Prelude to Vicksburg

By the time war broke out between the States, the Menace held virtually unhindered control of France and had strewn themselves throughout Prussia and the British Empire. It was quite a feat, but nowhere near the level of infiltration the Menace needed to ensure the complete success of Hroovitnir’s Fenrisheim. To secure a sweeping victory, they needed to repeat the French plan in the entirety of the Western world. When they had achieved that, they could easily wipe out modern civilizations and their weaponry and essentially treat the more destitute nations as cattle ranches. Luckily, Vicksburg impeded their plan. I’ve also reached a point where I can speak with a little more firsthand knowledge.

My father was a lawyer in Connecticut and a very vocal abolitionist. I tended to agree with his arguments, but I wasn’t much for the political world. I’m still not, and I probably never will be. As a youngster, I took up both of my father’s professions; law and furniture construction. I deeply loved the act of manipulating solid chunks of wood and transforming them into functional objects. The satisfaction that comes from creating is parallel to none other. Law, on the other hand, has no reward like that. Successfully defending an innocent man may give you the feeling that you’re actually doing something – that’s the reason I got into law – but it rarely happens. Lawyers seem to be plagued with political matters and small claims issues that just aren’t important in the long run. I decided that if I couldn’t help people who needed it, there was no place for me in the world of law. I left to concentrate on building furniture, enjoying women, and hunting in the wilds of Connecticut with my dog, Yorick.

I always had a natural skill for pass-times that required hand/eye coordination – like shooting, throwing, and billiards – and it was no secret that I was an abolitionist at heart, even though I hated politics. It was natural, then, that some of the abolitionist leaders in New England who were preparing (or even praying) for war came to ask me to join their militia in 1860. I have no doubt that these same men were part of the group who funded John Brown’s attacks. I declined in hopes that the crisis between the North and South might end without bloodshed. I told them the whole thing would be over in one year with slavery abolished on paper, but slave states having ten to fifteen years to make the transition to using waged workers.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. I also lost quite a bit of money on bets I had placed about the political climate. I’ve also realized while writing this that I have very bad luck with bets. That’s something I should keep in mind, as Phoenix seems to be a very gambling-friendly place. The same political big shots came to me again in February of 1861 just after the secessionist states had formed the Confederacy. This time, I agreed to join. They had also partnered with John C. Fremont, who had recently returned to New York. Fremont talked tactical sense into the moneyed war hawks and, instead of supporting another ineffectual fanatic like Brown, the group put together a small company of sharpshooters.

We were relocated from our home states to the Adirondack Mountains in northern New York. As I demonstrated the most skill with a rifle, Fremont put me in charge of sharpshooting drills. From his time as Military Governor of California, Fremont knew a Mexican colonel that had defected to the United States who was an expert in camouflage and guerilla warfare. Colonel de Vaca was in charge of all non-marksmanship training. By the time the Confederacy had attacked Fort Sumter in April, de Vaca had taught us all how to enter and exit enemy territory unnoticed and how to protect ourselves in close quarters with minimal noise. By July, we were a fully functional unit, but Union Army command was wary to make use of our unorthodox nature. After several Confederate victories, Fremont was able to secure our deployment to Virginia, where we saw our first combat near Carnifax Ferry.

Our orders were to rendezvous with Colonel Tyler’s 7th Ohio Infantry in western Virginia. Their operating base would double as ours and from it, we would move southeast to observe Confederate troop placements and strength. Our secondary objective was to assassinate any officer of general grade or above to disrupt leadership and reduce morale. We arrived in midday and planned to set out the next morning. While we set up a temporary night camp, a Confederate regiment attacked from the direction of the river, an area which Tyler told us was free of Rebs. Initially, we retreated with the 7th, but cut off diagonally during the short chase. Under de Vaca’s orders, we circled back to the houses and farmland the Confederates had occupied just north of Carnifax.

One reason our operating base was with the small 7th Infantry was because it was a key position in the line of communication between a larger Union force to the south and area command under General Rosecrans in the north. That way, if our scouting runs were successful, we wouldn’t have to travel backwards to find a communication hub. The surprise attack had effectively blocked communication, so we set up camp behind enemy lines and sent two man teams between Union forces when we could, but that came at a price. Keeping our heads down and relaying messages under the noses of the Rebels meant that we couldn’t take out the general in command, who just happened to be John Floyd, the former Secretary of War under Buchanan. Luckily, he turned out to have some inefficient and very exploitable ideas about entrenching an army.

About fifteen days into our time behind the Confederate line, Colonel de Vaca and Lieutenant Hicks brought back a request from Rosecrans that we be ready to move at a moment’s notice. He was moving south and would attack en masse for a brief period that would be our cover to move back to the Union side of the line. I say a request because our unit was under the sole command of General Fremont and President Lincoln. In their absence, Colonel de Vaca had complete authority which could not be countermanded by any general.

Rosecrans attacked in midday with a wild charge from the forest that left the Rebs on unsure footing. As we ran toward the western flank of the Confederate line to join our comrades in arms, it looked like the battle might be won with Rosecrans’ initial charge alone. Once the Confederate artillerymen overcame their shock and began firing, though, the wave had to pull back to regroup. While the Confederates awaited a renewed Union charge, our unit of twelve split into three groups and moved toward different artillery batteries. Each man in the shooting quad would set up a shot and then take that shot one at a time, in order of rank. As soon as a shot was off, the shooter would run to find a new position and be ready to fire again when it was his turn. In this way, we were able to avoid being pinpointed by Confederate sharpshooters and skirmishers by our muzzle flash and powder clouds. By the time Rosecrans ordered his second attack, the effectiveness of the Confederate artillery had been reduced greatly. Floyd had entrenched his troops with their backs to a river, which left no room for strategic falling back or flat-out cutting and running. When Rosecrans overwhelmed the Confederate defenses, they had nowhere to go. Most of the survivors surrendered; only one small horse-mounted party was able to break for a soft spot in the line and ride back to hard Confederate territory.

Our ability to hide out behind enemy lines for three weeks and strike without being seen earned us the name Fremont’s Phantasms from fellow Union regiments. I’m sure the Confederates also came up with some creative epithets for us. After Carnifax, Fremont told us that some of the tactics we were trained in and encouraged to use wouldn’t be viewed as “sporting” by the military brass on both sides of the war. In all future missions, we were not to don the uniform nor insignia of the Union Army. We adopted a uniform of emerald green with white overclothes for the winter months and a likeness of a phantasm as our crest.

