It was mid afternoon when they arrived in Melby: another two street, two bit mining town, with a variety of ramshackle prefab miners shacks scattering outwards from what purported to be the town centre. ‘Enery spied the ’No dogs or muties’ sign on the door of the biggest saloon, but noticed there were a few mutants around-no doubt engaged in the explosives work and and mining the more remote or dangerous seams. Following one of them they entered a smaller bar at the end of the main street, called the Pick and Shovel.
Inside were maybe a dozen or more miners: none of them mining, and all of them nursing their drinks.
“What’s with the big spenders?” Clarissa asked the barman. He looked up sourly.
“Eerie Caller’s been closed these weeks, ain’cha heard? Lots of broke miners in town.” he growled, “Much more of this and I’ll be out of business.”
“Well you got customers now darlin’” said Anwyn. “Stand ’em ep barman. For the house too.” The barman started pouring and she put a couple of hundred credits behind the bar. The miners started to queue eagerly.
“Let us know when its low mate”, said ’Enery, “We need some grub and a room too.”
As the miners sat down again with their drinks Clarissa passed around her picture of Eric, but without success. The miners were more than willing to pass on tales of their own troubles however.
Eerie Caller was one of the very first mines opened over thirty years ago, but it had proved difficult to work and had soon been overtaken by more lucrative digs, and it had closed down.
A new orbital survey a couple of years ago had revealed the likely proximity of a rich lanthanum deposit however,and some six months ago the mine had been re-opened. All had gone well for a while, but then, a few weeks before Christmas, the disappearances had started.
“It were just one or two at first, at decent intervals like.”said one miner. “Bad of course, but nuthin’ we ain’t used too.”
“But then in one weeks it was three, and the next five. And then the stories started circulatin’”
“Stories?” asked Moe wide eyed.
“Whistlin’ in the dark. Eerie like. Eerie calls in fact” said another miner.
“I spoke to old Jeb Collins” said their spokesman. “Jeb was here when the mine first opened thirty years ago. It seems it got it’s name because the miners then heard whistlin’noises too. The Bosses said it was just the wind, but folks then reckoned it was haunted.”
“He also said folks back then disappeared” he continued. “Not so many, but then other reasons to close popped up and it was abandoned anyway. Most of the miners then thought the place was bad luck anyway, and were glad to move on.”
“Anyway, talks with management got nowhere and more disappeared, and so eventually the Union called a strike” he continued. “It ain’t like we are allowed to be union members bein’ mutants, but crossin’ the picket line would be employment suicide, so I reckon we need to stay out too. It ain’t so bad for the norms ’cos the union emergency fund is supporting them a bit, but no such luck for us.”
As the others chatted Clarissa quietly slipped into her room and got changed into some ordinary looking cloths, and covered her third eye with a bandanna-hardly an unusual clothing item on this dust bowl world. Slipping out the back she made her way along the street to one of the regular miner saloons, and ordered some chille and a cold beer. She attracted the interest of some of the more amorous types who fancied their chances, and soon got into a conversation regarding the current mine situation.
The story was much as it had been described by the mutants, though there was one further piece of information. Although it was been glossed over somewhat, the management had persuaded the sheriff to send in a couple of deputies to check the mines one the strikers had abandoned it. They had not returned. Apparently there mine was now locked down, though a small company team still inhabited the surface buildings to keep an eye on things.
“Hmm, next stop the Company offices I think” mused Clarissa.
Ten minutes later she managed to talk her way in, flashing her SD badge to a surprised official, and explaining that she and her associates had just hit town.
The manager’s tale confirmed the one she had heard from the miners. All in all, twenty three people had gone missing, not counting the two deputies. Clearly the Union had a strong case for striking given the circumstances.
“The Sheriff won’t send any more men down there” he said, “but he mentioned that a couple of Stronties had arrived on planet a few weeks ago, and that maybe if I posted a reward up they might take on the job?”
“I’m afraid those Agents are dead” said Clarissa acidly. “However, it just so happens that my team has arrived on planet recently, and we have a little time on our hands while we wait for the next shuttle. We may be interested, if you can offer a reasonable incentive. There are five of us-all well armed.”