Monday, September 29, 2008

Before we celebrate....

"I am overwhelmingly satsfied with our recent operation. Minimal exposure, minimal casualties, and maximum results is an accolade unto itself, but I want to congratulate you all on a job well done."

Kain made eye contact with the members of the caravan in turn. The recent raid on the Green Gang compound had been a complete success. A little celebration was essential.

"I scrounged around the market for awhile and turned up a case of this fine sparkling vintage for all you refined types, and some of this excellent Trinwood Blue for the rest. Indulge yourselves!" For a Badlander, nothing said celebration like good booze. Good meant expensive, but the payoff was worth the investment.

"Have fun but don't go too crazy. After all, some of you will be standing watch this morning and afternoon," Kain cautioned soberly. "They'll likely want some of their own back." A more hopeful observer might have noticed a twinkle in his eye as Kain continued, "'Course, given the shape their base is in right now, I reckon we've got a day or so!" The chorus of laughter circled around the Hangout in a wave of post-rush relief. Kain raised his class in a toast to the crew, drained it, and faded back as the crew broke into smaller conversations and reenactments of Sam's Gear dance.

Once again, this crew had demonstrated their excellence, their unwillingness to let simple things like reality prevent them from achieving a goal. Kain shook his head, replaying in his mind that moment coming out of the tank hangar. It had been a near thing. A half second slower, and he would most likely have been a dead man. He'd fallen a bit behind in the exercises Koldur had shown him; some more time on the mats with Josephine was necessary.

From across the gathering, Kain could see the Doctor similarly involved in private observation and contemplation. He waited, made eye contact, and then nodded towards the rear exit. He moved casually towards it, and was standing outside in plain sight when Tom joined him a minute later.

"Doc, I've been thinking about our next move. I had this crazy idea. Let me tell you about some fellows I used to know who flew paragliders...."

Friday, September 26, 2008

25 September 2008 Meanwhile, at the Green Gang compound...

"They stole WHAT?" Green Anton's eyes widened in anger as he quickly marched down the corridor, "A Tiger? And the hangar's busted?"

"Yes sir," replied Sandos Orlando gruffly as he followed Anton down to the command bunker, "the Tiger's gone, and three more gears are trashed up pretty badly."

"How many got in?" Anton was already looking over a computer readout in the situation room he had put together.

"Just one, sir," came Sandos' reluctant reply.

"Excuse me?"

"You heard him," Bill West walked into the room, his voice like ice, "we've got footage. It was Delacroix. We just didn't know what we were looking at until afterwards."

"Puta!" Anton swore, spitting on the floor, "get a perimeter going. Make sure we're secure. How many did we lose?"

"Just the two sentries. Knife in the throat, broken neck," Bill shifted from foot to foot, his hands on his hips. He was calm and collected, a very sharp contrast to Anton's agitation, "Delacroix does good work. I'm going to get everyone looking at the vehicles. Taking the Tiger is one thing, but those two guards got killed near the secondary hangar."

Anton's eyes narrowed. His voice dropped, "you think he had time to start playing tricks?"

"Yeah, probably. Hopefully we'll find them," West shot back.

"Good. Try to do a good job, alright Bill?"

"Yes sir," West replied, "oh, and Anton: you know what this means, right?"

Green Anton nodded quietly.

Putting the Casino deal together 2

>transmit over H72 fr: KAD subnet to NB/JL syst.
>message transmitted.:

>sat trans complete<

Dear Julie,

I know things have been rough for us since I left. I feel like a corrupted
trideo repeating itself over and over but I’ll say it again, I'm sorry. I
need to talk to you about something important, too important to speak like
this. I miss you and Lita terribly. I’ll be coming through NB in a few
weeks; I’ll give you more details as soon as I have them.
I love you.

Putting the Casino deal together 1

>date tag: 35 Spring, TN1919<
>time tag: 22:34:11<
>connect from - cell 393A0000334 - Khayr-ad Din <
>connect to - Terranova TransRail Tower #99033AA<

Voice 1: “Doctor Chambers, to what do I owe this pleasure?”

