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The Ransom Entries

VC: "The Equinox Diaries" Continued
Jason — 30 Aug 1999, 3:10 PM

The Ransom Entries

Caravan Log, September 29.
Early this morning we arrived at the clearing in between the mountains. As we proceeded through it, we discovered strange markings and paintings marked on the rock face of the pass. Max suspects they have a spiritual significance for whatever group of people are indigenous to this region. Later today, we found a burned out camp-fire, abandoned, but we're sure it had been used recently. We can only presume it's the glow on the horizon that Marla spotted a day ago, the beacon that led us to this pass. We proceeded carefully through this region, in hopes of meeting up with whoever lives here... and hopefully making peaceful contact.

Slowly, the caravan wound its way through the narrow pass. Every member of the Equinox's crew sat outside, watching carefully for any sign of other people, whether it be in the form of a peaceful settlement, or in the worst case scenario-an attack.

The banks of rocks extended high above them, creating an ominous effect that made of member of the crew get the distinct feeling that they were being watched from above. Rudy sat out in front, his rifle tucked beside him, not wanting to appear hostile but ready to respond to any assault. Marla and the fifth man were fairly cool about the whole thing. She knew that she was frightened, to be sure, but tried to keep it within, not that her new leather constraints allowed much room for anything to spill out anyway.

Conversely, Noah and Max were worried and they let that emotion play out on their face. As they continued, Max felt a shadow fall over him from high above. He looked up, and saw the silhouette of a body hanging over them from high above... strapped to the top of the rock face some how.

"Rudy!" he gasped.

Ransom looked up.

What Max saw wasn't a body at all, but it was a definite indication that we were headed toward some sort of settlement.

"It's just a scarecrow," Rudy reassured him.
"If they're putting up scarecrows, wouldn't there be something they want to scare away...?" Noah asked. "Maybe we won't be welcome."

"We don't have a choice," Rudy said. "We either keep going or we go back in take our chances in the desert."

Seeing no one willing to take his challenge, Rudy continued, "Now let's keep it together. Keep your nerves in check. We're moving forward."

Steadily, for about half a day the Equinox continued it's harsh trek forward. However, our horse was increasingly growing ill and tired. We hoped that he would get us to our destination, but I informed the crew we should be prepared to continue on foot.

The horse made a sound as they turned a corner of the pass. Rudy was concerned for a moment, before he got the opportunity to see what the horse had already seen: the pass had ended, and they were now in a clearing. There was certainly more vegetation... it was still sparse but it seemed clear that they had left the desert behind. And what's more, about 400 meters away tents could be made out.

They drew their way toward the tents. The horse moving, slowly and the crew taking no unusual action to provoke it's inhabitants. They saw people in the village, far away. They seemed to be indigenous to this region, and Rudy had never seen the likes of them before. Without any sign of protest, the Equinox pulled up in to the middle of the settlement.

VC: The Ransom Entries, Part Two (Proper)
Jason — 30 Aug 1999, 3:16 PM

They called themselves the Ankhari Indians. They were a small but friendly tribe that lived off the plant and wild life that existed in the valley. They told us that they had lived there thousands of seasons without interruption, and that while they had never seen people like us before, their ancient texts told of visitors who would pass through the region. The Ankhari were a very hospitable and spiritual people who offered us food and shelter for as long as we wanted to stay.

"I think I could learn to like it here," Max said as two Ankhari women took him by the arms and lead him on a tour of their village. Rudy and Noah watched as they lead Max away.

"You are welcome to stay with our people as long as you wish," said Kintek, the Ankhari High-Chief. "And we would request that you join us for our Harvest Meal tonight."

I wasn't about to turn down a full meal on behalf of my crew, nor was I eager to reject the hospitality the Ankhari had shown us. I informed my crew to work with the Ankhari who were a technically proficient group of Indians in performing repairs on the Equinox and in replenishing our supplies.

Marla worked with a young Ankhari Indian male on repairing the caravan who, like most of the Equinox men, spent far too much time looking at her skintight pants. When Marla looked at him, he didn't bother to turn away. 'At least he's honest about it,' she reasoned.

"Excuse me for looking," the boy finally said. "But it is not often I am confronted with a goddess."

Marla blushed. Well *there* was a compliment!

"Tell me, Antelope Woman, why do you wish to leave our land?" he asked.

"Huh?" Marla responded. "Antelope Woman?"

"You aren't the Antelope Woman?" he responded.


The boy was dismayed.

"Forgive me. In these parts there is a legend of a woman draped in a shiny black covering who lives in the hills and runs with the antelopes. At night, she comes and takes our food and supplies, so we leave an offering at the edge of the settlement for he so that she will not plunder our resopurces."

