Eastern Wastes of America [Post-Apocalyptic: OmegaLite20]
#21
A Note from Terrence "Teviko604": 

It's no secret that I'm no speed demon when it comes to posting these episodes of Eastern Wastes. I only have limited gaming time and each chapter typically takes several hours to play through.  Then there's the time it takes to write the narrative, proofread and edit, possibly manipulate a few images, and finally post (which has its own additional formatting that needs to be done.) Needless to say, one chapter often represents several weeks of playing and preparation. But it's something I enjoy doing.

Which brings me to the point of this note. Now that I've pretty much wrapped up the warehouse portion of the story I will be putting this campaign on hold, probably for a couple of months. It's not because I'm tired of this story. I am having fun with it. Also, I still have several things I need to resolve (such as the Alex mystery) before I end this campaign. No, the reason I will be stepping away for a bit is to pursue some other interests I have, specifically a couple of video productions I want to put together.

The first has nothing to do with solo roleplaying. It is a song-parody project my wife originally did for her job that we want to revise to be more interesting and accessible to the general public. While it has nothing to do with our genre, I might post a link here when it's done for anyone who is interested. The other project is completely solo roleplay-related. It is a playthrough of a solo map-making game and I will certainly be posting those on SoloRPG as each episode is completed.

I expect each of these to be rather time-intensive in and of themselves, and then I always have other hobbies and interests that I enjoy spending time doing. Oh yeah . . . there's also serious responsibilities that take up most of my day. So yeah, I just wanted to let you know in advance so you're not waiting and waiting for Chapter 11, wondering if it will ever come.
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#22
You're a very creative person. I'm looking forward to the video :-)
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#23
CHAPTER 11: JOANN AND JACI

System: OmegaLite20 
Tools: Gamemaster’s Apprentice Deck; Nine Steps and a Bloody Heart; Artbreeder for character profiles

[Scene 1, Tension Lvl:3]

Well, this is just great!

We just spent several hours rummaging through an abandoned WAmanzon warehouse searching for car parts and battling security robots bent on our destruction. We were nearly killed during several of the encounters and barely escaped with our lives. We should be heading back to Mausdale, but instead, we are driving around the warehouse looking for some sign of a baby on the insistence of a pregnant, hormonally-charged humanoid rabbit woman.

Sebastian did his best to convince her that it was a foolish task. Charlotte, we need to get you back home for your protection. Charlotte, that woman’s probably been here for several days or weeks. No one is waiting for her. Then he said probably the worst thing possible. If there was a baby out here, it’s probably dead by now. That got a look! If there was any hope of convincing Charlotte to head home, it disappeared with that last comment.  So we all piled into the Armor-Plated Turbo-Boosted Omega-Dillo and agreed to one lap around the warehouse.

<Before driving away, Charlotte and Sebastion used some healing and med kits.  Charlotte is now up to 8hp and Sebastian 7hp.

The trip around the warehouse will take (d6+5) 11 turns.  Each turn I rolled on a d20 Search Table I created specifically for this event.  The table is heavily weighted towards finding nothing, however, there are opportunities for items, encounters, special locations, and, yes, something related to the dead woman in the warehouse.>

“Arks!” Sebastian pointed out the window from his seat behind the steering wheel.

Just off the asphalt, walking through the grass field, was a group of 6 tall figures. They walked upright but had definite canine features. Two of them carried a large gas can between them.

[Image: Zy2WA_dUSH0qsypECeUbz8rFwJ5R1AIFsHG8OTx-...iWoA=w2400]
Arks!

“Are they friendly?” I asked.

“Nope,” Charlotte answered. “At least none that we’ve met.”

The group of dog-men spotted us and changed directions, running toward our van. Since they didn’t appear to have any guns we felt rather safe and Sebastian continued driving around the building. Safe, that was, until he stopped several yards later.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“There’s a cardboard box over there in the grass. The markings read Green Giant and I see a couple of cans scattered around.  That could be an entire case of canned vegetables.  We should pick it up.”

“If we are, we need to get it fast,” I said, checking on the arks’ progress.

“I’ll pull up next to it with the Omega-Dillo between the box and the arks.  Alyssa, you and Nate jump out and grab the box. Quick and easy.”

“Yeah. Quick and easy,” Nate agreed, though I detected the sarcasm in his voice.

I estimated we has less than a minute to grab the box and get back in the van before the approaching arks would be upon us. The van stopped and Nate and I jumped out. That was about the only part of the plan that went right. <DC10 Physical + DEX check.  Rolled Nat 1.> The box had been there a while, had been rained on, and was still soggy.  As we tried to lift the box the whole thing tore and cans fell out over the ground.

