As the posse heads out from Dodge, Doctor DuFuss pulls up in his newly-refurbished steam wagon and offers to join them. It's a three-day journey to Abode Walls, and he has just enough ghost rock to get there and back. It's expensive to buy more, but Charles offers to fund the wagon until he realises how dangerous such a large stockpile would be were it to explode. Instead, he buys just a little more, to cover possible detours...
The journey itself is uneventful, save for the first night, where a distinctive green Wasatch Rails distress flare is noted int he sky, far over the horizon. They decide against investigating too far off the well-beaten cattle track until they have to, no matter how much passing cattle drives tell them to get the steam wagon out of their way.
Adobe Walls is a ghost town, spent bullet casings and graves evidence of the battles that have taken place amongst the ruined buildings. Steele and Ingram stay behind to watch the wagon and horses, while the rest of the posse splits up to look for evidence of the Ravenites.
Charles, Philip and DuFuss enter the saloon, surprisng a group of armed Ravenites taking part in a contest spitting over the upper balcony. They quickly grab up their weapons.
Across the street, McLean, Law and Colt find themselves in the general store, wrecked, ransacked and apparently staffed by a bear with an axe.
In the saloon, gunfire erupts as the posse upturns tables for cover and more Ravenites come running from hiding. Doctor DuFuss uses his confusion device and when several enemies come stumbling into the open, the tide turns in the posse's favour.
McLean fans several bullets into the bear and it simply dies. Law runs off toward the saloon and the sound of fighting, making it there quickly. McLean is slower, and caught in the open as more Ravenites jump out of another building and open fire. Colt bravely pushes McLean into the slaoon and covers him, and from that superior position the posse guns down the villains.
They find a Raven-marked note in the saloon, but none of them can read the Spanish it's written in. DuFuss is intrigued by the story of the bear man, and despite Colt's protestations hurries over to the general store. The corpse is disappointingly a regular Ravenite, and Colt laughs off McLean's story as seeing things. Nonetheless, the doctor brings out his magic detecting doohickey. The dead man has no aura, but Colt is lit up like a lightnng storm.
DuFuss then exposes Colt to a dose of his dispelling contraption, although that doesn't seem to have any effect other than making Colt all surly again.
The posse wanders around the other buildings, this time en masse, just to make sure there are no other surprises waiting. A couople have what look to be Biblical demons in them, matching some of the ghost stories told by those who'd been to Adobe Walls previously. The posse mercilessly blows them all away in a sulphurous goo.
Most of the other buildings are deserted, although McLean finds one with a Ravenite corpse in it, dead by shotgun blast. Nothing more to see there, he declares, and with night falling the posse gather well away from the town to sleep. They take shifts on watch. McLean and Colt, good buddies, pair up. On their watch, they smile to each other the knowing smiles of those possessed by spirits...
The rest of the posse is woken by loud clanking, and find the steam wagon half disassembled by the two watchmen, although they plead total ignorance of what happened. Of what happened for the last few hours, even! DuFuss sighs at the thought of having to repair the wagon again...
The folk of Cauldron join the posse in a humble burial ritual, a simple cross overlooking the pit where John Texas died. There was sombeness alongside the celebration at the news the news that the night haunts had been banished forever. Doctor DuFuss stays behind in the town to finish rebuilding the steam wagon in the scrapyard.
Back in Denver, the posse stopp over in church - it being Sunday - to say a few extra prayers for John. Law, not bein' Christian, goes poking around looking for clues leading him to Clayton Drumm. The sound of gunfire near the railyard brings him running, and another chinaman dies in his arms. There is no sign of the pursuer, but the man is clutching a red binder taht turns out to be a Pinkerton criminal file detailing the life of Sam Bass.
The posse goes over the mystery a little, learning from the file that Bass survived his run-in with them (well, Steele is the only member of the posse that was there at the time, now!) but has started becoming more merciless in his crimes around Deadwood. Someone to catch up with when they head back...
Stopping in at the Agency offices, the posse discovers that a crate of secret files has recently been stolen, and is no doubt en route elsewhere from the trainyard. They would be very grateful for the recovery of the files, should the posse come across them in the future.
Their last night in Denver, the posse is met in the Brown Palace bar by a young man with a cocksure grin and a pair of pistols, introducing himself as Phil Hawkins, the self-proclaimed biggest fan of John Texas. He'd heard the legends, spoken with Nataniel and come to meet the man for himself, being a little disbelieving upon being told of his death. Still, he asked to tag along with the posse to experience some of the same adventures as his idol. Why not, is the basic response, and a new member signs up for the action.
On their way to their Dodge-bound Black River train, they spot a couple of toughs that seem to be keeping an eye on them, Law in particular. They don't approach, but while Charles chills in first class the rest of the posse sits together, keeping an eye out. Law goes so far as to have his tomahawk to hand until a concerned parent pipes up for him to put it away.
