DarkMatter D20: Drunk Southern Girls with Guns ... UPDATED - 8/18/05!

What would you like to see in the DarkMatter campaign?

  • Cthulhu, baby

    Votes: 66 23.7%
  • More anal probing!

    Votes: 66 23.7%
  • Rather less anal probing, thank you.

    Votes: 33 11.9%
  • Deeper Conspiracy theory stuff

    Votes: 84 30.2%
  • More traditional monster/horror tone

    Votes: 29 10.4%


First Post
Finally dug up the activation code and rejoined the forums. As we're once again taking a one-night foray into Dark*Matter Monday night, I was inspired to start updating again.

I'll begin by reposting the original chapters, one ever couple days, to sort of ease in and give me some time to work up the new stuff. The Dark*Matter D20 system is now a cobbled together Alternity conversion with a fine overlay of the d20 Modern preview in the last Polyhedron, with some cooler stuff lifted from the Pulp adaptation the issue before.

Now, cast your memories back, baaaack ...
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First Post
Like I don't have enough work ... recently for a break I ran my D&D group through the Alternity Dark*Matter intro adventure. They loved it -- and well they should, it's possibly one of the best written expansions ever.

I hacked together a rough d20 conversion and now have done the second adventure in the book and two originals. The tone of play in these adventures has been great -- in particular due to one specific character generation choice I made early on, which we'll deal with in the storyline.

I figure a change of pace might be enjoyable. Two warnings: there are spoilers in here for those who wish to use the adventures in the Dark*Matter sourcebook. And second: things get very weird -- and VERY horror oriented. Nothing you wouldn't see on a particularly intense episode of X-Files, but I'm throwing up the flag now.

I'm just going to launch into the story without any explanation of what Dark*Matter is. They didn't know, and if you don't know hopefully you'll enjoy finding out with them. DM comments will be in parentheses and italics.

Hope you enjoy.



First Post
EXIT 23 -- Pt. 1
Andy slogged through the knee deep snow, grateful he'd found the rest-stop off ramp before his car had quit completely. He hadn't seen another off ramp on this stretch of Oregon highway for half an hour.

Exit 23 had a small rest area with a parking lot and a combination food court/gas station. The bright lights of the gas station glittered in the thick snow, set against a velvet black sky. Andy had to walk with his head down to keep from being blinded by the blowing snow.

He stepped through the double glass doors into a small foyer area, shook the snow from his hair. The storm had thundered in out of nowhere, just before nine at night. By nine-fifteen he was in a white-out. Now, at ten, three foot drifts of snow blocked the highway.

Once past the two payphones, Andy looked around, got the layout of the place. It was rectangular, and he was entering through the doors on the long south side. The foyer led into a little information area with a counter. Sodden "VISIT BEAUTIFUL KLAMATH FALLS" pamphlets littered the floor. To his right were the doors to the McDonald's, dark and shut tight. To his left a corridor with restroom signs and glowing lights at the end. Dead ahead, two glass doors. One to the gas station, the other to a coffee shop. The flourescent lights were on in the coffee shop, frizzing wildly. He stepped in.

"Well, Lordy, didn't think anybody else would get through THAT." The heavyset counterwoman, Mabel, set out a coffe cup without asking. "This'll be one for the books."

"A COMIC BOOK CONVENTION of all things ..." Andy turned saw a couple having a "discussion" at a nearby table.

Johanna was shaking her head, but smiling tolerantly. Her shoulder-length dark hair was wet from the snow. Her thin frame disappeared in an oversized parka. Her boyfriend, Ross, was over six-feet of half-back Texan who spoke with an oddly academic lilt. He was trying to convince her that a Marvel Team-Up #3 was worth the drive up from LA.

Andy shrugged off his jacket, revealing a fair number of tattoos on his arms. Mabel looked at those, his short, bleached blonde hair and her face shifted to "damn weirdo" mode. She grumbled as she poured his coffee. Andy did what he always did -- pissed her off by smiling at her.

