The Weird West: December 1875
Howdy amigos! Let me offer you my welcome and my condolences at the same time. Welcome to the Weird West, a place where the supernatural exists and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise (lotsa folks still don’t believe what they see even with their own two peepers round these parts). My condolences for being here, it used to be a nice place except for a stray mountain lion or pack o’ red savages here and there. That was all before ‘68 though. Yep, see in 1868, there was the Great Quake. The whole state of California shook like a steer too long in the Texas sun and most of the coast fell off into the ocean takin’ a few bits of Mexico with it. Well the gold rush was already in full swing and the thousands of tiny islands that fell off into the ocean just made it that much easier to get to the shiny stuff. That’s about the time all the prospectors and miners and pirates and anyone else who wantin’ a share started descendin’ on the place like flies on horse’s behind.
Soon after the Quake everyone was blastin’, minin’ and diggin’ up the shiny stuff, but one feller got the bright idea to start sending back some of the gray coal he found with it. That gray coal I’m talkin’ about, you guessed it compadre, Ghost Rock; and that feller, sad to say is yours truly. I blame that filthy rock for just ‘bout everything gone wrong in this here world. Seems once Ghost Rock was discovered both Presidents back east, that’s President Grant of the United States of America in the North and President Davis of the Confederate States of America in the South, decided to take more of an interest in the west coast. Ya see, Ghost Rock is a demon of a substance (some say literally, myself included HA!) It burns a hundred times hotter and a longer than coal, but when it does it howls like the Devil Himself, hence the name Ghost Rock.
This new mineral caused a lotta new inna-…inne-…inno-well it caused a whole bunch of new contraptions to be thought up now that a fuel as plentiful and useful as Ghost rock was discovered. Soon after both sides got their mitts on the stuff, the Civil War was back on, full steam! Both sides had been tuckered for a spell and it looked like the North had the South almost licked. Once Ghost Rock turned up though, them science-tists back east started cookin’ up all kinds of strange brew with a brand new main ingredient. Since then terrifyin’ new mechanations have been showin’ up on the battlefields back east all along the Mason-Dixon line. Things don’t look to be stoppin’ anytime soon either pardner.
Oh speakin’ of the North and the South, each side has offered a claim of a pretty juicy contract to the first rail line that can connect up the rails back east with Californie and you better believe all sides are playin’ for keeps. The main contenders are Bayou Vermillion run by a mysterious man named Simone LaCroix in the Southwest; Black River run by Mina Devlin outta Tennessee in the Midwest; Denver-Pacific stretchin’ from Denver to Salt Lake owned by none other than Jacob Smith and Clifton Robards (they own a little operation outta Denver, but I’ll get to them later); Iron Dragon in the west headed by a mean fella named Kang who’s somehow convinced the Sioux Nation in the Dakotas to let him run plumb through their territory, then there’s Wasatch runnin’ out of Salt Lake owned by Dr. Hellstromme; Dixie Rails, that while privately owned doesn’t exactly mean privately funded, runnin’ in the South; and finally Union Blue, which does a song and dance a lot like Dixie Rails on the other side of the Mason-Dixon up in the North.
Now all these rail lines bein’ constantly built and boomtowns croppin’ up overnight causes a lot of strife in the untamed west. Lawmen are doin’ their damnedest to make things decent enough for civil folk work nonstop, but with all the mysterious disappearances, banditos, rail gangs, critters, varmints, and other abominations (and there are truly some inhuman abominations out there folks) this place keeps looking worse and worse. Of course, you’ve always got your town marshals and county sheriff’s around, but they work only at the local level. The top lawdogs in the South are the Texas Rangers. Don’t let their moniker fool you, they’re found all over the South, not just in Texas. They’re like to show up when your local marshals are either too yella to deal with the problem or are pushin’ up daisies up on Boot Hill (more likely, wearing a tin star is dangerous business). They don’t talk much and are an unforgivin’ lot, so best make nice with em when ya can. The US Marshals operate in the North, pretty much the same as the Texas Rangers in the South, but they generally only deal with your run o’ the mill scum. If you or your posse runs into anything out o’ the ordinary, and I mean a little more out o’ ordinary than just a bearded lady or a six legged goat in a gypsy troupe, you can expect a visit from the Agency. The Pinkertons, or so they used to be called, are the investigators of the supernatural and they report directly to President Grant, or so they say. The Texas Rangers are double tough and they handle everythin’ for the South, but like I said about them, they tend to shoot first and ask questions later when it comes to somethin’ out of the ordinary.
