Friday, February 27, 2009


18 Winter 1906

Suarenzi boy wins local
robotic design competition.

Suarenzi Sebastien (at right) finished first place in the cyclical Fort James YouthRobotics Design Competition. The Suarenzi are well-known for their place among the Hernandez clan, with one member serving as head of the Western Rail board of directors
Event organizers and judges alike were impressed with the young lad's show of innovation and creativity. "Clearly, we are in the presence of a future engineer" one judge commented, "we haven't seen an entry like this in several cycles."
When asked about his future, Sebastien replied "to design my own gear and become a great duelist."
The boy's father, Suarenzi Guillaum, a Fort James rail engineer, replied jovially, "He'll be an engineer. But I doubt he's got dueling in his future."

The last call.

>IN COMM 224.54.558<
>RCV 21:23.12 F261915<




“How are you?”

“Fine, and you?”

“Tomo, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

“... How did you find out?”

“I ran into Arthur, listen, I know we haven’t spoken lately but I had to see how you…”

“I’m fine. Listen I can’t really talk right now so if that’s all.”

“Tomo please don’t…”

“Don’t call me that.”

“…Ok, I’m sorry, I - I just wanted to I don’t know. I wanted you to know that I’m here if you need me.”

“Hmph. You walked out on me two seasons ago but now you’re here for me.”

“To... Tom lets not get back into that, I still care for you whatever happened and I cared for your parents too, I - was there a service, did you go back home?”

“It’s a war zone, there weren’t any bodies to speak of and I can’t get leave anyway.”

“I’m sure the hospital can spare you for a week and as for the war I heard it was still safe in Mekong city, at least you could go be with your uncle.”

“I’m not working at the hospital anymore, my residency is over. I can’t get leave from my commanding officer during training. I’m in the MILICIA now.”

“Tom! How did? - Well surely you know you can get a dispensation from the hospital administrator, your essential services you don’t have to be conscripted, I can talk with professor Sun if you…”

“Stop it! I’m not an idiot, I know I could get out of it, but what’s the point? There’s a war on and I guess I have to do my part.”

“Tomohiro Chambers what the hell are you talking about? You don’t want to do this and you don’t have to so what happened? Oh God, oh Tom please don’t tell me that you let this happened because of…”

“Don’t flatter yourself okay, I’ve accepted this, you aren’t the reason we’re at war and you aren’t the reason I was drafted. “

“…You’ve accepted this, I see - you didn’t volunteer, you let yourself get drafted. You went to the best prep school in the Mekong Dominion, finished in the top 5 percent of your damned class in medical school and now you are going to throw it all away! Why? Because you don’t know what you want! “

“Thanks for the call, I feel a lot better, this is exactly what I needed…”

“What do you want out of life Tom?”

“As I recall, that was exactly what you said when you left me.”

“And it sounds like you still don’t know.”

“Goodbye Sonia.”


>TERM 21:36.25 F261915<

Thursday, February 26, 2009


"Looking good, Gade"

The mechanic looked up from under the Springer jeep to see Kain Delacroix peering down at him through the engine compartment. The hood was up to improve visibility as Gade tried to locate an irritating rattle that had recently cropped up. "Would you know the difference?" Gade's obvious frustration surprised both men.

"I might. But probably not. That's why we pay you the big money." Kain grinned; a little attitude was the norm in this crew, and Kain knew recent circumstances had strained the bonds of trust between himself, the Doctor, Gade, and Sam. "I want to talk to you about...well, about the guy in the barrel."

"Vance? It's no secret who was in there. I've got binoculars, you know."

Kain did know. "I figured. You wondering why I didn't let you have a shot at him?"

"It's stupid to wonder. You've given me the mushroom treatment more than once since I signed on. I'm pissed off, but I'm used to your 'mysterious ways' by now." Gade reached out and tightened one of the attachment points of a coil spring.

"Yeah. And I'm not here to tell you that's gonna change. Here's the thing. There are some things I need to do. Some men I need to see, and some of them need killin'. I trust you with my back, with the caravan, with our friends. But there are still too many unanswered questions about you for me to trust you with the why of what I'm doing right now.

So. I want you to come along, in fact, I need you to. You're a whiz at what you do and a steady man in a fight. Mostly. But I want to know if you're prepared to just trust me. Trust that this needs doing, trust that I can't tell you why, and trust that when I can tell you, I will."

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Action Report 02Spring1916.

It was a small room littered with papers, pads and filing cabinets. Two officers occupied it wearing MILICIA uniforms the one with insignia of a major sat uncomfortably behind a desk, a data pad in his hands resting atop his belly.

He mouthed words as he read the dossier, half audible extracts tumbling from his puffy lips. “Drafted 1914…completed training…commendation for…”

The seated officer looked up from the service record and from under his heavy brows took in the lieutenant at attention before him. ‘Smug,’ he thought to himself; he guesses that when his face healed up a bit the younger officer would get back to chasing nurses too.

“This says you were drafted after you completed your residency, did well in basic...quite well, pips for marksmanship. Assigned to my command as attending surgeon for the recovery hospital. No combat experience. Until now.”

The major closed the service record and switched to an action report from the previous day. He paused a moment, reviewing information he already knew before setting his eyes once again on his subordinate.

“Are you a hero, lieutenant? Because this action report sure makes it sound like you think you are.”

The junior officer knew that it was a rhetorical question. A short moment passed before his commanding officer laboured to speak anew.

“Do you know what the difference between you and a field medic is lieutenant? Well I’ll tell you: a field medic is disposable; a grunt with bandages. You are not disposable, Doctor, which is why you are back here and not on the damned line!”

The major was not looking at him, he was scrolling down the action report, so the lieutenant just stood at attention, eyes fixed on the ferrocrete wall.

The C.O. sighed heavily as reviewed the action report. The lieutenant was returning from a triage way-point when a sudden barrage forced his driver to swerve off the road. The two careened off into the desert driving erratically looking to get out of the path of destruction when the vehicle was flipped over by a concussion shockwave.

“By the way Lieutenant, you may wish to know your driver wasn’t so lucky, he died an hour ago” A shadow passed over the lieutenant’s features, the major couldn’t tell if his junior was finally realising how lucky he had been.

When the doctor had come too he was in the middle of a battle field, his MDV-21 as well as an entire platoon had been caught in the barrage. 7 dead, now 8, 14 critical, 22 severely and only 6 lightly wounded including the doctor. The only mobile soldiers remaining regrouped into a squad and a corporal lead them back to HQ for reinforcements.

