Game Log - Raphael

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(The year before the Pandemic began)

The shaggy man sat himself on a park bench in the fresh cool air of morning. The long bushy white hair might have been blond in his youth, or brown, or red. A long walking stick sits behind him on the bench. A ragged looking large dog of some mongrel breed sleeps on his back below the bench, legs akimbo, showing that he is without doubt an uncut male.

Around him was the early bustle of a city in the desert filled with people of a familiar style; urban, technological, digital, and blissfully unaware at the dangers in the universe next door.

A passerby sneered at his unkempt attire. Uncertain if it was rags of a once proud uniform he kept his tongue. A woman with a child in a stroller and one on foot pass the ancient man without a second glance. The walking child turned and stopped, looking at the man. He hands her a twist of cord that she slips over her wrist absentmindedly. Looking at the girl he sees down the paths of her life into tragedy and illness and crippling pain. He nudges the cord to pulse on her wrist. Looking down her life path he sees tragedy and a life of migraine headaches and drug abuse. He pulses the cord again. Her life path slips into frequent migraines, a series of cancers, and a fair career as a singer. The cord pulses. The life path includes occasional migraines, a bout of cancer that costs her a foot but also includes several happy children, a loving, if eccentric and occasionally unfaithful husband and a rich and famous singing career ending in a peaceful death surrounded by loving family, mourned by millions of fans.

"BETHANY!!! Leave the bum alone and get back here."

The girl looks quizzically at shaggy man. "Are you a bum?"

He smiles, "Trust not too much to appearances. You will do well if you read a lot."

She feels the cord pulse. He looks and her life includes migraines, family, fame, the eccentric unfaithful husband, and a lifelong obsession with reading she spreads to others through song and story. He nods as the girl runs off to her mother, hiding the cord from her lest she have it taken away.

He withdraws an apple and chews it as people pass him, ignoring the old man. As he gets up and walks on he spits the seeds casually, usually to the disgust of passersby and to the future annoyance of park gardeners who can't seem to dig the apple trees out, root or branch. The shaggy man laughs as he thinks of the fruit trees he leaves everywhere he goes. Knowing he can pass from plant to plant, world to world, through any plant he has spit out such ways.

Stepping to a nook of bushes, he stands, looking around the park. Some might think he urinates but they would be wrong. When he leaves a small bronze gold replica of his foot is left behind. Unnoticed by millions, and found by happenstance by one person who will soon tread paths they had never known before.


Call me Raphael. This is not the name I was given by my birth mother. Nor is it the name I was given by my Adoptive Parents, my legal name; the name that shows on my Birth Certificate and is registered with the Government... but it is the name that I choose to be called... now.

In the latter part of 2019 the media and U.S. politicians called it 'a problem overseas'. In the early part of 2020 when it 'arrived on our shores' they called it 'a Pandemic'; initially we were told by The Experts to 'self-quarantine and isolate', which many did... but 'The World has to keep moving', so not everyone could. Masks were mandated and social distancing was observed... mostly.

It was then that I was first a bit fearful. But I did my research and this 'new' virus was no more deadly than Influenza, though it did have some nasty lingering effects for a fair percentage of those infected that did not die from their initial exposure. My fear subsided, but still I was cautious and paid attention to the statistics and read reports... and trusted in my knowledge, my diligence with PPE and 'possible exposure'... and 'my luck'; so I avoided getting 'the vaccine' almost to the point of losing my job.

Over time new variants of the 'new virus' came and vaccines were invented and many got vaccinated, but it was still possible to contract and spread the new virus, even after receiving vaccinated. Booster shots were recommended so many more got vaccinated and boosted. But each time a new variant was found, the new virus got more virulent but also less deadly and less symptomatic, and more mild on those with symptoms. Most stopped wearing masks in public places, but I was still cautious, and many who had remained unvaccinated decided to remain so... as did I. But I get ahead of myself... as I often do. Perhaps I should start from the beginning.

I was adopted at birth by a husband and wife that were having difficulty having children of their own. They had already adopted another son a few years earlier from the same agency but different mother than I. Though I was adopted, in my early 30's I did discover who my biological mother was and I have met her, but not my biological father. I live on what I would call, from a 'Gamer's Perspective', a 'Modern Day Earth World' were I grew up well educated in sciences, mathematics, reading & writing, arts and literature, and I was also ill-educated and programmed by TV shows and news and such as well.

I spent a lot of time reading lots of books, especially fantasy and sci-fi; Roger Zelazny was my favorite author... I met him once at a Sci-Fi Con when I was in my early teens. I also played lots of games; board, dice, cards, etc. with my family and their friends. Then I got into RPG's, in my late pre-teens with my friends; started off as a Player, later became a DM/GM. Later on in life I got into playing and GMing Amber Diceless RPG, both in person and online... even downloaded the entire wiki for my current ADRPG online game. Hehe.

Before my fascination with RPG's & reading, TV & movies began, I developed a love for the outdoors and camping, as well as hunting and fishing. My adoptive parents were frequently getting me outdoors for weekend and summer vacation camping trips, since I was 6 months old in fact; they were avid campers and outdoors people. I learned much about the outdoors... and while on these wilderness excursions I also pickup the love of throwing knives and axes... which soon was no longer reserved to just the camping trips... or the backyard... and later grew to include other throwing weapons... I was rarely to be found without some sort of small knife or throwing weapon on my person.

I also got involved in LARP during my younger years, when my body could handle it. I discovered that I was naturally good at armed and unarmed combat, in a controlled and somewhat choreographed way. A bit later after that I hung out with some new friends at Fighter Practice with the local SCA groups; there I got involved in and learned a lot more about more realistic combat.

When I was a young teen I also took some martial arts classes for self defense, but was always advised to never use in unless absolutely necessary. I started with Judo, then learned some Karate, then some basics with weapons like the staff, sword and chain. As well as fight knives and more throwing weapons; spikes and stars.

I joined the Army National Guard at the age of 17, with the permission of my parents, for a four year contract in order to gain some basic military skills and some spending money while completing high school and starting my 'adult life'... I only barely avoided active wartime service by a very narrow margin of time.

Though I became a Legal Adult at age 18, it's said that our 'adolescence' doesn't end until our early to mid 20's... and that mental illness sets in during the early 20's... how interesting... anyway. I was a 'late bloomer' and most things didn't seem to settle in until my 30's. But by my mid 20's I had already served in the Military, learned some valuable lessons about life and learned much about my 'adult body'. And though I was raised by a Registered Nurse for a mother and received all my vaccinations on a regular and regulated schedule (like everyone else did during my childhood, or so it seemed), and during my time in the Military even more so, once I became 'an adult', I stopped getting 'regular vaccinations and boosters' and found I got less ill than I did before.

After that I paid more attention to my health (but still did little about it) and it seemed I was the opposite of what everyone expected, medically speaking; I was the kind of person that would fall asleep on the medication with 'hyperactivity' as the side effect, and be wide awake on the meds that 'might cause drowsiness', and other oddities. I also needed a lot more pain killer than most. And twice in my adult life I got a 'flu shot and each time I got the flu; go figure. Despite some other minor medical issues I have with my body, inside and out, I have always had a 'strong immune system' and rarely got sick, and when I did it was mild and short lived.

The next thirty years contained more Role Playing Games and more camping, but less LARP and SCA. And over time both camping and gaming sessions began to dwindle as well... as did the number of my friendships. That span of time also included two marriages, both ending in divorce; the first a short one, the only one with a child, a son; he was raised by his mother, I was absent from his childhood and early adult life... the second lasted much longer but also ended. None of which I wish to speak on much.

When the Pandemic came I was living with my Best Friend (with benefits) and had been for over a decade. At that time we lived in a one bedroom apartment with a good-sized fenced backyard that our trio of 5 yr. old miniature poodles loved. We had been somewhat isolated even before the Pandemic began as we kept to ourselves and we had very few friends that we visited or that visited us. And most of my friends at that time were online; a few RPG related friendships, a few family members and some old friends from my school years.

The latest news reports said the latest variant of the virus was the easiest to get, especially for the unvaccinated, the easiest to spread but the most mild on symptoms and lasting side effects. The estimates were that over eighty percent of the population would be or had already been, infected by this current variant... I forget the name; it was something Greek, like all the names of the Variants of the Virus, all of them had names from the Greek alphabet... I think... and in order I believe... I'm not exactly sure, I never studied Greek, soooooo “It's all Greek to me.”

I use a lot of old sayings and slang and I find myself amusing. I like 'old man humor' and 'dad jokes' and puns; even as a small child I liked those types of humor and they have stayed with me for life... so far. And so has whistling, humming and singing to myself... though often out loud. Get me drunk enough and I will sing during karaoke night.

When the newest variant of the virus hit, it hit so hard and so fast that the results were seen even before scientists and medical professionals were able to identify it as a new variant. And it was named by the public and the media, perhaps incorrectly and out of order, the Omega Variant; though technically it was three different, though nearly identical, variants that were all called 'The Omega Variant' that wiped out all of the Human Race and all Primates, near as I can tell... except for me, that is.

The initial death toll was catastrophic. First the elderly and the immuno-compromised of all ages were hit hard... and those that were vaccinated and boosted were the ones hit first... and thankfully hardest and fastest. Many barely knew their elderly friends and family were ill, let alone dead, until the numbers being reported were at staggering levels and everyone started checking on their elders. This is when the fear set in for most people and some early looting began, mostly the homes of the deceased elderly... but mostly in the larger cities.

The second variant of the 'Omega Variant' affected vaccinated children first; this variant came barely a week after “The Omega Variant” had been officially discovered and blamed for the sudden and catastrophic (and still growing) death toll of the elderly. Unvaccinated elderly and children were also affect by this variant, but not as quickly, but still with just as deadly finality; that is when a greater fear in most people in general set in; general panic, public rioting, looting of homes and businesses on a massive scale all became common in all cities and even most smaller towns... but it didn't last long.

The third (and final?) variant had already mutated, infant to mother, and was on its way to infect others within a single day of the second variant's arrival... and it would (and did) infect and affect every human on the planet, and all the primates as well, near as I can tell. And thus the end of all Human and Primate life on the planet. Again, near as I can tell.

During the first wave of deaths, while I was dealing with my parents' deaths and the pending sale or transfer of their 'estate', everyone around the world began to realize, via the media, the massive extent of the initial death toll... soon enough all legal proceedings over my parents' estate came to a temporary halt, as did all services and businesses for that matter; when children died in mass over the course of a few days everyone began freaking out. Shortly there after, mass deaths of adults.

I was dealing with the illness, then quick death, of my Best Friend when it all began to truly crumble into chaos; for 72 hours the lawlessness and pure evil and randomness of Humans (and animals) started off with a great intensity, but spiraled into an eerie quiet punctuated by the barking of dogs, yipping and howling of coyotes... and the growling of cats; domestic, feral and wild.

I keep thinking that I can't be the only one left alive... not just in this city, but in the state, the country, the continent, the world... surely others were resistant like I was... and surely there were those hidden away in bunkers that were not infected by the deadly variants of the virus... but it IS awfully quiet and peaceful in the ghetto... only animals moving around and making noises... but it has only been a few of days, perhaps a week, of quiet and the power has only just gone out last night... I would guess it has been over a week since anything was aired on TV or Radio (that was not automated)... about the same for anything Posted or Streamed Online... it all seemed to stop during the height of the chaos, during the first day or so of the 72 hours of chaos before the eerie quiet began.

It has been two weeks or more since my Best Friend first exhibited symptoms, but I have had no symptoms... until today; a sudden dry cough with an odd feeling in my throat and chest, and an odd taste in my mouth from the cough... that feeling and taste that tells you that you're sick before you're willing to admit or accept it. But I was not foolish, I heeded the warning and I had already made some plans. During the days since the quiet began I had ventured out further and further, gathering supplies; sometimes just scrounging up whatever I could find while exploring the neighborhood and surrounding areas, and sometimes targeted shopping trips at known businesses for specific items(if they were still there); all on foot, as the streets were too packed with vehicles and wreckage to be passable in a car or truck... and I still have not found a suitable motorcycle with keys.

I gathered up the gear that I had been collecting and preparing for this day, the day I was to leave the apartment and not come back. I put everything into and onto my backpack or heavy belt, then harnessed up 'the puppies' (our three miniature poodles that had made it through it all and were never away from my side) and put them in the special outer pockets of the backpack, shouldered it, then left the apartment, headed north towards the (dry) river.

It didn't take long to reach the riverside park where I intended to let the poodle-boys run for a bit. I was near a wild apple tree, one of the few in the southwestern desert, about to let the dogs loose when a coughing fit hit; it was short, but felt like I had just coughed a bong hit and left me breathless for a moment or two... it was then that I noticed the golden metal medallion in the shape of a foot on the ground buried deep within the branches of an old creosote bush. I felt compelled to grab it up immediately, rather like I did with most shiny things I have seen on the ground my entire life... part raven I think... I barely had time to look it over and see it for the metallic foot medallion that it was before it disappeared... or faded away... or what ever the fuck that it did... I was a bit slack jawed and not sure if that had just happened or if I had just had a minor hallucination.



The next cough wasn't has hard. Spittle tasted a bit like apple. Delusions maybe.. Setting the pups down he pushes to scoot them. Thinking if now is his time at least the puppies might survive. But the little beasts just sat looking at him strangely. After a bit he picked up the pups, slips them away and continues onward. Suddenly no goal in mind, no rhyme or reason, he starts whistling a little mechanic's song.

Off far in the distance he sees other scavengers. A small group. Dangerous to be in a group. Groups spread contagion and that means death., Solitude... well... means dying alone. They probably have scavenged everything up that way. Pickings in town were getting thin. Moving on made sense. If they saw him they might decide to scavenge him.

After a time the breathing was easier. The pickings had been grim but at least the scavengers were not hunting him. Coming to Indigenous Peoples Park, what was once Christopher Columbus Park, he sees trees, water, and empty spaces. As good of a resting place as any.

As he enters the park he sees an area unseen from the street. A large collection of cars and bikes and bodies. The sick and the dead. Walking among them he sees cuts from Hell's Angels, Outlaws, Mongols, and other small cubs. It was clearly a gun fight of epic proportions. Green Knights, a military based gang seems to have been in it to their necks, odd them not being 1%ers. There seems to be a few firefighter and police bike groups.

After looking it seems like this was once a camp. Isolated, of lawfully oriented bikers. Then a large group of usual enemies in the 1%s came and tried to take over. It didn't go well. Sick dead and wounded dead seem mixed together.

Not new either. This happened awhile ago, but clearly after the rule of law ended.

Still, no one is here now, and this is a lot of stuff no scavengers found until he arrived. All things considered, it was a good place to camp.

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

I look around one more time, and listen carefully, for scavengers or predators, then unshoulder my pack and let the poodles out of their 'travel pouches'. “Puppies...” I wait for them to all look at me; “Stay close.” I tell them. “No eating!” I say a bit sharply. “Ok. Go potty.” I say to set them loose to take care of their business. I stand and put the pack back on and look around.

As I move about the area, the poodles will (usually) stay within 15-20 away (at most) from me. I move a few feet then stop to look over the motorcycles, noting the Dirt Bike and Enduro models; any with racks on the back or handlebars will make me take more note. I move a few feet more, looking over things on the ground, on bodies, in bags or boxes. I keep checking on the poodles often. Though I had some food and water, it was very little and far from enough if I intended on getting far away from the city... and I wasn't ready to start hunting the coyotes, feral dogs and cats or newly freed domesticated pets roaming the city... but a javelina would get me to fire an arrow or maybe squeeze off a round, if I thought it safe enough from scavengers of all kinds.

Having already owned, purchased or collected over 90 percent of what I thought I might need before now, and a few scrounging trips in the last few days, there was little I needed; food and clean water always being the exception. And luxuries. And this place looked like it might have some of the luxuries, and specialty items, I was after; cigarettes, weed, alcohol and medications... not for recreation though; pain killers, antibiotics, anti-diareaha, etc. Maybe some more ammo and a throw-away handgun, and of course, let there be some food and or water.

I gave the poodles a couple of minutes in the same general area to 'go potty' while I surveyed the area for what was scavenge-able, and surveyed the lay of the land and the path or paths through the maze of motorized metal and rubber. Then I began moving deeper in, hopefully away from the bodies, to a better place to make an actual camp site, but still surveying the surroundings for supplies and keeping the poodles close with verbal commands or snaps of my fingers.

I was thankful for the cooler temperatures of the winter months here because it slowed the decomp of the bodies and the smell hadn't gotten overpowering yet... but it wasn't far off. Despite that, I was still unwilling to camp too close to dead bodies... maybe I could get upwind of the smell.

  • Michael James Watson

After a couple hours of checking there seems to be a huge amount of random supplies. The Green Knights seem to have had a well armed encampment before they got sick.

The 1%ers seemed both armed and sick when they came in. Having set aside gang grievances they came to pillage and bit off more then they could chew.

Hearing a playful yip from the pups he looks to see them sitting with a small girl. 10, maybe 9, petting them and taking their affectionate licks. She is wearing camo pants and top, a tac vest, Riot helmet, pouches full of ammo clips. She has a double barreled coach gun, 12 gauge, strapped to her back, which is to him.

She looks up, sees him, and stands up turning quickly. Long ragged brown hair frames her face. She extends a stainless .38, holding it with two hands.

"You ain't a asshole roller, are you? These your friends? The Asshole Rollers had pit bulls and killer dogs. My daddy shot all the rollers. Even as sick as he was. I got the good food over by the trike with the trailer. You and the pups can have some just don't make me shoot you. Daddy said folks are usually polite but they are more polite if I aim his backup gun at them."

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

I hold my hands up in front of me, palms outward, giving the 'I Surrender' gesture. I smile at her warmly but I do not approach.

"Yes, the little poodles are my friends. The gray one is named Fudge. The short chubby white one is named Berkeley, but he prefers to be called Berk-Berk. And the other white one is named Swirly but I call him Kuzco because he looks like a miniature llama."

I look around briefly, and listen carefully, to determine if there are others about.

"And your daddy is right, most people are more polite when a gun is pointed at them." I chuckled softly. "I'm not going to hurt you and I'm not going to take more than my fair share. But if you feel more comfortable keeping the gun pointed at me you just go right ahead. I guess your daddy's not around anymore." I look around again, briefly. "You can call me Rafael, like the Ninja Turtle. What should I call you?"

  • Michael James Watson

"I'll keep my true name to myself. Daddy called me Slugger. He had me shooting this at the rollers. I hit one below the belt buckle and daddy and uncle buck laughed.. you aren't a roller. Come on."

She move quickly among the ruins of camp and to the back of the camp where some tarps make a low tent.

A black and white cat sits on a pile of tire in front of the low entrance. It notes the dogs but they don't seem to want to chase it.

