The Ritual of Sending, brought me back home. At least I thought so, though it appeared that more time had passed for me than for my companions. And like the shit we had experienced back in the bank tower at the start of this mess, I wasn’t able to touch anything in a permanent way. It also seemed like I was both a couple seconds ahead of everyone and at the same time a couple of seconds behind. Which meant that nothing I was doing was making anything happen – other than giving me a fucking headache. Caeliharo, the elf wizard with all the feathers back in Tir Na Nog, had warned me that it might take a bit for me to return to phase. Whatever the fuck that was, I was certainly experiencing it now. And like a giant E string strummed and then stilled, I was.
We were on the cycles in the woods not far from where they had rescued the little bridge girl, Harper, from the two mutie bros. Khiron looked like shit, but ready. Everyone else seemed to be slightly confused. I like that nothing fucking phases Khiron. Olis, was pissed, like usual – probably something Thorne had done. And the new fellow, whom Thorne was convinced was a version of Sir Marcel, was introduced. I liked Sir Marcel. I really liked the way he just barely tolerated Thorne’s crap. Plus his motivations and drives were pretty easy to understand. Wasn’t sure about this new guy, or who the fuck he was. I knew that Marcel was gone, that fucking Olmec steam giant saw to that. Though to be honest I never saw the body. Still, something about this new guy’s eyes bothered me. Not sure what the fuck he saw – but it wasn’t what everyone else was seeing that was for damn sure. At least he wasn’t seeing dead people like Thorne. Everyone and the little girl filled me in on the muties and their compound at Lenoir. Also talked about the stone tower on Stowe Bluff and the chain across the Clinch. In my mind, the two felt like they belonged together somehow (more about that later).
The track north to Oak Ridge was pretty obvious to follow. All things considered Tir Na Nog was prettier: less snakes and vines, less venomous bugs and steamy jungle. As Thorne’s weird little ghost Ramona would say: a definite upgrade. I was already beginning to regret returning.
After a few hours we found the Clinch River Bridge, and Harper’s village, or at least what was left of it. Cotillion’s mercs had done a fine job of fucking it up. Weren’t a bridge no more. Weren’t a village neither – just a collection of burned out stone foundations and wreckage. It looked pretty fucking dismal. The Clinch was pretty big. We weren’t driving the cycles across it. We did find a bunch of wrecked and partially burned boats in the ruins. So that was promising – not that riding the cycles much further into Oak Ridge would be terribly stealthy. Thorne seemed to lose his mind during the discussion. Pretty much the usual tantrum when things aren’t going his way – I have a hard time distinguishing one from the next. Rather than cycling into the unknown, and probably merc infested nether shore – we opted to send the Nosy Cricket.
Well, Oak Ridge, and specifically the site marked on our map as the Oak Ridge National Laboratories, had not included the castrum. Yes, the mercs, and whoever was in charge had erected a fully functioning fort-upon-the-square, with towers, and gates, and a big ol’ dig site smack dab in the middle of the ORNL. Oh, and one of them new model Havoc Industries Bellicose model mechs decked out in Edsel’s favorite paint job (fucking candy apple red with shiny brass highlights). The fort differed from the standard Roman field-guide in that the utter ruin of Oak Ridge took up one quarter and they hadn’t managed to encircle all that. But still a fine job executed professionally. Had to admire their fucking pluck. They appeared to be operating a dig within the castrum and to be pulling all manner of ancient devices from the underground ruins. Said items were being placed on a ginormous barge in the middle of the mercenary flotilla.
[Insert what seemed like fucking hours of debate]
When I mentioned I wondered where them mercs stored their dead guys – cause any collection of armed folk that large was bound to generate lifeless bodies – Thorne settled down some and we began looking around for some of the dearly departed. Managed to find the ghost of an Ancient scientist of some sort. He was very helpful and gave us all the intell he had on what the mercs were doing: mostly digging up an old fusion power plant (everybody wants one of these things). The stuff we wanted, quantum-coupled materials, was in a different part of the complex – no where near where the mercs were digging. He further indicated that the mercs buried their dead inside the walls of the castrum – we decided that a ghost recon mission probably wouldn’t be the best idea.
[Insert another endless debate about what to do next including muties, mercs, mines, barges, flotillas, frogmen, forts, ambushes, and steam tunnels]
Did some planning:
1. Introduce the muties to the mercs thereby causing a ruckus that would enable us to sneak into the steam tunnels in the ruins – the entrance to which is just barely within the walls of the mercenary built fort. We can mine a trail from Mutie-Town to the fort, lure the muties down the trail and sit back to watch the fireworks. This plan has some pluses and minuses. But feels generally less dangerous than taking on either the muties or the mercs by ourselves.
2. Sneak into the steam tunnels and find the quantum-coupled McGuffin. It is thought to not be too large and portable. As this involves sneaking, there are some inherent dangers, as the only individual in the party capable of sneaking past shit is Gabriel.
3. Wait for the flotilla to load all the fusion power plant stuff and depart, then ambush it from a convenient spot on shore. This has some inherent drawbacks in that none of us are naval admirals for shit. But it allows us to have Edsell and company do all the hard work and then we steal his stuff in the time honored tradition of Scrappers everywhere. Khiron thought that rigging some nice rockets and other fun surprises would be totally do-able given the munitions we found at Harper’s bunker (which I failed to mention above as a place we visited and found lots of neat toys).
I reckon as soon as we revisit any of these plans, they will all fucking change.