After killing or capturing the cultists from the Temple of the Mushroom Cloud the team holes up in the cave for the next day and night, repairing equipment and recuperating from wounds and radiation exposure. Arik arrives the next morning, having hightailed it from Mt. Pleasant the same day after insuring that lizzy and the team equipment would be well cared for.
The group heads west for Spanish Fork and arrives by noon, wending their way through trashheaps toward the east wall of a large settlement built atop a 400-meter stretch of elevated superhighway and over/under mass transit system. Destitute trashpickers stop and stare at this unheard of spectacle: a large number of children together and visible in the open, approaching from the seldom-used mountain pass through a deadly radiation zone. The team pays for ‘3-day-pass’ tattoos from slack-jawed settlement guards and proceeds into the base, first stopping at what turns out to be a ‘Temple of the White Hand’, run by 3 Brothers and 1 Sister of the White Hand, a healer cult out of New Salt City (the ‘Rome’ of post-apocalypse Utah). Few of these monkish itinerants have made it as far south as Vault 57, so this is a new experience for Grek, Arik, Cassey and Airy. The ‘Head Surgeon’ is a bizarrely mutated ‘Sister’ with an extra pair of vestigial arms, a set of long feathery antenna, large faceted black eyes and a shiny carapace of blue-black chitin (note: the healers do not typically provide personal names to laypeople and are addressed simply as ‘sister’ or ‘brother’). Amazed by the appearance of the five children, the temple offers sanctuary and advises against parading the children through the settlement.
Leaving Tiki, Emile and Edson in the care of the White Hand, the team escorts Ronal and Josiah down the main thoroughfare, past interconnected stacks and rows of ancient vehicle shells apparently used as housing. Below the elevated roadway is a trickling stream dammed up to form a large pool beneath the road, apparently irrigating a large 300×400 meter area of crops growing a 2-meter tall green plant with long fronds bearing clusters of strange greyish-white fibrous material. A great textile mill constructed of vehicle bodies, salvaged plasteel sheeting and slabs of concrete dominates the center of the settlement. Power is provided to the mill by a waterwheel below the concrete roadway, and possibly by fires fueled with husk or other detritus from harvested plants. Slightly irradiated water is lifted up to the roadway from the lake below via an ingenious screw-pipe device and stored in a great 5000-liter water tank salvaged from some prewar ruins or installation.
The west end of the settlement is occupied by a walled compound featuring a vehicle and beast corral, a large caravansary (“Odile’s Caravansary”), a general store, open air market and a saloon. The west end is blocked by a massive wall of rubble held together by great slabs of tilted concrete roadway. To one side a tall concrete blockhouse overlooks the length of the settlement and the squalid shantytown beyond the wall. Heavily armed Mormon soldiers in black scale armor and gas masks, or ancient pre-war armor of various types, stare down from the walls. Town guardsmen stand above the 15 meter storage container or vehicle shell beneath the wall of rubble, ready to drop great ratcheted steel plates across the gaps at either end. Arik approaches the Sheriff’s office just cross from the Mormon fort and discusses the location of Ronal and Josiah’s parents with Randi ‘Mongol’ Murchison, a tall olive-skinned hatchet-faced man with long black hair, missing his left arm just above the elbow. Predictably, Murchison is not too forthcoming but invites the PCs to return the children…or not, as they please. Arik ends up having to pay Murchison to put up the wanted post for Oni’s crew…Murchison’s eyes widen briefly when he scans the poster, but he puts it up outside his office nonetheless.
The team locates the parents of Ronal and Josiah in the miserable shantytown outside the settlement walls and returns the children to the amazement of both parents and onlookers…the people here live a desperate existence, denied entrance into the sanctuary of Spanish Fork, forced to squeeze day-to-day survival from the wasteland as hunters, traders, scavengers, trash-pickers and subsistence planters. It might not count for much, but the group are now considered heroes here at least. While on the way back to the temple the team acquires a few items of useful equipment from the market and general store.
Later that night, Cassey is poking around outside the temple and spots 2 of the sheriffs ‘deputies’, little more than paid thugs, guiding an unloaded iguanodon toward the pile of storage containers used as a warehouse. The deputies are accompanied by a small black shadow that can only be ‘Oona’. The deputies trade a few words with a couple of the town warehouse guards while the 2 Mormon soldiers atop the pile of containers look on silently. After loading the iguanodon with a large amount of unidentified goods from one of the shipping containers, the deputies and Oona head back toward the north wall. During this time Cassey wakes the rest of the team, who follows as Cassey carefully shadows the group. At the gate, an electric light flashes down from the gatehouse and words are exchanged (“sheriff’s business, raise the damn door"…”ok, hold on to your shorts down there.”). The outer steel plate door is raised with a clatter of ratcheted wheels. The group passes through, followed by a small black shadow (Oona). The team sneaks around the shadows in the deserted caravan yard below the blockhouse wall, slipping into the tunnel while the guards are occupied at the other end. While the guards return to the south end and lower the steel plate, the team scampers out of the tunnel and into the shantytown.