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The British Menace in China

I’ve alluded to the Menace’s failures in Britain before, but I’ll go into them in detail because it draws a clearer picture of the minds of most wolves and will stop us from humanizing them. The French Menace purified their numbers a few times over on their rise to power; they gladly sacrificed their own kind so that the dreamers might see their vision of a vast human feast come to pass. That does not mean, however, that the more grounded of the Menace were less blood thirsty. They were either too short-sighted or could not control their hunger long enough to put off hunting humans even if it meant an easier time in the future.

As the French Menace fought their way to positions of power, their brethren in Britain did the same, though their path was a bit different. The British Empire and the British East India Company had been very busy in this century before the Great Attack; they had already been in ten more conflicts than the previous century and had roughly three decades to go. All those conflicts required soldiers, and the Menace saw the military pay and free transportation to less advanced countries as being salaried to travel for free meals. The Menace would fight the foreign enemy alongside their British human soldiers during the day, and then slip out at night to hunt the wounded and lost from both sides.

The British Army has strict rules about the proper education of officers, but (before it was disbanded) the British East India Company was more lackadaisical. It was common for soldiers who showed promise in battle and leadership to be promoted in the field. In time, some of the Menace found themselves in charge of entire units in India where, through clever troop movements and battlefield “accidents”, they formed brigades comprised solely of wolves. In this way they could act more freely, especially during practice maneuvers when they were alone in the field for weeks at a time.

As in France, some of the more forward thinking wolves could sense a breaking point coming between the indigenous Indian troops of the British East India Company and their European commanders. The Menace attempted to fan the fire of hostility, but could only play one side as all wolves are Caucasian in their human form. There was also another fundamental difference in India that the Menace hadn’t encountered in revolutionary France; most British were quite fond of the Indians. It was not nearly as easy to spread anti-Indian rhetoric as it was to spread anti-monarchical rhetoric. In addition, the Company’s investigative services treated missing villager cases almost as seriously as cases involving missing British citizens. Even when war remained the only course, the Menace thought, they would not be able to push for the complete subjugation of India. Instead, they began to seek transfers to the Far East where relations were much less amicable.

India became a place where inexperienced wolves could go to receive promotions and commendations, then leave the Company Army and transfer to the British Royal Army in China. The First Opium War between China and Britain resulted in numerous promotions to non-field positions for military commanders, leaving a power vacuum that was quickly filled by East India Company wolves. Those high ranking wolves pulled strings to get wolf-heavy units from India and England rotated in to replace the combat weary units that had fought the brunt of the War. In China, the wolves had ready access to tea (a habit they had picked up from living in England for generations), opium (which many soldiers, Menace and human alike, had developed a taste for in India), and a large population of villagers living in rural areas that wouldn’t be missed by the British Government in Hong Kong. Over a period of roughly two decades, the British Menace allowed their century-old goal of overthrowing the monarchy to exsanguinate and let hedonism fully dictate their actions.

Menace leadership in France saw their plans for Britain crumble. In a struggle to reassert leadership, the French Menace placed their own agent in China. Under the guise of a Catholic missionary, August Chapdelaine was a missionary for Hroovitnir’s Fenrisheim with the authority to assassinate the Menace leadership that had stalled the coup for the English Crown if he could not bring them back in line. As Chapdelaine crossed the sea, the British Menace in China began a plot to draw England and China into open conflict a second time in order to bring more land under British (and Menace) control. The British Menace had come to enjoy the military lifestyle and even thought of the human elements of the military as part of their pack, though they made no assumptions that they were safe in revealing themselves. Still, the Menace’s taste for human blood had caused an uproar in Guagnzhou, near a British military camp. The Menace needed to be able to travel farther to expand their hunting grounds and remain unnoticed by their human comrades in arms. The Guagnzhou murders were successfully played off as the work of a singular crazed soldier who had grown too accustom to killing; a young human artillery captain was publicly executed for the crime.

Two events happened nearly simultaneously that almost ended the Menace’s plans permanently. And would have prevented the Great Attack. A Menace hunting trio were stalking a group of Chinese youths on the outskirts of Canton. The wolves surrounded their prey and, believing the area to be deserted, advanced on them slowly – allowing them to shout for help. Midway through feeding, villagers who had been part of a silent funeral procession rushed to the cries of the attacked children. There were too many witnesses for the Menace to silence, so they fled into the forest and back to the British military camp. Word spread throughout Canton that a cannibal in the distinct red uniform of the British military had been seen feeding on children with two Nian.

I want to make a quick note about the Nian. These are creatures from Chinese mythology that live in the mountains and occasionally attack towns with seemingly no goal but to eat humans. According to the Chinese, these are lion-like creatures, but I have a suspicion that stories of the Nian may actually be referring to the Menace. Asia is contiguous to Europe and the Menace thrive in cold, mountainous areas. It isn’t much of a stretch to assume that a rogue pack of the Menace immigrated to China at some point during the beginning of the millennium. I’ve been corresponding with the Department of History in Topeka about this and they seem to think it’s worth looking into.

The Menace became very concerned that the Cantonese stories of cannibalism would reach Guangzhou, where the people were still not entirely convinced the mutilated bodies left in the gutters had all been the byproduct of one artilleryman with a bad case of bloodlust. Earlier in the month of the Canton sighting, Chinese port authority had seized a ship that claimed British affiliation. The prisoners were returned unharmed, but high ranking Menace military officials persuaded the British Governor of Hong Kong to retaliate for the affront with force and target the Chinese forts in Canton. Once the military operation was authorized, the Menace took care to completely annihilate the southwestern side of Canton and the outlying villages to contain the rumors.

Chapdelaine had arrived near the end of the Canton campaign and conferred endlessly with British Menace leadership. They played along for a time, but, after three months, began to realize that Chapdelaine would not be swayed from his position and began to worry that he may take action against them. During that time, numerous events unfolded that assured a war between China and Britain. The British had sent aid requests to France, Russia, and the United States, all of whom were wary to commit forces to the cause. The British Governor of Hong Kong had expressed concerns about the feasibility of a quick skirmish that would end in British favor without allied aid due to the ongoing hostilities in India. In an act of cunning on par with their French counterparts, the British Menace forged an arrest order for Catholics dissidents signed by the newly installed Chinese Mayor of Guangxi, obtained uniforms of the local police, and seized Chapdelaine and several other Catholics (both Chinese and French). The Menace agents dropped their prisoners off at the front gate of the Guangxi prison (in order to avoid being recognized as Westerners); all were unharmed save for Chapdelaine, who had been beaten to death. The testimony of the other prisoners served to polarize the local French authority and French public opinion against the Chinese (an opinion that the French Menace found they could not sway) and France joined the British siege on China.

