Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Gala: 15 Summer, TN1919. Tessa Lin's Diary

Dear diary,
I know, I know, I said that I wouldn’t write in you anymore, that I was too
old, but last night absolutely needs to be, I don’t know, like documented
for posterity or something. Like when I am old and 30 or something, I’ll
want to know what it was like to be young and going to my first ball. Of
course, by then I’ll be rich or powerful or both, but whatever.

So without further a due, it was cosmic! We all paraded around in our
fineries before leaving the caravan to go to this huge landship parked
right in town! I was wearing this super pretty dress with real horn
stiffeners and pink lace frills. We traded for it with the Merkado clan who
brought it from a homestead that just makes these super special dresses, I
was really lucky to get one or I might have got something from Timmins oh!
I mean Natty looked amazing all in purple, but I don’t think I will ever
dress like that, plus she totally got called on it by some old hag later.
Anyway, the emir had his gears on parade with neat little capes, so cool.
We were announced, it was so grand, and then the people, so many people.
All the gentlemen wearing fine black suits and woman in stunning gowns.
Most were polar styles so nobody looked as good as me, well almost nobody.
Unfortunately I got stuck with a chaperon, so unfair, except that
Carmichael let me drink which was pretty OK I guess. Eventually he made a
fool of himself and went all nutty on some corp dudes and they threw him
out. It was hilarious. I think the Doc tried to stop them, he was like gone
for a week and then suddenly there last night. I think he’s in trouble or
something because everybody was really cold towards him, especially Ellen
who looked totally gorgeous on Kain’s arm, in his fancy military tux, he
told me it was called something else but I can’t be expected to remember
everything he says. I think somebody important made a pass at her and Kain
totally kicked his ass, it was so cool. They had these fantastic
chandeliers and a live band and Gade, Oh prophet, he went up and had them
play some fantastic music and he went out there and danced with Natty and
Kain and Ellen too and the Doc and Karin, she looked really good
considering she wasn’t supposed to come, but I was glad to have her here
with me;) The Doc can really dance! Who would have thought from such a
stuffy guy? Karin says he bored her half to death with all his business
talk and contacts. We saw the Emir make a speech and the Spider, he’s kinda
hot, the Spider, not the emir, all scary and a lot younger than I thought
the way everybody talk about him all the time.

I think Natty drank too much because the Doc had to take her home, she and
Gade are so cool, she totally let him stay and have fun but he was such a
gentleman, I could tell he didn’t have as much fun without her. Oh My
Prophet, Gade shaved! Like with a blade and wore clean clothes and ..and,
words just fail me. :-o

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

An Interlude 2

Anatol Medalev was sweating. He muttered to himself about the blaring sun overhead and cursed the Badlands heat. He looked at the man next to him as they rode across the Western Desert and considered asking him why he was smiling. What was his name? Updike? Upton? He gave the man a surreptitious glare, half-detesting his resilience in this heat.

Up yours.

They stopped.

"Why have we stopped?" Medalev spoke calmly into the comm.

"Settlement up ahead," came the reply.

"Alright," Medalev slowly dismounted and with Upton found some boulders to climb onto. He took out some binoculars and watched.

"Looks like another homestead, complete with work gear and solar power," Upton nodded, passing the binoculars back to Medalev.

"How are we for fuel?"

"Low. Do we hit it?" Upton nodded his head at the homestead that was some two kilometers away.

"Yes. We'll need to build up our fuel before we cross the mountains," Medalev shrugged.

"We're hitting it," he spoke calmly into the comm as he hopped off the boulder. Upton followed.

The two men climbed back onto the HPC-64 hover-carrier.

"Sir, something coming in on the secure frequency," Medalev's driver reported.

"Bring it up." Medalev punched his password into a keypad and looked down at the display. With a frown, he closed his console and keyed the comm to the group channel.

"New orders," he spoke gravely, "we have to make it through these mountains with all due haste. We hit this homestead, fuel up, and move."

With that, Major Anatol Medalev of the Colonial Expeditionary Force waved his forces forward. His own HPC kicked up dust with the rest of the group. He could hear the first shots from the lead hovertank before he closed the hatch.

Blasted sun. I hate this place.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Tools and the Trade

Gade spent most of the night by Nat’s side. She was asleep when he came in but she was coherent enough to mumble a question about the gala. Gade had no mind for that, regretting letting her go off without him. She brushed off his concerns explaining that her weakness had simply been the result of neglecting herself: not enough food or sleep the last few days because of all the work and excitement. Natty urged Gade to forget about it and come to bed.

The next morning Gade was still fitful, looking for ways to help. He found Doctor Chambers at a computer terminal in the Hang-Out. Here was an opportunity to at least put something right - though not the one thing that had the duelist really troubled.

"Look Doc” he started without preamble, “it’s come to my attention that Sam's little hissy-fit is starting to have an effect on the rest of the caravan.” Gade's tone was dripping with a healthy dose of piss and vinegar. He picked up a chair by its back and slammed it down backwards in front of the Doc.

Doc Chambers surreptitiously shut down the medical information he was researching.

“Personally I don't care about his problems, but when they affect the others they become OUR problems," Gade continued, hoping his demeanour would fool the Doc into thinking he was telling the truth. It was clearly a lie. Gade did care. Sure, it hadn't yet dawned on him how much he cared, but he had found a bone to gnaw and he was setting his teeth in it properly now.

“Problem with a broken tool is it doesn't care if it's broken, it's just a tool. Well I'm gonna really break it, knock a little sense into him, I just need you around to make sure he survives."

Doc Chambers sat at his desk quietly; he clasped his hands together under his chin and let out a long sigh. Sam was a problem, and the Doc was affected by him too. Tom's renewed interest in the crew made his inner deliberation a short one.

“Alright Gade, I appreciate the metaphor but a cracked tool needs to be broken so that it can be re-forged. And given the tool in question, I’m not too certain that either the breaking or the fixing are very straight forward proposals. So what do you have in mind?”

Gade settled a bit into his chair. Now he was no longer on a mission of converting anyone to his cause; he lowered his level of enthusiasm to a more conspiratorial tone. He leaned forward, into the back of the chair, before beginning again.

"I've seen people in Sam's place before. He's just digging deeper and deeper believing there is nothing else. I'm going to show him what his limits really are: with blunt force. He's only gonna smarten up if the sense is literally knocked into him. And if he really wants to continue as he is, he'll do so alone and only worse for wear"

Gade found himself rubbing his forehead, realizing just what it was he was proposing. He knew it was necessary, that the caravan and its safety were the priority. 'That boy wasn't not gonna stop until someone got hurt,' he thought. He saw that the Doc was still listening so he continued:

"I don't want anyone else to know Doc, those who should be aware, those closest to him. They already know what I'm gonna do, so let's just figure out when."

The Doc’s brow furrowed as he eyed Gade, trying to gage the efficacy of his proposed blunt approach. To the Doc’s reasoning, Sam was on a path of self destruction. Could such a selfish act be helped along from outside sources? The means may be the same but it did not necessarily follow that the end would be. Gade had good intentions, below that filthy exterior lay a heart of gold, that much was evident in his care for the girls and the love he inspired in Nat…Tom suppressed the wave of emotion that last thought evoked.

“Look Gade, I know Sam needs to get better, but consider this: If someone is striving to achieve a personal goal, be it positive or negative, handing it to them on a silver platter probably won’t fulfill their aspirations. Sam has lost faith, not in his body; I think the stubborn ass actually believes time will heal all that," the Doc considered, "no it’s his soul that is broken. If what you’re talking about is helping him hit rock bottom, then firstly we can’t act directly; he can’t know we are involved. And secondly, we have to fix his spirit more than break his bones”

Gade started shaking his head before the Doc was finished before retorting emphatically:

"Oh I know that Doc! If it was just a matter of bone-breaking he'd be out for the count already. But it must be US he sees as responsible. Even if it's just me breaking his bones, it's seeing what he's pushed others to that will reach his soul. Don't get me wrong, I’ll have plenty of words to share with him during the process. And I don't expect him to like it any either. But if that’s what it takes to get his psyche jump-started, then that’s the cost I’m willing to pay."

Gade had risen from his seat during his impassioned response, but his voice had lowered to a more conversational level. He needed the Doc for this: someone who was calm, collected and could help explain to those who cared for Sam just what would be needed for his recovery. Gade was now convinced that there was simply no one else that could both handle the situation and care enough about Sam to carry it through. He couldn’t know that a week ago or even 36 hours ago, the Doc was willing to walk out on all of them, not least because of Sam’s state.

