The characters are a team of Mercenary Couriers - they'll get your goods to their destination regardless of sleet or slavers, bandits or bandicoots, or any other of the complications found in the Southwest of the 2090s. For more information see the characters page.
It's June 2096 (or 2094 if you ask anyone from Borden). The team were on their way to Borden - de-facto capital of the Independent Settlements - to deliver a cartload of goods to Greene's Emporium. On their second night on the road out of Albany they camped at the ruins of an old caravan park just behind the Stirling Ranges.
Here they discovered the body of a young man, apparently killed by raiders. On examining his effects they discovered he was one Jacob Browning, an Assistant Librarian at the Borden Library. They also discovered a number of stolen library papers hidden in his boots and a set of pre-war military dog tags around his neck. They decided to take the body along to Borden the next morning.
On arrival in Borden they completed their delivery and were paid, as usual, in cash and goods. They were then contacted by the head of the Borden Engineers and Head Librarian Adams who employed them to stay around for a few days and help investigate Jacob's death.
A day's worth of investigation in Borden revealed the following...
When they reported this information to Head Librarian Adams he thanked them and paid for their trouble. He then asked if they could do a number of further jobs - locating Jacob's uncle and informing him of his nephew's death, and seeing if they can find out anything about his document thefts. Reasonable costs incurred would be covered by the Library, and he requested regular updates via reverse charge radio telegram.
They set off for Albany on the morning of the 13th, staying overnight at the campsite where Jacob's body had been discovered.
On Sunday morning the team was ambushed while travelling through Chester Pass in the Stirling Range. Despite the attackers being well armed and equipped they managed to kill two of them in a firefight - the others retreated and escaped on horseback. The two killed were wearing dog tags similar to Jacob's.
Continuing south they spent a night at the Kambalup Rangers' Station and reported the incident. The next night was spent at Porongurup and they arrived in Albany on the evening of Tuesday June 16th.
On Wednesday morning the team checked with the Rangers about their report. Their attackers were followed westward for about half a day before they turned onto an old sealed road and their tracks were lost. The general opinion was that they were a well organised group of raiders who were setting themselves up to ambush travelers along Chester Pass road. No one recognises the dog tags, or can tell they anything about them.
They proceeded to the Whaler's Cafe on Spencer Street. It turned out to be right next door to a small hotel, the Sandfire Guest House. Both were fairly run down and grimy. The proprietor of the Cafe recognised Jacob from his photo, saying that he stays at the Sandfire every six months or so and would meet with a tall, dark haired man in the cafe. The man was actually there a few days earlier - he hung around for an hour looking at his watch before a messenger arrived with a telegram, which he read, then left.
They went into the Sandfire where the man behind the counter was extremely unhelpful. He refused to provide any information and threatened to call the Rangers to have them thrown out. They left before causing any trouble.
Enquiries in the local area revealed that the Sandfire is regarded as fairly disreputable. Many shady and criminal types stay there and there have been occasional raids by the Rangers looking for criminals and fugitives. The owner of an electronics shop a few doors down remembered Jacob coming in six months before and buying $500 worth of thermionic valves - he didn't seem to care what type they were which the owner thought was strange. No one in the area had heard of "Uncle Al".
The Team decided to visit the Southern Union Telegram company to find information about the telegram delivered to the man at the Whaler's Cafe. The manager was reluctant to provide information until they explained the situation. He then looked up the log books and told them that the telegram was sent to a Mr White at the Stirling Hotel - apparently he wasn't there and the messenger was re-directed to the Whaler's Cafe. He refused to provide any more information (such as the text of the telegram) without authority from the Rangers.
They left, and sent a telegram addressed to Mr White at the Stirling Hotel. At the hotel they waited for the messenger to arrive (a Lionel McPhearson) who (for a small bribe) provided them with the text of several telegrams he delivered to Mr White over the previous week - the last one only yesterday. Unfortunately they were all in code. He described Mr White as tall, very well dressed and with dark hair, but had no idea if his first name was Al or Albert. In return for another bribe he promised to let them know if he delivered any more telegrams for Mr White.They sent a telegram to Librarian Adams reporting their progress and requesting assistance with the codes, and returned to their lodgings for the night.