>Voice ID: 86% Alister Granis, Lieutenant, Granis Cartel, Wounded Knee Cartels.

Voice 2: “Hello Mr. Granis, I would like to owe you a favour”

>Voice ID: 89% Dr. Tomohiro Chambers, Badlands Caravan Guild, New Baja Development Company *FLAG --UPDATE FILE*

A.G. “ I believe you already do, but what did you have in mind?”

T.C. “I need to know where, within 36 hours of Kayr-ad Din, I might borrow
a Tiger?”

A.G. “Indeed, he he, I suppose you would wouldn’t you, quite the mess some
idiot’s can make. Well, I may have to ponder this a bit, I take it you need
this information quickly?”

T.C. “You have surmised the situation quite well sir. There was something
else as well”

A.G. “Was there? Tom, I don’t think we are quite that close yet, you may
want to measure out the favours you ask of me.”

T.C. “Actually, I was hoping to rectify that very question, the one of our
intimacy. I would like to share a business venture with you Alistair; one
with considerably greater and faster yields that our current arrangement”

A.G. “…Alright Tom, I think you’ve earned the right to be heard. Oh Tom,
you should know I collect on my debts”

T.C. “I glad to hear that Alistair, as you already know, I am keen on
making sure people get what they deserve”

A.G. “ Ha ha ha, very good, I look forward to hearing what you have in
mind. Come by later Tom.”

Friday, September 12, 2008

Training Montage!

1. Peter sat in the cockpit of Scrapnel, the sturdy Blitz Iguana gear and watched as Gun emerged out of the caravan compound. The Tiger heavy gear, after over 200 hours of intensive training, was stalking through the urban debris of Khayr-ad Din's Ghost Town district. It was was early morning and the dew was just falling. Steam rose off the radiators of both gears.

"Good morning Gade," Peter spoke softly into the comm, " I hope you had a good night's sleep, because we're in for a busy week."

"Eh you know me Pete, sleep is over rated" Gade's barely half opened eyes were a clear indication of his current condition.

"Yeah, well, ease off on _that_ because you'll need to be razor sharp and clear headed for your fights," Peter sighed and then shrugged in the cockpit, "alright. So dueling isn''s not about being faster, or meaner or a better shot," Peter kicked the little Iguana into a jog, "it's not kung-fu, or whatever Sam does with his pistols."

The older pilot pushed the Iguana into a run, took the frag cannon off the back armour skirt and began taking shots. The targeting data was fed into Gun's display. Even at a run, Peter was putting shots through bullseyes he had set up in the neighbourhood. Each target got a single solid slug.

"Dueling," Peter returned Scrapnel to Gun's side, "is about focus, discipline and understanding your machine. You try," Scrapnel tossed the frag cannon over to Gun.

"Now now, if there's one thing you can be sure about, it's that I'm all about focus and discipline," Gade replied. Without hesitation, Gun started spinning on its heels as Gade fires bullseyes on 5 of the 6 targets, and then finally takes out the wheel on one of the nearby Longrunners. Diego, the portly, ill-mannered Imashen driver walks out from behind the Longrunner, waving his fist. His other hand is holding his pants up. Gade had committed the cardinal sin of interrupting the man while he was writing his name in the sand.

"OK so my focus and discipline has the same lasting effect as flavor in cheap gum, but it's there I tell you!"

"Yeah," Peter commented drily. This was going to be a long two weeks.


2. With the Iguana's canopy open, the trainer smiled, taking in a deep drag from a cigarette. In front of Peter, Gade was taking Gun through the motions of a sophisticated combo maneuver.

'The boy certainly catches on quickly,' thought Peter, as he watched punches, kicks, some blocks, an elbow, a sudden vibroblade slash and then a stomp for the finish.

It was two days later. Gade and Gun were progressing. 'Still sloppy,' Peter thought as he soaked in the sun. He leaned into the cockpit and keyed the comm: "Improvise! Change it up. It's not a set routine and you're not being graded. Not yet. Use the cannon!"

