Eastern Wastes of America [Post-Apocalyptic: OmegaLite20]
#11
CHAPTER 6: A HOTEL, A SERVICE CENTER, AND AN OMEGA-DILLO

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

Just prior to the start of this scene I asked an Oracle question. “Are there other guests in the hotel?”  Response was Yes + event. Tension level resets to “1” for the next scene. I generated some information about the other guests, but I will let that be revealed through the narrative. I will give details about the event when it occurs.


Scene 1 [Tension Lvl:1]:

Dale led Nate and me up to our room, number 204. Other than the door handles being covered in the same black paint-like coating as the main entrance to the hotel, the room was a normal, dual occupancy room that had been kept in a clean condition similar to the rest of the building. We set our belongings aside and washed off some of the grime of the road in the bathroom. The building still had running water, though the pressure wasn’t great. Ross apparently had the hotel hooked up to a well-system and solar-powered water pump.

About an hour later we returned to the lobby. Rain was steadily coming down outside the windows that lined the front wall of the hotel. Ross had a fresh pot of coffee brewing in the dining area and we went to sit down. I was a bit surprised to see that there were other guests seated at a small table in the corner furthest from the lobby.  They appeared to be a family of three, all human. The man had light-brown hair and a slight, almost rickety, build. The woman, who I assumed was his wife, was pretty, yet plain with thick, black hair. Between the two sat a young boy, about ten or eleven. He rolled a small toy car along the table top.

“I take it they’re not from town?” I asked Ross as he set down two hot cups of coffee.

“Nope,” he said softly, keeping our conversation private. “That’s Tyler and Shannon and their son Allen. They lived in a remote area north of town. After the attacks and seeing some of the mutated creatures on their land they didn’t feel safe all on their own. They came south looking for others and settled here. Shannon’s a good cook and helps with meals. Tyler’s pretty weak -- the result of a gas attack he tells me -- but he helps where he can. He has certain . . . uh . . . abilities that are particularly useful in keeping the actual building clean and painted.”

I took note of Ross’ circumvention of Tyler’s “abilities,” but chose not to ask anything further. There was probably a reason our host wasn’t forthcoming.  

“So, are you two looking to settle down or just passing through?” Ross asked, shifting the conversation to us.

“We're heading west. I’m hoping to find my family,” Nate explained. “But we’re in Mausdale specifically to help a friend. Sean Murphy. You know him? [Does he? (bad) Yes]

“I’ve met him once or twice over at Verna’s. If I recall, she and Gene bought a lot of produce from him.”

“That’s what she told us, as well. Anyway, his tractor’s on the fritz and he was hoping Jesse might be able to go out to his farm and take a look at it.”

“Why didn’t he come himself?”

“His wife and daughter took the car and headed west.” Ross’ eyebrows raised questioningly. “Long story, and I’m not sure it’s mine to tell. But that does bring us to another reason we’re here. He needs help and we were hoping to find his son Lucas and try to convince him to return home.”

“I can help you with Jesse,” Ross offered. “ In fact, I need to run down to the service center to pick up a few gallons of fuel. I can drive you down after dinner. Murphy’s son might be a bit more difficult. For starters, I have no idea who he is.”
[The offer to drive the pair to the service station is the result of the random event.  I drew the norse symbol  Jera again [Image: YBxXvPQ0cw9AiWCaGK36tJyiJd3zY5uNJIrosBKG...deBA=w2400] - which, among other things, is defined as having fruitful results and a removed roadblock.  In this case, I decided to remove the obstacle of having to wait till the rain stops to begin looking for people.]

“We heard he had a girlfriend in town,” I cut in. “Her name was Jaci?”

Ross thinks for a moment. “Jaci? Don’t think I know her.”

“Yes you do, Dad,” Dale chimed in, having just walked over to join the conversation. I had seen him doing busy work at the front desk, every now and then casting a quick glance my way. I guess he had finally built up the nerve to come over and talk. “They’re talking about Jacqueline Fox.”  Turning his attention more to Nate than myself, he explained, “I know Lucas. At least I knew him. I haven’t seen much of him since he broke up with Jaci.”