“Ok Gade,” Tom started cautiously, “I don’t know if I share your conviction that he blames us, but I guess this is as good a way of finding out as any”

The Doc felt Gade’s strength of purpose. But he didn't know that Gade wouldn't act without him. In Tom's mind, Gade might take unilateral action and make matters worse, thus alienating Sam to the point of no return. Tom agreed however that action must be taken. Not knowing what, just yet, he had to buy time.

“Two days. I’ll start him up on a routine of daily medical care again, check what he is capable of enduring and it will give me some time to research the more subtle side of what we hope to achieve. Two days, then we do it. We’re also going to have to let Kain know that we are vanishing”

Gade was nodding in agreement now, logistics already running through his mind, like a mechanical problem to fix. He started making mental check lists.

"Two days then, I'll cram as much of my training in as I can until then. I'll leave explaining it to Kain to you."

“Thanks,” Tom said nearly to himself, as Gade headed out with renewed vigour and a purposeful gait. Tom switched his medical pad back on and saved the information on M.D.A. he was collecting. Letting out a sigh, he cleared the search parameters and called up psychological conditioning and psychoanalytics. He slumped a bit in his chair and, in spite of his more pressing concerns, he let his mind rest on Gade for a moment: the upstanding guy in the middle of his two patients. Tom knew he wouldn't let Gade go through with the plan, of course. That would piss off the would-be duelist mightily. Still, if a better solution took its place, Gade would get over it and find another means to vent his anger.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Two Speeches: Redux

Emir Bolivar Inoto III, on the occasion of the Khayr-ad Din Dueling Circuit Gala event, on the evening of the 15th of Summer, TN1919:

My friends. Welcome to my home, aboard the Prophet's Dream! Tonight we honour those of you who are about to engage in gladiatorial combat in Heavy Gears. Heavy Gear Dueling has a long and honourable history, and this tournament shall only add to its proud traditions. I wish you all good luck and many happy returns. And now, it is my pleasure and honour to introduce to you all your patron, the founder of the Khayr-ad Din Heavy Gear Dueling Circuit, Saddik Jahmoon!

Saddik "The Spider" Jahmoon:

Thank you, your highness, for this wonderful event, your beautiful landship, and your patronage. Duelists, friends, Northerners, Southerners, Badlanders, I welcome you all to Khayr-ad Din, the city of trash. This is a proud place, with deep, profound traditions and a fierce joie de vivre that is unmatched anywhere on this planet. But it is also a dark place, a place of pain and of sorrow. It was here that the settlement of Monroe met its end in a White Sand tempest we call the Great Tempest. And it is here that the polar governments began dumping their trash, hoping to bury the legacy of Monroe and those who perished. But we have persevered. And it is my vision for Khayr-ad Din that has brought us all together tonight. A city with something to export, with something that makes us all sit up and take notice, is a city worth saving. So I present to you the Dueling Circuit. This is what will make Khayr-ad Din great. This is what will turn the city of trash into the rough diamond of the Badlands. This will be the centre of Heavy Gear dueling on Terranova, so long as we nurture young duelists and protect established competitors.

Yes, I know that this is gladiatorial dueling I am talking about. Yes, pilots do die. I will not mince words: some of you will die. It is the nature of our competition. But I ask only this: do not murder. Rivalries are healthy, but vendettas are not. Our Dueling Circuit will not be a bloodthirsty one. You must remember that the entire world will be watching you compete. Every match in this tournament counts. Every underhanded move will be seen by viewers the world over. Your honour is at stake. Remember that.

Up Close and Personal with Becky Sharpe

Becky arrived alone at the terrace on the Core Tower at 26 o'clock. As she stepped out, she smiled wryly. Khayr-ad Din didn't have a particularly inspiring view. Though the panorama below her was clear and bright, the fact was, looking out over a jumble of slum housing, haphazard building and dunes of trash really did nothing to evoke wonder, awe or anything other than an inward wince. Becky looked around quickly, surveying the medium-sized terrace with its round ceramic tables and sturdy chairs.

"Right here, miss Sharpe," a gruff voice called from behind her.

"Sorry I'm late," Becky smiled apologetically at the older man as she let him pass through the doorway and to a table, "I'm still having trouble navigating the streets."

Carmichael nodded. He shuffled to a chair and sat, looking the young woman over. In his younger days, he would have already laid on the 'Trishaw Charm' as he referred to it. Now, he judged her on appearance, on poise, on how she handled the video recording gear and the way she looked at him. Interest twinged with sympathy, he noted. He waited until she took a seat opposite him before reaching into his breast pocket for a cigarette. He lit it.

"I don't usually smoke. Mainly because of the War."

"Really?" Becky leaned in, interested. She discreetly turned the recorder on, "from what I've seen, the War turned lots of people into smokers.

"Yeah, that's true. Unless you worked with fuel and ammo."

"Is that how you lost your legs?" she regretted it the moment she said it. Watching Carmichael scowl, Becky chided herself for a tactless comment, "let me rephrase that. Did you work in fuel convoys?"

Trishaw Carmichael took a long drag of the cigarette, let the smoke haze around him as he exhaled and gave Becky Sharpe the thousand-yard stare that only combat veterans can muster.

"For a while, yes. Let me tell you the whole story, alright, miss?"

"Becky is fine, Mr. Trishaw."

"Carmichael, please," he replied, turning up the Trishaw Charm ever-so-slightly.

"Well then, Carmichael, from the beginning," she watched him nod and relax.

"I was born in a homestead outside of Fort Henry in 1857. The Trishaw family is considered a member of the Zucco clan, but that's not important. No, what is important is that my family was very large, nearly 20 people on that homestead. So I was farmed out to relatives in Fort Henry at a young age. In Fort Henry, I was exposed to machines, and buildings and..." he smiles, reminiscing for a moment, "well, I fell in love with engineering and design. I got into Western Technical in Fort William, graduated suma cum laude and was hired by Paxton Arms not too long after that."

"You must have been some talent to have gotten Paxton's attention so quickly," Becky was no stranger to being charming.

"Oh well, now," Carmichael chuckled, butting his cigarette out while looking bemused, "hard work, no sleep, and some luck. There were five of us who were hired by Paxton right out of school. We all went down together."

"Was that your first trip into the Badlands?"

"No. My uncle in Fort Henry did business in the Barrington Basin, so I tagged along often enough."

"Alright. But Peace River, back then, must have been something."

"Oh you bet it was. Young man, coming from up North, a little money, a little talent...working for Paxton on contract. I have some good memories, sure."

"Like what?"

"Oh, like being taken out for dinner after my engine mod was chosen for the Warrior III upgrade. By the time that night was over, I didn't know my own name, nor did I care to."

"Paxton was good to you?"

"Sure. Back then. Before the Judas Syndrome, and before the Worker Caste became politically aware." Carmichael flagged a waiter over and ordered a glass of water. He looked at Becky before continuing, "and then it went downhill. Because I was a foreigner, I wasn't trusted, even though I was technically Management Caste. I got relegated to side projects so that by the time the CEF landed I was running quality control simulations for a line of bicycles," he couldn't help but chuckle.

The water came, and Becky watched Carmichael take a long sip.

"What happened in Peace River and at Paxton after the war started?"

"Well, you know the story. Paxton declared Peace River neutral and started building up a resistance network. They also built up their forces. I volunteered for the 1st Brigade, Peace River Army. With the whole planet under attack, they didn't care if I was a foreigner. In fact, because I was a Westerner, they didn't even give me a second thought. I was put in charge of an engineering and supply company. Our job was mainly bridge-building," Carmichael paused. It was going to get messy.

"And then?" Becky leaned in, sensing the story was here.

"Well, when Paxton finally declared for Terranova, we shipped out," Carmichael's voice was gravelly suddenly, "and we hit the CEF hard. By then, Baja was a real meat-grinder, and the CEF was caught completely by surprise by the Peace River Army. When we hit the Westridge Range and started pushing through the mountains towards West Base, my unit was really busy. Lots of bridges, lots of ramps, building. We started running ammo to the front too," he patted his pack of cigarettes, "fuel, food, the whole thing. Instead of just being engineers, we got to be quartermasters. It was a real headache."

"It sounds like it, really," Becky wished she had ordered a glass of water. The video rig she was wearing was heavy after all that walking, "where were your men from?"

"Peace River mainly," Carmichael nodded, "though we had some guys from Baja, and a few from Massada too."

"Massada, really?"

"Not everyone in Massada is a pacifist, Becky," Carmichael pursed his lips, "anyways, the only real action I saw cost me my legs..."


"Do you hear that, Captain?" Young, one of the sappers in Carmichael's command group, had sharp ears.

"No, I..." Carmichael froze. He heard it. The whine of hover-engines.

"Cover!" a cry went out, only to be silenced by a loud explosion that kicked up so much dust . High in the Westridge Mountains, Yukon company, 1st engineering battalion, 1st Brigade, Peace River Army, was under attack.

