We met for a working breakfast this morning and Leo started by saying, "Jazz, if you had a vision, it was for a reason and we should follow up on it."
Rodrick cracked wise, "I was always taught that anyone who has visions need help."
"That was Before," Leo said.
Then Rodrick asked if Leo was ever going to reopen the canals with the singing gondoliers at the Venetian.
"It's being worked on," Leo assured him. "They're being cleaned up. Then I have to find and hire the gondoliers. I've got a team of people really working on the ambiance of the whole place."
Rodrick turned to me, "He said, 'ambiance'."
"Bite my ass," Leo said.
"You're not going soft are you?" Rodrick asked.
"Never!" and then Leo asked if anyone interested in a road-trip.
"Sure," Olivia said.
"As long as I don't have to talk to whatever we find out there," Rodrick said. "I nominate Olivia for that."
"I suppose I could," she agreed.
"Jazz?" Leo asked.
I shrugged, "It was my Vision, so I'm going, too."
So we finished breakfast, checked the usual preparations on Scooby and Leo consulted the maps. He was concerned that Yucca Mountain is "far too close to Vegas for my tastes, security wise. Something that we hope can take out a small town - that close to Vegas? Not good." We were cruising along the highway and all was well, until about sixty miles out of town when we spotted dust and smoke rising from the desert.
We stopped for a look and binoculars revealed some over turned vehicles that were still burning. Then we saw one or two people moving around the area, guns out, like they were looking for 'something. More people were visible - most of them injured. Some of the people suddenly ran for an outcropping of rocks and began to climb. We slowly moved in closer to get a better look and Olivia took 'her' place in the turret. She was the one who spotted it first, coming up from behind us. Coming very fast - a semi.
"Leo! Killer truck on our 'six'!" she yelled.
I looked back and saw that the grill of the truck had teeth! Real teeth - like it was snapping its jaw at us. Flames were painted on both it and the trailer it was hauling and as it got closer, we could see that the flames were animated, almost alive.
Rod pulled Olivia out of the turret, swung it into position and opened fire with the .50 caliber gun. He hit it - a lot - but the truck kept coming. Meanwhile, Leo was taking evasive actions - but they had no affect. Except for making me carsick.
I swallowed my stomach and Summoned a giant demonic crocodile right inside the cab of the truck. We could see the snout snapping out one window and tail thrashing out the other side of the truck as it broke both of the side windows out.
The truck swerved for a moment and suddenly the glass was instantly repaired - chopping the crocodile into three pieces. The truck sped up again the teeth gnashing even more. It finally caught us and rammed us a couple of times. The flames from the paint job flared up and 'leapt' out to Scooby. but didn't catch. The truck was so close we could hear the radio blaring:
"Itty bitty pretty one
Olivia sent a disintegrate spell at the engine compartment of the truck and part of the under carriage vanished. The truck screamed (was it pain or rage?) and nosed into the pavement. It rolled and jack-knifed and was headed right for us!
Leo saw all of it in the rear view mirror, floored it again, and managed to get us out of the way before the truck finally skidded to a stop with its flames trickling along the asphalt behind it. The radio volume faded slowly to nothing and we could hear the truck grumble and moan and finally go silent. Leo pulled Scooby across the road and asked someone to grenade the truck.
Rodrick obliged and six volleys later the truck exploded in blue and black tinged flames. They were short lived and when they were gone, all that was left of the truck was sand that blew away in the wind.
We spotted a flare that had been shot off by the people on the rock - we'd blown right past them while being chased by the truck - Leo took a deep breath, turned around and headed back that way. As we pulled up Rod swung the .50 caliber at the rock. One of the women stopped waving and ripped off her white t-shirt and waved that at us. Leo stopped Scooby and Olivia asked the people, "Where were you going?"
"Nowhere really, we were just "
"Any injured?" Olivia interrupted her. We'd already seen that there were injured so I got out of Scooby to help them.
"Yes - and a couple fatalities, too."
"How long ago did it attack you?" Olivia asked.
"Just a few minutes before we spotted you."
Rodrick told Leo, "You should have someone come out here and pick them up." Leo got on radio and did so.
Olivia jumped out of Scooby to use her world famous Drow auto mechanic skills to access the damage to Scooby. "It's dented," she reported. Leo and Rodrick got out to look at the dents and Olivia tried to mend them, but since nothing was actually broken, there was no effect.
