Pages

Friday, 28 April 2017

Faithful Dead

Previous Session: Closing the Noose

Gap the Lurk has returned from his extended absence; he doesn't seem willing to speak of the revelations which pushed him over the edge. His talents will be perfect for this score; they're going to undertake a dangerous job in service to the Throne of Judgement. With Fancy Frank the Hound in tow they'll infiltrate Strangford House on the day of the house matriarch's funeral.

During the final stages of the wake and before the funeral procession winds its way to have her remains consumed by the electroplasm of the Spirit Warden's crematorium; they will steal the traditional Akorosi funeral offering of a coin from her mouth.

They consider staging a diversion but instead just sneak in, taking a boat from across the canal (where their new turf is located) and creeping through the grounds and inside. There are enough strangers and temporary staff that their presence will hardly be noticed.


Gap's closest friend, Roslyn Kellis has a genuine invitation to the funeral and he has given her a special dog whistle to alert him when the coast is clear - he has a matching ear-piece so that he can hear it.

They're rounding the corner on the 2nd floor landing when Fancy Frank sees a familiar silhouette in a room yonder. He stops and cocks his head; it's Casslyn Tyrconnel - whose younger brother he killed in the Skovlan Unification War. Behind her is Casta, his old friend who tried to stop him and has recently been hunting him for a significant bounty. Fancy Frank's uneven movements attract attention and as Casta points him out to Tyrconnel, the pieces fall into place - Casta is hunting him on her behalf.

He runs.

***

Orlan Strangford
Gap walks right past them, and choosing his moment, quietly sidles into where Lady Strangford lies in state. A mourner gets the wrong idea and leaves them alone with a respectful nod. He quickly opens her mouth, struggling against the rigor mortis and fishes out the coin. It's gold, not the usual silver, but Gap takes a close match out a purse of random coins he set aside for just this eventuality.

He slips out of the room, and into a foyer where a large number of guests have gathered before the departure. Gap spots Orlan Strangford (the leader of the cult's adepts) speaking with his father. He avoids Orlan's eye line - that's one conversation they can't have here.


Fancy Frank runs deeper into the house and up two floors. He's not packing much, and frees a pistol to turn on Casta when he can get the drop on the canny bounty hunter. However, he ends up on a dead end landing - some of the renovations mustn't have gone to plan. Casta draws a fine pair of pistols (the very same ones he lifted off Fancy Frank back in Sunfall at their last run-in) and fires a round at him. Lady Tyrconnel has kept pace with him, and Fancy Frank's return fire prompts Casta to pull her to the floor to avoid getting shot - Frank's fire hits Casta but the bounty hunter must be wearing armour as he turns back around to take aim with his second pistol.

Fancy Frank considers his options and jumps out the landing window...

**

Gap is eyeing up a big payoff for the score, now that he's undertaken the necessary obligations. A small ornately carved hardwood chest sits on a small table in the centre of the room. People are dropped coins into it as they pass. This collection is probably going to some favoured charity of other of the Strangford's but the amount is too tempting to pass up. Gap, as cool as you like, trips up one of the guests, who pulls at the table cloth as he falls. Gap catches the chest as it topples off the table, and using other people's movement (helping the man back to his feet) as cover the lurk empties the chest into his cloak - he opened a vial of silence potion in one fluid motion, and that masks the sound of the cascading coins. His cloak has a hidden pocket which carries the coins without too much bulging and he walks out, calmly and as if nothing has happened.

Gap is outside waiting for Fancy Frank when he sees the hound leap from a fourth floor window. Even with their placement of a rope dropping from the eaves all the way to the ground, there is a moment there where it looks like it's not going to well for Frank!

They run into a couple of household guards, but then Fancy Frank pulls out one of Orlan's standstill bombs and takes them out. They row away into the fog and the hound shivers in reckless abandon.

*

Roslyn Kellis is questioned by the Bluecoats - it would appear that they know she's connected somehow, but the Orphans pay them off and she's left go free.

