After a bumpy ride over the poorly maintained pavement, the group arrived in Ruthton, taking note of the disturbing greeting sign, a naked rotted corpse nailed to the stop sign entering town, a poorly scrawled sign underneath it proclaiming “Looter” in blue spray paint, barely visible in the headlights illumination.
Gunning the engine to hurry past it and spare Tommy a clear view of the horrific sight the group arrived in the center of town minutes later, noticing several of the buildings had oil lamps and candles burning within. (Making the group immediately on edge given their last encounter with candle wielding people.)
While briefly debating whether or not to turn back or search for a suitable place to spend the night they noticed a man in his late sixties wearing a dark brown trench coat and carrying a M4 Carbine stepped out of a near by house, walking towards the bronco smiling, and yelling out "Did ya find anythin?”
Riley rolled down his window to ask him what he was talking about only to have the mans expression change from a welcoming greeting to one of confusion and anger upon catching sight of him, the armed man pointed his rifle at Riley and demanded to know “Where are Antonio and Jeffrey?
Riley hastily explained he had no idea who Antonio and Jeffrey are but he had a injured game warden from a boat crash in need of medical care in the back of the truck, the rest of his explanation drowned out by the old man putting a life guard whistle to his lips and blowing loudly, then yelling at Riley to “Stay put and keep yer hands in view, others will be here in a bit see if yer telling the truth!”
Moments later the group found themselves surrounded by a dozen people carrying a mixture of military assault rifles and pump shotguns, most of their weapons sporting a flashlight under the barrel. A tense few minutes passed while the edgy townsfolk quickly carried the unconscious man off to their clinic and the group explained in full what happened from the moment of their plane crash up to their arrival in town.
Upon finishing their tale the old man apologized for his suspicion, mentioning the town has had trouble with a band of prisoners that escaped from Tecumseh State Correctional Institution back during the initial outbreak.
Holding up a hand to forestall any further inquires he invited them back to his house across the road, promising them a warm meal and safe place to spend the night as a way of saying thanks for saving Antonio’s life.
Hesitant but too tired to argue the group agreed and was showed inside, finding the house to be lit by a mixture oil lanterns and candles, an open crate of military rations scattered across the dining room table. Puzzled by the lack of electricity when the recreation area near the lake was fully powered Rachel voiced her inquiry while the rest of the group helped themselves to the rations, Riley commenting how it reminded him of life back in the army.
Over dinner they found out from the older man, (who introduced himself as Jacob, the town Mayor) that the town actually used to have power up until a month or so ago. About that time the group of about 50 or so prisoners turned bandits, being led by a man called “Fist” (and his followers going by the name of “Fists of Fury”) took control of the near by hydro electric plant and attempted to ransom the power to the town. When their demands included not only several trucks full of food and some of the towns ammunition, but also free treatment at their medical clinic, the town refused and power was promptly cut; following an unsuccessful attempt by the bandits to besiege the town.
Grateful they hadn’t encountered any of the bandits after their plane crash, the group thanked Jacob for his hospitality and retired to a set of guest rooms upstairs, meeting up in a single room after Tommy and the dogs were put to bed. A lengthy and quiet discussion then followed, Riley mentioning how an organized force of a dozen could easily take out fifty disorganized men provided they had the supplies, and that perhaps they could work out an agreement to help the few dozen towns folk with a precision strike to retake the dam in return for supplies and a running vehicle.
Jessy and Jamie were immediately against the idea, Jessy worried about who would look after Tommy if something were to happen to him, and Jamie not wishing to be a widow and raise their child all alone. Renee and Heather both were unsure of the concept, pointing out Riley and Jessy’s injuries would make any type of assault much harder, especially without body armor or decent medical facilities if someone got shot. Heather suggested instead trading some of her recently acquired strays for supplies and simply borrowing an unused vehicle on the outskirts of town.
