Going Underground

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A writeup of the Down Town campaign.

Dramatis Personae

  • Massimo Balestri: Ashley Munday
  • Nick Hamerelli: Robin Poole
  • Captain Sebastian Fiester: Richard
  • Dan Cooke: Sean McGuiness
  • Jake Edwards: Noah
  • The Rat King: DavidArthur/Erm, new bloke...?

You can find out more about Hammetburg.

Chapter 1: Enter the Rat King!

Ex-Italian nobleman Massimo Balestri visits the Hammetburg Financial with his driver Nick Hamerelli, a succesful racing-car driver sponsored by Massimo; as Nick leaves the bank to check on the Bugatti parked outside, two men enter... it is the Rat King and Ratboy, notorious criminals!

Nick races back into the bank as the Rat King starts robbing it and engages him in a fight, whilst his boss, Massimo, uses his command of colourful Italian insults to distract the robbers! The commotion rapidly attracts attention and retired British submarine captain Sebastian Fiester runs up to the door of the bank, closely followed by handsome & adventurous explorer Dan Cooke with a lecturer in humanities from the university, Jake Edwards, only for them all to be engulfed in a swarm of vermin under the Rat King's control!

The Rat King & his sidekick are subdued rapidly and their captors decide to find the Rat King's lair, rumoured to contain a vast stash of loot from his nefarious endeavours, but Ratboy attempts to trick them into walking into a trap; a life of crime finally metes out its harsh & merciless reward to the evil Ratboy, however, when he is crushed to death in his own trap, despite Nick's noble efforts to save him with no thought for his own safety.

As the Rat King's lair crumbles, the very ground begins to shake: windows crack, animals panic and a low rumble builds up from below the street... the Rat King takes this opportunity to make his escape, but Massimo grapples him just as the quake seems to stop... when suddenly a 100' spike erupts from the ground between them, lifting the Rat King into the air and leaving Massimo breathless on the ground! The town lurches and then begins a rapid descent below the surface of the Earth... TO BE CONTINUED

Chapter 2: Into the Abyss!

The crew pick themselves up and shake off the dust as they try to make sense of what has happened; Hammetburg is a dark enigma around them with the sounds of panic coming from every direction; Nick flicks his Zippo and guides Massimo back to the Bugatti... Dan announces that he is going to consult his close friend at the university, the renowned if slightly crazed scientist Dr. Walter Franklin, whilst Massimo & Nick head to Little Sicily to check on Nick's mother, leaving Jake & Sebastian to guard the Rat King and his loot.

In Little Sicily, the 'family' are maintaining order by force where necessary, but Nick's mom is safe; whilst here, however, they hear a rumour that some of the Chinatown gangs are going to get a visit later to see if this is one of their crazy oriental schemes. Nick uses his contacts in the chinese underworld to find Metal, a lieutenant in the Black Dragon gang; Metal seems very agitated to see Nick and sends him away quickly, but Nick & Massimo linger long enough to overhear Metal's converstaion with an unseen figure: what they overhear confirms that the chinese gangs were not responsible for this disaster... and also reveals that the unseen figure is the 'mythical' Emperor Black Dragon!

At the university, Dan asks Dr. Franklin to figure out what has happened to Hammetburg, then pays a visit to KHBU to see if they have got a searchlight he can use: with no-one about to prevent him from getting to the roof, Dan takes charge of one of their lights and uses it to discover the roof of a cavern above them... somehow, they have become totally closed in! Then, in the nick of time, Dan throws himself to the floor just as something large passes through the space where he was standing: all he see is a black, triangular shape briefly caught in the spotlight... when Dan tries to talk to Mayor Grogan, who is at KHBU to make a broadcast, he is thrown off the premises by a couple of burly police officers.

Meanwhile, back outside the ruins of the Rat King's lair, the spike withdraws and leaves a deep, narrow hole behind; peering down, a glimmer of orange light is seen at the bottom... the Rat King is persuaded to send a rat down there to have a look, which returns with two simple ideas in its rodent brain: 'Hot' and 'City'. When the rest of the crew return at last, having negotiated the police barricades that are going up to keep the population in their homes, they determine to find out what is at the bottom of the hole; a quick trip over to Viridian secures them a fully equipped telephone service & maintenance truck and Massimo's silver tongue gets them back through the barricades. Dan & Nick are lowered down through the hole on a spool of cable and emerge at the top of a cavern, dangling far above a lake of lava with a city of some kind apparently floating on the lava at one side of the vast cave... then a cockroach like insect the size of a pony emerges from a side tunnel and starts to crawl towards them, so they get drawn back up the passage at speed.