Fancy Frank reckons he can no longer ignore the perils of being hunted by Casta. Getting help from Steiner and Veleris he starts to track down some of Casta's habits in Duskwall: apparently the bounty hunter frequents a bathhouse in Six Towers. That'll help ensure that his enemy has little gear when Fancy Frank makes his move.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Bloody Handed

Previous Session: Burning

Kim the Savvyhead is expecting her long-awaited delivery of fine sand, and will arrange to sell it onwards to Sanders (for his continuing production of solar panels) in return for as large a stash of tinfoil as he can lay his hands on. She'll need that for her lurgy cure.

Dusk the Skinner talks with Midnight through the night about home. She finds out that the Mirror-Faced Queen has gone mad and is waging war against the Wolflands. Midnight wants to save Dusk: he's heard the anguish of her soul in her darkest moment. He wants to move forward with her under his protection, leaving broken things behind (he's referring to those who live in the Valley). She's unconvinced by his world view; she thinks what she's doing here is important.

She retires back to Dremmer's room - he's trying to make her feel safe after the attempted lynching/burning earlier. He's concerned and listful.

Market Day comes around, and everyone has an early start. Things are shaping up to be even busier than last month, despite (or maybe because of) the chaos which erupted with the Circus' arrival.

Ripper wonders with Kim how big the problem is going to be to get their tinfoil-related cure out to everyone who's affected. With Wire's gang driving up and down the Valley and beyond it's going to be an enormous challenge. Ripper wonders if they could just kill them off...


Dusk and TumTum catch up when he walks in; he's just checking with her that they're still on for their plan?
-Yep, and I need to square with you for your best bottle of whiskey.
Nodding at where his prized bottle was til now. He raises an eyebrow, but smiles when she puts her nice silver bracer on his arm
-If you need a taste of it, you'll find the rest of the bottle beside Dremmer's bed
His other eyebrow shoots up

Kim has set up at her usual spot. But with her mangled hand she can't really fix things for people - instead she's directing them how to do it themselves. It's a little bit frustrating/amusing for everyone involved.

Reginald shows up with a trailer full of sand for Kim. It's full to the brim of just the best quality sand she's ever seen in bulk, but she's got nowhere to store it. She gets him to give her a loan of it for a day, and Brother'll deliver it to Lopez while she stays here.

The usual excitement of Market Day is going on:
Mr. Tambourine Man is reading fortunes; is this just diversion. or are people getting real insight from him?
A rival eatery has set up opposite Chubby's - an artic truck by the name of 'Hammertime Chow Down'; is the food really better, or are people just a bit leery of Chubby's since the gruesome cannibalism of the Circus' driven madness?
Arnold's Pot-Luck Fuck Truck sets up; it's surprisingly popular, maybe it's just the novelty, or maybe the bout of sickness at Madame Cho's leaves people with little choice


D & Martinez show up with a couple of trucks selling and a handful or well armed guards. They're both in gas masks and are actively trading for liquid soap, sugar and ammo.

Sanders is with them selling solar panels! Kim's surprised to see him there, but brings him back around to her shack so she can show him the sand. He's wondering where she's been for the last month, and then asks after Fox. She usually pops up like clockwork, but she's been MIA as well.

He's impressed by the sand though, and she gives him the list of medicines (and tin foil) she'll need.
-That's a monster list of some specific shit! I can't guarantee that I can get it, least not in these volumes
-I need it, else you might want to be sure no one every enters Lopez ever again!


East Harlow is announcing his new show. 'FISTICUFFS!'
Volunteers duke it out in the pit and after a few rounds of fighting (and betting) the onlookers start throwing in weapons to cut things short.

Dusk stops by to chat to Martinez. He complains that now Lopez wants his own tattoo; reckons Martinez thinks he's a leading light now that he has a serious tattoo and no one else does. Small problem to be honest. Dusk might have to visit soon.