A kid hands Law a piece of paper, carrying a message from Drumm, asking to meet alone in a first class cabin. So he goes, although the others back him up. They stick to one end of the carriage, seeing the two stalkers at the opposite end.
Law enters the indicated cabin, and the well-dressed Clayton Drumm introduces himself as a man that oversees Mister Kang's interests further south. He doesn't like people interfering in Mister Kang's business, and asks what connection Law has with Mu Wa. The name means nothing to the martial artist, but Drumm assures him that the man's brother Mu Kwan clearly met with the posse previous to his defection, and Law puts two and two together to realise that Kang is behind the file theft.
Drumm mentions that he would let Law go, since there's no interference in Mister Kang's business, but that Fong Bei would dearly like to see the martial artist dead. As Law raises his weapon, Drumm flashes a hand of cards and smiles. When his spell has no effect, he stopes smiling briefly as the tomahawk takes his eyes and then eviscerates him.
Law stumbles outside to see a brawl beginning between Steele and the roughs, the latter of whom tip their hats and take to their heels upon seeing a blood-soaked axe murderer step out of the cabin.
McLean runs off to get a change of clothes for Law, and the posse plans to behave as if nothing happened, closing the cabin door and returning to their seats.
Of course, the death scream had been heard, and soon a group of Black River security is asking questions. When they discover that the posse had been seen heading to first class, they ask about that. They were visiting their friend Sir Charles, comes the reply. He has no recollection of this, security tells them. A steely few seconds pass as Law assures the security detail that perhaps Sir Charles had been drinking and doesn't remember.
Black River seems to accept this explanation, and moves on their way, the only remaining question to be a quick inspection of Law's tomahawk. The blood has been cleaned off, but the witch that examines it gasps before handing it back, and the security detail moves on with apologies. They do seem too interested in the Tomahawk of Jordrava for comfort, though...
It's unanimously decided not to spend too long in Dodge, in case Black River come looking with a vengeance, and so the posse merely catches up quickly with Nathaniel before their planned departure south for Adobe Walls.
The reporter reports that he isn't too sure of Tolliver's suitability for mayor, but Henry Stiles is already getting his face out there as a suitable nomination for marshal, even breaking up a few crimes. Nathaniel is saddened to hear of John's death, and plans to write up an epic obituary. Whether he joins them on their journey south is another matter, though...
The posse decides to check out the abandoned salvage company before taking Agent Drago back. This requires a descent into the pit that gave Cauldron its name, which gets progressively colder as they descend a narrow ledge into the bowels of the earth, to find the small set of buildings overlooking a greeny-grey pond of water.
One building is a sleeping and living area for the Steinbruckner brothers, the other a barn wherein lies the disassembled pieces of a steamwagon. There is a junkyard lying between the two, which Doctor DuFuss takes a good rummage through. A jetty leads to a pair of flatboats that can pole out into the dingy water around a few festureless islands, but none of the posse takes that journey.
McLean does climb up alongside the trickling creek that provides the water for the pond and finds another devastated battleground, strewn with mechanical debris. He has a good look around and heads back to report finding nothing, only to take a nasty shove and fall from the cliff.
The scream brings the others running out from where they had been investigating, and then they go ducking for cover as a gatling cannon opens up on them. Standing at the top of the small waterfall is a mechanical man, only one more disjointed than the automaton they had already fought, pieces of scrap held together around a smoking steam pipe.
The posse returns fire, blasting plates off the abomination to reveal dessicated cropses holding it together as innards. They finally blast it apart with the aid of McLean, firing upwards from the ledge he'd grabbed as he fell. There is no sign of the missing salvagers amongst the scrap amongst the creek, and the buildings are undisturbed. Nothing like what any investigator would call a clue.
Calling it a day, they tootle back to Denver to deal with Drago. DuFuss and Steele come to the agreement to turn the Agent back over to Miss Lawton, along with the information they'd discovered about Hellstromme, regretfully informing her that the plates themselves were unrecoverable - but not letting her in on the fact that Steele will be taking them to his own superiors for processing.
The plan works out fine, Drago getting a commendation for his quick thinking, and Steele covering DuFuss's stumbling over the story they'd prepared. The mountie then takes a train out of town to spread the news.
While he's away, investigation is done. Law beats faces until he gets the name of Kang's representative in town: one Clayton Drumm. John Texas and Dufuss go over books - in the local poorly-stocked library and the district offices for the US secret service respectively - going over the clues they'd gathered from the bar-folk of Cauldron. The disappearances took place at night, and those who survived experiences recalled hearing voices calling to drag them away. All signs point to an outbreak of Night Haunts, and they prepare accordingly.