Rumours have reached Jake whilst Dan & Nick have been spelunking and he tells the crew that there are tunnels out of the cave they are in: maybe there is a way back up to the surface? Or down to the city they saw beneath them? They drive out of Hammetburg in their phone truck and up to the wall of the cave, to a tunnel in the south-east corner, where a mysterious glass orb embedded in the rock beams a red light into Jake's eye and leaves the impression 'Under Construction' in his mind. Driving down the tunnel, they take a fork to the left and see daylight ahead of them; they drive into a huge cave with many sun-like objects on its roof and a populated Native American village some distance away... TO BE CONTINUED

Chapter 3: Out of the Darkness!

The crew cautiously approach the Indians, one of whom speaks enough English to act as spokesperson; his name is Reads Long and he claims that his people have been living in this cave for "1,000 Grandfathers"! He tells the crew that this is the Tribe of the Hidden Gale, followers of the New Way movement, but that other tribes still follow the Old Way: his chief is at council and will not be happy if he talks to strangers who have not proven their worth by going down into the City of Flame and returning with a trophy. Other parts of this conversation suggest that the citizens of Hammetburg are not the only whitemen down here... Reads Long does give them one warning however, saying that the right fork of the tunnel they came down is cursed and all who travel to the City of Flame that way die a slow death. The crew promise to return with a trophy and leave, taking time to rescue the occupants of a car that has travelled down the other fork... Dan suggests that the Indian's 'curse' may be radioactivity and they depart the area in haste.

Returning to the Hammetburg cave, Nick sees that the block in Viridian where his sister lives is on fire and the police are holding back the fire trucks at the barricade under orders from the Mayor to preserve the city's water! Massimo persuades the senior officer at the scene to do the right thing and the firecrew goes to work, assisted by Dan, Sebatian and Nick, who races to his sister's apartment moments before it collapses in flames! Massimo directs the fire truck's ladder to the window where Sebastian and Nick are, whilst Dan works on getting the inhabitants of the lower floor out of the building safely; as the building starts its final collapse, Massimo grabs hold of Sebstian & Nick whilst Dan steadies the ladder, but it is too much for the old count and he drops Nick, who luckily is only bruised. Nick is cheered to see his sister safe & sound: she tells him that she was rescued by a mysterious masked figure wearing a cloak of patches... the Ragman!

Looking at the lateness of the hour, Nick suggests that they stay the night at his mother's, but first Dan introduces his friends to Dr. Franklin, who tells them all that an advanced technology has brought them 200 or 300 miles underground! He also gives them a geiger counter in case there is any radiation out there amd lets Sebastian borrow a book on Nuclear Physics so that they might recognise a nuclear reactor if they find one anywhere.

After an intimate family dinner, where Nick's sister takes an interest in Dan and his mother flirts with Massimo, the crew decide to explore the cave further and look for the safe route to the Hot City that Reads Long suggested exists; they methodically move clockwise from the south-east tunnel and eventually find another similar one. This takes them into a large cave, much like the Indian's one, but the flora here is of a type that no-one has ever seen before and the approaching sounds of unknown beings persuades them to back out and try another way.

Moving back up the tunnel, they decide to take a smaller side tunnel that they had passed earlier, which forks in two, with tyre tracks going down one fork; following these leads them into a cave lit by a dim bluish light and occupied by vast stone ruins, with a vacant van sitting in an open square not far from the entrance... Nick gets a very bad feeling about this, but they proceed as best they can, following footsteps in the dust into a large building. Going deeper inside, they find a workman huddled in the darkness, asking where Tom is... when Nick helps him to his feet, he notices that the man's skin is very cold and there is a lot of blood on him... ancient legends from the home country come back to him and he desperately tries to persuade his freinds to get out now, but Dan carries on exploring, only to find an eviscerated Tom on the floor of the opposite room.. still moving and trying to stand up! The man they found first lunges foward to attack and the crew cooperate in smashing the zombie to pieces, finishing with Dan ripping his head off and throwing if off into the darkness! As they run for the van, an emaciated hand grips Nick's shoulder, grinding the bones together, but with the help of his friends he breaks free and they pile into the van while Nick drives hell for leather out of there... the last he sees of this cave is a tall dark figure reflected in his rear view mirror, watching them drive away... TO BE CONTINUED

Chapter 4: The Adventures of Deborah!

