Grandfather's Bastards

Moe Interlude #2

Moe is the the corner of the bar. The usual lights of his “confessional hour” are off tonight. The new radio crackles and sputters in the corner, and Moe’s official reason for the change is that he wants someone on watch with that thing until the search group comes back. A bunch of people assume that Moe wants to fiddle with his new toy and make sure it’s up to his typical standards. The real reason…

An empty cask of the Special Reserve is next to him, one he has just emptied moments ago. He swirls the drink in his mug, staring into the liquid. The radio signal fitzes and flutters beside him as he stares on, lost in thought.

The note is on the table next to him. And as the takes another sip, Moe thinks about the circumstances of which he had aquired it.

_*Bang*

The sound of the gunshot ringing in his ear, the look of…betrayal on Amos’ face.._

Moe had returned, fully intent on burning the note that Amos had handed off in his last request. But as he sits here, he can’t bring himself to do it. He can’t bring himself to open it. So he just sits, sipping his drinks. Waiting.

It’s for what exactly he’s waiting for he doesn’t know.Moe

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Session Five
The (Apocalypse) World keeps turning

In light of the palpable tension of the day before, Marco sent the Bastards off on an overwatch and trade ride to Poland. He stayed up until they left, talking with Moe and doing his best to ease his mind. The next day wouldn’t be any easier.

There was still a nip in the air when three people came to the gates of the Waystation. Two of them were wearing gas masks, the traditional garb of the Hunters. The third was Hatchet, Hallux’s uncle. Marco invited them in, and got the story from Hatchet. Hatchet had dropped Hallux off the day before, and ended up getting fired upon by a group on the road. He tried to run, but they gave chase, up until he found a larger group of them exchanging fire with a group of Hunters. The two Hunters he was now with saved his life, and as they were waiting for the heat to die down, they told him about Grav and how he knew about the Lodge. It was revealed that the opposing group were likely the Scientists, and the Hunters had seen them with a large spool of electrical wire.

While the rest of the Waystation is beginning to wake up and start their mornings in earnest, Marco calls Hallux, Smith, and Sander, and tells them what he just heard. He wants to set up an advance scout crew to go investigate, but is worried his best sniper is still liable to fly off the handle. He tables the thought, and goes to get breakfast.

Dutch is in Moe’s, barely tolerating the presence of the two Hunters. He has asked Moe to help him find a quantity of spray paint and glitter; he has cooled down from wanting the Bastards dead to merely wanting to vandalize their bikes. Of course, it doesn’t all work out as planned…the settlement with the best access to paint is Poland, and Moe’s contact there gathers the supplies and sends them back…with Hooch and the Bastards. After delivering the package, the fixer asks Hooch “he said he needed enough paint to mark up 30 bikes, any idea what that’s about?” It seems the prank may not work out quite as planned.

Marco, though watching his tense exchange with the Hunters carefully, is satisfied. He calls the team back, and asks for Dutch, Smith, Hallux and Sander to take Hatchet out to the wire site using Sander’s truck. While Marco is busy figuring out the rest of the holding’s business, he leaves Moe with the shortwave to monitor the team. Moe is able to get himself a signal booster, but is still initially unsure about his contact stability, and opens himself to the Maelstrom to try and pin down the team. What he sees instead are visions of hatred, violence, and death, a two way conversation between Amos and someone in Scarytown. He rushes to get Marco.

Meanwhile, the away team is trundling down a gravel road at Hatchet’s instruction, until they see a length of high-gauge wire strung over the road. Hatchet confirms it, this is the spot. The group gets out and looks around, getting their bearings. The road is heading East-Northeast, so to the left of the road is a northern area that would eventually lead in the direction of The Plant. To the right of the road is territory less known to the Waystation and its inhabitants. Dutch and Smith lock and load, and start slowly following the wire into the woods. They come to a camp with eight armed men, and right near it is a spool of wire. There is a small lean-to, but no other arrangements they can see. Attempts to conduct any sort of reconnaissance without alerting the men to their presence do not go well. As they attempt to fall back, one of them makes a noise, and suddenly the guns are out. Both Dutch and Smith split, trying to get out without being seen. They end up splitting up, and both booking it back towards the road.

Back at the Waystation, Moe has found Marco and told him what he saw in the Waystation. The conclusion he has come to is that Amos is too dangerous alive, as he’s being in psychic contact with the holding’s enemies. The two argue back and forth, but eventually Marco is won over after being reminded that Amos has been asking to talk to Dutch since he was locked up. The two men share a look, and then Marco hands Moe an old revolver. No other instructions are given.

Smith heads straight back to the truck, unaware he’s being followed. Sander and Hallux, however, understand the danger immediately, and take up defensive positions on the truck. Smith goes back to the woods to check his back. Dutch exits the woods just in time to see three of the men pop out from the tree line. Smith is able to take out one, and Dutch another. The third out in the open makes a break for it. Smith is about to come back out onto the road when he feels a gun barrel at his back…there were two more of the men he missed. He pretends to cooperate, but then goes for his chain when the group are out of sight of the truck. He isn’t quick enough, and the two men knock him out, intending to carry him the rest of the way. Dutch sneaks in behind him, and is able to take out one of the men, taking a bullet for his trouble. Hallux rushes down to help Dutch wake up Smith, and then they try to follow the men through the woods.

The camp has already been abandoned, and the wire spool is gone. They follow the wire further into the woods, to a point where the wire ends, and the spool is sitting there on the ground. Sensing a trap, they stay back, covered by some trees. After looking around a bit, they hear a faint roar coming from ahead of them. Just barely through the trees, they can see an old hydroelectric dam. It looks like the Scientists have taken it and are using the wire to connect it to something. Now completely outnumbered, the three retreat back to the truck, and report to Sander what they saw. “You wouldn’t need to connect two power sources together,” Sander says. “There must be something else that needs a lot of power.” The plot of the Scientists thickens.

