Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Koreshi Chronicles: Chapter IV - Principles

Special investigator Priti Raja Khahn never made her work personal. Violent crimes were more and more common in Prince Gable, and the homicide cases which fell under the purview of her department increased with the economic prosperity and increased criminal activity that Prince Gable’s prosperity enticed. She knew how to take in every detail of a crime scene without letting the crime go beyond a professional and analytical interest. It was an old survival mechanism and this time it was failing her.

“Priti, I want to know who did this.” Marshal Tourian’s voice trembled with barely controlled rage. He was venting and she knew it, so she ignored him and passed into that abstracted world of details, causality, science and human nature which turned a corpse into a puzzle which she then set about solving.

She was vaguely aware of the other officers around her, the Marshal, the deputies. Beyond them were the ever-prying eyes of the media who had somehow already gotten word of the murder. Still, she focused on the victim, using every gram of concentration to ignore who he was and concentrate on what had happened.


Once word of Jim Sullivan’s death had reached Ennik, he had no choice but to honor the man who had saved his life and close the unfinished chapter of his life he had thought was behind him. Two weeks after he had returned to Prince Gable, Gerry Spiegler offered to buy Ennik a drink. Gerry was a Desert Wolf: a scrounger who busied himself with making contacts and whatever else was needed for Davood in Prince Gable. On this occasion, he was required to pass on a message.

Ennik read the letter once, paused to consider it and took a lighter to it. Once the paper was well lit, he used it in turn to light a cigarette and watched the embers of Davood’s words blacken and pass into oblivion. The Desert Wolves were disavowing Ennik: casting him out and putting a small price on his head.

Gerry drank quietly as Ennik read. Once the ashes had been swept from the bar he laid down a data stick, and with a pat on the back, left Ennik alone. The data Davood provided included some contacts and the name of the investigator working on Jim Sullivan’s murder. It also had what little info Davood had on the Abacus List. Ennik had no problem reconciling the apparent contradiction. He knew that his part in Spiro’s death made him a wanted man; he knew that the relationship between Prince Gable and the Wolves was a delicate one and Davood knew that Ennik didn’t care.

Whatever happened to Ennik, it couldn’t come back and bite the Wolves. So Ennik was cast free. But at the same time, he wasn’t alone. Davood would help him if he could, so long as it didn’t compromise the pack.


He was bigger than she had expected, a little younger too. As he sat, her eyes noted the grease stains, the dirty nails and the calloused fingers of a mechanic. His eyes carried the weight of loss and determination. He was the right man. “Kazzov, I’m special agent Khahn”. Ennik had found her with little difficulty; as the message had indicated, she was the only person in the bar drinking tea.

She offered him a cup which he waived off. Instead, his hands patted about on his person looking for and finding a crumpled pack of cigarettes which he proceeded to put to use. There was a long silence before she finally gave Ennik a sealed brown envelope. He tore it open wordlessly and examined the mug shot of a middle aged man who had seen better days. “Care to tell me what I’m doing here and who this is ma’am?”

“You are here because you have been spending the last 6 weeks investigating Marshal Sullivan’s murder and that is the man who did it.” Ennik couldn’t suppress the emotional response she had provoked. Khahn pretended not to notice and continued. “Sullivan was one of our own. Forensic analysis points to this man being the one who tortured and killed him. I am willing to go to nearly any length to get him. Even so far as to use you. Jim was more than a colleague, he was a friend. I’ve been able to piece together that he was your friend too. I also know that his murder wasn’t random, the interrogation he suffered...” Priti paused a moment as she fought to hold on to her composure. Speaking about Jim and thinking of the victim, she found it hard to separate the gruesome clinical facts of the case from her feelings. “I’m sorry. As I was saying, Jim was investigating something on his own time. As far as I can tell, he had been for some cycles, and given the nature of his death, I suspect those facts are related. Unfortunately, all his personal research is gone. Among his things was a letter to you, I also know you were one of the last people he saw alive. This man,” She said, pointing at the picture while she took a sip of her tea, “is my prime suspect and I can’t find him. He’s got over half a dozen aliases. He’s tied in with mercenaries and probably not in Prince Gable anymore. I looked into you and into what you’ve been doing here. You’re wanted Mr Kazzov. You know this, and yet here you are, so it follows that you want this man as much as I do. I can’t get to him, but I can point you in his direction and maybe, just maybe, you can.”