**

The summit gathers. Dusk, as a hacienda owner, can formally attend with a heavy, and she brings Killer. There's the usual tiresome display as each of the other arrive, showing off their latest accoutrement. Johnson is sitting pretty in his limo (mounted on the chassis of  a monster-truck. He's dressed up to the nines, with a top hat and fancy coat on.

Ollie-Boy, a no-shit badass arrives with people (so-called scum) nailed to crosses on the front of his humvee. Dusk takes a deep breath, and is beckoned to come inside by an young runner - sent by TumTum now that it's time.

Dusk turns back to Killer; wondering where he was last night while she was about to get burnt at the stake. He look guilty and can't explain how he slept through that. She goes inside, but nods for Killer to stay alongside Kim and Johnson as they discuss terms.

Kim wants Killer to work permanently for her; maybe as payment for the Phazer. She's buying out his contract. Johnson protests that Killer works for Dusk now. But they all understand that he controls Killer's services and will trade him. Killer's been primed by Kim and Dusk to recognise that this means there's no real loyalty in Johnson.


Inside the usual order of business takes over. Found isn't at the summit, and Partridge is there in her stead (though she doesn't look well). Kobe isn't there either, (Wire has sent Red as her lieutenant, with T-Bone as a bodyguard).

Max Headroom rants about Kobe's murder but he's shouted down by Red; it was a fair reprisal and Kobe chose to go out the way she did.

Dusk takes the floor. Getting a few irate glances - the others aren't quite used to her as one of them, and anyway, taking the floor like this is a TumTum device. She calls Johnson up to join her
-We've got an announcement to make...
She tells them what she's doing at the hacienda with free labour, and the place erupts. Some are on their feet and screaming bloody murder and others are looking around in bewilderment and/or consternation.
Johnson shoots her a glance, as if to say 'WTF!'
Dusk pulls out her double-barrelled sawn-off shotgun and let's one round loose in the ceiling. Everyone quietens down, in shock, none of them are supposed to have guns in here!
-If anyone wants to join me in changing this Valley, then raise your hand!
None do, and the shouting starts up again...

Until, Dusk takes off Johnson's top hat. Everyone stops what they're doing, enthralled by the exhibition that's only beginning. Red, T-Bone, Killer, TumTum and Dremmer are all excluded from the effects of the display, and as she strips Johnson, they begin the bloody murder.

Caught a little by surprise, Red grabs Dusk's shotgun and after killing Max with the second round proceed to beat people to a pulp with it. The others join in with whatever's handy, but the true carnage is unleashed by Dremmer's shotgun. Dusk is splattered by gore and struggles to keep her shit together, all the while stripping his clothes off. Despite her power over them all, she's a little unsure whether his tattoo would still make him dangerous.

When everyone else is dead, and she's shrugged off her long coat. She grabs his chin, still standing behind him and whispers in his ear
-You know, for a psychotic bastard, you had your charms
and then she cuts through his throat with one of her razor sharp knives

*

After their ears stop ringing, Kim comes in the back and can give Dusk some warning as she tries to shoo away the guards from outside (hacienda soldiers, not TumTum's people). Dusk and Killer combine to take them out.

Quickly, Dusk and TumTum identify the main lynchpin who would lead the hacienda's resistance against them. The main counter-revolutionary is likely to be Monsoon, Ollie-Boy's gang boss. They send out runners to bring in the hacienda lieutenants, but in strict order. Monsoon will be first, and then they'll build up momentum with the rest.

Monsoon is shocked by the bloody bar, and even more when TumTum responds to the suggestion that Dusk is crazy with laughter. He's sitting in his chair at the back of the room with his feet up. The bottom of them are splattered with blood, but it's obvious that he spent the entire thing in that position.

He's in, but with some serious doubts. He tells them that they're crazy and that the Valley is going to burn. His presence helps bring all the others onside. When Dusk takes the floor to tell them about what's going to happen with free labour, they all raise their hands. TumTum restarts the summit with the usual business.


