Episode Two: Observation
What's going on?
The Neo-Vampire soldiers have set up another "rescue station" about 30 miles south, this time using the town's city hall. From here they can observe the entire little burg from the bell tower of the building, while down below Dr. Lloyd and his "paramedics" siphon the blood of the few remaining living townsfolk.
The Cast Member's loved one was brought as "emergency rations," and will be completely tapped very soon. Unfortunately for the soldiers, most of the folks in this tiny town has made The Big Change, and are therefore undrinkable. The lack of additional food sources, however, have bought the loved one a few days at most, as the Neo-Vampires must ration the blood of the loved one and two other hapless people. Of course, the Cast Members have no clue of this, unless they have the radio, and somehow glean this information from communication between soldiers.
If the Cast Members did not find the radio, it is very likely that the soldiers will flank them and capture a few of them, especially if it looks like they are observing the rescue station suspiciously and not waltzing right in looking for hot coffee and a bed. Of course, they could just walk right in, if they felt like it.
Setting the Scene
The Cast Members approach the small rural town. It really is little more than a crossroad, a main drag with all of the essential businesses (grocers, barber, variety store, and the city hall), and a small collection of houses. The entire population was less than 1,500 souls, as the sign entering the little town attests.
It also seems obvious that the majority of that same population is now in search of warm, living human flesh. The streets are clear of living activity, perhaps leading the Cast Members to believe that the rescue station has not been set up here at all. Abandoned vehicles are scattered about; one old Buick is smashed through the windows of Handy Andy's Hardware.
Over the entire town, a clock/bell tower lurks. Below the large (and now non-functioning) four-faced clock is a small chamber with ornamental bars that can be entered from below (it was a favorite goal of tourists' children at an earlier time). A sharp-eyed character making a Difficult Perception Test might see a figure standing therein. Of course, it is now likely they have been seen as well . . . and if the soldier on watch makes a Simple Perception Test (Perception 2), and the Cast Members have not approached cautiously, they will be spotted.
Tell The Story
What happens next is contingent upon the actions of the Cast Members.
If the Cast Members did not find the radio: Suspicious Cast Members are likely to approach the town cautiously, and if they move carefully (having abandoned their vehicles somewhere), then they may not be spotted. The soldiers do not patrol, but the man in the tower see them if they approach in vehicles or carelessly.
It is difficult to move about the town without attracting the hungry attention of its population. Moaning undead begin to stumble from houses and businesses if the party is not careful, and it draws a crowd in a short time.
The soldiers hear gunfire immediately if the characters use firearms to defend themselves. However, unless they are pursued by a huge mass of walking dead, soldiers are unable to locate them if the Cast Members stay out of the streets and out of plain sight.
If the Cast Members move about at night, they are actually a little safer. A clear night with a little moon is enough to see by, even if they do not use flashlights (if one has night-vision goggles, all the better!). They can move about the streets of the town with a fair amount of impunity.
Any business where all windows and doors are unbroken is probably safe, and can provide a haven for the Cast Members if they can sneak in without being noticed by either undead or the soldiers (a cruel ZM may add a surprise, but they deserve a small break if they have gotten this far). Any zombie-free business has both a rear and front entrance, along with a means to reach the roof. Upon reaching the roof, the Cast Members can conceivably move from roof to roof in relative safety, provide d the buildings are close enough to each other and they stay out of sight of the bell tower.
City hall is in the town square, a small park-like area that is circled by a street. The four main streets enter the circle like compass points, with the city hall in the center. In the parking lot are two army-issue hum-vees, a single deuce-and-a-half military truck, and a huge, silver motor home-like vehicle. Anyone with a good eye (Difficult Perception Test) or any Mechanic skill can accurately match the tires with the tracks back at the schoolhouse. Even without that, it is a pretty logical guess.
The soldiers will spot a careless group. As soon as it is obvious that they are snooping instead of running towards help, a squad of five soldiers is sent out to "invite" t hem in. They attempt to sneak up behind the characters, eventually putting the barrel of their guns against the back of the skull of the first character they come to. The character hears a clear "click" and the cold barrel against the nape of his or her neck. The soldiers are interested only in capture (t heir food is not any good cold and dead), so whoever is captured has a good immediate chance of short-term survival if they do not get too uppity. Captured characters are knocked out ASAP with Dr. Lloyd's Knockout Drug, waking up sometime later strapped to a bed with an IV in their arm . . .
If the Cast Members did find the radio: The radio has a 12-hour battery and a 2-mile range. If they turn it on, they begin to hear sporadic transmission as they approach the town. Most communication consists of things like "Hughes here. All clear. Over." These transmissions happen every 15 minutes, with a new voice coming in every two hours on the hour.
If at any time the group is careless enough to be spotted, they hear something like "Two vehicles coming in from the north. Two pickups and a little Honda car. See five people for sure, maybe more. Dinner time, gents!" In other words, the person describes the Cast Members' vehicles and any other details that may be picked up from a distance. What they make of "Dinner time!" is up to them.
Another voice will answer, one they have not heard before. "Lloyd here. Harris, get two men out front. Boroughs and Smitty, they're the best looking. Get those people inside, stat. Our current supply is running low. Move, you grunts!"