In the morning the paper reported an incident at the Sandfire Guest House - persons unknown kicked down the door during the night and stole the guest register. A resident (Anzac Cartwright, aged 68) was brutally killed by a blow to the head when he interrupted the thieves. The team went to the Rangers and explained their involvement with the Sandfire and the mysterious Mr White in the hopes they'd let them examine the crime scene. They didn't - instead they thanked them for their information and said they'd contact they if they needed anything else.
Shortly afterwards they spotted a teenager wearing dog tags on the street. They confronted him, and the terrified teen indicated that they're the latest fashion and he'd bought them from Gibson's Store on Grey Street. At the store Mr Gibson explained that he bought a bunch of them from a Scav by the name of Tegwyn Jones about eight months before and had the idea of selling them to the kids as a fashion item. He also mentioned that Jones had dropped around and sold him another load only an hour before.
They managed to catch up with Tegwyn on the road north out of town. When questioned he said that he found a crateload of tags in a military facility in the Radlands. He examined the tags they salvaged from Jacob and the raiders and informs them of the following.
He provided the team with the addresses of Barnett and Floreat before continuing on his journey. Floreat was closer so they decided to visit her first.
On the way they checked for a reply telegram from Librarian Adams. He'd replied and directed they to Mordecai's Letters and Messages - a business that does reading and writing for those unable to, with a sideline in encryption and decryption. The proprietor - Lynton Mordecai - had worked with Adams before and took on the job of trying to decode the telegrams as a personal favour to him, refusing payment except for a bottle of Dog Rock Bitter. He said it would probably take a few days, if it's possible at all.
They continued on to see Bec Floreat who claimed not to have made the dog tags. She examined them and said the solder is a lead/silver alloy, which would be extremely expensive - the only sources for silver are old jewelery, old cutlery and some old electronics. In her opinion the only other person in Albany who could have made them was Millard Barnett, who has done some work with aluminium and silver before. She said she'd ask around her suppliers to see if he'd been buying silver recently.
Enquiries with her neighbours suggested that Floreat was a trustworthy businesswoman. No one recognised the description of Mr White.
The team went to see Millard Barnett. His home/workshop was locked up. A sign on the door directed enquiries to the building firm next door. Here the proprietor told them that Barnett had to leave suddenly on Tuesday night - his sister in Windy Harbour was seriously ill. Barnett was in a real hurry, he didn't even have time to speak to him, and sent a kid with a note instead. When asked about the kid he described him as about 12, wearing a beaten up old whaler's jacket that's too big for him, and with a real attitude. He also said he didn't know that Millard even had a sister.
The team headed back to the telegram company to see if any more messages had been sent to Mr White. Lionel wasn't there, so they headed back to the Sandfire Guest House.
Here they bluffed the manager into thinking they were working with the Rangers, who had been crawling all over the place all morning. He let them into the room Jacob always rented. A search produced a half empty bottle of whiskey, and a crumpled piece of paper reading "54 Sussex Street - 5 o'clock". They questioned the manager about Jacob, but he became suspicious and they decided to make a tactical withdrawal before provoking him further.
It was now evening so the team bought dinner at a cafe on York Street. As they were leaving the city's fire cart rushed by. On a hunch they followed it - to Millard Barnett's house, the back portion of which was on fire. The fire fighters put out the blaze, but not before the building was badly damaged. With the fire fighters watching the property there was nothing they could do except go back to their lodgings.
The team got up early and headed over to Mordecai's Letters to see if the telegrams had been decrypted. Mordecai said he was working on them, with help from Adams, but it would be a while. Next they checked with Bec Floreat. Millard had been buying silver recently, but there wasn't much around. A lot of it seemed to have been bought up by dealers from the western states over the last few months.
They then visited 54 Sussex Street - which turned out to be an empty lot. Next they made contact with Lionel McPhearson who said there had been no more messages for Mr White.
