Friday, December 14, 2012

Deadlands, Part XXVIII

When last we left our heroes, the group traveled to Buena Vista, and learns some things from Silas the angel at Catalina's Rose.  They decided to travel west to Sweet Water, Arizona.

Having just left Catalina's Rose, the group travels to the local inn to sleep.  They purchase three rooms; David and Father Seward occupy one, Jeb and Rex occupy another, and Ruby and Rufina occupy still another room.

Father Seward awakens first.  Light is already shining through the window, which is open and overlooking the...city.

The room is a fairly nice hotel room, evidently in some manner of city.  Judging by the view out the window, it is probably on the second story.  The general view and dry, desert air reminds Father Seward of Phoenix, although he would have been there so long ago that he would barely recognize the place.

Father Seward is tied, rather tightly, to a chair.  Jeb is also sitting in a chair across from the Father.  He is asleep with a rifle in his hand.  Rex is asleep in bed.  A chair is jammed under the doorknob to prevent the door from opening.

After collecting himself, Father Seward considers his options and decides to go with the simplest — he asks what he did.  Jeb and Rex awaken, with guns at the ready, to find much the same confusing scene.

They don't recall anything past sleeping in Buena Vista, either.

Father Seward convinces the pair to untie him, as he is just as confused as they are, and the group goes through their things.  Their items are more or less intact, although they appear to have seen use — a little money has been spent, clothes have been mended or are brand new, and the like.

Rex goes downstairs to get a paper, passing a well-dressed couple along the way, and returns to the room.  It appears that they are in Phoenix, Arizona, and that it is early December (although still 1877).  When last they were in Buena Vista, it was early October.

Father Seward wanders downstairs and tries his senile old man schtick on the innkeeper, trying to convince him that he does not precisely recall his traveling companions.  Didn't he come among five, with three other men and two women?  The innkeeper only recalls two others, both male.

When Father Seward rejoins Jeb and Rex, they begin discussing their options to reunite with the rest of the group, assuming they're in the same hotel and even the same city.

Ruby awakens as the urge to vomit overtakes her.  She hangs her head over the side of the bed and vomits into a bedpan set there for that purpose.  After the confusion subsides, she has the opportunity to see that she is sleeping in a fairly nice hotel room.  The window overlooks a city, evidently in the desert.  Rufina is sleeping in a chair, the sword held in her right hand.  The tip is dug into the floor with enough force that it could probably stand on its own were she not holding it.  David, much to Ruby's surprise, is sleeping next to her.

Even more shocking, she quickly notes that her missing left hand has been replaced with a mechanical one.  An object of clockwork, it bears gauges and tubes of all sorts.  It responds more slowly than her other hand, but otherwise reacts as one might expect.  As she moves it, a gauge vents and the needle goes from red to green.

Rufina also has a similar replacement for her missing left arm.  She also bears a notable scar on her face that disappears into the neckline of her shirt.  A trickle of blood flows down her left arm, over the mechanical one.

Ruby awakens David, who undergoes the same level of discovery as she.  Both surmise that the last thing they recall is going to sleep in Buena Vista in separate rooms.  David similarly discovers a mechanical left hand.

After the excitement dies down, both decide to awaken Rufina.  They get the sword away from her first, and noting the blood, check her arm.  The phrase "FORGOTTEN NOT FORGIVEN" is carved into her arm; the skin caked under the fingernails of her right hand suggests that she did the deed herself.  Finally, the pair awakens her.  She similarly last recalls sleeping in Buena Vista.  She investigates the phrase on her arm, the mechanical hand, and finally the scar on her face — the latter apparently travels down, around the curve of her breast before terminating at the navel.  Everyone begins discussing what to do before trying to find their bearings in this unknown desert city.

A knock at the door interrupts Father Seward, Jeb, and Rex.  It is a member of the hotel staff, informing them that breakfast is ready and their stagecoach leaves in two hours.

David, Ruby, and Rufina receive a similar knock, from a member of the hotel staff, informing them that breakfast is ready and their stagecoach leaves in two hours.  David asks for the destination; it is Sweet Water, as per his instructions.

At the sound of David's voice, the other door opens.  Father Seward, Jeb, and Rex evidently hold the room across from David, Ruby, and Rufina.  David convenes with them while the ladies get ready; he informs them of the mechanical hands, while they inform him of the fact that they're in Phoenix, and two months have passed.

Given the circumstances, everyone prepares for breakfast.  The two groups are seated separately in a large dining room; the two tables are not particularly close together.

