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Gretch

The Mad Man

0 · 133 views · located in The Flats

a character in “White Group.”, as played by Bosch

Description

Gretch is not an attractive person, his body and face is a mess of weather beaten scars and sunburn. He is in very good physical condition with a wiry frame and dark hair. His attire reflects his Tribal past and he often only wears trousers and boots with only an apron covering his upper body. This Apron however is covered with knives, cleavers and anything else with a sharp edge or a point. He also often wears an absolutely battered Duster over everything.

Personality

He is remarkably intelligent for a tribal which is perhaps his most deadly trait. In combat however he favours blades and is skilled in the use of throwing weapons and swords. He would say he prefers using knives though as they allow him to get close to what he’s killing.

He uses a wide variety of psychotropic drugs and is most definitely insane. He prefers anarchy and does not like to be told what to do. However he is willing to play along to get what he wants. He is a sadist who likes fire a little too much.

History

Gretch’s past is something of a mystery of him. All he knows for certain is he woke up naked in a dry river bed one day surrounded by dead bodies. He got his Apron and Duster off the bodies and set off into the Flats. He soon encountered a Tribe lead by a man called Gretch who was quickly killed by the man who took his name.
After killing their leader and assuming his name the Tribe fell into line. Gretch then used the tribe to battle other tribes and find the best tribal fighters on the Flats. He forged this into his Tribe a mongrel of the toughest tribes he could find. He became something of a leader to the Tribals, as much as a bunch of drunken psychotic addicts can have a leader.

He then decided to take New Mesa off its owner Fat Nick Escobar who he killed in his own office. The office that would become Gretch’s. He runs New Mesa along softened Tribal lines where his word is law and justice is swift, brutal and public. Of course he understands that New Mesa works because of its freedoms which he allows to continue as it provides him with beads to feed his many addictions.

So begins...

Gretch's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Mister Charles Character Portrait: Arachne Webspinner Character Portrait: Alexander Lancaster Character Portrait: Adalin Nyx Character Portrait: Gretch Character Portrait: Colonel Augustus Autumn

0.00 INK

#, as written by Bosch
Gretch groggily got to his feet and pulled a knife from his coat but he was far too late, Alexander had long since left.

“That little fucking cun...”

“Boss!” Max burst into the room interrupting Gretch . His gun was drawn and he instinctively checked the corners of the room. Gretch noted the small but important display of tactical knowledge. His replacement for Jenks might be a fool but he knew how to handle a gun.

“What the fuck just happened Max? Who was that fucker with Skycove Smile?”

Max knew Gretch was referring to the intruder with the cut up face.

“Dunno Boss, but I know who might know. You know Jimmy No lips who drinks in Gregger’s?”

“How many people do you think live in this town are called Jimmy and also have no lips? Of course I fucking know him! Get to the point!”

Gretch was pacing like a caged animal, he wanted blood and come hell or high water he was going to get it.

“He says he saw the Bartender talking to the guy.”

“Who? The Ochillian?”

“No the woman, whatdaya call her. She only pours drinks.”

“Harper Bell, frigid bitch.” Gretch muttered as he went for the door.

#

Sixty seconds later Gretch was barrelling through the front door of Gregger’s. His nose was still a bloody mess from where Alexander had broken it but he still brought enough fear with him to silence the entire bar. It wouldn’t heal right but Gretch didn’t care. He stood in the middle of the bar and dared anyone to make eye contact.

“Jimmy?” He said finally to the room.

“Yeah?” A hideously ugly man nervously replied from one of the tables. True to his name Jimmy no lips had no lips after an unfortunate tryst with a tribal who was going through withdrawal. Apparently she’d chewed the lips right off his head while he was passed out drunk.

“The little fucker who was in here, chased the girl, who was he talking to?” Gretch asked but his eyes had already fallen on Harper Bell.

“Her!” Jimmy shouted releasing a rope of spit from his disfigured face as he pointed a trembling hand at Harper.

“Everybody out! Now , Now, Now!” He yelled pointing at the door.

“Go on off you fuck!” He said as the crowd made its way past him and toward the door. Harper didn’t move as she was transfixed by Gretch’s stare.

Once the bar was empty Gretch pointed at Harper. Max and another of Gretch’s boys grabbed hold of the woman and sat her down at one of the tables. Gretch removed his Duster and gently draped it on the chair opposite. Finally he removed a large cleaver from his apron and set it in the fire that was burning under the hot water stove.

Silence reigned once again.

“Grecth you can’t trust...” Harper started.

“Shut your fucking mouth!” Gretch screamed his face inches from Harper’s.

The silence was thick and oppressive for a few more minutes while Gretch lifted the cleaver and tapped a knuckle to it. A sizzling sound told him it was ready. He returned it to the fire and pulled out a second Cleaver.

“Arm.” He said.

Max grabbed Harper’s left arm and held it out straight on the table. Gretch shimmied up to the table and watched Harped squirm for a few seconds with a look of utter panic on her face.

“Pleas...” She started but was cut short when Gretch slammed the cleaver down severing her left arm in the middle of the forearm.

“I told you to shut your fucking mouth, Harper.” He said calmly while she collapsed in a screaming heap. Gretch dropped the cleaver and nonchalantly walked back to the fire under the hot water stove where he retrieved his other cleaver which was now dully glowing. He quickly returned to Harper, grabbed the bloody stump and pressed the cleaver against it.

“Gotta stop the bleeding, don’t want you passing... Too late.” He said as Harper’s scream ceased and she slipped into unconsciousness. The last thing Harper remembered was the smell of her own scalding flesh.

#
She came round a few seconds later to find herself still sitting at the table. She first looked at her left arm which was minus hand. Gretch was sitting opposite her using said hand as a back scratcher.

“Wakey, Wakey sleepy head!” Gretch said with a genuine smile.

“Wh.. Why?”

“I got questions, you got answers. Never really saw the point in fucking about with beatings or threats or theatrics. I’ve come in shown you I’m not fucking around. I have shown that right?”

“Right.” She said quickly her eyes wide from fear and skin pale from blood loss.

Gretch slapped her hand down on the table and pointed with his own.

“The man who you were speaking to, chased the slut over to my place, what was his name?”

“He never said.” She said panic and fear choking her answer.

“Ok that’s ok. I believe you. What did he want?”

“Wynn, he was asking about Wynn.”

“Wynn Carnival?” Gretch asked.

“Yes.” She said. Gretch caught the look of surprise in her eye. People always assumed he was just a dumb violent thug who happened to get lucky. It was a perception he cultivated far better to have people underestimate you than overestimate you.

“It’s my business to know stuff, just like how right now it’s your business not to fuck me off. Why was he asking this?”

“He said Wynn worked for the White Group and that he was there to find him. Said somebody had killed Wynn and he was here to find out who.”

“So mystery man works for The White Group?”

“Yes that’s what it seemed like.”

“You’re doing great Harper. Where they headed and why’d he pinch my whore? He sweet on her or something?”

“No, nothing like that. I overhead them he’s going to try to find a woman called Miss Globe.”

“Don’t know her.”

“She’s an Ochillian I think. A mercenary. Barbra was working for her, helped her track down Wynn.”

“Righto. Last question then it’ll all be over.” Gretch said as he stood up and pulled his Duster back on.

“What is it?” She moaned.

“You didn’t juggle or nothing? I mean I’d feel just terrible about this whole...” He managed to get out before he broke into peals of laughter while he waved goodbye to Harper with her own severed hand.

#

Back at the casino Gretch decided it was time to put get some questions answered. He collapsed into his chair and put his feet on his desk.

“Maxy, looks like The Cripple has either gone off the deep end and wants to start something or he’s got a dog off the lead. I want everybody doing everything they can to make New Mesa as unwelcoming to those White Group fuckers as possible. If there’s even a wiff that somebody’s one of their spies he goes on a spike out the front. I want people scared to even whisper the name.”

Gretch opened a drawer and pulled out a bottle a clear liquid Max knew was shine. Gretch took a long swing before resuming his orders.

“Second I want the fucker that came in here broken down until he’s a fucking paste and I want this Miss Globe bitch to explain why she’s bringing her shit to my door. Lastly that crippled fucker Mister Charles. I want him dead.”

Max just nodded this was a tall order. He turned and made his way out of the room.

“Oh and Max get rid of this.” Gretch said lobbing something at Max who was too slow to react which earned him a slap across the cheek from Harper Bell’s disembodied hand.

Max left the office to the sound of Gretch screeching with laughter.

#

Mister Charles approached the Long-hut with the smithy attached, apparently the Ochillian that ran it was something of an Artisan. He was immaculately turned out as usual despite his ride from the workshop but he was travelling light and would be carrying less on the return trip.

He knocked the door with his cane and was soon greeted by a not unattractive Ochillian who was covered in dirt from a hard day of labouring. He knew she was alone as Arachne was in training at the moment, he was sure of her routine.

“Hello how can I help you?” She said with a cheery smile.

“Hello. I’m looking for Armoured Serpent, the blacksmith.” Charles said extending his hand.

They shook while the Ochillian explained he had found her.

“I represent a rather large band of mercenaries and they’re in need of quality arms. I understand you’re the best in the area.”

“Well I don’t know about that...” Serpent began to bashfully explain.

“No, no need for modesty a good friend of mine, Arachne Webspinner, recommended you.”

“Ah a friend of Arachne’s you should have said.” Serpent said as he welcomed him inside.

She offered him a seat and some food but he declined citing the need to return to his mercenary unit.

“I’m simply here to offer you a retainer. This retainer in fact.” He said as he handed her the plain canvas Napsack he had been carrying.

Serpent opened it and sharply drew in a breath.

“Mister there’s more beads in here than I’d make in three months.”

“Consider that your retainer, someone will be by next month with more of the same.”

“What do you want?”

“At the moment nothing, but one day I will call on you and ask you to use your skill as a blacksmith to earn these beads. I expect you to be ready for that day.”

Serpent just nodded as she let the beads fall through her fingers.

“ I’m sorry but I must be going, it’s getting late.”

Serpent stood and extended her hand.

“Mister I don’t know what... I don ‘t even know your name?”

“Charles, Mister Charles. Speak to Arachne I’m sure she’ll tell you all about me.”

He doffed his hat and returned to his horse and the road back to The Workshop.

He knew it was a low move and he didn’t begrudge Arachne happiness, if anything he hoped this would make it easier for her to tell the truth. Charles knew it was near impossible to keep secrets from one you genuinely cared for. He hoped Armoured Serpent would be seduced by the beads and know to keep her mouth shut.

He also knew Arachne would pick up the subtle message of his visit, there are no secrets in the White Group.

#

Augustus Autumn rolled his shoulders and perused a report sitting in front of him telling him increasing numbers of Tribals had been mounting near the camp. It was resulting in small skirmishes between them and his men. While he’d yet to lose one of his specials he was worried about needlessly wasting supplies.

He clucked his tongue and made a decision.

#
Twenty minutes later he had his Captains assembled.

“Cole, the Gating gun is now operational and installed on our Flagship?”

“Yes Sir.” Captain Cole said with a slight note of giddiness in his voice.

“Outstanding. Captains Baker, Franklin and Lewis your groups are rested and ready to move?”

“Yes Sir we can be on the move in two hours.” Franklin responded.

“What about if we disassemble the camp?”

“Give us three.” Baker said.

“Make it happen. We’re marching on New Mesa. It’s time to let these goddamn savages know The Confederates are here and we’re going to fix this rotten excuse for a region.”

“Yes Sir.” The four Captains said in unison as Autumn dismissed them with a wave of his hand.

#

James Costner slowly pulled back the curtain and peeked out the window of the hotel room he was staying in. A blizzard was blowing outside but he was warm from the fire Jenner had kept burning in their small room at the Inn.

“Are they still out there?” Jenner asked from the bed.

“Yes. Three at least, They don’t know we’re here.”

“So we wait it out.”

“Yes.” Costner said as he let the curtain fall back into place. He glanced at Jenner who was sitting in a chair by the fire. She still looked strange to him even though she’d dyed her hair black over three weeks ago.

“I’ve been thinking James. I know someone that might be able to help us.”

“Help us escape?”

“No help me find and the kill the bastard that killed my father. Then whoever ordered him to do that and from there anyone who benefitted from it.”

Costner was only mildly shocked to hear the coldness in her voice. She’d lost her father, brother and two sisters all in a war between business men she didn’t understand. She’d mourned, briefly, then the hardness began to creep into her voice. Costner knew then that her childhood was over, her innocence lost. She ran to The Flats to find out who she was but in the end The Peaks told her. Her path would be one of death, blood, revenge and tears.

Costner knew this because he’d walk the path with as long he could.

“Who’d you have in mind?” Costner asked as he walked over to his own seat.

“Lyn the mercenary who brought me to you.”

Costner exhaled in a low whistle as he sat down.

“I don’t think mercenary covers exactly who rescued you.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well... Assassin is probably closer to the truth and they don’t come cheap.”

“Please, James I’m a Reese. I can give as many beads as she wants. Father wasn’t stupid he set aside enough in case of a blizzard like this. Enough to pay Lyn the Assassin to wrest control of my family’s fortune to me, after that beads won’t be a problem.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Gretch Character Portrait: Colonel Augustus Autumn

0.00 INK

#, as written by Bosch
Max Conti had a smile on his face. He’d received a promotion at work and his boss had given him an important task that he felt reflected his growing responsibilities. Of course the promotion was due to his predecessor being brutally murdered and his Boss was a raving psychopath but on the Flats Max was considered upwardly mobile.

His latest task was to find the White Group and destroy them, with particular attention being paid to their leader a man called Mister Charles who was known to Max. Working for Gretch was a binary proposition, there were no grey areas only success or failure or living like a king or dying like a dog. Max didn’t know any other life.

He guessed that’s why he felt so nervous around Gretch. Jenks, who had been Gretch’s previous right hand, man had been smart and confident. Max figured this was because Jenks knew Gretch well and they had developed a good working relationship. Max saw this White Group job as his opportunity to do the same, to cement his own identity and reputation in Gretch’s outfit.
He’d gathered up the best men he could find and deployed them teams to seek out whatever they could find about the White Group. After seeing the beating one of them had given Gretch, Max ensured they were well armed and ready for anything.

Max of course could not join them in their search only coordinate it, he was Gretch’s right hand man after all. He knew he had been chosen for his size and strength in fact people sometimes joked that he was part Tanu. When he joined Gretch’s crew he was just a bare knuckle boxer fighting for small beads in the middle of Pubs. He remembered the night clearly as it was the night he beat both Pepe and Diego Silva at the same time. After the fight Jenks walked straight up to him and asked if he wanted to join Gretch’s crew. Of course he did.

Now though Max wanted to be seen as more than a bare knuckle boxer who got lucky. He wanted the respect that Jenks got from the men and even from Gretch sometimes.

Max was sitting by the door of Gretch’s office and overlooking the casino floor, he had boys spread out around the casino but trouble was rare here. Nobody was stupid enough to mess around in Fat Nic’s.

Max was considering getting a glass of shine when doors of the casino crashed open and man spilled into the room.
“Confederates! The Confederates are coming!”

Max rolled his eyes, the man was called Paulie something or other and he was one of the many town drunks. Instantly Gretch’s men had lifted the man from the floor and chucked him into the street.

Then they froze.

Max stood because they were acting strangely, they should have returned to their positions but instead they were standing with their mouths agape staring at something in the street.

Max bounded down the stairs to the door and took a look at what had them so transfixed.

It was an airship, easily the biggest Max had ever seen and affixed to the front of it was a massive Gatling gun.

#

The Leviathan had New Mesa firmly in her sights although she would not fire a shot from that big gun.

Colonel Augustus Autumn lowered the spy glass from his eye and turned to his signal man.

“The town is ready, unleash Captain Cole and his specials.”

The signal man nodded and ran off toward the rear of the ship. He unspooled a long rope with several flags attached to it and a weight at the bottom. He hefted the weight overboard and watched as rope snapped taught.

#

Hidden behind a sand dune Captain Cole glanced toward the Leviathan and the message hidden in the flags. He then turned to his second in command, a Tanu called Reggar.

“ Alright Autumn is giving us the go ahead. Give them hell.”

“Finally...” Reggar said before letting out a blood curdling war cry that was mirrored by the troops dotted along the dune. It was a small force of around 150 but it would be more than enough to take the town and hold it long enough for the Leviathan to deploy the rest of the force.

Cole leapt to his feet and began sprinting the short distance to the town from the Dune he looked left and right and saw his men where joining him his charge. The humans were easily outpacing the bulky Tanu but speed wouldn’t matter once they were fighting in the streets. Then the Tanu would come into their own.

#

Autumn remained stoic everything was going according to plan but you wouldn’t have known it from his face. Until the town was in his possession he wouldn’t he pleased.

“Commence sharpshooter fire.”

Moments after he uttered the words he heard the cracks coming from the sniper nests below the massive ship. It wasn’t particularly accurate just enough to make the people in New Mesa keep their heads down while Captain Cole’s team approached from the rear. The Leviathan was doing an excellent job of drawing attention.

#

“Shit.” Was all Max could utter.

“I told ya they were coming!” Paul muttered from the dusty road where he’d landed in front of the Casino.

Max never ran as fast in his life. He crashed through the door of Gretch’s where he caught Gretch “entertaining” of the dancing girls.

“What?” Gretch asked without breaking his stride.

“Confederates. Here. Now.”

“What!” Gretch said as he left the girl on his desk and briskly walked out of his office. He was still doing his belt by the time he got to door of the Casino.

“That Northern Bastard.” Gretch muttered as he quickly thought. “Send all the boys that way.” He said as he jabbed a thumb over his shoulder.

“They’re attacking from the front...” Max explained.

“That’s a diversion. Why make it this fucking obvious!”

Max turned and told the boys to carry out Gretch’s orders.

“Where’s the rest?” Gretch asked.

“Out looking for the White Group.”

“So you sent out all our best guys to look for those fuckers in the process leaving the base almost fucking undefended?”

Max nodded while Gretch fumed before suddenly exhaling loudly.

“Not your fault. Go get some horses.”

Max nodded and ran across the street to the stables. Obviously peo1ple were starting to react and had emptied them of all save one Nag. Max shrugged and brought the animal to Gretch who was standing on the Casino steps.

“That it?”

“Only one left.”

The street was starting the throng with confused masses and gunshots were erupting from seemingly everywhere at once.
Max shouted over the din. “I could ride behind you and we could both esc...”

Gretch moved his left hand incredibly quickly and suddenly Max couldn’t breathe. He raised a hand to his throat and it came away bloody. He felt something long and hard protruding from his neck. He pulled it out and held one of Gretch’s throwing knives in his hand.

He looked at Gretch with wide eyes and spluttered out a mouthful of blood.

Gretch made his way down the steps and kicked Max in the chest, knocking the large man over. He then took the reins of the nag and climbed on.

Max clutched his throat and tried stop his life leaking away from between his fingers.

The last thing he saw was Gretch riding off into the sunset.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: [NPC] Bartender Character Portrait: Mister Charles Character Portrait: Alexander Lancaster Character Portrait: Adalin Nyx Character Portrait: Gretch Character Portrait: Colonel Augustus Autumn Character Portrait: Ruby Gowen

0.00 INK

#, as written by Bosch
Ten hours Later.

“Marvin this heat is getting unbearable. I swear it’s getting warmer.”

Marvin looked up at the Sun and then back at his travelling partner, Christine Carol. They were sitting on a wagon being dragged along by sullen looking nag. Christine was a trader operating between Farpoint and New Mesa, she’d employed Marvin as a guard a few years ago when the route started to get a little dangerous and she felt she could use the backup. She now viewed the man as a kind of surrogate son despite his attempts to be taken seriously as a mean guard.

“We can stop for water in few miles, there should be an oasis coming up.”

They sat in the comfortable silence of friendship and watched as the countryside crawled by.

“What’s that?” Marvin said with a tinge of surprise to his voice as he pointed to a form off to the left.

Carol looked but could only see a small dark lump.

“It’s moving.” Marvin said as he dug around in his pack of the brass telescope he always carried.

Carol slowed the horse while Marvin investigated.

“Oh my, it’s a woman!”

Carol slowed the horse while Marvin jumped out and slowly pulled his rifle from its scabbard. She shook her head at his exuberance, the man was a romantic despite all his posturing as a tough mercenary. He was always looking for a damsel to rescue.

As he approached he could see she was an Ochillian although it was difficult through the dirt and dried blood. It was clear she’d been badly beaten.

“Are you alright?” Marvin asked as he approached and attempted to look heroic.

“Of course I’m no... I mean no I need help, bandits raided my caravan on the way to Farpoint, beat me and stole my cargo. Bastards.”

Marvin lowered his rifle and helped the woman to her feet. He quickly glanced along the horizon as he had heard of these honey pot ambushes before.

“Come on we’ll patch you up.” Marvin said as he supported the woman toward Carol and the caravan.

One Week Later

Jenner Reese looked out of the porthole of the Airship she had spent the last three weeks onboard, behind her Costner adjusted finalised his preparations and rechecked the bags he had packed. He didn’t bother with Jenner’s as he didn’t think it right to check the young woman’s personal items but he’d made it clear she’d have to carry whatever she packed.

“Ready Jenner?” He asked.

She nodded and lifted the small pack she’d prepared.

They were both dressed for further travel and stood out from the rest of the passengers because of it. It wouldn’t matter though once they were on the ground, in The Flats. Up in the Airship the assassin’s blade could come from any angle at least out on The Flats they could see it coming.

They disembarked and found themselves standing on a rickety pontoon in the middle of Farpoint. They walked along and passed an urchin clutching a raggedy stack of papers.

“New Mesa Falls to the Fed Army! Read all about!”

Jenner stopped and was about to speak to the child but Costner pushed her along. She bumbled along for a few moments until they finally got out of the throng of the crowd.

“The Confederates are here? I hope the White Group is still functioning they’re the only ones that can help us.”

One Week Later.

The truth was the White Group was in bad shape. The kidnap of Alexander and the work load had taken its toll on the team. Mister Charles knew he was pushing the team too hard but that was a good thing it meant they had too much work coming in. It was for this reason that Charles decided it was time to recruit again.

Of course contracts were still coming in through Mister Charles’ network but with the Confederate invasion it was better to lay low. He hadn’t been out of the Workshop in weeks and was starting to feel cabin fever setting in. The other members of the White Group where recuperating from their numerous injuries but there was no rest for Mister Charles, he was marshalling all his resources to learn as much as he could about the Confederate Army, try to find Gretch and lastly work out what was happening with Miss Globe who apparently had taken an interest in the White Group.

