Friday, November 21, 2008

Beginnings of the means to an end

Kain, Sam, Gade and Tom sat by the truck in the desert night. The last days’ events had left them exhausted, wounded and thoughtful. Beneath the stars in the Badlands, the four sat quietly, some smoking, all drinking, when Tom spoke:

"We’ve set out to build an information network right? A means to obtain information critical to the continued independence of the Badlands."

"I think some additional information would be critical to our survival as well Doctor," responded Kain. He cringed with pain as he shifted in the sand, his fresh wounds helping to illustrate his point.

"The Polars will want to stop us inasmuch as we are successful in slowing the advance of their influence and mitigating their rampages in the Badlands," continued Tom, undeterred in his deductive monologue. An astute observer might have noted that Dr. Tomohiro Chambers was a Polar from the Mekong Dominion, but people change.

"Say what Doc?" was Sam's laconic response, eyes half closed as he cleaned his revolvers with painstaking precision.

"Oh, is that what we’ve been doing, Doc?" chuckled Gade.

"So far we’ve been working on legitimate enterprises which will help promote interdependence and alliances in the Badlands," Tom was still undeterred.

"We have also been making some high profile contacts. This is good, because as I see it, this limits the Polars' ability to come after us overtly and just quash us with brute military power. So that leaves them covert responses. It follows that since we are seeking intelligence, they would use like-agencies against us. They have networks already established, assets and hand-picked agents trained from in-house military resources. We can’t compete with them on any of those levels."

"I don’t disagree with any particular point of your pessimism Tom, but what’s the point?" asked Kain, his curiosity somewhat piqued by the Doctor’s abrupt ponderings.

"I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the fact that we are setting out to build an information network but we can’t fight the existing ones in play."

"What ARE you going on about Doc?" Sam drawled again.

"We’re too late in the game, the stakes are too high and our pool of cash can’t keep up with the antes," replied Tom to Sam, hoping a gambling analogy would help interest the gunslinger in the issue.

"That’s usually when it get interesting," Gade was always enlivened by talk of bad odds, but he continued on a more earnest tone, "so what do we do next?"

Kain’s eyes came a bit more alive, despite his grievous wounds. He had asked Tom that very question a few weeks before, when they had left Kayr-ad Din: what do do next?

"I found myself thinking about the type of people we need, their qualifications, but mostly about their qualities. If we had limitless cash, we could just hire agents, but they would only be loyal to the money we give them. We could never trust them and we could never afford to pay them in such a manner as to make them tamper proof to the other sides.

We need people we can trust, people who believe in the ideals we are fighting for. In order to have a reliable network, we need to build individual bonds of trust with each piece of the puzzle. People like that don’t show up out of nowhere, we have to go find them and then, we need them to come to us," Tom sermonized.

"Oh well if it's that simple...they just come to us. What? Here? In the desert, they just walk out of the desert and..." Sam’s tone was hard to read. There was a bit of scornful incredulity there, perhaps masking real curiosity, but there was something else present when he trailed off.

"There’s the thing," Tom continued, his words emanating from behind a cloud of cigar smoke, "we need people who want to help us because they know they are helping themselves. We simply provide them with the means to do what they already aspire to do."

"So how do we meet these people?" Gade interjected.

"In practical terms in comes down to changing our approach. So far we’ve been doing macroscopic stuff, setting up systems and connections, a framework to operate within. We need to switch to a microscopic approach. We need to get out there and just help people, face to face."

Tom stopped. He wanted see if that had an impact. No jibes followed, no snide remarks. Tom Looked around and saw for the first time that Kain was quite attentive, Gade receptive, but what impressed Tom was in Sam’s eyes: this had always been the core motivation for him and the Doc was finally putting aside scheming and plotting and money making to get right down to it.

Tom leaned in closer, conspiratorially, like he was about to share a secret:

"We want this network to help the Badlands. Well let’s start right now and get out there. Rovers, corrupt local officials, abusive crime syndicates, hell even child pornographers! We just go out there and take care of them, wherever we go, there is some way in which we can use our skills to make things better. Bit by bit, as we go, as we help people we meet those that want to help themselves."

"Those are the people that will join us. Whether we inspire them or just provide them with the outlet they needed," Kain’s words flowed naturally into Tom’s train of thought. It was so clear. So transparent was this simple conclusion that Kain could not believe that it was ever a mystery.

"The only way we're gonna find the right kind of people is by goin' out into the Badlands and meeting them," said Gade, realising that the simplicity of the statement contained the seeds of all their ambitions.

"We help them, they help us help them some more," threw in the Doc, no longer just philosophising on the matter but starting to feel the energy of the moment, of the shared resolve.

“By building a network of people with whom we have direct bonds of trust and honour, no Polar agency will stand a chance," Kain’s subversive mind fought to disapprove of the conclusion even as he said it but he found he couldn't.

"Bonds of patriotism not mercantilism," Tom said with a grin, realising all the implicit irony of the statement but hopeful just the same, "look at your Baker Street Irregulators, Helena Hitachi, Dr. Milton, The Araman, Bill the Brick, the Imashen-"

"There's no shortage of pain and suffering out there," Sam’s even voice broke through with gravity, but it changed in mid-sentence, belying something else, "that we can help stop."

"It’s a self-fulfilling argument: we achieve our goal of helping the Badlands by helping the Badlands achieve its goals," Tom wrapped it up neatly, laying back on his elbow, content with the summary of this debate. He took a long drag off his cigar and looking out into the sands.

They sat there at last, quiet again, some smoking, all drinking. Suddenly the stars in the sky seemed brighter and the road ahead clearer.


Game Thug said...

Kain doesn't cringe. He grimaces.

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