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

"Ok, Slugger. It's smart to keep your true name secret. And my true name isn't Raphael, either."

I follow her through the camp, making a note of all the paths in and out, and checking for defensible areas. And even though the poodles don't seem too interested in the cat at the moment, I still tell them, "Puppies... Behave. No Cats!"

I peek under the tarps and look around at the supplies. I start making mental notes of supplies I want to scavenge and where I saw them. "How long have you been here? In this camp. And how long have you been alone?" I ask, thinking about her chances of survival alone in this newly post-apocalyptic world. I certainly wasn't looking to adopt and care for a child, but I definitely didn't feel right about leaving her here alone once I am ready to depart.

  • Michael James Watson

As he looks into one area of the tarps he sees a withered sick man. He looks up, nods as Slugger steps up.

"Uncle Buck? I brought someone.. Not a roller.. He has some small dogs."

He smiles at her, then to Raph. "Slugger, you go get the keys to the trike. "

He waits till she runs off. "She's a survivor. Never got sick for a minute. No signs of the disease in her system. I was trying to get her to Crystal Palace. Colorado. There is a Disease emergency center there. We came here to say good by and all hell broke loose. Take her there. They will know what to do. Riverstone Bank, near it. There are three keys to gold reserves on my keychain. If she gets there its all yours.. Secret.. "

He goes through a fit of coughing.

"She...won't leave me a gun...That 45... Take her and go."

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

A deep sigh of resignation escapes my lips as I nod my head, knowing what I must do. "I'll get her there. You have my word, Buck. There's enough daylight left for us to get out of the city and to relative safety, so we will be leaving soon."

Another deep sigh, this one of resolve.

"I don't know what your religious beliefs are, but before this is over, I'm sure I'm going to have to send more than one Soul to it's Maker, so let me save yours from Suicide Damnation." A slight pause "I'm going to need a little time to scrounge up a few additional things and finish prepping the trike. Take that time to say your goodbyes to Slugger. I'll be back soon to take care of business before we leave."

I take a moment to look around the inside of the tarp shelter for luxury items; cigarettes, alcohol and weed... If they can be found in this camp, then they would most likely be hidden in here... Or close by.

I wait for Slugger to return with the keys before checking out the trike for it's preloaded supplies, then I gather up whatever else we might need and pack it in the trike trailer. I strap my pack to the back of the trike, leaving room for Slugger. I clip the dog carrying 'pouches' to the handlebars. I strap the 30.06 to the handlebars as well. I strap my two swords to the sides of the trike. I leave the .45 in it's holster on my right thigh.

Once everything is done, I check on the poodles, put them in their carrying pouches and clip them in to the links on their body harnesses. Then I return to the tarp shelter.

  • Michael James Watson

Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr. When he gets back he smells a strong sweet cigar smoke.

Looking in he sees buck has pulled himself up to sitting position. Three cigar boxes are next to him as well as a wood box of bottles. "Wife always said these would kill me but she kept letting me buy them. Cohiba Behike Cigars; $500 each."

He pulls up a bottle, pulls the cap an tosses it away.

"These she liked; pappy van Winkle, family reserve. $5,000 a bottle.",

He smells the cigar..."I've 6 cigars in the top box," He pulls the box to his lap, and tosses the other toward Raph.

"I've got 12 bottles in this case. I am going to smoke these cigars and drink the whiskey then take care of family business. You take the trike and trailer, and anything else you want, but especially that box of Cohibas and that case over there of 16 bottles of Pappy. Under that blue tarp is a case of grenades. Take Slugger and handle that piece of family business for me and I'll handle the rest of my family business, thank you kindly."

"You are a blessing really. When it came time to handle family business i was going to have her sit her and drink with me till she passed out. Then I'd have shot her in the head. Now, whatever happens to her beyond today I am spared committing that crime against family. " He fishes in the blankets and raises a grenade.

"I can't walk though, and that old .45 is just too far out of my reach. If you'll toss it to me I'll be grateful."

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

I catch the box of Cohibas tossed at me and put it under my left armpit for the time being and continue to listen to Buck. When he points to the case of whiskey meant for me, I place the box of cigars on top of it.

When he asks for the old .45, I reach over and pick it up, check to make sure it's loaded with one in the chamber, then I move in closer, crouching down to hand over the pistol, butt first.

"The safety's on. Don't get too drunk or you'll be too weak to take care of business."

Then I step over to the blue tarp Buck pointed at and pull it aside. I carefully open the case and inspect the grenades, visually; type, apparent age, condition, and how well they are packed. Closing the lid, I pick up the case up and place it on the ground next to the whiskey and cigars.

"Thanks for the supplies. If you happen to know the location of two full gas cans, a carton of smokes and a big bag of good weed, would you mind pointing me in the right direction. Pretty much all I need to complete my shopping list."

  • Michael James Watson

He chuckles around a chug of pappy.

"Id check the outlaw bikers. My guess is they are all kinds of holding. They just picked the wrong crowd to hit. We tried cleaning up. Emptied tanks. There should be a couple barrels out in the bike pileup. I'd suggest stripping a few tires. I don't plan to go too soon. And i won't till after you go so Slugger won't freak out.. She's a good girl but has a temper."

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

"Outlaw bikers; strip some tires. Gas in barrels; pileup. Got it. And thanks." I pause a moment before continuing. "And thanks for the warning about her temper."

I bend down and pickup the case of whiskey and box of Cohibas and place them on top of the case of grenades. I pick it all up and head over to the trike and place some or all of it in the trailer, or on the trailer for later strapping down.

I check on the poodles, tell them they are good boys and give them each a dog treat from my pocket.

"Hey Slugger..." I say, but not too loud as I look about for her.

I tell the poodles to behave then look for two gas cans and a siphoning hose, then head into the pileup looking for the barrels.

  • Michael James Watson

The poodles are sitting with the tuxedo cat. The 4 seem like old friends. While the dogs get their treat it licks its paw casually. Searching the dead is a gristly business but it clears a lot of things. a good supply of pharmaceutical marijuana, a large quantity of gold coins, and his pick of firearms the others hadn't gotten to collecting before it was too late.

When he returns to the trike he finds the pups in a cage and slugger in the back seat. She seems bundled up in cold weather gear, including a leather Green Knight's Cut. A Green helmet sits on the seat ahead of her.

"Uncle Buck and I talked. He wants me to go with you. I fit in this seat. I put the pups and my cat in the carrier. I got the cat food and what buck calls my Go Bag."

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

While searching the bodies I also scavenge up as many packs and cartons of cigarettes as I can find, canned foods with the labels still on them, empty prescription bottles, liquor bottles (even if they're empty) and a half a dozen fully loaded handguns. I also snatch up an assault rifle with an extra clip and some extra rounds.

Once the grizzly work is done and I have gathered all of my supplies together I take them back to the trike and deposit them on the ground. I take a jug of water and the remnants of a bottle of hand sanitizer and I clean myself up.

"Good job getting things ready for me, Slugger." I say while still cleaning up. "Thank you. You're a good kid."

Once the cleanup is done I check the gas tank and fill it if necessary, then strap the extra filled gas cans to the trailer, then I begin packing away all of the supplies. Some of the gold coins get put into a zippered fanny pack which I strap around my middle, the rest of the gold coins and majority of medical grade marijuana goes into my backpack as well as two cartons of smokes.

I take my hunting rifle from the handlebars of the trike and strap it to my backpack and then make sure the backpack is tightly secured to the back of the trike behind Slugger. I then take the assault rifle and put it across the handlebars where the hunting rifle was. The throw-away handguns gets wedged or lightly strapped strapped into convenient places around the trike.

I put on my army field jacket and then take 4 grenade from the case and put two in each side pocket. I take a bag of weed and some rolling papers and put them in the right breast pocket of my field jacket, and a pack of smokes and Bic lighter in the left breast pocket.

I fill the liquor bottles with water and other liquids until they look like the alcohol they are supposed to be. I then take a cardboard box and cut the tape off of it but do not cross fold the flaps so that it will stay closed; the intent is for the box to fly open at some point. I then fill the box with the canned foods, packs and cartons of cigarettes, prescription bottles and the filled liquor bottles.

I finish strapping down the supplies on the trailer, making sure everything is nice and secure. Then I take the cardboard box that I just filled and put it on top of everything else on the trailer and tie it down with its own separate rope with a slip knot for easy release, leaving a long piece of rope leading up to the trike which I loosely secure next to Slugger.

"Don't pull this rope unless I tell you to" I say to Slugger.

Lastly I pull out the bag of weed and break up a tiny amount, then I pull out a cigarette and knock a little tobacco out of the end and pack it with the cleaned weed. Then I light up and enjoy. I only used a small amount of weed so that I would not get stoned but just enough to take the edge off. Once I finish my smoke I drop it to the ground and snuff it with my boot.

"Ok, Slugger, it's time to leave." I say, then look over the trike and trailer one last time, check on the animals one last time, and then put on the green helmet sitting on the seat. Then I place myself on the trike and start it up. I rev the engine once, put it in gear and say "Hold on to yer butts!", then navigate my way out of the camp and towards the streets.

My intent is to NOT travel on the interstate and instead use the highways and byways to avoid all the major cities. Thankfully I am familiar with the western United States, and more thankfully I have an older road atlas in my backpack that still shows most of the dirt roads and access roads that don't show up on more current road atlases.

As I navigate the clogged streets of Tucson, heading towards Oracle Road, aka Highway 77, I keep my head on a swivel for threats and dangers of all sorts; human, animal, obstacles, terrain and environmental. Once on Highway 77 northbound, I stay ultra-wary until we are out past Oro Valley and Catalina, the northern most parts of the Tucson greater area, then I increase speed and relax just a bit and settle in for a long ride.

Between cities and towns, I keep my eyes open for snipers and likely areas (blind corners) for ambushes in the places I would sit to pick off travelers or block the road... (this is a game, as well as others, I would play in my mind while traveling the roadways of the Western U.S. as a child and adult, passenger and driver. I was, and will always be, a Gamer; always pretending / role playing in my head, but sometimes it's playing 'what if...?'.) I have traveled the Highways and Interstates of the Western U.S. for most of my life, both business and pleasure related; travel and driving seemed to be in my destiny... if I believed in such crap.

While traveling northerly on Hwy 77, then Hwy 60 & 61 once we get past Globe, headed towards Hwy 191, as we approach and pass through the smaller cities and towns along the way, I slow down for safety reasons and my wariness increases; again, head on a swivel.

I stop after about two to three hours of travel, if dark has not fallen first... but NOT anywhere in or near a city or town; the more wild and removed from civilization the better.

However far that gets us depends on any obstacles or delays we might encounter along the way and the relative road and weather conditions. After three hours, surely the poodle-boys and possibly Slugger, will need a break to pee, at the very least... and maybe it would be about time to find a place to camp for the night anyway.


  • Michael James Watson

After six hours on the road, Raph is getting tired. He comes up to a Intersection and sees it is busier then anything he has seen on the road yet. There is a clear guard post ahead, looking well defended. Created of Cars stacked for hundreds of yards left and right. It would be hours back to find any reasonable way around it.

He sees an American flag on one side of the gate. Then other flags. State flags, team flags. Must have hit a tourists shop. The one across the gate from the us flag is a familiar one but hanging limp he can't see it all. It might be... but he can't see it all. Slugger says..."I got wee. Are we stopping?"

There is a sign on the gate but he'll have to get closer. Its in large letters and in three different types of script He sees 6 guards in what looks like improvised armor, each with AR-15s. One is casually smoking a cigar as he waves.

As he sees the sign clearer he sees its written in English, Spanish, Russian... and Elvish.

Welcome to Fort Garland. Everyone welcome except Orcs. Peacebond all weapons. Food to the left. Gas to the right. Pay for everything. Gold, Silver, Ammo, Luxury Items Accepted. There is a Doctor with free food 10 miles South and to the West 2 miles. Be calm of we'll kill you.

The words in the Black Speech is only one sentence.

Orcs-go away Nart Nart! we'll Taag Okak

Despite terror of the least few months and the 6 hour ride, Raph is feeling better. Not coughing much. His hands feel steady and less arthritic. His breathing is better.

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

"Yes, Slugger, we're stopping. I gotta wee too. And I'm sure the animals do too."

As I approach the gate closer and see the sign and the different languages I start laughing out loud. I kill the engine as I reach the guards. "Elvish? Black Speech? No Orcs?" I say with mirth. "Gotta love the Gamer Nerd Culture! Great way to keep the morale up with some levity. No worries guys, no Orcs with me" I say to the guards. "We hates Orcsz, preshush!" I say like Smeagol.

I look at the sign again and then over to the guard.

"Peace Bond, huh? Well I got a fair number of weapons. Is it your job to peace Bond them, or do I do it myself?"

  • Michael James Watson

A man jumps down and walks up. Sniffing. He looks like a Seattle hippster in what once were designer overalls, with a well trimmed red beard and a scully hat.

"Well sureing you don't look like an orc. But coming up from the south you must have had some run ins. I'm Marko Doyle, 3rd Mayor of Fort Garland. Let me look over your gear, eyeball the guns. I'll take your tempurate and do a quick swab test. If you are clean I'll give you a pass token. I don't think someone on a bike like that is part of the Bruised Hand. and coming from the south you are probably not with the Sylvan Horde. We are still part of Colorado but everyone is dealing with things differently. There is a federal presence up in Colorado Springs you know. Air Force, Space Command, CDC, Feebies and Atfas. Denver is the national capital of course, but i suspect you know that. As long as you give the feds a wide swing you should be ok. The Feds get a bit grabby. I suggest gassing up first.; You might stay a few days and then discover the pumps are dry till supplies come in from CARTO. After that food is to left. You can get most anything if you got trade goods. Camp space is north of the road. We don't have spare indoor lodgings. sorry.."

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

As the man begins talking I realize his talk of Orcs seems serious. No hint of humor at all... Odd. And the mention of the Bruised Hand and Sylvan Horde... Even more odd. This confuses me slightly, but I let it slide for the moment as I listen to the rest of his information. Some of it doesn't sound quite right, but a lot has happened in the last few weeks... it is possible that some part of the government survived and relocated to Denver... but again, something doesn't seem quite right.

"Pleased to meet you, Mayor Doyle. My name is Raphael and this little one behind me is Slugger. I also have three dogs and a cat back in the trailer. Hope pets are okay. Fortunes have favored us as we had no run-ins with anyone on our trip getting here. Guess we're the lucky ones. I appreciate your information and will definitely take advantage of some of the services here; I do have some goods to trade. Definitely should gas up before we move on. Headed to the Emergency Center near Colorado Springs; Slugger here has been completely symptom free during all this craziness... I think she might be immune, which is why we're headed there. I had a slight cough when I woke up this morning, but have been feeling considerably better as the day has progressed. Guess it was just allergies."

I chuckle softly, to ease any tension. But I do find it a bit odd that I am feeling much better now than I was this morning, especially considering the normal progress of the virus once symptoms begin and the 6 hour road trip. I should be feeling wiped out but I don't... again, odd.

"And I'm not too worried about housing, I am used to spending time outdoors and have plenty of gear for such. Just need a place to pitch my tent and park the trike for the night."

  • Michael James Watson

"Pleasure is all mine, Raphael. Hey there Slugger. Pets are fine. You say you came up without trouble? Passing through Albuquerque? Did you go through the reservation land? The Navaho, Ute, Hopi and Zuni seemed to have handled the change well but they have some serious internal problems with the smaller groups. If you came up the 25 I don't need to tell you that. The change hit them hard and they are managing it. Becoming real big time earth Indians. They struck a deal with the officials at Durango. The word is leave them alone and they will buffer us from the Bruised Hand. The Mescalero over at Hollman, ya know, White Sands took the change bad. Half-breed like Orcs but Indian. Feathers, not dots. Look its none of my business how you got here but If you talk to Mayor Carl, give him the skinny you saw south, he'll give ya a token too. 2 tokens is 2 months inside Fort Garland. As for going to the CDC at the Springs, its your business but they don't know anything more about the change then any of the rest of us do. Six months and the best they can say is people changed. Like duh."

He looks over things casually, clearly whatever makes him nervous isn't on the bike. He takes temperatures and hands Raphael a cheek swabs, "Just a swirl inside the cheek. We don't need a blood draw. Though, if you want to hold up in Garland for a few months Mayor Christine will give you a token for full scans, blood, piss, and interviews on how the change effected you."

He collects the swabs and dips each in a tube.

Nodding, "Good. Ok, you're clear. Gate will open in a sec."

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

The logical part of my brain begins to reel; Orcs. Sylvan Horde. Six months. People just changed! What in the actual fuck is going on!? I think to myself. And from what I could see, there sure seemed to be a lot of people in this community for a devastating worldwide pandemic. A pandemic that nearly wiped out everyone in Tucson, near as I could tell. And worldwide too, for that matter, according to the news reports I heard before all systems and services went down. And how did I get to Fort Garland Colorado in just 6 hours? That trip should have taken at least 10 to 12 hours.

Then the more imaginative part of my brain kicks in. My Gamer Mind takes over and I begin thinking about the role playing games I used to play, especially the Amber game. Different worlds. Different possibilities. All sitting right next to each other with only a thin Veil separating them. Is it possible that I have crossed over into a different world? Is it possible that everything I read in those books and played in that game could be real? Did I just move from one Shadow Earth to another? Did I somehow stumble across a Shadow Path that brought me here?

I knew I had to be cautious. I needed information, but I knew I had to be very careful about how I asked questions. And more importantly, how I answered questions; I knew I had to guard my words and be careful what I told anyone about where I came from and what I saw.

"Well, thank you again for the information, Mayor Doyle. And the hospitality." I hold up the Pass Token he gave me. "But I'm not sure how useful my information will be, considering I didn't run into any problems or really see anyone on my trip here. Maybe it was my choice of little-used highways. Or maybe just the timing of my trip. Either way, I consider myself lucky that I had such a peaceful and uneventful ride."

Once the gate opens up I start up the trike and head in moving towards the gas pumps. Once we are out of earshot of the gate guards I lean back to talk to Slugger.

"Slugger, don't talk to anyone. Just pretend you're shy and look away from anyone that talks to you or asks you questions. Something weird is going on and we need to be careful until I can figure out what it is."

  • Michael James Watson

"Well, Uncle Buck told me to shoot anyone you tell me to. Not that I want to but it was like the time when the bad men came into the house. Sometimes you gotta. I got to wee bad though.. And im powerfully hungry."

Turning into town its clear this place is well armed. To one side is a resteraunt area with a BBQ going outside. The other is an Arco station. Turning in to Arco, up to the pump, a dwarf walks out of the door, shotgun over his shoulder. His beard is dyed colorfully. He walks up to Raph.

"Just getting in? Ok, We got gas. Whatcha got to trade?"