To salvage their plan and punish the British Menace for nearly exposing themselves, the French Menace made sure that Menace-heavy units were sent to China. The Menace waged their wars in the mountains overlooking the human wars below. In the aftermath, the upper echelon of the British Menace had either been killed in direct battle or assassinated by French Menace agents. The surviving British Menace were allowed to retain their lives and military positions on the condition that they swear allegiance to the Fenrisheim. In the years directly after the Second Opium War, the French Menace covertly smuggled elements of the British Menace to France to run sorties against the growing Prussian state and its protectorate regions in order to keep the area destabilized and prime for Menace feeding grounds.

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The Menace in France

      The Menace has been around for at least the past thousand years, though American historians working in the field are fighting an entirely uphill battle. Most of the historical documentation on the Menace comes in the form of dusty volumes from rural libraries in Europe. To date, everything we know has been culled from those volumes brought to the States by emigrating families. The Sheriffs Bureau Intelligence Service in Topeka has recently started pushing European scouts to retrieve documents from both human and Menace sides of the fighting line in hopes that some miracle weapon will be rediscovered. So far, the scouts have not answered the call.

      We do know, however, that the sinking of the Powhattan, the Lachine massacre, and the Great New Orleans Fire (all three are now known to have involved the Menace in some form) were all centered around French-descended settlers, trappers, traders, and logmen. In addition, many of the ancient tales featuring ravenous wolves and men who turned themselves into beasts originated in France, especially the Alsace region near Germany. This suggests that the Menace themselves may have originated in the forests of eastern France and the Black Forest region of Germany. At the very least, that has been their domain for a very long time and they have ingrained themselves into all aspects of life in several European countries.

      I’ll clarify what I mean by that. In France, every political party and social class had been infiltrated by the Menace who worked together to put themselves into strategic positions to inflict maximal casualties and terror during the Great Attack. The Menace attempted the same sort of coup in Britain, though their hedonistic nature prevented them from doing so.

      Until relatively recently, France was a kingdom. This didn’t impact the Menace when they were sparse in number, living in the wilderness and content to seize the odd lone traveler. As the population of both small, rural burgs and the Menace grew, attacks became more frequent and less hidden. This is the period in which most fictional and factual accounts of werewolves began. Interestingly, this is also the time that tales of vampires began circulating heavily in eastern Europe (though the beings described in those stories were more voracious and beastly than the chivalrous, well-dressed yellow bellies portrayed in modern penny blood novels). Some historians believe that the vampire is derived from accounts of the Menace as they migrated to the Balkans.

In France, villagers would form posses to hunt down and exterminate the Menace. Though more humans and regular canine wolves were killed than any werewolves, the Menace recognized that they were becoming much too visible. In the late 12th century, those of their number with greater foresight led a campaign to move into large cities. The rising population in small towns was detrimental to the Menace because of increased visibility and a high degree of interconnectedness between human inhabitants; in a city, the visibility is further increased, but the human inhabitants are socially removed from one another. The Menace would be able to prey on the lowest classes without anyone noticing. Those who would not move into the cities were assassinated for fear that they might endanger the safety of the entire species.

The Menace gradually moved into cities and often posed as homeless drifters. In that capacity they were free to feed on a steady diet of prostitutes, urchins, and beggars without needing to conform to human social system around them. The poor treatment of the bottom caste – especially in France – began to take its toll on the Menace’s psyche. They soon entered the workforce and, over generations, climbed as far up the social ladder as they could. The Menace Renaissance occurred in dark alleys, in forests near major cities, and in cellars right alongside the European Renaissance. In the early 15th century, a wolf who called himself Hroovitnir, a pseudonym of the Norse wolf god Fenrir, began preaching of the Menace’s superiority to humanity. If it’s not obvious from his name, Hroovitnir drew heavily from – and perverted – Norse mythology to suit his needs. In a collection of letters he named Fenrisheim (world of the wolf), he states that it is the duty of the Menace to bring about Ragnarok and interprets the event not as the end of the world (as it is commonly known), but as the end of only the human species. With humans out of the way, the Menace would be free to assert their dominance over the world.

Hroovitnir and his disciples devised a long-term plan to overtake France, a feat that could not be accomplished while the crown held supreme power. At this time, most wolves were still part of the proletariat. They became active in social rights, antimonarchical, and radical political groups to help coax the flame of unrest that had been building among the French lower class for centuries. The few wolves who had attained noble status or were part of the bourgeoisie also worked to this end by overreacting to any show of force by the proletariat and arguing to their peers that the lower classes were dangerous and needed more constraint. As the constant pressure of hatred the Menace exerted on both sides of class divide mounted, small groups of wolves were sent abroad to form sanctuaries for the French wolves if the coming uprising took an unfavorable turn. These wolves became entrenched in southeastern Canada, Louisiana (and surrounding parts of the South), western Africa, and various parts of the Ottoman Empire.

The French economy collapsed in the late 18th century (shortly after the Revolutionary War). This was exactly the sort of social stressor that Hroovitnir’s plan required; the political groups controlled by the Menace called for royal blood and a complete restructuring of France’s leadership. They pulled support from the bulk of the proletariat by advocating a republican government – no doubt seeing that election by the populace was the only way the Menace could seize power. Other political groups also called for restructuring to republicanism, but without the radical bloodlust of the Menace-led groups. Peasants who wanted to avoid an all-out war began to flock to these peaceful groups. This posed a problem for the Menace; the likely leaders of the new republic would be the figureheads of the group that overthrew the monarchy. The more peaceful groups were led by humans, but the radical group was led by Maximilien de Robespierre, who had been named by the Menace as Hroovitnir’s successor.

To further polarize humans on both sides of the conflict, the royalist wolves began to call for open warfare and wholesale slaughter of revolutionaries in areas of France where the enmity was less palpable (though they claimed it was to stop the rebellion before it could gain momentum). The deaths of revolutionaries at the hand of royalist armies did the trick and, with the human masses behind them, the Menace-led republicans eventually imprisoned royalty and rival revolutionary groups alike. The well-known prisoners (like the King and Queen of France) were publicly beheaded as an end to the revolution. Historically, this is known as the Reign of Terror, but the fate of the prisoners who were not publicly executed is far more terrible. Large groups of prisoners were set free from their cells inside the Bastille, but all exits to the prison were blocked. The Menace would then hunt them down and feed on them in full view of prisoners who had not yet been released.