A guy about his age on the next stool, Stephen, peered over his wire rims. "A little while ago she asked me 'why I was reading'. Not 'what'. Why."

Andy chuckled, extended his hand. "Andy. Was driving across country to LA, took the Northern route, was heading down."

"Stephen. Was visiting my brother in San Francisco, wanted to see Crater Lake."

"It's a lake. In a crater."

"Now you tell me." Stephen gestured to the half-dozen other people in the coffee shop. Two truckers, an Indian teenage boy with the gas station logo on his shirt, a cheerleader type girl he was chatting up. "There's a state trooper around here someplace --"

"Saw the cruiser outside."

"She said we'll be stuck for a couple hours."

Andy was about to respond when three things happened:

1.) The lights went out. Pitch dark. A SMASH came from the doors out front, and a wind, a freezing, FREEZING cold wind ripped through the little coffee shop...

2.) Everyone's stomach suddenly tightened, pitched. Vertigo, and a whispering in their heads, a grating voice of obscenities and shame and bad dreams ...

3.) Somebody started shooting.


First Post

The players walked in blind and were assigned their characters. And they found their characters were ... them. That's their descriptions up there, roughly, although Jo will probably kick me in the head for not telling everyone in ALL CAPS that she's pretty. She is, but she's got Charisma issues ...

All the reasons the players had for being in Oregon made sense if this adventure were based a few years ago, before they all met and became friends.

I was hoping for exactly what I got -- a sudden, overwhelming surge of self-preservation. It's great, all these players have at some point had their Elven wizards and holy Paladins kick in doors and charge courageously into battle.

When it's their necks on the line -- literally -- the reactions are a lot more fun.

95% of the dialog quoted is from in-game. This group is made up of professional writers and actors, so the role-play is very, very intense and funny.

Hope you enjoy. Now, back to the beginning of a very bad night...


First Post
I was just thinking about sending out an APB on you, JR. I really missed my drunk southern girl, and all the rest of the crew. Thank you for coming back!



At last you've found your way to the new forum!
I will be re-reading all the story, but I wait rerally eagerly the new chapters...

BTW, could you explain a bit more the whole D20 modern + Alternity system you use now?


First Post
EXIT 23 -- Pt. 2

Vertigo, their heads spinning like a night on Jagermeister, the people in the coffee shop tumbled from their chairs and stools. Andy found himself on his knees, gripping his head. Lingering foul whispers faded, just on the edge of comprehension. Someone in the darkness puked. This was no blackout --

"What the hell was that!" Andy yelled, spitting out bile.
Ross pulled it together first, flipping over his table for cover. "Gunshots. Three of them!" He pulled a still stunned Johanna down beside him.

"No, the other thing ..." Andrew and Stephen stayed crouched. Animal insincts had kicked in. They couldnt see anything, couldn't hear anything ... their primal brains froze them in place, waiting.
Long seconds passed. The teenage girl was weeping quietly, being comforted by the gas station attendant. Stephen heard the names "Ahmend" and "Annie" pass between them. No sound or movement came from where the truck drivers had been.

Stephen rose cautiously. "We should check it out."

"Have fun," whispered Andy.

"Mabel, do you have a flashlight?" Stephen didn't wait for the answer, he reached over, rummaged around among the clutter. "Somebody could be hurt."

"And somebody could be waiting out there to shoot whoever steps through the door," Ross answered. But he, too, stood, straining to see what lay outside the glass door. Everyone spoke in hushed voices, trying not to draw the attention of whoever ... whatever waited outside.

Johanna cunningly judged the stopping power of her thin diner table. In a blink she'd scooched around behind the diner counter. Mabel looked up -- the old waitress was huddled behind her counter, and had popped open a bottle of Vodka from under the counter. "Sorry," she mumbled.

"Sorry hell, pass it over," Johanna whispered back. Joahnna took a long swig -- and neglected to return the bottle.