In Des Moines, Steele meets with a representative of the Canadian government to hand over the photographic plates. Agent Sapphire takes them gratefully, commending Steele for his perseverance and handing him some good old Canadian goods to keep him going.
Once the mountie returns, the posse takes time, working only during the daylight hours, in preparing the site of the salvage company for the coming conflict. Using scrap from the junkyard along with some glass pieces purchased in Denever - a small crate of ghost rock in the barn is helpful too - DuFuss puts together plans for a series of electric lights to be erected on poles around the area, slaved to a single lever to activate them. A swivel-mounted searchlight atop the barn completes the trap, so when the monsters show up the posse'll be able to catch them in bright light and hopefully destroy them. John texas puts together some hex-powered flare bullets as well, for emergencies.
At night, DuFuss is manning the searchlight, Law, McLean and Colt patrolling outside while Steele, Texas and Charles get some rest inside the barn, when the cries of a small child come from the junkyard. McLean is having none of that nonsense, and tosses a few sticks of dynamite in that direction, blasting metal pieces into the air. The screams only intensify, and Steele cannot stand by and let some potential victim suffer: he leads the charge of the back-up crew outside.
Steele follows the cries around the back of the buildings, only to have an arm made of shadow smash through the wall of the hut, clawing across his face and back. DuFuss cranks on the searchlight, but the thing keeps inside the building and away from the brightness, continuing to ravage the mountie as the others ru to his rescue. McLean fires a flare bullet, but it goes wide and sets the hut alight instead, the mountie now being clawed with a fire at his back. Seeing the fully revealed form of a man made of nothing but shadow, with claws stroking chunks out of Steele's flesh, Texas runs off into the night screaming.
Law lays into the shadow with the hatchet of Jordrava, buying Steele enough time to free himself and fire back, only to find that his bullets are doing no harm.
Texas' screams cut off abruptly, and DuFuss swings the seachlight in his direction, only to find the gunslinger dead, being feasted on by three more shadows, which screech and scatter as the light falls upon them.
Not knowing how many more are out there, the time has come to flood the area with light, but when Colt pulls the lever, nothing happens. DuFuss turns to see that something has disconnected some vital wires - something large, eight-legged and with a blazing hole where its heart should be.
He turns the searchlight on it, but rather than burn up like the other shadow creatures the dark beast scuttles away. While the scientist struggles to reconnect the wiring, Charles takes one shot at the monster with his elephant gun, decisively splattering it across the landscape.
Colt throws the switch again, and while there is screaming as the night haunts evaporate without their night cover, the dark beast - all but obliterated by Charles' shot - crawls its way over ot the pond and swims away.
The posse follows on the flatboats, seeing not only the bodies of the missing persons but the creature swimming into an underground tunnel, heading toward one of the islands. They smash the land mass to bits, finding the dark beast in the process of inserting a beating heart into its chest. It looks up at them as they blast away, avenging John Texas in a hail of bullets.
Steele had not been idle while the others had been fighting ghosts. He'd been in correspondance with his superiors in the Canadian government, and they wanted him to meet with a contact to follow a lead that could reveal some important information. What was to be done with that information they would leave in his hands. Steele plans to invite the rest of the posse to join his expedition in the morning.
Of course, the others wake that morning refreshed in a ghostless sleep, save for Law, who is awoken (eventually) by the repeated bites of a pair of cobras. He kills them with his bare hands, but any attempt to find where they came from in town proves fruitless - no zoo, no exotic animal stores, and they're certainly not indiginous to the area. The hotel staff at least fix the hole that someone had made in his door.
On the short train ride to the 'literal jerkwater town' of Cauldron, Steele explains who they're to meet: a Hector Bartnick, recently arrived from Chicago. Cauldron overlooks a large crater that marks the location of the fiercest battle of the Great Rail Wars, a tiny bar and billiards hall the only building of note.
Within, as well as Bartnick the posse meet locals who are full of tales of folks disappearing at night, including a pair of salvagers working the lake at crater's bottom. Bartnick explains that he can find a missing reporter's camera that was lost during the final battle using the principles of Identity Field Theory - DuFuss is intrigued, but Bartnick refuses let anyone look too closely at his workings - which should shed light on the mystery of what happened that day. So, with his silent tracking device - thoroughly mocked by the more audibly-focused DuFuss - the posse set out into the steel and bone-littered canyons of the Rockies.
They are set upon en route by a trio of cadaverous knife-men, smiling with the slits that tilt their heads back. They strive to make the posse like them, and Colt does in fact collapse with a gushing throat wound. The slitters are gunned down, and as the posse check on Colt they find him with nothing more than a new scar to talk about.
