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Dear Diary...

03/02/07:

               It was decided that the offensive against Reno would be the night of the 4th. We'll leave here at 11:00 pm and get there about 1:00am. When the messengers brought word to Olivia, they also delivered a package. It was a suit. A plain black suit with pants, a blazer, and a plain white, long sleeve men's style dress shirt. Oh, and a black tie, too. Fut the whack?

               A note accompanied the suit and explained that it had been found at the same place that Binion's people located the computer and PDA we saw last night at the Stratosphere. "We don't know what this is made of, but it has truly amazing armor capabilities and we thought you might find it useful." I don't know about armor capabilities, but we both looked really good

               In the meantime, Lucifer had contacted Rodrick, asking if he wanted any of his merc company to go on the 'outing'. Rodrick asked his men how much they'd charge for that and asked Allison if he could afford to pay ten men double salary for two days, maybe more. Allison suggested he ask Lucifer for the money to pay them. Rodrick tried, but Lucifer suggested that Rodrick ask Lord Excalibur for the money.

               "Why Alfred?" Olivia and I asked, "It's not a citizenship issue."

               Lucifer looked at us as if we were dim; "It's called the Bellagio Loophole. Any aggressive expansion of Las Vegas falls under the demesne of Citizenship."

               Olivia volunteered to call Alfred and pitched him on the idea.

               "What if I say 'no'?" he asked.

               "We'll go without them," she said.

               "I'll talk to Caesar about it," he said. He called back a short time later and told Rodrick that he'd pay the men's salary, as many as we thought would be needed.

               Lucifer said, "We'll need as many as you have."

               Rodrick said, "You can have twenty, if they'll go, but I have to have at least ten of them here to protect the Paris."

               Lucifer wasn't happy but settled for twenty, "Do any of them have parachute drop experience?" Rodrick gave him the, "You have to ask?" look. He sent out word and promptly got twenty volunteers. With that resolved, Lucifer nodded and turned to me, asking for battlefield medics.

               "Medics? We discussed this with Binion - I was hoping you'd go for the 'whammy' approach instead of the 'kill everyone' approach. Like you did here."

               "We had the element of surprise with us when we took Vegas," he said. "We have to expect the worse with Reno."

               "Right, you guys aren't so good with the secret thing. Reno probably already knows," I said.

               Olivia said, "Maybe they have someone like me to protect them."

               I assured Lucifer that I'd put out the word and get as many Clerics as possible to work as medics. He left and we went about getting ready. I went to the cathedral and, after speaking with the Priests and Priestesses, got six volunteers to go to Reno. I also found I had a package waiting for me - a suit that's identical to Olivia's. Olivia had Karyn get the Altoids box and fill it with supplies.

               Then I had to deal with Leo and his fretting. He was worried about the legal ramifications & kept going on and on about posse commitatus and his participation as a representative of President Ventura.

               After discussing it with Walter it was decided that he'd accompany us as a consultant - on detached duty.

               Whatever. "Explain something for me," he said, "if the Cats want the new territory - they should take it, why are you getting involved?"

               "I hope to keep them from killing everything in sight. Their first choice in this matter was to nuke Reno, so this is actually a step down (or up) for them."

03/04/07-03/05/07:

               We were getting ready to leave the Aladdin to meet the 'task force' at McCarran when Leo finally asked the question that had been driving him crazy, "Why are you two going into battle wearing suits?"

               "They're special suits," I said.

               Olivia said, "We want to look good."

               "Olivia wants to look good - I want to keep my ass alive this time," I said and explained about the suits.

               At McCarran, Lucifer was 'supervising' as his men loaded two Bradleys and an Abrams onto a pair of C-130's. He explained that after the initial assault they would be dropped, "As more of a show of force than anything else, we hope." There were helicopters to take the rest of us to Reno. On the way, we were given the scoop on what the Cat's had learned about the situation.

               The biggest 'family' is the Salvatores; they control the Atlantis casino and the mall, which is the primary market as well as the economic hub of the town. They reportedly have four to six hundred foot soldiers plus some 'specialists'. They are the primary targets. We were told that we would accompany Caesar and Binion as they moved in to 'take care' of the leaders. Alfred and two of Binion's 'girls' would accompany us. Binion and her girls had suits like Olivia and I - we looked really snazzy. Anyway, after they delivered us, the pilots would leave the Atlantis with Lucifer still on board to command the attack.

