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C2IP: The Agenda War IX

Mags and The Masked Man surrounded by fire and screams and blood.

Sugarcube used to love this town, she thinks, feeling her heart breaking again.

"The Mayor and the oil and the companies and the Law," the Masked Man shouts. "Drawing their lines and digging their holes and dispensing and withholding. This town's fortune and fate in their hands and everyone here is just a resource to them. Another means to an end. Sucking up life and love and dreams like the crude stuff and leaving ruined desperate husks. And Que will die and Mode and someone else will take their place. Let's call it The System. But the truth is there's no homes here, no jobs, no future without them.

"And the Wagoners with their hopes and their ideas and their ideals, doing what they can to get people well, keep them safe, make things better and stronger. Maybe make a change. Let's call it The Counter-System. All the ways they argue and fight it out. Who's using the schools and the papers and the places of gathering for what ends.

"Truth is, Maggie, and you know this in your heart, in your bones... It's all lies, all of it. This whole damn town is an infection, an open sore. This was free land once and a whole other people lived on it and with it and were murdered for it and enslaved. Omega Canyon, Temperance City, all the ranchers and cowboys, all the bounty hunters and Marshals, all the gamblers and the priests, all of it is a plague, a shadow, all of it rooted in native blood and suffering. If there's ever going to be any real future all this has to be torn down and burned away and the truth be owned and shared. That's the only way anything real is ever going to happen. 

"That's why the only safe place in Omega Canyon is Judgement Grotto. The only part of this cursed enterprise that's even a little bit real: the graveyard.

"So that's why we're here. We're finally going to make everything real and send it all to the grave."

Maggie understood it now. Understood why things were in crisis.



C2IP: The Agenda War VIII

Mags, the smoke thick in the night, steps over Mode's corpse, the blood leaking from his gut reflecting the firelight, the flames thick in the night. She has the sudden thought that she's somehow killed this man before.

The citizens of Omega Canyon are screaming.

After shooting their way out of The Emperor, Dex ran for the schoolhouse, Wraith for the Star office, Cal for the old Hanged Man. They knew already, in their bones, that they were all already burning. People still needed protecting though.

Mags shoots another man who is about to shoot her. She's trying to size things up, make a count of things. Who started the shooting?

She can see, in the distance, the smoke parting like a curtain in the hot wind conjured up by the fire, that Que's manor is burning too. Glancing back, through more gunfire and screams, she sees that The Emperor is on fire.

War's come to Omega.

And then a figure in the midst of it, standing opposite Mags. She realizes that she's wandered into the main street, where Sugarcube and Logollos had drawn on each other. Do some things have beginnings?

Their hat is pulled low, a bandana pulled up high, face covered, thick duster and smoke and firelight making it hard to measure size, posture.

"You see what's happenin', Maggie?" they shout. Something about the voice. A knowing in it.

She thinks for a moment that it's Darius. Then she wonders if it's him, if Sugarcube's come back. She knows that she should know, that she should be able to tell, feels embarrassed that she can't. Truth is that things have never been quite right since the journey to the Horsebreeder's ranch.

"Tell me what's happenin', stranger!" Mags shouts back.


C2IP: The Agenda War VII

"Well, the bounty hunter was already there. She had rode in the night before, took a room at The Emperor. After checkin' The Hanged Man and learnin' it was shut down.

"So she's sittin' at the table in the corner with her rifle laid right out in front o' her, like she's darin' anyone to cross her. See, the clientelle was a lot o' hired guns workin' for the oil folks, mostly to guard shipments and the like, and sometimes keep the workin' folk in line. They were generally a fairly surly group, the kind you'd reasonably 'spect to trouble a lady sittin' by her lonesome in a Saloon.

"None of 'em troubled Mags Magenta though.

"And after a time the other three showed up and it was almost a reunion of the posse from the Incident last year, 'cept the Preacher wasn't there. The ex-sheriff, the ex-Marshal and the ex-gambler. They got to talkin' - I figures they were catchin' the bounty hunter up on all that had come to pass. The oil, the Mayor, the Law and the Wagoners.