Still riding on the high from their successful overthrow of the French monarchy, Menace leadership urged Robespierre to install himself as a lifelong leader of the French Republic. To sway the human attitudes to accept this, the Menace pushed the leadership of the Cult of the Supreme Being to deliver sermons speaking of a new great leader emerging from the tumult. Wolves among the people began to whisper that the Cult sermons were talking about Robespierre and, just as they had managed to stoke the fire of rebellion, public opinion began to accept the idea of life under Robespierre. The more intelligent human members of the Republic sensed what the Menace were doing (though they had no idea that Robespierre and his most vocal backers were anything other than human) and began to call for his arrest. Robespierre was guillotined for his treachery against the Republic.

Though they had failed to take complete control of France, the Republic leadership was still heavily populated with the Menace. To the Menace, the French Revolution was bittersweet. On one hand, they had infiltrated levels of society that were completely closed off to them under noble rule. On the other, France was not a haven for the Menace where they could act with impunity. The Revolution did show them, however, that Hroovitnir’s plan had worked. The shrewdest minds among the Menace began working in the shadows again, this time altering the France plan to suit the regions they had sent wolves to in case they needed to flee France.

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The Powhattan Incident

I’ve been meeting regularly with Thom Yekes, the Sheriff from Wickenburg, since taking down the grey that attacked the ore shipment from Vulture City. We’ve been studying maps and searching possible den sites for the larger pack that the Vulture City grey was a part of. During our investigations, Yekes has asked me several questions that I assumed were common knowledge; apparently they teach us vastly more Menace-based history in Topeka than in civilian circles.

I should clarify: Thom Yekes is the sheriff of Wickenburg, but he’s not a Topeka graduate or a member of the Sheriffs Bureau. He’s the kind of sheriff we used to have before the Menace. Yekes is a lawman and his first priority is the safety of Wickenburg and its residents. Sheriffs of the Topeka variety are trained for war; our first priority is complete annihilation of the Menace. Sure, we take a class on justice and the federal laws, but upholding them is not emphasized. Lincoln signed the Sheriffs Bureau into existence on a temporary basis. The Topeka facility is to train individuals to combat the Menace and place them, as needed, in cities and townships throughout the country until our populated centers are no longer in danger. At that time, the Sheriffs Bureau will be incorporated into the Union Army and continue fighting the remaining Menace in open country and travel to assist our European allies. If they still exist by then.

While Yekes didn’t have the same training I did, I expected him to know how the Menace hunted and travelled. No such luck. He knew they attacked during the Battle of Vicksburg and effectively ended the War Between the States and that Europe had been all but overrun, but that was all. If someone concerned with public safety knew so little, I can only assume that the general population (who have things like family and trades to worry about) are even more in the dark. I don’t often criticize our federal, state, and territorial leadership, but they should have made information on the Menace readily available. They are responsible for any deaths born out ignorance. In good conscience, I cannot operate this outlet and not provide the history and habits of our enemies.

Most of the following information wasn’t either discovered or understood until after the Vicksburg Attack. The first recorded incident in North America was both misunderstood and covered up by the federal government until recently. Some of you may remember hearing about the sinking of the ship Powhattan. I do. I was a bit young at the time, but my family lived just a few states over and it was big news. The official report was that the ship, carrying German immigrants from a port in France, was blown off course by a storm and ran aground in New Jersey in 1854. Not a single person on board survived. At least half of that information is incorrect, but to accurately explain it and all the reasons why the true nature of the incident was covered up, I have to explain some history.

Conflict between North and South had been brewing for a long time (my father liked to say the roots of the conflict went all the way back to the American Revolution almost a century ago when true patriots were centered in the North and turncoats and loyalists congregated in the southern states). In terms of economic and lifestyle differences, he was probably right. As city infrastructure and technology continued to progress advance more quickly in the North, those differences were exacerbated. The abolitionist movement was akin to throwing dried cedar onto hot embers. By 1853, the Free-State governments knew what was coming and sent a few secret operatives abroad to form wartime alliances. The operatives travelled as peasants on the cheapest ships in hopes that any movements would be overlooked by insightful Slave-State governments and their own operatives.

After an unsuccessful meeting, an operative who had travelled to France booked passage on the Powhattan, posing as a German immigrant. Before embarking, the operative notified his Free-State handlers of the meeting outcome, transportation, and date and location of his arrival for pickup. Contrary to the historical explanation of the disaster, the Powhattan weathered the storm just fine and was only set on a course to run aground after the worst of the storm had passed. The Free-State handlers immediately struck out to the Powhattan, hoping to find evidence of Slave-State sabotage. Instead, they located their operative clinging to a piece of flotsam and bleeding profusely from puncture wounds in his torso. He told his handlers of French treachery and demons with insatiable hunger. He died before he could further explain himself, but the eviscerated remains of several German immigrants floating nearby convinced his handlers to investigate further. Luckily, the crash happened in New Jersey where members of the Free-State coalition who was preparing for war could exercise control over emergency responders. Official rescue parties were held back due to concerns of sea swell and vortices created by the sinking passenger ship. Unofficially, the few survivors of the wreck were liquidated and some of the bodies were retrieved for scientific study.

An investigation of the shipping manifest showed that, in addition to German immigrants (and the under-cover northern operative), a group of eight French Canadian fur trappers had booked passage back to North America after taking a vacation to their ancestral homeland. The shredded bodies of the immigrants matched odd stories of murder that filtered into the United States from the Canadian wilderness and the entire disaster was chalked up to a mass murder on the part of crazed French Canadian fur trappers who all had some form of hair growth defect. To be fair, both North and South governments were preoccupied with one another and found it easier to explain events like the Powhattan disaster away as the work of a freakish-looking homicidal maniac than to accept the fact that life was not all that different from the most gruesome of German fairy tales. Other, larger events that were playing out on the world stage between the Powhattan incident and the Vicksburg attack weren’t seen for what they were until European refugees started arriving in the States.

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For Portable Needling

Things have calmed down since the Vulture City incident and, in the interim, I’ve had visits from a few of the townspeople. The butcher (Jim, the one on Adams Street) is a very avid follower of my electronic journal. He pointed out to me that some have been reading it for both information and excitement and asked if there was a way I could make it available to portable needle devices. Below are links to three of the most common formats:




The cover: Simple, Free Image and File Hosting at MediaFire

The metadata:

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“Two surgeons. A female who’s been here a spell; her pa was in the war on your side and then hooked up with the Vicksburg Redeemers battalion. She’s done well by us. T’other’s some rosy cheeked boy from California, fresh out of doctorin’ school. Got here not more’n five days back.”

