Brominites and Burrowed Heels

As if a malfunctioning Tin Man wasn’t the least of our worries right now, the night brought a new threat to the Wastelands.  A lone Brominite, apparently a Scout of some sorts, was spotted at various marketplaces yesterday.  Folks that haven’t already moved to the Trade Post are still checking their shelves for anything lost or damaged.  Much of what happened occurred while I was working on articles and digging…always digging…but Diamanda Gustafson and Aposiopesis Fullstop have provided their eye-witness reports on the alarming activity of the Scout:

Brominite Scout spotted! (Photo taken by Psycho Baroque)
Brominite Scout spotted! (Photo taken by Psycho Baroque)

FIRST SIGHTING – Diamanda Gustafson
“Old Fart Wanker (Wankerstein Clapsaddle) and I were hanging out at his fuel shack at the Fissure.  All of a sudden, the little scout flies over us, and we start feeling a bit sick. Regardless, we decide to run after it since it was making a bee-line for the Trading Post.  When we got there, it had already set the masheen on fire. It circled over our heads a bit, but by the time I loaded my rifle it left, flying away at great speed. I put out the fire but passed out being sick of the radiation and smoke.  When I woke up the next day, the masheen was still smoking. I told Jubal what happened, but my lungs were burning and I have been resting since.”

According to Jubal Quintus, the Postmaster, the salvage masheen remained broken throughout the day, but as the next report will show, the Brominite Scout’s interest in the Trade Post was not satisfied.  Aposiopesis has shared a long and detailed account with the Press telling the story of the Scout’s return and its behavior throughout the settlement.

SECOND SIGHTING – Aposiopesis Fullstop
“So I was hanging out in the Trade Post, talking to Jubal, Agustsa, Clarington and Wankerstein. The Salvage Masheen that the lot of them had dragged within the Trade Post had somehow been knocked over.  I can’t say I was surprised.  Salvage Masheens have an interesting tendency to get damaged whenever Gill is involved.  But as Jubal told the story, a Brominite Scout had come by and destroyed the Masheen in the morning, and another came in the afternoon to try to hoist it and carry it off.  “Glowing green, just like the Tin Man’s chest.

“Jubal, of course, saw this as more of the Tin Man’s tyranny — sending underlings out to destroy the Masheen and take it away, to take our support out from under us.  I took it with a good heaping pile of salt.  Not to say Jubal wasn’t right on the facts, but… well, ye’ve interviewed him.  Ye know his long-held views on the Tin Man.  He always sees evil intent in anything the Tin Man does, always thinks we’re better off without him….  I never have agreed with him on that, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

“We chatted about other things, random theories, stories of the past, nothin’ of much import, when Luca Vasilopita came running up, panting to catch his breath.  He said that there was another one of those Scouts swooping about near his post.  So we all took arms and pursued.  Wankerstein caught sight of it — it had tracked north, up by the Potato Farm.

At this point, I took a break from my work to check in on the Trade Post myself.  As I approached, I saw guards and volunteers rushing to the north.  I continued inside where I found Clarington MacIntyre and Wankerstein Clapsaddle keeping watch over the broken salvage masheen.  Wankerstein, a crafty old-timer and one of the more recent settlers near the edge of the Great Fissure, told me some of what Aposiopesis described above.  I stayed to help strengthen the guard while Aposiopesis, on the trail of the Scout, observed the following:

“It was indeed a Brominite, but not like the vicious red-eyed type I’d seen the Tin Man shoot down.  This one was smaller, had a big green glowing circle on its front, triangular-shaped wings, and no gun turrets to be seen.  It hummed a bit as it flew along, winding through the Great Fissure and investigating various buildings.  It paused in the General Stoar, which we had surrounded.  There was a general uproar when it hovered over a pile of Iron Scrap on the table, and removed a few pieces of salvage from the shelves.  We followed more intently, but Jubal ordered us to stand down.  He said we couldn’t guard the entire Wastes.