Speakin’ a shootin’ first, watch yourself in the Okies or the Coyote Confederation as they call it now. Them and the Sioux Nation up north have carved out their own little swath of paradise and they aim to keep it that way. Lots of the injuns up in the Dakotas practice the Old Way, which means they’ll just shoot you full of arrows, scalp you with a dull rock, flay you with a coarse whip and leave your eyes for the crows rather than skin a smokewagon like a civilized outlaw. Given the option, I’d pick a bullet over the injun treatment if I had the choice. And those Old Way injuns, they hold a grudge. Ya see up there in the Black Hills, thousands of prospectors flocked to Deadwood on the word of Ghost Rock veins found just sittin’ on the surface. Sitting Bull is the hunkpapa wicasa up in the Dakotas and ever since ol’ Custer moved in, he’s been sittin’ a lot less these days, and been a whole lot less tolerant of any white man sets foot on his territory. The only exception is Deadwood, where the civic leaders, Wild Bill Hickok, Seth Bullock, and Al Swearingen to name a few, got together and paid the big papa off to let them stay (and live). The Coyote Confederation is a bit of a different story. All the tribes jammed together live peacefully among themselves, but they still send raids into the surrounding territories every now and again to keep the white man from growin’ too comfy, and most of them injuns are packing six guns along with their tomahawks. I wouldn’t stay long in them parts if you don’t speak some Cherokee there cowpoke.
Now lemme see, oh that’s right, how could I forget two of the biggest players in all this mess? Brigham Young’s the first. Now, most you folks have probably heard of Young. Him and his flock of Mormons have enjoyed the peace (and isolation) of the area around Salt Lake for years and with some recent events, they look to keep it that way for as long as they can. Ya see, even before the North and the South got the war back on full steam with the Ghost Rock an all, Young declared Salt Lake and the surroundin’ territory for the Mormons. The place is called Deseret and you better believe it’s a nice place, if you march to Mormon beat that it is. The City o’ Gloom, or Salt Lake City as most folks know it, is a pretty dreary place. Dr. Darius Hellstromme, y’all remember him from Wasatch Railroad, he’s one o’ these science-tists who seems to think Ghost Rock can’t do enough in a world where it’s been doin’ a whole lot already. Rumor has it, he’s got contraptions and mechanations the world has yet to see, and that’s the way he likes it. No one’s seen much of Hellstromme, well..ever! He’s not big on civic appearances, but you can bet your six shooter AND your bowie knife he’s the real brains behind what’s goin’ on in the City o’ Gloom. Oh sure, it’s touted as the city of the future, but what good are all those electric lights when you can’t see through the soot. I’m sure y’all might see it for yourself one day, but I’ll sit that trip out.
On the subject of soot and mechanations, remember them fellas named Smith and Robards? Course you don’t. Pay attention will ya? Smith and Robards run a company by the same name out of Denver. Denver ya see has the dubious distinction of being smack in the middle of all of the contested territories. Although it’s technically claimed by the North, it’s anyone’s guess who’ll hold it through the year, not that it’s really held to begin with. There’s a small garrison of Union boys there, but they’re green as rock moss and slipperier to boot. Denver is a nice enough town if you can learn to live with the occasional fireworks show in the middle of Main St. A fireworks show that takes out the town square that is. See, Smith and Robards have a factory and development center somewhere in the mountains near Denver. No one really knows exactly, but every so often one of their contraptions (or inventors) gets a screw loose and it always seems to be Denver where they end up. I’m not saying some of the things in their catalog aren’t alright, (I’ve been helped out a time or two by them fancy elixirs and boy do they pack a whollop) but what I am saying is be careful in dealing with these two. Whatever they’re up whether it flies, glides, rolls, or shoots, you better believe it’s powered by Ghost Rock and that brings a taint all it’s own.
Now where was I…? Oh right, that second player I was gettin’ to is a fella called Ezekiah Grimme. Grimme was the leader of a group of survivors of the Great Quake and when more kept washin’ up on the shore, he was able to provide them all with food, water and shelter (which don’t come cheap in the Maze friend). Somehow his followers got to callin’ themselves “Lost Angels” and once the camp turned into a city the name stuck, The City of Lost Angels. Now Grimme had a moment of inspiration and had the city built into a circle around the center of the old camp. On the camp site he had a massive cathedral built for him and his flock. Grimme and his lot provide a free meal, heck I’ll say it banquet, every Sunday after church and in the Maze, that makes him the most powerful man around. The arid climate around Death Valley doesn’t make crops grow too well, but Grimme’s always got plenty to spare for the faithful, or so it’s said. Grimme is a hardliner on one thing however, the railroads. Seems he’s got it in his mind that the Good Lord doesn’t want the rails bringing all the filth and muck of the society back east to his beloved City and he’s set to see that never happens. Lost Angels have swept forth from the west and have engaged rail gangs from California to Tennessee in deadly ambushes and the bloodshed doesn’t look to be stoppin’ anytime soon.
Well, that about wraps up what’s goin’ on right now in the West folks. Almost 1876 now, and the times are a changin’ make no mistake.
Uh what’s that?
Oh, who am I? I thought you’d never ask.
Why folks just call me The Prospector. I imagine we’ll be seein’ each other again real soon. ’Til then though keep your six shooter loaded and watch out for those things that go bump in the night!