Everything went into slow-motion for Carmichael. He found cover, found his RTO and radioed for support. He knew he was yelling into the transmitter, but couldn't help himself. The air was hot and dry already. The laser fire from the Earther hover-APCs and the GRELs' rifles made it even hotter. Everywhere, explosions cascaded from airburst shells and fuel-trucks going up. It was an inferno of death. Young kept close, keeping an eye on his CO, and making sure that they weren't noticed. He was only partially successful.

One moment Carmichael was guiding mortar fire for a Crusader heavy gear. The next, he was on his back, ears ringing, legs tingling. The air tasted of explosives and charred flesh.

"Uggg..." he groaned. The concussion of the airburst round had knocked him down. But what was on his legs? He looked. It was Young. Or whatever was left of him. The charred hulk of the sapper's body was splayed over Carmichael's lower legs. He pushed as best he could and then shrieked in agony as he saw that much of his lower body was decimated by shrapnel. Carmichael suddenly tasted bile. He scrambled for his first aid kit. It was undamaged. One dose of coagulant, another of analgesic. He rolled onto his stomach and grabbed Young's rifle.

Becky looked a little pale for a moment.

"Are you alright?"

"Yes," she nodded, swallowing hard and then sipped some of Carmichael's water, "yes, I'm fine. Go ahead. After you treated yourself, then what?"


"Sir? Sir!" a young soldier grabbed Carmichael and pulled him into the shell-hole he had taken cover in, "holy shit Captain! You alright? Do you need a radio?"

"Shut up and shoot, boy!" Carmichael was running on adrenaline. Where was the support? How the hell did the Keff get through the lines? He growled and took a shot at lumbering Mordred GREL. The supersoldier fell, but then got up and kept moving.


"Captain!" the soldier's warning was shrill. Behind Carmichael, one of the company's Warrior heavy gears toppled sideways into the shell hole. Carmichael rolled to the side as the gear's arm flopped down just where he had been. The gear looked intact, but Carmichael could see laser burns through the head and the chest. He crawled over to the cockpit access and punched in an override. A moment later he had released the dead pilot's safety harness.

"Help me get the pilot out!" he yelled, eyes wide with anger, as he tried to tug the dead soldier out of the gear. His legs wouldn't support the effort.

The young soldier crawled over in disbelief, grabbed the pilot by the shoulders and pulled him out of the sideways prone gear.

"You know how to pilot one of these things sir?"

"Pilot? Shit son, I damn well built this thing!"


"I rallied my men, and drove the Earthers back. Nothing overly heroic," Carmichael shrugged. He had been awarded the Paxton Medal for Bravery for his actions that day.

Becky Sharpe frowned, "I looked up your file. You've got a Peace River Army decoration for heroism. And the surgeon who had to amputate your legs because of the toxins to which you were exposed was Dr. Chambers, who set up this interview."

"Yeah, he's a good guy, Tom Chambers. After you interview me, you should interview him and the others about the Caravan Guild."

"I just might," Becky smiled, "now, Carmichael, tell me: afterwards. What happened?"

"Well, Paxton agreed to regrow my legs, even though I wasn't a Riveran. They couldn't just turn me away, what with the medal and all that. But I guess they put me on a lower rung than a management caste veteran. So here I am," Carmichael stood. His knees buckled after a minute, and he sat down.

"Usually, with limb regrowth, there's a battery of physiotherapy," Carmichael continued, "I didn't get any. Wasn't in the budget. Didn't get the anti-cancer drugs either, so I can't tell you how long I'm going to last. I know that the Riveran guys in my ward got all the right treatment, especially the Executives. In Peace River, even the sick and the dying aren't equal. But don't get me wrong. I made some good friends in Peace River, before and during the war. And I am grateful to have served in the fight against the New Earth Commonwealth. I just wish I had served in the Western Army."

Becky nodded and turned the video recorder off, setting the camera rig down on the table, "we'll see what this does for you, Carmichael."

The older man growled and grabbed his cane, "now you listen here lady. I didn't do this for money or sympathy. I did it because I believe in the reformers in Peace River. Helena Hitachi, Gerald Simosa, those guys. So you make sure that this thing gets broadcast into every Riveran's home, no matter what their caste, you hear?" he stood, his voice angry and loud.

Becky Sharpe nodded, slowly comprehending, "so that stunt you pulled at the gala?"

"It's always been about the workers, about equality," Carmichael nodded, relieved that Ben Cantor would never hear him say that, "I get by alright."

"Alright. Alright," Becky relented with a genuine smile. She flicked the hidden switch on her belt, turning the camera off for real this time, "I'll see what I can do."

Friday, August 22, 2008

Ellen tells a story

Kain... you've been asking me about Sam, and I haven't really given you a straight answer, and there's this letter and I don't know what to do, and -- but -- just listen, okay? I should probably start from the beginning. It's...

The thing is, "Samuel Tarmalin", whoever that was, *died* during the war. I don't know what he went through out there, what he saw, but it completely destroyed his mind -- there was nothing left. When my Pa brought him in from the desert, babbling about the Old Woman, we basically had to teach him everything from scratch. How to walk, talk, tie his boots... the only thing he knew how to do was shoot, that's it.

Now, we eventually tracked down his service record for him, which is how we know about his past. But the Sam that came out of the desert wasn't the Sam that went in, you know? He created this dopey naive gunslinger out of bullets and desert myths and homemade breakfast, and we watched him do it right in front of us. And we loved him for it. He was *our* Sam, right? He was my brother.

But now, that dopey gunslinging Sam is dying, too. He thinks the gunslinging bit is why he failed in Malachi Flats, why Father Lelland died and why he got shot... so he's throwing it all out, the Old Lady, the gunslinging, even the breakfasts. He hates himself so much for what happened that he's killing himself off, bit by bit... and there's nothing left, underneath. I've been *trying* to bring him back, like my Pa and I did after the war, but it's -- it's not working...

So there's a guy I know back in Peace River, helped him keep some indiscretions quiet... He knows a lot about all that occult mumbo-jumbo, I figured he might have heard about some Old Lady magic that could bring Sam back, like it did before, right? But he sent me this instead. It's *hopeless*. I'm going to have to watch Sam die, aren't I? I'm going to have to watch my brother die, and once he's gone, there'll be nothing left, you understand? *Nothing*. I -- I can't do it, Kain, please help me, I can't do it, please, just... please...

* * *

My dearest Miss Cranby --

received your latest missive with great interest /
am rather convinced your Mr Tarmalin is currently dissolving in Chronozonic acid /
nothing to be done but to see what takes his place once "he" is gone /
if you would be so kind as to keep me apprised, & c., & c. /

Forever your servant,
Lysander Morwin, esq.

Please find enclosed excerpts from an ancient Terran text pertinent to the subject.

* * *

"Aleister Crowley embodied the destruction of Egoic Self structures as Chronozon, the Devil 333. Chronozon, we are told, is the all-devouring guardian of "the Abyss" (The Abyss being a suitably dramatic and evocative term for an experiential "gap" in human consciousness.) The term can be applied to that state of mind during which Individual Egoic Self-consciousness begins to cannibalize itself rather than confront the usually frightening fact that Personality is not "real" in the existential sense and is simply a behavioural strategy... Think of the chattering mind annihilating itself in unstoppable self-examination and you will hear the voice of Chronozon.

The rewards of a successful crossing of the Abyss are many, but a failed attempt can leave the magician broken inside."

A Day With Sam

1. Another nightmare. Another night of bullets and blood and the bodies of my friends. Doc says I need rest to get better, but what he don't get is, any more rest'll kill me dead. Alone in my bed with Father Lelland and Koldur and Preston Hill rotting to bits all around me, I can't take that shit anymore. Gotta drown it out. Gotta get away.

* * *

2. All I do is shoot people. All I do is get people shot. I'm like a gun. Can a gun have friends? I don't want Kain to get shot. Or Gade, or the Doc, or Ellen oh god Ellen don't die bleeding in my arms, don't die Ellen, don't die, I can't save you, I can't save you...

All I can do is shoot people. All I can do is get people shot.

* * *

3. Been drinking for a while, now, but it isn't working yet. I can still see Father Lelland spitting blood. I can still see that Gilmore kid trying to find his leg with red little fingers. I can still see poor old Sam Tarmalin holding in his guts, bleeding out on the basement floor. Why isn't it working? Why is shooting the only thing that lets me forget? Two more hours till work. Two more hours until I can shoot again.

Two more hours with Father Lelland, with PFC Gilmore, with poor old gut-shot Sam Tarmalin.

* * *

4. This asshole wants a gun duel? Can't he see I'm busy having a drink with my ghosts? I managed to get rid of Gilmore, I think one more drink might do it for Koldur...