"Part o' me woulda loved to been eavesdroppin' on that chat, just to know how exactly all this mess sounded in the tellin'. If any of it made any gorram sense or whether it was sense that died the day of the Logollos-Sugarcube showdown, if it was the corpse of normalcy and reason and right-thinkin' that they found in that coffin...

"The part left o' me though, if I'm to be truthful, is glad I never heard just what they said. They were an odd bunch, spooky and dangerous. For some reason, imaginin' what their conversation woulda been like makes me feel like when Pa would tell us ghost stories 'round the fire on cold winter nights.

"It wasn't long after that when the gents seated by the window began whisperin' that the Sheriff was outside.

"And then the first explosion happened.

"And then the shootin' started."


C2IP: The Agenda War VI

Weldwood Que, Mayor of Omega Canyon, poured himself a second brandy. He liked the way the light from the chandelier reflected in the liquid. "What exactly is the problem?"

Brogan Mirk, Sheriff of Omega Canyon, brushed some dust off his boot. "Their activities are creating a general air of dissent. Flyers and posters are appearing through the town, around some of the drill sites, even on some of the ranches on the North and South plateaus of the canyon. Manifesto-type writings, questioning the future of the area, questioning the benefits of the oil boom..."

Angus Mode, Deputy Sheriff, wiped some gravy from his moustache with a silk handkerchief. "Questioning the decisions and leadership of the Mayor."

Brogan shot Angus a look.

Mr. Throckmorton, local liaison to the Oil Companies from Temperance City, helped himself to the bottle of brandy. Servants were not allowed in these meetings. "Workers are beginnin' to hold meetings, talkin' about safety conditions, fair compensation, other such nonsense. Plus there's these weird symbols croppin' up, sometimes etched, like with a knife, sometimes painted, on some of the drillin' rigs or foreman cabins. Not really sure what that's all about."

Mr. Lanight, chief editor of The Omega Times, added, "The symbols have appeared on our building as well, and The Emperor Saloon."

Brogan interjected. "The symbols are repeated on many of the flyers and posters. It seems like a way to be reminding folks about the messages."

Que was frowning.

Brogan continued. "None of them are saying anything downright traitorous or treasonous. They're claiming to be a voice for the people of the Canyon."

"And have you identified any of the authors of the messages? Or the vandals defacing these buildings?"

"If the budget to the Sheriff's Office were to be increased," Brogan replied, "I could easily hire on some more men to keep a better watch. We may also want to consider a curfew."

Throckmorton added, "I'm certain the Temperance folks would endorse and maybe even kick in for an increase in security."

"The fact is," Angus said, "we've got two darkies and a slant-eye living in this Canyon, all of whom have reason to dislike the current way of things. One of them is good with letters, one of them has access to a printing press and one of them made a career on deceit and trickery. I think it's obvious who's behind this Wagoners business!"

Brogan sighed. Angus was a hothead but the Mayor was feeling the pressure and Brogan knew he was looking for a target. Not the best time for more troubling news, but - he chugged back his own glass of brandy - why not?

"You should also know, Mayor Que, that the bounty hunter Mags Magenta returned to Omega Canyon last night."


C2IP: The Agenda War V

Some say the War started way back when Sugarcube and Logollos had their showdown in the main street of Omega Canyon.

Some say it started during the Incident at Judgement Grotto. They'll say it was already being fought when Mayor Weldwood Que appointed Angus Mode, a man of dubious reputation, as Deputy Sheriff (rumours had it that Dexter Washington had turned down the job). That the launch of The Omega Times newspaper, in direct competition with the existing Canyon Star and with a generous government grant, was a battle in that War. That another battle was the closing of The Hanged Man Saloon after its liquor license was revoked, leaving The Emperor Saloon to cater to the needs of all the oil workers newly arrived to the Canyon.

The oil was flowing and business, for some, was booming. Trade coming through the Canyon was on the rise but most local shops couldn't compete with the merchants from the Coast and Temperance City who'd arrived once the drilling began. Most of the money, like the oil, was being sucked out of the Canyon.

