- Jan 28, 2006
- GloryHound Irregulars
- Avatar Name
- Oscar Hurrikane SkyQuake
The terminals flickered on the wall of the darkened Outpost building. Bon stood and looked around. Glowing skulls were everywhere. Everyone was dead. How had this happened?
It was the year 2068, and Bon had been on Calypso for six years now. He’d come here to find a niche for himself, and although no fortune had come his way, he had been happy enough not to want to leave.
Calypso was not everyone’s choice of planet to settle on; indeed, the whole solar system it resided in had not been a fashionable destination for years. As the foundation planet of the Entropian Empire it was steeped in folklore and history, but other communities offered the variety and convenience of several inhabited worlds in one solar system, or the fruits of advanced technology; Calypso had been left behind.
Bon stepped over the bodies lying prone on the floor. His mind raced to find answers from the carnage before him. He knew for this to have happened at all, the PvP controls must have been switched on. That hadn’t happened in his lifetime, or anyone’s lifetime, he thought. As far as he knew they’d not been used since the Empire had spread to encompass other worlds and systems, over fifty years ago. The barbarism of “Old Calypso” did not sit well with the prospective investors, who came there to see a “Showpiece” planet; despite opposition from those who lived by the gun, piece by piece the whole planet became safe, and those seeking the chaos that was lost to them found homes elsewhere.
Bon knew nothing but a peaceful life on Calypso; he’d hunted and mined in its hills and valleys for long enough to know what to head for, and what to avoid. His main source of income was selling skins from the Azzarak Constrictor, a large snake found in south-east Amethera. His life there was ordered, but exciting enough for his needs. Those he met were interesting people on the whole, and he traded with trusted associates. Today had been a shock. He’d heard tales of the killers of the past, those who stalked the darker reaches of the land in Calypso’s youth. Their names were spoken in hushed, revered tones, boogeymen to scare children with. The memories of their deeds, both wicked and admired, had grown wings and flown free among the imaginations of Calypso, from the minute they boarded transports to more anarchic shores. The tales became grander until almost none were believed, leaving the truth of their time on the planet clad in mystery. No-one today gave credence to tales of hundreds killed by single assassins; the only death served by Calypso now came at the rapid end of a mis-judged hunt.
Bon searched his memory for the moment of the attack, and saw only blood and fire. The stunned gasps of those caught by the onslaught, weak against the staccato beat of the BLP weapons used against them. Those he recognised from events he had entered in his youth; relics from a murderous past kept for sporting and demonstration purposes. Then he remembered something else. The coats they all wore. Those who did this wore long black coats.
He knew what that meant.
He ran back to his home-town as fast as he could. He only knew one person he could turn to, who might know what to do. The old days had come back, and Wulf was older than anyone Bon knew. He’d owned the armour shop in Little Spitzberg for as long as anyone could remember, serving all who came in the same broken english, offering advice and information on any part of Calypsian life. Meeting him had made Bon’s life on the planet seem easier, and it was his presence that formed part of his reason for staying there. He worried for the old man’s safety in the troubles ahead. He chose to live in the most poorly-equipped settlement on Calypso, where help was hard to get. Scanners didn’t work there, due to the natural pollution of the local air by certain types of desert vegetation. It was a primitive place. Reaching the shop it was with relief he found his friend at his familiar spot behind the counter, sat on a stool as old as he was.
“Wulf” panted Bon. He stopped to catch his breath. The old man took immediate notice of his distress and stepped from behind the counter, putting an arm on the exhausted boy’s shoulder.
“What’s the matter boy?” said Wulf, hoarsely. “You look like death!”
“I’ve seen death, today,” said Bon. His wide eyes conveyed the horror he’d seen to the grizzled old man. Wulf straightened up, reaching for a water bottle which he passed to Bon.
“Aye, Death. Of many, by a few,” said Bon, his heart slowed enough to talk with clarity.
“And the few? You saw them?” said Wulf, his bearded face expressionless.