A gun duel ain't shooting. It's waiting, and thinking, and thinking, and thinking. About Preston Hill sitting bleeding against the outside wall of the bar. About Koldur lying crushed under a burning car. About Ellen wheezing, wheezing, trying to breathe with a punctured lung. Why won't this fucker draw already?!

Don't fucking shoot my holster, you asshole, shoot me, shoot *me*! A gun is for shooting people! A gun is for getting people shot!

* * *

5. I open the door and leave the world behind -- there's work to do. Costume, gear check, prepwork... There's a rhythm.
two, three
two, three
two, three
No time to think. Gotta shoot.

* * *

6. Time for bed. The gang isn't here yet, but they will be by morning. Goodnight, PFC Gilmore. Goodnight, Preston Hill. Good night, Koldur, and good night, Father Lelland.

Good night, Sam Tarmalin. See you all tomorrow.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Looking in the mirror

Kain stood alone in the small cabin/office he used to oversee the caravan's operations, store his arms, and, when there was time, sleep in. His discharge mess dress uniform hung from a hook, and he held a small flat case in his hands. His decorations lay nestled into their velvet compartments. He ran his thumb over the smooth face of the kill badges, passing over them and withdrawing the wound badge. It was strange; Kain had generally been unusually lucky. Most of the men he had come up with had suffered serious wounds, some disabling, but Kain had avoided injury entirely until the raid on the hovertank compound. There was no doubt he's earned that medal. The doctors assured him otherwise, but on the damp mornings, Kain swore there was still some shrapnel left inside.

The Infantry Assult Badge, the Tank Destruction, Close Combat, and Sniper badges he left in their spaces. Above the Wound Medal, he affixed the War of the Alliance Ribbon, adding only the Battle of Baja Campaign pin, leaving the rest. He placed the Onyx Ring on his finger; the Legion could not be left behind.

Briefly, he considered the rank insignia. He'd been proud that day, and ashamed. Proud to have been recognized, to have been measured and not found wanting. The shame, well, that came from being recognized too. There were things a man should not be congratulated for....

The sword, of course, was essential. With the Spider's rules, no weapons would be permitted, yet Kain knew they would not deny him his right to carry the weapon. He'd never killed with it, but it had drawn blood for honour.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


With my eyes shut I am more acutely aware of my temples, the staccato
throbbing, pummelling, pounding, punishing, patterns of light painted in
scathing patterns, punctually pulsing, pounding, always pounding.

When I venture to open them as slits, I feel a stabbing lance of light
cutting clear into the mushy substance behind my eyes I hope is still a
functional brain. The head ache doesn’t subside but my attention is divided
between the two agonies.

I draw my arms up from the ground, my side burns, needles piece me as I
feel the area where my ribs are broken, I push gently, one, two, three and
for shit’s sake that is excruciating! But it is another distraction, I am
now aware that I am damp, another surge of adrenaline prompts me to do a
wet check. My hands are covered in blood, some of it mine, some of it
theirs. So that’s what vat juice looks like, funny, I would have though it
purple? Colour hurts too; it gives the light inflection, variation in the
pain that elevate it from background noise to harmonic symphony.

I dry my hands on my cloak and scrutinize them again, my lids a bit more
open, a bit more pain, like a valve I let it trickle in, so close to the
edge every drop threatens to spill over. I’m not bleeding anywhere
important, I’m sitting in my own vomit. I disgorged the contents of my
stomach after the adrenaline ran out, than I collapsed in the same spot.

Another sense unfortunately decides to return, smell. Instinctively I
grimace as the acrid odour pricks at my nostrils, I’ve always hated that
smell but now in addition to indignity it hurts because my face can’t
articulate any expression without conveying more sensory stimulus to my
pain receptors.

he ringing in my ears is subsiding. A crescendo rises with the return of
my hearing bringing with it more cause for suffering; white noise is
replaced with a colour filled pallet of clamour, each distinct, each a
small pressure. Another fraction of a turn on the vice which is testing the
structural limits of my cranium. I hear my breath; I hear pearls of blood
and stomach juices dripping as well as sweat from my brow: drop, drop,
throb, throb. I’m so pleased my body is working in unison to drive me mad
with misery. Shuffle, scratch, Growl. Those sounds add to the cacophony but
primordial anguish gives way momentarily to some reasonable impulse: those
sounds are coming from outside my microcosm of suffering. I roll my eyes to
the side, like cinderblocks dragged across the ground, they lumbar towards
the disturbance. I do so wish they hadn’t been able to.

One of those things is up, clutching at its side and staring at me with
purposeful eyes. Has he no respect for my privacy, this is a deeply
intimate moment of inner discovery and self pity, can’t he just die
politely like his more affable vat brother?

He is hulking towards me now, I can’t move, or I don’t want to. This
reality likes me not, I am betrayed by the thousand natural shocks that
flesh is heir to. To die, to sleep, I close my eyes like the curtain on a
stage which I no longer wish to examine. One by one I let go of the
sounds, the smell, the feeling then sight and all I am left with is the
drumming in the dark recesses of my skull; soon that will be gone too.


I am mildly surprised when I find I am looking at the endless horizon,
clouds are sailing past as I rush skyward. I had not believed, ‘till now,
that ascension to heaven would be quite so literal! Come to think of it, I
had not believed in heaven period. As the image comes more into focus, I am
relived to find that my incredulity may yet live to see another death as I
am quite certain that the path to heaven, existent or not, is unlikely to
be lined with metal deck plating. Reality rushes in like a warm wave,
lapping at my weakened consciousness. The overfilled cistern of misery is
emptying itself and I am gratified to find my former universe is being
flushed away. In its place I find a hopper door and motion and, I believe,
a cot. I hazard turning my head and am rewarded with a very lovely face
smiling down on me. “I know you” I croak, she smiles some more, I am
further pleased with this change of events. “Lucky you do Ronald, or that
GREL would have finished the job he started” The mention of the vat face
brings a backwash of that former scene to mind and I obviously wince at the
mental aftertaste because she continues “Yeah, you did pretty well there, a
little too well for a trinket salesman from Timmins…” She smiles, I
rejoice. “ that is what you said you did right Ron, on our flight in here?”
An eon ago I flew in to that vivid nightmare or a camp with this angel
“Isobel” I manage, recollecting her name, a prospector or something. “My
name isn’t Ronald, its Tom…” I catch my breath “…and if I was pleased with
your acquaintance before, I am now thrilled with it” She takes pity on me
and doesn’t speak. She saved me from the second GREL, she must be pretty
skilled, this pretty prospector. “I am going to pass out now, will you be
here when I wake up” She says something to me but I don’t make it out, I
drift off, carried to Elysium shores of nothingness, but for some reason
before I unravel into blissful unconsciousness I hear my voice again.
“Thanks for coming back for me…Julie”

Monday, August 18, 2008

Consolidated NPC List


New Baja Town & Environs:

Reginald Xiao: deceased, former mayor of Baja
Ali Hassan: trader and black marketeer
Julie Pojhola: waitress, spy and Doctor Chambers’ main squeeze. Her daughter, Lita, is 15 cycles old.
Dr. Milton Gregor: a WFP doctor who has lived in Baja for 30 cycles
Kiera DeValmont: deceased. She discovered the caves that Baja now occupies
Lazarus Duq: deceased. An SRID agent posing as DeValmont’s assistant, who later murdered her.
Anastasia “Stacy” Slebovitz: one of New Baja’s ablest mechanics.  Now reloacated to KAD.
Lloyd Dunn: current mayor of New Baja.
Lt. Armin Khalidi: Former MILICIA garrison commander of the Baja Spaceport. Current whereabouts unknown.
Edgar Lao: A local rancher that was the eyes and ears of the Regulators in the Karak Wastes.
Sous-Ambassadeur Theodor Bobiens: head of the AST mission to Baja. Currently leading the AST embassy in New Baja.
4th Tier Preceptor Rushal Lianeri: a member of the Hehli Humanist Alliance resistance who helped develop New Baja underground and underwater. She has returned home to the underground city of Gardena, HA.
Maya Schwer: a homesteader who lives near Kolmar Station and New Baja.
Sorrento Revisionist Orphanage in New Baja: A well-meaning and down-to-earth organization run by a humble, friendly priest named Brother Herbertson. This orphanage and mission took in many, many children after the Battle of Baja.
Swanscombe Jerusalemite Orphanage and Mission in New Baja: Though this organization’s record in the aftermath of the Battle of Baja is spotless, Mother Ingrid is too stridently matriarchal to consider her overly friendly.

