Saturday, October 4, 2008


Tessa and Karin were already asleep. Josephina, Kelly, Ellen and Avatanya were on duty. Natalia Meredine lugged her duffel bag into the girls' bunk room and found an empty cot. She sat down quietly and then let the bag slide through her knees until it hit the floor with a quiet thump. Natty sat there for a moment, her heart pounding in her throat, her eyes red with tears.

I can't believe he did that. I can't believe it. He's not like that. He's not like that.

She started crying again, sobbing as quietly as she could to avoid waking the two girls.

In the darkness of the room, Karin and Tessa looked at each other with wide eyes, adolescent fear mixed with morbid curiosity.


The next morning, Natty sat on the roof of the Hang Out, watching the sun rise. She alternately sipped and cradled a cup of cawfee, trying to do her best to keep from crying. She heard the roof hatch open, but didn't look over her shoulder to see who was coming up.

"Mornin'," Avatanya's voice was gruff as usual.

"Mornin'," came the reply.

"Noticed you took up the bunk in our room last night. How long you planning on staying, Natty?"

There was no reply for a while as Avatanya sat down beside Natty, her feet dangling over the front edge of the cargo bay roof. Natty drew her knees up to her chest.

"I guess for a while."

"Alright. Just curious, cuz, well, if you snore..."

Natty smiled, caught a little off guard, "I only talk in my sleep. In Equitorial Hispanic."

"Oh, nice. My late husband used to mumble in Indo-Arabic in his sleep."

"Was he a Revisionist?"

"No. I don't think he knew how to speak Indo-Arabic neither."

Natty chuckled, sipping on her cawfee. Avatanya didn't speak. She soaked in the early morning sun.

"Av...what...what is it with all you Baja veterans?" Natty began, choking back tears.

"You mean, why is it we're the most screwed up bunch of head-cases this planet has ever seen?" Avatanya's tone was genial, but her demeanor was serious.

"I guess. I mean, Sam didn't fight at Baja..."

"No, but all the other Regulators did, and they're all messed up. Josephina's still waiting for hovertanks to jump out of the alleys in Khayr-ad Din. Ari pukes like a faucet whenever he sees a burned out Caiman wreck. Knox donates half his pay to whatever Revisionist charity, just for doing his job right with us. Think of how many he couldn't save at Baja. And ever notice how Kain is around the street kids in town?"

Natty nodded.

"Look, whatever happened with Gade last night," Avatanya began, then paused and was thoughtful before continuing, ", you don't have to forgive it. But you have to understand it. It's guilt. Survivor's guilt. Every Regulator here...all we do, all the time, is try to live with our guilt. We lived through the worst meat-grinder in our history, but all our friends, all our enemies...they didn't. They bought it. Most of us end up turning their guilt into something else. Sometimes it's harmless, sometimes not."

"Why? I mean, you all went in knowing the risks. Why the guilt? You don't have to be religious to feel good about having a second chance," Natty frowned, grasping at the notion being put forth here.

Avatanya nodded as she swallowed hard, "we do feel good about having a second chance. I know I do, and I wanted to kill myself and as many GRELs as I could. But it takes time for people to go from point A to point B like that. Look at how Gade fought Salome. Almost exactly like how he fought Torch. He was sloppy, dirty and desperate. He's loaded out for short and medium range fighting, and the kid keeps on charging in to get messy. He's reckless because of the guilt. He was never trained, and he's only fighting on instinct. And all that guilt and shame is feeding that instinct. "

"Shame?" Natty smirked, "Gade doesn't know shame."

"What? Sure he does. He was part of the Green Gang. They do some nasty things. But did Gade try to stop any of it?"

Natty shook her head, comprehension coming to her as Helios' rays cleared the Westridge Range's mountains.

"That's right. He only left the gang when they were gunning for him. And ever since then, he's been working off the debt he feels he owes everyone on this planet," Avatanya frowned sagely.

"How do you know all this, Av?"

An image flashed in Avatanya's mind: her three children dead, murdered in front of her. She had frozen and hadn't saved them. She put a hand on Natty's shoulder and smiled. It was the smile of someone who had embraced the second chance she had been given. She shook her head.

"Doesn't matter. You don't have to forgive him. You don't have to go back to him. But you have to try to understand what he's going through," Avatanya stood and headed back down into the Hang-Out.

Only when the older woman had disappeared into the truck did Natty put her head in her hands and began to cry.


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