Two things of note occur during breakfast — a man comes with a pitcher of water to pour into their mechanical arms.  Additionally, a man tells Ruby that appropriate arrangements have been made regarding her "condition."  David, having also been mentioned as her husband, is similarly referenced as the child's father.

Apparently, Ruby is pregnant.  David determines that she is, perhaps, around two months along, although it could be shorter.  If morning sickness stops within two weeks, it is likely Brent Manning's baby.  If not, well, then it could be David's.  Who knows, really?

Additionally, a man comes around and informs Rufina that due to scheduling, there will be only one stagecoach for two groups, and the man she doesn't like will be forced into the same stagecoach.  Is this acceptable?  She says it is.

Similarly, the man approaches Father Seward and indicates that the stagecoach will be shared with another party, and the woman he seems to dislike will be forced to ride with them.  Seward accepts this, saying that God teaches forgiveness.

Before the stagecoach disembarks, David acquires some more bullets and food for the group.  He also shares the information regarding Ruby, and Rufina mentions her message from the porter.  Since Father Seward received a similar message, he suspects they don't like each other.

Given the circumstances, Rufina decides to reveal her story before they disembark.  Once, long ago, she had a husband.  Children.  A whole family.  Her husband was not particularly wise, and after some failed ventures, ended up transplanting his whole family to the prairie.  They lived in a sod house on the prairie, but winter was most brutal that year.  A blizzard swept through and trapped the family.  Hunger and cabin fever took its toll; Rufina's husband went mad, and attacked the family.  Rufina lost her arm in the struggle, and her children...

Well, at the end of it, she torched the house and left.  Her dead husband, whatever he is now, is the spirit who resides in Father Seward.  She is Henrietta.  She doesn't know what his plans are, but that is her tale.

Additionally, her scar is referenced.  Examination and discussion suggests it is a knife wound, possibly a torture wound.  Rex asks if Seward carries a knife, and he says he does not.  Only Jeb routinely carries a knife, and given the state of their memories, it is unclear how it was inflicted.

Once all arrangements are made, the group loads into the stagecoach.  The journey to Sweet Water is a couple of days.

The ride is uneventful.  One night, Rex causes quite a stir as he awakens suddenly.  He says he will explain in the light.  The next day, he says he had a dream — a memory.  In his hotel room, Father Seward tied to a chair, struggling against his bonds.  Struggling to get at Cobb, whose hands are covered in some purple fluid, just as he reaches into Rex's brain.

Evidently, Cobb manipulated their memories, likely causing them to forget.  This comforts absolutely no one.

Particularly when they contemplate the possibility that Cobb is the father of Ruby's baby.

Finally, they arrive in terrain where sandy desert turns to salt flat.  The cracked land resembles dried riverbed.  A city of spires reaches heavenward in the distance.  Past the city, is appears that a waterway has been appropriated for municipal use.  As the group approaches, it is obvious that Sweet Water is apparently built as a series of concentric circles, and the whole architecture moves, allowing the rings to rotate independently of each other.  Father Seward suggests it might be some manner of ritual apparatus, assuming Sweet Water is built on occult principles.

The stagecoach arrives outside the gate — more like an aperture or porthole — and allows the group to disembark.  Several others are entering the city, and the group follows suit.

Inside, there is a line bound by velvet ropes.  Eventually, the group arrives at the front.  Individuals are allowed to bring one weapon, or two if they are applying for residency.  The attendant asks for the reason of the visit: business, pleasure, or residency.  Father Seward goes first, declaring "pleasure" (my comment being that "spreading the Good News is always joyful.")  He then walks through without declaring his sidearm.

The open doorway leads down a long, circular hallway.  Made of glass, rotating gears are clearly visible within the hallway.  As Father Seward walks down, some sort of alarm is triggered as he is eventually overcome by the weight of his metal objects and pulled to the floor.  The line is stopped, and several guardsmen escort him out.  He again invokes his senile old man schtick, and is allowed to attempt again.  This time, he checks his rifle with the front, retaining his sidearm for the trip into Sweet Water.

Having seen the example, the others similarly rearrange their weapons.  Ruby briefly considers residency to retain both her guns, but is convinced otherwise.  Finally, everyone is appropriately arranged to enter Sweet Water.  They mostly declare "business."

The group arrives in the city, and finds it just the wonder one would expect.  Several people flit about on moving walkways.  Automata clean the streets of refuse.  As they go on the tour for newcomers, a statue of a grim, gaunt man wearing a gas mask looms triumphantly overhead.  Father Seward idly wonders if it is the man he saw in vision back in San Francisco, although he would be hard-pressed to say.

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