Martialla and I (and Paul) did pick through Wyo while the majority of our “army”, excepting our core cadre and some other hopeful lingerers, headed back west to spread the tales of their victory and enjoy their ill-gotten gains. We didn’t find anything that explained why they were there. Martialla thought maybe they went into the mountains to forage for food, but why wouldn’t they just live in the mountains then? Why would they form a community at all?
As Martialla and I were picking through people’s shanties and tents (not that there was much to pick) one of the Prairie Dogs (or whichever animal gang they were from) started hooting and hollering that there were people coming, and indeed there were. Three ragged looking people in the brown shirts, red headbands, and stupid facepaint of the folks we had fought up in the hills. They had their hands, not up exactly, but out in the universal gesture for “please god don’t shoot us we don’t really want to be here”.
Since I had just survived one assassination attempt, I had them thoroughly searched (and I mean thoroughly if you catch my drift) and stayed well out of knife range just in case. I wonder how long that level of caution will stick with me. A couple weeks maybe. The designated speaker said that her name was Bjorn Borg or Kolnjorn Hejne or some other Ikea sounding words.
Here’s the deal with these future people, they are technically speaking English (mostly; there’s some other stuff in there too) like they’re using the same words, but they’re not using them the way you’d expect and they’re talking really fast like they have marbles in their mouths. It reminds me of Inspector Kemp in Young Frankenstein, you can more or less make out their meaning but you can’t really understand it. Does that make sense?
Anyway, the three Facepaint people pulled up their rags like the world’s worst strip tease and showed me that they all had the number 127 burned/carved into their ribs. They seemed to expect that this would mean something to me. I nodded sagely and told them to continue with their mostly incoherent mumbling.
The gist of it was that their leader wanted to speak with me but sent them in first to make sure we weren’t going to attack them. I assured them that everything was totally cool and their leader could come on out to chat. There was then an interminable amount of time trying to set up the meeting and where it would be and so forth, made more painful by the fact that half the time I couldn’t make out what the hell they were saying.
Eventually I says to them I says “Look, your dude wants to talk to me right? So have him come here tonight. You can see how many people are still here, if that scares him then don’t come, I’m tired of talking about this.”
A few more folks drifted away during the day when it became clear that there was nothing more for them to kill or loot and nothing was on fire to entertain them, but there were still a couple hundred people clumped around Wyo when the leader of the Facepaint brigade came to town. At first I thought it was a woman riding a mountain goat coming our way (which would have been cool) but instead it was just a very slight man with delicate facial features that had on giant furry leggings that included the goat-head right over his junk. Since it’s one hundred and nine degrees, his lower body has to be cooked like a Christmas goose under that shit.
Sordee (as I think his name is) came alone, I assume because he didn’t want any of his people to die if we turned on them – which is a damn high standard of wastelands leadership. I’ve been thinking for a while that it’s weird that I can usually understand the leaders here better but I realized in that moment that what’s happening is that by the time I get to talk to someone in charge I’ve already spoken to an underling, so it’s not that they speak “better” it’s just that I’ve already started to pick up on their accent or whatever you want to call it.
He showed me the ‘127’ etched into his ribs. Then he pulled from a crude knap-satchel a ragged piece of cloth that had a patch on it, red and gold with a sun and a horse on it that said underneath 127th Armored Cavalry Group. Then he said, clearly and perfectly understandably “The vigil has been kept.” I had no idea what to do at this point so I just nodded and he got up and went into a shed-hole and grabbed a shovel and started digging. Martialla waved over some more people to start helping him dig with whatever implements they could find.
Martialla looked over at me with an actual legitimate grin “This is exciting, maybe we’ll find the Well of Souls like Indiana Jones.”
I frowned “Well of Souls? So these Indiana Jones movies you claim are so popular are supernatural horror stuff?”
She frowned back at me “No . . . well, I mean yes . . . kinda. At the end the power of god does melt a bunch of Nazis.”
I snorted “Yeah, sounds like a great movie.”
She stomped petulantly like a little kid “It is! Raiders of the Lost Ark is considered one of the greatest films ever made! The Library of Congress selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry last year for its historical, cultural and/or aesthetic contributions to society. And I know you’ve heard of it!”
“Raiders of the Lost Ark? I thought you said it was called Indiana Jones, get your story straight.”
Watching people dig isn’t all that interesting so I admit that I nodded off. It was well after sun-up when Martialla woke me up and took me to a huge square (more of a rhombus really) they had dug away down a good four feet to reveal a big slab of metal like the side of a silo. Sordee sat on the edge with his feet dangling, one hundred percent grimy with dirt sticking to the sweat on his body, his hands ripped to shreds and beaming a smile like a new father posing for a picture by his exhausted unsmiling wife in the maternity ward. I hopped/slid down into the hole, my feet hitting the metal with a happy “ping” noise, and hunched down to take a look at the uncovered metal.
“Huh, well I’ll be.”