The Brominite Scout in the General Stoar (photo by Agustsa Jun)
The Brominite Scout in the General Stoar (photo by Agustsa Jun)

“It then floated into The Wastelands proper, where it cut away a small piece of the large statue standing by the south road.  Frustrated, I shouted out to it — ‘The hell you WANT?’   A stranger who’d tailed us much of the way asked if I was talking to him, but I hardly acknowledged him, save to say ‘It wants shit, but what for?’   ‘What’s going on?’ the stranger asked as he hurried to keep up.

“It hovered a while by the big billboard by the tracks, so I veered off to guard the entrance to the Bunker.   Like hell I’d let it come near the masheen, even if it was just some Scout.  The stranger came up and followed me, asking what was happening, so I filled him in on the rough story of the Tin Man and the Crystal.   He’d heard rumors that the Tin Man had ‘gone crazy or somethin’.’

The stranger commented, ‘What the ‘ell would the Tin Man need with scrap? ‘He’s practically made of it.’
‘Thass what I’m thinkin’. He’s broken, he’s made o’ scrap, mebbe he’s gotta fix hisself.’ I said and about the same time, the stranger said ‘Maybe it’s ‘is. Maybe it’s fixin’ ‘im.’

I smiled, feeling a sense of understanding between myself and this strange, weathered-looking, thoroughly armored man with the lanky black hair.  I asked his name, and he introduced himself as Alan Beckett.   We then set out in search of the Scout again, having long since lost Jubal and the rest of the Watch.  We found the green glow of the Scout not far from the Stygian crater, hovering by the same building where some of us watched the Tin Man shoot down a red-eyed Brominite, moons and moons back, when all this first began.  I wondered aloud if there was a hive of them down there.

We pursued it as it wove through a few more buildings, until it paused and turned towards us.  It made a strange sound, and we suddenly felt a little ill at ease.  Nauseous, a little dizzy.  But curiosity prevailed, and we continued tailing it through the south side of the Fissure.  We trapped it, fairly close, in another building, and it began to make that unsettling noise again.  I suggested we disarm, as it hadn’t really done much harm to us yet, and if it could identify scrap, then it could probably identify a Slugthrower.

It was then that it truly struck me how like the Tin Man it was in appearance…and it was looking for scrap!   Perhaps Jubal was right that this was a helper of the Tin Man.  But having seen its curiosity, how it attacked only when threatened — and even then, no more than was necessary — I began to form a theory…. but facts first, then conjectures.

Alan and I continued pursuing the Scout into Cormac.  It investigated the ball court (no longer fearing it much, I called out to it, ‘Score a two-pointer!’ and the sand-blown flats.  It peered into the crevice on the south side of the Ball Court, and Alan and I pursued.  It made more sounds at us, and, still in the high spirits of curiosity, I responded in kind.  ‘Rzzzzz?  Vwoop vwomm?’  We again felt that wave of sickness and vertigo, and backed up to let it pass.   Alan and I clambered to the top of the High Mesa to try watch it from afar.  It soon flew out of sight, so we trekked back to Kronbelt, back to the beginning again.    A fair crowd had gathered by now, everyone following the metal creature from a distance.

It paused at one point, seemingly facing me.   Guns were drawn all around, but I remained disarmed, wholly unconvinced that shooting it would do any damage to it, even if it were the best thing to do.   All I truly knew was that this thing wanted scrap, and I had scrap.  I reached into my stash and took the first thing I could grab, a hunk of PVC Pipe.  I threw it onto the sand between myself and the Scout.  Perhaps it would take it?  Perhaps it would leave?   PVC Pipe, however, did not seem to be what it was after, it made no response at all. Jaster fell to the sand — Alan and I went to his side, but he was just temporarily taken ill from the Green Glowy Rays.    Meanwhile, it seemed that the Scout went off towards the Trade Post.  There was a commotion, and a familiar metallic howl; by the time I got there, the scout had gone.   Jubal called for everyone to fall back to the Post, and, well, you’d seen some of that already…”

After Jubal lowered the level of alarm in the Trade Post and the guards saddled up to the bar for drinks, Dassina Andel and I scouted the rest of the Wastelands.  Folks at the Post claimed some of the other salvage masheens had gone missing, so we went out to confirm the reports.  Below is the status of each salvage masheen:

  • PRESENT MASHEENS:  The Wastelands bunker, The Great Fissure, Hambone Slash quarry, Bloodmoss Swamp
  • ABSENT MASHEENS: The Junkyard, Malady Bog, and Fort Stygian (as reported earlier, taken by the Tin Man)
  • BROKEN MASHEENS: The Trade Post

We spotted the Scout again as it explored the Junkyard but kept our distance.  I lingered in the Junkyard speaking with Raze Repine, one of the former Crystal keepers, and also poked around the junk dwellings of the Black Market to see if any of those ghouls could be found but none were about on the streets and all entrances I know to their lair were sealed shut.  The Press has received word that before yesterday’s events, the Black Market declined Jubal’s invitations to the alliance.  The band of ghoul thugs refused to transport their salvage to the Post for security (such as it is given what’s just happened) and also refused to lend any aid in Jubal’s plan to confront the Tin Man.  Their leader, (Pirate) Graves, will not place any trust in the words of the Old Man and blames the smoothskins and the Witch for giving the Crystal to the Tin Man.  The ghoul wants no part in any fight he feels the Wastelanders have brought upon themselves, directing the Black Market to hide their salvage in whatever holes they’ve dug for themselves.  Certainly, the foul creature is entitled to its opinion and the isolated path he’s paved for his gang…even if the light at the end of their tunnel is the glow of a Brominite eye or the Tin Man’s chest.

Aside from the Black Market’s decision, another Junkyard dweller has plans of his own.  Raze Repine has also been reluctant to join any effort in confronting the Tin Man with violence.  Always cautious and observant, the cigar-chomping trader intends to actually make an effort to speak to the Tin Man…especially now that the Tin Man has regained his ability to talk.  Raze hopes to give the Tin Man exactly what he asked for the other day at Stygian before Jubal and Facemelt opened fire.  Violence was only answered in kind with the sick green glow of radiation that day from what he has heard and read in the Press, so Raze plans to offer the Tin Man salvage just like he asked for if the steamhat caretaker of the masheens ever returns…

Even though Jubal Quintus seems bent on meeting the Tin Man and Brominites with force, Aposiopesis Fullstop has her own theories about the two.  Like Jubal, she also believes the Scouts are servants of the Tin Man based upon Gill’s claims that the Tin Man, the Brominites, and the Salvage Masheens are all related.  Unlike Jubal, she fears any violence directed at the Tin Man will have disastrous consequences.  Even though we’ve seen the Tin Man destroy Brominites in the past, she believes he’s sending them to collect salvage and bring the masheens back to him so he can fix himself.  She says, “If the Tin Man, or his scouts by proxy, only want our scrap, then I for one will give it to them.  Better my scrap than my life, or the lives of my friends, or the carefully-built place that so many now call home.  So long as we still live, we can find more scrap.”

Within this web of events and tense stand-offs, what is known for sure?  When last seen, the Tin Man’s presence was definitely dangerous if one got too close to him but he was still capable of speech, warning against any violence directed at him.  Could he spoken with?  Is a peaceful conversation possible?  Would a piece of freely offered salvage be acknowledged?

Are the Brominites, the Tin Man, and the Salvage Masheens related?  All evidence points to this being true.  But are these Scouts we’ve seen really just his servants running repair errands?  It’s not a crazy theory but I have one also.  This digger worries the Brominites, creatures rarely seen in our settlement, may be acting on their own.  Maybe they somehow sense the Tin Man’s absence and are attracted to the salvage and the masheens for reasons apart from the Tin Man?

Gill has mentioned Brominite “hives” on more than one occasion but avoids saying more except to insist the Tin Man maintains them.   I tend to believe Gill’s words may indeed hold a thin thread of truth but the strand twists within a cryptic weave to hide his own mysterious agenda.  Regardless, if such “hives” really exist, perhaps THAT is where these scouts are coming from and not the Tin Man?

Wastelanders would be wise to stay alert and cautious, more so than usual.  We don’t know very much at all about Brominites other than what little we’ve witnessed and the vague comments of an Old Man.  It seems any sign of a brominite is definitely a bad omen now that the number of present working salvagers has nearly been halved.  If the Wastelanders don’t keep a vigilant eye, that number may still shrink further…

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