“Hurry!” Charlotte called.  “They’re coming!”

Grabbing an armload of cans I jumped back in the side door of the van. “Toss me the rest,” I said.

Nate lobbed can after can as I caught them and chucked them further into the vehicle.

“Get in! Now!” Sebastian cried as we heard the sound of something hard hitting the side of the van.  Nate scrambled inside and we secured the door just as an ark rounded the front of the van and reached for it. Sebastian hit the gas pedal and took off as arks scrambled to avoid being run over.

<Using one of the Micolite20 variations for modern settings I determined stats for the Omega-Dillo and rules for vehicle combat. I won’t go into all the details except to say that in the end the arks did 3hp of damage with their hand weapons, leaving the vehicle with 33hp.

Do the arks follow? (even) Yes + event.  The event symbol is Perthro.[Image: NutM1U5Hd5Pain8YeVeYUmWT8bVxf-nS45Mbg7wz...Vaxw=w2400] One of the interpretations is that the characters have a destiny yet to be realized.  This will be explored in the next scene. Tension resets.>

Sebastian quickly put some distance between us and our pursuers and the rest of the drive around the large warehouse was uneventful.  Other than some old furniture (which we didn’t want) we saw nothing of interest and no signs of any other people. Sebastian was a bit disappointed when we passed a bank of closed garage doors which he assumed was where the delivery vehicles were stored.  While WAmazon prided itself on its fleet of electric vehicles, Sebastian hoped they might have had a backup fuel pump on site.  If they did, it was located inside the building and we all agreed it was too much trouble to get back inside.

We reached our starting point and Sebastian headed for the road. It was clear that Charlotte was still unsettled at not having any answers about the mystery woman inside the warehouse, but she honored the agreement to leave and said nothing.

<I rolled for encounters on for the return trip and nothing came up.

Having completed the warehouse, this was a good time to evaluate XP.  It’s been about the equivalent of 2 Standard Adventuring sessions since the last allocation, so each character received 40XP. Nate doesn’t have enough XP to advance but Alyssa can spend 40XP to move from Level 2 to Level 3.  Several skills increase and she can raise a STAT by 1 point.  I chose Strength.

ALYSSA (Level 3) Max HP:44
STR: 13 (+1)  DEX: 13 (+1)  MND: 12 (+1)  Mental Defence: 11
Melee ATK: (+4)  Ranged ATK: (+4)  Mental ATK: (+4)
Primary skills (+5 bonus): Subterfuge, Knowledge
Secondary skills (+2 bonus): Physical, Communication, Survival, Tech>

Alyssa and Nate gain 6hp for a night’s rest and each replenishes their health kits.>

[Scene 2, Tension Lvl:1]

We arrived back at the Thompson’s hotel well after dark. Ross saved us some leftovers which we ate quietly before heading up to our rooms and collapsing on our beds. By the time I woke up the next morning, Nate was already out helping Ross check the building's windows and making any repairs. This gave me an opportunity to peruse the hotel’s lending library and swap out some books.

When I left Woodville I brought several paperback books with me. They were titles I wanted to read, but I also thought they might have some trade value. By now I had finished three. Those, along with another book I kept solely for trade, gave me four books to swap.  The Thompsons kept a stocked bookcase in the lobby topped with a sign that read “Leave One/Take One or Read and Return.” I quickly found three titles I was interested in and was down to my last exchange when I noticed Dale walk up behind me.

“It’s been a while since that got any attention, and I mean even before the war. No one reads physical books anymore. They just download them to their PEECE’s” <Author’s Note: Personal Compact Computer, or cell phone.  See Chapter 4>

“Lot of good that does now, huh?”

“I guess you’re right.  You like to read.” More a statement than a question.

“Yep. I was lucky. My parents kept a ton of books in the basement where I was trapped after the bombing.  It gave me something to do until I was able to dig my way out.”

“A romance, huh?” he asked, referencing Angel In The River, the book I held in my left hand.

“Cheesy, I know, but I’m a sucker for a good romance novel. And the back cover mentions something supernatural, so that’s a plus. But I only have one trade left and I can’t decide.”

In the other hand, I held Aliens Of The Sands, the third in a four-book series by Ernest Harding. I’d read the first two books, Aliens Of The Sky and Sea, but had given up any hope of finding the rest. Locating this was like discovering a leprechaun’s pot-o-gold. <Are the first two books on the bookshelf? (even) Yes.>

“That’s a good series,” Dale agreed.

“You’ve read ‘em?”

“I’m on the last one right now. The first two are on the shelf there.”

“Yeah, I saw, but I’ve already read those.”

Did I say pot-o-gold?  Finding an entire series is basically a pirate’s entire treasure. But surely Dale wouldn’t give up Aliens Of The Stars until he finishes it. Besides, I can only make one trade.