“I did,” started Bon, before clearing his throat. “…and they all wore long black coats.”
The reaction was immediate; Wulf’s eyes narrowed and his fists flexed, and in an instant Bon saw him start to change from the friendly old man he knew, into something else. Striding to the door behind the counter he wrenched it open and beckoned Bon to follow.
Bon entered the dark room behind the shop. Wulf was leaning over an open trunk, pausing as he regarded the items inside. Bon saw the unmistakeable shape of armour parts, and as the old man took out each piece, lying it on the thick rug on the floor, Bon watched with fascination. This was Sentinel armour as far as he knew; he’d only read about it before. As the entire set took shape on the rug Bon let out a low whistle.
“That’s some pretty fancy armour you got there,” said Bon. The old man grunted and reached into the trunk again. When his hand came back out, in it was a large heavy pistol. Handing this to Bon he reached in with both hands and took out a bulky rifle.
“Modified Mercenary and a Tango? Shouldn’t they be in a museum?” said Bon, incredulous. The old man stood and cast his gaze to the armour on the floor, the gun in Bon’s hand and the one in his. He looked around the dusty room, where various parts of armour from a multitude of sets hung on hooks from the walls in cluttered fashion. “They have been,” he said to the younger man. He shut the lid of the trunk and turned to Bon.
“It’s an Ancient Mod Merc. But you got the Tango right.”
Bon looked at the gun. He’d never held anything this valuable before. The old man never hinted he was sat on a gold mine. The money he saw in front of him could pay for a thousand tickets to anywhere.
“Who are you going to help?” asked Bon.
“Who? I’d say everyone,” replied Wulf, his arms folded.
“To escape? You can’t, there’s no time, and they are… there’s too many to save. How much money do you think this all will raise?” said Bon, sweeping his arm to indicate the rare equipment lying on the floor.
“My friend, I don’t really care,” said Wulf, his hand again on the young man’s shoulder. Bon felt the old fingers tighten on his shoulder with an unexpected strength.
“You want me to sell it?” asked Bon, suddenly feeling uneasy.
“No I don’t. I want you to clean it.”
“Clean it? What for?”
Wulf relaxed his grip on Bon’s shoulder and stood back. Reaching into his robe he withdrew a battered old Investafoe scanner.
“It’s been adapted to work even in this shitty air” said Wulf as he passed it to Bon. Bon was puzzled, but turned on the scanner anyway. It took a moment to calibrate itself, and Bon smirked at the primitiveness of the technology. Readied, he pointed the scanner at Wulf, and read the results.
“This must be wrong.”
“Oh? A problem?” said the old man.
“The readings… they’re all…”
Bon looked hard, blinking to check he was seeing it correctly.
“That’s right then. It works,” said Wulf, taking off his faded robe and piling it on the trunk lid. He took off his rumpled sweater also, and Bon saw for the first time the scars that lined the old man’s arms, strong arms which flexed and rippled like knotted iron. He could see the powerful chest and shoulders clearly now; where once stood an old man, he saw the physique of a warrior.
“Pass me my armour,” said Wulf.
Bon reached for the first part he could grab, hurriedly wiping the dust from it with his sleeve before giving it to him.
“Wulf, what’s going on?” he asked as the old man strapped the shin-guard to his leg.
“Death was what you came in with. Let’s stick with that,” said Wulf, gesturing for another piece.
“But what are you going to do?” asked Bon, his confusion not letting him see anything.
“What I first came here to do,” said the old-timer, standing tall now in his garb of war.
“I’ve slept for years, my job was done. Times moved on and I didn’t. Every day I serve here and train quietly. Every day for more than fifty years I’ve waited and wondered if I’d ever be needed again.”
Bon gazed back into the steely-blue eyes of the old friend he barely knew.
“And as for Wulf,” said the old soldier with a smile,
“…Call me Skalman.”
(apologies to the man in question, never asked permission but hey it's a nice story)