In the end Renee suggested a more subtle solution, giving the bandits just what they want, a nice large supply of ammo, food and even a generous supply of hard liquor. One small catch however, the hard alcohol would be laced with rat poison. Then the next morning after the delivery they could head in and clean out any survivors with ease. After pausing to consider her plan and a little shocked at her ruthlessness they all agreed.
(As Gm I was expecting some sort of commando approach solution or maybe Riley training up a local militia and luring the convicts into an ambush when they came to collect the offered supplies or them to just refuse and go on their way. Yet another shining example of when you plan for players to go route A, B, or C, they’ll take X instead. I could have made the township balk and her plan or otherwise railroad them into a different approach, but instead I ran with it and improvised which turned out to work great.)
The next morning the group brought up their offer to help the town with its problems to Jacob. In return Jacob promised them all the ammo they could carry and one of the towns four military supply trucks they had acquired from a Army/Air National Guard base in Ogallala back when everything went to hell. (Barely a 30 minute drive from Ruthton)
Finding the offer too good to turn down they explained their plan to Jacob, who was hesitant and a bit appalled at the approach but agreed, if a few small problems could be overcome. Unfortunately the town was too small to host a liquor store, so any quantity of hard alcohol and the rat poison to go with it would be hard to come by, which meant someone would need to take one or more of military trucks and go scavenge a large quantity.
As for the rat poison, everyone was clueless where to acquire it in sufficient quantity. About that time Jamie helpfully pointed out that the rat poison would be cloudy when mixed with the booze cluing the bandits in things weren’t legit so they needed a new poison anyway.
After considering various chemicals from Draino to plant fertilizer, Renee, (with a successful chemistry skill roll) came up with the idea to use rubbing alcohol, citing that on the off chance it wasn't fatal it would cause blindness and enough internal bleeding to make the bandits relatively helpless the next morning. Also the burning sensation would mix with the hard booze enough to be indistinguishable from it at first.
After a moment of silence while everyone pondered the implication of her plan, and just how a movie actress knew such a thing the group unanimously agreed. (Unknown to the others Renee starred as a forensic analyst in a CSI themed TV series a couple years before hand and had picked up a lot of second hand knowledge.)
A short discussion later and the group decided it would be best if Jamie and Tommy stayed behind in the town with Jacob while they procured the necessary liquor and rubbing alcohol, both to keep them out of danger, and to put the mayors’ mind at ease they weren’t simply running off with their trucks and supplies. While hesitant at first, Jamie agreed it would be the best course of section and relished the idea of a real bed to sleep in for a few days. Tommy initially refused to leave his uncle’s side, but was swayed by Jacobs’s promise of unlimited access to the towns’ comic book shop and Jessy’s insistence someone needed to stick around and keep Jamie company.
After consulting an atlas and phone book the group settled on two locations for their supply run. Realizing nearly every liquor store known likely had already been looted by alcoholics and people in need of fuel/disinfectants they decided to head to Cooper’s Chase Distillery in West Point, Nebraska, about 350 miles away, a good 6 hour drive under normal conditions, and now closer to 20 plus. Along the way they planned to stop at United Supplier in Gibbon, Nebraska, listed as a medical supplier Riley was confident they could acquire enough rubbing alcohol for their needs there. In a further revision they decided to hit the distillery first, and then acquire the rubbing alcohol on their return trip, lessening the weight inside the trucks and halving the transport distance of the rubbing alcohol itself.
After gathering their gear (and a few new pieces of equipment Riley sweet talked the town into parting with) and replenishing their ammo and food stores, (and Jessy his supply of Cigars) the group departed east in two supply trucks, Riley and Jessy in the first, with Heather and Renee taking the second following close behind.
* * * * *
Will the road trip prove as successful as the group hopes? Will Jamie and Tommy remain safe within the township? Will Jessy’s love for smoking prove hazardous in the soon to be flammable environment? Find out in the next adventure synopsis #15!