“Oh well,” I sigh, putting the sci-fi book back on the shelf. “At least the romance novel won’t leave me hanging.”

I picked up my selections and began to head back to my room.

“Uh, Alyssa?  Wait a second. I’ve been wanting to tell you something.”

I tensed, hoping Dale wasn’t about to embarrass himself.  He seemed like a nice hoop and all, but . . .

“Alex’s mom stopped by while you and Nate were away.”

Whew. Bullet dodged.

“Oh?” I asked, turning back to Dale.

“She heard about what happened to her daughter. That you and Nate were talking to her when it happened.”

“Wha . . . what does she want?”

“She wants to talk to you two. She wants to know what happened, at least what you heard. But more importantly, she wants you to find out who wanted Alex dead.”

“We’re curious too, but the chances of us figuring this out are slim.”

“I think she just wants some closure. Can you at least talk to her? Maybe that’ll make her feel better.”

“Let me tell Nate and I’ll get back to you.”

With that, I went upstairs to drop off my books before going to find Nate.

<This is the event from the previous scene, the “destiny yet to be revealed”. While the PCs were already investigating, having the mother specifically ask them to help ramps up the stakes.>

[Scene 3: Tension Lvl: 3]

Nate was eager to talk to Alex’s mother, hoping she might be able to provide some new insight. Dale offered to drive us to her home a few streets away.  On the way, he told us a little about Alex’s family.  Her mother’s name was Joann and her father left home about a year ago.  A family friend told them that their father had enough of the family life and wanted to get away. They had no idea where he went. Alex was actually relieved when he left. Apparently, her father was abusive and a drunk. Alex’s mom took the brunt of it, but some of his rage spilled over to Alex.

Eric, the family friend, tried to help Joann out over the next few months and the two eventually struck up a romantic relationship, one that Alex didn’t approve of. Dale didn’t know exactly why but thought it was a combination of wanting more mother/daughter time and simply not trusting Eric.

“Why didn’t she trust him?” Nate asked.

“I got the sense it was a ‘we don’t need a man’s help’ thing as opposed to anything specific to Eric.”

We pulled into the drive and knocked on the front door. After a few moments, a tall, white hoop wearing an apron answered. I should be used to it by now, but I was still surprised. I don’t know why but I just assumed Joann was human. Dale made the introductions and she seemed genuinely pleased to see us.

<Picking up with the investigation I drew another card. (See Chapter 5 for an explanation of Nine Steps and a Bloody Heart) The result removes “A Friend” from the suspects column.  Alyssa tries to get an extra clue but fails the Comm Check>

She spent a few minutes telling us about Alex and some of her accomplishments but nothing that really dealt with her death and the circumstances surrounding it.

“Mrs. Andrews,” Nate interrupted. “The fact is we really don’t know what was going on at the cabin other than your daughter woke up and Ken was gone. We have been told that if Ken truly wanted to harm Alex he would not have left her alone but would have done it herself.”

“Are you saying Ken wanted to kill her?” Joann asked shocked.

“No. Maybe. We don’t know. Can you think of a reason Ken, or anyone for that matter, would have wanted to harm your daughter?”

“No. All her friends are shocked and have done their best to console me, coming by to check up and offer to help in any way they can. And Alex adored Ken. I don’t believe she would have been with someone capable of this.”

“What about Eric?” I asked.

Joann first looked confused, then glared briefly at Dale once she realized he must have told us about her boyfriend.

“What about him?” she asked.

“Dale told us that he and Alex didn’t get along well.”  <Why? From GMA: Shatter Path>

“Alex was very protective of me after her father left. She felt we would be better on our own, not just mother and daughter, but best friends as well. In her mind, Eric threatened that. She was afraid I wouldn’t need her as much and that everything would include him. She didn’t want to share me. So, she made life as difficult as possible for Eric. She was grouchy. She complained. She tried to sabotage Eric’s and my relationship whenever she could. She was hoping he would just leave.”

“How’s Eric taking the news?” Nate asked. <Seal Conflict>

A sour look crossed Joann’s face . . . I think. (Once again, rabbit expressions. Not so easy to decipher.) “Pretty much like an ass. He tried to put up a good front, but I could tell. He was relieved that he wouldn’t have to put up with her anymore. He even suggested that focusing more on him and our relationship would make the pain go away faster. Can you believe that? Anyway, he’s gone.  I told him to leave and not come back.”

Nate and I exchanged looks and I knew he was thinking the same thing I was: could Eric have been involved in Alex’s death?

