Friday, August 20, 2010


The plan was simple: sneak into the private chambers of Emir Thoras and assassinate him. The problem: he wasn't there. Stupid plans.

[It's good to know that your own wellbeing outweighs that of others.]
Brock: "Landing on people is softer than landing on pavement."

Monday, August 16, 2010

The lead up

Eric Grossman, former sergeant in the Parachutistes Infanterie Marine, leader of the Dak mercenary team, currently passing himself off as stunt diver for Gable Films, Prince Gable, Badlands, thumbed the comm:

"Let me know when we're at 6500 meters."

"6500, roger," came the reply.

Grossman sat crosslegged in the cargo hold of a rickety old hopper, and looked out the small window next to him. It was a glorious day, he surmised--cold and clear, with very little wind over the jungle. He peered down, eyeing the dark foliage of the jungle canopy below. He didn't like jumping over jungle. Too many things were waiting, ready to eat him on the ground.

The other members of the Daks were doing a final review of the jump procedures with their students. Each student had one supervisor. Grossman smirked. He hadn't heard from Kain DeLaCroix since 1919 when he hired the Daks to perform a paraglider assault on some fortified compound in the Heaps of Khayr-ad Din. Sixteen cycles later, he gets a a cryptic message on an email account he almost never checks:

"In ESE. Would like paraglider lessons for five. -Kain"

When he replied in the affirmative, Grossman received another highly illuminating message:

"Be in Cimmaro in 3 days."

Now Grossman and his Daks were about to buddy jump with DeLaCroix, Vonyran, Tarmalin, Chambers and some Paxton sales rep (hah!) named Kessler. He watched the five virgin jumpers and smiled. These were some of the coolest customers he'd ever seen, but he could detect the sense of urgency creeping up on them. He suppressed a chuckle: in four days, he'd have them landing on the tip of a barnaby's tooth. Otherwise, they'd never be able to pull off whatever insane stunt they were planning.

"6500 meters," came the voice in his headset.

"Alright!" Grossman yelled as he reached for the door handle, "everyone get ready!"


Sid Teg pounded the beer back, and crushed the can in his hand. He tossed the empty over his shoulder and reached for another. The satisfying "crack-hiss" of the beer opening in his hands was all the invitation he needed. He raised the beer to his lips, and--

"Thanks!" Josephina reached around the big man and grabbed the beer can out from his enormous paw. She stepped back, and took a swig, wincing, "ugh, Sid! This stuff'll peel varnish!"

"Bwuh?" Sid had already downed a half-dozen beers, so he wasn't exactly at his best. He turned, stood, stumbled, and then belched. Wiping his mouth with the back of his forearm, he glared at Josephina.

"I like it," he managed, defensively, "and if you don't like it, give it back."

"Can't. You gotta sober up and get in on the planning."

"Why? I'm not exactly..."

"A rabble rouser?" Josephina teased as she took another gulp. The camp was high enough in the mountains to be dry,

but it was still hot enough for the questionable brew to be thirst-quenching, "no, but you are an Easterner."

"Yeah? So?"

"Sid, you're not as dumb as you look," Jo admonished.

"Hmph. Alright, I'm your token dirt-sloggin' Easterner who don't know any better, looking for guidance from the enlightened Emir," growled Sid, "Mr. Demille, I'mma ready fer my close-up," he belched.Josaphina threw the can at Sid's head. It bounced off his skull with a dull thud.


"After two cycles down here, doing good work, you become cynical the moment the Doc and Kain show up?"

"Hey, that's not..."

"No, it's not true. And you know that it's not true. So quit feeling sorry for yerself just because you haven't satisfied that death-wish of yours lately. Sober up, suit up, and get ready to move."

"Yes'm," Sid rubbed his eyes with his fists, and trundled off to the hopper where the group made camp.

"Oh, and Sid!"


"What's this stuff called?" she held up the half-full can.

"Cimmaro Special Label."

"When this is done, I'll buy you a case."


The hatch swung open. Gade stepped up to the opening before everyone else. The wind buffeted his head a bit, as his fingers gripped door edge. He looked back at his friends in the interior of the cargo hold. They had jumped over the jungles of Interior a few times, far from prying eyes, but still in training. This suddenly felt very different. There was no urgency, just a tingling sensation as Gade understood that he was about to attempt something incredibly difficult, and stupendously dangerous.

He looked down. The night was dark, but clear. Gade could see the winking lights of Okavango far below. He swallowed.

Gade looked over at Kain, and grinned.

"You know Kain," he yelled over the wind, "the only reason I'm doing this is because I couldn't figure out a better idea than yours for getting into the palace!"

With that, he launched himself into the dark sky, and plummetted to the swamps below.