Father Nathani Lelland: Deceased 40 Spring TN1919. The Regulators’ and Caravan’s spiritual rock. Killed in Malachi Flats.
Avatanya Brom: Regulator and Caravan crew. Brom is very competent and ornery.
Katalina Steinman: deceased. KIA 23 Summer TN1918 in the Iron Renegade’s ambush
Ethan Dunn: Lloyd Dunn’s eldest son, former Regulator, and currently an electronics tech in New Baja.
Peter Smit: former gear racer on the Innsbruck Death Track 1000, Regulator and Caravan Crew.
Dan Huang: Deceased. KIA 23 Summer TN1918
Josephina Dragushan: Heavy weapons gunner, very competent. Regulator and Caravan Crew
Thornton Will: Deceased, KIA 23 Summer, TN1918
Kelly Lebeaux: Infantry commander of Regulators and Caravan crew.
Sheldon Crawford: Regulator and now New Baja police detective
William Barton Pearce: Regulator/Caravan. Information and urban tracking
Koldur: Sandrider, Regulator. MIA – presumed dead 30 Summer TN1918 in pursuit of Leah Dorchuk
Lenny Green: Regulator, currently New Baja Police Chief
Leah Dorchuk: Regulator, SRID informant. KIA 30 Summer TN1918 after murdering Lazarus Duq and attempting to make off with a data disk.
Ricardo Villas: deceased. KIA 23 Summer TN1918
Emile Brahms: deceased. KIA 32 Summer, TN1918, killed fighting the New Baja Gang at Kolmar Station
Jochanan Eldar: deceased. KIA 23 Summer, TN1918
Thomas Knox: Medic, Regulator/Caravan crew.
Ari Mendelbaum: Gear pilot, Regulator/Caravan Crew
Anson Nuyen: Hopper Pilot. Current whereabouts unknown
Piotre Kanatka: Hopper co-pilot. Current whereabouts unknown

Caravan Crew:
Tessa Lin: budding mechanic. Ran away from New Baja
Karin Hassan: Ali Hassan’s eldest daughter. Ran away from New Baja
Trishaw Carmichael: Heavy Gear engineer. WFPA veteran.
Benjamin Cantor: failed Southern revolutionary, successful anti-CEF Resistance leader
Natalia Meredine: KAD sneak thief and electronics specialist.
Ellen Cranby: Sam Tarmalin’s surrogate little sister. Legal/bureaucratic aide to Dr. Chambers.
Silas Mychels: Imashen driver
Diego Tucker: Imashen driver
Silia Perry: Imashen driver
Pankat Loran: Imashen driver
Jiprat Loran: Imashen driver
Prabal Nandy: Computer hacker and cryptograph/cryptology expert

Peace River:

Claude Marlenoix: SRID station chief in Peace River. His cover is that of a restaurant owner. He is honourable and seems to think that the SRID operation to take over Baja was wrong. His right hand man is a gunfighter named Wilkins.

Could Go Either Way:
Major Lenaris of PaxSec
Helena Hitachi of Peace River

Khayr ad-Din:

Guillaum Chen & Scooter McGee: two KAD salvage experts. Their help is contingent on being protected and being exclusive salvage suppliers to the dueling team.
Zania al-Humad: a brilliant computer theorist and ONNet salvager. She is a friend of Natalia and Gade’s.


Green Anton, the Evil Eight and the Green Gang of KAD:  Destroyed utterly

Could Go Either Way:
Siri Argell: KAD forger
Mishka Vernon: Deceased; KAD forger
Alister Granis: Granis boss in KAD and Westphalia
Kim Bistrotta – KAD Gear dueling agent

Percival “Percy” Zalatos – The Bazaar/Traders’ Way Lieutenant for The Spider of KAD
Doc Fen Bu – KAD parts trader
Shilo Kim - circus entrepreneur: Sam's new boss. Really good at bribery, viral marketing, and dealing with circus folk.
Ichiro Woo: a real estate manager for the Spider in Khayr-ad Din. Aside from knowing the ins and outs of the city, his only claim to fame is that he's a dwarf.

Various Places:

Elias Grayson: SNS reporter, currently in Peace River.

The Araman People: grateful but isolated
John Maddox and the Imashen People: grateful, living in the Western Desert.
Bill "Brick" Norita: A large, friendly man who was in the anti-Earth Resistance in Timmins. He is friends with his former Resistance leader, Ben Cantor.

Andrei Perl of the SRID
Ulrich Gellin of the Granis Cartel. Deceased.

Iron Renegades: mercenary operation that was active in the Karak Wastes. They were led by a man named Jeffrey Thompson.
Sandra Jolaine: expert gunhand.

Could Go Either Way:
Eli Brown of the Forzi Cartel - Timmins

Theodorus “Teddy” Loranga and the Loranga Caravan Clan
The Melana Clan of Kolmar Station
The Kidamo Caravan Clan
Marshal Samuels Lee – WFPA agent who is tracking down the Green Gang.Jay Reynolds - circus performer: Sam's new coworker. Really good at reading people, performing, and tumbling (i.e. physical comedy).


Could Go Either Way:
Leigh Portman of Portman Traders, Swanscombe, UMF (Forzi operation)


Eastern Sun Emirates:

Before the Gala: Three Caravan Crew Vignettes

“Ummm…Jo?” Tessa reluctantly knocked on her crewmate’s door.

“C’mon in,” came the muffled reply.

Tessa Lin took a deep breath and then opened the door. Josaphina was quietly cleaning and polishing a small arsenal while sitting cross-legged on her bunk: rocket launcher, squad machine gun, and a couple of rugged-looking pistols. Currently the rocket launcher, a Paxton model, was disassembled on the woman’s bed. Josaphina was bent over the sight, giving the lenses a good cleaning, all the while wearing nothing but a sports bra and spandex boxer-briefs–common for desert denizens. She looked up and smiled warmly at the teenager.

“Hi Tessa,” she set the sight assembly down, “how are you?”

“Oh, fine,” Tessa looked around the tiny two-bunk room nervously, “er, Kelly’s not in?”

“Nah,” was the bemused reply, “guard duty.”

“Oh, right. So, Jo,” Tessa’s voice trailed off as she could see the tips of the bullet scars on Josaphina’s back and thighs, “hey, what’s that?” Tessa pointed to a small trideo-locket that was lying on the bed near the pistols, relieved to be changing the subject.

“Oh…that’s-” Josaphina began, but Tessa had already grabbed the locket and flipped it open. The image of a young woman flickered for a moment and then died.

“Aww…it doesn’t work!” Tessa pouted, “why do you keep it if it doesn’t work?”

Josaphina took the locket back and placed it around her neck. Tessa was clearly nervous about something, so she humoured the girl, maintaining a stoic façade. “It’s not the trideo that’s important. The image is of me, anyways,” she smiled at Tessa, who was clearly confused.

“Before the war, I had a boyfriend in high school, back in Baja,” she sat back and began putting the rocket launcher back together. Tessa sat down across from her, listening from Kelly’s bunk, “we were pretty serious. When the CEF landed he made his way to Peace River to join the Resistance. I gave him this locket. Good luck charm, momento, you know. I didn’t want him to fool around on me without at least having to take it off.”

Josaphina smiled shyly. It was something Tessa had never seen her do before.

“What was his name?”

“Jake. He was a terrific dancer, and he had a desert bike,” Josaphina lingered on that and then continued, “he didn’t come back. One of his squadmates, a friend of ours from Baja, brought it back to me, saying that Jake stayed true the entire time. He never took the locket off.”

“Wow,” Tessa was stunned. Josaphina never talked about herself.


“So, Tessa, what brings you here? You didn’t come hoping to hear stories, I know that.”

“Er…yeah, I,” Tessa swallowed, “well, you know there’s that gala right? So, I have to go, and like, I’ll have to wear a dress, and shoes and make-up and I’ll need a purse and well all the other sophisticated stuff. Kain says that this is some big deal, and I don’t want to come off like some trash from…well, from the sticks, you know?”

Josaphina knew all too well. She nodded, “it’s ok Tessa. We’ll get you a dress. And I guess you’ll need to know how to walk in heels too…”


Carmichael took a swig from his flask.

A long one.

The trideo droned on in the background. Every channel featured something about the upcoming tournament. Who was expected to attend. What the fashionistas were expected to wear. Which duelists from the North and South were taking extended furloughs and what their governments were saying about the tournament.

“-Paxton Arms has two representatives in the upcoming tournament,” the trideo announcer was entirely too cheerful, “Mylene Orsat, piloting her trademark Gladiator, and Esteban Perella, in what looks like a very customized Warrior III. Both are expected to make the semi-finals. In other news…”

“Shit,” Carmichael leaned back, raised his flask and bleched, “to Paxton Arms, purveyors of the finest tools of death and dismemberment on the planet!”