“Could you introduce us?” I asked. “She might know how we can find him.”

“I don’t know how helpful or willing she’ll be, but sure. I’ll introduce you tomorrow.”

“What about Alex Andrews or Ken Watkins?” Nate inquired further.

“You two ask a lot of questions,” Ross pointed out.

Nate smiled. “We’ve stumbled upon a lot since arriving in the area.”

“Alex and Ken hung out with me and some of my other friends,” Dale answered.  “Alex is a bit on the younger side for the group, but she was included due to her dating Ken.?”

“How much younger?” I pried.

“Ken is [21+d4] 24.  Alex is turning eighteen this summer.”

“And this was okay with Alex’s parents?” [(even) No.]

“Mother,” Dale corrected. “No, not at all. She kept wanting her to break it off, but Alex’s got an independent streak. Why are you interested in them?”

“We believe they might both be dead,” Nate stated bluntly. 

We gave the father and son the quick version. Nate wrapped it up by saying, “At least we are assuming Ken is dead. We didn’t actually see any signs of struggle or blood in the area where we found the radio, but can think of no other reason he would leave it.”

I run down some of our theories. However, when I mentioned the possibility that Ken may have been jealous of her seeing someone else, Dale stopped me.

“I doubt jealousy had anything to do with it. In fact, if anyone wanted out of the relationship it was Ken. He had his eyes on another hoop, yet never broke it off with Alex to avoid the confrontation. Instead, he thought if he just stopped showing any interest in Alex she would eventually stop hanging out with us. Of course, that never happened. My guess is she stuck with us because there weren’t many other people close to her age to hang out with.”

I exchanged a worried look with Nate. We had discussed the possibility that Ken might have done something drastic to end the relationship.

Dale surprised us with his next question. “Do you think there’s anything at the shack that might give you a clue?”

“Perhaps,” I responded curiously. “Why?”

“I have a map to it. It’s just hand-drawn with some landmarks and GPS coordinates. We partied out there once. Charlie knew about it and wrote down the directions.”

While the thought of checking out the cabin was intriguing, I felt we didn’t have the time at the moment, and frankly, there probably wasn’t much there that would tell us any more about what had happened. “Thanks, Dale. We’ll keep that in mind. But hopefully, we can figure this out while staying in town.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted Shannon, the woman from the other family staying at the hotel, standing nearby.

“Mr. Thompson, I going to start dinner now,” she said in a meek voice.

“I’ve told you, Shannon, you don’t need my permission to cook,” Ross tells her with a smile. “You and your family are part of our family while you are here.”

Without acknowledging Ross’s words she continued talking about dinner. “I baked some bread this morning, and I believe we still have some leftover pork. Enough for everyone. I was thinking of using some of the sauce and making barbeque pork sandwiches.”

“That sounds great,” Dale affirmed and Shannon left for the kitchen. 

“Pork seems to be a hot menu item around here,” Nate commented, recalling the meal Sean had served them.

“You can say that. Pigs are easy to raise, can be cooked many ways, and their fat can be used for soap or grease. Very useful animals. Tell you what, let me see if I can reach Jesse on the short wave to let him know we’ll be coming down to see him in a few hours. In the meantime, you two have another cup of coffee and dinner will probably be ready in about thirty minutes.”

[Investigation update: For this scene, I consulted the GMA oracle to determine that Ross and Dale had useful information. The first draw was the Ace of Hearts, which indicated a surprise, in this case finding a map to the cabin. The redraw for the clue was the Ace of Diamonds, which indicated that jealousy was not a motive.]


Scene 2 [Tension Lvl:2]:

By the time the evening meal was over, the rains had rolled in. The wind wasn’t too bad, however, there were moments of downpours accompanied by lighting.  Had it not been for Ross' offer to drive us into town we would have had to wait until tomorrow. Nevertheless, despite waiting for a break in the rain, we were sufficiently drenched after loading the wheelbarrow full of carrots onto the back of the truck.

