Smoke and Fire in the Tin Man’s Wake

Wastelanders gather at a new discovery
Wastelanders gather at a new discovery

In addition to the strange orange fragments turning up plus the mysterious old man and his hut in Fort Stygian, a few Wastelanders discovered another new development in Fort Stygian a couple days ago.   The mutant witch Ccindy Pfeffer, the zombie scavenger Dexter Bogdanovich, Raze Repine, and I studied the mystery of a small area fenced off near the border of Fort Stygian and the Great Fissure.  Within the fence’s boundaries sat another table, its surface covered in various bits of salvage and an old pick-axe.  Even more surprising was the machine that lay half buried in the hillside next to the table.  A salvage machine!

When the Wastelands expanded into the hills around Stygian’s crater, scavengers weren’t concerned about the lack of a salvage machine in or around the Fort.  Before then, there were 2 functioning salvage machines: one at the Wastelands bunker and one at the Heapkeeper’s Heap in the Junkyard until it was mysteriously sabotaged long ago.  At the bottom of the Great Fissure, a third Salvage Machine was found but it was broken and unusable.  The absence of a salvage machine in Stygian wasn’t given much thought…until now that is.

While we studied and talked about this strange find and who may have uncovered it, Aposiopesis Fullstop arrived with quite a tale to tell.  What follows is her eye-witness account of the alarming events that happened the night before when the Tin Man, NeoBokrug Elytis, approached her, Pietro Moskvitch, and the reclusive mercenary Jehutus Dawes while they watched the old man’s hut…

The Tin Man excavates a salvager
The Tin Man excavates a salvager

“So NeoBokrug…He stopped near us and watched.  We warned him away, that the place wasn’t safe, especially not for him. And he let out this strange squealing groaning droning sound the likes of which I’d never, ever heard in all my days…  He walked slowly over to the other side of this ridge. And he took out that pick you see on the table, and he started…. mining.  Hacking away at the rock with incredible strength. He paused, reconsidered, and came over to this side.  We followed, and he took out a weapon… a weapon that shot flames. He test-fired it at us… I advised we all put down our guns. That seemed to soothe him, and he continued hacking at the rock.”

I chuckled at this point and suggested “One shouldn’t be too nosey around the metal man it seems.”
“Or too helpful.” Aposiopesis agreed. “Pietro took out a shovel and tried to help out, and nearly got roasted.

“After quite some time, we saw this rusty metal edge emerge from the rubble.  We couldn’t quite tell what it was at first. Then enough got hacked away that we could see the familiar big red button…”

Everyone nodded, taking a moment to glance again at the half-buried salvager.

“He hacked about this much away, then he started looking to the southeast. He stood very still, very calm, as if processing an incredible amount of information…Then he set out. We followed him. By this time it was me, Pietro, Jehutus, and Kezz Mauriac had arrived as well.  Lemme lead you to where he went.”

We followed Aposiopesis along the southern edge of the crater to one of the old structures standing at the base of the crags.  She pointed at the worn metal building. “Up here, buzzing around the metal tower, was…. a thing. A metal…flying…thing…with red glowing eyes. And it made a sound, an unsettling buzzing whirring sound…”

The Tin Man tracks a Brominite
The Tin Man tracks a Brominite

“The Tin Man got up on the rooftop and fired away at it. We took out guns and tried to shoot it down as well, and it swooped at us, suddenly, moving incredibly fast.  Frankly I lost sight of it. But one of us managed to finish it off. I think the husk fell into the crater, unfortunately.”

To some of us, including myself, this sounded uncomfortably familiar…from firsthand experience and stories passed among us.  Flying metal beasts with powerful weapons, steel-skin hides, and ear-splitting screams.

“Pietro said he’d seen them before … He called it, I think, a Brominite…”

The Press can confirm this.  Brominites…”Redeyes” or “Greeneyes” some call them.  Strange old world tech-monsters.  These unnatural things rarely show up in the Wastelands.  Only a few of us have dared to engage them and survived.  None of us know what they are or why they come here but there is a suspicion based on story-fragments.  These things are old-world tech…and that may mean they’re related in some way to the salvage machine…and maybe the Tin Man?  As reported by the Salvaged Times over a year ago, a Brominite drone may have been responsible for the Junkyard salvager’s destruction before the Metal Man stopped it.

