Saturday, August 23, 2008

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."


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