Ross gestured to the other men. "Let's get some weapons,check it out."

"What have you got back there, Mabel?" Andy asked.

"A ... a spatula."


Stephen produced a relatively sharp bread knife and a flashlight. "Here we go."

"Oh yeah," Andy whispered. "We're ready to storm Normandy."

Ross crept forward to the door. "Mabel, the other doors in the rest stop, the gas station, the McDonald's, who's got the keys."

"Here!" Ahmed piped up. A soft JANGLE as the gas station keys slid across the floor.

"Danny Wood, that boy's got the McDonald's keys," hissed Mabel. "But he ain't in here. He's ... out there." Mabel reached for the vodka. Johanna was busy working on it, so she relented.

Ross stayed close to the wall, cracked the door open. No gunshots. He turned to find Stephen next to him. "Let's sneak out there without the light first."

"Right." Stepehn and Ross, moving in a crouch, stepped out into the foyer.

Andy rolled his eyes. "Aw hell." A second later he stepped out the door --

-- and almost slammed into the two other men. They all froze, staring at the front doors of the rest stop.

The big steel and glass doors were shattered, twisted like pipe cleaners. One hung from a single hinge, the other lay splayed across the floor, crumpled. The storm still howled, blowing snow in from the dark sky outside.

"A bomb?" guessed Ross.

"We would have heard that," answered Stephen. "Those things were TORN apart by something. RIPPED DOWN."

They considered this a moment. "Oh good," whispered Andy. "At least that probably means nobody's waiting to shoot us."

The three men edged forward into the darkness. Ross slid the key into the Gas Station door. It was indeed still locked. He opened the door. Stephen, over his shoulder, played the flashlight beam around. Nothing but racks of junk food, magazines and road supplies. He clicked the light off, Ross relocked the door.

They jerked as Johanna joined them. In her left hand she held a broom. In the other she clutched the vodka bottle. "Couldn't stand the wait."

Andy had an idea. He took a roll of duct tape from the tourist info counter in the foyer, duct-taped the knife to the broom, making a spear. Satisfied, the four agreed on a plan. Test the McDonald's doors, make sure no one was going to surprise them from that angle. Then head down the narrow corridor to the restrooms and whatever lay beyond. Ross and Andy would be in the lead, Ross with the spear. Stephen would use the flashlight from over their shoulder when necessary, confusing any assailants as to where exactly to shoot if he were going for light sources. Johanna would watch the rear and drink.

They hooked fingers in each others belt loops so they could operate in the dark. The McDonalds proved secure. They started silently down the corridor to the restrooms. Quietly, no lights, feeling their way, lest they betray themselves to whatever lurked --


A long pause. "Why, thanks Mabel," Andy hissed. Another moment of waiting, the only sound the air bubbles hitting the bottom of Johanna's vodka bottle as she took another hit.
Fearing an ambush, Stephen pointed the flashlight beam down the corridor.

That's when they saw the torso.


First Post
In answer to your question, the ever -evolving-when-I-have-time Dark*Matter system is a mish-mash of Star Wars combat rules and the modern skill set recently postulated in the d20 modern rules in Polyhedron alng with some cool feats from the Pulp Heroes adaptation in the previous issue. I was also heavily influenced by Dragonstar, a surprisingly, REALLY nicely done piece of work.

Although I realize that d20 Modern set in Polyhedron was geared specifically for Shadowchasers, I don't much care for it. Ironically there are TOO many classes, and all they're too narrowly focused. I want to be a Soldier, so I have to take "Strong Hero" levels? What if I want to be the Fast Chow Yun Fat gunman? I want to be a Mage so I have to take Smart Hero levels? What if I don't want to be a particularly GOOD mage, just a dabbler?

From the looks of it, Monte Cook's CoC adaptation will be the new highwater mark for non-medieval d20.