               The next largest family, La Familia Tigre, is made up of Hispanic Mafia types and works out of the El Dorado casino. Their members are considered hard-core multiple offenders (under the system, Before) and have recruited some giants, some ogres and more of the less agreeable races to their 'cause'. The timetable called for them to be attacked at the same time we were taking on the Salvatores.

               Then there were the lesser organizations; the Bonano family at Harrah's, for example. They liked to kill people in really, really ugly, long lasting, painful ways. It showed how tough they were. Then there's the Al-Said at the Comstock. They had a reputation of being very insular and particularly ruthless when it comes to messing people up. The Maldonado Family at the Circus Circus was made up of career criminals, but had a reputation with local traders as being reasonable businessmen - to a point. Supposedly they won't make the first move but if the situation calls for it they'll cut you off at the knees without hesitation.

               The Mobutu were at the Gold Dust. They were led by some members of the old Nation of Islam and are very racist and have no tolerance, at all, for non-Humans and any sort of magic. In fact, their stance is that all non-Humans need to be 'eliminated' but not until the magic users are gone. Also on the list of secondary target were a couple of Chinese triads, the Luminous Blade at the Sands Regency and the Noble Path at the Hilton. So, the plan for our group was to hit the roof of the Atlantis (figuring that the VIP's will be in the top floor suites) and work our way down.

               Reno doesn't have citywide electricity, but individual establishments have limited power from generators and solar collectors, so we weren't sure what to expect. The pilot of our helicopter announced that we were five minutes from Reno and patched Caesar thru to all of the 'copters.

               Caesar announced that we were nearing the strike zone, and then said, "Some of you have asked why all of the helicopters have extra weaponry but no extra fuel tanks. I had my people figure out precisely how much fuel it would take to deliver us to Reno and that is how much each aircraft has - and no more. We are going in with one thought in mind. Victory. There will be no retreat; there will be no reinforcements. Our only hope of survival is complete victory."

               Olivia, Rodrick, Leo and I exchanged looks. "I can teleport," whispered Olivia and she handed me her Ring of Teleportation. If need be - there will be retreat for us! On the radios we heard some of the lesser Overlords complaining about Caesar's announcement, but Caesar ignored it and signaled the pilot to end all transmissions.

               As we approached the Atlantis we saw lights in the windows of the top floors. There were three people on the roof, two sentries and one man in striped cotton pajamas, checking out the noise. The sentries took aim and began firing at us. Rodrick took aim with his sniper rifle and dropped one of them with a headshot. The pajama man saw that, turned and ran inside.

               The pilot had us hovering right above the roof and Caesar leaned out the door and commanded pajama man, "Stop!" And he did. It was like he'd hit a brick wall. While Caesar was playing, Olivia took aim at the second sentry and nailed a potted plant. The sentry began to fire back and also missed. Rodrick dropped him with three shots and with the landing zone clear, the pilot set the copter down and everyone but Lucifer jumped out.

               Once we were able to hear again, Caesar asked pajama man, "Who else is on this floor?"

               He struggle to af"My girls, my bodyguards."

               There was pounding coming from inside one of the rooms and someone was yelling, "Dom Vito! Are you okay?" The door was kicked in and revealed the bedroom of a suite and in the bed there were three young ladies. They screeched and dove for the covers, except for one of them who dove for something else - something behind the pillows. Olivia pointed her Glock at her and ordered her to freeze. The girl complied. A little searching revealed what the one girl had been trying to get to - an alarm button!

               Binion entered, whammied them all, and ordered them to their knees, hands behind their heads. The pounding continued the whole time with the man demanding an answer from 'Don Vito'. Rodrick used the peephole in the main door to the suite and saw three men, loaded for bear, in the hallway.

               Olivia said she would teleport into the hall - behind them, "Give me the ring," she told me. She took it and Rodrick and vanished before I could say, "Why not just open the door and let the Cats whammy 'em?" Looking thru the peephole I saw Rodrick with one gun each to the back of the heads of two of the men, "Drop. The. Guns," he growled. The third turned and was on the receiving end of Olivia at her scariest. He fainted as the other two did what Rodrick had asked.

               "Jazz! Open the doors!" Rodrick yelled. I did and Rodrick pushed the two in while Olivia hauled the unconscious one in by one leg. Rodrick secured the three of them while Olivia poked around the suite looking for loot. Unfortunately, all she found was some tacky decorating.

               The intercom clicked to life and a voice asked, "Dom Vito? Please respond, Dom Vito."

