A Gamma World® play-by-post adventure run by gammaworld_gm
"Dodgers, you're in the trunk!" Jonn bellowed playfully, much to Howard's mock-chagrin. Geo noted their camaraderie.
Walking beside Jonn, Geo tried to measure the Pure Strain human's pace (in microns), walking as he did. Pushing a button on his wrist, a small 3-D hologram appeared. "Here are the grav-cars, Jonn. Here we are. Point A (here, us), point B (there, the cars)," he stated, pointing at the image. Geo pushed a second button and the image disappeared. Leaving the Albuquerque Starport Bar, the group turned right (magnet-East, the top of the map being North).
The concourse walls and high doomed ceiling were decorated with colorful Amerindian mosaics and painted designs. The once large and impressive oval windows that lined the concourse were now black since the outside window shielding (blast doors) had long been closed. Pushing a button near the top of his head, Geo activated a spot light which illuminated the darkness. A small model-Kb floor cleaning robot, about the size of a small dog, zipped out of the lounge and sped off down the concourse, making a <beep-beep-k-zing> sound as it raced away.
Startled, Lamia exercised a rather rusty quick-draw reflex, but by the time she got the black ray pistol out, the cleaning droid was long gone. She holstered it again, somewhat embarrassed by the event.
Continuing down the concourse, the group passed the gift shop, its main door shut, with a closed sign hanging on the inside. Looking through the glass everyone saw racks full of strange items. The entire store front was made of glass.
They continued walking until they found two sets of metal stairs. Heading down one stairwell, they exited into a huge loading area. At one end there were two grav-cars: small smooth metal things (roughly 9 feet long and 6 feet wide) which resembled birds. One was red; the other, blue. They each had several small round windows. A third grav-car lay in a crumpled heap nearby.
"One of the four grav-cars seemed to be missing," Geo thought. "There were four grav-cars here the last time I was here, which was earlier today!" he stated, checking memory file HJ99921 for errors. He found none.
"That's strange," Jonn thought as he followed Geo across the hangar to the grav-cars, "the 'port is abandoned for two centuries, save for a robot bartender, and one fine day, four fortune hunters show up, and that's not including whoever sneaked off with the fourth grav-car!"
"Sthomethfing heafvy's going down," Howard whispered, as if attuned to Jonn's thoughts.
"Geo, which one's in better shape? If we can, I suggest we stock it with as much rations and ammo/power cells as we can find around here, and as will fit with all of us inside," Jonn spoke up.
Brimstone didn't need illumination, nor a fancy for technology, to appreciate the sleek vehicles. He caressed a tail fin on the red car. "So uh... what, er... how fast do they go?"
"Fast enough, my mutant friend!" Lamia replied, approaching Jonn. "It could only mean a second group is here, or were here. I would hate to think they were going to the same place!" she said, casting a glance down each tunnel. "If they are just adventurers like us, then we have nothing to worry about! By the way, who's driving?"
Jonn shook his head sadly, and thumbed over to Howard, who was checking out the blue car's gravitic engine. A true Restorationist would have jumped at the chance to drive a grav-car, or "flitter" as he knew them. The vehicles were packed with curves, and could really pull some g's. Technically, the Ancients had only just stumbled upon the anti-gravity technology when the Shadow Years stained history, but Restorationists still cherished the little buggy like its more typical contemporary, the internal combustion car. Jonn, however didn't possess the technical know-how of the last few generations of Ancients; as Howard would say, "You couldn't fly a flitter!" Perhaps this was why NARCies never associated with him in public. And this was precisely what made him the best man for their mission.
After some minutes, Geo and Howard conferred, and Geo reported, "The red grav-car has about half-power left in its power cells. The blue car has no power at all; its power cell is dead and useless. These grav-cars can regain energy through solar exposure <beep-beep>. The problem is we are underground and it is dark, hence no recharging and no new power. Power cells which are left dead long enough eventually corrode internally destroying themselves. If everybody stows their gear in the trunk, you should be able to squeeze three people in the back seat. We should also take the coil, the carkron mobile emitter, and isometric adapter from the other grav-car just in case ours fails."
In the reflected light from Geo's spotlamp, Brimstone and Jonn exchanged tech-weary expressions that read, "Whatever." Geo made a note of this.