"But if I know it's battle ready now I won't get to improvise later, isn't that what you wanted?" Gade answered, now getting somewhat annoyed at Peter's constant desire to see a big bang.

Peter grunted, "I don't want you to fire the cannon. Just pretend to," he chuckled, watching, "you have to practice improvisation. That's how you get better at improvising," he watched, "and tighten up that block. I can drive a Behemoth through it."

Gun lurches to a start, skating in reverse, heaving it's mass from leg to leg with a poor sense of balance, "Pffft, if you think so, then go for it," Gade was almost egging him on now.

This boy's cockiness is gonna be the death of him, thought Peter. Tired of Gade's mouthing off, he decided to teach him a lesson, rolling at full combat speed right into the larger Tiger. Coming in for a melee combo of his own Gade fell back, rolling the two machines over each other and finally leaving the smaller Iguana pinned.

"Call me crazy, but seems to me dueling doesn't only involve the physical, does it?" Gade pulled Gun up and off Peter's Iguana, then helped his teacher up. "Though I don't expect that'll work more than once against you"

Taking a moment to figure out just what had occurred, Peter found himself with a smirk on his face. I'm starting to think Gade needs to learn how to be a better Gade.


3. On the eve of the first match, the mood throughout the caravan had become apprehensive. The Imashen drivers withdrew and ate alone. Tom Knox kept himself busy doing inventory in the infirmary. Even the cooler heads, Kelly, Ari and Josaphina, were anxious. Karin and Avatanya paced back and forth in the galley as they made dinner.

Peter climbed up the side of the Behemoth. He found Natty sitting up there, watching Gade work on the last of Gun's painting: stencil and paint gun in hand. The Tiger was abutted right up against the gear transport truck, and Gade clambered over his machine with great agility.

"Oh, heya Peter!" Natty waved and waved the older man over. The green-haired young woman was doing her best to keep her nerves down, "you ready for tomorrow?" she smiled.

"Oh, I'm ready. Question is," Peter looked at his student, "is Gade?"

"Heh," Natty just couldn't help but smile and roll her eyes, "when has Gade being ready ever been important to him before?"

"Touche," Peter replied, and then leaned over the side, "hey Gade, nice paint job," he paused and swallowed, "could you come here Gade? I've...I've got something for you."

"Sure thing," Finishing off the last highlight, Gade dropped the brush and walked over to Peter and Natty, "it wouldn't happen to be fuzzy dice to hang in the cockpit, would it?"

"Nah, that's been done," Peter smiled, "no, this is something of mine," he extends his hand and then opens his fist, palm up. Inside was a thumb-sized cylinder. It looked like a piece of something bigger.

"Is that...?" Natty and Gade asked, almost simultaneously.

"Yeah, it's a spark plug. From a Hunter. From...from the first Hunter I ever piloted on the Death Track 1000 up in Innsbruck. I want you to have it. It's brought me luck, and it reminds me of that first race, where I first took a life. I want you to have it because I don't want you to kill people in the dueling tournament, Gade. It's not the place for it. And especially since all this killing's being celebrated and televised."

Peter placed the spark plug in Gade's hand and then turned quickly, climbing down from the roof of the Behemoth as quickly as he could.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Meeting Basil Paleologus of the Terranovan Transrail Corporation

After both passive and active security checks, Doctor Chambers was admitted to the antechamber of Basil Paleologus’ lavish office in the TNTR tower of Khayr-ad Din. A banquet of flowers and art were laid out sumptuously, enticing a visitor with the wealth and power of the corporate entity. He was promptly admitted into the office proper by a decadently dressed executive assistant where he was met by the distinguished-looking Station chief.

“Mr. Paleologus, it’s a pleasure to see you again.”

“Dr. Chambers, please do sit down. May I offer you a drink, a tumbler of fine whiskey perhaps?” the reply was said as the delicate mannered executive stood from his chair and pointed to a crystal carafe with a significant smile.