Cassey and the team shadow the deputies and iguanodon 3 or 4 kilometers down the mountain pass northwest toward the I15, when the deputies turn off the roadbed and head west into the hills for about a klick, where they meet none other than Oni Chandra and the ‘Ugroz Twins’. After a tense 15 minutes, all the goods are transferred to Oni’s iguanodon and a fat satchel is handed over to the deputies, who return back up the trail leading their unloaded lizard. The team follows Oni, Ugroz and the seldom-seem Oona northwest down into the Valley of Orm. After an hour the team chooses to attack by surprise, before Oni’s crew can reach the open country and the I15 roadbed.
Sneaking up quickly behind Oni’s crew, Arik and Grek both set up behind a low rise and open fire from 50 meters range, while Airy waits in reserve. Cassey runs at top speed around Oni and Ugroz, to where Oona appears to be setting up a rifle of some sort. Unfortunately, both Arik’s and Greks rifles misfire and fail at the critical moment, but not before Ugroz is winged by a bullet from Arik. Two-headed Ugroz takes a knee next to the burdened iguanodon and scans the moonlit desert for his attackers, while Oni reflexively clutches at his recently acquired and soon-to-be-lost merchandise.
Taking Airy’s riot shield and katana, Grek charges down the rise with Arik and Airy tucked in close behind. The Ugroz Twins wait until Grek is witin 20 meters to let loose a shotgun blast. Pellets bounce off ancient duralloy. Grek successfully uses his mental confusion power on one of Ugroz’s heads, causing that head to loll sideways and one of two legs to stomp forward so that Ugroz begins to spin around involuntarily. Oni gets control of himself and unloads two black-powder pistols at Arik, winging him with one shot. Airy pops out from behind Grek and unloads two barrels into Oni from 10 meters, who suffers a serious wound to the ribs and falls back against the iguanodon, gasping. Oni avoids a slash from Arik’s combat knife by scrambling away through the dust under the iguanodon, cursing and howling in pain. Ugroz jacks another shell into his fearsome heavy-gauge pump action shotgun, but the ancient weapon betrays him and only a forlorn ‘click’ is heard as Arik stares straight into the big black void at the business end. Ugroz tosses the weapon away with a curse and draws his shootin-iron, a rusty pre-war revolver. Ugroz blazes away, unloading 6 shots into Arik who is hit 4 times for significant wounds, but survives thanks to heavily reinforced leather armor.
Meanwhile, Cassey appears out of the darkness near Oona’s position 80 meters up the road, emitting a cloud of caustic gas which causes Oona to stand up and stagger away gasping and choking. Cassey leaps on Oona, who collapses with lacerations to both legs. While blindly scrambling away Oona falls into a depression filled with the rust-red gas and is incapacitated for a full minute…when she comes to, Cassey is standing above ready to slash the life out of her. Oona is effectively captured by Cassey!
Airy slaps two more ancient slugs into the smoking breech and discharges both barrels again, spinning Ugroz around with a serious wound high on the shoulder. Arik overtakes the pathetic figure of Oni and slashes him once for good measure. Oni collapses and begins blubbering something about ‘a bunker…wealth!…you’ll never get in without my passcode!‘. Grek and Airy both prepare to finish off Ugroz, who couldn’t reload his 6-shooter effectively due to the mind-lock from Grek, so tossed it away and is now left with only a rusty combat knife. Seriously wounded and seeing which way the wind blows, Ugroz looks around for Oona one time, then calls it quits and stands mute with eyes projecting daggers of fury.
Arik and crew quickly strip their captives down and tie them to the iguanodon using long strips of leather cut from the packs. Oona possessed a number of interesting artifacts she fortunately did not have opportunity to use. Conducting a quick survey of the goods in the iguanodon packs, a large quantity of Mormon equipment is found, including at least 10 heavy pipe rifles, 5 suits of blackened scale mail, and 8 Mormon heavy swords. There are also a couple of dilapidated 40mm breech-loading grenade launchers very similar to the one loaned to Arik by the downed hovercraft crew a month prior. There is much else besides, coming to ~175 total weight and well over 2000 credits worth at best guess. Much of the equipment is well-used in poor or fair condition, as if assembled piece by piece over time from cast-aways or equipment awaiting repair. Clearly it is Mormon-manufactured gear typical of that issued to Mormon soldiers.
Several hours of dark remain before the predawn arrives. Long shadows creep toward the scene of recent mayhem as a half-moon sinks toward the mountains looming above the highway to Spanish Fork.