Selecting the red grav-car, Geo and Howard went immediately to work on it (with Howard using his Jury-Rig and Repair Artifacts skills). Geo displayed some previously downloaded grav-car schematics with his holo-emitter. Taking several parts from the blue car, Lamia helped Jonn and Brimstone stow them in the red car's trunk, along with their packs and weapons.
Jonn had removed from the trunk several items: a book titled Mysteries of Cerebrospansial Evolution, 16 dice, three pairs of unopened women's stockings, one football helmet, one rubber lizard, and one canister of air freshener displaying the message, "It smells right with pyridite!" As she perused the loot, Geo plugged himself into the grav-car. Howard soon tested the switch and the grav-car hummed to life, levitating.
Brimstone, eager to stake his territory, planted himself behind the driver's seat while Geo climbed into the front passenger side. Jonn was finishing stuffing the trunk when he asked Lamia, "Here, want some light reading?" He handed the book to the Gren.
Lamia took the hefty tome. "Why, a gift! I guess this means we're lovers!" she grinned sultrily. She also grabbed the rubber lizard and stuck it in her pack before climbing in the back seat. With interest, she watched through the rear window as Jonn stashed the stockings in his own pack and donned the helmet.
Jonn shut the trunk and climbed inside next to Lamia, whereupon he was greeted with Lamia's raised eyebrow. "What? Oh, this? Can't be too prepared with Dodgers behind the whee---" Lamia shook her head, smirking.
Jonn struggled under her accusatory stare, "Oh, the hose? They make a great filter, honest! I'm not... I don't...."
Lamia grinned at Jonn's squirming, then abruptly leaned over, grabbed his helmet and kissed him hard on the lips. "What?" she said, teasingly, "We are in the back seat!" That sultry smile again.
Jonn's lips tingled for a while afterward. And he was suddenly thankful for the late modifications to the NFL helmet, which back in the days of the Albuquerque Atomics, had done away with the "protective" bars across its face. Evidently, too many players were getting their heads ripped clean off during fask-mask pulls. And you should've seen the hockey matches in those last days before the Shadow Years....
Meanwhile, Howard was testing the play in the steering apparatus. "How fasth doesth this baby go?" he asked Geo, who was plugged into the dash with two cables. He noted Jonn's helmet as he entered the car, and laughed inwardly, remembering the last time he drove a grav-car with Jonn. "Thath wasth a closth one!" he silently recalled.
"A grav-car is capable of obtaining a maximum speed of 2,346 macrons per second, give or take a 0.001 variable," Geo replied. "You have taken a defensive driving course, right Howard?"
Howard wisely changed the subject, "Hey, we should come back here when this isth all over. I'd like to check outh the guesth sthop!"
Taking a moment to process Howard's unusual language, Geo offered, "The Starport is huge, 17 levels, with hundreds of guest rooms. It would make a good home for carbon-based life forms such as yourself <beep-beep>, with food and water available."
With Brimstone, Lamia, and Jonn crammed into the backseat, Howard hit the accelerator and the small cherry-red grav-car (without a scratch on it) raced away at high speed.
Squeezed in between Brimstone and Jonn, something poked Lamia in the leg. Howard heard Lamia giggling. She (like any woman) wondered if it was a gun or if Jonn was just happy to see her! Poor Jonn was too dizzy to respond to her pinch. At fault were two sets of curves: the set Howard was aggressively navigating, and the set nestled next to him.
"Oh, sorry, Lamia, must be a spare clip!" Jonn finally managed to explain somewhat ruefully. Howard clucked and shook his head at his friend's antics.
"I think... I'm going... to puke," Brimstone stated dourly.
A small light overhead lit up the inside of the grav-car, and the car's headlights brightened the tunnel. Several times Howard almost slammed into the wall or nearly hit a fallen boulder in the tunnel, but somehow the daring ducky driver barely avoided each impending catastrophe by the smallest of his pen feathers.
"At this speed, if we crash, all of you will die most horribly in a blazing ball of fire... Ha-ha-ha. I always wanted to say <beep-beep> that." Opening two of his robot fingers Geo gave the peace sign. "Live long and propagate!"
