Gainful Employment I
THE EX-BLUE SUN AGENTS:
Starbolt Class Personal Transport "Unity Prophet", Outbound from Persephone
The PC's blink and find themselves to have recovered much more smoothly from their flashback than before. Though they seem to be adapting to the process they are intrigued that each of their flashbacks continue to occur within seconds of one another. Echo consults with the other team members and soon leads them to the ship's small infirmary alcove to collect blood samples. Though the equipment there seems geared more toward first aid and minor surgery there are some basic medical equipment that she hopes will help her identify the chemical agent that seems to be causing this. Naturally, she immediately turns and drops the glass vials, shattering them, and has to collect samples from her grumbling team mates all over again.
Michael sends Sierra to gather what equipment she can from the ship's storage bay and personal quarters. He, meanwhile, heads to the bridge to try and ascertain their current trajectory and, hopefully, find a place to land or at least lay low. Sierra manages to gather a few useful items from around the ship, especially several newtech covert ops items and two very expensive handguns.
Michael attempts to follow his intuition operating the completely unfamiliar navigation station of the ship but his Things Don't Go Smooth complication kicks in. He correctly determines their current position and trajectory but incorrectly determines they should be able to land at Athens, the nearest planet in the Burnham Quadrant, and still have fuel to reach one of the border worlds later.
Echo isolates the chemical compound in their blood and determines that is a standard time-release dosage of some unidentified chemical. From studying the chemical composition she is able to guess that it is likely responsible for the intense flashes of memory but can't see how it could relate to them having access to those memories in the first place. Apparently they already exist somewhere in their minds and the compound simply serves to stimulate oddly timed bursts of recollection from their own subconscious. She is unable to estimate how long this effect may continue, though typically such time-release dosages such as this can be engineered to last for as long as several days.
Having gathered together again in the small common room the PC's report to one another and distribute the gear that Sierra has collected. With no indication that another flashback is coming over them they split up again to individual tasks. Michael hits the cortex to try and find out what he can about the illegal broadcast. An innately intuitive person, he is able to formulate a roughly accurate overall picture of the incidents surrounding the broadcast and Miranda itself, despite all the rhetoric and double-talk. Try as he might, though, he is unable to identify the mysterious group who raided Miranda and initiated the broadcast in the first place.
Sierra and Echo use the gun maintenance and electronics toolkits they've found to examine the two blue rods taken from the blue gloves earlier. They spend some time poking and prodding the devices but are unable to learn neither anything of interest nor how to activate them, only barely managing to locate the batteries that power the things. They are dismayed when Michael later comes to relay what he's learned about Miranda and the illegal broadcast. They find that, though their dual personalities conflict sharply on the matter, they are still more or less loyal to the Alliance. After much soul searching they come to the mutual agreement that the Miranda incident in conjunction with recent events make their government somewhat suspect and untrustworthy.
With that they continue on toward Athens, hoping to ride out the last of the flashbacks in relative safety on one of her moons. No sooner do they take their places at the bridge and assign themselves various duties there, the mild full-body tingling begins and they are able to brace themselves well in advance of the flashback's assault.
Rink, oblivious, continues enjoying a well-deserved nap in the commons.
THE INDEPENDENCE SOLDIERS:
After some four months in the Center, the PC's "stepped up" processing finally bears fruit and they are informed that they will be transferred out soon. With all the "business associates" and friends that Garrote had managed to make among the less savory elements of the processing camp, the PC's are more than ready to depart. Following a lengthy round of examinations and paper work they are finally escorted out of the camp, along with nearly a dozen other prisoners, and transferred via shuttle to the personnel carrier, "Vigilance". From there it is a short two-day journey to Persephone and the Eavesdown War Prisoner Placement Center.
Stepping off the shuttle at the public docks in Eavesdown they find a government bus waiting to take them to the center. They also find, to their great surprise, the one and only Rink the wonder dog waiting for them at the docks as well. As Iddy squeals and rushes forward to greet the ugly pup, who is himself abundantly excited to see her, one of the dock workers asks after the two. When learning the story from Ringo and Angelina, the dock worker relates to them that the old, mangy dog has come every day to wait at the docks, after having been literally kicked off a shuttle some months ago. Apparently, from where ever he's been sleeping, he can hear the Alliance shuttles landing and comes running whenever one makes an appearance.