UNREST IN OKAVANGO AS EMIR RAPHAEL BHRAVO RETURNS -- (Okavango) One week after a major security incident at the Emirate Palace here, Emirate security forces are hard-pressed to maintain order as riots and insurrection grows. Groups of armed sajhalin commoners have clashed with security forces in bloody street fights, and Emirate guardsmen are cracking down on the citizens of this floating city with every means available to them. Most surprisingly, the exiled Boy-Emir Raphael Bhravo has made a re-appearance in the city, inspiring commoners to revolt. Bhravo was last seen heading the March of One-Thousand, a religiously-themed protest movement calling for reform in the Eastern Sun Emirates. Thus far, Bhravo had explicitely avoided endorsing the Basal-Bangueleu revolt. AST Lord Chancellor Kenichi Tenaka commented, saying that "the unrest in Okavango is one more sign of the profound need for responsible governance on the part of the Emirs." (Satellite News Service, 23 Winter, TN1935)


"How high up is this!?" Tom Chambers yelled at Kain.

"6500 meters, Doc!" The floater's engines and the airflow made the reply nearly inaudible.

Doc looked down from the open hatch on the side of the Badlands floater and swallowed. The craft bobbed slightly as it churned its way through the midnight air. The swamp and jungle below stretched on to the horizon, barely visible on this moonless night. Tom couldn't even see Gade falling in the darkness.

Tom scowled at Kain. He jumped.

The wind smeared Tom's face back hard. Suddenly the jungle didn't seem quite as far away as it had been up in the floater.

After everything, now it's paragliding.

He thought back to NuCoal, and the apartment in the Core Tower of Khayr-ad Din with Julie, and Lance Point.

He knew that he'd have to pull the rip-cord and save himself.

His hand moved to pull the rip-cord but paused. Tom allowed himself a bit of time to meditate on everything. Why was he going back to Okavango? After all, his friends were free. Why was he falling 6500 meters? All Kain's talk of doing good always butted up against the fact that Tom just didn't really believe in redemption.

Not yet, anyways.

There's an easy way with no answers or a hard way full of questions.

He pulled the rip-cord.


Emir Raphael Bhravo knelt in the dirt of his tiny garden patch and contemplated the weeds. It had been a busy time in the camp since he met Sam, Kain, the Doctor, Maia, and that dancing monk, Inigo.He smiled as the monk's interpretive dance played in his mind. He briefly considered that the man was neither a monk, nor a trained dancer, but decided to worry about that later. Sam's words were etched in his mind: "Why be an emir if it's only gonna give ya grief?"

His brow furrowed, and he gently tugged at the offending plant roots in his little garden. They did not yield.

Perhaps I should save the flowers, and abandon the garden...


"I wasn't sure if he'd do it," Sam said to no one in particular, as the Doc launched himself out of the hatch. The wind coming in through the open hatch of the floater was dying down a bit.

"C'mon Sam, you're up," Kain shouted, a little forcefully.

Sam mosied over to the hatch. All he could see was dark sky outside, so his mind began filling with everything else:

That Emir kid sure can play a mean poker hand. Really thought I had him there. How can a boy bluff like that?

Good to see Dekko. He's lookin' scrawnier than usual though. Seems a little nervous, guarding the Emir kid, but he's grown up some in the jungles.

Sid's looking like he would jump out of this here floater without a parachute just to human dive-bomb the Emir. He's gotta chill out. Hope Josephina and the others can keep him straight until we all get back to the Caravan.

Gade's boy sure does look like his ma. Lucky kid.

There's gonna be a fair amount of shootin' in a bit. Hmm.

Isobel still tastes like cawfee and kisses like a stingin' redjacket.

He got to the hatch. The night sky was dark, but there was just enough light to see the swampland below stretch out, and out, and out. Terra Nova loomed large at him. It dawned on Sam that he had never been this high up before. The paraglider strapped to his back seemed very heavy.


Sam jumped, and wondered if he'd find his way to the ground from this height. But only for a moment.


"We've got a problem!"

Josaphina hissed behind her to the small team of rebels in the alleyway. They looked tired and scared, but they still had some fight in them.

I still probably shouldn't have said that.

She looked around the corner again. Her eyes narrowed. Down the street she confirmed the approaching problem. A pair of heavy gears -- she saw the ubiquitous rounded profile of a Jager, and the squat, dome-head of a Basilisk. Not exactly heavy hitters on the face of it, but Josaphina noted that the Basilisk had a sensor boom scanning busily, and both were kitted-out for anti-personnel work.

Flamethrower on the Jager, twin machineguns on the Basilisk. We're way beyond crowd control here.

The Emirate Guard of Okavango had proven more ruthless than she had expected. Most likely, Emir Thoras had tightened their rations and increased their access to the high dosage stim-patches. As if to reinforce the point, the Jager aimed at a house and let off a blast of burning fuel into the ground floor. A moment later, a burning figure burst out of the door, and died on the street.

