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By Rob Vaux A tale of Deadlands Weird West


Evenin', stranger. Why don't ya pull up a stool, an' make yerself comfortable. My name's Charlie Landers; I sling whisky 'round these parts, and I got enough sense ta keep my eyes open and my mouth shut. Which means I kin tell ya just about anythin' you want to know about the town of Gomorra here. I bet yer figurin' to waltz in here and take over, ain't ya? Ya got that look in yer eye that says you wanna be king o' the hill. Not that I blame ya. There's enough money flowing through this place ta choke a Rockefeller, and whoever's in charge is gonna get a hefty chunk of it. That's reason enough ta make a play fer controllin' it. But before ye start electin' yerself mayor - before ya bite off morea this town than ya kin chew - there's a few things about it ya oughta know. Gomorra ain't the safest place in Creation, an' if ya don't have a good idea what yer gettin' into, it'll kill you quicker'n frostbite in January.

Yes sir, Gomorra, California. The biggest, baddest snake pit in the Great Maze. Lyin' on top of more ghostrock than anyone's ever seen, and full of every gunslinger, bushwhacker and con artist lookin' ta cash in on it. Didn't start out like that, though. In the beginning, it was just another pile o' scrub brush on the edge of the desert, home to snakes and coyotes and not a whole lot else. Back then, there was just one guy who wanted ta be out here, and everyone though he was crazy as a sewer rat. Called himself Humphrey Walters, and he claimed that a vision had brought him out there. He bought up a big plot o' worthless land, built himself a little shack - smack dab in the middle o' nowhere, ya understand - and settled down in it like a king in his castle. The few folk who passed by asked what he was doin' out there. "Waitin'" was all he ever said. And fer a few years, it stayed that way, just him and the snakes bakin' in the California sun.

Then the Big Quake hit and the scenery changed a bit. Instead of a desert, Walters found himself on the edge of the Great Maze - an' on top of the biggest ghost rock lode anyone had ever seen. It was right there, practically on top of his shack, and it didn't seem loike there was any end to it. All of a sudden, his empty little patch of desert got real crowded, as anybody with two hands an' a shovel came lookin' fer their little bit of paradise. The boom town sprung up overnight like most boomtowns do, and since most o' the land belonged to Walters anyway, they asked him to name it. He called in Gomorra, like in the Bible only spelled a little different on accounta it bein' the city God destroyed an' all. Some of the church goin' folk raised a fuss 'bout it, but the name stuck and our little burg was on the map.

Like everything though, Gomorra was destined fer some rough times. It started with Walters, who went out in the Maze one day and came back ravin' like a loon. They asked him what was wrong, an' he only said "the rocks...the rocks is screamin' at me..." Some folks thought he was fakin' it; they said that the scremin' rocks musta been ghostrock and that he had found the mine ta end all mines out there. Other people said he was nuts all along an' that this was just the result of too many years in the sun. But whatever the reason, the town founder had gone, an' his fortune went with him. He's still around these days - pan handlin' and occasionally rantin' 'bout the end of the world. People keep him fed, and make sure he stays out of trouble, which some say is the charitble thing ta do. Me, I think they're hopin' he knows somethin', that his screamin' rocks 're the biggest damn ghostrock lode ever, an' that if they keep him around long enough, he's gonna tell them where ta find it. As long as it keeps the poor bastard fed, I suppose it's okay.

Gomorra's problems didn't end there, though. With Walters' property up fer sale, there was a bit of a panic ta snatch up everything he had. The lion's share went ta the Sweetrock Mining Co., a firm back east with a big interest in "developing Gomorra's resources." Meanin' they grabbed everything they could git their hands on and set about running the rest into the ground. When the dust settled, they had most of the bigger mines, a fair chunk of the town proper, and the docks. They git twenty cents of every dollar that comes through here, and ship out the ghost rock like it was goin' outta style. I hear tell they're even plannin' on settin' up their own rail line, which oughta be interestin'. In any case, they're closer than anyone else to ownin' Gomorra outright. They've certainly put a "civilized" veneer on things -hotels, saloons, a dispatch station - makin' this place look like a town insteada just a miner's camp. But don't go thinkin' they're on the side o' the angels. Sweetrock's front man, Howard Findley, don't take kindly to folks that git in his way, and people who complain about the company's strongarm tactics have a tendency to disappear permanent-like. With that in mind, it ain't a big surprise that Sweetrock's got more'n a few enemies around here. Rival businesses, miners they run out - anybody they've flattened on their way ta makin' a buck. Most of 'em do their best ta stay afloat - figgerin' that any money they make's not goin' ta Sweetwater. But one gent's not happy with just shavin' their profits: he wants ta bleed 'em til they cry uncle.

