Wednesday 20 March 2013

The Yoke

In which we reach Moon Creek, though with several unsought passengers aboard
Magnus is having a cold beer in a real classy joint in Motherlode. A miner (one of many) wants to get a closer look at your pistol and who knows, maybe more. The Battlebabe is doing fine dealing with that bozo until a newly arrived mining team arrives in the front door with pistols and machetes. They take exception to his treatment of their buddy and he leaves his hook stuck in some guy’s eye socket and scrambles up on the roof before leading them on a chase. Magnus leaps aboard the Rosa Lee just as she casts off.

Magnus cuts a dashing figure, pristine in his navy-blue long jacket. A neat holster site on his right hip, holding a very impressive looking pistol - very heavy calibre. Upon closer inspection it looks incredibly high-powered, but it only holds a single shell, requiring the breech to be opened after every shot. Not a great feature, especially considering Magnus has lost his left hand (fighting off the coast against a myriad a pirates assaulted the naval vessel he served upon).

As Magnus is hammering out details of his service (or at least remaining aboard!) with Miss Roberta, he mentions that he'll be going back into Motherlode to retrieve his hook. Miss Roberta isn't too impressed by this course of action; the Rosa Lee can't afford to cause trouble like that. Magnus seems to stop arguing, but it's obvious to some that this is going to happen.

Sweeney and crewe have been doing a small delivery for the well-to-do Johnson in Motherlode. They have to deliver a small wooden box to a house on the banks of a small river off Moon Creek. Princy is piloting the launch and Drexler is there for protection. Bar is just along for the ride. As they move up the river, Bar is fiddling with the box - he opens it and reaches in, taking out a curious yoke - like a small silver ball surrounded by gold wire. He looks quizzically at it and then yelps with a start dropping the box (it lands closed) and falling backwards off the stern of the launch.

Princy quickly brings the boat around and they fish Bar out of the river - Sweeney gives him a bit of a roasting for messing with the package, but nothing seems to be missing and Bar insists (though he's a bit shocked) that he must've dropped the yoke back into the box before he feel overboard. He's been left with a burn mark on his wrist, but no one's the wiser as to what happened and they continue onwards to make the delivery after taping up the box so that it won't open easily again.

Eventually they spot the house in question - it's a lonely structure atop a hill, there's a copse of trees off to one side, but otherwise it looks desolate, with boarded up windows and nothing outside (not even the usual detritus of fifty years of the apocalypse). Drexler covers Sweeney as he knocks on the door. The door opens to reveal a older woman (name of Li as far as Sweeney recalls) wearing an industrial-grade rubber apron and elbow length rubber gloves. She grimaces at the box when it proffered.
-This box has been opened
Despite Sweeney's protestations, the woman is not impressed. She takes the box and with one last look at the crewe closes the door in their faces.
Sweeney storms down to the bank
-Fuck! 'sake Bar!

Tai's nose has been to the grindstone for the last few weeks overhauling the engines. Miss Roberta wants to keep the Rosa Lee going for as long as possible without needing to get spares from Moon Creek. A few other odd jobs have snuck their way into the workshop, but mainly it's about the engines.

Those turbines are back humming nicely after a while and with it Miss Roberta’s humming too. Tai had to get some gizmos from Bar in return for some transmitting gear which sets back a long-term workshop project.

Coming into Moon Creek, the crew of the Rosa Lee see the sprawling hold on the island in the middle of the river, with its refineries towering behind it on the far shore. The defences dominate the waterways and heavy weaponry surrounds the refinery. Beyond that looms the ruined city.

On the wharf waits Jackson, the lean man is surrounded by a handful of his soldiers. Miss Roberta squints at the reception party; this isn't usual. Jackson comes aboard, leaving several of his men to take up position at the gangplank while another few escort him to the main cabin; no weapons checks for them. Jackson wonders about the pirates, word has come down river that they've targeted the Rosa Lee. It's hard to know whether he's annoyed or just calculating how much jingle they've cost him.

They discuss in a round-about fashion what Miss Roberta can do to stop the rot. As she heaps some of the blame on herself, Miss Roberta asks if Jackson could provide some heavy weaponry to tear the pirates a new one next time they try something. Jackson is taken aback by it, but has a few pieces in mind which might do the trick (they'll come at a price, but not what he'd charge anyone else; he's protecting his own). As they haggle over the price and the repayment options, Miss Roberta gets the impression that she'd better not fuck this one up; Jackson is unlikely to take anything but the agreed-upon deal well.

Meanwhile, Tai and Sweeney head to Fuse's place (with Drexler tagging along) to see what light he can shed on the doohickey. The house is a ramshackle corrugated iron shed that goes up two stories. Tai knocks on the rickety door and after a minute they're met by a tall man, bollock naked except for a pair of night-vision goggles on top of his head.

He gives a lopsided grin as he recognised Tai. They shoot the shit a little, until he notices the others standing awkwardly behind.
-Come on in, mind your heads
He crouches as he turns back into the house (if it can be called that). A ladder leads upwards, but he shuffles over to the far corner where there's another ladder going down. As they follow Fuse down a narrow tunnel, Drexler spots large bear traps hanging on one of the walls; though on closer inspection
-Don't touch those
the teeth appear to be actual bone, maybe even shark's teeth.

