Snatched From Steelhead

Steal Head: The Story In Full.

The great thing about multi-participant roleplay is the sheer scope & inventiveness of posts and photos that people post to their blogs. Unfortunately it can mean that it’s hard to follow the ebb and flow of the tale and sometime you can miss whole chunks. To try and address this I maintained a record of everyone’s posts and listed them in a chronological order that made sense to the tale. If you’ve never read “Steal Head” before, or are returning to re-read it, I hope this guide helps you find your way through what proved to be an amazing four months of my life 🙂

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The tale begins…

All across Steelhead, people start having nightmares… ((An OOC call to join in the nightmares!))

Dr Beck writes to the Town Council for the first time…

A vandal paints graffiti around town

A message is revealed and the Sentinel is on the case!

Dr Beck writes to the Town Council for the second time…

Dr Beck writes to the Town Council for the third time & Capt Creighton delivers a photograph…

Steal Head Arrives in Town!

Lunar calls for an expedition to the site of the photograph.

Dr Beck writes to the Town Council for the fourth time & Capt Creighton delivers a photograph from the expedition…

More from around Steelhead on the spate of vicious murders! ((An OOC call to join in the murderous fun!))

Dr Beck falls to the creature and a rescue is undertaken.

The end of Steelhead’s nightmare, yet Ya Yiwama claims one final victim…

In the murky waters of Steelhead’s Shanghai port, the legacy of evil battles on…

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Steal Head: The End.

All “Steal Head” posts can be read on my blog here and on the Steelhead Ning here.

Mutations: Chapter 7 – The Sum of Many Things

A night of deep, dream-free sleep saw Beck wake refreshed and looking forward to his day, even if he did spend much of his breakfast touching his head to ensure it was still on his shoulders. He washed and dressed with an almost cheerful air about him, perhaps it was being away from the dark sooty skies of New Babbage that did it, or maybe it was just spending a night in his own bed, however humble, that revitalised his soul. Whatever his mood could be attributed too, it saw a distinctly happy man all but skip downstairs to his surgery to prepare for the day ahead.

As he opened the door and crossed the threshold he noticed a folded slip of paper on the floor; nothing unusual in that as many of his patients left him letters and the like in such a manner so he simply picked it up and carried it over to his desk. He was idly opening it when he noticed another letter on his desk, this time an altogether different missive than he would expect. It was a short, polite and formal note from a Miss Rhianon Jameson of Caledon expressing her regret in missing him having speculatively called by whilst he’d been away in Babbage. He knew the name yet it was a few seconds before he could recall the face… close to his… through the smoke… wanting something… someone… oh God! It was the woman in the den, the one asking about The Scientist, and he’d sent her to him! His mood wavered as he wondered what she could want with him again and, if she’d been successful in her quest, what her connection with the Scientist now was.

He put the letter down, unsure how (or even if) to reply, and turned his now distracted attention to the first note still in his hand. He read it and immediately re-read it. It was from Li Fe’s father, was dated the very day he had left and, in a shaky hand and broken English, was begging him to come and help his wife who was out of her mind with grief over the loss of their only child.
Beck felt sick as the black emptiness he tried so hard to keep at bay suddenly throbbed deep inside his gut. He grabbed his bag and all but ran out of the door and into the narrow streets and alleys of the slums.

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It was late evening when he returned. He stared at his meagre belongings in his small, rotting room and wondered, as he often did, what his wife would think of the shabby state he’d let his life tumble into. He’d lost so much getting here and had so little to show for himself that he half-feared he would vanish into the gulfs of his life.

He caught himself, chiding his pointless self-pity into remission and reminded himself where he’d been all day, what he’d seen. Li Fe’s mother, Xan, had spent the last two weeks beside herself with grief and anger, lashing out at everyone around her. Her husband had borne the brunt of it as she blamed him for allowing their child to be stolen. Her family, Christian converts Beck had learnt, had watched her every minute of the day, fearing she would do herself an injury until, but a few days ago, her mood had calmed a little. She grew less wild, less frantic and her husband began to hope the worst had passed. And then her brother had been found murdered.

