Thursday, January 20, 2022

Eastern Wastes Of America: Chapter 9 - Mating Habits Of The Modern Hoop

(Read the previous chapter here.)

(The above contains affiliate links.)

Setup: For the hallways and offices portion of the Wamazon distribution center I will veer away from the Warehouse Hex Flower. Instead, I will use a combination of loose “office logic” and random tables. As the characters move through the halls, I will randomly determine some things such as the number and location of doors and changes in hallway direction. When the characters do pass through a door, I will roll on a random room table I made. Some rooms can be reused (such as an office) while others will only occur once (for instance, you would expect a theater to only have one ticket booth). Since there is a logical layout to an office, at any time I feel necessary I will put on my GM hat and veto, change, or outright direct any randomly determined information for the sake of some semblance of realism and storytelling. 

Background: Hello everyone. I know, it’s been a couple of months since my last post. I have one word of explanation: Holidays. It’s been a busy one this year. Anyway, I think a brief recap/update is in order before we get back to the story.

Alyssa and Nate have been sidetracked from their journey west to try and located Nate’s parents and are spending some time in Mausdale, PA, a small town that is approximately three-quarters hoop (large rabbit people) and one-quarter human. They, along with two hoops, Sebastian and Charlotte, have traveled to the nearby Wamazon Distribution Warehouse to search for parts to repair Sean Murphy’s (a farmer who was hospitable to Alyssa and Nate) tractor, as well as general goods and supplies for the town. The story picks up with the group about to head into the administrative/office section of the building.

One final thing, be sure to read my blurb regarding the chapter’s title at the post.

[Scene 1, Tension Lvl:1]

“My guess is this door leads to the offices,” said Nate as we stood at the doorway leading out of the hub between the locker room and bathroom.  I pushed the door open just enough to peek through and saw a sterile hallway illuminated by fluorescent lights.

“Get ready with your rifle,” I tell him. “I don’t see a camera, but I don’t have a great range of view either.”

Nate lifted the gun and gave me a nod. Staying low I pushed the door open and ducked out of the way. As it turned out, there was a camera . . . and it was pointed right at us!  Nate fired and the sonic blast of the weapon twisted and crushed the camera against the wall. [Ranodmly determined there was a security camera. Nate failed the sneak check (13) but destroyed the camera.]

“Did it see us?” Sebastian asked.

“Don’t know,” Nate answered, “but let’s not take any chances. Everyone, get ready!”

We assumed that any security robots would come from the warehouse and took up our positions accordingly. Since I was heavily injured, I stepped into the hall to use the wall as a shield. Sebastian did the same taking the space across the doorway from me. He leaned out just far enough to aim his rifle.  Nate and Charlotte hunkered down in opposite corners of the room and aimed their weapons.

In less than ten seconds a security robot, laser ready to fire, appeared. We hit it with everything we had . . . well, all except for me. Damn rifle jammed. [Nat 1] I ducked back in the hall and manually ejected the jammed shell. From the other room, I heard the high-pitched blast of the robot’s laser, followed by Nate’s single groan. One more pulse, the sound of bits of metal tinkling on the ground, followed by a crash. Then silence.

Reloaded, I leaned back into the door, ready to fire. The robot lay on the ground, sparks flying here and there. Stepping through the door, I saw Nate slumped in the corner. My first thought was concern, but he seemed fine, just a little shaken. [Battle was over by round 2. Nate dealt the final blow. The only damage incurred by the PCs was 10hp to Nate. For anyone keeping track, Sebastian has 30 shells remaining, Charlotte has 34 (rifle Alyssa is using).]

[Scene 2, Tension Lvl:2]

We took a few moments for Nate to recover fully before continuing to the hallway. To our right, the hall opened into what we believed was the lobby and the main entrance beyond it. To the left, the hallway continued, ending in a windowed door, a couple of doors exiting on either side.

“We’re not ready to leave yet,” I said, referring to the fact that the building’s exit was just steps away. “So my vote is to check out the other rooms.”

Everyone agreed. After a few steps, we realized that the door on the right side of the hall was not a room but the entrance to an elevator. [Is there a door in the north wall? (even, south wall borders locker room) Yes  1-4 chance it is an elevator to the second floor. Roll: 1] Sebastian pushed the button in the wall and the sliding doors opened. Nate poked his head in a looked around.

“Looks safe, but I’m not sure I’m ready to trust an unknown elevator.  There is only one floor listed on the panel.”

