Utopia unit 16 was slowly recovering from their disastrous last mission. With Wu and Hämäläinen dead, Trill and McSorley left behind on Ryukyu Epsilon and Evans and Franz-Haugen-Ankerson hospitalized, it was time to bring in some fresh meat. With the losses suffered by the Utopia units, new troopers were transferring in from various sources. Joining the Sweet Sixteenth were
Pvt. Abdul, a polite and well-mannered devout Moslem transferring in from MESA – the Middle East Security Army. With no blemishes on his service record, Abdul’s semi-forced transfer is a bit of a mystery.
Pvt. Swartz, the unit’s new heavy weapons specialist. A jovial Neo-Bavarian with a liking for beer and sausages – lots of both. Schwarz is also from MESA, and he’s a voluntary transfer.
Pvt. “Shaq” Leroy, a medic from the New Orleans isles. Leroy’s not only a capable medic, but very canny in the kitchen as well – managing to turn even freeze-dried spam into a more than decent meal.
Pvt. Cohl, the new sniper. Cohl’s a calm, relaxed professional in his forties, with a history in Olympic shooting.
Pvt. Dastevan has a long background working for the private military company Greyocean. Dastevan’s a real killer with a leaning towards black supremacist ideas and a drive to bond with everyone he conceives to be a “brother”.
Pvt. Bruce who simply loves military service. Or rather, the chance to yell at people, keep a strict discipline and inflict physical harm. Bruce is in Utopia for the front line action and doing his best to impress Sgt. Fender.
The unit was enjoying their downtime with rest and recreation, or rather what downtime they had after Sgt. Fender’s merciless training sessions. They were regularly visiting Evans and Franz-Haugen-Ankerson in the sickbay and trying their best to form a team when they were given what sounded like a very lightweight mission: the small factory colony of Adderall Field on 311-Krugman had gone quiet, and the Sambreel corporation was fearing an uprising similar to the one on Kessler-11.
In fact, Sambreel had already contacted private military company Skyhawk to look into the matter. However, due to colonial legislation the mission was placed under the jurisdiction of the Union and that meant the 16th was going in with the Skyhawk PMCs. The mission was to go in and find out what had happened and bring back the factory manager’s computer with its relevant information and records if the colonists didn’t have an explanation. Civilian casualties were to be avoided at all cost. A simple job, yet Captain Jensen called to Fender before the mission and asked him to keep an eye on the PMCs and to make sure they didn’t take the computer. It was time for Operation Big Brother.
The troopers deployed on the edge of Adderall Field, and cautiously started moving in. Meanwhile, the Skyhawk team lead by lieutenant Dircks stormed forward towards the factory manager’s quarters, seemingly not bothering to look for civilians. The PMC sniper, Cpl. Thoreaux took the stairs to the top of one of the nearby storage silos, while Pvt. Cohl, the 16th’s sniper, did likewise. To make sure there wouldn’t be any nasty surprises from the Skyhawk crew, Pvt. DiGlaeser tried to tap into their private communication channel. While he couldn’t quite breach it, he was able to monitor the transmissions to the extent that allowed him to notice if voices were spiking and communication got hectic.
The Skyhawk PMCs deploy
Lt. Dircks leads his men
Pvt. Dastevan checked out the closest building, and found a civilian standing there, staring mute at the wall and not responding to the trooper’s communication attempts. Elsewhere the troopers and PMCs were spotting some more civilians, all of them in a similar, passive state. All of a sudden, shots started ringing out. At the orders of Sgt. Fender, Pvt. Abdul climbed to the roof of one of the buildings to better survey the situation. He was shocked by what he saw: the Skyhawk operators were indiscriminately gunning down unarmed civilians!
The troopers spread out and Abduls heads for the roof
Fender tried to contact Lt. Dircks but to no avail, the PMCs were not responding to hails but continued firing. DiGlaeser noticed there was some heavy radio traffic going on. Dircks, flanked by two of his troopers, made it to the factory manager’s quarters to secure the computer. The sixteenth were encountering some more civilians. Pvt. Bruce got a little rough-handed on a female civilian, who completely surprised him by turning around and lunging for him, trying to claw and bite the trooper. There was general confusion, and Fender ordered the civilian restrained, which Bruce happily did with the butt of his rifle and some zip ties. Around the same time, the dog Baton had joined Dastevan who was still wondering what to do with the civilian he’d encountered. The dog’s hackles were up and he was barking furiously. Just to be sure, Dastevan pinned the civilian down and tied him up. The colonist was finally showing signs of life, struggling and snarling. It was obvious at this point that something was seriously wrong with the colonists. The medic Leroy suspected some kind of mass hysteria or possibly a strain of rabies or something similar, and advised everyone to be cautious when approaching the civilians.