“I’m gratified you received my small trifle” said the doctor with a gracious grin and nod to acquiesce to the offer.

“A case of FortJames Special whiskey is not a trifle Doctor. Not in the Badlands,” continued Paleologus while he offered the amber nectar to his guest.

“One of the perks of my enterprise: I come across such prized things without too much effort” lied Chambers. He had to barter fiercely before expending a significant sum for the spirit. “Please accept it as a minor act of courtesy and then think of it no more”

“As you wish Doctor. So what would you like to discuss with the Terra Novan Trans-Rail Corporation today?” Basil sat back down in his chair and fixed his cool gaze on his guest.

“Well sir, I had a thought on how I could make you some more money. You see my business is starting to be noticed, it is growing and as it does it will have a profound impact on the transport of goods in and out of the Badlands. What sets the BDC apart is its use of the Hermes-72 network. We know exactly what, where and how much we are shipping with unprecedented clarity. This logistical miracle could be of great use to the TNTR. Would you like to hear how?”

Paleologus nodded quietly, giving the doctor his undivided attention.

“TNTR is responsible for the transportation of goods and people between the poles and to the Badlands and back again. The free-willed manner in which caravans traditionally do business is chaotic. Chaos is not profitable. TNTR can never know with certainty what types of goods it will be transporting, to where, nor when. This uncertainty requires you to be flexible. That flexibility comes at the cost of efficiency. If you knew the size, weight, special shipping requirements and destinations of goods well in advance, you could streamline your entire operation. Such logistical rationalisation translates into one word: profit.”

Doctor Chambers paused before laying that last word out, like a steak set down in front of the TNTR station chief after an exquisitely prepared entrée. Paleologus nodded, as though to signal that he was appreciative of the dish. Then he leaned forward to speak:

“Bravo Dr. Chambers, so far it sounds like you’ve come here to do ME a favour," there was a gentle pause, as if to signify that there was a bemusement in the maglev executive's attitude, "so what do you want from us so that we may access your Guild's network?”

Chambers smiled to himself. He loved dealing with capitalists; their minds cut away all the fat and always saw straight to the heart of the matter.

“Well sir, it logically follows that as the BCG grows, so will its knowledge of inventory requirements and hence the greater potential for streamlining to the TNTR. I’m hoping you will assist in that growth by offering preferential corporate shipping tariffs to the BCG.”

Paleologus nodded, a tight little smile forming slowly at the creases of his mouth. What information he had on the Doctor and his Guild was indeed true. The man was ambitious and creative. "Please Doctor, continue."

“I would like the TNTR to offer my guild the largest shipping discount available, like those offered to polar corporations or to Paxton Arms. Along with all the corporate privileges," there was a brief pause as the two men eached sipped their whiskey, "right now we won’t fill the volume requirements, but I just see that as room to grow. Besides, I believe that the numbers will show that what we can offer in logistics streamlining will more than offset the discount. We can then use the bulk shipping discount to increase our clientele, thereby providing you will better information and saving you more money still. It’s a virtuous cycle. What is better for you is better for us which in turn makes it better for you and so on.”

Paleologus nodded almost imperceptibly. The Doctor made a good point, but then again, to an international corporation like TNTR, this offer would barely make any difference in logistical streamlining or profits. He swirled his whiskey in its glass, as Chambers spoke again.

“The thought has also occurred to me that you may have just as easily come up with this idea yourself. Your superiors would no doubt be impressed with this means of increasing their profits while the shipping discount the BCG received could easily go unnoticed. In fact we could easily say that you invited me here to make such a proposal, couldn’t we?”

This elicited a smirk. Basil sipped at the whiskey and then put the glass down on his desk quietly. He sat and gazed at this Doctor Chambers in silence for a while before turning towards the large bay windows that looked southwards. He stood, admiring the view of the maglev line, the Core, and even the Heaps and the desert further in the distance.