Kim looks to get her solar panels back off Churchhead, who's now running Johnson's hacienda. He's not sure he wants the same deal as his previous master, but Dusk convinces him and he definitely comes around to seeing that he can prosper if he takes care of the Skinner and does her friend the Savvyhead a fair deal. The main reason he's reticent is that those solar panels run the machines that are keeping Mad Bill alive.


Thursday, 13 April 2017

Burning

Previous Session: Rolling Thunder

So, what exactly happened between Kobe and Wire the Chopper?
Well, her plan was to out-manoeuvre and surprise the hacienda owner, intimidate Kobe and her gang and give her own new members a taste of action without a trial by fire. Wire directs her lot to infiltrate slowly, but they bump into a few of Kobe's pickets and there's a small skirmish. Wire, along with Bull, Scabs and Ted roll over the two sentries, and when sounds of their shots carry, Red leads the rest of the gang to press the threat.

Kobe comes out of the main house, fully strapped and packed to the gills. Red has pretty much all of Kobe's gang lined up - her infiltration was so effective that the enemy are all dead to rights.

The maize fields erupt in a roar of over-revved engine and guzzling diesel smoke! Kobe's guntruck comes straight for them. Red pulls the trigger and the rest of Wire's gang follow suit, wiping Kobe's gang out. Kobe screams and goes for Wire, but she is gunned down, the magnum round making a serious mess of her skull. The windscreen of the gun-truck is shattered in a red mist as Red turns her guns on it, taking out the driver and sending the vehicle off crashing through the fields.

Wire has the sniffles as they take control of Kobe's hacienda - this place'll serve as a base while they head out raiding. Plus now they have Kobe's two gun-trucks as muscle and transportation.

They head out towards Logger; there's a small hold at a crossroads outside of the Valley that has plenty of tech and bikes. Red had scoped out another few places for TumTum's shopping list; and they virtually clean them out. When they get back, Wire is feeling sick.


So, if you remember, that angry torch-wielding mob had grabbed Dusk the Skinner out of her bed in the middle of the night.

Wire has brought about half her gang into Watering Hole for market day in the morning, they're outside the hold after visiting Ripper for some doctoring advice.

Kim the Savvyhead is in her shed and she's the quickest to come out into the chaotic space behind TumTum's bar; in her Hello Kitty PJs and gas mask.

Dusk has just escaped the grasp of the two guys holding her and she sprints, taking a route that'll bring her around to the front door of the bar where she's hoping Dremmer will be awake. She sees Kim raising her phazer at the chasing thugs behind her, and ducks. Behind her Kim sees Sundown, who she reckons is the biggest danger and she aims straight at the woman.
*PHAGOOM*
The phazer explodes in Kim's hand and the savvyhead falls to the ground, in obvious discomfort, but somehow not screaming in agony at the wretched mess of her right hand. Dusk is momentarily stunned and is caught again as she struggled to get back to her feet.

She whisper Dremmer's name directly through the Psychic Maelstrom. He's better get here soon. But she doesn't lie down for these fuckers. Again, somehow she struggles free and runs. She doesn't run for Kim, their eyes meet for a single moment; maybe the savvyhead won't be able to help her, or maybe Kim's better off with Dusk going the other direction.

She runs the other way, and that's when she sees the stake set deep with combustibles all round it.

***

Wire wakes up to the gunfire that broke out when Dusk first escaped, and while she's gathering her gang to go investigate, rushes to the scene when Kim's phazer explodes. They're armed with their pistols and knives.

Kim is hauled aside by Ripper and is getting medical attention to her ruined hand.

Dusk muscles her way through the few people in between her and Wire's arriving gang.

As the two armed groups square off against each other, Wire yells out across the divide
-What the hell is going on?
-She's an agent of Hell and must burn!
comes the reply

A bedraggled Dremmer arrives on the scene behind the mob. He has the punk-hammer but can't see Dusk through the crowd - she's behind Wire pointing out Sundown, who seems to have been the one who stirred up all this trouble.