“Here, here!” Someone grabbed the flask and took a swig. Carmichael turned around, scowling, “hey! Gimme back my…”

Ben Cantor looked down at the Westerner with mock scorn.

“Oh, it’s you,” Carmichael shot the younger man a dark, contemptuous look as he took his flask back, “comrade Cantor.”

Carmichael,” Ben sat down next to the engineer, glanced at the trideo and scratched his chin, “I figured you’d be out running diagnostics on the gear.” Ben meant Gun, the Caravan Guild’s entry into the tournament.

“Nah, the kids don’t need me right now.”

“I see. Well, shouldn’t you be getting your suit ready for the gala?” Ben pressed his luck.

“Hey, here’s a great idea, Cantor: why don’t you go take a long walk in the Great White Desert? The gala’s nothing but a waste of time. I have better things to do, like take a nap.”

“You don’t want to go to the gala?” Ben was genuinely surprised, “men such as you usually wouldn’t dare miss an opportunity to inflict themselves on others.”

Clearly, there was something on Ben’s mind. Carmichael chuckled.

“The gala’s going to be nothing but a den of hedonism and shady dealing, in the middle of the trash city. You see that landship out on Trader’s Way? That’s Emir Inoto’s,” the older man coughed, “Inoto the Third, excuse me. He’s been on a victory cruise ever since the war ended. Only he never fought in the war. But he’s a good Paxton customer, and his little gears all have purple capes. His moveable feast is supplying the gala. What say you to that, comrade? Where’s your revolutionary zeal in denouncing a feudal tyrant?”

Ben frowned as he considered his response. He swallowed the last traces of whatever it was Carmichael was drinking.

“You know, for a guy who’s been given a second chance at walking, you sure do overcompensate. I think you don’t want to go to the gala because the Paxton Arms people make you nervous, because of your legs,” he managed to keep from smiling.

“Why…you…little…commie…puke…” Carmichael was standing now. His face turned a bright shade of purple. He raised his fists. His knees were close to buckling.

“Paxton may have done a second rate job on your legs, but they did something. In Timmins they have a whole ward of the veterans’ hospital filled with amputees. No limb regrowth for them. So instead of sitting here, getting drunk on whatever that shit is that you’ve got in your flask, maybe you should go to the gala and make a point of tweaking Paxton’s nose, hmm? I’m sure there will be lots of reporters there, eager to hear about Paxton’s double-standards.”

Carmichael slowly lowered his fists. He let what Ben was saying swim around in his mind a while, before finally grabbing his cane.

“Seems to me like you’re not as dumb a commie as Kain would have us believe.”

“Seems to me like you had better get Karin to press your suit.”

“Karin? Are you kidding? I’ll do it myself.”





“Admissions,” a bored secretary replied to the call, his headset clearly visible in the video screen.

“Hello,” Thom Knox smiled tightly, “My name is Thomas Knox, application number 6533901.”

The secretary blinked at the screen. Thom could hear him typing away at his computer.

“Oh yes, hello Mr. Knox, how may I help you?”

“I was wondering what the procedure would be for deferral of admission for one cycle?” Thom swallowed, his mouth was dry.

“Well, it shouldn’t be a problem,” there was some more typing, “oh, but it seems that you’ve already deferred once, last year.”

“Well, the war was just finishing,” Thom felt a sinking feeling in his guts.

“The war. The war. It’s been nearly two cycles Mr. Knox, the war is over. Your deferral last Autumn was understandable, given the circumstances, but a second deferral is out of the question.”

“I see,” Thom frowned, and then rubbed his chin, “then, I suppose I’ll have to withdraw my application.”

“You can’t make it here by Autumn 2?” the Southerner’s expression was incredulous.

“Unlikely, no.”

“Very well,” the man shrugged, “I’ll make the necessary changes to your file. Best of luck in…” he squinted at the screen, looking for the origin of the call, “Khayr-ad Din?”

Thom flicked the channel off. His heart broke. It would be nearly impossible to apply again. The conductor of the Baja Symphony had written Thom’s only letter of recommendation when he applied for school. Janos Kovor had died in the CEF orbital bombardment of Baja. Thom had no more connections to his old life as a student composer. He stood, swallowed hard, and went to check the first aid station in the Hang-Out.

Mendelbaum was there, waiting for him. The bandages on his shoulder clearly needed tending to.

“Hey Ari.”

“Thom. You alright?”

“Yeah, just…” Thom shrugged and started peeling off the bandages he had applied just the day before, “how’s the shoulder?”

“Once the meds wear off, it hurts, but it doesn’t feel funny otherwise.”

“Good. Just keep it clean and try not to rip open the stitches.”

“Aye-aye, Thom!” Mendelbaum gave his trademark goofy grin. He got up to leave, turned and looked around at the first aid station, “you know, you got a pretty good set up here man.”


“Sure man. Why don’t you use the space? Put a computer in here, maybe one of those keyboards I seen you pining over in the Bazaar…you’re the medico, so you’ve got to have a little office here.” Ari patted Thom on the back and leaned in conspiratorially, “besides, this way, if you pick up some girl at a saloon, you can take her back here, instead of our room, you know?”

Thom nodded, “I guess I could start sleeping here too. You snore, Mendelbaum.”

Thursday, August 14, 2008

What Sam's been up to at night

- You wanted to see me, boss?
- Yeah, Jay, yeah, sit down... I take it you saw that new kid shoot last night.
- Mmm-hmm.
- What'd you think? He's a hell of a shot, ain't he?
- Not much of a showman, though.
- Well, yeah, obviously, but we can work with that. Better than using some prima-donna 'artiste', right?
- Where'd you find him, anyway?
- He was cleaning up at the gun game, figured it'd be cheaper to hire him than to let him keep winning.
- Shit, he cleaned up at that game? Way Joeboy's got it rigged, he must be good.
- So good he don't need to be a showman, long as we build the right show 'round him.
- A 'mystery man'?
- Exactly. Give him a mythic past, a black outfit, a little smoke, a quick in-and-out routine... he won't even have to talk, the rubes'll fill in all the blanks theyselves.
- He couldn't do a longer show?
- Well, for one thing, I'm pretty sure the kid's been gutshot, though he don't let on much -- and we don't want to wear out our golden goose just yet. He's a --
- 'Dark past'?
- 'Gang killed his wife & kid and left him for dead'?
- 'Shot them all dead but reopened the wound and it won't heal'?
- Bingo! That also gives us an out if things don't work right, it's perfect. We'll get the audience plants to start spreading that tonight, build up steam for the Saturday show.
- So what do you need me for?
- I'll be straight with you, Jay, the kid's a bit weirdheaded and unpredictable. He's too good a shot to pass on, but I need someone up there to keep an eye on him.
- You're thinking hype-man.
- Actually, I'm thinking bigmouth hype-man, like you did with Kristy K three seasons back. Kid's so quiet, the contrast'll play real well. Getting in the way, trash talking, right on the edge of clown, but still hype-man, you follow?
- I really don't want to get shot again... once was more than enough.
- I'm not gonna lie to you, it is possible. But you're the best I got at reading people, Jay -- and if the kid does snap, you're the best I got at taking a fall. I can't see it working without you.
- Shit, I can't believe I'm even considering this... Alright, I'm in. Might even be able to play a 'will he or won't he shoot the hype-man' game, if he's not too unstable. But if I get any weird vibes, I'm pulling the plug. Deal? And I expect danger pay for this.

* * *

"I saw the craziest show last night, it was mental! That gunslinger thing? It was intense, man, that guy's stone cold. Dude never said a word, and never missed a shot. Like a fucking machine. But the best part is, there was this asshole announcer dude who kept talking shit about how the gunslinger was his boy and they were tight, blahblahblah, I'm so tough, making fun of the dudes in the audience but hiding behind his boy when they tried to get at him. What a pussy.
"So finally, he says the last part of the show is the bit with the spinning wheel, right, with the girl on it? So he asks for the girls to come up, but they say they don't want to, and that if he's so tough why doesn't he do it. All that tough talk, and now the guy's shitting hisself he's so scared, but he can't back down after all his bullshit. You should've seen his face, it was hysterical, man.
"So the girls set him up on the wheel, and start it spinning. The gunslinger doesn't say anything, just waits a bit... then BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! He was so fast I didn't even see him draw. Then he holsters, turns around, and leaves, just like that, before the wheel even stops turning. So fucking badass.
"Then, when the wheel finally stops, the asshole is passed out. The girls aren't too upset that he might be dead, if you know what I mean, but they check him anyways -- and they notice that there's a bullet hole right through his pants. His fucking pants! Right below his junk! When the announcer finally wakes up, he can't even walk straight, he just wobbles off the stage holding his nuts. I think he was even crying a bit, it was fucking sweet. I swear the gunslinger dude shot there on purpose, man, just to shut the fucker up. Such a fucking badass...
"Oh, and it gets better; after the show, I heard some dude tell his girlfriend that the gunslinger guy actually shot some merc's nuts clean off last week in that riot down near Pasha's place... my man's fucking crazy, man, I gotta see him shoot again! I think next time he might not miss, you know?"

