Wide Weird West

Can't take us Nowhere.
S.M.M

Seems me and my friends can’t go anywhere without some doings a-transpiring. We cannot even go to a historical Gala without some form of bandit breaking in and threatening the lives of good people.

That is better than the giant robot scorpion I was expecting, although something of an anti-climax.

I certainly seem to have settled into a good group; people who won’t panic at the first round fired. I wish I had people like Lonesome, Addy and Cobb in my squad in the army. I’d like the regulations to witness those two ‘ineffective females’. And I think we could have used Cobb as a cannon mule or cover if nothing else.

It may sound crazy, but I swear I saw our Indian Friend turn into a cat! On the other hand, I have no idea what the illness running through me is doing to my mind, so I may have imagined it. Going to have to convince that Man to stop chopping bits off the dead though, it is beginning to cause comment.
Then again who am I to argue with a man who can turn into a cat…

Money has been a little loose these past months, but some of that Agent’s payment has bought a smile to at least one friend. It was a tough move, not spending it on another ‘miracle cure’. And walking into that shop reminded me of the times I had to walk those thirty steps to my father’s desk. Of course, this time I wasn’t getting a thrashing. But it was worth the look on her face, I think she may even have been blushing a little. Been a while since I had that effect on a girl.

I am finding it hard to concentrate. Sometimes I feel like I have forgotten Charity, then I think I hear her voice on the edge of hearing and I glance around. Of course, she is not there. And then my heart lurches. I think if this had happened a month ago I would have sought to end it quicker than my god given time. “A despair so great as to be a sin. The end of hope and faith.” Those were the Turtles words. But I don’t feel that now.

I look at the coming end and I do feel sadness, because I have people in my life, that I have allowed into my life. I worry that, with certain thoughts in my head, I may be betraying my family. I also worry I may be heading to a path that is no good for anyone, but I can’t seem to help myself.

If this is my end, then I will make it a good one, with good people around me. Maybe I should stop looking for a cure that may not be there, and let that old Indian’s magic do its thing. But my family didn’t go into the dark without me there to hold them. And I don’t think, if I’m going to meet my Maker, I’ll be going lonely either…

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Historic Announcement!
** Marshall's Update **

You’re about to make History!

After spending a few not completely event free days in Junkyard, they attend the Gala announcement at the Grand Hotel in Junkyard. It turns out that some artifacts of Major John Powell’s last ill fated expedition to the Grand Canyon have turned up! The Explorers Society and Smith and Robards are Sponsoring it. However, during the announcement, several bandits attempt to raid the doings! THe one who shouted seemed headed for the stage.

Although the ballroom was pack close to burstin’, our posse dealt with the interlopers rather handily. Once the constabulary arrived, they were in no mood for questioning, but they each received an invitation to visit with Dr. Haskins in his room upstairs. Seems his bodyguard, Ms. Miller, has convinced him he needs a bit more security than he was expecting, and thinks these stalwart characters maybe his answer…

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A Lesson on Death and the Stars; Interlude.
S.M.M

It can be difficult to see the stars here; the City of Gloom lives up to its name. I have failed to find a cure for the spectre that haunts me, but I have made some allies on the way here that, with luck, will make my passing bearable.

But it is the sudden glimpses of the stars that I now wait for every night, when the wind shifts the floating layer of dust and soot enough to see the sky.

They remind me of a time many years ago at university, and my fencing tutor James Garbett. We all called him the Turtle. 75 years old, an almost unprecedented age for a soldier, but he was still strong and fast. It occurs to me now we are almost entirely the opposite spectrum of a man; he lived to a grand old age, and I will in all likely-hood not see fifty.

I remember that last night better than some of the lessons we had; his few remaining students sitting around him while we waited for the dawn. Duels were illegal, of course, but the Turtle had a deeper sense of honour than any man I ever knew. His daughter, like my own, lay cold in the earth. Her killer had escaped justice through his bank, not the courts, and the Turtle had challenged him. An ancient challenging his own student. His best student.

