Thursday, April 21, 2011

"Pig Pen", or "Drunken With Wolves"

Spring TN1918

The Crags east of Prince Gable are a natural geological formation--a maze of caves and high-walled canyons that would make a veteran desert guide's head spin. So it should thus be unsurprising to learn that the Crags are the home of one of the most famous rover gangs ever known, the Desert Wolves.

The Wolves were formed before the War, when a Southern gear commander and most of his men deserted into the desert. They had just about enough of stuffed shirts telling them when and how to die. They turned into a family of two hundred souls, robbing from the caravans and homesteads in the area. You know how it is with rovers, robbing from the rich, and giving to the poor. Hardly. But the Wolves at least had the respect of the locals, after they helped liberate Prince Gable from the CEF at the end of the War. Nasty business, that fight. The Earthers had all but lost, and they knew it. It made them bitter, and they fought a bitter, dirty street brawl in Prince Gable.

Politics aside, the Wolves went back to living in the Crags. They liked it that way, and the city folk tolerated their thieving, so long as no one got killed and it didn't get out of hand. Which brings us to a small abandoned pig farm in one of the canyons in some forgotten corner of the Crags. The house and the main farm were built on a terrace in the cliff-side, and the former occupants had taken to farming the way bricks take to flying. On occasion, the adventurous or the amourous would find the place and make temporary use of it, but no one ever bothered to look into the cave that was behind the farmhouse. That is, until a drunk War veteran named Ennik crashed through the back door of the place and stumbled into the cave in a daze. He woke up face down in a dried up pig pen just inside the cave entrance.

"Uhhh..." Ennik gripped his head in pain and slowly sat up. A brief exploration turned up no one next to him. He patted down his shirt pockets and found a cigarette he had rolled the previous night that had survived the journey from the Wolves' camp to this very cave. He located his lighter and lit the cigarette. He was about to flick the lighter closed, when he saw the illumniated wreck of a Hunter heavy gear in the far corner of the pen.

Blind luck. That's how Ennik Kazzov found his gear. Now, to be fair, the machine was in a bad state. Someone had cannibalized it for parts, and not much of the gear that couldn't be carried out of the cave was left. Though blind luck might have dropped the wreck in Ennik's lap, credit must go to where credit is due. Ennik had discovered in himself some time ago a certain disposition towards machines. He could fix near anything, and build a few things just by mashing the right pieces together. It was an uncanny talent, though, it must be conceded, somewhat inconsistent. Well, through a series of tragic events which will not be the subject of a digression at this time, Ennik was a member of the Desert Wolves. He earned his keep fixing and building things even when the parts weren't plentiful. All Ennik got out of this standing arrangement, aside from food and shelter, was as much rot-gut as his liver could tolerate, and the priviledge of being left alone by the rest of humanity. This suited Ennik just fine.

The Hunter changed things. He didn't realize it at the time, but Ennik made the restoration of the old war machine his new priority, and he set to the mission with a zeal he did not previously know he possessed. Weeks passed, and before long, Ennik started accompanying the Wolves' raiding parties in order to procure parts. Two cycles of hard work, haggling, scrounging, stealing and functional alcoholism finally paid off when Ennik drove the Hunter into the Wolves' main camp in the Crags.

"Ennik Kazzov, where did you get this gear?" Davood "Grey Cub" Mor, the young leader of the Desert Wolves was bemused. His trusted advisors were already circling the gear, inspecting it, while Ennik sat on the foot armour plate. A small crowd of curious and amazed onlookers was gathering.

"Found it in a cave, fixed it. Named it 'Pig Pen', chief," Ennik refrained from spitting. As the crowd gathered, he grew more nervous.

"You fixed this gear on your own?"

"Yep." A collective gasp escaped the crowd.

"And you bring it here now? To what end?" Davood was no fool, but he figured Ennik deserved the attention and the honours.

"Well, uh..." Ennik faltered. He knew what he wanted, but truth was, the Desert Wolves had taken him in, he had been living with these folks for a while, and, despite that, he barely knew them. Mostly, they brought things for him to fix, he fixed them, and he otherwise kept his distance. That might have been fine for a drunk tinker, but the Hunter had put something back in Ennik that he had lost. Problem was, the costs of living like a reprobate on the fringes of this society were only now becoming painfully clear to the man. He was asking the Desert Wolves to trust him, and he knew he was asking a lot.

One of Grey Cub's advisors nodded his approval at Mor, "the gear is functional."

Davood smiled, as the crowd began applauding and howling as was their custom. Only thing was, Ennik was crestfallen. He watched Grey Cub and his men walk out of the crowd, and watched his chance slipping away from him.

Now, Ennik had been through a whole mess during the War, and it had made him crawl up into a whiskey bottle and turn inward. So when he called out "Wait, Chief! Stop!", it wasn't the Ennik that the Desert Wolves knew who was doing the ordering. It was the Ennik who had seen too much, seen too many men lose their all their chances, and who knew that this was going to be his only moment to put control of his own destiny back in his own two hands.

Davood turned, stone-faced. His advisors were all glaring and sneering at Ennik. The crowd had suddenly grown very quiet. "Is there a problem, Ennik?" Grey Cub asked.

"Yeah, just one." Ennik spat, his hands on his hips, "I didn't come here with this here Hunter as a donation."


"I came here to become a Desert Wolf pilot."

Now, those of you who've been paying attention to the rough and tumble world of Badlands gear dueling will know that the Desert Wolves rover gang are responsible for producing one of the finest duelists on the planet of Terranova: Antoni "Solitaire" Mor, Davood's older half-brother. At this juncture, Antoni was still living in the Crags, and hadn't yet made the decision to leave the Wolves and make the pilgrimage to Khayr ad-Din to become the reigning champion. Instead, he was brooding like he was wont to do back then, and running the Desert Wolves' gear cadre. Antoni hand-picked every pilot by means of putting them behind the controls of their gear of choice, and then subjecting them to a very thorough beating.

"I see," Davood gave Ennik an appraising look, "you fought in the War. Did you ever drive a gear?"


"If Solitaire decides you're not pilot material, will you still stay in the Wolves?"

Ennik hadn't considered leaving the Wolves. Where else would he go? "Yes, chief."

Davood nodded, solemnly. He had nothing to lose. Ennik had just pushed all his chips and his new Hunter into the pot. When Antoni arrived, he and Davood had a little heart-to-heart about the Hunter and its erstwhile pilot. He looked over the gear, all stern and angry, as if Ennik hadn't actually worked a miracle in that cave. After a few moments, he turned to Ennik, unable to find any real fault in the patch-work repair job. But there was still the matter of Ennik actually driving the warhorse. There had been whispers of what Ennik had seen and done during the War. Antoni was intrigued.

Now, I don't need to tell you that Ennik lost that duel to Antoni. And how.

But Ennik got to join the Desert Wolves as a gear pilot.

Heavy Gear Roleplaying Game


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