"Uh, Howard <beep-beep>," Geo said, "My thermal range scanners show a grav-car traveling in front of us at a slower speed just out of your view range. You have to a count of three to do something. One, three!"
Suddenly a slower moving green grav-car came into view. Through its nonexistent back window, a large laser rifle protruded, manned by a mutant badger.
"Beepth, Beepth, coming through!" Howard nimbly adjusted the steering controls to swerve around the slower grav-car. He tried to pass the car on the right in an attempt to get a look at the driver. "Hey Geo, justh in casthe we need it, isth this thing equipped with any sthecret weaponsth?"
But before Howard could pull alongside and Geo could answer, the Badger fired a single shot from the laser rifle. The shot missed Howard by inches. In less than the blink of an eye the laser sliced through the red grav-car's hood like it was butter, exploded out the dash, cut a perfect groove through the top of Jonn's helmet and shattered the back window (the glass itself didn't actually fall out, but it shattered and became non-transparent).
Veering madly around the car, Howard sideswiped it. For just a moment both grav-cars locked together (attracted by their magnet polarities), still traveling at breakneck speed. In the front seat of the green car Geo saw a Pure Strain human male driving. He had a punk-rocker blue mohawk and wore a shirt that said "Die Commie Bastards." A mutant tiger woman beside him was holding an uzi in one hand and a pinless grenade in the other. The mutant badger was not visible, having been thrown to the floor by the impact (he wasn't wearing his seat belt).
"Eat this blood suckers," screamed the tiger-woman, as she tossed her grenade into the red grav-car.
Geo caught the grenade, eyed it curiously, looked at Jonn, then tossed it back (yes, they both made their rolls) into the mutants' grav-car, where it fell to the floor board and rolled under a seat. "Nah, you keep it. We already have some! Howard? Now be a good time to punch it and part company from these grease balls! Ha-ha-ha. I always wanted to say that <beep-beep>."
With a keen eye, Geo made out the mouthed words of the blue-haired Pure Strain human: "OH SHIT!" As Howard tromped the throttle to the floor, the magnetic lock shattered between the two grav-cars, and the red car sped ahead at top speed, just as both grav-cars burst forth from the under-mountain tunnel (now having traveled almost 78 miles). The sudden bright desert glare blinded Howard, so Geo quickly reached over to grab the wheel and keep the grav-car in the middle of the road.
The jolt of the break-away, combined with the sun and the reality of death caused the punk-rocker to lose control. His grav-car spinned out, and then skimmed the guard rail just beyond the mouth of the tunnel. As this happened, the live torc grenade exploded, sending the grav-car hurtling end-over-end down the embankment at breakneck speed, all the while engulfed in a huge fire-ball and multiple explosions. Geo imagined not much would be left of the car or its occupants. Too bad for the punk-rocker.
Howard's driving was bad enough, but Geo's precise maneuvering was the camel that broke the straw's back. Brimstone leaned out of the damaged grav-car as it sputtered down the hot highway, and yakked. This was definitely not in the contract. He'd have to "remind" the tin-can of the terms.
Brimstone finished just in time to see Lamia suddenly bend forward and throw up on Jonn's boots. Twice. Sitting back up slowly, steading herself on Jonn's thigh, Lamia said, "Uh, sorry Jonn."
Howard eventually recovered his sight after Geo had steered the crippled grav-car for a few more miles, but suddenly the gravitic engine coughed and quit, causing the grav thrusting-oculars to fail. Dropping to the paved highway, the small candy-apple red grav-car skidded helplessly down the highway for almost 3,000 feet, sparks showering from both sides underneath. Sliding to a stop at the edge of the road, Brimstone let out a sigh of relief. If he had known what burnt spaghetti was, he'd have recognized the resemblance in the mangled length of dash in front of Howard and Geo.
All around, Brimstone noted the hot terrain---110+ on the Fahrenheit scale. It was a flat, barren desert, all except for the built-up highway which continued straight on out of sight and tall mountains, which stood in the close distance behind him. It was a desolate sight, this wasteland at high noon, and the closest place of which he knew was the Albuquerque Starport, well beyond them, some 80 miles away.
