It is a sweltering August night, the hottest most folks can remember since the Ruin. It being Saturday, Eddie and Toshido run a double feature in the school parking lot. Nearly the whole town turns out, as always, sitting on spread blankets and bedrolls, watching in awe at the dazzling fantasies projected on the makeshift screen.
Afterwards, it’s too hot to sleep. Most of the townspeople simply move their blankets to the few green spaces in town that haven’t been given over to farming and spend the night under the stars. Cat lies awake in her tent trying not to think about Jimmy Valentine. A restless Daylight strums a guitar on the front steps of the police station. Balthazar is “sampling” his latest brew with Ronin and a couple of old-timers. Toshido wanders the village on an unofficial patrol. Lord only knows what Lynn gets up to.
Naz is about the only person in Pingberra attempting to sleep indoors. He feels too vulnerable sleeping outside, and years of experience have taught him the value of snatching sleep whenever possible. It’s too damn hot, though, and he gets little rest while tossing and turning on his cot in the sheriff’s office.
The bell above Naz’s cot starts to ring, and whatever hopes Naz had of getting any rest fall away instantly. He rises and, pausing only to grab his go-pack, heads out the door to run up the ladder leading to the look-out station erected in what used to be a parking lot. There’s a line that goes from the top of the tower to the bell in the sheriff’s office, so that whoever’s on guard duty can alert the chief Regulator of trouble instantly. Naz reaches the top of the ladder and asks what the fuss is.
The Regulator currently manning the tower, Stan Hollis, points off into the distance. Heat lightning rolls in the sky. Maybe a storm is coming to break the hot spell, but Naz knows that’s not why he was brought up there. “Wait for it,” advises Hollis, and sure enough a swaying beam of light appears off in the distance. Naz and Hollis agree that it must be a searchlight mounted on a vehicle running on the road leading into town.
Suddenly, flashes of light are seen out in the crops growing parallel to the road. Gunfire. To Naz’s experienced eye it doesn’t looks more like a hunt than a firefight. Hollis starts scanning the fields, then points out a patch where the long stalks are waving despite the lack of wind. Someone is running through the wheat and corn towards town. A moment later, the Regulators spot the signs of two more disturbances, both much bigger than the first, following on after the first.
Naz signals Daylight to get up on the East Gate. Daylight meets Toshido along the way and drags him along. They get up there just in time to see a small figure come hurtling out of the field and into the wide firebreak separating the crops from the trench around Pingberra’s walls. It is a young boy, maybe twelve, naked except for a pair of skivvies. He is barefoot and his feet are muddy and bleeding.
Toshido never hesitates. He leaps off the gate and runs up to intercept the child. Just then, a pair of men on horseback break out of the field and into the open. One immediately spots the tall barricade a few dozen yards away and rears up his horse. The other never takes his eyes off his prey; he spurs his mount and begins spinning a lasso, obviously with the intent of roping the youngster. Toshido draws and throws a shuriken at the rider without breaking stride. The man topples off his horse and hits the ground with a sickening thud. Toshido scoops up the boy, who kicks and fights for a brief moment before passing out in his rescuer’s arms.
The other rider wheels his horse around and bolts back into the fields. Toshido shouts for Daylight to open the gate and help the boy, then leaps up onto the mount of the man he felled. Lynn appears out of nowhere to vault up behind Toshido, and the two take off after the fleeing intruder.
Meanwhile, Naz is not about to let the mysterious rider run off with knowledge of Pingberra’s whereabouts. He slides down the look-out tower ladder and runs for his motorcycle, which is parked on the side of the sheriff’s office. Shouting for Hollis to put together a posse and follow him, Naz guns the motor and heads straight for the East Gate, which Daylight has just managed to open. Naz barks at his deputy to hop on, and the two speed off along the Pingberra Road, hoping to cut off the rider when he exits the fields to meet up with the vehicle down the highway.
Riding hard, Toshido and Lynn spot their quarry just as he meets up with his compatriots. They are in a small flatbed truck with an ominous-looking weapon mounted behind the cab. The rider is talking excitedly and gesturing back towards Pingberra. Lynn slides silently off the horse and vanishes into the night. Toshido tries to keep his mount quiet as he waits in the field for the right moment to strike.