The rest of the conversation revealed no more helpful information. We assured her we would continue looking into things while we were in town and said our good-byes.  Walking out the door, Dale asked if we wanted to talk to Jaci Fox, Sean Murphy’s son’s girlfriend. We did.

[Scene 4: Tension Lvl: 4]

Jaci’s home was further south along Old Valley School Road, near Jesse’s service center. After our last stop, I was prepared to meet another hoop but was caught off-guard when a young, black woman answered the door. Just when you think you’ve got things figured out . . .

[Image: xNTSctqDUP0C_sjEdW_0HmhGMFvCQeAu5C55ppW-...w=s250-p-k]
Jaci Fox

“Lucas ain’t here,” she said. “Dale, of all people! Y’know we broke up.” She sounded a bit irritated.

“I know. I know.” He admitted sheepishly. “It’s just that these two are trying to find him . . . for his father.”

“Why’d you break up?” I asked. “We heard you were one of the reasons he left the farm to live in Mausdale?”

“That’s probably true,” she admitted. “But he a’come back a rabbit.”

“And that was a problem?”

“You’ve heard the sayin’ ‘breedin’ like rabbits’? Well, that’s all he wanted. Sex. Sex. Sex.”

“Boys,” I said, sympathizing with Jaci.  Dale lowered his head, embarrassed for both his gender and his race.

“Aw no!” Jaci said. “It’s not that. We were into each other before. But now . . . he’s a rabbit! I just ain’t inta that. It’s kinda . . . ewww!” 

<Was Jaci turned off by his hoop appearance? (even) Yes.  Was there more to it than just that? (Good) No. Hmm. The oracle told a completely different story than the one I had in my head. Way back when I thought up the Jaci/Lucas storyline, the version I thought up was that Jaci was just uninterested in an overly sexual relationship, but, for fun, I decided to check that with the oracle. Turns out, she’s simply repulsed by “rabbit sex”. >

“We both agreed that to keep seeing each other while he bounced from girl to girl to get his fix just wasn’t going to work out.” Jaci said this with a straight face. It’ll hit her about fifteen minutes after we leave. I’m sure of it.

“Any idea where he is now?”

<Is he still hanging out with multiple girls? (even) No +event (see below)>

“I heard he’s settled down with Billie Hancock. You should try her house.”

<Does Jaci have any info about Alex? (even) No.

The event is Jera [Image: SN6u1LxTN30usttDccQzzcJrrhqBdDJY_RiPSolF...N5aw=w2400] which GMA describes as “a recent effort pays of or a roadblock is removed”.  For this event, I’ll change the failed bonus clue roll made earlier for Joann to a success. When the party returns to the hotel they will find a note left from Joann which will be based on the next investigation card draw. Tension reset to 1 for the remainder of the scene.>

[Scene 5: Tension Lvl: 2]

Bille Hancock lived . . . you guessed it . . . several blocks further south on Pulling Track Lane..  In fact, her property was the only house in the area and it backed up to woods that stretched all the way down to Danville.

<Is Lucas there? (Good)  No.
Not going to roll for Billie’s “race”. I’ll just say she’s a hoop as that makes the most sense.
Does she know where Lucas is? (even) Yes  Irksome Wealth>

Based on our conversation with Jaci, I guessed Billie was a hoop and I was right. Unfortunately, Lucas wasn’t there and we could tell that Billie wasn’t in much of a conversational mood. She answered our questions but was brief and I could sense she just wanted us to leave.

Sean’s son was out hunting, trying to catch something to barter with the Stokes, the couple that runs Gram’s Dutch Kitchen, the first place Nate and I stopped when we got into town. Lucas missed their cooking and was hoping that he could earn a few meals by bringing them some meat, perhaps a deer or a few hares. (I wasn’t sure if I should have been disturbed by that or not.) However, luck hasn’t been with him and he was growing frustrated.

We told Billie that we wanted to talk with him about his father and he could contact us either at the hotel or Jesse’s service station. I didn’t even want to bother her about Alex, so we just left.

<Does Bille have any info about Alex? (even) No.>

End of Chapter
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Matt. 7:7

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#24
CHAPTER 12: COCKROACH

System: OmegaLite20 
Tools: Gamemaster’s Apprentice Deck; Nine Steps and a Bloody Heart 

[Scene 1, Tension Lvl:3]

<For the drive back to the Thompson’s hotel I rolled two encounter checks.  One resulted in an encounter.  GMA description: Actively Disruptive. Well, I can think of one event that can actively disrupt the current investigation . . .>

As we drove up to the hotel, we saw a large, blue pickup truck parked just inside the parking lot.  Several hoops either stood next to it or were up in its bed.  We turned off Old Valley School Road and the hoops stepped away from the truck and spread out across the pavement, blocking our way.  Dale stopped about twenty feet in front of them and now we could see who they were: Kelli, Ernie, and the other two members of the MSF that Nate and I met when we first arrived in Mausdale.