After the tear jerking reunion, the PC's happily board the bus (with the familiar argument with the bus driver concerning Rink) and ride on to the Placement Center, still wearing their cheap grey Processing Camp prisoner uniforms. Once there they find the government officials to be more than a little lazy and spend the rest of the day lounging in the Center waiting room. Iddy is thankfully able to convince Rink to wait outside the door where she can keep an eye on him and so the PC's settle in for a protracted engagement with Alliance bureaucracy.
As the day begins to come to a close, however, Pamela loses patience and approaches the receptionist, demanding an update on their case. Working the system a bit, she is finally able to get the PC's in to see their individual counselors and settle their cases before the place closes for the day (and leaves them to sleep in the street). They are quickly able to access the few meager belongings that survived Alliance custody and take possession of them again. Ringo is palpably relieved to regain his grand pappy's Old Grizzly hunting rifle, even if laws forbid him taking it in hand before leaving the premises.
To their great surprise they find that Special Operations was one of the lucky few units to have actually received a portion of their combat pay out of the now disbanded Independence faction's war funds (before the Alliance was able to seize control of the wealth). With their cash on hand now totaling some three hundred credits they are ready to leave the Center and make their way in the world again. They are more than a little offended when their counselors offer them maps of all the local flophouses and issue them their worker's identcards for the nearby chicken plant. Apparently, the Alliance was kind enough to arrange employment for the lot of them...plucking chickens at 1.5 credits per day. The PC's decide to politely turn down the offer and exit the Center before they lose their tempers.
With their hard-earned wealth in hand they at last don their own clothing (mostly odds and ends of old Independents "uniforms"), holster/shoulder their weapons and hit the streets of Eavesdown. At the sidelong looks from some of the locals, not to mention every Alliance federal they pass on the streets, they quickly decide a new wardrobe is in order. By the time the sun has set on Eavesdown they've completed outfitting themselves with some respectable casual clothing (but keeping their browncoats), personal multibands, various standard gear, a year's supply of Pascaline-D for Ringo and ammunition for their weapons. After a short consultation they come to an agreement, track down and locate the most expensive local hotel in Eavesdown and make reservations for the night in their largest three bedroom penthouse for a whopping forty five credits.
Proceeding there they enjoy a night of utter debauchery stuffing themselves with expensive foods and wines, hours-long soaks in aroma-therapy bubble baths and sleeping buck naked on every silk sheet in the place. By the morning they feel more or less satisfied with themselves and are ready to seek more attractive employment than chicken pluckin'.
Sleeping in a bit the next day, the PC's hit the streets trying to track down the local hangout for recently released browncoats. After only an hour of wandering around the Eavesdown slums, Angelina finds the local bar, "The Brown Brigade", and the PC's go in to carouse with their peers. During the course of the next hour the PC's have learned that many of the newly arrived browncoats from the Dike camps, those that haven't found their way on to their old homes, have taken up the odd job with some of the local gangs. Specifically, Kid Diablo has hired on over two dozen of the Independent fighters to bulk up his army of thugs in order to enforce his territory against incursions from rival gangs (who've done likewise).
At present Kid Diablo is still on the lookout for a few more goons but, with the large group he's already taken on, feels he can be a bit pickier in his selection this go around. Most of the more recent arrivals who've sought a position in Diablo's gang have been flatly turned away. Of course, applying with rival gangs in neighboring areas of town can be a bit deadly, as several browncoats found planted facedown in the slag pits can attest.
After buying a few rounds and greasing a few palms the PC's find that Kid Diablo is probably their best bet for solid employment in the area. On the other hand, they've a tentative plan to just dig up a cheap transport heading for Regina, Ringo's old home world, and find something there to hold them over until they can come up with something more ambitious. There at least Ringo has some friends and family, and likely will be able to take care of the lot of them relatively easily and for a good long while. Unfortunately, any further plans they might make are cut short when a swarm of federal marshals raid The Brown Brigade.