The gears were joined by a squad of trigger-happy Guardmen on foot, picking their way carefully through the narrow street. Their black stylized armour inspired terror in the sajhalin. It just made Josaphina hold them in even more contempt.

Josaphina's eyes widened. The Basilisk's sensor boom was pointed right at their position.

"Run!" she yelled, as the Guardsmen opened fire. The alleyway became a canyon of death as shrapnel filled the air.

Josaphina had already found enough cover to stop the worst of it. Her endorphins took care of the bits that got through. She growled as ricochets bounced shrilly against the support beams of the buildings. Some of the rebels were still alive, having been street rats and fighters already. But the alley was instantly littered with the torn bodies of many sajhalin.

Josaphina belly-crawled to the corner again, and took a hand mirror out and eased her hand around the bricks. She flinched as a piece of concrete shrapnel came perilously close, but a moment later she could see the Guardsmen approaching, the two gears waiting for orders. She gritted her teeth and keyed her comm.

"No time like the present, boys!"

"Hey, who you calling 'boy'?" came a terse feminine reply, before Josaphina saw a small object arc over and onto the Jager from across the street.

She pulled the mirror back. Isobel's hand-made limpet mine exploded, making the gear lurch and crash into a building. That was Josaphina's cue. She brought her assault rifle up to her shoulder and began firing at the surprised Guardsmen.

Her team began to counter-attack. The Basilisk opened up with its machineguns as it backed up through a building

and tripped over backwards. Sajhalin swarmed it before it could right itself. Within minutes they had extracted the pilot, and exacted their own revenge.

It made Josaphina Dragushan sick to her stomach.


Dekko had his hands on his hips, "Isobel, what in the world..."

"Oh, hi Dekko," Isobel smiled. She was sitting at a small bench, loading a shotgun. On a table in front of her was a veritable arsenal of explosive devices: frame charges, blocks of plastic explosives, primer-cord, tamping hemispheres, grenades, trip wires... She motioned for the young gunfighter to sit across from her.

"You going to war, Isobel?"

She chuckled.

"What's so funny?"

"We've been down here, fighting together for, what, five seasons, and now you ask?"

"Well, I never seen all this before," Dekko motioned to the weaponry.

Isobel nodded, pressing a round into the tube with her thumb.

"Well, didn't have much need once we got to the camp, but now that I'm going back--"

"You're going back?"

"Yeah, with Ben and that crew. They could use the extra hand, and I know a thing or two about electronics," she batted her dark bangs out of her face.

"Well, I guess I'll see you in Okavango."

"I reckon you will, Dekko, I reckon you will," Isobel pushed the last round into the magazine.


"So," Kain deadpanned, "just you and me, Kessler."

Maia walked up to the hatch. "Can it, Delacroix." she swallowed hard.

"Sure is high up," Kain deadpanned again, "hope my parachute opens."

Maia glared, "You're full of shit Kain. I've got you all figured out. I know why you're doing this."

"Oh? Do tell."

"You're worried about your friends. Sam's off his game. I've seen the looks you and the Doc exchange when he starts talking about taking prisoners and winging the opposition. So you hope this job will 'fix' him. Gade's not telling you everything about Raleigh, and about his life in general. So you're hoping to re-establish some trust with him. The Doc," Maia grinned, "has to be shown that he's capable of doing good. Even for selfish reasons, doing good is still better than not. As for me..."

Kain listened, stone-faced, waiting patiently.

"Well, I'm not sure why you're worried about me."

Kain looked out of the open hatch. The wind picked up, and the floater's engines compensated.

"I'm hoping to convince you that we're more than cold-blooded killers. I aim to demonstrate that we're just regular, run of the mill, Big Damn Heroes."

He jumped.

Maia sighed, "That's what I was worried about."

She jumped.


Andy Pearl sat back at his desk. He couldn't suppress a grin.

"They're going to assassinate Emir Thoras."

He let the thought roll around in his mind to shake out the cobwebs. Dealing with Kain always made him smile.

The data he had didn't fully substantiate the claim, it was all circumstantial, and he didn't know how they'd make the attempt, but when it came to Kain and his associates, Andy knew to trust the latent insanity masquerading as instinct:

They had met up with Basalite agents, snuck into the Palace, freed their friends, and then headed straight for the Boy-Emir's camp. There, they had met with the Emir, evaded surveillance for most of their sojourn in the mountains, and then had their confirmed last sighting in Cimmaro. Knowing Delacroix and Chambers, they had something big in their sights. This was it.

"They're going after Thoras." Pearl was certain of it.

No matter what he thought of the ESE, Thoras, or Kain, as SRID field director for the ESE, he knew that Okavango was too valuable to allow it to join the rebellion in Basal and Bangueleu. Andy Pearl just couldn't let it happen.

He dialed a number.

"Yes, it's Pearl. Activate our friends in Okavango, tell them to watch the Palace. There will be an attempt on the Emir's life." He paused. "They'll be professionals."

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