“Why don’t we finish one floor at a time?” Charlotte suggested.

“Sounds good,” Nate quickly agreed.

A little further down the hall, there was another door on the side from which we entered. [How many doors? d3-1=1  Randomly determined it was on the South wall (all compass directions are for mapping purposes only and do not necessarily reflect true geodetic orientations).] This was clearly a door to a room. I tried the door and found it locked, but it was an easy matter to pry it open with my crowbar. [Random room: office  Is the door locked (Bad) Yes.  The weak office door only needed a DC5 to force open and Alyssa rolled a 10 Physical skill check.]

The room was an office, but one that received little use. It had a couple of tables covered with some loose papers and pens accompanied by a few cheap chairs. There were no personal items or even a computer monitor.

“Workroom, I’m assuming,” Nate said.

We scanned the papers and found nothing useful.

[Unless otherwise noted, each room will potentially only have one useful item. Method of checking is each character will roll a search check (DC10) and, if any succeed, I will ask the oracle if there is anything worthwhile to find. For this room, ultimately the oracle determined there was nothing of any value.]

Back in the hallway, we approached the windowed door. I had no idea what function this door had in the overall design of this building, but it was there nevertheless. Even more confusing was the fact that the door didn’t even have a lock. Through the window, we could see the hallway continued and was further lined with more doors. Mounted high on the wall was another security camera.

“I don’t think we’re getting past this one.”

Sebastian sidled up next to me to take a look. “Do you think we can make it to one of those doors while the camera is turned away?”

“I doubt it. The camera is just on the other side of the door. I think it will spot us no matter what.” [DC20 to avoid detection]

“Let rush and shoot, like always,” Nate said, sonic rifle readied.

On “Ready, Go!” I threw the door open and let Nate by.  As always, the camera was no match for the rifle’s blast, but any hope of avoidance was quickly dashed as a wall panel slid open and a security bot rolled out. [Nate’s sneak check was 15. Does the bot come from the Warehouse? (even) No. Must mean it is already in the office section. However, another oracle draw determined the bot is outside of melee range.]

The narrowness of the hall limited our ability to take advantage of the situation. Nate already had his rifle ready and was able to shoot. [16hp damage] Charlotte drew her pistol but fired wide. Sebastian had stepped aside to let Nate through and was now at the back of the pack. He tried to line up a shot but was hit by the robot’s laser. [11hp damage]

[Does the robot move into melee? (even) Yes, but . . .  its claw isn’t working properly. Damage will be halved.]

The security bot charged forward and it was obvious that our guns would be too cumbersome for close fighting in the hall. Unfortunately, the robot was upon us before we could swap out our weapons. The dang thing ran right up on me and reached out to grab my arm, knocking my crowbar to the floor. [Alyssa rolled a Nat 1 attack] I tensed waiting for the claw to clench down on my wrist, but it never did. Still, its momentum was enough to push me back up against the wall. [3 hp of damage]

Nate smacked the thing on the head with his rock-sock [3 hp damage] as it took another swing at me. I was able to duck out of the way and made a lunge for my crowbar. [Everyone missed this round] I picked it up and spun in time to see the bot swing at me yet again. What did I do to piss it off? Nate’s the one that shot him. Why doesn’t it go after him? Anyway, I ducked out of way and the robot struck the wall hard enough to break his claw off completely. Score one for the wall! [Robot rolls a Natural 1. If he uses his laser arm as a club, it will be a straight D20 roll without bonuses and at half damage.]

While I was doing the death dance with Mr. Metal and Ugly, the others have been beating on it. The final combination began with Sebastian, who struck it with his pipe and tore off its chest plate, and ended with Nate smashing the exposed chest components with his homemade bludgeon. [Nat 20, No healing was performed]

[Rolls determined that there were no doors immediately beyond the hallway door. In the next section the Oracle confirmed that the hall continues straight and a random roll indicated one door in the north wall.]

A little ways down the hall, a door was set in the north wall. A quick check revealed it was unlocked. We found ourselves in another small, rather plain office. The walls were empty and a single desk with only a few random papers and other basic office paraphernalia sat opposite the door. On the desk was a computer with a flat-screen monitor.