Moe goes into Amos’s cell, trying for answers. They go back and forth, and finally Amos presses a small sheet of paper into Moe’s hand, asking for him to give it to Dutch. He says one more thing, revealing that he was talking to someone who would respect the sort of strength he and Dutch possess, and was only trying to get Dutch to go to somewhere where he’d be respected. Moe thinks on this, and then says to Amos “he’ll never see this, I hope you know that.” The last expression on Amos’s face is one of betrayal as Moe pulls the trigger.

Moe returns to his bar, where Marco is sitting. He returns the revolver, and no words are exchanged. Moe has not yet opened the sheet of paper Amos gave him.

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Dutch Interlude #2
Life's a Bastard

Dutch was having one of the worst days of his life, naturally right after a really good one. I thought today would be a good day… I mean, Shiva and I had something starting… and then it all went to *shit* he fumed. Jake was at home, cleaning his weapons, a pint of bitter next to the gun oil. I mean… I thought Shiva and I… oh, screw it. Just focus on getting back at that coward motherfucker Hooch he thought, grinding his teeth loud enough to be heard outside – he thought anyways.

He rolled a shoulder, stretching one of the bruises the Bastards had left on his side. C_hrist that hurt… and the little shit is too smart to go anywhere without ‘enough’ of his gang. Frakkin’ cowards…_ he thought, already working a plan on how to get them back. And without actually hurting them. Because even if they are a pack of raving psychotic asshats, they help keep the Waystation safe. They took my dignity in front of people I care about; I’ll just have to take theirs right back he thought, snapping the action on his subgun back into position with an audible ca-click. Just need to talk to Moe for a few supplies… he thought, biting his lip.

A knock at his door brought his attention up. “Yo, Dutch, you in there?” a nasally voice sounded into his shack. Dutch sighed, then looked up at the door. “It’s open Bob, come on in” he replied, grabbing a second beer and slinging it up on the table. Dutch’s… what is the word? He’s not a friend, really, but he’s not an asshole either, and we work together a lot. He saved my ass spotting that one trip down by Bars & Nob he thought, trying to figure out what as Bob entered.

Bob was 6’1” and clearly studied at the ‘be stronger than the other guy’ school of fighting, given how strong the sonuvagun was. He kept his brown hair trimmed short, brown eyes hidden behind a pair of safety glasses, and much like Dutch went almost nowhere without his body armor. Dutch and Bob had worked together a couple times previously, with Bob being one of Marco’s hardest – if not necessarily brightest – guns in the Waystation. Bob set a formidable looking shotgun down as he grabbed the pint Dutch had pulled for him.

“Heard you ran into some ugly bastards trying to pull Amos back” he said, motioning at the blotch of purple on Dutch’s face before taking a long swig of the beer. Dutch just nodded, slipping the subgun onto his back and plopping the rifle onto the table. “Yeah” he said quietly, grimacing. Bob just chuckled at that.

“Next time, don’t pick a fight with all 30 of them, dumbass” he said, clapping Dutch boy on the back. “Wait for one of them to be on the shitter, then get them with their pants down – literally” he said with a half-faked grin. Dutch paused to send Bob a death glare before extracting the bolt carrier from his rifle, then stripping out the barrel to run it through with a cleaning brush.

“Think I figured that one out, Bob” Dutch huffed as he cleaned his long gun. Dutch eyed Bob’s shotgun again, wondering what the heck his next move should be. Got a vague notion, but I’ll need to see a man about a few things for that he figured, looking back up at Bob. “Got a few other ideas on how to manage that, too, but we’ll have to see how that plays out” he said, looking back up at Bob.

The other shooter just nodded. “Figured you wouldn’t just roll over for the fuckers, Dutch. Arrogant little pricks who think the rules don’t apply because the Waystation needs them, and that goddamn group mentality they got. Get yours, ya hear, boy?” Bob said, downing the other half of the offered beer in a long pull. “Gotta get back to it. See you around, Dutch” Bob said as the big guy picked his shotgun up and headed out the door.

Dutch looked back down, brow furrowed as he reassembled the long gun. Three pounds of pressure on that trigger… he thought as he snapped the bolt carrier back into place, reassembling it fully. Dutch hefted it to his shoulder, feeling the cheek-weld, his hand supporting it perfectly. This I get. This is straightforward. Shiva… she isn’t. What the hell am I doing? he wondered, applying the three pounds of pull to the trigger. The resounding snap of a dry-fire echoed through his empty shack, the shooter feeling slightly reassured about doing the one thing he knew he was really good at. _ Better go talk to Moe_ about this he thought, a plan forming in his mind…

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Moe Interlude #1

Moe shakes off a yawn and rubs his chest as he rises. His schedule is different than most at the Waystation, and he’s tweaked it as best he can over the years, and he’s found use for this eccentricity. He had read once, as a boy, about a group of Blue Monks (he wasn’t sure if it was the same ones that were supposed to come with the luxe tunes as well) would wake up in all hours of the night for their work. When Moe started brewing on his own, the easiest time to sneak away for a spell would be in the late night hours, and that’s where he got some of his best work done now.

It’s early, or late, depending on how you put a spit in it. It’s been a few hours since he closed down the “confessional”, the time that he kept the place open with only himself out in the front for late night visitors. Sunny tended to be up at the crack of dawn to start things cooking, and that left him only a few hours to work in peace. She would chide him as he would laze in a couple of hours later, and then again take a drink or two and nap in the afternoon, but it meant that no one else was around to bother him as he worked. In theory, anyone could do what he did, and he always wondered if someone was willing to try to press the issue, maybe take a shot at it. But if any neophyte wanted to crack it, they were missing the work.

