Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Deadlands, Part XXXVIII

When last we left our heroes, they arrived in Tucson, discussed selling the pterodactyls, and met the town doctor.  Ruby found him to be her brother-in-law, Arthur Snead (evidently going by the name "Montgomery Snead" with the townsfolk), and he appears to be laboring under some form of mutation, holding Ruby at gunpoint and saying he is going to "kill the bird in its cage."

When Snead does not immediately shoot, Ruby begins to try to talk him down.  This tense standoff continues until Ruby hears somebody quietly sneaking through the back of the shop.  When she calls the person out, acknowledging the intrusion, Snead turns and fires at the person.

The blast is enormous, and definitely catches Rex's attention.

Slowly, Snead then turns the gun on himself.  His aim is disrupted when Rex throws open the door, but the gun discharges, blowing off a large portion of Snead's face.  He collapses on the ground.

Rex checks on Ruby, and then sees the other man who was killed — a sheriff's deputy.  The blast threw him across the room and lodged some black, nasty, cancerous thing in his chest.  He looks thoroughly dead.

Ruby quickly explains what happened here.  Rex sends Ruby to go and get the others while he remains to train a gun on Snead's unconscious body.  Rex then waits for the law to arrive, and when they do, he explains what happened, further explaining that some of his associates — experts in this sort of weirdness, as the sheriff seems to be somewhat familiar with strangeness — are on the way to help with the investigation.  They manage to wrench the deputy's body off the wall, and go searching around to find the town’s actual doctor — evidently, Snead wasn't it.

Meanwhile, Ollie and Rufina are waiting atop the plateau.  Things are relatively quiet until several dog-sized, lizard things begin climbing the cliff and swarming them.  They manage to fight them off, only to be confronted with an enormous such creature, easily bigger than a wagon.  Ollie and Rufina clamber into the pterodactyls and fly away just as the thing roars and lashes out at them.

Ruby reaches the hotel and explains the situation to David Hood and Father Seward.  The trio returns to the doctor's office.  After being ushered through the crowd, the sheriff indicates that he will let them handle the situation if they can do so quietly — the sheriff explains that this is the third such case that has recently occurred, and the second case was one of the victims of the first attack, suggesting some form of virulent evil.  While Father Seward heals the man, they discuss disposing the unconscious body in the desert, but finally decide on an old warehouse.  A deputy sneaks them out the back and leads them to the facility.

Once inside, Father Seward awakens Snead.  His voice is pained, and his eyes and limbs are lined with black veins.  Snead begs for death, and after some consideration, the group decides to cover him with a sheet and Rex will stand behind him and slit his throat.  He does so, and a high volume of dark fluid, reeking of filth, pours out of the wound.  It assumes a vaguely humanoid shape and begins making some horrific noise.  This touches Ruby somewhere in the hindquarters of her brain, and she begins firing at the thing until she runs out of bullets.  She continues to mechanically pull the trigger on empty cylinders after that.  The rest of the group tries shooting, but as that does not harm the creature, Rex pulls one of the lanterns and throws it on the creature, setting it ablaze.  A sound like laughter emerges as the flames shoot high enough to engulf the warehouse roof, and a black, acrid, sooty smoke emerges from the blaze.  The group flees the warehouse to see that it has caught fire, and as they sneak through back alleys to find somewhere to wash off the soot, a bucket brigade has already formed.

They finally find a horse trough, and wash off just in time to be greeted by the sheriff.  He beckons them to drop their weapons and follow him, whereupon he incarcerates them in a jail cell.

Meanwhile, Ollie and Rufina fly towards Tucson.  Seeing the bucket brigade and large fire, they anticipate that their traveling companions are to blame.  They land their pterodactyls in the trainyard, and while Ollie tinkers with the broken-down engines, Rufina goes to search for her fellows.

The sheriff returns to the jail in about an hour.  He indicates that while there would normally be a trial and due process of law, he has found that holding adventurer-type folks in his jail usually just invites trouble to his town.  He finds it more expedient to exile such trouble magnets before anything happens.  As such, he says that he will escort the group to the edge of town, return the group's guns to them, and let them be.  When David Hood says that he was making train arrangements, the sheriff says he will arrange for the train to stop about fifteen miles outside of town the next morning.  Everyone reluctantly agrees to this, and he and his deputies begin escorting the group.

Along the way, Rufina sees them.  The group explains that she and another are with them, and they have two flying machines.  The sheriff wants them all out of town.  He sends a deputy to escort Rufina to the trainyard while the others go to the edge of town.

Once everyone is reunited, they decide to park the pterodactyl flying machines in a desolate spot and walk back to the rail line to make camp.

As they awaken in the morning, Father Seward notes that Ruby has black veins in her eyes — presumably the beginning of whatever infestation claimed Snead and the others.  Father Seward notifies her and the others of this fact, and he says he will perform an exorcism on the train.

The group gathers its supplies as the train approaches from Tucson.

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