Naz and Daylight roar up on the motorcycle. Another flash of heat lightning reveals the presence of the flatbed and Naz realizes he is hurtling right into the firing line of its intimidating armament. He brakes hard and attempts pull a 180 degree turn but stalls out the engine instead. Daylight, anticipating a total wipe-out, leaps off the back of the bike cursing. The driver of the flatbed swings his searchlight around towards the noise and captures both Regulators in dazzling illumination. The flatbed’s gunner starts up his weapon – a massive flamethrower – and launches a burst of fire at the pair, who are thankfully just out of reach. Daylight breaks for the cover of the crops while Naz scrambles to get his bike restarted so he can prevent the trailing posse from heading straight into a slaughter.
From the safety of darkness, Lynn launches a knife at the gunner and strikes his arm. The projectile does little damage but frightens the hell out of him; he lets out a yell and swings the mounted weapon around to face his unseen assailant. Momentarily forgotten, Daylight takes the opportunity to pop two slugs into the gunner’s back, and he goes down much chagrined and even more dead. Daylight leaps up on the flatbed, waltzes up to the cab’s rear windshield, and notifies the driver of his presence by rapping his pistol against the steel cage. The driver drops the CB mike he had been talking into and raises his hands.
At this point, the horseman opts for the better part of valor again and rides off hell for leather. Toshido urges his own mount on after him. They soon reach the makeshift barricade that isolates Pingberra Road from the highway, and Toshido can just make out where the wrecked cars were moved to clear passage for the flatbed truck. The first rider, however, doesn’t waste time heading for that opening and instead coaxes his horse into an impressive leap right over the smashed-up vehicles. Toshido momentarily considers following suit but ultimately opts to dismount and scramble up the barricade on his own. He unslings his M16, takes careful aim at the rider’s steed and fires a single round. The rider slumps in his saddle, obviously wounded, but the unharmed horse runs off into the darkness.
Meanwhile, Naz has caught up with a pick-up truck full of Pingberra locals, all armed to the teeth. He has them wait until well out of range of the flatbed’s weapon until he gets the all-clear from Daylight. The driver and his vehicle are taken into custody, and the townsfolk do their best to get the highway barricade rebuilt before daylight. Toshido eventually returns; he tracked the surviving interloper long enough to find his corpse.
Daylight interrogates the driver with the aid of Balthazar and Ronin. The preacher takes the soft approach, conning the outsider into thinking the Pingberra was a cannibal community and that Daylight was the only thing between him and the cookpot. Balthazar hams it up a bit with his cleavers, and Ronin just lets his massive size speak for itself. The ruse works surprisingly well, and the outsider spills his guts in an effort to avoid spilling his guts.
Between the driver’s confessions and the runaway boy’s ramblings, the Regulators learn the following:
- The driver belongs to a slaver group based out of Auburn, right on the main railroad line. There’s about thirty slavers all told.
- They send out scouts to locate communities that would make good targets.
- The slavers overwhelm opposition with surprise attacks and heavy firepower
- They kill the men and enslave the women and children.
- They were on the way back from a raid when one of the new “acquisitions” escaped.
- Not wanting to set a bad example for the rest of the slaves, a team was dispatched to bring back the runaway.
- The driver radioed the location of Pingberra back to his compatriots, but isn’t sure if they received the message.
Daylight, Ronin, and Balthazar report to the Council of Elders, who discuss the situation until dawn. The crux of the issue is whether or not the driver’s message got through to the rest of the slavers. If it hadn’t, then there is no real need to worry. But if it had, at some point the slavers will show up on Pingberra’s doorstep. The town could shut itself up behind its gates, but it could be days, weeks, or months before the attack came – if it came at all. Pingberra could try to go about its business under a heightened sense of security, but eventually complacency would set in, and if the slavers were any good at their job they’d have scouts watching and waiting until then to signal a raid.
