Thursday, May 3, 2012

Closing the Doors

This is about where I end my regular weekday writing of Ten Years on Terra.  I want to thank everybody who commented, gave me ideas, and the support to keep up with this writing project over the last year.  I may make intermittent posts here to address particular subjects as they come up, but consistent updates, I'm afraid, are coming to a close.

I'm not planning on retreating from the BattleTech community at all, of course, and I have another game planned for when Interstellar Operations releases later this year; I'll likely have another blog covering the game I run for that.  In the meantime, I'm working on some plot organization with a few friends related to aerospace, which is another part of the universe near and dear to my heart.  Whenever one of these projects has a major milestone, I'll be sure to post here as well.

Once again, thanks to my players, my readers, and all the folks at Catalyst who delivered A Time of War and made this campaign possible.  It's been a blast.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Clark's Logs, Sessions 19 & 20

VWS on a field of recently-mowed pasture at the Cameron Ranch. Galloping across the screen is FIONA, a spirited Appaloosa filly with a flowing mane. CLARK sits confidently in the saddle, and a cut-in to MS shows him leaning forward with the reins held firmly but loosely.

Attagirl, Fiona, don’t let up!

FIONA continues to gallop on for another length of the pasture before CLARK slows her to a trot. He pats the side of her neck gently and nods in approval.

You’re a mighty fine horse, FIONA. I’ll be doubly glad to
have you once old Rocky’s turned it in. He’s not near as young
as he used to be.

CLARK runs a hand through his hair, just starting to show real graying at the temple. He grimaces in thought.

Neither am I, I guess. But it’s been a rough few years. More than
a few! They’ve been here, what, seven years now? That’s a
decent chunk of my life I’ve given to the Resistance. Oh, right.
I should probably get this all out of the way now, girl, so you’re
not too surprised if the Word of Blake comes kicking down the
barn door before too long.

CLARK barks a short, humorless laugh. FIONA tosses her head nervously and whickers.

It probably won’t come to that. Probably. But it’s true! Your new
owner is a bona fide terrorist. I’ve been fighting the Word of
Blake ever since ComStar failed to kick them off my planet.


Hard to believe, I know. A mild-mannered guy like me? I’m not
even military or special ops. Neither is my friend Simon. You
remember Simon - he helped me load you up and drive you
here from the farm you used to live on. He’s a good guy,
but I’m worried about him. This fight has taken a toll on him.
More than anyone else, I think. Except Shin, but he’s gone.

CLARK looks back toward the house, lost in thought and clearly not happy.

We can’t keep this up much longer. There’s a new guy, Alan,
who helped us destroy a Wyrm and capture some critical
intelligence. He’s a Lyran, which is a little dodgy, but I like
him. I’m glad to have him, but...we haven’t seen Cho in months.
Years, actually - we just haven’t HEARD from him in months.
What if he got eaten by a bear or something? Yeah, right.

CLARK shakes his head and slows FIONA to a walk. The horse tries to stop and begin eating grass, but CLARK clicks his teeth and gives a firm tug of the reins, steering her back towards the barn.

I pity the bear who gets on the wrong side of David Cho. Of
course, ever since that last mission, Alexander’s been getting weird,
too. It was all so easy - the Missouri cell helped us bypass the security
on the data repository, and there was only one guard to take out before
we were free to start pillaging files. We even managed to NOT kill him!
Guess there are some benefits to not having Shin or Cho along...


You’re right, girl. Best not to speak ill of the dead, or possibly-
dead. We got the info that ComStar needs to root out the double
agents in their coalition before the fleets come to retake Terra.
All that’s left to do is disable a planetary defense cannon, and then
wait for the cavalry to ride in and save our asses.

CLARK glances down and shakes his head, wry amusement written across his lined face.

I thought I would be the cavalry, when I joined the Resistance.
Bravely coming in to save my planet where ComStar had failed.
Now I see that this thing’s way bigger than our little cell, or all
the little cells, can handle. I just have to pray that the info we
got them will be enough for them to make it through.

FIONA draws up close to the barn, and CLARK stops her and dismounts neatly, though with a small grunt as his feet hit the ground. He draws an apple out of his pocket and lets the horse eat it from his hand while he sighs.