The room appeared to be a temporary workspace, which it probably was. However, while sifting through some of the papers on the desk, Nate found some warehouse layouts with sections labeled in a grid pattern. [DC10 Knowledge check to recognize anything important: 18. Is there something important in the room? (Even) Yes]

“Maybe this was an office for interns or outside help,” he suggested. “It’s a long shot, but perhaps the last person who used this station was working on inventory or cataloging. If I can hack into this computer, perhaps I can locate where the automotive products are located.”

He pulled out a small box and inserted it into one of the computer’s ports. A few strokes on the keyboard and it was obvious that Nate had gained access. However, the frown on his face betrayed the fact that something was wrong.

“Damn! This is a dumb terminal.”

“Dumb?” Sebastian questioned.

“It’s a stand-alone unit. It is connected to a Net-based general storage folder, most likely for file sharing and transfer, but it does not have a direct connection to the warehouse’s system. I can have the master password book and still not be able to get any useful information from this terminal.  We need to find a computer that has direct access.”

“Why have a computer that’s not hooked into the system?” Sebastian asked.

“A safe place for outside consultants or temps to work on documents without giving them access to sensitive data?” Nate speculated. “A place for Johnny to do his homework when he’s stuck here on ‘Bring Your Kid To Work Day? Who knows?”

[Nate failed a DC12 Hacking check, but instead of a complete fail it made more sense that his character would be able to break through the password but not find anything.]

[Scene 3, Tension Lvl:3]

“There’s something blocking the door.  Sebastian, give me a hand.”

Nate was trying to open another door that was unlocked but not moving. After having no success with the computer terminal we left the previous office and continued down the hall to the next set of doors, one facing the other across the hall. The door on the left had a small window and, peering in, we could tell that it was a large lunchroom [mechanics revealed later]. Before checking that room out, though, we decided to try the other door first.

[Door locked? (even) No, but . . . It is blocked by something.
How difficult is the blockage to get past? Using the GMA difficulty check I determine it is a DC15 Physical Check.  Nate fails. 6+2STR+5 Physical=13.  Having Sebastian help gives advantage, basically another attempt.

What’s blocking the door? Maniacal Defense]

With the hoop helping Nate, the two of them slowly pushed the door open several inches. I peered between the two of them and saw what appeared to be a desk pressed up against the wall. A few more inches and I was able to squeeze through and climb over the desk, which allowed me to help by pulling from the other side. Soon we were all inside.

Looking around we were in yet another office. This one, however, was in quite some disarray, as the desk and other items had all been moved to block the door. Also, in the room was the person who barricaded the door. However, [1-M;2-F] she wouldn’t be moving anything anymore. She was lying on the ground dead.

She wouldn't be moving anything anymore

[Each character made a Knowledge check to determine if they could deduce the story behind this scene. DC10 success indicated partial understanding. DC15 full understanding. Two partial understandings would combine to equal a full understanding. A:15  N:11  S:22  C:1]

“Well this doesn’t make any sense,” Charlotte said. “Why would anyone lock themselves in a room just to starve to death?”

“Makes perfect sense if she was alone,” Sebastian explains. “She may have thought the place was abandoned and came in to scavenge. To her surprise, the security systems were still active.”

“It looks like the robots almost got her,” I said, noting the laser burns and claw gouges on her body.

“Obviously, she was able to get away,” Nate added. “Must’ve hid in here for protection and blocked the door to keep the bots out.”

“But why stay?” Charlotte insisted. “Once the robots stopped why not get out as fast as possible?”

“We did destroy the security cam that was just down the hall,” Sebastian reminded her. “Maybe she tried to leave but kept triggering the security system?”

“Or she was just too scared or hurt to move,” I said.

“Hey, good news. She has a lot of first aid supplies.” Nate pulls some bandages, ointments, and a can of B.A. Heal from a discarded backpack. Additionally, he found some ammunition for the rifle in the corner that none of us had previously noticed. [Health Kit? (even) Yes. How many uses? d6=3  Firearm? (even) Yes. Randomly determined a rifle with 13 (d20) shells.]

Nate pulled the last few items from the pack and held them up. His face was a mix of question and concern. In his hands, he held some diapers, a few cans of infant formula, and other supplies necessary for baby care. [The GMA has a random “belongings” section that I consulted for additional items the woman was carrying. The result was diapers, formula, infant nutrition supplements.]

“Oh, my!” Charlotte exclaimed in a whisper.

I looked back at the dead woman and saw no tell-tale belly bump. “She wasn’t pregnant.”

“Then she must have had a baby,” Sebastian assumed.

“Where is it?” Nate asked.