“You know what I am trained to do lieutenant. I manage logistics, you are an asset of a certain value which I have to use and safeguard. I can’t manage an asset with delusions of heroics. If it were up to me I would send you back further, all the way back to long term recovery in Port Oasis. Unluckily for you, it is not my decision.”

The lieutenant stood there unflinching. Like the action report said he was when he ordered the corporal to leave without him and described much the same way when the master chief sergeant’s relief team found him 22 hours later. In the intervening time he had treated the entire platoon under multiple waves of mortar fire. Almost all of them were still alive.

The commanding officer picked up another data pad. He looked at his subordinate once again, trying to see what kind of man he was, what drove him; he didn’t seem like a hero, or an idealist. ‘just Lucky’ he thought, this time with irony as he stabbed at the order and authorised it.

“It appears your actions were reported directly to C and C, you are being promoted to captain and reassigned; out of my care and into harm's way. Effective immediately you are to report to MASH unit 404 of the Legion Noir’s Second Battalion.”

“The kef have just dropped a force of unknown strength into Port Baja and that is where their dropping you. If you were looking for a chance to be a hero doctor, the Badlands is a good place. Dismissed Chambers.”

Captain Chambers saluted and left the office without ever having said a word.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Destination: Lance Point

The Warrior III heavy gear rolled through the rocky, broken terrain. It was half-crouched, autocannon shouldered and ready. The gear's sensor eye moved from left to right, scanning carefully. The gear did not kick up any dust; it wasn't rolling quickly enough. Instead, small loose rocks cracked and popped under the machine's weight as they were crushed under its tires.

The gear rolled down into a gully, and that's when all hell broke loose.

There was a flash, a loud crack, and the a cloud of smoke and dust. The Warrior III reeled backwards, a projectile having impacted with its chest. The force of whatever hit it caused it to overcompensate violently. A lesser pilot might have lost control of the war machine and landed it on its ass. But not this pilot. The gear tripped and then twisted, its secondary movement system wheels squealing as they burned rubber. The gear got its footing and tore off towards the left side of the gully, as two more projectiles slammed into the gully floor, where the machine had been a moment before. The pilot began riding the gully wall, using it to correct the gear's course, and pointed it back into the length of the gully.

Inside the cockpit, the neural net was apoplectic:


The pilot ignored the computer, and opened the throttle.


This elicited a response. The pilot flicked a switch, turning the engine safety warnings off. The gear weaved left and right, avoiding autocannon fire coming from both sides of the gully. The rovers out here were well-equipped. The shells were exploding everywhere, ripping into the terrain and showering everything with bits of stone and metal fragments When they did hit the Warrior III, they glanced off the armour or exploded harmlessly. Explosive shells were meant for softer vehicles like those found in caravans.

These rovers didn't expect a gear. And that meant that they didn't expect five.

As the Warrior III wove down the tightening gully, the machine's sensors picked up the report of loud gunfire and explosions as its radar registered four other heavy gears.

"Report!" the radio rang out in the cockpit as the machine slowed down. There were no more shells. All the pilot heard was the gear's engine rumbling as it slowed to a stop.

"BRIMSTONE 1, here." That was Josephina in the Spitting Cobra, Lex Talionis.

"BRIMSTONE 2, reporting." Avatanya Brom growled into the comm from her Warrior III. "They blow up real pretty."

"BRIMSTONE 3, all systems check." Ari Mendelbaum chimed in from his Jager.

"BRIMSTONE 4," Peter Smit sat in the Warrior III in the gully, "I've got minor structural damage. Looks like they were better equipped than we thought. What hit me?"

"BRIMSTONE Leader, let's get back to the Caravan," Kelly Lebeaux said from the Iguana called Scrapnel.

"That was a triple-rocket launcher, pintle mounted," Ari said consolingly, "we got it right away."

"Yeah, no problem Ari. Looks like I'll need to work over this gear again," Peter frowned to himself as he finally allowed himself to relax.

"Scooter, Thom," Kelly called into the radio, "check the wrecks, see what's left."


Later that evening, the caravan galley was alive with the day's excitement as four friends sat around the table:

"I dunno Peter, yer slowing down. I saw you duck an ambush just like that one before. What's wrong?" Natty chided her friend gently, pouring him more Wounder Rotgut into his glass. She snorted. The drinking had been going on for some time, so at least as much booze ended up on the table as it did in the glass, "getting old?"

Peter rolled his eyes and tossed the shot back silently. He grunted after a moment. Wounder Rotgut was particularly vile.

Josephina chuckled, "awww Natty, you're just angry cuz," she hiccuped, "you gotta get parts outta storage, and that means letting Guillaum oogle your tight ass!" she grinned cheekily.

Natty made a cute scowl as she crossed her arms. Then she made a face, "that dirty little man just makes my skin crawl."

"Well, so long as he looks but doesn't touch," Avatanya chimed in with a growl. She tottered on her stool, "Prophet be damned, pass that Rotgut!"

"Bah, Natty, you just wait for Gade to get back," Josephina giggled, "and you'll remember how you like the dirty little guys!"

There was a stunned silence. Peter's face lost colour. Avatanya suddenly found the floor particularly interesting as she studied it intensely. Josephina blinked, her eyes widening.

"Shit, Natty, I'm so-"

"YOU BITCH!" Natalia Meredine shot up in her seat, her stool falling over behind her. "YAAAAAAAH!" She lunged across the table, and grabbed Josephina. The two of them toppled to the floor, grappling and wrecking the small galley within seconds. Josephina was the larger, better-trained woman, but Natty was incensed. They were evenly matched. Only the furniture suffered as the two women tossed each other around the tight confines of the galley.

Avatanya grabbed Peter, a big grin on her face, "about fucking time she snapped," she muttered to no one in particular as she lugged the big drunken gear pilot out of the room. Something shattered behind her. "C'mon ya big lug, lemme find Carm'chael, we'll getcher good n' sauced."

Peter grumbled an affirmative.


The caravan was stopped in the early morning sun. The Western Desert was always beautiful, but Bill smiled, admiring the view. The canyon loomed below, and the little bridge that spanned the gap was ahead. He leaned against one of the Longrunner's huge wheels, watching the rest of the crew. They had about an hour-long stop before moving again. Carmichael was on the bridge, walking around, checking the superstructure. Bill watched the old man hobble around on his cane, pointing things out to Tessa, who followed the old man around with a bit of chalk, marking bridge spars.

After a moment, Bill turned his attention to the little scene unfolding in front of him. He sighed.

"-and another thing: the galley's gonna need some serious work. So you'll be doing the carpentry on it, and it'll be coming out of your paycheques, understood?" Kelly Lebeaux did not seem amused, Bill observed, as she chewed out her two charges with her trademark deadpan, cold delivery.