Naz suggests attacking the enemy first. He proposes using the captured slaver vehicle as a Trojan horse to get inside the raiders’ defenses, then striking hard from the outside with an assault vehicle prepared by Ronin and Toshido. Cat’s AS530 helicopter would serve as air support, dropping Molotov cocktails and pipe bombs onto the slavers. Even if the three-pronged attack fails, the chaos and disarray would give the town more time to shore up its defenses, and there would be no fear of reprisals as the slavers would have no reason to connect the assault with Pingberra. And if the attack succeeds, a blight on New South Wales would be eliminated, captured slaves would be set free, and Pingberra would continue to enjoy peace and security.
Sunrise is greeted by church bells calling all Pingberra residents into an emergency town meeting. The Council lays out the situation and, as with every major decision, leaves it up to the townsfolk to decide whether to wait things out or strike at the slavers first. The vote is close but ultimately the preemptive attack is the chosen course of action.
The Regulators get to work. Toshido oversees tune-ups on both the slaver’s flatbed and the old pick-up truck used by the previous night’s posse. Ronin leads a crew that armors the flatbed with steel plate and fits a battering ram to the front. Cat works through a pre-flight checklist to make sure her beloved chopper is ready to rock. Naz spends his time making pipe bombs, and Balthazar and Lynn sharpen knives and clean guns. After a busy 36 hours, the team is ready to move.
The two trucks and Naz’s motorcycle leave the Pingberra gate at midnight and begin the sixty-klick journey to Auburn. They halt on the suburb’s outskirts, and Lynn slips off on foot to pinpoint the exact location of the slaver’s camp. She’s back within a couple of hours, having found an old factory near the railroad tracks with a freefire zone razed around it. Lynn observed the camp for a while and is able to sketch out a diagram.
Lynn notes the guards manning flamethrowers at the front gates, and the gunner’s nest built onto a smokestack. It looks like one person manning a heavy machine gun is stationed up there. Vehicles in various states of repair are scattered through the main yard, as are oil drums and old crates; they all can be sued for cover. The tents appear to be used as living quarters, but they are not large enough to accommodate the 30+ raiders supposedly on site. Most of the slavers must be inside the factory building proper.
The Regulators decide on a change of plan. Naz will find a good sniper perch and take out the two guards at the main gate. Toshido will then drive the slaver’s flatbed through the gates and start raising a ruckus. Lynn will be strapped under the truck, and once they are clear of the gates she will drop off and begin taking out slavers using stealth. Ronin will drive the armored truck through the fence at the northeast side, then continue on and punch through the northwest side. Naz will enter the compound through one of these holes. Daylight will ride shotgun with Ronin. Cat will drop bombs from the air as planned, but her first target will be the elevated gunner’s nest. If the slavers pour into the yard, the Regulators should be able to mop them up efficiently. If the bad guys hole up in the factory… well, then they’d come up with another plan.
Naz settles into position just as the sound of Cat’s copter can be heard in the distance. Toshido gets on the CB radio in the captured flatbed and informs Cat of the change in plans. She’s got Balthazar riding in the body of the copter, nervously holding a crate of gasoline-filled bottles and pipe bombs on his lap as he keeps an eye on the captured slaver, who sits bound and gagged on the floor.
The guards on the main gate crane their heads skyward to catch a glimpse of the approaching aircraft. Naz takes his shots. Two pulls of the trigger, and two dead men. Naz scoops up the precious brass casings ejected by his rifle, then keeps his sights on the main door of the factory.
At the sound of the gunshots, Toshido starts up his truck and stands on the gas pedal. He and Lynn had pushed the truck into position so as not to alert the slavers, but now the plan was to make as much noise as possible. Sparks fly as the truck crashes into the main gates. The impact causes Toshido to momentarily lose control of the vehicle; instead of punching through into the main yard, the truck gets wedged into position at the front gate. Lynn slips away as planned, but Toshido cannot get the truck loose. He abandons the truck and heads out of foot as well, half expecting to be cut down by the machine gunner above.
But that slaver is busy trying to get her weapon into a position where it can fire upon the approaching helicopter. The gunner’s nest was designed to target forces on the ground, and the slaver has her hands full trying to lug the heavy machine gun up onto enough sandbags to get a good lateral firing arc. She’s too slow; Cat buzzes the platform and Balthazar drops a Molotov practically in the gunner’s lap. Flames light up the sky, and a burning figure plunges into the yard below.
