After dispatching the moderately-sized horde of undead outside of Rodion labs, the party prepared to venture deeper inside of the Mordent research facility. However, their way was blocked by a locked door. Atu-Sinda volunteered to hack the door down by force, but then, on second-thought (and at my insistence), resolved to use more subtle means of unlocking the door…like entering the code into the adjacent keypad. While the heroes didn’t know the code, Paeael’s interrogation of the corpse of the undead girl they had dispatched revealed the cryptic phrase “Mordent Always Kill Children” as some means of gaining entry into the compound. Sure enough, the phrase was a mnemonic device, indicating the proper code sequence. The door unlocked, the heroes entered into the kwansit hut to see a great many clusters of boxes, covered with spray-painted labels in the Mordent language and cargo netting. There was a lift at the center of the area, and this proved to lower down into a kind of lobby area. At the center of the floor was a steel desk, behind which sat a Mordent guard in uniform. He hardly had time to ask the band of adventurers its business before the adventurers fell upon him with great violence. The guard was no real threat, but the eight heavily armed and well-armored security specialists he summoned by means of an alarm were no slouches. A fierce gunfight ensued, with torrents of bullets falling upon the heroes as the guards opened fire from platforms above the floor of the lobby. The party returned fire in kind, while Terra leaped about like some kind of nonsensical anime character, jumping twenty feet up into the air only to balance on the thin handrail of the catwalk and slash away at the security detail.
That problem dealt with, the party proceeded on past the wall of glass panes, into the compound proper. The long hallway that led to the individual laboratory rooms was all but deserted, the Mordent within having fled after hearing the alarm. Almost deserted, but not quite-it so happened that a government inspection team was making a tour of the laboratories at the time, and the agents of the Mordent Imperium were not of a mind to allow the party to proceed any farther. Led by Mordent bard who specialized in uttering dire threats and incitements to evil, the team was rounded out by three priests of Skura, one of whom was an Inquisitor specialized in dealing with rogue undead. Atu-Sinda called out the Inquisitor to single combat, believing him to be an opponent possessed of bravery and honor. The Inquisitor labored under no such delusions-he used the ruse of the single combat as an opportunity to fire off a maximized Searing Ray at Sergei, who had been his target all along. A general melee ensued, the priests flooding the hallway with devastating bursts of negative energy, augmented by special spell components: human finger bones, intricately etched with runes and symbols, that crumbled to dust upon the casting of the priests’ unholy spells. While the infliction spells were damaging (and restorative to the Mordent themselves) and while bolts of searing blacklight burst into black sparks mere inches away from what was left of Sergei, the party fought back valiantly and sent these servants of Skura to their eternal reward of sweetest oblivion.
Once it had dispatched these new foes, the party set about searching the rooms that branched off from the central corridor. The titles on the doors translated to such obscure phrases as “Pathology and Micronecrobiology,” “Necrobiotics,” “Ender of Life Program,” and “Server Room.” There was also a door marked “Administration,” which was securely locked and did not open with the keyring lifted from the slaughtered security guard. The Necrobiotics lab consisted of a number of desks on one side of the room, and a series of specimen containers like glass cells on the other side. The party did not venture deep into this room-one unnerving sight of the liquefacted and putrefied remains in the specimen chambers was enough to discourage any further exploration. The search of the pathology laboratory did not seem especially fruitful, until Atu-Sinda and Sergei flushed out a lab technician who had been cowering underneath a desk. The tech begged for his life in a most un-undeadlike manner, and upon receving promises that he would not be tortured or killed, he promised to help the party with their mission at Rodion labs, although it would mean his job. He pointed out areas of interest within the laboratories, such as the experimental combat enhancements, batches of a virulent strain of undead virus that he hinted would soon be the downfall of Drogue, a negative energy font where Sergei could patch himself up, and an experimental machine in the Ender of Life laboratory that had the capability of transferring consciousness from one body to another. The party destroyed the combat enhancements (losing out on the possibility of permanently gaining 3 hit points or 2 acid resistance) and destroyed a sample of the plague, which the tech assured them would do very little to stop the inevitable attack on Drogue. Sergei got himself fixed up, and then the party proceeded into the Ender of Life laboratory.
This room was arranged much like the Necrobiotics lab, with desks and monitors on one side and specimen containers on the other. These specimen containers, though, were filled with a glowing blue fluid. Suspended in each of the chambers, behind a web of tubes and wires, was a form that hinted at being humanoid, although only barely. Joints were bent back the wrong way, vestigial digits and limbs sprouted from malformed limbs, crude masses of muscle and thick scabrous skin distorted the normal lines of humanoid anatomy, and eyes were set askew and blinked out of tandem. And yet these wretched things were not dead, but alive-living creatures broken and brainwashed into becoming Mordent war machines. The tech informed the party that the last vestiges of identity were usually purged after the first two or three days of direct stimulation of the brain’s pain center, and after that it was a matter of training the Enders by means of artificial reality and direct neural stimulus until they had achieved the necessary drives to kill anything that drew breath-the act of killing providing them with a brief respite from the constant agony that otherwise flooded their systems. The tech seemed almost proud when speaking of the Enders, boasting that he had was responsible for some of the sub-routines in the Artificial Reality training programs, which earned him only contempt from the party members.
In any event, he brought everybody to two chambers like those that held the Enders at the back of the room, and urged Paeael to enter into one of them. The gnome did so with some trepidation. As Paeael floated in the chemical bath, the tech reconstituted the genetic material extracted from an old Chaos Gnome hair and fed it into the machine. A skinless, hairless thing that was little more than unblinking eyes and a mass of naked veins started to grow in the next tank, and within minutes it had taken on the appearance of Old Paeael. New Paeael struggled in his tank as his oxygen supply was cut off, feeling the fluid burning his lungs as he died…and was instantly resuscitated in the newly cloned body.
The party made to leave, vowing to explode the laboratories if at all possible. They decided to start by aborting the Enders, and set the protesting tech to shut down their life support. But before the heroes could make good on their goal, a voice spoke to them, coming from everywhere and nowhere all at once. The voice identified itself as Dr. Raskolnikov, who thanked the tech for his 155 years of devoted service but informed him that he was in violation of the company’s protection of intellectual property bylaws, and, as such, the company had no choice but to terminate the tech’s employment. This involved the tech staggering back and staring down at his body as it began to burn from the inside out, blazing white light spreading over his skin like leprosy-within seconds, he was completely immolated, and then was nothing more than a pile of glowing ash.
Dr. Raskonikov then thanked the heroes for the invaluable combat data that he had extracted from their encounters in the laboratory, and assured the heroes that this data would be put to good use in the Ender program. He also thanked them for the chance to test out a new iteration of undeath, and assured them that they would continue to serve in the capacity of zombified custodians after the life had been ripped from them. And then Raskolnikov’s voice was replaced with the tortured sound of commingled sobbing, coughing, and gasping-the sound of desperation, depression, and despair.
Tune in next week to see what hellish horrors the heartless Raskolnikov has unleashed upon our hapless heroes!