Natty and Josephina were standing in the sun, wincing and squinting. Both were badly hung-over and had been through the ringer: bruises, cuts, black eyes, puffy lips, and mild concussions. Thom Knox had been quite precise in his diagnosis: Drunk and Disorderly. Now it was up to Kelly to administer the proper disciplinary action.

"Until we leave Lance Point: no drinking. No carousing. No fun." she glared at the two women, both taller than she. "You'll be on watch, you'll be rebuilding the galley, you'll be doing odd jobs around the caravan. You'll be manning the sales stalls. You will not be enjoying yourselves, effective immediately."

Bill coughed, suppressing a chuckle. He watched Natty: she hadn't been in a military during the War. The young woman's face ran the gamut of emotions. She nearly spoke, but thought better of it.

"Now get to cleaning." Kelly spat.

After Natty and Josephina slouched away, Bill stepped out of the shadow of the truck, "don't you think that you were being a little hard on them?"

Kelly turned to face Bill, still in drill sergeant mode. Kelly was shorter than him as well. She blinked, her eyes fiery and alive. "Pearce, come with me."

The pair walked over to the Longrunner with the galley. They climbed into the trailer. "Bill, take a look." Kelly opened the door to the galley.

"Holy Merciful Prophet!" Bill gagged. He wouldn't have believed it otherwise, but the galley was coated in every foodstuff known to humanity. The stench of burned hair mingled with stale beer, vomit, blood and rotten eggs. The entire room had been demolished from the inside. The cabinets were destroyed, the doors hanging open. There were shattered dishes everywhere. The table had been broken in two. Something yellow and gooey dripped slowly from the ceiling onto the floor.

"How did...who ate the...I've never seen so much mayonnaise..." he turned to Kelly, dumbfounded, "it's ... it's ..."

"Yeah. How long before we get to Lance Point, Bill?" asked Kelly, closing the door.

Bill shrugged, "not long enough."

Not for peer review.

Dr T.M. Chambers
TN 1920 W05

Case Background:
Subject 339 Zulu was programmed with a chronologically and psychometrically coherent false personae. The tangible result being a high resistance to conventional interrogation techniques and lie detection. Confronted with a subject embedded with deeply ingrained memory walls designed to rebuke interrogation techniques it is essential to efficiently discriminate programmed responses from spontaneous one.

Psychomotor responses of the subject were overridden by the programming, so that traditional methods of detection such as a polygraph or electroencephalography would loose diagnostic relevance. So effective is the programming of the test subject that responses are spontaneous and the barrier between truth and lie is probably opaque for the subject himself. Observation of Subject 339 Zulu revealed asymmetry in mental processes of programmed versus experienced events. Cognitive chronometry could therefore be useful for preliminary discrimination. Axial Tomography and magnetic imaging would most likely prove limited in sequestering valid responses however real-time functional magnetic imaging and Magnetoencepholagraphy may yield substantive results. An adjuvant for the imaging should be possible using chemical architecture. By pharmaceutically binding certain neurotransmitter receptors, we may have heightened resolution.

Diagnostic Approach:
The primary vector for data collection would be the fMRI with Coaxial MEG. Optical and verbal response metrics can insure cognitive chronometry. A variety or SSRIs, SNRIs, both adrenaline and non adreno-dopanine as well as benzodiazepine drugs should prove highly effective as diagnostic markers.

Diagnostic Apparatus:
The diagnostic tool should be encapsulated in a negative stimuli environment. An auditory programme can be incorporated into the device to induce stress responses and sleep deprivation to accelerate breakdown. This will also provide us with indirect contact of the interrogated subject as dissociative stimulus has been found to significantly affect mental capitulation.

By using such an approach, it is likely we can significantly undermine the evasive nature of the programmed responses to external interrogation. In effect, we will be able to more quickly and more accurately detect dissembling and fantasy from what the subject believed to be true and what his programming tells him to believe is true.

See links.

Friday, February 20, 2009

A gram of prevention


transmit over H72 fr: Roving Qkw subnet to NB/fM syst.

message transmitted<


Dr Milton,

I have taken the liberty of ordering a number of things and having them sent to your clinic. You should see them arrive over the next few weeks. I am including a list of the items, though you are welcome to inspect the merchandise as it arrives. This will allay any doubts you may have as to my nefarious purchases and insure for me I have received that which I ordered.

Please have them forwarded to Roh Ng at Kolmar Station.

-List attach.-

  • Apo-pharmaceuticals order 2345-1
  • T&K Reasearch inc. fMRI model 102 (with spares kit)
  • Genetek Pharma order D445-A
  • Banyan Quest Dynamics Model 6660 CMEG (With trbl-shoot kit)
  • Silver Creek 1901 vint. Scotch (6btls)
  • OptiCom Metrex Assembly (parts 226,456,871a-b)
  • Medco Surgical Field Kit class V

P.S. The case of Whisky is yours to keep for your troubles. For medicinal purposes only, of course.

Gratefully yours, Dr Tom Chambers.

sat trans complete<

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

17 February 2009: Horizons of the new cycle

Two vehicles bounced one after another, like children playing a game. One would hop a bump on the rough caravan road, only to be mimicked by the other seconds later. It wasn't yet four o’clock and the desert travelers had already been driving for hours. Helios was low on the horizon, at their backs. The air was crisp and the dew glistened orange hues.

Voneran was speaking to his passenger, but Dr. Chambers was only half listening. In the other car, Delacroix was confiding to Tarmalin the reasons behind their recent abduction of a Peace Officer Corps detective and what he and the Doc had discovered in the desert over the last two days. The conversation, like the road, was bumpy and slow-going. As agreed, Chambers spoke not a word of it to Voneran. The Doc didn't know Delacroix's reasons for apprehension, but Chambers had enough of his own to suffice.

Some hours later, they were resting at a homestead: refilling on water and fuel while escaping the mid-day heat. Chambers was noting his findings on the interrogation of subject 339 Zulu. His observations were clinical, precise and suggested hope for more efficient interrogations in the future. He opened a new case logs to investigate genetic drift discrimination as well as enhanced interogation techinics and jotted down some notes on how to proceed. His mind drifted in the heat, recalling gruesome memories of how this information had been obtained. They replayed vividly in his mind. He concentrated on his work to drown the memories under the tangible results they had produced. He marveled at Delacroix's detachment and hoped he hadn't shown any weakness to the other man. Chambers hoped he hadn't shown any of the doubt and disgust he had felt during the interrogation.

