Thursday, March 31, 2011

An Unexpscted Trace - Part 8.

Blut was now little more than a howling horror as he blitzed after his attacker. Erael rolled and parried, keeping his defenses up as much as possible. The occasional opening in Blut's attacks allowing for additional reminders of the riot staff's presence. Dizziness began to grip at the mutated beasts' mind, and as angry as it was confusion began to set in. Slashing and rending at the skilled swordsman, something caught at it's eye.

The exit Just there not much further down the hall. A quick crack of the staff sent Blut's head spinning further, but as he turned to retaliate his target spun aside. Erael Rynn appeared to be clutching at his various wounds and trying to flee. Seeing an opportunity, what little cognition left to the former Terran screamed to make for the exit. To be free from this bested Tracer.

In a full run for the doorway, he barely had time to registered a series of clicks and beeps before a chain of bright flashes of light blossomed into life. Concussive shock-waves slammed the mutated fugitive like a pinball down the corridor bouncing from one to the next. With a hard stop, now partially deaf he found himself falling unconscious as blocks of foam engulfed his limbs and torso. The adhesive charges had managed to halt his ricocheted ride and held firm.

Floating up from the shadows MIRV broke the sudden silence. "Looks like the plan worked." Erael removed his hands from what had only been minor wounds, to reveal a remote trigger and a large grin. "Always does, MIRV."

With an unconscious and restrained Blut now safely placed in confinement, MIRV prepared Albatross for lift off. The Comm screen blinked to life displaying a message marked urgent, it's sender; Gideon Coromaur. "What does he want this time," Erael remarked with a sigh. "It says, sir, he requests you for a job," MIRV explained. "Apparently he would like you to escort a Pathenian by the name Ashkar to retrieve an item. The item is described as a unmarked black box measuring 3 inches by 6 inches by 1 inch, whose only distinguishing feature is a single jack port."

Scratching at his chin Erael mused aloud. "Coromaur's jobs are usually interesting." Quickly MIRV interrupted, "I should point out, there is an added warning. Coromaur has a standing condition; no one is to inspect, examine or tamper with the item in any way and it is to be brought to a pre-designated destination for deliver immediately after it's recovery."

Erael Rynn burst into a deep chuckle, and called up the details from the message. "Like I said, always interesting."

But that my friends, Is another story....

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

An Unexpscted Trace - Part 7.

Flesh flowed like melted wax to twist and crawl becoming some mockery of carapace. Hands ripped and tore at clothing and skin as the wove their way into razor edged claws snapping in the air. Nose and mouth fused and flowed out forming a sharp beak like face only to highlight a pair of bright yellow eyes. Oliver Blut had managed to mutate himself with his experiments, the result of his own dabbling in research he barely comprehended. And now, here he stood, a travesty before nature and order, turning to face the heroic hunter in his midst.

At once he charged, his claws snapping for any purchase of exposed flesh they could reach. Erael's blade darted and spun a flurry of blocks and deflecting strikes. His left hand all the while deploying his flash barrier, directing it to keep away what his blade could not. For long moments they danced, circling the lab fighting for ground. Erael bidding his time, kept his defenses strong and patiently withdrew as his opponent surged forward.

The mutated menace that had been Blut pressed the attack. Launching over a counter he lunged with his beak while adding both claws to the frenzied melee. His right tore at flesh, rending skin but meeting stern resistance. Beneath bloody skin a composite alloy of thin plates repelled the strike from penetrating Erael. With a chuckle, Erael Rynn rolled aside and taunted his quarry. "Nature has a way of producing what is needed far better than any meddling a meager researcher might attempt."

Irritated by the grinning and defiant Tracer, Blut moved to redouble his attack. Determined he would shred this arrogant individual that constantly refused to see a superior form when it stood in front of him. Perhaps he would experiment on his mutilated corpse if enough remained after he was through.

Preparing for the renewed assault, Erael deactivated his flash barrier and drew his Riot Staff, extending only one end. Standing firm he held his brightly pulsating blade in one hand and in the other the Riot Staff crackled and hummed, ready to face the mutated monster. Once more he began his defense, his blade a whirlwind. His staff lashing out to strike exposed areas between attacks, each time it's crack reinforced by a loud zap.

Each time the staff discharged  the growing pain of it irritated Blut. Every sting of shock tore at his nerves and pushed him further and further into instinctive frenzy. He would crush this annoying little pest. His new claws demanded more flesh and his beak yearned to feast on gore. Delight filled him as Erael began backing out the door, a look of desperation starting to form on his face.

Erael Rynn had begun to turn defense into retreat. And Blut reveled in the thrill of having turned hunter into hunted.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

An Unexpscted Trace - Part 6.

Standing alone in the center of a mostly desolate lab was a short thin little man, squinting at a small mini-com as he reviewed notes. His ruffled short cropped hair and current surroundings lent him the aura of some eccentric scientist instead of that of a mundane researcher. As Oliver Blut reached for a Nano-Med injector MIRV moved into position to begin Erael's plan. 

Standing in the open doorway, facing the would be splicer was a tall and regal Vel-Teh with drawn blade in hand. In a clear loud tone he called out to Blut; "En guard." Startled, Blut spun about, injector still in hand. His eyes were burning with madness as his lips curled into a sneer.

"Fool," he spat. "Your too late to stop me, especially with something as pathetic as that. You should never have come to face someone like me, alone." Laughing Blut moved to bring the injector up to himself. At once movement registered out of the corner of his eye as Erael slid in front of him. His blade ratcheted to the side, it's heavy broad side slapped Blut's forearm aside. Startled Blut tried to remain his grip as Erael's other hand shot up before his face with fingers spread forward. In a flash of translucent green a small disk of light appeared and struck Blut hard in the face sending his head spinning from the blow.

A casual step back and a short motion, and Erael jerked his blade, slicing the injector in two. In the sudden onslaught Blut hadn't noticed the image from the door way fade as MIRV deactivated his holo-projector. Now starring face to face with a skilled swordsman, Blut found himself dazed, unable to clearly think. Pulsating edges of a blade danced around in front of him now held in two hands.

Just as his mind seemed to be clearing those hands twisted slightly on their grip and those pulsating edges seemed to flash. Blindly Blut stumbled back, anger and frustration filling him. "You really should have listened to the warning," declared the tactical tracer. Shifting his stance he moved to maintain a defensive position, awaiting what he already predicted would be the rogue researchers next move.

“Such ignorance,” Blut yelled. “Your laws mean nothing to me, I am beyond them. Just as I am beyond you.”

Monday, March 28, 2011

An Unexpscted Trace - Part 5.

The research post Hybern had been established on an isolated rocky moon, and hadn't seen resident personnel in years. It's structure was mostly intact but already some of the facilities systems and equipment had begun to be salvaged or re-purposed. According to MIRV some power remained and a few minor systems but most of the more valuable tech, like security and communications, had already been gutted.

Patiently Erael positioned Albatross just out of site of the facility and monitored it for any sign of alert. "MIRV, give me a sweep of the facility, and keep me informed of Blut's location." Out of habit he double checked his equipment making sure everything was in order. His blade was always at the ready, never needing ammunition or power, and unaffected by environment. It would not jam or misfire, and because of that Erael prized it. Placed in his sleeve his Riot Staff was still collapsed and stored. At his belt he had added an assortment of grenades and charges, part of his plan. Erael prided himself on detail and as a contingency decided to set a perimeter, covering all the possible escape avenues his quarry might pursue. 

Dark sky and a sharp wind greeted the Tracer and his companion as they made their way off of Albatross. With a wary eye the professional pair approached the silent facility. Under the starry night sky shadows lent themselves to the featureless form of the mothballed post. And as they crept up through the silence no alarm greeted them, no motion betrayed their detection.

Entering Hybern, MIRV's internal sensors detected a single other biological presence in an inner lab. It took Erael only minutes to implement his strategy and lay a pattern of focal and adhesive charges tactically along corridors. As he worked he noted stale air barely circulated, Hybern's scrubbers must not be nearly as efficient as they used to. And if that was the case, how had Blut managed to stay here for very long?

With his pieces in place Erael Rynn drew his blade and prepared to face his quarry. "You clear on the plan MIRV?"
"Always am, sir," the orbiting orb replied.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

An Unexpscted Trace - Part 4.

Thoughts raced through Erael's brain as he made his way back to a shimmer-cloaked Albatross. Not needing to await the command MIRV transmitted the appropriate series of authentication protocols that would permit the vessel to disengage it's security procedure. Without a break in stride, Erael passed right through the wall of force the ship had deployed only a fraction of a second after it had deactivated. Purpose drove him as he reached to open the hatch, his mind already considering various approaches to tracing this quarry.

Once on board, Erael Rynn made his way immediately to his chart table, calling up all current data on the local systems. "MIRV, prep the ship and make for orbit." The trace had begun, and Erael was already letting himself get lost in it. "And give me a précis compiled on all data regarding the quarry immediately." Like clockwork, MIRV initiated the familiar routine and had the ship ready and on it’s way into orbit in mere minutes. A scan of all data presented by the colonies magistrate coupled with a few accesses of some public and private nodes and MIRV had plenty of information to formulate an effective précis on their subject.

Deep in careful examination of the charts before him, Erael surprised his companion when he broke the silence. Tapping to bring up more detail on an area, the silent seeker queried; “MIRV, the précis I asked for?” MIRV’s processor organized and compiled the data as fast as it could, sorting and grouping various reports and records into a concise overview. After a few moments the little oracle orb responded. “Apologies, sir, it appears local site records for research post Grenier were destroyed. I was forced to access other nodes to gather the required data.”

Erael’s full attention turned it’s focus to MIRV, awaiting the flow of information that would help him gather an idea of what he was tracing. He never traced anything blindly, and in that regard MIRV had long ago proven valuable. A green beam of light shot out of MIRV and formed itself into a holographic display of a man that rotated and changed views. “The fugitive, one Oliver Blut, stands 5 feet 4 inches and weights approximately 108 pounds. His most recent post was a research facility named Grenier, where he preformed low level functions. Blut has been cited numerous times for disregard of ethical protocol and issues with coworkers. He is in his mid 30’s and has never received a promotion, instead he has been shuffled about several locations until landing at Grenier 3 months ago. It is believed he may have accidentally stumbled upon some research on genetic splicing that had been logged with an improper security level. After unusual activity was reported an official an investigation was launched that discovered a handful of local disappearances resulting in unethical experimentation on unwilling civilians. While attempting to apprehend Blut the rogue researcher endeavored to destroy site records that led to the facilities destruction and his escape.”