But Dusk's attention is no longer on the escalating face-down. Further out, in the darkness untouched by the mob's torches, a thin cordon of figures appears out of the dust.

Wire strides through the mob towards Sundown - the erstwhile member of the gang is behind others, as if she's afraid of attracting Wire's attention. The mob parts initially, but one right in front of Sundown fights for her, maybe in panic, but effectively as he shoots Wire in the leg. She spins out to the ground and then the mob close in on the prone Chopper.
She's comes back to her feet, laying around with her machete to make room for herself and then decapitating her opponent. She leaves the blade stuck in his neck and is still in the middle of the mob.

**

Dusk wonders who these strangers are. The thick valley mud falls off their inhuman looking bodies. But she sense a familiarity, her dream-catchers had reached out to call Dremmer and they feel familiar somehow to her tattoos. One steps forward into the moonlight and she knows the tall gaunt silhouette in her deep memory. It's Midnight, her mentor from the Witchlands. His face is intimidating and menacing.

Wire's gang moves in to break their way through the mob to her. There's arterial blood sprayed on her face from her previous victim and she calls Sundown out
-Ladies and gentlemen, excuse me! Sundown, you bitch! Stop hiding!
Sundown panics and reaches out (maybe guiltily), but it's the last thing she does. Wire's magnum rings out and Sundown's dead, shot in the face.

With medical attention out of the way, Kim still wants Ripper. She suggests they get high on some narcostab together. She pushes Ripper a little by whispering that they're going to heal the world together. That's enough for Ripper, though even to Kim, the sex seems mechanical and detached.


Dusk remembers the last time she saw Midnight. The Mirror-Faced Queen had decided that Dusk needed to die, and Midnight exiled her from the Witchlands instead of carrying out the sentence. What lies he told the Queen, she's not sure.
-Glad to see you child.
-Surprised to see you at all. I'm not really dressed for the occasion.
He looks at her almost naked body and wraps her up with his cloak.
-You've grown. In confidence and the way you affect people.

Wire's crew lays into the mob as soon as she shoots Sundown. She turns to get them to stop, but it's too late and she's never had to rein in her gang like that before so she hesitates and the moment is lost. There's some return fire, before the fight stops, Bull takes a round to his kneecap. He howls with the pain, and in the aftermath, Wire kisses him to calm him down.

Kim regards Ripper on the bed. She can sense truths about the doctor as if she were a thing to be worked on: Dremmer touched her last - she's hopelessly addicted to opiates - her parents were no one of consequence.

*

Dusk catches up with Midnight.
-Let's cut to the chase. What the hell are you doing here?
-I knew I was needed. We have been walking the world for some years
The coven congregate behind them.
-The Mirror-Faced Queen loves yesterday, but we seek tomorrow. I heard you. You learnt the Call?
Dusk nods, she's had some success with it so far. Though it may have made people nervous and uncomfortable.

Dremmer rocks up, he's really apologetic about taking so long to get here.
-Sorry I wasn't there for you
-Hey, you came as fast as you could.
She steps in close, and holds his hand
-Move in with me
He's surprised, overwhelmed even, but he suggests she move into his quarters in the bar; it'll be much safer and she nods in agreement.

In the bar, Dusk grabs a good bottle of whiskey to share with Midnight. Dremmer is noisily moving her stuff into his room.

In the middle of ecstatic throes with Ripper, Kim had a bit of a breakthrough in her thinking on the lurgy. Seems like she was thinking of it all wrong. Those who open their brain to the Psychic Maelstrom aren't more susceptible. They've mistaken cause and effect. The increased connection to the Maelstrom happens after infection, which is what kills them in a process entirely separate from any brain openings.

Next Session: Bloody-Handed

Friday, 31 March 2017

Closing the Noose

Previous Session: Summary Judgement

As GhostBlade and Monger bargain with The Throne of Judgement, Quess the Spider and Fancy Frank the Hound assemble their trap for the inevitable response of the Billhooks to the Orphans claim on their rival gang's turf.