Charles was in his office going over some reports when Puck wandered in. Recently Puck had been given a wider role in the network acting as an intermediary between Mr Charles and the informants he had out on The Flats.

“Morning Puck I thought you were still out collecting reports?”

“I was but I ‘eard summat that I thought you should know.”

“Which was?” Charles asked.

“Some girl and this man she didn’t want people know she was with were walking ‘round Farpoint trying to find out about Miss Ada and The White Group.”

“Really? Do you have names?”

“Yep, She’s calling herself Carla or something and dyed her hair but it’s Jenner Reese.”

“How do you know that?”

“I was the one who told you about the bloke looking to set up a contract. I knew her from Kiladeys.”

“You went to Kiladey’s? At your age?”

“Yeah not anymore though getting too old. Gotta start saving my cash.”

“You’re ten... nevermind do with your money what you will. Send word to Farpoint. I’ll meet with Reese from what I hear she’s suffered a family tragedy.”

Puck nodded and left the office whistling a jaunty tune.

One Week Later.

Miss Globe had been travelling with Carol and Marvin for almost two weeks. Marvin was blinded by a woman being in his proximity to the extent he couldn’t look her in the eye. Miss Globe thought this was pathetic. Carol was a different story, the old woman had quizzed her about her story and was sure to keep an eye on Globe at all times. Miss Globe couldn’t be sure if it was old fashioned racism or if Carol was just a good judge of character but Globe only needed to get to the length of Farpoint where she could restock, rebuild and then go after the White Group again. She wasn’t sure how it had happened but somehow they’d slipped through her fingers again, once more shaming her. She thought how many people had died how much pain had been caused for the Spruce Framed Havelock Rifle. Of course now it was so much more than business she would finish what she’d started with Ada and she knew Alexander would be carrying the psychological scars from what she’d put him through for the rest of his life. That man would be irreparably changed and for that they would meet again.

They had stopped for the evening and Marvin was getting the fire started. Globe felt uneasy not about her situation but something in the air was disturbing her.

“Marvin you checked the perimeter?”

“Uh why yes... I checked it right and proper isn’t nothing out there gonna get you ma’am.”

Globe nodded but still she felt uneasy she looked out from the small camp they’d set and looked out across the Flats. As happenstance would have it Marvin’s kindling caught light as Miss Globe was looking across the Flats. She wasn’t even sure she’d seen it but for a brief second she caught something glinting that seemed to have ducked behind a sand dune.

She stretched and cracked her back before walking to the wagon and grabbing a small spade or as Carol called it the portable toilet.

“Excuse me.” Miss Globe said as she walked away from the Camp.

Once she felt she was far enough away to be undetected she broke into a jog and looped back around the camp. Sure enough behind the dune she found two Feral Tribals. Both heavily sunburnt and muttering amongst themselves.

Quietly she snuck along as she raised the spade high above her head. At the last moment she turned it in her hand to ensure she striking with edge of the spade and not the flat of it. All Ochil had to think about the best ways to maximise damage given their diminutive size.

She brought the spade down with all the force she could muster and sickening crack echoed across the Flats. Her victim instantly began to spasm so Globe let go of the spade and turned her attention to the other Tribal who was wide eyed with disbelief. Globe leapt on to his back and curled her lithe arms around his neck before squeezing the air out of him with the crook of her elbow.

The man collapsed and Globe quickly patted down both for whatever she could find. One was carrying a rusty looking blade while the other had a particularly shoddy looking New World revolver. She grabbed both and was about to kill the unconscious tribal when she heard a scream coming from the camp.

She peaked over the dune and saw a man wearing a battered looking duster standing over Carol’s motionless body. Marvin was pointing his rifle at the man who was brandishing a tiny knife like it was a dart.

After a swift movement too quick for Globe to see from distance the stranger was suddenly standing behind Marvin while Marvin clutched a bloody wound running the length of his right arm.

“Hell he’s fast.” Globe whispered.

The man didn’t kill Marvin but instead produced a long knife.

“Alright little one! Bet you think you’re real lucky but that luck’s done run out!” He shouted across the Flats.

“Now my two amigos ain’t shown up yet which makes me think they’re face down in some ditch which...” The stranger looked at Marvin. “What’s yer name pecker breath?”

“Fuck you.” Marvin muttered.

“Wrong answer.” I a fluid motion the stranger stabbed Marvin through his cheek causing the man to roar in pain.

“Which means Peckerbreath here is gonna pay!” The stranger called out.

Globe quickly went to the unconscious tribal and tied him up using torn clothing from the dead one she then slapped him awake. He tried to scream but Globe had gagged his mouth. When he started to struggle she punched him repeatedly until he stopped. She had to do this couple of times but she knew even a tribal would get the idea when beaten enough. Besides she liked it because she imagined it was Alexander’s face.

When the Tribal was feeling more cooperative she pulled him to his feet and marched towards the Camp.

“I have a hostage!” She called out to the stranger in the duster. As she approached she could the man’s face was a patchwork of scar’s sunburn and dirt. His hair grew at crazy angles at it looked like his skin was on the wrong skull. In the flickering of the campfire in front of them it looked like his skin was constantly shifting.

“Lady I don’t give a good fuck about no hostages.” The stranger called out as punched Marvin hard in the ribs.

Miss Globe’s hostage muttered a protest but she silenced him by jerk his hair back.

“All I’m saying is you let my boy go and I let yours go.”

The stranger started laughing.

“Lady do you know who I am? Seriously I don’t care about that fuckstick.”

The hostage again whined and again she pulled his hair to silence him.

“To be on the level I don’t care him either.”

“That so lady? You can’t steal my fucking bit.”

The stranger lifted a gleaming blade and threw it directly into the throat of Miss Globe’s hostage. She felt the Tribal’s blood roll out of his neck and on to her hand so she let the corpse drop.

“See what I mean you have to be willing to commit to the bit.”

Miss globe raised the Tribal’s pistol and sent a bullet directly into Marvin’s face.

The stranger let Marvin’s body drop.

“Now that is surprising.”

“I know you. You’re Gretch.”

Gretch took a theatrical bow.

“Indeed I am and you sure as shit ain’t no caravan guard.”

“No but from what I hear you’re on the way out now the Feds have taken Mesa.”

“Ha, it’s only loaned to them.”

“ I think we can work together and get ourselves back on our feet. Looks like you could use some quality help and I need a posse.”

“Why what’s a sweet little Ochillian like you need with a posse?”

“I got a bone to pick with the White Group.”

Gretch’s face slowly curled into something approximating a smile.

One Week Later.

New Mesa was completely under Confederate control while there were some incidents of the local populace rising up in an attempt to defy Confederate control these were limited to a number of isolated individuals. Cornel Augustus Autumn put this down to a simple lack of leadership it was for that reason he ensured a list was drawn up of any potential rabble rousers and they were taken care of.

Unfortunately one name had not been checked off his list.

Gretch.

He knew it would be far too fortunate to have Gretch die in the assault but still he had hoped. Now the madman was out there on the Flats plotting revenge, Autumn wanted to send out squads to look for him but his force was stretched enough holding the town.

Nevertheless word from the Peaks was his ambitious gambit had paid off. He was being hailed as a military genius for taking New Mesa with such a small force. He had to admit himself it had been a brilliant idea to use Gretch to take the town only to attack when the tribal had done the dirty work. Now Autumn was being widely tipped to be the next leader of the Confederacy all he had to do was maintain the tempo of his campaign which thankfully was being given a shot in the arm by reinforcements coming from the north. He was to receive two regular units as well as a small boys unit and a Specials unit. More than enough to hold the town which meant he could focus on expanding his borders.

Of course he still had multiple problems to overcome. Hope wouldn’t stand for an invasion of their borders and if the stories were to be believed the Guardians of Hope had the potential to cause a lot of damage before they were conquered. Farpoint wouldn’t be as tough to crack but everyday he didn’t attack gave them time to develop a resistance. Autumn was betting on the independent spirit of the Flats being their downfall. It was often said getting Flatlanders to work together is like trying to herd flies.


One Week Later.


Jenner Reese had begged, and Mister Charles had felt uncomfortable. She needed help taking on Mozambique, the man who had her family murdered, but she didn’t have the money to pay. Of course she did have something Mister Charles wanted.
“A simple trade you and your Mister Costner work for us and we’ll gladly help. I need help doing organisational work in the office and when I go out, with the way things are in New Mesa, I need some kind of protection. It seems Mister Costner has a penchant for keeping people alive so I’m sure he can do for me what he did for you.”

Of course they agreed. Jenner though hadn’t counted on enjoying the work though, she’d been at it for a few weeks and for the first time in her life felt truly useful. Sure she was collating information for a group of Assassins but she’d lived on the Flats she knew it was a rough place and in a way the White Group helped keep some semblance of order.

She was standing in the large Library, a room that contained all the information the White Group had gathered over their existence. She found it fascinating reading, it seemed like all she had done was pour over records from past jobs and surveillance reports.

Mister Charles had given her an important job, she was to prepare the briefs for the next round of jobs. She’d dropped them into Mister Charles and he was currently perusing them. It reminded her of her when her tutors would check her multiplication answers.

Mister Charles entered the study and set the stack of papers in front of her.

“Excellent work Miss Reese. The agents are ready for action, as is our new recruit, the spirited Miss Gowen. Post the Jobs.”

Jenner nodded and lifted the stack of papers before leaving to post them.

The Inside Job.

Location- The Peaks, Southern Territory. Igur Penal Mine.

Target- Hanzo Guinness

Information- This one will require a bit of travel. Igur is a Confederate operated Penal Mine in the south of the Peaks. It is quite different from the Flats in terms of Climate and Geography with its tall mountains and cold climate. The mine produces various metals and ores used by the Confederate Army including metal ores and coal.

Igur is famous for being notoriously tough with an astronomical inmate death rate. This is because Igur contains the absolute worst the Confederacy has offer. It does not divide for gender race or creed and the only thing that really matters inside its walls is how strong or smart you are. The guards are little help due to their corrupt nature which includes organised betting on fight between inmates. In closing Igur is not a nice place.

You are to find a way into Igur and find the man Hanzo Guinness. Guinness was part of a gang that pulled a diamond heist . Guinness found himself holding the bag and was able to stash it somewhere on the Flats unfortunately he was then captured by the Confederates. It is your job to break Hanzo out so he can lead the members of his gang to the stones. No doubt the Confederates are also aware that Hanzo knows where the stones are and will be asking him where they are. I’m sure they aren’t asking nicely.

Planning to Fail.

Location- New Mesa

Target- Confederate Plans for future troop movements

Information- New Mesa is now completely under Confederate control. The force is being led by Colonel Augustus Autumn who by all accounts is a masterful tactician and fighting man. Of course this says nothing about his morals.
Having seen what is happening in New Mesa several parties have become very interested in knowing where the army plans to move in the future as this information would be of great financial importance. Therefore these plans are to be located and recovered by an operative. Of course it is vital that this operation is undertaken in complete stealth as if the Confederates become aware that they have been infiltrated it is likely their plans will change. It is also for this reason that the operative should copy rather than steal the plans. So be sure to bring a pencil and paper.

While it may be possible to pass off one or two killings and blame it on the local people know that if the body count racks up the Confederates will become aware of your presence and the mission will be failed. Additionally the local people will pay dearly if you do decide to pin a murder of a Confederate on them.

House Call.

Location- Farpoint

Target- The Widow Mary Kane

Information- Mary Kane has been a pillar of the Farpoint community for over thirty years. She is widely respected for helping build the town and is a permanent fixture of its aristocracy. She has been known to undertake charitable works particularly among street youth in New Mesa, for example her Kane carts provide food and blankets when the temperature drops. She is viewed as either a force for good on the Flats or as a foolish old woman with more money than sense depending on how cynical the person is you talk you. One thing is clear though she’s a force for good on the Flats.

You are to kill her.

The widow Kane has been in poor health recently and our client would prefer she does not get better. The only stipulation is the death cannot appear to be a murder.

Kane lives on the airship her husband bought before his death with the money he made from his airship freight company or rather the airship freight company he sold to the Walkers. In recent months she has become somewhat reclusive with the only visitor she admits being her Doctor. If you are able to intercept the Doctor you may be able to present yourself as a replacement. If not you may rather take the direct approach and sneak in to kill her in her sleep.

Kane has become quite paranoid in her old age and maintains a rather large staff of ten guards each one of whom is intensely loyal to her. Additionally she has a cook and a maid.

Whatever method you choose the murder must look like an accident or natural causes there can be no suggestion of foul play.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: [NPC] Bartender Character Portrait: Mister Charles Character Portrait: Alexander Lancaster Character Portrait: Adalin Nyx Character Portrait: Gretch Character Portrait: Colonel Augustus Autumn Character Portrait: Ruby Gowen

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Target: Hanzo Guinness
Location: The Peaks, Southern Territory. Igur Penal Mine.

Induction:

In truth, Ruby wasn't sure what she expected joining the White Group. They were mere Flats mythology as far as she'd been concerned up until now, and for all intents and purposes, Ruby wasn't exactly the quiet methodical type in most scenarios. But, Mr. Charles had made contact with her and apparently Ruby had something to bring to this table. It had taken her two weeks to mull over the decision. But it was when New Mesa fell to the Confederates that sealed Ruby's fate. Fuck the Confederates. Fuck their rules. Fuck everything they did, will do and if Ruby has anything to say about it, fuck them until they can't do anything anymore.

It took her two days to make her way to the Workshop, the mysterious headquarters and her new home as it were. Entering with an uncharacteristically nervous apprehension, Ruby for the first time realised how claustrophobic she was. Perhaps it was her pirates blood and love of the wide open spaces of the Flats. The bunker itself wasn't all that unwelcoming and when Mr.Charles had initially inducted her, explained what was expected and laid out the do's, don'ts and everything in between, Ruby began to feel a sense of belonging.

It was a few days after her arrival that Ruby took the opportunity to jump at a job. Cabin fever had begun to set in and the quiet nature of the bunker was starting to have adverse effects. Ruby hadn't met her other 'colleagues' yet, and that probably contributed to her sense of loneliness. When Miss Reese posted the first of the jobs, Ruby was quick to sort through them. Two required more patience and care than Ruby had to offer but the first one, that sounded like something Ruby could sink her teeth into.


Ingur Penal Mines:

Ruby awoke abruptly, three days later. Her hands were cuffed tightly and her wrists were raw and tinged slightly with pain. Her vision was blurry initially but it didn't take long for her to realise what was going on when she came to full consciousness. The air was almost cuuting as it brushed past her face. Looking to the ground below she could see snow. It seemed the Fed's had taken the bait and Ruby was just moments away from being dropped into the mines. She hadn't accounted for the three day sleep though, or the fact they'd suspend her hanging over the side of an airship for god knows how long. She breathed in deep, thankfully they hadn't beaten her -yet. And apart from a dull headache and her wrists, she was otherwise fine.

Someone yelled from the deck above and Ruby felt the ship descend through some mist and she saw a platform suspended about a mile up from the ground on the side of a mountain. The airship docked and Ruby plunged to the ground about three feet as her captors released her hold. Hitting the ground hard Ruby coughed as she was roughly picked up by mine guards.

"The bitch is to go down to the deep. Colonel Autumn wants her.. repenting deeply".

The escorting guard from the airship laughed. He looked to Ruby, holding her equipment up from arms reach,

"Colonel says you can get these back when you've earned them."

Ruby pulled out from her holder grip and kicked the taunter fair in the groin causing him to keel over with his eyes popping out of his skull,

"Look after them for me."

she chided as her escort punched her in the back and dragged her off the platform and into the Prison-mine.

It had been nearly three days since Ruby's arrival to the mines and she almost regretted this entire assignment. In the short time she'd been here she'd been forced to wander the deep - the roughest most dangerous part of this prison mine. The deep was the most horrific place of this entire operation. This place was meant as a productive prison. Littered with people of all ages, sizes, ethnicity and more. The prison was established on and into the side of a mountain named the Peak. The prisoners were essentially allowed to free roam, but placed into specific sectors. In the deep, the prisoners were forced to dig and build the prison further while collecting resources from these establishing mines for the Confederacy.

Ruby was in a constant battle to keep herself from being tortured or forced into some sort of bet-brawl by the guards within the few short days she'd already spent in the deep. Forced to work in near darkness and sleep wherever there wasn't someone else, the deep was a literal mind-fuck and a special destination it turned out, for those who personally pissed Autumn off. It turned out hijacking one of his Fed crews that wandering the Flats and killing them wasn't looked highly upon.

But Ruby was persistent and determined that her first job was going to succeed. So far she'd sussed out how the deep was monitored, and buddied up to a few inmates already; she'd also learned that the airship that had brought her here was still docked and was due to leave in a days time, and by chance learned that Hanzo Guinness was currently being interrogated at the Flank, or more commonly known as the Guard's Level - also the level above her's. Apparently the Confederates wanted the diamonds he'd stolen and hidden too, just as expected. But apparently getting the information wasn't as easy as expected and taking him into their nest was apparently where they kept their 'persuasion devices'.

Ruby had to move fast and she wasted no time putting a plan together. Fortunately for her the sector of this prison-mine had to use dynamite to clear more tunnels for further development. Unfortunately for Ruby, she was expressly prohibited to use them. But, like always, Ruby silently said fuck it to herself and when the place quietened down for the night, she set about putting a full-throttle plan into motion. Ruby was going to use the organised-chaos the guards had going against the entire prison. She found herself a dark corner to hide in while the guards did their check.

As two of the guards approached Ruby, she kept herself flush against the wall. The two, unbeknownst, ignored her and Ruby moved fast, kicking the one closest to her in the kidneys, then the back of his knee, forcing him to the ground in submission. The dim light gave her enough cover and she was able to punch the other guard in the stomach causing him to double over as she placed her hands on either side of his neck and pulled her knee upwards to collide with his face. The guard fell slumped to the floor as Ruby patted him down taking a small automatic handgun from his body and a stun baton too. Turning the baton on, she hit the other guard who was fumbling back to his feet causing him to slump next to his comrade unconscious too.

Ruby heaved in triumph and was caught off guard when suddenly a bright light shone into her eyes and another guard swore out loud and yelled into some sort of communication device,

"Back up in main tunnel of the deep!".

Ruby suddenly had to squint as the almost darkness was suddenly blinded by blaring lights. So the bastards kept everyone in the dark on purpose. Ruby adjusted and looked up in time to see her snitch aiming a handgun right at her and a number of inmates around them watching. He looked nervous, but Ruby could tell he'd shoot if given the opportunity, so she did the only thing she ever did; Ruby got loud.

"RIOT!" was all she needed to say.

A nearby inmate watching the scene unfold lost his shit at Ruby's words and king hit the guard holding her up. Her words, and the other inmate's actions sent a shockwave of unstoppable rioting that like a venom, poisoned the entire place within minutes. Ruby had her diversion. Grabbing a few remote controlled dynamite, Ruby began her ascent through the maze of mines, following small maps situated on the corners of intersections until she found herself back in the established part of the prison and soon slipping up into the Flank.

It was utter chaos everywhere else in this place but the Flank. True to her nature but unbeknownst to her, Ruby's one syllable word apparently had more power and drive than she'd thought. The Flank, normally a hotbed of Confederate Prison Guards was silent and abandoned. The Guards were all out in the rest of the mines bashing, killing inmates, trying to keep whatever order they had before and in turn they were being bashed and killed. By pure chance she found herself outside what was marked 'Interrogation Room' and from the inside she could hear shouting and arguing.

"What the fuck do we do?"

"I don't know, why the fuck are they this bad?"

"That bitch Ruby Doom -"

"Don't fucking call her that -"

Ruby pushed the door open slowly, letting it fall open as suddenly the inside went quiet. She heard the movement of guns as they were aimed towards the door. Ruby took a deep breath as she looked behind her and in front. She could hear the chaos a ways off, but no one seemed too concerned with the Flank. Ruby moved fast, turning the corner into the room crouching, her right leg stretched out as she crouched to provide a crutch and left leg stabilizing as she fired once into the face of one guard and then once again into the other.

Ruby pulled her right leg back in and stood up, pocketing the gun into the pocket of her prison pants, looking over the man sitting in the middle of a room, cocking his head to the side with a hood over his face and his hands tied behind him.

"What do you want?" he asked with a static, gruff voice.

Ruby smirked, pulling the hood of his face, "I want you."

The two made their way up each level of this sadistic prison as fast as they could. Unfortunately for Ruby, Hanzo was frail from weeks of apparent interrogation. He was a man of approximately 50 years of age, and while in reasonable mental and somewhat physical health, he had endured pretty exhausting trauma. But Ruby pushed him hard and with a bit of difficulty, the loss of all her ammunition, and stun baton, Ruby and Hanzo made their way to the same platform she'd been dropped off at earlier, appearing out in a giant hanger that overlooked the platform just in time to watch the airship that brought her here take off.

"Fuck. My guns and clothes!" Ruby grunted. "Bloody Cowards!"

She ran to the edge of the platform, looking down, too far; besides, it would take weeks to get back to the Flats and then some to get back to the workshop. Ruby turned back to Hanzo, shrugging her shoulders, that's when she noticed the small airship in the hangar that led off the platform.

"That's our ticket out of here." Hanzo chimed in, cottoning on to Ruby's plan.

Starting up the ship, Ruby cheered as it roared into life and breathed a sigh of relief as she and Hanzo took to the sky. They sailed for two hours before they managed to catch up to the ship that had left the Mining Prison to sort itself out - if it ever would. Ruby took the opportunity of being disguised as a Fed ship and pulled up on the side of the other airship dressed in a spare uniform left on board she'd found. Hanzo looked nervous but Ruby just smirked again,

"They've got a few of my things..."

It was ten minutes later Ruby made the leap back to the small airship, looking to Hanzo calmly as she told him he might want to distance themselves quickly. As they pulled away from the airship Ruby turned to wave as what was left of the crew on that airship waved erratically at her.

"3,2,1..."

The airship suddenly exploded, breaking in two, falling about a mile or two to the ground below. Ruby yee-hawed and blew a kiss to the smoking rubble that hit the ground below with another explosion.

"Girl's gotta have her stuff" she joked holding her clothes and weapons up.

Ruby settled behind the controls of this ship and rode the journey out all the way back to a few miles from the workshop. Ruby pushed down a rope ladder when they were about twenty feet from the ground and made Hanzo climb to the ground, quickly switching the airship to an ascent and locking the controls, Ruby made her way down the rope ladder having to fall about three feet to make a safe landing. Hitting the ground jarred her ribs again and Ruby winced in pain as Hanzo helped her back to her feet.