Farmers who had sold their land to the drills (rumours of strong-arming were plenty) found themselves living in the increasingly cramped town in shoddily-built houses (the building crews managed by Temperance businessmen who didn't even live in the Canyon). Much the same lot for the oil workers, who earned only enough to pay rent to well-to-do landlords and drink their troubles away at The Emperor. Folks resorted to a lot of black market trade, which the Deputy Sheriff was in charge of stamping out; when seen in the streets in his finely-tailored suits he would half-heartedly lament the lack of success on "poor cooperation from the community".

The Mayor proposed consolidating the handful of small schoolhouses into one institution, in a new building funded by donations from the oil merchants, to "ensure a consistent education for the future leaders of Omega Canyon".

The Hanged Man Saloon was converted into cheap rooms for oil workers.

The Omega Times ran story after story about the dawning of a new age of prosperity for the Canyon. 

Battles fought? 

Some say the War didn't really begin until The Wagoners appeared...



Max startled awake. There was a tear in his eye.

What is it? the voice asked.

"I dreamed that Ziggy died."


C2IP: The Agenda War IV

Brogan set the empty glass on the bar. "That's a quality drink, Mr. Lokk."

Callan held up the bottle of whisky, offering a second shot, but Brogan shook his head.

"At least when I give you my money now," he went on with a smirk, "I get something in return, unlike the many times I gave it to you at the poker table."

Callan chuckled. "My apologies."

"None necessary. You out-played me."

"Since we're not gambling now, why don't we go ahead and put all our cards on the table right away? I'm aware that Mr. Que is planning to propose that one of the two saloons in the Canyon have its liquor license revoked. He will claim he is concerned about the effects of unchecked drinking given the influx of new workers to the region."

Brogan gestured to the bottle and Callan poured a second shot as he continued speaking.

"And I'm aware that the saloon he allows to continue operating will undoubtedly be the one he feels will best support his goals as Mayor."

Brogan took a sip. "We both know that the kind of talk that is either encouraged or discouraged at the local watering hole can have a profound impact on the opinions of a community. And that the support of a Mayor is beneficial for anyone doing business in said community..."


C2IP: The Agenda War III

"You're a woman."

Wraith stared at Brogan.

"And you're not even white."


"What I'm saying is, Ms. Wraith, is that your appointment as a Marshal was nothing sort of miraculous and I consider it irrefutable evidence of your dedication and skill. That you should have retired from the position is, to me, only another indication that your full worth is as yet untapped. And I believe that your journalistic endeavours will only serve to validate that suspicion."

"Are you auditioning for a column in the paper, Mirk? We don't pay by the word, I'm afraid."
He smiled.

"Not exactly. I have been, however, urged to discuss the future of your publication by the new Mayor, who sees the value in a reliable source of news for the residents of the Canyon. So much so, in fact, that he is proposing that you and your partner receive a government grant to upgrade your printing equipment and a small tax exemption to offset the cost of materials. The goal being an increase in both quality and distribution."

Wraith's eyes narrowed slightly.

Brogan continued, "Now that the drilling operations have begun it will be even more essential for Omega to have a strong, clear voice..."


C2IP: The Agenda War II

"I think it's obvious that the Office of Frontier Affairs will be taking an active interest in the growth and prosperity of Omega Canyon, given the news."


Brogan Mirk adjusted the brim of his hat. "I've been given permission to share with you, Mr. Washington, that the initial meetings have already taken place."

Dex smirked. "So the article in The Canyon Star was accurate."

"To a point."

"Why no public meetings?"

"Mr. Washington, I have been a residence of the Canyon for many, many years and am deeply invested in ensuring the prosperity of the town and its people. You and I shared a mutual acquaintance, the dear departed Mr. Sugarcube. Your honourable history in law enforcement is known to me. It was at my insistence that the OFA agreed to this discussion."

Dexter listened briefly to the sound of the students playing outside. Laughter, no shouting or crying. "And what exactly are we discussing, Mr. Mirk?"

"A gentleman from Temperance City by the name of Weldwood Que is being installed as the new Mayor of the Canyon. I will be appointed as the new Sheriff. The discussion before us today, Mr. Washington, is about whether or not I can convince you to accept the position of Deputy..."