Some day I'll do all this in Conversions board, but in general, I use the Combat Spec, the Tech Op, the Free Agent and the Diplomat classes from Alternity. I do use, however the customization style of the d20 modern Shadowchasers -- each class gets access to certain bonus feats rather than more hard and fast level advancements.

For example, my Sneak Attack is called "Cheap Shot +1d6", and is available only for the Free Agent. If a Free Agent wants to focus on scamming or breaking into computers rather than sneak attack stuff, he can instead take those feats.

The Diplomat and Tech Op are pretty much the Charismatic and Smart heros from d20 Modern with some Star Wars thrown in where I didn't agree.

I believe more in this approach: a LOT of flexibility, but in a few very CLEARLY defined classes.

Psionics is a feat to access. You gain two powers, and you can burn another feat to gain another power. Psionics are skill-based powers like Star Wars and the original Dark*Matter

I'm using the Mage prestige class from the Polyhedron issue for arcane powers.

Clerical powers haven't been addressed, but odds are it will become the same as Mage, a prestige class.

Still working on vehicle combat, I'm liking what I see in Series Archer -- although the rest of Series Archer is a little so-so. Dragonstar handles ranged weapon combat better and cleaner, I think.

For money and resources, the Pulp Heroes (Polyhedron) system is remarkably clean. The Shadowforce Archer system is nice, too, but meant for people specifically working for some heavily equipped organization. I may strip it down to a more general version.

I am insanely busy IRL right now, so I won't be posting a lot, but I may try to get the rudiments of the system up on the Conversions board soon.

Thanks, all for your interest and encouragement.


Another Cat !

Like the twist of the PCs being the players themselves, as for your rules it's cut and paste DMing at it's finest :D keep it up.

I missed the last thread somehow, is there anyway I can get back there and read it moderator ?

Where's the Zombie Toddlers ? sounds great !


First Post
Zombie Toddlers are coming.

I suppose this calls for an explanation for those who never saw the first thread (and this is a complete reprint, you won't miss anything.) In our regular D&D game, Johanna mentioned that one of her greatest fears were undead children.

Actually, I remember now what happened. We were trying to stop an ambush at the presentation of a Duke's infant son. We in the ensuing carnage the child died. The DM rightly ruled that toddlers didn't have enough CON to be raised, and how creepy would that be anyway?

So Andy, playing our Gnome Tinkerer, planned for weeks to pleasantly surprise all of us by robotically re-animating the toddler's corpse. The image of a stiffly shuffling child raising its little arms up to Jo and murmuring "ma-ma... so ... cold ..." creeped her out so much it became a running joke.

When I presented Dark*Matter, then, she knew - I knew, we all knew -- a zombie toddler was coming with her name on it. She just didn't know WHEN. As a result, in every adventure, she was incredibly, incredibly paranoid when dealing with children.

Just to let you know, this thread will eventually cover:

-- Exit 23: the introductory mission in the Dark*MAtter sourcebook

-- NEW RECRUITS: the supplemental adventure in the sourcebook

-- NIGHT OF THE CATTLE MUTILATORS: a home-brew about, well, cattle mutilations near a small Arizona town..

-- GONE MISSING: another home-brew, where the Agents investigate the disappearance of three local teens in Oregon after a UFO sighting, and run into two very familiar faces ...

-- and tonight's new one, DARK CANADA, EH?; the Agents are on vacation in Toronto, which is rudely interrupted by Some Who Tinker with That Which They Don't Understand.


First Post
EXIT 23 -- PT. 3
Down the dark corridor, a body lay half-in, half out of one of the restrooms. It was the female state trooper.
Swearing vigorously, still attached by the belt loops, the rushed to the body.

"WHOA!" Johanna slipped, almost bringing them all down. "I tripped in ... no wait, this isn't all blood..."
They noticed the floor was soaked with blood AND water. Then they saw the reason. The tall, blonde state tropper was dead -- but not of gunshot wounds. She'd been stabbed.

With icicles.

Two foot long icicles. That were still embedded in her.

