As the crew continues northwest through was used to be Alabama, they approach a large building that once upon a time used to be a factory, with a sign atop clearly visible, with “Bigelow” outlined in red neon, which glows even in the early afternoon sunlight. Surrounding it is a large defensive wall made of scavenged junk and scrap metal. The area on the opposite side of the road from the settlement seems to be the remains of the factory’s parking lot from the Day Before, but has since been degenerated into a junk heap. Towering above it all is a gigantic crane that looks like it hasn’t moved in 50 years.
The crew sees movement off to the side, and Gremlin recognizes it as an honest-to-goodness baseball game. The look of the field reminds Gremlin of home.
While there is a defensive wall and there are armed guards here and there, the gate lies open, and no one steps up to stop them as they approach. They slow down and make their way inside, and can see lots of vehicles, some of which have been repurposed as dwellings, but others look functional, and in fact there seem to be deliberately designated parking spots. Gremlin keeps an eye out, and gets a good feel for the place. He notices an area of the wall that seems to consist solely of a length of chainlink fence that’s been threaded through with strips of wood. He chooses his parking spot carefully, and notes that if they need to get out of there in a hurry, they could probably bust through it.
The parking attendants, an older man and a teenage girl, approach to the car, and Gremlin pays the price asked (1 barter for the whole group) to be allowed to park and ensure that the vehicles will not be messed with. Gremlin asks about the baseball game, and the girl asks if any of them play. When he says they’re just spectators, her expression darkens, and she says they’re playing against Henry’s Steel, and she was hoping for a ringer.
The crew disembarks and convenes. George is able to walk without assistance now. Troy sets John on guard duty. George and Gremlin are keen to make make a beeline for the baseball field. Samson and Maude have no idea what baseball is, but Maude tells Gremlin that the place has the look of people who deal in slaves, and this jives with what the parking attendant said about the game. Gremlin speculates on what the stakes are for the game. Samson warns Gremlin to not let George wander off. George reminds him that they’re standing right there. Samson reminds them that he spent a significant amount of time in chains, and would rather not see someone he cares about in a similar predicament. Samson and Maude head straight for the factory.
A large woman confronts Samson at the large doors. He indicates his hammer and says he’s looking for work, some jingle, and to not cause any trouble. She waves him in. When he enters the factory, the first thing he sees is a gigantic pool of the filthiest water he’s ever seen. Floating in it are countless chunks of animal and human remains, and other unidentifiable bits. Along the edge, there are people with long metal poles, that seem to be stirring it. The smell is horrific. When he looks up, he sees a network of scaffolding high above, and it all centers around a massive mechanical arm, which moves surprisingly quickly. Its movements are almost disturbingly organic as it picks through the large piles of scrap off to the side. A man with the look of a foreman approaches Samson and yells over the din of the proceedings to ask if he’s looking for work. Samson confirms this, and the man says they need guards for the baseball game, and later on they’ll need hands on the chow line. Samson nods, and heads to the baseball field to find the guards.
Troy makes his way through the bustling marketplace and looks for a place he can sell the angeldust he cooked up back on the bridge. It appears that no one is allowed to simply live here; if someone has a residence, it’s in the back of a stall where they sell stuff. It’s not long before Troy finds a dedicated drug den, and begins negotiations with the. He makes some jingle, but trades back some of it in exchange for some info on the local flavors, after he convinces them that he’s not looking to run them out of business. They share the formula with him, so he can peddle it elsewhere when the crew moves on. [Troy has +1 ongoing whenever he engages in drug-related gigs.]
[Troy’s new recipe is called Red Hots. It’s a euphoric and a stimulant, and it’s inhaled. The delivery system is typically a small plastic container about the size of your thumb, with wax melted over the end to form a seal. The formula itself is injected with a syringe into the container, and after a short time it will evaporate into a vapor suspended in the container. When the user breaks the seal and inhales, the secret ingredient (capsaicin) irritates the nasal cavities in order to facilitate delivery of the active ingredients.]
Gremlin and George make their way over to the baseball field. Along the way, Gremlin witnesses George engaging in almost constant trading of the items from their shoulder bag. When they get to the field, along the third base line they see several figures on horseback carrying guns, and off to the side there’s a trailer that has been very obviously modified to restrain slaves.
Gremlin can see the players on the field, and they actually have uniforms. The players from Harry’s Steel all wear metal accoutrements that look to be welded in place. The home team are wearing blue bandanas around their necks.
Gremlin and George find a couple of empty seats in the bleachers to watch the game. George sets up one of their cameras and begins taking pictures of the crowd. This attracts attention, and George does what George does best. Gremlin keeps an eye on the game, and an ear open to the chatter from the crowd. He eventually learns that the game is currently in its third day, and Harry’s Steel is presently leading 89-70. He finds this a bit odd, but doesn’t comment on it. Over the course of the next hour or so, George circulates among the crowd, talking with everyone and making friends. Gremlin keeps an eye on them as well, but resolves to give George their space and only intervene if it looks like trouble, or if they get out of sight.
Samson arrives at the baseball field, sees Gremlin and George up in the stands, and makes his way over to the rest of the guards. He finds the guy in charge, who directs him to watch a spot. He’s instructed to not touch the ball if it lands near him, and if anyone tries to run, he’s to chase them down. When it’s chow time, there will be a bell, and then he should watch for people acting crazy, but until then, stay put.
Troy spends some time browsing wares. He inquires after a snowglobe, and an old Asian woman selling random bits of electronic junk irritatedly advises he try the Floating Market. When he says he just came from there, she tells him about the remains of the megamall, near the big ugly church. Sometime just before the Big Day, they supposedly ran out of space to put garbage, so they just started filling up the mall with it.
He realizes that quite a few of the projects he has in mind will necessitate him getting wired up sooner or later. He does some more poking around, and finds some of the parts he’ll need. However, for the actual installation surgery he’ll need to find an Angel with a properly outfitted workshop.
Gremlin and Samson can hear the bell being rung to signify chow time, and the crowd begins to move in the direction of the factory.
Gremlin sees George approaching, with a man and woman in tow, wearing Bigelow uniforms. They are introduced as Rose and Stefan, the captains of the Bigelow team. Rose explains the deal: they originally started the baseball games as a way of negotiating for goods and services with other hardholds, and there are about 6 in the league now. However, Harry’s Steel got wind of it and muscled in on the action. The stakes of the baseball game are for 25 men for a season. Samson asks what Bigelow gets if they win, and Rose says they get to keep their 25 men. Gremlin says that doesn’t sound very balanced, and Stefan says it’s better than the alternative, which is that Harry and his men just come in and take whatever they want. Gremlin is reminded of Amy’s words about not being able to fight slavery everywhere.
George heads over to the Harry’s Steel guys to take pictures and talk to them. When they come back, they tell Gremlin what they’ve learned about Harry and the foundry. The man in charge is actually Harry II, the son of the original Harry. It takes a lot of manpower to run the foundry, and the work is occasionally fatal, so they have need to replenish their ranks.
Samson gets a meal, and gets paid. He makes his way back to the vehicles. By that time, everyone has made it back as well. Maude has a fresh scar on her meat arm, and says that she fought a bear in the pit. Troy shows everyone the implant and explains his intentions. Maude reacts predictably. Troy says it’s the only way he can deal with ADA on equal footing. Maude still thinks it’s a bad idea, but it’s his head, if he wants to go drilling holes in it, that’s his business.
Everyone settles down for the night. Gremlin begins reading the copy of On the Road he borrowed from George.# ontheroad