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Petroleum is the foremost community in the remains of Midland, Texas. It is so named for the Petroleum Building, a Pre-War structure that has mostly been restored by the town's preeminent family, surname Salt. It is a member community of the Midessa Compact. It is defended by the Roughnecks, a private militia employed by the Salt Family. It has a population of roughly 2,500 adults in 2281.
The Petroleum Building, originally known as the Hogan Building, was a twelve story, neo-gothic highrise completed in 1928. This was during the Permian Basin's first oil boom, after oil had been discovered back in 1923. The tower was a stately office building whose occupancy rose and fell with the region's booms and busts, and as such following the 1920s it was at its busiest in the 1970s and 2010s.
In 2053 during what would be the last bust period before the Great War, local businessman and rancher Ephrem Salt purchased a controlling stake in the practically unoccupied building at a bargain rate. To the great bafflement of the community, he initiated a renovation project that proved to cost more than the building itself had. This was cover for the creation of a large private bomb shelter underneath it, and hardening the structure against attack. When the word went out that the bombs were falling, those who had been invited beforehand grabbed their bug-out bags and made it to the shelter, sealing themselves within.
In October 2099, the shelter was unsealed by the vote of its inhabitants. Initially migrating to the parking lot behind the Petroleum Building to set up a camp with tents (which also served to conceal the secondary entrance to the shelter), they set about checking the structure and the nearby area. The building was mostly intact: all the windows and lighting fixtures had been blown out, much of the wiring fried, and the top two floors had collapsed. Using the stores of equipment they had kept in their shelter, along with what they could scavenge from the surrounding blocks, they were able to clean up the building and turn it and the adjacent parking lot into a fortified base of operations. Throughout that year they explored the surrounding ruins of Midland and collected stray survivors with the intent of building a community. When by October of 2100 they hadn't heard from any government apparatus state or federal, Ephrem Salt Jr. declared the area under their control to be the free township of Petroleum.
The Salt Family dominates the salvage and recycling industries in west Texas. Since emerging from their shelter and founding the community, they've systematically disassembled many of the unstable and otherwise uninhabited ruined structures of Midland over the course of the last one hundred and eighty years, creating a store of materials they've used to build a more consolidated township. The family's expertise in salvaging and recycling has led them to send crews of workers to the remains of other ruined towns in the region to disassemble them, this has created a need for a large amount of warehousing in Petroleum. There are several rebuilt, re-purposed buildings dedicated to holding the tons of scrap metal, plywood, concrete, and more (bottles, furniture, ephemera, etc.) that they've accumulated. In addition to the warehouses, the Salt family operates several facilities that employ most of the residents: a blacksmith, a brass reloading plant, a butcher, a caravansary (with an accompanying general store and wholesaler), a glassworks, and a tannery. Most of the other residents are tenants of the Salt family, operating small farms and ranches. There's a bar and eatery in town, but it is strictly a quiet locale favored by locals and lacks the kind of entertainment to be found in Globe Town. There's an independently run flop house, and a few of the locals sometimes rent out a room to outsiders they feel they can trust.
Petroleum is the economic hub of the Midessa Compact. The other villages and townships send their goods here, likewise, merchandise from the east, north, and south tends to come here before being disseminated elsewhere.
The blacksmith's shop is run by Abraham Wells and a number of assistants. They primarily reforge scrap metal to make small crafts, especially nails and bullets. They can sharpen blades (though they're usually sharpening hoes), fix wagon wheels and axles, set locks, and provide a number of other invaluable services.
The Salt caravans recover a lot of spent brass in their travels and even purchase it in bulk in the Corpse Coast to reload it. The work is primarily handled by the local elderly population, who find it easier than agricultural work. They are overseen by Greta Salt. The bullets are forged in town. The propellant usually comes from Big Spring's chemists, though sometimes cheaper black powder is purchased from Armory, but this produces a smokier bullet which is less popular. The plant is under heavy guard 24 hours a day, and under electronic surveillance connected to Ephrem Salt's office terminal.