Ennik butted another cigarette out and after absently fingering for another came to the realisation that his pack was empty. About the same time he also realised that the reason he wasn’t in jail was because the Prince Gable police force was willing to turn a blind eye to his presence and warrant so long as he offered them a chance to settle a personal score. He felt the arrangement to be most equitable.


By mid-TN1923, Ennik had become a reliable man to call on for putting gears down or building them back up as the situation warranted. Being both a competent mechanic and gear pilot, he managed to hold down a steady stream of contracts with the mercenary network operating out of the northern Badlands. Special agent Khahn had told him which outfit to sign up with and how to make contact. After that, his talents and patience allowed him to become a regular asset.

Ennik also spent his time in search of other parts of the puzzle. He was convinced that the Bear had ordered Sullivan’s death. He suspected that his agent in Prince Gable, a woman by the name of Nanda Devi, had orchestrated it. Khahn had not found Sullivan’s trove of personal research on the Abacus List and the Bear, so she could only guess as to why the hired thug had killed him. Ennik had the advantage of having more information and that helped him reconstruct pieces of the bigger picture. He was also helped by Jim’s letter which Ennik managed to decipher as being a code after some time. Thus far, it had not revealed the location of Jim’s data, but Ennik was convinced it was a means to access it.

So Ennik bided his time: he worked jobs, became a better gear pilot and kept his Hunter in repair. When he could afford it, he would buy a little information discreetly. He knew that if he became too obvious, whoever had ordered Sullivan’s death would just as likely order his. After all, Khahn had made it painfully evident how transparent Ennik’s motivations were.

It was during a stint as a mechanic that he overheard some hired muscle discussing work over a bottle of rotgut. Ennik joined seamlessly into the group and kept his ears open, as he always did, trying to learn something of use. Most of these conversations were bluster or tall tales of glory, but on this occasion he heard something which caught his attention. Nanda Devi had put out a contract to track down, capture or kill a fellow by the name of Paeza. Apparently he had run a huge deficit with the Kolson cartel in Wounded Knee at the gambling tables and had sought refuge in Prince Gable.

A little help from the official records Khahn had access to and a favour from Davood’s contacts gave Ennik a clearer picture. He knew that Devi was working for the Kolson. This made sense since Ennik knew she worked for the Bear and Sullivan suspected the Bear was in bed with the Kolson clan. Paeza, however, did not fit the bill of a reckless gambler. He had in fact graduated from one of the North’s most prestigious universities with a degree in Math and another in Computers. Using his resources, Ennik tracked him down before anyone else after the bounty could—only barely.. Ennik saved Paeza’s life and helped him hide with the Wolves.

Oscar Luis Paeza was a number cruncher. The Kolson were indeed after him for his gambling: not because of his losses, but because of his winnings. He had developed a system to crack one of their games and had broken the bank. The Kolson chased him out of Wounded Knee which is when he came to Nanda Devi’s attention. Making contact with him, she claimed she worked with the Kolsons and would smooth things out on his behalf, if he in turn did some more numbers work for her.

Oscar was instructed to hack a sophisticated secure server. He managed to collect some fragments of a larger file and learned that it related to a network of information brokers and ex-CEF officers. He also found Devi’s name in the fragments. His mistake was in trying to use that information against her, hence the contract on his life.

Oscar had lost almost all of the information in his escape, but he had managed to hack Devi’s own computer which was far less secure, and through it he and Ennik found a communication to a merc called Tapper. With a little more research Ennik put a face to the name: it was the man who had killed Sullivan. Ennik knew he couldn’t get Devi to betray the Bear, but he also now knew she had ordered Sullivan’s death. Ennik tracked her down in Prince Gable, killed her, and followed the lead on the merc to Port Arthur.

Meanwhile, Davood managed to broker a deal with the Kolsons on Oscar’s behalf. Oscar would consult for the Kolsons and help them make their game more secure against the very number crunching he had used on them. In exchange, they would take the mark off him and pay him a handsome consulting fee. Oscar was able to set himself up as an independent hacker-for-hire with the help of Ennik’s contacts.


“I’ve got him” Ennik said simply as Priti’s eyes adjusted to the glare of her video Hermes link. As the fog of sleep slowly lifted she recognised who was calling and what he was saying.

“Don’t do anything rash Kazzov” she stammered, trying to reason with the man she had sent on an extra-judicial mission of vengeance and had no way of controlling. Ennik just chuckled to himself and took a drag from his cigarette.