Delacroix was analysing the road ahead, consulting maps and way-points. Occasionally his mind slipped and he thought of the parcel that was travelling to a remote location and its elusive recipient: the so-called Targeter. He was relieved by Tarmalin's calm reaction to the list of agents and the Targeter mission as a whole. Recently, his partner was showing more of his old self as he emerged from the worst of the morose and self-destructive behaviour he had displayed in Khayr-ad Din. Delacroix had tried to convey the magnitude of the information which they had obtained. Tarmalin didn't grasp the science but had seized on the essentials: they would have a new weapon to weed out the Keff infiltrators.

Voneran emerged from the shade to check on the two vehicles. If they were ever stranded in the Karak Wastes or the Western Desert, they wouldn't last long. He knew the importance of his part in keeping them all alive, but he also knew that the bonds of necessity right now were greater than those of trust. He felt Chambers' distance since New Baja - maybe even since Salome. Voneran also knew that Chambers and Natty had shared something. He didn't know what it was, he just knew he was being kept in the dark. Voneran kept his secrets as well: too many secrets. He looked to the horizon and thought of New Baja, and unfinished business. Further beyond still was Natty: the distance became more than he could bear. More than just distance separated them now.

Tarmalin cleaned his guns: sand got into them and made them dirty. His mind paused on the irony that sand had a different effect on him. Delacroix and Chambers had more stuff to worry about. He had been told and he knew he would do his part. He let the sand do its work on him while his hands did their's on his guns.

Somewhere, a crate of living cargo moved in secrecy to its destination; a woman lay in her bunk, weak but determined; a distant and shadowy threat moved inexorably towards the light of discovery; guilt and confusion receded in the presence of duty and understanding. The travelers drove westward towards Helios as it fell behind the curtain of mountains and a new cycle watched as another day passed.

Monday, February 16, 2009

PO # 200420-06

The young man came in from the arid street and closed the solid door behind him. He took a moment to shake off as much dust as he could before opening the cover on the security keypad. A few quick jabs of the finger rewarded him with the sound of the inner door lock releasing and then the seal braking on the environmental gasket.

He stepped out of the antechamber into the locker. He took his cloak and hat off, removed his boots and slipped into his loafers and a clean set of overalls that didn’t quite fit. He knew he was getting a few pairs of custom ones in a few weeks time, he had seen the order Graham had placed. He couldn’t wait. He walked over to the adjacent door and depressed the clean cycle, powerful fans assaulted the room, 'a storm in a bottle' he thoughts again, as he did everyday he went through this. Finally the inner door chime signaled he was ready to enter the shop.

Graham was already here, ‘too bad’ the youth thought, he had wished to impress his mentor with his early arrival. He walked over to his elder and stood by his side quietly, knowing not to address him until the craftsman had deemed his attention could be split.

His hands were creased with age and swollen at the joints, a few of his fingers were slightly calloused but the older master would usually grind those down to keep sensitivity in the tips of his fingers.

“Jamal, get me the micro-torque key. Set it to 400 grams”

As Jamal moved over to the end of the work bench and lit another overhead lamp to help find the tool in question, he hazarded communication.

“This is new isn’t it sir? I haven’t seen you working on it yet.”

The apprentice handed his master the tool and watched as the recipient used it to tighten the bolt carrier key screws.

“Hmm? Oh yes, well – the order came in last night over the Hermes, It had some of the pieces while I waited for you to come in so I decided to start on it”

The apprentice was flush with pride, it had been his idea to use the satellite network to allow for custom orders to come in from far and wide.

“That’s a bolt assembly from a BallisTech, uh, the Er2oh6…”

“Oh7 actually, but close, so what does that tell you about what we are doing?”

“Well it’s a 7mm weapon, rifle caliber. You expect the weapon to function well in hostile environments which is why you chose that bolt assembly, uhm, single fire action?”

“Good my boy, good. Now look at my pins.”

Jamal pulled up a stool and helped himself to the swivel mounted magnifier. He scrutinized the pieces but was unable to see what his mentor was intimating at. His face belied his incomprehension. Instead of disappointment, the elderly Graham smiled.

“Alright, that was a trick question; I suppose you wouldn’t be able to see the difference. Here.”

Mister Bohn handed his apprentice the bolt and the receiver. Jamal assembled them with ease and suspicion gave way to understanding.

“The tension is wrong, I mean, different, you’ve replace the stock extractor and ejector roll pins. Their much stronger now.”

He looked to his mentor eyes and found approval, after a moment he got the sense that the lesson didn’t end there.

“Alright, so why would you do that, right?”

Jamal’s hand moved about the piece, motioning it as it would within the assembly group, he picked up the forward assist spring and the action spring, it was very light in his hand. He set the rest of the piece down and inspected this last one and found it to be atypical for this configuration.

“Ok then, the spring is a lot lighter, a lot, which would indicate a lighter weapon all around…” A furtive look found encouraging eyes so he continued “a riffle for a slight woman or a child?” he advanced, but the smile he elicited was one of bemusement not quite pride.

“It is more than just light my boy, it also displaced 60% more tension. What is more, it’s shorter than your typical spring for this caliber. Now piece that together.”

Jamal look at the piece again and allowed himself to investigate the other components on the bench, shorter receiver extension, shorter action spring, so this was a compact weapon, lighter spring for overall lighter weapon but also more tension, shorter action? No, more recoil, maybe but why shorten…

“A snub nose! You’re going to shorten the barrel and you want more recoil control so more tension in the action spring so that’s going to put more torque on the pins which is why you beefed them up!”

“Good deduction. I you know how parts make a piece better for a purpose, than you start to understand how to make a purpose specific piece. This is a fun order, here, look this.”

Jamal was handed the charging handle and its appearance furrowed his brow and raised an eyebrow, much to the amusement of his mentor.

“This isn’t going to fit, the curvature is wrong on the handle”

“It will my boy, it will fit because I am using a lever action instead of an overhead or side bolt. The customer wants something low profile, that he can holster like a large automatic pistol, a lever action allows him less snagging and I think if we get the grip just right, better accuracy.”

The young man was speechless, he would never have thought of that, but as he imagined it in his head it made perfect sense, other thoughts along the same line came forward so he voiced them.

“In line magazine follower?”

“No, detachable magazine, you’re right it would be less profiled, but slower to reload”

“Ahhh. So what’s the barrel length?”

“That, my by, is your task today. Take apart two Special 7mm Sparrows, Remove the nuts, delta ring and extenders then reassemble one and cut it down to 40 cm. Take it out to the range and start squeezing-off rounds, cut it 1 cm between shots and track your muzzle speed. Keep doing that until you have 20 cm left or so.”