Old Valley Road toward the Mausdale Service Center was rather barren. Woods bordered both sides most of the way, however, we did pass a couple of houses as we neared our destination. If they were occupied, the residents were staying inside due to the rain. In a few short minutes we arrived at the service center. Across the street was the Mausdale Farm Supply which was dark and appeared closed. Those two buildings appeared to be the extent of Mausdale’s business district.



[Image: XgCWfHmIQnUScvTGbZ7D9Z-p0CibnRt90ggqv5Tk...xFow=w2400]
Mausdale Service Center

One of the service bays doors was open and Ross drove the truck inside to get us out of the rain. A grey hoop waited inside for us. He and Ross exchanged some greetings before Ross introduced him as Jesse. He seemed genuinely glad to meet us, even more so when we explained we were friends with Sean Murphy. His willingness to help Sean was unquestionable and he eagerly accepted the carrots as payment, lamenting over how long it had been since he had a good carrot from Murphy’s farm.  However, there was a problem.

“I doubt I have the parts on hand to fix his tractor,” Jesse cautioned. 

[Is Jesse willing to help? (Random odds=even) Yes
Will Jesse accept the carrots? (Alyssa will make a COM check against DC10 [Random]: 17+1MND+2COM=20  Easy Success
Does Jesse have the parts? (Bad) No.]

“Could you find them somewhere in Danville?” I asked, thinking about the larger city a couple of miles south, assuming they must have several auto and mechanic shops.

He gave me a look that was a bit hard for me to interpret, rabbit-face and all. “Possibly, but we don’t deal with Danville. More to the point, Danville doesn’t deal with us. Seems they don’t like six-foot-tall talking rabbits.”

“But they know you’re just victims? Right?”

“Oh yeah! In fact, they had their fair share of bombs dropped on them as well. Hit ‘em pretty bad in fact from what I’ve heard. But they didn’t get gassed and they’re still human. I don’t know if we make ‘em uncomfortable or they think the gas did more than just affect our appearance. Turned us into monsters, or perhaps spies for Tech-West. Most likely, it’s plain and simple prejudice. We’re just different from them.

“Anyway. They don’t come around here. They’ve warned us to stay away from them . . . sometimes violently. And that’s how we get along,” he said, throwing air quotes around the words “get along” with his paws.

“So Sean’s outta luck?” I asked resignedly.

“Not necessarily,” Jesse replied. “There’s that WAmazon Distribution Center several miles west of here, the one located along the Susquehanna River. It’s a good bet you might find the parts there, assuming it hasn’t been completely looted.”

While taking yet another detour wasn’t on the top of my list of things to do, I felt it was an option worth exploring. “I knew that was nearby but I never knew where it was exactly. Could you give us directions?”

“I can do you one better. There are a couple of locals, Charlotte and Sebastian, who are planning a supply run to the warehouse tomorrow. They’ve scouted it out before, but this will be their first real scavenging attempt. I’ll call them on the radio and see if they’re willing to take you with them.”

Meanwhile, Nate helped Ross fill a couple of gas cans from a large storage tank on the side of the building. As they stepped out in the light rain, Nate noticed the same black coating on the service center’s door handles.

“I saw this same coating back at the hotel,” Nate pointed out. “I’ve never seen it before. What is it?”

“It’s a liquid latex, or something like that,” Ross explained. “Jesse had several cans of the stuff. After we were turned into hoops we discovered that anything metal that we touched with the palm of our hands turned to rubber. That’s why we often wear gloves.” He lifts one paw and waves it, showing off the modified leather glove.

Nate remembered Sean telling us about this strange side-effect of his son’s transformation. In fact, it was one of the reasons Lucas left to live in Mausdale. He was more of a hindrance on the farm than a help. 

