Friday, May 6, 2011

Earning His Stripes

18 Autumn, TN1922

The gear stood, squat and blocky in the little cranny of the motor pool. Ennik liked it back there, where he could curl up between the back foot armour housing and the SMS wheel. He could hide in the shadows, nursing a bottle when things got too tough. Pig Pen was always a discreet drinking companion, never moving to give away Ennik's hiding spot, never complaining about the vile smoke from Ennik's cigarettes. Only this time, as the gear's sensor eye gleamed in quiet recognition of its pilot, Ennik was standing in front of the gear, bottle in one hand, bucket of black paint in the other. He took a swig from his bottle.

"Ain't ever done this before," he explained. "In the War, if we got our hands on a gear, it was for a specific mission. You know how it is. So I never thought twice about it."

Pig Pen stood silently, and slowly extended its right arm, which carried the fragmentation cannon in its manipulator.

"Yeah, well, look. Don't get so eager. This ain't the War. In fact, that whole thing in Haven was a mistake. The locals are gonna be even more riled up than they were before. I don't mind too much that those mercs in the gears bought it, but if any of them townies got killed," Ennik took a drink, "you know the sherrif'll be out for blood again. Not that I blame him."

Ennik looked Pig Pen over. There were a couple of paint scratches from the mortar barrage that came down on them when they were leaving Haven, but otherwise gear and pilot got away clean. He had only fired a single shot during last night's raid. Ennik had Pig Pen crouched down below a low ridge next to the road, running on battery power. It was a trick he learned during the War. Unless they ping with active scanners, they won't find a gear running on battery power. And since no one wants to ping with active scanners until the lead starts flying, battery power is a good way to run an ambush in a gear. The sandstorm only gave him extra cover. The Hunter came rolling down the road looking to flank the main group, pretty as you please, and Ennik popped up and put a frag round right through the cockpit at point blank range.

It wasn`t his first kill, but it was his first with Pig Pen. Antoni, Mustafa, and the other pilots on the raid had congratulated him on their return to the Den, but Ennik wasn`t so sure he wanted the accolades. Ennik knew that hitting Haven was a bad idea the moment Lukas suggested it to Antoni. Still, it was Ennik who came up with the idea of running the raid through the sandstorm.

"Good thing too," Ennik took another swig, "because the townies had it all set up for us. They just didn't expect us to come until after the storm."

Ennik looked at his gear. He knew what the other pilots wanted. He knew that it was tradition, and he knew that he was supposed to be a part of this family. All the other gear pilots did it. It didn't matter if the War was over. Ennik stuffed his bottle in his pocket. He reached into the back pocket of his coveralls and produced a paint brush. Pig Pen knelt down a bit, making the frag cannon a little easier to reach.

"I'm only doing this because you and everyone else seems so damned eager, Pig." Ennik whispered, "so here, take a kill stripe. You earned it." He slowly painted a two-inch wide black band around the frag cannon's barrel.

"Now, if you don't mind, I think I'm gonna drink alone tonight, old friend." Ennik patted the gear's manipulator and walked back to his shed.

Heavy Gear Roleplaying Game


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