I’m getting too damn old for this. We’ve done the impossible
before. But with Cho missing, and Alan not being half the
fighter Shin was - even if he is twice the human being - I’m
worried. We’ve come so far. We can’t fail here. We need to
do this, and I need to survive. What’s more, I need to make
sure Simon gets out. I still feel like I’ve dragged him into this,
and now his life’s a mess. I need to look after him until he
can really get back on his feet.

CLARK lets FIONA wander over to the trough after she finishes the apple, while he sticks his hands in his pockets and stares at the horizon.

And here’s me, pushing forty and still single. I haven’t had time
to worry about it ‘till now,’s gonna be a lonely retirement,
whether the Word or ComStar are calling the shots. The only lovely
ladies I’ve had time for live in the barn or the chicken coop. Not
that I regret it, but...okay, I regret it. A bit. Hopefully it’s not too
late for me. I haven’t come this far to die alone. Right?

CLARK looks to FIONA, who ignores him in favor of drinking from the horse trough. CLARK snorts and shakes his head as he strolls back towards the house.


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Clark's Logs, Session 18

WS on CLARK kneeling in his small garden, in overalls and a long-sleeved shirt, with his sleeves rolled up.  His gloved hands are scooping out small handfuls of earth.  At the slightest sound from just offscreen, he snatches up the rifle laying on the ground next to him, and levels it at the open garden gate.  A cottontail rabbit immediately freezes, having gotten only one hop inside the gate.  CLARK sighs.

You can come in, if you really want to.  None of the good stuff’s
grown yet.  Should’ve figured you’d waste no time if I left the
gate open.

CLARK puts the gun down and returns his attention to the soil.  Once his attention is elsewhere, the rabbit hops cautiously further into the garden, its nose twitching.

Oh, don’t be so dramatic.  You’re far from the worst guest I’ve
ever had.  Of course, I guess I have one fewer now...

CLARK shakes his head.  The rabbit continues to explore the periphery of the garden plot, occasionally stopping to nibble at the green stem of an early weed.

Shin...why’d he have to go and get himself blown up?  Okay, I
guess I wasn’t feeling charitable towards him before, but...he went
back because he thought it would help Simon and me.  He died
trying to protect us.  That’s got to be worth something.

The rabbit  pulls up a dandelion, which CLARK watches out of the corner of his eye.

Hey, maybe I should keep you on as a weed-whacker  ‘Course,
once my veggies come in, I bet you’ll forget all about the weeds.
That’s fine.  The food will go farther now that Shin’s gone and
Cho is moving out.  Going on the run, I guess?  Haven’t heard
from him in months  Do I hope he’s all right?  I don’t know.

CLARK stabs the earth with particular ferocity using his trowel, and finally seems satisfied with the hole he’s dug.  He pulls a paper pouch out of a pocket in his overalls and scatters a few seeds.

If we’re going to win this war, we’ll need him.  Win this
war...we’re not even fighting a war.  Well, I guess we are,
but it’s not one we can win.  All we can do is harry the Word
of Blake and disrupt them, so that when ComStar comes,
they’ll be that much easier to take down.  When will they come,
though?  I first got involved with the Resistance because I
was angry at what I saw happening.  I was scared for my
home.  I wanted something better for Terra.  I guess I still
do, but...I was a younger man, then.  A different man.

The rabbit hops over to CLARK, sniffing the earth carefully around where he sits.

I don’t regret it.  We’ve achieved more than I ever thought
possible, really.  We’ve stolen terabytes upon terabytes of
sensitive data, shut down weapons programs, cured a deadly
virus, and stolen an actual BattleMech.  We have a lot to be
proud of, really.

After a pensive exhalation, CLARK scoops some dirt back into the hole and pats it down with the back of his trowel.

But now Shin is dead, and the rest of us sure aren’t getting
any younger.  Simon might have lost his legs after our last
fiasco if I had made one misstep during the surgery.  I gotta
confess, I just needed to take some basic principles and hope they
still applied.  People are not my specialty.  No, they sure aren’t.

CLARK stands up, and the rabbit again freezes.

Yeah, I can still see you.  It might fool the coyotes, but not
me.  Go on.  Out you go, now!

CLARK herds the rabbit out the open garden gate, then pulls it closed with a clang.  He slides the simple latch to hold it in place while he finishes.  Turning around, he takes a moment to consider his position in the fenced-in garden.