               Caesar ordered him, "Speak to him. Tell him everything is fine."

               Olivia yelled, "No! Tell him to use the security code for 'everything is okay'." Caesar gave Don Vito a look.

               Vito pushed the 'on' button and said, "Don't fukkin' bother me, you stupid mook!"

               "Of course, Don Vito," the voice groveled.

               When the intercom was turned off Olivia asked, "Hey Don Vito - where do you keep the interesting stuff?" All she got was silence.

               "Tell her," Caesar ordered.

               "In the safe hidden in the floor under the rug."

               "Open it." He did and Olivia rifled thru it and found stacks of cash and drugs.

               "That's not interesting," she said as she stuffed it all in the Altoids tin. While she was doing that, Caesar questioned Vito about important things like his security and the layout of the hotel. Vito said that he employed close to three hundred armed men. One hundred of them in the hotel at any given time - the others off duty - so they could possibly be in the building. Then I had the weirdest Feeling. Evil.

               Evil, right in the room all of the sudden. Before I could say a word a cloud of black smoke appeared in the middle of the sitting area - then just as suddenly, it was gone. Sitting in the room with us was an octopus. It started flailing its tentacles about - and they were forty feet long if they were an inch!

               Rodrick opened fire with his stoner on automatic. The octopus responded by attacking the one that had hurt it and it slapped Rodrick at least three times. Caesar was slapped a couple of times by another tentacle and knocked into a wall - hard. Olivia was checking out the people in the room with us, trying to figure out who had summoned the thing, but she had no luck. Leo was trying to bring his gun to bear but was thrown into a wall, unconscious.

               Binion tried to go to Caesar's aid but took a tentacle across the chest. She went flying but got right back to her feet - and her suit hadn't even ripped! Alfred had been grabbed by a tentacle, which pulled him in towards the octopus' body. He was being bitten repeatedly by the thing's beak.

               Olivia and I pulled Power at the same time. Olivia tried to set a wave of arctic cold on the thing but one of the goons from the hallway got in the way while scrambling away from a tentacle - and managed to take the main brunt of the cold. The octopus was slowed some by the cold that did hit it. I gathered in as much Power as I could stand and sent a wave of Destruction at the beast. That got its attention! It was badly injured and slowed some more. Rodrick started firing again as Alfred managed to get out of the way. He hit it hard with two bursts and killed it.

               I ran to Leo's side with my healing wand while Olivia looked to Caesar and Binion. In the resulting silence, we could hear gunfire up and down the street outside. Olivia took the girls who were in the room when we busted in and duct taped them together. Since they'd already been whammied, it was pretty easy.

               Caesar turned to the goons from the hall and whammied them, commanding them to arm themselves, go downstairs, "and kill anyone vital to the hotel." Rodrick handed their guns back to them and they walked thru the door and were promptly cut down by automatic gunfire in the hallway. They fell, dead, in the doorway - blocking it open and we couldn't get to it to close it.

               I took a deep breath and 'asked' one of them to get up. He did. Like a marionette. I 'asked' him to move the other bodies and close the door. He did. The whole time I had the most awful, creepy, nasty feeling; it was pretty damn awful. There was more gunfire and I could feel the body fall to the floor - but it had served its purpose.

               Olivia was calling on Crom and was rewarded with a giant badger that she placed in the hallway. We heard snarling, screaming and more gunfire. Rodrick took advantage of their being distracted, opened the door and tossed a grenade into the hallway. The concussion of the blast removed the door from its hinges. Rodrick yelled into the hallway, "I've got more grenades! Hello? Anybody there?"

               Silence. Then all the lights went out - someone had cut the generator. There were two stairwells leading to the floor we were on and Olivia sent a cloud of poison down each one. While she was in the hallway, Olivia saw a white nightie being waved out of the door leading to the other suite on the floor. Olivia commanded whoever was in there to come out with their hands up. The door opened and about 20 or so scantily clad young women emerged followed by a man. He was about six foot eight and must have weighed close to four hundred pounds.

               "An honest to God eunuch?" I wondered out loud. Olivia asked him if he was surrendering, too.

               "Hell yes! I'm not getting shot for him."

               One of the girls asked if they could get some 'proper' clothes on.

               "Do you have any?" Olivia asked.

               "We'll find some."

