Tuesday, March 6th, 2114
The group is challenged by the gate guards. The guards seem nervous about something, but when questioned simply brush it off, and recommend the group visit a place called “The Rust Bucket” if they are interested in hearing the town gossip. The guards do acknowledge the missing caravan when Darby mentions it, but they don’t offer much more in the way of gossip or advice.
With directions given by the guard, the group weaves through town towards “The Rust Bucket”. Wright Town is a huge, bustling place with a little over 1000 individuals living there. No one from the Iron Shelter has been around this many complete strangers before. They do everything they can to not appear like a slack-jawed yokels, and are mostly successful.
The group soon finds themselves standing in front of an old pre-war barge, beached up on the shores of lake Superior. A group of ramshackle scrap buildings stand on the barge, and a hand painted sign proclaims the establishment as “The Rust Bucket”. A broad bridge leads straight up to the entrance, where a small sign points over to a smaller bridge situated in the surf at high tide the leads up to a side entrance. The sign says “Freaks, enter from the side”.
Puzzled, the group enters from the main entrance and are not accosted. They walk up to the bar and meet an older woman in her mid to late 50s, who introduces herself as Helen, the owner of “The Rust Bucket”. Helen remarks on the quality and cut of the clothing worn by the group, and asks what they do for a living. Darby replies that they work with fabrics and are tradesmen, come down from a small settlement in the north, near Canada.
Helen continues to admire the clothing, prompting Noodles to ask her how much vodka he would get for his shirt. Helen thinks on that a moment, as Noodles strips out of his shirt, and she decides to trade the shirt for six jars of their finest homemade vodka. Noodles hands out the jars to his teammates, and keeps two for himself and begins drinking. The group makes more small talk with Helen, asking about the caravan attack and admitting they too are looking for some missing people.
At this point an odd, dark skinned, yellow eyed creature, with tough toad-like skin, saunters up to the group and introduces himself as “Scary” Terry, and also admits he is looking for someone missing. Terry suggests that the same people may be responsible for all of the missing people. As the group adjusts to Terry’s appearance, they talk to him about what it is like living in Wright Town. Terry speaks of the Wright family as shrewd business people who make a living putting those people working for them into a form of indentured servitude.
As the conversation flows back to the missing people, another individual joins the group at the bar. He is a skinny, scrappy looking young man in his mid twenties. He calls himself Catfish Billy. He tells the group that his wife, sweet Persephone, was working as a guard on the caravan that was hit, and now she too is among the missing. Both Terry and Catfish Billy press the group to join forces. After a bit of back and forth, the group agrees that they will be better off facing an unknown enemy with as many allies as they can muster.
Catfish Billy offers to take the group to meet the Captain of the guard. The group agrees, reasoning that they can ask for additional reinforcements. They finish their drinks and leave “The Rust Bucket” behind. On the way out, Ather “finds” a nice leather cloak.
A short time later, the group arrives at the guard HQ, the remains of an old police station. Catfish Billy introduces the group to the Captain of the guard, Merl, a stout and taciturn man, built like a tree trunk. Merl agrees to allow two of his men to accompany the group on their trek to find the slavers. They will await the group by the front gate at dawn.
Catfish Billy offers his home to the group to shelter for the night. Terry politely declines and goes back to his home. Catfish Billy leads the group to his modest shack, down by the river. He doesn’t have much in the way to offer for the group to sleep on besides a few blankets to make the floor a bit more comfortable. The night passes uneventfully.
Wednesday, March 7th, 2114
Early the next morning, the group is awakened before dawn by the smell of fresh fish cooking. It smells incredible, like nothing they have ever smelled before in the Shelter. Catfish Billy offers up a breakfast of his speciality, spicy channel cat. Everyone enjoyed the fish, initially. A short time later Edison grips his stomach in agony, scrunching his face in pain. The older man’s body is wracked with spasms, through gritted teeth he asks where he can find the bathroom. “It’s the ole outhouse, down stream a bit from da shack”, says Catfish Billy, and Edison runs awkwardly out the door on tiptoe, clutching his ass. “Explosive diarrhea”, says Catfish Billy, shaking his head. “I always called that volcanic mud-butt”, added Darby, pinching his nose to avoid the worst of the aerial assault left in the wake of Edison’s passing.
A short time later the group meets up with Terry and the two guards, Jimmy and Bobby, by the main gate. The gate opens and the group starts off down the road, following the tracks west, Edison still walking gingerly, as if trying to contain something, to keep something within from escaping. They travel the broken and torn remains of the old highway west for the better part of the day. As evening sets in, and twilight settles on the road, howls erupt from the darkened woods to the south. A pack of feral dogs burst from the cover of the twisted foliage, intent on bringing down some easy meat.
“Let me show you how it’s done,” says Catfish Billy as he draws his bow and looses before anyone else can respond. The arrow lands true and drops the lead dog into the dirt. Emboldened by this move, the rest of the group fires arrows and bolts into the pack, thinning their numbers before they reach the group, where Darby and Ather finish the job. The pack broken, the few stragglers remaining break for the woods, pausing only to drag a few of their own fallen with them into the forest as a consolation prize.
Under the duress of battle, Edison’s bowels betray him, scouring his only pair of pants with their noxious payload. Self-conscience, the old man lumbers off to a nearby copse of trees to cleanse himself as best he can with the leaves and twigs at hand. Catfish Billy quietly skins one of the downed dogs, and fashions a bloody yet relatively clean makeshift loincloth for Edison, who is grateful for the gift. The rest of the night passes uneventful.
Thursday, March 8th, 2114
The next day the group continues to track the slavers, still heading west. “I bet the slavers are all holed up in Rapid City”, states Catfish Billy. “It’s only another day or so’s travel”. The group attempts to forage from the land to help pass the time as they travel down the road. Only Catfish Billy manages to catch any game. Another uneventful night passes.
Friday, March 9th, 2114
On the afternoon of the third day, the group discovers an overturned tractor-trailer, on it’s side a few miles outside of Rapid City. Using his special monocular, Darby spots three men laying atop the tractor-trailer. He also sees the telltale shine of a pair of binoculars. The group is being watched. After a short deliberation, they decide to approach the men on the truck.
As they approach the overturned vehicle, two of the three men stand up on the truck and address the group, while the third reveals himself beside the truck, holding a large dog on a chain. The men are wearing leather padded armor, carrying crossbows, and each of them have multiple piercings in their faces.
Darby tries to smooth talk the men as he continues to slowly close the distance between them. The largest of the men makes a reference to his massive manliness, and proceeds to dazzle the group with a full on display. Without hesitation, Ather hurls one of his knives at the meaty member, cleanly severing it so it fell to hit the ground with a metallic ping, made from the large ring piercing the head. As if on cue, pandemonium erupted, Darby closing swiftly with the man and his dog, while the rest of the group opened fire with arrows and bolts. Within a handful of seconds, it was over. The three men were down, but not without cost. Ather had caught a wicked strike from a crossbow bolt in his shoulder.
“Scary” Terry calmly approached Ather, and asked if he could help with the wound. Ather nodded, pain creasing his features. Terry hummed tunelessly to himself as he cut open the shirt near the entry wound. With a gentle motion, he slowly worked the bolt back out of the wound, and then applied pressure to the entry site itself. Within moments the wound puckered up and stopped bleeding. It would leave a scar, but as far as Ather could tell after moving his shoulder a bit, the wound had already healed as if it had been properly tended to for weeks. Terry smiled.