"Doctor. I don't know exactly who you are, but I can tell you a few things," he began, still presenting his back to his guest, in a clear breach of Mekongese propriety, "I know from your mild accent that you are from the Mekong. I know that you served at Baja. Your service record is accessible for someone in my position. I know that you started the Baja Development Company last cycle as a means of blunting Republican domination in New Baja. It is a success story of a sort. I know that your Badlands Caravan Guild is one of a few new corporations that are capitalizing on the Hermes 72 system. And I know that my friend Alister Granis refuses to speak of why he has so benevolently lifted the embargo on your organization. I imagine it must have something to do with his deceased relative, that boor Gellin."

Paleologus finally turned, showing a predatory look that can only come from a difficult life on the street, in the shadows. Tom recognized it because Sam, Kain and Gade all exhibited similar looks at one time or another in the past cycle.

"I have taken a great deal of interest in your Guild, Doctor, not because of what it means for the corporation I serve," he emphasized that last word to make it clear that Basil Paleologus was not a corporate servant in the slightest, "no. I have taken interest in you and your Guild because the potential the Guild has for me."

Tom Chambers sat, listening, attentive. The decadent man he met aboard the landship at the gala was clearly a fascade for a no-nonsense predatory businessman. There were no sumptuous pillows, no water pipes and no servant girls in this spartan and efficient office. Moreover, the Doctor had a sneaking suspicion that Paleologus ran the TNTR compound in Khayr-ad Din like a private fiefdom because it was Paleologus' own private fiefdom. His eyes widened only slightly.

"Doctor, I think I can do business with you. All Terranovan Transrail stations on the Westridge Range though to Khayr-ad Din will be happy to offer you our corporate rebate," Basil raised the glass and downed the last of his whiskey.

"And what can we offer in exchange?"

Basil smiled. The assessment of the Doctor was accurate: Tomohiro Chambers caught on quickly.

"I'm sure I'll have a need for your Guild's services in the future."

Matching smile for smile, Chambers stood up, with a final swig he let the whiskey rush warmly down his palette and put his hand out to meet Paleologus’.

“Then, on behalf of the Badlands Caravan Guild, I am pleased to accept your
offer sir”

No loose ends in Prince Gable

Owen was going into Prince Gable for a drink, and maybe a night with a woman. Regardless of whoever he used to be, it didn't matter anymore. He had always gone to the same bars in Prince Gable, always the same women, the same old haunts. But now with a new face, a new identity, and a chance to move on...

Oh, who was he kidding? He coughed as he breathed in too much dust. The riding springer was going at a trot. It would only take a couple of hours to get into town. And then, at least, he could make his troubles disappear.

Owen wasn't going to fool himself. The fact of the matter was that his new face was a gift, given to him by the kind of people he knew would be looking to cash in a favour. And he knew that it was too late for him to run.

Owen Orzak was a small time commodities merchant when the CEF occupied Prince Gable in TN1913. After the shock of occupation had worn off and his warehouse stores were seized, the baby-faced and affable man realized that it would only be a matter of time before he was deported to some labour gulag somewhere. He had no skills to contribute to the wartime economy the Earthers were running in the Westridge range.

So Orzak became an informant to the CEF. It wasn't much at first. Just the occasional tip-off to the local watch officer about 'suspicious' activities. Once he had developed a reputation for reliable tips, the CEF made him a police officer in Prince Gable. Owen woke up one day to find himself enjoying luxuries he had only once dreamed about: women and power. The fruits of collaboration were sweet indeed. Still, he knew that if the Resistance ever got ahold of him, there would be no quarter given.

It was in the heady time just before the CEF withdrawal from Prince Gable that the Party of the New Earth Commonwealth offered him a chance to run: full facial reconstruction. He agreed. Amidst the atrocities and the heavy house-to-house fighting in Prince Gable, Owen Orzak disappeared and Francis Zane resurfaced after having gone missing in TN1914.

