A Gamma World® play-by-post adventure run by gammaworld_gm
"Business has been really slow the past two centuries," the barkeep of the Starport Tavern bemoaned, to no one in particular. Good thing---there was no one there.
He dusted the immaculate counter, polished the gleaming taps, adjusted the perfectly plumb pictures on the wall, and paced the spotless floor. A chair was out of place by 0.002 microns. How had he missed that? He looked around his bar, lit dimly by emergency lighting. He knew he should be feeling gloomy, but he could not. Silicon, duralloy and the positronic matrix of a standard issue K1B-Service Robot with MP1 modifications provided him with intelligence, but no emotion.
He returned to his counter and stood behind it. He took in the entire bar with his wide-angle optics. The room could easily fit 300 people. His gaze came to rest on the gaping man-sized void in the opposite wall where a coolant pipe had exploded long ago. "And to think they <beep> said this place was a hole in the wall! Heh-heh." he said, flexing one of his humor subroutines. He then started practicing what he would say to his first visitor (he had it neutronically stored), should the day ever arise.
That day was today.
Upon walking through the hole in the wall, the thinly clad green-skinned woman was surprised to find a bar with real lights, table and chairs, and a clean bar, at that. Seeing the humanoid-shaped robot behind the counter, she approached and took a seat on a barstool. She saw the letters G-E-O written across the barkeep's chest plate.
"Drink please... GEO," she spoke.
Not missing a beat, the robot replied with his centuries-honed response, "We have purified water, unpurified water <beep-beep>, sarbis beer, mead, coffee, tea or orange soda. You may call me Geo if you like!"
The Gren barely had time to sip the drink Geo offered her, when through the blast hole walked another visitor. This one was a well-built Pure Strain human, with a day's growth of stubble shadowing his chiseled face, and an avuncular smile that grew wider as he took in the bar scene.
"When it rains, it pours! Heh-heh," chimed Geo. His internal circuitry laughed at the statistical fluke that now faced him. He addressed the newcomer, a Pure Strain human (imagine that!), and the Starport Tavern's second patron in as many centuries, "We have purified water, unpurified water, sarbis beer, mead, coffee <beep-beep>, tea or orange soda. You may call me Geo if you like!"
Lamia turned to the newcomer and sized him up silently, her slender green finger tracing the rim of her spotlessly cleaned glass. The man's expression had changed to mildly bemused, as he studied, then stuffed a crumpled map back into his pack. He acknowledged her with a wide smile, and stooped to take off his auto rifle and pack at the base of the barstool next to her. "Nice pants!" she thought.
"Hi, ma'am, I'm Jonn Dukas," he said, taking a seat next to the Gren, "My map says this bar was without power. I figured it would be deserted, but I'm not disappointed!"
Before she responded, Jonn asked the robot bartender, "Hiya Geo! I'll take a sarbis outta the bottle, thanks!"
Geo noted the Pure Strain human's taste in beverages. Taking a cold sarbis beer from a cooler the robot popped the lid off and set it in front of Jonn. "We are well powered here sir, <beep-beep>, unfortunately I have no sexual, <beep>, sexual programming."
Lamia nearly choked on her drink. Rubbing her drink from her chin, she smiled slightly, a bit embarrassed. "Don't mind Geo. He's just missing a screw or two."
"I'll say!" Geo retorted, executing his wistfulness routines. The effect fell flat.
"My name's Lamia. Good to meet you, Jonn. You do look familiar," she spoke, examining him more closely.
Jonn smiled again under her scrutiny. "Oh, I get that all the time, Lamia. It's the desert. Weathers my face. Makes me look like everyone's favorite uncle. Comes in handy when I gotta talk some sense into some ruffians---say," he leaned over, touching her arm, "please tell me I don't look like your uncle!" Jonn's eyes, bracketed with premature crow's feet, grew wide with mock fear.
Lamia responded, "No, not my uncle. More like a past lover I should have killed and collected the bounty on. Cheers, Jonn!"
Right then, as Jonn nearly choked on his drink, Geo's logic circuits did a triple take, for into the bar had just flown a third visitor. A duck.
More humanoidal than most fowl in his ancestry, the duck half-waddled, half-fluttered over to the bar in a flurry of purple feathers, and sighed as he lifted his flappy feet onto a barstool next to Jonn. "Hi there... Geo! Weren'th exthpecthing all this!" he waved a feathered, mult-fingered hand in a sweeping motion over the bar.
"And you thwo!" he continued, staring down Jonn and the attractive Gren, "Justh look ath you!" He sighed. "Thisth is going to be harder than I thought."