“List known former posts Blut was stationed, and narrow to include those no longer active.” An idea had sprang to Erael’s mind; if this researcher was anti-social and unethical he may run to a familiar place, isolated, but one where he could continue experimenting. If that was the case, it would only be a matter of time before he would return to expand upon his experiments with fresh subjects. 

“Of the known posts there are 3 that match criteria. However, 2 are already near completion on salvaging and the other, one Hybern has only had an initial decommissioning about a month ago. No activity on site since. It is 30 light-minutes from our present location.” As MIRV completed his answer, Erael was already calling up a course projection for Hybern.

His prismatic eyes were piercingly hawk like as they turned back up to look at MIRV. “It will take any other vessel at least 10 hours to make that, minimum and by then, if he has received wind of it, Blut could be gone again. We can make that in 5.”

“MIRV, set course for Hybern, and give me a layout and full schematics of the facility to review in route. I have plans to prepare.”

Saturday, March 26, 2011

An Unexpscted Trace - Part 3.

As predicted Erael Rynn's ship, Albatross, had managed to return them to the burgeoning colony. A clear testament to Vel-Teh engineering and navigation, Albatross had managed to travel twice the distance any other vessel could have managed. And did it in half the time. Yet setting parked near the infant colony marked it's sleek and elegant profile as out of place, alien even. A stark contrast from dirt, mud and rough scaffolds framing makeshift structures.

With care Collins was placed into restraints that bound his limbs and limited his motion. It wouldn’t do to have apprehended his quarry only for last minute escape attempts or violence. Collins however had become morose and gravely depressed. He didn’t speak a word as preparations were made to present him to the waiting hands of colony officials. Hands he was certain that held a waiting death sentence.

Stepping out of the ship, the colony’s sun glared down trying to blind this strange new figure beneath it’s domain. Workers all around struggled under it’s heat toiling about at their tasks. But the presence of a an enigmatic stranger, with his curious markings was a foreign enough site for almost everyone to halt and stare.

MIRV came to a stop levitating behind his master just above a shoulder. Instantly Erael marked his presence and with a slow careful eye he took in everything around him. “MIRV, activate ship security protocol Alpha Prime. Just to be safe.”

One quick beep and the small droid confirmed the order. “Acknowledged, Albatross shields powered and ready to deploy as we clear the perimeter, sir.” Erael made a slight nod and then, grasping his quarry from behind began to lead him towards the local magistrate quarters. Still watching, their duties an absent memory, colonist set in awe as the vessel before them flashed now surrounded by a translucent curtain of force. Quickly they returned to their duties, hoping not to catch the stranger’s eye.

Navigating through the locals proved easy enough, most seemed to instinctively fear this unusual newcomer. Weather it was his odd markings or the fact he was armed didn’t matter. Erael easily made it to the Magistrate’s without incident. Entering he found the short portly Magistrate huddled behind his desk pouring a drink.

“Ah, Collins!” The Magistrate exclaimed, startled by the sudden entrance. “You managed to locate our wayward young friend, and so fast. Truly you are a... er, man of your word. A credit to your profession!” Chuckling the local bureaucrat rummaged through his desk and retrieved a small bag that he presented with a clink to the Tracer’s hand.  Curiously Erael pocketed the bag without examination. “You aren’t going to confirm the amount is correct?” The magistrate inquired, his brow furrowed with concern.

“If it isn’t, I will be back.” Erael stated, a hand on his signature weapon and the other still holding a restrained Collins. “As promised one fugitive colonist, returned.” Carefully Erael removed the restraints, and turned to face the magistrate once more. “Do with him what you will, our business is concluded.”

Interrupting, the oversized official attempted to seize Erael’s attention. “You don’t care to know his fate?” Collins’ own face twisted at the strange tone present. “Cause it is very fortunate that you returned him in good health, otherwise...” It was Erael’s turn to interrupt, “Not my affair, you paid me to bring him in, my part is done. Now unless you have further business, I will be on my way.”

“Actually, about that.” The magistrates voice quivered as he hesitated. “There is another matter that begs attention.” His demeanor shifted as he shuffled through papers to present a recent notice. “It, ahem, seems a nearby system has posted notice of a local researcher gone rogue. He, ah, he is wanted from violating laws concerning genetic tampering and experiment upon unwilling civilians and remains at large.” Large eyes now peered up at Erael Rynn, eyes filled with terror. “Here is the information, and the reward is, substantial. Please, you have to catch this monster before he makes his way here. There is no telling what he might do.”

Not needing a moment of thought, Erael could see the challenge that was staring at him. Could feel the thrill of curiosity mixing with the opportunity to test himself against this new mind. The reward never even crossed his mind. “He is as good as caught. Trust me.”

Friday, March 25, 2011

An Unexpscted Trace - Part 2.

The walk to the confinement area was never a long one, but as Erael's pace settled into it's familiar clanky rhythm against the deck plates it afforded him a few precious moments. Moments he always used to review his quarry and the details of their capture. It helped him stay sharp and consider possible angles his captives might try.

Collins' capture hadn't been all that complicated as most go. Erael had traced him down to a back-water hub that served as the nearest thing to a space port it could manage. Collins had managed to beg and sometimes stow aboard various freight runners and cargo vessels in his attempt to elude capture. But when Erael found him he was penniless and starving. The young fugitive didn't even attempt to put up a fight, or even try to run. Not that he could have, Erael had already established an active perimeter of contingency traps and  blocked exists. So what did the young Terran on run from a nameless colony, barely even beginning to implement terraforming, have planed?

Erael came to a precisely timed stop in his stride to stand a few feet from a thick pair of blast doors that remained sealed. "MIRV, deactivate security doors on confinement, but maintain inner force barriers." Even with the security doors open, inner shielded barriers of solid force prevented anyone from entering into the area or from leaving it. Not even a fusion torch could breach it's barriers. Erael knew, he had tested them himself to ensure it. This way his captives at least had the feeling of being able to attempt their desperate gambits but as many soon learned, Erael Rynn was always in control, and always a step ahead.

With a his of air the doors slid apart to reveal a small chamber that was easily capable of housing close to a dozen fugitives. At present however only one graced it’s confines, a single thin and haggard young man with scruffy blonde hair and dirt-stained tan skin. Collins was easily only a couple inches shorter than Erael but the tired Terran had to be at least 50 pounds lighter. The harsh life of a colonist hadn’t been too kind to him, and coupled with malnutrition from his time on the run had worn the young man down.

“MIRV, recall profile of one Collins, case number 5234-b. Cross reference with anything our fugitive says and alert me.” Erael always like to use this procedure to let his captives know that if they tried to lie, he would know. It was best, he thought, to be blatantly up front. They were caught, and he would not allow any conceived notions that he would be a push over, even if he often used non-lethal force. After a short pause, Erael looked the fugitive in the eyes, “alright Collins, go ahead.”

Nervously Collins fiddled with his fingers, his eyes darting around, unable to conceal fear. “You have to believe me, I never did it. See, I had just arrived a couple months back and shortly after I lost my wife and our newborn infant. We we’re trying to make a start and thought joining the colony would allow us to not only do that but also have a hand in building not just home but something more. Something we would know our kids and grandkids could live, and grow to add to and appreciate what we had started for them.” Collins paused to repress tears and then shook his head, trying to continue. “But without them, well I got behind, debts mounted and I started to isolate myself. When the supply depot was destroyed, they immediately presumed it had been robbed and that I must have been a part of it. They cited my debts and less than friendly demeanor and before I knew it everyone was hunting me. I barely made it off world. Please, you have to believe me. If you take me back there I am a dead man, they already decided it.”

Not completely heartless, Erael measured a momentary pause, then broke the silence. “Sorry, Collins, none of my affair. What goes on between you and them is just that; between you and them. My job is to bring you in and I’ll do just that. You might want to get yourself ready, we should be back to your colony site within a few hours.”

Jumping from his seat Collins exploded; “that’s impossible! It should take most of a day, or more to make it back!”

“Not for me.” Erael replied as he turned back to face MIRV. “Make the preparations MIRV, let’s shut these doors and get back to work.” After the doors were safely closed again, the Vel-Teh tracer looked up at his floating friend. “He never lied did he?”

“No, sir. He did not. According to all records and accounts he told the truth as best we can tell.”

“Alright, it’s their business. Let’s leave to them to sort it out.”

Thursday, March 24, 2011

An Unexpscted Trace

A dim glow illuminated the cabin, it source a table-sized display covered in high detailed star charts and maps. It was riddled with quasars and nebulae, vast segments of it highlighted with complex notes. And yet, still there were gaps, regions left unexplored, entire systems unknown.

Studying the complex array of information, Erael Rynn could always feel the old familiar tug at his heart. The desire to wander and explore. Raw curiosity begged him to discover, to know just what was out there and why it was the way it was. His six-foot tall frame bent over the display, subtly shifting prism-like eyes taking in every detail before him. A techno-organic patchwork of chrome began at his left hand and worked it’s way up his forearm ending in faint blue circuit-like traces that etched their way up his flesh to end around his eye and left side of his face.

Considered young, by Vel-Teh standards Erael Rynn had already begun the process of adaptation that their natural techno-organic symbionts provided them. The process often was known to take decades as it manifested, differing greatly for each Vel-Teh in it's form and effect. The outcome however was always the same; the Vel-Teh gradually changed, becoming hybrid being of natural cybernetics and flesh. Often developing based on various environmental factors and situations in order to help preserve the Vel-Teh. Erael however had not only started his own development at an early age, but also had radically chosen a different lifestyle than many of his forbearers. A fact that at present distracted him from the wanderlust that called to him.

Floating through the air a small metallic orb came to rest beside Erael, levitating just above his head. It's familiar synthetic voice sprang to life, a product of on-board components common among oracle droids. "Sorry to interrupt, sir. It's the fugitive, Collins, he still insists that he must speak with you.'"