"It's all good.. It's all good." she boasted as she straightened up.

The two walked the rest of the distance, a total of thirteen miles to the Workshop. Ruby had succeeded this time. Hanzo was safe. But it was at the cost of her physical body, and one big target by the confederation she'd placed on herself. Still though, Ruby had fun for what it was worth.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Mister Charles Character Portrait: Arachne Webspinner Character Portrait: Alexander Lancaster Character Portrait: Adalin Nyx Character Portrait: Gretch Character Portrait: Colonel Augustus Autumn Character Portrait: Ruby Gowen Character Portrait: Jenner Reese Character Portrait: James Costner Character Portrait: Puck

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#, as written by Bosch
Epilogues.

Hanzo Guinness was safely in the hands of his criminal gang who had been more than happy to pay Mister Charles and the White Group what they owed. Hanzo on the other hand was too happy with his reversal of fortunes to make much sense.
Mister Charles was happy as well, Ruby had performed admirably and would make an excellent addition to the team. He was slightly concerned about the interest her job would generate in the Confederate army. His concern only grew when he received the report of Alexander’s mission.

Around the same time Mister Charles was learning about Alexander’s Antics Colonel Autumn was doing the same. He was sitting in the office that had once been Fat Nic Escobar’s then Gretch’s and now his. Fat Nic’s Casino had been rebuilt and was now the Confederate nerve centre the gaming tables that had once stood in the place had been replaced by Models and maps of the surrounding areas and towns. Each one, with the exception of Hope, was well detailed thanks to the reports of the Confederate’s sources.

Colonel Autumn was lost in a world of thought and deeply reading a report by a survivor of a caravan ambush. Apparently the Confederate patrol had blundered into an ambush masquerading as a trade caravan. The Attack had apparently been led by a native calling himself the Butcher of the Wastes.

Autumn sighed and dropped the report before looking at the assembled captains before him. They were fighting men, all very good at following plans but poor at coming up with them. They needed Autumn to tell them what to do.

“At this point I see no reason to be worried about this Butcher. I have arrived at this conclusion through method of... Captain Hayes?”

“Deduction Sir?” Captain Hayes offered.

“Correct Captain. What I have deduced is this was not the work of a single man. The survivor, clearly traumatised, is having trouble remembering what he saw. I have no doubt it was a single man who threatened him but I imagine the massacre involved a well organised group. One man taking on an entire patrol? Unlikely.”

Autumn smiled, a gesture designed to inspire confidence.

“Secondly, by leaving a man alive we know this group to be vain. They wanted us to know what they had done, so that we might fear them. The Confederate Army does not fear, in particular we do not fear highwaymen with delusions of grandeur.”

The Captains nodded, happy that Autumn was there to take charge and ease their worried minds. The last thing any of them wanted was terrorist campaign.

“Lastly are any of you aware of who this Butcher of The Wastes is? Apparently our group of miscreants are unaware of the history that name carries around The Flats. Depending on who you speak to he’s either a hero of the weak or a mercenary that murdered fifty three Women and Children to celebrate a victory. Innocent people, not Slaves or Ochil, free Humans murdered by this butcher. Say’s a lot about them that they would choose such a name.”

The Captains stood in silence for a moment before Captain Lewis spoke up, the dead Confederates had been a part of his garrison.

“What will our response be?”

“Of course Captain we can’t let this stand and a strong message must be sent to any who are involved or are thinking about getting involved in this sort of thing. Our response must be swift and decisive.”

Autumn bridged his fingers and returned to his thoughts before standing and gesturing to a map.

“There is a small town, a trading stop really, called Ganhj about five miles south of New Mesa. Your squad is to travel there and select fifty three people. Execute half on the spot, ensure this is witnessed and the reason for the action is made clear. It is a response to the killings committed by the gang calling themselves the Butcher of the Wastes. The rest are to be brought to New Mesa where they too will be executed and displayed as a deterrent. Hopefully this will discourage the Flatlanders from picking up arms in an unwinnable war. The Confederate Army also shows mercy on their opponents even when they do not ask it.”

#

Mister Charles shook with anger as he read the report of Alexander’s actions. His actions had put the entire White Group at risk for the sake of a single Caravan. He waited for the Confederate response which he was sure would be swift.

It was.

Puck told him about the massacre at Ganhj and the reason behind it. Apparently the Confederate troops had really worked the place over before murdering fifty three of the town’s inhabitants as a response to the actions of the Butcher Of Wastes. Half of the bodies were currently hanging around New Mesa, just as Gretch had done when he had been in charge.

Charles collected the report he had received about the massacre and sent it to Alexander. He also included his message alongside the report.

“I do hope you had fun playing the Hero Alexander, However I do feel it doesn’t suit you just ask the fifty three Innocents. Or is it One hundred and six now?”

Charles regretted sending the message but he could not abide recklessness and felt it had to said. For all his combat skill Alexander still had to learn the wider consequences his actions could have especially when facing an enemy like the Confederate Army.

#

Ada as always reported directly to Mister Charles after her mission had been completed, not only had she successfully reproduced the plans but she had completely avoided detection. Charles commended her on her work and watched as the young woman left his office. She didn’t respond to his praise and not for the first time he wondered what Hope did to turn children into such emotionless killers.

#

The next day Charles had the plans Ada copied in his possession and was getting ready for an arduous journey.

“Ready Mister Costner?”

“Ready Mister Charles.”

Charles nodded and threw his pack onto the back of his horse before climbing on. Costner did the same with his own horse.
The two men were setting off from the Workshop and making their way to another meeting. The client had chosen a meeting point deep in The Flats which was becoming more common as the fear of Confederate spies was becoming more real.

Already Charles was seeing more and more signs of the occupation. Confederate Airship were making piracy a top priority as well as increasing their hold on New Mesa and the surrounding lands. It was clear the Confederates thought they were there to stay but what this meant for The Flats remained to be seen. Skycove was an obvious choice to attack as Charles had heard rumblings the Pirates were trying to sort out an Independent Navy although there were voices of dissent that thought it would be wiser to just migrate south and leave the Flats to the Confederates. Hope was something of a mystery as its interactions with the other towns were limited. There was no doubt they had weapons stockpiles but their religious beliefs meant they did not have many soldiers and would be unlikely to attack the Confederates unless directly threatened. Nevertheless Hope would be a place the Confederates would be wise to stay out of. Farpoint would fall quickly as it was a town founded on commerce and the Confederates had the most beads. To Charles it seemed unlikely that the Flats would be able to resist Confederate rule. While there was a willingness there to resist the people of the Flats were too disorganised to present a real threat.

They needed a leader.

The meeting they were travelling to would conclude Ada’s plan copying job. Mister Charles had been approached by a Group claiming to be attempting to put together an Independent Army that could one day dead direct blows to the Confederate Army. Of course Mister Charles had no interest in their fight. The White Group would always exist regardless of which flag the Flat’s where under. However when it became clear the group had substantial financial backing, thanks to Claude Kane who had recently inherited his mother’s fortune. In all the White Group had been heavily involved in starting the Resistance even if they were doing it for beads.

After a few days travelling they eventually arrived at the meet. It was taking place in a cave network to the west, a nice out of the way place where a meeting could take place away from prying eyes.

The two men spent a few hours scoping the place out but could see no signs of life.

Eventually Costner stealthily entered the cave but didn’t find anything amiss. The pair entered the tunnel network and eventually found themselves in the chamber where the meeting was to take place. Charles could feel the hair on his neck bristle, there was something off about the meet but he felt confident with Costner there.

Soon they heard a distinctive clip of heels against rock. Both men turned to face an Ochillian Woman wearing a white shirt and tan trousers.

“Madame Ti’loke?” Charles asked.

“Yes I assume you two are representatives from the Organisation?”

“The White Group? Yes, it’s fine to say the name.”

“Good Then it’s fine to say our name, the Flats Resistance Army.”

“Not an Army quite yet is it?” James asked.

“We’re recruiting.” The woman said a little defensively.

“We have the information as requested and our operative was undetected. In fact she tells me she was feet away from Colonel Autumn himself. Could have ended the whole thing there.”

“Why didn’t she?”

“If you’re good at something never do it for free. The Operative completed her task as instructed. Now to business.”

He opened the bag containing the plans but instead of producing them he pulled out a Revolver and pointed it at the woman.

“Miss Globe, I presume?” Charles asked solemnly as he pointed the weapon at the woman’s head.

“How’d you...”

“Know? The lie was good in fact it almost had me convinced. Until I saw your face. My Operatives told me about their encounters with you and the wounds on your face seemed familiar. The rest was guess work I don’t know any other female Ochillians that would need to resort to this kind of deception to get my attention.”

Miss Globe smiled.

“Very good. I hope you don’t think me a rank amateur but time was against us.”

“Us?”

“Ah it would appear you don’t know everything.”

Charles heard a sudden whoosh pass by his ear. Costner roared a curse of pain and when Charles glanced back he saw the man had a large blade sticking out of his shoulder. Costner quickly wrenched it out but Charles didn’t have time to consider what was happening as he quickly found himself tagged with an similar knife. Immediately he knew it was drugged.

“If it’s any consolation I got your man Alexander in a similar fashion.” Miss Globe explained.

Charles heard Costner hit the floor behind him and knew he was a few short seconds away from unconsciousness himself. He tried to steady his aim but Miss Globe was floating around the sights so he lowered the weapon.

“Bugger it.” He said before raising it and firing off every round he had.

He then collapsed.

#

A slap woke Mister Charles up and he saw himself staring into a horribly scarred face he knew all too well.

“Charlie! Welcome to the party.” Gretch beamed. He was wearing a leather apron that was covered in various knives and cleavers. “Me and your partner here where just getting acquainted, playing us some twenty questions.”

Charles took a second to get his bearings. He still in the cave but was now tied to a wooden chair as was Costner who was about twenty feet away and facing him. Costner had taken a beating to be sure but he was still more or less in one piece.

“I got questions Charlie. A lot of fucking questions and you two fuckers got answers!”

“If he finds the Workshop he will rape and murder everyone he finds in there do you understand?” Charles called out to Costner.
Gretch turned and looked at Costner. “Not even necessarily in that order.” He shrugged.

Gretch stretched and walked into a space roughly half way between the two men.

“Now we’re going to play another game. Twenty Questions is getting fucking boring. What to play though... what to play...” Gretch pondered as he stroked his chin in a theatrical display.

He abruptly clicked his fingers. “Mum’s not here, so why don’t we do something... bad?”

“Could you bloody well get on with it? I don’t have time to indulge your ramblings.” Charles said staring hard at the Madman.

“Alright. See Charlie that’s why I like you. Straight to the point. All Business. We coulda worked together and run these Confederate dickpleasers out of town but you hadda send one of your fuckers after me. So now you gotta die, then that piece of shit assassin you sent is gonna die and finally you know what’s gonna happen? All your little fucking killers are gonna work for me. Wanna know why?”

“As I said, let’s move this along.”

“The War. I’m the resistance, I wasn’t shitting ya. Who else is gonna stand up to these Confederate fucks? Who else can lead men? I took a bunch of fucking know nothing tribals and took New Mesa. I can send these solider boys back to whatever diseased whore spawned ‘em.”

“Eloquent as always.” Charles sighed.

“Here’s the deal, I want to know where the White Group club house is first. You know take care of the past so I can move on. So I’ve come up with a simple game to get me answers. Let’s take a closer fucking look at your friend’s chair.”

Gretch strode over to Costner and booted him in the chest knocking over his chair.

“See all these twigs and straw and wood and shit?” Charles looked at the heap that was tied under Costner’s chair. “That’s kindling! Don’t you worry now Charlie boy. Yours is exactly the same.”

Gretch heaved Costner’s chair back up.

“We’re gonna play us some Eeny Meeny Miney Moe. The loser gets to be barbecue and the winner gets to watch. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Gretch pointed at Charles.

“Eeny Meeny... Wait I don’t want any cheating so before you ask I’ve pulled those fucking false teeth Charlie. You can’t be sucking down no poison to get out of it, the loser is going to feel this shit.”

Gretch pointed at Costner and began his rhyme again.

“Eeny Meeny Miney Moe,
Catch a Tanu by the toe,
If he hollers let him go,
Eeny Meeny Miney Moe.”

He stared at his finger for a long moment before following it to the loser.

“I’m sorry Charlie. To be honest though it was always going to be you.” Gretch shrugged.

“You Fucker!” Costner yelled from across the room.

“Do NOT tell them anything! We WILL be avenged!” Charles shouted at Costner.

“Sure thing Charlie, whatever you say.” Gretch said as he gathered together some flint and crouched down behind Mister Charles.

“Do not let me down. Tell him nothing.” Charles said making eye contact with James.

Gretch theatrically smelled the air.

“I think something’s burning!”

Gretch exploded into gleeful laughter and got to fanning the flames.

“NO you Bastard! You sick fucking bastard!” Costner screamed from his chair.

The kindling quickly erupted and the flame travelled to the leg of Charles’ trousers. The man gritted his teeth and stared at the floor while trying to ignore the pain and Gretch’s frantic waving and dancing. He tried to go somewhere else, to a time when he was happy and undamaged but after a lifetime spent killing people for beads he couldn’t think of a single happy moment.

Like Gretch said he was going to feel the flame.

Costner watched as Mister Charles seemed to ripple behind the heat haze. Blood was running down Charles’ mouth from how tightly he was gritting his teeth but eventually he threw his head back screamed with pain. The scream filled the room and Costner thought it was loudest, longest thing he’d ever heard.

Gretch dropped to his knees with the twisted joy he was getting from the moment.

“Let it out Charlie! Die knowing I killed you!”

Soon Costner couldn’t see Mister Charles through the smoke and flame. All that told him Mister Charles was still there was the screaming but eventually it stopped. Then only the crackling of the fire remained.

Costner dropped his head.

As the fire died Gretch got to his feet and walked to Costner.

“I’m going to leave this here for you to take a right long fucking peep at. Tomorrow morning at dawn you are going to tell me where the White Group call home. What I did to that is nothing compared to what I’ll do to you. I just wanted to kill him. You I want answers from. You’ll be alive for days while I work on you. Fucking days.”

Gretch patted Costner on the cheek before standing and leaving the cave.

#

Eventually the smoke cleared enough for Costner to see what was left of Mister Charles and he felt his resolve waver. Gretch was going to kill him of that there was no doubt what Costner had to decide was if he was going to die keeping his word to Mister Charles or die quickly.

Costner didn’t sleep instead he spent hours just staring at Mister Charles’ immolated body and thinking about his failure. His first time out with Mister Charles and he’d let him died in the worst way it was possible to imagine. Costner closed his eyes and prayed to whatever God he could remember.

He prayed for the chance of revenge.

He was interrupted when he heard shifting rocks behind him and for a second felt fear grab his heart that it was already dawn.

“Psst James?”

Costner tried to turn in his seat but couldn’t see where the voice was coming from, then he felt small hands working at the ropes that held him. Once he was free he quickly stood and turned to face his rescuer.

Grubby faced Puck stood in front of him and wiped his nose.

“Puck how did you get here?”

“Found a hole in the ground.” The child explained simply.

“Why are you here?”

“Didn’t trust the meet. I always watch meets I’m not sure about. I have Mister Charles’ back only he don’t know I do.”

“Puck about Mister Charles...” Costner started as he positioned himself between the boy the horror of Mister Charles’ corpse.

“I know, but we gotta get outta here and tell the others. Ain’t no way we’re gonna take on nobody. No weapons and Gretch got an Army in the next chamber over.”

“An army?”

“Tribals all of ‘em but he sure got a lot. Let’s get out of here.” Puck sounded scared and the courage it must have taken for the boy the rescue him became apparent.

“Ok.”

#

Puck showed Costner the hole in the ground through which he entered the cave and Costner followed him out. On the way they passed along a rock shelf that took them over Gretch’s Army. Costner counted at least fifty tribals and there had to be more on patrols. It wasn’t enough to take on the Confederates but Gretch was building his army.

Eventually the duo found themselves looking at a make shift stable with a lone guard. Costner guessed there were only a few hours left until dawn.

“Don’t worry I know how we can sneak past him.” Puck said but Costner put a hand on the boy’s shoulder.

“You wait here and don’t come in. I’ll get the horse and bring it out.”
Costner got to his feet and walked to the Stable. Puck waited for about five minutes before Costner returned with a horse and covered in blood.

“James, you’re bleeding!”

“Not my blood kid.”

#

At dawn Gretch was surprised to learn Costner had been able to escape. He had assumed the cave only had one entrance but it was no matter without their leader the White Group would be no more, he’d had his revenge. As for Alexander without Mister Charles’ network to protect him eventually Gretch would track him down.

A thought then occurred to Gretch which sent him to the stable where the stench of death was over powering.

Every horse in the Stable was dead as was the guard. In fact it looked like before he’d left Costner had taken his time killing and mutilating the man. On the wall in blood was a simple message.

“Soon.”

#

“James are you alright?” Jenner Reese asked James Costner after he explained what had happened to Mister Charles.

“It was pretty rough but he took it like man. He was more worried about me breaking than he was about himself. He was one tough old bastard.”

“We have to let the others know. I’ll brief them when I put up this week’s jobs.”

“What do you mean? There’s no White Group, not anymore.”

“I’ve been working with Mister Charles for a few months now I’m sure between us we can keep it running. The operatives all know what they’re doing and I’m sure they’ll be out for revenge, we owe Mister Charles that as well, he took us in. We also need to find information about Mozambique or have you forgotten about that? I’M though running James, we make our stand here. We’ll kill Gretch, Avenge Mister Charles and go back to work.”

Costner nodded and left the office.

Jenner lifted a pen and started to write.

Jobs.

Before the usual posting of Jobs it falls to me to inform you of the death of Mister Charles at the hands of Gretch and Miss Globe. I assure you this action will not go unanswered. I am using all resources at our disposal to track down this man as well as his associates. To this end all operatives are to remain vigilant for any information regarding Gretch, Miss Globe or any Groups claiming to be the Resistance to the Confederate Army as this is the group Gretch is now commanding.
Additionally, according to Mister Costner, Gretch has a particular interest in the White Group therefore Operatives should take precautions while on Jobs.

Lastly while the death of Mister Charles is a tragedy I assure you the White Group will continue to operate. This would have been his will.

The Ringleader.

Jenner Reese.


Leave no Man Behind.


Target- The remains of Mister Charles.

Location- A cave Network to the west, in the Badlands.

Information- The Body of Mister Charles is to be recovered if possible and brought back to the Workshop where it can be interred.

James Costner can offer the precise location of caves, he should be consulted before you set out. The caves are in the middle of the Badlands so expect to encounter feral gangs of Tribals as well as the occasional, hopefully friendly, tribe of Ochillian nomads.
Lastly while we believe Gretch and his army have moved on, you are to collect any information possible about the group. This can be achieved through analysis of physical evidence or interviewing those who may have seen them passing through the area.
Be aware Gretch is a feral tribal and he is considered a legend amongst these groups if you are detected by a gang of roaming psychos odds are Gretch will hear about it.


Zong


Target- Cuervo “Slim” Banner

Location- The Zong.

Information- Unlike on the Flats Slavery is common in the Peaks. All races and genders have the potential to become slaves and once someone is branded a slave that is their station for life. Branding takes place on the cheeks as a method to easily identify slaves.

Slim Banner is a Slaver who is currently operating in the Flats he seems to be specialising in Ochillians, particularly women and children. Apparently they are sought after on The Peaks by the wealthy as they are seen as exotic.

It’s a dirty trade for dirty people. The client is the Ran-du Tribe who are nomadic traders like all Ochil. Apparently five of their group, two women and three children, were captured by Slim and his gang of Slavers.

Pirates are not welcome in most places in the Flats including Skycove, probably because many pirates are escaped Slaves. The Pirates have established a market called The Zong where slaves are traded before being brought north to the Peaks. Apparently Slim and his Slavers are currently there with the kidnapped Ran-du. You are to kill Slim and recover the five Ran-Du if possible. Expect them to be heavily drugged as this is the preferred Method to keep Slaves controllable. The Zong it’s self will be crawling with Slavers so be aware.


Tit for tat for tit for tat...


Target- Captain Melvyn Lewis

Location- New Mesa and the surrounding area.

Information- Captain Lewis led the attack on Ganhj that resulted in the execution of fifty three innocent people in retaliation for the deaths of Confederate Soldiers under his command. Apparently one of the fifty three killed is worth paying for revenge.
You are to locate and assassinate Captain Lewis. The client has specified, and these are the clients own words, “Let the bastard know his death is coming”. I’ll let the operative decide what that statement means.

Security in New Mesa is much tighter after the ambush so it may be easier to engage the Captain while he is on patrol. We have his previous patrol routes and times available in library.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Gretch Character Portrait: Ruby Gowen Character Portrait: Jenner Reese

0.00 INK

Target Objective:Roland Grey
Target Location:New Mesa

The Burial of Mr. Charles and Ruby's reprise

Ruby had been in bed down in her bunker in the Workshop for two days now. The funeral of Mr. Charles had had more of an impact on her than she could ever have anticipated. It wasn't until she watched Costner shoveling dirt onto the deceased White Group leader that Ruby truly understood just what this organisation now meant to her. Mr. Charles, Puck, Miss Reese, Costner... Everyone! They were now the closest people Ruby had to a family. Having only known them for short while meant nothing to Ruby in terms of trying to maintain emotional stability... Fuck it really, Ruby was a woman of the heart at her most basic sense anyway, it only made sense that once she became comfortable here that everyone would take some place in Ruby's emotions. She never was one for consistent sensibility.

So on the third day of moping Ruby gritted her teeth and jumped out of bed. The White Group meant more to her now than anything had since her father's disappearance and her mother's death. It wasn't fair on anyone here if Ruby let the team pick up her slack. Getting dressed, holstering her guns, Ruby made her way to the missions board. She had to make up for her two day moping period and get back into the game without any questions. Not even looking, Ruby grabbed the first dossier off the board her hands fell upon and she read through the mission.

New Mesa again. Ruby considered the place one of her true homes out on the Flats, and she was always more than ready to help Liberate them any chance she could get. Roland Grey had no idea what sort of shit storm was coming his way.

The Oppression of New Mesa

Ruby been travelling with an Ochillian tribe that passing by New Mesa; the same tribe that had sheltered her and James Squire when she broke him out from under Captain Lewis. Welcomed as usual, Ruby had been told that she was now one of the most wanted suspects within New Mesa at the moment. Apparently she was thought to be a ring-leader with James Squire. Ruby had to laugh, the prospect of her being able to lead anything but a bullet through someone's eye socket was humorous to her... But she felt a sense of pride that the Confederate Army felt she was more than a handful.