They headed back to Milard Barnett's place. On the way they spotted a street kid in a large whaler's jacket matching the description given by Barnett's neighbour. He ran, but they managed to catch him. His name was Harp and he implied that he delivered the note, but was too hungry to remember any details. Once supplied with a pie from Kingman's Bakery he said that he was approached by a man matching Mr White's description who payed him to deliver the letter and say it was from Millard Barnett. He supplied some additional details - the man was very well dressed, wore riding boots and leather gloves, and was trying to hide a D'Entrecasteaux accent. Harp was familiar with Barnett, and this man wasn't him.
They continued to Barnett's place and snuck around the back. Entry into the damaged building was fairly easy, but the structure seemed very unstable. The front room was a metal workshop - a search turned up some pieces of aluminum, some fragments of silver wire and (under a bench) a die punch of the number 9. Examination showed it was an exact match for the nines on the dog tags. Further exploration upstairs was abandoned when the damaged floor proved too dangerous.
In the backyard the team found the source of the fire. A large bonfire seemed to had been lit, then left to get out of control, spreading to the house. Sifting through the ashes revealed many shreds of burnt paper. The only legible piece left bore the gold embossed letterhead of "The Blackwood River Water Company" and seemed to be some kind of invoice for metalwork involving aluminium. It proves too fragile to take with them.
They headed to the Governemnt Business Register to look up the company. It was just on closing time but they convinced the clerk to give them five minutes. They found that the company was incorporated in D'Entrecasteaux, with it's head offices in Manjimup (at 12 Brockman Street), and it is planning to lay a water pipeline to the Blackwood river. The managing director is one Edward Anthony.
The next morning they returned to Mordecai who thought he might have found a way into the encryption, although he hadn't broken it just yet.
They sent a telegram to Librarian Adams informing him of their progress and discussed what to do further. Concluding that the evidence seemed to be pointing towards D'Entrecasteaux they decided that they should head west. They made enquiries at the harbour about finding working passage on a ship, and for security escort jobs at the inns around Weerlara Junction. They ended up finding a trading caravan to Manjimup that would hire them for $250 each, leaving the next day. The journey would take six days.
That afternoon Mordecai contacted them with translations of the telegrams. They decided to take the caravan job and prepared to depart in the morning.
The caravan has been on the road for four days. The previous night was spent at an inn in Walpole, the capital of Frankland State. Here Kevin found a letter - marked 'Urgent' - waiting for him. On reading it he immediately resigned from the caravan job and headed off northwards, declining to provide details why, apart from it being a 'personal matter'. The reduced team carried on with the job.
The caravn pulled into the normally crowded campsite at Pingerup Lakes just as dusk fell. Winter was clearly setting with numerous rain showers and sleet expected by the end of the week - everyone was glad to be heading north. This late in the year there were only a few caravans and travelers at the camp, but there were already a few bonfires lit.
As the caravan pulled in the team noticed a crowd gathered around the large noticeboard - the main source of news and gossip along the Walpole/Shannon run. Examination of the board revealed a special edition of the Manjimup-Pemberton Times, just brought in by a rider. It details a disasterous dam collapse at the work camp of the Blackwood River Water Company - up to 22 workers have been killed after a surge hit the dam the previous night.
After securing the carts and aurochs for the night the team asked around about the mysterious Mr White. They soon discovered a somewhat reticent and suspicious individual calling himself 'Marcus' who claimed to be looking for a man named Mr Grey. A comparison of descriptions demonstrated that "Mr White" and "Mr Grey" were one and the same, and after some negotiation with the Caravan Master Marcus was signed on as a replacement for Kevin.
They also ran into the Scav Tegwyn Jones who they'd spoken to in Albany. He wasn't able to provide any information on Mr White, having been in Mt Barker and Rocky Gully buying up pre-war pipe for a buyer in Manjimup. He commented that they seemed to buying up every length of metal pipe in the whole southwest.
With no more information being apparent and an early start the next day the team retired for the night.
The caravan set off early for the long haul to Shannon. Marcus scouted ahead, looking out for any trouble.