Slowly Erael turned, feeling his long intricate braid of silver-threaded hair brush against as the motion caused it to sway. With a sigh of reluctance, he replied to the metallic messenger.  "Very well MIRV, let's go listen as he tries to regale us into releasing him." The little orb easily began it's course to return itself to the confinement area. Erael chuckled quietly to himself, realizing just how ironic it seemed. He could easily recall so long ago when he acquired a simple little oracle droid marked as a mobile intelligence and reference vessel  and now it can become MIRV, his constant levitating  and only companion.

"Well, let's go hear a caged bird sing." Not his first time bringing in a fugitive Erael was well aware that a caged captive is a dangerous and desperate beast. One that is terrified of what their deliver might entail and willing to do anything to avoid it. And as usual, Erael Rynn was already thinking a few moves ahead. A single pause and he picked up a collapsed Riot Staff and stored it in a sleeve sheath on his forearm. He often employed the simple weapon as a means of disabling foes, that was one trait common to his people that he never completely shook. Vel-Teh as a whole are generally a quite peaceful and non-aggressive race. But Erael Rynn was still a different breed, and as such next retrieved his favored tool of trade. A 2 foot long blade that was both thick and broad with an extended handle. It's very edge pulsed with a blue-white glow common among it's venerable cousin the pulse blade. Reverently Erael added it to his hip and took to follow MIRV.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Primer - Uraor.

The Uraor have become known throughout the vast reaches of known space as a savage and barbaric horde. Their very presence is often enough to strike fear in most sane minds. For the Uraor culture, and their very physiology have culminated in a race that is both hardy and fast-populating.

Uraor females are capable of having as many as 3-4 births on average in any given year. Some have been known to be able to have as many as 5-6! Generally born singularly, an Uraor infant is quite large compared to other races, and develops at an exceptional rate. By age 10-11 an Uraor child is considered full grown and allowed to undergo a rite of maturity. Males must face their fathers in a combat, to prove their blood is pure from weakness and that they possess the strength necessary to survive and be a valuable addition to their clan. If they can best their father, then they are granted the status as an adult and permitted to carry the clan name. However should they kill their father in the challenge then all their father’s glory and renown is passed to them, to carry the remainder of their days.

Females reaching maturity also must undergo a brutal rite. Elder females of the clan gather for the ceremony, and as a group assault the young Uraor with various implements to prepare her physically for the hardship that is mating and birthing in Uraor society. If male or female fails their rites, then they are cast out in exile. Without clan name, they are left to wander as an eternal child all their days.

Once declared an adult, new males and females are placed together for coupling. In order to pair up with a mate Uraor fight each other, male and female in order to find their match. A female that puts up the most fight against a given male, including preventing him from mating with her will become bonded to that male. Once bonded the two remain together the rest of their days. For the rest of their days even mated the two are destined to fight, keeping each other strong and helping to ensure weakness does not enter their bloodline.

Known as well for their bodies natural rapid healing the Uraor highly prize scars. A scarred Uraor is considered by not only his clan but others as well as highly honored and respected champion. Each scar is a testament to a mighty foe that has been bested but also as proof of their opponents strength. It takes a feat to wound an Uraor itself, but to cause such damage that their fast healing doesn’t erase the mark is something else entirely.

Yet of everything known about the Uraor, and all that is not, no written records exist. There is no written accounts by the Uraor or even an Uraor script. In there culture there is no concept or need for written records. All clan knowledge is shared by means of an Oral tradition. Tales worthy of memory are told to other clan-mates and handed down to each new member. It is this oral tradition that has kept every story alive from generation to generation. Considering the average Uraor lives only 30-40 years with rare few ever reaching 50, this is a marvel few other races can claim.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Nameless Night - Part 5.

An angry cry was borne on the wind to assault Nox’s ears, yet the ground itself held no sign of an approach.  Behind him, fast approaching, a small craft rode a blanket of air with a small four man squad standing on it. Each one wore sealed suits of armor, and held large rifles trained at Nox. At the front a single figure trained a mounted weapon at Nox, waiting to enter it’s range.

A stocky figure in blue armor pointed out to the form of a lone Uraor walking away from a massive conflict. Was this one off to raise more of these beasts to arms? Or perhaps this single coward was fleeing in hopes of survival. Barking into his armor’s comm-link the blue-clad man commented to his fellows. “Seems we missed one. Let’s pick it up,” nodding he motioned to his left. A slight squad-mate clad in green and grey returned his nod. “You give him a thorough scan, I want to know what this one is up to. Might be of value and might be we’ll need to deal with him like the rest.”

Tapping the shoulder of a black and purple armored gunner, he continued. “You hear me, just drop him first. We need info before we decide what to do with this one.” In response to the order the gunner reached over and adjusted his weapon, shaking his head as he did.

Closing into range the gunner eagerly squeezed at his trigger, and the moment he could he fired off three quick bursts. Each one struck true, finding Nox’s back and driving him to the ground, momentarily stunned. Rolling over he met the mirrored face plate of a slight green and grey armor that had just jumped down to land crouching by him.

It bent over him, as if to study him. Nox could feel a strange pull from the stranger as it tried to probe at his mind with it’s psionic energies. Unfortunately, his psionic probe met with what all Uraor posses, a gaping empty void. Something about Uraor physiology left them devoid of all psi, and as such, they tended to cause psi to drain right out of those around them. Like a black hole draws in light.

As Nox’s head began to clear, it seemed to him that this stranger’s very strength was ebbing out of him. These weak cowards were covered in shells in some fear that they might be harmed. Not a one even held a weapon to stand against a foe to it’s face. Thunder rolled within Nox’s chest, and he found rage welling up. Even if he was a child, these before him held the standing of infants to him. Rising to stand the frail form before him tried in vain to manifest some strange wall of light, only to watch it flicker and fade as it’s psi trickled away. Fury fought to blind Nox, insult ignited his blood. This was what had dared to challenge the Uraor?

Excitement filled his arms with fresh strength as Nox grasped the figure before him as he pulled it’s top from it’s middle and flung the pieces aside like discarded waste. A roar to rival his father flung from his mouth as he charged forward, blasts flying all around him. Some struck him, knocking him off course, but not before another fell. It’s face plate a crumpled heap.

It took a massive burst at point blank range from the gunner and blue clad foe to rebuff the assault of Nox. Quickly the two worked to restrain their catch, all the while keeping weapons trained on the brutal barbarian. As their adrenaline died down and pulses slowed, greed overrode the desire for vengeance.

“Cassius would pay handsomely for such a specimen for his arena.”

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Nameless Night - Part 4.

As was the tradition, not one single Uraor was allowed to meet eyes with Nox. He stood in the lengthening shadow of twilight, alone as each and everyone belonging to the clan he would now never be a part of left. The prospect of everlasting shame was mercilessly driven home as he realized how he had almost bested a champion, only to allow weakness to cripple him.

Strength left his body as he tried to gather himself to leave. He tried to retrieve his stone edge but gathering his portarre proved too much. Nox looked around one last time at the emptiness around him that only minutes ago was filled with thousands. In slow shuffling gait he began his walk up the ridge to leave the clan. He hoped that even weak he could be out of sight before the moon fell from the sky, to spare the clan the sight of his shame.

Cresting the ridge a bizarre sight waited for the eternal youth. Nox had walked straight into the landing of some foreign ships. At least a half dozen black and chrome hulls purred down to land softly on the barren rock. Watching Nox saw the ship’s occupants one by one exiting as they donned armor and loaded weapons.

Anger flashed bright crimson in Nox’s vision. These cowards were weak, they dared to come here, to do dis-honorable combat with the mighty and proud Uraor? What manner of pathetic warrior would need some metal skin to protect him? What glory could there be in using such disgraceful weapons to strike an honorable foe from afar?

“I must call the clan to arms!” Nox thought, right before memory crashed down on him. His stomach turned, glory and honor of battle against such cowardly foes was no place for a child. He had shamed Lygo and Luna enough this night, to return crying of invaders would be an insult to the clan. They did not need his warning to deal with this threat, just as his weakness was not needed. 

Lamenting he could not stand to see glory against this foe, Nox turned to present his back to them. And traveled onward, the least he could do was remove his stain upon their honor so that they might shine brightly in the battle ahead. It wasn’t long before he heard explosions that shook the ground beneath him. Strange lights filled the sky, and with heavy heart Nox kept his back to them and continued.

A child is too weak to fight. He had proven that.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Nameless Night - Part 3.

Every muscle in his formidable frame flexed and fought against Nox’s firm grip. Lygo’s own force seemed to be working against him, like a lever his struggle only furthered the strain on his neck. Clever, he thought, it was a very clever move on his son’s part. Could it be that his son’s honor would now out-strip his own? To die at the hands of Nox, perhaps the only child in his eyes worthy of surpassing him This would be a very proud death for Lygo Luna.

Heat swelled within Nox, like lava coursing through his veins. This was the meaning of life, this was the sole thrill that signified superiority and purpose. And here he was on the verge of earning his place alongside his father, when an icy spark knifed it’s way into his skull. He was about to slay the one person he and all his clan looked to. Who was he to topple Lygo the legend of Luna? And if he did what dishonor would he bring the clan? Nox could never match his father’s strength. Speed and cunning could never bring the honor Lygo had.

What am I doing, Nox thought, his resolve crumbling like gravel. I can’t kill my father, he thought even as he felt his right hand working again. Feigning a weakening grip and loose footing Nox gave his father the one slim opening he was sure that would be all Lygo would need.

Nox was prepared for his father’s hammer hard hands, the impact jarred him hard enough to send him to the ground. Even the fresh pain didn’t surprise him but the gaze of his father tore through his guts worse than any goring he could imagine. Shame froze him in place, extinguishing the thrill that fueled him only seconds ago.  Exile would be a blessing to escape the knowledge of what Lygo’s eyes proclaimed.

Clouds cloaked the moon from view, and like it the clan itself turned from the spectacle before them. Lygo, his pride wounded mortally, wailed forth a painful bellow. His head held low, duty still required speech. Resigned, Lygo forced his voice from his throat. “Nox, you have failed. You have not the strength for manhood. The honor of death is denied you, as is the clan name. Go now, leave us eternal child bereft of name.”