The crew carry on exploring the Hammetburh cave's perimeter and find a very broad, 'freeway'-style tunnel NNE of the city; driviong down it takes them in a large spiral which eventually ends in a Y intersection; the tracks of two cars go left in a tunnel marked as a farm by the 'signposts' and a van's tracks go right to a 'city'. As they ponder, a car speeds out of the left tunnel, followed by a pack of pony-sized 'cockroach' creatures: taking to their vehicles, they speed away and shoot at the bugs, but they turn out not to be hostile. Shortly, the crew drives into a hug cave dominated by a city of basalt floating on a lava lake!! A van driven by two mob enforcers is already here, but Massimo avoids any trouble by suggesting that their boss sent them down here to check on things; the mobsters decide to return to their boss empty handed, but not before one of them raises suspicions when it is revealed that the orb/signpost he looked into on the way down glowed blue rather than red, something that has set the hairs on the back of Nick's neck on end previously. The crew proceed into the city which they fnd many of the bugs are nesting in and they set about looking for a trophy to take back to the Tribe of the Hidden Gale...

Massimo finds an old pile of scrap: the remains of a geodesic sphere constructed of metal rods and supported on ground hugging tripedal legs. The sphere is 10 yards in diameter and at every other junction of its rods is another of the 'signpost' orbs; Nick and Dan decide to repair this machine while Massimo and Sebastian take a look around. The crew use the finished machine as transport, but it seems more interested in chasing & attacking bugs, until Nick tames it with his superior driving skills and christens it Deborah after his sister.

Driving Deborah to the tower at the city's centre, the crew uncover a layer of the mystery that surrounds the descent of Hammetburg and emerge with 'blaster rods' that they take to the Tribe of the Hidden Gale; spending the night with the Tribe, they learn a little more about the Indian's culture and are told a story about a shape shifting manitou that could control men's minds before it was banished... There is some panic when the lights go a dim blue, but Reads Long assures them this is normal and happens every night.

The next day, the crew return to Hammetburg with a tanker full of water and Reads Long; they turn the former over to the Mayor and take the latter to KHBU, where they are granted the tapes and a reel-to-reel player in exchange for the Bugatti as security. More latin is on the tapes, so the crew take it to the Bishop of St. Jude's. who listens and tells them it sounds like a new report... and Hammetburg seems to be one of the subjects! TO BE CONTINUED

Chapter 5: Terror On Zombie Island!

The crew lead a group of police officers and city workers to the 'Farm' cave near to the Hot City, where Dan shows them what to harvest; Nick takes interest in some type of threshing machine that has corroded away in a clump of wild overgrowth, but Dan finds a device which operates all the functions in this cave, including irrigation and harvesting! Nick takes a basket of food for his mother and they return to Hammetburg.

At the doorstep of his mother's apartment, Nick is set upon by Silvio, a mobster who works for the Don he once crossed, who warns them that the enforcers they talked to in the caves have dissappeared and Nick is suspected of some involvement... Later, he discovers the body of the enforcer who looked into the blue light, occupying a slab in the morgue and puts the word out for his associates to look for him there.

Massimo & Sebastian break up an ugly mob in Juliet Park, learning as they do so of a spate of mysterious disappearances; Dan suggests the cause may be the flying black creature that almost got him on the roof of KHBU some days ago. Nick wants to hunt it down immediately, but it is decided that they desperately need to find a water source for Hammetburg before the Mayor goes to war against the Tribes of the Old & New Ways!

Going back towards the Zombie Ruins, but not into them, the crew find another side cave occupied by a vast lake, with an island in the middle; in going back to fetch a boat, they have a brief word with Reads Long who says that the island is a holy place. With Sebastian's pleasure cruiser towed back to the lack cave, they head for the island to investigate the structure occupying it; they also discover that the water is not good to drink, since it is full of bio-luminescent micro-organisms!

Nick and Jake study the squat, hexaagonal cone that is the only feature on the island and discover that it is another alien device, in some way linked to the sun-orb directly above it which lights this cave. When the crew follows a spur of land leading from the island to the opposite side of the cave, they find a tunnel which leads back to the Zombie Ruins! As artificial night falls, Jake & Dan suggest that the zombies are Aztecs and give Massimo an Aztec taboo sign to scrawl on the tunnel wall in luminous paint, while they run back to help Nick repair the alien device: despite the device trying to help them, they are unable to understand many of its instructions or even its precise function and with an unstoppable wave of over 30 zombies staggering closer to them, they decide now is the time to board the boat and get back to dry land... as they depart, they see the zombies bending to drink at the water's edge... TO BE CONTINUED