Slugger says, "I got to wee"

THe dwarf laughs, "Do you? Well thats a start. In the door on the side, little lady. There is a yellow can. Pee in that. If you got to pinch a loaf use the brown toilet seat."

Looking up, " Nitrate, Fertilizer, you know. So two peeing i guess. That's a start. What else?"

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

At the site of the Dwarf... not a Little People Dwarf, but a Dwarf like from an RPG, I am mildly shocked, but at the same time, not really. I am a Gamer after all. If there are Orcs and Elves here, why not Dwarfs as well. I force myself not to stare, but his beard of many colors makes it difficult. I try to take it all in stride, mainly because I have to.

“Ok, Slugger, wee first, food shortly. When your done, come straight back and let the poodle-boys and the kitty cat out so they can wee as well; but make sure to leash all three dogs first. You take them over to that dirt spot right there.”

I point to a spot nearby that I can easily keep an eye on, then I look to the Dwarf. “If that's ok with you? Or is there somewhere special for pets to do their business?”

I get off the trike and pickup Slugger then place her on the ground, then pull a partial roll of TP from an outside pocket on my backpack and give to her. Then I give her a playful little shove in the direction of the indicated door, then turn back the pack and pull out three 6ft leashes and put them on the seat of the trike, then I turn to the colorful Dwarf.

“I'd like to fill the gas tank and the two gas cans on the trailer, if possible. What is your preferred type of payment? I have a variety of goods. What is considered most valuable here? Or most in need?”

  • Michael James Watson

"Well, you seem well heeled and none to effected by the Change. You'll be giving water for the cause but lets say 100 rounds, any ammo will fill the bike and a couple cans. Ammo is scarce. Six months and three days ago I was leading 12 tank trucks up from Galveston with Texas's finest go-go juice. We stopped here and one of the boys got in a fight and it took a couple days to get Mayor Clyde to see reason. Just a bar scuffle. That night the Change hit. Went to sleep as 6'6", 400 pounds of muscle and beard and I woke up like this. The good people of Fort Garland saw the reason in protecting ourselves. But we run low on ammo as the Southern biker gangs went orc and on a killing spree. So Ammo is like gold. Not that I wouldn't take gold. For some reason I like it well."

He waits to see what ammo Raphael offers

  • Michael James Watson

Looking over the ammo he says, "Looks nice and clean. You know, there ain't shit worth seeing up north. Denver is like madness on crack. The Change hit big cities hard but seeing how you roll i can't imagine i need to tell you that. And the feds at Colorado springs aren't much better. Still think there is a USA and the rest of us should just do what they say. Who they kidding?"

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

I would have initially offered up any spare ammo I collected from the biker camp back in Tucson, whatever went with the throw-away handguns I grabbed, and a lot of .45 ACP. I do not offer the 30-06 or assault rifle ammo.

"To be perfectly honest, friend... I'm not really sure where I'm headed now. The whole reason I was headed to The Springs really is kind of moot, knowing what I know now. Got a bit to ponder on it seems. If you're willing to take mixed ammo, I'll trade 100 rounds for the gas tank and cans. If all one type, 75 of the .45 ACP. What do you say? Have we a bargain?"

  • Michael James Watson

"Mixed is fine. They all fit in something. I'd be willing to deal for the .45 ammo though. Thats for me, not the Arco Boys. I pack 12 g salt loads. I'd trade ya 200 salt loads. Good for when you just want to piss someone off, not kill them. Hey...If you got no place to go Fort Garland is up and coming. We got good relations with the Indians. Most went Old School Indian but the Navahos went elven, mostly. We got us a genuine Nez Perce shaman over at the tavern. Got good rep with Denver and Durango. The Feds work with us. Talk to Mayor Clyde. He runs a lot of the wall defense.. Could always use a good gun. There are kids here too. Slugger would fit in well.. "

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

This new information about a Change that took place overnight and people becoming Elves and Dwarfs and Orcs and such is just like an RPG I played... once or twice... Shadowrun if I recall correctly... it was a long time ago. I was trying not to freak out or geek out on this guy while I finished sorting out the ammo.

As I sort out the ammo, I realize I only have 100 rounds in my reserve of backup ammo I scrounged, mostly of the varying handgun calibers for the throw-away guns I scrounged and the rest in .45 that I managed to find.... that would leave only the ammo I brought from home for my .45, my 30-06 and the ammo I scrounged for the scrounged AK47 assault rifle. And since ammo was scarce, and I only have ammo for the weapons I am carrying, I suddenly decide to switch things up, so I put all the ammo away.

Then I reach for the leather 'fanny pack' at my waist, open the zipper just enough to fish out a single gold coin, which I do not show off in any way and carefully hand it over to the Dwarf.

“Since there's a shortage of ammo, and my back-up supply is only for what I'm carrying, I think I'd rather pay with those. How many of those do the Boys at Arco need for their fuel? And I'll have to get back to you on the trade for .45 ammo; I don't have a shotgun and when I pull the trigger my intent is to kill, not piss off. I'll be staying the night for sure, possibly tomorrow as well, maybe more. Got some thinking to do... and probably some talking... and certainly a lot of listening."

"So, what's that coin worth here, friend? And you can call me Raphael.”

As I introduced myself, I swear I felt myself 'slip into character'... like I was playing myself in an RPG... it felt weird... but not that weird. ~I love being a Gamer... this shit is sooo cool...~ I think to myself. ~But it's also real, you idiot... you should be scared shitless...~ I also think to myself. But I'm not.

  • Michael James Watson

He flips the coin around several times, "Well the elves do love the maple leafs. Arco Boys.. That's what we call ourselves. We all seemed to have become dwarves and the owners of the Arco station are in Dubai so they can come bitch us out for not sending good gold their way. Raphael, call me Rodak. You tell anyone around here for the next couple days that you have a tab with me. Lets say a weeks lodgings, food bars for meals. There are cargo containers out behind Woodies's place. Tell woody to put it on my tab. You can back the bike right up in it. Use your own lock. An I'll fill your tank and two containers twice. So don't go riding too far. If the walls are attacked I hope you'll join the fight."

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

So... the gold has some weight; very cool. And Rodak just saved me some time and effort. I think I made a friend... or business partner at the least... and perhaps a key contact here in Fort Garland.

"If the walls are attacked, I will help defend; you have my word. And since you have weight here... and my gold has weight with you..." I hand him another coin, looking at it first to make sure it matches the one I handed him, "let's upgrade the lodgings to include pets and separate but attached rooms and upgrade the food... that BBQ smells good. And how about Woody or one of his boys keeps an eye on things as well... I'd hate to lose any of this. And I'd like to make sure that my poodles and Slugger's tuxedo cat are not mistaken for food or sport."

"And I'm pretty sure I will be staying on a while... at least a week or so. Pleased to meet you Rodak. I'm sure we'll be seeing each other again quite soon and perhaps often."

I turn to look towards the door, hoping all is well with Slugger. I grab the leashes and open the trailer door to let the animals out. I leash the poodle boys and head over to the dirt spot I told Slugger to take them, a spot near the door Rodak had told her to go in. I let the cat do what it wants; it's a cat.

  • Michael James Watson

"Here now pilgrim... I ain't in charge of Woodies and I ain't in charge of the motel and I ain't your butt boy. This ain't the Waldorf. You wanna run a tab, that's fine with me. Tell people you got a tab and do your own bartering. We don't have enough folks to run your errands. Now, Woodie puts your gear in a container it as safe as my stuff. But you barter past these two pretty coins it not my ass they will be renting out. Frankly it won't be yours neither. Savvy? So be careful what you buy, we don't know you. But..."

He flips the two gold.

"but. I got a good feeling we going to get along. You and your rig don't look haphazard. And the change kept you human"

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

"My apologies, Rodak. I didn't mean to offend or overstep. And I am really sorry for coming off as a snobbish entitled asshole, because I'm really not."

I chuckle then let out a sigh and continue.

"A lot has changed since... well, the Change, and I'm still trying to catch up and get a read on things. I hope you'll forgive me; I've been isolated for awhile... been spending a lot of time away from people and civilization. Before the Change I had kind of gotten tired of people and their ways so I headed out to the sticks and have been spending a lot of time in the more isolated parts of the Southwest. It's only been within the last couple of days or so that I returned to civilization. That's how I ended up with all this gear and how I met Slugger... and how we ended up here. I found her at the site of a huge massacre, all her family was dead and her uncle was near death; he begged me to get her to safety before he passed."

I let out another sigh, this one a bit deeper with a bit of weariness on it, and I shake my head.

"I thank you for your candor and the information. It is greatly appreciated. I'm sure we'll get along fine, and I'm sure I'll fit in well enough, just got to remember how to be 'civilized' again."

I chuckle again and give him a broad smile while I tend to the animals as they do their business. I look over towards the door, hoping Slugger hurries up because I've been holding it a while too and I gotta pee pretty bad as well.

I ponder my next several moves while waiting my turn and watching the animals: Food for all of us... bbq for me and Slugger and maybe the same for the animals. But I really should secure the trike, trailer and excess gear... so, Woody's first, then bbq. After that, lodgings. I needed to figure out what happened; how Slugger and I ended up in another world... and I needed to talk to Slugger about what has happened, once I figure out a bit more, and talk to her about her future, now that she has one... outside of being a human pincushion in a lab somewhere back in the Colorado I was headed for, as opposed to the Colorado I reached.

  • Michael James Watson

When he talks to Woodie he learns several things. Woody, a human, says 6 months ago he was an elderly hippie. Now he feels like a 25 year old. His hair even got darker and filled in bald spots.

He ran a campground and still does. He also ran a storage area for big stuff. Tractors, combines, a lot of the farm stuff. He had leased a huge lot to a company that brought storage containers here to ready for shipping down south. So when the Change hit he had 40 storage containers out in the back lot. Half had all been empty. Now storing vehicles is good business.

As for the campground, Raph can have any one of a dozen camp spots. Back in the day he also had storage RVs. 60 of them. People from Colorado, New Mex, Kansas, as far as California, stored their RVs here and picked them up on their way up into the mountains. Now he rents them out by the week. Of course if anyone shows up claiming one they can have it. He's no thief after all.

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

I rent an empty storage container nearest the campground possible, and I rent a campsite nearest the storage yard possible; with any luck (hehe), they might be right next to each other. I also rent a large RV for Slugger to stay in while we are here and park it in my rented campsite space. I stay in my tent outside the door of the RV. And though I mentioned Rodak and his tab, I withdraw a single gold coin, the same type as the ones I paid Rodak with and tell Woody:

"Don't bother charging Rodak's Tab; I'll pay with this" I hand him the gold coin "and have some credit with you for later, if and when I need it. If that's okay with you."

I smile in a friendly manner, my speaking manner and tones are friendly and upbeat, my body language is non-threatening. I am normally a friendly and outgoing person, at least I was before the Pandemic.

After backing the trike and trailer into the storage container, I collect some belongings and put them on, strap them on or put them on a belt or in a pocket.

As I exit the storage container I am bearing my Moro Sword on my left hip, my Khukuri knife on my right hip, the .45 still strapped low to my right thigh, a set of three flat steel throwing daggers in a nylon sheath next to the Khukuri and a matching set and sheath on the other side next to the sword. There are also four matching square nylon pouches on the front of my belt, two to either side of the buckle, each containing 3 tri-pointed throwing stars.

I place my Kryptonite lock on the storage container, make sure I have the keys, then close and lock it up, placing the keys back inside my pants pocket.

I still wear the Army Field Jacket and the AK47 is slung over my right shoulder and Slugger is at my side and the poodles on leashes between us, Slugger holding the leashes, as we head to the BBQ place. Slugger is still armed with her Daddy's backup gun and her shotgun.

  • Michael James Watson

Woodie looks at the gold, "Far Out... ah... Ya...this'll keep you in a RV for a couple months. If you decide to stay in FG I can help ya find one of the abandoned houses. The Change may have made Orcs of some people but it also wided a third out who didn't wake up. We've made sure no one is living in them but they are still furnished.

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

"Well, Woody, if I have need of long term housing, I will let you know. For now the storage container and RV should do it."

Slugger and I walk over to the BBQ place to get some food and perhaps meet some of the townsfolk.

On the way to get food I decide to talk to Slugger about what is going on, near as I can tell it, anyway. She seems pretty smart. I was at her age, and they say girls mature / advance faster / sooner than boys, so... here goes.

"Hey Slugger, slow up a bit. I know you're hungry, and so am I... but we need to talk about some things. Some important things. Things like; what has happened. Where we are now. What I promised your Uncle Buck. What is best for you and your future."

I pull out a square green foil packet, unopened; with a chocolate covered brownie within; the MRE equivalent of a candy bar. I've seen guys fight over these during my time in the Army National Guard while on days long field operations. I am about to open it and offer it to Slugger, but then stop myself and hold it out, unopened.

"First; an important lesson, to keep yourself safe: Never accept an opened food package or food container or an opened drink from someone you don't know very well; it could be drugged or poisoned."

I show her the foil pouch is unopened then hand it to her.

"This will tide you over for just a little bit. Let the poodle-boys sniff about while you walk slowly, eat and listen. Do not give any of that to the dog-boys; chocolate is not good for dogs and can make them sick."

"When we left Tucson your Uncle told me to take you to the Disease Emergency Center near Colorado Springs, because you are immune to the Virus and they would have taken care of you so they could figure out why you're immune, and them make everyone left alive immune too."

"But in our travels from the place we met, we have somehow arrived at a different Colorado; a Colorado that is not in the same world as the Tucson we left. It's kind of like that animated movie; Spider-man: Into the Spiderverse, where there are other Earth's, other 'dimensions' is what they called them in the movie. Well, Slugger, it looks like we ended up in one. Another Earth where instead of a deadly virus killing everyone, there was a Change that happened overnight and people suddenly became Orcs and Elves and Dwarfs... like from those Lord of the Rings movies."

I pause, giving her a moment to let things sink in.

"I have more to say, but I need to know; do you understand any of what I told you, Slugger?"

  • Michael James Watson

"Ya... we're fucked."

"What's your cat's name?"

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

After laughing at Slugger's succinct assessment, I say:

"I thought it was your cat? It was on the little stack of tires outside the tarp shelter your Uncle Buck was lying in, back it Tucson. That was the first time I saw it. I assumed it was following you or that you brought it along."

I turn my head and look down at the cat, raising my right eyebrow into an arch, just like Spock. "Curious."

"And we are not... totally fucked..." I say, turning back to Slugger, "But yeah, we are a bit fucked. But we are somewhat better off than most due to the all the gear and gold we have... and the fact that I am a Gamer and you are a smart child, still able to accept the fantastic as real without missing a beat; which means: we both just accept new things, strange or not, and just deal with it."

"So, anyway, all of this means that what ever your Uncle Buck told you and what ever he told me, and any plans that you or I had upon leaving Tucson, is all moot... doesn't matter anymore. Everything has changed, and we have to adapt or die."

"Now... I want to do right by the promise I made your Uncle... and being a mostly decent Human I want what is best for you... BUT... I am not looking to adopt and care for a child. No offense, Slugger; you may be a great kid, but I am not a good role model nor a good parent; I know I am a bit too selfish to raise children... this I already learned in my previous life, in that other world."

A remembrance of the past, a brief silence, a sad look, then I continue.

"I don't know how long I will be staying here in Fort Garland. I don't know where I will go next or what that next place will be like. While I am here in Fort Garland, I will look after you, but if I find a suitable home for you here, then you will stay if and when I depart.... and I hope you find it suitable too. If I find nobody suitable here, then you will come with me until I find you a suitable home and family. Until then, be careful talking about things before we got here... don't talk about people getting sick and dying everywhere. Tell people you don't remember much, or you don't want to talk about it, if you like."

  • Michael James Watson

"Ah, ya, I'm going to stick with you. Uncle Buck insisted. He told me to never let you leave me behind. I got my own gold and I can shoot things. Ya know.. .if this is like the spideyverse, and where things are kinda the same, wouldn't the place Uncle Buck wanted you to take me be kinda the same too?"

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

"Yes, it will be kinda the same... and kinda different, too."

I smile with real admiration for this smart kid.

"But the reason your Uncle Buck wanted me to take you there, in that world, not this world, was because you would have been cared for there because you are immune to the virus of that world."

"None of that matters here, in this world."

A short pause for effect.

"Taking you to the same place here, in this world, will not be the same, because you are not from this world and your immunity does not apply to what has happened here. It is very likely you will not be treated the same way, here in this world. It is possible they will not see us or listen to us and will turn us away."

"And neither of us can truly afford to tell the people of THIS world that WE came from a different world. A world with a sickness that killed everyone. They might think us crazy and lock us up... or kill us. Or they might believe us and kill us for bringing the sickness here... or lock us up to prevent it from spreading... or worse; they might experiment upon us."

I pause for a moment, to let Slugger process all of this. I recall the cigs, so I pull out the pack of smokes and Bic lighter, pull a cig from the pack, light it and put the lighter and pack away. I puff a couple of times, then continue.

"But if you insist on going to the CDC in Colorado Springs, like your Uncle Buck wanted, then I will take you there. If that is the only place you will part company with me, then that is where I will take you. But know that I am also considering other things, perhaps some better options for you, for your future, here in a different world. I know I'm selfish, but I'm not an asshole or a bad person."

I continue to puff on the cig, wondering how much Slugger understands... wondering how much of an asshole I really am... wondering what might happen if / when we go to The Springs.

"You think on it, Slugger. We will talk about it more, later tonight and tomorrow. We should eat, and learn about how things work here and learn more from the townsfolk... by just listening to them talk. Most people like to talk, and most like to talk about themselves... all you have to do is ask a question, or make a comment, then listen. So, BBQ?" I ask ,then take a final puff, drop the cig and snub the butt with my boot.

  • Michael James Watson

She nods, "BBQ sounds good. Curios will look after the dogs. Keep them from BBQing them!"

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

"Oh... So, you've named and claimed the cat now, have you?" I say playfully and with a smile.

"And you're just going to order the cat around and make it do things for you, are you?"

"What? Are you some sorta Jedi? Wavin' your hands around..." I say in a gruff voice, like Watto (the little winged blue dude) from one of the Star Wars prequel movies. Then I smile again and laugh playfully as we head for BBQ.

  • Michael James Watson

"You called it that. Good name though. The dogs like him. And you don't order a cat around! Everyone knows that. You ask nicely. Dogs you can order but they might not like it. You go ordering a cat around it'll poop in your shoes."

The bbq turns out to be a nice safe beef. They have taken cows in trade.

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

A huge smile splits my face as I begin laughing at Sluggers assessment of cats versus dogs; it's spot-on... and she's a really smart kid.

"Actually, I didn't name the cat Curious, I was just making a commentary on how it is curious that the cat has glommed on to us. But you are right, it is a good name for a cat. And you are even more right that you don't tell a cat to do anything, you ask nicely. Otherwise you get poo in your shoe... Or other places."

