Friday, January 28, 2011

Not Coming in from the Cold

Spring, TN 1935
Barrington Basin

Anatol Medalev jammed his shovel into the ground, and slowly eased his sunhat off his head to wipe his brow.

"Drink, sir?"

Medalev looked over at Jim Upton, who was drenched in sweat, but offered his canteen to the older man. He nodded curtly, wiped the sweat out of his moustache, and took a swig.

"Gah! Water would have been fine!" Medalev chuckled after swallowing hard, "this rot-gut is not fit for insecticide!"

Upton shrugged and took another swig, "makes the heat bearable."

Medalev did a double-take. "You mean, all this time?"

"Yes, sir. Just a little," Upton shrugged, replacing the cap and looking back at the ranch house.

Medalev surveyed the waterroot field. The bulbs were full, and there were no rootworms. It had initially been a surprise to the old CEF officer that he was cut out for homesteading, but after fifteen cycles, he had gotten used to it. It was the one thing from which he could take comfort. There were no surprises anymore.

"Upton, you don't have to call me 'sir'."

"I know, except we're going on deployment in 72 hours." Both men knew what that meant: Lysanov. "Sir."

Medalev nodded, "fine. You finish up here. I'm going to get ready." He turned back to the farmhouse, mentally and emotionally shedding the civilian fascade he had long-ago perfected. Underneath was the same tired tank commander that had landed on Terranova 22 cycles ago. By the time Medalev was riding HT-68's through the Terranovan deserts, he had already been through World War III back on Earth, and then there were the mopping-up actions, and then Caprice. He smirked to himself, remembering the mistake of allowing himself the luxury to contemplate an actual civilian life after the CEF surrender on Terranova. The last such daydream occurred in the Westridge Mountains. That was fifteen cycles ago. There had been a reserve deployment every cycle since, but it was Lysanov's little operation that kept him from settling down.

He pulled the CEF utility fatigues out of a small trunk he kept under the farmhouse floor. He inspected them and then tossed them on the bed. Medalev then inspected himself in the mirror. The officer's mustache that had been all the rage so long ago was a little grayer, his skin just a little darker from the harsh Terranovan sun, his hands a little more gnarled from farming.

He pulled his CEF officer's greatcoat out of the trunk. The heavy ballistic fiber garment with the high collar was still in good shape. Medalev didn't check to see if it still fit. He knew it always would...

Upton watched Medalev turn and head back to the ranch house. He sighed, watching the heat rise up off of the sand. It had been fifteen cycles since they bought this ranch, hired all the hands, and settled down as Terranovans. Fifteen cycles of reserve deployments with the Port Arthur Kavalry. Fifteen cycles of playing the waiting game, of gnawing paranoia, of not being allowed to let go of the War. All because they were unlucky enough to have met Lysanov.

Back then, Upton never asked Medalev about his plans after the war. The sting of defeat and the desperate circumstances surrounding their journey over the Westridge Mountains and into the Barrington Basin kept Upton focused on the task at hand. He had never wondered about what lay in the future. And after they met Lysanov, there was no point. They were to remain soldiers, still under orders. He didn't like the mandatory rotations anymore, and he especially didn't like the waiting. Still, Jim Upton told himself as he walked inside, at least he still liked commanding hovertanks.


Alvarez Homestead County, near Firebase Corel 10998 8760
Barrington Basin

Kassandra Ingrid-7094 sat in the quiet town bar, waiting. The GREL quietly nursed a beer, a drink she had taken to since first encountering it on Caprice. That was, she reasoned, too many years ago to consider, but she did the math anyways: 14 Caprician years = 17.57 Terran years = 25.46 Terranovan cycles. Solving the system did not give her the hypno-programmed joy it once did. She considered that the alcohol might have something to do with that, but a new arrival caused her to discreetly survey the dark, near-empty bar.

A short, scrawny man approached her. He was unkempt, with the ragged clothing of a rover and week's worth of beard that made Ingrid uncomfortable. GRELs couldn't grow hair at all. As he sat down across from her, she wished she had been denied the pleasures of the olfactory nerves as well.

"You Ingrid?"

"Yes. Dunmore, is it?" Kassandra had slipped her hand under the table for her sidearm. The gesture was noticed.

"Hey, relax GREL. I'm just here for the pick-up. You got it?"

"Yes, here you are." She slid a small data-disk no larger than her thumbnail across the table.

"Thanks," the chip was pocketed in a fluid motion. "Here you are," Dunmore slid a strip of paper across to the GREL, "all the access you need to get the rest of the payment." He looked the GREL over, stood, and winked. "I can show you where else I got hair, if you like, vatfreak."

"Eat me, monkeyboy."

Ingrid watched Dunmore leave, waited another ten minutes, and then returned to the PAK patrol bivouac just on the edge of town. The command hovercar was sitting on its landing struts as the patrol prepared their vehicles and weapons for a tempest that was due that evening. She knocked on the command hovercar's door. It opened with a groan. Ingrid made a mental note to talk to an Isaac technician back at Corel.

"Captain," Ingrid began.


Ingrid clambered into the tight confines of the vehicle's command station and sat across from her CO.

"Report, soldier."

"Captain, the transaction has been made," Ingrid-7049 produced the strip of paper and placed it in the palm of her CO's hand.

"Excellent. Well done soldier. Rejoin the patrol, and remember your orders."

"Yes ma'am." Ingrid left the command car without another word.

Captain Cecilia Lysanov watched the tall GREL depart while typing into her dataglove. The money she made off the sale would continue funding the operation -- the primary objective. Of course, there would be a little wave made in some very select black market circles when the Scepter reappeared after eighteen cycles. But Lysanov couldn't help but smile to herself as she considered the potential for instability that the Scepter represented. It was just the sort of thing to keep the Eastern Sun Emirates revolt an open sore. She could always count on these colonial barbarians to act like a pack of jackals fighting over a corpse.

She brought up next season's deployment roster at the firebase.

"Oh, excellent, Medalev and his lackey are going active." Lysanov smiled. She had waited for twelve years. She had gotten very good at waiting. In the meantime, she followed her orders. It was that simple.


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