A fisherman, Chi Yun had landed after a two week trip with old Captain “Pastor” Williams and was evidently walking home when someone had attacked and stabbed him, leaving him to die in the filth of a slum doorway. The family expected Xan to take this badly and braced themselves, but instead of the breakdown they feared, Xan retreated within herself and remained there ever since. She had not eaten for two days and barely slept. Beck had been unable to reach her, it was as if she had pulled a veil down and vanished from view. In the end all Beck could do was mix a sleeping draught and advise that Xan be confined to her bed until her delicate emotional state improved. Her sister, a young woman who seemed oddly familiar to Beck, was caring for her and thanked the doctor warmly for his help. Beck accepted her gratitude with grace but each of her nods and smiles was like a knife-point in his belly: he was as much use to her as he’d been to his own wife and children. He sighed, rubbing his tired eyes as he sat down heavily in his worn armchair by the small fire. Deep inside him the empty feeling grew a little bit more.

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As Beck slept, snoring away in the armchair by the still-glowing fire, someone moved outside his surgery in the night-shrouded streets below. A tall, haunted figure took a brush dripping with black tar and began to scrawl across the filthy windows, leaving a message from his Lord to His new subjects.

He was coming and they would bow to Him. Oh yes, they would bow to Him and offer their heads.

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To be continued…

Links to other blogs and stories:
1) A “Steal Head” Story So Far recap can be found here.

2) All my “Mutations” posts can be read on my blog here

3) All my “Snatched from Steelhead” posts can be read on my blog here

4) All my “Steal Head” posts can be read on my blog here and on the Steelhead Ning here.

5) All my “Creaky Gloom” posts can be read on my blog here

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Steal Head: Chapter 2 – A Letter To The Town Council…

Dear Estemeed Members of the Town Council,

It is with some degree of alarm that I find myself writing to you with warning of what I fear may be the initial stages of an outbreak of mass-hysteria amongst the population of the whole city and possibly its wider environs!

As you will be aware I recently returned from my trip (upon Official City Matters) to New Babbage and it was whilst I was steaming back aboard the Clockhaven Queen that I had what can only be described as a nightmare. Now whilst I would be the first to dismiss the use of a ‘bad dream’ as a symptom were it to fall from the lips of any but the youngest visitor to my surgery (which remains, by the by, in dire need of running water I feel duty bound to add at this point), even I have to sit up and take notice when not one, not two, but many people from all over the city are reporting they too are having dreams of a very similar nature and theme: to wit, the losing of one’s head!

Now if these shared dreams are being caused by an outbreak of mass-hysteria, then I am so far at a loss as to what is causing the actual outbreak. Be it some strange air that has fallen across the city, or a foreign body that has somehow insinuated itself into the food or water we share I simply do not know. I am, of course, tracing and tracking each case but I urge you to ask the population as a whole to report any such dreams to me, along with any other activities or events of a similarly strange nature, so I can build as complete a picture as possible. Only through rigorous scientific exploration will the cause of these most disturbing of dreams be uncovered and I for one shall not rest until I have an answer.

Yours in endeavour,
Rynhold Beck (Dr.)
13 to 14 Shamian Alley,
Shanghai, Stlhd.
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p.s. You will be pleased to hear that my trip to New Babbage went smoothly. Well, as smoothly as any trip to New Babbage can go. Is it me or are the people there of a very peculiar bent? In truth, they all seem a little… Mad Hatter if you ask me.

p.p.s. Would you also be so good as to thank the kind and anonymous donor of my new microscope for me?

p.p.p.s. I nearly forgot. Please direct anyone with a dream to share to send their written description or sketch to the Ning and mark their correspondence with the tag “Steal Head” so I can sort through it easier.

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To be continued…

All my “Steal Head” posts can be read on my blog here and on the Steelhead Ning here.

Snatched From Steelhead: Chapter 4 – Owls, bunnies, kids & cake…

I’d been in Babbage for a week when the cake was delivered. I had been billeted in a high attic room in the hospital, the type usually reserved for trainee nurses, servants and the like. I assumed this was a small way of trying to make me feel unwelcome but in truth the room was warm and dry and therefore several degrees more desirable than my own back in the Shanghai slums.

A week. It was hard to believe I’d been away a week. Seven days had passed since the Clockhaven Queen paddled into harbour and, still sporting my black eyes and swollen face from the tong attack but three nights earlier, I had walked nervously down the gangplank to the quay below.