His name's Jackson - don't know if it's his first er last name, no one's ever said - and he's got a chip on his shoulder the size o' Texas. Jackson was a miner, an independent operator who hit upon a pretty solid hunk o' ghost rock out in the Maze. Most independents 're too small fer Sweetrock ta notice, but Jackson's claim was a corker by God. When Sweetrock heard about it, they didn't waste any time - seized the deed, claimed it was part o' one o' their veins an' moved their people right on in. They even sent a gang o' thugs to roust Jackson outta his hole. That may a' been their big mistake. Y'see Jackson's got the fastest hands anyone's ever seen, and he don't take kindly to bein' pushed. He left his claim all right, but not before puttin three o' Sweetrock's boys into the ground and promisin' he'd be back fer more. He found himself a hideout out in the Maze somewhere and started hirin' on help fer his new project - stickin' it ta Sweetrock. Most o' the guys he got're scum - two-bit outlaws with nuthin' more than a quick buck on their minds. But Jackson - they called him Black Jack now - he's got enough brains to make up fer it. They started by hittin' a Sweetrock shipment outside o' town. Then they robbed an executive comin' out here ta see the operation. I heard they even sunk a couple o' cargo ships out in the Maze. Black Jack and his gang are makin' themselves right unpopular with the Sweetrock folks. The feud's been escalatin' ever since, and it's gonna get real ugly before it's all said n' done.

Which brings us to Gomorra's vaulted sheriff's department. Lord Almighty, I don't envy those boys - tryin' ta keep Black Jack and Sweetrock from flattenin' each other and the town while they're at it. Sheriff Coleman's a good enough fella, and his does his best to keep a lid on the town, but it ain't easy. The Sheriff used to be a miner ye see, operatin' outta one of Sweetrock's big shafts. Sweetrock figures that makes him one of them. But the Sheriff, he don't take kindly to bein' ordered around, and he's made it clear that he ain't at their beck and call. It gets a burr under their saddles, that's fer sure, but there's not a whole lot they kin do about it. He stays away from their operations - so long as they follow the letter o' the law -and keeps things as orderly as he can around town. That's enough to keep Sweetrock from makin' an issue out of it; that and the fact that Black Jack's convinced he's nuthin' more than a toadie fer the mining company, and treats him as such. With Jackson's gang raising thirty kinds o' hell, plus the normal ruckus a half-wild mining town can raise, it's enough to keep Coleman off Sweetrock's back. And what're the sheriff and his deputies like to the rest of us? That depends on who ya ask. Most people like Sheriff Coleman, as long as he's not draggin' 'em off to jail. He's got an easygoin' way about him, and tends ta make folk feel a little safer when he's around. His chief deputy, though, that's another story. Nash Bilton, from San Francisco before it got sunk, or so he claims. That man's like forty miles o' bad road. He's the sort who puts law n' order above right n' wrong, and he ain't shy about bustin' heads ta make his point. As long as Coleman's around, Bilton stays more er less under control, but give him a free reign and he'll run roughshod all over this town. He doesn't watch himself, he's gonna end up on the end of a rope.

No town like Gomorra is ever complete without its wild cards. Here, we got a whole group of 'em - the Distinguished Collegium of Interspacial Physics. They started out small, arrivin' in little groups o' one er two. Scientists, perfessers, inventors hopin' ta bring us a better tomorrow - they come to the ghostrock like flies ta honey. All of 'em got their latest gadgets in tow, gadgets which won't work without a steady supply of the rock. Like attracts like, I always say, and pretty soon those ones and twos had formed their own union. A whole mad scientists brigade, complete with a meeting hall and dues. They claim they need ta stick together in order to stay safe. "Lookin' out fer their own interests," they say. I don't know about that, but the contraptions they have're more than enough to keep most folks away. What's worse than a guy with a ghostrock powered death ray? Twenty of 'em, all lookin' out fer each other. Makes me shiver just thinkin' about it. Thankfully, they don't cause nearly as much trouble as they could.They're a secretive bunch, that's fer sure, and they don't like busybodies pokin' in their little projects, but they ain't lookin' fer trouble. As long as the ghostrock supply stays steady, and they're left alone ta do their work, they tend ta let folks be. Fer now, at least. So what's the problem? The problem is that everyone else is eyeballin' their gizmos, thinkin' that their Geocosmic Doohickey is just what they need to settle an old score. If Sweetrock, Black Jack, or any old lunatic lookin' te get even ends up with a Colligium gadget... the ante gets upped fer the whole town. Or even worse, they decide they don't like somebody and wanna ace him themselves. An arms race is the last thing Gomorra needs, and the Collegium's in a position to give it to 'em - at the very least. If Gomorra's a pile of dynamite, then these guys are a lit match, which makes 'em more dangerous than anyone else combined. Be thankful that their noses 're buried in their inventions; I hope ta God they never look up.

So there 'tis in a nutshell, the town of Gomorra California. Sure, there's plenty o' reasons ta stick around: we got money, noteriety and the best damn bartender in the west if I say so myself. The ghostrock flows like a river, and from what I hear tell, we haven't even hit the biggest lodes yet. If there's somethin' you want, Gomorra's probably got it. But ye ain't gonna get any of it without a price, a price most folks can't begin ta pay. Ye gotta fight off a hundred other hoods and cowpokes lookin' ta make their name. Things 're as bad here as I've ever seen, and they're only gonna git worse. It's only a matter of time before Gomorra goes up like one o' them Chinese firecrackers. Think ya kin take this town? Finish yer drink, buddy. Yer gonna need it.

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