Six Cylinder Sunset
For some, the period of time following the Fall was all about establishing a stronghold and finding a safe place to hole up and battle the bizarre dangers of the United Wastes. This works well for many, and obviously everyone has to stop at one time or another. But for others life is constant journey, not to any destination, but always away from whatever is chasing them down. Such is the life of the Settler and the Wanderer.
These two lifestyles are symbiotic and in fact, they need one another. The Wanderer is a scout, spotting resources and monster movements and bringing fresh news and supplies into settlements. On the other hand, the Settlers stockpile goods, grow fresh food (including slaughtering fresh meat), and obviously they have the only garages and machine shops.
For Wanderers, life is a never-ending road trip. They may settle down after a while, or spend a few months working odd jobs to keep their vehicles running but in the end, most end up back on the road. Their life is a constant struggle to stay moving – movement means life. Cars, trucks, vans, motorcycles, horses or just plain old walking; the Wanderer takes many forms. But in any form he is a mixed blessing for the Settler.
Wanderers bring in new goods from the outside but, as nomads, they can be a little strange, even dangerous. In addition to news and trade, they also bring disease, weapons and another mouth to feed. Settlers are understandably cautious about letting Wanderers in, but for the Wanderer who takes the time to make good on his commerce or help out the Settler, the pleasures of civilization await him. As a result of this relationship and the need for trust on the road, some simple systems have developed.
First there is the truck stop. In the past, the gas station / diner / rest stop was the refuge of the tired and weary. Well, folks are a good deal more weary these days and the truck stop has grown to accommodate that. Anyone is welcome to stop at most of the truck stops. Almost universally a two-gate system is used when entering a ’stop. The vehicle or person enters the first gate which closes behind them. Representatives from the ’stop are then allowed to inspect the person, his vehicle and his intentions in any way they see fit. There is a kind of code here – nothing will be stolen and the test are largely just to determine that the person is, in fact, a person. This may be as simple as a Q&A or as invasive as a full cavity search, but typically it just involves some basic tests involving aura readings, crystal gazing and a simple warding. If possible, vehicles are weighed and a brief inventory of goods is taken. When the process is complete, the second gate opens and the Wanderer can enter.
Inside the truck stop, goods and services vary greatly but you can always count on a basic machine shop and food & water for trade. Some truck stops are full-service restaurants with large garages, gambling halls and bars.
Truck stops and Settlements often have totems – simple objects or signs that are issued to regulars to mark them as friendlies. Sometimes this is a secret hand motion or a tiny carved statue placed on the dashboard of a car. These are not fail-safes, but they speed up the entry process to many locations. More importantly, some stops and settlements are so exclusive that entry will not be allowed unless a totem is presented prior to inspection.
On the road, CB radio is commonly used to communicate because the radio signals do not rely on anything more than the car battery to work and they operate over very long distances. Unfortunately CB radios were going out of style when the Fall happened, so they are hard to come by. A working CB radio is rare, but with a few household instruments a makeshift radio can be crafted. Not the most reliable thing, but sometimes it’s worth straining your ear to hear another human voice on the long stretches.
Caravans can be the difference between life and death in the Wastes. When two vehicles meet on the road going the same way, the rear vehicle will make his presence known by honking the horn, flashing the lights, etc. This is a signal that the rear car sees the front car. The front car will respond with some sign of acknowledgement. As that point a hand signal is exchange – a finger is pointed up and the arm is rotated at the elbow in wide circle. If the response is echoed by the other driver the caravan is considered formed. Any other communication is usually met with hostility – there’s no harm in two cars moving down the road together but once you stop moving or reveal anything about yourself, you become a potential target of another being you have no information about.
Still, not everyone is so paranoid. Humanity is amazingly tied to tribal identity, and caravans will sometimes become quite close on journeys, trading stories and sharing food until they part company. More than one caravan has become somewhat permanent through this partnership.