“No matter how careful we are, however,” Ross continued, “We sometimes forget and grab something made out of metal. The latex forms a barrier. Handles are the most likely thing to be touched, so covering them seemed like a good idea.”

Ross finished filling the first can and took the second from Nate.

“Tank’s getting low. I’ll tell Jesse, though I’m sure he’s aware.”

“Can he restock?” Nate asked.

“We have some people who will go and scout out any gas stations in the area for any remaining fuel. Lately, however, they have had to travel further and further. Soon, they might be using more gas on these trips than they can find.”

“What then? Is there a plan?”

[Is anyone trying to find a solution to the fuel issue? (even) Yes, and . . .   What type of fuel are they experimenting with?   Heroic/Superstition]

“Possibly. There is an old army vet in town who was a fuel engineer in the service. He knows a lot about manufacturing synthetic fuel and is certain he can build the necessary machinery, something he jokingly refers to as a ‘micro-refinery’. However, getting the necessary chemicals would be difficult.

“Fortunately, his tour of duty began back in the ‘30s when natural petroleum was still in wide use and he’s pretty certain he can adapt newer engines to work with the older fuel, though probably at reduced efficiency. But once again, finding crude oil is a problem. However, he has a plan for that as well. His commanding officer was from Pennsylvania and would tell stories about his family’s delvings in the oil industry. Supposedly, they owned a plot of land in the Little Mountain area, a little less than thirty miles northwest of here. Around the turn of the century they found oil under the plot and constructed a small, but productive oil well. Our local hero was never able to confirm the story, but he says he has no reason not to believe his C.O.. Furthermore, he thinks he has enough information to find the land. It’s a long shot, and even if he does find it there’s no guarantee the well still works, or that the family, if they still live there, will let him use it.”

“It doesn’t hurt to dream,” Nate philosophied.

“No, it doesn’t,” Ross agreed.

Nate picked up one of the filled cans and the two of them headed back to the truck.

I filled Nate in on the trip to the WAmazon warehouse when he came back in. Jesse ended up taking about half the carrots for himself and his family.  For the rest of the payment, he accepted our willingness to go on the supply run. That left us with the remainder of the carrots to split between the Thompsons and the Stokes. Jesse contacted Charlotte to confirm a meeting time and with that worked out we thanked him and drove back to the Best Western.

[Other oracle questions asked during this scene:

Is there any chance Jesse has anything to offer about the Alex/Ken situation? (Very doubtful, so I’ll do Bad with disadvantage) Yes or No, so No is the worse outcome.

Are there any members of the hoop patrol Alyssa and Nate met in the vicinity?  (Even) No. (do you have any idea how much I thought about this possible encounter?)

Does Jesse have a family? (Good) Yes.  Kids? (Even) Yes. How many? 1-3:one  4-5: two  6: three  Roll: 6 = three  Ages d20: 4, 5, 10

With a night in the hotel ahead I thought it would be a good time to handle experience and healing.

For experience over the past couple of days, the PCs were somewhere between what OmegaLite defines as Weaksause Adventuring (poke around a bit but avoid most encounters, 5xp) and Standard Adventuring (full exploration, interaction with others, combat, etc. 20xp), so I will give them 10xp each.  Alyssa 25xp   Nate 40 xp  This will allow Nate to advance to level 3, which I feel is fair since he’s been exploring longer than Alyssa.

At level 3, Nate gets to raise one Stat. That will be his Dex, giving him 9 and raising his modifier from -1 to 0 (this also raises his AC by 1).  His HP goes up by 10 ([d6]5x2). His skills now stand at:
Physical and Tech (Primary) +5
Subterfuge, Knowledge, Communications, Survival  +2

Each character raises 2xLevel HP for the night’s rest. Do they have a healing kit at the hotel? (Good) Yes, but . . .  it’s low on supplies and since Nate is almost healed on his own, Ross feels it’s best to keep it for an emergency.]