Immediately on spotting the crowd of marshals entering the door, the PC's start looking for a back door out of the place. That, too, seems to be disgorging a small crowd of marshals into the bar as well. As shouts of "Raid! Raid!" just begin to echo through the crowd the PC's do their best to shove their way through, before they start to stampede, and get to the stairwell leading upstairs. In the process of pushing their way through the mob of fellow browncoats they nimbly avoid jostling them enough to start any of the shoving matches like those breaking out around them.
After a close call with a small band of badge-waving, browncoat-grappling marshals the PC's reach the stairs and start forcing their way up through the crowd of other fleeing browncoats. Upstairs, though, it doesn't take long for them to realize there's no way out but the windows and they take the nearest one overlooking the alley that they can find. Ringo makes the drop with no problem but Angelina and Iddy both land hard, injuring themselves and sprawling awkwardly in the alleyway below. Taking to their feet to limp quickly away from the bar they find a federal van is already backing into the dead end alley. Sure enough, turning around they find the back door of the bar flying open as dozens of marshals begin hauling their charges out the door and down the alley toward the van. In moments they find themselves at the wrong end of a few stun batons and reluctantly toss up their hands to surrender.
Spending the night in the local lockup, the PC's eventually are able to meet with counsel the next morning and are informed of the charges. It would seem that being caught in the same bar as "terrorist conspirators" makes one accessory by default. After only a few minutes speaking with their public defenders it quickly becomes apparent that they have little interest in putting any actual effort into their defense. The PC's consult and finally decide that hiring private counsel, though expensive, may be their best option.
After demanding access to a terminal, Angelina is able to find a personal lawyer at a relatively reasonable rate and makes arrangements. By the end of the day they have a counselor on retainer who's willing to throw his weight around the law station. He has them released and all charges dropped by nightfall. The cost, unfortunately, is fairly high. Still and all, the PC's decide that maybe having a lawyer on retainer may not be a bad idea until they can get clear a little farther from the core worlds.
On the other hand, with costs of off world passage having escalated with the influx of war prisoners, they fear that passage as far as the rim worlds may take too big a bite of their wealth than they're comfortable with.
After retrieving their gear, exchanging hands (and credits) with their lawyer and hitting the streets again, the PC's decide to take a less expensive room for the night. Taking a moderate hotel room off the docks, they put their heads together and make plans for the immediate future. When Angelina later checks the cortex for local news and employment opportunities she stumbles on a private wave addressed to all three of them. Accessing it she finds the wave address of Jess and Helen Henison out of Athens. In moments the team is in contact with their two old prison mates.
Once niceties are exchanged, Helen gets right to the point. The two of them have found solid employment with Unified Reclamation on Athens in their local security department. It would seem that Unified has already begun laying the groundwork for a serious attempt at salvaging the rubble on Athens and is beginning to prepare to make the big move. The two of them are already there making arrangements and investigating any foreseeable difficulties. The most obvious being so many Athens natives draining the local Alliance aid organizations as well as a surprising number of Independent holdouts who are managing to make a real nuisance of themselves already.
After only a month on Athens the Henison team can already see that Unified will need to bulk up the security contingent it's assigned to the project before things even get started. To that end they're going to need security officers who are both trustworthy and well skilled. After the help the PC's offered to the Henison's in the Processing Center, they feel they should return the favor a bit with a nice heads up. Unified Reclamation will be looking for gun hands soon and the two of them can put the PC's names high on the list, if they like. All the PC's need do is to make their way out toward Athens in the next couple of months and they can almost guarantee them a very well paying bit of work.
The PC's require little persuading and quickly give the Henisons the nod. With assurances that they'll keep a spot open for them for the next two months, they sign off. The PC's then turn their attention to securing a way off-planet to Athens. Clearly they need something very affordable if they want to travel with anything but empty pockets.
After considering seeking employment with Kid Diablo or one of the other local gangs, the PC's decide to leave that as a last resort. The kinds of activities they'll likely be expected to participate in with such employers are particularly distasteful considering everything they've already been through. Ringo hits a public access cortex terminal to check the status of his investments and finds that, though things haven't gone well during the course of War, he still has quite a nice hunk of free change at his disposal at the moment. Angelina cruises the local docks on the cortex as well and lucks upon a small freighter seeking passengers to supplement a cargo run to Beylix' third moon, Shang. Figuring it should be easier to get passage from there to Athens than from Persephone (with so many war prisoners scrambling for passage off world); Ringo quickly makes contact and arranges transfer of funds. The PC's head for the docks straightaway, stopping only to pick up the year's supply of Pascaline-D that Ringo ordered from the local pharmacy earlier.