"And I..." Marla started... "resemble this woman?"

"According to legend," he responded.

Marla thought this was curious, and wondered what the source of this legend might be. No one had ever seen the Antelope Woman close up, but most Ankhari were certain of her existence.

That night, with most of our repairs complete, we enjoyed the feast that the Ankhari had prepared for us.

"How long do you plan to stay with us?" the Chief asked Rudy, as they walked through the settlement after dinner.

"I think we'll stay the night, but we'll set out tomorrow morning."

"Do not feel obligated to leave, Mr. Ransom. Stay as long as you wish."

"Thanks for the offer, but I think it's best if we go. Our destination is still far from here and we have a long journey ahead, and our horse might not make it much further." Ransom told him. "But there is one thing you could do for me. Our map of this region was destroyed when we were attacked by another Indian tribe a while back. You wouldn't happen to know how to get to a nearby town?"

"I'm sorry," Kintek responded. "Our people have never left the valley."

Rudy was disappointed to hear this, but wasn't surprised.

VC: The Ransom Entries, Part. 3
Jason — 30 Aug 1999, 3:20 PM

Nonetheless, the Ankhari chief invited us to attend an ancient ceremony late that night, where he promised to ask the ancestral spirits to bless our journey. Later that night I assembled my crew as members of the Ankhari performed this ceremony for us.

After a few chants, the younger Ankhari Marla had been working with gave the Chief a strange tube. He wove his hand around it, and it illuminated.

Rudy, Marla and Max exchanged glances, having never seen anything like it. As the ceremony began, God fearin' men as they were, Rudy and Max removed their hats and looked upward. Soon the clear, starry sky was disturbed. A vortex formed above them.

"Must be a trick of the light and wind," Max whispered to Rudy, who looked on, with an open mind waiting to see what would happen.

Then, something emerged from the vortex. It was one of the Ankhari spirits: it glowed brightly and hovered over us briefly.

"That's one big firefly," Max said.

As the "firefly" spirit observed the scene, then quickly turned around and returned into the vortex which closed after it.

Marla, Noah and Max had looks of wonder on their faces.

"The Ancient Spirits have blessed your journey. Continue, secure in the knowledge that you will make a swift arrival at your destination."

As the Ankhari dispersed, the crew stood around, looking at the Chief Ankhari's device. As Rudy turned to joined them, something caught his attention out of the corner of his eye. He took a few steps away from everyone, and kneeled down on the ground.

There were drops of thick, wet black liquid on the ground, sinking in to the dirt, right beneath where the spirit had appeared. He was certain they hadn't been there before. Rudy put his hand in the dirt, picking up some of the black liquid in his fingers, rubbing it, smelling it and checking its texture.

Rudy paused in thought, considering this discovery.

The Chief Ankhari had told us that the Spirits had blessed our journey. But they weren't Spirits. They were petroleum based life-forms. I assembled my crew to discuss the situation.

"I've checked it out, and the creature that we saw left a small residue of oil behind." Max said.

Noah chirped in, "I've asked some of the other Ankhari if they've ever seen this before and they say that they have. It's left behind every time one of those spirits come through their "spiritual corridor".

Rudy thought about this. "This is the first unique creature we've seen on our journey. I'd like to take the opportunity to try and study it. To actually conduct the mission that we set out to do."

Max turned. "There's only one problem, I don't think the Ankhari Tribe is going to take too kindly to us studying their ancestral spirits."

"Then we'll have to see if we can summon the spirits without the Ankhari looking over our shoulder." Rudy concluded. "Marla, the boy who assisted the Ankhari Chief during the ceremony seems to have taken a liking to you. See if you can get a hold of one of their summoning devices." Marla nodded, and left immediately. "Max, Noah, we're going to need to keep it here awhile, build a net." Likewise, they went to see what they could get from the Indian settlement. Then, Rudy turned to the fifth man.

"We don't know what we're in for. If this creature is intelligent... or otherwise. It may want to put up a fight when we catch it. We may have to sedate it somehow."

Emotionlessly, the fifth man, a bald gentlemen said "I'll see what I can do."
Rudy smiled. "You haven't failed us yet, Doc."

VC: The Ransom Entries, Part Four
Jason — 30 Aug 1999, 3:26 PM

Later that evening, Marla arranged a trade with the young boy. In exchange for one of their summoning devices Marla gave him a collection of beads that we had obtained from another Indian tribe before we entered the desert. With the summoning device in hand, we performed the same ritual later that evening.

Again, the vortex formed just over their heads, and the firefly spirit emerged, taking note of the people assembled.

"Now!" Rudy cried.