Scene 3 [Tension Lvl:3]:

For the third day in a row, we woke up to overcast skies. Unlike yesterday when we left the farm, the rain had not completely stopped. However, it had cut back to a mist with a light drizzle here and there. Leaving most of our possessions in the room and only packing our weapons and a few medical supplies we left on foot for the service center. Ross didn’t offer to drive us and Nate and I agreed the night before that we were not going to ask. We knew he had a list of chores to get done around the hotel and we didn’t want him to use precious gas on us. The only other thing we did was to ask Dale for a raincheck on our meeting with Jaci.

Like the night before, the roads were empty and the trip was uneventful.

Except for the dog, that is.  

[two encounter rolls were made for the trip, one indicated an encounter. Since I don’t have a table for encounters in town, I decided to draw a description. Frightfully/Active]

I heard a rustle in the brush off to our left just before a large german shepherd dashed out and headed for us. Quickly, I raised my spiked crowbar and made a swipe to scare it off. The animal slowed just enough to avoid the swing, but was not deterred. The beast lunged forward, teeth bared. I stepped aside and brought the bar down on the back of its neck. With a whine, it landed on the ground and did not move. Only then did I see Nate had his sonic rifle drawn.

“Is it dead?” he asked.

I could not see any chest movements which might indicate breathing. Cautiously, I knelt next to the shepherd and put a hand on its side. It felt still. I considered feeling in front of his snout for breath, but realized the stupidity of that should the dog still be alive. 

“I think it’s dead.” 

“It has a collar," Nate pointed out.

Crap! I didn’t notice that. I hope this wasn’t someone’s pet. Killing the family dog is not a great way to make new friends. I looked around to see if anyone noticed us. Down the road, I saw a couple of houses, but no activity. 

“Maybe it’s best if we keep quiet about this. Help me move him off the road.” 

Nate and I lifted the dog and dropped him several feet into the woods. For extra precaution, I covered him with some leaves and twigs. Then, taking another look to be sure no one could see us, we exited the woods and continued down the road to the service center.

[Alyssa failed a DC15 Survival check to scare off the dog. She won initiative, hit the dog on her first swing and did enough damage to lower its HP to 0. Is the dog breathing? (even) No. Does the dog have a collar? (even) Yes.]

I have no idea what Nate and I were expecting to see when we arrived, but it certainly wasn’t what we found. Parked in front of the service station was a vehicle that looked straight out of a post-apocalyptic movie. Under the circumstances, that was probably appropriate. It was a large van or utility vehicle, possibly military from the look of it. It sat high on four oversized tires and every inch was covered in a mish-mash of metal siding and steel plates. Wire mesh and metal grating covered the front windshield and headlights. Strapped to the top of the monstrosity was a 50-gallon drum and behind it a large, flat piece of metal, its purpose I could only guess at.

Standing next to the cobbled-together tank stood two hoops. One was brown and white and a little pudgy. The other was solid black and much thinner. 

“Well, you must be our passengers!” the brown hoop announced excitedly as she strode toward us, gloved hand outstretched. “I’m Charlotte,” she said, shaking our hands, “Andover there is Sebastian.” The black hoop gave us a half-hearty wave. “We were thrilled when we got the call from Jesse that we were gonna have some help on this mission.”

“I guess that’s our ride?” Nate said, nodding toward the armored vehicle.

“Hon, that ain’t just a ride. That’s the Armor Plated Turbo-Boosted Omega-Dillo!” Charlotte explained as she walked around the truck, pointing out its various features. The whole time Sebastian kept his head down and gently shook it in embarrassment.


[Image: tqsvAegM8aicS7kRhmOUHlR3pO4HiX4sN49iwVym...y0FA=w2400]
The Armor Plated Turbo-Boosted Omega-Dillo

“This beauty here is the baddest, most-feared vehicle you will find in these here parts. Its armor plating is so strong it’ll stop a charging poddog. It has steel-reinforced tires that can traverse any terrain. The solar panel on top runs all the electrical systems . . .” So that’s what that plate is. “. . . And it’s powered by a self-charging hybrid ‘Kenny’ engine with synthetic-fuel boosters for extra power when needed. Speaking of fuel, we can carry up to 60 extra gallons of fuel between the tank on top and the cans on back. Useful for those gas runs. Yep! The Omega-Dillo will get us there and back. Guaranteed!”