“Well, I don’t mean to insult your preferences, but I grew up in a pretty civilized area. I think I’d feel more at home with the classically trained one.” I refrained from telling the old man he was crazy to go to a female surgeon. I’ve seen how steady men’s and women’s hands are when faced with gore during the Fredericksburg aftermath.

The old man made a grunting noise in the back of his throat. “I’ll set us down as close as I can get.”

It didn’t take long for the Wyrm to descend into town. Before he lowered me to the ground with the winch, the old man flew down the rope ladder and secured some tethers to keep the ship in place. I could hear a fair amount of swearing coming from his direction. At one point, he had me throw a length of free rope down to him. Once I was on the ground, I saw the problem. Phoenix wasn’t built for airships. Then again, the only US city that was built for airships was New York. To tether the Wyrm, the old man had tied ropes to horse rack-ups, the columns holding up the patio of the surgeon’s building, and an old plow. He still seemed a bit pissed as he helped me in through the back door.

The back door opened into a narrow hallway that was bounded on one side by an examination room and the other by an operating room. Towards the front of the building, the hallway opened into a reception area where the surgeon sat at a large wooden desk. It was a functional desk, but by no means as nice as one would expect of a surgeon. The wood was cheap pine and there were no drawers or tooling on the surface or legs; it looked more like a meticulously smoothed dining table than a work desk. The surgeon held a finger up in our direction in lieu of a glance. He was young, ginger haired, and wore a silly pair of round, black reading glasses. I had to wonder if he really needed them or if they were just an affectation to counter his baby face.

We stopped shamble-hopping our way towards him. He continued writing. The pause held so long that I began to wonder if he had forgotten about us. Maybe I had chosen the wrong surgeon. A wave of the nausea that had made itself known on the Wyrm came back in full force and I vomited on the floor. The wet splash caught the surgeon’s attention.

“Yes?” The surgeon had a sophisticated blue blood accent that I was used to from New England. My family was well-to-do, but didn’t flaunt it and used some of our wealth to fund social programs. Folks with the surgeon’s accent wanted people to know how much money they had and exactly how little of it would ever see the light of day.

The old man shot me a slightly amused look and then gestured to my ruined leg. “We’re havin’ a spot of trouble, Doc.”

“Yes. Take him to the room on your right. Get him on the table, I’ll be in shortly.” The man was curt and seemed displeased that we had interrupted his writing.

I noticed a diploma displayed on the wall as the old man turned us around. It proclaimed that Yancy T. Duval had completed the coursework necessary for a Doctor of Medicine at Toland Medical College in San Francisco, California a little over six months ago. Something important started to occur to me, but it was obliterated by a blast of pain as I hefted myself onto the operating table.

I looked down, expecting to see a trail of blood from the door to a rapidly expanding pool beneath my leg, but I was mistaken. The wound had been bleeding quite badly, but it seemed to have stopped at some point between the Wyrm and the operating room. That was odd. My wounds also seemed to have a burn that was working its way deeper into the flesh in addition to the pain from the ripped skin. The pain ebbed and I took a few deep breaths to regain my composure. I could feel the idea that had tried to form earlier taking shape again, I just needed to focus.

Duval opened the door. He had rolled up his sleeves and donned a crisp, white canvas apron over his clothes and a matching canvas face cover. The round glasses were gone.

“Please wait outside,” he said to the old man.

The old man hesitated for a long moment, a conflicted look on his face. “Won’t you need help holdin’ things? Or keepin’ him still?”

“I can manage just fine, thank you. I’ll keep you updated on his condition.” The surgeon turned his back on the old man and began laying out his tools on a rolling table.

The old man gave me a nod and left the room. I nodded back.

“How did you sustain these injuries?”

I exhaled slowly to calm any tremor in my voice. “I was outside the city. The old man and I-“ My words were interrupted by a groan of pain. “We were surrounded by the Menace. We took them out. The last one got me.”

“You took them out?” The surgeon seemed surprised. A flare of annoyance burnt through my pain momentarily. That hoity-toity accent sounded even more ridiculous when it was coupled with incredulity.

“Yes. It’s my job. I’m pretty good at it.”

The surgeon nodded and stayed silent for a while, before picking up a scalpel and using it to prod the flesh of my wounded leg. “So you’re the new sheriff? Wilson, is it?”

“Jed Wilcox.”

“Pleasure to meet you, Sheriff. This is going to be painful. I’m going to give you a bit the bite down on and I’ll tie your wrists so you don’t thrash about. Is that alright?”

I nodded. The nausea was back. Another deep breath.

Duval produced a leather strap from one of his apron pockets, secured it around my wrist and a slit on the table, and began lacing the ends together.

“One of the wolves did this to you, you said?”

Again a nod. The vertigo was back now, too.

“A Vicksburg grey?”

A nod. I silently prayed that his questions would end and he would begin cutting or stitching and spare me from having to devote consciousness to anything but agony. But he asked about a Vicksburg grey. The fancy dandy that attacked me wasn’t a Vicksburg grey, I began to work up the energy necessary to correct myself –

Why would he ask that? Anyone in the United States would assume I had been attacked by a Vicksburg grey; that’s all anyone knew we had here. I had just learned about non-greys today and I was no bottom of the barrel sheriff. I did tours in the south after Vicksburg. I was top of my graduating class from Topeka. The Sheriffs Bureau had sent me on more than a few vital missions, including the Dakota Territory campaign and the Red Sea Crisis.

I was staring at Duval, shock had pushed the vertigo and nausea away for the moment. He finished lacing my wrist and looked at my face. He must have seen realization there, because he backed up a foot and looked flustered. His cheeks reddened further. With my free right hand, I reached out to his instrument tray and grabbed the first thing my hand fell on – a heavy pair of pliers.

Duval snatched up the scalpel he had inspected my leg with and sliced in my direction. I countered with the pliers. There was an audible crunch as my blow connected with his fingers. The scalpel flew free and clattered on the floor.

Right then, the important realization came back to my mind: Duval graduated from Toland Medical College in San Francisco, the same city that H. Norman Price called home. Duval had also arrived recently, so recently that he easily could have left California when word got out that the Sheriffs Bureau had posted someone to Phoenix. Price had a long reach and played the long con. I made a note of that.

Duval had escaped my reach, still clutching his broken hand to his chest and whimpering quietly.

“Hey!” I yelled, hoping the old man hadn’t gone out to the Wyrm. “Get in here!”