Then we got out shovels so the people could start to bury their dead. While Rodrick helped them,
Olivia and I created water for them and healed what we could. Olivia, being quite put out by the dents, tried the mending spell again - nada. She tried it a third time before accepting that it just wasn't going to work.
When we could do no more for the people, we told them that some people were on the way to take them to Vegas and continued on our way. We saw nothing unusual until the turn off for the testing range.
There, out in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the road was a small flock of sheep (four white ones and a lone black one) - milling about and looking stupid, as sheep are wont to do. They were a few hundred feet from a turned over truck that had a livestock cage on the back with the door broken off. We could see that the driver of the truck had crawled from the wreckage and died on the shoulder of the road. He'd managed to fashion a little 'tent' from a blanket and a large stick - but it had done him no good.
I said to Rodrick, "Go shoo them out of the road." He leaned over Leo and honked the horn at them. They stopped milling and turned to stared at us. So Rodrick and I got out to try to shoo them off to one side so we could pass.
Olivia suggested that Leo have his people come pick up the sheep after they got those people we'd left earlier. Then she got some pans from the kitchen and brought them outside so that she and I could take turns Creating water to fill them. After it had drunk its fill, one of the sheep kept bleating and began to head-butt Rodrick It pushed him to the far side of the truck where there were two little lambs, lying next to the corpse of another sheep.
Rodrick went back into Scooby to find something to make a 'bottle' with and came back with some beer bottles that he boiled and some condoms to top them with. Olivia and I created some milk, filled the bottles and set about feeding the lambs, but as we did that - everything vanished. The lambs, the sheep and the truck were all gone with no indication that they had ever been there.
Olivia got the binoculars out and scanned the area looking for a frisbee and some jacks. Nothing. Baffled, we all got back into Scooby to get the Hell out of there.
A little further along we came across the remains of a motorcycle that had gone off the road at a very high rate of speed (judging by how far away the rider had flow). The skeleton of the rider showed a fractured skull and flayed chest. Olivia searched the bike's saddlebags and found a smallish steel case. It was still locked and decorated with black and yellow stripes and a label that read, "Caution!" She opened it and saw a shell casing of some sort. "Leo! Come here and look at this."
It was CS nerve gas. "Interesting," Leo mumbled.
"Is it leaking?" Olivia asked, "could it cause our hallucinations?"
Leo shook his head, "No. If it was leaking all it would cause us to do is to be dead."
Leo asked Rodrick, "Have you ever worked with gas?"
"Yes, I can prime it and set it." So Leo handed it to him, "You're the keeper of this then." Rodrick put it back in its case, put that back in the saddlebag, removed it from the bike and took it all.
The other saddlebag had some MRE's, several sets of false identifications and $20,000.00 in bearer bonds. There were also a couple books and some family photos. All very odd. Rodrick checked the skeleton closer - it had Air Force dog tags indicating he had worked in security at the test range - but the name on the tags didn't match any of the id's.
Olivia said, "Leo! That illusion back there - even the milk and water that Jazz and I Created disappeared. Call your people and find out if they received your earlier call."
He did and they had.
Leo told her, "Forget the sheep. They're a lost cause." So we moved on again and all we saw before reaching a sign for Yucca Mountain were three cows that stared at us as we passed.
A few miles down the road (more miles than we should have gone, according to maps) Leo stopped and took a GPS reading. We were in the wrong place.
"I know! The sheep didn't vanish! We did." I said.
They all stared at me. Well, it made sense to me!
We went back to the turn off and tried it again.
Leo stopped about a thousand yards from the turn off to get another GPS reading - and we were more than a mile out of position! Leo was pissed now; "I've had enough of this happy horseshit." He launched some grenades back to the turn off - or where the turnoff should have been, then we turned around and drove back. This time at the turnoff there was a guard shack - now blown to smithereens - and some dead bodies. Bodies of some half-feral looking Halflings.
There were also a few more cows. "What are those? Mechanical lookouts maybe?" Rodrick asked.
This time, past the turnoff was the actual facility and a lot more of the feral looking Halflings. One of them - a woman (three feet tall with a lion-like mane of hair, wearing a bikini made of chainmail and rabbit fur) stomped up to Scooby and yelled, "Our forces are not strong enough to take you while you're in that thing - get out. Now!"
