Tuesday, February 20, 2024

BESM - Palomino: Treasure of the Sierra Mecha 1

Our wandering heroes - Chance the gambler and terraformer, Jake the tinkerer and gunsmith, and Se-No-Wo-Te the displaced Native American - are settling into the town of Grace on the mining moon Palomino...

Chance spent a peaceful night at the Grand Salon in her well-appointed, sound-proof room. Between "Mama's" flashbacks, the wails of children, and the local hookers, Jake and Se-No-Wote's night at Mama Cassady's wasn't quite as quiet, but Se-No-Wote at least could sleep through the loudest thunderstorm or be awakened by the slightest rustle of a snake in the grass. 

A cock crowed, and a distant explosion signaled the start of day at Travers Canyon, and the three newcomers to Palomino got down to work. For Chance, this involved heading out on her own in Ladybird, surveying the territory she was going to be rearranging in the near future (with the aid of a giant robot and a lot of explosives). The extensive Granger land included a sizable amount of badlands and steep, rocky areas as well as already-usable grazing land. She went alone; Fochenflick had a number of range hands, household staff, and general do-this-guys (Jeb and Simon, who were out this morning cleaning up the Granger place), none of them likely to be useful. 

Jake started work on the staircase at Mama Cassady's, then headed out to the Granger place to start walking fences. The doctor's wagon was there to take away the bodies. Se-No-Wote ascertained that the Granger cattle had gotten out into the mecha landing field, some out into the canyon, and a few up into the badlands, then began using his mecha to round them up out of the landing zone. 

Chance had worked her way well up into the badlands when she picked up a seismic anomaly from higher up. From up here she could see the other two mecha far in the distance. Above, a glint of moving metal. Her radio wasn't working. Her mech climbed the side of the mesa to a shelf near the top and found a small camp there, and one man looking a little surprised to see her. A mine shaft descended into the mesa. Two drilling mechs the size of Se-No-Wote's were parked to one side. A man saw her, announced that Travers had found them! And one of the robots threw a satchel charge at her, causing her to slide back down the mountain to avoid it (they didn't detonate it).

The other two saw Chance in difficulty and headed in that direction. Jake discovered that the top of the mountain was being jammed electronically.

Chance & Se-No-Wote were on scene, Jake watching from a distance. The man (Lamont Fliess) claims he & the other two miners (Freddy and Eb, in the mecha) have an agreement with Granger. Chance gives him a ride on (not in) her mecha to Fochenflick's place. Se-No-Wote goes back to work, Jake maintains a distant surveillance, digs into Granger's records & found a Fred Dobbs noted as someone who'd come by ten weeks before with an "interesting proposition," no details. Kate wondered why the miner thought she was from Travers if he knew he was on Granger land. 

Se-No-Wote got all of the cattle out of the landing zone, alone but for the endlessly repeating signal from Lucky's shack. Meanwhile, Jake got the Granger fences working again at a minimal level and determined that the generator could be salvaged. The fences were fine, the computer had been the problem, and of course the computer was toast after yesterday's gunfight. It seemed that whatever the cause, things had begun going wrong about three months before. 

Se-No-Wote next turned his attention to the cattle that had wandered down into Travers Canyon (stealthily, since he wasn't supposed to be there). Mining was taking place on that wall of the canyon, about three klicks away; he could hear the drilling and explosions even at that distance. Outriders on horses stood watch on the walls. Se-No-Wote found four cattle quickly, climbed down from the mecha and coaxed them in the right direction. Back in the mecha, an indicator flashed that someone had done a sensor sweep of the area; not sure if he had been detected or not, he left the canyon. Keeping watch behind him, he saw something indistinct under a tarp being dragged in the direction from which he had come. Safe over the wall without being shot at, he still felt watched. There were probably more cattle down there; perhaps a night excursion would locate them.

Jake got a message from the two guys at the mining camp; they were curious about Fochenflick: what kind of man, how well he paid, whether he knew about the camp, how long Jake was planning to be in the area, whether he was planning to retire soon (not really). The attempted bribe fell flat; if they did have a deal with Granger, Jake saw no reason Fochenflick wouldn't uphold it, while it would be quite difficult at this point to pretend that the camp didn't exist.

Meanwhile, Chance had a similar conversation with Lamont, who asked her about Fochenflick, the Granger murder, and events in town. She was relieved when the house appeared on the horizon; the sparkling conversation was a bit much. She set Lamont on the porch. He was looking pretty rough. The housemaid asked him to stay on the porch while the boss was summoned. Drinks are served on the veranda while Chance explains the mining camp's layout and the initial encounter to Fochenflick. He guessed they stole the mining mechs from Travers. Chance elevated her estimation of their brass, and their stupidity. 

Lamont explained himself as well as he can—they were gold miners who had amassed about $130,000 worth so far, they had bought the mechs, they had an agreement with the Grangers that allowed them to keep working for three more months, and so forth—and presented his army discharge papers as identification. Kate offered the information Jake turned up as confirmation.

Fochenflick wanted to run the agreement past a lawyer, but was ambivalent about wanting to let the mining continue and hinted that he might want a substantial cut of what they had found. They should stop work until that had been determined. It was revealed that Granger had had debts he had been worried about.

To Be Continued....

No comments:

Post a Comment