“She must have left it outside somewhere while she came in to search for supplies,” Sebastian suggested. “Maybe with someone she knew?”

“Then why didn’t they come in after her when she didn’t return,” I asked.

“You don’t think she left her baby all alone?” Charlotte asked, her sight never leaving the woman’s body.

“Maybe it wasn’t even her baby,” Nate tried to assure her. “She could have been carrying the supplies for someone else. Or perhaps she just was gathering items she thought might be worth something in trade. We’ll never know.”

“C’mon,” I said. “Let’s make a quick sweep of the room and get out of here.

A search through the various cabinets and drawers of the desk turned up a bottle of whiskey and a couple of baggies of pot and pills. I think we found someone’s hidden stash. [Successful search roll. What was found? Opportune Evil] We packed it all up and squeezed through the door to leave. Nate was testing the lunchroom door across the hall when I realized we had lost someone. I looked back into the office to see Charlotte still standing, staring at the dead woman. Her hand . . . paws . . . whatever, were folded in front of her and resting on her belly.

“You coming?” I asked.

“Oh, sorry!  Yes. I just . . . I just needed a moment. Let’s go.”

[Scene 4, Tension Lvl:4]

[During gameplay I asked the oracle if this was a breakroom. In addition to “Yes” it also indicated that an event would occur. The GMA Norse symbol was Ehwaz  and the part of the description that I applied to this situation was “an already-ongoing partnership or relationship proves to be more successful than first imagined.”

Tension resets to 1]

The large breakroom gave us an opportunity to relax and reset. Another plus, a search of the cabinets revealed some much-needed medical supplies and food. [A few oracle rolls revealed that there were enough medical kits for 5 uses (2d6 healing) and some non-perishable food.] Nate opened a few cans of soup and began heating several bowls in the microwave. While they heated the rest of us tended to our wounds. [Used newfound kits.  After healing, each character had the following HP: A: 15  N: 23  S:13  C: 10]

“Lunch is served!” Nate called out, having placed four bowls of steaming chicken soup on the table and a couple of boxes of saltine crackers.

“Gourmet eating at its finest,” Sebastian snarked, picking up a spoon and attacking the soup.

Charlotte appeared to be avoiding her soup. Instead, she nibbled tentatively on the saltines. After finishing two she got up from the table.

“Excuse me,” she said and crossed the room to a garbage can located in one corner. A few seconds later we heard her vomit up her meager lunch.

Nate and I turned to Sebastian for an explanation and he returned an unknowing look.

“I’ll go check on her,” I said.

By the time I reached her had sat down and was taking deep breaths.

“Are you okay?”

“No.  I mean, Yes, I’m healthy. I’m not ill or anything. What’s wrong is that my body is doing exactly what it is supposed to.”

“You’re confusing me. What do you mean your body is doing . . . “

“I’m pregnant!” Charlotte cuts me off. “This has been going on for a couple of weeks so I took a test. Positive.”

Okay. This explained her awkward behavior after seeing the dead woman and the baby supplies.

“Sebastian?” I asked.

“Who else? I pretty much told you back in the van that we were . . . involved.”

“Does he know?”

“No! And don’t tell him. Not yet. I don’t need him getting all weird on me, especially while we’re on a mission.”

I did some quick calculations in my head. “Isn’t a little soon for morning sickness?”

“For a human, I’d say yeah,” she agreed. “But Seb and I ain’t exactly human, are we?”

I was no expert in rabbit biology but I did know their pregnancy cycle was rather short, at least compared to humans. “So you really have no idea how long this pregnancy will last.”

“Nope. They’re probably wondering what’s up with us. We should go back.”

[The pregnancy is the result of the “more successful relationship” event rolled at the beginning of this scene.]

Before the boys could ask, we brushed it off as a combination of the excitement of the day and feeling just a tad under the weather. Charlotte even suggested we look for some cold medicine when we get back in the warehouse. Now that she felt better, she was able to eat half of her soup.

The room had a second door on the wall that divided the breakroom from the rest of the warehouse. Nate really wanted to head back into the offices to find a computer that would let him access the warehouse’s inventory, claiming it would save time to pinpoint our search. Charlotte and I, however, were itching to get back to raiding the warehouse. Nate began to protest but changed his mind when he saw our determined stares.

The door was sealed with another keypad lock, but Sebastian laid his exposed palm against the door near the bolt, turning the door to rubber. It was an easy task to cut through the lock and exit the room.