The group stared at the grotesque, pincushioned corpse. The only light they had was the tiny pool from their flashlight. The wind still howled, high, whistling, outside. The trooper's body wedged the Men's room door open.

"Gun in her hand, " noticed Ross. "She must have been the one to get three shots off."

"DIBS!" Johanna lurched forward, seized the Nine mil. She now had a bottle of vodka in one hand and a loaded gun in the other.

(DM's NOTE: Jo was the only one with pistol proficiency. This little armament distribution was not universally beloved by the rest of the group... nothing like a drunk Southern girl with a firearm.)

Andy pushed open the Men's room door, Stephen and Ross doing their light-spear trick. Jo covered them with the gun, or at least waved it at the inside of the restroom. They were all freaked to find another traveller, a young sketch-artist who'd been in the coffee shop earlier, similarly slain with the icicles. Then -- a MOAN!

They threw open the stall door, found a man in a business suit with one of the icicles embedded in his thigh -- but still alive!

Stephen tried to stabilize the man. Blood surged everywhere. Despite all Stephen could do with his first aid skills, the man convulsed once, twice ... and died in their arms.

("all Stephen could do with his first aid skills" was roll a spectacular series of 1's, unfortunately)

"Let's get back to the others, now!" Ross started to back out, put his hand on the wall. He yanked it away. Every surface of this restroom, the walls, the stalls, all were covered with a thick layer of frost.

Andrew had other ideas. There was a wastebasket in the restroom, and just to be safe, he flipped it, checking for any clues. The clue turned out to be a large leather briefcase.
Stephen looked up from the dead man's wallet. "His name's Jonas Riley."

"Matches the monogram on the briefcase." Andrew jimmied the case open. "Papers, a bunch of memos from something called the Hoffman Institute." Andy's brow furrowed. "Some of these papers have occult notation on them." They all stared at him. "I dabbled." He then pulled a glass sphere out of the case, whistled. "A snow globe ..." He looked closer at it. "Oh $#@%#$%@$$f*cker."

As the others clambered to see, he held the show globe up to their flashlight. It looked perfectly ordinary. About the size of a softball, snow whirling around in it, with a little building ... that's when they all got it. It wasn't just any building. It was the rest stop. A perfect replica of the Exit 23 Rest Stop was inside the snow globe.

Something banged down the dark corridor.

Something was still inside with them.


First Post

It had been a while since Dark*Matter, and we had a new guy (Flynn, from the EVIL campaign, actually, a friend of mine from University), so I was worried last night's adventure would take a while to get back into the Dark*Matter swing o'things.

Wrong. Although it was interesting to see how incredibly paranoid my Hoffman Agents had become compared to civilians.

Highlights and previews:

-- mad bomber in a museum with a ticking clock ("What's a minute on a timer? About ten rounds, right? Good luck.")

-- "Sure, Ross is the a$$h%#%e for tackling a homeless guy. But when it turns out the homeless guy has a bomb strapped to his chest, do I get a 'Thank You'? No."

-- "BEHOLD! THE GRAIL!" (beat) "Hey! Grail! It's over here, bud!"

-- "When you peer into the dark upstairs bedroom, you see two young boys. They're kneeling, facing away from you, heads bowed in prayer. They're totally silent. Totally still. Just ... kneeling there. "

-- Cosby: "How old is the language of those inscriptions? Okay, imagine some guy named Lovecraft wrote about these Elder Gods, and these Elder Gods actually wrotes a series of novels about their Elder Gods -- OLDER. "

-- "It opens its mouth to scream, and set INSIDE its mouth you see the head of a kitten. Upside down. The kitten head meows at you."

-- "You see the incredibly slippery slope Deepak Chopra can send you on?"

-- "And I've got two words for you: Desert. Eagle."


First Post
EXIT 23 - PT. 4

The group moved down the hallway toward the sound. Ross held the knife-spear high, Johanna aimed over his crouched shoulder. An unearthly glow lit up the end of the corridor ...