Moe flips open a very worn hidebound book, flipping through figures and charts. He walks down the aisles of his stock, paying special attention to the barrels still racked with aging product, draining a little and giving each a thoughtful sip while jotting down notes in his book. Mow notes, with some pride, a now empty small cask of special reserve. It had been a test batch, and he was rather proud of how it had worked for Dutch-boy and Shiva.

A small smile touches his lips. “Now, that’s a thing.” Moe offers a shake of his head as he opens the cask. There’s something stuck to the underside of the cask, somewhere in the neighborhood of grainy and slimy. Moe grabs a chisel from a workbench and begins to scrape, collecting it and storing it away. The barrel would later be cleaned and reused, but what was left behind was too valuable to wash away. Any dolt could make some juice, and squander some of Monty’s hard earned fruit by making it vinegar. ‘Course that was as about as sure of a thing that could assure your trip to the man as you could have managed. One of those books that managed to get passed around liked to preach a bit about “natural selection”, which a lot of dick hardholders liked to insist meant it was justified that they got to lead. But one hadn’t been the sharpest knife, and left in a bit about the artificial type. It would take generations, countless generations to winnow what you wanted, but when you finished a batch in a few months, if you started at a couple of years, you got a lot of generations. And the more Moe worked at it, the more people wanted his stuff. And the more people wanted his stuff, the more they were willing to give him to help get more of it.

The secret, it seemed, was giving people the means to do what they wanted. Maybe it was offering them a simple drink to whet their thirst, maybe take away their pain for a bit. Then, it was offering them a place to play cards, for the simple price of paying for their drinks. They had always wanted to play, and he had given them their excuse, and when a man was up, he tended to play fast and loose with the jingle on drinks and tips. And the more that it seemed that Moe could offer, the more people were willing to ask, and the more they paid for the pleasure of doing what they were going to do anyway. Requests became more…esoteric. Specific. And if they needed a little push, well…

Dutch-boy. That was an interesting case, that it was.

Moe turns on a burner, heating up the water for his mash. He did he best to drown out the nagging idea of “personal responsibility” that did its best to keep him in trouble. He had promised…well, that might have been a bad idea.

“Stupid kid.”

Moe pours himself a draught of barrel of something finished and sips, thinking about the other night. Not the night of the kids hook-up (of which the pair seemed typically ungrateful of), but the one after that, with one kid getting very crispy around the edges. It was going to be a hard project to handle, and the line was tighter than he liked. Some test batches failed, after all, but the kid looked promising, if he wasn’t about to flame out right here. And if Moe could deliver…hell, who knew what people would ask him for next time.

Which led to the next problem. Moe gulped his drink a little deeper, watching the surface of the water begin to quake, a moment of calm, right before the boil came. Something was coming, he was sure of it. Something was always coming, but something was gnawing at his guts this time, something Marco had said. Moe had done his best to not look at the Maelstrom, had made it his policy not to look. They were just pictures in a book, he had once told himself, remembering another scrap of paper he had once read. But maybe, this time, he would have to.

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Hooch Interlude #1

Another night at Moe’s. Not after a long run around the Waystation’s turf, no, but they’d tracked down someone who’d done them wrong and then gotten into what was (for them) a mostly friendly fight. So the 30 Violent Bastards were as rowdy as ever. Pierre had already tried to bottle Rawsteak again, but the new recruit had ducked and laid the guy out with a right hook. Kid was learning fast.

“Hell of a day, huh Hooch?” Harridan said, sitting down besides the chopper. For his part Hooch was just sitting there, steadily draining a mug while Nuff argued with Moe over how to cook an actual raw steak. There’d been some confusion. But when Harridan spoke up, he looked over at her.

“Yeah. Girl doing alright?” he said, asking after Shiva.

“Well, that’ll all depend on what happens to her daddy, now doesn’t it?” Harridan replied, drinking from her own mug. “Stupid bastard. She’s holding together for now, though.”

“Well. That’s good. Seems tough. Should be fine.” Hooch said, nodding as he glanced over at the small mob of Bastards, feeling a pair of eyes burning into his back. He had a good idea who owned them. “Helluva day is right.”

“Trouble in the Waystation. Dutchboy getting in your face. Hallux getting in your face-”

“That’s nothing new. It’s, whatchamacallit,” Hooch said, snapping his fingers for a second, “standard operating procedure. The medic’s always had guts.”

“Yeah, sure, but that many of them? Last time she stood up to you it was in the safety of the ‘station, not out on the road when everybody’s got their blood boiling. Might be worth keeping an eye on her.”

“If you say so, Harridan. We might have a different problem, though.”

Harridan nodded at that, taking another swig while glancing in the same direction as those eyes burning a hole in Hooch’s back.

“Think we’ll have to deal with Dutchboy more permanent-like?”

“Don’t know. Hope not. We’ll see.”

Both grunted and returned to their drinks, attention stolen for a moment as Skidmark got thrown over the bar and desperately scrambled to get back across it before Moe could get to him. Rawsteak was laughing at him.

“You ever regret this?”

“Huh?”

“You ever regret tying the Bastards to the Waystation?” Harridan asked, seemingly sincere. “From a certain point of view, the last Rawsteak was right before you smoked him. If we’d stayed out on the road, we wouldn’t be dealing with problems like this. Diplomacy and shit. Playing nice. It’s great to have somewhere to rest our heads with a roof over ‘em, fix the bikes, get a drink, but it sure as shit ain’t simpler.”