Sgt. Kendrick observes the situation while Pvt. Adeyemi looks on
Pvt. Mourtada, the Skyhawk heavy
The Skyhawk leader Lt. Dircks had recovered the computer and was making his way towards the landing zone. A civilian wandered closer, and Dircks shot him down with his heavy pistol. Gunfire was now ringing all around the small town as the PMCs let rip into the townsfolk who were, to the mercenaries’ horror, getting up even with grievous bullet wounds. The noise was also starting to draw in more and more of Adderall Field’s residents, who seemed to be getting more aggressive by the moment. Unlike the PMCs, the Utopia troops were utilizing non-lethal methods, bringing the civilians down and restraining them. Pvt. Leroy approached one civilian: “We’re here to help. Sir, just relax and stay still while I look at your injuries. Sir! Please hold still sir! Sir, stop I will be forced to restrain you!”
Pvt. Leroy approaches the civilians
Sgt. Fender got on the intercom and tried to reach the Skyhawk operatives but to no avail. “Private DiGlaeser, let the dropship know that the Skyhawk bastards will not be leaving before they explain what the hell they’re doing!” DiGlaeser started relaying the message only to find out it wasn’t happening: “Sir, it seems the Skyhawk unit is jamming our transfer!” Frustrated, Fender hailed the medic: “Leroy, what’s up with the civilians?” “Sir, these people are far beyond our help…it seems they’re..well, dead.” With some relish Fender finally gave the order: “Squad sixteen, civilians are now considered hostile targets, fire at will!” The order was well timed, since a group of the undead civilians was converging on the medic Leroy and Pvt. Lau who had reluctantly come to Leroy’s aid. Pvt. Bruce joined in, as did Pvt. Swartz. With the sniper Cohl providing assistance from above, the troopers started clearing the situation.
While this was going on, things were getting personal for Sgt. Fender as a group of four civilians closed on his dog, Baton. “Hold on, boy!” Fender shouted, heading to aid the dog. Baton, being a genetically enhanced combat mastiff, wasn’t in too much trouble, pulling one assailant after another to the ground. With Dastevan stepping to the dog’s aid, the attackers were quickly eliminated. More were pouring in ceaselessly, so the 16th decided to pull back, even Abdul coming down from his safe roof.
The Skyhawk PMCs tried to do the same, but they had hung back a bit too long and with the civilians closing in en masse, the soldiers were running out of room to maneuver. Pvt. Privalov’s gun jammed, and as he was clearing it, a group of the undead swarmed him and bore him to the ground. Corporal Thoreaux, the PMC sniper could only watch through his scope as the attackers tore into Privalov’s flesh, obscuring him from a mercy shot.
Pvt. Privalov is swarmed by the undead and Sgt. Kendrick can’t help him
Cpl. Thoreaux looks on as Privalov is eaten
Sergeant Kendrick, Lt. Dircks’ NCO gave the order to retreat right before getting attacked himself and suffering the same fate as Privalov scant moments before. Pvt. Adeyemi ran full tilt towards the troopers of the 16th, while Dircks and his heavy, Pvt. Mourtada, were attacked. Mourtada gave his assailant, a little boy of maybe 10 years, a heavy combat boot in the face and darted off after Adeyemi. “Come back here your rat bastard [expletive]s!” Lt. Dircks roared at his men, as two civilians attacked him from behind. After a brief struggle, Dircks managed to free himself from the attackers and ran after Adeyemi and Mourtada, carrying the computer and sullenly handing it over to a waiting Sgt. Fender. As the PMCs were hurriedly led to the landing zone disarmed and at gunpoint, the undead townsfolk were left moaning and snarling and fighting over the remains of Privalov and Kendrick. It was time to leave 311-Krugman behind.
The Skyhawk team collapses
As the factory manager’s files were decrypted and the PMCs questioned, it turned out that Adderall Field wasn’t quite the agricultural vehicle and tool manufactory it was supposed to be, but rather a site for some very suspect bio-weapons research. Sambreel had intended for the PMCs to retrieve their data and leave the 16th to hang – and met with a resounding failure. The already tense relationship between the Union and the corporations and security firms were not going to improve soon.
Hey, an actual victory for the 16th! For once, everything went swimmingly, and the squad performed like professionals. Additionally, this was one of the most cinematic games we’ve had, capturing the zombie movie vibe very nicely. The fall of the PMCs wasn’t consciously set up. Instead they just suffered a bout of some horrible dice rolling combined with some very unfortunate rolls for the zombies, and ended up essentially recreating the biker scene from Dawn of the Dead.
I loved the way my players handled this scenario, as their RPG experience really showed. While the players knew perfectly well they were dealing with zombies, their characters didn’t, and so they acted accordingly, trying to save civilian lives. This was a great example of the warpg-style gameplay that I’ve been advocating (see earlier posts here and here) – putting fun and a good story ahead of winning mechanically.
The scenario also allowed me to use my zombie miniatures for the first time in ages, which made me a happy panda!