.. which turned out to be video games. The arcade electrical system was plugged into the trunk line because of the heavy load, so some games still glowed.

A sudden MOVEMENT lurched toward them. Johanna raised the gun, but Andy stopped her. "It's a kid!"

A teenage boy tried to sprint past them. Ross easily corraled one shoulder, hauled him back. After a bit of convincing -- Ross banging him against a wall and saying "SNAP OUT OF IT, BOY!" -- they got his name. He was Danny Woods, the McDonald's kid. He was playing a game in the arcade when "it" had happened.

"The lights went down ... and those voices started ... and then, the THING came through the door." Danny sniffled, paused, and Ross once again called on his crisis counseling training and banged the kid against the wall again. "It was seven, eight feet tall, all white, had a giant wolf's head and glowing red eyes. It looked at me, then went into the men's room. There were some flashes then --"

"The trooper firing," Stephen surmised.

"-- and I dived under the pinball machine. Then the wolf-monster came out and DISAPPEARED in this cloud of snow. Just ... whoosh."

There was a long moment of silence. Ross shoved the boy down the corridor. "Go to the coffee shop, everybody's hunkered down in there."

Danny scurried away. Ross rubbed his chin. "Okay, we need to get some more weapons, and figure out what the snow globe --"


(DM's Note: Andy actually did have this meltdown, a nice grounding moment for the group. His character evolved as the 'practical' one over the course of the mini-campaign)

"Okay, supernatural snow globe? What makes you think we can get out of here?"

"Smash it," Johanna called from the corridor. They looked to her, double-taked. She was strapping the dead state trooper's bullet-proof vest on. She stared back. "What? It fits."

"Why does she get the gun and the vest?" asked Stephen.

"I don't want to smash it and then have us suddenly find out we're in the snow globe and we all die like some twisted Twilight Zone episode," Andy argued. "let me go through these notes, study what we've got."

"Stay or go, we need weapons. And you know what that means ..." They'd reached the twisted doors again. Each shivered as they considered what could bend steel like that. Ross pointed out into the snow. "The trooper's patrol car. She'll have a shotgun and ammo in it."

The group peered out into the blinding snowstorm. They could just make out the image of the patrol car across the empty parking lot. Andy took a tentative step out, sunk to his knees in white powder. "Who's going for the cruiser?"

Johanna jacked the slide on the nine mil. "I'll go."

"Only a few of us should be exposed, that way the other can come in as back-up," said Stephen. Andy nodded. Together, Stephen, he and Jo stepped out into the blizzard. Ross stayed behind, ready with the knife-spear.

Jo, Stephen and Andy CRUNCHED along, their footsteps echoing far into the night. The snow was an insulating blanket, muffling all sight and sound. They all had their heads down. Only Stephen looked up in time to see the glowing red eyes in the whirling snow --

"LOOK OUT!" Stephen jumped back. Something ROARED past him, howling, like a freight train with fangs and claws --

-- and those claws SLAMMED into Jo, sending her spinning high into the air like she'd been hit by a car. She arced up into the air and then slammed down onto the parking lot with a sickening CRUNCH.

Stephen was struggling back to the doorway. Andy turned and saw it just for a second: eight feet of walking wolf, sheer white, red eyes, huge fangs and claws the size of steak knives.

And then it hit him ...


Yes YES post more often like every frilling DAY !

Ok I'm calm now :D good story BTW , do you have the Dungeon with the Aftermath adventure in it ? It involves a swamp, mutants and a Gray doing experments


First Post
EXIT 23 -- PT. 5
"Relax while I pour lye on your wound ..."

The Unholy Giant Wolf With Red Glowing Eyes (TM) brought one massive claw back and SLAMMED it into Andy's chest, lifting him ten feet into the air. Andy's leather jacket shredded, long talons ripped through his flesh. Andy hissed involuntarily as the feeling of claws was followed by cold, like shards of ice shoved deep into the wound --

Ross charged into the snow, but he was too far away, the knee-deep powder slowing him down --

And poor Johanna, the first victim of the Winter Demon, lay sprawled face-down in the parking lot --

-- completely unhurt.

