Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Running From the Past, Part 1

The update on the three stories I'm working on are all three are over 1500 words and still going strong. But tonight is the start of a story I wrote 8-9 years ago. It's the longest Battletech Fanfiction I've ever written (As of now, it's the longest Battletech story I've ever written).

The following is from the original post on Battletechuniverse.com, which explains much of the background. The original story was part of BTU's Periphery fanfiction contest. That one won, but people wanted to see more. So I did....


Author's notes:

All right, because I was asked to, here is the revised and extended version of Running From the Past. To give you an idea of the difference between this one and the original, the version that won the contest was 38 pages and 15,121 words. this version is 80 pages and 33,399 words. A novella.....

The story here was the one I was writing when my muse, she of bluntness, slapped alongside the head and yelled at me "it's a *#*@%#&!^#% short story, you moron, not a novel!" That's why I ended up with the first version of this story -- I cut out a lot of half-written scenes and simplified the plot. It won, and a few of you wanted to read more, saying it was too short. So, I went and expanded the plot as I originally saw it, added back in the half written scenes I had save off, and completed them.

When I use the term "Revised and Extended, I mean just that. Almost everything in the middle to late part of this story is brand new. I did go through and rewrite some things, either to make it mesh with other events in the story, to add some depth to things and people, and left one or two things for the reader's imagination to chew over.

Anyway, this is rated PG-13 for violence, but there's no nudity or porn, which is a good thing, as this isn't the place for it. I hope you enjoy this. :D


Running From the Past: A Story of the Periphery (Revised and Extended) 
By Craig A. Reed, Jr. (Trboturtle)
Rating: PG-13

“Which of us can overcome his past?” 
– James Baldwin, Alas, Poor Richard, 1961 

Cascade, New Colony Region
The Periphery
19 September, 3063

Ian Jägare rode into town slowly.

His horse was a small grey gelding, bread for endurance, sturdiness, and intelligence. The donkey Jägare led by a rope harness was also small and gray, and burdened with a number of canvass bundles strapped across its back. Jägare himself was slightly above medium height, muscular and agile, making him look younger then his thirty-seven years. He was clean shaven, revealing a face that was too angular to be called handsome, but there was a rough quality some women would find attractive. He was dressed in heavy, calf-high boots, military-style pants, shirt, sweater, over which he wore a duster. A wide brimmed hat was on his head, shielding his face from the drizzle of rain that was an almost constant presence on Cascade. A large-bore hunting rifle was slung across his back, a revolver rode on his right hip, while a long knife was sheathed on his left.

There were only a few people out on the street, most choosing to stay indoors in this weather. One or two waved at Jägare as he rode by, and he waved back. Most of the population of LaCroix knew him by sight, though few actually had ever talked to him, something that Jägare didn't mind too much. He preferred his own company and the solitude of the forest surrounding LaCroix.

LaCroix consisted of nearly a hundred buildings huddled in a bend of the Knife River, with a population of about four hundred people. Most of the people were involved in Cascade’s lumber industry in one way or another, while a few, like Jägare, used LaCroix as their base for their hunting and guide businesses. Most of the buildings were made from military-grade dura-plast, strong enough to keep out the chill and dampness of the harsh Cascade winters. Most residents had made the attempt to soften the harsh lines of the dura-plast with wooden siding and facings, with some success. The town’s roads were paved, though, with the exception of the road to Morrow City and the pair of lumber mills to the east, they all ended at the edge of town, where they became dirt trails. There were only a few vehicles in town, but a sizable number of horses and a few mules.

Jägare reined his horse in front of a small building with a sign that said ‘Marshal’s Station.’ A man limped out of the building and stood under the shelter of the building’s eaves. “Hello, Ian,” he said with a nod.

“Amos,” Jägare replied as he wrapped the guide rope of the donkey around the pommel of his saddle. He then got off his horse and climbed the two steps from the road to the promenade, shaking some of the water from his duster. “How’s things been?”

“Quiet.” Amos Dunn was LaCroix’s senior deputy marshal. He was shorter then Jägare, but broader in the shoulders and hips. “What about you?”