Arriving in Clockhaven_001

Arriving in Clockhaven_002

If it hadn’t been for Madam Luck smiling upon me by arranging a serendipitous meeting with young Tatsuya Skytower I fear my journey through the ever-sooty streets of Babbage would have been considerably less friendly. I knew of Tatsuya’s cousin, Sheryl, from Steelhead and although I had never met the young woman tales of a small, clockwork dragon tend to make an impression and do not go unremembered. Tatsuya (once I had apologised for assuming the small clockwork dragon in front of me was in fact Sheryl) offered to act as my guide and led me through the streets right to the front door of the William Wilde hospital.

Ryne at the William Wilde Hospital_001

The hospital itself (built at great personal expense by one Blackberry Harvey, my generous & genial host) was a marvel to behold. Clean and modern with attentive and polite staff. I made a mental note there and then that once home I would write a letter to Steelhead’s Town Council to beg them to build such a place in our fair city, but for now I was only too pleased to see that both myself and my patient would clearly be in good hands.

Indeed, the accused Captain Kuroe couldn’t have hoped for better medical care as I was not the only doctor charged with his well-being during his pre-trial recuperation. Dr Darien Mason was a name many knew, some feared and all respected. Long before my time he had been a resident of Steelhead and like me had been the sole medical provider for the whole city, but his family’s knack of courting trouble had seen him (and most of his relatives) lost, presumed dead. For months all trace of the Masons were lost, indeed the very fire that burnt Antfarm had taken place in Dr Mason’s abandoned Steelhead laboratory and nearly a year later whatever chemicals and compounds Mason had been experimenting with still prevented anything beyond the hardiest of grasses from growing on the ever-vacant lot. Then only a few weeks back I heard that a certain Dr Mason had been spotted in New Babbage, but I never for one moment thought we would meet like this! He was Babbage’s representative and I Steelhead’s and we had both been charged with ensuring Ashiko Kuroe recovered from his treatment at the hands of the Mayor and the Militia so he could stand trial for his alleged crimes.

As for the patient himself, after a few days his cuts and bruises began to heal (as did mine although my jaw ached all week and I still have a terrible headache all down one side of my skull) and a new leg was crafted for him. I won’t detail the matters surrounding the loss of his original leg as even though I feel physically sickened at what appears to have happened, it has been agreed by Mayors Tenk & Eclipse that the matter is a private one between Mayor Tenk and the prisoner. Even Ashiko seems content with that arrangement, but I know there are others in the city who are less happy to let such an act lie.

(As an aside to my recounting of events that led up to the gift of cake left for me, I would say a word or two about the state of fear that hangs over this city like a shroud. There is a palpable air of dissent in New Babbage, the city seems divided into several camps, all of them arranged around the Mayor and his “ advisers”. These, for want of a better word, rulers appear so high-handed and dictatorial in style that they polarise the people; some can see in them no wrong, only the inevitable and unstoppable march of progress as the city expands and grows and damn the eyes of any who stand in its way, whilst others see an authoritarian and uncaring (and possibly corrupt and evil!) regime that oppresses its people and the wider environment in the most heinous ways. Let no one tell you this is a happy city, revolt & espionage seem to lurk around every corner, or at least the ones not already taken by the threats of cut-purses and the hollow promises of fallen women. Of all people the chief plotters at the moment would appear to be the street urchins. They feel marginalised, misunderstood and disliked at the best of times but the events surrounding the removal of Ashiko’s leg has really put fire in their bellies and now they speak openly of revolution! I’m sure the only reason Mayor Tenk and his attack dog Undertone haven’t fallen upon them like a ton of bricks is because they perceive them to be of little threat. They may be right, but it is the Devil’s own gamble because I’ll wager these urchins know this city like no others and have connections beyond its limits that would be the envy of any military tactician. Small these street children might be, but powerless? I think not.)