Zane knew that one day the Party would contact him. He didn't know how, and he didn't want to know. All he cared about now was that he needed a drink. In the back of his mind, the encounter with that caravan and that Southerner barely registered. He had no information for him, and he knew that he'd be hunted down, one way or another. He had time, at least, for that drink.

He was wrong.


Ben Cantor was waiting. When Zane made a turn down an alleyway in Prince Gable towards a brothel, he stepped halfway out of the shadow, aimed his pistol, and fired. Owen Orzak fell to the ground, dead.


It would be the next evening when a couple of urchins found Owen Orzak's body lying in the gutter outside Her Unmentionables, a seedy brothel near the mining district in Prince Gable. Marshal Arnold Sullivan sighed as he looked over the scene. There was blood and brains splattered on the alley wall, though the rats had cleaned up the worst of it. The body was bloated and stiff. Decomposition had already set in, what with the body having endured one very hot afternoon. Sullivan frowned to himself. Zane's story was suspicious: he had disappeared at the outset of the occupation. Then he materialized out of thin air a cycle after the war's over. The marshal examined the murder scene. This was a clean kill: one shot, close range, and probably silenced, given that the crime scene guys hadn't found much in the way of gunpowder residue. Zane's wallet was still in his pocket. His pistol was still in its holster. Not a robbery, or a vendetta.

"Who had been asking about Francis Zane only recently?" Sullivan wondered aloud.

"Marshal! We've found a shell casing!" someone interrupted with promising news.

"Fingerprints?" he looked grim.

"None sir, sorry," came the reply a minute later. Sullivan looked over the spent casing: 9mm, subsonic. Definitely a silenced kill.

"Didn't you just call me from the Zane homestead a week ago, Marshal?" asked a deputy.

"Adams homestead," Sullivan shook his head. Then it clicked, "but that caravan crew leader asked about seeing his old friend Zane. What was his name?" Sullivan frowned, resting his chin on his fist as he stood over the body of Francis Zane.

It didn't take too long: "Delacroix." He turned to his deputy, "find out where Delacroix is now. He's our only lead. And keep it discrete."


That's two dead. Let's do a little research.









A legionnaire, hm? Sounds dangerous...


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A New Deal

The desert vehicle should have gone unnoticed against the dark background as it meandered its way through trash city’s dunes of refuse. What lent the early hour scene a surreal air was the gaggle of impressively dresses passengers; their glimmering gowns and pressed suits stood in stark contrast with these surroundings. The partygoers were quiet, each deep in thought. Gone was the mirth of the preceding evening. As the Antelope came to a rest inside the protective enclosure of the caravan compound, the elegant party dispersed.

“Let me know if I can do anything for her,” Helen called out to Gade, who was already nearly out of earshot of her concerned whisper. A slight turn of his head and a subdued raised hand in appreciation was his silent response.

“Thank you, Kain, for accompanying me tonight, and for safeguarding my honour.” She had removed her heels with a wince and now was barely shoulder height to the caravan leader. Though her words were said lightly, her face, radiant in the light of the second rising moon, betrayed a troubled spirit.

Seeing Kain about to speak, she silenced him with her hand, which rose at first to his lips with one outstretched finger but faltered in mid flight and settled for a brief caress of his chest before dropping away altogether. Her painted eyes had follow the motion, first looking him directly in his eyes, but unable to maintain his gaze she let them fall over his shoulder and elegant jacket before finding her own feet peeking out from her under her gown. They stood in silence for a moment.

“You looked very handsome tonight” she said under her breath, still avoiding his frank visage, before escaping the gravity of their proximity.

She scurried into the dark, leaving him alone to feel her absence. As Kain entered his longrunner he noted a flicker of light and movement, instinctively he placed his hand on the only available weapon, his dress sabre. A familiar face was easily recognisable, illuminated as it was by the computer pad in his hand. Though Kain had made no discernable sound entering, Doctor Chambers looked up from his medical research with a casual air. “Hello Kain” said the seated physician evenly before he thumbed his data pad and extinguished the readout and the only light in the room, plunging them into darkness.