Meanwhile, Ronin has punched through the metal outer fence and through the chainlink separating the inner yard from the outer. Daylight, dressed int he captured slaver’s gear, hops off the truck and tries to blend into the chaos of the yard, hoping to sneak into the factory building and suss out the situation there. Ronin is about to punch through the northwest fence when he spots Toshido trying to sneak past the tents. An armed slaver rolls out from one of the tents and spots Toshido. Ronin whips the truck around and plows right through the slaver and the tent behind him.
At this point, slavers are swarming out of the factory and into the yard. A big man shouts and points at the main gate; two slavers run off to re-man the flamethrowers. The big slaver continues to bark out orders until one of Naz’ bullets hits him just over the heart. He goes down hard, and a couple of his underlings scoop him up and start to drag him back inside.
They are met by Daylight Johnson, and his disguise fools them long enough for him to draw his vintage Japanese officer’s katana and cut one of them down. The other drops the wounded leader and start hauling ass. Daylight takes a couple of steps and lays the fellow’s back open with a sword strike. He then walks over to the felled leader, notes that he is still breathing (thanks to a pre-Ruin bulletproof vest), and finishes the job that Naz started.
While chaos erupts all around her, Lynn has made her way to the gate leading to the boxcar storage area. She easily picks the old lock and makes her way to the nearest car. The Regulators had guessed that the slaves were being kept in the boxcar, and their hunch turns out to be correct. Lynn can smell more than see the presence of slaves in the car; a series of holes had been drilled at the tops and bottoms of the long sides of the cars to let air in and waster material out. The boxcar is kept locked with a simple peg bolt, but Lynn does not want to free the slaves while the fighting still rages for fear of collateral damage.
Toshido catches up to her at this point, and he agrees that they need to work out a safe way to get the slaves out of harm’s way. He spotted an old school bus that looked operational; it might even be the method the slavers used to bring their captives here in the first place. Toshido sneaks off to “liberate” the bus while Lynn checks the other boxcars for occupants.
Cat is in the middle of her third pass over the compound when assault rifle fire fills the air. The dashboard of the AS350 lights up in flickering red. Cat struggles to keep the helicopter in the air long enough to clear the slavers’ base, and barely makes it. The chopper hits the ground hard just yards outside the fence on the boxcar side.
Naz spots Cat’s trouble and makes a dash for his bike. He guns out onto the street, roars past the main gates (just out of range of the flamethrowers), and heads straight for the crash site. A half-dozen slavers are running towards the downed chopper, axes and shotguns in hand. Naz draws his naginata out of its sheath and bears down.
Meanwhile, the occupants of the helicopter are coming to. The pilot is pretty shaken up by the rough landing, but the sturdy Balthazar is barely phased. Both the captured slaver and the stockpile of Molotov cocktails have fared far, far worse, however; both lay broken on the floor of the AS530. Cat reaches out and a fire extension leaps out of its bracket and into her outstretched hand. She unbuckles herself from her seat and begins to douse the gasoline before it can catch fire.
Balthazar leaps out of the copter just as the slavers reach the site. The lead raider raises his axe to strike, but the Pingberra chef moves quicker than the eye can follow. “Jezebel” flashes out on her chain and tears through the man’s jaw like it was sculpted from butter. Blathazar carries through on the swing and keeps the meat cleaver whirling about his head, driving the stunned slavers back.
One of the slavers suddenly remembers he has a shotgun, but before he can bring it up to fire he is impaled from behind on Naz’s naginata. The Regulator had ridden with his spear before him like a knight on horseback, and the force of the blow almost tears him from his saddle. Naz rolls with the momentum and hops off the bike. He manages to tear his weapon from the dead slaver’s body, and holding the long blade aloft next to Kemp and his murderous meat cleavers the two Regulators make a fearsome sight in the firelight. The remaining slavers lose their water and turn to run, but are cut down before they can get far.