Arriving at the docks they soon meet with Captain Josiah Holloway of the mid-bulk freighter "Titan" and his pilot, "Red" Phelps. After polite introductions they learn that the ship's regular "security" crewmen were all picked up in a raid on one of the local bars recently. Titan will have to leave without them to make this shipment and return for them later. Hence, the captain feels compelled to offer a discount if the PC's are willing to take the slack with any "security concerns" that might come up. After making it clear that the PC's won't be engaging in any overtly illegal activities they agree and the captain refunds a small portion of their fare. The PC's climb aboard and secure passenger quarters for the trip.
The PC's spend the next seven days acquainting themselves with the other crewmen and learning what they can about the shipment, without appearing overly curious. From all indications it would seem to be a routine shipment of mining equipment, personal post and various odds and ends to the small town on Shady Creek on Shang. Ringo even manages to get a peek in some of the containers and notes nothing unusual or potentially troublesome.
The team uses their travel time to exchange waves with the Henisons on Athens, informing them of their progress and learning what they can about the upcoming job with Unified Reclamation. They learn that preparations for the planet-wide salvage operation are proceeding with some difficulty, due in large part to raids on Unified convoys and supply drops by bandits. Whether the bandits are Independent holdouts or simply an organized band of desperate locals is still unclear, but they've managed to cause a great deal of trouble so far. This coupled with the irregular small-scale terrorist attacks by the holdouts on both Unified concerns and Alliance charitable aid organizations, not to mention the burdensome Alliance bureaucracy itself, has made the entire project so far almost untenable. Fortunately the local governor fully supports the Unified salvage project in the hopes that it will eventually help revitalize the planet and is working in conjunction with Unified's agents on site.
On one hand it looks as if the PC's will have to wait about a week on Shang for their processing to go through and allow them to enter into the lucrative contract with Unified Reclamation. On the other hand the very generous 250 credit per month, six-year initial contract has already received pre-approval, thanks in large part to the Henison's flattering references and the Alliance commendation they received in the Processing Center. If everything goes well, they can even expect Unified to pick them up on Shang and transport them to Athens as well.
THE INDEPENDENCE SOLDIERS:
Shady Creek, Shang
Arriving on Shang, the PC's take up arms and oversee the shipment exchange without difficulty. Once the shipment has been gathered up and hauled away to the local post office, they say their goodbyes to the crew of Titan and head off to book rooms in the local Shady Creek hotel. After meeting the local Mayor, who owns and operates the establishment, they bed down for the night hoping to avoid any trouble until their processing with Unified goes through.
During the night Ringo is awakened by sounds of braying and muffled cursing outside his window. Taking a careful look from the window he spies two men heading out from the tent city on the north edge of town. The cursing seems to be prompted by the fact that they're leading a very obstinate donkey bearing a suspiciously man-shaped bundle tossed across its back. Ringo heads for his partner's rooms to knock and has a bit of difficulty rousing them, as they are both quite soundly asleep at that late hour. After finally being reduced to banging loudly on Iddy's door, he gets her up and about. They quickly collect Angelina, gear up and head out the back door of the hotel to investigate.
Outside they find the two men have managed to drag the braying donkey almost completely out of town before they could intercept. Moving quickly to catch up they are able to approach within thirty feet of the two and get a good look at the donkey before they are spotted. While they can't positively identify the bundle on the donkey's back as a body, it seems by all indications to be just that. Wielding arms and calling out to the two, the PC's bring the two startled men to a halt. They immediately turn, with hands on their holsters, while Ringo points out the body on the donkey's back and questions them about it. The two men are quick to threaten the team to back off and mind their own business...or else. When Ringo assures them that they have the choice of throwing down arms or throwing down lead, and that the PC's are fine with either one, the two men draw steel.