               Olivia asked them about the three girls we'd found in Vito's bed and was told that one of them was actually a bodyguard - Loretta. "Oh really? Which one?" Olivia asked. The description matched the woman who'd tried to raise the alarm. And back in Vito's suite Olivia took some time to humiliate the woman about being so crappy at her job. The woman took it and remained defiant.

               "What does he have on you?" Olivia asked. But Loretta refused to talk.

               Caesar put the whammy on her and repeated Olivia's question. Loretta explained that she had 'volunteered' to be part of Vito's harem in exchange for benefits for her family, "And my entire family will be rubbed out if I cross him." Olivia asked Vito if her family was still alive. No answer. Caesar repeated the question.

               "How the fuck would I know? I let Benny handle stuff like that."

               "Who's Benny?" Olivia asked and Caesar relayed.

               "He's the mook who handles stuff like that. Why do you have such a problem understanding simple things like that, you dumb bitch? "

               "Is Benny here?" Turns out that Benny was one of the dead ones. That fascinating conversation was interrupted by screaming from the stairways - Olivia's poison had found some victims. The screaming upset Vito's girls and some of them began to cry.

               "Oh, will you all just shut up?!" Olivia snapped at them. Olivia turned back to Loretta; "Do you want to surrender? I take better care of my people."

               "Yeah, sure, whatever," the gal said.

               Olivia released the two girls who'd been taped together with Loretta but kept Loretta bound so she could ridicule her some more about her job performance. Suddenly one of Binion's girls raised her gun and fired - at the wall! There was a spattering of blood. She fired again and there was more blood. After a third shot - and more blood - a humanoid shape flickered into view and a woman dressed in black, flowing skirts and a black leather corset slumped dead to the floor.

               Olivia started to ask, "Does anyone know her…" but was cutoff by a scream from outside the suite - a scream of rage from out on the patio! We whirled and saw two men with assault rifles charge into the suite. Leo opened fire at one of them while I sent a shaft of searing light at the other one. Olivia launched a fireball past them out onto the roof. Standing under a bench out there was a man - about two feet tall - and he was still screaming. Then the fireball went off and we lost sight of him. When the smoke cleared he was just fine and was continuing to scream.

               The two men who'd charged into the suite weren't exactly fine - but were still moving, further inside the room. Rodrick opened fire at the little guy outside and his bullets fell harmlessly to the ground, well in front of the little guy. He changed targets and fired on the two armed men.

               The little guy yelled at them, "Sure on then - we be surrenderin'," with a thick Irish brogue.

               The two stopped and half turned back towards him, "What?!?!"

               Now I could get a good look at the little guy - he was between two and three feet tall, was wearing a brown tweed jacket, a buttoned up shirt that was stained and torn and pants that had been repeatedly patched. He had a florid face and there was some faded reddish hair peaking out from beneath his wool cap. He joined the two men, removed a pipe from his mouth and told them, "I said that we are surrendering." The men very tentatively lowered their weapons and he stepped in front of them, blew smoke at Rodrick and barked, "Not!"

               Whatever results the leprechaun was hoping for - didn't occur and he looked astonished. Leo resumed firing at the leprechaun's two companions and one fell to the floor. Caesar 'looked' at the leprechaun and commanded, "Go jump off the ledge."

               Lucky Charms laughed at that, "Fick ya, yer Lardship," he lilted.

               While Caesar kept him busy I called a flame strike down on his little Irish ass. The resulting screams were long and lingering but when it and the flames were gone there was an old pipe and a foot high stack of gold coins sitting amongst the ashes. I scooped them up and called out, "I claim these for the women's shelter!"

               The surviving gunman said, "Holy Christ! You wasted Duncan!" and dropped his weapon.

               Olivia went out onto the roof patio and spread out a magic detection spell. We heard her yell out, "Hey! Come back here!" and went to see her chasing a carpet around the roof. She would get right up to it and it would scoot away from her. She finally grabbed it just before it took off over the edge. "Mine! Mine! Mine!" she screamed. But it turned on her, wrapping itself around her head and smothering her.

               Rodrick pulled a Zippo lighter, lit it and held it to the carpet's fringe, "Let her go or I'll set you on fire." The carpet let her loose and put Olivia between Rodrick and itself. "Now play nice!" Rodrick admonished it. Olivia grabbed it and we got to watch as she wrestled the thing into the Altoids tin. That done, we moved back into the suite.

               "This time - let's close the door?" I suggested. Rodrick asked if I could put some sort of alarm on it. I smiled. "Even better. I can fix it so if anyone tries to open it, it'll explode." While I was doing that Leo pointed out that the screaming in the stairwell had stopped so we decided to split into two groups and take both the stairwells at the same time.

