October 20, 2013

History as it wasn't. A steampunk vision of Soapy Smith and the Denver City Hall War.

esterday, while researching for my post on the Denver City Hall War, published October 18, 2013, I accidentally came across a Soapy Smith steampunk story. The story just so happens to center on the City Hall War. There is no author listed and I wrote the site, but have yet to receive a reply. It is published as a page of the main website, Obsidian Portal, and called The Story is the Game/The Weird West, which they advertise "This is the Wild West as it wasn’t, with a heavy dose of fantasy and steampunk." The site invites members to invent history and this one author chose Soapy and the City Hall War. Soapy even has his own biography page on this site. The author of this piece appears to have done a little research Soapy, probably on my website or from my book, Alias Soapy Smith. I found it very entertaining. Below is the complete story as published. Put a little steam in your day.

Denver City Hall War

A Foolproof Plan

Having agreed to both the Governor’s plan to take down Denver kingpin Soapy Smith and Soapy’s plan to take down Governor Waite, the heroes need to find some way out of their predicament. Fortunately, Vincent has a cunning plan.

The following morning, June 15, after taking in breakfast at Mrs. Alford’s, the party treks over to the Governor’s office, where they lay their cards on the table: Soapy has seen through the Governor’s ruse and wants them to take one of his items for use in a spell. Governor Waite doesn’t believe in sorcery, but he’s troubled by the leak of his plan. Vincent then urges the Governor to mobilize the militia and have them surround City Hall. This escalation will keep Soapy’s attention while the heroes put into effect the rest of their plan. Governor Waite declares martial law in Denver and prepares to join his troops.

The heroes then hurry back to the Tivoli Club. Word of the escalation has spread fast (thanks to Denver’s telephone system) and the place is practically deserted. The heroes convince Soapy’s remaining men that they need to see him immediately. They are taken over to the Clubs room, where Soapy is going over things with his top lieutenant Fatty Gray and his brother Bascomb Smith.

The heroes convince Soapy that they need to speak with him alone. Once that happens, Vincent whips out the Mnemomizer before his big mouth foils the plan. Successfully operating the device, Vincent blanks Soapy’s memory and leaves him highly suggestible, at which point the party asks about the location of Soapy’s illicit records. The records are inside the frame of a picture in Soapy’s office next door. Jack also wisely asks if there are any surprises and Soapy warns them about a bomb in the desk. Jack immediately takes the tin ID chip that will keep the bomb from going off. Hightower then clocks Soapy and ties him up.

Realizing that they won’t be able to talk or sneak their way past the two guards downstairs, Vincent begins to assemble two makeshift stun grenades. Low on spare parts, he has to dismantle the room’s light fixtures and in the process finds a tiny listening device shaped like a beetle.

After they get past the guards, Vincent and Hightower carry the unconscious Soapy towards City Hall, while Argent and Jack swing by Soapy’s office. There they find Bascomb and another henchman going over the floor plans of the city building.

Argent overcomes Bascomb’s initial suspicions and convinces him to let them into Soapy’s office, where Jack finds the scrapbook hidden in the false back of a picture of Soapy’s family. The book contains newspaper clippings of Soapy’s exploits, as well as records of Soapy’s bribes to local officials. It also contains references to his dealings with someone called “Wizzie,” including the sale of around 50 Cavalry uniforms. As they leave, Bascomb lets them know that most of Soapy’s men are holed up in City Hall with at least one case of dynamite.

The party reunites and approaches City Hall, which is now surrounded by militia who’ve deployed two Gatling guns and a small cannon. A hundred or so Denver Police Officers have taken up defensive positions outside the building, while more gunmen can be seen through the windows. The heroes are taken to the command post, where they present Soapy and the evidence to the Governor.

Coyote Angry

They are interrupted by the arrival of Thomas Edison, who drives an industrial load lifter between the soldiers and the police. He urges the Governor to peacefully resolve the situation by taking it to the Supreme Court. When Edison learns of Soapy’s arrest, he speaks to the heroes privately. The bug they found was his, planted by his technicians as they “repaired” the Tivoli Club’s wiring. While there, Edison’s men suspected that there was a hidden room behind the janitor’s closet. Edison speculates that this is the site of a power source that fuels Soapy’s ability to influence people.

The heroes return to the now-deserted Tivoli Club to investigate. Unable to find the hidden trigger for the entrance to the secret room, Hightower and Argent just bash in the back wall of the janitor’s closet, which does the trick. Inside, they find a circular room much larger than the space it occupies on the second floor. It is decorated everywhere with paintings of coyotes, has a strange red symbol painted on the floor, and at the far end has an altar with a pile of soap bars including one wrapped in a hundred dollar bill. Jack recognizes the room as a shrine to the trickster spirit Coyote, drawing its energy from the deceit taking place all around it in the rigged casino.

After talking Jack out of burning the place down, Hightower gets some mops and buckets and tries to wash the paint off without offending Coyote. However, disrupting the symbol on the floor causes the pile of soap bars to assemble itself into a man-sized Soap Golem. Vincent’s flamethrower is only semi-effective, while the water from the buckets has no impact. A well-placed shot from Hightower, however, pierces the hundred dollar bill and breaks the spell animating the golem. All supernatural energy drains from the room and the heroes get out before it shrinks back to its proper size.