Office Map so far (obviously not to scale)

[Scene 5, Tension Lvl:2]

[We now return to the Warehouse Hex Flower for navigation. Move 16-failed product roll. Move 17-Camera space with a successful “No camera” roll.  Move 18: Robot and product chance.]

Our first order of business was to retrieve our bin from just outside the door that led to the locker room. We followed the wall back to that door, checking shelves with no success. After finding the bin we headed down an unexplored aisle.

As we walked, a security robot appeared from an intersecting aisle just few feet ahead of us. Luckily, it turned in the direction away from us. Instinctively, Nate lifted his rifle and shot, hitting it square in the back and causing it to jerk to the side. Before it could spin around Sebastian jumped at it and drove his pipe down on its head. [Goup rolled successfully for a sneak attack, which gave everyone a free attack. Nate hit for 17 and Seb for 3.  Robot is already down to 14 hp.]

We surrounded the target and attacked with pipes, crowbars, and rock-filled socks. The robot fought back targeting Charlotte who happened to be standing directly in front of it. Bits and pieces of armor and wire flew from the machine, but it was not enough to stop it before it raked its claw across Charlotte’s chest, ripping a large gash in her fur.

“Charlotte!” Sebastian immediately forgot about the battle as his partner fell to the floor. He dropped and covered her with his own body.

The robot, seeing an easy target, rolled forward to finish off Sebastian. However, Nate’s sock smashed into its headfirst and shattered its “eye” lens. The thing spun around aimlessly until Nate hit it with one final blow to the midsection.

[In Round 3, the Robot hit Charlotte and dropped her to -7 hp. Since the last time a character dropped below 0, I created a MicroLite 20 death table. Each round, a roll is made on the table to determine hit point lost due to bleed out (range: 0-3), with higher potential for hp loss the closer a character gets to reaching their strength limit. Additionally, when a character is first reduced to less than zero, a roll is made to determine if a serious (long-lasting or permanent) wound occurs. The further below zero they are, the more likely they are to have incurred a serious wound.  This roll is only made once when the character first drops below zero.

The rules don’t have a STR stat for Hoops, so based on some assumptions surrounding Charlotte’s various bonus, I felt a STR of 12 was appropriate. Being reduced to -7 gave her a 25% chance of having a serious wound.  She rolled 29, just missing]

Sebastian wasted no time pulling out bandages from the remaining medical kit and bandaging Charlotte up. When she was stable, Nate kept watch while I helped Sebastian lift the unconscious Charlotte up and gently lay her in the cart. Not even concerned about scavenging the shelves [failed 50% product roll: 85], we wheeled her back to the breakroom as fast as we could.

[d6 rounds to regain consciousness: 6]

While we waited for her to wake up, Sebastian applied some antibiotic ointment to her wounds and bound it up more securely. As he was finishing, Charlotte’s eye fluttered open and she began asking questions. Seb sushed her and gave her a quick recap before offering her painkillers and a bottle of water.

“She’s going to need time to recover,” I whispered to Nate in private.

“This gives us a chance to find a computer in the offices and hopefully find a product and location list.”

I could have said something snarky to Nate about him getting his way, but that would have implied he was glad this had happened and I knew that wasn’t true. Instead, I informed the others of our intention.

“Charlotte needs rest. In fact, we should probably get out here as fast as we can.”

“But your tractor parts,“ Charlotte protested in a weak voice before I stopped her with an upraised hand.

“Nate and I have a plan. While you two stay here, we’ll search the offices for another computer that is linked to the warehouse’s network. Hopefully, we can find out exactly where the motor supplies are kept so we can beeline directly there, grab our stuff, and get out.”

Nate and I went to leave through the hallway door.  Before stepping out, I turned back for one last piece of advice.

“By the way, while we’re gone, you two probably need to discuss your relationship. Just a thought.”

I closed the door behind us.

[End of Chapter]

Title Note:

The title of this chapter is an homage to the podcast “Mating Habits of the Modern Geek,” hosted by Kelley Hightower.  Now, I’ll admit, I have not listened to the “Mating Habits” podcast, but I do listen to Kelley on the highly entertaining “As the Dice Roll: Cautious Optimism” podcast, an actual play podcast that features a sci-fi campaign using the GURPS ruleset. If you are interested in actual plays, or Geek dating, you might want to consider these two podcasts.

(Read the next chapter here.)

Psalm 127:3

No comments:

Post a Comment