The crew is still dealing with the concept of having been erased from the Cortex (except for Renner, who hasn’t been erased, as he continually reminds everyone).
There’s not even a record of the ship, which several crewmembers point out might make it a bit difficult to secure landing clearance on any Core world, and might cause some trouble on the more high-visibility Border worlds as well. As much as the crew wants to procede directly to Hera and check out the false grave in Serenity Valley, they aren’t sure if their current status will make that job impossible.
Jules makes a suggestion: A friend of hers, Jonas Star, runs a saloon on Deadwood….way the hell out on the Rim. He was her C.O. during the war, and now runs a bit of an “underground” for Independents. She says that he should be able to get them forged identities, inserted into the Cortex. So they decide to take Icarus far out onto the Rim, using up pretty much all of their remaining fuel in the process. On Deadwood, they’ll secure more fuel, get the forged IDs, and lay low for a bit.
Of course, things never do run smooth….
After a long trip, they arrive at Deadwood. Aida is not amused to discover that the extra weight of Renner’s one-man ship, currently taking up the entire cargo bay, has thrown Icarus‘ balance off, making the atmospheric landing a bit more rockety than expected. Luckily, she manages to set the ship down gently in a scrub desert about 10 miles south of the main settlement. They wheel Renner’s ship out of the cargo bay (so that they can lower the Mule and get it out of the ship), lock both ships up tight, pile on to the Mule, and head to town.
As they arrive in the dusty little settlement, they immediately notice the townsfolk taking cover, shutting doors, getting off the street, slamming shutters, etc. Not the reception they had expected.
They arrive at the saloon. Gideon waits outside, keeping her eyes open. Willem (who is now shaved and wearing his ballistic bodysuit from the war) and Renner both start drinking at the bar. Jules walks up to ask the bartender if Jonas is in, but before she can say a word, he throws her a purse full of cash. “You’re early,” he says sullenly.
Jules asks to see Jonas. The bartender stammers: “Why? You haven’t even counted it. It’s all there….” She persists, and he goes to get his boss.
Jonas comes down from his office, and is visibly relieved to see the crew. He takes the money and gives it back to the bartender. “They’re not with them.” He then escorts the crew (minus Gideon) up to his office.
Jules fills them in on what they need. Jonas says that will be expensive. Renner, ever mindful of a good deal, suggests that there might be something they could do for him….?
Jonas says maybe….he’s worried that if the crew fails, things could get much worse on this out-of-the-way little rock. He tells them what’s up.
About a year ago, a group of Indpendent veterans arrived, under command of a man named Cash. They all wear the Browncoat, and over the past year, the townspeople have given to referring to them by that name alone. The Browncoats….however, it isn’t a term of admiration. It’s a term of fear. The gang (for that’s what it is) told the town that for a fee, they’d protect them from criminals, Reavers, the Alliance, what have you. Old Frank from the General Store told them that they could take a flying rut at a rollin’ doughnut. They looted his store and burnt it to the ground. Since then, they come into town once a month and collect their payments. Money, food, weapons, they even abducted a woman or two. In the past few months, though, members of the gang have been riding into town irregularly, and just taking what they want, when they want it. Last time, they didn’t bother abducting a woman….they just did their business right in the middle of the street.
Several crew members get seriously pissed off at the sullying of the name “Browncoat” by these animals, and it’s quickly decided that Something Must Be Done ™.
At this point, Gideon notices four riders coming into town on horseback, armed heavily and wearing brown coats. She alerts the others. Willem joins her in the doorway of the saloon, Renner and Aida take to the balcony outside of Jonas’ office, overlooking the street. Leda and Jules ask about roof access, and Jonas tells them of a hatch in one of the rooms, which they use to climb up onto the roof of the saloon and take up positions. Jonas and the unarmed Kai remain in his office.
“Nice lookin’ Mule,” says one of the “Browncoats.” Another leers at Gideon. “She sure is.” The beginnings of witty comebacks are uttered, but then Renner decides to drop a grenade into the center of the group of horses.
Gideon and Willem take cover as the grenade detonates. Two of the gang are dropped, and don’t move. One horse is dropped, another takes off running, riderless. Another horse falls, trapping his rider. The fourth rider, and horse, furthest from the blast, are lightly wounded.
All hell breaks loose. Shots fly in all directions. The trapped rider gets free and swings his assault rifle up towards the balcony, hosing the area with lead, hitting Aida several times. Her armor stops the bullets, but the shots still stun her and knock her to the floor. Kai runs from the cover of the office to offer medical assistance. “I’m fine!” yells Aida.