The other men drifted away as the night wore on, but I remained with my teacher; I owed him that much at least. He was smiling now, the first smile I could ever remember, and the drinks I had consumed made me brave, or foolish, and I asked him why he had never smiled, but could do so now his daughter was in the dirt at the hands of a man he had loved like a son.

“I don’t think I was a melancholy man by nature, but life piles on a man the longer he sticks to it. Weighs him down. When you are a young man like yourself, life is full of wonders. Love, hope, oppotunity. But as the years roll on things become ordinary. colours lose their vibrance.”

Here he indicated the stars above us. "Stars lose their glitter. You become less in awe of the world. It loses its magic.
“I don’t see this as a painful thing. I think it is a mercy. I believe its just so its all so much easier to let it go when its our time to pass. But when you have lived as long as I have It can break you down, all the tarnished luster. And its hard to be alive and be so broken.”

I couldn’t say anything at the time. I’m not sure that I even understood it.

“But tonight the stars are gleaming like they did when I was a bairn, and tomorrow I will probably see my family again. It has been an awful long time.”

The Turtle didn’t defeat my former friend. He was toyed with; the muscle of his arm cut so he couldn’t lift his sword, and his nose and ear sliced off before his opponant finally had the decency to finish it with a thrust to the heart. He laughed then, the man with the name that I cannot even write down. Asked me if I would avenge our teacher, take up the sword to show his friends how good I was.

I shot him in the stomach and let him lay screaming as I murdered his friends that didn’t run from the field as the sun rose. Then, when we were alone amongst the remains of my teacher and his opponents friends, I told him how I had loved Turtles daughter, and had hoped to propose that Summer. We chatted, or I chatted, as he tried to reach his sword. It was a happy coincidence, but the round from my hidden revolver had passed through his guts and severed his spine. I had used much of my families money to ensure we would not be bothered by the authorities. But when I got tired of his crying and screaming, I took my master’s blade and slowly pushed it through the dying man’s eye.

Not a nice story, is it. My teacher would have been ashamed of me, for using a pistol and for cutting down surprised men from what was essentially an ambush. And I am certain that wherever the Turtle went to meet his family, I won’t be heading there when I pass.

But I am content, i think. I can see the end coming, but I still feel pleasure at the sight of a beautiful woman, and I can still stare at the stars.

I think I prefer to not know what it’s like not to be in awe of the stars.

Thank you, James, for being my teacher.

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A Rocky Start
Lonesome Chapman

A rocky start –
Twenty years of riding trains with my father from circuit court to circuit court and not once did someone blow up a bridge, or disconnect cars. Twenty years of practically living in a narrow bunk and getting geography lessons through windows and never once did the engine plunge off the track down a ravine, never once did a dangerous creature get loose, never once did myself and the people around me wind up hunting a monster in the snow.

What made this train ride so damned special?

Considering the events of the past few weeks, I’m beginning to think that the two main men in my life are conspiring to continue to exert their influence on me from the Hereafter. My father raised me to think for myself, hold my head high and trust that all the strength I needed came from within. My beloved Ranger taught me that women are damn strong, but that doesn’t mean they should have to go through life being the strongest person in the room. Both of them loved me fiercely. Both of them encouraged me to use my strengths, bolster my weaknesses and perhaps unfortunately, to depend on men to pick up where my strengths ended.

My strengths came into play on the train ride between Denver and The City of Gloom. Train wreck, gun fight, injured folk, loose weird beastie, pushy government bitches who keep secrets… this was no ordinary train ride. It took all my brains and my guts to keep it together at first, what with my head getting a nasty bump and the horrible explosions and screetchings, but once I got started, the sensible kicked in. Long story short we saved who we could, hunted and killed the beastie, doctored up our wounds and moved back down the track to Watertown. Dealt with all the railroad officials, security, engineers who asked the most ridiculous questions. I may be educated, but structural integrity of bridges is not really part of my intellectual pervue. Engineers, scientists, lawyers… they all believe their knowledge is the end all, be all.