Jake Steer outdraws everyone and lands a hit on both Ringo and Iddy. Ringo returns fire with his Grizzly and drops him stone dead immediately after, though. Iddy attempts a double shot aimed at Tricky Ricky's gun arm but misses both shots after having dodged and suffering a nasty bruise through her armor. Angelina, however, acts freely and, following Iddy's lead, lands a load of buckshot in the Ricky's arm causing him to drop his pistol and rendering his gun arm useless. Tricky Ricky turns and attempts to flee, as does the donkey that caused all the commotion, but a quick sprint and tackle by Ringo brings him down and knocks him out.
In moments the local sheriff is on the scene wearing nothing but his long johns and wielding a revolver. The PC's are quick to put away their weapons and explain the situation, though the donkey has already fled braying into the distance (with Rink hot on his heels). Without any evidence to cast doubt on the two men, one of whom is dead and the other unconscious, the PC's are informed that they're under arrest. They offer up arms, causing no trouble, while the sheriff calls a couple of bystanders over to haul Tricky Ricky to the doctor. He then escorts the PC's to the jail to hold them until the matter can be properly investigated.
As it's near to sunup, the sheriff settles in once the PC's are locked away to question them concerning the shooting. By this time Tricky Ricky is already in the care of the town doctor up the street, so Angelina asks for her doctor's bag in order to treat Ringo and Iddy. Examining them while they speak with the sheriff, she determines there's little she can do for the bruising and reckons they'll be fully recovered with a few hours of rest (which it looks as if they'll be getting). During the course of the questioning the PC's manage to convince the sheriff that they're being truthful concerning their version of events. But, as he's the law-abiding sort, he'll be keeping them locked up until he has some solid evidence that they acted in self-defense.
Within a few hours the PC's are fully recovered, the sun has since risen and they're being treated to a fine meal by the sheriff's kind wife. While they eat the sheriff is called away by one of the locals. When he returns they are pleased to find Rink has returned to town this morning. Even better, the donkey seems to have accompanied him. As the sheriff allows Rink to visit with Iddy at the cell bars he goes to check over the donkey. Finding that the animal indeed does carry a corpse after all, he quickly drops all charges against the PC's and releases them. After escorted them politely from the jail, and warns them not to leave town just yet, he sets off after Tricky Ricky to begin a proper investigation into the matter.
As the PC's collect their confiscated gear once again they move off back to the hotel to get back to the business of lying low. Almost immediately they run square into Jess Wesson, the bartender of the local saloon. He politely invites them to a meeting with Mr. Kilburn, the owner. Agreeing to the meeting, the PC's go there and receive a warm greeting (and free whiskey) in Kilburn's office. After much casual conversation it becomes apparent that Kilburn has called the meeting to more or less check the PC's over, though not for any readily apparent job offer or any other such business. Ringo senses that Kilburn is especially angry about something, but doing well to hide it. Figuring that the entire meeting is a waste of time on their parts, they politely beg off from further company citing their injuries from the previous night. After offering the services of whores in the saloon free of charge for the day, if they wish, Kilburn reluctantly bids farewell, clearly not having satisfied himself with them.
On the way out of the saloon the PC's encounter Shepherd Sadler, the local preacher, who introduces himself and invites them to Sunday service should they remain in town that long. The PC's offer their polite acceptance of his kind invitation and moves off as quickly as they are able from the shrewd eye of the older woman in the rocking chair that the Shepherd is talking to.
Feeling more and more like every minute outside the safety of their hotel rooms is an invitation for getting into trouble, the PC's are eager to reach it and get off the street. Unfortunately the hotel is clear on the other side of town and they can already see the sheriff exiting the doctor's office between here and there. Sure enough, he quickly spies them and moves toward them.
With a begrudging sigh the PC's meet Sheriff Trulock halfway and discuss the murder investigation so far. It would seem that the unfortunate man who took his last ride on a donkey last night was Curtis Tibbs, who's laid claim to a small gold mine outside of town. Concerned for his partner at the stake the sheriff wants to ride out there while Tricky Ricky is still resting and recovering. He asks the PC's if they'd be willing to keep their eyes open around town while he's gone, though he warns them to steer clear of Ricky until he wraps up his investigation. Technically, they're still suspect in the shooting and Ricky is, again technically, a witness. Any interaction between the two of them might not bode well for the PC's in the future. Talking it over amongst themselves, the PC's agree as they walk the sheriff to his horse and watch him ride away. They move off quickly toward the hotel to keep an eye on the street and the doctor's office from there.