And with that, Lygo himself turned to present his back. His shoulders low with grief, mourning the introduction of weakness into his bloodline.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Nameless Night - Part 2.

A single black cybernetic hand was held above Lygo’s head, and in that instant it seemed even the wind was forced to fear his father. Nothing moved, no sound could be heard. It was as if all of creation bowed to his father’s brutal majesty.

Nox took in the moment, all around him were thousands of what he hoped would soon be his clan. Immediately he recognized close to a hundred of his brethren, born by his own mother. The youngest was yet to be named and barely 3 months old. Even so, within another cycle of the moons there would be another.  Soon the clan would move on to claim new lands and continue as they always had to conquer and pillage. To claim by strength alone what was their right, what weaker lesser beings could never deserve.

All Nox’s life he had been regaled by the spoken memories of the clan, tales of his father’s prowess in battle. Lygo of Luna was practically a living legend, and if you believed the stories, it was he who had claimed this world. It had been just over eleven years ago, just before Nox’s birth when Lygo and one hundred Uraor of the clan had slaughtered the inhabitants of this planet, his pregnant mate  fighting by his side.

The somber silence was shattered by the voice of Lygo, ripping Nox from his own thoughts and planting all his focus on his father. “As my right, by strength of conquest, I claimed this hand from my own father. Just as his had done before him. May your flesh bear scars, to mark you a man.” Nox immediately fought to maintain his balance as his father-now-for stomped his bare feet into the ground. Lygo’s sudden intensity was like watching a volcano erupt or a approaching tidal wave you cannot escape.

Nox could feel his blood burning inside him, primal aggression screamed for release. Teeth clenched, he slammed into the source of his life, just as countless others had done for generations. He locked his hands against his fathers and fought against what he already knew was a colossal and superior strength. Bones cracked and began to fuse themselves slowly back together, flesh fought to heal as it was pulled near to tearing. In mere moments Nox could feel himself being driven back.

An inferno ignited in his chest, and was given life by his lungs as Nox cried aloud. Thrill of contested strength surged through him, with a grunt he shifted his momentum. The sudden change of force drove Lygo’s abdomen directly into a waiting knee. But the gambit had cost Nox, already he could feel his right hand trying to repair shattered bones.  Lygo’s own ribs were fighting to mend themselves as well as pride lit his eyes.

Pain flashed a vicious red as a stone like fist slammed into Nox’s jaw, sending him spinning. Riding the momentum the courageous child rotated and twisted to land behind Lygo his good hand planted firmly in front of his fathers’ throat . With all his weight he planted himself against his Lygo’s back, as he heard bone and sinew crack and tear.

Soon he would be a man.

Soon the clan name would be his to bear, a child no more.

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Nameless Night - Part 1.

Fine sheets of gossamer brushed across the night sky, silhouetting the muted glow of a small ivory moon. It was that very moon that marked this auspicious night. Eleven years ago that same heavenly orb was sailing aloft another night sky. It heralded the arrival of a violently screaming Uraor infant, a slate grey little bundle with a furious pair of lungs. That very night a tiny Nox was looked on by the jasper eyes of his mighty father, Lygo of clan Luna.

Rising from his bed-slab, Nox flexed his muscles and stretched. It was part of the life he had been born to, no comfort, no weakness. The Uraor were as harsh and unyielding as the blasted lands they were scattered to. No world was too hostile, for the Uraor themselves would not yield. Nothing adorned his portarre, an Uraor portable structure made of hide, stone and bone.

Nox’s hide-like skin was unblemished, no scars, not even a single piece of cyberwear. He was still a child in his clan’s eyes. After tonight though, tonight he would have his chance to earn the right to be a man, to be given the clan name Luna.

In the hushed whispers of the night the rough crunch of his father’s foot-steps on the bracken ground were as drum beats. His shadow eclipsed the open doorway, making his full 8 feet height seem even more titanic. Lygo was easily twice the size of Nox, and bristling with scars and cyberwear. Even his right grey-white tusk was broken, it’s tip forever lost. What had become of it Nox had never been allowed to know. Perhaps after tonight, as a man he could demand the answer.

Lygo’s voice was harsh and deep, like rusted iron grating on gravel. Even in a hushed tone he oozed respect and commanded obedience. “It is time. Come, and let us test the strength of you. We will weigh your right to manhood, or if you will be banished to walk as an eternal child in exile.” Nox knew his father was reminding him, no measure of mercy would be shown in his test, and that if he failed he would be cast out, without the clan name to wander, forever a child.

As Lygo led Nox out into the night air the sight of the entire clan steeled his heart. He would be tested in front of thousands who were silent for the hallowed ritual. Not one to stand on ceremony Lygo looked down, his rust hued skin illuminated by the glow of his son’s moon. “You once asked what became of my tusk. Know that I buried it in the heart of my own father when I claimed my right of manhood., and forever secured my right of renown for all my days. Know also that it will take both yours if you hope to best me. Now we are to the test, child. Best me and be seen a man. Kill me and know everlasting respect.”

Nox stood a foot shorter than his legendary father, and easily less than half his weight. With a roar his lungs lit with fire. There would be know beating his father, he was sure of that, he would have to kill him. And that was one thing he wasn’t sure of.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Primer - Weapons.

Over the years there have been a great many weapons to fill the hands of those who have explored the depths of Requiem. I thought this time I might highlight some of the most infamous or perhaps a few lesser known.

Praetor Mark III - The Praetor is a pinnacle of New Republic weapons systems development. As a variable weapon platform it can alter it’s configuration by adding various modular attachments allowing it to reconfigure for a user’s deployment needs. The core unit is a very efficient and proven side-arm, having seen service for over 50 years.

Praetor Mark III - Base Damage 2d4 - Critical x3 - Base Range 50 feet - Damage Type  Energy - ROF Semi-Automatic - Weight 3 lbs - Medium Size - Ammo Capacity 50 rounds on a standard Power Cell - Cost 40 Regals/Blue Credits

Praetor Attachments -

Extended Barrel - This modular rifle barrel allows the Praetor to better focus and condense it’s firepower allowing for increased range. Adds +25ft to it’s base range but reduces efficiency, causing a standard power cell to only produce 40 rounds before needing a replacement. Cost - 5 Regals/Blue Credits Added Weight - 1 lbs.

Kinetic Charger - When the situation calls for more force or you’ve been designated point man this Large-bore barrel turns the Praetor from side-arm into a respectable energy energy-shotgun. By altering the rate of fire into single shot requiring a pump action to prime the Kinetic Charger barrel charges and builds up an increased blast effectively increasing damage up to 4d4! However at the cost of both range and efficiency. Range is cut in half from the base unit down to 25 feet, and power consumption is also doubled. Meaning a standard Power Cell only provided 25 rounds before being exhausted. Cost - 10 Regals/Blue Credits Added Weight - 2 lbs.

Internal Capacitor - In effect this magazine like module enables the Praetor to improve it’s own efficiency of Power Cells allowing for increased ammunition from a single Cell. Once attached it increases the Praetor’s ammo capacity by +50%. So The base unit would have 75 rounds per Cell. Cost - 2.5 Regals/Blue Credits Added Weight - .5 lbs.

Recoil Stock - The addition of a stock adds stability to the Praetor frame as well as an internal recoil compensator. A Recoil Stock doubles the Praetor’s base range out to 100 feet. Cost - 3 Regals/Blue Credits Added Weight - 2 lbs.

Range-Finder Scope - Adding built in magnification, basic trajectory and zoom features the Range-Finder Scope allows the  Praetor to not only be effective at a longer range but to do so with fewer penalties. A Praetor with this attachment suffers the standard -2 penalty for shooting beyond the base range increment every 2 increments instead of each one. Cost - 4 Regals/Blue Credits Added Weight - .5 lbs.

Trigun - One of the first hybrid system technologies developed by Covenant Arms the Trigun was a great success. A testament to it’s reliable design it has seen use on countless worlds for well over a century. Some still cite it’s limited capacity and low rate of fire as weaknesses, however when facing one in skilled hands it is still a fearsome weapon. Capable of being outfitted to use Power Cells or it’s standard  15mm caseless rounds the Trigun still sees widespread use and is often handed down.

Trigun - Damage 3d6 - Critical 18-20 x2 - Base Range 100ft - Damage Type Ballistic - ROF Semi-Auto - Weight 5 lbs - Medium size - Ammo Capacity 3 rounds - Cost 30 Regals/Blue Credits.

*Note - Ace wields a modified Trigun himself, the handiwork of Twitch. In the place of Power Cells he uses micro-generator cells. Each cell can recharge itself within 18 seconds(Twitch improved upon their normal 30 second rate), allowing them to recharge by the time the cylinder makes a complete revolution.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Trust A Twitchy Technician - Part 5.

“Clear,” Grizzly bellowed, his teeth now gnashed together. “By the tribe… COME ON! CLEAR.” Monitors beeped and displayed vital signs all around him, as the seconds past the mighty medic became more and more frustrated. Even with all he knew, there was little he could do if he didn’t bring the tiny technician around soon. His brilliant brain wouldn’t last forever without oxygen, and as it was Grizzly was beginning to fear lasting damage.

This has got to work, Grizzly thought as he reached to increase the voltage. “Wake up call boy!” A pair of white disks were pressed against Twitch’s chest and electricity crackled and jolted into him with a sizzle. Had it been any other Terran known to medical science, that surge of energy would only have done harm. But Twitch had never been anything normal in any sense of the word.

“Reboot!” Twitch shouted with a jerk, his eyes now wide open.

“Lay still!” With almost motherly care Grizzly tried to gently reinforce to Twitch the need for him to rest. A quick look to the monitors showed almost completely normal vital signs, some slight elevations but nothing to indicate what his companion had just been through. His contemplation was cut short by a sudden outburst from his pint-sized patient.

“And who’s going to fix things, you ya big oaf?” Leveling his bug-eyed gaze at Grizzly Twitch immediately cocked a half smile. “We gotta reboot the overload faults on the Fold Drive and re-route it’s primary power circuits.”

Shock gripped at Grizzly’s face as his jaw dropped. He had never heard Twitch complete a sentence before. In all the years he’d known the witty wizard of technology he had always stuttered when he spoke. And yet here he was still speaking in his high-pitched nasal tone. “Twitch; listen to yourself!”