"Doctor." Kain palmed the switch, bringing the room's lights up to about half illumination. Unhooking his dress sword, he hung it from a hook, removed his jacket, and settled into the other chair. A quick survey indicated that nothing was out of place. "A shade dramatic, don't you think? No matter. We have a number of things to discuss.

I think it's time we reviewed our business relationship. In conversation with Ellen, you have made mention of the fact that you wish to keep the BCG and this caravan separate. I wish the opposite. Not entirely the opposite, but consider this. I don't think you're cut out to continue this relationship with New Baja. Not that you're not capable, but rather that it's not fulfilling. There's a larger picture out here in the Badlands, larger than either of us realized, and we are uniquely placed to participate in a developing environment.

You and I have been operating as partners of a sort, and I would like to refine that arrangement. I want to sever reporting ties to NB and strike out on our own. I want us to be full partners in this endeavour, expanding on our original goals of trade, Badlands development, and intelligence.

We have the capital necessary to repay the upfront costs advanced by New Baja, and to continue to operate the caravan for some time. Now is an opportune time to make the break.

The benefits for you are primarily in terms of autonomy and ownership. No more answering back to a distant master. Also, I think you'll find a little more soul in what I'm proposing. You're a part of this caravan, Doctor, and if you embrace that, you'll be repaid tenfold.

The benefit to me...well, shall we say that I get to maintain the status quo, with improved independence? I'll confess, Doctor, that things won't change appreciably for me. As you no doubt suspect, I have been running my own agenda in parallel to the BCG's and your own for some time. Well, since the beginning, of course. I assure you, at no time have I operated at odds with your interests; merely, in addition to. This agenda has not been for profit or self-aggrandizement.

I have been developing the same intelligence network that I promised I would, as well as conducting a little shadow work on the side. Most recently, I obtained a list of CEF agents and their current identities. I mean to eliminate these targets. I want your help. More specifically, I want you onboard on the larger project of securing the Badlands as much as possible against the coming CEF re-invasion."

Tom didn’t move, at first no change was apparent is his demeanour or expression. He just sat there and soaked it in. He had just been inundated with information; he was barely treading.

“I thought you were going to chastise me for my little disappearance. I had this whole speech prepared where I reminded you that I hired the caravan and that you had to report information to me, not the other way ‘round. I then expected you to make some cynical or threatening remark, most likely both and I would have been happy to dissolve our current relationship.”

Tom closed his eyes, leaned his head back and let out a long sigh.

“Dramatic, yes a little, but it seems in keeping with the recent caravan shenanigans. I’ve been on the outside since we took to the road together, it was mostly my own doing, I realise that now, but our agreement was based on carefully negotiated mercantile bonds, not trust, not purpose.

I’ve already decided to pay back New Baja for the advance; I’ve got some intel to give Dunn for his trouble and I intend to safeguard my interests and their freedoms as best I can by watching over them, but I agree that there are larger concerns than just those of New Baja and that they are out here.”

Tom opened his eyes again and let out a snicker.

“You talked of what I have to gain. This is your approach to persuade me is it? Tell me how I will benefit from a new partnership because you see me as a capitalist, you think that I will only understand terms in red and black is that it? No, that’s just the opener, the clincher is the caravan. You’re appealing to me emotionally. Well bravo, hit the head on the nail there! Yeah, I care for these people; I care so much it scares me.

I let Emile die, I let Lelland die, I can’t help Sam and now Nat…not-- no, never mind. They all believe in you, they trust you and follow your leadership by force of conviction and devotion alone. Why should they follow me? Why, pray tell, should I follow you?

You’ve never given me any reason to trust you Kain, you’ve been condescending towards me, intimidated me and threatened me. So why is it I think there is more to you, something that speaks of a kindred mind? Please don’t answer, I think I am in much too fragile an emotional state to hear you agree with me that we are alike, it would crush me. So now you ask for my help.”

Tom got up from his chair, put down the pad and looked at the wall of the truck they were in, his hand moved along rough surfaced, at last he turned back towards Kain and in a fierce tone continued.