If there is a table and chairs outside the barbecue place, that is where I choose to sit, that way I can have a smoke, and the dogs won't bother anyone inside. I know that most businesses didn't allow pets inside, or at least that's how it was before. While eating, I feed the dogs a bit of the BBQ.

"You are all good boys for not chasing the cat and for playing nice. Good boys. And if the cat gets into any trouble, you're supposed to help him now, poodle-boys. It's your friend now."

I also feed a small amount of BBQ to the cat.

"You are a good cat and thank you for not beating up the dogs. We are going to call you Curious. This little girl's name" I point to Slugger, "is Slugger, and I think she is supposed to be your Human now. I would appreciate it greatly if you would keep an eye on her. And Slugger would appreciate it greatly if you would keep an eye on the dogs and make sure they don't become barbecue."

As I continue eating I ponder my current situation. As incredible as it may seem, impossible even, Slugger and I have ended up on another world. It makes me think about the Amber RPG I played for many years. It makes me think about how the Amberites can travel from Shadow to Shadow at will. It seems that this is what has happened to us, that we have traveled to another Shadow of Earth. But what is really boggling my mind is how this happened. I eat a little more barbecue as I ponder.

Then I began thinking about all that has occurred since I left my apartment back in Tucson. I think about that weird foot shaped medallion that I found at the park... The medallion that disappeared after I picked it up ... no, wait... It didn't disappear, or fade away, I think it absorbed into my hand, now that I think back on it. I stare at my right hand, looking at my palm wear The Medallion had been before it disappeared, or absorbed into me... Or whatever happened. For some reason, The Medallion seems familiar... like a dusty old memory. Something from my Amber RPG that I had been playing with my favorite GM for years online. Perhaps something I read on the wiki pages that he had set up with all of his gaming information. I reach behind my chair to grab my backpack so I can retrieve my laptop where I have all of my Game Master's Wiki information downloaded to the hard drive. But then I realize that I left my backpack with the trike and the RV in the storage container. Guess I'll just have to check on that later.

After I finish eating I pull out my little bag of weed and rolling papers and I twist up a joint, then light it up and enjoy.

"After I finish this, let's walk around a little bit and get familiar with the town and let people get familiar with seeing us. I think we'll go to the tavern as well. Wouldn't mind grabbing a drink and meeting some of the locals. What do you think Slugger?"

  • Michael James Watson

While addressing the cat it seemed to pay particular attention. It looks at Slugger when directed and back again. It seems to nod its head in agreement then starts grooming its paw. It looks up as Raph talks to the dog, the rolls over, raises a leg to do some personal grooming.

When he thinks of the medallion that melted into his hand the image of it appears on his palm, vibrant, like an exquisitely intricate tattoo. Parts of it seem to have a light of their own. There is a sense of contentment in the medallion itself, not the wearer. But by observation Raphael feels tight somehow. Stretching his hand he feels strength in his hand. Somehow he feel less winded. Something just beyond the ability to perceive is happening.

After mentioning getting a drink and meeting people she says, “Sounds good. I could use a brewski.”

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

I try not to choke on my hit off the joint as I'm overcome by laughter yet again.

"Well, if you know how to handle your alcohol, then who am I to stop you." A mirthful snort. "I told you I'm not a good role model for children, right? So, what say we amble on over to the saloon and get us some brewskiis, eh Slugger."

I stand, then bend down to unhook the leashes from the chair leg, then hand the leashes to Slugger. I pull a single gold coin from the leather 'belt pouch' (I refuse to call it a fanny pack ever again.) and take it to the proprietor of the BBQ Place, give the coin to him/her and say:

"Call me Raphael. Slugger and I enjoyed the food and will be coming back for more; we will be staying for several days or more... as will my three miniature poodles and tuxedo cat... so make sure they don't become bbq by mistake." I chuckle. "Please and thank you. I know I mentioned Rodak's tab, but I'd rather just pay with that coin, for now and later. If that's okay with you."

I ask for directions to the tavern then depart with a smile and a wave, heading the way I was told, with Slugger holding the leashes for the Poodle Boys and Curious nearby, surely.

  • Michael James Watson

The cook, a large burly man in his 80s, but vigorous takes the coin, rolls it over his finger and hands it back.

"Raphael, I'm Old Bruce and its a pleasure to meet you. Keep your gold, I'll bill Rodak. He's something of a banker around here. He won't tell anyone how much gold you gave him and if you out spend it he'll send one of the Arco boys to tell you to stop or to get more. In the mean time I don't get a reputation for having anything worth stealing other then my secret dry rub.

He breaks open two rolls and stuffs them with three fingers of beef. Wrapping each, adding a small collection of bones, wrapping the lot and putting it in a brown bag.

"Bones for the dogs. Before the Change this town had less then a 500 people. Now it has over five thousand. Not all of them good people. Don't go flashing that gold around, you'll get a reputation. I saw you come from Woodies. He's safe. Hes gpt a reputation himself to protect. . But if you go any where else, drop Rodak's name. The biggest shitkicking Orc in town doesn't want to have trouble the with Arco Boys. Oh ya.. The Orcs in town are not affiliated with the out of town ones. Mostly Fort Garland and Blanca natives that went Orc. Just so you know. "

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

I slip the gold coin back into my belt pouch and close the zipper.

"Old Bruce, it is my great pleasure to meet you; you make one helluva barbeque... been missin' that. I appreciate your candor, the information and the advice. Not lookin' to get rolled or get on anyone's bad side while we're here... so thank you for the heads up on the gold, the Arco Boys and the local Orcs. Slugger and I will be back again, I'm sure. Have a good evenin'."

As we leave, heading to the tavern, I think to myself: ~Dwarfs. Orcs. Elves. This is so cool. Gonna take a little getting used to, but still cool.~

Along the say I find myself singing a Led Zeppelin tune in my head, so I continue it out loud... but not too loud.

I ain't tellin' no lie~ Mine's a tale that can't be told~ My freedom I hold dear~ How years ago in days of old~ When magic filled the air~ T'was in the darkest depths of Mordor~ I met a girl so fair~ But Gollum, and the evil one~ Crept up and slipped away with her~ Her, her, yeah~ Ain't nothing I can do, no~ I guess I keep on rambling~ I'm gonna~ Sing my song~ I gotta ramble on, sing my song~ Gotta work my way around the world baby, baby~ Ramble on, yeah~ Doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, my baby Doo, doo, doo, doo Doodoo doodoo doodoo doodoo doodoo


  • Michael James Watson

At Old Bruce's suggestion the first Tavern a couple blocks from the wall is the All-Gon Pizzaria. Once a pizza place the back had once been a private hangout and now was a public bar. Bruce said that he gets growlers of beer almost daily from them. Its a human joint and the owners brew a lot. Sadly the quality has gone down in the last 6 months as raw materials are scarce. The place is nearly all human too. Though the Arco Boys do hang out there when they make their rounds. As he enters he has a sudden flash of a bare range of broken mountains surrounding a shallow inland sea. But the vision is just a flash.

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

As I enter the tavern I am whistling the last few bars of Ramble On by Led Zeppelin. I stop whistling when the Vision hits me. I shake my head and think to myself, "Weird", but I don't dismiss it as nothing, as too many strange things have happened in the last 24 hours for something like this to be ignored or dismissed. I try to remember what I saw and store the image away for later.

I look around the tavern, making note of the general layout, the location of the exits and anyone who might be inside having a drink. I look to the bartender and ask:

"Is it okay if I bring my pets in? I assure you they won't be any trouble and they won't make a mess. They are well behaved and potty trained. Call me Raphael. This is Slugger. We're just looking to relax with a few brews after a long road trip. Rodak said to put it on his tab."

  • Michael James Watson

"Ya, sure. Bring the pets in. Its not like FDA is going to cite me. But, brohem, they look a little scrawny. You might want to fatten them up before you fight them. But what the fuck, its not my call. We got brown brew and yellow brew and pruno. The brown compares to a porter well. The Yellow is far better then budwieser used to be. The Pruno is mostly pear and rye these days but we keep it running. It isn't bad mixed with 7up."

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

I raise an eyebrow at the mention of dog fighting, blowing right past the use of the word 'brohem'.

"Last things first; a brown and a yellow, please and thank you. Secondly; I don't fight my dogs... not my thing. Now, I'm not against training dogs for defensive and offensive purposes, ya know; War Dogs, but pitting animal versus animal for sport... yeah, not my thing. But thanks for letting me know that that sort of thing goes on here."

After getting the brews, I find a table where I can sit with my back to a wall and where I can see the door I came in. I hand the yellow brew to Slugger and take the leashes from her. I order the dogs to stay, pointing to the area around the table and chairs, then tell them to be good boys before taking off the leashes. Then I pull out the brown bag from Old Bruce and pull out three bones, giving one to each dog. I watch for a minute or so out of the corner of my eyes while I drink the brown brew quietly, to make sure they don't fight over the bones. Then I look around the room, making note of other patrons.... wondering if this is the tavern where the shaman was supposed to be.

"So, what do you think of the brew, Slugger? Better than Bud?"

  • Michael James Watson

"Its familiar. Like the stuff dad brews. Homemade. He puts it on cereal. Nasty. Did you see where curios went? Out that door at the back maybe? Hey...look at those guy...they look all puffy..."

Following her glance he sees down the bar. The long thin room has about a dozen patrons, mostly men. By the back door he sees Curious walking out, looking around curiously. Two men by the door are indeed puffy. Raphael realizes he is looking at two actual orcs. They look after Curious and follow him out.

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

"Yeaaahhh... he went out the back door" I say with a sigh. "Guess I should go see what he's up to... especially since those Orcs are following him."

I take a long drink as I stand. Setting the glass down I say to Slugger, "Watch the dogs, I'll be back."

I head towards the back door, thinking: ~Guess I'm going to meet my first Orc up close and personal now. Cross that off my Bucket List.~

  • Michael James Watson

Rushing out the back he sees an orc grab Curios from where it sat on the corner of a fight pit. The sounds of dogs fighting a crowd cheering tells him everything.

Curious erupts in claws and screeches tearing the orcs hand to shreads almost instantly. His companion laughs outloud. Curios is dropped in the pit

reaching the pit he sees Curious and a bleeding pit bull square off. The fight starts quickly and R sees immediately that the dog is out matched. It flees in seconds, to a back corner. Turning to the other dog it hisses loudly. It backs away instantly. Neither look eager. The first one falls over showing its belly.

Curious leaps to the railing, walking to R, climbing to his shoulder, wrapping around his neck to start sleeping.

A man walks over, handing a stack of paper bag slips and a few dollars over, "Mister, no doubt your cat won that round. But I won't pit it against the dogs again. Embarrassing. What's his name?"

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

"Curious." I look at the slips and dollars. "Niiiice! Drinkin' money!" I look at the man who handed to me. "I hate takin' yer money, but I hate not takin' it more. Thank you." I turn and walk out, headed back to my table I turn the slips over to the bartender, I pocket the greenbacks, I head back to the table with Slugger.

  • Michael James Watson

The slips say things like "Wash car" or Weed Garden" most tasks of no use to him anyway.

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

Then the bartender will be happy to have them. LOL

"So it seems Curious has won a fight, won us a few dollars and some good will with the bartender... and a reputation for himself... this cat is really growing on me... I mean almost literally; he is like melted into my shoulders and neck sleeping."

I chuckle as I grab my brown ale, finish it off quickly and head back to the bar for a refill.

  • Michael James Watson

At the bar the brown ale is waiting. So are two rather scabby looking men. His thought on one of the thin toothless men was that the change didn't quite make him an orc; it only got half way making him a meth head.

"Put that on my tab. Its a business meeting. So Harley, What would you like for the cat? Gas, gold, or groceries; no one fights for free."

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

My demeanor is friendly when I respond. "The cat is not for sale. And if there is some fee involved for fighting, take it up with that scratched up asshole back there..." I point back towards the fighting room, "he's the one who threw the cat into the pit without asking if he was a competitor."

My demeanor becomes a little less friendly.

"And tell Mr. Scratches back there that if I had been in MORE of a fighting mood and LESS of a drinking mood I would have thrown HIS ass in the pit for what he did."

Then my demeanor gets downright menacing, my voice drops from a soft baritone to a deep menacing whispery bass and my right hand drops to my hip where my kukri and a sheath of three flat steel throwing daggers are located.

"And if anyone touches this cat, those dogs" I point over my shoulder with my thumb "or that kid' I will end them. Savvy?" My demeanor becomes friendly again as I turn to the bartender.

"And Barkeep, don't put my drink on his tab, I drink on Rodak's tab and Rodak's tab alone."

I turn back to the two men and smile.

"Enjoy your evening" I say as I grab my drink from the bar with my left hand, but I do not immediately leave the area of the bar because I get the feeling there's going to be more to this situation.

  • Michael James Watson

Methhead smiles a jagged toothed smile, "Mr. Scratches...thats a name he won't loose for awhile. He goes Blister but I think Mr. Scratches suits him. Ya, ok. No cat. Just as well. Not sure if he was an animagis anyway. Theres a guy in town who used to root around in trashcans that the change made a St. Bernard. I figure your cat must be one of them. How about the poodles? We got a Lightwieght class. I got a corgie if you feel lucky. All bets with the house, house takes half. Winner gets half the house cut. Loser gets a quarter of the house cut. Whatcha say?"

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

"Not interested. I'm not into fighting animals for sport."

The disdain in my voice is obvious. I take a swig off my brew.

"Now if you'll excuse me, I have some drinking and relaxing to do. Evenin'."

I nod my head politely to the pair and return to my table.

  • Michael James Watson

The evening goes on calmly enough. A couple of guys sit up on the bar and play guitar and harmonica. They seem to mostly do Dr Demento songs and the people in the bar sing along.

R figures there must be a back entrance to the dog pens as the crowd does not come through the bar but drinks are clearly being sent out. But even through a haze of brews he notices people looking at him and slugger. The place has become more crowded and they look to have a meth-head look about them. Slugger seems completely absorbed by the songs and keeps trying to sing along.

As the evening crosses midnight a dwarf walks in the door. Bright orange red mohawk and beard. He carries a large tankard that looks able to hold a gallon. His other handholds a steel warhammer with crude engraving.

When he walks in the attention of the methhead group turns to see him and start talking.. They then fade out to the dog fights.

The dwarf walks up to Raph and says, "I'm Wreaker. Rodak told me it would be cheaper for him if I came over he and drank on your dime rather then stay at the station and drink on his. So...You gonna buy me a couple mugs of the yellow before I walk you back to Woodies?"

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

I grew up listening to the Dr. Demento show on the radio as a kid, so of course I sing along with every tune. And the more brews I get in me, the louder I sing. At one point during the night, when I go for a refill, they play a tune I know how to play on the harmonica, so I pull out my granddad's traveling harmonica that he carried all throughout WWII, and I stand at the bar and play along with them.

And though I do enjoy myself, being around people again, drinking a few brews in public, listening to live music... once I start to get a bit drunk I get to thinking about my best friend who is no longer with me and I get a bit sad. Now the loss of my parents was a sad time, but they had lived a good long life and were nearing the grave even before the Pandemic. But the loss of my best friend was very painful and under the influence of alcohol that pain comes back. I shed a few tears for her and wish she could be with me. I silently toast to her memory then wipe the tears from my eyes.

As the night rolls on and the Methhead crowd starts getting bigger, I do notice them looking in my direction, but I don't stare at them, however I do watch them out of the corner of my eye to make sure they're not going to cause me any trouble. Just about the time I'm thinking Slugger and I should head back to the RV and get some sleep, the dwarf with the big war hammer and bigger tankard walks in.

“Wrecker, it's a pleasure to meet you. And of course I'll buy you a couple of yellows; after all, you did walk all the way over here to make sure Slugger and I get back to Woody's safely... it's the least I can do. Wow... niiiice war hammer! Go filler up then grab a seat.”

  • Michael James Watson

"How about I grab one for walking?"

He goes and fills his tankard, flipping a tip with a sippy straw over the top.

"Thanks. " He sips, looking around, "Funny thing about the hammer. It was an aluminum brick i kept in my truck to jack the wheels. Im not sure why but a few days after the CHange, when were were trapped here, i drilled out the hole in the center, Wedged a sledgehammer's hickory handle through it. Sucker swings like a feather and hits like a an avalanche. I feel like i was born to hit people with it. "

He hands it over for R to feel the heft.

(I knew someone who put a hickory handle on an aluminum block. Total pandybat but i bet it hit like a maul)

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

I agree to the drink for the road and gather up the Poodle Boys, all on leash now, Curious and Slugger. If necessary I will carry Slugger if she is passed out or sleeping.

I take the war hammer from Wrecker, knowing it is going to be heavy. I test the weightiness of it and feasibility of using it in combat. "Got a war hammer of my own, back at Woody's; I'll show you when we get there... but it's a different design and nowhere near as weighty."

  • Michael James Watson

He chats amicably as you walk back toward Woodies. crossing the street there is a crew of the methheads hanging in the street. Its hard to say if they were in the bar.

"That crowd is usually out on Miranda and 8th. They got a cook house and a camp. Shits come down from Alamosa. Run out of town there. Been here a month. Going to have to go talk to them soon. They are a bad element.. "

Getting to Woodies, nodding the the camp guard he comes to your Rv.

"Rodak wanted me to tell you that flashing gold around can be dicey. On of the methies came to tell Rodak that the boys were thinking of jumping you for your cat and your gold. Old Bruce is a gossip but he didn't put the mark on ya. Anyway, i said i had a proposition. Rodak has a deal with a depot up in Denver. We did a deal a few months back. We got to town with gas but it didn't last. 6 of us will be running two rigs up. 2 in each and 1 bike guard on each. Going up empty we won't make much of a target. If you want to ride along for road safety you would be welcome. We head out dusk in two days. Give it a thought."

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

Once we get to the RV, I send Slugger off to bed and the Poodle Boys to keep her company. I let Curious go where he wants to. I grab my customized backpack and pull the two hickory mattock handles from the special side pockets I had my Best Friend sew on for me. I also remove two standard heads, a mattock and double pick, them two custom made forged metal heads that fit the handles; a war hammer with a small squared head on one side and a slightly downward curved three-sided spike on the other, and the final head, a single bladed bearded axe blade. I slide the war hammer head onto one of the hickory handles and secure it in place by stepping on the head and pulling the handle upwards, then I hand it to Wrecker.

“Something I had made at the Village Blacksmith. I'm not joking; the business name was 'Village Blacksmith'... it was on the edge of the ghetto where I lived... the guy would make anything out of metal, including weapons... for a price. And this was long before... everything changed that I had these two heads made for me.”