<Randomly determined the number of hoops with Kelli. Also, I used the GMA difficulty generator to determine how aggressive the group is right out of the block, ranging from 1 for curious, 5 for threatening, and 10 for physically hostile.  Draw: 5

As the conversation continues, I will make opposing MND Communication skill checks to see if the conversation calms or elevates.

Finally, I will draw another investigation card to be revealed during this exchange.>

“What’s this all about?” Dale asked, more to himself than us.

“If I had to guess, I would say they found out Nate and I were in town.” Dale glanced over at me with a questioning look. “We ran into Kelli and her goons on the way into town. Let’s just say they weren’t very inviting.”

“Maybe they just want to talk,” Nate suggested.

I scanned the group.  Three of the four held weapons; Kelli a police baton, Ken’s brother a knife, and the other white male a length of pipe. The only one that wasn’t armed was the black-furred female. Thankfully, I didn’t see any firearms or crossbows.

“Yeah, it doesn’t look like they just want to talk,” I said. “I would suggest keeping our weapons within reach.”  Turning to Nate in the back seat, I clarified, “Hand weapons. Firing upon the townsfolk with your sonic rifle might be heavily frowned upon, regardless of who started things.”

Dale, Nate, and I stepped out of the car.

“You’re blocking our way, Kelli,” Dale said.

“That’s kind of the point,” the white-furred leader replied. “We want to have a talk with your friends.”

“They’re guests of our hotel. Treat them with respect.”

Dismissing Dale, Kelli addressed Nate and me. “I thought we told you not to come back until we had a contract with that farmer. You got that deal?”

“Yeah,” Nate called back. “Right next to the paper declaring you town mayor.”

Unfazed, Kelli continued. “We hear you’ve been asking a lot of questions. What kind of trouble are you trying to stir up?”

“First of all,” I responded, “Clint, your boss, knows we’re in town and doesn’t have a problem with us being here.  Second, we’re just curious about what happened to one of your residents.  I would think that would be a concern of yours, as well. Being security and all.”

“You outsiders don’t need to concern yourself with Mausdale’s affairs. It was just a stupid accident. Ken and Alex should have known better than to go off into the woods with all these new mutant creatures around.”

“Intentionally leaving your girlfriend behind to fend for herself doesn’t sound like an accident to me.”

“Again, that’s none of your concern. We’ll determine what’s an accident and what isn’t.”

Ken’s brother Ernie broke in, “Let them think what they want. They have no proof that any of us is involved.” I think the comment was meant for Kelli, but he spoke loud enough for all of us to hear. Kelli jabbed the butt of her baton into his belly to shut him up.

“So you do know what happened,” Nate accused. “Did you want Alex dead?” He glared at Kelli as he said this.

Kelli tensed and gripped her weapon tighter. She nodded to the others and they all took a step closer.

<Alyssa lost the COM challenge against Kelli, 7 to 21, which means tensions rise. The investigation card was the 4 of Clubs, which eliminated the idea that Ken’s intention was only to scare Alex, not kill her. To that end, I used Ernie's comment to imply that Alex’s death was intentional.>

Before things went too far, I made one last effort to defuse the situation.

“Don’t be crazy, Kelli. We’ve done nothing but talk to people. Do you think Clint will stand for you attacking us for no reason?”

“You don’t know anything about Clint, but why don’t we just arrest you and find out what he thinks when we drag you into headquarters.”

<Alyssa fails the second COM challenge, 5 to 19. All negotiation is off.>

The hoops continued to approach and I retrieved my crowbar from where I laid it on the passenger seat. Dale grabbed a wooden baseball bat he kept tucked under the driver seat, Nate drew out his knife, and all three of us moved forward to engage the advancing hoops.

[Image: WNTPSeJBCyMiKJ_CsCH41Ak2nf4DldAy1jLXnNsc...Mtqg=w2400]
Dale grabbed a wooden baseball bat

<When the PCs pulled out their weapons, I made a roll on my reaction table to see how the MSF respond. In other words, what is the modifier to their morale roll?  Apparently, the hoops are motivated by the thought of a fight because they get a +1 modifier to their MR value. Their base MR is 8 (based on similar MicroLite20 were-creatures). The +1 makes it 9. At appropriate times, each hoop will roll 2d6. If the number is equal to or less than their MR they stay and fight.  If it is over, they flee or back-off.

