That evening, the dinner bell rings round about sunset. Troy’s pretty sure the majority of the work with the generator is done, so he walks the prisoners back to the sheriff’s office. Over the course of the evening, Troy was able to get a pretty good read on them. He makes conversation with Simon, asking about the Dust People. Simon says he does his best to close his mind to them when they’re near. He says there are many more of them to the west. Simon warns Troy that he has someone connected to him that speaks to ghosts, but doesn’t know it, and it will almost certainly be trouble.
Sheriff Lewis is brushing down his horse and talking to one of the town elders when Troy and the prisoners return. The sheriff greets Troy and introduces the other man as Christopher Twosmokes, who asks Troy about his journey after offering Troy a drag from his cigar. Troy says they’re headed west to San Francisco. Twosmokes tells him about Seattle, and Los Angeles, and says he had a brother who lived in San Francisco who was an artist. Troy mentions that he travels with at least one artist, and others who worship art (or at least beauty).
When the conversation winds its way toward the past, the Sheriff excuses himself. Troy says that Twosmokes has lived in two worlds. Twosmokes replies that he has lived in at least four (the world of his people, the world of Troy’s people, the world of Yesterday, and the world of Today), and the two that Troy would leave out are at least as important. He also mentions the Spirit World, and says that it’s closed now, and what Troy thinks is the Spirit World is merely the shadow of what used to be. Twosmokes says that there are lessons worth learning from the past, but admits that as his generation dies, true understanding of the past will die with them. They discuss the contents of the cigar, and Troy notices there is a very slightly hallucinogenic effect. Twosmokes gives him a couple of peyote buttons, and assures him he should be able to get them to take root. Troy asks Twosmokes his opinion of the town, and it’s future. Twosmokes admits that the presence of the military culture in the town is causing it to slowly drift towards becoming raiders. He says that in his opinion, mankind is likely doomed. No new souls can enter the world so long as the spirit world remains closed.
In quarantine, Gremlin dreams about George sneaking into the tent, complaining about being lonely, and proclaiming their love for him, before he’s woken up by the guard. He verifies that Gremlin is lucid before allowing Dr. Swimming Fish to enter and examine him. Once the guard is gone, she discreetly passes him some jerky, acknowledging that it’s against protocol, but her professional opinion is that he will do better with it than without it. She tells him that he’s running a fever, which is not the best news, but it could be worse, since he still has his wits about him.
He says to tell the crew that if he doesn’t make it, they can have the vehicles, and that George still has a mission.
Greaser meets with Kenzie’s wife Georgia Key to assemble for the salvage mission, in an office a couple doors down from Kenzie’s. He sees a large map on the wall, and a couple of posters from the Day Before. There’s a map of the area surrounding the town on the table. She tells him about a town that used to exist about an hour to the north called Smith. The hardhold there fell apart, and most of the inhabitants went to the Party. Since then there have been a couple of squatters, but no one sizable enough to establish a new hardhold. Recently, the scouts spotted some fighting on the road near there. Once the fight was over, the survivors took off quickly and haven’t come back. There are at least two cars left out there that no one’s claimed yet. The mission is to scope out the site, if everything can be carried off right then and there, then they should do so. Otherwise, they should camp on the site and radio back for a larger crew to come do the heavy lifting.
Before heading out, he stops by the motor pool to check on his B team. He finds them working on helping to fabricate replacement body pieces for an old motorcycle with a sidecar, and a big heavy truck. After he’s satisfied that they’re good where they are, he meets up with Georgia, who is taking point on the salvage mission, as she knows the way. They head north along the main street through the town to the north gate, which is opens very slowly.
Once on the road, they have to navigate several barricades in the form of large mounds of scrap piled up in a zig-zag pattern. Beyond that, it’s open ground on either side of the road, though in the distance they can see the remains of buildings from the Day Before, larger than anything seen in town.
Nearing the former town of Smith, they can see the smoke from several fires that are the aftermath of the aforementioned battle. There’s a section of road that had suffered from some sort of explosion many years ago and is being slowly reclaimed by the earth. Kenzie’s wife is in a truck, so she has no problem navigating the resulting ditch, but the bikers have a bit of trouble and have to slow down to a crawl as a result.
Coming up on the edge of town, they find themselves in what was an industrial district once upon a time. Farther off, they can see the taller buildings of the former city center, and beyond that, a giant highway that leads off into the distance. But before all of that, they come across an outpost (maybe a gas station) right near the offramp, and the site of the battle itself. There are several vehicles, at least one of which was overturned and thoroughly engulfed in flame, which is by now finally guttering out. There are a LOT of dead bodies strewn around, and a couple of figures moving about.
Greaser gets close enough to read the situation. He gets the sense that total number of participants of the battle are not represented by the bodies present, and that the site is not in any way secure. He is fairly certain that the entire site is being watched. He relays all of this to the rest of the group. He looks to Kenzie’s wife for the way forward. She says to split his group, one half to form a defensive perimeter around the truck, and the rest to take point. When he asks if she wants him to pacify the survivors, she tells him that she doesn’t want him killing unarmed victims, if he is unable or unwilling to render assistance, he is to fall back.
Greaser and his advance guard cautiously approach the site. A man and a woman are well enough to get up and approach the group. Greaser unlimbers his gun and tells them to stop, which they do. They are both very plainly injured, but are not armed. They plead for help. Several others are conscious, but too injured to stand. Greaser gives orders to his people, and circles around back to give his report to Georgia: six survivors, none armed, no resistance, possibly in shock (or possibly infected). They’re discussing the logistics of radioing in for backup when there’s a gunshot.
Everyone’s looking around to find the source, and one of Greaser’s guys staggers back from the van he was inspecting and someone jumps out and leaps on him. Greaser and Georgia immediately engage, as the other survivors suddenly start moving a lot quicker than they were before.
The battle is joined, but Greaser’s crew gets things under control very quickly. Greaser manages to take a shot at the man that’s attacking Mary before he can vomit right in her face. All at once, the attackers all start screaming for help to someone Greaser can’t see.
Greaser finds himself facing a choice between saving only one of two of his guys (Joseph or Toad), he decides to help Joseph, who is in danger of getting vomited on. Greaser takes his shot at the old man, and gets him right in the head. Joseph immediately moves to help Toad, who is being wrestled to the ground. Greaser wades through the combat, taking shots wherever he can, his priority to keep the attackers off of his people. He rallies everyone to him to mop up.
Once everything’s quiet, they assess the salvage in earnest. The van Toad was looking at has a blown engine, but the drive train seems to be intact. However, it will need to be towed back to Alpha. One of Greaser’s guys signals to him that there’s a sniper. Everyone begins taking cover.# ontheroad