(Salt relative) operates a slaughterhouse that services local herds, and an accompanying butcher shop that sells fresh cuts as well as preserved meats. The hides are provided to the tannery. The slaughterhouse crew is assisted by "Kendrick," an antique Mr. Handy unit that has been owned by the Salt family since the Pre-War era.
Located by the warehouse district, this fenced off yard contains stables for the draft Brahmin and wagons used in the Salt family's caravans. They have a separate, adjacent yard for visiting caravans of other companies. An adjoining storefront is where the Salt family sells much of its wares, whether they're produced in town or brought in from further afield. This is one of the few places in the region where construction materials can be purchased in bulk.
Established in 2150, the glassblowing shop was initially a hobby and vanity project for the family's patriarch. Using the endless sand of the Monahans, this shop mostly makes bottles, jars, syringes (in collaboration with the blacksmith), and window panes. When resources permit and demand exists they also make artistic pieces which they dub "follies." At the request of the Armory ghouls, they've been experimenting with the creation of refraction lenses for laser weaponry, without success.
Built in 1927 to complement the Petroleum Building, it has an orientalist aesthetic, featuring Egyptian style flourishes, and decorative Assyrian style bulls and lotus flower lamps. Originally dedicated to the performing arts, today it has the additional function of housing meetings for the delegates of the Midessa Compact. It is here that the compact was originally created and ratified by its founding communities. It sometimes hosts performances from the Globe Town Players. Efforts to recreate the in-house troupe of the Pre-War era, the Summer Mummers have not yet panned out.
Petroleum is roughly a plutocratic-timocratic community, only the landowners have a say in the town's affairs, and the extended Salt family are the majority landowners by a very large margin. In practice, the family's overall patriarch Ephrem Salt VII meets with the few other prominent townsfolk whenever he feels he needs their input. As he's generally fair-handed and doesn't abuse his power, there are few serious complaints with his management. Petroleum is a founding member of the Midessa Compact and is in full compliance with its bylaws.
Justice is administered by the town's militia, which is notoriously biased in favor of locals in disputes with outsiders. The town is not bloodthirsty, however, and prefers to shove trouble-making outsiders out of town with a stern warning, rather than summarily executing them.
Petroleum is considered to be a boring town by most west Texans, lacking the diversions of Globe Town, Penwell, and Fort Holly. The people tend to be industrious, no-nonsense and do not suffer fools or weirdos gladly. The Salt Family has erected a radio mast on the Petroleum Building, allowing the townsfolk to tune into the Rocker Movement radio transmissions. Locals tend to be either nondenominational Christian or irreligious. Each year when the town is full of cowboys from surrounding communities and ranches bring their herds in for market, the Globe Town players and Rockers perform at the Yucca Theatre. The locals are grateful for the break from the otherwise staid pace of their lives, but are wary of the trouble that such a large number of outsiders brings with it. This is when the Roughnecks are at their busiest and most vigilant.
The center of Petroleum is the Petroleum Building, within a block in the southeastern downtown ruins, less than 4 miles north of I-20. The township extends two blocks in every direction from this center. It is about 11 miles east of Armory, the nearest Compact community. It's other allies are Mesa, which is just over 18 miles to the west, Globe Town which is almost 25 miles west, and Penwell, 37 miles west. The haunted campsite of Stanton is a little over 19 miles to the east and trade partner Big Spring is 21 miles beyond that. Fort Holly is 117 miles to the north. The town is surrounded by a sturdy wall made from cinder blocks and sheet metal, backed by dumpsters filled with rubble which form the basis of an interior walkway, allowing the townsfolk to man the walls if the town were to come under attack. There are two gate plaza, both located on old West Texas Avenue, two blocks out from either side of the front of the Petroleum Building. These gates are closed with a clever gate array made from armored busses set on scavenged railroad tracks. This allows the gate to be opened wide enough to allow a cattle drive in, but closed quickly if the need arises.