All four make their first Morale rolls and continue to battle. >

We didn’t wait for them to attack but struck first. Dale hit the male hoop squarely in the side <6hp damage> Despite having no weapons, the female hoop reached for me first. I was more focused on Kelli, who was coming up behind her with her baton. This gave the black hoop an opportunity to throw a punch <Hit Alyssa for 2hp>.  I responded by raking the spikes of my crowbar across her midsection <doing 10 hp of damage>.

The battle that was potentially the most deadly was Nate and Ernie. They each had blades and could easily slice or stab some vital vein or organ. The two squared off and cautiously swiped at each other, each getting nicked here and there. <Over the first two rounds Ernie takes 3 damage, Nate 6>

No longer obstructed by the other female, Kelli charged at me swinging. I ducked under her baton and hit her hard in the back as she passed. <11 h.p. damage>. She cursed, calling me a name that is more appropriate for an Ark. I moved to hit her again, but she surprised me with a quick flick to my shin. <hit A for 6 damage> Now it was my turn to call her some names.

Meanwhile, Dale was easily handling the pipe-carrying hoop who could barely even attempt to fight back. <Dale wears him down to 1 h.p. in the first 3 rounds while the hoop only gets in one hit for 3 h.p.>

<Between rounds 2 and 3 I made another morale check and all the enemies were successful. I checked to see if anyone from the hotel responded to the ruckus. (even) No.  During round 3, the female hoop critically failed her attack. I played it as she decided to stay out of the fight due to not having a weapon.>

Unfortunately, Nate and I weren’t fairing quite as well against our opponents. Kelli actually has some fighting skills, for every strike I made on Kelli she countered and hit back. <A hits for 3, K hits for 4> Nate was having an equally rough time, fumbling and dropping his knife as he pulled it away to avoid a swipe by Ernie. <Nate rolled a natural 1>

Dale put his opponent down with a blow to the head. (Later, Dale told me he was aiming for the shoulder, but the guy ducked, leaving his head right in the bat’s path.) Dale turned to help the now defenseless Nate while the female ran to the downed hoop’s side, calling out “Peter”. Appropriate name, I thought.

<I felt that our PCs would prefer not to kill their opponents, despite being attacked for practically no reason. To account for this, I devised a “pull-your-punch” system. If an opponent is dropped below 0 hp but the intent is not to kill, then the attacker must make a straight DEX roll against DC10.  If they succeed, they are able to intentionally strike in a manner meant only to incapacitate their enemy.  If they fail, then the downed enemy is treated normally. In this battle, that would mean having to roll on my “death table”.  Dale’s DEX check was 6, a failure. Peter will need to roll on the death table until the combat is over and someone can administer some aid. He is currently at -4.

Surprisingly, all three of the remaining hoops pass a morale check at -1 due to a member of their group being down and things are “gettin’ real”. The female hoop rolled especially low (2), which could be interpreted to mean she is really motivated to fight. Let’s find out why.>

Kelli was distracted by all the attention surrounding Peter and I saw my chance. Using the rounded end of my crowbar, I shoved it hard into her midsection. She double over as her breath audibly left her lungs. As she was gasping, I kicked her legs out from under her (probably not necessary, but it felt good) and she fell on her side struggling to breathe. <Alyssa hit and did enough damage to drop Kelli to exactly 0 h.p.>

Nate eyed his knife lying on the ground at Ernie’s feet.  Ernie’s whiskers perked as he gave Nate an evil smile and tightened his grip on his blade, preparing for the kill. It was at that point that Dale brought his bat down across Ernie’s back. The knife flew from his hands and he collapsed to the ground unconscious. <0 h.p>

“You bastard!  You hurt my boyfriend!”

We all turned to see the female hoop, Peter’s girlfriend apparently, charging Dale wielding Peter’s discarded pipe. She must have picked it up and now was intent on revenge. <With an 18 roll against a DC10 Dex check, she was able to pick up the pipe and attack in the same round.> Dale, caught off guard, tried to raise his paws and ward off the blow, but still took a sharp blow to his forearm <5 hp damage>

“Whoa, whoa!  Think about this for a minute!”  This was Nate. He had recovered his knife and was holding up his arm, palm out, in a stop gesture. “You’re pissed. Clearly. But there’s one of you and three of us. And your boyfriend over there looks like he really needs some medical attention.”

<Opposing Comm+MND skill checks.  Nate: 19+2COM=21  Female: 11+3COM=14 Nate is able to convince her to stop. Meanwhile, Peter loses another hp, but the battle is over.>

The bunny paused midswing to listen to Nate. At the mention of Peter, she took a quick glance back at the unmoving hoop. She started to go to him, but then stopped and turned back to us, raising the pipe again.

“Yeah, that’s right!” I said, raising my weapon to counter her threat. “Keep coming! I’m ready!”