“Heh, no, sure ain’t. Let’s see, wazzatphraseagain,” Hooch said, snapping his fingers at Harridan a couple times until she gave him the words he was looking for.

“‘Hell is other people’.”

“Ain’t it fucking just?” Hooch said, grinning. It faded quickly, however, as he thought about her question. Eventually, he shook his head. “Nah. Nah, I don’t regret it. Shotglass was right to bring us here and make the deal with Grandpa, and once I was in charge I was right to keep us here. This is better. Reliable food, reliable repairs, reliable fuel. People to watch our backs instead of knifing them. Anybody who gets fed up with the road has somewhere to settle, instead of us taking their bike and leaving them somewhere to die.”

It wasn’t common, but sometimes Bastards burned out, wanted to settle down. In the old days, that was a death sentence. Now, well, it didn’t make any sense to Hooch, but he’d swear that Seatbelt (Sam, it was Sam now) looked happier as a farmer and a father than he ever had as a Bastard. People could be weird sometimes.

“Besides, the road’s always there. Marco shits the bed for good, we can always leave. Maybe even set up a new deal with Poland, if we can get that bastard of a skinner to make anything besides gin.”

“Fair enough, fair enough. Not that I want to leave. But you know I gotta ask these things, Hooch,” she said.

“Sure, sure. Hey, you ever regret it?”

“Huh?”

“Me, rather. Could’ve taken over easy after Shotglass died, but you put me in charge. You ever regret it?” Hooch smiled, making the question more of a joke than serious. Harridan smiled back, cold, dead eyes locking with Hooch’s.

“Trust me Hooch, if I had any regrets, you’d have heard ’em by now.” she told him, voice pitched real quiet, threatening even if Hooch didn’t know her. He laughed.

“Well that depends strongly on if one’s sense of hearing still works for a few seconds after the bullet hits, now doesn’t it? ‘Cause if not, I wouldn’t hear a thing.”

He nodded at her rifle; before Hooch, before Shotglass, there’d been Oddball. And all of the older Bastards remembered what had happened to him. Harridan just chuckled, drained her mug, and pat Hooch on the shoulder as she walked over to Nuff. Hooch smiled into his mug as he drained it in turn, before noticing that Skidmark was trying to brain Rawsteak with a stool. Well that wouldn’t do. Moe hated it when the stools got broken or bloody.

Skidmark nearly fell on his ass when the stool he was holding suddenly turned into an anchor in the middle of his backswing. He looked over his shoulder to see Hooch holding the other end of the stool. He saw that very briefly, before the fist Hooch had made of his free hand slammed into Skidmark’s face.

The Bastards cheered. Just another night at Moe’s.

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Violent Bastards' motorcycle reference guide
A reference for the rest of us

Hooch rides a Harley-Davidson Sportster, a light yet traditional sport cruiser. Fast and relatively maneuverable.
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Nuff T’Eat rides a full-dress cruiser, like this Indian Chieftain. Powerful, heavy, and somewhat difficult to wheel around at low speeds.
chieftain-springfield-blue-ivory-cream.png

Rawsteak rides a Suzuki Savage (or Boulevard S40). Cheap, small, and light.
DD955C12956746DBB400EF8A400938D7.png

Harridan has been working on her bike for a long time, and rides a custom bobber, designed for her frame and riding style.
Harley-Davidson-Bobber-Motorcycle.jpeg

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Session Four
Bad Behavior

Hallux returned to the Waystation with Hatchet in the early morning hours. At a particularly rocky section they needed to walk. Without the engine drowning out voices, Hatchet expressed his concern about Amos. The last time Hatchet had been to the Waystation, Grandfather was still alive, and the balance of power was different. Now, someone with a lot of ambition had a lot of power. As Hallux and Hatchet started the engine back up and approached the fork in the road near the Waystation, they heard, saw, and felt the rumble of 30 bikes flying banners of black flags and human skulls. The Bastards were back.

Marco met with Hooch soon after their return, with Nuff T’Eat following Hooch into Marco’s office. Marco was also suspicious of Amos, and was looking for an assurance of loyalty. Hooch gave a very Hooch answer: they appreciated the stability of The Waystation, and would fight for it…but if the fighting burned everything down, they would move on. Marco accepted the answer with only minimal fuss.

Down at Moe’s, Amos had apparently decided to put the screws on Dutch, hassling him about Deathwish, and clearly knowing it was a sore subject. To make things worse, he had brought Shiva, his daughter, out with him, and was embarrassing Dutch in front of someone clearly his own age and persuasion. Hooch, trying to figure out what was going on, made an attempt to read Shiva. It was not a good attempt. Instead of finding out what she was thinking, he made Tormund eyes directly at her chest. Whoops. Amos was…not thrilled. As the argument began, the volume in the rest of the bar steadily decreased, until Amos realized that all 30 Violent Bastards were looking right at him. He beat a hasty retreat, leaving Shiva. Thanks to Moe’s wingmanning and the private reserve, Dutch and Shiva left together.

While this was happening, there was a new arrival sitting at one of the other tables. Smith had come in that morning, receiving a missive from Marco dating back to around Grandfather’s death. Marco was looking for a security insurance policy, possibly including some dirty work. Smith was an old mercenary, who fit the bill pretty perfectly. He sat at one of the other card tables, talking with Leon about what had changed and what was going on.

The next morning, Marco decided that Amos’s antics had been more than he wanted to deal with, and asked Smith to move forward with dealing with him. Smith approached Amos’s cottage, and accidentally tripped a booby trap, setting the cottage on fire. Thinking quickly, Smith saved a collection of notes left in the cottage and tucked and rolled out the window.