Settling in on the front porch of the place they soon spy Shepherd Sadler move off from the saloon at the other end of town and enter the doctor's office. Staying well over half an hour, he finally leaves and makes straight for the south road and the church up the hill. They spot little else of significance during their vigil over the next few hours.
Just after noon sheriff Trulock returns and immediately catches up with the PC's. He seems troubled to learn that Sadler visited to doctor's office in his absence but offers no explanation. Thanking them for watching over things while he was away, he seems preoccupied and moves off immediately for the saloon where they met with Kilburn that morning. Almost immediately a heated argument erupts between Trulock and Kilburn, echoing throughout the town. The words "murder" and "hanging" are clearly heard, as well as Kilburn's threat to beat down any many that accuses him of such. The PC's can see that the folk around town are more than a little on edge and gather there's been a confrontation brewing between the two for likely some time. In due course, after much shouting back and forth, the sheriff can be seen storming out of the saloon and back toward the jail.
After a quick consultation the PC's move toward the jail to intercept the sheriff. There they learn from him that he found the claim that Tibbs and his partner McReedy shared has been abandoned. Sheriff Trulock suspects Jake Steer and Tricky Ricky may be jumping claim on the place and, since both men are known to work for Kilburn from time to time, he suspects he may be directly involved. He warns the PC's to watch their backs until he can sort matters out, then gathers a shotgun and ammo before trotting off to the doctor's office to fetch Ricky and lock him up.
When it becomes clear over the next hour that nothing more is going to occur any time soon, the PC's decide it might be a good time to get back to hiding out in their hotel rooms. They gather in Angelina's room as it's positioned at the end of the hall and allows them full view clear to the stairway.
Just after midnight Ringo and Rink are both alerted to the sound of a small group of men moving stealthily up the hall outside. Taking up arms and cover in the room the girls wait while Ringo checks the peephole in the door. He spots four men outside, all wielding heavy revolvers, as they gather around the door to Iddy's room. As he watches quietly one of the men carefully picks the lock while another unscrews the single light in the hall. Once the door is open, they sneak inside.
Angelina joins Ringo at the door while Iddy ushers Rink off into a corner, ordering him to stay put and stay quiet. Iddy botches her attempt to control Rink, however. He quickly becomes excited at the commotion and begins yelping excitedly at the door of the room while she is forced to grapple him to keep him in check. Ringo and Angelina throw open the door and take cover in the doorway, drawing down on the hallway outside to cover the door to Iddy's room. As one of the men pokes his head and shoulder out of the doorway to spy out the commotion, Ringo and Angelina yell warnings to throw down arms and come out. The man immediately ducks back inside the room.
As Iddy struggles with Rink, he breaks free and dashes for the door of the room. While Iddy spends a plot point to control him, Angelina holds her fire in order to open up on whoever threatens them from the hallway. When Claude moves out, firing on Ringo, hitting him twice despite his cover and wounding him badly, she opens fire on him, hitting twice but not putting him down.
Frank moves into the hallway immediately after, firing on Ringo as well. Ringo actively dodges these two shots and they miss him, slamming into the doorframe. Tree Trunk takes cover in the doorway to Iddy's room, opening fire on Angelina. She is hit hard twice and also requires plot points to stay conscious. Ringo then opens fire on Claude twice, killing him, and Frank once, wounding him badly. Big Lips, meanwhile, darts directly into the middle of the hall to fire on Angelina, though he misses badly both times.
While Rink quivers in the corner of the room, wanting badly to get into the action, Iddy moves directly into the doorway and opens up on Frank, killing him, and Tree Trunk, who's covered in the doorway, missing. When Tree Trunk returns fire, he botches, drops his pistol and turns to flee toward the stairs. Angelina then drops a couple of plot points into both of her shots and hits Tree Trunk both times, killing him. Before Big Lips can flee, as he clearly intends to, Ringo unloads three shots into his legs, hoping to stop him. Unfortunately, he drops him instantly.
Angelina immediately tosses down her shotgun, grabs her bag and rushes into the hallway to triage the four men. She finds all of them already dead but Big Lips seems to have the best chance at resuscitation. She makes the attempt, dropping three plot points into her roll after the fact, and succeeds. Big Lips makes his Endurance roll and his black heart starts beating again. Angelina immediately begins first aid to stabilize him and succeeds.