               The first group was Caesar, Olivia and Alfred with one of Binion's girls while Leo and I went down the other with Binion and her other girl. Olivia gave me the teleportation ring back. We came across the first bodies on the fifteenth floor and then more on the fifth floor where a security checkpoint had been set up. The door had been propped open and we could hear some activity in the hallway - but it wasn't close by. Binion tapped Leo on the shoulder and pointed to a security camera that had its red light on. He took careful aim and shot it out. I Sent a message to Olivia to let her know what the shot was all about and she replied that Rodrick had just spotted a camera in their stairwell, too. A single shot rang out as he took care of it.

               Then we heard the crackling of a bullhorn and a voice said, "Give it up you freaks! There are fifty guys out here with assault weapons, just waiting for you."

               Then I heard Caesar say, "Very well, then. We surrender and we will come out peacefully."

               "Good - you may continue to the lobby."

               Then Caesar hollered to Binion, "I'm sorry, Dear - but we have no choice. Everyone holster your weapons - we're surrendering to the nice man. See you all downstairs." As we rounded the last flight of stairs, I made sure the Teleport ring was ready and laid a hand on both Binion's and Leo's arms, ready to get them out, ASAP. On the lobby level there were men holding the doors open for us while shielding their eyes from the Cats.

               Bullhorn instructed, "Alright! The four Cats first - walk out of there - slowly and backwards." Binion and her girl followed the instructions and I tightened my grip on Leo.

               Once they were thru the door, Binion 'looked' at the two men on the other side and whispered, "Shoot them." They opened fire and dropped the men in the lobby.

               There was firing from the other side of the lobby as well. Then Binion told everyone, "Kill each other."

               Just as they fell to the floor a few more security people rushed into the lobby. Caesar whammied them and instructed them to lead us to the security office. As we approached the office the hallway was lined with people. They were standing - backs to the wall, hands on their heads and guns at their feet.

               Caesar and Binion did their 'thing' and commanded them to strip-search one another and to place all weapons in a neat pile. One of the girls stayed to supervise them and the pile of weapons. We walked out the main doors to see what else was going on up and down the street.

               A group of people wearing identical black silk uniforms had encircled the Sands Regency Casino. They were standing in an orderly fashion and were taking no defensive actions. Binion and Caesar's ears perked and twitched and they whirled to look down the street. And coming around the corner was a crowd of people all carrying some sort of weapon, most of them something as simple as fire-axes or crowbars. Marching behind them were two Cats - Bengal Tigers to be exact. The matching looks on Binion and Caesar were priceless!

               "We had no idea there were any of us here," Binion whispered. Oh great! So what else didn't their 'intelligence' discover? The people from the Sands moved away from the Hotel and moved up the street to meet the Cat's group of people right in front of us. Each group must have had between two hundred and three hundred people. Smaller groups - delegations, really - broke off and approached us.

               Caesar broke the ice; "Good evening to you all. I am Caesar. Reno has just become part of the Las Vegas Territory."

               A hard-faced Chinese man said, "If we recognize your authority will you leave us in power?"

               A woman from the group with the Cats sneered, "Why am I not surprised that you're the first to toady?" She turned to Caesar and bowed, "Honorable Caesar, the Honored Path will recognize your authority but wish to continue our operations unfettered. We will cooperate with Las Vegas but have our own people to take care of." Hello! Frog calling the Toady green!

               Caesar told them that he was willing to negotiate, "But all we have to offer is peace and prosperity."

               "And television," Olivia said.

               There were some short negotiations and when they were finished, Caesar accepted both Triads' cooperation and in return they acknowledged Vegas' authority. Then reports started to come in from the other strike teams and for the most part everyone was successful. Except for the team led by Lord Mandalay Bay. They took heavy casualties, including Mandalay himself. Several more hours were spent rooting out scattered pockets of resistance. None of them lasted very long.

               Caesar finally let the whammy on Vito fade. Olivia said to him, "Hey Vito! Remember when you sent Muerte to kill someone in Vegas?" I guess her wild ass guess was correct, 'cuz Vito didn't deny it. Olivia said, "That was me!" and she kicked him in the nads.

               "Hey Pee-Wee," Rodrick said, "Did that hurt much?"

               When he could speak again, Vito said, "I'm gonna skull fuck you, you bitch."