Fancy Frank is a bit groggy from his last fight; there were people looking for him to throw it in the 3rd, but he refused angrily. Of course he lost the fight anyway (in the 4th) and now he reckons more people than usual want to bring the pain. 

Brogan, Quess' informant inside the Billhooks, has let them know that 9 or 10 gang members are coming to see what's going on; he's the Billhooks' designated scout for this punitive expedition and Quess and Fancy Frank deploy their gang of thugs to a nice (almost) cul-de-sac where they'll draw the Billhooks away from Brogan's well-scouted location. Quess is thinking of her informant's long-term future with the Billhooks and doesn't want to blow his cover. 

Quess is planning to get the locals riled up against the Billhooks and use that an her opportunity to spring the trap. She knows from talking with Brogan that the leader of this cadre of Billhooks, a man called Narcus (Coran's old lieutenant) is well-known in the gang for abusing kids, so she starts to spread that rumour along the shopkeepers of Bridge Road. She's in civvies.

Fancy Frank has set up in a good sniping position above the alleyway leading to the ambush site. He's fully strapped for a real fight.


Before she can close the deal with the grocer, a shot rings out from behind her. The Billhooks have arrived early and the lead thug opened fire with his pistol. The shot clips Quess' shoulder and hits the shopkeeper square in the chest. Quess just runs, the plan is obviously not going to work with the locals as a lynchpin now, but all the other pieces are still in position (she hopes). She sprints for the alleyway and they chase after her.

Fancy Frank takes careful aim with his long rifle, making sure not to hit Brogan. He squeezes off two rounds as they make their way down the alleyway after Quess, but then he realises that he's left the rest of his rifle ammo behind - that fight must've dulled his routine more than usual, he's not quite as sharp. He jumps down and draws a pistol to give chase himself.

Quess is losing her lead, and the Billhooks behind her are gaining quickly. Brogan, smart lad that he is, runs interference for her by taking the lead and preventing the others from getting within striking distance. Quess draws a blade and wheels around, causing them all to stop suddenly in surprise. Then she takes a deep breath and standstills Brogan right when he's in front of her. She uses the confusion to make her escape and she races into the cleared store-room in the killing zone, grabbing the pistols on the chair before pointing them back at the doorway.

When the Billhooks arrive, they are cut down by the violent ambuscade that Quess' thugs set for them with Quess and Fancy Frank adding to the carnage, and only two or three are able to escape.

**

When they triumphantly return to their lair with the looted gear of the Billhooks and some new turf to add to their expanding territory, they find an exquisitely written letter for their attention. Even with the expensive paper and skilled calligraphy, what really grabs their attention is the Scurlock family seal.

Lord Scurlock, who is kind of friendly with them, requests that they acquire an important and arcane scroll from the cult who worship the Web of Pain. He includes some particulars to help them identify it, but expects to hear back from them soon. They could really do with the return of Gap (their 'lost' Lurk).

Fancy Frank goes down to the boxing rings, but doesn't even get a chance to put his name down on the lists. Some disgruntled punters beat seven shades out of him before his cousin (a local sergeant in the Bluecoats) saves his ass. They're the two black sheep in the extended family, so they do get along, despite their being on opposite sides of the law.

*

Oskar Scurlock
Quess goes down for that, the Bluecoats at the precinct are surprised to see her, but he jail-bird should have little trouble inside - though it's the first time someone from the Cult has made the trip across to Ironhook Prison. This'll take a lot of heat off the Orphans

Inside, the Spider intervenes against some thugs to save the life of young Oskar (before going in Lord Scurlock let her know that Oskar was secretly his great-grand nephew). Quess' usual subtle and social approach to problems backfires inside, and when she has done her time, she's paranoid. She doesn't trust in honour or social etiquette to protect her anymore.

