The dust settles and the dunes dissipate, although the Drifters feel nothing but discontent. The same star of adventure once sought by the Drifters shines luminously no more. The smoke of adventure and exploration was clearing just as the gunpowder settled. The wasteland was becoming more and more serene, day by day and every Drifter knew it. Most of Filgaia had been mapped and the Wasteland lost its appeal and danger.
But that was all about to change...
Chapter 1: Birds of Passage
The Sheriff paced back and forth across the creaky wooden floorboards of his station. A look, more anxious than nervous, appeared embedded into his eyes. His fingers instinctively traced his gun holster and then moved down the sleek barrel of his revolver.
His badge read "A. Williams" and was barely legible. The writing looked worn with age in addition to being dust-covered.
The man took a drag of his cigarette and looked out the small window towards the town of Happy Alex, his birthplace and the town which he protected. In this town, this man was both the law and the order.
"Where the hell are all of 'em? Can't trust youngsters with anythin' these days. They better show their asses," he muttered to himself.
He took a final pull of the cigarette and threw it on the wooden floor. The Sheriff stopped pacing around the Lone Star, a decrepit, small shack that doubled as both the town's sheriff's office and as his place of residence. The man picked up his mug and held the glass to his lips. The cool beer was beyond refreshing, but most of all it calmed the man's nerves. He set the glass down and peered out of the small window once more. Overjoyed, he saw a large group of people advancing towards his "office," traveling in what looked one wide mass.
The group was curiously diverse, some young, some old. Some appeared well-kempt, perhaps even exuding an aura of apparent affluence. Others wore run-down or tattered clothes. Most of these travelers were on horses, treading into the town slowly, although a select foolish few seemed to have made the journey on foot.
"Here it goes. Better meet 'em out," the Sheriff's gaze broke from the mob and he went outside to greet them.
The group and the man walked steadily towards each other. The Sheriff stopped a few feet outside of the Lone Star and waited until the group started to gather in front. An air of concern and uncertainty made the mood tense. Some of the younger-looking ruffians gossiped and whispered amongst themselves, while the older generation within the group just smirked at them, knowing something revolutionary was about to take place right before their very eyes.
("Pssst, is that the guy?)
("Yeah, I think so. He's supposed to be real famous around these parts or something. Heard one of the geezer Drifters talking about him.")
("Hey is that the guy who's leading this?")
("Seriously? Isn't this guy supposed to be 30 or something...? He looks ancient.")
"Shut your mouth, pup. This man is thrice the Drifter you can ever hope to be," one of the older men on a sandy-colored, brown steed retorted Sheriff kept his composure cool and confident, and then scanned the group that had coalesced in front of him. Soon a voice screamed with glee, the origin seemed to resonate from the center of the crowd…
"AMOS! Amoooos!" The voice was clearly female and every head among the crowd turned to the source of the obnoxious holler.
A young woman, barely out of adolescence, ran for the Sheriff and the ocean of people cleared to both sides to let the woman through. She wore a corset-like, russet garment, which began just below her collar and fell to her navel. The garment seemed to indicate that this Drifter girl was probably older and more mature than she appeared. This was certainly not the apparel of a young girl.
Noticeably beautiful, her come-hither looks were met with the prying and staring eyes of the men in the crowd. A few whistles and calls came from some of the adolescent guys (and a few of the older perverts) in the mob.
The woman nearly tackled the Sheriff, but ran to him with open arms and embraced him warmly.
"Easy there! Here, let me have a look at you." The girl was considerably shorter than Amos, and he tilted her head up to face him."Carol Lynn! By the Guardians! Can it be you? Looks like someone grew up," Amos embraced the girl sincerely, it was apparent their relationship was strictly platonic."I hope you mean me. It's been too long Amos. Imagine my surprise when I learned my dear childhood friend was having this grand Drifter get-together and yet I received no invite," Carol Lynn teased her friend then joined the crowd once orange sun harbored no mercy and shone down on the now increasingly impatient and hot crowd. The Sheriff wiped a bead of perspiration from his forehead and tilted his ten-gallon hat back, so as to get a better glimpse of the crowd, before clearing his throat to break the momentary silence. "Ahem…erm…welcome to Happy Alex, my distinguished guests, friends, and fellow Drifters." A few older men clapped for a short moment. The man who scolded the younger Drifters hopped off his horse which let out a soft neigh.
"To my friends, I welcome you back and to those of y'all who I've never met, I go by Sheriff Amos Williams. There's a reason each and every one of you are here today and that's because you made a name for yourself in this lawless Wasteland. Your keen ability to survive in Filgaia's Wasteland does not go unnoticed and some of y'all may be even more popular than you're aware," this small ego boost seemed to pique the curiosity of the people and they listened more intently to this well-spoken orator.
