With Carver’s trial over, and the ongoing threat of sabotage and assassination at least momentarily averted, the time came at last to attempt to recover from the poisoned hydroponic gardens. Mizz Stockton prepared an expedition to the Seward Market, a monthly occurrence lasting some few days, far to the south in the old Seward Park, which juts into Lake Washington.
Firestone and his Team Badass, along with half of the Have Rats (including Toledo, who apparently won some internal lottery to carry the rocket launcher) led by Fleece, came along, as did Silver, who decided she needed some fresh air, and Cass, who was asked along in case there should be violence and death.
Team Badass was inducting two new potential recruits, Dog-face and Enough, the teenage kids who had shown such spunk and aggression in the fighting pit. Both were given alternating permission to sit in the machine-gun on Firestone’s tank while the other rode one of the spare motorcycles. Firestone’s tank pulled a trailer in which the Have Rats rode, while Fleece rode the other spare motorcycle. Mizz Stockton, Cass, and Silver rode inside the tank.
As they made their way over the ruined 520 east toward the arboretum exit, part of the bridge crumbled. Fleece ditched the bike, barely avoiding falling into the mucky marsh beneath. They all lost some time recovering the bike. Eventually, however, they reached the west bank of Lake Washington, and started to make their slow way along the overgrown streets between rows of rotting houses. The lake could be seen, sporadically, through the trees to their left.
Eventually, many among the group spotted boats out on the lake. A band of small vessels was putting to shore near to them, and it became shortly apparent that it was a band of pirates who had spotted the caravan and sought to attack. Toledo, with reluctant permission from Mizz Stockton, and with great joy herself, got to finally fire the rocket launcher, destroying the biggest boat (and killing the pirate leader). This resulted in a fairly short fight, spurring the remaining pirates to flee.
In the course of the combat, however, Firestone’s instructions to his gang were to retreat up the hill. This rankled with them, and they grumbled once more about the seeming cowardice in their leader. At this point, the young buck Dog-face, seeing a chance to not only gain full membership in the gang, but also to catapult to leadership, turned Firestone’s machine gun down, seeking to fire it through the tanks roof in a bid to take Firestone out. Silver, with liquid alacrity, slit the lad’s throat, and Firestone forcefully re-asserted control over his people. Enough, crazed at seeing her brother sliced, also attacked, but was handily subdued. Cass managed to keep the kid barely alive, but he couldn’t travel. Enough stayed behind with her brother. Firestone informed them both that they were out of the gang, no chance for membership. The caravan then left them behind.
They arrived at the Seward market. Every month or so the Mercer Enclave takes their boats across the narrow water to bring their agricultural products to market. Because this is one of the few sources of fresh fruit and vegetables in the city, and since violence at the market results in the Enclave fleeing to their boats and not returning for a few months, everyone, even the King’s Gang, eschews violence at the market making it a de fecto neutral safe zone. As a result, the market has expanded beyond agricultural products as any and every group who wishes sets up a stall.
Firestone and his crew went to buy sheet metal for the purposes of reinforcing his tank. The only ready supply was a King’s Gang stall, and there were some harsh words between the King’s Gang and Team Badass, who were once affiliated with the King. That said, Firestone was able to procure the metal he needed, and even learned a bit about the King’s Gang’s allegiance with the mysterious Yellow Brotherhood.
Speaking of the Yellow Brotherhood, Cass noted a starving-looking man in tattered yellow clothes wandering seemingly aimlessly, but inexorably in her direction. She started to subtly attempt to avoid him, only to realize that subtlety was not working. She fled his presence.
Mizz Stockton managed to procure raw seed stock, as well as untainted, fertile soil and other necessaries to rehabilitate the poisoned hydroponics beds. She also had a run-in with an old man, scarred, grizzled, who glared at her like an old enemy, which he was… Rolfball, a former Regent who had made a bid to replace Mizz Stockton once, some many years ago, and now harbored a lasting desire for vengeance. He took no action against her at the market, though, but did make a point of reminding her that he was still alive, and still seeking vengeance.
Silver wandered the market looking for useful oddments only to encounter a strange woman. The woman seemed knowledgeable in fashion, art and aesthetics, and seemed impressed by Silver’s own tastes. The woman, whose name was Preen, told Silver that if she ever wanted to “learn” deeper mysteries of art and beauty, all she needed to do was call at the Needle. Subsequent, subtle investigation resulted in a deal cut with an elderly member of the Mercer Enclave named Mill, who revealed that Preen, and a companion named Corbett, came to pretty much every market, apparently looking for “talent” to entice back with them. It was pretty clear they represented the Refined. Mill’s price for this information was to bring her back to Mount Safeco and provide a relatively safe and comfortable place to live out the rest of her life. Mizz Stockton considered a resident of they mysterious farming enclave to be a useful addition and agreed.
Firestone went wandering by himself, seeking the small orange berries that had come to dominate his thoughts. He found a man, under a tree, with a small pile of them on a blanket. At first, Firestone didn’t recognize the man, but eventually saw him as the same savage from the Ravine who had first sold him berries. The savage was shaven, no more dirty hair. No more cat-pelt clothes. He was dressed in simple rags, but was clean. His eyes were almost entirely black, the whites having been stained. All he did was smile eerily at Firestone, letting him take as many berries as he wanted, seemingly for free…
The caravan spent the night encamped at the market, and started their return journey the next day. They opted to return via a route that would bring them back to where they left Dog-face and Enough, but the two kids weren’t there. The keen eyed noted a trail leading back to a large, rotting, overgrown house wrapped in creeper vines and other growth, including a sort of vine with large, vibrant red flowers. Mizz Stockton, Silver, Cass, and a few Have Rats investigated only to nearly fall prey to the mysterious pollen the flowers emitted, the same pollen that must have attracted the two kids, both of whom were dead but still quite ambulatory. The dead, plant-possessed kids attempted to subdue their would-be rescuers and bring them into the plant’s domain. They were killed… presumably for good this time, and everyone fled the scene. Mill, who had been left behind with Firestone and the vehicles, sagely pointed out that her people kill that particular flowering vine wherever they find it taking root.
The caravan returned to Mount Safeco to lick their wounds, repair their hydroponics bays, and upgrade the tank.