Jägare unslung his rifle. “Good. Heard from Janos Delaney lately?”

“Nope.” Dunn was older then Jägare, and his near-blond hair was losing the battle against time. With his watery blue eyes and moon face, the Deputy looked like a naive man, but in reality, he was a retired Magistracy of Canopus Banner Sergeant, a combat veteran, and one of Marshal Kove Jackson’s most trusted men.

“Good,” Jägare replied, removing the magazine from the rifle and handing the ten-round clip to Dunn. “That means that rock tiger I killed north of his place last week was probably the one that had been attacking his cattle herd.” With a practiced ease, Jägare pulled the heavy bolt of the rifle back, allowing the round already in the chamber to be ejected and to be caught in mid-air. He then handed the rifle and the bullet to Dunn.

“About time,” Dunn said, taking the rifle and pocketing the magazine after loading the free bullet in it. “Delaney’s been a pain in the neck since that tiger showed up.”

Jägare unhooked his gun belt, removed it and handed it to the deputy. “He had reason to be upset,” he said. “The one I killed was three meters long, not including the tail, and weight nearly eight hundred kilograms. That’s a lot of tiger to kept fed.”

Dunn nodded as he slung the gun belt over his shoulder. “You going to be in town long?” he asked.

“A while. I need to over to the trading post and pick up some things. Why?”

“The Marshal is up here. He wants to talk to you about something.”

“Oh?” Jägare replied. “What?”

“He’d better explain. He’s showing a new Marshal around the town right now.”

“New Marshal?”

Dunn nodded. “Some young buck fresh out of the Marshal school. They sent him out here to get some hands-on experience.”

“About time. Kove could use the help.”

The deputy shrugged. “If the kid wasn't so wet behind the ears, I’d agree with you.”

“We were all wet behind the ears sometime in our lives,” Jägare said.

“I suppose so.” Dunn held up Jägare’s rifle and gun belt. “They’ll be ready for you when you’re set to leave town.”

Jägare nodded. “I’m heading for the stables, then Andrea’s for a couple of hours. After that, I’ll probably stop for a drink at Ramsey’s before I head out. I want to be back in my cabin before dark.”

“I’ll tell the Marshal,” Dunn said.


Andrea Starver ran what she called a ‘trading post’ in LaCroix. Unlike some of the other stores in town, she was willing to trade goods and services for supplies and equipment. Most of the hunters and guides, like Jägare, preferred bartering over payment, because cash wasn’t much use out in the wilderness. In return for the supplies and equipment, Andrea took the furs and hides from the hunters, then turn around and sold them to someone in Morrow City who would then either export them or sell them to someone else on-planet. The system worked well: Andrea bargained fairly, so both sides got what they wanted without too much disagreement.

She was one of the few people on Cascade that Jägare knew better than just as a passing acquaintances. Over the last couple of years, he and Andrea and spent several afternoons and a few more evenings talking over meals and coffee. She was bright, funny, and listened well. Like most people here on Cascade, she didn’t pry into Jägare’s past, but took what little he had said at face value. It was friendship, quiet and strong, but part of Jägare knew it was drifting into something more. . . personal.

Andrea’s father had started the trading post some seven years before, almost as soon as LaCroix had been founded. His business quickly became the preferred location for the hunters and guides to get their supplies and trade their hides and furs. Andreas Starver was a friend and adviser to most of the hunters, treating them fairly and with respect. In return, the hunters made sure Andreas was never short of fresh meat or Cascadian Scrimshaw to sell in the capital. When he died the year before Jägare arrived, all of the Hunters turned out for his funeral.

Andrea had immediately stepped up and taken over the business, running much as her father had done. Most of the hunters treated Andrea like their kid sister, and all had an unspoken knowledge of how far they could go. New Hunters quickly found out that Andrea was not fair game, and she had a number of ‘older brothers’ to back it up. Of course, not one consulted Andrea on this, very much to her annoyance.

It hadn't been hard to take the hints about Andrea from the hunters when Jägare first arrived in LaCroix. However, it hadn't take long for Jägare to realize that Andrea wasn't seeing him as an older brother, but as a potential romantic partner. They had been dancing around each other for a while, but Jägare didn't know how much longer she would take ‘no’ for an answer.

