Back to the now: The ship, shots and shouts coming from the deck, while the stalkers are locked in their cells. Examinations and vivisections have been paused, as staff disperses to protect the project. Without warning, Jeremiah's cell walls start to twist, leaving strange holes in them. Quickly, Amelie escapes from her cell, which was next to it, and they go to the main area, to look for a key to the rest. When none is found, Amelie asks Jere to twist their walls, too. He succeeds, easily, and along with the walls, an examination table transforms, into something that devours the doctors around it. There is a smell of over-ripe apples in the air.
Nyx is helped out, as her size makes climbing hard for her. Jeremiah jokes that he has become her mobile zone, eliciting almost a happy hug before her reflexes and intuition ("he is dangerous") kick in, and the hug becomes a smile. Cady is not in her cell, but rather being carried back from brutal examination by two soldiers. They cry "Alarm!" when they see the stalkers, and Nyx calls for everyone to attack them. Amelie grabs a fire axe, and together the team overpowers and kills the soldiers.
Explanations follow, then arguments, as the others try to lure Runner to come out of her cell and join them. What happens is that while she does, there are new pixel-like vortices around the group, causing damage. As Runner checks potential escape routes, one vortex hits the witches' jelly, causing it to lea out. Panic follows, as it starts converting the bulkheads at once.
The group runs to the nearest stairs, Runner taking point. A soldier stops them on the way up, saying "This way!" and leading to a corridor inside. It seems strange and risky, but the stalkers follow him. In the dark, he looks a lot like Valerj. When the group starts arguing, he shouts "Fine, then feel free to die," and runs off. Soon, an explosion is heard, while the ship continues to tilt. The soldier has blown up the ship's entry ramp system, which was closed, and leaped onto the railing leading to it on the harbor side. Jere jumps next, carrying rope, and helps the rest across, as the ship, all aglow with the jelly, sinks below the waters. Strangely, the rope seems sufficient, yet constantly tight, despite the ship's increasing distance from the group, as they cross. As soon as they are all safe and sound, time for stage exit left.
Cady recommends that they borrow a car, so Jeremiah gets them the nearest one. It smells of apples. They drive out of town, towards North. Soon, they start fighting over where to head next. Cady says they will get arrested too easily, Runner says that's why they should stay out of the cities and just vanish. Amelie wants to go to Moscow, of course. Jere, driving, just keeps going forward, until the car breaks. Runner tries fixing it, but it's all melted under the hood. Looking for assistance nearby, she sees a small country house nearby. Pointing it to the group, they start arguing about how to proceed.
Runner says she wants to get back inside the zone. Amelie tries to convince Jeremiah to go with him to Moscow, but he says it's better to wait in the zone, until things calm down a bit. "Be careful of land mines, then", says a sarcastic Runner. By now, the car is just a puddle of apple-smelling goo. It provokes a new discussion on the situation, with no conclusions. By now the field around them has become a spruce forest, but the house can still be seen. Jere says they should do a quick stint to the zone, but Cady is less sure, as they have neither tools nor supplies. So they decide to rob the house, after some debate on whether that, or asking help, is better. Amelie goes there and asks for help - with a gun in her hand. As they are looting, Cady glances at Jere in a mirror, and he doesn't show. He, however, sees himself just fine. Nyx, in turn, perceives his mirror image as a swirling mass of flesh. As they are leaving, Runner gazes at jere, and then says, to no one in particular, that killing the old couple would have been more merciful. Jere feels hungry, somehow.
Next stop, the fence around the zone. It is twisted when they arrive, and the ground in front of it covered with puddles. "Those were mines", says Runner. Jere says he is hungry. Inside the zone, they see the house they just robbed again, displaced, with its surfaces seething and boiling. "Yeah, probably not alive", mutters Runner. The group heads directly for the high buildings they had visited before, and the trip is shorter than it should - they are standing next to them, driving Runner to a new barrage of questions. "The area attracts weirdos, it seems", says Jere, nodding towards Nyx. And then he again mentions hunger. Suddenly, there's a loud scream from the high floor of one of the buildings they have not visited. It sounds like something is running downwards, knocking down each door as it goes. Screaming angrily all the time.