Geo recited his litany to the duck: "We have purified water, unpurified water, sarbis beer, mead, coffee <beep-beep>, tea or orange soda. You may call me Geo if you like!"
"Oooo peanuths!" Howard squawked gleefully, noting the lucite dish on the bar, perfectly packed to the brim with centuries-old peanuts.
Jonn acknowledged the new arrival with a playful snicker, "Always shuts the little bugger up!" he explained to Lamia. He patted the duck on his indigo head feathers, "Glad you could make it, Dodgers! Don't worry, we'll talk later, dude." Jonn eyed the duck with a "Don't spill the peanuts" expression, and Howard winked, nodding slowly with a beakful.
Introductions were in order. "Lamia, Geo, this is Howard Dodgers, techno-extraordinaire. We go way back. Dodgers, this is Lamia, whom I've just met." Howard looked slyly at Jonn, then at Lamia, and then shook his head. He could have sworn Jonn had said this mission was top secret.
Geo nodded at the duck, then said, "Hold while I do routine maintenance." Minutes pass as the robot stands motionless.
"So Jonn, that would make Howard one of your foul relatives, then, huh?" Lamia giggled. "Hi, Howard, I'm pleased to meet you. I figured any friend of Jonn's would be more than a bit interesting." She shook Howard's feathered hand.
As Howard vigorously munched down peanuts like they were on sale, Jonn took a sip from his beer. "This slightly complicates things," he thought. He could discuss business with Howard later. Yeah, he'd finish this beer and then they'd be off because the Restorationists couldn't wait. Indeed, the balance of power in New Albuquerque was at stake---"juicy steak!" his childhood friends used to say. But they were dead now. All except for Howard.
Jonn's thoughts soon returned to the friendly emerald-skinned woman next to him; it would not be the last time.
"Done," Geo says. "I'm making short talk again, <beep>. You know, not only am I a bartender, but I'm also a janitor, exo-map designer, a shrimp cooker, and a bouncer." Opening a small door in my gut I show everyone a small egg-shaped device therein, and then close the door. "It's either a thermonuclear hand grenade or a lighter. I haven't checked! Ha, ha, <beep>, ha!"
Howard looked up, taking a breather. "Stho, Jonn, whath's cookin'? Whath kindth of grandth adthventhure are we in for thisth thime?" A spray of peanut particles erupted on that last syllable.
Jonn gave Howard a cool expression and sighed. The quacker obviously hadn't understood his signal. "Well, what the frak," Jonn thought. His mission parameters didn't bar the assistance of a bounty-hunter and robot bouncer. He just would have to keep quiet about his involvement with the New Albuquerque Restorationist Club. If the rumor NARC had intercepted were to leak, then NARC might be fingered for the blame, and that would be worse than proving the rumor true. Maintaining NARC's neutrality was paramount.
"So, Lamia, you like adventure? Geo, wanna exercise your exo-mapping skills?" Jonn offered.
Lamia reached into her pack resting at her feet, opened it and pulled out an ancient folded map. Unfolding it in front of everyone, she pointed to its center. "That's why I'm here, Jonn. Here we are." Her slender finger indicated the Starport.
"Here is where I'm headed. The Oad-Ck-Factory, or Odestas-Advanced-Dectronics, from what I've heard. I don't know what the 'Ck' stands for. It's almost 80 miles from here on the other side of the mountains. I know what you are thinking. It would take us weeks to walk there. But I saw some grav-cars near here that we might be able to rig up. And we can just take the San Matoe Tunnel here, under the mountains. Is this what you had in mind?"
Howard stopped his munching, and looked back and forth between Jonn and Lamia for what seemed an eternity, or at least a long match at Wimbledon of the Ancients. Jonn looked like he was churning over several thoughts in his head. Finally he spoke, "Sure, sounds like fun. You game, Dodgers?"
"Yesth!" the duck exclaimed, then asked Geo for a purified water.
"Do you want it in a glass, mug, cup, bottle or feathered hand?" Geo replied. "I seem to enjoy you organic short-lived life forms I now call friends." If Geo could have smiled, he would have. A Pure Strain human surely would have.
Lamia noted Jonn's indecision. She had a hunch that Jonn had come here with more of a mission than he was letting on. She hoped to learn more from Jonn as the time passed. "So Geo, you coming with us, then?" she asked convincingly.
