Two hours later and they thought they had found them. Taking a few abandoned skimmer bikes, and with the Chuck Wagon carrying Moe, the recent skimmer trails had been quite easy to follow- at least until they had started to get to rockier ground.
Here a more careful search had been necessary: there were numerous abandoned small mining structures and caves, but a sharp pair of eyes had noticed evidence of a campfire in one cave mouth, and the vehicles had been parked accordingly while the four Strontium Dogs crept forward. At least, three Strontium Dogs crept forward, while Moe, against all advice, limped behind, crying “Ey! Wait fer me!” to the muted curses and considered stunshots of the other Dogs.
Fortunately the occupants were distracted for some reason, and creeping close to the cave entrance, ’Enery stepped through, followed by Anwyn and Clarissa. Shouts and bursts of laser fire greeted him, but fortunately the bulk of these were directed at Moe, who had once again limped forward without cover, taking him down.
“At least he’s been some use then” was the almost universal thought.
The cavern was a large one, with parked bikes and crates scattered around the perimeter, and there were a number of stone pillars making galleries. Anwyn and Clarissa took one down each, and ’Enery another, and a couple more fled northwards along a darkened corridor.
Positioning themselves along either side the Strontium Dogs worked their way upwards, meeting a hail of fire mostly directed at ’Enery who was taking point. Barked commands could be heard form down the corridor. A thrown grenade from Clarissa took out a couple of Howlers at an intersection, and taking position the remaining three Dogs exchanged fire with a handful more, until a further grenade silenced them also. Making their way through the acrid smoke and smell of singed flesh they saw that one of these was somewhat larger and with yellowish fur: presumably this was Yobo.
Taking her first aid kit Clarissa briefly considered seeing to Moe first, but dismissed this fairly quickly as Yobo was worth an additional Cr 150,000 if taken alive. Taking a dropped laser pistol Anwyn set about dispatching the other Howlers: they were Termination only.
The cave complex was fairly extensive, and included cots and supplies: there would at least be a haul of weapons and spare bikes they could possibly resell. Around the firepit in the large cavern were also a number of cracked human bones: grim evidence of the Howler’s cannibalistic habits.
As they searched around Clarissa found a small safe near one of the larger niches. Anwyn laid out an impressive collection of electronic lockpicks, mini jemmies and small gadgets and set to work. At least she set to work until Moe realised what she was doing, and produced the key he had taken from around Yobo’s neck. The safe opened.
Inside was some cash and half a dozen bottles of MacMac: these were rapidly sent to the cooler in the Chuck Wagon. There were also two SD badges, some cash and an old fashioned leather bound book.
As Clarissa started to bind Moe’s wounds, Anwyn and ‘Enery had a quick skim through it. It appeared to be some sort of ledger, with the first column giving species (generally human); the second column gave gender (there were a few question marks in this), and then age, weight, condition, a date aquired,a price and a second date. Both sets of dates applied to 10 -12 individuals. The most recent date given was 22nd January, and the intervals were generally of around two weeks. In each instance the generic second date was not marked for a handful of individuals, and instead these were marked off with individual dates and a letter F. Thus in general something like 10-15 individuals would be aquired at a time, perhaps 10 of these would be disposed of at the same date, and the remainder would be marked ’F’ with different individual dates.
Anwyn checked on her handcomp and several of the dates and numbers were identical with trains or caravans which had gone missing. Some of the dates applied to neither, though Clarissa suggested that the Howlers had perhaps been additionally raiding small mining camps and so on.
“Over ’ere” called ’Enery, who had been exploring one of the other exits from the caverns. He pointed out marks of some large vehicle or wagon which had been parked recently over the loose gravel. There were also other caves, and from several of these came the appalling smell of rot and human excrement.
Entering one of these they found a storage area containing perhaps 60 boxes of ‘Lard-On.’
“This is pretty fancy stuff” said Anwyn, as she read the label.
“Lard-On: the quality way of adding designer Fat in a balanced and healthy natural way. No more loose flaps! No more random pockmarks! Lard -On adds fat in a balanced and whole body holistic natural layer, unlike some of our competitor brands. Use Lard-On! The fit way to add Designer Fat!” She pulled a face, as Moe perused the line of wall manacles, and foul smelling piles of excrement beneath them.
“I think Yobo and his Boys have been selling on their captives-fattening them up too” suggested Clarissa.
“I bet they’ve been selling them to Wimpey, and they’ve been making their burgers from them. We’re all cannibals now” said Moe. He said this in a perfect Oxbridge accent again, standing rigid with one arm at his side, and his chitinous arm gesticulating wildly. Anwyn shook her head.
A few hours later they were back at Victoria, but Scotty didn’t want to enter. “We should make camp roundabout somewhere with the Chuck Wagon” he said. “You can drive in on skimmer bikes and do your business.”
Yobo was taken into the Sheriff’s Office, and the reward paid out for the henchmen, making a tidy sum. The reward for Yobo himself could only be collected on safe delivery to the Doghouse, and the next ship back to New Caledonia did not leave for some days.
The Hire shop were not happy at the loss of their skimmer, and Anwyn lost her 7K deposit. “From Moe’s share that” she snapped. They also gave the man a couple of the captured skimmer bikes to avoid any further hassle from him.
Some of the Strontium Dogs took the opportunity to replace ammunition or equipment, and to sell the captured laser weapons. Frontier prices were pretty high-more so for mutants it would seem. Clarissa took the opportunity to pick up some additional and replacement armour pieces for Moe.
There was also a vid call from Chick: apparently he was feeling better, but was not happy to learn that he had missed out on the Bounty for Yobo and his Boys.