And so the week passed, I tended to my ward; helped with the fitting of his new leg; lent my services to the wider hospital (which seemed to be in the middle of treating a minor epidemic of tram crash injuries and deaths – obviously the New Babbage trolley system is not to be trifled with!); sent reports back to Mayor Eclipse via the owls which arrived at my window; toured the city with various urchin guides; and sent urgent telegrams back to Steelhead regarding evidence I came across of Babbage arming itself with fearsome machines of invasion. In short it had been a busy week and I was exhausted. The knock on the door woke me from my half slumber and I opened the door half expecting a call to yet another tram mishap, yet there was no one there! Instead, on the floor and in a plain paper wrapper was a rather tasty looking cake. A small note sat atop it, scrawled in what looked like a child’s hand it said simply “Fank yoo Dr. Bek”. How lovely! And I was ever so hungry. What a pity Mason was out of the hospital right now… I’d save him some of course, but in the meantime I fancied a good quarter of this to myself with a nice cup of tea.

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Ten minutes later, three small figures hiding in the shadows outside Beck’s room heard a thump followed by a series of noisy snores. One of the figures turned to the others and nodded, whispering “Roight chums, ee’s ander. Let’s go!” As one they turned and scampered of into the hospital to keep their pre-arranged assignation…

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To be continued…

All my “Snatched From Steelhead” posts can be read on my blog here.

Links to other blogs and stories:
1) My background in the Ashiko Kuroe case can be found here here.
2) Some posts from the New Babbage Ning outlining the actions (or not, he is awaiting trial as I type this remember) of Captain Kuroe can be read here and here and here.
3) Captain Kuroe’s letter to Steelhead can be read here.
4) The appointment of Mr Byron Wexhome by Mayor Tenk can be found here.
5) Mr Wexhome’s initial investigations can be read here and here.
6) Mr Wexhome’s proposed Plan can be read here.
7) The details of Ashiko’s new leg can be read here.
8 ) The Urchins’ call to arms (and cake) can be read here and here.
9) My telegrams to Steelhead regarding New Babbage’s Engines of War can be read here.
10) Dr Beck’s near-fatal last trip to Clockhaven is journaled here.

Cross-posted to the Steelhead Ning and the New Babbage Ning.

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A Telegram from New Babbage: They have a Land Behemoth!

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From:- Dr Beck, New Babbage
To:- Mayor Eclipse, Steelhead

Further News STOP About Babbage military I mean STOP They have new Ironclad for the land STOP Urchin passed me ‘found’ plans STOP ALSO HUGE! STOP Babbage Militia is arming! STOP Steelhead must be in their sights! STOP

All the best,
Dr Beck.

p.s.STOP Weather here still fine STOP Bit foggy I suppose STOP How are things back home? STOP STOP

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Picture credit Mr Archie Chelmsford of New Babbage. See more of the titan on his New Babbage Ning post here! Cross posted to the Steelhead Ning here. Read all the “Snatched from Steelhead” posts here.

A Telegram from New Babbage: Warship Ahoy!

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From:- Dr Beck, New Babbage
To:- Mayor Eclipse, Steelhead

Inform Steelhead Navy STOP Babbage have new warship STOP HUGE! STOP The City’s Naval forces seem to be mobilising STOP Steelhead might be in danger! STOP

Warmest Regards,
Dr Beck.

p.s.STOP Weather here fine STOP Hope all well back home STOP STOP

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Picture credit Mr Wiggy Undertone of New Babbage. See more of the brute on his New Babbage Ning post here! Cross posted to the Steelhead Ning here. Read all the “Snatched from Steelhead” posts here.

Snatched From Steelhead: Chapter 3 – Back to New Babbage

The owl gazed at Dr Beck with eyes as inscrutable as time itself. For his part, Beck stared back with his one open eye full of confusion and sleep. He propped himself up on his elbows and blinked a few times. The owl sitting on the back of his chair failed to vanish and instead stared coolly back him.