“I really had it all planned Kain, you really pissed me off you know that? Changing everything! Asking for my help, leaving me to protect them, those people who owe me nothing more than what I paid them. And now, now I …why Kain, why tell me about the CEF? Is that the final sales pitch? Scare me, put it all in perspective, tell me what I will loose? All my plans, all my conniving, wheeling and dealing won’t be worth tamaru terd!”

Tom Chambers slumped forward, leaning his head into his palms; he massaged his eyes slowly, moving out to his temples. He had well laid plans for how this conversation should have unfolded but Kain set a match to them and in their pyre Tom’s anguish, uncertainties and misgiving poured on like fuel and in the end he had spent himself, burned down to nothing but embers.

Kain eyed him for a few moments; he had never seen the Doctor like this: vulnerable. Kain had thought he could convince the Mekong entrepreneur based on the merits of a sound business proposal. Now he could see that he had to change his approach. The Doctor had changed, and their relationship had to change too. A new tactical reality called for new tactics. The truth would have to do….


I don't know what to tell you. I'm telling you about the CEF because it has become apparent that I can trust you. And I need you.

There are things afoot right now that terrify me. But I know that I have skills that can be put to use to fight that terror. There are a number of things that I have concealed from you, Tom, and a smaller number that I must continue to hide. But there are two things I want you to know.

By now you know that I've always been political. Ben will tell you about our university days together. More than that, before I was ever in the army, I was an ideological soldier. I took some of that with me to the classroom, but not so much as to make me part of the propaganda apparatus. It is important for you to know that I believed in the South.

When the CEF landed, my reserve status meant activation. I joined gladly; here was an enemy that stood in opposition and as a threat to everything I loved and believed in. I threw myself into the military milieu with a purpose. And it turned out that I was an excellent soldier. The farther I got from my books, the finer my killing edge was ground."

Kain looked away. He could see banners, uniforms; hear the sounds of parade and strife.

"My belief made me an instrument of war, Doctor. A weapon. And I placed myself in the hands of those I believed in, the cause, the purpose, the State. I let them wield me. I detached from analysis and critical thinking about why. I focussed on how.

And this brings us to the second thing you must know about me. The problem, and the advantage, of weapons is that they do not judge their purpose. They are merely an extension of the will of their wielder. And so it was that, as a weapon in the arsenal of the Southern Republic against the CEF, I became a murderer.

I have no issue with killing, as such. I've shed blood enough to make Macbeth a saint. But murder...this murder…is something else.

The actual body count was not high; in terms of collateral damage, we certainly killed more people during the liberation of Baja by accident than we did during these missions on purpose. But one was too many."

Kain fixed on Tom again. His eyes were unguarded. "I don't tell you this as a confession, and I do not seek absolution. But I want you to understand, Tom, that ever since...ever since then, I've been resolved to do my best to help these people. Every Badlander I can protect, I will. It's coming again. The Earth will return, and everything I can do now to fight them will make it that much harder for them when they do.

I am my own master now. I choose the targets, I decide the why. And the what. And I know in my heart that this project, everything we've been doing, this has to be done, must be done.

To do it, I need your help."

Doctor Tomohiro Chambers was no longer fitful; his body was still, his breath even. He took in what Kain Delacroix told him, not just the words but their conviction and the spirit of the man who had spoken them. Tom was many things, a healer by profession, an entrepreneur by nature but he had never been an idealist. His actions were guided by immediate outcomes, although he could see ten steps ahead of most, he saw no path.

Kain had been an idealist and he had paid a high personal price for that idealism, but Tom now knew that to be entirely devoid of an ideal might lead him down the same road. Actions must be based on more than outcome, or ideals, to be true you must have intent. Somewhere in the frigid recesses where Tom dispassionately calculated odds, reasoned costs and anticipated outcomes -the core that drives a man to act as he does- something emerged from the dark: a nascent but cold-forged pillar of resolve.

“Ok, I want to help.”

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