Another Halfling approached. A man, an old man, wearing robes and carrying a staff and he told her, "There has been enough killing for one day. What do you want, strangers? All we want is to be left alone."
"Get out of the way!" Olivia told them.
"We're going to the mountain," Rodrick added.
"There is danger there," the old man warned.
The woman said, "Let them go - we will take their vehicle."
The old man laughed at her; "You can't drive it! What will you do with it?" Then he said to us, "If you want to go - we will not stop you. Will you leave us alone?"
"You started it!" Olivia said.
"We were just trying to protect ourselves," old man started to say.
Olivia began to scream at them, threatening them with the nerve gas if they didn't get out of the way - but she stopped and decided that she wants to use the nerve gas on Lake Havasu City instead.
The woman ignored her and said to the old man, "You are right, Elder. I was hasty - we should invite them for dinner."
I said, "That's really very nice of you - but no thanks - we must be going."
They began to get out of the way when two more Halflings (these bearing facial tattoos and scarification) approached Scooby.
One of them said, "I ask you not to go in there. Inside there is great danger to us all."
Olivia told him, "We'll ask Smaug to leave the Lake People alone."
"Please move - we must be going," Rodrick said. "We have business at the mountain."
"You place your needs over that of our city?" the Halfling asked.
"No, not really - but the needs of a much larger city with a lot more people in it? Yes." Rodrick told him. They moved aside to let us pass.
Olivia said, "I'd much rather be at the pool with drinks."
I agreed with that, "I sure could use a margarita."
We drove up to the mountain. Right up to the loading doors and got out, setting Scooby to Full Armor of God. A Halfling in a lab coat and reading glasses met us there; "You do not want to go in there. It is a very bad place," he said.
"What's in there?" Olivia asked.
"Radioactive waste. Very bad. What is stored inside here is lethal for thousands and thousands of years."
I said, "Thank you for your concern - but we are going in."
He shrugged and said, "Fine."
Olivia went back and got her Geiger counter. We entered and took a lo-o-o-ong ride down in the elevator. We finally reached the bottom level and were surprised (to say the least) to find the place well lit and the walls neatly whitewashed with some frescos painted here and there. We hadn't walked very far when we came across a man. A very tall Human wearing monks' robes and with his hair shaved in a tonsure. He was leaning on a shepherd's crook, waiting for us.
"Hello," I said to him.
"Good day," he said and we made introductions - he was Father Damien.
Rodrick said, "We're here looking for "
"A weapon." Damien finished for him.
"Well - we don't really know exactly what it is that we're looking for," I admitted.
Rodrick said, "We were told by a higher power to come here - so we came."
"To join the order," Damien said.
"I'm really not much of a joiner," Rodrick said.
"He's really not - he's a loner," I confirmed.
"We've tried to attract new members to join us, but "
"How many members do you have?" I asked.
"Five brothers plus one postulate."
"What? No sisters?" Olivia asked.
"Not yet," Damien said with a small smile.
Olivia said, "I imagine it's hard to get new members the way those Halflings hide this place."
Damien nodded serenely, "Only the truly devout will persevere to find the Truth. And we have to be careful who we allow in - we have captured the source of all the Evil and Chaos in the world. We have it under lock and key."
"The Source?" I asked.
Another nod, "Satan."
Olivia asked, "What does he look like?" as Rodrick asked, "Can we see him?"
"I will show you," Damien said and gestured for us to follow him.
He led us thru caves - lots of caves - and finally stopped in front of a perfectly ordinary door.
He opened it and stepped aside, "Here is the Source."
And inside was a Human. He looked to be about eighty years old or so. Actually, he looked like the old Ben Vereen in 'Roots'. He had a chair, a cot, a pile of blankets and some canned food.
"Get me out of here!" he yelled. He went on to tell us that he was a retired railroad engineer who'd been trying to get to Vegas when he'd been brought here.
Damien interrupted him, "Enough! He is the Prince of Lies, you must not listen to him," and he slammed the door shut.
Olivia said, "Wait! I didn't get a good look at him."
"You had enough. He is ensnaring you."
"I won't listen to him. I just want to look," she insisted.