* * *

Think you got what it takes to sling guns with the best? Want to test yourself against the fastest draw in the Badlands?

10'000d. PRIZE!

Next Saturday, come to the Shangri-La circus big-top and see how you match up!

Entry fee 100d.
Guns and non-lethal ammunition provided.
The Shangri-La circus is not responsible for any harm to your body or your fragile little emotions that may result from having your ass handed to you.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Interlude 1

With a creak and then a squeal, the hatch was ripped clean off and sand began to pour into the open chamber. The wind was picking up.

"Good job Isobel," a man called into the pilot's radio, his voice tinged with anticipation.

Isobel nodded in the confines of her Grizzly as she watched the v-engine's hydraulic readouts level back out. The extra torque the Grizzly powertrain generated made it perfect for salvage and engineering jobs.

"Carter," she replied, "what the hell is this place?"

"Don't know yet, but I have a hunch," the man replied as he climbed around the hole in the desert sand, "it's clear," he nodded, turning to a group of men behind him and waved them over.

Five minutes later, Isobel and her heavy gear were the only ones not in the hole in the sand.

"Boss, what is this place?" someone asked, slightly awe-struck.

The team of six salvagers walked down metal corridors and opened bulkheads with crowbars or laser torches, where required.

Carter kept quiet. If he was right, then this find was going to make him rich.


"A little more recent than I would have hoped," Carter replied over the comm grimly. The find was a bad omen.

"Alright," he swallowed. Safety first, "get what we can, and then we're gone," he flicked the comm channel to Isobel, "Ready the demo charge."

From inside the Grizzly, Isobel nodded. She had a picture up on her holodisplay, taken by her gear not two minutes ago. It was of the bulkhead surrounding the hole in the desert. Enough sand had poured away to reveal a cross in a circle: the symbol of the Colonial Expeditionary Force.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Two bags, bandages and no answers

“I’m sorry Doctor Chambers, but I simply can’t get any more, everybody wants a dish and with the tournament to be broadcasted on the network, demand is even higher now for the uplink gear. Sorry”

That was the third supplier Tom Chambers had spoken to that day. Now that the Granis was willing to play ball, he could get the Caravan Guild off the ground, but the key element to making it work, the Hermes72 Satellite uplinks, were impossible to find.

He had put the word out directly to a few choice clans about the Granis compromise reached that same day. He put a notice on the BCG portal about the insurance/protection scheme provided to Guild members, but who would know if they couldn’t connect? Few caravans in the Khayr-ad Din Bazaar had the satellite uplink dishes installed, and Tom took that as a sign that he had to take action.

Tom made his way back towards the Core, weaving through the crowds of Khayr-ad Din’s busy bazaar. The network was easy to access. All he needed was the component and the transceiver allowance, or so Prabal explained. The Doc was starting to get his head around what this all meant, but it was all for naught because the Hermes 72 satellite network was WestBase, Vat central, Keffer camp.

Bloody hell’ thought Tom to himself as he stepped into the elevator of the Core Hotel.

He walked past Sam’s room, stopped and knocked before trying the handle. The door was unlocked; Sam was lying on his bed, steel brush in hand, cleaning a magnum revolver. Tom threw him a glance, then moved to the dresser where a semi-permanent first aid station was taking form. Tom selected some clean gauze, scissors and tape. In the mirror of the dresser he saw Sam put away another revolver that he had not noticed when he came in.

Walking over to the bed with his provisions, he silently undid the bandages binding Sam’s gut wound. More skin sealant had pulled and fresh blood caked the gash. “You’re not doing yourself any good you know, I came by last night and you were out again," Tom said tiredly, "I clean your damned wound as often as you clean your guns these days.” Sam moved to facilitate the now familiar procedure; they both knew their part in this tiresome dance.

“What I do with myself is no concern of yours Doc” came Sam’s laid back response.

“Except it is if I have to keep cleaning this crap up day after day, I’m not helping you Sam, I’m facilitating,” The Doctor finished placing the new dressing as he made his reprobation.

“Yeah well I ain’t askinnothin’ from you or anybody else Doc” Sam lay back again and continued cleaning the chambers of the revolver he had never put down.

Tom stood back; Sam was no longer paying him any attention. Someone more sensitive, like Ellen, would have been hurt by the indifference, Tom was just pissed off. A savage verbal litany started forming itself in Tom’s mind, ready to be delivered with vicious rancour, but all Tom said was “So long” as he turned his back on the gunslinger and walked to his own room.

Tom’s anger and bitterness weren’t all Sam’s fault; he knew that. He was tired of being a nursemaid, of being pushed around, and of reacting rather than taking action. He stormed from one end of his suite to the other, violently snatching things from here and there, slamming closets and drawers shut. His mind was racing, ideas and strategies, images of Bill in hospital, half the crew with holes in them, Julie turning her back to him as he left New Baja. He sighed and cleared his mind and found that he had packed two packed duffle bags in the interim.

Tom was momentarily perplexed, not realising that he had been packing in his fit of anxious activity. He stared at the bags, somehow expecting them to answer his silent query. So they did.

“Doctor Chambers, room 1402, checking out.”

“Very well sir, here is the amount to settle, can I do anything else for you today sir?” was the efficient response from the hotel attendant as he nodded and typed some information into the computer. Tom answered with a shake of the head.

“Well everything is in order Doctor, would you like to book a room on your return?” said the attendant.

“No thank you, I won’t be returning.”

Tom bent over and picked up his bags. He stepped out into the street, looked north at the TNTR tower and the gamma Maglev station he knew to be there and started walking.

07 August 2008 Crossfires

From the SNS Network

“…And in local news, a tragic scene of horror in Khayr-ad Din. Yesterday at approximately 16:00 an unidentified group of men opened fire in the Bazaar using automatic weapons and witnesses say, a vehicle mounted machine gun.

Local peace officers, known as Lawgivers, are not commenting; local sources say that although violence is common in the trash town, this level of open hostilities has not been seen since Spider Jahmoon assumed local authority after a turf war in the last cycle.

Another event occurred last week involving heavy weapons fire and a hopper, but no civilian casualties were reported; because it took place in a remote area of Khayr-ad Din, local correspondents have been hesitant to draw a parallel between the two events.

The City is about to play host to a major event of Gear Dueling, one which SNS will be broadcasting around the globe. It has been speculated that this violence may be related to those gladiatorial games, however pundits counter such claims by saying that the Dueling Tournament has been organized in such a way as to deter open violence.

Witnesses have reported that two or three vehicles exchanges weapons fire from mounted heavy weapons and as many as a dozen armed individuals fired indiscriminately into the crowd of the bazaar with small automatic weapons. There has been a public outcry for a swift response from local authorities, which are hardly in a position to do any real policing. Jahmoon has made public assurances that the streets of Khayr-ad Din will be safe for visitors for the duration of the tournament.

Whatever the cause or whomever the parties responsible, it will certainly live as a day of infamy as over 40 people are dead and more than 100 are injured.

Meanwhile, in Peace River, tension’s a growing still higher as the final elections….”

More books

OK gang,

I'm ready to put in a new book order at Noble Knight.

CertainBetrayal-your book is still available--any other requests?

Any one else?

This is not The Hammer

"It's good to know this place is still the dive I remember it as." Gade stood outside The Hammer looking in. "Well c'mon now, it still beats dying, " said Gade, placing his hand on Clemens' shoulder, and lightly pushing the poor, limping soul forward.

"You realize they might kill me just for surviving this... " replied Clemens, just a little hesitant to experience what he knew was going to happen. "I'm not sure I like the idea of being a symbol"

Walking into The Hammer was like walking back in time. The air was thick with cigar smoke and the smell of ill repute, as dirty as the majority of the mercs. Their choice in companionship was worse. Gade knew he'd have to offend to get some attention... "ALRIGHT LISTEN UP, YOU BUNCH OF DINAR WORSHIPING GUN WHORES!" Yeah that worked, he thought, looking over the room as it suddenly went quiet. "My name is Gade Vonyran! Remember it! 'Cause if anyone comes to you offering any amount to kill, harass, or otherwise bother me or any of the fine folk I call friends, well, let's just say I won't have you killed. If you want to know what'll happen, just ask my good friend Clemens here." Watching the entire room's gaze shift from him to Clemens, Gade could only smile. "Only next time it'll be arranged so that they don't grow back!"