Her trading post was two blocks down from the stables, so Jägare walked the distance, staying in the shelter of the building’s eaves as much as possible. As he did so, his eyes scanned his surroundings, as they always did when he was on the hunt. It was a holdover from his past, and one that had stood him in good stead since then. There were no rock tigers or stonehorn antelope this close to town, but Jägare was more concerned about that same past of his catching up and killing him.

The store occupied the ground floor of a medium-sized building, and was crowded with everything from firearms to food, generators to feed grain. The isles were narrow and the items on the shelves were packed almost to the point of overflowing. A counter ran along the right side of the room, behind which some more fragile items were on display. Over in one corner, a thin, hatchet-face man was placing some items on a shelf, while a young woman was reading over some papers on the counter.

When he walked in, the woman looked up. “Ian!” she said with a smile. “About time you came into town!” She was shorter then Jägare by half a head, with long blonde hair, green eyes and striking features that made her one of the most attractive women in town. She was dressed in jeans a flannel shirt, and boots, the standard ‘business dress’ in LaCroix.

“Andrea,” Jägare said.

“I thought you were going to hold up in that cabin of yours until next spring,” she said, walking from behind the counter and toward Jägare. She was fit and moved with a grace that would make a dancer envious. Her expression was one of hope and expectation.

“Needed some supplies,” he said., feeling his throat constrict. Andrea was a smart, beautiful and tough woman who had never hid her attraction for him. And were the circumstances different, he would be more then willing to allow her into his heart and life, despite the other hunters. But he couldn't take that chance.

Not with his past.

She faltered slightly, her expression fading into sadness. “I see,” she said. Then, in a more brisk tone, she said. “What do you have?”

He reached into the pocket of his duster and drew out a folded sheet of paper. “Here’s a list of what I've got over at Scott’s stables.”

She took the list and scanned it. “I’ll send Max over and pick up the stuff.” She looked at the hatchet-faced man, who simply nodded, walked past them, and continued out the door. She then looked at Jägare, her expression determined. “Then, we bargain.”

After Max returned with the items, it took them about an hour to work their way through the furs and other items Jägare had brought in. Despite Andrea’s disappointment, she didn't let that affect her bargaining skills or the way she treated him. Jägare wasn't surprised that the final total for his goods was within a hundred C-bills of his own estimate, more then enough to cover the supplies he wanted.

Jägare removed another list from his pocket and handed it to Andrea. “This is what I’m aiming for in the way of supplies,” he said.

She scanned the list. “Ammo won’t be a problem,” she said, not looking up. “Neither will be the flour and feed grain. The tri-vid programs, on the other hand, are rather thin right now. Most of what I have is second rate Capellian and Leaguer stuff. And novels? Forget it. What I have is mostly third-rate Canopus romance and Compact text books so dull, you’d be unconscious before the end of the first chapter! Most everything else I can swing, but –“

Jägare heard someone outside approaching the front door of the store. Out of habit, he turned slightly, allowing him to see the door out of the corner of his right eye. At the same time, he hooked his thumb of his right hand into his belt so the fingers were only a few millimeters from the hilt of his knife. He had long ago memorized the location of both the firearms and the ammunition in the store, just in case.

When the door finally opened, it took Jägare a couple of heartbeats to recognize the first man to enter. Slowly, he relaxed and moved his hand away from the knife. Andrea looked up from the list. “Marshal,” she said with a smile.

“Miss Starver,” said Marshal Kove Jackson. “Jägare.” He looked at Max and gave him a nod. The hatchet-faced man nodded back and went back to stocking a shelf.

The Marshal was taller then Jägare, with wide shoulders and narrow hips. Most of his face was hidden in the shadow of the wide brimmed hat he wore, but when he tilted his head back, showing a face that resembled a slightly unfinished statue, with angular cheekbones, a jaw square and strong, as a piece of granite and a fierce, beak-like nose. His cold blue eyes swept the store before he focused his attention on Andrea and Jägare. His clothes were worn, yet clean, and the large gold star denoting the position he held was pinned to the right side of his chest. A pistol belt was around his waist, with the pistol low on his right hip.

