Thursday night is coming soon!
[Including JD’s superb mission setup, this is the combined “novelized” pre-game roleplay thread that the players in the Exterminators adventure have created in our run-up to the game. I am posting it on behalf of @JDH, @KaneDriscol, and @xwingplayer, who collaborated with me in its creation, to share with the forum as an additional example of the wonderful sorts of roleplaying scenarios that can be constructed from JD’s fantastic The Waste is Not Kind post-apocalyptic setting supplement for ICRPG. I wish to express thanks to my colleagues, and I hope this compilation does their respective contributions justice. Game on…]
Sitting in a rusted-out, old oil drum cut with an acetylene torch and hammered into the shape of a makeshift throne, Mitch is relaxing, accepting “tribute”—mostly stolen food, old porn magazines, and wheel-balancing weights made of lead that might be worth casting into bullets—from a gaggle of the Town’s displaced urchins, young kids he has taken under his wing to tutor in the ways of wasteland survival and criminal mischief. One of the boys, dirty, with more fingers than teeth, drops two fresh carrots and a dog-eared issue of Mutants Gone Wild! on the ground at Mitch’s feet, kicking up a small cloud of dust that has no meaningful effect on the state of the Boomer’s grungy, tattered hi-tops. Mitch scratches the bare skin on his head to one side of his tall mohawk quizzically as he ponders the fresh, seemingly edible vegetables.
“Mayor wants to see you,” says the kid, nodding respectfully. “Says he’s got a job…”
Minutes later, Mitch is in a line to enter the fenced enclosure around Town Hall. The two guards outside scowl and eye the Boomer suspiciously, and one shakes the tip of his machete at him, admonishing him to avoid causing trouble inside as he walks though the gate, but they allow him entry. They allow everyone entry. Mitch hasn’t seen this many people in one place not having a brawl in a very long time…
The Mayor appears in front of the assembly, ascends a staggered stack of pallets, and stands on top of a large crate. He breathes deeply, grips the lapels of his jacket in an attempt to appear earnest, and starts to talk…
“Our town of Digger’s Pit has been surrounded by the Roach menace… A few brave souls will be given the best of what’s left of our supplies and equipment and charged with getting to the heart of the bug hive and ending the threat. If you fail, the Waste will fall…”
Mitch hates the Roaches. He tries not to show it, but they terrify him. The only thing he hates more than the Roaches is the Train, because one time, in the Waste…
Mitch snaps back to his senses and is shocked to realize that he has somehow foolishly raised his hand to go on the Mayor’s suicide mission.
“One brave soul has volunteered from among our own. There’s equipment for two more… Who will join him?”
A desperado in a dusty poncho, who Mitch doesn’t recognize, steps forward and rasps out loud from under the wide brim of his well-worn hat. “Count me in. This sounds like fun!”
The Mayor nods solemnly then addresses the crowd. “Another soul joins the fight. We can equip one more to journey to the hive. Who will stand with these brave men?”
One more hand goes up in the back of the crowd, steel-nerved and unflinching, emerging from a sleeve of worn black leather, as Mitch strains to see over his shoulder over the heads of the townies behind him. He does a double-take. Did that hand have blades in it?! On it?! At least this third individual is no regular townie. This one seems to have some guts.
“Sir?” Mitch’s use of honorifics is dripping with audible sarcasm. “Is this going to be a stand-up fight or another bug hunt?”
“Both, smartass,” retorts the Mayor sharply. He regains his composure before the crowd and continues. “Fail in your mission, and this could be the last bug hunt…for all of us…”
The Boomer smiles sheepishly, scratches his head beside the ruff of his mohawk, and stands satisfied with the clarification…
Several minutes later, Mitch is back in his shack, sitting on his throne, eating a dirty carrot and carefully peeling apart the suspiciously laminated pages of Mutants Gone Wild!