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Game Thug's Bookshelf


Heavy Gear 2nd Ed Rulebook
Aircraft & Aerial Warfare
Tactical Field Support - Artillery & Ground Warfare
Into The Badlands
Southern Army List #1 - Honor, Glory & Steel
Southern Vehicles Compendium #1 - Gears & Striders
A.S.T. Leaguebook #1 - Southern Republic
Southern Vehicle Compendium Two
Southern Milicia Army List
Life on Terra Nova 2nd Ed
Technical Manual 2nd Ed
Duelist's Handbook - Champions & Daredevils (2nd Ed)
Equipment Catalog
Northern Guard Army List
Tac Pack 1: Battle of Two Towers
Tac Pack 2: Shadow War
Tac Pack 3: Operation Sudden Fire

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Khayr-ad Din, 8-9 Summer, TN1919:

"Yep, there they are." Kain shook his head, and Bill that thought he detected a note of disappointment. "These Granis guys are good at leaning on traders and running their protection games, but they are not good spies." He pointed to where the Granis strong men were observing the caravan from the dubious cover of a second storey window. "I've half a mind to slip in there for a little close knife work, but I don't want to sabotage the Doctor's efforts at negotiation."

Bill nodded sagely. "They're not acting too aggressively, so you're probably right in not provoking anything."

"Still, I hate to see bad surveillance go unpunished...." He and Bill had seen their share. The Green Gang were a little sharper; they had very neatly followed the parts-expedition, and shot a few (more) holes in the caravan. There had been no covert means of alerting the caravaners to the danger, which Kain had calculated to be negligible anyway. The Greens were more interested in harassment than killing. They knew it didn't pay to pluck the strands of the Spider's web.

"Do you think we've seen enough? I mean, the Doc seems capable and all...well, he tries hard anyway, but don't you think we should rejoin the caravan?"

Kain squinted against the glare. The Granis men were abandoning their post. "I reckon we've done enough. We have good intel on both of our adversaries, and I'm confident that the status quo is stable enough for the time being. With our little bolthole all set up, I think we've done what we needed to. And it is time to get things back together. Don't want the Doc cracking up; one spun member of the team is enough." The problem of Sam Tarmalin had yet to provide itself with an easy solution. And Sandra was near as crazy. Well, twitchy, anyway.

The Granis exited the building. One of them clumsily jostled a pile of debris coming around the back of the building, setting off a junkslide that threw up a tremendous clatter and cloud of dust.


Monday, August 4, 2008

The Evil Eight

The Evil Eight are the main trouble-shooters for the Green Gang. That is, if they see that you're trouble, they will shoot you. Most of the E8 are WFPA deserters, all are hardened veterans of the War, and at least half are competent gear pilots.

Vasquez Ulysses: 28 Cycles from a farm near Fort Henry. Mean, lean and cruel. He carries two pistols and knows how to use them.
Barker Max: 32 cycles from Fort James. A cold, calm and thoughtful sniper.
Levi Mason: 45 cycles from Mainz, UMF. A huge thug with no moral center. He enjoys hitting people and shooting people.
Price Rosetta: 36 cycles from Fort Henry. Rosetta is as lethal as she is cruel. She is a known drug addict, and explosives expert. She'd be pretty, but for a nasty scar that drags all along the right side of her scalp.
Bill West: 50 cycles, from Fort James. Bill West is the leader of the Evil Eight, Green Anton's personal hatchetmen. He is smart and he is resolute. It's not that he's inherently an evil man, but the War did something to him. Expect no mercy from this thin and lean cowboy. Bill took pleasure in slapping Gade around a few cycles back.
Salome: 25 cycles, origin unknown. Dark, moody and cruel, Salome is a gear duelist. She hates everyone except her gear, a Cheetah Fang she has dubbed 'Blood.' She is expected to do well in the upcoming tournament.

STATUS UPDATE: In custody, pending transfer to WFP Marshals.
Shelly St. Croix: 36 cycles from Siwa Oasis. This Southern expatriate is far too good looking for Khayr-ad Din, a fact that she is acutely aware of. She is exceptionally good in a brawl.
Joe Wilde: 40, from Khayr-ad Din. This KAD native is possibly the fastest draw in the Western Desert. He also enjoys a good pistol whipping (on the giving end, naturally).

Green Gang


Green Anton
Notable Personalities: see below
Strength: Company
Affiliations: Independent

Friday, August 1, 2008


Tom sat in the chair, tilting it precariously far back. His eyes were closed and his feet were crossed over one another as they stretched from their perch to the desk top. Sun basked him and the sparse office in morning light, the view took in the core region of Kayr Ad-Din and the rubbish heaps in the distance. From afar they lent a magical aura to the environs; they sparkled as so much metal reflected the morning sun like a diamond belt around the city.

“As soon as the bank deposits the twenty thousand go ahead and confirm the transfer.”

“It should take another two days or so. Apparently we'll receive electronic receipt of Gade’s enrollment after the transfer. Hmph. Well organised criminals,” Ellen sat comfortably on the couch that took a corner of the office, curled up tightly clasping her legs, her chin resting on her knees, as she looked over a data pad in her hands.

“Yes, I’ve noticed," replied the Doctor, "in fact I can’t help but observe the fact that they always seem to be a step ahead of us as well as two steps behind.”

Tom drew in a long breath, keeping his eyes closed, his brows furrowing briefly. He was still fatigued from last night’s frivolities at the Sunset but something heavier had been weighing on his mind.

“Ellen, how would you like to work for me?”

“You mean how do I like working for you, well I could use a raise and I am still waiting for an expense account I can pilfer…”

Her tone was light and whimsical but Ellen never broke her concentration from the clerical work she was doing.

“Ellen, you work for the caravan. I am nominally directing the caravan in Kain’s absence, but strictly speaking you joined the caravan. I want you to work for me”

Ellen looked up from her computer, Tom was looking at her, nothing but his eye lids and the tilt of his head had changed. His face was unreadable.

“The night before last I patched more bullet holes - nothing serious - but once again the caravan crew was in harms way and I felt responsible for it. I also murdered some men in cold blood, something which is becoming disconcerting in both its frequency and ease. I broke up the crew to avoid this dammit.”

Tom took his feet of his desk and turned to Ellen with a deep sigh.

“I’m starting to wear thin E., That crap up in the Pacifica range, Malachi Flats, the Granis, the Green gang, Gade’s other enemies, Kain’s disappearing act and his murky past, Sam’s reckless dalliances.”

She visibly tensed as he spoke the gunslinger’s name. Ellen could feel Tom's mind turning over with clinical precision to smooth over that transgression: he said that her friend, her brother, was a bother; the Doctor put him in a list of murderous tragedies.

“I’m sorry,” expressed the Doc, but Ellen made no reply.

“You nursed him back to health once when he was a physically broken man. The kind of thing that is broken in him now can’t be cured with cactus soup. I don’t want to see you hurt trying.”

Silence hung in the air like the fine particles of dust held suspended in the beams of light stabbing through the office bay window. The Doc looked at her, sympathy and concern clearly painted in his features, Ellen’s visage was tinged with sadness and anger.

“What difference does it all make then? Who cares who I work for and who I care to help, Doctor?”

“I’m done with the caravan Ellen, I hired them to help with my objectives. They helped but I don’t think it is sustainable. I can’t just tag along and make due with the opportunities that are left over after Kain has made provisions for the profitability of his caravan. The dark pasts of the crew have compromised my secrecy and random happenstance have hurt or killed the crew.
I will make arrangements to pay the crew for the job I hired them to do until the end of the season but no more. I’m hoping I can call on Kain to do individual contracts for me, assuming he doesn’t decide to shoot me outright or simply pout and never speak to me again. With him it could go either way?”

“So what, you going to go back to New Baja, back to your lady friend and just leave Sam and the others out to bake?”

Ellen had been quite silent during Tom’s confession, but now she had regained her composure and if she has seemed vulnerable before now she struck out with more than a little bitterness.

“I’ve got to stay here, this is where the Guild will make a stand, do or die, I am also vested in Gade's tournament, moreover I still have my objective. I can’t fulfill it from New Baja, it’s the reason I left and it’s the reason I can’t suffer the current situation with Kain. Besides, New Baja presented a financial stake for me at first, now the whole of the Badlands is my market. I still owe NB, I’ll still keep and eye out for them, but there is a bigger picture and the view is clearer from here. As for my personal affairs, I left two people behind in NB and one of them could use a smart and caring governess if I brought her over and I would like you to consider that position. So once again, will you work for me,stay here in Kayr Ad Din?”

Hermes 72 - Heavy Gear RPG - Most artwork Copyright 2002 Dream Pod 9, Inc.