As unlikely a group as any that had roamed Ruin, Cody, Sin, Rubbish, Miryam, and Mark were united by nothing more than a shared day off from work duty – a day that would be anything but restful. The Nillers gathered around the Pinkertons as they packed their wagons and carts, hoping to catch one last morsel of wonder before the caravan departed for yet another long year. Jessica, having caught the wandering eye of a caravaneer was allowed a peek at a beautiful article, one which the Foreman himself quickly took interest in, and one that the other Nillers were kept from seeing. But aside from the mysterious item, the villagers had plucked the caravan dry of all there was to be had and left with nothing to peruse but junk and defunct tech.
As if to break the impending monotony of sand and sun, Nil’s oil depot exploded and quickly began to burn away the village’s limited fuel supply. Perhaps worse, the Foreman revealed that Jessica was inside, finishing a final tally before the Pinkertons departed and took their oil for sale with them. Cody, Sin, Rubbish, Miryam, and Mark, five young individuals who had never formed even the semblance of a team, converged before Gregory Ward’s security force or fire brigade could respond. They split, equally addressing Jessica’s rescue and the threat of corrupted mechs drawn by the oily plume beginning to crest the depot. They emerged victorious, having fended off several stray mech birds and simultaneously rescuing a shocked Jessica.
Their reward: a scolding from a rattled Foreman.
The village’s leader trundled off, herding his beloved daughter as Nil’s leaders each shared their opinions – all too late – with the party. Why hadn’t Cody and the security force raked the local sands to break the oil leaks? Rather than blame Ward, whom Cody claimed had never issued the order, somehow the party became the brunt of this potentially lethal mistake. Not one word of thanks was uttered – and worse, the party discovered the source of the explosion; Jessica was smoking a cigarette within the depot, an act of grave disregard and stupidity. And an act that she, so far as the party witnessed, was not chastised for.
Doing their best to shrug it all off, the group disbanded and went about their individual days, but nonetheless each was drawn together again by a series of tasks set to them. Cody was approached by Jessica, now mostly recovered, and revealed her lingering feelings for the angsty security officer, and asked if he would prove his own love – and worth – by acquiring the Pinkertons’ mysterious ware, a rare diamond. Coincidentally Miryam was also asked by Barbara Wilks to retrieve the diamond as an optical focus for a project of hers and Wayne’s – a potential new power source for Nil, a photonic reactor. Rubbish, of course, upon learning of the diamond’s existence simply needed to possess the shiny rock. Mark was informed by Wayne that a good portion of Nil’s oil was now burned away and the town needed something to carry on. He explained that local animals could be hunted and cooked to melt away their fatty tissue into oil and that Mark should begin the process now. And lastly, Sin was tempted by the Pinkertons’ own caravaneer, Enrique, who claimed to have not only a tale of Sin’s infantile discovery, but an heirloom from whom the very same incident.
But nothing comes easily in the wastes of Ruin, and each found that the Pinkertons would not part with their most valuable prize so readily. And Sin was prompt;y told tthat nothing, not even a story, was free. They would need to locate and obtain mutated giant ant eggs for the Pinkertons’ western sales, where giant ants were employed in new farming techniques. Sand this was a task that Mark could join to accomplish his own task.
They set out and returned with the desired ant eggs – and two corpses. Sin and Mark had fallen in a grisly battle with the ant queen.
Naturally the survivors were not met with sympathy, welcome, or relief at their success – they were greeted by an outraged Foreman. Why hadn’t they told anyone where they were going, or what they were doing? And how dare they put themselves in danger and allow two members of the community to die? Cody punched the Foreman as response, Miryam suggested the old leader step down, and Rubbish quit the group to find safety in trash collecting for the remainder of his days. Cody and Miryam’s arrest was interrupted by the sudden emergence of an Old World mech, Unit Twelve. After shock and hostility had settled the new arrival explained that he had been sent by someone to assault somewhere and this had all happened some time ago – but it was unable draw specifics. Unimportant, thought the young Barbi – another Niller – who saw the potential to make a new and unique friend.
