Wednesday, May 13, 2009


The young woman walked down the road from the Caravan to the Hotel Pacifica. She finally had time to herself and had called ahead: they were drawing Miss Cranby a bubble bath. It was costly, but Ellen knew that she needed the indulgence.

A trundling buggy laden down with miners and supplies on their way to the camp crossed her path. The miners leered as the dust got in her eyes, rudely distracting her from thoughts of luxuriating in hot water. She didn't particularly like Tulsa, and who could blame her? Between the miners and the rovers, she wanted the caravan to move on already. The trading had slowed down - the miners had spent their cash and another payroll train wasn't expected for a while, so she had been told - so she knew that the caravan's continued presence in this town had to do with details which she was frustratingly not privy to.

Scowling, Ellen stepped into the hotel's saloon. The man playing piano missed a beat. Ellen blushed self-consciously and headed towards the saloon bar amidst the longing gazes of many a drunk miner.

"I'm Miss Cranby," she began tentatively, "I called ahead?"

"Yes Miss," the barman began, "just upstairs. Room seven, down the hall to the left. It should be ready for you."

Ellen winced after she thanked the man and turned. He was clearly picturing her getting into the tub. She stalked up the stairs grumpily.

There were giggles and groans eminating from behind the doors as Ellen made her way down the hall. The Hotel Pacifica was a brothel, after all. Normally uncaring about such realities of Caravan life, Ellen's foul mood made her especially sensitive regarding such things. She though about Guillaum and Scooter, the two salvage men on the Caravan with those creepy leers. Mustn't forget about Carmichael's stream of dirty comments. And then there was Torch Dolbeau, whose incessant passes and wolf-whistles would almost be bearable - though still unwelcome! - if she wasn't so obviously and so terrifyingly unstable. What the hell was Kain thinking hiring her anyways?

Kain Delacroix.

Ellen had barely entered the sumptuously decorated and perfectly prepared room when her thoughts turned to the Caravan's Commanding Officer. She pulled off her desert suit and her boots, wiggling her toes and glancing longingly over to the full tub of steaming hot water.

"What are you thinking, Kain?" Ellen sighed. She took stock of the soap, checked the temperature of the water - nearly unbearably hot, just how she liked it - and found the towels suitably fluffed. The Hotel Pacifica had a woman's touch. Ellen recalled the proprietor's name, Miss Meredith.

"More like Madame Meredith, but I suppose everyone is entitled to their delusions," she approached the windows wearing only her unmentionables and drew the curtains.

Then she did a double-take.

Out in the street, skulking around another saloon was none other than Sandra Jolaine, gunslinger extraordinaire and trouble with a capital T.

Ellen scowled and then stepped back quickly from the window. She sat down on the edge of the tub and crossed her arms. After a deep breath, she stood, marched over to the window and looked out again.

Sandra was gone.

Was it her at all in the first place? Ellen sighed. It had to be. There was no mistaking that gunslinger's swagger that Sam had appropriated all too easily. Whatever Sandra was doing here, it couldn't be any good, Ellen decided. Then she paused.

"Do I tell Kain?" she asked aloud.

Ellen shook the growing dilemma from her mind as she stripped down and slid into the tub with an audible sigh. Then she frowned. Sam certainly did not need to know that Sandra was here. Gade didn't either. She stretched gingerly at first, as if she was unsure she was allowed to relax. Then she dunked her head below the water, and held it there. Her eyes shut, Ellen thought for a moment: the caravan still needed more personnel. Sandra was a qualified, experienced long-haul driver and a crack shot with a pistol. Then again, Torch was a good duelist and hiring Torch was all-in-all a bad, bad move. Sandra had already proven herself untrustworthy in and out of a fight.

Yet Ellen couldn't shake the feeling that Kain would hire her on the spot. It was as if he was anticipating something big coming, and figured that the more gun-hands he had with him, the better, their reliability be damned. She couldn't understand why he had hired Torch on. Everyone could see she was bad people. She hadn't been at Baja. She wasn't a Regulator. She wasn't even a Badlander. And Torch hadn't nursed Sam Tarmalin back to health and cared for him like a brother.

Ellen gasped as she came up for air. She was near tears. This exercise in luxury was hardly as relaxing as she had wanted it to be.

"Yeah, and Sandra was great for Sam," Ellen managed to control herself. She smiled weakly to the room, "dammit, Sandra was bad once, I'm not going to let her get anywhere near us, Kain!"

The man's name echoed slightly in the room. Ellen slumped forward in the tub, frowning sadly. She batted the bubble bath bottle off the nearby stand and curled up into a ball. But she wouldn't cry. She wouldn't let herself. She knew she was protecting the people she loved.


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