Sweeney and Tai explain the background to the doohickey, and Tai takes one out of a pouch. Fuse takes a closer look, but when Tai makes to give it to him, Fuse backs away
-Not a fucking chance, mate. Put it down over there
he says pointing at a metal bowl on a counter.
-I'll have to take a closer look, come back in a few days if I don't drop around to you beforehand and I may have some answers for you

As a new member of the crew Magnus is denied shore leave for the first while, Miss Roberta pairs him with Tum Tum who's quickly proven to be a reliable member aboard the Rosa Lee. There are a few raised eyebrows at the pairing (left handed compliments all-round) but they do seem to get on alright. While trading stories of how they lost their left hands (Magnus relates his story of how he lost his falling into the fan of a flatboat upriver staving off bandits).
Anyway Amy catches Magnus' eye and after a day of regaling her with stories of his prowess Amy (with her daily tasks complete) succumbs to his charms. As he follows her below, Miss Roberta calls him over with a stern glance. As far as she's concerned he's got to earn his way before he can fuck about with one of her crew: if he crosses her on this he'll end up on his ass (or kissing Shivers) on a dockside some morning.

Miss Roberta is keeping an eye on Magnus, but has more important things to do. Jackson has come aboard, this time with a few porters carrying a great heavy metal box. He opens the box to reveal four large tubes
-I was thinking if we could fit one of the Bofors aboard, but then I thought these missile launchers would definitely do the trick. They're one-shot wonders, but they'll completely fucking obliterate anything they hit!
Miss Roberta grins; this is going to be good.
After a bit of horse-trading the price is agreed, it'll be paid over the next three visits back to Moon Creek.

Asking around about the pirates, word comes through at the market that a barge came in pretty beat up a few days before the Rosa Lee. Miss Roberta meets the owner, a hungry-looking bedraggled man called Rolfball. The pirates boarded him, killing his older son and capturing his daughter. They also took just about everything that wasn't nailed down, though they left him his barge. Now though, he's pawned it for a bit of jingle so he and his son Bunker can eat and buy a sleeping spot at the junkyard. After having gotten a good sense of the man, and backing up her impression with others in town, Miss Roberta offers him a spot on the Rosa Lee, doing the sort of work Putrid used to take on for her.

Below decks Sweeney discovers that Bar is burning up, seems to have a high fever and has been stuck in his bunk for a full day. The burn on his wrist has flared up, and one side of his throat looks like it has a bad rash. Tai brings in Fuse, they were going to meet up anyway to discuss the yoke, but now matters seem more urgent. Fuse has a clicker with him, he's established that there is some radioactivity involved. He follows the yoke up Bar's arm all the way to his neck, explaining that the device is made of two discrete pieces, one of which penetrates the subject and worms its way into the body and the other which is emitting this faint radioactive signal.
-Strap him to the bunk, this may get violent. Someone may want to get some bandages as well for later
Fuse snaps on his protective gear and opens a leather tool roll. He takes out the scalpel and a pair of pliers. Winces all-round.

After cutting deep into Bar's arm, Fuse sticks the head of the pliers into the gash and gently pulls. After what seems like an age of Bar's wriggling and screaming Fuse slowly draws away from the bunk revealing a long wire coming out of the wound. A little while later and he drops the yoke into a bucket. As Sweeney patches Bar up, Fuse draws Tai aside
-I'll show you what I've got later

Drexler is aware that Miss Roberta is in need of dosh to help out with the weapons deal and reckons he can do some work to help out just in case. He wanders into Moon Creek and takes a spot at the counter in a likely looking bar. After a cold beer, he lets the barman know that he's looking for work; when he gives his name, the barman definitely gives some weight to the name Drexler. He'll put in out the word and let Drexler know if there are any bites same time tomorrow.

When he goes back the next day, the barman nods over to the corner where a small bespectacled man is sitting with two untouched beers in front of him. As Drexler walks over he noticed the relatively subtle bodyguard standing at the bar near the back door. Drexler sits down and the man introduces himself as Dolarhyde. He outlines the job, there's a  gun thug called Boxer he wants killed. He'll be leaving town tomorrow, probably driving up the north shore. Dolarhyde beckons the bodyguard over
-Max'll show you the car he'll be taking. This Boxer guys knows his stuff, he uses an auto-shotgun if that makes any difference to you. He may be driving with some others, but I'm sure neither of us would appreciate witnesses. I don't need any kind of proof, just your word that it's done and I'll hand over the jingle day after tomorrow
Drexler knows that Rosa Lee heads back upriver the day after that. He leaves most of the beer behind and walks past Max and out the back door.

Drexler takes a skiff out from the Rosa Lee before dawn, Sweeney and Magnus have come along. They tie up the boat in some reed on the shore and walk to a small rise overlooking a turn in the road. They put down some large rocks - more to get the car to slow down rather than to stop it outright. Sweeney takes position with his hunting rifle in the reeds looking down the road, while Drexler sets up his machine gun on the rise. Magnus grips his pistol from adjacent cover, ready to wade in if needed.

A dusty blue sedan comes around the corner and immediately brakes and swerves a little; Sweeney fires and hits, shattering the windscreen. Drexler opens up with his machine gun peppering the engine and blowing out at least one of its tires. As the car stops, a machine pistol comes out a window and sprays up towards the hill. The door opens and out pops Boxer, but as he draws another weapon Drexler drills him with a well-aimed burst. On the far side of the car two figures jump out and run. Sweeney aims at one, realising that the woman is unarmed, but shooting centre-mass after a brief moment of doubt. As Drexler climbs to his feet with his shotgun ready, Magnus lopes easily around the ambush site after the second, smaller figure running for the reeds. As he passes the car he glances inside, there's a young girl moaning in pain in the back seat. He heads into the wide reed bed, following the trail easily. He shouts out
-Come out now boy, or I'll have to go back for your sister!
After what seems like an age, the scared boy struggles out of the mud, trying to get a look back at the car on the road. Magnus shoots him in the head and then goes back to burn out the car.

The boat ride back to the Rosa Lee is very quiet...

*All illustrations by D. Vincent Baker from the Apocalypse World rulebook

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