Saturday, January 17, 2009

Meanwhile, Back at the Caravan...

"So, what are the rules?" the stern matronly voice of Avatanya Brom came over the radio. The woman perched on the top of the Behemoth transport she had dubbed 'Petunia' a long time ago, and surveyed the scene below her. It wasn't pretty.

Next to Petunia, some ten meters below, a diminutive teenage girl climbed into the cockpit of an equally diminutive heavy gear. The Ferret's hatch closed and the v-engine roared to life a moment later. The gear leaned back onto it's unique rear wheel as the legs locked in position, revealing wheels in its feet. The small gear began rolling forward in its reverse-tricycle configuration.

"Rules? We don' need no stinkin' rules!" a teenage girl's voice shot back into the radio. Karin Hassan's voice was jubilant. She was already tearing off into the sand dunes of the Barrington Basin, the Ferret's massive butt-wheel kicking up sand and dust in its wake. As the gear climbed a dune, Karin switched back into walker mode to better negotiate the sand. The Ferret waddled its way up. At the crest of the dune, she stopped, turned towards Avatanya back on Petunia and waved. Then she started reciting the rules as she leaned the gear back onto its butt-wheel.

"Rule number one," she began, "look before you leap." The gear shot across the top of the sand dune and leaned right hard, its hand dragging in the sand as Karin made a sharp turn and kept following the crest. The sun glared off the Ferret's sensor eye.

"Rule number two: obey all traffic laws," the girl smirked. The caravan hadn't been to a single settlement with traffic, let alone traffic laws, since they left Prince Gable nearly three weeks ago. Occasionally Karin wondered what the traffic laws were, but the topic was left vague and nebulous.

"Rule number three," the gear skidded to a stop at the edge of the dune. Karin looked and then let the gear drive straight down the steep slope. Her heart raced as she broke left at the bottom of the slope and opened up the throttle. The gear seemed to enjoy the impromptu sprint as much as its pilot.

"Rule number three?" Avatanya keyed the comm as she grinned, occasionally seeing a plume of dust rise up from behind a sand dune.

"No bad habits!" Karin yelled happily as the gear balanced backwards on its butt-wheel, turning it into a unicycle for a moment. The neural-net had already picked up the youthful exuberance of its two pilots. Only Karin and her friend Tessa were small enough to fit into the midget gear.

"Rule number four?" Avatanya rolled her eyes.

"Hey! There's no rule number four!" Karin protested as the gear landed back down on its two front feet and continued to zip among the sand dunes.

"No boys!" Avatanya growled.

"Awwww!" Karin groaned. The Ferret revved its engine.

* * * * *

Ben Cantor climbed into the Longrunner and walked into the little office. Bill Pearce was already there, sitting at the desk, data pad in hand.

"Any word?" Bill didn't look up as he continued reading.

"They left Baja," was the reply, "your friend Lenny said that they were probably headed north to Peace River. They'll be under the radar for a while, he said." He kept the news that Julie Pojhola would be arriving in Khayr-ad Din to manage the construction and operation of the casino to himself. Ben got the impression that Lenny was dubious of the whole arrangement.

"Sounds like Baja isn't the friendly place it once was," Bill frowned to himself.

"From what I hear, it never really was that friendly," Ben replied. He looked at Bill, "what do you have there?" he nodded to the data pad.

"Just an intel report from the Guild."

"Oh?" Ben leaned against the wall of the office.

"Yeah. Rover activity's up all along the Pacifica and Westridge ranges. There's also unrest in Peace River. The worker caste wants more rights, and the election's just around the corner," Bill shrugged, "sounds like your kind of work."

"Maybe," Ben shrugged, "but we've already got a job. And besides, Paxton's still one great big family. They need to change from within, not from without."

Bill nodded, continuing to read.

"This is interesting," he began, "looks like a dueling league is forming in the Badlands."

"You mean the Spider?" Ben looked puzzled, "that league is already formed."

"That's just it. It's called the Ultimate Dueling Championship League. Apparently it's all independent. They've been going around, challenging the Khayr-ad Din League duelists, beating them, and putting the footage on the Hermes network."

Ben chuckled. "Brilliant. I bet the Spider's thrilled."

"I bet. After all the money he invested in the new arena, you'd think he--wait, what's that?" Bill's eyes flitted to a blinking message on the little computer on the desk. Ben picked it up.

"It's from our source," Ben read it slowly, "we need Prabal. He's going to have to send a coded message to Peace River."


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