So. Everything got sorted and we’ve finally made our destination. However. I seem to have acquired a shadow. I don’t know if it is my imagination, and he HAD been stranded by the snows… although why he didn’t get on the train when we passed through the first time I don’t know… but. Dammit. Now I’m flustered. As I said, I seem to have acquired a shadow. He is huge, and hairy and has the oddest tang in the musk of his body. Don’t look at me like that. One tends to be closer than one might wish to their fellow travelers on trains. He helped with all the efforts to get the track cleared and running again. He lent a hand in dealing with the injured. He made fine conversation of an evening when it was too quiet to stand… and then he got on the train with us and got off in Junkyard. He has holed up in the same hotel, even though he doesn’t look the type to do much living in hotels. He has chosen the same diners as me for eating his evening meal almost every night since we got here. He is intelligent. He is funny with a slow, quiet humor. He doesn’t mind silence and always leans in to hear so I don’t have to strain my throat. He makes me feel incredibly lonesome. Dammit.

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Side Stitch
Addy

Pain. Not quite unbearable pain. It’s lancing straight to my spine and up into my chest. Restin’s been quite difficult over the last few days, but I’ll take it over the alternative. It’s almost as frightening as the thought of those disgusting insects. What’d the shaman call them…huskers? Thank the Almighty, whatever name you call him, I’m layin’ here in agony now, though. The thought of servin’ as a nest for that disgusting critter gives me the shivers. I may not yet know much about the widdah’ or Munroe, or hell, about the shaman, but I’ll tell ya one thing, they’re the only reason I’m a-layin’ here right now instead of havin’ a dirt nap. [Shudders] The journey from that cold, dark cave to Watertown is a blur. I do recall the slow small smile Mrs Chapman gave when the surgeon in Watertown pronounced her excise a sure job—I reckon she’s gotten herself outta more dire scrapes than that, by God! I’ll be glad when this mess heals up though. Doc gave me some laudanum since the muscle’s been a bit cut up and it weren’t just skin that bug removal damaged, but damned if I’m gonna start wantin’ laudanum all the time—that poppy juice has been the undoin’ of more’n one careless gal. The smell of that little brown bottle when the sawbones uncorked it was godawful but when it hit my nose I had the strangest memory of my papa—I’d forgotten about this completely.

I recall about three years ago Papa came back from one of his long absences with a healin’ slice on his back, right over one of the shoulder blades. He had a little brown bottle with him too and I remember that same scent as he went through his travelin’ sack and found it at the bottom and brought it out. He had this scowl on his face. Papa’s generally a gentle man, I mean, he’ll fight if there’s a need but he always talks it out first and usually doesn’t show much in the way of his feelins’ on his face, but that scowl! Lord ‘a’ mercy! He tramped right out to the back porch, opened that bottle and upended it over the dirt. Said he didn’t even want to pour it over a blade o’ grass, it was that nasty. Seems he’d met a lady on one of the reservations, half Tsalagi, and they’d developed a tendresse, so to speak. Well, one of the fellows who lived in her village took exception to my papa over near about everything he did there, according to my papa, and this was no different. They had a bit of an altercation and it ended with the fellow’s obsidian knife point broken off in Papa’s back—I can’t recall what Papa said happened to the other man, but it can’t have been anything too terrible or I’m sure I’d remember. The woman cleaned up my papa and the village wise man patched up the spirits but later on one of the white doctors had come through and pressed that stuff on him, insistin’ he’d be glad of it. Papa muttered somethin’ about the white man and a happy captive; he’s never taken a kind view of white people’s goals.

Anyway, I’ve seen a few things here and there in his travelin’ sack when he returns that tell me he must be gettin’ on just fine with the woman still. I can’t imagine what kind a’ situation she must have where she’s fine with his irregular visits, but they been carryin’ on since then—not that Papa tells me much about her. Come to think of it, I sure would like it if he’d bring her around, be nice to have another female around the place. Reckon she don’t wanna leave her kin—I can sympathize with that.