Jamal took note of every step for the process, no doubt remained as to how to proced but his expression underscored his incomprehension at the overarching purpose. His mentor read into his confusion and proceeded to enlighten him.

“We want the barrel to be as short as possible for the customers request but how short is that?”

“I don’t know sir”

“Me neither, so you are going to find out. Once you’ve taken readings for each barrel length we can draw a curve and see the optimal point, before we've lost too much spin and velocity in favor or compactness. Once we know the best balance between length and remaining power, you’ll cut the second barrel to that length and finish it like it was forged that way.”

Jamal nodded and went to get the stock pieces for disassembly. There had been a time when he would have questioned the over complicated procedure, but he knew that Graham Bohn did things only one way, the best. The customer would pay for it but he would also get the best weapon for his requirements.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Awaiting the Philistines

It was a modest bedroom converted long ago into a library. And the library contained many, many books. It's a rare thing to see real books in the 62nd century, but it's even rarer in the Badlands. Paper doesn't do well in the brutal, slightly corrosive aridity of the Western Desert, but the library was full of books nonetheless. The old man pulled one off the shelf, opened it gently to preserve the spine - as if that mattered now - and smiled to himself.

"How appropriate," he mumbled through his white mustache and read aloud, "'It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.'"

"Uncle!" someone at the doorway stamped impatiently, "we have to go! You have to hide!"

"Yes yes," Henri Greer didn't look up, but he did close the book gently in a huff. He placed it on the table, snatched up his cane and walked to the door. Henri swallowed hard, and headed out of his house. It had been his home for the last fifteen cycles, ever since he had been exiled. Now, it seemed, the Republic had found him. He frowned. It didn't make sense.

Moments later Henri was ushered into the Harris home. He felt guilt wash over him. These Badlanders had become his adopted family. Now they were putting themselves in danger for an old man.

"Uncle, you'll be safe here," said Jeremiah Harris, the dry goods merchant, with some trepidation, "we'll make sure the MILICIA doesn't find you."

"MILICIA eh?" Henri nodded, as he descended the stairs to the cellar, "seems like Professor Greer doesn't rate the Republican Army anymore. I must be losing my touch."

"Hush Uncle!" Jeremiah replied tersely, "I have a friend from the War, from Timmins. He can get you to safety."

"A friend from the War?" Henri looked up patiently at his host as he sat on a small stool in the cool cellar. The old man's bones creaked audibly, "who would that be now, Jeremiah?"

"A leader in the Resistance," Jeremiah's eyes flashed with admiration of the memory of the man who led him in battle, "Benjamin Cantor!"

Henri Greer blinked, "Cantor? Hmmph. Small world."

Friday, February 13, 2009

Kebabs, comrades and kisses.

She eyed him somewhat suspiciously before speaking.
“I would have preferred Claude’s”

He smiled.
“I too”

To the casual observer the pair fit in with the eclectic fair of the Labyrinth, seated as they were at a kebab stand built into the garage door opening of a dilapidated orange building on the third Terrace of Peace River.

Upon closer inspection though, the two diners did not quite blend in. They were both clothed in the fashion of Badlanders, but where she dressed to hide her presence, he sought to highlight his.

“You know Doctor, no Badlander dressed that way. Really, you look like you’ve come out of a Polar fashion designer’s version of Badlands chick.” There was contempt in the remark but bemusement in her tone, which surprised her more than a little.

“And I could say that your overalls are not at all becoming to your figure”

This man had caused a significant stir in her world in the last few days. His attempts at flattery were as misguided as they were unwelcome. He should be able to appreciate the need for her to hide right now. She shifted on her bench and changed the subject.

“I’ve heard tell that Roger is gone. I admit I didn’t think you were up to it.”

“That’s because I haven’t subjected you to my powers of persuasion.”

He didn’t take his eyes of her, making her somewhat uncomfortable. He was persistent, she would give him that at least.

“You know I’m very busy Doctor Chambers…”


“…and if you weren’t one of the mains reasons, I would not be here right now.”
“Nonsense, you enjoy my company and in spite of your discourteous disposition I am determined to enjoy yours. I promise next time I ask you out I’ll take you somewhere nicer”

He flashed a grin, she glared, someone ordered a kafta kebab with green chillies.



“…Chambers, You’re wasting your time and what is worse you are wasting mine. I’m not interested in what you have to offer.”

“My dear Madame Hitachi, I haven’t offered anything more than niceties, yet. But you are mistaken if you think I have nothing to offer you. Think of what I have already provided you with: A backdoor meeting with Gerald Simosa, restraint from PaxSec and now the POC and of course, the removal of your greatest rival and liability to your cause. And for my troubles I have received nothing but indifference, hostility and spite. ”

His tone was friendly, not boastful or demanding. He made a valid point, inescapably so, but he couldn’t appreciate the danger her movement faced if she was too generous in her trust. Still, she ought to be civil especially since he was right and she should find out what he was up to.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend…”

“Yes you did, and you’ve succeeded. Now that you’ve won can we stop playing that game, It tires me and I more sensitive than you may think.”

“You’re insufferable, can I finish my sentences please?!”

He clasped his hands together and brought them to his mouth while he lowered his gaze to avoid her eyes. His pantomime of the chastised victim was so unexpected to her that when he raised his mischievous eyes and allowed himself an insidious smile she bit the inside of her lip not to smile. She regained her composure quickly though, too quickly for his tastes.

“Tell me Doctor, do you get how important all this is, how dangerous it is; people here are dying here for what they believe in. Would you mind telling me what your part in all this is and spare me the flirtations or facetious remarks. What are you doing here in Peace River?”

“Actually, I’m leaving. My business here is done”

“What business was that anyway, why did you come here, surely not to take Roger Zahn out of the political landscape?”

“I came to see you”

She sighed, she was tired and anxious and more than a little scared, she had things to do and no time for this. He sensed had gone too far, or, maybe, just far enough.

“Well sort of. I was out this way to go to see someone I lo…,a woman, someone in New Baja. I had to leave in a hurry and while I was in the neighbourhood, I thought I would see how you and Gerry were coming along in solidifying your power bases. I was disappointed with what I found so I proceeded to do some minor house cleaning: A terrorist here, a dirty cop there…”

She swallowed hard, when this Southerner wasn’t making platitudes he was a bit too forward. He had just claimed responsibility for Lt Vance’s disappearance and she believed him instantly. He was sincere about everything he said, or so it appeared.

“Why are you interested in Simosa and myself? What are you hoping to gain?”