The State Trooper's vest was sheared away, but it had sucked up that first brutal hit. Jo lay face down, playing dead, watching the beast tear into Andy. The Trooper's Glock Nine Mil was icy in her hand. She had the only firearm ... but she couldn't bring herself to use it!

(DM's Note: one of my favorite role-playing moments ever. Jo wasn't stunned -- there was just no way she was going to attract the Bad Thing's attention. She just lay there waiting for it to go away.)

The Winter Demon clawed Andy again in mid-air as he fell. Andy crumpled into the snow. The Demon whirled -- and charged Jo again! Jo lay there, paralyzed with fear as the horror thundered closer to her ... let out an unholy ROAR ... reached her ...
... and disappeared in a whirlwind of snow.

"F&@#*$$&!" Andy rose to one knee. Stephen lifted him, eased him inside, a long scarlet trail on the white behind them. Ross reached Johanna. He quickly discovered she was unhurt. Hoping that the Demon was occupied elsewhere, they dashed for the Trooper's cruiser. They recovered a 12 guage and spare ammo for the pistol and shotgun. Not wishing to press their luck, they dashed back to the rest stop.

"How is he?" asked Ross as they returned.

"AAAGGGHHHHH!" Andy convulsed. Stephen looked up, a little embarassed, his hands covered with bloody bandages. "Err, he's been better."

(the second time Stephen rolled all 1's on his healing checks. His legendary inability to heal the living actually became a plot point in a later adventure...)

They managed to stabilize Andy. Faint pools of golden glow from the flashlights allowed Andy to study the papers from the dead man's briefcase. As the most heavily wounded, he was given the bulletproof vest as protection. Johanna objected. Or at least they think she objected. She was pretty far into the vodka bottle now.

Finally Andy gathered the others around. "Okay, this is what I've got. Jonas Riley works for a place called the Hoffman Institute. It seems like a paranormal research center, but other documents imply government connections ... Anyway, after a well-known occultist died, Riley was sent up to scope out his house. The place was cleaned out -- Riely figured this guy was a low-rent Crowley, had a little cult going. But he did find a secret compartment containing that ... snowglobe."

They all threw a nervous look at the bizarre artifact. Stephen gulped when he saw that now, in front of the tiny rest stop, there was a smudge of red. Exactly where Andy had bled outside the real rest stop.

"So using some test -- doesn't say what -- Riley discovers the globe is supernatural. He's heading up to the Seattle office of this Hoffman Institute when --" Andy gestured around them. "Next thing you know, dead in the men's room."

"He goes to the men's room, the thing comes after him for the globe," Stephen theorized, "the Trooper stalls it a second by shooting, Riley takes the moment to hide the briefcase."

"Here's an idea. Monster wants globe, give monster globe." Andy was once again being "practical".

"And it eats us anyway, but now it has more power because it has its little Snowglobe o' Evil. Don't think so." Ross chambered a round in the 12 gauge. "Got any idea what it is?"

"Nope -- but when it appeared, did you notice an orange glow?"

Ross, Stephen and Jo looked at each other. "No."

"Good, that means something else is in here with us." Andy pointed. Orange light and shadows flickered in the foyer area outside the donut shop.

Leading with the 12 gauge, Ross rushed out. "FIRE!"

The gas station next door was on fire! The group scattered for extinguishers, anything they could find. Thanks to some quick thinking Stephen and Ross managed to contain the blaze withing mintues. Ross noticed, though, that the fire had started from a pile of magazines in the center of the room.

"What kind of monster sets fires?" asked Ross.

BANG! Wood splintered past Jo's head. One of the truckers, the man, suddenly dove from the donut shop door. He came up in a crouch, aimed carefully. "YOU WILL ALL DIE!"

He fired three more times as the group scattered ...

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