After the short, sharp fight on the highway roadbed 2 hours northwest of Spanish Fork, the team moves off the road to inspect the Mormon gear in Oni’s pack iguanodon. Grek and Arik appropriate a couple of heavy pipe files, and attach the scope from Oona’s confiscated rifle to Arik’s rifle.
- Meanwhile Oni and Oona, hobbled and bound together behind the Iguanodon, swap verbal venom. Oni blathers on about the ‘secret bunker’ holding a store of artifacts and wealth:
Oni: “I’ll make you wealthy and powerful! I can get you in. Only I know the secret location. Also the access code…you’ll never get in without the code!”
Oona listens with increasing disgust. “Shut up you fathead, I’ve had enough of your shit.” To the team at large: “His ‘bunker’ is a little pest-hole northwest of Gunson, his ‘treasure’ is a pile of rusted and broken crap…he can’t get to it now because of the bounty. I watched him a few times through my scope…I know the code, for what it’s worth.”
Oni turns red and splutters, “You bitch, after all I’ve done for you. I’ll fucking kill you!”
Oona laughs. “You’re a dead man Oni, stop crying and man-up for once in your pathetic life.”
Oni raves at Oona, then gets control of himself. To the team he says, “Ok ok…listen, I was going to sell this stuff to a Muunokhoi hetman for 5000 credits-worth of gold, leathers, and bills. How about I take you there, we do the deal, you keep the credits and I leave with the hetman, along with Ugroz…that’s over twice our bounty! And you can have this bitch.” He nods toward Oona, who glares back. “The meeting is midnight today, we can make it if we leave now!”.
Oona: “That’s his tribe, the Muunokhoi…yep he’s a fucking savage, hahaha! They threw him out 15 years ago after his family lost a power struggle over the Hetmanship. That and he’s a conniving weasel that no one wants behind their back. He’ll sell your asses along with the loot…he speaks their lingo of course.”
Oni: “I can make you rich. Who are you going to listen to, that traitorous bitch with nothing to lose, or me? I have a lot to lose…I have responsibilities…properties back in New Salt City. Lets work out a deal together!”
Airy and Arik head back to Spanish fork to retrieve the children from the Temple of the White hand. The strangely mutated ‘Sister Superior’ has discovered that Tiki, the 9 year old girl from Mt. Pleasant, has burgeoning healing powers and asks Airy to give the child to the White Hand, where she will be carefully trained and one day become a great and powerful healer. Airy speaks to Tiki, who says she wants to go home, and refuses the Sister’s request. Arik takes the children quickly from the Temple. The Sister Superior stiffens, but makes no attempt to interfere…in desperation she offers all the medical artifacts from the temple to Airy in exchange for the girl. Airy has made up her mind and declines the offer. The Sister Superior is not hostile, but clearly bitterly disappointed. Airy last sees the Sister standing in the gloomy doorway to the temple, staring after the child.
Airy and Arik rejoin Cassey and Grek. The team travels west to the I15 ruins and then south along the roadbed. While moving past the south end of ‘Newells Range’ a short 20km long range of mountains ending in a cluster of foothills just 10 or 12 klicks west of the I15 at this spot, Oni betrays some interest in that area and tells the team this is their last chance to take him up on his deal…be rich or be stupid! Shortly after the team moves on without comment, Oni must be gagged to bring relief from his incessant pestering, grandiose promises and pathetic lamentation of his fate. Oona only laughs. During the trip, Oona tells the team something of herself and how she ended up here. She is surprisingly unconcerned at her current misfortune and appears to derive unusual confidence from a faith in her own considerable skills and abilities.
The team arrives at Nephi after marching through the night and into the next day, now thoroughly exhausted and dangerously weakened (though slowly recovering from the radiation exposure in the mountain pass east of Spanish Fork). Going immediately to the Eagle Clan garrison, the team presents the captured Oni, Ugroz and Oona to the astonished Sgt. Collins, who turns over the so-recently-delivered bounty cash box and says the team might as well transport the whole lot back to Vault 57, since it’s all theirs now. Meanwhile Airy and Cassey return the children Emile and Edson to Sheriff Joe Daniels, who summons their parents to a tearful reunion: these children were thought dead for certain. The family is happy to pay over the bounty of 700cr. Later Grek and Arik come by and present the salted heads of the mutant cultists responsible for the kidnappings: Nagon and Thyle (Ort was freed and sent south with promise of refuge in Vault 57, should he survive the journey…no mention is made of Ort). Somewhat grudgingly, Daniels pays over the total 1250cr bounty. He realizes he can’t welch on the deal, now that these newcomers are heroes of the moment, and Vault 57 soldiers to boot. Grek and Arik immediately purchase 60 liters of water to fill the water cans from Oni’s stolen loot, and acquire a lot of ammunition, energy cells and other random artifacts from Jorge’s Trading Post and ‘Roman Arms’.