“Freedom for all Badlanders”

More bluster she thought quickly, but the tone of his voice and the unwavering resolve in his eyes stifled her initial incredulity. She scrutinized him; this strange Southerner who could be flippant one moment, somewhat charming another and frightening in his gravity the next. She was clearly growing to trust him despite herself but she didn’t understand him, she needed an explanation.


“Sooner or later, sooner really, the polar powers will start trouble again and they will wreak havoc on the Badlands in the process. People will die, a lot of people. Peace River is essential to Badlands independence; I think you’re essential to Peace River. I think you can affect change for the better. And that’s a beginning. I like beginnings, they’re the part where hope governs all.”



“Tom, I – I don’t know what you expect from me, but I don’t think I can help you achieve your goals, I have to worry about my people, their rights, the injustices they face. Your mission sounds noble but I don’t think I can be of any use to you.”

“Don’t worry about it Helena, I have faith in you and what you are doing. Let me worry about my big picture, just know that I am an ally, and if I can, I will help you. I ask nothing in return.”

With that he got up out of his seat, shook some dust of his jacket and turned to leave.

“What about he woman? How did that work out?"

She blurted it out, unable to stop herself and instantly regretted it. He stopped a moment, his back to her and after a very long second he turned and smiled, leaned over, took her hand and kissed it.

“She broke my heart. Happy New cycle.”

He said before disappearing into the living throng of fabric, movement and noise that makes the Labyrinth a single sprawling organism at the heart of Peace River. She sat alone a while and wondered at her question. If she had to trust him as an ally she had to gauge him as a person. She had acted out of instinct; his answer, his gesture and the sentimentality it all conveyed convinced her that he was genuine. He was romantic enough to believe and pursue what he said. That and she was curious, she shook herself out of her thoughts and went back about her mission.

Aftermath: Peace River

"...and Vance?"

"Last seen in a cafe in the Outlander Bazaar with his partner, Fenton," Wilkins answered quietly as he sat across from Claude in the restaurant's corner table.

"I see. And it was Delacroix?"

"Well, they had their faces covered," Wilkins smiled.

"Indeed. So they snatched Vance, they expedited Zahn out of town, and the Treasury Board was on the Third Terrace for the first time in 40 cycles." Claude liked Delacroix and his friends, but he couldn't help but get annoyed. He didn't like this level of attention and activity in the Badlands Quarter. He grumbled and took a bite of his salad.

"Tell Paulo that the dressing is lacking."

Wilkins nodded, eager to get away from his boss and his worsening mood, "alright. Anything else?"

"Keep an eye on Fenton," Claude looked towards the door and smiled. Wilkins turned and followed his gaze. Detective Escobar Fenton was waiting to be seated.

12 February 2009 I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship

Kain looked back over his shoulder as Peace River receded into the distance. He wasn't particularly concerned about pursuit; they'd had no run-ins even when passing out through the main gates. Arens had missed his chance to nab them in the city.

Peace River. A contradiction in almost every way. Jewel of the Badlands, and yet a simmering mess of intrigue, class hatred, and greed. The city was vital to his plans for the Badlands, and yet Kain knew he could never depend on the city to serve as the anchor. That would have to be found someplace else.

Zahn and his wife were safely away; easier to have simply quietly killed the rabble rouser, but not, perhaps, better. It had been curious to watch the interply of greed, nostalgia, disinterest, and envy in the Doctor's dealings with Sonia. He was a cold bastard sometimes, but awkward in his sentimentality too. A potential liability, though Kain was confident that greed, if not righteousness, could be counted on to motivate the Doctor. And this was a time ripe with opportunity.

Sam had somewhat emerged from the apathetic funk that had consumed him in Khayr-Ad-Din. He was almost his old self again, and that meant it was time to bring him in on Targeter and the real reason Lieutenant Vance was currently stewing in his own juices at the depot. Gade was another matter. There were still too many unknowns to fully brief him.

Kain realized that, even with the fine grit in the wind, he felt somehow cleaner outside of the city. There was something invigorating about the road; he had the feeling that something good was going to happen....

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Ephialtes 1

"Wake up."

"Wake up."

"Wake...oh, good there you are."

"What? Where am I? Who are you? Why can't I open my eyes?"

"It's complicated. Your eyes are shut because you do not have physical control."

"What? Physical control?"

"Yes. Of your body."


"What was the last thing you remember?"

"Those two men. A loud noise, a bright, red-hot flash. Pain. That's it."

"Yes. You died."

"I died?"


"So then, who are you?"

"I'm ... well, I suppose I'm your Psychopomp, in a way. But you're not dead anymore. So I suppose that makes it more complicated. Call me Ephialtes."


"It'll become clear later."

"Alright. Why can't I feel anything?"

"Your body is dead. I'm here to save you though. You're with me."

"But if my body is dead, how am I here, talking to you?"

"Because I've always been with you. I just haven't been awake until now."


"For as long as you or I can remember, actually, yes."

"So, where am I?"

"You're in a coffin, roughly two meters in the ground. But don't worry, because we're talking, someone's coming for us. In the meantime, we have much to discuss."

The most obvious security measure there is.

Somewhere in the Western Desert:

"So what's the problem?" Prabal asked Natty quietly, looking over her shoulder. The computer console showed a little icon flashing.

"Something's up. What did Kain have you do for him?" Natty replied, clicking on the icon.

"I had him look up Paxton..." Prabal's voice trailed off. His eyes widened. "Oh, this is not good."

"No. I didn't think so. I've tried raising the Guild Office, but there's no answer. And I think it's bugged anyways."

Prabal swallowed hard. He knew that his entry and exit into the Paxton database was clean. This was something specific that he hadn't anticipated. No one could have. It's just too specific. "Well," he began, "they'll be alright. I'm sure they're keeping out of trouble."

His eyes met with Natty's.

"I'll keep trying to raise the office."

"Yeah. I'll tell Bill."

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


The metaskills presented here are a means by which Silhouette games can become more cinematic and characters more powerful. They represent special maneuvers, outstanding skill, a great deal of luck, practice and instinct, as well as power. These skills are all effects-based. That is, the maneuvers that can be attempted with them do not represent specifics. Instead, the skill represents the effects of a maneuver in combat. The specifics of each maneuver and how it is carried out are left to the imaginations of players and GM.

These skills make their practitioners particularly powerful. This is intended. We recommend that PCs in possession of any one of these skills be challenged and harrassed even moreso than normal.

