Gremlin gets in his car, and George and Janus are already there. They head south to pick up Maude from the camp outside. It’s a tight squeeze, but they manage it long enough to get back to the motor pool and get Maude’s steamer trunk loaded into the van. Once Maude is heading to the north gate, Gremlin allows George the luxury of taking some pictures of the town.
Troy greets Maude at the north gate. He gives her the batteries she needs for her eyes, and tells her his plans to get the interface jack on her arm working, so it can talk to computers. She concedes that she owes him.
Everyone meets up outside the north gate. George clambers up on the roof of Gremlin’s car to take pictures of the outside of the town, while Janus stands guard on the hood of the car. After that, George insists taking one of the group, with all the vehicles in the background (except for Gremlin’s car, on which the camera has been perched).
About a half mile north of town, Gremlin calls for a meeting. He brings out his atlas and consults with Greaser and Troy, with Maude and George looking on.
Troy opens his brain, and when he looks at Greaser, he can see thick black smoke billowing out of his mouth, and his eyes are glowing red. When he looks at Gremlin, there’s no smoke, but he can see black veins standing out on his skin, and when Gremlin speaks, there’s a small amount of sooty black spittle, but it almost immediately dissipates.
Maude opens Gremlin’s trunk to show Troy her surprise: an Angel kit. Gremlin has to admit to himself that he can’t be angry at that, but advises to move the supplies to the bus. He borrows a pair of sunglasses from George.
Troy advises Greaser to make the choice to walk into the back of the bus to get treated when he stills has the capacity to do so, rather than collapsing and needing to be carried in. He asks if there are any of his crew that Greaser trusts absolutely, to be told the full extent of what’s going on, as well as to do what’s necessary if he doesn’t pull through.
Troy enlists George’s aid to assist him in setting up the bus for medical treatment. While they’re alone, Troy talks to George about the maelstrom. They own up to dabbling with it; they say they were able to call Maude back from her scouting when Gremlin got sick. George feels that they inadvertently alerted Captain to the group’s presence. Troy says not to beat themselves up about it, as Captain was looking for Maude anyway, but they need to be more careful, especially where the maelstrom is involved. George says they tried to call to Gremlin, but he couldn’t hear, possibly because of the infection. Very quietly, they also say that three of Greaser’s crew are having dreams about them, and at least one of them has thoughts of killing Greaser and taking his place (but they’re not sure which one).
Heading north past Smith, the convoy turns west. A couple of hours later, Greaser’s forward guard comes back and informs the group of what they’ve found. Off to the side of the road there’s what appears to be a crew doing some kind of ditch digging work, and a couple of miles past that there’s a hardhold that used to be a large storage facility. They decide to stop there, and arrive about mid-afternoon.
There’s a large chainlink fence around the whole place, and a large sign on a tall metal pole that says Bargain Betty’s U-Rent. Atop the sign is a crow’s nest, with a sniper perched there. At the far corner is a guard tower. Near the front of the facility there’s a large open air marketplace. Out of a building with a sign that says “Office” steps a large woman, accompanied by a bodyguard with patchy red hair, and followed by an extremely large pig. She introduces herself as Bargain Betty. Gremlin says they’re looking for a place to stay for a day or so, and they may be up for a bit of shopping. They don’t opt for renting one of the storage units to sleep in, so Betty directs them around the side to park in the dirt outside the fence. George and Janus go bounding into the marketplace, followed closely by Gremlin. Maude heads in on her own.
Greaser has a huddle with his crew, while Troy is sitting off to the side. He gives them the rundown; he got scratched during the salvage mission, and needs to hole up in the bus for a day to have Troy look after him. Dale and Andrea are in charge on the outside, and Joseph will stay in the bus to assist Troy. Troy perceives that while there is some questioning of Greaser’s judgment, no one is actively looking to make a move on Greaser’s position. The crew reluctantly accepts Greaser’s decision, and they head inside to go shopping while Troy gets Greaser situated in the bus.
Gremlin, George, and Janus are in the marketplace. They find a group of people playing music, in a style similar to a mariachi band. Gremlin takes his eye off of George for a second, and when he looks back they’ve joined the band, and is currently singing American Woman. Gremlin finds Troy and asks him to watch George, and then he goes to see Bargain Betty to ask about some quick work. She’s willing to give him 2 Barter to ferry her work crew back from where they’re digging, a couple of miles back the road. Gremlin finds Maude, gets the van keys from her, but she insists on moving her steamer trunk to the bus herself (as well as babysitting it while Gremlin is using the van).
Troy is keeping half an eye on George when he approaches a woman selling homemade ice cream to ask her about possibly purchasing some of the coolant. He is able to do so for 1 Barter.
He looks up just in time to see George disappear into one of the storage units with a curtain strung up across the front of it. He quickly follows, and is blocked by a large man with tattoos who tells him that Mother is holding a private reading. Seeing that it’s just a fortune teller, Troy agrees to wait outside. Checking out another stall that’s selling various electronics, he finds the cables that he would need to plug into Maude’s arm.
He heads back to the fortune teller’s stall and hears Janus barking, so he heads right in. The tattooed man is there with a woman and George, who is looking panicked. Janus is keeping the man and woman at bay, but the situation is tense. The tattooed man says that George owes more jingle, as they asked for more info. George claims they already paid, and they didn’t get any more info. Troy looks to smooth over the situation. He notices a broken smoke machine in the corner, which he offers to fix. At Troy’s urging, George tells Janus to stand down. Troy fixes the machine, and they get the hell out of there, just in time to see some of Greaser’s crew coming up the aisle. Troy is glad to have been able to resolve the situation his way rather than it falling to them to resolve it theirs.
[Troy will have a conversation with George on the way back to the bus next session, to be inserted here.]
Gremlin drives the van back down the road to pick up the work crew, accompanied by Betty’s man Dougie. They drive about two hours back up the road, pull off to the side, and proceed the rest of the way on foot. Dougie advises Gremlin to keep his gun handy, as there are alligators about. Fortunately, they are able to locate the work crew and get them back to the van (it’s a tight squeeze), and everyone makes it back to the storage yard by nightfall without incident (though the van gets quite a bit muddied up).
Troy heads back to the bus to find Maude still there, and Joseph chatting with Greaser. Troy sends Maude to go retrieve the coolant he’d bought from the ice cream lady, then goes to check on Greaser, who definitely has a fever.
In the middle of the night, Greaser wakes up to find that the bus has upended itself. Joseph is unconscious, and there’s no sign of Troy. He sees George pounding on one of the windows, trying to get his attention. He manages to get the back door open, and exits the bus. He looks around and sees that everything has been turned on its side, all the vehicles, all the storage units, everything tipped over. George is in a panic because they can’t find any of the rest of the group. Then everything starts tipping back again, and Greaser wakes up in the bus, drenched in sweat. Joseph is asleep, but Troy’s awake, and stands ready to examine him. Not only is Greaser is alive, but he’s come through it apparently with no ill effects. Troy opens his brain, and sees black stains all over the walls, which yield to his attentions with the rubbing alcohol. He looks at Greaser, and after the first couple of breaths, he is completely clean. Troy kicks him out, and begins the long process of disinfecting the bus to get ready for the next time someone gets infected.# ontheroad