“No time,” he muttered as he rose to set up. His Ion Torch was still in his utility pocket he realized, already his mind racing with how to get the Fold Drive back up and running, and fast with the systems he had at his disposal. If he dismantled a few lesser systems he was sure he could re-route things and get the Fold Drive’s overloads to reset at least for a short time before needing fresh parts.

“Patch cables!” Lost in confusion at the revelation of Twitch’s newfound communicative skill Grizzly hadn’t noticed the nimble repairman flip up into some hanging cables and panels above them. “Any day now…” Twitch muttered a slight jerk still present in his movements.

Grizzly looked around and seeing a few patch cables grabbed them up and held them aloft. Without a glance Twitch snatched them with one hand his other already fast at work splicing and soldering. Ace interrupted from the helm, “What in sam-hill is going on back there, who is that talking to you Grizz?”

“Well that’d be Twitch, says he can get that Fold Drive back up.” Grizzly replied still barely able to comprehend recent events himself.

“Wait, What did you do to the boy? One minute he’s fried toast and the next he’s a chatter-box.” Ace had his best poker face on, trying as subtle as he could to make sure he’d wiped the tears away. A fast check of the sensors showed ADU still in the area, it would only be a matter of time before they detected them. Hope flared to life in Ace’s chest; if anyone could pull them out of this bad hand it was Twitch, he was sure.

Eyes closed as Twitch listened to the familiar hum and hidden language of Noble Steed. It purred to him once more like a contented pet welcoming home it’s caretaker. Relieved he dropped back down to the floor with a thud and sighed. “Hit it, Ace!”

Chuckling Ace activated the Fold Drive, noting just as he did an ADU sensor sweep pass over them. “Pursue this.” In a flash  space folded around the ship as welcoming as an old quilt, speeding them well clear of Owerth II.

“Hey check this out,” Twitch called out, his face buried in a comm terminal. “Apparently, after ‘intense negotiations,’ the facility on Owerth II is under new management. ADU forces have declared it no longer under investigation and able to return to operations.” Expressionless he turned to his crew-mates adding, “So where to, I should probably mention that was a temporary repair. We’ll need to replace some components as soon as we can otherwise we risk burning out the Fold Drive.”

Once more Ace could hear that old Siren calling to him, tempting him. “Well, only one port close enough that won’t ask too many questions; Coromaur’s Outpost.”

Grimacing Grizzly moaned, a hand planted over his mouth. “Hear we go again. You remember the last time we were there right?”

Ace’s eyes were filled with the prospect of a whole outpost of freelance cargo-runners with full pockets and empty heads. “Hey she wasn’t technically his daughter… I don’t see why he’d dock our pay.” As another familiar debate began Twitch disappeared into his routine maintenance of the ship’s systems. Cause nothing ever fixes itself, or stays fixed, not on this crew.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Trust A Twitchy Technician - Part 4.

The helm vanished before Ace, it’s controls and screens invisible as his mind reeled. Emotions flooded through him blanketing all thought or concern and he fell from his seat to grab at the motionless form of his friend. ‘He’s… He’s not breathing Grizz. What do I.. what do we…” Tears welled up in his eyes and his voice failed him.

Grizzly stood behind him, his heart already swelling, only to be reigned in by duty. “Pull him out, Ace. I need him in my medlab.” Turning to ready things, tear-drops fell from Grizzly’s already damp fur. His eyes burned with a furious determined light; he was not going to lose a friend. Not after watching so many others die on the battlefield would he surrender one who didn’t deserve it.

Nervously Ace placed the limp child-like body of Twitch onto a bed and stepped back, still sobbing. “Um… Can you… Is he?” Words still refused to come out right. For once Ace couldn’t see his way ahead, couldn’t navigate a course of action.

Grizzly set to work frantically administering nanomeds and checking their impact. Carefully he began pumping at Twitches chest, desperate to revive him. “Come on little guy, you don’t got orders for home yet.” In a snarl he kept working, “Come on! Don’t make me come get you.” Despite himself he slapped Twitch as rage fought for release from terror.

Alarms lit up screens on the opposite wall, Ace hadn’t heard them at first. Startled at the sudden interruption he turned to investigate and reality slammed him in the gut. The ADU pursuit unit had doubled back to rescan the area and were fast approaching sensor range. Hesitating Ace reluctantly returned to the helm to try and steer the ship to safety.

Cursing Ace discovered the Fold Drive was inoperative and was forced to throttle the sub-light drive to max. He fought to think straight, where to go, what course. “I’ll get us out of here, Grizz, but tell Twitch nap-times over.”

In a whisper he told himself, “Oh how we need you lil’ guy… Please lady luck, be with him.”

Monday, March 14, 2011

Trust A Twitchy Technician - Part 3.

Light and sound cloaked Noble Steed in a brilliant halo against the forces of time and space. The ship at once screamed in agony and yet fell as silent as stone to Twitch. All thought was lost to him, all calculations and analytical projections gone. A tugging at his stomach told Twitch something like gravity still affected them. That meant the Fold Drive was still engaged, but the ship wasn’t moving, he was sure the deck plates held no vibrations at all.

Which could only mean one thing; The ship was in the pocket of folded space the drive had managed to create. Setting between the two points they meant to travel between they instead were simple non-existent in either place. It was as if they had just slipped beneath the very fabric of space itself, if only briefly. Excitement exploded throughout every fiber of Twitch’s body, almost like…


Energy raced from the circuit Twitch had been working on, seeking a path to ground as it sought inevitably to complete itself. The easiest pathway it seemed to find, was through Twitch himself. The electrical arc flooded through the unlucky technician, he almost glowed as he pulled and jerked. As the Noble Steed’s interior left him so too did the charge flee the ship’s hull.

The Fold Drive powered down with dull whine, leaving the ship to slowly de-fold almost exactly where it had began. Confused Ace and Grizzly looked to each other, completely baffled. What could have happened, their eyes both silently protested to each other.

But before either could find words, much less call out to interrogate Twitch as to what he had done,  they spotted their diminutive companion. Twitch lay smocking and immobile beneath a console, and for once, they didn’t see him twitching.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Trust A Twitchy Technician - Part 2.

Something wasn’t right. Twitch could feel the ship as it strained and fought to break free of Owerth II’s gravity. He could feel the humming pulse of her engine like another heartbeat. But something about it nagged at the back of his mind. In his mind he replayed the last few minutes, and considered every variable he could think of. He had re-routed some power from a minor system, a regulator circuit for the hull that instead fluxed the polarity of the hull to remove the magnetic build up that had seized the tethers. But as the hull heated the same circuit might still try to compensate to keep the outer plates thermally stable.

Twitch closed his eyes and focused all the concentration his brilliant little mind could muster. For one single instant he could be seen completely still, not even a hint of a twitch or jerk present. His mind raced and calculated, and somewhere in the corner of his mind he could hear the ship whispering to him. And in those whispers he could hear the answer; the ship was building up a subtle charge along it’s exterior that was growing exponentially. If they tried to activate the Fold Drive it could discharge affecting the fold in any number of ways.

The ADU pursuit unit was closing in fast as Noble Steed broke free from orbit and was just clearing gravity. Ace’s hand was already resting on the button to engage the Fold Drive, ready to activate it the second they cleared gravity. Grizzly shouted a warning, the ADU were firing, Twitch had to act fast. He clicked his Torch on in a quick pulse and severed a small connection on the circuit, with it open the power being fed to hull was cut off causing the building charge to stop.

With a shudder the ship rumbled from a glancing impact, the pursuit unit had almost managed a dead on  hit. Twitch could feel the ship moan from the foreign energy that collided with it. Hoping the collision had been enough to discharge the hull Twitch closed his eyes and braced himself as Ace activated the Fold Drive.

The Drive crackled and buzzed as it reached out to fold the very fabric of space to relocate the ship from one point to another. It’s familiar blue-white glow making Noble Steed seem like some twinkling star against the contrasting back-drop of space. With a start Twitch’s eyes flew open and he cried aloud: “N-N-Not G-G-ood!”

Intuition warned him only nanoseconds before the ship violently rocked in protest, a nova-like wave pulse emanating from Noble Steed.

A lone ADU pursuit unit was left to report unusual phenomenon from the fleeing vessel prior to it vanishing before them. Now they would have to turn their focus from pursuit to determining possible fold destinations, or if the ship even survived the bizarre event.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Trust A Twitchy Technician - Part 1.


Exploding like some small wounded animal fleeing a source of sudden pain something flew out of a narrow crawlspace in a flash and smelling of burnt resistors. Through dirt and patched blue overalls it revealed itself to be a small slight little man, large round goggles covered his eyes, magnifying them and making each sudden blink seem alien and bug like. Cradling his hand he flipped up into some tight little nook and examined a new electrical burn, small jerks and twitches accentuating his movements.

Twitch had earned his name long ago, his almost supernatural ability to repair and modify anything technological always came at a cost. The poor tiny technician was always getting  shocked, he couldn’t seem to work anything without some kind of jolt. And because of that, not to mention an already somewhat nervous demeanor, Twitch always twitched.

“I’m, uh, you - hey!” Twitch stammered and stuttered, high pitched mousy tone just as jerky as he was. “Wh-Wh-Wh, eh, pro-problem?” As he blinked his gaze seemed to be at once unfocused and yet analyzing every detail of his crew-mates at once.

Grizzly tried to bring the minute maintenance monkey up to speed as fast and concise as possible. “We have ADU in orbit, Mag-lock tethers won’t disengage, and there has been a situation on the station we can’t afford to be connected with.”

Twitch blinked again, then his head jerked to turn his full attention on Ace. “Ag-Again?’  Ace rallied to his own defense but before he could even get a “Hey” out Grizzled cut him off with a firm hand. “Yes, Twitch, cards again. Can you get us out of this pickle? We’re cutting it close as it is.”

Pulling his trust Ion Torch out Twitch hopped down from his perch, grabbed at a hand rail and smacked against the floor in a skid coming to rest under a console. Twitch was never without his favorite little tool, it served many of his needs. It could cut, weld and even solder, not to mentions serve as a handy light source. He even used it as a weapon on the rare occasions Twitch actually left the ship. But in his hands it was a artists tool, he cut and spliced like a surgeon. Panels and circuit boards flipped and switched, wires spliced and changed and in moments he popped his head out.