Pointing to a green reflective sign wavering in the harsh wind (or was it a mirage?) along the edge of the road, Geo read out loud "Oad-Ck-Factory Next Exit." Geo zoomed in with his photo-binocular lenses and scanned the compound from a distance. "I see a squat single-story building surrounded by a tall electrified fence. There's a large black grav-car limousine parked inside the fence. No security robots or other personnel are visible."
Brimstone saw that the compound lay about a mile away. His jammed door opened without much complaint after several strong kicks, and he jumped out defiantly, daring the sun to temper his seething rage.
He walked around to Geo's side of the car, and blocked the robot's egress from the vehicle. "Hey, tin can, this wasn't part of the deal. Read the part about reckless endangerment of goods and services. And how do you expect us to get out of here now? My price just got more expensive. Have a... day," Brimstone was going to say "nice," but couldn't choke out the word.
"Put your complaints in the complaint department box Brimstone. Assuming that vehicle inside the compound works, I thought we would abscond with it. That is, if you carbon-based life forms get out alive!"
Brimstone snarled and walked across the road.
As Howard and Geo piled out of the ruined grav-car, Jonn slowly removed his dissected helmet. He was again thankful for the Anceints' NFL safety standards: the thick multi-layered kevlar plating in the football helmet had slightly diffracted the deadly laser beam so that it had passed just over his scalp, instead of right through it. He rubbed his cranium gingerly, still in shock.
"Don't worry Jonn, all your hair is still there," Lamia said, climbing across Jonn's lap and out the door, being careful where she put her knee. She trotted toward Geo, who was viewing the factory from the edge of the road.
Lamia's remark reminded him of NARC's reassurance that the hot zones were not actually "hot" anymore. He whipped the plastic cards Commander Stiles had sent him. He didn't recognize two of them, but the third was definitely a radiation detector. He peeled off the protective label, and held his breath. The fate of his untainted genes rested in his hands. In a matter of minutes, the sensitive plate turned blue. He was pregnant! (Oh wait, wrong story.)
"Just as Ralph said," Jonn thought, "About as hot as liquid oxygen." He discarded the used detector and proceeded out of the car, feeling no less mortal, but with a new lease on his life.
At the grav-car's rear, Jonn forced open the trunk and started removing the party's gear. Howard waddled alongside and hopped onto the side of the trunk to help. "Lotsth of good stuffth in here, eh! Stho, whath's thop secreth thisth thime, Jonn? Albuquerque on the vergthe of disthasther again?" he queried, half-kidding, in a low squawk.
"Well, yes," Jonn replied matter-of-factly, "NARC's got me doing recon again. Listen, Dodgers, I asked you along 'cuz I can depend on you, and you know all about tech stuff, like driving grav-cars and such...."
"You're butthering me upth, Jonn. You askth me along for a jobth that paysth squath, and I end upth sthaving your hu-mann butth, and nearly getthing killedth in the procthessth. Why I puth up with you, I'll never know, Jonn!" Howard quacked, flustered. But even an outsider would see this exchange as a time-honored ritual. These two had been through enough adventures to cement their friendship and trust stronger than the molecular bonds in plasteel.
"Right-o, Dodgers. You da duck! Anyway, NARC's heard---and nobody must find out, FYI---that one of the rival anarchist gangs in New Albuquerque's got their hands on a giant supply of cheap energy and weapons somewhere here in the industrial park's 'hot' zones, which aren't hot by the way, at least not here. I just checked. NARC's worried this will cause more chaos than the city can handle. We're here to confirm or deny that rumor, so NARC can take appropriate actions," Jonn explained.
"Okay, sthoundsth sthimple enough. Whath abouth the othersth?" Howard pointed behind Jonn's back across the road toward Brimstone and Geo, and Lamia, who had just started back toward the car.
"They don't know I work for NARC. They probably wouldn't care, either, but NARC must not be fingered as having spread this rumor, so we're not telling anyone, right? NARC's neutrality is paramount. Supposedly they're here for their own reasons, though I don't know what," Jonn stated.
"And what about that Gren, eh Jonn?" Howard asked, presumptuously, pointing at Jonn's boots. "Isth sthe going to be more throuble than iths worth?" He winked at Lamia, who was approaching Jonn's blindside.
"Oh, Lamia!" Jonn sighed, stooping to wipe off his boots, "She's---"
"She's what, Jonn?" Lamia spoke suddenly from behind Jonn.