“Erm, hello?” Beck mumbled. The owl blinked once very, very slowly. “You’re one of the Mayor’s owls, aren’t you? One of his messengers?”. Blink. Beck stood up and gingerly walked towards the owl as if it were a fiver pound note on a windowsill in danger of blowing away. The owl just sat and watched him. “Do, er, do you have a message for me then?”. Blink. Beck waited. The owl watched him. Beck shuffled his feet a little. The owl tipped his head almost imperceptibly in such a way as to make Beck feel decidedly nervous. “If you do, may I have the message, please?” he asked. The owl did nothing for a very, very log second before tucking its beak under its wing and pulling something small out from its feathers and flicking it towards Beck. The still sluggish doctor missed it and it fell to the floor at his feet. He bent to examine it and saw it was a small, folded piece of paper roughly half an inch square and one eighth of an inch think. “Thank you. Does the Mayor expect a rep…?” he stopped as his hair was ruffled a sudden breeze and he looked up to see a small cloud of soot fall from his chimney as the owl left. “…ly. I’ll take that a no, then” he completed to himself. He looked at the paper in his hand for several seconds before unfolding it. It was a letter from the Mayor himself, handwritten in his swirling spidery script…

To: Dr. R. Beck.
No. 13 Shamian Alley, Shanghai, Stlhd.

Dear Sir,

Following your rather vocal appeals to the citizens and civic leaders of New Babbage over the recent incident involving one Captain Kuroe I have been visited by a representative of Mayor Tenk who wished to discuss the matter as well as possible solutions.

To cut a long tale short the accused will receive a fair trial in a location still to be decided (although I favour Steeltopia, it is possible that Caledon may be chosen). In the meantime, and following rumours not only of limb amputation but also of beatings meted out to the prisoner, I have agreed you will travel to the William Wilde Hospital in New Babbage and act as his personal physician and, after a fashion, his guard until the trial is completed and justice seen to be done.

I realise you are a busy man and therefore I have booked you on the noon steamer from Steelhead Harbour to Clockhaven.

Travel well and I know I need not remind you to uphold the proud reputation of our city at all times and be the best ambassador we can expect, so I won’t.

Respectfully yours,
TotalLunar Eclipse.
Mayor of Steelhead & Environs.

Beck read and re-read the letter several times as the full weight of its message sunk in. He had to go back to Clockhaven. Today. Now. He had to pack. He had to be ready and on that steamer in time, Steelhead was counting on him. “Oh God, I need a cup of tea,” was all he could say.

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Half an hour after the Clockhaven Queen had paddled away from Steelhead and out to sea with a nervous Beck onboard a tall, worried Chinese man was knocking on the locked surgery door. He was scared and upset. Back at home his wife had sunk further in to the darkest places of her mind and had become all but lost to him. He was sure she was in danger from herself and he needed the English doctor to come and help. The doctor had been so good to his wife since their child had been snatched and killed. The doctor would be able to help. The man knocked louder, “Dr Beck! Dr Beck! Li Fe father! You come help Dr Beck! Please come help!”

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To be continued…
All the “Snatched From Steelhead” posts can be read here.

Links to other blogs and stories:
1) The background to the Ashiko Kuroe case can be found here.
2) Captain Kuroe’s letter to Steelhead can be read here.
3) The appointment of Mr Byron Wexhome by Mayor Tenk can be found here.
4) Mr Wexhome’s initial investigations can be read here and here.
5) Mr Wexhome’s proposed Plan can be read here.
6) The terrible tale of poor Li Fe can be read here.
7) Dr Beck’s near-fatal last trip to Clockhaven is journaled here.

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Steelhead Public Library’s Photography Exhibition

In between running up posters protesting about New Babbage’s illegal acts in Steelhead and brooding over the Tong bastards who broke into my surgery, I decided to take a trip over to the public library in Capital City and conduct some research into the fever that was spreading through the northern slums.
Steelhead Public Library Photography Exhibiton_006

When I arrived I was pleasantly surprised to see that the library patrons had organised an exhibition on the history of that most wonderous of inventions, photography!
Steelhead Public Library Photography Exhibiton_005

Almost the whole of the lower floor had been given over to informative displays and examples showing the evolution of this exciting science…
Steelhead Public Library Photography Exhibiton_001

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Steelhead Public Library Photography Exhibiton_003

I recommend you head over to the library and take in this superb display – you can find it in Capital City here.

Mutations: Chapter 6 – Criminal Acts…

Ryne after the Tong_001

The next morning, as Beck sat nursing his swollen face with a wet towel, Steelhead’s sheriff was angrily striding towards the doctor’s squalid apartment with thunder in his heart. At the door he didn’t bother with a knock instead walking right. Beck spun round, nearly leaping out of his chair with fear, “Futh?” he said through thick tips. The sheriff paused for half a heartbeat before letting out a gutteral roar and tearing the door off its hinges.