“I’ve just spent the last two cycles tracking this dirty fuck down, wanted by the law, unwanted by my brother Wolves and under constant threat of being found out as a mole, or the next best thing, by the largest independent band of murderous amoral rovers, mercenaries and thieves in the Badlands. And you don’t want me to do anything rash? Special agent lady, if I did anything god-damned rash I’d have been dead a long time ago.”

Special agent Kahn nodded, he was right, she told herself. She had no right to make any demands of him or doubt his resolve or resourcefulness. “OK, Kazzov, so what are you planning to do? I know about Spiro, I know you will kill a man and I know you feel you need to avenge Sullivan.” She was rambling, she had not thought about this moment, when the arrow she had shot into the dark would hit its target. The War was long over and just murdering people in cold blood for revenge flew in the face of everything she stood for as an officer of the law. She could only mock herself bitterly for the moral righteousness she felt now. She had sent Kazzov on his course. She had aided and abetted him for two cycles. She had used him as an implement of revenge. But time had healed the rage she felt when she had found him in Prince Gable. She now felt more strongly than ever that Jim’s killer should stand trial, that his heinous acts be vilified and condemned in the Courts and that his motives be investigated and exposed. It was what Jim would have wanted and it was what she needed for closure. But all this was out of her hands.

“What are you going to do Kazzov? What have you done?” Her voice was resigned, verging on defeat tinged with obvious regret. Ennik’s image flickered as he coolly smiled. He could have held that ambiguous grin a while and made her sweat for her tirade, for her 11th hour bit of self-righteousness after all he had been through. But Ennik was no one’s fool. The day after he met special agent Khan he started looking into her as she had done with him.

“Tapper’s in the trunk of a buggy which is parked in front of the Prince Gable Special Investigations Unit HQ.” Shock registered on Priti’s face, followed by doubt and suspicion. “He’s alive. He’s there right now, special agent Khahn. It’s been good working with you. Nail the fucker in court, and you take care you hear, you take care of your daughter too.”

Kazzov’s image flickered out as the Hermes transmission ended. Priti blinked repeatedly. It was over. She touched the screen and shut it off, her hand then moved right to a frame which she gripped tightly at first then as she looked at the face of Jim Sullivan, more tenderly. Tears welled up; a sense of relief overwhelmed her just as her feelings of loss had threatened to do two cycles before. Kazzov knew about her and Jim, about their daughter. She allowed herself to cry with relief while she lay in bed cradling Jim’s picture. “It’s over,” she repeated to herself.


Ennik sat on his stool in his garage and watched the SNS feed as the court reporter announced the guilty verdict. It had only been a season since Marshal Sullivan’s murderer had been arrested and already his court case was over. The prosecution’s case was airtight: special agent Khahn’s forensic evidence allowed for no doubt whatsoever. The defendant’s determination not to assist in the conspiracy the prosecutor had alleged had further limited his defence.

Ennik shut down the computer terminal as the reporter started analysing the case. He knew that Anadam Tapper had acted on the orders of Nanda Devi. With Devi dead now for over a cycle, he had nothing to bargain with during his trial and the thug had no idea who Devi worked for. It was also clear that Sullivan had revealed nothing, or Tapper would have had some leverage. Ennik had a sure feeling about that too, because if Jim had broken under torture, Ennik would have been dead a long time ago.

Ennik wiped his greasy hands over the thighs of his overalls and reached for a bottle of Trinwood Blue he kept in his drawer. The blue bow was still affixed with wax, the seal on the neck unbroken. He set the bottle and a glass on the work table and thought about everything that had happened in the last two and half cycles. He had caught Tapper, and delivered him to justice in Sullivan’s memory. He had dealt with Devi who was beyond judicial prosecution. He had pieced together a good deal of intel on the Kolson cartel and how the Bear worked with them, but not for them. He had fragments of names of people who were either on the Abacus list or related to it and he knew this all led back to the Bear.

He raised the empty glass, “This one’s for you Jim”, he said aloud and turned the unused glass over and put it down on his work table. After a moment he put it and the unopened bottle away in the drawer. “This isn’t over,” he said quietly to himself, and lit a cigarette. Ennik was no longer driven by the same need for revenge, he had moved past that. He made the emotional distinction and set his feelings aside. Whatever came next would come down to a matter of principles.

Heavy Gear Roleplaying Game


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