“Tr-Try it now,” he said with a half grin. “I think I man-man, degaussed the hull.” Ace slapped the release and with a thud the tethers released and retracted. Now free from restraint the Noble Steed’s engine roared to life and shot off into the turbulent wind-storms of Owerth II.

“Prep the fold drive,” Ace snapped as his tense grip on the controls fought to drive them through buffeting winds. “Let’s be ready, once we break orbit to disappear before they can try to intercept us.”

“On it,” Grizzly started setting up calculations for the fold drive. And then the sensors caught his eye; “they’re already launching a pursuit unit!”

Ace’s slammed the throttle down, hoping the wind-storm would distort the pursuit ship’s sensors. This one, he thought, was going to be close.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Primer - "Beverages".

Now, let’s be honest here; it’s pretty much a given in a lot of role-playing games - players are going to have a drink. And on average, most games just mention a few common types for flavor or don’t really bother to gauge alcohols impact on a character. In Requiem though, I discovered early on players wanted to have a drink in the bar. And, not only that, they often wanted to know how strong it was, etc. So I found myself ad-libbing a few beverages from time to time and one in particular has become so infamous I was forced to develop rules for it. Here is the, well I consider it simple and straight forward, approach I have been using and a few of the drinks known to exist in Requiem’s bars.

The system I use is based  on the idea of the sickened condition. A drink is categorized by a few simple traits; one, being the strength of it’s alcoholic content. This value is added to a base 10 to determine the drinker’s Fort DC when the beverage is consumed, and also increase the DC by said amount each time another is consumed. So, for example if it is a strength 5 drink, then it’s a DC 15 for the first drink, 20 for the second, well you get the idea. It is by this strength that I measure just how hard a drinks impact is for a body to resist.

Now the second factor I attribute to a drink is how apt it is to render someone unconscious. For that each drink has a die type to mark how much non-lethal or stun damage anyone who fails their save takes. A base d4 is the current standard but some drinks are far more prone to rob you of your surroundings. The drinks’ strength directly applies to the stun it can cause. As before if a strength 5 beverage is consumed and the fortitude save is failed then the poor  sap would have to deal with 5d4 in stun. And if he/she takes his current hit-points or more in such damage then he or she is now in dreamland.

One other trait exists when describing a beverage, and that is if the drink itself possesses any unusual side effects common to it. For example, those who consume Vernian Brew always take ½ stun even if they have a successful save, attributed to it’s reputation as a stout beverage known to be hard on even the toughest of drinkers.

Once consumed, any drinker can expect to suffer a penalty based on the drink’s strength to all their skill checks, ability checks, attack rolls, and damage rolls. The drinker gets a Fortitude Save with each drink to suppress this penalty. That shouldn’t be as worrisome to a players as two other impacts being drunk can have. For starters a DM can(at their discretion) apply a 10% chance multiplied by the drinks strength to determine if the inebriated individual falls victim to the Confusion or Nauseated conditions.  Other possible conditions  may exist at the DM’s discretion. 

And then we have the hangover… The bane of all who drink to excess or don’t know their limits. Even if a stout celebrant has consumed his beverages the effects may come back to haunt him even if his constitution was able to shake off their toxins with successful saves. As after a full 8 hours of rest they suffer the drinks’ full penalties for a number of hours equal to 1 + (drinks strength x number of drinks). So as before, if we have a strength 5 beverage that has been consumed twice, the unlucky imbiber can expect to be hung-over for at least 11 hours. May seem a bit much or un-realistic, but even toxins and alcoholic properties have advanced, not to mention rare and exotic ingredients.

So let’s take a peek behind the counter shall we?

Vernian Brew; A thick black viscous alcohol usually served warm and illegal on many worlds due to it's
dangerous nature. Strength 5, d10 Stun rating. Notes; Drinkers always take ½ stun on successful saves, and those who fail their saves are highly prone to Nausea and Confusion.

Quasar; A standard whiskey served in virtually any bar. Strength 2, d6 Stun rating. Notes; Some cheap variants may cause Fatigue.

Digital Delight; A clear fizzy drink served chilled. It is often favored by NodeRunners and various tech-enthusiasts for it’s low toxins. Strength 1, d4 Stun Rating. Notes; Digital Delight is notorious for numbing the body or “meat” as NodeRunners refer to it while allowing a slight euphoria. Anyone drinking Digital Delight receives a +1 bonus to all dice rolls while jacked into a Node or other device.

*Submissions of new beverages is always welcome.

Grizzly-Bar - Part 5.

The airlock hissed open, it’s pneumatic release a familiar greeting that welcomed Grizzly. He never would of imagined that a little ship like Noble Steed could ever be home. And yet here he stood, supporting a wounded Ace, in what couldn’t be described as anything but a snafu. Relief and comfort filled him as he turned his attention to assessing wounds.

Ace was near unconscious, no longer able to stand. The combination of drink and a barrage of stun blasts had really done a number on him. And since Grizzly couldn’t fly them out of this situation, not to mention he needed Ace awake to properly chew out, he set to work reviving his crew mate.

Grizzly reached into an open med-kit he left out and produced a nanomed injector and selected an appropriate injection to help stabilize Ace. Within seconds the nanites went to work, repairing nerve damage and helping to remove toxins. They rapidly spread throughout the body releasing endorphins and dopamine before the little minuscule medics themselves broke down, their limited lifespan complete.

“I think I’m going to need another drink,” Ace awoke with a groan, rubbing at his forehead. “Let me guess, another fine mess, and now I need to do my share to see us clear, that about it?”

“Pretty much,” Grizzly replied already moving his attention to his own wounds. Mostly minor, some singed fur and a few moderate surface burns. He did notice a patch of skin that had exposed the fine metal mesh that had been implanted when he joined the drop squads. Acting like a sort of Faraday cage it was standard issue to help marines reduce or nullify stun based attacks, an unconscious marine was no good in a fight. Pointing at the exposed mesh Grizzly looked to Ace, who was now standing trying to let his head clear. “You know this would of done you a lot of good back there.”

Shaking his head Ace chuckled, “And deny you all that fun? What kind of friend would I be then?”  A playful smile returned to the wily pilot’s face, as he looked back at Grizzly. “I’ll get ‘er prepped, you see to yourself, and with any luck we’ll be long gone shortly.”

A quick injection saw to Grizzly’s exposed flesh as he watched nanites go to work accelerating pink tissue as it knit itself back together. While he let it take effect he decided to head over to his other ship-board duties as gunner’s mate. Checking ships sensors his heart skipped a beat, an ADU light cruiser was already in orbit. “Ace we need to be saying our goodbyes and fast. We have ADU in orbit, we’re running out of time.”

At the helm Ace frantically primed the ships systems for take off. “I’m on it Grizz!” With everything looking to be in order he slapped at the mag-lock tethers to release, and nothing happened. Tethered to the station there was no way Noble Steed would be going anywhere. “We got a problem big guy!”

Shouting in unison a single word echoed through the ship…


To be continued in Part 1 of Trust a Twitchy Technician!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Grizzly-Bar - Part 4.

In the distance a squad of four inexperienced security personnel approached, each one wearing light shock armor. The armor was designed for civil defense situations and was capable of absorbing blows and even some light trauma, but against heavy fire they would offer little protection. Each squad member moved cautiously down the corridor a riot blaster in hand, even if they were trembling.

Grizzly watched, measuring the distance out of old habit and comparing it to the range of his cannons. “A little closer,” he whispered. Ace, now a crouched figure, set to Grizzly’s side; his gun drawn and ready.  There was no chance that the security squad wouldn’t spot them if they had ran for the ship, and with all the local security on alert they couldn’t risk an ambush. No, Grizzly thought, we have to take this squad out and then make our move while they’re confused.

Ba-Boom Ba-Boom

Grizzly’s cannons discharged into violent blue balls of concussive force each one sending a surprised security officer flying backwards, their armor crushed inwards. Experience soothed any guilt the ex-marine may have had; he knew all to well such damage to their armor would leave them unconscious and bruised. Their armor would be scrap but it would take enough of the impact to spare their life.

The two security officers that remained both fired wildly. Shock of surprise gunfire coupled with two squad members hasty mid-air travel had left them shaken. Without care or aim their riot blasters barked out non-lethal beams in every direction.

Ace took aim and placed his first shot into an exposed leg; someone hadn’t properly suited up, and now his leg paid for it. While his target fell to a knee in pain his second shot caught a weak point in his shoulder. He dropped his weapon and held at his shoulder, howling in pain. Leaving only one panic-stricken combatant before them.

Terror gripped the last security officer standing and he fired his blaster as fast he could. He shook it before him, desperately hoping to take out what he had begun to believe to be an army of monsters.  Blind chance leaned against Ace as a few stray shots struck his leg and abdomen, threatening to rob him of consciousness. The pain disoriented him, and had it not been for the Vernian Brew wouldn’t have been much of a problem. As it was everything was black and Ace could barely perceive that he could hardly stand.

“No body hurts my friends!” Anger flared within Grizzly once more, and his left Impact Cannon retracted and was replaced by a glowing emerald disc of humming force. With a shout he charged, firing with his right and keeping his shield steady with his left. Twice his cannon connected, knocking his foe about in the air. And then his shield hammered down like a wall and drove the limp form of the officer into the floor.

With no signs of a threat Grizzly deactivated his shield and cannon and raced over to help Ace up. “You know, I did try to warn you not to gamble this time.”

“Just get me to the ship,” Ace muttered. “A lecture from you right now might do me in.”

“You know, you are going to owe me some new well-stocked med-kits out of those winnings, right?” Grizzly began to chuckle as he helped the limping pilot hurry back to the ship. Only to once again find himself cut off, this time by a wall terminal.

The ADU was en-route, and Owerth II was in lock-down pending their investigation.

“You couldn‘t listen, not even just this once?” Grizzly continued on towards a waiting airlock, marked 7.

Groaning Ace rebutted, “Nope.”

Grizzly-Bar - Part 3.

“Ace,” Grizzly’s gruff voice barked out as the two padded down another corridor. “Were those friends of yours?”