"Since you are the only <beep-beep> customers I've entertained in 200 years, my presence here will probably not be missed. Pretzels Howard?" Geo held out another lucite bowl. "If we do this together, there will be no yelling in the car, and everyone must have a bowel movement before we leave! Ha, ha, ha. I always wanted to say that."
The trio of carbon-based lifeforms stared at eachother in amazement. Could humor spontaneously evolve during centuries of isolation inside a positronic neural net?
"What? You three have gone silent all of a <beep-beep> sudden, or was it my 00237G joke file?" Geo offered.
Before they could respond, the robot continued, unabated, "Pretzels Jonn? They are well aged! Now would anyone want a drink to go? We have purified water, unpurified water, <beep-beep>, sarbis beer, mead, coffee, tea or orange soda. I can even add it to your own container!"
Lamia returned to her map, tapping the factory's location with a green fingernail. "The plans I have say this factory has a tall electrified fence and one flying warbot guarding it. So it will not be a cake-walk getting inside the main building. If it has that much protection, it must hold something of value. At least we can hope so!" she looked expectantly at Jonn, who had sampled a stale pretzel and was frowning at it. She turned to Geo, who seemed to be absorbed with Jonn's expression. She sighed. Men. Robots.
"No pretzels for me Geo, thanks," she concluded.
"Say, I have an ancient music device some customer left. It's been in the 'lost and <beep-beep> found' for 200 years." Retrieving it, Geo placed the small portable music device (with head-phones and 2 CDs) on the bar and scanned his new friends with his thermal imager. "Its power supply is solar. One CD is 'Disco' and the other is 'Whale Song.' So Howard, are you a disco duck?"
Howard squawked in the negative. Jonn couldn't help but chime in, "Say, do you have any Ray Stevens, Geo?"
Geo recorded the Pure Strain human's taste in music. "File 056789XZ Jonn, internal memory <beep-beep>." Geo pushed a button on his chrome dome (ear-holes doubling as speakers), and it started blaring out the Ray Stevens song "Gitarzan." Jonn sang the Tarzan part, Lamia the Jane part, and Howard took the Monkey part. The Albuquerque Starport Tavern rocked for the duration of the song while Geo did his best imitation of the moon-walk.
As the music stopped, the party-goers noticed a tall Cougaroid standing in the hole in the far wall.
"Here's your receipt, tin-can." The bar's fourth visitor of the last two centuries quickly strode the distance of the tavern to stand in front of Geo. He handed the robot a bill for services paid in advance. "Equipment expenses are not covered and are subject to rate increase. Liability for any damage to civil or private property falls to your responsibility as per the contractual agreement signed with my employer; id est, I break it, you buy it."
"Uh... Brimstone, your receipt has not been validated. As I said, you should have done that before I hired you in advance." Silence filled the bar as robot and Cougaroid stared each other down. Breaking the silence, Geo stated as cheerily as he could muster, "Not to worry Brimstone, I can validate it for you!" Retrieving a stamp from behind the bar, Geo stamped the reciept, then placed it in the tip jar.
Howard's feathers ruffled visibly as Brimstone gave the Duckoid a feral grin. "Don't worry, duck. I just had lunch," the Cougaroid spat. He smiled, showing off sharp incisors perfectly capable of reducing him to the consistency of ground round.
Geo added, "Its official then. As a group we leave <beep-beep> in 98.7 seconds, give or take 0.001 second. Jonn, Lamia, Howard... your drinks come to a total of 7,342 domars." The outrageous looks from Jonn and Lamia told Geo that he would definitely want to start tabs for the trio.
Jonn wondered as he grabbed his gear. What was Geo after? And why had he hired a mutant mercenary? He tried to get Howard's attention, but the duck was busy scooping up his own gear in a rush to put some distance between himself and the Cougaroid. Things were going too fast! At least he knew from Lamia's map that they would be going into the Albuquerque industrial park's so-called hot zones, where NARC had told him his quandry lay. They'd also reassured him that they were no longer "hot."
Lamia gave him a seductive smile when she caught him staring in her direction as she picked up her pack. Jonn snapped out of his brain cloud, and blushed.
Changing the subject quickly, Jonn addressed the Gren, "Uh, we got room in the grav-car for one more?" He pointed an elbow at Brimstone.
If Lamia had her own questions about Geo and Brimstone, or Jonn and his ducky partner, they remained hidden from Jonn. "I think they seat four, but there's a trunk!" She smiled, "As you're our newly-elected leader, that would be your choice now, wouldn't it?"
Confused, Jonn wondered what she meant by that. Wouldn't be the last time.
This page updated: Mon Jan 09 14:22:20 2006
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