I grudgingly make my way to consciousness, as my face feels nothing but pain. I can barely open my eyes, they’re so swollen, so I can’t see the damage. I try to move my hands to feel it, but I find they’re restrained. A quick check reveals the same of my legs and torso. I try to speak, to call out for assistance, but my mouth is gagged with what feels to be a shirt, and my mouth is dry as well from being open for too long. So far, things are not looking up.
I try to remember what happened to put me in this situation… and nothing. Where am I? Aside from being tied up and beaten probably bloody in bed, not a clue. Name? Nope. Age? No idea. Favorite color? Hmm. Average wingbeat per minute of an unladen swallow? African or European? Well, at least I still have my sense of humor. At least I think I do.
I try to force my swollen eyelids open and take in my surroundings, only to have some dirty but prim man lean over me. He checks my vitals and inquires as to how I’m feeling, but leaves the gag in, giving me no chance to reply. The sick feeling developing in my stomach that things are going rather badly for me only gets worse when he smiles and says, “Stay quiet now,” and then walks away.
I notice a man off to the side, sleeping on a chair with a blanket sort of covering him, his bare chest and arms exposed. Something about him screams military at me. My face throbs a little harder as I notice blood on his knuckles and I suspect that it’s mine. I am so effen hosed.
Prim has made his way to the other side of the room, and seems to wake someone on the floor. An attractive, exotic-looking woman gets up and they have a short whispered conversation, with a couple of glances my way. I groan softly, anticipating that my day is not about to take a turn for the better.
Okay, so let’s assess the situation. I’m bound and being held hostage in what looks like a low-tech bedroom. There’s electricity, but at a basic level, and nothing to indicate it’s merely for look, so I’m probably on a low-tech world. The aches and pains I’m feeling lead to me to believe I was beaten, and the strong aches in my face think a number of them were head blows, which is probably why my memory pool is so shallow at the moment. The guy sleeping was probably the one doing the physical grunt work of my incarceration (let’s call him Grunt), but Prim seems more intellectual, probably in charge of whatever torture or interrogation I’ve been undergoing. And the woman? Most likely the “reward” portion of the interrogation, good cop to the two men’s bad cops. Grunt beats me and she comes at me all sugary sweet (Let’s call her Sugar), trying to get me to cooperate so Prim won’t sic Grunt on me again.
Sure enough, Sugar comes up to me, checks my bonds while murmuring soothing platitudes and how she doesn’t want me to hurt myself. I avoid looking her in the eyes directly, not wanting to give away that I know about their game plan, even with amnesia. Instead I look pointedly at my bonds, hoping she’ll take pity and loosen them for me so I might have some chance at escape eventually, but she doesn’t fall for it. She instead gets a cold washcloth and tries to sooth my aching face and wrists.
Her attempts at ingratiating herself to me are thwarted, however, with a knock at the door. Grunt awakens, and the group is alert all of a sudden. Okay, so they’re not in friendly territory- that may be useful. Sugar moves to the door and opens it a crack, positioning her body so as to block any view of the room through the crack. There’s a whispered conversation and all I get is a request for ice. I think they just want to get the swelling down so they can move me without causing too many questions.
The door’s closed and they start settling down again, at least until Grunt gets up and heads out the door, apparently to use the bathroom. He comes rushing back in a few moments later all worked up. He says some people are coming, armed with guns, and something about a reward. I get the impression that someone’s coming for me, but it’s not a cozy feeling. He then starts untying me as the others gather their stuff. He starts talking to me, and he’s expecting responses from me. After a few non-responses, he asks me pointblank if I remember him. The others notice as well. Damned amnesia.
I ask for a gun, Sugar refuses to give me one, clearly not trusting me. I get a wrench out of a toolbox for my troubles though. It’s heavy and has a nice heft, but doesn’t feel right in my hands, so I’m probably not used to repair work. Still, in a gun fight, the wrench is lacking. I decide to bide my time.
Grunt heads out the window first, preparing the way for Prim, obviously. Sugar, meanwhile, is rigging the doorknob with an electrical cord ripped from a lamp. She’s quick and precise in her movements, professional. She’s the one to worry about.
We hear Prim trip, cry out, tumble, fall and thud as he lands in the dirt. Sugar remarks, “The window may be a problem, as our stupid doctor is a klutz.” So, no love lost between the two of them. I file it away for later, if there is one. Just then we hear some fool grab the doorknob on the other side, as he screams out what air he had in his lungs as the electricity causes his muscles to spasm and lock. She hands me the aforementioned toolbox and urges me out the window just as two shotgun blasts rip through the door. As I step out, I see Grunt standing over Prim’s prone form on the ground, guarding him with a wrench against two locals, presumably. I look and see the fire escape leads up as well. Better to take my chances alone, since they were foolish enough to let me loose. I hurry, hoping that once she’s done with the ones coming through the door that she’ll follow her compatriots down.