He was able to provide a minute or so's warning before the caravan was ambushed by a group of raiders. Unlike ordinary highwaymen they didn't demand the caravan's goods - instead they demanded that 'Holt' be handed over. Quick consultations established that there was no one on the caravan of that name, and negotiations quickly broke down into a firefight.
When the dust cleared several raiders were dead, and the rest - bar one too injured to move - had fled. This remaining raider was interrogated, but was only able to reveal that the gang had been hired by persons unknown in Copeland to 'recover' Holt. Giving in to his darker impulses Kalgoorlie dragged him to the side of the road and shot him through the head. Searching the bodies turned up a photograph of Kevin Kiara, labeled 'Holt'.
The caravan continued on to the border town of Shannon, arriving in the early evening. While the Caravan Master went through the usual rigmarole of customs and exise approval necessary to leave Frankland State the team retired to an inn. Here they uncovered a tramp who accepted a letter from a man matching Mr White's description near Evan's Yard several months before. He delivered it to a post office box in Manjimup. He remembered the box number but could provide no further information.
The next morning the Caravan joined the line to cross the bridge into D'Entrecasteaux. On the other side they went through the standard D'Entrecasteaux Defence Corps security check - which led to the sudden arrest of Sergeant Connor for the murder of a Constance Gates in Albany.
The Sergeant was carried away to the cells while the rest of team tried to establish what was going on. They learned that Jake would be held until the Magistrate arrived later in the morning to assess his case. Some quick-talking got some extra information from one of the guards who revealed that a cable from Albany had put all border posts on alert for Sergeant Connor, who was charged with the brutal murder of a prostitute on the night of the 17th.
The Caravan Master informed the team that he had a deadline to meet and wasn't willing to hang around any further. He gave the team the choice of continuing with the Caravan to Jardee and getting their full pay, or leaving now and receiving payment for the work done so far. They unanimously decided to stay with Sergeant Connor and on receiving their pay crossed the bridge back into Shannon to find an Advocate to defend Jake in the Magistrate's court.
After securing the services of an Advocate they headed back towards the bridge - only to meet Sergeant Connor coming back the other way. He revealed that he had been released after communications with the Porongurup Rangers revealed that he was not involved with the murder case and that no one in Albany could figure out who sent the original telegram. The Advocate waived the fees for his time, and the team caught a ride with another Caravan to Manjimup, arriving late in the evening.
Rather than retire for the night they set out in search of information on Mr White and the Blackwood River Water company. The day's paper revealed more information about the Dam disaster, while questions at one of the local pubs revealed that someone matching Mr White's description rode through town at high speed on the morning of the 24th. They were also advised to track down a local vagrant, known as 'Charlie the Horse' who was said to know everything that goes on in town.
First thing in the morning the team checked out the post office. By means of devious subterfuge they managed to establish that the post office box Mr White's letter was delivered to belonged to the Blackwood River Water Company.
Next stop was the Blackwood offices. These proved to be extremely busy, full of family members seeking news, journalists requesting comments and workmen replacing a smashed front window and painting over the word 'MURDERERS' daubed on the outside of the building. Finally attracting the attention of a clerk the team tried to bluff their way in to see Mr Edwards. Unfortunately they were informed he had departed for the work camp the previous night. They were however able to convince the clerk that they had news of 'the next batch' of dog tags.
Abandoning efforts at Blackwood the team set out to find Charlie the Horse. Their first stop was the workers' camp - the field of tents and shacks housing workers looking for employment in Manjimup's booming lumber mills and workshops. In an incredible stroke of luck the first person they asked knew exactly where the elusive Charlie could be found, directing them to the Workers' Advocacy Service.
The Workers' Advocacy Service turned out to be a lobby group agitating for better treatment of D'Entrecasteux's workforce. The man behind the counter - a former lumber worker by the name of Lucio Greenwood - proved to be mine of information on Blackwood and Director Edwards, informing the team that the dam has been under construction for almost three years, the company runs the work camp like a prison, there's an extremely high injury rate and the contracts are abusive. He described Edwards as presenting a charming face to the press and investors but having an extremely violent temper - breaking the arm of a messenger when she arrived late with some documents. He continued to say that the company has some very influential investors and influence in the State Congress and problems are typically swept under the carpet.