As Ringo and Iddy stand guard over her while she works (and Rink gnaws busily on Claude's boot) the sheriff arrives demanding explanations. After laying out the entire incident to him and seeing Angelina working diligently on Big Lips, he only has time to remark that the "whole town is going to hell" before he must rush off to keep watch over Ricky in the jail. He is quick to point out that he needs Big Lips alive as Ricky has already fingered Kilburn in the whole mess with the jumped claim. With Big Lip's witness to stand with Ricky's he can maybe wrap up this whole mess. With that he charges the PC's with keeping the big bundle of nasty alive to stand trial and unofficially deputizes the lot of them.
Iddy reloads her shotgun, collects Rink from Claude's boot and limps off to the doctor's office to fetch a stretcher or some other way of transporting Big Lips to the jail. Ringo hobbles downstairs to the hotel lobby to watch over her and guard the stairs up to the hallway where Angelina is working. In due course she returns, the three of them gingerly load up the gravely wounded man and head out toward the jail. Ringo and Rink guard over the girls while they're busy hauling the heavy load.
At the jail the PC's assure the sheriff that Big Lips is more or less stable, though Angelina is inclined to operate on the man's injuries to insure he heals properly. She sets about doing so, with Trulock's permission, while the other PC's rest as best they're able. Within the hour Angelina has finished patching up the worst of the wounds Ringo's Grizzly has inflicted, though the man will probably walk with a limp for the rest of his life.
While Angelina works and the sheriff stands guard Iddy and Ringo rest up, taking the last remaining jail cell and the sheriff's own bed. By morning they've recovered from most of their bruising and are ready for action again. Meeting with the sheriff they are informed that if Big Lips supports Ricky's confession that Kilburn is behind the claim jump he'll finally have something to go after Kilburn with. If not, he has nothing but Ricky's word which ain't worth spit. With everything that's happened in the last couple of days, he figures having Kilburn riled up is going to be especially bad for the town. Angelina has worked remarkably well on Big Lip's injuries and expects he'll recover consciousness safely, with continued monitoring, in a few hours. When that happens he absolutely has to have that confession. It's up to the PC's stand with him at least until then and probably afterward should he move against Kilburn.
Preparing for things to go especially bad over the remainder of the day, Iddy makes a quick dash for the hotel to retrieve the PC's hustle gear. They all take the time to place their plate inserts into their vests, reload and prepare their gear for a protracted siege. Iddy and Ringo are both still bruised and battered enough to hamper their combat abilities, so Angelina administers mild painkillers to both of them to keep them limber.
By noon Kilburn and two of his men from the saloon have already come to the jail to see the sheriff. After feigning curiosity at his murder investigation the sheriff cuts through Kilburn's "fancy talk" and flat out accuses him of conspiracy, promising to extract testimony from both his prisoners. Kilburn flies into a rage and only Ringo and Rink's attempts at intimidation on the three men prevent a gunfight from breaking out right in front of the jail. The men depart with Kilburn promising no end to the entire matter.
The PC's are surprised when the sheriff blatantly drives off the local Shepherd, Sadler, soon after when he comes to reason with him. From him they learn that Sadler is, in his opinion, no better than Kilburn and likely in collusion with him to some degree. Clearly the entire town is rife with troublemakers and killers, so the PC's had best keep their eyes open.
By nightfall the PC's can see and hear a large number of the townsfolk gathering at the saloon at the end of the street. Presently the sheriff's wife drops by to warn him that Kilburn is trying to get the townsfolk riled up to lynch the two prisoners, claiming the sheriff is dragging his feet on bringing them to justice. With that he tells her to pack up and clear out of town for a couple of days. When she refuses, Angelina chips in and helps the sheriff persuade her. Reluctantly she leaves to saddle up their old mare and ride out to nearby Carverstone, hoping to fetch help from the lawman there.