I wonder if I might have trapped myself in more ways than one.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Clark's Logs, Session 17

EWS on two figures converging on a large, agricultural property - the Reinhardt farm.  OSS over the shoulder of CLARK CAMERON, one of the two figures, showing him approaching CINDY REINHARDT.  In her late 60s with steel-gray hair, CINDY still gives off an aura of youthful energy, and her smile lines are prominent.  She reaches out to shake CLARK’s hand as the camera switches to a Two-Shot.

Thanks for coming, Dr. Cameron.

No problem, Cindy.  What seems to be the trouble?

Some of my flock are stumbling all over themselves.  They’re not hurt or
anything, and I haven’t used any herbicides or pesticides that might be messing
with their heads.  It’s the darnedest thing.

How long ago did you notice this?

Just yesterday.  Maybe I’m just being paranoid, but I’ve never seen it before,

CLARK figured better safe than sorry.  Makes sense to me.  Mind if I go poke
around your pasture?  You’re free to come along.

CINDY smiles and shakes her head.

Too many chores to do, but you go on ahead.  Come by the house
and let me know if you find anything interesting.

CLARK nods and the two part ways, CINDY walking towards a modest homestead while CLARK walks over to the large pasture where fifty-odd head of sheep are roaming.  As he approaches the gate, a lanky llama strides over to inspect him.  It at first appears tense, but seems to relax as it draws nearer and CLARK extends a hand slowly.

Hello there, girl.  You must be Linda.  Cindy’s told me all about you.


It’s okay, I’m not here to hurt your herd.

CLARK looks distant at that as he begins walking.  The llama paces him, occasionally sniffing or nudging him curiously, but otherwise seeming content just to follow him.  CLARK, apparently used to this treatment from animals, pats her absently while apparently deep in thought.  His forehead creases, and a frown grows on his face as he inspects the pasture.

I can understand why you might worry, though.  I’ve done some
things I’m not proud of recently.  I killed a man with an experimental
wormhole-generating weapon.  I aimed that weapon at him because I
wanted him to die, and he did.  Boy howdy, did he ever.

CLARK shakes his head as he approaches the flock of sheep.  They begin to stand as he gets closer, though some of them have obvious difficulty getting to their feet.  These sheep flail in an almost comical manner, falling repeatedly as they clumsily fail to get their feet beneath them.  One falls over completely, and CLARK quickly approaches it, staying low and moving slowly.  He calms it with a touch and a few gentle words, the presence of LINDA also seeming to reassure the ovine.

Easy, girl.  Let me take a look at you.  Sorry for the interruption, Linda.


CLARK opens his bag and begins examining the sheep, looking down its throat and into its eyes as he speaks.
But this guy was wearing power armor.  He was paid by the Word of
Blake to guard a secret lab where they were manufacturing weapons of
mass destruction.  And he was going to kill Simon.  He had to die.  It...I’d
be lying if I said it didn’t bother me, but I’d do it again.  I would.

This admission seems to steel CLARK a bit as he rolls the sheep gently upright, feeling its flanks for irregularities.  Seemingly satisfied, he helps it to its feet, and watches it walk wobbily off to rejoin its comrades.

It almost seemed like this would just be a silly adventure.  Shin wearing
that ridiculous gorilla suit over his power armor, them denting my truck and
outwitting TerraSec officers.  The Missouri team had good intelligence and a
good plan.  I had hoped Simon hearing about someone misusing HIS research
the way they misused mine would help galvanize him a bit.  Boy, was I wrong.

CLARK begins to meander through the field, eyes sweeping the plant life until he comes to a heavily cropped bunch of hardy-looking green grass.  LINDA walks close behind.

Ah - is this ryegrass?  Do you eat ryegrass here, girl?

As if to answer, LINDA ducks her head down toward the tuft of grass.  CLARK steps gently towards her, enough that the llama’s natural reaction is to stop bending over, and guides her head away from the grass.

Better let me have a look first.

CLARK takes a small hand lens out of his bag and stoops over the grass, searching for its small flowers.

