Monday, February 19, 2024

BESM - Palomino: Falling into Grace 2

Our three wandering heroes - Chance the gambler, Se-No-Wo-Te the displaced indigene, and Jake the tinkering and gunsmith - have entered the town of Grace on the mining moon Palomino, and are setting in....

Jake talked to Mama, explained about the filters, had some oddly colored eggs pressed on him, saw the herd of children, and agreed to fix the upstairs cooling unit that evening. Then he went out to looking for work. There were the railyards, the shop near the mecha parking zone, and some places he could set up a shop of his own if he wanted to spend the time. He got some coffee, threw away the potentially bio-hazardous eggs, and started with the shop near the mecha lot.

The proprietor, Oliphilent Wilson – who, like Cassady, had the attenuated bone structure of one who grew up in low gravity only to be worn down by Palomino – informed him that the local sheriff wasn't big on independent mecha, seeing them as a potential threat to law & order. He directed Jake to Fochenflick, who had just acquired more land and needed some computer & mechanical work done on it, and of course there was Mr. Travers, who had a handful of mecha to keep in good repair. He also explained about the mecha lodging fee – free for six days, 500 for the seventh – designed to keep threats to law and order from sticking around too long. 

Kate saw Jake coming as the two Travers men who had been fleeced last night staggered out toward the train station. No sense, it seemed, taking money back into the canyon when everything was paid for. The newcomers had coffee and compared notes, agreeing that Fochenflick looked like a good prospect. Jake told her about the mech stabling fee, and they headed for the Fochenflick place. Kate dressed in a nice skirt and even unearthed a hat; Jake wore his usual jeans & flannel shirt with a cowboy hat. The house was a sumptuous three-story on the town’s outer ring. Out front was a big, four-armed mecha, with a pair of deputies lounging around it.

Inside were Fochenflick and Sheriff Bobbie Garner, who told them about the "lodging tax" which Fochenflick offered to cover if they worked for him. The rancher alluded to his scientific herd-handling practices, with the attendant need for level land and sensor towers. Hiring their mecha would be more efficient than Mr. Traver's fees. 

As the sheriff was leaving, one of Fochenflick's men, Harris, rode up to announce the Grangers murder by "some crazy redskin": the whole family shot several times. Jeb had been grabbed by the redskin, threatened, and hurled onto a rock. The deputies displayed a lack of critical thinking skills, Fochenflick announced that the Grangers were his partners and it was their land he was planning to modify, Kate & Jake collected their mecha, and all went to the Granger place, to which Se-No-Wo-Te had returned. Seeing his companion’s mechs, the Indian quietly summoned his own, making radio contact with Jake to explain recent events. 

Dwight & Mickey, the deputies in the mech, rescued Jeb, who was still languishing on top of his rock. Sheriff Garner & Harris went to the house. Jake shadowed them, noting the security – a proximity sensor doubtless designed to ignore anything cow-shaped. The system apparently had problems. A man, woman & two children were dead inside, face down.  Jake took the sheriff aside to relay Se-No-Wo-Te's version of the story, and that Jake had never seen the Indian carry a gun. 

Kate sat in her mech outside, surveying the area; Fochenflick's territory was enormous. She also chatted with the man himself, who had driven in his jeep (with only his oversized pistol as protection) and advised her to stay outside with him.

Garner left the house to call the suspect from his mecha, pulling Dwight from the mech to keep an eye on the range. Jake took a look at the house's computer/security system. It had been having trouble for a long time, though whether it was due to bad parts, incorrect installation, or just bad luck was indeterminate. Fuses went out all the time, the security system went down regularly, and the fences suffered. These were not cheap and it should work better than it had been.

Se-No-Wo-Te told Garner his story, and was convinced to come to the house to talk further, though he remained in his mecha. Fochenflick left what seemed like it might be a scene of violence, and suggested that Kate take a look at the property boundaries. She wandered off a bit to do so.

The sheriff & Se-No-Wo-Te faced off in their mechs, and then both climbed out to talk. Jake, alone in the house, sent the computer logs to his own mech for later analysis. Harris came into the house through the back door and tried to get Jake to leave. Harris seemed very twitchy. Meanwhile, Se-No-Wo-Te went over his story yet again, displaying his bullet graze while the sheriff took careful notes.

Harris called to the sheriff that "this crazy Injun's friend is messing with the bodies," much to Jake's astonishment. The sheriff left Dwight to watch the Indian and walked around the house. Kate, some distance away, could see him pulling out a radio once he was out of Se-No-Wo-Te’s sight. The police mecha, which unbeknownst to Se-No-Wo-Te was manned by Mickey, Garner's other deputy, who put its guns on line, took aim at Se-No-Wo-Te and proclaimed him under arrest. Se-No-Wo-Te jumped for the cover of the front porch and tried to break the door down, but it did not give way. 

Mickey’s itchy trigger finger disintegrated much of the front porch, but did not strike the agile Indian. The sheriff drew his gun and rounded the back of the house to see Harris draw on Jake, who dodged and, conscious of the sheriff’s nearness, did not draw his own gun. 

Mickey fired another chain gun onslaught, disintegrating more of the front of the house. Se-No-Wo-Te jumped onto the gun-arm, climbing the mech to stay out of range. Kate sprinted her mech back toward the scene and, trying not to make the situation any more complicated, brought the police mech to the ground with a tackle, fortunately not squishing Dwight or Se-No-Wo-Te. The Indian took cover in his mech.

Harris fired at Jake again, who rolled out of the way to better cover. Almost simultaneously, the sheriff fatally shot Harris, and then called off the deputies. With the situation suddenly dead calm, Kate let them up. Garner explained, much to Micky’s surprise, that Harris and the murdered Jeb Granger had a long-standing rivalry over Molly. Given Harris' behavior, he was willing to accept that Se-No-Wo-Te story, claimed no grudge against the Indian and arranged with Jake to have Harris' gun tested against the Granger’s wounds.

Kate went out to survey the land Fochenflick, as the Grangers' partner, probably now owned. A lot of their cattle seemed to have strayed, which might provide employment for Se-No-Wo-Te. A mesa-top view into Travers Canyon was available, revealing a model community: straight roads at right angles & prefab houses. Scaffolding on the canyon showed where the far side’s mines were  and Kate inferred similar structures beneath her. People moved around, loads were hauled, and the Granger land ran up to the canyon’s edge.

Survey finished, the trio went to see Fochenflick. He had a contract ready for Kate, suggesting an aggressive timetable. As project foreman she could hire staff, including the other mecha-equipped visitors. Fochenflick offered to cover their lodging on his lands; Kate decided to stay on at the Grand Salon, and Se-No-Wo-Te to get a room at Mama Cassady's.

There was a toast to the new business arrangement.


Strap one very rapid-firing four-millimeter Gauss gun to the back of a bear, slave it to a control system, and suddenly they don't like you anymore. - Tom

Nothing separates people from their money quite like opera! - Tom

Man does not change the world by faith alone; sometimes it requires a big robot. - my idea for Kate's business card

Chatter chatter, drop name of major NPC. - Rebecca. Could you at least put some effort into it! - me 

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