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.