Two of the kids scramble in the door. “Somebody’s coming…”
The Duster in the hat walks through the doorway, with the other brave volunteer a pace behind, an imposing man in a leather jacket with no shoes, just some kind of muslin wraps on his feet. He is the man with the hand-blades. A Maniac from the Waste.
“T’sup, my dudes. Welcome. Name’s Mitch the Merciless, Baron of the Bunghole Back Alleys of Digger’s Pit. Looks like we’re going to be a crew…” Mitch pauses at the sound of approaching footsteps, a quick staccato on the hard pan dirt outside the door to the shack.
The Town’s doctor, a nervous, mild-mannered man but a skilled medic of som renown, hurries through the doorway, head down and arms full. He brings the team his pack of triage supplies and some brief instructions. He wishes everyone the best of luck and rushes off to pack…
“Well, sh*t, thanks, Doc!” Mitch hollers after him, a wry smile on his lips. He turns to his compatriots. “I didn’t even know he cared…”
“Who’s to say he cares? He just wants those damn Roaches gone like the rest of us. Doesn’t want to see us blow the whole town’s ammo supply for nothing. Anyway, we can use all the help we can get…” The big Maniac in black leather pauses for a beat. “Name’s Siko. Like “psycho”…but, you know: S-I-K-O.”
“Gotcha…” Mitch quirks an eyebrow at the unsettling biker. “Nice to see your parents went with the traditional spelling…” He lets his eyes roll playfully.
The black leather Maniac jerks his thumb in the direction of the mysterious Duster. “This is Vegas.”
Mitch nods at the desperado in the hat and goggles and picks up the components of the trauma care kit and wraps them up in a wide pressure bandage; then he hands Vegas the life-saving bundle. “Here you go, my dude… You look like the smart, silent type. I hope you aren’t squeamish, because I think you’re going to be the one in charge of patching us up.”
The man in the poncho accepts the trauma supplies and secrets them away as Mitch turns his attention back to the Maniac.
“Siko’s just what people call me… You got a name?”
“Like I said, the name is Mitch. The J is silent.”
"Sorry, I didn’t catch that. Nice digs you got here. I see you’re a veteran roach slayer…” Siko gestures at Mitches armored chest protector, a makeshift cuirass cobbled together from the oily black chitin harvested from various pieces of Roach exoskeleton. “I guess we’ve got a shot then…”
The Maniac’s irony and reasonable doubt are not lost on Mitch. Still, he sits up and brightens a bit. “Just a little levity, my dude—no offense taken, no offense intended—and thank you. I hate the bugs. I really do. You look like you can handle yourself pretty well. Mind if I ask you about that pitchfork?” Mitch gestures toward Siko’s hand-blades.
Siko ruffles around in his bag for some time before pulling out an old tattered comic book, which he throws down on the table. "Pure adamantine, these,” he says laughing. The claws are a bit rusty and look exceedingly “DIY”.
Mitch glances at the cover of the comic book; a strange character wields similar claws against his foes, and Siko’s inspiration for his own signature weapon becomes apparent. The Boomer picks up the comic book with some interest after taking in the cover art and leafing through the pages to see the hand-blades in action.
Comic books are not Mitch’s forte. Because they are not porn mags. Except for the ones that are.
Mitch hands the comic book back to Siko. Getting a better look at him now, he sizes the man up. Mostly hidden under the collar of the big biker’s leather jacket and ripped T-shirt, a polished silver locket on a delicate chain peeks out; someone’s name is engraved upon it—too finely for Mitch to read—so he decides not to pry into Siko’s business and changes the subject.
“Let me ask you something, my dude… Out there, killing bugs in the Waste, by chance…have you ever come across any…” Mitch pauses for a beat, and when he continues, his tone and expression are suddenly sober. “Snack cakes?”
“Snack cakes? From the Waste? I’d have to be truly psycho to eat anything like that. If it’s not CalCo then no thanks, bro.”