The posse discovers the dead reporter and his camera in a cave, and Bartnick wastes no time - and disregards Steele's orders of caution - in playing back the plates of this prototype 'moving image' camera. They show the battle betwene the Rail Barons, and an airship belonging to Doctor Helstromme of Wasatch Rails dropping the bomb that created the crater, teo years prior to this supposed new invention debuting at the Battle of Lost Angels. Bartnick speculates that if this got out, it could change a lot of people's opinions of the good doctor.
A voice announces that that isn't going to happen, as a half-dozen goons in Wasatch uniforms, cradling gatling pistols, loudly announce their intention to make sure the news never spreads, as well as outing Bartnick as an 'Agent Drago'.
The posse is quicker on the draw than a group of dudes with their guns already drawn, and only one of the six even manages to get a shot off before he joins his comrades. in death. The posse have no time to question Drago before an automaton that had been following the Wasatch boys comes stomping through the bone-fields toward them, spraying them with rounds from its gatling cannon. Again they shoot it down - Charles' elephant gun proving as good as blowin' up machines as monsters - only for Law to get hurt in the immense detonation as it explodes.
Absolutely certain that there is to be no third wave - and now well-armed with their own gatlng pistols - the posse questions Drago, who admits to being a capital A Agent of the Agency, gone rogue on his own authoirty since his superiors refused to believe that his scientific theory was of any use. DuFuss and Steele go back and forth over what should be done with the Agent as well as the information contained in the plates, but have no time for either to firmly establish their argument before the bones around them draw together into a giant, round-bodied shape with mutilpe arms and legs.
DuFuss calmly draws his pistol and shoots it to pieces in a burst of gatling fire even as John and McLean recoil in horror. They walk with more trepidation through the bonefield over the remain of the bonefiend, only to find it reassembling behind them. Steel is incensed, and joins Law in taking the fight to the creature as it lashes out at them with its claws. McLean conquers his phobia briefly to blind the monster with his flash gun, and after it collapses again from concentrated fire he demolishes the remains with some dynamite, drowning out Charles' advice about destroying the black skull at the monster's core. Still, it does the job.
With the tomahawk and medicine stone in their possession, the posse retires to rest after a job well done. Each of them is visited by Jordrava in their dreams (even DuFuss, who has no idea who it is!), who congratulates them and advises them of the location of the Ravenites, holed up in the ruined town of Adobe Walls.
Those sleeping in the deluxe, ten-storey Brown Palace Hotel (Charles, DuFuss, Law) have their dreams take a darker turn, ending in fire, death and screaming to wakefulness. McLean, staying in a more down-market place with Colt, finds nothing more troubling than a lack of breafast, being forced to head off to the piss-stained Slaughterhouse Saloon to eat cheap meat stew.
The morning papers inform the posse of what's been going on. The tremendous snowfall hitting Dakota Territory is the big news around the country, but locally the management of the Brown Palace has put out an ad for someone to deal with the ghosts haunting the place.
Meeting with the night manager, they find out that about a dozen spirits stalk the place, fighting each other, scaring guests and causing nightmares. The posse stays up late that night, and they are approached by one ghost, an old man overjoyed to find someone that is willing to talk rather than run off in terror at first sight. He introduces himself as Elmer Wilks, he and his family being murdered by some thieves and cursed to haunt the building ever since. He asks that the posse get rid of the other ghosts somehow, since the dead cannot kill the dead.
The posse takes this under advisement, and decide to sleep on it, agreeing to meet the ghosts at midnight the next night. DuFuss is distrbed by more ghosts, a pair of scruffy gunslingers introducing themselves as the Schoeller Brothers, asking for the posse to deal with the evil ghosts of a monstrous family that has trapped their spirits to haunt the hotel... The doctor says he'll meet with them at one ay em the next night.
In the morning, DuFuss visits the Agency Bureau Offices to call in some favours with Andrew Lane. As well as getting a scientific analysis of the medicine stone (it protects against sorcery), he requests a couple of weapons to deal with ghosts, coming away with a pair of ectoplasmic calcifiers, guns capable of rendering the intangible tangible. For a brief time.
Law puts out an advertisment for an apprentice, and takes part in some bare-knuckle fistfights to get his name out there in the brawling world.
Charles investigates the histories of the Brown Palace, dicovering that the Wilks family disappeared thirty years ago, just before a saloon opened up under the ownership of the Schoeller brothers. They disappeared subsequently five years ago, and the land was sold to the current owners by someone who only appears in the paperwork as 'Needham'...
McLean checks out the piping that keeps the Brown Palace in hot and cold running water, top of the line luxury. There is an artesian well at the heart of the place, feeding the pipes and no doubt contributing to the murders that have dominated the site's history.