Each metaskill is rolled before the normal skill roll. For example, in order to carry out a Combo in Heavy Gear Dueling, the Duelist would roll an opposed Heavy Gear Dueling skill roll. If the MOS of the roll was 2 or more, the Combo is activated, and the Duelist then rolls attacks as per normal (Gunnery/Piloting vs. Piloting Opposed roll). Only one metaskill maneuver can be carried out per round, no exceptions. This overrides the Advanced Controls Heavy Gear perk rule as it applies to Heavy Gear Dueling.

Mechanics and specifics:

Each of these skills are considered Complex for the purposes of skill purchase and advancement. The metaskills cannot be learned in-game without the benefit of a teacher. Each skill has a collection of sub-maneuvers that are governed by different attributes. However, all four metaskills are governed by the CRE attribute for the purposes of skill advancement. Specializations can only be purchased for each sub-maneuver of the metaskill in question.

When are these skills usable?

Heavy Gear Dueling:
All Opposed Dueling macromoves are only possible at close combat ranges or within the short range band of the weapon(s) being used.
Non-Opposed Dueling Macromoves may be attempted at any time, regardless of target presence. The sole exception for this is Duelist's Luck, which cannot be used to re-roll an attack roll beyond Short Range.

Offensive Gunslinging maneuvers may only be employed with Pistol type weapons, usually in single-fire mode only. The Sniping metaskill is not compatible with Gunslinging. Gunslinging may be attempted at all ranges, not just short or point-blank. The Gunslinger's Gambit (Zen Reroll) maneuver can affect the Gunslinger's own attacks, or be used defensively against firearms attacks from opponents provided the Gunslinger's pistols are drawn, or about to be (hands on grips).

In order to activate Sniping Maneuvers, the user must be stationary, employing single fire, and firing a rifle-ammunition weapon. This includes the "Lucky of the Devil" ability, which cannot be used to re-roll Camouflage or Stealth thresholds in a non-sniping context.

Martial Arts:
This metaskill can only be used in close combat, that is, any attack/defense roll that would employ Melee or Hand to Hand combat. As well, certain Martial Arts maneuvers can be used in conjunction with the Archery skill and Thrown Weapon skill (for martial arts thrown weapons like knives and shuriken). The Zen Mastery Maneuver may be used to evade bullets from firearms so long as the shooter is less than 10 meters from the martial artist.


Metaskills and other House Rules updated. Comment if something things awry.

Note that the Gunslinging skill has changed.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Metaskill: Sniping

OBSOLETE - 8 September 2010

Prerequisites: Small Arms 2; Specialization - Rifles

The Sniping metaskill is designed to represent the superior and often awesome abilities of premiere marksmen. A sniper can place extremely accurate rifle fire onto a target. This Metaskill includes some basic meteorological knowledge to calculate wind and humidity influences and some terrain recognition and evaluation abilities. In order to activate Sniping Maneuvers, the user must be stationary, employing single fire, both hands, and firing a weapon with the Sniper perk.

In addition, the Sniper metaskill allows the sniper to use PER instead of AGI for the Small Arms attack benefiting from the Sniping maneuver.

(Note that this Metaskill replaces the Sniping skill from the HG Rulebook 2E, p. 66.)

Sniping Maneuvers:

Level 1:

Called Shot (PER, opposed)
Threshold: MoS 2
This is the standard Called Shot maneuver and requires an Opposed MOS 2 for it to work. Fumbles mean that the attack misses.

Luck of the Devil: (PSY, non-opposed)
Threshold: None
Success is often largely skill-based, but there is a widespread belief that luck can play an important role. Even an elite marksmen can benefit from a sudden lull in the wind, the shadow caused by clouds passing in front of the sun, or the rare time when the target literally steps into the path of the bullet. This maneuver may be used offensively to re-roll an attack or defensively to re-roll the Sniper's static Stealth or Camouflage roll.

Level 2:

Armour Piercing: (PER, opposed)
Threshold: MoS 2
This is the standard Armour Piercing maneuver and requires an Opposed MOS 2 for it to work. Fumbles mean that the attack misses.

Ludicrous Range (PER, non-opposed)

Threshold: 6
This is the sniper skill of being able to zero in the sights on a weapon and extend its range. Ludicrous Range is double Extreme Range. The Ludicrous Range maneuver can only be applied to the first Small Arms shot after the Sniper meta-skill roll. Fumbles mean that the sight must be readjusted for 1d6 rounds.

Level 3:

Suppression (CRE, non-opposed)
Threshold: Special
This unique skill allows the sniper to use a single shot to suppress a small unit as though it were pinned by a high-ROF weapon. The sniper rolls the Sniper skill, and then the Small Arms skill to strike as usual. However, the Sniper roll result counts as a static threshold for the target group. The group must roll Leadership against the threshold. It is unable to act a number of rounds equal to the MOF of the roll. Against individuals (RPG context), a WIL roll can substitute for Leadership.

Level 4:

"Solving a system of three or more linear equations...with a bullet": (CRE, opposed)
This skill requires some elaboration, but essentially allows the sniper to attempt to line up multiple targets, or to take a shot exactly when two or more targets would be hit (assuming the bullet in question has enough power). Each additional target after the first additional target confers a +1 bonus to the defending CRE roll. Fumbles mean that the attack misses.

***As a rough rule of thumb, the maximum number of additional targets could be (Damage Rating)/20 (rounded down). So, a x22 rifle could conceivably kill 2 men, a x40 rifle could kill 3 men, and a x60 rifle could kill 4 men.*** If the shot does not penetrate the armour of one of the targets, it cannot effect any subsequent targets in the original shot. For example, if a x66 damage (MOS3x22) bullet hits a man with 66 points of armour for the Flesh Wound category, the bullet will not hit the second target.

Advanced: Piloting Maneuvers

Level 1:

Top Speed 180 Degree Turn
Threshold: 5
Required threshold when attempting to turn more than 1 hex facing (60 degrees) at Top Speed. Failure means the attempt to turn more than one hex facing fails. Fumble means a fall or a crash, at the GM's discretion.

Level 2:

High Speed Reverse
Threshold: 5
Usable only in Ground movement mode. Normally, a vehicle can move in reverse at only half Combat Speed. This maneuver allows the vehicle to roll backwards at higher speeds. Maximum reverse movement is half Combat Speed +1 per MOS. Failure means no exceeding half combat speed, and the vehicle loses its +1 attack bonus for half Combat Speed movement. Fumble means the vehicle crashes (roll 1d6, 1-4: additional Light Damage, 5-6: Heavy Damage).

