Thursday, March 10, 2011

Koreshi Chronicles: Prologue - In the shadow of the Stonehead

Summer 1913, Western Karaq Wastes

The Santa Uribe glen was situated some 65 km away from the spaceport of Baja. Archaeologists had been interested in this plateau in the foothills of the Pacifica range for several hundred years. The local flora looked suspiciously cultivated, even some hundred of years after being left fallow. Some small trace tools showed that early explorers may have considered this area instead of Port Baja as an early settlement. The main attraction though, lay not in the sand or the Sapa roots. The Santa Uribe glen also harboured on of the ubiquitous yet mysterious Stoneheads of Terra Nova. As such it was a popular site for out-of-the-way tourism but mostly for the perennial school trip.

Every cycle, before the long St-Vincent's day weekend, the combined Port Baja school district organised a field trip to the local Stonehead. It was always voluntary and so always a very mixed group. Kids came from the outlying moisture farms in search of something new or from professional core towers whose parents believed they needed culture. Some kids came because it got them out of a day of school and others because they were genuinely interested in the mysteries of the enigmatic carvings. After an early start and a short hour’s drive through the desert kids from all over, ranging in age form early to late teens, congregated around the visitor pavilion for the same speech the same archaeologist gave every year. This was the price of entry before seeing the actual statue. The academic would describe the precise cuts in the stone, the methods used (it was in fashion to believe they had been carved with lasers) and the distribution of the artifacts. The talk always ended on the somewhat more contentious issue of what purpose these carved stone heads served.

For those who knew their history, the Leagues were old, having delineated the political lines of Terra Nova for centuries while stranding the Badlands smack in the middle. The cities themselves were often much older than the Leagues and built around one of the oldest fixtures of Terra Nova; the Maglevs. Those marvels had been laid down 1400 cycles before when the planet was colonized as a whole. Older and more romantic than all that were the Stoneheads, some say they were even there before the first colonists, but the archaeologist discounted such stories as just that: stories.

On this particular day there was one other attraction which caught the eye and imagination of a few of the kids. The only thing that was older than Stoneheads, whose stories inspired bedtime tales and sleepy nightmares. On the horizon of Santa Uribe glen the dark tents of the Sand Riders flapped in the docile wind descending from the Pacifica range in the distance.

Some said these were the original inhabitants of the planet. In school they said they were early colonist from the first wave that had reverted to a more primitive state. Whatever their origins, one story about Sand Riders was universally shared in the Badlands, true or not: Sand Riders stole children.


The temperature was a tolerable 30 degrees up there in the foothills with a gentle breeze coming in from the west. Lyta, unlike most of the kids huddling around like pilgrims in the visitor pavilion, was not sleepy and rose from the her mat. One of the monitors noticed her but a quick bathroom explanation had her on her way just as soon. She hoped she wouldn’t come looking for her later.

Exploring the facility and the environs she soon found herself out of earshot and approaching the humble museum where some of the less interesting pieces from the digs had been preserved. This is when someone spoted you. Fortunately it wasn’t a school monitor, unfortunately it was Raz Gavran and his accomplice Bryan Ranner.

Raz Gavran was 16 cycles, stupid, pudgy, and has a tendency to push people around with his overbearing belly. He always seems to have sticky fingers and a stupid haircut. His haircut wasn’t the only thing about him that was deficient, he had been held back twice at school. But Raz was mostly harmless on his own, he only became a threat when he was sidekick to Bryan Ranner. Older by one cycle, this teenage menace happily picked on anyone smaller than him and given his unusual size for his age (some suspect he’s been held back even more often than Raz) that was most everyone in middle-school. Last season he “accidentally” broke Kyle Freeger’s arm. As if that weren’t bad enough, Lyta saw his emerge from Melissa Kofman’s homeroom just before the epic show-and-tell where she discovered her grass gofer’s terrarium had been filled with fireants. When she presented it to the class, the poor pet’s body was still twitching, its skin eaten off and eye sockets hollow. Mellissa didn’t come to school for 4 weeks after that. Lita stood her ground before these two hooligans exactly long enough to know when to retreat.

Luckily for her, she ran straight into Todd and Lukas, her older brother. The two punks where quick on her heels. Lucas had nothing but contempt for the school bully, someone so beneath him and so deprived of standing that he could only assert himself through mindless violence. Bryan did not take kindly to Lucas’ obvious disdain and proceeded to cross the class divide with a flurry of furious blows while Raz ineffectually tried to catch Todd in the museum. One highlight of the fight was when Lukas actually managed to catch an object that Bryan had flung at him, a particular low was when the villain squarely clobbered Lyta for interfering.

She had her revenge when she pulled the fire alarm, on the heals of that distraction came another as Ti Corovan entered the scene confused and unnerved. Lukas didn’t waste this opportunity and dispatched Bryan from behind with a concussive blow from exhibit piece 125-02B.

Ti lead them off into the desert, escaping whatever authority would be summoned by the alarm. With him he had a map provided by his older cousin to find a cave in the foothills. Todd was quickly convinced to partake in the adventure while Lyta took no convincing at all. Lukas, ever the sourpuss and having recently been pummeled, was less than enthused.

In the cave they found tracks, Lukas gushed forth with ever more enthusiasm. The tracks lead to crates of valuable desert tools and provisions, further still they find a body. At first the intrepid kids were relived to find she wasn’t dead but as Ti insists on helping her Lucas senses something nefarious in the wounded Marna’s motives. She drops her cooing pleas for help and drew a 7mm pistol on the small group. Holding them hostage, Todd was sent to fetch her “husband” and partner while Lukas manages to incite her rage and fritter away her patience - inviting a bullet wound to his left leg. In shock and at her wits end, Marna contemplated riding herself of these meddlesome kids.

A shot rings out in the small confines of the cave, Ti leaped belatedly into action with a flare and shovel only to find their captor dead. In the entrance of the cave stood a Sand Rider, in his shadow was an awestruck Tod. The desert traveller helped Lucas out of the cave as Todd once again resumed his mission to seek help. Lukas managed to thanks his saviour while more enthusiastically blaming his sister and Ti for getting him into his predicament. The Sand Rider tersely explained that he had only come to collect what was his. Soon his crates were tethered to his beast and he rode off.

A short while later a crestfallen Todd watched as Lyta and Lukas got into the medivac hopper at the pavilion. Ti was attempting to console Todd who wished he had seen more of the mysterious Sand Riders. Suddenly, another terrible crack shattered the desert stillness. Up in the sky the noise was revealed to be a series of sonic booms. Fiery trail descending from space were plummeting to Terra Nova beyond the mountains to the west.

Heavy Gear Roleplaying Game


Game Thug said...

Don't get too close to them--they are easily startled, but they will soon be back, and in greater numbers.

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