Questions about the small shrine on the counter - apparently dedicated to young man named Gary Baltic - elicits the response that Gary was 'a good friend' to everyone at the WAS and 'didn't deserve what happened'.
Charlie the Horse turned out to be a scruffy - yet clean - late middle aged man in a long, drab-green coat. He was recovering from numerous injuries - apparently inflicted by 'some young thugs out of Jardee'. Once provided with a small amount of cash he backed up Lucio's opinion of the Blackwood River Water Company, adding that they employ 'some real mean characters' for security. He was able to identify Mr White as a 'Special Contractor' for Blackwood, noting that he passes through town several times a year and always goes in and out of the back door. He confirmed that White arrived in town on Monday night 'riding like the devil was behind him', but hadn't seem him since. A big shipment of pipes set off for the work camp the next morning though, and White may have traveled with them.
After giving Charlie some more change for his trouble the team decided to hit up the offices of the Times for any more information. A small crowd surrounded a noticeboard outside the office, as the team approached a copy-boy dashed out and pinned a page to it before dashing back inside. Examining the board revealed it to be pinned with updates on the dam disaster - the newly posted one titled "No News on Body Search - Manager Arrives on Scene".
Inside, the office was relatively calm although the sound of typewriters was constant. The team asked to speak to someone about Blackwood, but before anyone could come out the peace was broken by a gangly and scruffy man shouting at the clerk behind the desk about 'persecution' and 'calling in the troopers' if the paper didn't stop publishing notices from 'Ted Owens'. He was escorted from the property by security, threatening to take the law into his own hands if something wasn't done.
The team were introduced to a reporter named Dale Redcliffe with a special interest in Blackwood. He confirmed most of the information already gathered, but couldn't provide anything extra. He did however provide a name and address for the disruptive man, identifying him as 'Old Shaw' and noting that he was in the office complaining almost every time they released an issue.
In a shot at obtaining more information the team headed to Edward Anthony's house on the north side of town. The house proved to be protected by several large Blackwood security guards. Attempts to befriend them failed, and the team headed back to their hotel to think.
A plot was hatched. Once night had fallen Kalgoorlie would start a brawl in the bar of Railway Hotel. He would then decamp and run up Brockman Street to the DDC station, alerting the four Troopers on duty. Some of them should then leave the station to attend to the brawl. Once they were fully engaged Sergeant Connor - standing on the street corner - would signal by lighting his pipe. Dr Vines - watching from the other end of Brockman Street - would then light a stick of dynamite and throw it into the park before fleeing. The resulting explosion should grab the attention of the remaining troopers, ideally causing them to leave the station entirely. This would give Marcus the opportunity to break into the Blackwood offices (immediately across the road from the station) unobserved.
The team waited until just before 11:00 - when the streetlamps on Brockman street would go out and the pubs close. Kalgoorlie sidled into the Railway Hotel and with a deft display of agility landed a punch on a drinker and ducked away before he could identify his attacker. A major brawl quickly broke out and spilled out onto the street just as the lights shut down. Kalgoorlie escaped the fight and ran to the DDC station, bringing three Troopers back with him to break up the mob.
Sergeant Connor lit his pipe. Unfortunately Dr Vines - possibly distracted by a dog with a ham - failed to notice, leaving the Sergeant to frantically click his lighter on and off as the Troopers started laying about with their batons and handcuffing the troublemakers.
Deciding that he'd waited long enough Marcus scaled the wall into the Blackwood yard and managed to break down one of the rear doors. Investigation of the room he found himself in revealed only a few locked filing cabinets and he turned his attention to the next door - a more sturdy wooden affair with glass panels. After his attempts at forcing the door failed he decided to carefully smash one of the panels.
He failed, setting off a loud, ringing alarm. The Troopers at the brawl and in the station raced towards the Blackwood Office. Nonetheless Marcus continued to try and open the door, discovering that it was deadlocked.