“Marshal,” Jägare replied. He had no personal problems with Jackson, and he was somewhat of a friend, but the Marshal was the law on Cascade, and someone to keep at arm’s length. In the wild and untamed area of the New Colony Region, the Colonial Marshals were rapidly becoming the glue that held the fragile new colonies together.

Jackson motioned to the other man with him. “This is Marshal William Takezaki. He’s been assigned to Cascade. William, this is Andrea Starver, who owns this store, and Ian Jägare, one of our Hunters.”

Takezaki was taller and beefier then Jackson, but didn't carry himself with the same authority as the older man. He was somewhat handsome, with the only indication of his Asian ancestry was the slight fold along the edge of his eyes. Jägare noticed his eyes were taking in everything around him like Jackson had done, but not at the same speed or certainty. Like the older Marshal, he wore military-style boots, trousers, shirt, gunbelt, gold star, and broad-brimmed hat, but everything had the cleanness of new clothing. He touched the brim of his hat in a gesture of respect. “Ma’am, Mister Jägare.”

“Marshal Takezaki,” said Andrea. “Been on Cascade long?”

“A couple of weeks,” Takezaki replied. “Marshal Jackson has been showing me around the Colony.”

Jackson nodded. “I want to start rotating him through the towns on a biweekly basis.”

“Is that a good idea?” Jägare asked.

The senior Marshal looked at Jägare carefully. “Do you think that will be a problem?”

“Some of these towns can be a bit rowdy, especially when its payday.”

“Nothing that the Deputies can’t handle. I want him to get a feel for the people and the problems we have here.”

Jägare shrugged. “That’s your call.”

Takezaki tilted his head slightly. “You don’t think I can handle myself, do you Mister Jägare?”

“I don’t know that. But green troops, no matter how well trained, will make mistakes that might kill them.”

Jägare watched Takezaki, looking for any hints of anger, but the larger man just shrugged. “I know, but everyone is green at sometime in their life. Right now, its my turn to do and learn from my mistakes.”

“Assuming they don’t kill you.”

“If I wanted to stay safe, I wouldn't have left Taurus and joined the Colonial Marshals.”

“We’ll have to see how it works out,” Jackson said. “Ian, I wanted to talk to you about something.”

“Dunn said you did.” Jägare replied.

“Let’s talk outside. Will, stay here and look around the store.. Have Andrea show you the rock tiger pelts.”

While Andrea lead the young Marshal away from the counter, Jackson lead Jägare outside. By now, the rain had stopped, but the air was heavy with humidity. A few more people were walking around the town, but no one was near the two men.

“He’s green,” Jägare said.

“I know,” Jackson replied. “But he graduated at the top of his class, and he’s got a good head on his shoulders. He doesn't anger easily, as you've already seen.”

“Yeah. What did you want to see me about?”

“How much contact do you have with the other Hunters?”

Jägare shrugged. “Not too often. We’ll cross trails sometimes, run into each other while we’re in town. We’re not exactly the most sociable group on Cascade. Why?”

Jackson let his eyes drift both to the left and right before he continued. “I’ve received some reports from Fort Carradine involving slaver raids on NCR planets.”

The Hunter frowned. Fort Carradine was the Headquarters for the Colonial Marshals on Fronc. “Slavers?”

The Marshal nodded. “Over the last two years, six planets in the NCR have been hit by a group calling themselves the Brotherhood of the Bloody Skull. Their operational method is to find a colony, land some distance away, sneak in, attack one of the outlying settlements, take as many prisoners as they can, then leave before the locals realize they were there.”

“You think it might happen here?”

“We are on the edge of the region. Sooner or later, we will be attacked.”

Jägare nodded. “What do you want from us Hunters?”

“I don’t have the manpower or equipment to even begin to think about patrolling the forests. Our satellites aren’t designed to track ground units. But you Hunters know the land and you spend most of your time in it. All I’m asking you and the others is to keep an eye out for anything unusual while you’re out hunting.”

“Any idea on the size of the unit these slavers have?” Jägare asked.