Jonn reflexively straightened, but smacked his head right into the grav-car's fender. "Ow!" he exclaimed in concert with Howard's quacks and Lamia's laughter. She had probably been standing there for some time listening in. The thought made him blush, and he wondered how much she had heard.
Well, she in fact had heard nothing, but she had appreciated the view as she approached. "Nice butt," she had thought.
Lamia gave him a seductive smile as she donned her pack. "Should we wait 'til dark or go now? It would be your call, Jonn."
Rubbing the knot on his head, Jonn responded, "I say the sooner the better." Pointing to the smoking remains of the desert scav's grav-car, he added, "We weren't the only ones on the road to Oad-Ck, and now it looks like someone else may have already beaten us here." He was referring to the black grav-car that Geo had indicated was parked inside the perimeter fence.
Jonn strapped on his pack and shouldered his trusty auto rifle as he accompanied her across the highway. "So what are you looking for in there, anyway?" he asked her, as if making small talk.
Considering Jonn's question for a moment, Lamia replied, "They may have beaten us here, Jonn, but they are still here. I'm here looking for a portable gov-laptop computer once used by the Ancients. If it's here, it should have very important information on it. Important enough that people would kill for it. You're not here looking for that too, are you Jonn?"
Jonn replied, "Hmm, Lamia, no, I'd heard a rumour that some thugs were packing heat in the area. Dodgers an' I are here to check out the excitement and perhaps get an upgrade," Jonn says, referring to his auto-rifle, which he in reality never intended to replace. "But I'll keep my eyes peeled for a laptop just the same."
"A man after my own heart! What more could I ask for," Lamia thought. She smiled at Jonn. "You never know what we will find Jonn. You might find more than an upgrade." She considered what she had just said as Geo turned to face them at the side of the road.
Before leaving the wreckage to rust on the side of the road amid the tumbleweed and desert insects, Howard scavenged any parts he thought (as only an Examiner duck) might be useful later on. After accumulating a pile twice as large as his "person," he sighed, and picked up only the few pieces that fit in his pack: a grav-car power cell, 30 feet of poly-neptic cable, and an un-opened pack of gum (juicy-juice).
"Too bad abouth the car; I was justh getting used tho the stheering controlsth!" he lamented, waddling across the highway to the rest of the party.
"The grav-car is a piece of dung," Geo stated, with a hint of exasperation, if that were possible in a robot, "and we can either stand around here the rest of the day debating what we might do or we can continue on. You people do realize we are loosing horizontal acumen!" Geo emphasized his point by lifting a finger up toward the sun. "You know Jonn, in this flat terrain it is possible we could be walking right into a mine field you know. Ha-ha-ha. I never really wanted to say that <beep-beep>. On the paved road we wouldn't have to worry about that," Geo explained.
Jonn responded, "What, you don't have a metal detector stowed away in your gadget collection, my metallic friend?" Jonn smirks, as Geo led the way down toward the factory.
"No Jonn, it was optional. If you could walk in a zig-zag pattern ahead of me it might help a little you know. It's something a party leader might want to do! Oh, and do you have plan for getting inside, other than walking straight through the front door, which was my plan?" Geo said.
Howard chimed in, "I'm not worried about mines, folksth. Why would anyone wanth to mine an old abandoned stretchth of road leading to an old abandoned facthory anyway?" With that he launched himself into the air to stretch his wings and get a duck's eye view of the road ahead and behind. He circled once or twice before making a graceful landing. Geo noted that he didn't venture high enough to show up on anyone's radar.
Stopping just about 50 yards short of the compound and the tall fence which surrounds it, the party members together eyed the factory. There was no movement within the perimeter. Disregarding the grav-car limo parked inside the fence, there was nothing else of interest. No battle pod, no dead corpses, no vehicle tracks, no bird droppings, no duck feathers, no barrels of radioactive ooze, no holy grail, no discarded shell casings, no trash, no junk, no cameras, no instruments, no grass. But any of that would've been pretty boring stuff anyway to a robot bartender on a mission.
Geo broke the silence, "There is a robot guard here somewhere, I assume we just have not alerted it to our presence."
This page updated: Mon Jan 09 14:22:20 2006
All text Copyright ©1999-2006 PBPArchives.