Toshido makes it to the school bus. No key is required to start it, and the engine turns over almost instantly. Brian wheels the big vehicle around and starts to head back toward the boxcars. He doesn’t get very far before he is swarmed by slavers trying to barge their way in through the passenger door or climb in through one of the open windows. One ambitious soul manages to leap onto the hood and tries to aim a pistol at Toshido while hanging on with one hand. Toshido raises his shotgun and deals with the would-be gunman. The other slavers take the hint and drop off.
Daylight, meanwhile, had continued towards the factory building, pausing only to cut down random slavers as the opportunity arose. He had just about made it to the main doors when a gruff voice barks at him. Another slaver leader, and this one has twigged to the fact that Daylight was an outsider. The slaver and Daylight make eye contact for a split-second. Then the slaver goes for the .44 Automag tucked in his waistband, and Daylight charges forward holding his katana behind him, just like the samurai in those old movies Toshido always makes him watch. The slaver clears his pistol and starts to line up his shot, but Daylight has already closed the distance and delivers a devastating passing strike at his opponent’s midsection. The slaver whirls towards Daylight’s back, gasping, choking, dying but still trying to raise his gun for a final shot. Without turning, Daylight jabs his katana back and up through the slaver’s torso. He pulls the sword free and the dead man slumps to the ground.
Ronin had pulled the armored truck up to serve as a shield for the captives as Lynn freed them from their boxcar prisons. Now that Toshido arrives with the school bus, the two men help the slaves get safely aboard the vehicle. They are a wretched sight, despite being in the compound for only a few days. Like the little boy outside Pingeberra, the women and children are naked except for a few scraps of underwear and covered in filth. Lynn knows form bitter experience that this is part of the process used to break down the will of new slaves, and she sstalks off into the night to get a little more payback.
The front gates need to be cleared in order to get the school bus out without damage, so Balthazar and Naz head there to see what they can do. However, the guards have given up on the flame throwers and take shots at the Regulators with their rifles. The heroes dive for cover. Lynn sidles up and tosses a few blades at the slavers’ backs. The injured men whirl about to confront their new attacker, but Lynn has vanished back into the darkness. (“It’s actually kind of creepy how she does that,” observes Balthazar.) The distraction is enough for Naz to stride up to the main gate and gun down both guards with his revolver. One of them doesn’t fall fast enough for Lynn, so she uses one last blade to speed things along. They clear the flatbed from the gates, and Ronin drives the freed slaves back to Pingberra.
Now, nothing is moving in the compound except for the Regulators. The captured slaver put the number of his comrades at around thirty, but the regulators can only account for about half that number. They have no idea if any of the slavers managed to escape, as they were never certain how many there were in the first place. Ultimately, however, the posse decides it’s not important. This operation has been broken up for good, and there is nothing to connect the attack with Pingberra even if there are survivors.
All that’s left now is to clear the factory building. Lynn and Daylight decide to shimmy up the ladders to the second story and sneak in while the rest of the team enter through the front door. Daylight peers through the window (ha!) and is shocked to discover a nursery. There are cartoon characters crudely drawn on the walls, there are toys scattered across the floor, and small mattresses and bedrolls line the walls. The cry of a child draws his attention to one darkened corner, where more than a dozen children huddle behind a handful of women – one of whom is raising a shotgun to blow off the preacher man’s head.
Before the slaver woman can get the shot off, Lynn pops up and whips a throwing dagger right at her face. The blade cuts a deep groove before bouncing off the bone, and the woman collapses in pain. Daylight fully enters the room and does his best to calm the terrified women and children while judiciously taking ownership of the shotgun.
Meanwhile, the rest of the Pingberra posse have cautiously entered the building. They find themselves in a large foyer, and Naz notes several murder holes and gun loops that thankfully seem to be unmanned. They begin to move forward into the hall beyond the foyer when a rifle cracks and the wall behind Balthazar’s head splinters.
The shooter is crouched behind an oil drum barricade jutting out into the hall a dozen meters away. Naz uses a captured slaver pistol to snap off a couple rounds of covering fire while Toshido races forward. The martial artist slides on his knees past the barricade and brings a sai up under the gunmans throat. He is startled to see it is a rather attractive, if somewhat bedraggled woman, who takes advantage of her adversary’s surprise to swing her rifle barrel around to his temple. Naz calls out, the woman’s eyes waver for an instant, and it’s all the opening Toshido needs. He snatches the rifle out of the startled slaver’s grasp and keeps her covered with it.