I put the axe head on the other handle and hand it to Wrecker as well.

“I did a lot of camping, most of my life, and I like to improve the area I'm staying in since I usually stay long term... at least a couple of weeks, and I am also a rock hound and amateur miner and caver, so the pick and mattock were something I already had... I also have an Army Surplus E-tool. Now, I have always preferred melee weapons to handguns for close range and point blank combat, so I had those made 'just in case society collapses'... little did I know. The hammer's got some heft, but not like yours, and the spike is excellent for peircing armor, helmets and even old car bodies... plus great for shattering car glass and even bullet-proof glass, with enough strength. The bearded axe is light and swift, and the longer blade is excellent for hooking on the tops of shields to pull them down for an attack over the top with the other hand... I hung out and trained with a group of SCA... umm, medieval re-enactment group and played a lot of table top role playing games...”

A slight pause as I realize I'm drunk and rambling and perhaps saying too much or something he may already be aware of, or any number of other dumb drunk thoughts...

“ get the idea. So anyway... I'll think on your offer... pretty sure I'll be here for several days... might need someone trustworthy to watch Slugger while I'm gone.”

I pull the one bottle of Pappy van Winkle Reserve I have stashed in my pack and show it to Wrecker, making sure the can see the label; there is a smile on my face.

“Care to share? I haven't even broken the seal yet.”

  • Michael James Watson

He looks at the axe with a smile.

"Very nice. Very nice indeed. I had something like it back in country. I did 6 years in the corp, mostly deployed, and 4 as a contractor, mostly driving frankenstiens out of Kandahar. Saw the shit. There are some great metal workers there. Hung out with some of the locals that did the hillbily work on the rigs. Messy. Used mine in a few fights that got too harry. Ran into some of those SCA folks at KAF. Good guys. A bit too deamy for the real world. "

He nods at the Pappy, makes a motion for 2 fingers.

"Been running with Rodak for 6 years. Met him in country doing the same stuff I was but he also did some engineering shit. Got drumed out and is sore about it. Kicked a REMF in the balls during a after action report. Anyays he always sends me to pick up wrecks or get wrecks out of our way. We used to make shit from the wrecks; BBQs, sheds, and shit."

Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

I listen to Wrecker's history with the military and history with Rodak while I look for two cups in the RV cupboards (sure there's something I can use), then break the seal and pour him two fingers and myself the same. I present both cups and let him chose, as opposed to offering one over another.

"I did a 4 year hitch in the Army, all state-side if you can believe it. Got stuck with a Combat Engineering Unit that didn't actually need a Mechanic, so I ended up getting full qualifying OJT for Field Medic and NBC Specialist... I also spent some time in the Armory with the Chief Armorer and some Heavy Weapons and later with their Explosives Expert... fun stuff explosives. Then I got transferred to an Artillery Unit, M109's, that needed a mechanic, but somehow didn't need one when I got there, so I was OJT'd again, this time for Scouting and Advanced Party Procedures. Anyway, that was a long time ago... still got the skills, just haven't been used in awhile."

After Wrecker choses a cup, I raise the other in a toast.

"Here's to the Skills the Military taught us and the things we learned from it."

  • Michael James Watson

"I don't worry the Change, but Rodak and our Elf Filthy do. They say we all got a place and those without places didn't make the change. But who knows, they go on an on."

Finishing his drink he rises.

"I haven't had Pappy in years. Thanks. Don't go flashing that bottle around neither. See yaa on the bright side."

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

"I'll be careful about what I 'flash' around here from now on; guess I didn't realize the value of what I have. Thank you Wrecker. Nite."

After Wrecker exits the RV, I close and lock the door, then I check on Slugger and the Poodle Boys on the bed in the back. Returning to the sitting area I open the vent in the ceiling/roof then the window behind the seating area around the table, then I pour myself another couple of fingers of Pappy and put the bottle away in my pack. I pull out my leather bound journal from my pack and set it on the table before me. Finally, I roll up a fat but tight joint and light it with the light blue Bic lighter from the pocket with the ciggs.

As I smoke and sip and muse about the day, I pickup the Sakura Prima Micron 05 archival ink pen I grabbed from my Best Friend's supply to go with the journal, before leaving the apartment... only just this morning... it seems so long ago already. I begin writing.

At one point I go to take a puff but the joint has gone out and when I try to light it with the light blue Bic, it only sparks but no fire. Damn. I knew it was mostly empty when I left home, as were most of the lighters I had collected. I really didn't want to get up from the table to go get another lighter out of my pack. So, just like I used to do during gaming sessions with My Friends back in the day, I try to light the joint with a Firefinger Cantrip. Yeah, Yeah, I know Magic isn't real... or doesn't work here on Earth... or at least not on the Earth I was from... but I would always try it anyway, just for fun, and I would always say 'I'm gonna keep tryin' cause maybe one day it'll work.'... and perhaps here it might work. Who knows. If not, there's always another nearly empty Bic in my backpack.

  • Michael James Watson

When he flicks his finger he feels a sharp. mild electric shock and he sees a little electric arc about a 1/4" long. It wiggles on the finger tip expectantly. He feels a little rush of warmth on his forehead.

In surprise he looks around the room. Seeing Slugger's forehead he sees the dark red Mesob symbol on her forehead. The dogs are cuddled around her protectively. He looks at Curios, who leans over and licks the symbol on Slugger's head. He flips over to groom his cathood.

Shocked at the magic working he feels a light sense as if he was steaming, a light cooling feel. He looks at his hand and sees the Medallion symbol on his palm and notices his hands are clean. Taking a whiff, after the day he has had, he does not detect any body odor.

Running a hand through his hair he notices it is clean as well.

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

My eyes wide. I marvel at how not horrible I smell... how clean my hair is... My mouth is opening and closing but no sound is coming out... but my inner voice is screaming:

~NO FUCKING WAY!?!?!?!!!~ ~That was AWESOME!!!! THIS IS AWESOME!!!~ ~I can't believe that really worked!?????~ ~It. Really. Worked!!! Do it again, but this time actually light the joint.~

I focus again and light the joint with the Cantrip, inhaling deeply.... then I ponder on what I just did, what I just saw on Slugger's forehead and on my palm... there is a connection, certainly... the Medallion... I exhale smoke... yes; the Medallion.

I was going to wait until morning to do some research on my laptop, but now, I just couldn't wait. I put the cap back on the pen and place the pen back in the journal's special pen pocket, then close the journal. I get up and get my laptop from the padded pocket inside the main pocket of my backpack... and another two Bic lighters, one for each breast pocket.

I sit backdown, power up then sign in to my laptop computer, then go straight to a file on the desktop labeled 'Gaming Wiki Files'. This is not an internet shortcut but a local one; I downloaded all of my ADRPG GM's wiki pages pertaining to his ongoing ADRPG Campaign to my laptop... for when I was camping and out of cellular range but still needed info for writing posts to be sent later.

I begin with a search query: foot shaped medallion. Somehow I know... or maybe just feel, that I know what is going on and what that foot shaped medallion was.

If those three words don't bring up anything, I will begin searching the images in the wiki files for the design on my hand and Slugger's forehead.

  • Michael James Watson

Immediatly he finds the following:

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

I hit the joint again and click on the first link, reading...

...the first two links (alphabetically) only make hints, but the last link tells all, to my amazement.

As I read with my mouth hanging wide open, a part of my mind wants to disbelieve, while the other part of my mind wants to silence 'the disbeliever'. My Best Friend once said: 'A person that can see the strange and amazing and accept it for what it appears to be, without trying to disbelieve it or explain it away, will usually make better decisions in an emergency situation and has a better chance of surviving.'

So I shut up the disbelief and see this for what it appears to be: I have found a Medallion of Mesob, and its powers are becoming accessible to me... it's powers are most certainly what saved me from the Omega Variant and what brought me and Slugger here to 'Shadow Run World'... or maybe it was Slugger that inadvertently brought us here, as it appears that she has found one too, based on the Magic Tattoo on her forehead.

So, after rereading the Medalion of Mesob page several times, it would seem that I have the following Powers; Clean Body, an Immunity to Sickness, Shadow Walking... most likely and Improved 'Statistics'... yeah, that might explain the odd feeling of strength in my hands I felt earlier in the evening, and the fact that I am not 'wasted drunk' considering how much I drank. And most likely a form of Immortality... as well as a possibility of other powers... maybe that's why I can do Cantrips. Well, I'm going to have to do some experiments to see what all I can do.

~OH MY GOD THIS IS AWESOME!!!!~ I scream in my head. Then I take a deep calming breath and let it out... then take a deep hit off the joint, then shoot down the last of the Pappy in my cup, then exhale hard and try not to freak out / geek out over everything that has happened today and all I have just learned.

I try another Cantrip, just to see if I can. I try a Clean Cantrip on my Army Field Jacket, where Curious got blood on it from his fight in the pit. I focus for a moment, then make a back and forth wiping motion with my hand in the air over the blood stain.

  • Michael James Watson

Momentarily he feels tiny push and swaths of the jacket appear clean. Without think, distractedly, he points at a buzzing fly and watches it fall dead. Zap.

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

I get giddy with excitement over the Cantrips... especially 'zapping' the fly, almost to the point of squealing. But instead of geeking out and waking Slugger, I relight the joint with a Firefinger and take a deep hit, grin from ear to ear, then contemplate the possibilities of my future, just knowing what I do right now... can't wait to find out more. Exhaling smoke, I wonder; how much of what I played in that game is real? How much is fiction? Or will it all be Shades of the Truth, Shadows of Reality?

In the morning I will surely need to do some more experiments to see what else I can do... and what my new capabilities are; just like I would do if I were a character in a game trying to figure out the powers of a new magic item... which, oddly enough, is EXACTLY what I am trying to actually do.


I finish the joint then pull the bottle of Pappy from my pack, pour one more drink, three fingers this time, then put the bottle away. I pull out a cigarette from the pack in my right breast pocket in my field jacket, now sitting on the cushion next to me. I use a Firefinger to light the cig, then I smoke and drink, timing both so I have a swig of Pappy left after I finish the smoke.

Then I roll up my Field Jacket to use as a pillow then I lean over to one side of the long cusioned seating area around the table, then pull up my knees and feet to the other side and try to get some sleep. Weapons belts and weapons are on the table in easy reach.


  • Michael James Watson

Sleep comes easy but there is something dreamy to it. Memories of games. Old books. Gandalf fighting the balrog. Waking up he sees Slugger and the dogs are outside.

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

I wipe the sleep from my eyes and rise slowly. I put my laptop away in the backpack, finish my journal entry from last night, then put the journal away in my pack.

Then I grab my rolled up field jacket and my weapons belts off the table and I head outside. I set all my gear on the ground and begin stretching the night's kinks out of my body.

"Good morning Slugger" I say while stretching. "How did you sleep?"

I begin doing some calisthenics, about five minutes worth, to get my heart pumping. Then I sit down and do 20 crunches, flip over and do 20 pushups, then rise to my feet and do a little more stretching. Then I put on my weapon's belts and make sure everything thing is secure.

  • Michael James Watson

"I slept good.. But hard... One of those Arco boys came by a few minutes ago said they would be leaving at dusk. We slept for a whole day and a half. I was deaming of that ring movie with wizards and the monster on the bridge. That was dad's favorite part. YOu know that part? all the fire and stuff.. Then he is in the next movie all white...and he makes that guy on fire jump off the cliff building. and that creepy midget bites the other midget's finger off and falls in the fire....Thats a good move... Did you see that movie? Oh,, three movies! Did you see them?"

A thought comes to him. He was concerned that it was Slugger that brought them to this world. But she wouldn't know Shadowrun. A stray thought about an old shadowrun game during 6 hours on the road might have brought them here. It certainly cut the dive time from Tuscon to Colorado down by a huge chunk. But she has a Mesob Medallion and she does know Lord of the Rings. Apparently really well......

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

"We slept for a day and a half?! Wow! Guess we really needed the sleep! And yes, I saw that movie, all of those movies in fact. And I love them too. And yes, I had dreams like that too. I also dreamt about Gandalf fighting the balrog. Strange... We both had the same dream."

I look Slugger up and down, wondering what powers she has already acquired from The Medallion.

"So, there are a couple of important things we need to talk about. The first being that the Arco Boys have asked me to join them on a gas run. They said that it could be dangerous and that I will be gone for a couple of days. So, I know your Uncle Buck said not to leave my side, but he also said you need to do what I tell you. So, because this is going to be a dangerous run and I don't want you to get hurt or killed, I would like you to remain behind to keep an eye on the poodles and the cat. I'm sure I can get Rodak to keep an eye on you while I'm gone."

"Secondly, we need to talk about that invisible tattoo that you have on your hand and your forehead, and the new powers you may be gaining. So, answer this for me please... when did you find the foot shaped medallion? And what strange things have you figured out that you can do?"

  • Michael James Watson

"You're leaving me behind? But...but.....He said to stay with you....You are leaving and leaving the dogs too? Buck said you wouldn't do that...."

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

"Oooohhhh, Slugger, I'm not leaving you behind" I say as I kneel down and give her a hug. "I'm just... going to work... for a few days; I'm coming back..." I trail off.

~But what if you don't?"~ I think to myself, still hugging Slugger. ~What if for some reason you can't get back here? Then Slugger would be alone and you would have broken your promise. Besides, Adventurer's Rule Number One: Never split up the Party.~ I release the hug and look Slugger in the eyes.

"Okay, Slugger, change of plans; you're coming with me; overall I think you'll be safest with me. But this is not a 'road trip' or a 'vacation', this is a Job. So you're going work too, as my Backup. Okay? Now, let's go talk to Rodak about this Job and then go get some food. We will talk about the Magic Medallion later. And just like we don't talk about where we came from with other people, we also don't talk about our Magic with other people. Okay?"

  • Michael James Watson

She jumps up, "Ok!" She runs inside the trailer and grabs her Molly rig, clipping it in place. SHe seems ready to go in moments, as if she had planned it. The dogs can be left in the trailer but the cat seems intent on following.

Walking over to the Rodak's he sees morning business going on in what must be normal for here. He sees 3 tanker trucks, painted, with a number of dwarves moving around them. Wrecker and Rodak are inspecting the lead vehicle.

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

I raise an eyebrow at Slugger's sudden mood change, but smile inwardly at her readiness to go. I put on my jacket then grab the AK from inside the door and sling it over my right shoulder, then order the Poodle Boys inside, then tell them "Dog Brothers; Garden Kill." then I close and lock the door before leaving for the Arco Station.

I look over the three tanker rigs as I approach Rodak and Wrecker.

"Mornin' Gents" I say with a smile and a jovial tone. "Love the paint jobs! So, I'm interested... but if I'm going to be involved in this Run, I would like some information... like... how many tankers are going, how many escorts, who's drivin' what, who's packin' what, what route we're takin', alternate routes, possible hostiles, possible ambush sites, what my part in all of this is, and what I'm drivin'... yours or mine?" I flash a friendly smile. "Please and thank you."

  • Michael James Watson

Rodak looks to him, "Morning Flasher. Well, Fitz here is the leader."

A well groomed Dwarf with a pipes approaches. He looks R over and looks at slugger.

"You trying to out small us? Is everything ready?" He looks to Rodak

He nods, "Just getting Flasher up to speed. We got three rigs, empty. Two in the rig, one bike assigned to guard each one. Ive a hog with a sidecar if you don't want to risk yours but yours is in far batter shape then mine. We will go over the maps. Take the 160 to the 25 north. 3 hour drive. Not much in the way of alternate routes. The problem is that we have to go through Pueblo. Taking 285 would be nice but the Arkensaw river flooded a few years back and the Department of Transportation never got around to fixing it. After the Change a fucking whalloping lake grew up. The road don't go through and we don't want to pay to get us across the lake."

"Pueblo is an Indian town. We might glide through. We might have to pay a toll. They might try and take it. Our last run we paid a toll. It depends how many of the locals are Elven Indians, American Indians, or Orcish Indians. Or just how many fucking orcs there are. We heard a Big group of the White hand are there.. But we are damn near out of gas and our guy is in Denver."

Fitz says, "as for gunnery. We got a shitload of AR15s. Lots of handguns. I was going to tell you, Rodak , I got 3 of Junior's elves on a deal. They have bows and are fucking deadly; I'll put one on each trailer. So, Flasher, I hear we are taking you as far as Colorado Springs. Shitton of Feds there. Or are you going there and back here?"

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

I smile at the first mention of my new nickname. I listen to the intel, I am mostly familiar with the route. I address Fitz first.

"Pretty sure Slugger and I will be going all the way to Denver and back with y'all on this one... but there is a chance we may stop off at The Springs... if so, then we'll pick back up with y'all on your way back through."

I turn to Rodak with a smile.

"I'll take you up on that offer of the hog with sidecar. How bad of shape is it in? I'm a fair mechanic... but might need to borrow some tools."

  • Michael James Watson

Rodak and Fitz chuckle, but Rodak says, "We mech for a living, brother. I wouldn't put you on the road on something questionable. Its got a little left balance issue but with Slugger her in it i doubt there will be an issue. If someone jumps in IM sure the cat can take care of them. I hear he is hell on orcs."

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

I nod my head at Rodak's assessment of the hog.

"Okay. Fair enough. I mean, I don't know you guys... yet, and I don't know how well you take care of your vehicles. I had to ask. But thank you for the loner and by all means put it on my tab. You know I can afford it." I chuckle.

"And Flasher? Really? You're going to make me sound like some sort of pervert in a trench coat." I laugh, knowing full well that that is not the meaning of the new nickname I have acquired.

"So, anything else I should know before you show me the hog and I started gearing it up for the road?"

  • Michael James Watson

"We shoot for knees. Might mean they get another shot off but I'd rather bust a knee then a noggin. I wasn't a pycho before the Change. Disable vehicles rather then take kill shots. But i won't complain if you kill them if they are attacking. Truth is its a short trip and running empty we shouldn't have trouble. Its coming back heavy thats trouble. We ride open, flushing the bandits if we can. Keep them away from the tankers. You'll ride tail so you don't have to start anything and can pitch in on a running fight we started. I don't know about Slugger on the run but i get not wanting to be seperated. The sidecar is armored. Have her tuck inside to stay safe."

He walks to wear the group is forming up. Points to the yellow harley

"We go in a couple hours."

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

"Okay... so I'll be bringing up the rear, shoot to incapacitate not kill and disable vehicles. Got it. And Slugger is tougher and more capable than her size and age might indicate."

When he points out the Harley I let out a low whistle.

"Well, helloooooh beautiful. Where have you been all my life? An armored sidecar? Oohh... Nice! Ya know Rodak, when we get back from this run I'm gonna want to talk to you about a trade. I think this Badboy is the type of vehicle I'm going to be needing for my travels. And that armored sidecar is EXACTLY what I need to keep Slugger and the animals safe."