So, at midnight, with a couple of gadgets for busting ghosts, the posse meets with the Wilkses in the hotel restaurant, and while DuFuss takes some readings from the family with his own devices, the posse agrees not to destroy them, instead waiting an hour for the Schoeller gang, a battle royale breaking out with the ghosts pelting the posse with everything from chairs to cutlery as the posse struggles to blast them with the calcifiers. McLean manages to gut one of the ghosts as it bedcomes solid, the ghost lingering in pain for a few seconds before evaporating. Law discovers that Jordrava's tomahawk can harm even the incorporeal, chopping them into ectoplasmic goo.
The final ghost offers to show the posse where they buried the Wilkses bodies in exchange for letting him go, and dutifully leads them into the garden (being re-calcified every few seconds by a careful posse) where McLean digs up the bones in a shallow grave. The ghost does not do a good job ov convincing the posse that he's learned the error of his ways, and so is killed forever, the ghosts of the Wilks family manifesting for a final farewell before heading on to a final reward.
The hotel manager is annoyed at the destruction, but grateful for the satisfactory result, and so offerds free accommodation to the conquering heroes. When questioned about the Needham character from whom he purchased the land however, he has no answers...
Stopping by the Nevada Land Basin Office to visit the headquarters for the Western Bureau of the Agency, the posse are fortunate to be accompanied by Doctor DuFuss, whose clearance level gets them in contact with chief Hattie Lawton.
She doesn't bother asking how they know about her operation, but tells them that they're welcome to take the tomahawk they came for if they do a little favour for her: only hours ago, a train bearing an important cargo had been hijacked on its way to Denver. Upon the pose agreeing, she sends them off to meet with autogyro pilot Theodore, who will fly them to the scene.
They glide over the single carriage train as it heads north through the Rockies, and as Charles draws a bead on the engine with his elephant gun the sound of the gyro's approach warns whoever's down below, and a dozen rifles are soon shooting up at the posse.
The vehicle takes a hit, but Charles still gets a show off that destroys the locamotive's locamotion, the drivers jumping back to the cargo carriage and disconnecting the engine before it rolls away and explodes.
Theodore puts the gyro down on the roof, the posse firing all the time to drop the number of return shots as outlaws plummet off the train. All but Steele jump to the roof, and of those all but Law take to the ladders to scramble down to the carriage below.
John Texas surprises more outlaws and shoots them down. McLean is given a spherical device by DuFuss, and throws it through a doorway, discovering the object to be a sonic bomb that quickly drives several bandits to their knees. Charles merely points an elephant gun at the nose of one man and he backs down. DuFuss himself, being an old man, takes slightly longer to climb downward.
As Law is waiting for the scientist to make room for him to descend, a fellow martial artist leaps up onto the carriage from the coal car, flexing his muscles and preparing for an epic duel of kung fu skill! Steele shoots him in the head from the gyro above.
The martial artist isn't killed, but the resulting brawl with Law - wherein the latter tears the former into four pieces with his ghosteel blade - is notably less impresive than it could have been.
DuFuss looks through the doorway he has climbed down to, seeing a man crouched behind a crate, dressed rather more tidily than the rest of the attackers, with green eyes and teeth filed to points... As the other spots him, DuFuss ducks back out of sight and counts to three, preparing to shoot the leader of the outlaws.
Instead, he finds bullets hailing down on him from above, the man now standing at the head of the ladder, and only just manages to throw himself inside, off the ladder before he falls under the train wheels.
Steele shoots the hat off the man's head, but Law charges in, weathering a gun emptying itself into his chest, and ignoring the self-important cries of a man calling himself 'Mordecai Whateley'.
Steele asks Theodore to bring him down so he can get a better shot at the interior of the carriage, but that is just a chance for the last bastion of bandits to shred the last few tatters of the gyro's structure, as well as bleeding McLean not a little. The mountie jumps out onto the train while the pilot crash-lands some distance back.
As Law dices the leader on top, down below the rest of the posse putting some bullets into those bandits too bold to surrender. They find themelves in possession of a seven foot crate and a tied-up old prospector. Freeing the man, he insists upon opening the box, something that McLean is only too happy to do!
There is more trepidation as the propsector insists on pouring some liquid down the throat of the corpse chained up inside. As it thrashes and curses once the gag is removed, Steele has his gun drawn and insists that things not progress any farther. The prospector - Coot by name - insisted that they'd all be killed if he weren't allowed to proceed! It's a tense few moments, and a gun is trained on him the whole time as he offers a bottle to the body's lips.
The dead man calms, becoming quite reasonable, but letting him out of that box unchained is definitely too far for the mountie. The eloquent dead man says that it's quite understandable they not trust him, and when he says that his name is Andrew Lane, DuFuss recognises him as a big name in the Agency, and quite an important cargo indeed!
Theodore returns in time, and he and DuFuss get to fixing the autgyro while the others camp out in the train carriage (since having rolled to a stop) with a talking corpse until its fixed. When it's capable of getting word out, they wait for an engine to come pick them up and get back to Denver!