Almost instantly I heard the knob shake. Duval had locked the door. The old man began battering the door with his body. Duval was scared, trapped. I expected him to reveal his wolf form and prepare to fight us, but instead he began hyperventilating and eying the window.

To get to the window, Duval would have to come back into my reach. Price got away and the fancy dandy was dead. Duval was my only hope for a lead. I wouldn’t let him get away. The door wouldn’t hold long against constant attack; it was splintering already. Duval trotted towards the window, keeping as much distance between us as possible. When he was at his nearest point, squeezing between a counter and the table I was lashed to, I kicked with every ounce of strength I could muster.

The kick complimented Duval’s momentum. He stumbled for a second and I was afraid he would regain his balance and open the window. Instead, the stumbled continued and Duval fell headlong into the window, cutting his arms on the breaking glass and connecting his forehead solidly with the sill. He lay still for a moment before trying feebly to push himself into a corner. Everything about him that was professional had escaped; now he was just a scared, pale-faced boy cowering under a table.

Though I kicked with my good leg, I had strained the wounded one and it was letting me know about it. I let myself relax on the operating table until the old man had broken through the door.

Things get a bit fuzzy from here. I know my leg started bleeding again. I must have ripped open whatever rapid clotting had taken place. I gave the old man my keys to the lockup in the Sheriff’s Office and he left with Duval. He came back with a pretty brunette woman in a blacksmith’s apron and the two loaded me into a wheel barrow. Everything after that is pain.

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H. Norman Price

I fully depressed the studs on the gun barrel and a two inch blade shot out of the wooden grip. The weight and structure of the gun with the blade extended was roughly the same as the tomahawks I had grown accustomed to during the six months I had spent fighting with the Sioux tribe in Dakota Territory. I had commissioned the modification to my Model 3 in Topeka when my Dakota Territory tour had ended early on account of my placement in Phoenix.

The brown “fancy dandy” wolf had taken a few powerful steps and leapt toward me. The blade caught the wolf in the neck and I sidestepped, dragging the knife with me and ripping flesh. I was fairly certain the wolf would be up again in a few moments, but I took the brief pause in its onslaught to take a shot at H. Norman Price. He was still standing near the mesquites but his calm, handsome businessman’s face had strained into pure outrage. In the time it took to bring my revolver around to a shooting grip, my mind raced, straining to come up with some snappy quip to say to the werewolf that had most of California’s sheriffs in his pocket. I couldn’t come up with anything, so I just took the shot.

Pain exploded in my calves and my bullet missed Price. He didn’t even flinch as the lead tore past his face. The brown wolf dug his claws deep into my left leg and pulled me toward him, his jagged neck wound still dripping. I kicked at it with my right foot and evoked a satisfyingly wet, gurgling growl. Two more kicks, these a little more expertly placed so my spurs did most of the work, loosened the wolf’s grip. Looking down, my left leg was a bloody mess; looking behind me, Price calmly walked away with a smile on his face. This was a hell of a day.

I’d given the brown wolf a fairly rough beating, but he would still be able to take me down if I made a run for Price. Come to think of it, running was probably beyond me at this point, anyway. Rationality screamed at me to incapacitate the beast that had injured me so I could track Price, but pain and fury were more persuasive. The blade was still out on the butt of my gun. I raised my arm and brought it down on the wolf’s shoulder. It didn’t even attempt to block the blow, just sat on its haunches with both paws at its neck and panted heavily. I thumbed a sliding catch below the hammer of my revolver and the blade slipped back into its housing. I cocked and aimed the gun with my right hand while using my left palm and right leg to crabwalk backwards a bit. My intention seemed to dawn on the beast. His eyes narrowed, lips pulled back in a pathetic snarl. I fired.

“You all right down there?”

I looked up to see the Brass Wyrm and the old man above me, his lever-action rifle still trained on the brown wolf.

“I am. He’s not very fancy anymore, though,” I said. This elicited a chuckle from above.

“I don’t think I’ll be able to make it up the ladder this time,” I gestured at my leg.

“Don’t worry ‘bout that none. You think I carry these cannonballs up here by hand? There’s a wooden lift attached to a winch on the stern.”

By the time I was propped up on the Wyrm’s gunwale, my adrenaline rush had melted away and been replaced threefold with pain. The fact that the old man had placed my gunbelt on my upper thigh to stem my bleeding didn’t help. And I wasn’t overjoyed that the leather was getting stained by my blood. I hoped I could buff it out. Still, the gleaming brass handles, pressure gauges, steam release valves, helium tanks, and dark stained wood captured my fancy and awe intermingled with the pained grimace on my face.

“So, what d’you think of your new conveyance?” The old man asked, his words all but dripping with congealed pride.

“Well, it’s a lot different than what we had to work with in the Balloon Corps. Much more regal. And maneuverable. Those weren’t much more than floating lookout stations and occasionally a sharpshooter’s perch.”

“Sharpshooters, eh? I thought the Balloon Corps was a non-combat civilian unit,” the old man’s enthusiasm for his craft had faded. I was worried that talk about the war would stir up old feelings – it often did – but he seemed more conversational than confrontational.

“The Corps was civilian and most of the aeronauts were, too. But some of us were trained in survival and marksmanship and then personally introduced to Commander Lowe by some army brass or other.” I thought it was best to leave the name of the army officer who made the introductions out of the explanation; he wasn’t well liked by southerners, and for good reason.

“So you’re not really a part of the Balloon Corps?”

“No, I am. Or was. I just had supplemental training and received the occasional order from Union Army HQ to take a shot at an officer or cut my tether and reconnoiter further behind Confederate lines.” It wasn’t as simple as that, but I didn’t much feel like elaborating until I had some morphine in my blood. I pulled the end of the belt around my thigh tighter and tried (failed) to bite back a grunt of pain.

“And you were at Vicksburg?”

I nodded in response to the old man’s question.

“Take out any of the Menace that day?”

Another nod.

“How many other sharpshootin’ Balloon Corps boys were there?”

This was an odd line of questioning, but I answered anyway. “None.”

At that, he made a thoughtful noise and turned his attention back to the polished controls.

“We’re closin’ up on town. I don’t suppose you know about our medical situation here?”

I shook my head, which I immediately regretted. I felt as though the small motion had been amplified until my whole head spun around my neck. Nausea set in fairly quickly. Had I lost that much blood? Or was sepsis already setting in? I had been injured before, and it seemed early for some sort of infection.

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The Grey at Vulture City

Some of you may have noticed that it’s been a while since I’ve posted. A number of people in the town have asked me when I’ll be concluding the tale of my first few days in Phoenix when they’ve seen me out and about. I suspect that I’ll have some time very soon, and the reason why is a point of great news.