The fire woke up the entire Waystation, putting the fire out with a bucket brigade. It became clear that Amos had flown the coop…and worse, had stolen one of the Bastards’ bikes. Attempts to stall Hooch worked only in the most cursory of manners, and Hooch even resorted to opening up to the psychic maelstrom to track Amos down. The Bastards blasted out of the Waystation before anyone could catch up to them.

Dutch decided to side with his new paramour and bring Amos back alive. He attempted to contact Hallux, who had been called in to help Marco make heads or tails of Amos’s notes. His attempt to contact her psychically ended with him getting sucked into the vortex of negative emotion between him and Amos…and distracting Amos so badly he got thrown from the motorcycle. Knowing that he was running out of time, Dutch grabbed Hallux, explaining what was going on, and went with Sander, borrowing Marmot’s Unimog.

Unsurprisingly, the Bastards got there first, recovered Rawsteak’s bike, and tied Amos to it, dragging him along behind. The Unimog intercepted them, and blocked the road. Dutch got out, and told Hooch to untie Amos. Hooch, unsurprisingly, said no. Dutch then threatened Hooch. Like, directly. Hooch of course called his bluff, and before Dutch knew it, he was a live demonstration of how literal the title “Violent Bastards” was. The Bastards didn’t even seem all that receptive to Hooch’s orders not to kill him…until Hallux stepped in. She dragged him away from the beating he was receiving, slapped him in the face, and ordered him back to the truck. She then told Hooch to untie Amos, explaining it was her professional medical opinion that if he hurt Amos further, Marco would not let him hear the end of it. Hooch relented, and Amos was secured in the back of the Unimog.

Back at the Waystation, Hooch offered Dutch a round at the bar. Honor-bound as they were to defend their boss, the Bastards were pretty impressed at the sheer brass balls Dutch had. Dutch, on the other hand, was not having any peace offerings. It continued in the bar, where a good portion of the Waystation got to see the simmering feud metastasize. In the meanwhile, Amos is in custody and the position of Head of Security is, ostensibly, open…

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Hallux Interlude #2
Anniversary

“He’ll be here soon.”

“Who is he exactly?”

How long have you lived here?”

“I know… but I wasn’t working for her yet. I just know he’d show up sometimes.”

“…They call him ”/characters/hatchet" class=“wiki-content-link”>Hatchet… though I think I heard her call him ‘uncle’ one time."

“I thought she didn’t have family?”

“I don’t think he’s really family…”

“What do they do together?”

“I don’t really know. They go out into the wastes overnight.”

“… but what do they do together?”

“It’s her uncle!”

“You said they’re not related!”

“They don’t do that!”

“How do you know! They could be doing anything alone out in the wastes! And think about the books she -”

“Shhh! She’ll hear you!”

Starsky and Hutch glanced over from their not so subtle huddle to try to determine if their boss, Hallux, had overheard their conversation. They were relieved to find that she was characteristically ignoring their presence.

What was uncharacteristic, however, was the fact that the raven-haired woman’s hands were empty, absolutely devoid of one of her special novels. Her dark eyes were staring off into space, her face blank, not even a stray scowl to be seen.

To many this might have been a sign of the apocalypse. On a typical day that person might have been right. But there were two very important reasons this was not the case. Firstly, the apocalypse had already happened and it was unlikely it would happen again so soon. And secondly, it was a special day. As her two medical assistants had been so quietly discussing, it was time for Hatchet’s visit. Hallux always acted strangely leading up to these visits, though no one quite knew why. This was probably because no one had ever bothered to ask her why, but also possibly because she wouldn’t have told them anyway. She had learned very early in her life that pretty much everyone had a tragic backstory, and telling people about it didn’t change anything.

Suddenly the woman’s expression changed, and her head whipped towards the door as if she heard a sound the other two hadn’t. Starsky and Hutch froze, then jumped when Hallux suddenly stood and exited the room without a word.

They two assistants stared at the now empty doorway for a moment before Hutch turned to Starsky, a big grin on her face. "Well, I guess that means I’m in charge!”

“Now wait just a second!”

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To everyone working and living at the waystation, noise – even in the early morning – was to be expected. Machines were running constantly, and there were always people awake.

However, some noises in the early morning tended to draw the attention of the security guards. The sound of a lone motorcycle was approaching when there was no report of any returning crew or incoming messenger typically had guns cocked long before the motorcycle came into view.

However, once the leader of the watch – a long time occupant of the Waystation – recognized the man as Hatchet and an order to relax went out. The group went back to their morning preparations, though more than a few curious looks followed the man’s entrance into the Waystation.

The driver of the motorcycle was a man outfitted from head to toe in well crafted if worn leather. His long black hair and sun-dried copper skin seems to simultaneously glisten in and absorb the sunlight. Though there was nothing about him physically that seemed to make him more threatening than anyone else these days, he somehow still had a quality that made the hair on one’s arms stand up, that made it obvious he should not be messed with.

He slowly came to a halt outside of the building that held the infirmary just as Hallux herself came out of the door. His dark brown eyes met her own and the smallest of smiles appeared on both of their faces.

The man dropped his kickstand and got off of his still running motorcycle.

Hallux approached him. "Kpaihàkwinakwsi, Rotag. How are you?.”

“Kpaihàkwinakwsi, Nadie. I’m fine. You?”

“Fine.” There was a long pause as the two simply looked at each other. For the members of the Waystation that had never observed this interaction before – and for some that had – Hallux was almost unrecognizable. Sure her features were the same, but her face was softer, happier, more expressive. She was like a different woman.

After the long moment the man chuckled and patted the rear seat. " Shall we?"

Hallux got on without another word.

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They drove for a few hours. Hallux understood the direction they went didn’t really matter. They just needed to find a place that they could be completely alone. That and a place that ‘felt’ right to Hatchet.