Shaken out of his distraction by the alarm Dr Vines lit the dynamite, hurled it and bugged out. The explosion rocked the town, and after a few moments of indecision the Troopers changed direction and headed for the park.
His attempts at further exploration curtailed Marcus decided to retreat. He was able to grab a piece of paper off the top of one of the filing cabinets as he left.
Skirting around the now chaotic town center the team reconvened at their hotel where the paper turned out to be a carbon copy of an order for 15 sets of aluminium dogtags, made out to Millard Barnett.
The banner headline on Sunday's newspaper read "MANJIMUP'S WILD NIGHT". The team decided to lay low.
As such they decided to investigate Old Shaw, the complaining man from the newspaper office the day before. He turned out to live in a cramped, junk filled house on the edge of town, and was more than happy to share the tale of his persecution.
He claimed that another scrap merchant in town - one Ted Owens - was trying to drive him out of business. His evidence were a series of cryptic, Viking themed notices in the newspaper - from which he was able to extract various doubtful personal references - and a message painted on his fence reading "DIE SHAW DIE" along with the symbol of a hammer.
With all other lines of enquiry drawing a blank the team decided to investigate Shaw's claims - despite the fact that he was clearly deranged. Ted Owens - owner/operator of a much larger, better stocked and more professional junkyard - denied all responsibility, describing Shaw as 'a paranoid nut' and pointing out that Shaw's operation was so small and badly run that it presented no threat or opportunity to his business whatsoever. Investigations at the newspaper office revealed that the Viking notices were sent in anonymously with enough cash to cover the advertising cost. They couldn't rule out that they were sent by Ted Owens, but had no reason to suspect so.
Drawing a blank the team paid another visit to Charlie the Horse. He was quick to confirm that Shaw was a lunatic, furthermore he was able to reveal that the "DIE SHAW DIE" message was painted on Shaw's fence by Ted Owen's 10 year old son Xavier.
A trip back to Owen's junkyard soon established that Xavier did indeed paint the message in retaliation for Shaw yelling at him and his friends and confiscating their ball. The blobby shape that Shaw identified as a hammer was in fact a poor attempt at a gravestone.
The issue of the newspaper notices remained unsolved.
With that investigation resolved the team turned their attention back to Blackwood. Attempts to arrange a meeting with anyone in management were denied, the staff claiming that dealing with the aftermath of the dam collapse was taking up all their time.
While leaving the office in defeat the team was approached by Dale Redcliffe - the journalist they had met the day before. Having heard of their investigation into the Old Shaw matter - and noting their interest in Blackwood - he had an offer to make them. He was looking for someone to go undercover in the Blackwood work camp and report on any abuses of workers or violations of safety regulations. He would only be able to pay for a small amount of expenses but thought it might be a way for both the team and the newspaper to achieve their respective goals.
The team quickly agreed, and Sergeant Connor and Marcus agreed to sign on as workers, with Kalgoorlie and Dr Vines supporting them from outside the camp.
It is 6:00am on the cold and misty morning of Tuesday June 30th. Marcus and Sergeant Connor, along with 12 other new employees are helping to load carts in the yard of the Blackwood Water Company. Shortly they'll depart on the two day journey to the worksite on the Blackwood River near Nannup.
Dr Vines and Kalgoorlie Boulder are elsewhere, arranging their own transport.
To be continued...
The telegrams delivered to Mr White - as decrypted by Lynton Mordecai...
Saturday the 13 - Delivered to the Whaler's Cafe
WHITE. ALEX INTERCEPTED AND DECEASED BORDEN ROAD. THOR 5 DISPATCHED. STAND BY. LYONS.
Monday the 15th - Delivered to the Stirling Hotel
WHITE. THOR 5 COMPROMISED. STIRLINGS. 4 MALES. HEADING SOUTH. STAND BY. LYONS.
Tuesday the 16th - Delivered to the Stirling Hotel
WHITE. 4 M SIGHTED ALBANY. INITIATE CLEANUP. GATHER INTEL/COMPROMISE WHERE POSSIBLE. LYONS.