  • Michael James Watson

"Really? I was thinking that trike was set up pretty good for a small group. Well. Take her out, take a few laps around the town to get used to her When your done we'll top off the tank and go. I've got 4 mayors coming over soon to talk their end of the ride. "

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

"Oh, the trike is a nice rig, for sure..." I say, not taking my eyes from the Harley. I walk around it, looking it over, looking inside the sidecar. "But it's loaded with electronic parts, and if one of over a half dozen of those parts fries out, I'm fucked. Electronic parts are hard to come by on the road and off the beaten path... even more so now. However, this Bad Boy was made before all that unnecessary electronic crap became standard. THIS bike I can keep running easily enough. Plus, the armored sidecar is perfect to keep my precious cargo safe from stray or intended bullets." I turn to look at Rodak. "Yeah, let's talk when we get back."

I turn to Slugger. "Ok, Slugger, get in. You too, Curious." I say to the cat. I hop on and start it up. Once Slugger and Curious are aboard, I put it in gear and head out, slowly at first.

As I make my 'laps around town', I don't just 'get the feel for the bike', but I also check all the important parts; clutch, brakes, shifter, accelerator... I also check the operations of them; smooth, rough, sticky, etc. Once I get the feel for it and have a better understanding of it's quirks, I open it up and really give it a work out on the last lap and finish at Woody's at my rented RV.

I let the dogs out and tell them to pee. I tell Slugger to grab anything important, just in case something happens and we can't get back here. I go inside and grab my backpack, Buck's Helmet, my katana, the throw away guns and spare ammo and my 30.06. I leave the nearly full case of Pappy, nearly full case of hand grenades and all the other foodstuffs and assorted supplies I had scrounged in the RV. I lock the door behind me.

I slide the 30.06 down inside the sidecar, barrel first, on the side closest to me, then put the katana next to the rifle. I strap the throw away guns on the bike and inside the sidecar in easy reach of me or Slugger, except the .50 caliber Desert Eagle, which I slip under my wide leather weapons belt near my navel. I give the spare ammo to Slugger and tell her she may have to reload for me at some point. I pull a protective facemask that looks like a skull from my pack and hang it on the handlebars, secure the pack, put the pack on my back and snug it down, then pull on the mask but leave it hanging around my neck for now, then the helmet, then pull on my heavy leather gloves.

"Slugger, while we're on the road, you need to stay focused on watching for bad guys and paying attention to where we are going, not thinking about movies or someplace else. It's really important. Okay? Now, everyone load up. It's time to hit the road."

Once Slugger, the Poodle Boys and Curious are loaded in the sidecar, I start it up and head back over to the Arco Station.

  • Michael James Watson

Gathering at the east gate is a bit of a crowd. Rodak is arguing with a heavyset man sweating in a tshirt despite the cool weather. He has a molle rig packed with things that R identifies as things bought because the guy thought he was being manly before the change. He and Rodak are arguing away from everyone. On one side is the three tankers, the dwarves on bikes, 3 guys dressed like road bike riders with what look like heavy recurve bows.

On the other is a Hummer h1 with modified gun ports and 6 guys who look dressed to kill. They are packed heavy and armored but at a glance R can tell they were the overweight, out of shape, poorly trained, heavily armed, military wannabes who gave gun owners a bad name. As he pulls up to Wrecker and Fitz he is introduced to the other Arco Boys making the trip.

Wrecker says, "Rodak is arguing with Duffy Drummen. He led a milita group in Fort Garland before the change. Half his group became orcs. Two of the guys over there are orcs. They have been running "patrols" He is insisting to join our caravan. His crew is going to Fort Collins. Wants to join up to push through Pueblo. Says there are a couple of the tribes there and it won't be a walk or Tax. I hate the fucker and if a spare round lightly grazed him in the hippocampus I wouldn't be sad.. But if two tribes are in Pueblo now he might not be wrong. No one will think poorly of you if you back out. But we got about three days of gas left and so we have to go."

Rodak walks over with Duffy.

"Ok, Duffy and his boys are taking lead. We may have no choice but to fight our way through Pueblo. Form up. Ready to roll in 5 minutes. Its 3 hours to Pueblo. Flasher, lets take a minute. "

Leading R aside as other load up he says, "This won't be a cake walk. there are maybe 40 warriors of two tribes in Pueblo and they are raiding not taxing. One of Duffy's patrols was hit. 3 of 6 dead and he is hot as hell to hit back. Duffy gives batshit crazy knuckleheads a bad name but a lot of people in the town support him. If you want out, its ok. If you make the ride, I give ya three things. We hadn't really talked pay. First, take the bike. Second, i'll squish the Flasher nic and we can negotiate a new one. Lastly, I'll give you a Arco cut. Skip right over prospect. You get a fair share."

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

"That all sounds more than fair... but I still gotta make it back alive... maybe I shoulda brought the rest of those grenades..." I pause a moment, thinking about how quickly I could get back to Woody's then back here. "The Militia Meatheads in the lead is perfect; they got the armor and firepower, let 'em do their thang, less for me and the Arco Boys to worry about."

  • Michael James Watson

When the group gathers it looks like quite an entorage., The millitia guys have two motorcycle guys with the hummer and a Pinto station wagon pulls in behind. A hole in the roof has a crude ring around it for a guy to stand. The sides are armored but as they climb in R sees wood crates packing the interior.

Behind them the 3 tankers each with its escort cycle. Last he and his pack. slugger sitting up in the sidecar.

As the gate east opens R realizes this isn't cosplay. They really have a mad max thing going on and he may have to kill.

An hour out, coming around a corner a collection of Indians on motorcycles are in a turn out. One of theirs is near the highwway. The Hummer pulls over put a guy pops up out of the top looking to Fitz.

Fitz and the tankers stop.. Fitz walks out and shakes a few hands. Then the Indians push their bikes over and Fitz sees them filled up. He talks to the leader for a few minutes. He then talks to Duffyy. Then talks to each driver before coming to R.

He says, "Those are the Walsenburg Rangers. Utes. They confirm that Pueblo is full of raiders. Close to a hundred. We'll fight our way through. Duffy is excited and thats not good. He isn't big on being rational. But we have to get through. Our only other choice is to go to Wiley. Take the 287 up to Cope, and come into Denver from the east. 6 to 9 hours and its across the the whole range the raiders live in. So its up and in at Pueblo. We will get help but not till Pueblo. The rangers will start fires east of Pueblo and hope it pulls some of the heat but whats there is there. Load heavy: Shoot to kill"

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

As the gate opens and the realization, the fear, hits, I take a deep breath and calm my mind; I will do what I must do. I was trained by the Army to kill, I have shot firearms nearly my entire life, I knew one day I might have to take a life living in the ghetto that I did... I keep my mind on the here and now; I stay sharp and watch the surrounding and think about how I will react if something happens. I check on Slugger and make sure she is also paying attention to our surrounding.

When we slow then stop, I get off the Harley and I unstrap the AK47 strapped across the handlebars, I look around for ambush. When Fitz comes my way I lower the AK and listen up.

"Shoot to kill; got it. We got you covered back here. I got a couple grenades, for when things get really ugly. But the AK should do the trick til then."

I give it to Slugger. "I'm gonna want that back soon, so don't stash it away... or get too attached to it." I give her a smile and a wink. "Ready to go at your order, Fitz."

I know this is real. I am scared. My heart is racing.

Courage is not the absence of fear, it's facing fear and doing what must be done anyway.

So, my courage will be tested again.

  • Michael James Watson

Fitz nods, "Ya, gitcha. Don't waste ammo though. If something gets back this far it survived the rest of us. If we are attacked from behind some of the boys will come back"

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

"I rarely waste ammo; my philosophy is: one mind, one shot, one kill. And if anyone survives all the way back to us, Slugger and I will make sure they don't survive beyond us."

I sit back down on the Harley, grab the AK from Slugger, set the butt of the rifle between my legs and rest the barrel on the handlebars.

  • Michael James Watson

Pushing on beyond the turnout the caravan approaches Pueblo. Ahead is a checkpoint of cars stacked.

The Fort Garland militia boys accelerate immediately with a pair of people hanging out the windows laying down fire. The road block people are firing back. Getting an angle R sees the hood of the Hummer flip to cover the windows in a manner that looks like its been gerry rigged to do it.

Fitz's cursing can be heard over the gunfire.

Coming up the sides are a half dozen bikes on both sides bikes with three people on each. they parallel the tankers and two from each leap up on the sides

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

At the sight of the Militia Meatheads laying down fire, I yell over the roar of the engine and the wind and gunfire to Slugger. "SLUGGER! Watch behind us! NOW!!! Shoot anyone you can! Shoot to kill!"

Seeing the people jump onto the tankers, I calm my breathing.

One Mind. I reach down with my left hand, grabbing the upper wooden rest beneath the barrel of the AK47 and lift it upwards, my right hand releasing the throttle, knowing it sticks slightly, and grabs the wooden pistol grip and brings the butt to my right shoulder and the barrel in line with the person farthest to the left on the tanker in front of me who my eye has been on since my hand touched the AK.

One Shot. When he is in my sights, headshot or center mast body shot. I pause just long enough to squeeze the trigger.

One Kill. Then move on to the next person to the right. And repeat the process as quickly as I can, until all are gone from the tanker in front of me.

I rely on my Army Training, my familiarity and my experience with firearms, and all the shooter games I played in the arcades that had actual gun shaped controls to shoot the enemies, to get me through this. And my sheer force of will. I was told I could do anything I wanted, if I put my mind to it.

  • Michael James Watson

He has one easy target and it quickly falls away after he fires. Seeing him fall its very real.

The second guy is a bit out of angly but he suddenly falls back, two arrows in his eyes. The elf then looks behind and draws arrows firing behind R.

He feels Slugger stand up in the side car. Turning to look behind he sees two spidery dune buggies coming up fast behind. Looking at her he sees a hand grenade in each of her hands. She thumbs out the pin rings out and tosses them underhand. They arch out gently as the buggies follow, each landing in the floor of the two person vehicles. They fumble on the ground till they explode, sending the vehicles off the road.

She slips down, pulling wehrmacht helmet over her head. The Arco logo is painted on the side.

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

I would have turned to my right to see what Slugger was doing and to see the dune buggies behind us, releasing the stock of the AK with my left hand, gripping the pistol grip tighter with my right hand to hold up the weight of the weapon as I bring it up and around over Slugger's head. Seeing her release the grenades I laugh beneath my Skull Mask and as she sits back down I bring my attention back forward, seeing the motorcyclist on the right near the back of the tanker ahead of me, I swing the barrel in his direction... one handed. One Mind. One Shot. One Kill. I squeeze the trigger. (if unsuccessful I will try again.)

My left hand grips the left handle bar grip, my attention back on the road ahead. My right hand places the AK back between my legs then grabs the throttle. I accelerate to keep up with the tanker. I glance to the left, looking for the other motorcyclist on that side, simultaneously drawing the Desert Eagle XIX 50AE from my belt with my left hand.

  • Michael James Watson
he sees the Hummer and the knucklehead's pinto stationwagon turn into right, into the blockade guards. THey flee with the knuckleheads on their tail.

A tanker swerves as it looks like its had a flat on the rig. R sees a Pueblo man hanging shooting at tires on the far side. His angle is good and he takes the shot as trained. the guy flops and hangs. Two... two... life has changed so much with two raiders.

One of the arco boys rides down and signals to him.

"Those assholes are going for the barracks. Fitz says Fuck em. Ride hard for Denver. We have a flat on the rig but can't all stop to change it here without risking the lot. You follow the other two. Some of us will stay and change the tire,"

He rides over to the stopped rig. R sees Wrecker, the driver leaping out to change the tire.

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

When I see Wrecker get out of the rig I pull over and stop. I call out to him.

"Wrecker! I've been told to continue on with the Convoy. But I could stay for a couple minutes to give you cover fire if you need it."

  • Michael James Watson

"Hang back a bit, give me a couple minutes to flip the tires. If no one jumps me in the next couple minutes I'll be clearThey got more trouble with those asshats attacking their barracks. I swear im going to shove a granade up his.. "

He jumps down and helps the elf work on the tires.

Slugger says, "They got a drone up there!" Pointing up in the air."

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

Looking up in the direction Slugger is pointing I search the sky for the Drone. My intention is to shoot it out of the sky. If it's low enough I simply grab the AK from between my legs and pop off a round. If it seems further away I reach inside the sidecar and grab the 30.06 with the scope, take aim then shoot it out of the sky.

  • Michael James Watson

The Drone is a good distance up and weaving about. R chooses the AK. Spraying bullets in a burst clips it and the handler guides it quickly out of danger.

Wrecker jumps into changing the tires. gives cover but he notices that Wrecker grips a lug nut with two fingers and twists it free.

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

At the sight of Wrecker removing a lug nut with his fingers, my first instinct is to make a funny or smart-assed comment... then I hear the voice of one of my Drill Sergeants from Basic Training screaming in my head:

~'This is not the time for jokes or distractions! Keep your mouth closed, your eyes open, your head on a swivel and your mind focused!'~

So I did exactly that. I keep my back to Wrecker watching for approaching enemies, looking for snipers in the places I would sit to snipe. The butt of the AK held to my shoulder, the barrel up and level following the movement of my head and upper body as I scan left and right, finger inside the trigger guard but not resting on the trigger.

I feel the adrenaline coursing through my system; the fear and the thrill, the fight and the flight. I let them wash over me like water. I control my breathing, keeping it even, slow deep inhales, slow controlled exhales. I keep my mind focused on what I am doing, not allowing my mind to wander. Keep watch. Look for enemies. Be prepared for attack at any moment.

Periodically I look upwards in the sky, also periodically I look over to Wrecker to check his progress.

  • Michael James Watson

Looking south 3heavily armed technical trucks are diving up around the curve at extreme range.

They fade off the road making straight for the barracks . They look to be mounting .50cals, a driver and a gunner.

Slugger yells, "They are going after those asshole guys! "

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

"Wrecker, you just about done?" I ask as I head for the Harley. "The Militia Meatheads are about to taste .50 caliber with their assholes. Three of 'em mounted on small trucks."

I mount up and place the AK between my legs, barrel on the handlebars. I rev the engine, having left it idling when I stopped.

"We should help or hit the road soon; they'll be coming for us soon enough."

  • Michael James Watson

"30 seconds! If they turn to us shoot. If not the knucklehead wanted a fight so they get the whole magazine."

Watching the 3 bounce over the prairie R hears a high pitched engine coming quick from the west. Looking up he sees something outlandish...but his game knowledge itches making it familiar. A dwarf on a small engined gyrocopter flying a couple hundred feet swings around to look down at the escort bike who waves him off. It continues east several hundred yards then hovers.

Wrecker leaps in the cab and the thing is moving before his butt hits the seat. It makes off north.

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

Though I felt bad for the Meatheads, Wrecker was right; they only came on looking for a fight and they got one. I know I could help, some, but I wasn't working for the Militia, I was working for the Arco Boys, and they were headed to Denver.

The Dwarf on the Gyrocopter struck me more as Warhammer than ShadowRun, but what the hell, he was on our side, or so it seemed, so what did it matter. Cool, regardless.

"Keep your eyes open and your mind focused, Slugger. Watch the sides and rear. Great job with those grenades, by the way."

I let the tanker get rolling then I fall in behind, watching the sides of the road for trouble and checking the mirrors for pursuit. Ready to do what must be done.

I wonder briefly if I'm even going to bother to slow down, let alone stop, as we pass through The Springs... really doesn't seem there's much of a point anymore... especially not here, on this world.

I turn my full attention the tanker ahead of me, the road we travel and the potential dangers laying in wait around the next turn.

  • Michael James Watson

Driving on they pass the dust up at the roadblock. The dwarves are gone north but the milita guys are deep in it. There seems to be a lot of hiding and shooting over cars.

R takes a moment in passing to note the terrible placement and tactics of both sides. Sloppy fire patterns, wasteful use of ammunition. A barracks with big windows all shot to pieces. Neither side looks to have a pip of warfare between them.

Heading after the others it take half an hour to catch up. Fitz hanging back races back and waves, eyeballs, then brings Wrecker into the group.

An hour goes by till they pull over at a place with a two M1 Abrhams, a couple of m113, a Armored Bus as a command center. There is a flag pole with three flags on it.

The caravan stops. Fitz rides forward talking to the duty officer. Wrecker hopes down, walks up to R.

"I owe you for hanging back. I won't forget it. We should talk. " Looks up ahead at the flags. "Been a couple months since we were up this way. The flags are new but I know what they mean. The top is the national flag of Colorado. 5 stars for 5 states. The next is the state flag of Denver. The bottom is the Bronco Banner that the military of Colorado uses. Watchout..If you are un aligned the Army will push to enlist you. I hear there are press gangs. Feel free to say you are a Fort Garland guy and with the Arcos."

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

"You don't owe me anything Wrecker. I was just doing my job. Rear guard stays at the rear, stays with anyone lagging behind and stays with anyone that falls out. And rescues them if necessary. But, still happy to sit and talk with you, when time permits. And thanks for filling me in on the who's who and what's what. I'm not sure if Rodak told you but I've been away from people and civilization for quite a while. You could almost say it was like I was living in another world."

I chuckle then I go to the Sidecar and let the dogs out.

"Poodle Boys. Stay close. Go pee."

I keep an eye on them as they go about their business.

"How you holdin' up, Slugger?"

  • Michael James Watson

Curious slips out of the very tip of the interior of the sidecar and herds the dogs out, waiting till they pee before doing so himself. Her then nuzzles the dogs till they take a squat for business, after which he does. He then herds the dogs back to the side car.

Slugger says, "That was scary. I am down two softballs."

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

“Softballs?” I snort in mirth. “More like a Hardball.” I smile at my own joke. “Well, I got two in each side pocket of my field jacket here. If you need one, just reach in and grab it, carefully. And yeah, that was pretty scary. I was scared too. But you handled yourself extremely well, Slugger. Good job on taking out those buggies; excellent double toss there, kiddo. And good job on keeping focused on what's going on around us and alerting me to it and on taking care of the animals while we travel.”

I pause a moment to let her feel good about her accomplishments.

“But it's going to be even scarier on the way back, because our tankers will be full of gas and all the bad guys are going to want to take it. And they will to do what ever they can to get it, even if it means killing all the Arco Boys and us too. And they know we're coming, and how many of us there are and what we're drivin' and packin'. So I need you to be just as focused and alert, and even more careful. Okay? I'll see what I can do about getting' us some fast grub and a place to pee before we head back. I don't know about you, but I'm a little hungry.”

I turn to Wrecker. “Any possibility of getting some grub before we head back? Even something for the road?”

  • Michael James Watson

Wrecker nods. "We'll pig out. We'll probably stay the night after that pueblo business. We are in safe territory now."