Nate grabbed the shoulder of my weapon arm and pressed down. To the bunny he said, “Go. Help Kelli with the other two and leave. You,” he said to me. “Get back in the car.”

By now, Kelli had gotten back on her feet, but her eyes were watery and she was still having trouble breathing. The female went to check on Peter as Ernie began to stir. Nate, followed after me to the car, but Dale was walking over to where Peter was laying on the ground.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Wendy’s going to need help getting Peter in the vehicle,” he said.

“No! They tried to kill us.  Don’t you give them any help.”

“Get in the car,” Nate hissed, pushing me toward the back seat of the car.

Dale had bent down and was trying to rouse Peter.

“Traitor!” I yelled as Nate slammed the door shut.

[Scene 2: Tension Lvl: 4]

After a few minutes, Dale’s father Ross, and their guest Tyler ran up. They must’ve seen the commotion from the hotel and come over to investigate. They spoke with Dale, Nate, and the other hoops . . . I couldn’t hear a thing with the windows up . . . and then the men helped Kelli and her gang into their truck and made sure they drove off.

Dale never looked at me after he and Nate got back in the car. Instead, kept his head down except to watch the road as we drive the couple of hundred feet to the hotel’s front door. We all rode in silence.

“Dinner will be ready in about thirty minutes,” Shannon, Tyler’s wife, announced as we entered the lobby.

“I’m not eating,” I stated, walking past her, heading for the stairwell.

Ten minutes later, I was up in my bed, covers pulled up to my neck. I’d had it with Mausdale and its hoops. I’d had it with lending a hand and trying to help. What was it all for? I was being threatened by a militant female hoop with delusions of self-importance. I was nearly killed by dog-men because another hormonally active hoop was more sentimental over a dead woman and her maybe baby than she was concerned about our safety. And so what if I find out why Alex, a woman I’ve never met before, was killed? Do I get any reward? Doubtful. Will anyone be punished for it? Who knows? Will her mother be comforted by that knowledge? She thinks so but I wouldn’t count on it.

Everything boiled down to this simple fact: All of this crap and hardship will lead to nothing but another day of simply surviving.

Well, screw ‘em! Mausdale can just take their problems and fuh . . .

Suddenly, something caught the corner of my eye and I looked up. On the ceiling, near one of the room’s corners, was what appeared to be a brown, oblong spot. However, in the orange light of dusk, this spot cast a small shadow. Looking closer, I realized it wasn’t a spot, but a cockroach. It clung there, watching me.  I watched it back.

[Image: bEcD6s1gSPzLZeSFzNJHtOHWb8WsaljyZlTvv4YV...eiIg=w2400]
I watched it back

I’d heard it said, after all the wars and disasters, the only creatures that will survive are the cockroaches. Our world ended. Here is this cockroach. Somehow, that thought gave me comfort. There were no surprises with a roach. It wasn’t a rabbit-roach or a dog-roach. It couldn’t betray you or run you out of town. A roach asks nothing of the humans it lives with. Its only purpose is to crawl, eat trash, and be disgusting. In the end, one knew what to expect from a roach.

Our world ended. This roach is still here.

And so am I.

There was a gentle knock on my door. When I didn’t answer, whoever it was just came in.

“I brought you some dinner.” It was Nate. “How you doing?”

“I think I’m a bug.”

“Yeah, that meeting with Kelli and her gang really bugged me, too.”

I didn’t correct him. “What are we doing here?”

“In Mausdale? We’re getting tractor parts for Sean, helping Joann find out what happened to Alex.”

“But why?”

“Because . . . it’s the right thing to do?”

“So what?” I sat up so I could look Nate in the eye. “Joann and Sean will probably still be alone after this. Mausdale will still be dealing with the fallout of the attack. And all we have to show for it is a delay of several days.”

Nate put the plate of food down on the nightstand and sat at the foot of the bed. “Listen. Doing the right thing is part of your nature. I know, because it’s had an effect on me. Do you remember when we first met? How I wanted nothing to do with you?”

“Yeah. You shot a car.” I felt a grin cross my face at the memory.

“That was because I forgot how to trust. I told you that I parted ways with the group from the airport. What I didn’t tell you was that a couple of them raided my supplies and left in the night. After that, whenever I did try to meet up with survivors along the way I was met with a lot of resistance. They either shooed me off or were more interested in what I had for them instead of how we could work together. In the end, I said Screw ‘Em. I was doing this on my own.

“Then I ran into you and you were determined to follow me. You saved me from the land shark and didn’t ask for anything in return. You were interested in me and not what I had. After Sean told us his story, you genuinely wanted to help. After Alex was killed you could have walked away but you didn’t.  Something didn’t seem right and you wanted to find out what. You made me believe that there are still good people in this world and we still need to be . . . be . . . human! Even if you’re a hoop.”