The fourth rider takes off, after getting a crossbow bolt in the shoulder from Leda. Willem, knowing that the rider cannot be allowed to escape and report back, fires several shots at range, and succeeds in making a canoe out of the rider’s head. Renner, concerned that the riderless horses will run back to their stable and alert the rest of the gang, shoots the horses. Yes, that’s right….he shot the horses.
The remaining rider (the one who shot Aida) is killed when, from the roof, Jules puts an arrow in the man’s eye.
The street is quiet.
Willem goes to check the bodies of the first two riders to drop, hoping for one of them to be alive for questioning. There’s good news and bad news. The good news is, one of them is alive. The bad news: he was playin’ possum, and fires his pistol point-blank into Willem’s chest. Luckily, the body suit stops the bullet, but it still feels like being hit in the chest with a sledgehammer. The sneaky rider receives special attention from Gideon, who walks forward unloading both pistols into him until he stops moving.
The townspeople come out of hiding. Most seem upset at what the crew has done. Grumbling is heard about how they’ve “called hell down on us,” etc. Willem jumps up onto the Mule, and calls for attention. The music swells, his coat flutters in the breeze, and the sun shines, framing him like a statue of a long-remembered hero. Time for a stirring, heroic speech.
However, Renner interrupts him: “Fret not, folks….we’re gonna kill them fuckers!”
Stirring, yes. Heroic? Not so much.
The crew finds out from Jonas that Cash’s gang is based on a former cattle ranch 20 miles to the North-northeast. Also, that it’s possible that some folks in town might send a wave to Cash, letting him know what’s up….to ensure better treatment for them and theirs.
Willem gets medical attention from Kai. Gideon is sent on horseback to go and scout out the ranch, while Aida, Renner and Leda take the Mule back to Icarus, to bring back weapons and gear.
About 5 miles away from the ranch, Gideon spots a motion-detector fence line. If she crosses it, the ranch will be alterted. She reports back to Willem via comm, and he tells her to pull back.
Meanwhile, as Aida drives the mule toward the landing zone, she and Leda and Renner are dismayed to find a Skiff (an atmospheric vehicle…essentially the same model as the one the Reavers used at the beginning of Serenity, only minus the spiky bits and billowing black smoke) parked alongside the two ships. Looks like Cash was alterted, and decided to scout out the vessels.
Naturally, Aida charges, kicking the mule up to top speed, and barrell-assing it towards the site. The skiff powers up and heads right for them, nose angled slighting downward. Ai Yah…it’s armed.
Aida uses her incredible agility and skill behind the wheel to avoid being blown to pieces when the skiff opens fire, and the vessel overshoots them as she continues toward Icarus. The skiff comes around, and starts gaining from behind, firing it’s cannons the entire time. Aida goes into some crazy evasive manuevers.
It sure would be nice if they had some grenades right about now….and, luckily enough, they DO. Renner and Leda pitch the grenades into the engine intakes of the rapidly-gaining skiff, and are rewarded with two satisfying Ba-WHUMPs. The engines blow apart, and the skiff, which had been travelling nose-down, to better shoot at the mule, dips slightly….and noses into the dirty, flipping end-over-end and turning into a whirling fireball of shrapnel and destruction.
Aida is momentarily scared that the wreck will slam into Icarus. Renner comforts her: “No, it’s OK, you zigged!”
“But I *didn’t ZAG!*”
However, the wreckage comes to a smoking stop far from Icarus…however, it is at this point that Aida, Renner and Leda notice that the cargo bay door is open, and that three members of the gang are standing in it, firing at them as they approach.
Naturally, Aida floors it.
Renner unloads an entire clip into the area occupied by the three men, killing two of them instantly. The third dives for cover, inside the bay.
As Aida rockets the mule into the cargo bay, making a precision stop to avoid crashing, The third man fires at the mule as it passes his position. None of the occupants are hit, but the mule will definately need repair. Renner quickly kills the man with a three-round burst, and Leda notices another man on the catwalk and takes him out before he can fire at them.
The three crewmembers search the ship from top to bottom, and confirm that there’s nobody else on board. They report back to the others via comm.
Back in town, Willem looks to the sky, and as he sees a massive column of black smoke rising, marking the spot where the skiff was destroyed, he realizes that Cash can most likely see it as well.
….and we ended the session there.