But, the look on his face as he dumped that poppy concoction, that left a lasting impression. He still wears that chipped-off point on a thong around his neck—that was when he gave me his necklace with the lumpy, shaped-gold nugget from his family that he’d always worn. Said the spirits didn’t like more than one rock around a man’s neck at one time, somethin’ about bein’ able to identify a soul in its body. Now that, that I have worn since the day he gave it; makes me feel connected to my Tsalagi grandparents. Papa’s told me so many stories from the old times, passed from them. You know, Papa actually mentioned those huskers, not by that name, to me when I was a little girl, but I thought he was teasin’ or that it was one of his tribe’s allegories—it never occurred to me a bug could look like that and damage a body in such a way. Whew, it really took the wind outta my sails for a few days. I’m not sure how I’m gonna repay those three, but no one better say ‘boo’ to any of ‘em or they’ll be lookin’ down the barrel of my Colt and that’s God’s honest truth.

Phew, I’m tuckered. I might catch a bit ‘a shut eye.

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Blood on my Hands.
S.M.M

Perhaps the ease with which I learned to kill in the name of the crown has not dimmed these last few years.

The sun had not quite risen when I was woken by the Indian, who, with barely a word of explanation, hared off into the pre-dawn gloom. I waited at the doorway of the carriage we had sheltered in, and was just able to pick out the sound of cries for help over the wind.

I woke the two women who had been most help yesterday, thinking that the Indian may need help if this was some trick of the bandits, but while I watched the injured and more fragile members of our party, the two ladies found the Indian, and a survivor.

With so many injured, and little enough provisions, I took it upon myself to thin our numbers while the more delicate were buzzing around the survivor. God help me, but I killed those two men most injured, and I guess I feel more guilty about not feeling guilty, than I do about my hand in their deaths, if that makes any sense. Killing is easy; it seems the choice to stop is the hardest part.

It was while I was at my distasteful task that the widow was approached by Laura. The softly spoken Mrs Chapman was tense about something, that I could tell, and when she told me the story she in turn had heard, I could only agree. With limited supplies and (now slightly fewer) injured in our ranks, Laura wanted us to hunt down some wild beast. It was preposterous.

Until, during a heated debate between the three women (Miss Maltster siding with Chapman, and our Indian friend remaining quiet) I realised that Laura was an Agent of the Union, and that the creature she wanted us to hunt was no natural beast. She described how her fellow agents had fallen at its hands, and that it would hunt us over the snow like animals until we, or it, was killed.

Foolishly I imagined it as some human killer, some unhinged individual that the Agency had captured and were transporting. But, after some fisticuffs amongst the women (not at all helped by the Agent’s lies), I agreed that I would try and track this beast. It took some persuasion, but the two ladies and the Indian agreed to come with me, and to be honest I can’t think of anyone out here I’d rather have watching my back. The two women were the only people to keep their heads in the original attack, and the Indian helped a group of strangers when he had been offered nothing in return. Some might have asked the Agent to accompany them, but I think Mrs Chapman is close to the truth when she says Laura is a coward, and though I returned the gatling pistol to her, I wouldn’t want her to decide we were ‘too’ close to the truth.

Although her promise of $500 apiece was awfully tempting.

After that, things got strange, quick. I tracked the prints from the baggage car to a clearing in the mountains. There was a cave in cliff, and disturbed earth all around. It was as I approached such a patch of earth, that a hand burst from the ground, followed, naturally, by the rest of one of the train crew.

I could believe that they were with the bandits, but when one of my companions shot the belly from the corpse, a strange insect like creature revealed itself. In the firestorm we brought down on the other corpses we cut them down, although one, the body of a stranger, I killed with a blow from my brass knuckles. It was a lucky hit, killing the insect within, and further ruining my coat. The Agency must have a hell of a cleaning bill.

Exploration of the cave revealed the Agency’s creature, a bigger insect that attacked Miss Maltster. Together we managed to pry it off the girl, and I shot it to pieces.
The girl was hard to console though, it seemed the creature had implanted her with a grub from its sting. Chapman cut it out of her side, and I flicked the grotesque little thing onto a pyre I had made for the bodies.