"I may not look like much now, but I too was a Drifter a while back. I come to you my friends, and y'all youngins, under the gravest of circumstances. Filgaia is changin', slowly but surely and I know y'all can feel it too."
"Changing how ?" questioned one of the Drifters in the front.
"Changin' for the worse. That's how. This minimalistic, barren desert is getting' hotter and drier day by day. Don't tell me y'all can't see the change happenin' right before your very eyes. I ask those of you who have spread your wings, is this the same Filgaia you knew a year ago…Five years ago? Ten years ago? You can't deny this; the land is growin' stagnant. Everyone should be aski—
"Ain't nobody disagreeing with ya, geezer. You'd have to be a novice Driftah, or live in a bubble, not to notice it," another rude younger Drifter interrupted Amos's speech.
"The question he meant to ask was: what does this have to do with us?" The older Drifter with the brown horse was growing weary of these younger pups, nipping them back as he redirected the conversation back to Amos. The Sherrif was grateful for the older man's presence and authoritative scorn at the younger Drifters.
"Of course. I was gettin' to that. How many of you have been to the village of Rabask, in the eastern plateaus?" Only a few hands in the crowd rose and the Drifters that had never been were immediately humbled and subdued, if only for the moment.
"The Rabaskian people tell of a Filgaia that is unlike the one today, a legend passed down among the priest lineage in their village. It tells of a land of green and blue, a planet that was bountiful with life, plants and water. Back when I spread my wings as a Drifter, I heard this legend once from a shaman in Rabask Village. It foretold of a Filgaia with 2 paths, one that led to the gradual decline and destruction of our planet…and the other of the people coming together to restore the planet. Now, for the reason I went to such lengths to gather all of you from all corners of the Wasteland. How would you guys like to see this dream become a reality? How would y'all like to restore this damned Wasteland to its former glory?"
Only a few hands in the crowd rose and the Drifters that had never been were immediately humbled and subdued, if only for the a few hands in the crowd rose and the Drifters that had never been were immediately humbled and subdued, if only for the a few hands in the crowd rose and the Drifters that had never been were immediately humbled and subdued, if only for the moment. Everyone knew this was a rhetorical question and they simply listened intently. Amos knew what he wanted to say to this group long before they even answered his invitation.
"I'm probably way in over my head here and I'm clingin' to a small glimmerin' star of hope, but it's worth tryin'. If the legends told to me by the Shaman are true, we can restore Filgaia. I don't know about y'all, but I'd like to try."
"You do realize some of us came from hundreds of miles away, just to answer your invitation? This is the so called 'big news' we were waiting for? Some half-assed altruistic attempt at saving the world?" one of the Drifters showed his disdain for the idea and its clear lack of a slightly more "measurable" reward. The cold whip of his disapproval stung Amos, but he continued on with his spiel.
Only a few of the Drifters were optimistic enough to believe there might be an alternative to the Filgaia they see before them and yet, for some strange reason, in the back of everyone's minds, they could vaguely envision a Filgaia that seemed to almost exist elsewhere outside of their heads. It seemed almost tangible; as if it existed at one point in time.
Would it really be possible to turn this dusty planet into a paradise?
"Don't get me wrong, I'm not asking you to do this for free. There's some organization that's hirin' gunslingers from all over to go into some ruins they excavated. They're willin' to pay y'all guys well if y'all help out. I spoke with the organization's leader and told him I may be able to provide him with some skilled Drifters that would further the organization's goal…This is our chance. The fate of Filgaia lies in the hands and ARMs of y'all younger Drifters. Now is the time to lift our planet from the quicksands of decline." His words trailed off towards the crowd pleadingly and for what seemed like a few minutes, nobody said anything. Then one lone man opened his mouth.
"If they're paying, I'm your man. I'm in," one of the Drifters stepped in. The band of Drifters laughed in agreement before erupting in rowdy applause and cheer. The gunslingers hooted."You know I'm in, Amos." Carol Lynn added.
"Then our path is clear guys, our next destination is the WEDO Base.""We do?" one of the Drifters questioned."WEDO. It's the name of an organization that's hirin' Drifters. They'll explain everythin'. If y'all gunslingers still aren't fully sold on this idea, come along for the ride anyway and see if the bounty the organization offers you is worth your time."
With hope in Amos's heart, and curiosity in the Drifters', they set up camp in the dusty town of Happy Alex. They needed their rest and strength for tomorrow morning they would set course for the WEDO Base.