“Destruction o’ that salvager was afore my time, I think… so I can’t be of much help.” Apo admitted. “But speaking of the Junkyard, that’s where the Tin Man headed next.”  We followed her north to the Junkyard then, arriving near the stage below the overpass.

The Tin Man carries fire from the Junkyard
The Tin Man carries fire from the Junkyard

“So first he stopped here. He dug into the heaps of trash, rummaging for parts.  He did this at a few other piles, as well.  Then he headed up to the Heap Keeper’s tent, then jumped down and went over to the big fire…guess he’d pulled it outta the junk or sommin’. But he took out a big thick metal bucket and filled it with some of the flammable materials. Then he walked back, and it’s the one set beside the new unearthed salvager.” Looking around the Heap, Apo inquired “Pietro said something about the Junkyard salvager. Did it useta be in this spot or somethin’?”

It did long ago before the sabotage, we answered.  The wreckage of the Fissure salvager was also brought here for the Heapkeeper to work on.  Aposiopesis Fullstop nodded.

“Anyways, Pietro seemed to be finding something familiar about how the Tin Man was looking around here, and up on the top o’ the Heap Keeper’s tent and such.  So the Tin Man walked with his bucket of fire back to the emerging salvager. And he continued hacking away. We just watched, there not bein’ much else we could do. Soon he took out some wood scraps and other stuff, built a fence around the whole thing, laid that assortment o’ parts out on the table, and hacked away a little more.  And then…”

Aposiopesis Fullstop shook her head, the memory of what she was about to share still stunning her.

“He stood still. Very still. And there was an explosion. The Tin Man’s head… overheated, or something, and great gouts of thick oily smoke poured out of the top of his neck.  He crumpled, in slow motion. He fell to his knees, then fell face-forward, immobile on the ground. And he just lay there…”

A pillar of smoke from the fallen Tin Man
A pillar of smoke from the fallen Tin Man

The mutant witch, the zombie, and myself could hardly believe her.  Aposiopesis shook her head to ward off our doubts.

“He just lay there, so still, for a couple minutes that felt like hours. And then… he twitched.  He stood. And he spoke, not groaning metal, but in our tongue. And he said “Water.” “Moss.” And he ran off towards the swamps.  We had no water or moss t’give… So we just followed, tried to be sure he got safe passage as fast as we could.

He just ran. He fell over a few more times in transit… two or three terrifying times. But he finally got to the swamps. He snapped a few twigs off one of the bog trees. Then kept running. Then he tore off a fistful of palm fronds. Then he kept running. Then he scooped up a handful of bloodmoss, and sat himself down by the bank… and then… he opened up his helmet. That thick plate bolted on to the side swung open with a quiet creak.

The Tin Man's hat opens as Apo, Kezz, and Pietro watch...
The Tin Man's hat opens as Apo, Kezz, and Pietro watch.

“He made a little bundle of these plants, crushing them down a bit it seemed in the process. And he tucked them inside his helmet, under the boiler.”

“As best I can guess, the plant oils and resins and such mighta served as lubricants to help him stop overheat. The boilerplate swung closed again… he swallowed a handful of water… and this seemed to have done it. Without so much as a word to us, he took off into the skies again, to that unreachable place he goes when he’s tending to his work.”

For a while, all we could do was sit and marvel at Aposiopesis’ story.  We wondered what prompted the Tin Man to dig up the Stygian salvager after all this time.  Did he always know where it was?  Or was the knowledge recently culled from his metal brain, strange circuitry and mechanics tapping into information he may have forgotten?  Perhaps he merely has a certain sensitivity to recognize the presence of old-world tech (like when he sensed the Brominite from a distance)?

Does the recent presence of that strange old man and the curious orange fragments have a connection to the Tin Man’s sudden excavation?  And the Brominite?  Will more show up?  How badly was the Tin Man injured in that battle, and did his strange swamp salve actually help?  Seems like it for now.   Perhaps Wastelanders should keep a cautious eye on the Tin Man when they see him … at a safe distance of course.

Watch the skies and tune your ears to the wind.  The screams of a Brominite (and our Tin Man) are very fierce and so are their weapons when provoked.  Let’s hope we don’t see another Brominite any time soon.  In the meantime, I’ll dig out some old notes from long ago.  Scribbles and scratches from a water-logged journal, the last salvage of a long-dead scavenger found beside the remains of that Great Fissure salvager.  Maybe it’s worth revisiting those old notes for clues about these recent events?