEP DRY! DO NOT DROP!” boxes? There was only one way to find out. I gingerly crept in to the cellar, my senses on full alarm in case of sudden attack. I inched my way nearer and near the boxes until, at last, in the weak light I could make out some lettering on them: “STEELHEAD BRAND SLAMON”. I was surprised, to say the least, but a can left out and a rummage through an open box proved their contents to be no more fishy than, well, fish.
Steelhead: The Mysterious Note

I had drawn a blank. Night was falling and I certainly did not relish a night lost in pitch black tunnels so I decided that discretion was far and away the better part of valour and resolved to take my concerns up with the sheriff the very next day. For now, I could do no more than climb the ladder into the street and head home on my trusty bicycle.

It was as I emerged into fresh air that a thought struck me. Who on earth would be stockpiling so much salmon? I looked down the street and mentally calculated how far I had travelled back and forth in the tunnel beneath my feet. If my calculations were correct that the shop on the corner would be directly above the cellar and the salmon horde… but whose was it?
Steelhead: The Mysterious Note

I walked over, my shoes echoing on the cobbles as I went, until I stood outside… ECLIPSE DESIGNS! It would seem the town’s boss elf had quite the taste for salmon! Given all that had happened in the last few hours, I burst into a fit of riotous laughter that sped my weary legs home and to bed. Whatever the Bing Kong tong were up to, it would wait until tomorrow…
Steelhead: The Mysterious Note

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The End… For Now!
All the “The Mysterious Note” posts can be read here.

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The Mysterious Note: 8 – A New Lead!

Dr Ryne Beck Gravatar Twenty four hours later, as I walked through the peaceful streets of Steelhead to retrieve my trusty old bicycle from where I had left it outside the town hall, I stopped dead in front of a shop I had never seen before and I gaped at the sign in the window.

Slade Outfitters.

Steelhead: The Mysterious NoteThe right shop at last!

Almost in a daze I walked into the store, evening was approaching and like the street out front the shop was empty save for several tasteful displays, a large ornately woven rug and a curious console atop a wooden plinth that was replete with blinking lights and flashing displays.
Steelhead: The Mysterious Note

With a mouth cotton dry, I stammered the code given in the note “one two five three echo”. I had no idea what I expected to happen and certainly having the expensive rug let out a metallic ‘click’ and hiss of steam as it moved upwards slightly before sliding back to reveal a hole in the floor was low on my list. Obviously no one had informed the rug of my expectations and I leapt into the air in surprise as it moved under my feet!
Steelhead: The Mysterious Note

Peering down the hole, I could see a ladder leading down into a cellar from which I could hear the whirs, clicks and beeps of machinery. I steeled myself and headed on down into the earthen-walled room and found it well lit by the sort of machines I had come to expect from the more creative members of the Steelhead community – the sort of machines that delight observers with their whirring and clicking and beeping and flashing and sparking without ever revealing why or for what purpose.
Steelhead: The Mysterious Note

Beyond the machines and at the far end of the cellar I spied a metal grate across a section of wall, but I was too busy looking around for evidence of a delivery (after all, the note had been very specific that something should be left in the cellar, hadn’t it) to take much notice. My eyes settled on a pile of crates, or rather on the words stencilled onto them “FRAGILE – KEEP DRY – DO NOT DROP”, and my heart missed a beat. What on earth could be in them? What was so precious? So fragile? So, perhaps, dangerous?
Steelhead: The Mysterious Note

Suddenly I heard a noise, a small scuttling noise, from near the metal grate and looked up just in time to see a large rat disappear through it. I moved over to investigate and found that the grate was actually a portcullis style door leading to what looked to be another room beyond. I pushed and pulled at the metal, but it would not budge. I took a chance and repeated the code in the note “one two five three echo” and was rewarded as the grating slid nosily upwards. I peered through the open doorway and gasped out loud as I saw beyond it a large tunnel! It obviously man-made and large enough for an omnibus to traverse through, in places it was ornately constructed and the entire section I could see was quite clearly very much abandoned.
Steelhead: The Mysterious Note

After the horror of the New Babbage sewers a mere twenty fours behind me, I was somewhat reluctant to enter another subterranean realm of unknown dangers, but I saw little choice and pressed on…

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To be continued…
All the “The Mysterious Note” posts can be read here.

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The Mysterious Note: 7 – Exodus

Dr Ryne Beck Gravatar The journey through the sewers, the killing of more undead souls, the flight through the panicked streets of Clockhaven are but still images in my memory, the details of events themselves seemingly wiped by the horror of it all.

I remember clearly being ushered onboard the Clockhaven Queen, this time far from empty. I remember the noise, the screaming and gunshot and moans. I remember the smell of burning that seemed to be everywhere. I remember arguing that as a doctor I should be allowed to stay and help, but the local militia ordering me back saying they had things under control and the wounded on the ship would need my help. I remember the Queen sailing out to sea. I remember looking back and seeing the sky stained red with the fires that burnt all across Babbage.

I had seen the fires before.

I had heard the screams before.

I had tending the dying about a heaving vessel before.

I put all my memories to one side and got on with my job. I was a doctor and I had patients – nothing else mattered. Nothing. Not the zombies. Not Babbage on fire. Not my wife. Not my children. Not my country. Not my lost life. Nothing mattered but this, here and now.