Once on the roof, I avail myself of the toolbox, sticking a flat-nose screwdriver in the back of my pants and grabbing a nice, solid mallet to go with the wrench in my other hand. I hear footsteps come up the fire escape and, sure enough, it’s Sugar. We hear a loud conversation carry up to us, apparently a local maid sold my captors out to some ruffian and ended up on the wrong end of a shotgun herself. Amusing, but even though it seems the ruffian was looking for the reward money himself, his betrayal of the woman doesn’t scream trustworthy. I still need to find a way out on my own. Fortunately, Sugar gives me the opportunity when she insists we take a running jump over to the next building’s roof and find an escape route from there. Then I hear Ruffian come out the front of the building, yelling, “All right, I sure would hate to shoot her,” and then he calls out, yelling for everyone to drop their weapons and give themselves up. I eye the toolbox and smile on the inside, as smiling on the outside would hurt too much. I let Sugar go and make her jump, rather happy that she was foolish enough to leave me on my own. I walk to the front, look down and see Ruffian and two other men holding what seems to be a barmaid at shotgun-point. I open up the toolbox and heave it over the side, letting everything fly, and then turn and walk away. I hear some solid hits and people crying out.
Next thing I know, someone new hits upon the scene, start shouting with authority in his voice. As I get ready to jump to the next building over, in the opposite direction to Sugar, I hear Prim yell something at the barmaid and then grunt. Obviously Mr. Authority takes as kindly to him as he and his friends were to me. I consider turning myself over to Authority, but I’m still not sure I can trust anyone at this point. I need to break free and head out on my own until I can figure this all out. I make my dash and leap off of the rooftop and see things go badly rather suddenly, as I miss the roof completely and get a face full of window just as I crash through it and get knocked out in the process.
As I come to in the local jail, I find my mind is once again whole, whether it was the leap through the window (Was I really that stupid?) or Old #7 getting cleared from my system, to find Keziah tending to my multiple bumps and bruises. The good doctor updates me on the situation, how Ken defended him after his fall the local goons, only to get injected with a hypodermic that Keziah had prepared in their effort to escape, how Jinix turned herself in and informed the Sheriff as to what had happened, at least most of it was the truth. She, in turn, found out that her speeder was missing and so was Victor, presumably together. The barmaid, Jane Marie Carlson, apparently had sold us out to Shorty, the local ruffian, for 50,000 credits, far more than the 200 credits Jinix had given her for our private room and her silence. Jane was then betrayed by Shorty when things didn’t go smoothly. She was taken into custody by the Sheriff along with Shorty’s men until everything could be figured out.
Shorty starts shouting about being double-crossed by Jane and gets electric-cattle-prodded for his troubles. Jane then gets taken out of her cell and interrogated. She explains how our group came in, ‘causing trouble earlier in the day, then came back that night and paid extra for the room and any trouble we were causing due to my own paranoid actions. And she mentions Shorty’s offer of 20% of the 250,000 credit reward. We wrongly assume that it is Jinix that the reward was for— the wanted poster that the Sheriff shows us is for Keziah. The Sheriff reprimands Jane for believing Shorty and taking him up on his offer and has her put back in her cell.
The sheriff explains he is getting tired of seeing the lot of us in his cells, and says he will send us out to the homesteaders in order to get us out of his hair. When we’re ready to head back through town in order to get to the local starport, Jinix is to head into town to obtain an escort for us. The Sheriff plans on keeping Shorty and his crew incarcerated until we’re back in orbit. He gives Jane 10,000 credits (minus refunds to us and charges for damages, makes it 4,00 credits) and encourages that she go on “vacation,” & go with our crew to the starport and then get a ship out of the system… or she can take her chances in town. Jinix starts voicing her opinion about Jane joining us, but then I interrupt and tell Jinix that Jane is now her apprentice and Jane’s teaching and reprimands are at her sole discretion. (Pause for evil grin.)
We’re given time to clean up and get clothes and supplies, which Jinix pays for, then we’re given a few horses and a cart. Ken’s toolbox is dented and noticeably lighter. I think I need to get him a new set. I ride in the back of the cart under Keziah’s watchful eye with Jane back there as well in case there’s trouble. Ken drives said cart while Jinix uses her horse to scout the path ahead.
We get out of town, venture our way across the open country and grasslands, using whatever footpath or wagon-path is available as our guide, and reach the homestead near dark. Members of the Sarragh family greet Jane as we approach and pump her for information, but the Carvel clan hasn’t reached town just yet. And we get a better idea of what we’re up for. All Vargrr, about 20-30 of them adults (Not being overly familiar with the race’s age groups, I’m guessing how big they have to be for adulthood.) and we’re told members of the Artath clan will be there in the morning, doubling that number. It quickly becomes apparent that morale is low, as well as basic education in defense and first aid. People seem to walk around the compound in armed pairs, armed with muskets that is, and the flock of Arcath (some cat-like sheep) is brought in.
Jinix takes charge, since the captain is still recovering from his drink of Old #7, asks Keziah to tend to an injured person and train anyone interested in learning some first aid, and assigns Ken (to be assisted by Jane) to inspect and care for the weapons before they’re distributed. Me, I get to sit around with a gun and try to look as hopeful as possible. And as the Sarragh family leaders look to Jinix for a hope-inspiring, rousing speech that will rally all against the evil Carvel clan…