He added that last bit after seeing me struggle to hold back a chuckle.

“But what about your family?” I asked. “All my ‘compassion’ has really delayed you.”

“Let’s be honest, Alyssa. Does it really matter if I get there next week or next month? Either their town wasn’t attacked and they’re okay, it was and they have found a way to survive, or they're dead.”

“If they were attacked and are living like this . . . “ I waved my hand around to indicate the world outside our walls. “Then they will need you to gather food or protect them.”

“If they survived they’ve already found a way to eat and protect themselves. I’ll get there when I get there. But you’re right. That’s unlikely for an older couple. While I hold out hope, I believe I’ve made peace with the possibility that they are gone.”

I gave Nate a moment before continuing. “So why go home if you think there’s nothing there?”

“Are you familiar with Jeremiah? The prophet from the Bible?  No? Well, he lived in Jerusalem and God told him to tell the people about impending doom. Because of their disobedience to God’s laws, God was going to allow Babylon to capture the city and take the Israelites captive. However, while Jerusalem was under siege, God instructed Jeremiah to buy a field, put the deed in clay jar, and bury it in a safe place. Admittedly, that seemed like a foolish thing to do, especially knowing that everything was about to be taken from them. But God assured Jeremiah that one day the Israelites would be freed and allowed to return. When that happened, Jeremiah or his descendants could recover the deed and reclaim what was legally theirs.

“I think I feel a little like that. My homeland has been attacked and practically destroyed. Now, I’m returning home to claim what is rightfully mine. Salvage whatever I can of my past.”

Nate finished and I let the silence hang a moment before leaning over and picking up the plate of food. It had a pile of dark shredded meat covered by a brownish sauce and a baked potato.

“I’m famished,” I admitted as I put a fork-full of meat in my mouth. The sauce was clearly a tangy bar-b-que, but the meat was unfamiliar.  It had a definite poultry quality, but mixed with something else. “This is good.  What is it?”

“You probably don’t want to know.”

My first thought was rat. When you think apocalypse and food shortage, you naturally think rat. Next was horse . . . or possibly dog. Whatever it was, it was food and it was good so I didn’t mind. “Tell me.  What is it?”

Nate hesitated, then relented. “It’s choad.”  I gave him a questioning look, so he tried to explain. “Part chicken. Part toad. Some kind of mutation from the fallout. Apparently, they’re all over the place in the woods.”

“Whatever,” I shrugged. “Food is food,” and I took another bite.

“Joann left a message for us with Ross while we were gone. She doesn’t believe Ken wanted Alex dead.”

“Why does she think that?”

“It all has to do with the fact that he left her in the cabin. Joann has heard that Ken is rather stubborn and set in his decision. So much so, that if it was his intention to kill Alex he would have done it and not changed his mind. She’s convinced something happened to him as well, or he took a walk and just got lost.”

“What do you think?”

“I think Joann wants to give him the benefit of the doubt.  Perhaps she liked the guy or thought he and his daughter were good together. Regardless of what she thinks, I’m thinking our best bet is to speak with some of Alex’s and Ken’s friends. If there were any problems or concerns, they are the ones that would most likely have heard about it. Dale has agreed to introduce us in the morning.

“Speaking of Dale, you were rather hard on him back there.”

“Of course I was. He was helping the people who were trying to hurt us, more likely, trying to kill us.”

“And they’re people he has grown up with and known for a long time, not to mention has to live with after we’re gone. He said that Peter and Billie-Jo, his girlfriend, aren’t really that bad. They tend to be followers and just do as their told. Get them away from Kellie and Ernie and they’re fun couple to hang out with. At least that’s his opinion.”

“Whatever.”

“You know he likes you.”

I gnaw a bit on a piece of potato skin before responding.  “Yeah. I know.”

“He’s taking it pretty hard. He didn’t mean to upset you.”

“Perhaps.”

Nate waited for me to say more.

“You should talk to him. Let him know you’re not mad at him.”

“But I am!”

“No, you’re not. You’re just frustrated.”

I looked up at the ceiling. To Nate, it probably looked like I was deep in thought. What I was doing was checking on my roach. Still there. Predictable.

I wasn’t predictable

“I guess you’re right,” I sighed, picking up the last bits of choad with my fork. “Maybe I was a bit harsh. I’ll talk to him in the morning.”

“It’ll be better if you do it tonight. Don’t let him suffer overnight.”

“Okay. Okay. I’ll come down in a bit. Maybe we can even play some cards,” First, I wanted to squash that bug. “Slapjack, perhaps.”

=================================
Jer. 31:1-15

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