Mitch laughs nervously and then recovers his confident smile. “Yeah. Yeah, you would. Forget I mentioned it…”
"Truth be told though, I’m not an experienced bug hunter like you. I haven’t ventured out from the Pit in ages. So I’ll be following your lead out there, Silent J.”
The creaky plank door of the shack suddenly spills hazy daylight into its dim interior, and the Mayor rushes in breathless, a big, olive green tube carried on one shoulder by a webbing sling. “Outwatch says the damn bugs are on the move and headed this way. You have to go now and draw their attention if we have any chance of getting away.” He unslings the tube and hands it over, a Valkyrie rocket launcher—with one shot left. “I don’t know if there’s a Roach queen or just some damned taproot you can cut, but be sure this rocket is the last thing at least one of those bastards sees. Good luck to you. Here are the keys to Bertha, talk to Sticks in the garage and he’ll get you set.” With a jingle and a tense swing of the Mayor’s hand, a pair of silver vehicle keys sparkle in mid-air for a moment before they land on the cover of Mutants Gone Wild! “Now GO! And if by some chance in hell you make it out, meet us in CrossTown.” Without awaiting reply, the Mayor spins on his heel, bursts back out the shack’s door, and runs into the town, shouting orders as he goes and waving out departing cars in the first evacuation convoy.
Mitch stands, grabs the rest of his minimal gear and shoves a short coil of steel cable, two carabiners, a pair of fireproof welding gloves, some duct tape, and the other dirty carrot into the various pockets of his cargo pants. He looks up at the biker and the Duster. “One of you boys want to grab that smoke wagon? Then the other can take the keys and drive the rig…” He raises his pistol-grip pump with one hand on the forearm and gravity racks it, then tosses it into the air, catching it by the bird’s head. “I’ve got ‘shotgun’…” Like a gestural rimshot, Mitch smartly tops off the gat’s magazine tube with his last shell and holsters the scattergun in his back scabbard.
“I’ll take those keys.” Vegas reaches out to snatch them and leaves the hand held rocket behind. “That’s a little too loud for me, and besides, things that go ‘boom’ work out better in the hands of Boomers and Maniacs."
Siko looks at the Valkyrie with an excited grin. “This thing’s my style!" He slings it over his shoulder—a little too carelessly—and turns toward the door of the shack.
With a few coarse words and a gentle shove with the sole of his sneaker, Mitch kicks the last of the urchins out of his shack and latches the rickety door with a rusty combination padlock as he exits with Siko and Vegas, who are already en route to the Digger’s Pit motor pool in search of the town mechanic, the Rev Head known as Sticks.
“And so, they were off!”
Vegas takes the lead to the garage, where the team meets Sticks, the Town’s mechanic.
Greasy and missing half his hair, Sticks has kept the rigs in Digger’s Pit going longer than anyone ever thought possible. The Rev Head is gathering his precious tools and seems on the edge of panic like the rest of town. Seeing the men approach, he simply looks up and shrugs. “Sorry, shop’s closed on account of doom and such…so hopefully your ride can limp you out of town…”
“I won’t take your time,” Vegas counters, “but the Mayor sent me to pick up a ride, not have one fixed." He holds up the keys. “Which car goes with these?”
Sticks perks up, and then gives a curt laugh. “Mayor didn’t want you leading the pack out of here, eh? Ever hear how you don’t have to outrun the bear? Just got to outrun your friends! At least he gave you some wheels…” The mechanic turns and rips a tarp off a huge hulk in the back of the garage…
“We built Bertha here to get debris out of the way.” Sticks sniffs the tank and taps it, listening to the sound. “Yep, she’s got fuel enough for now, better get going, you will need the head start!”
Clearly not built for speed, the raw metal semi has tire chains and a huge dozer plow on the front.
Mitch sees the semi and has no need for additional urging; he scrambles around the opposite side and climbs in the passenger seat, shotgun on his lap. He glances back down at the mechanic. Sticks seems clearly puzzled.