I Need You For The U.S. Secret Service

After breaking Soapy’s mystical power source, the heroes go to Edison’s townhouse, where he introduces them to “Sam,” an agent with the U.S. Secret Service. Sam has received Col. Mackenzie’s report on the Cheyenne incidents, which link the Pinkerton Detectives and reclusive industrialist Darius Hellstromme to the Wizard. Both the Pinkertons and Hellstromme are based out of Salt Lake City, the site of numerous sightings of the Wizard’s top lieutenant, the Dark Woman.

Sam says that the Secret Service has had difficulty inserting agents into Deseret, but he thinks the heroes will have an easier time of it. He asks them to cross the Rocky Mountains and take the Bee Line railroad from the town of Defiance, CO to a stop just outside of Salt Lake, known as the Junkyard. Its the site of Hellstromme’s massive factories and one of the few places a Gentile won’t stand out. They are to confront the Pinkertons and Hellstromme and search for any evidence on the Wizard’s identity. In return, they will be “handsomely rewarded” by the U.S. government.

The heroes accept the offer and then spend the rest of the afternoon and evening shopping for equipment. By the time they return to Mrs. Alford’s, it has grown dark. Outside the boarding house, they are accosted by some toughs that seem to be under the influence of the Hateful Thing. Hightower manages to talk them down by assuring them that the party will be out at dawn tomorrow.

Escape From Denver

Inside, however, a new crisis is awaiting them. Ed Chase, an influential local gambler and owner of the Palace Theater urgently needs to speak with the heroes. Chase runs an honest casino, but he explains that he also operates a safehouse for those in need. He is currently sheltering a pregnant young woman named Maria, who was married to a Union Blue Railroad enforcer gunned down by Central Rail thugs. A Central posse is in town looking to keep her from testifying about the murder, while a Union Blue squad is gunning for her to prevent her from revealing any company secrets. Chase has lined up an escape plan for her, but for it to work he needs her on the South Platte Ferry by 8:10 a.m. tomorrow. Unfortunately, Soapy had hired all the local gunhands and thanks to the heroes, they’re all in jail. So now he has to turn to the party at the last minute.

Chase runs down some of the background on the Great Railroads: they are powerful, ruthless companies that have been waging their own private war against each other for 15 years. Union Blue’s founder, Dr. Thomas Durant, has close ties with the War Department, allowing him to equip his goons with military grade heavy weapons. Central Rail, meanwhile, has fallen under the sway of a cabal of hexslingers known as the Wichita Witches. Neither group should be tangled with lightly.

Chase says he’s doing this out of charity but offers to pay the heroes. Hightower declines for the group, noting it’s on their way out anyway. The party reviews the potential routes to the Ferry and decide to try smuggling Maria through the alleyway behind the Palace Theater while Jack attempts to divert attention by driving the stagecoach down 17th Street. Unfortunately, the party isn’t able to slip out without being noticed and they are ambushed by a Union Blue squad armed with a small cannon. In the ensuing firefight, Vincent commandeers an Industrial Load Lifter and uses it to smash the cannon and the rail warriors’ makeshift barricade.

At the ferry, Hightower, Jack and Maria walk into a trap laid by the Central Rail team, whose witch had foreseen their plan. Maria reveals that her “pregnant” belly was actually concealing a pair of Colt Peacemakers. She and the witch badly wound one another. In the bloody firefight that follows, several heroes are wounded but only one Central thug manages to escape. After treating Maria with the Heal-o-tron 9000, the party takes her out to the middle of the river on a ferry. She orders them to stop midway, just in time for her ride to show up—an auto-gyro fitted with floatation devices. Maria thanks the heroes for their help and then climbs aboard the aircraft, which soars up and then west.

As a result of their actions over the past three days, the PCs have become folk heroes in Denver, where they will always find a helping hand.

"The challenge of history is to recover the past and introduce it to the present."
—David Thelen


1774: The Continental Congress passes a proclamation that citizens "discountenance and discourage all horse racing and all kinds of gaming, cock fighting, exhibitions of shows, plays and other expensive diversions and entertainment."

1803: The U.S. Senate approves the Louisiana Purchase.

1818: The U.S. and Great Britain establish the 49th parallel boundary between the U.S. and Canada.

1870: The town site of Phoenix, Arizona Territory is established.

1871: Bad man “Coal Oil” Jimmy and two others rob a stage near Vermeho, New Mexico Territory.

1873: Phineus. T. Barnum opens his Hippodrome in New York City.

1877: Dick Brewer, Charles Bowdre, and Doc Skurlock arrive in Las Cruces, New Mexico Territory with arrest warrants for Jesse Evans and his gang.

1880: Charles Earl Bowles alias “Black Bart” holds up the Redding, California-Roseburg, Oregon stage 1 mile from the Oregon state line.

1889: Oil is discovered in Douglas, Wyoming.

1890: General Nelson Miles recommends that the U.S. government turn its abandoned forts and military posts into schools or reservations.

1892: The city of Chicago dedicates the World's Columbian Exposition. Soapy Smith took his wife in October 1893.

1903: A Joint Commission made up of Great Britain and the U.S. rules in favor of the U.S. concerning a dispute over the boundary line between Canada and the District of Alaska. The U.S. legally gains the ports along the coast of southeast Alaska that it already possessed.

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