“Will you let him in?” the clerk asks us.
Delta, Francis, and I each stare at each other in horror.
After all our sneaking around, all our foolish decisions to stick in Paso Robles instead of leave as soon as possible, we have been met by a fate that could have been expected by anyone that isn’t us: Pablo Rosas has found us again.
If he enters this bath, there is nowhere we can go to escape him. Nowhere for us to run if he attempts to do something unsavory such as force us to listen to the full unabridged history of the town without leaving the waters until he is finished.
“What do we do?” Francis asks, his eyes wide with terror. “What do we do?”
“No thank you,” Delta shouts to the clerk from behind the door.
“Okay,” she says. “I’ll let him know.”
“Wait! Don’t let him know,” she adds. “Stall him.”
But the voice does not respond. The woman must already be gone...
Francis stands up, briefly, showing off a triumphant pose of defiance (and also his bare body and certain surprisingly robust features). “We won’t stand for the tyranny of a man who wants to keep us chained in the shackles of fear! We are the Systemless Squad! A trio of best friends who will stop at nothing to achieve the goal of having fun, kicking ass, and gaining Destiny Points! Some wimp named Pablo ain’t gonna stop that!”
Reflexively, Delta and I begin to softly clap.
He continues. “We have to figure out a really great plan but that’s the easy part because we always think of the very best plans. We’re naked and stuck in a giant bath and all our stuff is in cubbies outside, but that’s just a minor disadvantage. We’ll figure out how to overcome any obstacles that stand in our way. Or...” He sits back in the water. “Or maybe we’re doomed.” He sinks down lower until all but his head is submerged. “Maybe if we wait a while he’ll go away on his own...”
“I’m not dealing with that. I hate getting pruny,” Delta says. “Even torture is worse than that.”
“Are you serious?” I ask.
“No, screw you,” she responds.
I take the insult in stride. “Well then, I think that we are far from doomed. Until that last part, Francis’s words have inspired me and invigorated me spirit. With that in mind, I feel that we should assess our options the best we can.”
“And we can do that... how?” Delta asks.
It is now my turn to stand up from the bath and bare my full body (and its unsurprisingly robust features, which Delta stares at in disgust) to the other two. “I can use my [Skill Check] card and illuminate the variables which lay hidden in this very room!”
Here is the card, for reference:
Skill Check: Rank 1. Examine the variables around you. (There is a small chance that your next action will go exceedingly well or exceedingly poorly.) Cost: 50 LP.
That is exactly what I need.
Here it goes!
Numbers and percents appear all around me. My entire field of vision from head to toe is covered in data for me to analyze.
“What do you see?” Francis asks. “What does it... do?”
“I can see the chances of everything. I can see the status of various items around me. I can even sense your own vitalities...”
“That’s creepy,” Delta says.
“Much less creepy,” I say, “Is my ability to predict the chances of death at any given moment. The floors are slippery and the chances of us falling are over 15%. The soap here has enough germ killing power that it could be a handy weapon against certain bacterial monster types. This window out here looks intimidating, but it appears it would be relatively safe to jump out of it, at least for Delta and myself. Francis has a 3.5% chance of breaking his back if he jumps.”
“The window...” Francis mutters. “Interesting...”
“I can examine more stats than I ever have access to normally,” I continue. “For instance, this soak has decreased my Life Points drain by twenty percent; rather than losing a Life Point about once every sixty seconds, it takes about a minute and fifteen seconds. In addition, my health seems to be in good order, with my BPM at 112 and my brainflow at optimal levels. Curiously, my libido is at a 68.9% level, though I do not feel that I would be willing to act on such a thing.”
“Heh,” Francis chuckles. “I guess we are all naked in a hot springs together. If only Delta weren’t gay and I wasn’t straight, we could totally h—”
“Shut...” Delta shudders too much to finish her sentence.
After Chasing Amy, I completely understand.
I take a look at my two companions and their own vitals.
Interestingly, Francis’s health is in perfectly good order despite his out of shape physical features. He is proof that looks can be deceiving. And despite his crude remark, his own libido is at a mere 2.2%. Am I truly that unattractive?!
Delta’s stats are a bit off for what I would expect from a normal twentysomething woman. It’s almost like...
Wait a minute.
There’s another vital sign right below the water. Right in Delta’s lap, there’s another stat chart with BPM and nutrition and other things.
Delta... Are you...
I sit back down in the water and let the warmth soak over me again (a very relaxing sensation, by the way). I give Delta a long, hard look, but she doesn’t seem to understand and instead simply sneers at me.
She doesn’t even know, does she?
I have no idea how to delicately broach a subject like this...
“Delta, did you know that you’re—”
No! That’s not the correct way to do that! Even I’m smart enough not to blurt that out in the middle of a scene like this.
“What did I know?” she asks.
“Did you know that you’re a really beautiful woman?”
“You know, I think we can avoid Pablo Rosas,” Francis says. “I think I have an actual plan.”
“You do?” I ask.
“Yeah, if we just go out the window, we can escape through the back.”
“Without our phones, or our clothes,” Delta adds.
“We’ll have to go back inside and get them,” he says. “It might be a bit embarrassing, but at least we have some towels to cover up with I guess.”
“There’s a 1.2% chance I accidentally strangle myself with a towel when we jump out the window,” I say.
“Uh, ok... But we can escape out the window, then climb into ANOTHER bath. That way we can ask for the clerk who will retrieve our things without letting Pablo Rosas know, and then we can escape out the window again and bam, everything’s solved.”
“...Not a terrible idea at all,” I say. “Except, can we truly trust the clerk to do what we ask?”
“The only other option is to take a bus back and hope that they don’t drop us off at the nudist colony instead.”
“Nudist colony? What’s that?”
It sounds like a plan. Let’s get it into action.