When we took out the guards, Shin wanted to execute all the scientists.
What the Hell?!?  Yeah, they were working for the Word, but not only
were they no threat to us, I guarantee you that those fifteen scientists
would NEVER work for the Word of Blake after what happened to them
at this place.  They were scared out of their minds!  They would have run
for the hills, setting the project back years and costing the WoBies tons
of C-bills in tracking them down.  I told him as much, and he said he’d only
maim them, so he started chopping off their hands!
At this point, CLARK’s hand is shaking so violently that he drops the hand lens.

Blake’s blood.

It takes the veterinarian a few moments of sifting through the tall grass to recover his tool.  After this he resumes examining the flower, brushing something off onto his fingers from the small blossom.

I tended their wounds as best I could.  He was a psychopath, but at
least they weren’t dead.  We had to leave, then, and I was just about
coming to terms with what had just happened when Cho blew up the
entire fucking floor!  All those people...those terrified, harmless, suffering
people.  That was wrong.  That was beyond wrong.  I can’t believe...

CLARK’s eyes widen and he snaps the hand lens back into its folded position.

Aha!  Just as I though.  Acremonium.


It’s a genus of saprophytic fungus.  Some of them specialize in perennial
ryegrass, and they create a nasty toxin that can mess with the neurobiology
of grazing critters such as yourself and those sheep.  What we’ve got here
is a bona fide case of Ryegrass Staggers.  Good thing Cindy caught it early
enough, I can prescribe an enzyme blocker that should stop the toxic effects
while she gets all this ryegrass out.  It might be a pricey undertaking, but this
field’s no good for grazing.  You’d all be dead or moribund in a few weeks’ time.

CLARK’s short-lived eureka enthusiasm fades at this statement.

I should go tell Cindy what’s up.  Come to that, I think I need to have a
few words with my houseguests.  I’m giving them a place to stay, I’m
tending their injuries, I’m building an entire goddamn silo I don’t need to
hide the stolen ‘Mech they need to fight their little war.  If I talk, they’ve
got to listen.  And if they don’t...

LINDA spits.

Yeah.  Then good riddance.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Clark's Logs, Session 16

WS of the inside of CLARK’s lab, focused on the large double door to the outside.  The sounds of a hose being turned off can be heard, and a moment later, CLARK pushes the heavy metal doors open.  Walking behind him as he enters is a slowly plodding white Shorthorn cow, BERYL.  BERYL’s tongue is hanging from her mouth, and appears visibly red and swollen.  Copious drool trails from her mouth as CLARK leads her over to the sizable livestock operating theater in the center of the room.  Her hooves leave wet, but clean, footprints on the linoleum floor - apparently, they were rinsed thoroughly before she came inside.

I’m sorry again about this, Beryl.  I should have caught this a
while ago, but between the missions, the repairs to the house, and
trips out to the mountains, I’ve not been looking after you all as
closely as I should.

*pant, pant*

I know it hurts, girl.  We can fix it, I promise.  Come on over here
and have a lie down.

CLARK gently coaxes BERYL into a laying position in the operating theater before pulling on a pair of gloves and donning a surgical mask.  He takes a syringe from his bag and rummages through one of the supply cabinets for a few moments before coming out with a clear bottle of anesthetic.  He performs some quick calculations based on BERYL’s body mass and then fills the syringe, chatting all the while.

Wooden tongue’s a lot easier to treat early on, but you must have
gotten worse over the long weekend.  We’re gonna have to drain
the swelling and put you on antimicrobial irrigation.  Guess you must
be wondering what I’ve been up to that’s more important than looking
after you, huh?


Well, I feel like I owe you at least a little explanation.  Me, Simon,
and the ComGuard have been busy as bees these last few months.
You’ll never guess what our latest big escapade was!  Go on, guess.

BERYL merely regards CLARK with a patient but pained expression.  He sighs.

Sorry.  Let’s get you squared away.

CLARK approaches BERYL and coaxes her into opening her mouth a bit more, revealing that her tongue is grotesquely swollen, red, and quite rigid.  He probes for a bit, to much grunting and consternation from BERYL, before choosing a place to inject the local anesthetic.  Only CLARK’s tight but comforting grip on the back of her head and his soothing manner with animals prevent the cow from thrashing as her tender tongue suffers the injection.

