25 June, 2010

Envy: Redux

From: Mr. Zebulon Pike, Eastwood Ridge, Dakota
To: Mrs. Hannelore West, Kingsport, Mass.
August 1877
Dearest Sister,
The plans of my comrades have finally become clear. They have, with their collected funds and the Confederate gold filed into flakes to disguise its origins, purchased the neighboring structure. They have commissioned me to construct a machine as the centerpiece of their hotel and restaurant, a task I enthusiastically embarked upon even knowing that the business they planed to open would not be either a hotel or a restaurant. I am somewhat embarrassed to tell you that I shall be part owner and operator of a frontier brothel.
Gender population inequities, an overabundance of ready cash and a lack of higher culture have lead to a combination of drinking, gambling and debauchery throughout the march of civilization, and Deadwood is no exception. I know we have previously discussed these topics at length so I will not detail the complex social dynamics of this harsh frontier town except to say it is even more stark and disturbing than the historical and theoretical models our thought experiments built. Even so, my comrades seem of slightly different stock and seem intent on bringing some sort of respectability and culture to the enterprise. Most progressively, their intent is to build and own the establishment but to leave the daily management and operation to the ladies.
I’m not sure how my emotions and reasoning will reconcile all the conflict so for now I have focused on what is being called “The Machine.” It is a sizable construction built on a firebox and boiler used to drive a series of mechanisms. A central rotating structure with a clockwork mechanism precesses multiple stations, each with its own rotation.
It is, simply stated, a fully automated pancake production machine. Once complete, patrons will be able to select from a number of flavors and the machine will pneumatically inject the batter into steam-heated cooking chambers. The rotating chambers will rotate to ensure even cooking and, when complete, will deposit the pancakes onto a plate.
The machine works well enough but I am still working on the proper batter formula.
Oh, yes. I was actually leading up to describing an incident of a few days ago. I believe I’ve mentioned my habit of riding every few days to keep myself from becoming insular. On one such excursion, the smell of smoke led me and Mr. Bongiovi, who had elected to join me that evening, to a fire at the Jennings farmstead. When we arrived, the fire seemed well underway and the Jennings boy was on the porch crying over his prone father. Talking a moment to determine that the father was merely unconscious, overcome by the fumes, perhaps, I heedlessly rushed into the house to search for Mrs. Jenkins. It was not quite to conflagration of the Boston fire of ’72, but quite as exciting. I found Mrs. Jenkins unconscious form upstairs and, my escape back down the stairs now cut off by fire, I kicked through a window and dropped her to the ground as gently as could be managed under the circumstances.
It was as I jumped from the window myself that I came under pistol fire from the nearby scrub. I’ll admit that I became somewhat irritated at having been shot at while attempting to do my civic duty, that I knocked over a rain barrel and, using it as a rolling shield, used it to advance swiftly upon my concealed opponents, firing my own pistol.
My counterattack and the support of Mr. Bongiovi’s own pistol brought down one of our opponents and sent the rest to flight. The killed assailant was reminiscent of those we had encountered in Eastwood Ridge in that he was dead long before a bullet through the brainpan had ended his motion. Some preternatural force had made this man one of the walking dead and, by the smell, a significant consumption of alcohol had kept the body embalmed enough not to decay. I wondered momentarily what forces or process might reanimate or other restore a semblance of life to the dead but put aside my scientific curiosity for the moment to turn my attention back to the Jennings family.
Returning the the house in town, we were able to revive Mrs. Jennings who indicated that the attackers likely included Mr. Jenning’s brother, with which there had been something of a falling out. For the sake of delicacy, I did not pry into the particulars.
The next morning, we awoke to find Mr. Jennings had gone under conditions we thought unlikely to be of his own choosing. With clues provided by Mrs. Jennings were rode swiftly to the North to an abandoned drift mine wherein we found Mr. Jennings bound to a chair and being physically menaced by who we assumed to be his brother and several others. The smell of the place was of death and we swiftly dispatched the walking corpses as swiftly as we could. I’ll admit that even with my previous experience, I wasted a number of rounds firing at the largest target, the chest, with little effect. Indeed, these beings seem only to be finally and decisively ended by removing the head or destroying the brain.
On returning to the house and reuniting the Jennings family, we discovered that the boy had been able to get into several rooms and had gone through a number of personal belongings. In that, we discovered a number of Mr. Tobin’s possessions taken from the satchel beneath his bed. We did not want Mr. Tobin’s expected ire to be directed at the boy so we returned them to their place as best we could and, in so doing, could not help but learn that he was a former cavalry soldier and that his real name was Sullivan. I recall a news missive some time back concerning a soldier named Sullivan who was killed attempting to stop a massacre of Indians by Union soldiers.
Please talk to your abolitionist friends to find more information because, If I recall correctly, the Trooper Sullivan was a staunch abolitionist. And a Canadian, by nationality, volunteering to join the Union Army in the Great War. I’m sure you can understand my keen interest in knowing more.
I shall leave you with that and look forward to your letters with rapt anticipation.
Your most affectionate brother,
Zebulon
This was the sixth session of our Deadlands campaign.  It was the second adventure to be loosely based on the one-sheet adventure Envy from Pinnacle Entertainment.  The adventure was run in the spring of 2008.  This letter was written by Zebulon’s player.

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