It was just past midnight Ruby bid farewell her Ochillian friends and made her way into New Mesa through the sewers. The Ochils had warned her of the increased guard patrols outside of New Mesa. Apparently there were now checkpoints visitors had to go through to get in; hard rules and thorough body searches. No one but Confederate officials were allowed to carry weapons in New Mesa. Apparently the Feds had every entrance and exit into New Mesa blocked off and guarded twenty four seven too. Ruby had to laugh at that as well. For all their efforts and interrogations, it was something of a light in the distance for her that at least the New Mesa residents still had the guts to omit the fact the old world sewer systems under New Mesa were still functional, well at least one entrance/exit was.

Ruby knew not to take this for granted though. It was only a matter of time before someone let it slip you could use these tunnels, and as she wound her way through the small maze it was apparent the Black Hornets were using them too. Small painted pictures the colour of black and gold here painted on the corners of walls at intersections of the sewers. Ruby guessed the resistance must use the sewers to move about during curfews or when the Fed's were particularly strict some days. Or perhaps it was just some kids trying to boost their morale by painting symbols wherever they could - a silent fuck you to the Confederacy.

Ruby maneuvered herself eventually to an alleyway just off the town square. And much like the last time she was here, had to refrain herself from just going into the town square guns blazing when she saw how much worse conditions in New Mesa had gotten in a few short weeks.

There were now flood lights that lit up the town square of a night. Huge banners hung from buildings, or signs were posted up where most visible that slathered Fed propaganda at every opportunity. The Confederacy Liberates you, The Flatlands aren't safe unless you're with the Confederacy, Believe in us and we'll help you!, just to name a few. Ruby felt sick and infuriated at their egotistical rampage. Nothing about the Confederacy for her was anything more than sick oppression, racism and idealism of the worst kind. Sure she thought the Flats could use some sort of structure... But it was a place of freedom and choices, not to be reigned in and capitalized. The Confederacy saw the Flats as nothing more than less, and that made Ruby nothing more than murderous when it came to them.

Slinking through the alleyway, Ruby had to pause for a moment as she saw just how large a statement the Fed's were making now at the bottom of the makeshift stage. Bodies littered the bottom of the stage and piled up to the side with more signs plastered around them, Without trust and Unity, we all fall to our sins. Let these traitors remind you of the past you should forget and the future you can embrace! What was this bullshit? Traitors? Sinners? They were fucking people who stood up for the right to be free. Ruby removed herself properly this time. Moving through the streets to make her way to Sarah Hawthorne's brothel, hoping her mother's best friend would still have the heart and courage to help her.

The Last Straw for Ruby Doom

It took Ruby the rest of the night to cross the town to Sarah's brothel. The Fed's were patrolling the streets intermittently with groups of six or more. No rhyme or reason to where they went or how long in between patrols, Ruby had spent much of the night hiding in and out of dark places; it was tedious and mind-blowingly frustrating for Ruby. But she was reasonable this time entering New Mesa. She knew if she was caught it was an instant bullet to the head.

Arriving at Sarah's brothel, actually called The Charmant Madame Ruby let herself in quietly and was in shock at the sight she saw when the doors closed and her eyes adjusted to the unusual dark inside. The whole place was filthy now. Chairs were scattered, tables pushed against walls. The staircase that led upstairs was broken in places and the red rug that trailed down to the ground floor was stained dark, with blood. Ruby was at a loss at to figure out what happened, it made no sense?

Suddenly out of the dark Ruby heard movement just a ways off, down the ground hallway and in a room at the end. Ruby cocked an eyebrow and unholstered Sapphire and Emerald, aiming them carefully into the dark as she moved down the hall. Silently she moved forward, more noise escaping from the room as Ruby heard muffled talking. Whatever had happened to the brothel, someone was still here, possibly waiting for Ruby specifically. It wasn't a secret after all to anyone around New Mesa that she knew Sarah Hawthorne, and after her last stunt, perhaps the Feds had found out she'd harbored Ruby and James. Something that suddenly made Ruby sick to think about.

Ruby approached the end door of the hallway, gently kicking it open, aiming carefully into the open crack as the door swung gently. suddenly a loud bang echoed and Ruby barely had time to duck as a shotgun fired just above her head. The doorway splintered and Ruby felt a jolt of energy surge through her.

"Holy Hell!" Ruby cursed as she pinned herself to the wall.

"Back the fuck off! I don't care if you are a Fed, We'll die before you take any of us!"

Ruby sighed in relief, it was just some scared whore of Sarah's,

"Calm down, calm down!" she cooed as Ruby entered with her guns held above her head,

"I'm not here to kill you. I just want to see Sarah Hawthorne, you can tell her Ruby Gowen is here."

"Ruby Gowen? Ruby Doom! Madame Hawthorne said you'd come! Oh god, you have to help us!"

Ruby suddenly had to stay her ground as the woman who had nearly taken her head of charged at her, hugging her tightly, dropping the shot gun with a loud thud.

"Oh god Miss Doom! It's been horrible since they took Madame Hawthorne! They completely destroyed the business when they found out about her... But just before they came in she told me to wait for you! Said you'd help her and the rest of them! Oh god, I hope you're not too late... They might have killed her already!"

Ruby had to push the girl off of her as she rambled, holstering her own guns, Ruby held her hands up to sush the woman as she surveyed the room quickly. About fourteen other girls were cowering in a corner, keeping their eyes trained on Ruby as she pulled a chair up and sat down.

"Now, you need to calm down and go a bit slower. What happened to Sarah? Who took her? Why did they take her? What actually happened here? and who else am I helping?"

The woman sighed heavily, looking to the group of girls behind her and took a deep breath before she began to talk. Ruby glanced over her a little better and could see her clothed in a satin, cobalt blue colour corset and matching dress, stained with blood. The young woman had shiny, albeit currently messy chestnut hair and blue, tired looking eyes.

"The Confederacy Miss Doom. They took Madame Hawthorne, on account of her involvement with the Black Hornets, well, at least they think she is... I mean... well, she is.. But they ain't sure!"

Ruby gritted her teeth, not liking where this was going.

"Wait, slow down... I can't keep up.. Who are you anyway?" Ruby asked trying to keep up.

"Sorry Miss Doom! My name is Daisy, Madame Hawthorne's assistant. After your last visit to New Mesa Miss Doom... After you saved James Squire, Madame Hawthorne was scared to death of what might happen to us and her business. She closed us down for nearly a week, but when Colonel Augustus Autumn visited us and told Madame Hawthorne if she didn't start raising the morale of the Confederacy again, that she and all of us girls would have to be questioned as to why we ain't supportin' the uh, the.. what did he say?" the woman asked looking over to the group of girls.

"The education and civilization of the Flatlands" one of the girls in the corner finished.

"That's right! If we ain't supportin' of the Education and civiliz...civilize.."

"Just go on.." Ruby said curtly,

"Yes well... He just said we'd have to be looked into closer...That is could be considered we were traitors to the Confederacy and that she knew what that would mean... That's when Madame Hawthorne did something I'd never seen her do before Miss Doom! She stood right up and looked the Colonel right in the eye and said, What if we don't support it? Well! I tell you... She was black and blue up until the day they took her away... Madame Hawthorne had never been so stern with a Fed ever! But after the Colonel's visit, Madame Hawthorne suddenly changed... For the better I might add, but she changed Miss Doom.."

The young woman smiled, her eyes widening as she relaxed as she told Ruby everything.

"Well, after the Colonel's visit, she did reopen The Charmant Miss Doom, but it was all a ruse Miss Doom! You see... Madame Hawthorne got in contact with James Squire!"

Ruby cocked her eyebrow, in all the years she'd known Sarah Hawthorne, for all the good the woman was, she was never one to incite any sort of disobedience ever. She was tough on clients who roughed up her girls, but she never ever questioned anyone higher up than a street rat, especially someone like a Fed. It was even more surprising she would seek out the leader of the Black Hornets too, especially after reluctantly allowing them to stay. The girl telling Ruby the whole story cottoned on to Ruby's disbelief but merely smiled.

"I didn't believe it either Miss Doom! I tell you! After the Colonel visitin' Madame Hawthorne decided that enough was enough! She contacted James Squire! He was here on a regular basis!"

Ruby cocked another eyebrow, "A regular aye?"

"Oh no! Not for us" the girl laughed, "Madame Hawthorne was helping Mr. Squire with the Black Hornets and everythin' she was practically runnin' em after Mr. Squire left on account of it bein' to dangerous here!"

Ruby was caught off guard, Sarah Hawthorne was practically leading the Black Hornets ?

"So Sarah runs the Black Hornets? Squire get cold feet?"

"She only runs em' in New Mesa Miss Doom! He left Madame in charge here! She's so smart Miss Doom! You know how charming she can be! And she saw it as perfect! Organizing everything right under the Confederacy's nose! I tell you! They were in here everyday! Telling Confederacy secrets when we boozed them up! We'd do everything we could to get information then we'd tell Madame Hawthorne and she'd organise the other Hornets... that's how we've had the upper hand on em! Well.. we did.."

The young girl trailed off, her amused tone now dull as she looked to the ground.

"I don't know how it happened.. But they got suspicious.. Came in here two or three days ago. A man named Roland Grey... he used to be a regular here. A real creepy man Miss Doom... Pale as a ghost with bone white hair and steely red eyes! One of those Albino-whatsits Someone must have said something that tipped him off and he came back here and took Madame Hawthorne away... He probably would have killed us all if Madame Hawthorne hadn't said enough was enough when she did... But before he got to her she told me you'd be comin'! She said you were trustworthy Miss Doom! That you'd help the Black Hornets when you heard how bad it was gettin'!"

Ruby scoffed. This new Sarah Hawthorne was apparently a know-it-all. But then Ruby rolled her eyes, Sarah knew that Ruby would help. Not necessarily because of the Black Hornets, but because of her history with Sarah and Sarah's ties to Ruby's Mother.

"Alright, alright.. Lets do this..." Ruby said motioning for Daisy to calm down.

The woman sighed in relief and smiled, "Bless you Miss Doom! Unfortunately we can't help you at the moment... The Confederacy destroyed everything and took what we had when they ransacked us.. We've barely been survivin' here... too scared to move on account of the Fed's almost killin' us once.. But! We do have direct access to the sewers from Madame Hawthorne's office! If you go into the sewers and follow this -"

The young woman pulled her hair away from behind her ear and revealed a small tattoo of a black silhouette of a hornet just under the hairline

" - Marker on the walls in the sewers. The picture of a hornet marks where it's safe to pass. I think the sewers can lead you to the Hotel where Mr. Grey is interrogatin' Black Hornets! Also, If you see anyone with this on their body Miss Doom, you can trust em'! It was Madame Hawthorne's idea! Great isn't it! Anyone part of the Black Hornets has the tattoo hidden somewhere on their body... All you need to do to find out if they're on our side is locate it.. though it can be hard since we don't wear it where it can be seen easily!"

Ruby stood up, stretching, a sense of pride welling for the whores of the Charmant Madame. Ruby had never thought much of women of pleasure and had always felt guilty because of it, seeing as her mother was a whore at one time too. But regardless of her past indignation towards women who sold their sex, Ruby was now impressed. But time was running out for Sarah Hawthorne and the Black Hornets and every minute wasted not killing Roland Grey was a minute gained by the Confederacy.

"Be careful Miss Doom... We've heard things about Roland Grey... He's... Please just bring Madame Hawthorne back. The resistance will die here without her! New Mesa will die!"

An unexpected twist

Ruby managed to find her way from the Charmant's sewer access to Roland Grey's little set up without too much hassle. Thanks to everything Daisy disclosed, Ruby felt prepared for this, although all the sneaking was making her antsy for action and a showdown. The access to the Hotel where Roland was conducting his interrogations was easy enough to get through, true to what Ruby had suspected, the Confederacy knew absolutely nothing about the old-world sewers. It seemed too, by luck, that a small supply closet from a storeroom in the hotel's basement was left unused since the Fed takeover.

Leaving the closet into the actual basement, Ruby found herself keeling over restraining the urge to vomit as she realised why no one had really checked the integrity of the basement since it's conversion to a makeshift station. There were countless bodies piled up into small stacks all around the floor. Dim light from a ground window crappily boarded over allowed the afternoon sun to shine down illuminating enough of the macabre scene so that Ruby could navigate the putrid body piles. This was where Roland was keeping the bodies of those he'd interrogated and was finished with for the time being. Why was he keeping them down here where they could fester? Ruby couldn't even begin to imagine why you'd want to, but then again, everything about the Confederacy was a huge fucking enigma to her.

Ruby found the stairs out of the basement and was making her way up them when suddenly the door at the top creaked open and shouting echoed down.

"Bring him down here. I think he'll speak more freely when he sees what we do to people who don't help the great Confederacy."

Suddenly loud thumping filled the air as short breathed groans and moans followed from the top of the stairs to the bottom and a man suddenly fell into a slump at the bottom, followed by a tall, gruff man who's skin was light in colour and who had light blonde hair and piercing blue eyes whose was then followed by a shorter, pale looking blonde one who seemingly glowed in the dim light and had cruel red eyes.

Roland Grey.

Ruby sneered quietly from dark shadows as she saw her target saunter down and step over the slumped man at the bottom of the stairs.

"Now, now now now. Adam, Adam what am I supposed to do with someone who is uncooperative?" Roland knelt down and grabbed the weakened man's - Adam's - face, "Sigh, you are a handsome handsome one. Isn't he Joland?"

The taller gruff man suddenly looked uncomfortable,

"Isn't he Joland?" he sneered violently,

"yes sir, he is."

"Yes, yes you are Adam. And it would be a shame to see a face like this rot down here. Forgotten. Left aside. ninety percent dead, left here to wail and cry as the last ten percent breathes in the scent of his uncooperative comrades."

"Please..." Adam wheezed, "I don't know anything.. I told you"

"Tsk Tsk." Roland dragged Adam until he was face down on his stomach, "Or, I could use your last ten percent of life to bring myself some meaningful existence out of your otherwise pathetic last moments." Roland laughed.

Roland moved so he stood over Adam's body, pulling a knife from his boot and digging it into Adam's hand through the ground while Roland chuckled satisfied, trailing his hand up Adam's arm through the defeated man's hair and then down his back then moved it up to his own belt as he stood up. Ruby felt her hands grip Sapphire and Emerald tightly, she was going to kill the bastard right now. Suddenly another voice echoed down the stairwell,

"Sir, Captain Grey! The whore Sarah Hawthorne, I think we've broken her... she's begging to see you!"

Ruby paused her actions and watched as Roland rebuckled his belt, looking to the man named Joland, motioning for him to grab Adam,

"Tie him up here and stand by until I get back. He's not to die. Make sure he doesn't die brother, or you and I will have to pick up where Adam I left off." he sneered, causing Joland to nod obediently and stand over Adam. Roland straightened himself out and proceeded back up the stairs leaving Joland and Adam to their own devices with Ruby in the dim basement.

Ruby felt frozen solid with pure hatred and anger. The dossier had said Roland was not accustomed to unsavory tactics. That this man was unashamed of anything he did. But he was much more sadistic than anything she'd ever planned for. This Roland, was just another reason why the Confederacy was something that Ruby hated so deeply. She quietly watched Joland with Adam as a memory slip caused her to pause and become scared for a moment.

When her father disappeared just shortly after the Confederacy made their presence fully known in the Flatlands. Was it possible he ended up somewhere like this? With someone like Roland? Could it have been Roland who took her father? The entire possibility made her feel like a little girl again. It made her feel more lost and alone than anything had ever done in her life. It made Ruby feel what anyone in New Mesa must feel right now. Hopelessness.

Ruby watched Joland as he bent over Adam, kneeling down, removing the knife from Adam's hand causing him to whimper. Joland turned Adam over taking the beaten man's face in his hands. She could see from her position the tight grip Joland had by how clenched his fingers were in the young man's hair. Ruby felt anger boil in her blood as Joland smacked the man across the face asking him to wake up. It was then, as though everything in her glazed over. The world inverted in colours. Ruby's tiny frame grew seven times it's original size. Without even processing what she was doing, Ruby removed the hunting knife from it's case over her chest and slipped from the shadows as she silently moved in behind Joland.

This was going to be a merciless, cold kill. Joland it seemed, was Roland's brother. Who better would it be to make Roland reel with the same sadistic fear that he instilled it seemed in anyone unlucky enough to catch his eye. Roland could appreciate the depravity he seemed to relish in, through his brother's corpse. Ruby was going to slit his throat. Then bandage it tightly so the man would stay alive long enough for her to drag his body, as far as it took to get to Roland. Then she was going to show Roland just exactly what it meant to be cruel.

But as Ruby raised her hand, tears welling in her eyes from anger and saddness for anyone who was subjected to this she froze as the most unexpected thing happened... Joland sobbed. Jolan held Adam's body and sobbed as he realized the poor man had passed. Ruby suddenly felt confused. Joland began to cry quietly as he whispered sorry again and again to Adam.

"I don't want this to continue.." Joland hiccuped. "I'm so sorry.."

Ruby wasn't sure what was happening now.

"If you're going to kill me do it now girl" Joland croaked.

Ruby moved quickly and grabbed Joland by the hair, flinging his big frame back on itself, swinging her body back onto his chest, forcing a knee down on it while she pinned his left shoulder with her left hand and held the hunting knife to Joland's throat with her right.

"I'm going to kill you. Then I'm going to slit every tendon in your brother's body until he's nothing but a ragdoll for me to torment" Ruby sneered through the dim light into Joland's eyes. "Then i'm going to hunt down every last one of you confederate fucks and drag you into the desert and watch as I leave you there to die without your eyes. I'm going to let the Tanu, the Vultures, the Scorpions, any-fucking-thing that could contribute to a slow painful death, kill you."

Ruby stared coldly into Joland's eyes. The man whimpered and sobbed beneath her. He could easily have thrown her off he wanted to, but for some reason he stayed put, like a scared dog.

"You're all the same. Tough until the moment you realise I can kill you faster than you kill me."

"I know." he replied, "But believe me... I want nothing to do with the Confederacy more than anyone out there."

"What?"

"You saw just a glimpse then, of what my brother is capable of... and you saw nothing but a speck of what the Confederacy is capable of when you saw my brother..." Joland sobbed, "You'd be doing me a favour if you kill me."

Joland closed his eyes and Ruby cocked her head in suspicion, but climbed off of Joland a few moments later to his surprise. Joland moved slowly to his feet as Ruby re strapped her knife and pulled out Sapphire to aim at Joland. The man didn't even flinch as he moved to Adam's limp body and picked it up to gently rest in the dark of a corner of the hotel basement.

"Twenty six years I've looked for a way to leave my brother. Six years i've been trying to leave the confederacy. But leaving means a fate worse than death if my brother ever finds out or catches me if I do..."

Ruby couldn't explain how she felt about what was happening before her, it was so unexpected, so unreal and yet; it was so unexpectedly honest. She could hear it in his voice. Feel in the way this seemingly giant man cowered in fear.

"You're serious aren't you?" she questioned in disbelief, "You want none of this?" she motioned around the basement.

"Sometimes, Miss Doom. Blood is not thicker than water and is more poisonous than anything found on the planet. Sometimes, you are born into the wrong place and the wrong time. Sometimes, Miss Doom. Sometimes, life is not fair and people are bad. People are sick. Disgusting. They live by, stand for and do things to other people, to other living creatures that is so deplorable."

Ruby gritted her teeth, this man was more pathetic than any Confederate fuckwit she'd ever met, more pathetic than anyone she'd ever met in her life,

"So, Miss Doom, if you don't mind, kill me now. Then kill my brother. Then drag every one of the Confederate fucks you hate so much into the desert and watch them die as you leave them there without their eyes. I know what they stand for. I know what they want... It might be to civilise the Flatlands, it might be to bring unity between the Peaks and the Flats... But you and I both know that it won't be before they've dragged everything good in the world and made it bleed for their cause."

Ruby felt her thumb click the safety off, as she aimed the gun slowly up to the center of Joland's eyes, he knew who she was apparently, so he knew what she was capable of.

"No. Have you killed people for the confederacy?"

"Yes. I have killed people. I deserve your bullet. In fact, I've been waiting for you to come for me and my brother since Captain Lewis."

"Do you regret killing them?"

"Yes. Every day of my life. Every minute, of every day, I feel sick to my stomach. Kill me now, please."

"No."

Ruby lowered her gun, holstering it, walking to Joland and uppercutting his jaw hard.

"You don't get to beg for death Joland Grey. You don't get to take the lives of people of the Flatlands and then feel sick about it later..."

Ruby punched him in the gut twice, keeling him onto his knees,

"It's a rare... and I mean rare moment in history when I chose to save the life of a Confederate."

Joland Grey looked up to Ruby his eyes full of tears and a look of shock of across his face.

"If you are honest right now. If you mean what you say, because Joland Grey, for some unknown reason, I think you are tellin' the truth. What you've done... What you did, you need to atone for that. You dying, that's a blessing you don't deserve. That's something that would probably aid the Confederacy because honestly. You are pathetic. You are weak, you are powerless... And you need to put things right in this world."

Joland moved back from Ruby and stood shakily, clinging to the wall as he stood up,

"What do you mean? How do I start? I'd do anything to stop my brother and what the confederacy have planned..."

Ruby tilted her head to the side jutting her jaw out sizing Joland Grey up,

"What are they planning?"

"Uh.. it's...Well I don't know everything... With The Black Hornets and The Confederate Resistance Army out there... They're not acting too soon.. Plus my brother won't tell me too much..But they've got something big planned Miss Doom..."

"You need to go to Skycove, do you know where that is?"

Joland shook his head and Ruby sighed in frustration

"Jesus. It's also called the Floating City?"

"Yes! I know where that is! We're not allowed to go there yet..."

Ruby shook her head, "You ain't a Fed soldier anymore Grey" Ruby said sternly, "You're going to Skycove and you're going to find the Black Hornets and tell them everything you know about the Confederacy..."

"But I don't know much... and they'll kill me once they know who I am... Plus my brother will come looking for me without a body if you plan on saying you've killed me.."

Ruby walked over to Joland, taking a white napkin from inside her jacket, pushing it into his mouth. Confused Joland fell back against the wall and Ruby grabbed his left hand, pulling it up to her eye level taking notice of his ring finger ordained with a confederate ring inscribed with a number and the initials J.G on them. Ruby quickly whipped out her hunting knife and cut the finger from the base of Joland's hand, pocketing it for later. Joland's eyes widened as a muffled scream escaped his mouth.