Hallux herself didn’t really understand what ‘feeling’ like the right place meant. It probably was similar to how Chepi had been able to ‘feel’ if something felt safe.

In anycase, after hours on the bike in the increasingly intense sun, Hatchet slowly came to a stop. He paused, looking around – though his eyes were not focused on anything – then he flipped his bike off.

“Here.”

The two unpacked the bike silently, but it was not a silence filled with awkwardness. It was the silence of two people who had too much to tell each other and just couldn’t figure out where to start.

Luckily – or perhaps unluckily – the two were here for a purpose.

Very few cultures had survived the end, but the tribe Hallux and Hatchet belonged to happened to have the advantage of being part of one of the oldest cultures in the world [b]before[/b] the fall. In fact, if anything, the fall seemed to have actually strengthened their tribe, as it gave it gave them meaning in a crazy world. It also allowed the tribe an opportunity to really return to its the roots.

Many of these roots had included special ceremonies. Ceremonies which had only become more special with the development of abilities which the ‘elders’ of their tribe had been convinced connected them almost directly with the Maker.

Whether or not any of this “Maker” stuff was real, the ceremonies had been part of Hallux’s childhood. With the end of their tribe, many ceremonies had been lost. The few that had remained were held within Hatchet’s memory, but there was only one that seemed relevant these days. It was why they got together once a year, and the one that helped Hallux feel like she wasn’t completely disconnected from her family.

The two set up the fire, marked the directions and settled in to wait for dark. They finally got around to speaking about what the other had missed during the past year. Hallux learned that Hatchet’s daughter had just turned five. Hallux told him of the recent events that had occured around and in the Waystation.

“Actually…” Hallux was careful of her words. “I would like to include another in the ceremony, if you don’t mind. Her name is… was Diana.” Hallux’ voice was soft, and she looked over at Hatchet.

The older man regarded her with his black eyes, understanding and recognizing the pain that Hallux didn’t want to openly admit, then nodded. Hallux smiled in thanks.

Too soon for their liking the sun set and it was time to light the fire and begin.

As the fire crackled and the smoke lazily spiraled towards the moon, Hatchet began the chant. Hallux soon joined in, and their voices harmonized and vibrated in the darkness. Their words were filled with memories of those they had lost: of the good times, of the bad times, and of a promise.

“Làpìch knewëluhëmo”

I will see you all again.

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Dutch Interlude #1

Dutch rolled in his sleep, trying to sleep off one too many rounds at Moe’s in the wake of Deathwish‘s demise. *What’s… happening… what’s that infernal racket* he thought as he slowly awoke to the sound of someone pounding on his door. His senses reengaged, and the vanilla stench of a half-empty bottle of bourbon from the corner wafted through his small hutch. “Shut it, I’m trying to sleep here” he snarled at the door before rolling over.

“Dutch!” a sharp, nasal voice called. Dutch groaned as he recognized Phil‘s voice. "Amos says he needs you up on the north wall right now, and he’ll sit at the card table with you and Lenny for stakes if you come out" Phil called to him.

That was enough to at least get Dutch’s attention. Amos wasn’t much of a card player, but he did like to bet big when he played. And he almost never played with Dutch, Lenny, and Deathwish. Or just Lenny’n me now… frak he cursed, slamming a fist into his bed.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m coming Phil. Just gimme a minute” he sighed, pushing out of his bed. He ran a hand down the thin stubble starting on his face, then through his coarse, black hair as he slipped into a green undershirt and his cammie pants. Scowling, he opened the door.

“What’s so frakkin’ important that Amos needs to get me up right now” he said, more than a hint of anger in his voice to Phil. Phil had come prepared it seemed, and offered the merc a cup of coffee – or was it battery acid, the taste might’ve been about the same – before he spoke up.

“Look, Amos just said to get you, Dutch, and tell you to bring your gear. He’s on the north tower” Phil replied, shaking his head. Jake gratefully scooped up the coffee cup from the survivor of the farm and downed it one long pull.

“Yeah, yeah, get to the north tower, bring the kit, right” he said, handing the metal cup back to Phil. “Let him know I’ll be up shortly” he said, slamming the door in Phil’s face. Damnit, can’t I even get one night to mourn!? he lamented as he slipped into his gear.

His body armor was strewn in a couple pieces. After the most recent fight with Scarytown, a new dent had joined the half-dozen or so in the chestpiece. The olive drab plate strapped over Dutch’s chest and closed up, a long scratch from a raider who’d tried to knife him running down the back. He slipped his web gear, festooned with extra ammo, a knife, and a few other oddments, over the armor, then buckled in his greaves and DAPs. The left greave bore a charred mark from a piece of a grenade burst it had caught during one of his forays down towards Scarytown. With Deathwish.

He sighed again before he slipped his pistol into its holster, the matte black finish of the weapon still immaculate, as Dutch barely ever used it in the field. His subgun – its finish scratched from constant use – was slung and then strapped across into a secure carry position. He then grabbed his rifle, turning it over in his hands once. He’d had this rifle since he was barely thirteen, when he’d landed at the Waystation with a traveling convoy. He’d pulled that off the corpse of a raider he’d beaten to death with his own hands, and that was enough to impress Marco and get himself a steady gig at the Waystation. The wood of the stock was a sharp contrast to the metal and plastics of the receiver and action, and the old tech scope perched atop it. And that was without the silencer that made it such an excellent tool for destruction, or the old-world rounds that went through body armor like it didn’t exist.