               "With what?" she snorted.

               Rodrick said, "Hey! He just threatened an Overlord."

               Caesar held up a hand in warning, "We still need him. For a time."

               "But I have Muerte's gun right here to use on him," Rodrick said.

               "When we're finished," Caesar promised.

               Then another group approached us and explained that they represent a group of people who have worked very hard to stay neutral and don't want any trouble. They asked Caesar if they accepted his authority would he leave them in peace to harvest their crops and to take care of their people. They have no interest in being involved with any sort of government. Binion waived one of her girls forward and told the people that she would be their liaison and that they owed her fealty, "This will be a beneficial move for your people, I assure you."

               The spokesman said, "No offense - but we will not be ruled by anyone."

               Binion's girl nodded, "I understand and you will keep your independence by working with me."

               Rodrick told them, "Really this will make your lives better." The people conferred and agreed to accept the offer.

               One of Lucifer's people arrived then to report on the battle with the Mobutu. Lucifer and his forces had taken control but the upper floors of the Gold Dust, which were engulfed in flames; one of the helicopters had crashed into it after being hit by a SAM. That was how Mandalay had died. But the opposing forces were being subdued; Lucifer and the Cats he had with him were putting the whammy on the enemy and sending them into the hotel to bring out others and kill the ones who refused to come out.

               The Comstock fell with very little fight at all. The leadership of the Al-Said were reported to have had three to five women each as 'wives'. The Vegas forces had found at least fifty skeletal remains in the basement. They'd been told that they were all women who had refused to be totally submissive to the Al-Said. Other women had been forced to watch as the victims had been stoned to death and soon the women stopped resisting.

               The Bonano's at the Harrah had been taken easily and early and had been used to make their underlings surrender. But the battle for the El Dorado was an ugly one. La Familia Tigre had taken a large number of non-combatants (women and children) as hostages and was holding them on the top floors of the building!

               With the fighting at the Circus Circus was really just about over with, Caesar turned his attention back to the Salvatores. They controlled another property - the mall. Where were all those other Salvatore fighters who weren't here at the Hotel? Were they at the mall? If they were, they had not been engaged by anyone yet. So off we went to the mall.

               Caesar's people hit the Atlantis motor pool for some vehicles and returned with some Cadillacs and Towncars to take us to the mall. After being in Vegas for so long the drive across Reno to the mall was really odd. It was so dark and the streets were deserted. Very odd.

               All of the entrances to the mall had been long since blocked with stacks of wrecked cars so that there was only one way in or out of the place and that was well lit enough for us to see that the people there had received word and were ready for us. We stopped at a distance so we could scope out the activity.

               We could see some activity inside the perimeter but there wasn't enough light in there to make out what they were doing. Then a big blazing ball of - something - came flying at us. Olivia threw a wall of ice in front of our cars but the ball hit the ground well in front of it and exploded.

               Caesar had some binoculars and we could see a couple of trebouches (trebushays? Treboucht - damnit! Big, French flingy-thingys!) about twenty feet inside the gate (about four hundred yards from where we were) and on the ground near them were old one-gallon milk jugs, filled with something flammable. On the wall itself there were armored placements that held some flame-throwers.

               The second trebuchet (Leo is such a smart-ass sometimes! Why does a SEAL need to know how to spell that?) launched a missile at us. Rodrick took careful aim at it and fired. The thing exploded in the air, right over the gate. Someone who was manning one of the flame-throwers took the brunt of it and threw himself to the ground, rolling around, trying to extinguish the flames. The men around him grabbed fire extinguishers and used them on the flame-thrower, not the man.

               Olivia made herself invisible and ran off demanding, "Cover me!" Which wasn't easy since we couldn't see where she was going. A trebuchet launched another jug that landed closer - they were getting a handle on the distance. Then we saw a fireball coming from the foot of the wall, and streaking over the top. Then we spotted Olivia. Her fireball hit near one of the trebuchets, causing lots of screaming and a flurry of activity.

               As the trebuchet started to burn, one of the flame-thrower crews also spotted Olivia and started yelling and pointed her out to someone manning a giant crossbow. He spotted her and moved the crossbow her directions. Rodrick saw that, took aim and hit the sheet metal, near his head. Olivia located the guy Rodrick was aiming at and sent a Fireball at him just as he let a bolt from the crossbow loose. It was a three-foot long javelin, and it just barely missed impaling Olivia. A crew moved in to fight the fire Olivia had started and the man with the crossbow began re-winding it for another javelin.