Ruby pulled the napkin from his mouth and kissed it gently, writing a message to James Squire on it. Then Tucking it into a pocket of Joland's, gave him more commands,

"Do you think you're brother will be happy and satisfied if I hand this over to him?" she smirked tapping a pocket at her side.

"I suppose... But.. Jesus, my finger!"

"Take that napkin with the message to Skycove. I don't know him too well, but my last meeting with James Earl Squire was amicable. If he has any sense in his head, he'll trust me and that no one can get the better of Ruby Doom. Now in that closet over there. There is a tunnel that will eventually lead you out of the town. There's a horse saddled up and waiting on the only exit from the sewers that is about two miles from New Mesa. Get on that horse and ride until it dies, or you die, or you reach Skycove."

Joland knodded, and Ruby couldn't believe what she was doing.

"You cross me Joland Grey, or you fuck up anywhere along the way. You can get bet I'll find you and I'll be taking more than just your finger".

Joland nodded and went to move towards the basement closet, only stopping to give Ruby some advice as she ascended into the hotel.

"Miss Doom! Wait. My brother... You're here for a reason, you want to kill him?"

"Yes. Oh, and get the woman he's interrogating now."

"He might be tough when he's got guards around or his next play-thing tied up Miss Doom... But corner him on his own and he'll do anything you want... Just take that into consideration. If you make a scene before you get a hold of him. He won't put up too much of a fight."

Ruby nodded, turned her back and prayed she was doing the right thing as she entered the hotel.

The Pardoning of Sarah Hawthorne and Execution of Roland Grey

Ruby was surprised at the amount of guards not around the hotel. She was able to move essentially wherever she wanted downstairs, only needing to sneak past one or two guards to get to the second level of the hotel. It was on the second level Ruby realised why downstairs was barren. It seemed for all it was worth, Roland had been given a hotel across from Colonel Autumn's main base in the town square. Maybe since he got a building to use he wasn't allowed to have many guards? Ruby didn't really care, moving around easily didn't need questioning.

But coming onto the second floor landing Ruby had to duck into another closet and just in time. Ruby watched as Roland Grey entered one room and left another every few minutes, leaving screams and pleadings of mercy each time. Each time he was being followed from each room by about three guards, with nearly twenty other guards standing by in the hallway. Joland was right, he was only comfortable when we was surrounded by a fuckton of grunts to take whatever bullets might come at him. But to Ruby's relief, Roland was shouting loudly at all the guards after his latest exit from a room and something he said about getting to the whore now after everyone's incompetence led her to believe that for some reason he hadn't gotten to Sarah yet.

"How many fucking times do I have to make it clear to you inbreds?" Roland roared, "I can't get the information we need unless.." he looked at the expectantly and they replied obediently,

"We protect and serve you at all times Captain Grey."

Ruby felt sick. He had everyone fearing him for what reason? If they just ignored him, ignored his threats of torture and obedience retraining his words would mean nothing. But that was the Confederacy. Obedient dogs. Fuck them. That's when Roland commanded them to all stand to attention and face his office while he went in there and interrogated The Whore - Sarah! Ruby couldn't believe his arrogance though and the stupidity of his ego as he had twenty guards all face his office in a bid to understand why it was important to 'keep an eye' on him.

Roland enter his office and the immediate scream of Sarah echoed down the hallway and Ruby moved into action. unholstering Sapphire and Emerald, Ruby clicked their safety off and shot clean into the helmets of the soldiers standing with their backs to her.

One, two, three... Six, seven, eight... Eleven, Twelve.

Duck, dodge, uppercut, stab, pistol whip, kick, stab, kick, repeat.

Twenty guards were dropped faster than Roland' Grey's shit when he was about to realise how soon he was from dying. Ruby was mid-reload of her pistols when suddenly the door to Roland's office opened up and the pale faced albino looked her up and down, suddenly a look of fear and anger welling visibly as Ruby smirked,

"I don't believe I have a formal appointment Captain, but I have a big issue to discuss with you".

Roland slammed his office door shut and moments later it reopened with three guards entering the hallway, with a shrill,

"Kill the Cu-"

Ruby went to fire her pistols but quickly realised she was mid reload when Grey interrupted her.

"Shit"

The Fed soldier's fired their rifles, Ruby managed to dive into a nearby room locking it for a few moments of relief. They only had new-world guns. Slow and a pain in the arse to use. She should know, Longshot was a new world rifle. Turning around she met face to face with a young teenager with a look of bewilderment across his face,

"Don't kill me please! I told them everything.. I really did."

Ruby raised an eyebrow and rolled her eyes as the door suddenly broke open and another shot whizzed past her head. Turning on her heels Ruby did the only thing she could think of, threw Emerald at the first soldiers face, knocking him back into his comrades as his nose began to bleed. Ruby dashed forward, pulling Longshot from over her shoulders, butting the bleeding solider again in the face, now breaking his nose. Hitting him again, the man fell to the floor unconscious as his comrades now stunned, looked to Ruby.

Ruby threw Longshot into the guy standing to her right, hand's pulling her knife from her chest holster and slashing back into the stomach of the other soldier, pulling up and letting his entrails fall to the floor. The guy who grabbed Longshot fumbled and fell back in terror as Ruby mounted him, taking Longshot back and putting the barrel into his mouth.

Ruby was about to pull the trigger when suddenly she felt warmth hit her legs. Standing up aiming the gun still she grimaced at the man as she realised he'd just pissed himself.

"Y'know what. That's just fucking disgusting."

Bang.

Ruby reholstered the knife, Longshot and picked up Emerald cooing an apology as she reloaded the pistols and kicked Grey's office door open, just missing another bullet as Grey now turned the gun to Sarah Hawthorne.

"I'll kill her.." He sneered.

"Kill her Grey, and I'll take your dick with my bare hands and shove it up your brothers arse."

"What?" he sneered dumbfounded.

Ruby pulled the ringed finger from her pocket and threw it on the table,

"I reckon I already got him, so it's just his arse missin' your dick."

Roland pulled the gun up to Ruby, and fired it once into her left arm,

"Fuck!" she sneered, "Why my fucking left arm! Are there not enough in there already!"

Roland was trying hastily reload his revolver as Ruby kicked a chair to the side in frustration and then fired once into Roland's gut causing him keel over and drop the gun to the floor as he suddenly began whimpering.

"You pathetic little shit." Ruby grunted as she stood over him, aiming a gun right between his eyes,

"No Ruby! Wait!" Sarah shouted.

Ruby turned her head to Sarah, and Sarah nodded down to Roland,

"I can't leave this place without a pardon Ruby... No one leaves here unless Roland says so... We need him!"

Ruby scoffed, "You think he's gonna pardon you! No. We kill him, then we get you out of here and I dunno.. I'll take you to the White Group..."

"The White Group? You're fucking real?" Roland sneered

"You're a part of the White Group?" Sarah asked dumbfounded as much as Roland.

"Shit." Ruby groaned, cover blown. "Now he really has to die!"

"I have a plan Ruby! We can let him live and get me out of here! If you cooperate Roland!"

Roland nodded his head profusely all of sudden. Joland was right, his brother was a little sack of shit when he was alone.

"I'll help! Anything! I won't tell a soul about anything.. I'll leave town and never come back! Please, I don't want to end up like my brother!"

Half an hour later and with some forceful discipline, Sarah's plan worked. They'd made Roland write an official letter and sign it, stating that the snitch who dobbed Sarah Hawthorne into the Confederacy was spinning bullshit to save face but he had been dealt with and Sarah Hawthorne was found to actually be an asset to the Confederacy. To make sure the story was going to fly, Ruby had held Roland at gunpoint while he spoke to Colonel Autumn over the phone too, making him relay some Black Hornet bullshit and small talk about the wrongfully interrogated, making sure that any slip up would in the story would seal Roland's death.

After that, Ruby and Sarah interrogated Roland in a bid to find out what the Confederacy knew about The Black Hornets, so far, they hadn't learned too much, just a few names of the Hornet's higher ups. Once they were done, Ruby made sure Sarah left the Hotel safely, apparently the Confederacy had had some bullshit announcement blaring through Ruby's hally way massacre, not even the two guards downstairs had heard. Perfect. Without hassle, Sarah was able to sneak out and return to the Charmant Madame, she was able to resume her cover and no one was any wiser. Ruby returned to Roland's office to finish up the mission.

"You have been such a good friend today Roland". Ruby chided at the man as he sat tied up.

"They'll catch you know" he said with a defeated tone.

"They'll only catch me if I don't kill you first".

"You said you wouldn't kill me!"

"Oh Roland.. I have no plans to kill you, although I was sent here to do that. We had a deal. You did what I asked, and I would'n't kill you. I am a woman of my word. And the word of a Flatlander is stronger than the rays of the sun here out in the Flats."

"Then let me go.. We have a deal."

"But you see Roland... I don't believe the word of A Confederate Fuck has more weight than his piss. So, I can't let you go, and I can't kill you..."

Ruby moved away from Roland tied at the desk in his chair and pushed open his office door to reveal a hallway crowded with newly released prisoners of Roland's.

"But I never said i'd protect you".

Ruby pulled another white napkin from her person, this time from her cleavage, and pressed in gently to her lips. Folding it quietly and placing it in his jacket pocket as the room began to fill with Roland's previous playthings. She unhinged his identity badge, and picked up Joland's finger, sliding off his ring and putting it on Roland's finger, leaning into Roland's ear as she whispered,

"Your brother sends his regards Roland Grey, and on behalf of the people of New Mesa and The Flatlands, and as a message to the Confederacy, Fuck you."

Ruby grabbed a rope with a noose that was suddenly handed from the crowd as she pushed the loop over Roland's neck.

"You know what to do everyone! Give Roland your regards then get the fuck outta dodge".

Ruby blew a kiss to Roland's pale face as she melted into the crowd and the screams of Roland Grey echoed through the Hotel.

This is not the end

Ruby left her rundown of the mission on Miss Reese's desk. It was unusually thick for a report from Ruby, who usually wrote a hastily scrawled two page rundown of the most important details. It was usually through a sit down conversation and Miss Reese's own writing of Ruby's missions that Miss Reese was able to get a proper conclusion other than "it was done".

This time Ruby felt the need, that she owed a proper run-down. She knew that maybe no one would agree with her decision to let Joland Grey walk and that to send him to the Black Hornets might shift power too dramatically, or perhaps not at all and she potentially let a very good liar live. She knew that letting Roland Grey's prisoners torture the man then hang him from his office window over the town square might have been a little too liberal and that perhaps she should have just done the job herself. She almost left out that she'd let slip she was from the White Group to Sarah Hawthorne, but chose to accept full responsibility for whatever came next... hoping that Miss Reese might see the Charmant Madame and it's workers as potential allies. At the end of her report Ruby wrote neatly to Miss Reese, just to reiterate that even though she may have made an error, the White Group was her family now, For The Flatlands, For New Mesa... For Mr. Charles.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Gretch Character Portrait: Colonel Augustus Autumn Character Portrait: Jenner Reese Character Portrait: Grievous Wylde.

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#, as written by Bosch
Epilogues.

Alexander entered the Workshop but slowed his walk when he noticed James Costner leaning against a wall blocking his path to Jenner.

“Gonna have to slow your wagon there Hombre.” James said as he held out his hand in a lackadaisical stop gesture. “Miss Reese knows you didn't kill Chop Chop. Now that’s your call but she can’t be having someone running around here that can’t follow orders.”

"Don't wanna talk to you James, I want the boss."

“I don’t want any trouble and neither do you. You know we got enough people down here to kill you about ten times.”

"Of course I know that. I feel what I did was right."

“You make your own choices Lancaster, but I’ll tell you this for nothing. That Gretch is an animal a sick goddamn animal and he’ll turn on you faster than a rabid dog. You know he danced and laughed when...” Costner bit his tongue before continuing. “He’s sick. Just watch who you trust is what I mean.”

"You think I don't know what kind of man he is? I'll kill him the first chance I get, but until the feds are gone he is the only man who can stop them. He's the only one willing to fight the kind of fight we need to fight to beat 'em."

“Bottom line is you’re out. You no longer work for the White Group. Now we don’t want this to turn ugly and whether it does or not is up to you but know that if you decide to cause problems for us we can cause problems for you. Like is Tarkan or that kid’s home.”

"Don't you dare talk about those kids. if you touch the..."

“Nobody here wants to do that. So it’s up to you how this plays out.” James said as he held up his hands in a 'no offence' gesture.

"I have no problem with the White Group you guys have treated me alright. I'll leave."

“Good if it means anything I understand why you’re doing what you’re doing. I don’t want the Feds here neither but in this situation it’s hard to tell whether or not Gretch is the lesser of two evils. You remember New Mesa under his rule? Can’t really tell the difference between that and Confederate rule.”

"I don't care about New Mesa or the Flats, I care about my kids. They're mostly Ochil which means if the Feds win they'll take them up to the flats as slaves. That's a fact, that is what will happen. But, with Gretch he may actually leave them alone and if he doesn't he'll probably kill 'em fast."

“Well just felt I hadda say my piece. Keep your nose clean.”

#


Colonel Augustus Autumn stood over the broken corpse of Roland Grey and tutted gently.

“I assume the passageway used by the assassin and escapees was found?”

“And sealed, sir.”

“Excellent. You are to track down those that escaped and only those that escaped.”

Captain Cole nodded.

“Only those involved Cole. Mister Grey here had too much say in how operations were conducted on the Flats.”

“If you don’t mind me asking sir why was that? A lot of the men say he was... funny.”

“I assume by funny you mean his peculiar sexual appetites.”

Cole looked at the floor and blushed. Autumn rolled his eyes Cole had killed more people than he could count yet talking about sex embarrassed him.

“Mister Grey was a member of the Cabal, that is why he was given such scope in the Confederacy.”

“The Cabal... but they just a kids story.”

“They are that but the tales of derring-do we read as child are somewhat inflated. The Cabal does exist though and they answer only to the Grand General. Grey was sent along with us as a Specialist.”

“What about Joland his brother?”

“The brother was nothing, had none of Roland’s hardness. Which, depending how you look at it, may not have been a bad thing. The body still hasn’t been found?”

“No sir.”

“Well looks like you have a second objective Captain. He cannot have fled far. We should be getting troop reinforcements within the week, Mundus has seen our success and wishes to see it continue. The next target is Farpoint which shouldn’t prove too much of a problem. Of course that leaves the two tough nuts. Hope and Skycove. Once we have taken the major population centres the small towns should not present a problem.”

“Very good sir.”

“Dismissed captain.”

#

Autumn returned to his office and lifted a pen. He quickly wrote a report explaining the death of Roland Grey and attached it to one of the large homing birds they used to transport sensitive messages. It would be back in Mundus before the end of the week.
Although Autumn knew what the response would be he hoped he was wrong.

#

The wind howled through the dunes kicking up a fair bit of dust but the Sniper was sure he could still make the shot. It was dusk and in a few moments it would be so dark they would have call off the ambush but just as things seemed dire a confederate uniform marched into view followed by four more.

“You got a shot?” His spotter asked.

“Yes.”

“Ok they’re moving into position.”

A long moment passed.

“Ok they’re good to go on you.”

Without hesitation the sniper pulled the trigger ending the life of the confederate soldier who had been in his scope. He tried to acquire another target but the ambush team had already emerged from their hiding places and were opening fire. In less than ten seconds the confederate patrol was dead.

The Sniper observed his unit as they searched the bodies collecting whatever weapons and ammo they could. When they were done they ran toward the sniper and spotter.

Once the team had regrouped the leader pulled down his Keffiyeh revealing the face of James Squire.

“Excellent shot. Got him straight through the temple.” Squire said slapping the sniper on the shoulder. The Sniper, an Ochillian, smiled.

“Trick is to use the dunes for windage.” He explained. “Plus these guns are pretty good, not old world but pretty good.”

“Yeah looks like Gretch pulled through we’ll see what other goodies we’re able to get our hands on with the next delivery.”

#

Autumn watched as the troop transport docked at New Mesa from the fortified casino that was the confederate base of operations.

He counted squads of regulars and Specials disembarking as well as a group of engineers.

“Idiots.” Autumn muttered under his breath when he saw the engineers disembarking.

Twenty minutes later he was speaking to the leader of the engineers in his office.

“I understand you have your orders Colonel but I have mine as well and they say I gotta open up train links between here and The Peaks. Post haste. Says right here.”

Autumn looked at the grubby page the Engineer Captain was showing him. “Please stop jabbing your orders under my nose. I’m telling you the situation on the ground is very fluid, we lost a patrol last night to a Terrorist ambush. Your railway will act as a magnet for saboteurs and frankly even with reinforcements I don’t have the man power to protect you or your people.”

“I understand where you’re coming from Colonel but orders is orders.”

“Alright Captain I’m combat, you’re support so I have no jurisdiction over you so do as you please but I urge you to strongly consider the safety of your men first.”

“Noted Colonel.” The Engineering Captain said before leaving.

Once he was gone Autumn sighed. The Captain was young and eager to prove himself as a man. This was difficult in the Engineers as they were support division and therefore rarely saw combat.

#

“He’ll see you now.”

The man nodded and walked down a long hallway the clicking of his heels on the floor like a metronome.

He pushed open a tall door and entered the Grand General’s office.

“Wylde. Reporting for duty.” Said Wylde a man of 5’11 with jet black hair.

The Grand General was sitting behind a very ornate desk on the far side of the room but he stood the great his guest.

“Grievous thank you for coming so quickly. I received a troubling report about one of your comrades.”
Both men began walking towards each other but The High General stopped in front of a table covered in sand. Wylde recognised it as a model map the High Commissioner was found of having made. The room had many such dioramas, each one representing a theatre where the Confederate army was currently deployed.

“Roland Grey was killed on the Flats and it would only seem appropriate for a member of the Cabal to investigate his death.”

“Of course but Grey wasn’t combat, we used him for interrogations. How’d he die?” Wylde’s voice had a mysterious quality to it that was due to his slow speaking speed. A hangover from a childhood stutter he had overcome.

“I know it would seem he was assassinated. Which means I think Colonel Autumn may be slightly over his head. Not to diminish the man’s accomplishments but he’s a big thinker who understands total warfare, this situation requires a more nuanced approach.”

“The Cabal.”

“Yes you are to assemble a team and assist Colonel Autumn so he can focus on further conquest rather than the insurgents.”

“I’ll need four others to conduct my job to a satisfactory standard.”

“As always you have my full support for whatever requirements you have.”

“Very good sir. Work will commence immediately.”

Less than two hours later a squad of Five hand selected Cabal Members were on an Airship and bound for the Flats.

Jobs

White Group Jobs

Going Deeper.

Target- The missing Archaeological team led by Doctor Llewellyn Coleman.

Location- The River Mine.

Information- Doctor Coleman is an academic, a rare thing in the Confederacy. Like all male members of the Confederacy he is officially a member of the Confederate Army although he doesn’t wear a uniform and all reports suggest he abhors violence. His role is that of research and development for the Confederate Army. Often times this role means he reverse engineers Old World Tech.

This means he has clocked up quite a few miles in airships travelling to and from dig sights. One such Dig site is the long abandoned River Mine to the South of the Flats. Apparently the mine was abandoned over twenty years ago by the fledgling River Mining Company. As that was the companies first mine the business failed leaving this mine their only mine hence the name.
No doubt you’ll have heard the numerous ghost stories that are associated with the mine, that the mine has a mind of it’s own or that the shafts seem to twist and shift at will. Of course this is all nonsense.

Doctor Coleman’s interest in the mine was piqued when he learned one of the Shafts by sheer good fortune happened to run into an Old World bunker perhaps not too dissimilar from our Workshop. He brought a small team of researchers down with him and hired some guards. They had been excavating for a about a four days before they failed to emerge from the mine.

I have been directly contacted by Coleman’s daughter who I was friendly with as a child and believes I still live of the Flats working as a barmaid. She reached out asking if I had a few adventurous friends who could look for her father. Little was she to know I work with a team of Assassins.

The job is to enter the River Mine and locate Doctor Coleman, his two research assistants and if possible recover the four Mercenaries that went in with them although they are not a priority. Then guide the whole lot back to the surface.

- Jenner Reese.

Gretch Jobs

A Fisher of Men.

Target- Guardian Patrol. Their hands. Confederate Patrol.

Location- The Badlands.

Information- First old Charlie gets FIRED now you! Still White Group's loss is my gain even if it is a fuckwit like you.
Before we begin I don’t want you thinking I forgot that fucking shit at the casino but right now we got bigger problems than you being a mother fucker. Maybe, if you do real good work, I won’t hunt you down feed you your own face before I kill ya.
Perhaps that’s a story for another time.

You wanna work for me you gotta take the shit work, in my tribe that means the dangerous stuff. See here’s the problem I got a lot of guys and gals who’re ready to go out there and fight and die for the Flats. Problem is they’re all Tribals, now while there aint nothing wrong with Tribals they aint none too bright and on raids against the Feds they go down faster than a New Mesa Hooker. That’s why we need some back up, some people who will actually fuck these Fed assholes up and not get deaded in the process.

Now before you start thinking that mean hombre is you I can tell you it aint, you’re small time, a fucking delivery boy, compared to I have in mind. We need the Guardians outta hope. Those fuckers been sitting on their hands way toooooooooooooo long. Need to get them in the fight.

Looks like they got themselves a deal with the Feds where they both just leave each other alone. We gotta end that or more truthfully you gotta end that. So here’s the plan.

Step 1. Find some Guardians out on patrol and kill em.

Step 2. If you’re still alive (no shame in it if you aint them Guardians are some tough fuckers) you gotta cut off their hands, the one with the tattoos. Collect up all them hands. Maybe fuck around with bodies if that’s your thing. I like fire but I guess you already know that. HAHA.

Step Three. You gotta find and kill a confederate Patrol. This shouldn’t be too much bother.

Step four. Sprinkle the Hands on top of the Confederate Corpses and that’s your fucking lot.

See the Guardians will send someone out to see what happened to their boys, this investigating asshole will find a bunch of dead handless Guardians then find a bunch of dead Feds with the Guardian’s dick beaters. No way Singh can keep outta the war after that and boom the ‘federate fucks are fighting on two sides.

I can tell this is going to a beautiful working relationship, now off you fuck.