Dutch stepped outside. He damn well ought to have looked ridiculous festooned with that much firepower, but he didn’t. He looked like a man accompanied by a few old friends who’d be happy to help out if he needed it The fact that Dutch was barely twenty and already had three guns that counted as ‘very old friends’ said something about life in the Apocalypse, but that wasn’t his concern right now – Amos was.

After Grandfather had died and Marco took over as the Hardholder, Amos had ended up taking Marco’s previous job as head of security. Amos looked nothing like a hardboy – he was barely 5’ 5", needed thick glasses to see, and wasn’t what you’d call obviously strong. That’s just his game, though. He’s the best hand to hand fighter we’ve got in the Waystation, and probably the toughest bastard I’ve ever met Dutch figured. And that wasn’t even the scary part about him. Amos was a sharp motherfrakker to boot, and even though he was a good bit more aggressive than Grandfather had liked, he planned things out before he acted.

That’s how he got rid of that raiding party last year… and good God, does the man hate Raiders he thoguht as he shimmied up the ladder to get into the North Tower. Amos’s whole family – wife, daughter, and two sons- had been killed almost six years ago now, and that event had turned the meek little farmer into Marco’s Number One Guy. Rapidly. And now, he’s running all of Security… he thought, biting a lip.

Amos was known as one of the most aggressive folks in the Waystation. He’d advocated wiping out Scarytown several times, so that the Scavvers could get that far south and get some good stuff. Before the Farm fell, but after things there had turned to shit, he’d also proposed a ‘peacekeeping’ team be sent there to keep the peace by removing all firearms from the place, since they were so obviously about to turn raider. A very direct man with his enemies. Sharp, too Dutch figured as he swung up and over the ladder, into the tower.

Amos was waiting for him along with Tony, one of the regular Security types. “Dutch boy” Amos called, walking towards him. Tony, by contrast, was holding up a set of binos and scanning… the road in from Scarytown. Dutch’s eyes narrowed at that, and the ‘boy’ moniker everyone knew he hated, but could never quite shake.

“Amos. Phil said it was important” he grumbled back, lips a little thin as he made it clear he was not amused by any of this.

“Oh, it is important, just not quite urgent. Must maintain appearances, you see, and you coming up to a tower without your gear would raise a few eyes. Just wanted to talk…” he said, offering Dutch a mug of his preferred strong tea. Dutch accepted it out of politeness, then motioned to Amos coarsely.

“So talk. You dragged my ass out of bed on a bad night, Amos, what’s so frakkin’ important that it couldn’t wait until morning?” Dutch respond, disgruntled.

“Oh, I just wanted to hear your perspective on Scarytown. I’ve been warning Grandfather for years we needed to do something about those raider assholes, but he kept saying the uneasy peace would hold. Now, though, they killed one of ours, and it seems clear that they have no interest in coexisting with anyone. It would be… helpful, shall we say, if you could emphasize that to Marco next time you talk with him” he said.

Dutch let out a bitter chortle before he replied. “You think? Those motherless bastards have been a problem for too long. Every frakkin’ time we go down there, we worry, someone gets hurt, and they laugh. If Hooch wasn’t on an escort run tonight…” Dutch said, clenching a fist as he trailed off.

Amos shook his head at that. “Now, now, Dutch. That would just get a lot of people dead. All of Scarytown, sure, and that’s good, but also a good pile of the Bastards, my boys, and you to boot most likely. We do this, we do it *smart*” he emphasized. “And we don’t do it unilaterally. You need to pull back on pushing for immediate action – I heard about what you said at Moe’s. Going to Scarytown with the Bastards and rolling over them might sound good, but do you really think its going to work?” he said, two very, very cold blue eyes boring into Dutch’s through the glasses. “If we’re ever going to stamp that cesspool out, we need to do it smart. And someone like you is too damned valuable to that part to throw you away on a personal quest for vengeance. So speak to Marco, have your say with him about getting rid of these raiding bastards, but you don’t go off playing crusader and get your ass shot off. You hear me, boy?” he said in a tone Dutch had heard a couple times before.

Directed at raiders they’d taken alive before Amos began his ‘interrogations’.

Dutch gulped. Fear wasn’t something the young gunlugger was used to feeling, and he almost never felt it around the Waystation, but he got the distinct sense from Amos that he’d better listen to this one. Or at least not come back if I manage to take out the bastards… he thought, nodding back to Amos.

“Yeah… nothing stupid boss…” he said. The ice in those eyes relented a moment later as Amos nodded. He then slid a flask over.

“Good. Get back to bed, Dutch” he said quietly before turning back to Tony. More loudly, this time, he said “I told you there was nothing there and that we didn’t need Dutch to shoot it, Tony” as the merc climbed back down the ladder. Dawn had started to break, and with coffee and tea in him, Dutch was already up and about. May as well start the day now he figured, heading towards the motor pool to get a look at the truck Deathwish had died for before starting his patrol…

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Hallux Interlude #1
An Expected Delivery

His long chestnut hair billowed in the wind, making waves akin to those that ebbed and flowed in the ocean below them. Alice moved forward, her hand outstretched, reaching for his muscular shoulder barely contained in his white tunic. She wouldn’t have normally come this close to the cliff, her fear of heights making anything higher than a stool pure terror, but his presence was comforting to her.

Hesitantly, but assured by his company and the promise of what their proximity would bring, she inched closer.

“Julian?” She called softly, for a moment fearful her words had been lost to the crashing sea below. But then he turned, his cocoa colored skin glistening in the sunlight, his eyes like emeralds.

“Mi amor.” His rumbling, accented voice caressing the words as he had caressed her the night before. She blushed, feeling his eyes gently undress her as gently as his large but rough hands had -

There was a knock at the storeroom door, light and hesitant, as if the knocker was nervous and uncertain of their actions. It was a soft knock, but it was loud enough to disturb the woman sitting on the small well-used cot trying to enjoy her book in peace and quiet.