The sun had begun its slow descent towards Ruin’s horizon when Gregory Ward gathered with Cody and Miryam to finally thank them for what they had done, to explain that the Foreman was upset at their neglect, and that he would do his best to see the whole incident smoothed over. He suggested they remain under house arrest until he had a chance to present circumstances to Nil’s leader from a less bitter perspective – and besides, Ward explained, the old man was currently having his metaphorical ass handed to him by Babs and Stacy.
Perhaps things wouldn’t be so bad. Sin’s and Mark’s deaths were commemorated by their allies’ eulogies, the Pinkertons departed after eagerly relinquishing the diamond and some free parcels to Barbara and the survivors, and Nil settled down for a night darker than most.
The town was awakened by the gate alarm and the last dying shouts of the watchman, “Raiders! Raider attack!” Indeed, Nil was under assault. Raiders poured into town, breaking into homes, and killing the small, weak, or old. But Cody and Miryam needed to vent, and Barbi and her new friend Twelve were eager to meet the threat. Together they fought off the raiders throughout Nil’s southern quarter while Ward and the security force supposedly battled off those to the north. And this time the small group of youths and Twelve were thanked – of course, the Foreman was also nowhere in sight. The next hours were blood and sorrow as they milled throughout town assisting the wounded and seeing to the dead, during which Jessica approached Cody and told him that she had something important and strange to tell him, when things had settled down. Nil had suffered a devastating blow, more than was immediately apparent, Ward revealed, when he told the small group that the raiders had found their way into Wayne’s shop and damaged the water filtration unit.
Once again the group was dispatched to save the town, but this time their trip was detoured by Elder Elijah whom advised them to visit the mysterious Constantine’s watchtower before heading into the dangers of Rooster Fields – the place that Ward said was most likely to have a water filtration unit for salvage. But don’t expect much from Constantine, Elijah said as they departed, he’s not good with people. And truer words are seldom spoken. Constantine’s welcoming party was a band of mechs that dragged themselves from his expansive mech junkyard and attacked the four, and would have ended their task then and there were it not for the timely arrival of another of Nil’s tower watchmen, Dante D. Preston. With Dante’s help they put down the mechs and headed for the tower atop the plateau to find that Constantine was not present.
Instead he arrived a short time later via a battered motorcycle and leveled an assault rifle’s barrel at them. They quickly disarmed the tension and the watchman begrudgingly let them into his tower where he gave them a jammer device that would keep them safe from the weaker mechs in Rooster Field – a necessary tool , he said, since mechs emit a cumulative signal which lures more, thus increasing the signal further to draw even more mechs. And that meant that Rooster Field housed a horde of corrupted mechs. Among Constantine’s other articles the party found and traded for some superior equipment, and gathered that Constantine is both an engineering inventor and enthusiast, and probably not entirely human.
Off they went to Rooster Field, signal jamming device at the ready, and plunged into the Old World ruin’s mass of corrupted mechs. Constantine had been correct about the mechs’ numbers – one wrong step outside the jamming signal and they would be torn apart. But they prevailed through the odds, battling through those mechs that could override their jammer, and gradually uncovering Rooster Field’s distant and more recent past. Finally they stood before the deactivated mech control unit’s stasis chamber, behind which, they had discovered, lay the stairs leading down into the pipeline networks of the Old World factory. Several attempts saw the control unit activated, and it materialized into holographic life – and immediately attacked the party. They battled the hologram despite its ability to hack into their very minds to disorient and puppet them against their very allies, and at the very cusp of life and death, destroyed the control holo. Scrambling to resuscitate their fallen allies, they piled into the holo’s stasis chamber and discovered that it healed every scrape and cut while holding the Fright at bay for a decent night’s rest. From the tech of the pod they were able to gather components for and assemble a curative focus for Barbi’s restorative radioactive powers. And then down into the bowels of Rooster Field they went to rummage among the old and broken plumbing – at long last locating and salvaging a single water filtration unit. And with it in hand they walked from Rooster Field and headed south once more – mission accomplished.