- Your Frendo Gretch

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Alexander Lancaster Character Portrait: Gretch Character Portrait: Colonel Augustus Autumn Character Portrait: Ruby Gowen Character Portrait: Jenner Reese Character Portrait: James Costner Character Portrait: Grievous Wylde.

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#, as written by Bosch
Epilogues.


Gretch


Gretch lifted the spyglass to his eye and observed to scene of bloody violence occurring a few miles away. He was standing with an entourage of not necessarily his brightest but some of his best and overlooking the scene of carnage Alexander Lancaster had wrought.

“Those Feds dickbeaters are learning the first rule on the Flats.” Gretch said.

“Wass tha Boss?” Kara asked one of the Tribals he’d taken as part of entourage.

“Never but never fuck with the Guardians. Gotta be about twenty of ‘em down there beating seven shades of fuck outta those assholes. Looks like the Grocer of the Wastes didn’t do too fucking rough.”

“Wha ‘bout now? They gonna be real angry.”

“You bet your left tit they’ll be pissed. Now we gotta do one of them meeting things, you know... a uh...”

“Parlay Boss?” One of the Entourage offered.

“A fucking PARLAY!”

“Was tha?” Kara asked.

“What are you fucking slow?” Gretch said as he lowered the glass and looked at Kara who gazed dumbly forward. She was tripping on something that much was certain. “Stupid question. Parlay is where we get all the big dicks together in one room and have chat about kicking these fuckers outta New Mesa and outta the Flats.”

#

Autumn

Autumn was nursing a bruised face and looking at Coleman’s notebook when Wylde strode into his office. He walked up to the desk with a swagger Autumn hadn’t witnessed in many years, normally men bowed their heads when they saw Autumn.

“Most people knock Wylde...” Autumn said with a sigh.

“I’m not most people.” Wlyde responded while talking a look at Coleman’s book. He snorted derisively when he saw it was full of children’s poetry and tossed it back onto the desk.

“Well take a seat then.” Autumn said gesturing at the chair opposite him.

“I’d rather stand, I won’t be long. I’m taking command of the Alpha Company of the Specials you will remain in command of Bravo, Charlie and Delta in addition to the regulars.”

“That’s outrageous!”

“What’s outrageous is the Confederate Army is getting bested by crowd of savages. This is not your decision Autumn it comes from the Grand General himself. You are to continue with your movements but leave the Terrorists to me, my men and the Specials.”

“I strongly disagree with...”

“Are you disobeying a direct order from the Grand General?” Autumn slowly shook his head. “I’m not here to take the Glory, I’m from the Cabal there is no Glory for us. Your political ambitions in Mundus will be unaffected by my actions. If anything I’d take this as a sign of trust, the Grand General has seen fit to give you Cabal support. In a few months we’ll be shaking hands in the middle of Hope.”

Autumn was blushing heavily due to Wylde’s surgical exposure of his motivations. “Very well. I agree.”

Wylde smiled thinly. “I didn’t come to ask for your agreement, I’m simply telling what I’m doing. Operations begin today.”

With that Wylde turned on his heel and left the general to lick his wounds.

#

Jenner Reese.

Jenner flipped through the book Ruby had presented him with as she gave her report and made a mental note of a few page numbers. She raised her eyebrows when Ruby told her about Autumn and Wylde but held her comments until the end. After she had delivered her report Jenner eyed Ruby for a second before making up her mind.

“There’s someone I need you meet.”

Jenner than led Ruby down the cold halls of the Workshop towards a section of the Workshop not often visited. She knocked on a non descript door that was answered by Alexia Coleman.

“Alexia... We have a few things to discuss, it really can't wait...”

It was bad and Jenner regretted bringing Ruby along, of course Alexia’s first instinct was to blame Ruby. That quickly passed and the girl was inconsolable for what Jenner thought was the longest time. She could remember how she’d been when she had learned her own family was dead. It seemed like a life time ago now, it had been for some people.


“Alexia I know you’re sad and it feels like it will never end. I can’t tell you that it will, what I can tell you is you need to let it turn.”

“Turn?” Alexia asked through the tears.

“Yes, turn the sadness into something else. Those monsters worked your father against his will, they made him a slave and you an orphan. Are you going to let that stand?”

“What can I do? I’m just... I’m not strong.”

“No you’re not, but we are. She is.” Jenner said nodding to an awkward looking Ruby. “You’re smart. That means something. You give Ruby the tools and she will use them to hurt those that hurt you. I guarantee it.”

“But revenge is wrong, Father always said we... shouldn’t act out of fury.”

“It’s not fury, this is righteous indignation. This is Justice. The Confederate system only works because it’s based on strength and fear. Good in a war but look what that thinking did to the Peaks, to you father. You can stop it here, turn the storm. Your father would have wanted that.”

Alexia sniffled and finally let go of Jenner. She rubbed her eyes which were red and puffy.

“You’re right. I’ll give you’re tools but it will take some time, I’ll be working from scratch.”

“Not exactly.” Jenner said as she fished Coleman’s notebook out of a pocket.

Alexia welled up when she recognised the handwriting but choked back the tears. She took the book and flicked through it.

“My they must have found quite a haul of Old World artefacts down there. Would it be possible to...”

“Forget it. They’re gone.” Ruby said, her first words in quite some time.

“I was wondering if you could focus on these pages.” Jenner said as she turned to the pages she’d made a mental note of earlier.

Alexia nodded at each one but her eyes grew wide at the last one.

“That might take a little more work.”

“Our resources are yours. Kincaid in the Armoury will help as will Armoured Serpent, a Smithy we’ve worked with in the past.”

Alexia nodded slowly. “I’ll see what I can do.”

“That’s all I ask.”

Ruby and Jenner left Alexia to pour over her father’s notes and slowly walked back to the office.

Before they parted ways Jenner turned and spoke to Ruby.

“Very good work. If we can get half of those things working we should be alright in the coming war.”

After saying goodnight Jenner returned to the office and collapsed in her chair. She felt terrible, she had exploited someone’s grief over their dead Father to get them to make weapons, the very weapons their father had refused to make. She felt dirty. She opened the bottom drawer of her desk and produced a bottle of Purified Shine. It was the only Item that remained which had belonged to Mister Charles.

She poured the liquid into a dainty glass and corked the bottle. She looked at the glass for a while before taking a long pull and letting out a long sigh.

#

“Father I must insist we move to The Overwatch.” Guardian Avers said while he walked alongside the fail old man know as Father Singh. Avers was the Commander of the Guardians although his uniform was no different from any other.

“I understand but I am needed here.”

“We cannot trust those confederate wolves.”

“They maybe wolves but I have my Watchdogs.” The old man raised a weak hand in the direction of a pair of Guardian’s perched on Hope’s massive Walls.

“We lost 20 men in that last encounter.”

“I hear over 200 enemies were slew in the battle. The men fought well and drove a dagger of fear into the hearts of our enemies.”

“Yes but we couldn’t survive another fight like that.”

“You are being dramatic. That’s not a trait I knew Guardians possessed.”

“I’m sorry Father I just...”

“You just lost comrades. I understand, they were your brothers in arms, of course you feel their loss. What I will not do though is leave Hope and travel to the Overwatch.”

“Your word is my law.” Guardian Avers said quietly.

“What we now need to address is the fact that there was a battle at all.”

A smile fluttered across Avers face for a second before returning to its normal composed state.

“We have been working on responses. At the moment our focus is on disrupting supply lines, targeting their airships and preventing their rail lines from being built.”

“How soon can you start talking action?”

“Today.”

“Very good Avers. I give you my word.”

Avers nodded and began to walk away from the old man and toward the barracks.

“Guardian wait!” Singh shouted to Avers back. He spun on his heel and was quickly back at the old man’s side. “I’m sor... It was wrong of me to trust the Confederates and it was unfortunate that the Guardians bore the brunt. I thought I was protecting...” Words failed the old man.

“Father you are a man of peace, not meant for the filth of this world, just like all who reside in Hope. You have kept the pure, pure. The Guardians and I are damned yet by defending you and this place we may yet know paradise. This is what we do, the Guardians who died did so in service of something greater. They had the best deaths we can hope for.”

The old man reached out and patted Avers on the shoulder who visibly stiffened at the kind touch something the Guardian wasn’t used to. “Thank you Avers. Do what you must.”

The Barracks was a hive of activity as Guardians were cleaning weapons, exercising, sharpening blades and sparring. All activity ceased when Avers entered and each Guardian looked his way.

“He’s let us off the leash.”

The roar was deafening.

#

Skycove.

The Sleeping Dragon Pub was packed and smelt of a very distinctive mix of stale beer and sweat. The Pub was normally quite raucous but on this evening there was an uncommon hush over the place. Two men were standing in the middle of the floor holding the audience rapt.

“We go south and just use the southern Trade routes. We can work outta the Red Coast.” Gull Barbour said in summation of the short speech he had just gave.

The cry of applause went up from the assorted Sky-pirates. When it had died down the other man cleared his throat and gave his rebuttal. “Aye but then where? They’ll keep nipping at yer heels till they run ya out right outta land.” It was Blinky Waters speaking. Again he got a round of applause.

“Are you dense Blinky! I know you only got one eye but even you can see we’re in fucking airships we don’t need land!” A roar of support went up for Gull.

Blinky stood “Food, bed, women, fences all them are on LAND! We can’t be just be floatin’ ‘round up here. We’re sky pirates, PIRATES! Ya stupid Manpleaser!”

Gull stood with fire in his eyes. “What did you say! That was only the one time and I was in prison and it was dark and he sorta looked like a woman. A body gets lonely, Damn it!” He screamed before rushing Blinky. “I’ll take that other fuckin eye!”

This was how most of the Sky Pirates attempts at civilised debate ended up, nothing was achieved and a couple of people died. This time was different though.

A shot rang out and the fighting stopped immediately.

“Who’s shootin’!? Youse all know no shootin’ in the bar! You might hit bottle, waste the booze!” The barkeep shouted from somewhere deep in the scrap.

“If you boys are done having your wee wrestling match we’re gonna have us a talk.”

Every set of eyes in the place turned to Captain Carla Reynolds, a diminutive woman with brunette hair and a large old world revolver on her hip.

“Now Blinky and Gull are both right, but nobody cares. We’re pirates we only care about one thing which is...”

“Women?” Blinky offered

Reynolds shook her head.

“Drink?” Someone from the crowd shouted.

Reynolds shook her head.

“Violence?” Another anonymous voice called.

Reynolds shook her head. “In addition to all those things the only thing we care about is... Booty.”

“But I said women.” Blinky said looking dejected.

“Plunder ya morons!” Reynolds shouted, finally losing her cool. “All of ya sit down. We’re going to talk business.”

The pirates who moments before had been locked in mortal struggle now sat down. Some right beside the person they’d been beating.

“Alright here’s what’s going on. The Confederates are going to push us outta the Flats and down south to the Red Coast. Maybe they follow us and push us into the sea I don’t know nor do I care because the Red Coast may as well be the ocean. There’s only small towns down there and not a lot of targets. The Pirates that are down their already ain’t making a lot of beads.”

There was a murmur of agreement and Captain Reynolds continued.

“So there’s no plunder down on the Coast and then we arrive. We’d be eating each other in a week. Unless we all promise we’ll go different ways, like say half of us go in any other direction but south and into the arms of certain death or slavery. We can trust half of youse to do that right?”

“Naw Reynolds, that sounds terrible.” Gull said sincerely.

“It’s a rhetorical question idiot. That’s technique used in the art of rhetoric, which is to say the art of orating.”

Gull looked confused but nodded and leaned back in his chair in a lame attempt to feign comprehension.

“So we can’t go South and that was the only option. Which means we gotta stand, but I ain’t getting shot at saving the day for all these idiot flatlanders for no financial compensation.”

There wasn’t any applause but Reynolds could tell by their faces they were gripped.

“Now what do we know about Confederate Airships?”

“They’re big?”

“They got soldiers on ‘em?”

“No, stop it we’re not doing that again. They got plunder, weapons, food, beads, clothes, all the same shit you got on your ships except more better. We go to war with these Snowdwellers and we take what’s theirs and makes it ours. Then we fence it. We’ll make a killing.”

“Or get killed.”Blinky said.

“When was not getting killed part of piracy? This right here is a great deal, we stay on the Flats, we get plunder and we get to buzz the Feds at the same time. Its called war profiteering dummy! What’s not to love?”

The crowd devolved into a rabble as twenty people tried to make themselves heard at the same time.

Reynolds shouted and the crowd hushed again.

“Look this aint gonna work. I’m gonna find these resistance fools and tell ‘em me and the Crew of the Arcadia are gonna stand with ‘em. If any of you wish to do similarwise come find me. The Arcadia is docked near that Pub that smells real bad like bird shit.”

With that she left.

#

Grievous Wylde.

Wylde had collected his team and given orders to the Alpha Company. From Mundus he had brought Five other Cabal members all like him were specialists at their various roles. Wylde was an expert in individual combat specialising in the Martial Arts, to aid him on his mission two of his protégées were at his side. He also brought along an expert Sharpshooter, Interrogator and Tracker completing the Cabal Team of five.

He entered the small house the Cabal had claimed as their own and the Men all quickly got to their feet and stood to attention.

“At ease. We have the Alpha Team of the Specials, they’re not well trained but better than the regulars.”

The men followed Wylde into a room that had at one time been a family kitchen.

“Autumn is going to take Farpoint, however with recent losses he will be stretched too thin if he decides to push on. He knows this and those problems are his own. He will most likely have to wait for reinforcements. We are to focus on Terrorist activity.”

“So now we play detective.” Rakamil, the Tanu tracker, asked.

“Yes. We play detective. Shouldn’t be too hard though this resistance movement depends on numbers and luck. I encountered a group called the Black Hornets that seemed to made up entirely of drug addicted Flat Landers.”

“Easy prey.” Williams, the Sharpshooter, commented.

“There’s more to it than that. I’m thinking there are multiple groups with either no leadership or a cell structure.”

“So what’s the lead?” Asked Blackthorn, the interrogator.

“We have Names, lots in fact. Top of the list is Joland Grey, then James Squire who was in confederate custody until he was freed. Then there’s Ruby Doom, she’s something of an Enigma, there’s also been isolated reports about a group or individual called the Butcher of the Wastes. Lastly there’s the contractor Autumn used to take New Mesa. A tribal by the Name of Gretch.”

“So where do we start?” Asked Oswald one of Wylde’s Protégés.

“Our own house. Joland Grey must be found and interrogated. Additionally it’s obvious Ruby Doom has some connection to New Mesa, so we start knocking on doors.”

Blackthorn smiled.

Wylde Laid out his plan in simple steps.

#

James Squire.

An explosion of red and then the tiny body fell to the ground. Yet the accusing eyes remained on James. He felt them boring into him, making him feel the guilt.

He jerked awake and found himself sitting at desk in the modest bedroom he had in the Black Hornets Safe house in Farpoint. He hadn’t slept in days since he’d killed the child and it felt like he’d only been out for a few seconds. He looked at the untouched bottle of shine sitting in front of him and reached for it, he was about to pop it open when he felt the bile rise in his throat. He kicked the chair back as he stood and shattered the bottle on the wall opposite.

“LANCASTER!” He roared. As he punched the desk in front of him, any fear he had for Alexander had now long since dissipated and been replaced with fury. From James’ perspective Alexander was responsible for the death of Balder. It had been his stupid plan that led to the killing and more importantly it had put the guilt of killing a child on James. As much as he blamed Alexander he now understood what Ruby Doom had meant when she said.

“It's up to you how far you take this James Squire. I ain't disputin' the Feds are bad. I know better than anyone what they're capable of. But you also gotta know, It's not all black and white! And uniting the Flats, making a change... It ain't gonna start with random killing, of anyone.”

He got it now, his hatred of the ‘Feds had made him oblivious to the shades of grey. It made it impossible for him to see the bigger picture. That was something Gretch had preyed on, something Lancaster had preyed on.

He was pulled from his thoughts by a knock at the door and Joland Grey’s ruddy face appearing in the door Jam.

“Just got a letter from Gretch for you.” Joland said offering a crumpled piece of paper.

“Thanks.” Squire said as he opened the letter and scanned it’s contents.

"Dear Concerned Citizen.

How you doing? I am well.

But enough small talk.

Like you, I too have noticed the bags of shit walking around dressed in Confederate Army Uniforms. Like you this turn of events has disturbed me greatly and I wish to do something about it.

If, like me you, wish to address this most fucked of issues I would like to invite you to a meeting or PARLAY at Sula Rise.

Your fellow concerned citizen, Gretch."


Squire noted the location and decided he would attend.

He then made a decision, lifted his own pen and began writing.

“Ruby,

You were right, I got in over my head and wound up doing something I didn’t want to do. That’s mine to carry. I was blinded by hate or some old black and white morality. I don’t know.

What I do know is you are right and the enemy of my enemy is not my friend. Gretch and his kind stand for something I can’t support. I just want a life of peace and freedom. It seems the only way to get that though is through the sword, I just want to make sure it’s pointed at the right people.

I guess what I’m trying to say is the Black Hornets no longer work with Gretch. We’ll stand on our own if we have to but I think your people and mine could work together. All I ask is you consider the offer.

Sincerely

James Squire."


James pocketed the letter and left the room. His eyes were finally open and he didn’t like what he saw.

#

James Costner.

Costner walked up the small ridge and spotted a decrepit looking outhouse. He drew his pistol, walked up to the rickety door and kicked it open.

The Feral tribal screamed and Costner nearly gagged from the smell. He’d caught the guy in middle of talking a dump.

“Shit!” The tribal yelled as he kicked the door closed.

Costner smirked. “Yes it is.”

A few moments later the Tribal remerged and Costner pointed the gun at the skinny man. Who stopped in his tracks.

“Can’t scare the shit outta me pal, I’m all empty inside.” The feral said he rubbed his belly.

“I’m here to see Gretch.”

“Well he ain’t here.”

“The note said...”

“Note said you come here not Gretch would be here.” The tribal smiled, showing off the few teeth he had in his head. “I gotta bring you to him.”

Costner nodded it made sense, in fact he was surprised Gretch had thought of it at all. All the representatives would have been given different locations to go to and it ensured if the Feds got wind of the Parlay only one group would be affected.

“Where?”

“Tell ya when we get there.” The tribal said as he grabbed his skinny horse and climbed on. Costner did the same with his and they started to head west.

They had been riding for a few hours and Costner noted that the Tribal kept taking snorts from a small leather pouch. Costner guessed it was red sand from the way the Tribal was getting talkative.

“Ya know, I know you. I know you from somewhere.”

“I think I just got one of them faces.”

“Naw, naw I know you. What was it...”

Costner had a feeling he knew where they were going.

Back west.

Back to the caves.

“It was... oh yeah. Hehehehe. Your one of them scary assassins right? Weren’t so scary when Gretch got aholdya.”

Costner raised his gun and shot the Tribal’s horse in the head. The Tribal and horse landed in a heap with a sickening crack.

Costner leapt off his horse and grabbed the Tribal by the shoulders dragging him from under the horse. The tribal’s leg was broken and shards of bone had broken the skin.

“That looks real sore.” Costner said as he placed his foot on the broken leg and applied the slightest pressure. The tribal screamed and his eyes rolled back in his head. Costner took his foot away quickly. “You’re gonna die out here but I don’t want you to feel bad about that because I personally am going to choke the life out of every single one of your friends. Then I’m going to kill Gretch and the world will be a better place for it.”

He stripped a rusted revolver and knife from the tribal while he spoke. “You know me? The only way that’s possible is you were there the last time I met Tribals which was when they killed my friend. That’s why I’m gonna kill all of you but not before I’ve used up all you got.”

He then stood and returned to his horse.

“Not many people pass though this way, you won’t get found. Should be a hot one today as well. I’d hate to not have any shade.” Costner threw the rusted knife at ground beside the moaning tribal. “You can try to crawl but I’d suggest using that.”

Costner then started to trot towards the Caves the only place where the meeting could be taking place.

“You can’t leave me!” The tribal shouted after Costner.

“You won’t be lonely long.” Costner shouted over his shoulder.

#

The Parlay.

Gretch sat at the head of a long mahogany table in a throne like chair. The table was in the middle of a spacious cave. Costner entered and saw that there were already a lot of people in the place. He recognised James Squire, Gretch and a Guardian from the Uniform but the small brunette woman was a mystery.

“Fuckin’ finally. Out of everyone I thought you’d be the one who’d find this place easiest.” Gretch moaned. “Take a seat... No surprises underneath this time.” He said with a wink.

Costner grabbed the chair Gretch had intended him to sit at and instead pulled it over so it was opposite Gretch placing them at opposite ends of the table.

“Great Gangs all here. Before we get started I think we should introduce everyone. Ya’ll know me, Gretch Saviour of the Flats. That there’s Jimmy Squire, representing the Black Hornets, Next we got Avery from the...”

“Avers from The Guardians of Hope.” Avers interrupted.

“That was rude AV very fucking rude I was speaking and you just interrupted like a...”

“Get on with it you sick fuck.” Costner said through gritted teeth.

“Just like Charlie. AV is from Hope. Capt Reynolds represents the Cloudfuckers and our late comer there is from the White Group.” Every set of eyes turned to Costner. “Yeah they’re real and very over-fucking-rated. Where’s the red head? I hear she’s much more fuckable than old Charlie was.”

“We won’t work with you.” Costner said ignoring Gretch’s attempts to get a rise out of him. The truth was Jenner had wanted to come but it was agreed it would be a poor idea. Instead Costner was to go and tell them the decision of the White Group. “However we would be open to working with any other group.”

“Are you actually White Group?” Captain Reynolds asked. “I was expecting some kind of lithe sexy little hard body with a set of blades.”

Avers tutted. “Hope will work with whoever wishes to end this occupation. In times such as these we’re willing to hold our nose.”

“The Black Hornets won’t work with Gretch anymore. We stand with the White Group.” Squire said.

Costner smiled when he saw Gretch’s disfigured face twist into a mask of shock.

“You little cunt. After all I’ve done for you!” He said in disbelief.

“You turned me into something I don’t want to be...”

“Who gives a fuck? Did it fucking work? DID IT FUCKING WORK?!” Gretch shouter suddenly seething.

“That’s not the point.”

Gretch turned his head in disgust. “See that’s the problem nobody wants to get their hands dirty. Jimmy here is sad because he hadda do something that goes against his personal code of fucking ethics! Avers you know what I mean. Sometimes we all gotta do things for the greater fucking good.”

Avers Nodded. “Everything to protect Hope.”

Squire shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He wanted to turn and tell Avers what had really happened to his men but if he did there would be no way the Guardians would work with any of the groups. This would weaken the resistance as a whole. So he kept quiet.