The Regulators reunite and exchange sitreps. They figure that when the captured slaver said there were about thirty slavers living here he was including the women and kids. This presents a big problem for the posse, however – what are they going to do with the slavers’ families?
There’s a lot of back-and-forth, and things actually get heated at one point. The Regulators agree to put off any decision until they clear the compound of everything valuable.
And there’s a lot of valuable stuff here. Food, auto parts, tools, fuel, sheet metal, ammo – slavery must pay very well. Once everything easily movable is loaded up, Balthazar and Daylight start on wiring and copper tubing. Meanwhile, Lynn and Naz keep the slaver families guarded, and Cat and Toshido do their best to get the AS530 up and running again.
Although the Regulators spend hours gathering up goodies, they don’t have any illusions about hanging on to all this stuff themselves. Firstly, they recognize that they are part of a community, and these goods would benefit everyone. Secondly, they are bringing back at least fifty new mouths to feed (the freed slaves), and while it is unlikely that the residents of Pingberra would turn away victimized women and children, the “dowry” of the slavers’ horde will make the population surge a bit easier to bear.
And it looks as though now the Regulators will be bringing back even more new residents. The attractive lady who drew down on Toshido approaches Naz and begs him not to abandon the slaver families, for the children’s sake if for no other reason. An angry Naz mutters agreement and storms off, knowing full well he’s buying himself future trouble.
Cat gives a whoop of joy as the copter’s engine turns over. Turns out she had lost a hydraulic pump and was able to make repairs thanks to the slavers’ stockpile of parts. The AS530 is ready to stagger back home.
The posse has loaded up four trucks with loot and refugges and they only have one driver among them, so Toshido and Daylight rig up a series of tow chains. Warm bodies in the towed vehicles will break and turn the wheel as instructed over the CB radios. The sun is high in the sky as the Regulators head back to Pingberra.
For the town: four trucks, loads of spare parts and tools, sheet metal (including yards of copper wire and tubing), five .38 revolvers with 83 rounds of ammo, three 12ga shotguns with 47 shells, three .243 Winchester rifles with 58 rounds, four 40# pull bows with 39 homemade arrows, a dozen bowie knives, several pounds of dried meat (probably rabbit), five jars of home-canned fruit, ten jars of home-canned vegetables, three ten-pound sacks of milled wheat, and more. Perhaps the most important “finds” are three working CB radios mounted in the vehicles.
Each of the Regulators claimed a .38 pistol and 2d3 rounds of ammunition. Additionally, they made the following personal finds:
- TOSHIDO – 3 road flares and a hatchet, all of which he will keep.
- LYNN – A full box of quart-sized ziploc bags, which she will keep, and a leather working kit worth 5 BP.
- CAT – An 8lb hammer worth 6 BP. Huzzah.
- NAZ – 3 life vests which are worthless anywhere except near the shore, where they are worth 10 BP each. He also claimed the bulletproof vest from the slaver leader he shot, and six extra rounds of .38 ammunition.
- DAYLIGHT – The other slaver leader’s .44 Automage and 2d6 rounds of ammo. He also scouted up an old Chemistry textbook (Score 55).
- BALTHAZAR – Four Jeep tires cached in one of the boxcars and a beginner’s guide to French (Score 25).
- RONIN – The love and admiration of the freed slaves. Double huzzah.
|EXPERIENCE & RECOVERY|
Surprisingly, none of the Regulators took combat damage. Cat suffered 9 subduals point of damage in the helicopter crash, but Balthazar only took 1. They were both fine after a little rest.
Nearly everyone rolled a critical success at some point during the marathon session: Daylight with Con Artist, Lynn with Stealth, Toshido with Beast Riding and Throwing, Naz with Tactics, and Balthazar with Flexible Weapon – twice!
It was universally agreed that those without Automobile Driving would begin studying it immediately, and Ronin aims to pick up Beast Riding.