“Road’s clear to Cross Town. Not sure what what Mayor’s got in mind with this, but he knows his business, so I’ll leave that to him. Well, gents, don’t know if there’s anything else you or the Mayor are needing, but if that’s all, I’ll take my leave…” The Rev Head turns to finish packing a surprisingly pristine motorcycle replete with a large toolbox sidecar.
“You wouldn’t be able to part with spare a blowtorch, would you, buddy?” asks Mitch. “Just a hand cutter. Doesn’t even have to be full of gas.”
“Or a couple screws and metal rods?” Vegas adds.
“Well there’s some scrap in the back. Some metal and screws are bound to be in the pile, but sorry, son, can’t spare a blowtorch. Those markets in Cross Town are viscous. Gonna need all the supplies I can to get going again.”
“Understood, my man.” Mitch offers Sticks an oddly cheerful salute. He opens the door to the rig and jumps back down to join Vegas. “I’ll give you a hand searching, my dusty dude. Maybe I’ll find something back there that burns or goes boom…”
“Well, driver’s seat and shotgun are taken. Guess I’m riding on the back. No point keeping this bad boy contained…” Siko slaps the side of Valkyrie launcher and surveys the precarious area of the fifth wheel linkage at the back of the semi and climbs aboard. “Let me know if you find any straps back there!” Siko yells toward Vegas and Mitch from atop Bertha’s cab, where he stands looking for a good place to hold on…
At the back of the shop, Mitch begins to sift through the junk pile, and its name proves accurate—just jagged pieces, bits, and bobs, rusted and tossed aside for possible (albeit unlikely) future use. After some hasty searching, Mitch finds nothing really valuable, but he dispel scavenge a couple of old but serviceable ratcheting load tie-downs. He tosses the straps in a messy bundle to Siko. “Your seatbelt, sir.” Then he finds an old metal oil can, dented and rusty, with a screw top; he dons his welder’s gloves and fills it full of sharp, jagged pieces of junk metal harvested from the floor of the shop. You never know when a tidy supply of shrapnel might come in handy. The Boomer drops the bulky can into one of his capacious cargo pockets and turns toward Bertha. Echoing across the vacant shop, Siko and Vegas hear Mitch clearly, as an unsettling rattle issues from his pocket with each step back toward the truck.
At the other end of the trash heap, after watching Mitch scrounge for whatever he can find, Vegas takes a more selective approach, seeking out any straight metal rods comparable to arrows. He knows in a pinch a metal rod can be thrown by a bow or be pressed into service to reinforce a splintered shaft. After a bit of rummaging, Vegas finds two good metal rods and some screws in poor condition, but intact all the same. He too returns to the truck with his treasures…
A dark cloud of black diesel smoke envelops the rafters of the motor pool as the semi’s engine rumbles to life. As Vegas edges Bertha out from the shade of the shop into the orange haze of afternoon in the Waste, the roar of the last townies leaving in their rigs and the steady thrum of Stick’s motorcycle are finally fading with distance across the open landscape. From the opposite direction, the still-distant ambient chitter of approaching bugs begins to take over the soundscape in Digger’s Pit.
The team realizes they don’t have much time.
Inside the cab of the truck, Mitch bangs thrice on the headliner.
Siko, perched and tethered on the roof, thumps back three times with his fist.
Vegas steps on the gas, urging Bertha to belch exhaust from her twin stacks. “Hmm… well, do you think those folks are coming back for their town?"
“Maybe?” Mitch shrugs at Vegas as they both squint against the brightness. Suddenly, the Boomer gestures out the windscreen. “Maybe they’re coming back for…them!”
As the semi rounds a corner and turns toward the main gate, both men are surprised to see stragglers—women, children, and even some of Mitch’s urchins—still bustling through the streets. Some are loading ramshackle bikes and handcarts. Others are looting the scraps of the few things of value left behind by those already departed. Still others are desperately attempting to get their loaded motor vehicles running, fueled, and roadworthy. Some are just wandering and weeping, convinced the end is near with no hope of escape. Their screams of panic and other sounds of their despair begin to spread through the streets of Digger’s Pit.