Earlier in the month, I posted an alert warning about travel between Phoenix and Vulture City and points between. A citrus farmer from Wickenburg, Thom Yekes, and Wickenburg’s sheriff came to me very early Saturday morning saying that Yekes had run across what he thought was a Vicksburg grey about five miles south of his town. We rounded up a group of three men and headed northwest, picking up another two in Wickenburg.

It wasn’t long before I began to see what the locals call “Menace-sign”; a bit of fur in a cholla, some odd prints. Eventually, we came upon the fresh carcasses of two jackrabbits. Leading away from them were hasty prints that morphed from human-sized to much larger. Blood trailed along side the prints until we found a third carcass. He had heard us (or smelled us) when he hunkered down to eat and was on the run. I had a good feeling about this hunt.

The trail was taking us steadily eastward, in the direction of the Hassayampa River. I suggested the other sheriff and the best marksmen in the group turn back for a few minutes and then cut directly across the river and travel back south at a full gallop to meet up with us. I had the rest of the men continue forward in an attempt to keep driving the Menace southeast instead of dead east. I took off due east and rode down the river a ways until I found a good tie up for my horse. I rolled up my pant legs and waded in. It seemed like I slogged through the Hassayampa forever before I heard a rifle crack up ahead. I picked up my pace and drew my revolver.

The sheriff had sighted the wolf first and directed his marksman to take a shot. It was a good shot, though not a kill shot. The wolf was bleeding at a decent rate from its left shoulder. The men from the west side of the river made their entrance with wild pistol shots that did nothing but announce their presence to the wolf. He used the calamity to huddle inside a shallow dirt alcove above the water line. One of the men from the west side ran forward, Bowie knife in hand. I yelled for him to stop, but either he couldn’t hear me or just ignored my warnings. Sprinting down the river, wincing at each sharp rock that stabbed deep into my heel, I didn’t have the best vantage point. All I saw was the man go into a fighting stance at the entrance to the cave and then a bloody paw slash across his chest, claws as hard as steel digging deep, scraping bone.

The man fell back and threw his knife into the cave. This drew a growl from inside. The Menace pounced before remembering he was surrounded. Bullets from my own Model 3, the marksman’s Winchester, and the sheriff’s pistol all converged on the wolf, bringing him down. The injured man was able to walk away from the scene under his own power, though we insisted that he be lashed to boards and carried between two riders back to Wickenburg. Medicine in that town is closer to butchery than surgery, but the wounds didn’t seem as bad as they had from a distance.

At the end of the day, we had one confirmed Menace kill with no loss of human life. Still, the Menace tend to hunt in packs. I saw no evidence of a second wolf, but travelers are still advised to take extra precautions between Vulture City and Phoenix until further notice.

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My First Trip in the Wyrm

“Can you hold them off for a few seconds?” the old man asked, already on the move. I grunted my assent and he climbed the rope ladder into the Brass Wyrm.

Without even a glance at the askew barn door, the old man hefted a large cannonball into the mouth of a forward-facing gun. I smiled at his plan and returned my attention to the easiest point of ingress. A low growl sounded from outside, then the weighty footfalls of a large beast. A large Vicksburg grey bounded into the barn, snarling, froth flying from his fangs as he took in the interior before settling his gaze on me. He pushed off with his right foot like a competitive runner. I raised my Model 3. I took my first shot a little prematurely. The bullet tore a ragged hole in the flesh on the side of the grey’s neck but he didn’t slow down. I kept my finger tight on the trigger and slapped the palm of my hand down hard on the hammer, like the flashier gunfighters do, and the gun bucked again. The recoil from the first shot had raised my barrel a bit, causing the second shot to tear upwards through the werewolf’s snout and into his brain. The body crumpled instantly, but momentum kept it traveling until it slid to rest at my feet.

On the barn door, a dark viscosity trickled slowly downward. Small flecks of the grey’s ruined skull littered the substance. The others outside would smell it and know their advance scout was dead. That might be good; it would tell them I was dangerous and ready for them and force them to lose precious time by coming up with an attack plan. Of course, vengeance and bloodlust could win out over meticulousness and the full force could rush in here to rip me apart. Either way, I would need more than four bullets. I breached my pistol and reloaded.

The old man complimented my shooting from above. I turned to grin at him and saw he held his finger to his lips, telling me to keep quiet. He patted the large cannon he had loaded and primed and mouthed, “Tell me when.” I nodded.

A minute had passed without incident, but the werewolves were still outside. I could hear shuffling outside of the barn and a few intermittent snarls. Finally, two thuds sounded through the barn as heavy objects hit opposite outside walls. Long claws splintered into the wood, disappeared, and then reappeared slightly higher. A shadow blocked the daylight from the askew door. They were trying to attack through the door and flank us by coming in from above.

“Now!” I yelled. The deck gun exploded with smoke and sound. The door exploded in a shower of wood particles. The werewolf who had been in the doorway lay on the ground with two-thirds of door in his chest. I could see a second werewolf down outside and, if it wasn’t dead, it was definitely not getting up any time soon.

“Grab on!” I looked up to see the old man pointing to the Brass Wyrm’s rope ladder.


“Grab the ladder!”

“What the hell will that do for me?”

“Listen up. Them wolves’re fixin’ to come through the roof any second. You can grab the confounded ladder or you can stay here and see how long you last.”

I still didn’t understand how climbing the ladder into the dirigible would help us; we’d just be trapped in a smaller area. I grabbed on anyway. As soon as I did, the old man reached out of the bow of the Brass Wyrm to throw a switch on the wall of the barn. At first, nothing happened. Then, I could hear a few solenoids snapping into place followed by a pulsating hum that rose in pitch. The roof began to separate along its center seam and lift away. It was surreal and threw me for a loop, but I soon realized the entire roof was hinged like a large set of horizontal double doors. The hinges must have been powered by something I missed in the barn. The claws that were exploding through the wooden siding had stopped; probably the wolves had been frightened away or physically thrown off by the roof opening. When the doors had opened to a fully vertical position, the rings that had been tying the Wyrm down opened with a series of sharp snaps. We began to lift away from the ground.

Still on the ladder, now supported only by the rung I stood on and the one I clung to with my left arm, I took aim at the splintered, gaping hole that had once been the only (ground) entrance to the barn. Three Vicksburg greys clustered around the opening, ears back in fear but teeth exposed. I was out of range and swinging wildly on the rope ladder. Still, I aimed and fired, seeking only to hold them back. The bullet went wide, but did force the wolves to retreat a few paces. By this time, the Wyrm was completely clear of the barn and my ladder was rapidly following.