The caravan is let passed the barricade and drives off nearly an hour till it pulls over. Fitz takes the crew off from the road.

He says "Ok we are good into Denver. Our contract has been picked up by the state gov. That's good for us... but... the problem is going home."

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

"Is this a good news, bad news situation? Or a bad news, bad news situation, Sir?"

I am not making a joke or being snarky. My tone is serious and I am being respectful.

  • Michael James Watson

Tapping out his pipe and refilling it while talking he says, "Its the wild wild west. The old federal government has stabilized and Colorado isn't part of it. Neither are Texas, the Pacific states, Mexico, or western Canada. The Fed can't do much west of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers except fly over them and humans don't control the sky since the Change. They control everything east of the rivers up to Winnipeg and South of Hudson Bay. The general at that Border crossing tells me that Fort Garland is either the east border of Pacifica, the northern border of Aztlan, Northwest Texas, or Southern Colorado."

Puffing his pipe furiously to light he goes on.

"They are happy to see us, will help us fill our tankers, then escort us back to the FG for our own safety. Good or bad, I would hate to be one of our mayors. Cell service is down, or being jammed, so I can't tell Rodak what's a coming down on him. So....into Denver, fill up, rest two days while they assemble our escort, then home."

As R hears the tale he thinks that he left a dying disease-filled world and went into a world deeply transformed by the emergence of magic that lost at least a third, maybe half, of the world's previous population. What did such powerful magic have in mind to summon two traveling Mesobians here?

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

As Fitz begins speaking and fiddling with his pipe, I pull a cigarette from the nearly empty pack in the right breast pocket of my field jacket. I realize there is no lighter there because it died the other night and I never bothered to replace it with one from my backpack. So, I light it up with a fire finger cantrip, not really worrying if anyone sees. After all, this is a magical world now. I take a few drags while I think over what Fitz has relayed to us and wonder why Slugger and I ended up in this particular world. Was it random? Was it my stray thoughts? Or was there something guiding us with a purpose?

"Ya know Fitz, if it's important enough, you could send someone out ahead after we clear Pueblo to let Rodak and the mayors know what's coming their way. Or... You could send someone on the alternate route, the one with the lake crossing, to avoid Pueblo and get back to Fort Garland well ahead of the convoy. I'll volunteer for that mission, if you deem it vital."

  • Michael James Watson

Fitz nods, "I appreciate that but I'm going to send Candy. You have a menagerie to put at risk. She is fast, agile, and not suffering from testosterone poisoning. She'll make the run in a couple hours. Look, we'll be in Denver in about 15 minutes. If you want to head on North things should be safe. If you stay with us, we'll be at the Park Meadows on the Bronco's dime. Then we will be going south. Its likely to get very messy. You've been here a couple days. You don't owe us anything. But if you come back, well... its your call."

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

I smile at Fitz's concern for my companions and I nod my head at his decision to send someone, most likely, more capable than I.

"I'll be staying on and heading back with y'all to Fort Garland, if that's ok with you. Things have changed and I no longer have a need to visit The Springs, or anywhere else local for that matter. And Fort Garland seems as good a place as any for me and Slugger to figure some things out. Plus, you Arco Boys have treated me and mine fairly... more than fairly, and I feel I should do what I can to help y'all out. And my menagerie is more capable then they look; as scarred up Orcs and destroyed dune buggies will attest."

I smile and give Slugger a look of approval and a nod of my head.

"And I knew the risks coming into this, including a more dangerous return trip. But maybe I can pickup a bulletproof vest in the Mile High City, might help when things get messy."

  • Michael James Watson

He nods, "Pay cash for armor. The Broncos will be eager to supply us and we are already getting free gas, but they will want credit for the free bees when they get to FG. I suspect we can get almost anything while we are here. Everyone, go shop. There is s favorable exchange rate of Colo-dollars to gold. I am going to trade 100 sovereigns for Colos. That'll run us a tab of around 50k colos. Look for body armor, ammo, seeds, kitchenware, medicine. Cell phones, target systems, needles. Things that might get scares if we have to start making it ourselves."

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

"Well, to be honest Fitz, I don't want to owe the Broncos anything. Or anyone else for that matter. So I will definitely be paying for everything out of my own pocket."

I turn to look at Wrecker.

"And I'll try not to 'flash' more than necessary."

I give him a playful wink and laugh then turn back to Fitz.

"Now, you said it's safe here, Fitz, but every place has it's dangers... So what should I be wary of or watchful for in Denver?"

  • Michael James Watson

"Be wary of Broncos buying drinks. The bastards will press ya. We will be passing Colorado Springs. There is supposed to be a Federal District. Not sure now. What used to be the city of Castle Rock is now the border of the city and state of Denver. Guys, i know its been a scary ride, but if you drink too much you'll wake up a Bronco. Stay safe. Stay south of Willow Creek. Stay in the 470/25 commercial area...2 days and we are out of here."

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

I give Slugger a playful shove.

"You hear that Slugger? No drinking. So I guess you're going to have to curb your alcoholic ways for a couple of days."

I give her a playful smile and a wink, then I turn back to Fitz.

"Good advice. We'll heed your warnings."

I take a last drag off my cigarette and drop the butt to the ground, snuffing it under my boot heel. I pull my skull riding mask back into place.

"Ready when you are, boss."

  • Michael James Watson

Slugger snickers, "I will if you will!" She pulls the helmet over her brow.

A motorcyclist comes over and speaks briefly to Fitz. Fits yells, "Mount up"


  • Michael James Watson

The drive into Denver up 25 is eerie. The sides are well armed with m1 tanks, hummers, and personnel carriers, as well as some technical vehicles. The coloring on the military vehicles is standard except some side panels are painted orange. R sees the version of the 1st Cavalry they are using and is probably both amused and annoyed.

As they advance there is a sudden air raid horn and the tanks aim their barrels skyward. The military escort signals to pull over and Fitz does so.

A flight of three F15s rushes westward splinting in different directions over the roadway, flying upward circling.. After a few minutes an all clear horn is sounded and the caravan continues.

The caravan is brought to the Park Meadows motel and is checked in. Fitz is annoyed that even though it only just past midday he can't fill the tanks till tomorrow.

He speaks to an officer ath the Motel who changes gold for Colos.

Coming over he says, "Here... a 1000 Colos. Get what you can. Nothing we can't make ourselves."

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

I refuse the offered colos with a polite hand gesture and slight shake of my head.

“I got my own money, Fitz... and I think everybody knows it” I finish with a short laugh. “I got your list of needed supplies and I'm happy to spend some of it getting them for the good people of Fort Garland, as well as myself and Slugger. But thank you for the offer. I'm...” a slight pause, “well...” another slight pause. “I'm not really doing this for the pay... more the benefits, to be honest. I think there's a reason Slugger and I ended up in your fine city when and how we did. There were a few ways I could have gone to get to The Springs and still avoid interstates and major cities... but for some reason, having come from deep in southern Arizona... or what once was, we ended up in Fort Garland. Completely unmolested and in record time, I might add... I gotta believe there's reason. And in this new Age of Magic, I'm willing to start believin' in aaaall sorts of things.”

I change the subject, getting my mind back on track.

“Have you sent Candy back yet? I'm curious because I had a weird idea. I don't know what status FG wants to be or not be; by that I mean, independent or incorporated, and with whom. But if Fort Garland wants to remain independent... perhaps they should hurry up and declare themselves an Independent City State, BEFORE the convoy arrives. They will need a Flag and a signed Declaration, or something, to make it official. Oh, and claim as much land around the city as possible as part of your new City State... gonna need room for expansion. And if they get it done before we arrive... they could, as an Independent City State, accept the 'free' gasoline as a Tribute of Good Will from a Neighboring Nation, with nothing owed in return... maybe. Set the place up as a Neutral Trading Port between the other New Nations of the Americas.”

I pause a moment, realizing I let out a lot of my thoughts without knowing all the facts or the desires of those involved.

“But hey...” I shrug, “it was just a thought. I mean... being part of a big five State Nation could have it benefits as well.” I shrug again. “Who am I to say. But... I... I just felt I had to say it out loud... ya know. Any away... got some shoppin' to do. See ya later, surely in time for dinner. Oh, do you think I should cash in some gold for colos? Or do you think the merchants will accept them?”

I ask with a straight face, then a bit of a smile hits the corner of my lips and a playful twinkle shows in my eyes as I head for the same officer I just saw Fitz with, exchanging gold coins for colos.

  • Michael James Watson

Fitz listens then pulls his pip and lights it, looking around.

"You got your own gold, great. Keep it. I got a sweet deal on my exchange and i bet you won't get 2/3 of it. IN the mean time, take this. WHo knows what you will find and if its stuff we need and you don't want, buy the stuff we need with my colos. Don't fret it."

"As for the Nation of Fort Garland...Rodak told you what happened, i am sure. We run tanker caravans. Have for years. 4 or 5 of us have similar hauls and similar directions, it just worked for us to buddy up. That's what we did. We had a long caravan of tankers, shipping crate haulers, box trucks. The change happened when we were in Fort Garland. We hardly knew the people there. Just in passing. But we have been there for 6 months.. We like the locals. and if there is going to be a dust up.. Well, i told Candy to tell Rodak everything. We won't be declaring ourselves a country. to small a place. As for the nation of Colorado.. well,... Rodak, Wrecker, Candy, myself, and the rest of us....We come from Texas and that's where i sent Candy"

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

I accept the colos when he offers them again. I shove them in deep in my right front pants pocket and continue listening. When he finishes I let out a low whistle.

“Well, that's gonna have an effect on the landscape. I do recall Rodak mentioning y'all were based out of Texas. Arco is too, right? And I get that y'all are most likely loyal to Company or State... uh, Nation now... or both.” I sigh heavily. “I guess there's gonna be a fight for Fort Garland... most likely.”

Another heavy sigh. I am quiet for a moment as I let it sink in.

“Guess we should get busy then. Is everybody just going where ever they want, willy-nilly, or is there a plan or strategy for the shopping? I drove through here on the 25 a few times, several years ago when I lived in The Springs, to visit some cousins in Aurora... I seem to recall a Mall to the north of us just on the other side of the 470 here. I'm gonna start there... take the Menagerie shopping... could be fun.”

  • Michael James Watson

Fitz nods, "The Centennial Promenade. its something of a swap meet now, being indoors some people live in their booths."

Wrecker comes over, "Mind if I go with you? I have a contact at the Promenade that should be able to help us. He used to be a UPS driver. After the Change he migrated hee. Got a job with security at the Promonade. I ain't talked to him since the change but we've exchande a few notes. I sent few people up here on earlier runs."

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

"I'd be glad to have you along, Wrecker. Hop in the sidecar, I'll have Slugger ride in front of me. Mind the dogs and cat... and weapons."

  • Michael James Watson

Arriving at the Promenade it is clearly a center of commerce in a post apocalyptic world.

Wrecker says, "I sent a message ahead so he should be waiting around the main entrance..."

Driving around the crowd parts as vehicles pass. People pulling wagons with various household goods.

Stepping out into traffic as the trike passes a very large orc plants himself in front of the bike. He raises his hand to halt the bike.

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

I pull in the clutch and hit the brakes, front and back, hard. I kill the engine then glance to Wrecker, but remain wary... this could be his contact, or maybe not.

  • Michael James Watson

Wrecker stands in the side car..."Reg? You're an orc? I can't believe you became an orc!"

He nods, walks to the sidecar. "Ya? and you seem to be a Dwarf. How's your sister?"

He shrugs, "Well, she's a dwarf.... but otherwise ok...ah. Reggy, this is Raphael. That' s Slugger."

Hesmiles a fangy smile, "Hey. Up ahead on the right, look for the green area. I'll lead ya in. "He pulls a Razor board and starts skating off. R sees its motorized. He weave in the drive to the green painted parking lot. a dozen people, orc and humans ,stand around the border. a dozen cars sit in the green.

Reggy says, "We don't watch kids or pets. But your bike is safe. 2 Colos."

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

"And the contents, I hope." I say with a friendly tone and a smile as I hand him 3 Colos.

"The kid and the dogs are coming with... the cat... well, he does what he wants, and for my own safety, I let him. Do we need to check our weapons before entering, or is it open carry?"

  • Michael James Watson

Reggy says, "Its Open carry. No one likes leaving things in the car. But there are snipers in the rafters and they take no shit. There is almost never any trouble. The Broncos make sure trouble is local and short. An army with police powers is efficient and deadly."

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

Since the hunting rifle and katana are already packed in the sidecar, and the throwaway handguns, minus the Desert Eagle, are strapped to the bike, I leave them, but I bring the AK, slung over my shoulder right shoulder and everything else that was already strapped to me, including my back pack. I leash up the dogs and attach the leashes to Slugger's belt with D-links. I leave Buck's Helmet and my Skull Mask in the sidecar.

"Reggy, any recommendations on where to find some good body armor?"

  • Michael James Watson

Reggy leads the way in, playing tour guide.

Wrecker asks, "Ya, body armor. Kevlar helms. Sewing needles. Mirrors."

Reggy laughs, "You putting together a hope chest little man? "

Wrrecker quickly grabs his crotch and squeezes, making Reggy bend over yowling and laughing, "I was always shorter then you Reggy but I kicked your ass the last time you ran your mouth. Be glad its me not Sassy. She would have shived you"

Reggy laughs, "Ok! Ok! all good, Wrecks. "

He leads the way into the maul. Lit by skylights and solar, the place is dim and shadowy. The interior is tight. Stores looted and rebuilt for residences and sales. As if several swap meets were crammed into a high class mall that had been raided and looted."

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

Upon entering the Maul/Swap Meet I order the dogs to "stay close" and "be good". I look to see if Curious accompanied us, then I turn my full attention to the stalls and people around us.

I let Reggy and Wrecker lead the way, with the Poodle Boys and Slugger ahead of me where I can keep and eye on them. I periodically look behind me. Though I am looking in the stalls/shops to see what wares are being offered, I am also watching the people to see if they are watching us, and I am looking into the little niches and darker spaces for spying eyes and ambush.

Besides looking for the things on Fitz's List, I am also looking for ammo for the guns I have, high protein foodstuffs like MRE's, protein bars, etc., water purifying pills and/or personal filters, various medical supplies to supplement my Field Medic Kit, and medications and other supplies specifically for dogs.

  • Michael James Watson

Cat stayed with the bike, intimidating the orcs. (2 pip enemies-Orcs)

As they wander through the place a thought crosses his mind. The place looks like a junk drawer. Looking closer he thinks that many of these people look as if they are selling off a life time worth of personal possessions. But he realizes these people have been scavenging abandoned houses to collect the stuff her for sale.

Numbers he didn't know he knew pop into his head. The metropolitan area of Denver once had 2,963,821 people. If half dis appeared and half turned into other races, a million and a half places at least were filled with personal goods. Now those things are here. Its less like a Surplus store and more like an estate sale or yard sale.

He finds home first aid kits. Slugger picks up a tin of danish cookies and finds it full of sewing supplies.

Slugger looks over the kit and looks up at R with what look like tears. "Can I have it?"

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

"Of course you can, Slugger." I say with a smile, wondering if it reminds her of her mom, the reason for the tearful look.

I look to the seller. "How much for this sewing kit? And do you have any other sewing kits? And first-aid kits; got any of them?"

I know I won't really need them, but the Citizens of FG might... especially the first-aid kits if a 'dust up' happens.

  • Michael James Watson

"2 Colos for that.. I have a sewing machine and a box of thread and other sewing stuff.. Not another box like that...100 Colos for the lot" The orc nods as if its a good deal.

As he fishes out the money he looks down to see a man in exquisite black platemail as if he is a major LARPer. With him is a strikingly beautiful blond woman in forest larp clothes with a long bow and swords. They are sitting eating burritos and talking. Then man stands, she stands beside him. He snaps his head and makes eye contact with Raphael. He has the Mesob medallion on his forehead. He pushes the woman and they start walking east fast, and fade away, leaving the world.

He realizes he saw someone shadowwalk away, after recognizing him.

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

As I see the man in armor, I hand over the Colos reflexively... I can't take my eyes off that armor... armor that I recognize... ~THAT'S Shatterbound!~ I think to myself. ~Is that Vander? And Carissa?~ I wonder. As the man's head snaps my direction I see that it's not Vander, by the Mark of Mesob alone... but still he seems familiar... and that armor certainly looks like Shatterbound... from the pics in the Game Wiki files that is. ~So if that's not Vander, I wonder who the hot blonde with him is? She looks capable.~

The man seems surprised to see me... or perhaps more accurately, a fellow Mesobian. As he moves to leave, he appears to be hustling off the beautiful woman, as though he didn't want to stick around to associate with me. ~He looks really familiar... kinda like Johnny Depp from Fear and Loathing...~

As I watch the two Walk off into Shadow, my mind reels and races. I feel a strong desire to follow them, off into Shadow... But right now I know I can't; too many responsibilities. But I would like to know if I CAN follow them. I don't take my eyes off the spot where they faded out, I focus my eyes and my mind on the spot. I try to extend my 'awareness' to that spot to sense... 'see' or 'feel', something about that spot where they exited this world. If the Wiki is correct about the Medallion raising my Attributes to Chaos Ranking, then with my now higher than Human Ranked Psyche I should be able to 'detect something' there, a Shadow Trail, while it is still fresh. I know I've never done this before, but I have a great imagination and I KNOW it can be done, so I try.

  • Michael James Watson

He senses a trail but also that it will fade in moments unless he abandons everything to follow it. Knowing there was a choice is enough for now.

The man brings out an old singer sewing machine and a box of sewing stuff, looking like it was taken from the home of some one who was once an avid seamstress. Well used and cared for.

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

"Excellent. Thank you." I say to the seller with a smile and a nod. "Reminds me of the one my mom had... someone's gonna get some good use outta this beauty." I grab the sewing machine in my left hand; I carry it hanging at my side, the box on my right shoulder. I begin looking for something to carry my purchases in, there are sure to be more... perhaps a little red wagon, if a shopping cart is not available. I look around and follow Reggy's lead, smiling to myself at the glimpse I got of other Shadow Travelers, now being able to detect Shadow Trails (and probably other phenomenon), and knowing I COULD have followed.

"This place looks like a huge swap meet to the Nth degree." I say to Reggy, sounding a bit awed or overwhelmed by it all... though I'm not. "Any actual businesses left? Or more specialty vendors?" I ask with a friendly and truly curious tone in my voice.