It’s time to set out back down the rail, we have about twenty miles to cover. Then I have to get out to Salt Lake City, scare up some information on this miracle cure. I would ask the Agent about their science, but I don’t want to owe them anything. I’d rather they didn’t know I existed.

I might have to get another shotgun too. God knows where I’m going to keep it though…

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What in tarnation?!
** Marshall's Update **

After a fitful and cold night of camp, a little before dawn, Indian Friend heard a soft cry for help. Waking Solomon, he goes to investigate. Mr. Monroe wakes the capable members of the posse, and goes to stand watch.

Turns out that Harold Buchanan, the cook and bartender from the Steamer was buried beneath coal overnight. He is rescued by the posse, and get him back a bit after dawn. Then, Laura Giles, imparts a bit of disturbing news…It seems that the missing Allan Seyberth was not transporting a statue, but a dangerous live animal…and she thinks it is stalking them…She implores the posse to hunt it down and kill it, but they only agree after she reveals that she is working for the Agency!

They agree, particularly with the $500 she offered for a reward, and they go back to the trail down by the detached cars, and follow it up into the steep heavily wooded mountainside. After a period of time, in the cold and climbing the frosted loam, they come upon a clearing, and just as they enter it a hand claws its way out of the dirt…It is Jane Hunt, the night time fireman as well as four others, one fo which they don’t recognize, and a somewhat surprising battle ensues…

They defeat the creatures, and they things that were in them, and explore the narrow gap to find the large dangerous animal, but it finds them…

After defeating it, and heading back to the camp they present agent Giles with it’s head. SHe pays them $100 (promising another $400) when they can get where she can have money wired, and tells them they have seen nothing. They march to the water station about 20 miles down track, and wait. 10 days later, a repair crew shows up, takes them back to the small gorge where recovery work is ongoing. They cross the foot bridge and a couple of days later they arrive in Salt Lake City, Deseret. Giles gives them the additional $400, and reminds them not to speak with anyone about what has happened, and goes on her way, and she plays pretty good sceening between them and Denise Merritt, freelance reporter. Seems that the Grand Hotel in Junkyard has a bit of a do coming up…something about “Historical Significance!” Might be an interesting diversion…

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Shattered Path
Addy - Derailed on the way to the City of Gloom

It’s cold. And dark. If any o’ them coyotes think they’re gettin’ anywhere near here, I’ve got a Colt Peacemaker round that says otherwise. I’ve got a bad feelin’ about the train crew though. Mr Crocker was up and down the cars ever’ time I turned around for the last three days, why, a body couldn’t visit the dinin’ car without makin’ way for him, comin’ up the aisle. I’m afraid that crew is up to no good. There was a bucket’s worth o’ blood all over that baggage car—whatever poor soul shed that is none too healthy right now. Dammit, my best stockins were soaked in lantern oil and bits o’ my second best hurricane lantern all over my trunk and that dark purple flounced fancy dress with the bustle I never liked none too much; I guess that’s no big loss. But I don’t know how I’ll make it to Salt Lake in time to catch the corn market; if there’s no barley to be had there by the time I arrive, I’ll be mad enough to bite a rattlesnake!

I sure am glad I wore these trousers though, this blow up is fixin’ to set this cold weather in, I fear, and I sure don’t want to be trudgin’ through no snow in a skirt! Speakin’ a’ skirts, that widow’s a strange ‘un; resourceful though. She had them folks outta that passenger car lickety-split, as my mama used to say. She don’t say much, but what she do say, a body oughta hear! Can’t quite get a read on that sickly feller, but there’s another that don’t set around with ‘is thumb up his ass when somethin’ needs doin’. Gotta find that man some less ratty clothes though, he looks a sight.

I was thinkin’ o’ leaving my lil’ Derringer at home before we left, but that lil’ baby’s pulled me through more scrapes safely now than I care to recall! Worth its weight in ghost rock, that is. There go them coyotes again; hate them varmints. I don’t know if Richard’s gonna make it—how will we get him off this pass with that neck? Mebbe that shaman will set him to rights; never know what will happen when they get those herbs out and start singin’ to the Great Spirit—I’m none too religious, but a body’s gotta admit, they’s something unnatural goin’ on sometime, for the good or the bad.