Ms Lawton is grateful to the posse for rescuing Mr Lane, and dutifully hands over the tomahawk of Jordrava, meaning that the two artifacts of the Old One have now been united!
John Texas can't cry out to alert his friends of the Stagecoach Robber's attack without giving Antonio Delgado a chance to shoot him in the back. So he draws, spinning, drawing and blasting the bandit faster than the other guy can pull the trigger. Delgado limops to the door as he lets off his own bullet, grazing Texas once before a second shot leaves him slumping aganst the door, no breath or pulse.
The gunfire alerts the rest of the posse, but rather than look to Texas in his compartment they check the windows to see the steam wagon of the Stagecoach Robber slowing to pull alongside the train. He demands the people inside get ready to give him all their valuables. As the rich passengers begin to panic, Nathaniel and Steele organise moving them out of the carriage, to a safer location; it's the much-publicised Charles Harding that the Robber really wants. Law stands by the door to prevent any interested parties returning to the scene.
Charles grabs the emergency break to bring everything to a screeching halt, and while they await the Robber's arrival McLean takes his buddy Colt with him further down the train. While Colt covers him with a rifle, McLean plans to go and place some dynamite under the steam wagon, as insurance...
The Robber is suprised to be welcomed so courteously aboard the train, but keeps him gun out the whole time regardless: there is a man in full moiuntie uniform present after all! The posse outlines that they know what happened to him, his real name of Henry Stiles and that they have plans for him. It's all very suspicious, and Stiles is hesitant to believe too much of what is being said. The posse offers to meet him at his ranch the next day,
There's a ruckus at the door that Law is guarding, with shouts from the Black River guards about being let in. Steele moves up to assure them that everything is under control, but acquiesces once they demand the door be opened, and steps aside as they storm forward, guns drawn and pointed at the Stagecoach Robber.
With all the hullabaloo inside the carriage, McLean cheerfully places dynamite under the steam wagon, with an extra stick in its gatling mount just to be sure, trailing detonation cord off to a safe distance...
Charles catches a bullet for Stiles, who takes the opportunity to snap off a few expertly-missing shots to cover his leap back to his transport. Finding a stick of dynamite in his cockpit he cuts the cord and rakes the roof of the train with his gatling before speeding off.
Tense moments pass before the train starts up again, with Law and Steele carted off to sit the rest of the trip out in a cell for impeding the Black River enforcers, and Charles does gets a half-hearted apology from the one that shot him. McLean recovers the sticks of dynamite that dropped loose The posse asks the crew to take them back to Dodge, but the train has to carry on to its destination. They will be stopping at a Black River depot to go over some repairs, and the team will be able to get a ride back to Dodge on one of their less passenger-friendly locamotives.
So, everyone not behind bars returns to their compartments to get some rest, finding that John Texas is sitting with his gun pointed at the dead body of Antonio Delgado, refusing to blink. The others check that he's dead, but Texas insists that he'll get up if they don't watch him. The man's face is a dead-spit for the Mexican villager they met back in the Hunting Grounds, but he isn't breathing, dead as spit. Law suggests just cutting his head off for ease of transport, but Texas insists upon bringing the whole body in.
So, Texas throws the body out of the window before the train pulls into the depot, and follows it out. This gains the attention of the train guards, and one of them hops out as well. The woman confronts Texas and asks what's going on. Once he mentions there being an actual 'body', she draws her gun and he's forced to shoot her down. Finding her still alive, he shoots her in the forehead to avoid any chance of her spreading the word of what she saw, and contemplates putting her on the railway tracks to cover his crime. How to do that while also not taking his eyes off Delgado's corpse, though...
Meanwhile, the others are transferring carriages, being released from cells with fines, taking down the names of arresting officers for The List (Steele must do everything by the book!) and send Law - able to run at great speed thanks to his kung-fu training - to go and see how John Texas is doing. He still can't convince John to saw off the head, and so scoots back to the posse, running past two more Black River gunwomen heading to catch up with their missing comrade.
They confront John Texas, who has since had time to arrange the bodies to his convenience. He spins a tale that Delgado had come after him (true) and the Black River enforcer had come to his rescue, the other two shooting each other to death (so, so false). They buy the tale, and even help carry the bodies back. Texas asks for a crate to take Delgado back to Dodge with him, and this is provided.
Back in Dodge, the posse meets with Bigfoot, and while the Ranger is dubious of trusting a known outlaw, agrees to join them in meeting with Stiles. The robber is even more shocked to see that they brought a Texas Ranger with them, but the posse explains that they knwo that he's a good man who's been through a lot, and that he hasn't hurt anyone. His identity remains unknown to the public at large, so there's no reason why he can't help them with their plan:
To run for marshal of Dodge City.