"Copy, Dr. Lloyd. You heard the man. Boroughs and Smitty, outside. Polish up your pearly whites, boys, its showtime!" This voice has replied to all transmissions. A commander?
Boroughs and Smitty copy, and there is radio silence for a while. If the Cast Members are wise and hide themselves, then they hear something like this after about 15 minutes:
"Boroughs. Smitty. Status." The voice is that of Harris.
"I dunno, Sargent. No one yet. Want us to hunt for 'em?"
There is a small pause. "Affirmative. Andersen, Nimek, Sullivan. Out front. Join Boroughs and Smitty. Remember the drill boys, and we want 'em alive. Everyone needs to get two full hypos."
Uh oh . . .
It should be easy for the Cast Members to evade any group of men, considering they can hear all of their transmissions -- "Nimek here. We're next to Handy Andy's. Nothin'." As long as they play it smart, they should be fine.
The characters can choose to attack, but they still do not know what has happened to their loved one. Then again, they did hear something about supplies running low . . .
As stated before, four vehicles are parked in front of the city hall -- two hummers, an army truck, and a big, silver motor home (a military person recognizes it as a field lab). There is always at least a single man in the bell tower, sometimes two.
Like in many small towns in this not-so-Brave New World, a number of undead stumble about (avoiding them is part of the joy of everyday life). What is confusing, though, is that no congregation of hungry zombies are trying to claw their way in to the fresh meat ensconced in city hall. This is very odd. To bring the point home, have two soldiers leave the city hall and head towards one of the hummers. Not five feet from them is the reanimated corpse of an old woman. The two men walk right by her and she stumbles along on her way. She does not so much as look in their direction. Hmmm.
City hall is a two-story building with a basement and the oft-mentioned bell tower. The first floor is filled with tourist information centers, a tiny museum, and public offices for building and burning permits, marriage licenses, and the like. The central part of the building is open through both floors, with a spiral staircase giving access to the tower room. The second floor contains a meeting room, the offices of the (late) mayor, and such. The spiral staircase to the clock tower is accessible from this level as well. The basement contains record storage, a boiler room, and the like. The building is over a century old and was the pride of the community.
The tower room has a 5' wide opening in the floor through which the stairs come, protected by an ornamental fence. The walkway is a mere 3' wide and is open to the outside. The entrance was traditionally blocked off du ring the winter months and during heavy weather. It is now open regardless of the season. A locked trap door to allows access to the clock. Any soldier stationed in the bell tower will have night-vision goggles and a sniper rifle in addition to their regular equipment.
The largest space is the meeting room on the second floor. Dr. Lloyd has set up his blood "donation" station there (it is out of the range of the Life Detection of the undead, keeping them from clustering outside and becoming a nuisance as they try to get in for a snack). Currently strapped to tables and doped to the gills are the Cast Member's loved one and two other folks. Dr. Lloyd spends much of his time in this area, along with at least two other soldiers who act as assistants.
The soldiers have pulled the machine guns out of the hummers and set them up on a tripod in the mayor's office and in the main "hospital" room. They can be moved by one of the men to any window on the second floor in a matter of minutes. These weapons are used only as a last resort; such as if the characters unwisely stage a full frontal assault on the city hall.
The Army Rigs
All four vehicles are locked. The lab vehicle requires a 4-digit code in addition to an electronic key (found on Dr. Lloyd) to gain entry.
All four vehicles have about 75% full tanks, with two full five-gallon jerry cans strapped to each. As noted before, the machine guns have been removed from both hummers (they are upstairs). Stats for the hummers and t he deuce can be found on pp. 140-141 of the AFMBE rulebook.
Dr. Lloyd developed the anti-zombie serum in the lab vehicle. If the characters gain entrance (getting past the electronic lock without Dr. Lloyd's code requires a Heroic (-9) Lockpicking/Intelligence Task and take at least 30 minutes' w ork). The door itself is armored (AV 30, DC 100). The driver's area and the lab are separate compartments, so breaking through the glass of the cab of the vehicle does no good. If the Cast Members attempt to break in without taking precautions, either by force or by using an incorrect entrance code, all computer files self-destruct and a LOUD alarm goes off!
Inside the lab portion of the vehicle is a powerful computer with all files relevant to the serum (of course, a Ph.D. in virology and genetics is needed to understand these files), an isolation chamber (human-sized), and a lot of other medical research equipment, including a small radiograph/x-ray, an incubator, refrigerator, and an operating table. Most of it is useless to the everyday Joe, but a lot of drugs (painkillers, antibiotics, and the like) and surgical equipment are laying about that would be priceless to a trained medic. To put it simply, the hi-tech interior of the mobile lab looks like something out of an X-Files episode, and could be quite useful to the right person.
In the refrigerator are three doses of the anti-zombie s erum, labeled AU-64522 (series 3). This is mixed up with other drugs that also require refrigeration, and may escape notice unless the characters can access the computer without trashing the hard drive, where AU-64522 (series 3) has a huge file along with AU-64522 (series 1), and AU-64522 (series 2).
Hacking into computer (assuming that the hard drive is not toast) requires a Heroic (-9) Hacking/Intelligence Task to get past the ultra-top-secret protective countermeasures and access the files. If the hacker fails in her attempt, the hard drive self-destructs.
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