Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Multiple Menaces

The Caravan Casino was different things to different people, depending on their needs. For some locals, the Caravan Casino was a home away from home. The drinks were cheap, the regulars were interesting, and the place was kept real clean, at least by Khayr-ad Din standards. Meanwhile, the high falutin' gamblers who needed to feel that they were getting a so-called "authentic" Khayr-ad Din experience ended up at the Caravan Casino because it was outside the Core Oasis tower, in a slightly less, shall we say, well-maintained part of the Trash City. Dueling fans and aspirin' duelists ended up hanging around the Caravan because the place was a known waterin' hole for all sorts of duelists and mechanics. People showed up looking to be seen with the up-and-comers or the down-and-outers. Either way, if you were lucky or obnoxious, or both, you could get your picture taken with your favourite duelist. Then there was the Dueling pro-shop downstairs and 'round back that brought in your mechanics and even a writer for a magazine up North in Innsbruck once. The Caravan Casino was many different things.

Out back, behind the main hall and then past the pro-shop and past a crumbling pre-fab wall, the Caravan Casino became the main garages for the Badlands Caravan Guild, its duelists' hangars, the truck depot, and a shipping warehouse. If you were back around here, it was because you were workin' for the Guild, or you had some real specific reason to be visitin'. Doc Chambers, the Guild boss, wasn't too keen on having much foot traffic. Too much in the way of sensitive items moving in and out of the warehouse and the depot. People doing the normal buying and selling directly with the Guild did their business down in Trader's Way. But it wasn't much of a worry. The whole place looked like a glorified junkyard anyways, with old truck frames piled up, and a couple of rusted out work gears lined up against the outside of the garage wall. There was even a junkyard dawg named Menace who kept the hoppers and the more ambitious trash scavengers away. Or in this case, a couple of kids from New Baja...

"Olly, look, this is the place. Marshal Delacroix said this was the place," Sasha tugged at the teenager's arm and dragged him to the gate.

"You hear that?" Olly was trying his best to squirm out of the bigger girl's grasp. Calling him a teenager was a generous thing to do, in retrospect, "that there's a dawg, a big 'un if I ever heard it. C'mon Sasha! We can wait until someone sees us."

"Olly Indus!" Sasha turned on the kid, eyes glarin', "are you a chicken? Are you a coward? You're my best guy! You're my best sneak, and my best lockpick, and I've seen you boost a car faster than anyone. I picked you to do this internship... thingy with me, and you're gonna do it, or I'm gonna slap you silly and send you back to New Baja!"

The coarse mixture of praise and threats calmed the boy down. Not that Sasha was much older, mind, but she seemed to have things more under control. She turned and continued walking up to the main gate. There was a chain link fence and a couple of heavy chains drawn up across, blocking the gate. A large, dark skinned man sat at the gate, the brim of his straw hat pulled down low over his eyes as he leaned against the fence. The tiny chair he was in was straining something fierce.

Sasha swallowed as she walked up to the gate, Olly's hand still held tightly in hers. She brushed her sandy-brown hair out of her eyes and cleared her throat.

" me?" she began tentatively, "we're here to see Marshal ... Delacroix." Sasha blinked. The Marshal had never actually told him his first name. She had already started to wonder if he actually had one.

The man didn't answer. He just sat there, arms crossed, brim of his hat down over his eyes like he was asleep. Sasha didn't buy it. She approached him quiet, like a long-fang hopper movin' in for the kill. She could see his lips, curled down in a brooding frown, and hear his breath, slow and steady. She waved her hand in front of him, and when he didn't react, Sasha smiled, waving Olly by to slide between the pair of chains blocking the gate.

That's when Menace padded out curiously from behind a pile of tires. Olly stopped in his tracks. The big dawg was lookin' at him curiously, drool spilling out onto the concrete.

"I wouldn't go any further," the man muttered, "I'm the only one on right now who knows how to keep Menace from attacking." He had a thick Easterner accent: his r's rolled like they was barrels being pushed down a staircase.

"Well mister," Sasha put her fists on her hips and stuck her chin out. Olly backed up a few paces, what with Menace wandering over to the chain, his beady insect eyes reflecting Olly back a couple thousand times. He sniffed the air with his tongue, opened his maw and showed the two kids the rows of razor sharp teeth behind the one-fang-up, two-fangs-down sabertooth jaw set-up that most Terranovan critters have as a baseline.

"Well mister," Sasha said again, after making good and sure that she was a step back from the gate, but not from the big man, "I asked you if you knew Marshal Delacroix! You didn't answer, but you were awake. That's not very polite."

"Neither is trespassing, girl," Sid Teg stood up. The only way to describe a man like this is to liken him to a brick shithouse. His dark skin only highlighted his brooding, angry demeanor, which shot out of every pore, out of his eyes, and on the man's breath. His muscles twitched, "So what do ya want to see Delacroix for?" He towered over Sasha, who did her best not to wilt, her hands still on her hips.

"We're...we're from New Baja," Olly shot out from behind his erstwhile leader, his own courage gathering. No one messed with his boss, no matter what, "we're here for an internship...thingy."

"Yeah," Sasha drew her own confidence, a smirk on her face, "so you get Marshal Delacroix out here, and you call off your dawg mister. We work for Marshal Delacroix. We're Irregulators."

Just then, Josephina walked up to the gate, putting her hand on Menace's collar. "Sid, what's goin' on?" she petted the dawg, who purred in a very un-doglike way, its eyelids flitting up and down strangely.

"These two say they're interns. Workin' for Kain. From New Baja," Sid's disposition did not change.

"Interns, hmmm?" Josephina looked the two children over, "from New Baja? Well, they do look a little pale." She nodded in satisfaction, taking some pleasure in watching the two kids squirm in front of the dawg and the guard, "I seem to recall Kain saying somethin' about getting two New Bajan runts for cleaning chores. These must be them," she untied the chain from the post at the other end of the gate, motioning for the pair to enter. Neither of them moved.

"Oh, Menace?" Josephina chuckled, watching the new interns look at the dawg warily, "he only eats hoppers. Just make sure he smells you before you leave, ok?"

Sid rolled his eyes. Sasha stuck her tongue out at him as she walked past. Olly was less brave.

"You kids hungry? Thirsty? We've got some water..." Josephina wiped her forehead as she let Menace go back to skulking around the yard.

"Got any beer?" asked Sasha.

"Probably," Josephina smiled to herself as she led the pair into the main office.


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