They play up the romantic appeal of the role, and the need for a new lawman around town. Of course, it won't happen overnight, and Nathaniel decides to stay in Dodge to work on a campaign.
The other matter that the posse brings to the publishing house front for Bigfoot is the body of Delgado. Pedersen agrees to ship it along with them to Denver, and has a specialist who will travel along with them, a scientist by name of Doctor DuFuss. He should be able to at least get them an audience with the department head for the Denver office of the Agency.
So, waiting only to pick up the other Smith and Robards mail order - a flash gun for McLean and a ghost-steel blade for Law - the posse makes a second, successful trip to Denver. They disembark, check into a hotel and get ready to look for Jordrava's tomahawk in the biggest mining city in the Rockies.
The posse treks onward beneath Boot Hill, pasing through the darkness to the shore of an underground lake. With none swimmer among them, they re-purpose some of the coffins jutting from the earth to use as boats, paddling across to the far shore.
A short cliff climb and the posse find themselves in the lair of the ghoul king, a bone-strewn cave housing the remnants of the horde that attacked them, along with the bloated, slug-like alpha male. Exposed to the light and with a hail of bullets blasting into them, the monsters are soon put down, and Jordrava's buffalo-shaped medicine rock is dug out of the remains. On the way out, McLean brings the whole undergorund collapsing with some well-placed dynamite.
Bigfoot and Pedersen are pleased to learn of the posse's actions, and the latter even mentions - strictly off the record, didn't hear it from him - that a tomahawk matching the description of Jordrava's other heirloom has been sent on to the Denver branch of the US Agency. Luckily, that matches up with the posse's plan for catching the Stagecoach Robber, with their journey to Denver planned for the following weekend. Steele also takes the time to call Pedersen out on the US government not intervening further regarding Custer's seizing Deadwood, but the humble cattle rancher has no answers for the mountie.
In the run-up to their departure, the posse attend the city's award ceremony, where bold tollbridge attendant Tolliver Tolman is gifted a medal for his bravery in standing up to the Red Neckerchief Gang. While Dodge City's mayor Robert Wright is proud to accept credit for the event, in a speech Harding is sure to point out that it was he and the posse that actually scraped together the money to get Tolliver his medal, and that the mayor and marshal haven't been doing much for the area recently. The mayor defends himself, but the feeling from the public officials is that it'll be good riddance once the posse leaves.
Setting out on the train to Denver on Daniel Prester's money (first class!) McLean talks Colt Light into tagging along, the promise of scoring a lot more money gambling keeping the man interested. With Nathaniel's story of the destruction of the cannibals beneath Boot Hill garnering further publicity for John Texas there is a large crowd to see the posse off. Clearly the Stagecoach Robber won;t be able to resist robbing such a target!
And during the train journey, as the rest of the posse mingles with the rich and travel-happy, John Texas looks out of his compartment window to see the unmistakeable form of the Stagecoach Robber's custom steam wagon powering toward the train. He gets up to inform the others, only to hear a gun cock behind him, and the voice of Antonio Delgado, leader of the Red Neckerchief Gang, telling him to stay.
I saw Evangelion 3.33 this week, and naturally got back to thinking of Cthulhutech.
Sorcery is definitely not a recognised force that the public is fully aware of. That shit is kept super tip-top secret, and anyone found practicing it is quickly taken away by men in black suits to be killed or recruited. Or else they go crazt and join some cult or other.
People often wonder why the Migou don't just bombard humanity into submission in their war, given that have total domination of Earth's orbit with their hive-ship. The general reason given is that they fear awakening the Great Old Ones (since they're invading to stop humanity awakening the GOO themselves) through such indscriminate damage. Why not take that further? The D-engines that power humanity's mechs and engels are obviously unstable, and destroying them does cause Cthulhu and his ilklings to sitr in slumber, so the migou go to great lengths to avoid destroying them if they can, instead capturing them for reverse-engineering and harvesting the brains of the pilots. A fate worse than death!
Cheese-making is a prized skil in the future. Blessed are the cheese-makers, indeed. Since cheese is so easily adapted to make genetically-modified foodstuffs, it forms the basis of the diets of arcology humans. This is an in-joke.
The migou like colder climes - that's why they're named after abominable snow-men, after all - and have seized control of the poles and regions near them. Naturally, humanity will choose to strike at them in some way, and at some point in the past nukes were launched. The ice caps have been melted, flooding has destroyed coastal regions around the world, and the Esoteric Order of Dagon is correspondingly more powerful. The nukes had little effect on the migou, but what's a post-apocalyptic world without Antarctica being all messed up?
There will be no nanotech. It's far too amazing a technology to be utilised without having to answer too many questions about why it's not used to solve a particular problem. The standard Cthulhutech world gives rise to and hand-waves away such questions, so I think it's best to avoid the whole problem altogether.