The Queen steamed out to sea and the safety of Steelhead.

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To be continued after a short break…
All the “The Mysterious Note” posts can be read here.

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The Mysterious Note: 6 – Death in the sewers!

Dr Ryne Beck Gravatar My fear had gripped me tight and by the time the paralysis lifted I had steamed past Slade’s dock and into a narrow section of tunnel that precluded any thought of turning around. I desperately twisted and pulled at various controls on the engine, but in my panic failed to find a reverse gearing system. I moved with grim inexorability towards the moaning and splashing monster somewhere in the dark sewer ahead.

Suddenly there was another splash somewhere further ahead. And another. More moans, guttural animalistic cries of hunger, joined the first. I was facing at least three zombies and found myself armed with nothing more than my satchel and this boat.

The boat! Of course! I had been desperately trying to get the boat to go backwards and away from the terrors that lay ahead when I should have been looking at it as my source of escape and protection through them!

The stench of the sewer, whilst always bad, increased in its foulness as it mixed with the terrible miasma of rotting flesh. The tunnel ahead was dark and heavy with shadows that seemed to peel from the walls and flee ahead of my boat only at the last possible second.

And the seconds in this vile place felt like hours as I crept forward seeing nothing in the gloom until! There! In the sewage before me a creature loomed large, its arms stretched out in front, a shaft of wood trust fully through its body and, most terrible of all, an axe buried in its ruined skull! Its dead eyes fixed on me as its slack jaw released the unmistakable howl of a flesh-hungry zombie!

Zombies in Babbage!

With a spine of pure ice, I opened the little boat’s steam valve as far as it would go and kept a steady hand on the tiller as I began to speed through the foul water. I aimed squarely at the poor devil and braced for impact – there was a dull thud as his head hit the hull and the boat leapt up in the air, riding over him as if over a ramp! I held on tight, fearing I would be thrown from my craft, or worse still, it would capsize, but the steady vessel came down true and splashed back into the murky waters. Almost immediately the engine began to protest and I turned just in time to see the unfortunate’s head pulled into the gearing and cracked like an egg. Blood, brains and gore erupted behind me and the creature’s body, now finally lifeless and at rest, sank to the bottom. I was safe!

Ahead of me, in the inky blackness, the moaning started again. I set my jaw and spluttered forward…

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To be continued…
All the “The Mysterious Note” posts can be read here.

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The Mysterious Note: Part 5 – Into The Sewers

Dr Ryne Beck Gravatar As predicted the boat launch was a rather uncomfortable affair with many a bump and jolt as I slid down the helictical trough and into basin that flowed out into the sewers.

Steelhead: The Mysterious Note

Steelhead: The Mysterious Note

The steam engine behind me hissed as the drive gear slowly pushed me forward into the gloom of the brick tunnels. Slime and other unmentionable detritus could be seen all around me and I knew that to fall into the water beneath me would almost certainly be fatal, So with a renewed effort to keep the small steam skiff on an even keel I gingerly coaxed it forwards in what I estimated was the direction of Slade’s. Sure enough, a few tense minutes later I did indeed come to the brick step that acted as small dick to the shop but even here, aside from a small sign indicating I had found Slade’s, I could find no discernable clues.

Steelhead: The Mysterious Note

Maybe I was too late? Maybe the illicit goods had already been delivered and moved on? Maybe, just maybe, I told myself, I was barking down the wrong sewer and on the end of an elaborate practical joke. I was just toying with thought when I heard it.

Steelhead: The Mysterious Note

A loud splash, as though a substantial weight had hit the water, followed by a long, low, near-animal moan that turned my blood to ice. It was a sound I hoped I’d never hear again. It was a sound I hadn’t heard since the fall of the second Lincoln Line back in ‘85. It was the sound of a soul trapped between life and death. It was the sound of one that was no longer human. It was the sound of one of Feg’s own. It was the sound of a Zombie! And it was here in the dark sewers with me!

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To be continued…
All the “The Mysterious Note” posts can be read here.

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The Mysterious Note: Part 4 – The Streets of Clockhaven

Dr Ryne Beck Gravatar The shadowed streets of Clockhaven were narrow and echoed with my lonely footsteps. More than once I was certain I heard distant shouting and unclear sounds of some commotion or other. The strange keening sound I had detected as I disembarked the Clockhaven Queen had grown steadily louder and I was sure now it was not just the wind whistling through the alleyways.

Steelhead: The Mysterious Note

The alleys themselves proved infuriatingly disorienting to the point I was convinced I was lost. I fought hard to hold my rising sense of panic down as I turned, sure I was being followed but saw no one.

Steelhead: The Mysterious Note

I hurried on, desperate to reach my goal and found myself nearly overcome with joy as I came upon it. Still, it was as dark and as quiet as everywhere else in this strange ghost town.

Steelhead: The Mysterious Note

I toyed with the idea of leaving now, of forgetting the whole damn foolish endeavour and returning to the relative safety of the slums, but it would be another two hours before the Queen would slip out of harbour again so I was going nowhere. Beside, I chided myself silently, I was letting my fears take hold of me. I pushed my shoulders back and made my way inside to where the boats were launched into the sewers. Looking up at the launch ramp, I had the feeling this was going to be a bumpy ride…
Steelhead: The Mysterious Note

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To be continued…
All the “The Mysterious Note” posts can be read here.

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