Jere goes to get a look. Runner is scared and stays in place, and Amelie and Cady start walking away. Nyx follows Jeremiah and, quite soon, Runner Nyx. Out of the earshot of the others, Amelie recommends Moscow to Cady. "The zone will take Jere away soon enough. Let's flee." Whatever is coming down the stairs, it's hungry. Runner and Nyx start backing off, worried about safety. Jere recommends they wait Runner says "Out, a new house. Now." Jere, again, asks her to wait. He grabs her hand as she tries to leave, as he know it's his own hunger, manifested, coming downwards to them. It wants to eat someone.
"I'm not staying", shouts Runner. Jere, still holding her gloved hand, asks her to stay for just one more bit, but as the Something charges down and past Jeremiah, she bolts out. The creature vanishes at the door, and Jere calmly walks out. Nyx is going into the building with the elevator, her robes flowing. Amelie and Cady, on the way out, have by now gotten lost, as the way they came isn't as short any more. The plan is still for Amelie to go to Moscow, and Cady to continue to New york, eventually, from there.
Runner stops Nyx from going inside, asking her to reconsider, and come out. As she does so, the blast - finally - seems to hit Derbent, and everything is changed by the mushroom cloud. Nyx says she will take the child to safety, i.e. the elevator and via it, "home". Jere shouts to her that she won't, or he'll come and dig it out of her womb before she does so. They argue, heavily and very angrily. "Jere is not OK", says Runner to Nyx. "He never is, he's a mutant and a junkie." They step inside, and order the elevator car down. It starts it slow descent from two dozen floors up. Jere tries grabbing her, but she dodges, so he steps away, walks one more floor up, and calls the elevator there.
Runner is praying, and as Nyx' clothes start tearing into the black-hole-gravity like light, she says "Shit", grabs Nyx's hand, and then "Please, take me with you." She steps into the light, and as Jeremiah comes down after the inevitable second "ping" has sounded, they are both gone with no trace. He is furious, as all the food is now lost. He runs out, shouting "Help!" Seeing the other two wandering in the distance, he sprints towards them, but does not catch up to them before they are out of the zone.
Later, Moscow. Cady calls Albert the lawyer, to ask for his opinion on her giving herself up at the American embassy. "Sure, sounds good", he says, "it will do really good for your reputation." Cady then calls her other lawyer, just to be sure, as trusting Albert isn't always the safest thing to one's personal health. (Meanwhile, Jere eats a village on his way to Moscow. Houses included.) As they part ways, Amelie asks her to get their book published. On her way to the embassy, Cady is stopped by Valerj, who has a thing to say: "We need to kill Dmitri, he has been infected in the United States." He has been brought to Moscow that afternoon, and Amelie is meeting him soon. "If we kill him, Amelie will not believe he was dangerous", says Valerj.
"I just want to get away from here", says Cady, but agrees after some more talk. She goes to meet Amelie again at her room, with a big bottle of vodka. "Hello again, I did not have a chance to go yet", she says, and then proceeds to get Amelie very drunk. They go to the prison where, due to either strong suction high enough, or significant bribes, the security they face is minimal. Cady is able to walk past it while keeping a silenced gun! As soon as they meet Dmitri, she shoots him, then convinces the totally drunk Amelie she did it, before drugging her completely.
Cady then helps Amelie out, explaining how Dmitri was actually a dangerous mutant, and how bravely Amelie shot him. She, in turn, wonders where she got a gun, but Cady distracts her from that line of thought. "Go rest, and avoid Jeremiah", says Cady. But at the gate, Jere is waiting. Cady, who again has the gun as she has "helped" Amelie, tells him to stop. Around him, buildings crumble and get replaced by others, as he himself appears completely normal. Amelie screams "Do something!", so Cady shoots him in the knee, as normal. It becomes just a mist of swirling flesh, then repairs itself. Cady and Amelie start running, towards the embassy, but it's a long way. Jeremiah, hungry, sets after them...
Alternative ending (DVD only): Albert bites into a green apple, and smiles.
Soundtrack for this session: Front Line Assembly - Tactical Neural Implant; No Festival of Light - If God Lived on Earth, We Would Break His Windows; Nordvargr/Drakh - Cold Void of Nothing; Léo Delibes - Lakmé.
A thank you, once again, to the original book, the Tarkovsky movie, Lopushansky's "Ugly Swans", C. J. Håkansson's "Fjärilen från Tibet", and especially Vuorela's wonderful game for the campaign. After three years of running it twice a month, I am more than ever certain that it's (at least in my opinion) the best tabletop role-playing game seen on the market so far.