I am disappointed that Cthulhutech - despite supposedly being about anime as much as eldritch horror - has no cute mascots. Clearly, failed attempts at militarising small robots and uplifted animals have been instead turned into pets, allowing the rich to have access to adorable robots and fluffy animals.
For such a controlling, Big Brother-y shadowy governement, it's unbelievable that they allow home-schooling - the books even mention that most cultists homeschool their offspring! Ridiculous! Clearly, government-run educational facilities are compulsory, as are the sailor scout school uniforms, obviously...
The Dreamlands have been destroyed in the standard Cthulhutech mythos. They're too useful a resource to be so easily tossed aside, and so are still around, for psychics and sorcerers to go tripping through.
All those usual arguments asking why humanoid mechs are the most efficient way to fight a global war can be headed off by assuming that the stirring of the Great Old Ones has messed up physics somewhat, the utilisation of the D-engine doing the rest.
The Nazzadi were designed by the migou to terrify humanity, and created from the same DNA. So why are they sexy drow types? The Zentraedi that the Nazzadi are based on are giants, but we don't want them to be so close a rip-off. Instead, why not have the Nazzadi more ogre-like? Big, muscular with tusks and fangs, menacing warrior-race types that still clearly display their human heritage while also being intimidating foes.
Like sorcerers, para-psychics are not commonplace. They hew closer to Akira - perhaps the government does have some people capable of blowing up the moon with their brains locked up somewhere, but they will be controlled, too dangerous to have roaming around freely.
One note I have written here just says 'President August'. I assume that there was some awesome, totally insightful reason for that, not that I can remember...
Let's face it, some of the pop culture stuff that Cthulhutech is mining for inspiration is pretty old - Robotech came out in 1985, and even Evangelion is over twenty years old now - so a bit of more recent styling could be used. Attack on Titan depicting a humanity holding out in a walled city against impossible monsters is clearly close, but Pacific Rim does reveal one of the big problems with Cthulhutech: the elevator picth is giant robots punching Cthulhu, yet all the villainous factions employ mecha just as much as the humans! We need more kaiju, deep sea monsters thrown up by Dagon, space abominations engineered by the Migou, and extra-dimensional critters birthed by the Storm. Assassins' Creed is another one. Given how often family ancestry comes up in Lovecraft, some crazy technology that allows someone to look back though their bloodline would be pretty useful, don't you think?
The posse plays it safe, staking out the slaughterhouse for a few days and nights in shifts. They notice a group of heavily dressed people carrying the bodies of the dead buffalo hunters inside a few hours after midnight, but beyond that no sign. Thus they decide to do a daring raid in the early hiours of the morning, shortly before the building is due to open for business.
Charles and Steele find the front door locked, while the others unbar the back easily and find themselves on the metal killing floor. They make their way over to open the front door, only to come under fire from an angry Ravenite with a pistol, emerging from the cold storage room. As gunfire breaks out, the front door is smashed open as ther comrades rush to help out, and Raven cultists attack from both the cellar entrance and the cold storage room.
The posse pushes back the angry indians, firepower pinning them down in the cellar where they'd desecrated the corpses of the buffalo hunters. The shaman leading the group, finding his attempts to scare the attackers off with dark magic unsuccessful, takes on the form of a great black wolf and ran out the front door, almost escaping before Steele and McLean bring their guns to bear, the shaman resuming human form as he dies.
The body is brought back inside, most of the other Ravenites still clinging to life. Fearing trouble may ensue when the butchers come to work later, the posse sends off Nathaniel and Law for help. The reporter tracks down a wagon hire business, and after managing to secure one with some fast talking also contrives to drive it back to the slaughterhouse despite never having driven a team before. The martial artist meets with the Texas Ranger at the publishing house, and Pedersen agrees to tidy up the scene, well within his talents as a humble cattle herder.
With the messy clean-up business sub-contracted - the wagon being put to good use for storing bodies and captives - the posse looks over what they seized in the raid. The shaman had a crude map of Boot Hill, with an 'X' marked on it. It matches up with the area that Law and McLean had visited before, and so the posse returns in dead of night, Halloween having thankfully passed a few nights before.
The posse locates the carved rock they had previously investigated, and with a little cleaning they find a larger capstone of odd weight and size, which a little teamwork lifts, revealing a tunnel leading deep into the earth. It is full of shatered coffins and gnawed bones, and by the time a degenerate, chittering horde of man-like forms comes rushing to attack them, the posse is readied.
They are horrifically outnumbered, the ghouls locking claws on them in the flickering lantern-light as they attempt to douse them, McLean even being borne to the ground, and John Texas' lantern being smashed to the ground. Enough gunfire drives the ghouls gibbering back into their warrens, but their attack has left a scar...