               I used the teleport ring to get to where Olivia was, while Rodrick fired at the guy with the crossbow again. He missed him, but was getting closer and the guy began to wind the crossbow even faster. Olivia launched another fireball and nailed the person at the flame-thrower. Crossbow guy finished winding, loaded another javelin and fired - missing us both.

               I asked Olivia, "So. You want to get out of here?"

               "No - let's hold tight for a minute." Rodrick was firing at crossbow guy again and hit him - knocking him off the wall. Olivia let another fireball fly blindly; it hit and exploded against the wall, causing no damage. I grabbed her by the arm and teleported us both inside the wall. Since I couldn't see the trebuchets, we ended up pretty far away from them. But we were pretty close to a holding pen filled with people. They were chained together and pretty well panicked by everything that was going on around them.

               We made sure no one had seen us pop in and took a moment to get our bearings. Closer inspection revealed that the pen was made of chain-link fence sections with something thrown over the top to form a 'ceiling'. Inside, the people all had metal collars around their necks with one long chain linking them together. I suggested that I use some assistance from Corellon to break the chain and free them - but Olivia moved in closer, intent on finding a lock she could open.

               We finally spotted the lock, on top of the cage. We couldn't get to it without being really obvious targets. Olivia got a wild idea and started a spell. She summoned a rope out of somewhere and threw it up in the air. It stayed in place and at the top was some sort of portal into a little…not-space, I guess. We climbed the rope and crawled thru the opening.

               People in the pen were reaching for us so Olivia pulled the rope up out of their reach then leaned out of the portal to see above their heads. She pulled out her unlocking wand and waved it at padlock. The gate to the pen popped open. The people tried to get thru it, but with all the pushing and shoving it didn't work. A few people flat refused to even try to get out. The were yelling things like, "Don't go out there! We'll be killed! We have to stay here where it's safe!"

               Safe?

               Olivia still had her head out of the portal and spotted where the trebuchets were located - about a hundred feet away with another pen filled with people between here and there. Olivia waved her wand some more and that pen's gate popped open, too. I used the ring again and teleported to where Olivia told me where the trebuchets were. She dropped back down into the pen and then teleported herself to join me.

               We found some cover and looked around - not too far from the trebuchets was a small truck with a fuel tank on the back of it. Olivia gestured to me that she would take care of the truck and removed some of the stones from her necklace of fireballs. She threw them at the fuel truck and the trebuchet that wasn't burning yet. The truck exploded in an impressive mushroom cloud that knocked us both off of our feet. Before we could get up, the milk jugs filled with fuel that were by the trebuchet exploded.

               When the shrapnel stopped flying we teleported back to where we started from just in time to see the second trebuchet collapse in flames. There was a period of relative silence that was broken by the sound of the main gate (a heavily armored old school bus) being opened.

               A couple of men - armed with machine guns herded a group of people from the pens thru the opening. They were still chained together at the neck and the 'free' end of the chain was attached to the gate and the people were lined up along the top of the bus. The men finished their work and scurried thru the gate as it closed behind them. Caesar had Dom Vito brought forward, handed him a bullhorn and ordered him to tell his men to stand down. Vito did so - with no result.

               "Who's in charge in there?" Rodrick asked him.

               "Donnie."

               "And if I challenge Donnie would he come out here and face me?"

               "Never," Vito said, "and don't even think of using a threat against me to get them out - I don't mean shit now."

               Olivia asked, "So what is important to Donnie?"

               "Staying alive."

               "So, if he can stay alive and have some sort of authority he'll be happy?" Olivia asked. "Or is he going to fight to the death here?"

               Vito shook his head, "He'll fight - he'll never believe anything you tell him." Olivia asked if there were any lieutenants with Donnie who'd be willing to take him out and avoid excess bloodshed.

               "Oh, Hell yeah!" Vito said.

               Caesar took the bullhorn back and said, "This is Caesar. This property belongs to me. Bring me Donnie's head and I will allow all of you to live and you will be rewarded." It was very quiet inside the wall and the gate opened again allowing a group of men to lead out another line of chained prisoners.

               When they were in place one of the men yelled, "Screw you!" put his gun to the head of the nearest prisoner and pulled the trigger. The line of prisoners began screaming as the body hit the ground and a second man opened fire and emptied his machine gun into the line of people. Rodrick dropped the man with a single shot and the gate began to move, dragging the people chained to it along with it.