“No way son,” Ace halted at an intersection and the two caught their breath. “The dock is this way,” with a jerk of his head he motioned to the right. “No, those two are big time trouble. I’ve heard whispers, here and there, but enough to know that where they are, we do not want to be.”

Grizzly nodded in agreement, then he concentrated, something nagged at his mind. “I think I’ve heard something too. Something about an ex-Marine trained as a Drop Marksman, a vicious shot too. I think she had a half brother or something. If anything, the way those two were all grins they were about to enjoy tearing that place apart. Let’s get to the ship and get out of here before anyone decides to blame you.”

“Hey, why would they blame little ol’ me?” Ace tried to look as innocent and as puzzled as he could, but Grizzly saw right through it.

“Cause, when there is trouble, they always do, Ace.” Grizzly scanned the corridors for any sign of threat and then grunted. “Alright, let’s get moving.”

Red lights erupted, at once the lighting went from bright and welcoming to a menacing atmosphere. Alarms sounded and the station’s intercom blared; “Alert, High-Caliber gunfire detected. All available security to the bar.” Ace and Grizzly looked at each other, and Grizzly roared; “Run!”

But as he flexed his legs to do just that Ace’s hand gripped his shoulder, his face gripped with concern and concentration. “Trouble, old friend. Most of the station’s security should be heading for the bar, but there is a small group of incredibly nervous folk headin' this way from behind us. My guess is, we got some recruits heading this way to avoid their first bit of action.” 

Over time Grizzly had come to trust Ace’s instincts about such matters. He had proven to the cyber-armed Ursian that somehow he possessed a unique talent for detecting emotions that bordered on full blown Empathy. So when he warned Grizzly, the ex-marine always considered it as if he had detected incoming on screen.  If a small security squad was on the way, then that would mean riot gear. They would want to disable combatants and limit any chance of damage to the station.

Grizzly would have no such limitations. With pride he noted a tactical advantage and flexed his steel-like fingers, and with a single thought allowed hidden mounts in his forearms to open. Each arm opened, exposing a raised Impact cannon; powerful double-barreled weapons with enough force to send anyone unlucky enough to be at the wrong end flying from their concussive firepower.

“Nervous did you say Ace, well, they should be. The bar isn’t the only dangerous place on this station at the moment.”

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Grizzly-Bar - Part 2.

Growling Grizzly planted his feet firmly in place and stood ready as several locals charged him. He grabbed at the nearby table and with a groan it released itself from the floor to crash into a handful of attackers. A pair of assailants thought this was their chance and dove at Grizzly from the sides trying desperately to grab at the ex-marines shiny arms. Fear gripped them instantly as he lifted both arms and clapped the two together.

Enzo and the Bartender both registered they still had weapons to hand and  fired wildly into the melee. Grizzly was immediately lost in the chaos, reacting without thought, engulfed in a fight on some other battlefield he had been dropped into long ago. Ducking his left arm shot out to grab at Enzo’s outstretched hand ,  and took hold. Enzo didn’t stop firing, leaving Grizzly with singed fur and some grazing burns as he spun at the waist to throw the helpless projectile at the bar. Enzo and the bartender collided into the wall and slumped to the floor.

Seeing Ace backed away, two young men thought they might reclaim their fellows winning and jumped at him. One was surprised by a well placed uppercut to his jaw. The other caught a knee to his gut, and while his breath escaped him, Ace followed up with a quick hook sending him to the floor.

In the midst of the brawl some patrons were either too drunk or too bent on settling old scores and began attacking one another. Ace quickly called out to Grizzly to get his attention; “C’mon Grizz, you’ve had your fun, you plan on playin’ with them boys all day?”

But as the two turned to flee they caught eyes with two figures who had just walked into the bar. A well muscled and shapely Altain stood, her long black hair was streaked with smoky gray and pulled back into a long braid, a long rifle slung over her shoulder. Possibly a Gauss Rifle, Grizzly thought, as he saw her scale like plates begin to glow like embers.

Beside her Stood, tall and regal, an aloof Lobain, his fur a similar black with smoky gray streaks. The Lobain’s claws scratching at his chin as he surveyed the melee before him. The two grinned and began to step forward to enter the fray.

Ace grabbed at Grizzly’s shoulder, “Time to go, big guy. And I mean now!” A hint of emphasized necessity in his tone triggered a fuzzy memory in the Ursian, and suddenly he was sure his troublesome crew-mate was right. Dodging the mysterious newcomers they made a break through the doorway trying to quickly put ground between the bar and them. As much ground as they could.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Primer - Currency.

Currency in the New Republic has become a double-edged thing, some folk still cling to the credit-based system forged by the New Republic during it's reign as the unifying force, and others prefer to use various minted coins. A simple translation has been found that allows for the use of either when making any form of transaction.

New Republic Credit        Value        Coin
Silver(Rs)                          10            Platinum
Blue(Rbl)                           1              Regal
White(Rw)                         1/10         Scepter
Black(Rb)                          1/100       Colonial

All manner of New Republic Credit is issued in the form of a silicon chip embedded with encoded encryption to the specific account it comes from and for it's set value, the transfer of that chip(it is in the shape of a simple coin) then transfers the ownership of that value from one account to the other. The manner of monetary exchange is highly traceable and is often monitored constantly to prevent theft and counterfeiting. Thusly many illicit goods and services are often paid for with(and preferred) minted coin.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Grizzly-Bar - Part 1.

“By the Tribes!” Grizzly cursed. He knew it, every time Ace was left alone for five minutes he always got himself into trouble, worse if a deck of cards were within reach. And be the looks of things, he had been hard at work digging himself a fine mess this time. “That pea-brained ConFed.”

While Ace was proud of having served with the Confederated Commonwealth, Grizzly still wore the insignia of a Federated Union Marine. His massive chrome arms proudly bore the etched mark of a Combat Medic of the 101st Drop-squad; Marines specially trained for orbital drops. Numerous battle scars and obvious cybernetic arms were clear marks this veteran seen more than his share of fighting, and survived.

Grizzly stooped to enter the bar for a better assessment of his friends current predicament. Apparently the station’s architect had not considered an 8’ 2” Ursian when designing it. A bad feeling tickled at his blackened fur, “Oh don’t do it Ace,” he whispered. With a sigh of regret he heard what could only be the shift of a bad situation made worse when Ace mentioned Grizzly’s temper. Most Ursians were in fact quite renowned for virtually without anger, but Grizzly had seen more than enough of war to shake even his calm demeanor. If Ace was warning them, then clearly he was sure his crew-mate knew that inevitably they were on the verge of combat.

“You couldn’t listen, could you, Ace?” Grizzly stepped over to stand by Ace, his presence making the gambling nomad seem more like a hat clad child. “You know you have a problem, right?”

“Apologies, Griz,” Ace replied. “But you know I can’t turn down an  invitation for a friendly game. Besides, no problem we can’t solve, right ol’ buddy?” Carefully Ace took his gun off Enzo and started to turn to leave, confident now was the opportune moment for an exit.

Unfortunately, the bartender and Enzo both saw it instead as an opportune moment to try and shoot Ace in the back. Grizzly’s fur stood, bristling as a low growl start to rise from the bear-like ex-marine. A pair of concave discs made of humming force were projected from his wrists. Bar patron stood dumbfounded as somehow the titanic marine had managed to not only detect the assault on his crew-mate but deflect it as well.

Grizzly snapped from behind the translucent walls of green force, still crackling from the impacts. “You would shoot a man in the back? Cowards!” Anger begin to rise in the Ursian, and Ace knew well enough to start to duck, like a turtle seeking the safety of his shell.

Enzo spat at Grizzly, his bravado bolstered by others having joined in his recent attack. “Who are you to call us coward? Your just the offspring of some bestial harlot! We ought to put you down and take our money back from your friend.”

A single blast brought attention back on Ace, now his back pressed to the wall, as a wall terminal smoked and popped. “I warned you.” Ace said in a hushed tone, pity written on his face. “Now it’s just you and him,” Ace pointed at the destroyed terminal. “Cause I don’t think any station security will be responding anytime soon. “

A mighty roar bellowed from Grizzly as his shields of flickering force were extinguished. “Won’t be needing those.”

Ace lowered his head and whispered to himself; “They never listen…”

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Ace's Triple - Part 5.

Tension flooded the bar, extinguishing all celebration and leaving it as silent as a grave. Enzo hadn’t dared to move an inch, certain no luck remained in his corner. Sweat poured down his brow, his pulse raced, but still the money on the table called out to him. There had to be at least 130 credits on that table, a mixed stack of blue and silver, if only he could still manage to lay his hands on it.

Enzo gulped, his mouth devoid of any moisture. One last gambit was left to him, and desperation was whispering all too convincing counsel in his ear. Enzo glanced about the room, finding his voice a little shaky, he spoke in as steady a tone as he could manage. “So there it is, stranger. Your just another snake. Not content to cheat us out of hard earned pay now you sink to shoot an honest man? And you expect to just walk out of here, fattened on riches you didn’t even win?” Several other patron began to stir.

With a fluid grace Ace rose from his seat, his gin still trained on Enzo held level at his side. Casually he retrieved his winnings and placed them in his pocket, sure he couldn’t avoid a rush of angry locals for long. “You and I both know who was doing the dealing, friend.” Ace tipped his hats brim slightly as a contented smile lit his face. “So I must thank you for a pleasant game and take my leave.”

Anger and greed began to overwhelm Enzo, he stepped forward to confront Ace, his voice raising to near shouting. “And you think you can just walk out of here? You think that antique can take all of us out? You will never make it off this station you worthless cheat!”

A deep chuckle slipped out of Ace as he all but laughed at Enzo. “Boy, I have learned a good deal many things in my wanderin’, two of which are pertinent right now.” All in the room were glaring at Ace, and he could feel it. He could also feel one other presence, one as inevitable as the mess Ace had landed in. He shook his head and continued; “The first folk always forget is I don’t have to worry about how many shots I should fire, but rather making the one shot I need to make.”

Enzo’s brow furrowed and his anger diffused slightly, only to be  replaced by confusion. “Wait, what? What is this other profound lesson?”

“Not to make him angry.” A simple gesture directed everyone’s attention to a rather large figure standing in the doorway.

