- John plays Uncle Mike, a Hardholder He's a man with a mix of casual and junta wear, an aristocratic face, commanding eyes, and a wiry body.
Well, it looks like Uncle has managed to get the holding into some semblance of order. His various efforts to relieve the hold's population-pressure reduced the issues of hunger and disease until they became mere background concerns. The disease is still affecting people, but it's not spreading as fast or killing as many of the weak. Fewer mouths to feed means the food goes further; in addition, his newly-formed juvie-gang returned from the hills with fresh meat, although they lost a couple of members to aggressive carnivores. The one problem that still hasn't been resolved is the tribute payment owing to Bad Stump.
John actually rolled an 11 on Wealth, and didn't have to pick any bad conditions at all. However, since the tribute hadn't been paid, and it saps the hold's surplus, he opted to leave it unpaid in return for extra barter.
He also got an advance, and picked Daredevil from the Driver playbook, giving him (and his gang, if they're with him) +1 armour if he recklessly charges into a dangerous situation. A great modus operandi for a Hardholder!
A couple days later, the lookouts spot a huge dust-cloud heading down the road. Fifty or more bikers from Bad Stump form a loose circle around Spring Hill, spaced apart in the fields. Uncle sets up his negotiation table at the front gates, but they're having none of it, and wait for him. He comes out by himself to speak with the four bikers parked in a group on the road. Their leader asks about Gnarly and his men, but Uncle disavows any knowledge of them.
The leader sends two of his guys up to the gates with Uncle to collect the tribute. They also demand a late payment fee, which Uncle pays out of his own pocket. He also learns from them that the emissaries he sent to the West were found by Bad Stump raiders and killed or enslaved. Satisfied with the payment, but not entirely believing that Uncle doesn't know about Gnarly, the bikers saddle up and ride off again.
Uncle spends the rest of the day reallocating his human resources. He sends the juvies out again, this time to protect a work detail harvesting lumber from the woods. He also gets some of his skilled craftsmen to make a survey for a quarry in the side of the hill, to start making plans for a granary, and to consider turning more of the land downstream into farmland.
That evening Uncle visits his secretary, Miss Annabel, who's still suffering from the disease. She's not doing well, although Doc's doing everything he can. As Uncle comforts her, he hears the click of a gun being cocked behind him. He turns to see one of the Bad Stump bikers in the window, having climbed up the outside of the building, pointing a sawn-off rifle at him. Uncle offers him a job, but the guy's found out what happened to Gnarly and the others, and is here for payback! As he pulls the trigger, Uncle draws his katana and charges, narrowly avoiding the shot and striking the assassin a near-fatal blow. The wounded biker falls back out of the window onto the street below, and dies.
Uncle tightens security. They investigate how the assassin got in; it seems he crept through the fields and prised open the grate that lets the spring-stream flow out of the city. Uncle has it reinforced, and lines the floor of the tunnel with pebbles so it's harder for someone to move quietly through it. A keen-eyed lookout spots a small group of bikers waiting a long way down the road.
Uncle considers his next move.
>>> To be continued.