A scowl appeared as Hallux slowly placed the book down beside her, waiting to hear if another unwelcome knock would occur. As it did, the woman’s eyebrows furrowed even farther, and she snapped the book shut.

She swung her legs off of the cot, nearly kicking the rickety shelving unit next to her but just barely missing it thanks to the years of experience she had moving around in this enclosed space. Giving the book one more longing pat, as if to say ’I’ll be back,’ Hallux moved over to the door.

Taking one more moment of preparation, she opened the door briskly, finding a hand at eye level and a surprised expression on the owner’s face.

“What?” Her voice was hard as her sharp brown eyes looked one of her assistants, Starsky, up and down before scanning the small but acceptably functional medical office behind him. Seeing no patients, she looked back up to meet Starsky’s eyes – satisfied to see the nervousness growing – her own eyes demanding an explanation for the interruption.

For a moment the man seemed to be at a loss, his face flying through a few different emotions. Normally Hallux was amused to see the effect she had on the man, but currently all she wanted to do was read her damn book, and Starsky’s presence was an obstruction in the way of that one joy.

Finally he found his voice. “It’s time.”

Hallux’s expression softened instantly. She turned back to the storage room, quickly grabbing a prepared bag before moving past the man without another word.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Hallux moved with purpose between the buildings and through the hallways of the Waystation. The people that saw her moved quickly out of her way, knowing that if she was out of her room without a book in hand, something was happening.

This was not Hallux’s first delivery. She’d performed a few during her roaming years. It was hard not to perform a variety of medical interventions when people discover you have medical experience, or at least more medical experience than the average person.

It had been awhile since her last, however, and each birth was different. Hallux could only hope this one would be straightforward.

She should have guessed it wouldn’t be.

Hallux walked into the room and took in the chaos. Now occupying the room was a worried Sunshine, a screaming woman and an only slightly less nervous Hutch telling the woman to push. Hallux had to give Hutch props, this would be the assistant’s first delivery, and she was exuding a level of confidence Hallux admittedly didn’t have her first time around.

The woman screaming was also experiencing her first delivery, though to say she was a bit more personally involved was an understatement. Her name was Rose. Since moving to the Waystation, Rose had become a sort of sous chef to Sunshine – who had taken a liking to her, and her cooking – though even kitchen work had become more and more difficult as her pregnancy had progressed. Rose was one of the survivors of the fiasco at the Farm, and with Sunshine on her side, she’d been able to integrate herself quite comfortably into the Waystation’s system. Her baby’s father had not been as lucky, never even making it out of the farm. As such their baby was very important to Rose, and despite the plethora of bad outcomes possible while giving birth in the current day and age, Rose had been excited to meet the child of the man she’d loved.

Until the contractions started, that is.

Hallux got her head in the game and moved in, placing her bag down and opening it to pull out the items she would need. Quickly getting the report from Hutch and taking over the front row seat, she got to work.

At first, everything seemed to be going without a hitch. But something just didn’t feel right to Hallux. She tried to put this feeling out of her mind as the baby was delivered without any more difficulty from the mother than was to be expected of a birth. It was a boy, and Hutch quickly dried him while Hallux performed the initial assessment.

Then, as she suctioned the baby’s nose and instructed Hutch to get the clamps, Hallux realized why it felt wrong. The baby wasn’t moving. He had a blue tinge to him, and he wasn’t breathing.

Without wasting a second she began resuscitation efforts. After simple external breaths didn’t help, she moved to CPR.

The room was suddenly quiet beyond Hallux’s counting, the only other sound an occasional whimper from Rose.

Despite the serious situation – and possibly because of it – Hallux’s mind had time to wander, and as usual during serious medical situations it wandered to her sister. Chepi had had an almost supernatural gift when it came to medical things. Even though she had been six years Hallux’s Junior, she’d been highly adept at everything medical. She would have had this baby breathing already, and would have been adequately comforting Rose with that impeccable and potentially psychically boosted bedside manner she’d possessed.

Unfortunately Chepi was not available. Rose would have to deal with Hallux. Luckily, where she was lacking in bedside manner, she made up in pure skill and experience.

Breathe. Hallux willed the small boy to do as she asked as she continued the pulses and artificial breaths.

And, as if hearing her, there was suddenly a congested coughing sound coming from the baby, before a loud shriek released itself from his mouth. Hallux let off on the compressions and watched as the baby’s blue-tinged face quickly became red as he continued to scream himself silly.

After a repeat examination, Hallux determined that the baby was currently ok. He would be a bit bruised, but being a baby, he’d most likely bounce back very quickly. She swaddled him with care, looking his now lively body over, making sure she hadn’t missed anything. Then she turned to Rose, who had begun blubbering.

As Hallux handed the yowling child to his sobbing mother with a comforting smile, she didn’t miss Hutch and Starsky’s now intertwined fingers.

Just what we need, another baby to screw up. She thought, though there was humor in her thoughts.

“Hutch and Starsky can give you a once over to make sure you’re ok. They’ll also stay close by to watch over your new baby boy for a while, to make sure nothing changes.” She told Rose, then turned to them, “Call me if anything happens.”

They nodded, hands quickly releasing as if trying – and horrifically failing – to avoid detection.

Stifling an amused look, Hallux turned back to Rose with a genuine smile on her face. “Congratulations.”

She then collected her things, nodded off a few more words of enthusiastic thanks, then moved out of the room. As left she heard the proposed name: James. The boy would be his father’s namesake.

Hallux shut the door to the now joyous room then turned down the hall, an uncharacteristic smile remaining as she made her way back to her room.

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