To be continued in Part 1 of Grizzly-Bar!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Ace's Triple - Part 4.

Cards slid into place before all three players one by one until each one was looking at 5 cards face down. Before he ever touched a card, Ace always made it a point to look at the other players, to gauge them, and try to get a feel for who he was playing. This time, his own assessments were confirmed. Neither opponent, as eager to play a ‘friendly game’ as they seemed. Both Enzo and Burell seemed more eager to count at their money at hand than try to get a read on Ace.

Without even looking at his own hand Ace was sure what he was about to see. He’d seen it before, even as a kid. Terraforming colonies worker’s would come to town and there were always some young local hot shots ready to try and squeeze some pay out of them. One thing everyone always forgot though, is there is always some one better.

When he lifted the cards up, he saw the makings of a straight, nine high to be exact. All he needed was a single five, not that long of odds to be sure. Burell started the betting; “Let’s keep it friendly, 2 blue.” Ace didn’t hesitate, he tossed in 2 blue credits as well and just tipped his hat slightly. Wouldn’t pay to start appearing cocky. Enzo just threw his in as well, 9 little blue coins of silicon lay in pile before them.

In a quiet declaration Enzo proclaimed “Dealer takes two” Slowly he sat two of his cards down and dealt out two more. He then turned to Burell and waited to see if he required any new cards. “Well, don’t get hands like this that often, but maybe one more couldn’t hurt.” Burell tossed down his card and slid it’s replacement up into his hand, letting his smile widen.

“Just one for me thanks.” Ace was sure the deck was stacked and sure enough a five of spade arrived to join the party.  Burell once again opened the betting; “not a bad hand at all, let’s make things a bit more interesting, say 5 blue.”

Ace raised an eyebrow, he was sure they were expecting him to actually be buying this song and dance. “All right, I guess I’ll take a risk, here’s hopin’.” Five more credits joined the pile that was beginning to grow. Certainly these two were trying to see just how high they could build this traveler up to before he decided to cut and run.  Enzo shrugged as well as he matched the bet.

With a shout Burell laid down two pair, deuces and threes. “Beat this guys!”

“Try this,” Enzo laid down three jacks.

Putting on his best sheepish expression, Ace laid down his nine high straight. After a strategic pause he slowly raked in his 24 blue credits. Not a bad teaser to try and keep him around Ace mused almost tempted to chuckle. Whimsically he wondered what he was going to be dealt next.

Enzo began to shuffled again, then looked at Burell, “Care to cut this one?”

“Don’t mind if I do!” Burell was just oozing smug confidence. “So you just passing through stranger? Where you from?”

“Just traveling.” Ace replied, intent to see what the next hand was going to give him. This time they hadn’t pulled any punches. Setting right in his hand was the prettiest royal flush he had ever seen. Burell opened the bidding with a simple 2 blue, clearly trying to act a little down. Ace decided to play to the false courage they seemed to be trying to fill him with. “I’ll see your 2 and raise you 10.”

Enzo merely shook his head and placed his hand face down, indicating he was going to fold this one. Burell, ever eager, saw the raise and opted for 3 new cards. Ace however wasn’t surprised when he folded. Now was when they would act, the last hand had netted Ace very little save his own money but an inexperienced or drunken player might have saw it as a stir of luck and pushed the next hand. Unfortunately for these two, he was neither.

With the ante placed the cards were dealt, this time in silence. Ace looked about, this time the pair of would be sharks were all business. Enzo was doing his best, ‘considering this hand’ routine and Burell was trying to feign a worry over the time, and his hand. “Say guys, I’m going to have to scoot soon to make my shift. So why don’t we keep this one interesting. A fun hand for the road, what do you say?” With a slight edge in his voice he carefully set a Silver credit on the table. That was 10 blue credits right off the bat, there was no way these guys made anything like that in a month, if it had been hard coin he was sure he would be staring at a coin of minted platinum.

Ace casually reached into his boot and produced a similar credit and sat it on the table, making sure to never waiver his gaze. Enzo swallowed and followed suit, and everyone looked at they’re hands. ‘Cute,’ Ace thought to himself. ‘Real cute.’ They had dealt him the legendary dead man’s hand. A pair of aces and a pair of eights with a queen kicker. These two must be comedians, to try and fleece someone with this hand. But if Enzo was smart he wouldn’t dare try to have dealt himself anything obvious, he would got for a safe win, perhaps a three of a kind, Ace figured.

Burell continued his boisterous display, calling for no cards. “A hand like this doesn’t come around often, guess this will be a lucky hand before I have to leave you guys with empty pockets. Apologies friends.”

Ace took one look at Enzo’s hands and sat the queen face down. He held up a single finger, to motion for one card. If he was right Enzo’s nervous hands very likely could have betrayed him. Especially if he had been trying to go for three of a kind. It would have been all too easy to have accidentally stacked too many similar cards together and not realized it, and if he hadn’t, well, Ace could always resort to the ace he had palmed out of his boot moment before to tuck into his sleeve. 

Relieved he found he wouldn’t have to when Enzo slid him a third ace. Setting in his hand was triple aces and a pair of eights. A dead man’s hand had just transformed itself into a full house, something three of a kind could never begin to best.  Enzo waved off any new cards and looked to Burell for the next round of bidding.

Looking at his winnings on the table Burell quickly calculated and slid a good portion forward. “Well since I’m on my way out, how about 20 blue.” His eyes shot right at Ace, as he almost licked at his lips like a hungry predator.

Ace lowered the brim of his hat, hoping they would think him to be cautiously contemplating. Then saw the same amount placed on the table and added another 2 gleaming silver credits. Enzo gulped and saw the same bet from his  end of the table. As the betting came back around to Burell, he didn’t disappoint, he did exactly as Ace expected and folded. “sorry guys, I have to be heading out, if I’m late again the supervisor will have my rear.” He had done his job and escalated the final pot to it’s whale like size. Now all Enzo had to do was casually claim it with a slightly higher bit of luck and they would have managed quite the payoff.
“Well,” Ace broke the silence. “What did you have mister?” His brim still tilted down, surely even Enzo would be feeling the stir of excitement at a seemingly successful scam.

“Sorry friend,” Enzo began with a start. “Looks like I have three kings bearing a whole pile of blessing today.” His hand was laid down on the table and without even asking yet what his opponent had, already started to reach for all the credits littering the table.

“Hold, friend.” Ace put a point to the last word, filling the word with a hint of warning. “Looks like I am blessed today as well, by three little friends.” A trio of aces was placed on the table. “Oh and as company they brought a couple of eights along as well. That would make it, a little crowded, but a full house none the less, right?”

Confusion exploded from Enzo in a instant. “What,” he roared. “But that can’t be. There is no way!”

“Now, you wouldn’t have been trying to cheat an ol’ boy, would you, friend?” Ace’s tone was steady and quiet,  punctuated by a single unmistakable click under the table. The hammer on his signature sidearm had found its way from it’s peaceful resting position into hanging ready to fall at the command of a slight squeeze. 

Friday, March 4, 2011

Ace's Triple - Part 3.

Dealing the cards was an older man, faint wrinkles and the toll of working long hours already  beginning to etch themselves upon his brow. His name tag read Enzo and with practiced ease he shuffled the cards. Enzo seemed to be the wizard behind the curtain, his face was an mask, unreadable. But as they got ready to play Ace noticed the a few traits about the man. He didn’t engage in idle chat much, instead focusing on his hands without drawing attention. His hands however were not nearly as expressionless; twice the deck slipped as he tried to riffle the cards. Definitely watch the hands, Ace noted.

To Enzo’s left sat a younger man, mid twenties at best. His name tag read Burell, and he was all show. Had to be the mouth, someone to keep attention off of Enzo. And Burell just screamed the part. His hair was some current fashion that looked as if he’d shaved random segments and let others grow in varying lengths. A somewhat fresh laser burned tattoo scrawled it’s way down Burell’s right side of his head and arm. All flash, Ace was sure Burell would be the one to keep an eye on his face, as clearly he was the one with little experience.

“Ahem” Enzo began by clearing his throat, his nervousness not registering save for a slight glance at Burell. “Simple five card draw, nothing fancy, any objections mister?”

“Nope,” Ace replied, all grin. “Mind if I get another drink?” Now the fun starts Ace thought to himself. Surely these two expected a traveler like him self to carry some money, and after seeing him order before they would probably assume his judgment to be very shaken. Another round would surely take away any edge off their minds and let him play into their own presumed strategy.

“Go right ahead friend, drink all you want.”  Burell was quick to chime in, eagerness a little to present in his tone. “Matter of fact, let me get this round, we’re all friends here.” Yep, Ace thought, clearly the flash. And by his estimation, it’d be about three hands in before these two would make their move. Enzo seemed to have some skill but his nervous hands betrayed him, and Enzo here was a little too inexperienced and excitable to try and wait out a bigger fish. No, he was sure they would try to move quick. “Same for you friend,” Burell asked with smirk. Ace nodded, taking care to check both players eyes for reaction. The look of a hungry scavenger staring at easy prey peered back. Just fine, he thought, just fine.

“Hey, Mel,” Burell bellowed at the pink-armed bartender. “Another double grease-stripper for our new friend here, and give me a digital delight.” That clenched it, Ace made a mental note; anyone who drank a fizzy lightweight drink aimed at glam-girls and tech-enthusiasts while trying to hustle people at cards in a bar deserved to be taught a lesson. The least he could of done was feigned to try and match his mark, if not ordering the same at least a respectable whiskey like a Quasar or some such. But instead he orders a drink so weak it barely even deserved to be served in bar much less one hard working men frequented.

With a flourish, Ace received his fresh round and pounded it down. This time he didn’t even bother to gauge reactions, now it was time for business. His face a blank grim visage of determination. He tossed in the customary starting bid of a blue credit, the light silicon disk making a quiet clink on the table. “Deal me in boys.” Both Enzo and Burell  glanced back and forth and then matched his bet, still all smiles. Yep, Ace was sure they’d go for about the third hand, but they were going to be in for a surprise. This time they reeled in a shark they didn’t see coming, and Ace was now set on teaching them a lesson they would not forget.

All memory of any former promises of forgoing any gambling this time were completely gone now. The cards had been dealt, and once dealt - demanded to be played.