“Fuck it, it’s fine, your people were shite anyway.” Gretch exhaled loudly.

“The White Group accepts.” Costner said. Ruby had received the letter Squire had sent and Costner knew it was a possibility that The Hornets could turn. Jenner and the rest of the White Group had decided this was a good thing as it would give them some much needed manpower.

“Fan-fucking-tastic. So Avers what about Hope?”

Avers glanced at Costner and then at Gretch. “We fight for Hope and care nothing for your alliances. We will work with Gretch and his rebels so long as they are the best choice. At the moment they have the weapons and people. We will not garrison your people and will only trade supplies and intelligence. We will also lead your people in combat.”

“Yeah your boys don’t really know what the fuck’s going out outside those big walls to much do ya? But you sure know how to leave a lot a confederate uniforms on the floor.”

“So Captain Reynolds where’s the Sky Pirate Armada landing on this?” Squire asked.

“No offense to either of your boys but here’s the story.” She turned to Gretch. “You are a fucking psychotic who under normal circumstances I’d shoot on sight.” She then turned to Costner. “You work for a bunch of murderers for hire. Look I’ve done a lot of bad things for plunder but I ain’t never killed nobody I don’t know for beads as the only reason.” She then looked at Avers. “Sexually repressed cult of emotionally dead killers.” She then looked at Squire. “I don’t even know who the fuck you are. The Black birds or something? You was a nothing who got lucky a few times. That luck is gonna run out for you.” She leaned back in her chair. “Then there’s us, the pirates who, if we were all inclined to be logical here, have the power. We got the Ships with the guns on ‘em, no show without us.”

“True points all of ‘em but none of that matters. All you gotta do is choose a fucking side and stop waxing lyrical.” Gretch moaned. He felt his position of power slipping. He’d have to find away to gain complete control of the Pirate Armada.

“Well we don’t really care ‘bout the spat between the psychos and the Assassins. So we’ll offer our services to whoever needs ‘em.”

“What you can’t... You need to fucking choose!” Gretch cried.

“I am. You can use our ships to quickly transport troops while these sneaky sons of guns can do the same. No point backing one horse.” Reynolds said with a shrug.

“So Hope will fight alongside Gretch’s resistance and we’ll fight with the White Group. While the Sky Pirates will act as transport.” Squire said.

“Yeah, only Transport, ain’t no way we’re going up against their Leviathan with that Gatling gun. We’d be cut to shreds.”

“Well that concludes our Parlay. I hope it was as good for you fuckers as it was for me.” Gretch said with a smile.

“For now, Gretch. After all this is over we still got business.” Costner said as he stood and walked for the door.

“I’m quaking in my fucking boots, last time we played that game you near pissed yourself!”

Costner left the cave with Gretch’s laughter still echoing off the walls.

#

Joland Grey

Joland was sitting in the Black Hornet’s safe house cleaning his revolver, an act he found slightly more fiddly now he was down a finger. He dropped the cylinder and sighed. He lost his brother and his place in the Confederate Army but at least he could have pride in who he was now. With the Hornets there was none of the guilt that came with being a Confederate.

Someone cleared their throat behind him and he turned to see the face of Grievous Wylde staring back. He was flanked by Oswald and Harvey, his protégés.

Joland leapt to his feet and immediately fell over the stool he’d been sitting on. Oswald snorted and walked over to the man.

“Don’t touch me! Don’t touch me!” Joland screamed.

Oswald viciously kicked the fallen man in the face and sneered in his ear. “You’re a fucking traitor, I should gut you right here.”

“That’s when Joland realised how much trouble he was in. If they wanted him dead he’d be dead already that meant they wanted to take him in.

“Please no I can’t, I don’t want to... Just let me go?”

“You betrayed the Confederacy and your own brother for... this.” Wylde said with distain as he looked around the shabby room. “There are questions that must be answered.”

#

In New Mesa Blackthorn had broken Joland in record time. Joland spilled everything about the Black Hornet operation in Farpoint. Now Blackthorn kept going just for the sport of it. Wylde strode into Autumn’s war room and dropped a dossier on top of a map of Farpoint Autumn was studying with his command staff.

“What’s that?” Autumn said looking at the slightly blood stained dossier.

“Names and locations of Black Hornet safe houses in Farpoint. That’s where we found Joland Grey. Said a woman called Ruby Doom killed Roland Grey and sent Joland packing to Skycove. There he met a Group called The Black Hornets led by a man called Squire. Turned out the Pirates weren’t too fond of harbouring terrorists so they sent them packing before too long. They ended up in Farpoint.”

“Squire, I know that name. He escaped execution a few weeks ago and that obviously I know Doom. Good work, Wylde very good work.”

“I know.” Wylde said as he marched back out of the office.

He returned to Blackthorn’s ‘office’ and ended the interrogation. Joland was swinging by his arms which were tied to a beam that ran the length of the ceiling.

“He’s had enough Blackthorn. It’s time for the trail.”

Blackthorn looked sad but placed the bloody saw he had been wielding on the table.

“Joland Grey you have been charged with Treason. How do you plead?” Wylde asked.

Joland blubbed something indecipherable. Wylde leaned a little closer and raised a hand to his ear in a mock attempt to hear the man better.

“Guilty. A wise choice, by the powers afforded to me by the Grand General I sentence you to be hung by the neck until you are dead.”

Joland cried but through the blood and broken teeth it came out like a gurgle.

Twenty minutes later Joland Grey had been publically executed and Grievous Wyle was on the hunt for Ruby Doom.

#

Squire.

He had arranged to meet with the White Group later in the week and had returned to Farpoint. The small town that was nestled below the Airships of the rich. There was no will to fight there, the only thing that interested most of the population was money and power. The Confederates represented both. At least now Skycove was open to them again and he’d take the first opportunity to move the Black Hornets there. Gretch was going to Garrison some of his troops there as well which would make for an interesting dynamic. While Squire didn’t want to work for Gretch he could work with him towards a common goal. He knew the distinction was tenuous but to Squire it was there.

He tied up his horse and entered the safehouse he shared with Joland and few other members of the resistance. As soon as he set foot inside he knew something was wrong. The place had been ransacked and the three resistance fighters who had been with Joland lay dead only one had his sword drawn. Joland was missing. Could he have been a confederate spy?
Squire did a quick sweep of the area and found Joland’s revolver in bits. It was in the middle of being cleaned. That meant Joland had been taken by surprise.


“Fuck.” Squire whispered as he ran out of the house and back to his horse. He went directly to one of the other Safehouses and battered on the door until it swung open.

A young woman answered the door and her eyes went wide when she realised who it was.

“James... I do...”

“We have been found out. Everyone needs to get out now and to Skycove. You need to complete the chain ok?”

The girl nodded and shut the door in his face. He didn’t mind, it was what she was supposed to. Complete the chain meant she would need to pass on the message to the next safehouse who would pass it on the next and so on. The rest of the resistance fighters would need to sanitise their safe houses and bring what they could to Skycove.

Squire went directly to his horse and rode out of Farpoint.

#

Autumn

The Confederate Army took Farpoint with one casualty and ten Terrorists dead. It was a good operation and it seemed like most of Farpoint was happy to see the Confederates. It was something of a relief to Autumn who needed something to go right. Now he was in charge of two locations New Mesa and Farpoint although he knew Farpoint wouldn’t cause as much trouble as New Mesa. In fact some of the local populace had offered to join the Confederate Army.

A downside had been they had only taken ten members of the Black Hornets and none of them alive. It seemed like their dedication was growing as the occupation wore on.

He was still supremely confident that he could take the Flats, he was due another deployment of troops and that meant he could better defend his conquests. All he had to do was keep the momentum up.
#

Gretch.

The Confederate Captain moaned and a thick hand slapped him awake. His eyes filled with terror as a large scarred face came into focus.

“You know who I am?”

“Y-y-y-yess.”

“You know what I do?”

“Y-y-y-y-yess.”

“I’m gonna do it to you if you don’t tell when this Airship fulla your fucking Fed buddies comes in understand.”

“Due next week, it’s called the Rising Sun just please don’t...”

Gretch slit the man’s throat before lifting a piece of paper and scrawling Alexander’s orders.

#

Jenner Reese.

“So they weren’t at the meeting?” Jenner asked.

“Nope, I know Gretch is a sadistic fucker and I guess we can add racist as well.” Costner responded.

They were standing in her office discussing the Parlay.

“Well then I guess we have some friends to make.”

#




Gretch Jobs.

Return to Sender.

Target- Confederate Troop Transport Rising Sun.


Location- In about a week it should be around the Northern Flats


Information- Good Fucking work getting the religious nut jobs or our side. Maybe you’re not a complete fuck up after all. That’s why I’m giving you this one. The Feds have got another load of troops coming in on an Airship called the Rising Sun. Problem is when those fucks get here they spread out like ants and we can’t kill ‘em all. Better to find the ant hill and burn ‘em out.

Point is I need you take out the Airship before it lands. Should fuck up Autumn’s plans and take some of the wind outta the Confederate Sails. Now he’s got Farpoint he’s a little stretched.

This is gonna be a Gang bang though. Hope, the pirates and me are in on it. You are going as my representative the Guardians are sending some prick called Brother Jacob and the Pirate Ship is called the Spry Pigeon that’s captained by a cloudfucker called Gull Barbour.

Job is simple use the Spry Pigeon to get close then get onboard. Apparently this Gull fella is so shit hot at piloting he can get close enough to drop youse off without being seen. Then you and the Brother will sneak on and take out the Soldiers. I’d suggested doing it quietlike. Use blades if you gotta drop someone and blow the fucker up. You can use smoke bombs or something to signal Gull for the pick-up. No way you’re jumping off unless you wanna end up a fucking mystery stain in the middle of the desert.

Gretch.

White Group Jobs

Hot Shot

Target- Williams, The Cabal Sniper.


Location- The Badlands.


Information- Gretch is a moron. This is clear now. He had his little Parlay and left out one of the major forces on the Flats. I speak of course of the Ochil. The Confederates have not made the same mistake. The Ochil have been trying to get together their war council but efforts are being thwarted as the clan leaders are being assassinated by a Confederate Sniper called Williams. We believe he is one of Grievous Wylde’s Cabal team and all we could get was a second name, Puck was lucky to get that much. Williams is lethal with his rifle and is a master of concealment. You could walk right past him and not know. He’s cabal so expect him to be a deadly quarry.

The Ochil have sent out war parties but Williams has dropped them with ease. When I learned about this situation I offered the White Group services free of charge. Hopefully this will lead to a more stable working partnership with the Ochil Clans. Assuming this Sniper doesn’t kill the leadership before then.

The Sky pirates can provide transport if you wish but I recommend using something lower key. The Hornets have offered you a squad of two members to assist, but let’s be honest their main use will be as bullet magnets, use them to identify the shooters location. The Ochil will also supply a tracker.

The sniper seems to be operating in the Badlands in a small mountain rocky mountain range called Sula Rise.

Kill Williams and secure Ochil support for the White Group.

Jenner Reese.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Gretch Character Portrait: Ruby Gowen Character Portrait: Jenner Reese

0.00 INK

Mission Objective: Kill the Cabal Sharpshooter and forge an Alliance with the Ochil.
Location: Sula Rise

In Memory of Dr. Coleman.

Ruby had been out of action for nearly two weeks, deep within the confines of the Workshop. Nothing seemed to lift her spirits, and her stomach was reeling every moment she allowed herself to think about the state of the Flatlands. The conversation with Alexia and Miss Reese was still hanging heavily on Ruby's shoulders and although it had been entirely out of her hands, Ruby was still guilt-ridden for not getting Dr. Coleman back to his daughter. She supposed her only saving grace was the book being in Alexia's hands now... Although, Ruby wasn't confident the woman would be able to carry out her promises; not that ruby would blame her, she knew all too well the heartache of losing a parent before you were ready.

It was about halfway in the first week of Ruby's two week hiatus that Puck had come to Ruby with James' letter. It was the first small boost she felt to help lift her guilt too. James' confession and open commitment to the White Group was enough to give Ruby a glimmer of hope that perhaps not everything was lost just yet. She'd passed the note to Jenner and Costner and the two had taken the news with an uplifting positivity. It was shortly after that that Miss Reese had received the parlay letter and she and Costner had concluded he should represent the Group. Ruby, like Miss Reese, and insisted on her accompaniment of Costner to the parlay, but like Jenner, had concluded her involvement with the parlay wouldn't be wise.

So it was with a quiet determination Ruby had begun to set new plans in motion. To the best of her abilities she was gathering information about the Flatlands while she waited for the grazes on her arms and the bullet wounds to fully heal. She'd learnt of Farpoint's fall to the Confederacy, something she took with disdain. She'd heard of the bigger commitment in the finding of Black Hornet hideouts and assistance groups, but so far to the best of her knowledge, Sarah Hawthorne and anyone else within the Black Hornets she considered worth caring about were still un-captured. That information in itself had also lifted Ruby's spirits, it seemed, although they were small wins, that the people still had a slight upper-hand over the Confederacy.

Amid her growing cabin-fever though, Ruby had taken to befriending Alexia Coleman and Kincaid down in the armoury. It had seemed although Alexia was deeply troubled and depressed by her father's murder, that her involving herself in weaponry development and the like with Kincaid had given her an outlet to function. In fact, if she wasn't working with Kincaid, Alexia was more or less useless; the woman could only hold a conversation while working. But nevertheless, Ruby had, albeit not without a cold shoulder at first, managed to get in on the camaraderie of Kincaid and Alexia. It was a symbiotic relationship really... Alexia was using Ruby to test out the rough prototypes she was developing from her father's notes and Ruby was able to mourn the loss of Sapphire, Emerald and Longshot by testing Alexia and Kincaid's gun.

It was also in Kincaid that Ruby found another comfort. Apparently the old man used to be a member of the Lady Waste - the same pirate airship her grandfather had been a part of apparently. Although Kincaid never actually knew Ruby's father, he had plenty of stories of the man who had fathered her own father. Apparently it was in Ruby's heritage to be gunslingers. Nearly Four generations of Gowen's, including Ruby, had been renowned for their gun expertise. Ruby had found a quiet self-indulgence in Kincaid's war stories of the Lady Waste... In a way it helped her remember her father through the stories of her grandfather, and it also gave Alexia, it seemed, something to focus on when her work became too much.

It was at the end of Ruby's two week hiatus that Miss Reese came to Ruby with her latest job and the news of the formal alliance now made with the Black Hornets. Ruby had taken the news of the Black Hornets with relief, but was still concerned when news of Sarah Hawthorne hadn't emerged other than her location was unknown. Apparently the Charmant had been burnt to the ground, according to Puck, but by all accounts no one had been inside. Ruby pushed that aside though for the moment as she focused on her job at hand.

"Wait, Miss Reese, I can't do this!" she rebutted as Miss Reese delivered the job information.

"Well, sorry Ruby, but you don't have a choice... We can't afford to have this man on the loose. And the Ochil, they can't either. Plus we need them, you're going to have to do it... Regardless of how you feel."

"No, no... Miss Reese, I can't do it because I ain't got nothing to fight him with but my bare hands... I - " Ruby went quiet thinking about her guns.

"I lost Sapphire and Emerald and Longshot in the River Mines... The Confederate army either has them, or they're definitely lost in the collapsed mine..."

"I see, well, you're just gonna have to buy new equipment..."

"I can't use just any old gun!" Ruby said disdainfully.

"Well I'm sorry Ruby, there just ain't no -"

Alexia and Kincaid suddenly broke the discussion between the two woman and Ruby and Jenner looked towards the two as Kincaid cut in,

"Hold up a second there you two. You especially Ruby..."

Ruby looked to Kincaid quizzically then to Jenner as if it ask what they were up to? But Jenner simply stared blankly to Ruby shrugging nonchalant. Then Alexia spoke up, her timid voice breaking her own silence,

"I know it's not the same Ruby, and it's far from being perfect, and anything like your old guns... But, I think this might suit you Miss Ruby..."

Kincaid stepped to the side as Alexia stepped forward, a surprisingly ornate box awkwardly held in her hands. Alexia placed the box on the table nearby to the small gathering and motioned for Ruby to approach. Ruby looked to Kincaid who nodded with a wry smile and Jenner followed with interest as Ruby approached the table and opened the box gently. As Ruby flipped the lid her eyes widened in awe as the beautifully crafted rifle that lay before her. The make of the gun itself was something that resembled a golden-brass new-world rifle, but the body and actual design of the weapon itself was old world nostalgia. Ruby picked the rifle up and was surprised at the light weight of the munition. It's design was sleek, curvaceous and at the very tip of the rifle just above the barrel hole was a single, pear-cut Ruby.

"I know it seems over the top, and honestly Miss Ruby, it probably needs refinement... But it's my way of thanking you.."

Ruby looked up to Alexia confused,

"You tried to bring my Daddy back. Jenner told me you did. She said that if anyone was gonna be able to bring him back from the Confederacy - which was going to be a long shot anyway - it would have been you... Plus, you brought me back his book... Something that I'll always have to remember him by... And I know the gun isn't"

"Perfect." Ruby said,

"Well, yes it isn't perfect..."

Ruby looked up to Alexia horrified the woman had thought Ruby was implying the gun was anything less,

"Oh god no Alexia! I mean, it's Perfect! I don't know what to say... I can feel this beautiful beast aching for the sunlight!"

"What you gonna call 'im Ruby?" Kincaid asked looking to Ruby expectantly, "You name all your guns don't you?"

Ruby nodded, thinking for a moment then smiled as she looked to Alexia who was smiling shyly,

"I'd like to introduce you all to Coleman."

The News of Joland Grey

For Ruby, it seemed she'd been out of action too long already. It had been only six or so hours since she left the Workshop and was on her way to Skycove when she stopped to trade beads for some food for her journey with a passing trader caravan. She'd asked the man of any news from the Flats recently and he'd spoken to her about his recent visit to New Mesa. Apparently it was entirely, or near enough entirely, Confederate controlled. The Confederacy had started to build upon New Mesa too. It was only a short greeting with the man but Ruby had learned of a nearly 24/7 execution cycle that had been taking place since last week. Supposedly after Colonel Autumn's successful taking over of Farpoint, he'd seen it fit to no longer require anyone who wasn't necessary to the Confederacy or who didn't openly support the Confederacy to be executed. It was also apparent people from the Peaks were trying to settle New Mesa and Farpoint as quickly as possible.

Listening to the recount of what had happened already made Ruby's blood boil silently within but it was when the Caravaner mention Joland Grey's name, Ruby had to stop him and make him explain in as much detail what he was talking about. It was after the explanation began she'd wished never asked.

Joland Grey hadn't died mercifully by all accounts. Apparently his execution was very public, brutal and served as the greatest of lessons to anyone within the Confederacy thinking of defecting. Joland had, by all accounts been interrogated to his wits end, essentially hung, drawn, his punishment fell short of being quartered, although apparently when the town was made to look upon his form, he wasn't far from being quartered. The more the Caravaner talked about the witnessing of Joland Grey's murder, the more Ruby began to grow worried for Sarah Hawthorne and the rest of the Black Hornets within New Mesa.

"Tell me, what have you heard about the Black Hornets in New Mesa?"

"Gone miss.." he replied,

"Gone? Where?"

"They up and left just after Joland Grey's execution miss..."

Ruby eyed the man over suspiciously,

"After the raids is that right? I heard the Confederacy was finding them out... Did they find the Black Hornet base for New Mesa?"

"Why the hell would you be asking about that?"

"None of your business..."

"Dangerous times to be asking about the Black Hornets Miss, anyone suspected of cooercing with terrorists is killed. They got rewards out for information on people asking questions like you are..." he replied wryly

Ruby felt her body stiffen, starting to regret such brazen questioning of a random traveler. Suddenly the man relaxed against his horse and laughed hysterically.

"Don't shit ya pants miss..."

Ruby felt herself tense again but this time in confusion at the man who was obviously laughing at her. It was momentary lapse in her usual compsure, but Ruby suddenly felt herself pushing the man against his with a knew knife Kincaid had given to her to the man's throat.

"Breath a word of me and i'll come find you..."

The man went stiff under Ruby's control. Although he was a giant compared to Ruby, her own fiery demeanor had managed to quell his laughter,

"Uh, calm down Miss.. I ain't gonna dob you in... You see..."

The man squirmed out from under Ruby and lifted up a few braids on the right of his head to reveal a shaved patch of skin with a Black Hornet tattoo above his ear.

"Friends in all places aye..."

Ruby sighed in relief.

"You're fucking lucky."

"That's me nickname on the Flats... Why you lookin' for the Black Hornets miss?"

"I need to find their base as of now... I have a mission from the White Group, and I'm supposed to be working with two of you..."

"You'll be headed to Skycove then Miss..."

Deeza the Native Ochil

Ruby had been making slow progress across the Flats to Skycove. The entire Flatlands was a mess of Confederate troops and Tribal raids. Ruby had had to, on more than several occasions, had to take to hiding among the hills and random outposts to avoid major confrontation. Her journey was only made harder too when she was more than halfway to Skycove when a crow from Miss Reese had found Ruby with instructions on where to meet an Ochil contact who Ruby was going to need to Track down the Sharpshooter 'Williams'.

Ruby had had to divert her course to a half a days trek parallel east to Skycove to a valley within the Flatlands known as Grazers Heat. Arguably one of the hottest locations in the Flats, Ruby was dreading the trek into the valley, but according to Jenner's letter Ruby was going to find the only Ochil rumoured to be good enough to track Cabal without being caught in return. Apparently part of his ability to go unnoticed was due to the rampant racism of two thirds of the Flats and the inhabitants past it's borders.

Ruby had needed to tie her horse off about a mile before Grazers Heat; the temperature there already soaring to uncomfortable levels. She'd entered the valley and managed to stumble upon, purely by accident an Ochil tribe the likes of she'd never seen or heard of before. These people were especially different from the regular Ochil nomads of the Flats. They wore barely any clothing, and they spoke in a dialect that was like none other Ruby had ever heard, and arrogantly she considered herself well versed, or at least strongly competent in Ochil language.

Ruby had approached them cautiously, she had realised early this Tribe had seen her first and her cautious approach from life experience with new Ochil tribes had given her a small heads up. When Ruby was within a short distance of the tribe she found herself stopped in her tracks when three Ochils appeared from nowhere surrounding her. Ruby was moved into their camp and it wasn't long before she was meeting with their leader - Deeza.