There, there, girl.  You’re gonna be just fine soon, don’t you worry.
Now, where was I?  Right, Operation Mechsteal.  Our fellow Resistance
fighters don’t get points for creative codenaming, but the information they
gave us was good enough.  We were able to find a mech hangar out in
the middle of the woods near Devil’s Tower, and there were just four Wobbie
guards playing poker.

BERYL seems to relax as the anesthetic numbs her aching tongue.

Yeah, I was relieved too.  I gotta say, I had no idea what we’d be
getting into.  Alex formed a plan, and we all went in, sneaking
across the clearing and using the sides of their prefab hangar to
hide us from view till we were practically on top of them.  Shin
and David went in first, David in his crazy shrubbery outfit.  I guess
they saw him, ‘cause I heard one of the Wobbies say to his
buddies, “We’re allowed to shoot bushes, right?”


I know!  The nerve of those assholes, pardon my French, joking
about being about to kill a man.  Well, David got behind cover
before they opened up, and Shin sure let them have it.  That was
Alex’s and my signal to come at them from behind as they were turning
to face David and Shin.  It was tense, but nothing I couldn’t handle.

There is a distinct pause as CLARK, who was sterilizing his tools, stares off into space.

It hardly bothered me at all, this time.  The Word of Blake has
done so many terrible things.  They’re still people, of course, but...
things are different, now.  We’re at war, and I think I see what that

CLARK takes his scalpel and a suction tube attached to a small, rolling bucket over to where BERYL is laying peacefully.  He slips the suction tube into her mouth and powers up the vacuum.  Slurping sounds can be heard as the tube clears the cow’s mouth of drool, and BERYL barely flinches as CLARK begins making incisions to drain her swollen tongue of pus and fluid.

In a way, it’s not so different from medicine.  If something goes
rotten, sometimes, you just have to cut it out.  If there’s complications
in a birth, you sometimes have to lose the calf to save the mother.  It’s
hard, but I’d gotten used to it.  Someone has to make those kinds of calls.
That someone might as well be me.  Dangerous hubris?  Perhaps.  But
I know right from wrong, dammit, and what the Word is doing is wrong.

CLARK calms himself, shoulders slumping a bit as he releases tension he didn’t realize he’d been holding.

Thanks for understanding.  It’s good to get that off my
chest.  Anyway, Alex got in the ‘Mech while I took care
of the bodies and Simon took care of the hangar’s cameras and
communications feed.  I guess it needed some sort of code thing,
because Cho had to go up and install it before Alex could move the
thing.  I guess its neural sensors were off, too, because Alex
practically tripped his first step out of the hangar!

As he makes the last cut, CLARK tosses the gore-soaked scalpel into a shallow metal tray.  He gets up and fetches a large bottle of iodine solution, then settles back down to begin hooking up an irrigation system that will keep BERYL’s mouth constantly disinfected.

We split off into the forest after that, with David flying his chopper
and Alex forced to run over land.  The Word showed up pretty quickly,
of course, but Alex managed to keep one step ahead them for a while.
Considering how misaligned the neural uplink sounded like it was, he
must really be a hell of a pilot.

CLARK gently tilts BERYL’s head so that she doesn’t swallow any of the iodine solution, and then begins to rinse her freely flowing wounds.  The suction tube’s slurping increases in volume and intensity.

Speaking of pilots, it’s a good thing David knows what he’s doing in that
chopper.  They almost caught Alex at one point, but he buzzed them so
close that I could practically see the stunned Wobbie pilots sitting in their
‘Mechs as we passed!  It gave Alex the distraction he needed to get away
again.  But he might never have outdistanced them if Simon hadn’t come
up with his bright idea.  Simon spoofed the ‘Mech’s tracking signature to
Cho’s chopper while Alex powered down to hide and rip out the transponder.
By the time the Word realized they were chasing a wild goose, we were
both long gone!  Ha!

CLARK allows the rinse to continue as he seems to collect his final thoughts.

We stashed the ‘Mech in a chasm with a cave at the bottom I know about
from some mycological excursions, and hid it as best we could.  We still
need to take trips out there once a month to do maintenance on the thing, though.
I guess building a new silo for it would probably be worthwhile in terms of
help to the Resistance - i.e., us.  Sorry we were gone so long this time, girl.
I promise I won’t let anything like this happen to you again.

BERYL nuzzles CLARK’s shoulder, her mouth hanging open and fluids flowing freely.  Fade to black.