Next Session: Faithful Dead

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Rolling Thunder

Previous Session: Bigger Ambitions

With Fox nowhere to be found, Brother joins up with Wire's crew, making his van available for their raiding/resupply trip.

Kim the Savvyhead is burning the midnight oil on her cure for the affliction that is now spreading beyond Purity. She is wearing her gas mask at all times (apart from inside her shed in Watering Hole). She's a hermetically sealed...well, hermit. Hearing rumours, she visits Madame Cho about her girls being sick and briefs Ripper before heading over. Ripper takes out this marvellous fully enclosed rebreather helmet - it makes Kim quiver.

Dusk the Skinner takes in the hacienda she's now responsible for. Johnson is fiercely proud of his work in taking it from Chum - he tells her how the old guy couldn't keep order and his labour force revolted against him. It was best for everyone that Johnson invaded when he did.



Johnson leaves Dusk to take stock and she calls in the whole gang (it's about half and half Chum's and Johnson's). She stares at the dozen tough nuts in front of her, mulling her options over.
-No matter what you thought til now, you work for me now, and you all work together. If anyone thinks they can't leave their old loyalties behind they'd better walk now...
There are a few glances and awkward shifts
-If I find out anyone's been talking to people off this hacienda about our business, I'll have their hide. I mean, say for instance, someone was letting Johnson know what I'm up to. The rest of you are going to beat the living shit out of that poor bastard.
Killer is boring a hole in the floor with his eyes.
-Who knows this place best?
A young, scrawny thing sticks up her hand. Haystack is her name. Dusk addresses the rest of Chum's old crew.
-You happy with her being in charge of the gang for a while?
There are a few ribald snickers, but no actual dissent (tacit or explicit).
-Well, ok then. When you're out there, you have to mix it up, no sticking to old cliques. Set up shop and send in the workers.

About 40 tired and hungry workers shuffle in. They're not meeting her gaze and don't volunteer anything when she introduces herself and tells them that she's going to change the way things work around here. She's not used to talking to a crowd of people, usually she's most effective one-on-one or with small groups.
-You're going to work for a wage. And once things stabilise we're all going to share whatever profits this place can make.
There's a bit of murmuring after that, and the couple of guards who stuck around with Pinky to oversee this meeting exchange glances.
-After a few months if anyone wants to leave, they're welcome to. I'll tattoo any extra bands you need on your arm to walk out of here. Just remember in the meantime, as far as any hacienda owners outside are concerned you're still just slaves.

She spots a familiar face in the back, a guy called Lang who used to trade trinkets throughout the Valley. He's used to be able to take care of himself, mostly by talking his way out of any trouble. She remembers he was one of her first customers when she set up her place behind TumTum's a few years ago. She reckons he'd be a good person to pick to be a temporary leader, like Haystack.

Damn it if that doesn't touch a raw nerve with the rest of them for some reason. They hurl abuse at him, (calling him 'Stinky') and when she pushes him aside to call the loudest of loudmouths forward she finds herself standing toe to toe with a hard nut called Marlo. She turns defence into attack, telling him he'd better not fuck up if he's going to be the foreman, he stalls and then she turns him around, back towards the others.
-Who pretty much ran the farming here, regardless of what Chum said? Who will run things best?
He points at Pinky, who confidently walks forward and accepts the job. She leaves him and Haystack hash out a plan for the hacienda to present to her later, and she grabs Killer to go upstairs.

***

Kim and Ripper take a look at Sister Assumpta and Scarlet. They give them the prototype anti-lurgy fetishes and then they make up another few to run a controlled test on 10 subjects. Kim gets some extra insight from Ripper, who's been putting together a cocktail of drugs to help people who don't have the full-blown version get over it while the fetish does its work.
Between this and Ripper's fantastic piece of breathing tech, Kim is more than a little turned on, but Ripper turns her down, and doesn't even give her the inside track on the helmet.