Within two hours the PC's can spot a mob forming in the street at the far end of town. When it begins moving purposefully toward the jail, they take up position on the front step with the sheriff. Iddy takes a moment to put Rink in one of the jail cells to keep him out of trouble. As the mob approaches, bearing torches and disturbingly more rope than needed for two hangings, the sheriff fires into the air and warns them off. When accusations and threats begin flying, he attempts to calm the crowd and assure them justice will be done. Further, he boldly claims that Kilburn himself is involved in the whole messy business and that's why he's got them all riled up in the first place. Angelina lends her support to the sheriff's accusations, encouraging the crowd not to do Kilburn's dirty work for him and eliminate the two witnesses to his guilt. As the crowd begins to mutter and doubt their course of action, shots ring out and Angelina is hit.
Quickly identifying the man who fired on her Ringo immediately lets loose with three shots straight into him with his Grizzly, knocking him flying dead as a doornail. Iddy attempts to spy out anyone else in the crowd who might wish to do them injury but she sees no one. As the crowd screams and breaks for cover, another man draws his pistol and takes bead on Ringo, firing twice but missing. Iddy unloads two shells at his legs, knocking him down and out. The crowd has soon fled to a safe distance and the PC's can see there's no one else offering any threat. The sheriff soon has the few remaining townsfolk convinced they've been suckered and orders them all off home to let him deal with things.
Angelina takes a moment to stabilize the man Iddy downed, then convinces a couple of bystanders to drag him off to the local doctor. When she rejoins the others they reload and take up positions inside the jail again. They spend the next two hours awaiting sunrise, taking what rest they can in the meantime.
By midnight the PC's detect the sounds of shouting and a few shots ringing out from the far end of town. After spying things out a bit they are unable to determine the cause of the commotion as it seems to be taking place somewhere behind the saloon. Presently they can see a small crowd of men dragging another into the street, whooping and yelling the whole while. The PC's confer and decide to move out and investigate.
Dashing quickly down the street they find none other than Kilburn himself being dragged by the small mob toward the old oak tree at the edge of town. They quickly learn from the men there that they caught him trying to skip town in the night. Clearly, they intend to hang him. Angelina attempts to intervene but fails to sway the crowd. Short of drawing leather, it seems nothing is going to stop these folks from exacting their vigilante justice. While they watch helplessly, Kilburn is bound and fitted with a noose.
Behind them, from the direction of the saloon, a shot rings out and the older woman they spied chatting with Sadler two days before is now threatening the crowd with a shotgun, demanding they release her "boy". As the PC's dive for cover, shots are fired from both parties and the crowd, driven to a blood-thirsty vengeance, lays the old woman low at the steps of the saloon.
Within moments Kilburn is hanging from the noose, food for the crows.
While the crowd celebrates their victory and Kilburn dangles, the PC's move back to the jail to report the event to the sheriff. The sheriff laments that there just ain't enough of him to go around and he more or less expected things to turn out this way. They spend the remainder of the night watching over their prisoners without further incident.
By morning the sheriff's wife has returned with the Carverstone sheriff, two deputies and a local Alliance federal officer. After lengthy questioning, the two prisoners are taken into custody and the fed begins his own investigation of the rash of shootings that have taken place over the last three days. Naturally, the PC's are bogged down in the investigation and spend the next two weeks in Shady Creek. When the fed departs at last, both prisoners have been hanged in the street and two of Kilburn's other employees now accompany him to Carverstone to be remanded to the prison there.
Interestingly, examination of the bodies of the four men that attacked them in the hotel reveal that one of them had the deed to the local mine in his possession. The sheriff guesses they more than likely intended to plant the deed on one of the PC's in order to implicate them and distract suspicion from Kilburn. Regardless, with McReedy gone without a trace locals are quick to dash out to the abandoned mine and scour the place for gold before the sheriff can interdict. After two weeks McReedy still hasn't reappeared.
With the whole mess at last drawn to some measure of conclusion, the sheriff is quick to offer the PC's employment with the town as full-time deputies. After the events that have transpired, they've well earned the admiration of most of the townsfolk, and the fear of several others. Giving the offer serious consideration, the PC's at last decline politely. Recent communication with the Henisons on Athens confirms that their position with Unified Reclamation has been prepared and they merely waiting for them to clear up matters on Shang before sending a transport for them.
Four days later the PC's pack their bags, bid farewell to Shady Creek and board the Unified transport to Athens.
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