Beck looked at the figure in the doorway, hardly recognising the man he’d come to know as a constant in his new life and realised that for the first time he was seeing the animal beneath the skin. “Ermmm,” he said, “theelin bether?”

“I’ll get them, I’ll get them all for this. First Babbage come in here snatching people and now these tong scum do this to you, I’ll get them, Ryne.” Fuzz growled.

Ryne stared at him with his one open eye for long seconds before sighing, “Thit down Futh, letth talk. Whath thith abou Babbath…”

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To be continued…
All the “Mutations” posts can be read here.
All the “Snatched From Steelhead” posts can be read here.

Links to other blogs and stories:
1) A list of New Babbage & Steelhead Ning posts about the New Babbage action in Steelhead can be found here.

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Snatched From Steelhead: Chapter 2 – When Justice Is Blinded!

Say No to New Babbage_001

A few days ago a man was taken by force from the streets of Shanghai in Steelhead. Now as this was Shanghai rather than Boomtown or Capital City and given that the man in question could at best be described as a pirate accused of arson & murder many may not raise an eyebrow too high, but raise them high I say, high and arched with concern for what happened to that man was an affront to our fair city and a threat to every citizen who calls it home.

Mr Undertone, the head of the New Babbage Militia, under the auspices of that sooty city’s Clockwinder Mayor Tenk sent armed goons to snatch one Ashiko Kuroe (accused pirate, accused firestarter, accused bunny murderer & odd-choice for an Ambassador for the floating state of Armada) at knife-point from a tea-house in Shanghai. He was spirited away to a New Babbage jail where, it is rumoured, his leg was amputated as part of a payment for a previous contract with Mayor Tenk who then ate it. Yes. Ate it. In discussions with the good bergers of New Babbage I have detected as much shock & horror at this outcome as would be expected among such civilised peoples, but I’m sorry to say that not every New Babbage voice is rational or reasonable – Mr Underby (whom I mistakenly took for the head of the militia) is one such unreasonable soul who has even begun to speak of, and I quote, “open war” with Steelhead!

Now if Mr Kuroe is guilty then I will be the first to say he must pay for his crimes, but to send hob-nailed booted thugs to our city rather than go through the offices of Mayor Eclipse and Sheriff Ortega is disgusting! Steelhead is a fair city, a just city, a law-abiding city. We have rules, regulations, protocols, laws! If New Babbage feel they can simply walk in and snatch people from under our noses, then what’s to say that you or I won’t be next?

Some less than rtional voices in New Babbage have accused Steelhead of wilfully harbouring a dangerous criminal, but I tell you here and now this is not true! Such talk, such mud flung in anger and, dare I say, shame by those guilty of strampling our city’s laws is a mere distraction to the actual matter in hand, to wit the illegal incursion by another city’s armed militia. Do let us not be continually distracted by the erroneous argument that Steelhead somehow condones vile crimes such as arson and murder and is happy to harbour the criminals who perpetrate them. It does not and is not. But at the same time Steelhead believes in higher ideals – the ideals of Justice for all not just those in power; Liberty for all not just those in privilege, and The Rule of Law for all not just those in High Office (or, indeed, clock tower).

Join me, good people of Steelhead, New Babbage and every Steamlands state, in a protest to hold New Babbage’s leaders to account! Take one of the posters below or go to Steelhead’s City Hall for a selection of placards and make your feelings known – if we don’t stand up now, who knows what evil will be perpetrated next?

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To be continued…
All the “Snatched From Steelhead” posts can be read here.

Links to other blogs and stories:
1) Mara Razor’s initial posts on the Steelhead Ning and the New Babbage Ning.
2) My posts on the Steelhead Ning and the New Babbage Ning.
3) Ashiko Kuroe’s post on the Steelhead Ning.
4) Reference to the affair was made in the June 1st Steelhead Town Hall Meeting, the minutes of which were reprinted in the Steelhead Sentinel.
5) Mr Underby meets the accused to measure his neck!

Steelhead vs NB 002 Steelhead vs NB 001

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