  • Michael James Watson

Reggy says, "Depends what you mean by actual businesses. The place was gutted by the riots within days of the Change. People went hard into hoarding. Vey little was around for the first few month that hadn't started in some store and gotten raided. Bad and bloody days. Same All over i hear. Once the Broncos started securing things, restoring transport and supply chains things got better. Then a few of the businesses reopened. One or two employees survived and they brought their friends and family to secure the old work shop. Dress Barn and Stickly furniture are like that. Alot of places people moved into they reopened on name recognition; Denver Leather, Conn's Appliances. Conn's supports group foraging out in the burbs. Lot of places do. Some things went fast. Wagons, wheel barrows, shopping carts. With gas so expensive and hard to get people walked, abandoned the burbs, moved in here. Any business that did food like like Firehouse Subs or Wahoo fish taco reopened as food services with...creative menus."

He looks R over, glances at Slugger and the dogs, "You look well heeled. Friends with Wrecker. Must have been fairly rural during the change. Most the rural places did ok. at first. Still are, like Fort Garland. But the big cities became warzones. Aurora became a stronghold for the asshole orcs. Golden went elvish. Indian Hills went Dwarf, as I am sure you know. Hey Wrecker, if Rodak is doing a deal with the Indian Hill Dwarfs let him know I got about 40 orcs that hate the Aurora tribe. We are in the Willowbrook area foraging and running our parking lot business. We would love to get the hell out of Denver. The Bronocs are recruiting anyone with military experience and that's a lot of the Aurora orcs. And a lot of assholes."

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

I nod my head a few times and stop wasting my time looking for a wagon or cart.

"Well, I wasn't sure how well or bad things went here, or how well organized the recovery has been. Just trying to get my bearings. I had been spending a lot of time in the wilderness, camping, when the Change happened... really had no idea what had happened until I came back one day and found Slugger here at the scene of a massacre... she doesn't really talk about what happened much. Before he died, her Uncle made me promise to look after her... so we came up north and found ourselves in Fort Garland just a couple of days ago, and now I'm riding with Wrecker and the Arco Boys. Been a real eye-opener and wild ride so far."

"And as far as the specific businesses... I was kind of hoping a GNC had survived" I chuckle. "They had excellent protein bars that would keep a long time if unopened. I was also hoping to find a Garden & Patio department that survived; looking for seeds for a vegetable garden."

  • Michael James Watson

Reggy laughs, "GNC? Meds are gone. People ate them like candy trying to reverse the Change. Idiots.. Seeds might be hard to find but possible. Anyone with seeds at this point is trying to farm."

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

"Well then, I guess that leaves the specialty items" I say to Reggy with a hopeful smile; "body armor, ammo, meds and medical supplies... and any veterinary supplies, if at all possible. I know these items are surely more scarce and certainly very expensive, but I gotta ask. You never know what you might find in a place this size."

I keep looking around at the people, watching for lurkers in dark places and pickpockets as people get too close. If I see anything big or bulky on Fitz's list I will point it out to Wrecker, since I'm already carrying a Singer and box of sewing supplies.

I tell the dogs Poodle Boys they are 'good boys' and 'behave', 'stay close', but I also try to gently project the feelings of my praise for their good behavior and my desire for it to continue to all three of them. I'm not sure if I can affect them with my now more powerful Psyche, but I am willing to try. Part of being a Gamer (playing a character, specifically); Try Everything... sometimes more than once, you just don't know what will or won't work until you try.

I return my attention back to the great Swap Mall, with its stalls and shops, its myriad of scavenged stuff and plethora of people buying and selling.

  • Michael James Watson

Reggy weaves through the clutter to a big box store. Moving to what was once the recieving for a big box store. Its been converted to a metal working place. He is taken to an area where they are making body armor, sewing Canvas and 500 denier Cordura around steel plates. Several orcs are working the metal and the fabric. An orc comes up, nods to Reggy and asks what you are looking for?

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

"Full body armor, if you've got it. Something that'll protect me from bullets and melee weapons. Not too heavy, not too bulky, not too restrictive."

  • Michael James Watson

Wrecker agrees, "TYa, All ive got is leather and things are getting dicey on the road. He looks at Reggy who nods. The man says, "Reggy vouches for you guys.. "

Reggy says, "These are the Arco boys from Fort Garland. "

He nods, "oh.. and we want to go south, don't we Reggy....Ok. I got ya. I got a dozen of these. Raided some reenactor's place. I got four of them complete and pieces that once sorted out could make 7 or 8 more. I know we want to go south but i can't give them to ya for free." He walks back into piles of boxes, crates and to a van. Opening the door he pulls a pile of metal and straps and pads. Clearly a reenactor's bag. (Roman Style; Lorica Segmentata)

"There are 4 full rigs here. 1 was in the bag with all the pads and leg pieces and shit. The workshop has 3 other body sets and 6 other helms. And cut out pieces for 8 other rigs. I was putting them together but if you want to buy the lot i'll make ya a good deal. "

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

I look the stuff over, seeing that it's in good shape I nod my head.

"We'll take the lot of it" I say. "I'm sure we can piece it all together when we get back to FG. I was hoping for something a bit less flashy and a little more modern. But, Beggars can't be choosers. Especially in this market." I laugh.

  • Michael James Watson

He says, "I got the modern stuff. Lots of it in fact. But most of the stuff is refits. This crap won't fit us. Too..." he looks around, "Human" And all the modern gear. Tac suits, airsoft, are people are using. "

He looks at Reggy who nods again, " We hit a militia group early on. They were hunting us like sport. Tacticals, scoped rifles. Like it was thanksgiving. Like a month before we weren't all Americans hoping the country didn't go down to shitter because of the ragheads and beaners. They knew where we all were because we had all been in the same Milita group. The Stalwart Americans. The Stal Ams. They knew who all of us were, by name. Our families.. Thats the worst thing about the Change... I've brother who went elf and now he won't talk to me...So they raided us, killed a dozen of us. People who had been their friends.. We said fuck em . Our eyesight is better now then night goggles. We snuck into the compound and butchered the bastards. So all the tac gear I have needed....repairs."

Reggy says, "And cleaning"

He pulls up a tac vest. "Slightly used. Only one owner. 20 colos."

Slugger says, "DO you have one in green and blue circles?"

Wrecker says, looking at Slugger, "You know, R, I love the armor but i think we should get a couple of the tac vests and piece together something smaller for Slugger."

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

"Good idea. I think we should get as many as we can. But with the tac vests needing work, we won't be able to use them right away, maybe a few of them before we leave, I did just get this old Singer and a box of sewing supplies, plus I know a few tricks about sewing and cleaning."

I try not to smile at my realization of the Cantrips I can do and the possibility of more to come, possibly making repairs go much faster.

"Now the armor" I continue "we can sort out before we leave..." I look over Wrecker's Dwarven proportions. "and maybe do some restrapping... we should get some leather belts to use for straps, if needed. Saw plenty of them on the way in... one or two in every other stall it seemed." I turn to the Orc selling the armor.

"I'll take all the armor and whatever you've got in tac vests too, as is. How much you want for the lot of it? And is there any chance we can pay for the use of that van to get it all to our rooms? We're close by."

  • Michael James Watson

He nods, "10,000 Colo. I got probably 40 tac suits, some of them really messy.. these rigs and the parts and I'll toss in a spool of webbing and use of the van. Deal?"

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

Before answering I turn to Wrecker and say quietly.

"This one's on me. We need this and I can cover it. Tell Fitz if you like, but I can do some good here and there's no reason I shouldn't." I turn back to the seller with a smile.

"Deal. Half up front to hold it until we get back, we have a bit more shopping to do, and the other half when we return." I reach under my wide leather belt near the buckle and unzip the belt pouch hidden beneath containing the gold coins and draw out one, keeping it hidden within my closed hand I pass it over to the Orc seller.

"How many of those will you take instead of Colos?" I ask, knowing that Fitz got an exchange rate of 500 Colos to 1 Gold Coin, but I might get less.

I also take into consideration the different weights that gold coins come in... came in, back on my world; the Canadian Maple Leaf alone came in 1/4 ounce, 1/2 ounce and full ounce, with the full ounce selling at nearly two thousand US Dollars... before the Pandemic wiped out everything.

  • Michael James Watson

He licks his lips, a bit of tongue licking the tusk in a move that looks like a new nervous habit...


Reggy makes obvious hand signs, looking like bad baseball signals.

"Call me Tickle. Under no circumstances would I make a deal for gold, sir. I run a legitimate shop and only accept Colos. "

Looking around carefully he whispers, "Vultures, vultures, everywhere." Tapping his ear. " Reggy wants us to go south. So...2000 colos till you can change enough gold legally. Pay off at your place. When you get ready to ride there swing by the docks and ill drive the van myself and close the deal...maybe ill bring some good tequila I got saved to seal the deal? "

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

I nod my head thinking to myself that I've never had such a hard time spending money in my entire life.

"Tickle, Well Met. Call me Raphael. And I understand. You guys gotta run your business all up front and legal like. And I know you don't want to draw any attention or trouble from the Fed's. Unfortunately, I don't happen to have 2,000 Colos on me at the moment."

I turn to Wrecker.

"If you can cover the down payment, I'll pay you back after I get more Colos. You know I'm good for it. I'm sure Daddy Warbucks gave you more Colos than me... I think he likes you better." I say playfully.

I turn back to Tickle.

"Tequila sounds like a great way to seal the deal. And when y'all make it to FG I got some Pappy Van Winkle Reserve I'll be happy to share. Call it a welcome to the neighborhood kind of thing."

  • Michael James Watson

Wrecker digs out his pouch and pulls out 2000 colos.. Set it down.

"Covered. Meet us at Park Meadows to get the rest. Lets fit one of these bad boys to me and I'll wear it out! "

Looking to R wrecker says, "Lets talk settling up back at the Fort so we don't have to deal with middlemen for walking money."

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

"No middlemen is fine by me" I say to Wrecker, then turn to Tickle.

"And I'll take this complete rig now as well... looks like it'll fit me perfectly. And this Tac Vest too."

While Wrecker is getting fitted, I use a Clean Cantrip to clean the blood off the Tac Vest, knowing it will take a few of them. I focus on the 'feeling' I get each time I use the Cantrip, identifying it as Magic, so I can recognize it again when I feel it... and so I can teach myself more Cantrips. After all, I have read all the original Cantrip descriptions in the Unearthed Arcana on multitudes of occasions... I was made to act them out by one DM who shall remain nameless... but perhaps now I should honor him, for that knowledge could prove very useful.

Once the vest is clean, I focus on the 'magical feeling', then make a sewing motion over one of the bullet holes, while saying a little rhyme: "A Stitch in time, saves nine." I whisper as I work, repeating the motion and rhyme (somatic & verbal components) of the Stitch Cantrip over each bullet hole until all are stitched closed.

After cleaning the vest (and hopefully stitching closed all the bullet holes) I set it aside. I then button all the pockets closed on my field jacket to keep from losing the contents then remove the jacket, pull the sleeves outside in, then wrap the jacket around the sewing machine, pull the sleeves criss-crossed under the top of the machine, bring them around the top and tie them in a knot, but not so tight I can't slip my hand under the knot for carrying purposes. Then I zip the jacket closed leaving the knot exposed at the neck hole, then I pull the drawstring at the bottom to cinch it all together.

Then I take off my weapons belt and lay it at my feet. I button up my flannel shirt then put on the tac vest, tightening it up nice and snug, intending to use in to replace some of the padding for the Roman armor. Then I put on the other pads I will need. Once done, I start with the leg armor, repositioning the .45 strapped to my right thigh as needed, then the upper body armor, getting help as needed from Tickle or Reggy. Then I put on my leather belt pouch, then the weapons belt over it, adjusting it a bit to make sure it's snug enough to allow for easy draw of my Moro Sword and Khukuri Knife. Then I slip the Desert Eagle back under the belt near my middle. Lastly, I grab the helmet and put it on. Suddenly I wonder if there is a mirror or other reflective surface nearby that I can see myself in... I'm suddenly very curious about how I look.

  • Michael James Watson

Looking around there is a sheet of steel nearby that is fairly reflective, if not a mirror. Looking in it he wonders how much has changed in a couple days.

The clash and clatter around the area dies away to silence.

Looking around he sees Wrecker and slugger turn to look quizzically as all the orcs stand silent.

Through the mall walks a well dressed man who R think at first glance is too vampiric for his taste despite the daylight. He walks through slowly, looking to make eye contact where he can. The orcs look away to avoid it and the man ignores them. Some impulse makes R meet his eyes and they exchange glances. Some deep function of the medalion brings a race and class to mind and he feels it as a very differant feeling then having a memory of his own. Drow mage.

The man moves on, up to Tickle's counter, opens the cigar box, riffles the bills and takes out about a 1000 colos. He shuts the box, taps it, and walks out the loading bay.

Tickle rushes over to the cigar box, opens it, counts quickly as most his staff turn to watch him. After a moment he nods to them, makes a pleased face and a hand sign. Then everyone returns to business.

The orc working on Wrecker's armor says. "The cold fuck....Someone need to stick him with a nice glass knife..."

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

"Careful; that one's a Mage." I say quietly to the Orc working on Wrecker's armor. "He's probably got all sorts of spells active on his person... and he's not exactly what he appears to be."

I turn to Slugger and bend down to whisper in her ear.

"If you ever see that one again, you let me know immediately. Don't let him get close to you for any reason, and don't listen to anything he says. And his skin should be black like my belt or boots, so he may look different if you see him again."

I turn to Reggy and move a little closer, speaking at less than conversational volume.

"Enforcer, right? Didn't seem like a regular pickup.... Bosses rarely make collections personally." I sigh through my nose. "Shame that bullshit didn't go away with the Change. Sounds like y'all are eager to get out of here... Our convoy rolling through Pueblo is sure to thin 'em out some, but stir 'em up somethin' fierce for the next group comin' through. If you're going our way, it might be advantageous to follow our convoy very close behind on the way through... or try to join us... if possible... if you can be ready quickly."

I pause, adjusting my armor near my shoulder, two fingers on one hand showing for just a moment.

"Look; I know you don't know me and I don't know you... but I cannot abide Racial Intolerance... And I cannot abide 'bullying' in any form, including Extortion and Protection Rackets. And it seems All Y'all need to get out of here fast.... I just thought I should say something, maybe give you an edge..."

  • Michael James Watson

Reggy says, "Mr Small. Eugene Smaldone III. He works for the South Mountain Mob. He's a capo. Does his own collections... likes torture magic. He ran protection rackets in Denver for his father Big Gene Smaldone before the Change. Checkers Smaldone ran the Colorado mob for decades. He hasn't been seen since the Change but all of the Smaldones everyone knew went Drow. Albino Drow so they all went goth. They were creepy violent psychos before the Change. Now.....well, we kick in. As long as we pay they only take a taste. The Broncos leave them alone."

Wrecker sighs, "Hey Reggy, think about what Rafe here said. Round up your boss and see if he wants to come when you bring the armor. Fort Garland might be a good move for ya."

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

"Fort Garland is a nice little place." I say to Reggy and the others listening. "No real signs of organized crime or racism. But the place is growing fast, perhaps a little too fast. Already starting to get a bit of a bad element there. The community could use a few more strong and upstanding citizens to help keep the place safe, maybe help re-educate the bad element."

I turn to Wrecker and say, "If there's one thing I've learned about building strong communities it's that it's better to be inclusive than exclusive. I know you talked about getting rid of the bad element, but maybe we should give them an opportunity to amend their ways and become contributing members of the community. And if they decide they don't want to change their ways then we can politely ask them to leave. And speaking of bad elements, there is one thing about Fort Garland that rubs me the wrong way... The dog fighting. When we get back I'd like to put an end to that. Hey I understand you guys need some sort of spectator sport so maybe we could start up a sports team of some sort... Or some pit fighting, if it has to be violent. Gives the spectators something to watch and it's good exercise and training for those who participate."

  • Michael James Watson

Walking back the the bikes Wrecker says, "Ya know Rafe, the Arco Boys control the gas station and we have a piece of a lot of things going on, but Rodak is just one of 5 mayors of Fort Garland. You've only been with us a couple days, so careful about committing us to anything. This time though I agree. I've known Reggy a long time. Since before the Change. I like the idea of he and his guys coming south but They became orcs for a reason. Keep that in mind"

Getting the trikes R, Wrecker, Slugger and the Poodles are greeted wit the sight of Curious sitting on the seat of the trike( bike with side car), licking his paws. The 4 guardian orcs are several rows away from their area, still guarding but at a distance. One of the guards has a bleeding paw scratch on his face and another has several bandaged wounds on arms and shoulders.

Reggy says, "What the fuck are you doing out of the zone? What if Cattle or Cable saw?"

One says, "Cattle said it was ok. He was here. We were walking by the sidecar, admiring it, and that fucking monster went crazy on us!! We didn't steal nothing but it ran after us and chased us out of the zone! . Cattle was yelling at it and that thing lept on his face and about clawed its eyes out. He threw it back on the sidecar and it curled up like nothing happened! I tell you the Change made that thing a monster!!!"

Reggy says, "Fucknuckle, how close was Cable to the bike?"

One of the other orcs looks chagrined, "Cable sat on it, grabbed the handle bars. The cat attacked. We tried getting it off him and it attacked us. "

Reggy looks to R, "Nice cat. Want to sell it?"

Back to the Park Meadow the others had varied luck shopping but the Armor is the best. Fitz is interested in the idea of Denver orcs coming south.

  • Daniel Eric Van Campen Sr.

When we get to the bike and I see the scratched up Orcs I try to keep the smile from my face, I mean really hard... straight faced, poker face. "I'm sorry fellas, but I warned you. And no, Reggy, I don't want to sell the cat. Not really mine to sell anyway. Not really sure he's Slugger's either. Somehow I get the feeling it's more like Slugger is his Human."

When we are pulling out of the parking garage, I say to Wrecker:

"I wouldn't normally overstep my bounds, Wrecker, and I'm sorry I did... but I saw how you two are with each other and you mentioned having a history, pre-Change.... Plus I got a good feeling about him and the others. And do I understand they became Orcs for a reason. Just as I understand you and the Arco Boys became Dwarves for a reason. Just as I understand that I was brought here for a reason. I know Slugger and I will not be staying in FG for too long... but I know I can help all y'all while we are here. And this is a time of change and new beginnings, a perfect time to build things better. I just want to help y'all build a strong community. And I had intended to meet the other Mayors, but apparently I needed sleep more. I will be meeting with them soon after our return and talking with them to see what I can do to help out without getting in the way or upsetting too many apple carts."

Upon our return to the Park Meadows and our meeting with Fitz, I suggest to him that maybe we could try more shopping tomorrow, different areas, maybe a little further out, perhaps.

If there is still daylight left, and time before we all gather for dinner, I will take my 'menagerie' across the street to the west to a fenced area covered in grasses bordering a small wash on both sides.

Not sure if it was a park or just a grassy area next to a wash... but it will be good enough either way to let the dogs run and play a bit, and I will take some time with the Poodle Boys to work on their training, which I have been neglecting since leaving the apartment.