Arik and Airy rest for the day at Nephi, while their 3 prisoners are shackled in the Eagle Clan blockhouse. To conserve food, Cassey and Grek head southeast for Mt Pleasant with the girl Tiki in tow. This is a risky move, as Tiki will slow them down and make it difficult to flee from anything encountered on the way. Four hours outside town, a half dozen savage mongrel dogs stalk them, then seeing the girl, run snarling in to attack and hopefully snatch away the easy prey. Grek uses his force field power to protect Tiki while Cassey goes forward alone to deal with the dogs…she is badly wounded as the dogs try to pull her down, but the dogs crawl away and flee after Cassey emits caustic gas from the glands under her wings. Cassey and Grek reach Mt. Pleasant without further incident and return Tiki to her grateful brother and relatives. The ‘Security Chief’ Joshua Talbot doesn’t mention the bounty and neither do Cassey or Grek. Grek acquires a large amount of additional ammunition, power cells, and other equipment at the main cargo bay bazaar inside the skyship. The next morning they retrieve lizzy the Iguanodon, who has been well cared for, and head back to Nephi. As they leave the skyship and cross the plateau back to the switchback trail, Grek looks back to see a lone figure standing on the catwalks extending out from the skyship bridge high above. The figure is tall, with a strangely misshapen hunched-back and oddly-shaped face, wearing a black trenchcoat flapping in the wind. Below an ancient black cap is a mane of orange hair. The figure slowly raises one hand in a silent gesture of farewell as Grek turns to head down the switchback trail…it is likely that this was the man known as ‘Captain and Chief Protector’ Allen Underwood, often mentioned in the skyship, but rarely seen or heard.
Only 3 hours out of Mt. Pleasant, a surprise radiation storm overtakes Grek and Cassey. Fortunately, Cassey is carrying a Tech II tent which can provide some protection. Grek lacks survival skill and isn’t able to erect the tent until the storm is already upon them. The strange storm of blowing black ash and purple lightning lasts over 2 hours while Cassey and Grek huddle in the tiny tent. Mostly protected by the tent, Grek and Cassey sustain only 2 radiation but due to the previous exposure east of Spanish Fork suffer some minor sickness and are weakened a bit more.
The team reunites at Nephi and begins the long journey south back down the dusty I15, now burdened with 2 loaded iguanodons and 3 prisoners…a slow, large and tempting target for any raiders in the area. Midnight of the first day south, while camped in a covert several hundred meters off the main I15 roadbed, Cassey spots a file of 10 or more quietly moving figures, 60-70 meters distant in the pitch dark gloom and apparently following a trail directly to the camp. Almost certainly raiders! The team can’t effectively hide, without abandoning their prisoners and the 2 heavily loaded Iguanodons. Faced with this dire life-or-death situation, the team elects to free Ugroz and Oona, giving Ugroz two heavy mormon swords and Oona her lever action rifle (sans scope). Oni however is tied up even tighter. Arik and Grek each take one of the two ‘poor’ condition 40mm grenade launchers and six ‘poor’ condition shells from the mormon loot. Ugroz, Cassey and Airy stay in reserve.
The figures are only 30 meters distant when Arik, Grek and Oona open fire. Both Arik and Grek get lucky and score direct hits with ancient grenade launchers, precipitating immediate chaos punctuated by screams of pain and fear. While the stricken raiders attempt to spread out and charge forward, another lucky shot from Grek blows several raiders into the air and peppers the rest with fragments. Unfortunately Arik’s launcher literally flies apart with his next shot: he throws the smoking stock away and begins calmly firing/reloading/firing his heavy mormon pipe-rifle. Five raiders not yet seriously wounded charge the team and a wild melee ensues. Grek fires a last grenade which lands amongst the advancing raiders, wreaking more carnage. Oona’s rifle malfunctions and she casts it away. Weaponless, Oona now displays a surprising skill in hand-to-hand martial arts. Ugroz deals massive damage with his two heavy swords, until shattering both on a boulder seconds later: the bellowing mutant continues to attack with the jagged remnants. Several of the raiders below lob small objects high overhead to bounce down among the melee…these turn out to be ancient high explosive grenades, which fortunately BOTH malfunction due to corrosion and age.
Cassey sweeps in from the darkness to gas and claw the seriously wounded raiders still recovering below. Unfortunately these tribal warriors are tough as nails and not terribly affected by the billowing cloud of caustic rust-red gas. One of the raiders has a semi-automatic pistol and unloads it at Cassey, seriously wounding her. Cassey is mobbed by raiders and wounded nearly to death, but manages to escape into the pitch darkness using her HtH skill to avoid the raider spears and tomahawks as she flees. Several wounded raiders stumble forward into the murky night, but have no chance of catching the swift Cassey.
Airy steps from behind cover and fires both barrels of her sawed off shotgun, catching three targets in a cloud of lethal pellets: the pistol-wielding raider goes down while trying to clear a jammed cartridge. The remaining few warriors attempt to flee. They are chased mercilessly by the swift Grek, who catches two, one after the other, and clubs them to death with the butt of his now-broken heavy pipe rifle. At least one raider escapes into the black void of the moonless desert.
Streaked with blood, soot and grime, the exhausted team regroups. Arik sees that Ugroz is about to do something stupid like fight, flee, or perhaps try to free Oni. Arik stares him down in a contest of wills. Seriously wounded and unable to fight or flee, or perhaps unwilling to abandon Oni, the Ugroz Twins drop their shattered swords and are once again hobbled and bound. Several minutes later Grek and then Cassey return. The group looks around for Oona and realizes she is nowhere to be seen…long gone into the pitch black night, Oona will be impossible to find or catch. Later it is discovered that the following items have gone missing: 1 heavy pipe rifle + 10-12 cartridges, a combat knife, LBE, boots, several canteens and plastic bottles of water (maybe 3 liters) and 3-4 days food.
A brief heavy rain pours from the black sky, fortunately blotting out all tracks and providing a few extra liters of water. The team quickly relocates their camp several klicks from the site of battle and catnaps for the remaining few hours before dawn. The salvation of Gunson is still perhaps 2 days travel south and many of the team are now seriously wounded or short on functioning weapons and ammo.