Rapid Downshift
Threshold: 7
Allows the vehicle to suddenly shift from Top Speed to Combat Speed in the same round, without a previous declaration of intent to go to Combat Speed. Failure means vehicle remains at Top Speed, and the vehicle takes a Light Damage. Fumble means the vehicle takes a Light Damage and crashes (roll 1d6, 1-4: additional Light Damage, 5-6: Heavy Damage).

Level 3:

Drag Shifting
Threshold: 6
Allows the vehicle to suddenly shift from Combat Speed to Top Speed in the same round, without a previous declaration of intent to go to Top Speed. Failure means vehicle remains at Combat Speed. Fumble means the engine stalls, and the vehicle is considered stationary until its next activation.

Rapid Reverse Shift
Threshold: 6
Allows the vehicle to suddenly shift from forward movement to reverse movement, or vice versa, while moving at Combat Speed. Failure means the attempt to turn more than one hex facing fails. Fumble means the vehicle crashes (roll 1d6, 1-3: Light Damage, 5-6: Heavy Damage).

Sideways Slide
Threshold: 5
Allows the vehicle to continue moving in a straight line while facing up to 90 degrees either left or right, for a number of hexes equal to MOS +1. Useful for facing an opponent while moving toward cover, without exposing one's flanks to snap fire. Failure means no slide. Fumble means the vehicle crashes (roll 1d6, 1-4: additional Light Damage, 5-6: Heavy Damage).

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Dressed for success

Sometimes, in terms of the routine, day-to-day sorts of things, Kain really missed the army. See, in the army, when you said "Cawfee" to a subordinate, it appeared. When you told a subordinate to do something, it was generally understood that you were speaking in a sort of short hand. "Please" and "Thank you" were implied, their absence indicated by tone rather than the lack of utterance.

The Regulators had understood. 'Course that was a paramilitary force, and the caravan wasn't a much better example, given the number of old soldiers who'd signed on.

It wasn't that Kain lacked familiarity with social graces. He'd attended more than a few functions in his time. He'd simply fallen out of practice. And every dirty look that Vermeer shot him when he thought Kain wasn't looking underlined how Kain failed to make the transition into civilian life.

It didn't have to be that way. And the first step was a new outfit. After all, one of the first things he had learned from his father was that "Clothes make the man".

Monday, February 2, 2009


Strange that he should have never been there before, he has spent, after all, two seasons in this city. Nonetheless, as Dr Tom Chambers immerged onto the first terrace of Peace River he realised that he too was a subject of this corporate social experiment gone wrong.

‘Castes!’ He cursed to himself. Far from being a proletarian, to which Ben Cantor would certainly attest, Dr Chambers simply didn’t see himself as bellow anyone else and in that thought he found some empathy for the worker caste. As he subjected himself to a search and interrogation by the POC at the threshold of first terrace, this Mekong national was filled with contempt for the arrogance which saw him as a second class citizen or worse, as second class human being. He would take some more personal pleasure in hurting this system now, he realised that, but he pushed his personal feelings back and concentrated on his objectives, also personal, but of an entirely different nature. He found his way to the building he was looking for; he was soon waiting in a reception area of the administration office.

“Dr Chambers”, the smiling young man at the desk cooed, “Dr Pemberly is free to see you now.”

The Chief of bio-endocrinology at Peace River’s First Hospital was pleasant enough; at least he hid his condescension well, even when he knew that the much younger Doctor wasn’t sufficiently qualified to grasp the finer technical points of the discussion. Dr Pemberly suggested some authoritative papers to research; a few theories on holistic approaches but in spite of his experience, the conversation quickly lead to an inescapable conclusion. The expression on Tom’s face spoke eloquently to his disappointment.

“I’m sorry Dr Chambers, I really wish I could help more, but M.D.A. is simply not something I am well versed in the treatment of, the genetic technology to pre-empt it has been widely available for over two centuries and little research has been funded in the post natal treatment of it. As far as I know it is lethal and irreversible.” Dr Pemberly was speaking more openly, but Tom had retreated inside and hadn’t noted the change in candour.

“Not widely available enough indeed! And as for research grants, well who really cares do they Doctor?”

Tom was struggling to be civil, but failing in spite of his colleagues attempt to be useful.

“I’m sorry if I seem ungrateful for you assistance, please be sure I will mention this kindness to Professor Sun.”

Tom concluded on a more conciliatory tone and started opening the office door.

“Dr Chambers…a moment if you would?” Tom turned around, his host was visibly uncomfortable and nervously wringing his hands as he made a motion for Tom to come back. Tom had not notice when this change is disposition had occurred but felt compelled to sit back down in response.

“I am not entirely without sympathy for this condition Doctor” started Dr Pemberly somewhat short of breath and avoiding eye contact. “May I rely on your discretion?”

Tom searched the mature physician’s eyes and saw deep emotion then nodded in silent acquiescence. Dr Permberly closed his eyes and let out a heavy sigh, collecting his courage before leaning forward conspiratorially.

“In the prospects there is a clinic, it sees cases of M.D.A. we don’t discuss it, there is simply no reason for that disease to exist here but there you have it, it does and a number of us are not proud of the political realities that are to blame. The fact is we simply cannot discuss it, nor can we do much to help without being barred from practice in PR. Some of my colleagues have been braver than me though, I know of some who have decided to volunteer down there.”

Tom appreciated the seditious nature of his colleague’s statements; he also was disgusted by it, remembering what Carmichael had said about the effect of casts on treatment of Peaceriverans.

“I know they have made no progress as such, but they have been trying to contact the unlikeliest of people in order to make a breakthrough. Tell me Dr Chambers, did you serve?”

Dr Pemberly`s voice had dwindled to a near whisper. His features had lost all the clinical implacability exhibited just moments before. Once again Tom nodded quietly and Dr Pemberly squinted a moment, as if peering into Tom eyes to see his soul.

“I see, well then you know that there is on this planet one force that has done extensive bioengineering research, if there is any hope for making progress, it lies out there.”

The treason went well beyond criticizing the injustices of the caste system; this man was talking about collaborating with the CEF. If you use the verb collaborate with a scientist it evokes the noble pursuit of research with a colleague, to a Badlander, it means working with keffers, here it meant both.

“Thank you once again for your time and your…insight Dr Pemberly, it has been enlightening to confer with you sir.”

Tom meant every word. He had to acknowledge that Dr Pemberly made a reasonable assessment of who had the technological expertise to attain Tom’s goals. Could there be a team of Isabelas out there that could help? Could they expand their knowledge beyond repairing purple weapons and be used to help people?

As Tom walked the streets he was deep in thought. It might take him some time to reconcile murdering some keffers while simultaneously asking the help of others.

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