What was that!? Normally, I’m not so jumpy, but I usually leave the adventurin’ to my papa when he’s around—that man’s got woods sense like nobody’s business. I kin hold my own if I have to, but I’d just as soon be tucked up in my four poster on a howlin’ night like this. I reckon it’s about time to wake the widder fer her watch…

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Blood in the Snow.
Solomon Macintosh Munroe.

I may have wasted the last of my dollars on a wasted journey through the Colorado Rockies. After my time with the local Indians, I had set my last hopes of a cure on the ghost rock miracles coming out of California. So I booked passage on the Skyline Steamer, one passenger among many whom I neither cared about, nor paid much attention to in truth. It seemed my natural dislike of the human race would not be proven unfounded here.

I can’t disagree with their dislike of me either. My clothes have seen better days; last worn when I arrived at the native lands many months ago.

Even on this journey towards a cure I could not help but notice odd behavior amongst certain of my other passengers, centered around a package in the rear of the train that apparently housed some statue or other. I gained illicit entry to the baggage cart but found nothing. Perhaps I should have looked harder…

While approaching a mountain gorge we were ambushed, an explosion rattling the carriage. I was the first back on my feet, and therefore the first to realise that we were under attack by some scofflaw. I returned fire, aided by a young women named Addy, while another woman, a Mrs (I am assured) Chapman, helped out those who were still stunned by the noise. Between me and Addy we must have killed three or four bandits, but the survivors didn’t flee until we were helped by an Indian who appeared out of nowhere.

We now have a fractious group; I have allowed Mrs Chapman to take control without arguement. I certainly do not want to be responsible for their lives, but even dying as I fear I am I cannot allow them to just perish, and so must waste more of my dwindling time escorting the survivors to safety.

I fear that there is more to this than meets the eye, however. While I explored the baggage carriage after the explosion I found the crate that once contained the statue broken open, and at least two puddles of blood. Odd prints, too; made as if by two peg legs…

And a gatling pistol, laying discarded amongst the clothes in the baggage room. An expensive item, not carried by just anyone, and claimed by none of those still living. I wonder if one of the dead was more than just a traveller, or even if one of the survivors is hiding something from us.

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Skyline Steamer
** Marshall's Update **

Comin’ Round the Mountain, Part 1

One of the first trips through the Rockies following the earliest of the spring thaw, several travelers, all with different agendas, board a fairly empty train, the Skyline Steamer on the Denver-Pacific line. Out of Denver, in the disputed Colorado territory, heading towards Salt Lake City, the City of Gloom, in the Republic of Deseret and points beyond.

After a day of travelling through the cold and still snow banked mountains, Late in the afternoon, shadows growing long, and sounds being muffled, the Steamer rounds a sharp bend and begins a long steep uphill climb. Shortly thereafter, the cook, Harold Buchanan is seen in a rush towards the front of the train. Moments later, there is an explosion, and then the train crashes, throwing the passenger cars off the track. Mr. Munroe disentagles himself just in time to hear gunfire from outside the train. After a few moments, Mrs. Chapman gathers her wits and begins hustling the injured and stunned out the far side of the car into the cold, but with the safety of two train car walls between them and the gunfire. Ms. Maltster Catches her breath, and along with Solomon, begins to return fire. Eventually slaying or driving off all of the bandits with the help of a mysterious Indian. Once the immediate danger is over, it is discovered that the engine and coal car are down a small ravine because the bridge was apparently destroyed. Also, the baggage car and caboose are missing! Probably due to something the bandits have done. All of the train crew are missing…

Lonesome, after settling the survivors and the walking wounded, headed back down the track and spied the other cars about half a mile down the track, crashed at the sharp turn. After gathering the weapons (and some newer clothes) from the fallen ruffians, Solomon and Addy went down to investigate the detached cars. There they find blood in the baggage car as well as the caboose. They also discover some unusual tracks in the blood.

Upon returning to the rest of the party, a camp is set, a fire made near the train cars, and watches are set. But the night is not quiet…

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