Damien conceded and opened the door. Using her Mage Sight, Olivia saw that there was a huge amount of Magic around the man. Damien asked if we would join the Order and help guard the man.
Olivia said, "But he just looks like a little old man."
Damien shook his head. "God told me that this was Satan. You are deceived."
Olivia asked the man his name. "Fred," he replied.
She couldn't tell if he was lying or not. "Lie to me!" she commanded. He said something outrageously untrue and she shrugged at me - that time she could clearly tell that he was lying to her.
"Are you the Prince of Lies?" she asked.
"Are you one of His minions?"
"I was just going to Vegas, looking for a hooker - my wife died seven years ago - and a man gets lonely. That's when these people locked me up in here," Fred said. All true.
Olivia pressured him with more and more questions when suddenly Fred, Father Damien, the room and everything in the room - vanished. We found ourselves in a rough hewn, empty hallway.
"Lucy! I'm ho-ome!" Rodrick called out and it echoed back to us a couple of times.
Olivia looked around with her Mage Sight again - there was some Magic left - but nowhere near what there had been. Leo suggested we try to find our way back to the main tunnel and the elevator. We found our way with no trouble and from down the opposite way we could feel a wind blowing.
Then a big, deep, resonating, James Earl Jones-esque voice rumbled, "Go away little crunchy things. Go away."
Olivia said, "That's an impressive voice - may we see you?"
There was a pause before we heard; "It couldn't hurt." The light in the area increased and filling the tunnel in front of us we saw a huge dragon. The gamer geek in the back of my head squealed - it was a dark, burnished blood red with bright scarlet highlights. Red dragon! Red dragon! Red dragon!
"Is your name Smaug?" Olivia asked.
"We're gonna die," I said.
It grumbled, "I am original. Smaug is a pathetic name for a pathetic fictional creature."
"I bet your name is very impressive," Olivia said.
"I do not feel like sharing my name with you," it rumbled.
Rodrick said, "We were told by the people in Lake Havasu City that you were a punk."
"We're gonna die," I said again.
"Please!" it snorted, "there is nothing there but poorly dressed, poorly groomed mammals - mongrels."
"But they're tasty with milk," Olivia said.
The dragon ignored that, "What brings you here?"
"The mongrels from Lake Havasu City," Rodrick said.
"Hmmm. Tell me about it."
"They've been irritating us," Olivia said, "and while we were trying to think of a way to deal with them, a friend of ours had a Vision."
"That told me to come here," I said. "That we would find something here that could help us with our trouble."
"What is in it for me?" the dragon asked.
"Food?" I asked.
Olivia offered, "Television? Dancing girls to burnish your scales?"
"What do you want?" Leo asked. Do you know what the dragon asked for?
A television talk show with people wearing t-shirts with his name on them!
"Okay. What is your name?" I asked.
"Anzar the Magnificent."
"And there must be a live audience. And scriptwriters and the dancing girls."
So we negotiated for a while and Anzar admitted that the sheep had been a test. A test we'd passed, "Creating the water was one thing, but creating the milk and finding a way to feed the lambs? That showed to me that you are altruists. I can work with you." Altruists? Red dragon not eat altruists? Altruists, yes!
Then he shrunk down to a 6' 4" Human man with a barrel chest and red hair. Very normal looking. For a red dragon, anyway.
Rodrick told him, "Lord Bellagio will insist, however, that you don't eat the audiences."
Anzar nodded to that, "But I insist on a rider to the contract for a supply of virgins." We were silent and he started to laugh, "Just kidding! That was just a little dragon humor. No virgins." So Olivia offered him personal assistants, instead.
"Yes, that will do," he said. "Now what do you want in return?"
"We want the mongrels in Lake Havasu City to leave us and ours alone," Leo said. Anzar nodded and offered up all sorts of horrific scenarios that he could visit upon them,
"We were thinking more along the lines of you being a deterrent," Rodrick told him.
Then Olivia thought for a bit and said, "But you're being here might attract them - they're crazy." I didn't mention that his being here had attracted us.
Leo told Anzar, "There will be no infliction of unacceptable losses. They are a problem for everyone and will move on to attack someone else. I would prefer them slaughtered wholesale."
"But not their animals," Olivia added.
"No children of course," Leo said, "Is that possible?"