               I beseeched Corellon for assistance, changed us all into wind form, and moved us to the gate. Olivia stopped to unlock the ends of each chain and got the prisoners moving to get themselves unhooked from each other. Then we discovered that the man driving the 'gate' had been injured when the man had fired at the line of prisoners. Rodrick finished the job and then moved to shot the lock from the chain holding the prisoners on the bus. I saw a group of people that were getting ready to attack the wall, gathered in one area, being issued supplies of ammunition.

               So borrowing an idea from one of Vito's people I pulled some Power and deposited a giant octopus right in the middle of the group. It immediately began to fail about, knocking people around while grabbing others and squeezing them until bones began to pop.

               Olivia was still getting people unchained and I saw someone on the wall working to turn a flame-thrower their direction. I fired my Walther - and completely missed. But I did get his attention. Leo had also spotted him - and he missed the guy, too.

               That was when the bus exploded. Once the prisoners had dropped off the side of the bus, Rodrick threw a grenade inside it. The explosion sent him flying into a stack of cars. I saw him getting to his feet and turned back to fire at the flame-thrower guy. He was a little distracted by the burning bus. This time I hit him and Leo finished him off. Olivia finished freeing the prisoners just as Rodrick managed to get up and they moved thru the open gate.

               Another flame-thrower emplacement fired at Olivia and missed. I saw it and opened fire. I winged him and he whipped around to aim the 'thrower at me. Olivia saw him too and whooshed at him, shoving him right off of the wall. The guy tried to get up, but Leo made sure that didn't happen.

               Meanwhile, the guy who'd been organizing the defense managed to escape all of the octopus' tentacles but Rodrick made sure he didn't make it far and dropped him with three shots. The guy tried to get up and I put him back down. Octopus chow. The area was in a state of chaos - screaming, yelling and people running to take cover inside the mall proper. The octopus was still munching on a few people as I thanked it and sent it on its way.

               Olivia whooshed off towards the mall to do some recon. Rodrick went back, grabbed the man who'd shot the single prisoner in the head and started to drag him out to where the Cats were waiting. I joined him and we waited as the Cats noticed us and drove in closer. Vito identified the man as Donnie and Rodrick secured him with some plastic zip strips.

               Olivia rejoined us and described the fortifications she'd seen and expressed a desire to take the mall using her new flying carpet. But it refused to leave the Altoids tin. I think it was sulking.

               Caesar picked up the bullhorn and commanded the people inside the mall to drop their weapons and surrender while they still had a chance to receive mercy. The doors opened and a steady stream of people emerged - hands on their heads. One of them said that they had no idea who we were - but since we'd wiped out the mall's first line of defense they wanted nothing to do with us. Once most of them were outside we did a sweep and clear of the mall and found no resistance. When we were finished the sun was coming up. Caesar told us that the reports indicated that the city was firmly under our control and he invited us to return to the Atlantis to clean up, eat and get some rest.

               Well, twist my arm!

03/06/07:

               We were getting ready to head for home when Rodrick announced that he wanted to buy a gift for Allison before we left but didn't know what to get.

               "Jewelry?" I asked.

               He thought for a moment; "Yeah, She wears earrings and necklaces - I'll get her some nice ones. You want to go along and help pick out something nice?" Sounded good to me!

               At the mall there were signs reading, "Reno chips no longer accepted." Big surprise. I helped Rodrick pick out a very nice necklace and earring set and he spotted a large snow globe with a fantasy castle scene set inside. The jewelry was 12,000 Vegas and the snow globe 2,000.

               "Two thousand?" Rodrick asked and was told that the 'glass' was rock crystal and the trim was solid gold. Rod countered with an offer of 13,000 for all three items and the merchant agreed. We also bought a set of State magnets for Scooby! We returned to Vegas alone - Caesar and Binion were staying a little longer to get things up and running to their liking.

               Allison loved her gifts; "You plundered these just for me?" We didn't burst her bubble.

               Then we were 'assaulted' by the media wanting to know our accounts of the battle for Reno. I declined to comment, pleading weariness. Olivia told them, "We met Vito and made him our bitch."

               "Lord Aladdin is quite right," Rodrick said. "We went, we saw, we made Don Vito our bitch." Leo and I were at the pool when Rodrick and Olivia finally got thru with their business and were able to join us. Then Allison, Alfred and Annike joined us as well.

               Boat drinks!

continued...