“I apologize for her enthusiasm,” Sebastian said, having stepped over to us to get out of his partner’s way while she showed off her pride and joy. “It’s just an S-Class military utility vehicle with scrap metal bolted to the sides. It was on display over at the National Guard Recruitment center and was mainly there to build interest in joining the army. Charlotte kinda borrowed it before the MSF took over the building.”

“Stop being so boring, Sebastian,” Charlotte scolded. “You know your riding around in her makes you feel more like a young buck. Now, c’mon let’s go.”
[In the process of rolling up specifics for Charlotte and Sebastian, an oracle check resulted in a special event. For the event I drew the Norse symbol Tiwaz [Image: kuEfXr_MDMZOnyq-M5Y5JIpFZ1PVjvi4FJoKcXlI...mg2w=w2400]. One of the interpretations of this symbol is “a just authority gets involved, or the characters are granted authority,” which leads to the following encounter.]

As we were climbing into Charlotte’s Omega-Dillo, a small electric car pulled up to the service center. It had a rack of lights on its roof and markings identifying it as originally some kind of police vehicle. However, the original emblem had been painted over in red letters reading “MSF.” A grey hoop steps out.

“Hello, Clint,” Jesse greeted the man. “What brings you down here early this morning?”

“Morning, Jesse.  I reckon it’s these two,” Clint explains, nodding in our direction. “I got a call from Phyllis about two strangers walking down Old Valley School Road.”

My heart sunk. Did someone see our encounter with the dog after all? 

“That’s Allyssa and Nate,” the mechanic introduced us. “Ross drove them down last night. They’re friends of Sean Murphy’s. In fact, they were just about to go with Charlotte and Sebastion on a supply run to the WAmazon warehouse.”

The grey hoop sauntered over to us and stuck out his hand. “Clint Morrow. I run the Mausdale Security Force.”

Nate takes his hand and gives it a shake. “Nathan Collier. Verna’s told us some nice things about you.”

“Oh! You know Verna Stokes as well? You two certainly get around.”

I relaxed, pretty sure he wasn’t there about the dog, or else he would have said something by now. “We met some of your force on the way into town. Kelli. Ernie. A couple of others.”

“You're those strangers!” Clint remarks, eyes rising in understanding. “Kelli told me about you.”

“Did she tell you she tried to run us off?”

“Yeah, she did. Sorry about that. She thinks she Mausdale’s guardian angel or something. Gave her a talking-to about that. Listen, don’t you worry about her. If Ross and Jesse can vouch for you, you must be good people. Risking your lives on a supply run sure doesn’t hurt, either.”

“It’s not totally altruistic,” Nate admits. “We’re getting stuff for Jesse so he can fix Murphy’s tractor.”

“Still, it shows character.  If any of my crew gives you any more trouble, you have them speak with me.”

Clint is about to leave when Nate asks one last question.

“Mr. Morrow, I don’t have time to get into it right now, but Alyssa and I are concerned about two of your town members. We believe some harm came to both of them and we are investigating what happened. Would you have time to talk with us when we get back?”

“The MSF is more of a peacekeeping force, not a team of investigators. Unless there is an incident going on or reason to believe something is about to happen, there’s really not much I think I have to offer. Now, if you turn up something that might cause trouble in the future, then maybe we can talk.”

I found it odd that Clint seemed rather uninterested in what had happened, or to whom, but without another word, the head of the Mausdale Security Force climbed back in his car and drove off. 

[Does Clint agree to talk to them about Alex when they return? (Even) No.]

==========================

ImageSource 1: Google Streetmaps;   ImageSource 2

Proverbs 26:17
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