Before Anzar could answer Olivia blurted out, "What would you have done if we'd agreed to join the 'Order'?"
"I would have laughed my ass off. A Vision really brought you here? You came all the way out here on Faith?"
"Yeah. Pretty much," I said.
And with that - Anzar - faded away and was replaced by a really, really immense gold dragon. Bigger than he had been as the red one
"Wha?!" Leo asked.
"No more games, I assure you," The dragon said. "You came to me for help. I like it here. I'm left alone, I can stretch my wings and I keep the local cattle from getting uppity, but I assure you - upon my horde - that you see before you the real me. Now, you wish to have these Raiders dispatched?"
"Yes," Leo said.
Olivia asked, "Do you still want that TV show?"
"Hell no!" he laughed. So Olivia offered him drinks instead. He shrugged, changed back into human form and joined us for drinks, during which, he made us swear to keep his location a secret. We agreed and he told us the secret of the spell he placed on the road, "It keeps people from seeing, I mean really seeing it. Only the most dedicated people can see thru the spell and find their way here." Then he leaned forward and said, "I know this is cliché, but I am doing this for you because..." His voice got raspy and thick "Someday - and that day may never come - I'll call upon you to do a service for me..."
We had a good laugh and agreed that as long as it was reasonable, not a threat to Vegas or morally repugnant to us, that we would assist him.
"Good, we have an agreement," he said. "Now you'd better go. My illusion was quite correct about the radiation here. If you stay much longer without protection, you could become ill. Better safe than sorry."
Olivia said, "Right. C'mon Leo, Jazz - I want nieces and nephews you know."
Anzar asked, "You two are married?"
"We are," I said.
"Thank you," I said. "Umm, do you have a mate?"
"I do - but our territories do not overlap."
As he walked us out, the conversation turned to farming and techniques he thought could improve our crops - turns out he's quite the agronomist and the three Overlords got him to agree to act as a consultant for them.
I said, "Thank you for everything what is your name?"
He blushed a bit, "Cosmo. It was nice meeting you - take it easy on your way home!"
"We will - and you remember that you have a standing invitation at the Venetian, the Paris and the Aladdin anytime you'd like to visit. But you have to promise not to scare Mitzi if you come see us."
"Mitzi? Oh! You mean the dragonling at the Excalibur? She's a cute kid. You know - if she was only five hundred years older "
He laughed. "She knows I'm around, but she doesn't see me unless I want to be seen."
The elevator finally reached the main level and we saw that all the frescos had been replaced by rainbows, peace signs, slogan and song lyrics. There was one mural that depicted a large group of people surrounding the Pentagon and the building appeared to be glowing and hovering above the ground.
Another mural - that was still in progress - was of Woodstock. We complimented Cosmo on his work.
"Oh - it's nothing - just something to kill time "
Outside everything except for Scooby was gone. The Halfling community was nothing but a few dilapidated support buildings and the empty guard shack that we'd blown up.
Cosmo admitted that he'd created those illusions as well, "I like my privacy. Nice ride!"
We got in Scooby and drove away as Cosmo stood there and waved until he was out of sight. We were about thirty miles outside of Vegas when we saw a Venetian Security caravan dragging bodies off the roadway. We stopped and they reported to Leo that they'd had a two-mile or so running battle with a motorcycle gang that had attacked some travelers. They had a line of gang survivors chained together on the side of the road waiting for transport while another group of Leo's men triaged the gang's vehicles for usable parts. Leo commended their work and told them to keep it up.
At the port of entry there had been a change of guard and the new crew challenged us, adamantly. They realized who it was, saluted and asked, "Sorry, your Lordships. Have a good day?"
Rodrick grinned, "Had a great picnic!"
One of the men muttered something that sounded a lot like, "We're starving and they go on picnics?"
"Hey!" Olivia yelled
Rodrick told them, "We took care of a demon-truck while we were out there. We could have led it back here and let you take care of it."
Leo shook his head, "No! I wouldn't want that thing anywhere near here. Did anything else happen today?"
His men reported that a caravan traveling between Vegas and one of Lord Las Vegas Hilton's farms had been hit and was a total loss. Reprisal troops had been dispatched but found nothing.
Leo nodded, "Well, hopefully - those attacks will come to a stop. Soon." We bid them a good night and returned home.