Quickly, Noah and Max threw a net over it, restraining it. The creature thrashed around, oil splattering on everyone. Before the Doctor could inject it with what he had concocted, its resistance subsided, as did all movement whatsoever.

It was already dead. Upon examination Marla discovered that its body was composed of high concentrations of oil. Which left us with the mystery of how this life-form evolved, and what we had to do now.

"I don't think the Ankhari are going to like the fact that we inadvertently killed one of their spirits." Noah said.

"We won't be here long enough for them to find out." Max responded.

"Marla?" Rudy asked, waiting for her report.

"Well, the interesting news is that I can convert the oil from the creature's remains to any number of useful things. Kerosene for lamps and heaters... In this creature alone to fill those needs we shouldn't need another source of oil for a number of months."

"So, you're suggesting we use its remains?" Noah asked.

"I'm not suggesting anything," Marla said. "Just telling you the science."

The Doc stepped in. "Well why shouldn't we," he said coldly. "This creature possesses resources desperately needed to survive."

"This creature is also a living being, one we know little about." Marla responded.

"One that clearly doesn't live in this region," Noah added. "It was *brought* here somehow."

"The same is true of many other creatures we've hunted and killed in the name of survival. Let's not turn to hypocrisy now. The fact that we summoned it here instead of chasing it like other game is irrelevant. It has something we need so it's only logical that we take advantage of that. For our *own* survival. We are, after all, the superior life forms." The Doc reasoned.

"Are we?" Noah retorted. His point was ignored.

"Doc Savage," Rudy said, "once again you've provided a logical argument for us to consider."

"Like I said," Max broke in. "I think we should get out of here as soon as possible. Before the Ankhari find out what happened and put their pacifism aside."

Just then, their horse nearby keeled over. They ran to his aid, and it wasn't long until the Doc announced the prognosis. "He's alive, but he's not going anywhere."

"Poor Berman, he's served us so well!" Marla said.

"Are you an idiot?" Max asked. "He's the one that got us lost in the first place!"

We were stuck in this situation with no way out. Our horse was no longer going to be of service to us. The creature was already dead, so what else could we do but make the best of the situation?

"Marla," Rudy asked, "Can we convert this oil in to some sort of... fuel...?"

Marla considered this. "You mean, make the caravan run on the fuel as some sort of power source...?"

"Exactly!" Max chirped.

Marla shrugged her shoulders. "Well I don't see why not. I'm sure we could convert the oil emitted by the creature in to some sort of power source for the caravan. With my engineering skills, I'd say it shouldn't take me more than a few hours to convert the caravan to operate on it's own!"

That was exactly what Rudy wanted to hear. "Get to it."

VC: "The Ransom Entries", (Concluded!)
Jason — 30 Aug 1999, 3:27 PM

Marla worked throughout the night using supplies provided by the Ankhari to build a mechanical contraption that would allow the caravan to move under it's own power, using the oil from the creatures as a source of fuel. Early the next morning, she was ready.

"Boy, that was tough work." she said.

Max observed the new addition to the caravan. "It's not much to look at," he said.

"You're not much of a sight for sore eyes either, Max." she said.

"But will it work?" Rudy asked.

"Yes it will," Marla said. "I'm certain of it."

"Okay," Rudy announced to his crew. "Get your gear on board. Max, make sure you bring one of those summoning devices. We'll need to replenish our fuel."

Marla paused at this idea, while she had been constructing the new system, she'd never considered that this was going to be a long-term method of transportation. Still, she tried to concentrate only on what Rudy had asked of her. Looking back at the Ankhari settlement once more, she boarded the caravan.

As the Equinox started up, Max steered the caravan out of the settlement and further into the clearing, leaving the mountains, the desert, the Ankhari and their trusty horse behind. The caravan moved much faster than it ever did under horse power.

"Boy, this was a great idea," Noah said. "Why hasn't anyone else come up with this?"

After a moment, Max responded with the answer. "I guess it's true what they say... necessity really is the mother of invention."

Ransom held his gun as the Equinox pulled away, guarding against any future threat.

We had found our salvation. The Equinox was making more progress toward home in two days with Marla's advances than it had in two months before this happened. A few days later, we began depleting our supply of the creature's oil residue. What were we supposed to do? We continued calling upon the aliens and capturing them. After the first time, it wasn't as easy for us to do it. It became difficult for me to rationalize what we were doing. Knowingly summoning an innocent, peaceful creature to its death was becoming difficult to justify, regardless of our desperate need of the fuel that they provided. Event he Doctor's cold rationalization for our acts became difficult to accept. I stopped thinking about it, instead, devoting my time to gathering food and other resources and leaving the summoning of the aliens to Max and the others. And I found myself... simply hoping that we'd find our way home soon.