Jackson shrugged. “The reports are a bit confused, but they do have at least two ‘Mechs, maybe more. Some vehicles to haul away the captives. Maybe thirty-five to forty thugs with small arms.”

“A sizeable force. Not something that can hide too well.”

“True,” Jackson replied. “But, if no one’s out there to see them, they don’t have to be experts at hiding.”

Jägare nodded. “You’re right. I’ll pass the word along to any Hunter I meet, but we don’t cross paths too often. You’d better fill in Andrea too. She’s more likely to see most of the Hunters before I will.”

“I already planned to.”

“Fine. Anything else?”

The Marshal shook his head. “That’s all. If you do come across them, call it in. There’s no way you can handle a ‘Mech by yourself, even a light one.”

Jägare smiled. “You’d be surprised what some training and the right motivation can do to a ‘Mech.”

Jackson tilted his head slightly. “The Kungsarme teach you?”

Jägare shrugged, still smiling. It was generally assumed that he was from the Rasalhague Republic, and Jägare encouraged the impression. “I’ll call it in,” he said. “Promise. And I’ll pass the word along to any Hunter I meet. Satisfactory?”

“Good enough, and thanks.”

“Anything to help the law,” Jägare said cheerfully, but automatically, his mind started working out possible landing sites and paths of march for a raiding party. With a small shake of his head, he dismissed the line of thought. Can’t shake off all that training so easily, he thought.

It started to rain again. “Let’s go back inside,” the Marshal said, looking into the overcast sky.

Back inside, Andrea was showing Takezaki a pile of furs. They looked up as Jägare and Jackson walked in. “You hunt these?” Takezaki asked, placing a hand on the green and gold striped furs.

Jägare nodded. “Them, stonehorn antelope, rabbit elk, and unicorn deer. Most of the time, we are limited to six rock tigers in a calendar year.” He motioned to the fur under Takezaki’s hand. “But that top one was going after a local rancher’s cattle, so I was hired to kill it.”

The young Marshal nodded. “Make a good living?”

The Hunter shrugged. “Enough to get by.”

“We’d better move on,” Jackson said. “We have a few more business to visit before evening. Miss Staver, I need to talk to you about something. May I come by this evening?”

“Of course,” Andrea replied. “I had some coffee come in on the last shipment.”

Jackson smiled. “Then I will make sure I come by.” He touched the brim of his hat. “Until then.”

He walked to the door. Takezaki, however, had a strange expression on his face. “It’s funny,” he said to Jägare.

“What?” Jägare asked.

“Your name. It’s German for ‘hunter,’ isn't it?”

“Actually, it’s Swedish. But you’re right. It means ‘hunter.’”

“Isn't that a little...well, fortuitous?”

“Will,” said Jackson from the front door. “A quarter of the people on Cascade aren't using the name they were born with. People come out to make a brand new start, and unless he breaks the law here, or his past comes looking for him, I don’t care if Jägare’s real name is Jerome Blake or Sun-Tzu Liao. Leave him alone.”

“But –“

”Son, one of the first things you’ll learn out here is that trouble will come looking for you without you looking for it. Jägare’s a good man, follows the laws, pays his taxes and doesn't hassle anyone else. Who is he and where he’s from aren't our concern. Let’s be on our way.”

Andrea waited until the door closed behind the pair before she said, “I’m glad they finally sent the Marshal some help.”

“Assuming Takezaki doesn't get killed before he learns,” Jägare said softly.

“But Takezaki is right about one thing.” She looked at Jägare. “‘Ian Jägare’ isn't your real name, is it?” The hunter didn't meet her gaze. After a few seconds of silence, she nodded. “I’m not going to ask or pry. Like the Marshal said, people come out to make a brand new start.”

Jägare smiled thinly. “Some things from the past don’t always stay there. If I live long enough and work hard enough, maybe I can outrun them.”

Andrea said softly. “You don’t have to go at it alone.”

He shook his head. “Some actions can’t be forgiven and some people can’t forget. If they find me, they don’t care about anything, or anyone, between them and me.”

She sighed. “All right. Let’s see about getting your supplies together.”


Until Friday!


No comments:

Post a Comment