The pitiable sight is enough to make all three men pause and feel a tightness in their chests.
Hiding his nervousness, Mitch is the first to snap out of it. He begins to root around his side of the cab, searching the glove box and the cup holders, and when he flips down the sun visor, a rolled-up porn mag drops squarely into his lap on top of the shotgun. “Well… At least they paid in advance. Besides…” From the passenger seat, he makes jazz hands and grins. “It’s showtime!”
As the chittering whine of a Roach hunting roach swarm creeps into Bertha’s cab over the rumble of her engine, the team realizes they need to lead the bugs away. They know the location of the hive well; it was discovered at the mine down in Devil’s Gulch. They all know the road; there is one way in, one way out.
Vegas revs the engine, and with a vroom! the semi accelerates. “Time to go.” At the wheel, the savvy Duster works his way through the winding canyons.
Every little movement out the window is a cause for alarm—it seems too quiet, the stillness when the storm is about to break. The chug of Bertha’s engine echos on the walls. There is only so much preparation you the team can do, so an anxiety-inducing lull sets in as they hear the crunch of high desert dirt beneath the ten massive tires. The semi passes by the burned-out husks of old vehicles, their metal frames gouged with the traces of talons and chitinous blades…
Looking around at the sad state of things, Vegas continues to plod along, trying not to push the rig too much until absolutely necessary. “Man, do I hate bugs.”
Mitch nods in firm agreement with the Duster as he surveys the arid badlands around them, vigilant for signs of ambush or resistance.
“Anything useful stowed away in here, or did that panicked mechanic take everything?” Vegas asks.
Mitch watches as Vegas roots around on his side of the cab with one hand as he drives the rig with the other. “Hey, my begoggled friend, eyes on the—“ The Boomer looks out the front window at the dusty patch in the middle of the canyon that doesn’t deserve the dignity of being called a “road”; he shrugs. “Nah…you’ve got this.” Besides, there wasn’t much to hit out here anyway. Mitch gives his side of the cab another once-over. “Ol’ Sticks was pretty thorough… Must be a good mechanic. But I’ll keep looking…” He pivots and looks behind his seat. As he continues to dig, he finds something, a small can of thick, flammable, waterproof grease, mostly full; the sides of the can are slick with leakage and residue. “We have some lubrication/Sterno…”
“I can’t believe that ol’ Sticks has kept a big rig like this going all this time. So many parts must have been dumped into this things that probably could have been used elsewhere, you know? Glad it’s working though.”
“Me too.” Mitch cranks down the window on his side. The air outside is warm from the waning orange sun’s heat coming off the sand and stone, and a fine dust is carried on the breeze outside—along with the haunting and constant chittering noise that echoes off the rock walls of the canyon. Now it is really showtime… He hollers out the window over the engine’s deep thrum. “You OK up there, Siko?”
Siko hangs on tight at the back of the rig as it rolls through the canyon. Each bump makes his knees buckle a little, and his shades are only so effective at keeping the dust out of his eyes. "Yeah I’m doing great,” he says in a loud whisper. "How far out is this bug nest? Tell Vegas not to turn too sharp. It’s bumpier than you’d think up here…”
“I’m pretty sure we’re basically already in the bugs’ nest, my dude. Just not all the way in… Won’t be long… Head on a swivel, bro.” He motions to the Duster with one hand to ease back on the throttle as they enter dangerous territory.
Siko adjusts his straps, worn and jerry-rigged, where they connect to the vehicle; he gives them a test pull, and they seem to be holding OK for now. He loosens his white-knuckle grip a bit and tries to pivot, scanning the eerie surroundings…
The ominous sound of the Roaches grows louder…