Ruby spent the better half of two hours talking with Deeza and her tribe. Although it was hard going and Deeza was the only Ochil within the tribe who spoke proper english, Ruby eventually managed to convey her request to the tribe; although it wasn't met with the answer she'd suspected she'd receive. Apparently while Miss Reese had been given solid information about the Flatlands best tracker being in Grazers Heat, she'd failed to mention to Ruby that she'd have to convince the tracker to join her quest.

It was when Ruby's request had been understood properly that she learned that Deeza, while being the leader of this perculiar Ochil tribe was also the fabled Flatland tracker. Ruby had had to fight to be listened to when Deeza had communicated to her tribe what Ruby was requesting. No one wanted to Deeza to leave and even Deeza herself was less than keen on the idea of leaving her tribe. But thankfully Ruby had managed to get her point across... The Ochil tribe in Grazers Heat weren't oblivious to the state of the Flatlands, even though they were rarely visited. Ruby eventually managed to get Deeza and her tribe to side with Ruby and it was nightfall when Deeza and Ruby had arrived at Skycove.

Ruby and the Queen of the Flatlands

Ruby was beginning to wane in patience when she realised that she and Deeza had been wandering Skycove for longer than should have been necessary. Upon their arrival Ruby had inquired as to the whereabouts of James Squire and was told her was in a meeting with Gretch and some woman the inhabitants of Skycove had taken to calling the Queen of the Flats. Ruby hadn't given much thought to the notion of a Queen of the Flats, but as she and Deeza set about trying to find this meeting, her frustration was escalating and was only accelerated by Deeza's calm composure.

It was nearing midnight when Ruby had admitted she and Deeza weren't going to find James Squire to get his assistance anytime that night so Ruby had taken Deeza and moved to a well known pub/airship in Skycove - the Sleeping Dragon. Ruby and Deeza had taken to a corner of the Sleeping Dragon and Ruby had taken to getting to know Deeza a little better...

As an hour passed, Ruby had come to sincerely and overwhelmingly admire Deeza. Although the Ochil was less than open about her tribe, or why they lived the way they did in Grazers Heat, Ruby had learned that Deeza and her tribe were considered 'traditional Ochilians' which wasn't hard to guess why. Ruby had also learned, but not the details of why, that Deeza and her tribe apparently possessed a rare ability that Deeza told Ruby was a gift from the old gods long ago; which was apparently the crux to Deeza's ability to to track anyone. For the most part Ruby ignored the myth, but was fascinated nonetheless in Deeza and her beliefs, they truly were above and beyond regular Ochil - well more appropriately, socially intergrated Ochil.

As Ruby tried to probe Deeza further it was nearing one thirty in the morning that suddenly a loud, but muffled roar turned every patron in the pub to silence. Crashing and banging ensued from a room towards the back of the pub and Deeza and Ruby were to their feet, both women seemed concerned by the nature of the crashes. More muffled shouts echoed through the pub and suddenly a door was thrown open as Gretch stepped backwards into the center of the pub.

"Listen to me you fuckin' lady chaser... You ain't got no right -"

"You listen to me you filthy little cock.." a woman stepping from the room retorted. "You're in my town Gretch, My town... You don't get to decide what I can and can't do..."

"Watch yourself Reynolds! I'll fuck you til you die... then fuck you some more if you piss me off!"

"Not before I fuck you first precious." Reynolds retorted again, "Now piss off. You'll get Pirate aid in two days time when you can pay for it. You won't get it any sooner."

Gretch drew his gun from his side, but didn't have time to lift it before half the pub had their own guns aimed straight towards Gretch.

"Fuck you Reynolds. I'll be back with the money in two days.. .You better fuckin' deliver... And watch yourself Squire, fuckin' her won't get you far for too much longer..."

Suddenly James came into view behind the woman Ruby know knew was called Reynolds. He seemed gruff and tired looking, clearly whatever had changed James' mind to side with Ruby was tolling on him... But through his tired eyes Ruby could see his fighting spirit as Gretch talked. Gretch soon stormed out of the pub and Reynolds and James moved to the center of the pub where Reynolds had a local deliver her a beer.

"You a'right?" one of the men called out

"Nothin' gets this bitch down" Reynolds laughed holding a beer up.

The pub cheered and Ruby motioned to Deeza to follow as she approached James.

"James" Ruby called out,

"Ruby! What're you doing here?"

"Did you get Miss Reese's letter? I'm here on business, with Deeza here" Ruby motioned to Deeza, "I was told you were gonna be able to lend me two men?"

"Of course..." James said, sounding almost disappointed at Ruby's reasons for being in Skycove, "Nice to meet ya Deeza, i'm James squire. Yeah, tomorrow, I'll show em to ya, we've waiting on you for nearly a day and half now... what took you so long..?"

Deeza bowed her head quietly in acknowledgement and Ruby and James were cut short when Reynolds interrupted,

"And I am Captain Carla Reynolds."

Ruby looked Carla up and down, she heard of the woman before, but nothing beyond being a reasonably intelligent pirate.

"This your girlfriend James?" Ruby mocked, sizing the woman up -was she jealous?

Carla laughed heartily pushing herself past James to slide next to Ruby,

"No need to worry about who James' here is bedding Ruby Doom..."

Ruby was taken aback by Carla's physical introduction but stood her ground when Carla drew her face close to Ruby's. Deeza seemed uncomfortable for only a glimpse of a moment and James glazed over with confusion.

"It certainly ain't me... I prefer people of, stronger virtues. Well, not the kinda virtues that earn you entrance into Hope... But people who can handle The Queen of the Flats"

Carla leaned into Ruby's face and Ruby found herself suddenly pulling back as Carla playfully pecked Ruby across the lips. Ruby was, for the first time in her life, speechless. In truth, Ruby wasn't one to shy away from coy flirtatiousness, but Carla Reynolds, it seemed, liked to up the ante more than anyone Ruby had ever met. As Ruby backed away in shock, Carla roared with laughter and the pub joined in with her.

"Mmm, yes, you were what I was expecting... Not that old limp dick Costner..." Carla chided.

Ruby looked to James who was red in the face and rolled her eyes regaining composure. Then looking to Deeza who seemed to be displaying a fantastic neutrality about her.

"Alright James, meet us at Dawn at Sky Promenade with the two men I need... Good night."

Ruby and Deeza walked towards the door, Ruby trying to remain as composed and seemingly level headed as possible. As the two women pushed the doors to the Sleeping Dragon open they could hear from behind them,

"Nighty Night Ruby Doom... Sleep tight."

The Tracking of Ezikiel Williams

The next morning Ruby and Deeza were at Sky Promenade, watching the sun break on the horizon. Although the name of the location might have sounded grandeur, it was anything but. Merely ramshackle scrap pieces of metal hastily thrown together and loosely supported by beams stuck into the cliff face that stood just near SkyCove, Ruby had often liked to sit here when the sun rose on the occasions she found herself in the Floating City.

"Morning Sweet heart!" Carla called out as the sunlight completely illuminated the world now.

Ruby turned around to see Captain Carla Reynolds and James Squire accompanying her moving towards Ruby and Deeza. Ruby gritted her teeth in disdain as the woman approached and Ruby had a feeling her mission wasn't going to run smoothly.

"Why is she here?" Ruby said, almost scolding James.

"Can't help it.." he said shrugging

"I'm helpin' you darlin'" Carla said smiling, turning around to whistle loudly.

Suddenly from overhead a ship appeared and docked itself in front of the four and Carla turned to Ruby,

"This week it's Black Hornet shift! Mr. Squire here has racked up the funding to hire the Skycove pirates for the next few days..."

"Hell no!" Ruby grunted looking to James,

"She'd helpful Ruby..." James pleaded

"That's right, I am... And hey, Squire has paid for Pirate services you might as well use em'"

"Alright then, give us a crew and go back to being the Queen of the Flats while I do my business..."

Carla laughed, and pushed her breasts up and then yawned nonchalantly,

"I didn't ask to be called the Queen... They just started calling me that... Flavour of the week you could say... Besides Ruby... Your business out there on the Flats... That is my business, and from what I hear, you're lookin' for Ezikiel Williams. That's something I can't miss..."

Ruby looked to James again then back to Carla,

"Who the fuck is Ezikiel Williams?"

Caral smiled, "The Cabal fucker I hear you're hunting. Hmm, you don't know much about your target do you Ruby Doom?"

Ruby shot James another look, "This is how you ally with the White Group Squire? GO tellin' anyone what we're doing?"

"Oh relax... I'm not gonna tell anyone anything" Carla said, "If I wanted to, I would have told Gretch already..."

"What do you want?" Ruby snapped

"Whatever the moment has to offer. Now, enough bullshittin' the Queen wants to find this fucker and deliver a royal sentencin' which you can carry out.." Carla joked.

Ruby felt her eye twitch as Carla sauntered past her and Deeza and onto the airship she had commissioned for Ruby and Deeza. After a less than amicable conversation with James, it was Deeza who had convinced Ruby to just follow Carla and have faith the woman was trustworthy. Ruby felt less than ok with the whole idea... It wasn't that Carla was particularly dangerous to Ruby, it was that the woman seemed opportunistic and unpredictable. Ruby had no idea how long Carla's cooperation would last; the woman was a true pilot and when she had the Flatlander pirates calling her the Queen of the Flats... That just made Ruby even more apprehensive about the woman's stability.

The journey to Sula Rise had been anything but quiet for Ruby. The entire trip had been only Carla, James, Deeza and Ruby in one airship with a single pilot to fly them and two very quiet Black Hornets who'd come along as promised to Ruby. The entire trip Deeza spent scouting the Flats below, using binoculars. The woman seemed to be a magician of tracking as she was able to not only warn the pilot of sand storms thirty minutes before they came, but she moved almost at a state of invisibility across the ship, popping and out to inform the group where she suspected Ezikiel Williams was moving in Sula Rise. The other portion of the trip was Carla drinking what Ruby could only assume was a quarter of a Barrel of shine and obnoxiously flirting with James and his Black Hornet men. Under normal circumstances, Ruby even internally admitted she'd probably like Carla... But the woman was all over James and running her mouth and uncomfortably sexualising Ruby to a point where Ruby would have been quite content with pushing the woman over the deck of the airship.

As Ruby's was reaching her limit and Carla seemed to be reaching her reserves for patience with Ruby, Deeza suddenly appeared.

"He's two miles north.." she said quietly to Ruby and the rest. "He knows we're coming."

"How the hell can you know that?" James said unbelieving

"The old gods!" Carla roared holding a flagon upwards "Ain't that right Deeza!"

Everyone looked to Deeza expectantly to scold Carla for obviously laughing at Deeza and her beliefs, but nothing happened. Deeza simply nodded and turned to Jame's men,

"Get to the stern, you're gonna need your guns ready.."

Suddenly Deeza was gone before they could ask her anymore questions as to how she could possibly know Ezikiel Williams' location. James motioned for the men to follow Deeza. James then began to question Ruby on the authenticity of Deeza but before Ruby could answer Carla cut in, this time there was a tone of seriousness to her voice.

"James, James, Jimmy jim... Do. You. Know. Nothin'? Haven't you ever heard of the sayin' harder to find than an Ochil? Hahaha... Deeza out there.. She's a true native!"

Ruby was genuinely surprised at the level of genuine knowledge Carla seemed to have,

"I bet she and her tribe come from Harlem.. That's where they learn to do that walky thing.."

Now even Ruby was confused by Carla, but James seemed to take the bait and got the answers Ruby was also asking silently,

"What the hell you talkin' about Carla?"

"Harlem! The Ochil city! What? You never heard of Harlem? Shit James... I thought you were travelled out here? What about you Ruuuby Doom? No? You neither.. shit! Harlem? No idea? Fuck... Well, I suppose they keep it under tight wraps... I probably shouldn't talk about it really.. Deeza might off me.. HA! She might even be here... ooohhh"

James seems irritated with the inebriated Carla,

"You're fuckin' drunk..."

"Yes. But that's irrelevant. Harlem is the Ochil city they all come from right. It's kept under lock and key and only the most most MOST trusted of outsiders are allowed to know about it... Racism and all that shit... Haven't you ever wondered why the Ochil move so freely through the flats? Hahaha... They do that thing.. they call it mirage walking? Dunno how much I believe in it... But apparently they use the technique to move almost to the extent of being invisible... it's a state of mind! They're able to think invisible so therefore they are invisible! ooohh" Carla laughed

James rolled his eyes, clearly his interest now shot at Carla's drunken mockery.. Ruby however seemed to believe she knew what she was talking about and for the first time didn't mind the woman shit-talking

"and how the hell do you know all of this...?" she asked

"been to Harlem! Was fuckin' hard to get in there.. but been there."

"Bull shi-"

Ruby was cut short when suddenly the airship dipped violently. In a matter of seconds out of nowhere Deeza was by Ruby's side.

"He spotted us! He's killed the pilot and the two Black Hornets! We need prepare for a crash..."

It was moments later without warning that the ship hit the Flatlands with a colossal crash and Ruby and the rest were thrown about, only coming to watch as Ezikiel Williams dragged James Squire from the wreckage.

The Quick Death of Ezikiel

Ruby was pinned under a metal bar and was helpless to move towards the limp, but breathing body of James Squire as Ezikiel Williams stood over his body, then dragged it away, shooting Ruby a wry smile as he moved into the mirage of the heat. Ruby struggled fiercely, silently begging for the strength to move the metal. It was only thirty minutes later that Ruby was aided by Deeza and Carla that she shimmied free and was to her feet.

"The fucker got James..."

"Mother fucker." Carla hissed "James owes me the fuckin' second half of this job's beads."

Ruby glared at Carla,

"Don't worry Ruby Doom... we'll get him back. Ain't no one dies without paying their debts to me.."

Ruby looked to Deeza who was already pointing across the way towards a rock formation about six miles to the west.

"He's gone that way. He might be a sharpshooter, but he's hopeless at covering his tracks."

Ruby nodded to Deeza and the three women set off towards Ezikiel Williams and James Squire. The walk was anything but quiet as they made their way across the Flats. Ruby had initiated the unrest though, inquiring as to how Carla knew Ezikiel's name when no one else on the Flats seemed to. Carla had been tight lipped initially but quickly broke her silence only to divulge to Ruby that a pirate is probably one of the most underestimated sides on the entire flats, that and Ochillians. Ruby was honestly surprised at the sensibility Carla could display when she wanted.

The three woman were half a mile from Deeza's projected location of Ezikiel and James when a lone shot hit the ground before the woman and they had to dive behind a rock as another lone bullet nearly pierced Carla's leg.

"The fucker!" Carla called out over the rock "We ain't gettin' near him when he's got a clear shot on us."

"Leave it me" Ruby grunted as she pulled Coleman from her back.

Ruby ducked out from the rock and took aim fast. There had been a special scope equipped to Coleman and with less hassle than she'd ever had before, Ruby was able to focus on Williams without trouble, she fired once but had to move just in time as he fired back. The two soon began a dance of gunshooting. Their back and forth lasted for nearly thirty minutes before Ruby realised her ammunition was running low,

"Fuck me dead Ruby! Make a fuckin' hit so we can go home."

"He's not exactly a run of the mill fuckwit is he?" Ruby retorted

"I have an idea.." Deeza quietly said.

The Ochil lifted herself to her feet and walked out into direct sight of Williams. Both Carla and Ruby screamed to Deeza to get back to cover and rushed out to the open to grab the Ochil. The women were forced back into cover but watched in amazement as Deeza maneuvered the half mile without once being shot at. Ruby kept her scope on Deeza within safe cover as much as possible and it wasn't long before she watched from safety as the Ochil walked right up to the side of Williams and began smothering the man.

"I don't fucking believe it!" Ruby cried

"What? What?" Carla asked eagerly

"She's bloody got right next to him! She's suffocating him!"

"Mirage Walking! YEE-HAW! I fuckin' told you!" Carla laughed.

Ruby kept watching Deeza as the woman seemed to effortlessly take Williams down but their win was soon triumphed as Ruby watched through the scope, Williams suddenly regain strength and flip Deeza straight over his shoulder and bring his foot down on her chest.

"FUCK! He's got the better of her, she needs help!" Ruby shouted to Carla

"On it!" Carla shouted

Suddenly the pirate was out of cover, withdrawing her old world revolver and firing off into the general direction of Williams. Ruby had to pull herself out of cover completely and cover Carla as Williams tried to fire at the pirate in her suicide mission. Although Ruby was able to keep Williams at bay from landing a lethal blow on Carla, she soon found herself at her last bullet. She fired it one last time and threw Williams off his game. Ruby called out to Carla but the woman was still firing her own gun outwards and didn't hear. She went back to her scope and breathed easy as she saw Williams search frantically on his person for more ammunition, it seemed he and Ruby were so equally matched they used the same amount of ammunition at once...

Carla was about one hundred yards from Williams when Ruby started her own sprint towards the fucker. She was making good ground and Ruby was soon a hundred feet from Carla and Williams who were now locked in a fist fight. As Ruby neared the two fighting, she could see Deeza collapsed on the ground nearby a rock with James also unconscious nearby.

Ruby acted quickly while Carl was locked in a punching war with Williams. The man seemed to be getting the better of her, his Cabal training, although focused on guns, seemed to be well above average with hand to hand combat. Ruby grabbed Coleman by the barrel and swung his weight behind her, bringing him forward into the lower back of Williams crippling the man to his knees as Carla brought an elbow down on the man's shoulder.

Williams collapsed to the ground but rolled out of the way as Carla tried to stomp the man's head. "Stay still you fucker!" she shouted as she brought her left foot up to kick Williams in the face. Williams was silent the entire ordeal, he looked to Ruby and then to Carla as the two women now stood side by side watching Williams stagger to his feet, a cold smile across his face.

"You can smile now you little ass-fucker" Carla taunted.

"Where are the leaders?" Deeza suddenly wheezed from the ground,

"Somewhere special..." Williams suddenly taunted back.

Carla wasted no time and rushed forward, bringing the butt of her gun up into Williams' gut, reeling him to the ground.

"Get your fuckin' ass over here" Carla grunted as she gripped Williams by the hair and dragged the man across the dirt to Deeza, "Now. Answer the woman's question. Where are the Ochil leaders? We know you've been hunting them in addition to the war parties you seem so fondly of killing.."

Ruby was suddenly caught off guard. Carla was just as vicious as Ruby was, the woman also seemed to know more than Ruby did about Williams' hunting of the Ochil, and that was only solidified by Deeza who was asking the same questions.. Something bigger seemed to be going on here.

"I killed them all... Fuck the Ochil" Williams said coldly.

"Rafeet Gu'l Cunt" Deeza hissed as she stood to her feet.

"You ain't going to win... Especially against me..." Williams hissed.

That's when Ruby grew tired and walked to Williams picking him and standing him on his shaky feet. Ruby looked to Deeza and Carla,

"This fucker has said enough, what do you agree?"

"Right on!" Carla cheered

Deeza nodded once.

Ruby took the first punch, her left fist connecting across William's face. Carla took the second hit, swinging her left leg backwards round-house kicking Williams into Deeza who took the last turn, driving a small Ochil dagger into the socket of Williams' eye. The man screamed out suddenly catching the three women off guard as he collapsed to his knees and suddenly went quiet.

"Well, that was more than anti-climactic." Carla shrugged. "Now we gotta get outta this bullshit mountain range.."

"That'll be easy" Deeza said quietly, "He's got his own ship hidden about half a mile further into the mountains... It's how he's been moving so freely across the Flats... It's how he's managed to stop all the efforts of my Tribe communicating with the other clans... But thanks to you two, I'll finally be able to unite all the nomad Ochils..."

Ruby looked confusedly to Deeza. It was then that Carla broke the awkward silence,

"I knew it! You're the fuckin' Ochil leader! Like, the whole operations number one!"

Deeza shrugged off the accusation but Ruby saw the reality of Carla's words. Deeza was apparently the leader of the whole of the Ochils. Ruby could only hope her efforts in taking down Williams today bore favorable repercussions for the White Group.

End, but not permanently.

The end of the whole ordeal was probably more anti-climatic than Ruby had expected. The three woman had managed to take down the Cabal Sharpshooter, though Ruby couldn't lie, the did heavily outnumber him, though there was absolutely no shame in that. James was ok, though his pride was a little shot having been rescued a second time by Ruby... It wasn't helped either that Carla made a point of reminding him.

After they were done with it, Ruby and the others had took Williams airship and tied his body to a rope, setting the ship into a forced automatic direction, they had the ship fly in the general direction of New Mesa. Ruby had made sure to leave a white handkerchief with her lipstick mark in the corner in Williams' pocket with the word 'regards'.

When the mission was done, Ruby bid farewell to James and Carla for the time being. Although she still wasn't fond of the pirate, Ruby knew she couldn't leave the woman without at least an acknowledgement of her help. Ruby took a moment to speak with James and thank him personally for 'coming to his senses'. James merely smiled and as Ruby went to leave with Deeza she could hear Carla calling out behind her,

"This might be the end Ruby Doom, but it's only for now! I'll be seeing your ass again real soon! For the right price o' course!"

Carla started laughing at her own wit and as Ruby and Deeza left the Sleeping Dragon she heard Carla's last words,

"Alright Squire, your times up.. I got me a date for the next few days with a psychopath! I'll see you when you got the money..."

The Ochillian Alliance

It wasn't exactly the most formal of proceedings. Deeza wasn't apprehensive so to speak, but she didn't like the idea of having to say the Ochils were formally committed to aiding the White Group if they needed them. Ruby acknowledged that fact but insisted some form of written acknowledgement would be a good basis to start a relationship on. Deeza agreed and the two worked a declaration of codependence for the Ochils and White Group. Ruby thanked Deeza and she in return. Admittedly, Ruby hadn't spent nearly enough time with Ochillians and her latest mission proved that point when she learned there was much more to the people than she realised. She almost ashamed that someone as obnoxious as Carla Reynold - the Queen of the Flats - knew so much about them. But nevermind, for now the Ochils seemed to be with the White Group. Ruby hoped that this was a step forward in the right direction.

The Workshop

Ruby returned to the workshop exhausted. The mission had been more than draining but she was satisfied she'd done what was asked. Her journey home though, Ruby had begun to wonder about the fate of the Flatlands.. It needed someone to lead it, to support it and encourage growth without sacrificing it's freedoms. Ruby wasn't always sure who that should be, but what she did know was that she sure as hell wasn't going to let the Confederacy jeopardize it.

She wrote her dossier for Jenner; it was shit to be honest, but Ruby attached the agreement of the Ochil's to the dossier, showing she'd done what was asked leaving a simple note at the bottom let me know when Williams' body turns up would you..