“Do you have a plan for these guys?” I asked.

“Yep. Killin’ ‘em. There ain’t but three V-wolves out there and some fancy dandy hangin’ back.”

Fancy was not the right way to describe a Vicksburg grey. When the Menace emerged from the treeline at Vicksburg, we thought they were unstoppable killing machines. Once we rallied and mounted our counter-attack, however, we noticed that a few of them were gimped in some fashion. In my first expedition, I came across a male with a severely underdeveloped right arm that seemed to be protecting a female with a torturously deformed spine. That was the exception, but the rule was matted fur interspersed with mange and a potently organic stench. The Vicksburg greys seemed to be more wild animal than most of the wild animals I’ve encountered. I suspect that they had interbred until only insatiable animalistic drives and human malaise remained.

I holstered my Model 3 and climbed higher on the ladder to see the “fancy dandy.” The old man was right. This was a different face of the Menace, not the blood-thirsty beasts of impulse we were used to. His fur was clean and well-kept; it almost looked like it had been combed. There was an unsettling intelligence behind his eyes that made his hulking stature even more unsettling. I had no doubt that he was the leader of this pack, that he had ordered the Vicksburg greys to climb the barn and attempt the pincer movement, or that his presence here was kismet.

As I was considering this, one final oddity about this wolf struck me. “He’s not grey,” I half-called, more in surprise to myself than to the old man. The Vicksburg greys were so named because they were all fairly monochrome. Some may have white patches or be a salt and peppery shade, but every single werewolf that has been observed in the States has had a coat that could be characterized as grey; most likely this is another trait caused by the high rates of inbreeding. This odd wolf was a dark, chestnut brown.

“Nope. And I have a feelin’ he heard you.” The old man must have heard me, as well. How loud had I been? The brown wolf had begun to back slowly away from the cabin and the greys.

“Go,” the old man commanded. “I’ll take care of these others.”

The Wyrm had been slowly descending foot by foot, but we were still much too high for me to able to step off the ladder. Instead, I wrapped my legs around the whole ladder – allowing my chaps to take up most of the friction burn – and used my hands to grasp every third wooden rungs as I slid down. I reached the ground in good time and not too much the worse for wear. My left inside thigh would be screaming later, but it could be ignored.

The wolf had a good lead on me, but there was a good two miles before the nearest alfalfa field. He ran down the half-beaten path the old man and I had ridden in on, which didn’t seem odd during the heat of the chase. I drew my weapon and fired one shot deliberately low and right, throwing up a cloud of dust just in front of my prey’s foot. The shot was a tactic they taught us in Topeka to end foot chases quickly when we were acting in our secondary capacity; to uphold law and order in our towns. Paramount to that was the “quick and judicious extermination of the Menace in designated jurisdictions.” I sometimes found that order contrary to the goal of eradicating the Menace from North America altogether. The US Sheriff Bureau didn’t care much for interrogation or intelligence, but I did.

Surprisingly, my shot did the trick. The wolf stopped running just past a patch of mesquites and raised his large arms over his head. I stopped running, too, but kept my gun trained on his back as I moved forward.

“On the ground,” I ordered.

“Sheriff Wilcox, surely you don’t need to humiliate him to ask a few questions, do you?”

The voice came from the other side of the mesquite thicket. Idiot! My desire to make the capture had forced me into the realm of sloppiness. I drew my bead on the brown wolf’s head and responded.

“Who is that?”

“H. Norman Price. I own a very profitable business in San Francisco.” A man in a dark vest and shirtsleeves stepped out from behind the mesquites to my left. If I wanted to keep an eye on him, I would have to use my periphery to watch the brown wolf. This was a bad position and I was sure H. Norman Price knew that.

He continued, “You’re pointing your gun at my associate. I’d appreciate it if you’d lower it and listen to a proposition.”

With their positioning dividing my attention, the gun wasn’t doing much good anyhow. I flipped it into the air and caught it by the barrel, placing my thumb and forefinger on two raised studs. Behind us, one of the Wyrm’s deck cannons boomed followed by two shots from a rifle.

“It doesn’t seem right for us to be standing here talking business while some of your kind get slaughtered.” I smiled a bit at the end, just to rub salt in the wound.

“Sheriff Wilcox, those drooling curs are no more ‘our kind’ than an orangutan is yours. I’ve seen more civilized behavior from the feral dogs that plague London.”

So he was a werewolf. That meant I could take one of them out and still have one left to question.

Price shifted his body into a more comfortable stance and adjusted his vest. “We’ve seen you in action, Sheriff Wilcox, so we know a handful of what you call ‘Vicksburg greys’ would be no match. We also know that, despite your remarkable proficiency for war, you’re not as unforgiving as some. I’m referencing, of course, the incident in Dakota Territory three months ago.

“So, I propose to you an understanding. You continue to uphold your duty and slay the greys; both our civilizations will be stronger for it. We’ll even help protect you and your loved ones and offer you financial assistance when needed. In return, you do not hunt us, nor do you mention our existence to your superiors in Topeka and Washington. It’s a good deal; many of the sheriffs in California have taken it.”

More gunfire came from the direction of the Wyrm. I put pressure on the studs on the barrel of my Model 3. The springs pressed back firmly, steeling my decision.

“What if I decline?” I asked.

Price shot me a fake, wood carved grin that showed each one of his teeth. “We have other arguments for you to consider.”

“Well then, I have to decline.”

At that, the brown wolf attacked.

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!Traveler Alert!

This is an urgent alert for travelers northwest of Phoenix. I’m sure most of you are familiar with Sam Easton, the manager at Easton Bank and Loan. Yesterday he came to me with news that a gold delivery from Vulture City was late in arrival. We both assumed that some enterprising criminals had ambushed the driver on his way to Phoenix, so we took a few men with us and went out to investigate. Sure enough, we found the buckboard overturned about halfway between Phoenix and Vulture City, but instead of a busted up driver and no gold, we found gold and no driver. We also found a lot of blood and claw marks on the bench of the buckboard.

Until further notice, there is a Menace watch in effect for the corridor between Phoenix and Vulture City. If possible, try to avoid travel in this area. If not possible, try to form up caravans. There’s safety in numbers. I’ll have caravan signup sheets available at my office tomorrow morning. I’ll also be holding a town meeting tomorrow at high noon to identify anyone interested in forming a posse to clear the area of the Menace.

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