Dusk leads Killer into the main bedroom. When she takes off her coat, he looks like a deer in headlights. So she tells him to close the door; he can choose which side he wants to be on. He's a little anxious and after they have sex, He just doesn't know what to do now. So she wonders if he thinks it could be because he's just slept with his boss's girlfriend? She pushes, and he knows that Johnson values utmost loyalty above all things. That sends him into a tailspin, and then she tells him that this means that he really works for her now, he can't risk going to Johnson with any of what she's doing here or he'll find out. He freaks out and leaves.


Kim goes off to Serenity, but Wire's gone from there with her gang. There are tattered tents arrayed near the old hacienda. Sick people lie within, and there's a small group of Found's cult huddled around a fire in the ruins. As she pokes around, her tricorder gets another ping from Johnson's phazer. There were no guards at the gate into the hacienda and there's no look-outs here. Apparently Wire told them they'd be fine, Kobe wouldn't be causing any more trouble. 6 are okay, there are 12 with the lurgy - Goldman is the sickest and most of the rest got sick after Wire's gang arrived. But now they're driving around out beyond the Valley.


She examines Goldman more closely. Opening her brain to the psychic maelstrom, the monster are no longer cute, they're truly monstrous and the usual relaxing bubble bath has been replaced with sulphurous hot springs. Goldman is glowing in a two-way stream of phosphorescence; between him and a nearby monster which is similarly iridescent. A tentacle licks Goldman's upturned eyeball and at Kim's behest it claims the rest of Goldman's mind. He ceases glowing. Later on, during the night, his heart stops and Kim takes a blood sample. Some new information.

And then another ding! from Johnson - he's going to owe her big time!

**

Over the next few days, Dusk is making inroads into running the hacienda. But she needs to get back to Watering Hole - market day is coming and she needs to line things up with TumTum. She gets Killer to drive her back in, but they haven't even pulled away when Johnson drives up in his jeep. There's  big flatbed behind him and Dusk climbs out of Killer's battered sedan to see what the hell is up.

He's excited to show her what he's got, but she cuts him off. He really needs to follow the usual hacienda-visiting protocols. You know, like he'd do if he were visiting anyone else. He shrugs that off, surely that can't apply to him here!

He gestures to his guys and they pull off a big-ass tarpaulin off the back of the flatbed. On top is a long black limo - shiny and chrome. She rolls her eyes, and walk over to Killer. He'd better tell her what that is and where it came from, and he knows he has to.
It's Barker's car, but it doesn't even run, it's just something pretty to sit in and have parties.
When she points this out to Johnson he's nonplussed - of course! He just wants her to be happy, she'll get a smooth ride on top of the flat-bed truck. He storms off with his guys when she refuses, it takes an age to turn the truck around and Killer and Dusk share a silent half hour (apart from cursing from Johnson's crew).


In Watering Hoe Dusk shares whiskey on the porch with Kim and Killer (as Dremmer looks on). Kim studies him, he's a danger to Dusk and her. What she really wants to know is how they can get him to choose Dusk over Johnson. He obviously thinks she's fantastic, and will do just about anything for her. However, Johnson gave him real purpose  (a job and a roof over his head), and he feels like he owes Johnson for that. Sure, the boss is a violent guy but he takes loyalty seriously. So Kim will just have to show him that Johnson really only care about himself and not his people.

Across the alleyway, they can see some fresh graffiti: "The Whore of Babylon", "Burn the Witch!"
Dusk talks to Dremmer, she can see he's a bit hurt, but she reads him into the plan with TumTum - they're going to take these bastards down, any hacienda owner who won't play ball.

*

Night falls.
Dusk's door is kicked down and she's pulled, almost naked, from her bed by a couple of raging thugs. Outside there's a mob with torches and they hurl abuse at her. Dusk yells for Dremmer and Killer to help, but as they drag her away she struggles, elbowing one of her tormenters in the face and escaping.
One of the crowd shoots at her, but somehow misses and she runs past the snarling faces...

Next Session: Burning