Sabledrake Magazine

August, 2001

 

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Feature Articles

     Diary of a PBeM, Pt 1: Foundations

     Down and Out in Wren's Crossing, Pt.3

     Deiryan's Smile

     Hero Boy

     Crossbow Point

     CTF 2187: Storms of the Soul

     Lachesis' Thread: Prologue

     Bridging Universes

     To All Things, A Season

 

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     What's Your Fantasy

     Vecna's Eye

     Off the Shelf

     The Play's the Thing

 

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CTF 2187:  Storms in the Soul

Copyright © 2001 by Shannon Muir

About the Game:  CTF 2187 from Advanced Gaming Enterprises features teams of Battle Bots pitted against each other in Arenas.  Two or four sided contests are possible, as well as a yearly Free-For-All contest where a group of Bots fight to see who's "the Best in the Arenas".  Some players act as Independents, allowing the GMs to put them with any group of Pilots.  Others organize themselves into teams, either official (on record with AGE) or unofficial.  This story is centered around characters who are actual Pilot characters in CTF 2187, but is not heavily based on actual game play; its aim is to capture the historical and political climate in which the ‘backstory’ of the game is based.  Some material contained within is copyrighted by Advanced Gaming Enterprises and used by permission. I’ve been playing the game for over ten years, but that’s my only association with the company. For more information, write:  Advanced Gaming Enterprises, Post Office Box 214949, Sacramento, CA 95821-0949 or see their website at http://www.ageforfun.com.

 


Vienna Cartwright watched several people waging illegal bets over the Battle Bot war raging on the vidscreen.  Whether two teams or four, on a grid of thirty-by-thirty or thereabouts, eight to ten rounds on the average, everyone loved seeing how the contests would unfold.  This wasn’t play acting; countries hired these mercenary teams to fight to the death to solve world problems.  Never mind others cashed in along the way with the telecasts or betting on the winners in illegal gambling halls. 

Vienna, named from her father’s wistful dreams of escape to legendary cities of old, picked at the patches in her jeans.  She resisted the urge to pace, but worried because her father hadn’t met up with her for the rendezvous.  He’d said it was just one job, one last well paying job to get them out of the poverty slums and into a better life. 

She turned her attention back to the vidscreen.  Once upon a time, back in the early days, her father had been one of those kind of pilots.  They called him Dark Horse then, when he’d been a member of Forsythe’s Falcons.  In his first and only contest, Forsythe’s prototype Bot exploded and he was posthumously accused of selling its plans to the Black Market.  The whole experience had traumatized her father and he was given an honorable discharge, but never really managed to build a new life outside of the Arenas.  Or at least that’s the story that she’d grown up hearing.

I wonda what it would be like, she daydreamed while watching a Cyclops shoot its Particle Beam Cannon at a helpless Ravager, to say my old man is some kinda hero.

“Hey baby,” slurred a drunken, portly fellow who looked like he might have been a Bot mechanic before the booze consumed his existence. He grabbed for Vienna’s flowing brown hair.  “I can show ya more firepower than that honkin’ Titan bot up there.”

Vienna responded by slugging the undesirable lowlife and hightailing it out of there.  She might be just barely legal, but she could fend for herself.

That’s when she decided to go to the old armory, where she knew the job was going down.  It wasn’t like her old man to stand her up.  Something had to be wrong.

 

Vienna watched the old armory go up in flames just as she cleared the top of the hill.  Her father’s dream of  the dirty city they lived in filled with illicit activity was ablaze... and dying.

From over on the next hill, Vienna could hear voices on the wind.

“It’s over, Fran,”  came a young male voice, full of energy and vibrance.

“How... did you rescue me?”

A female voice, almost croaking, posed the question.

“I set explosives on Lorne’s simulator cockpit after Rus and I took out his black-robed bodyguards,”  Vienna heard another male voice, tinged with cynicism but still obviously young. “We had to get you out before the fire spread.”

“But... I’m still confused... how’d the troops get into this?” 

The female again.

“Blaze called in some favors, I guess,”  replied the energetic male. “He and your mom... well, Aria... pooled together enough evidence from Callenda’s possessions to make a case based on what she told you.  They’re searching down there right now for evidence.  Let’s just hope something survived the fire.”

 “Is Lorne still alive?” the female asked nervously.  “I mean, I know you set the explosives,  but--”

“Everyone I’ve talked to says Lorne’s chances weren’t too good, being so close to the explosions.  No one can find him, and there’s talk Blaze may become the next Ambassador on the High Council of the Arenas,” explained the cynical young male. “But if we could escape, I’m afraid Lorne may have too.”

"It's a pity you had to take out Victor Cartwright though," interjected a new voice, an older and wiser male.  "He really was a bright man.”

Vienna clenched her fist in rage.

"Come on," Vienna heard the female say.  "I want to go home."

Vienna raced up the hill to see who the speakers had been.  She couldn’t make out much because the speakers were walking away from her, but the woman she recognized as someone who’d been all over the broadcasts.  Known as Femme Fatale, she’d been vocal in forming the first team exclusive to female pilots, the Sisters of Silicon.  Vienna used to admire her.  But the conversation she’d heard sounded like this woman had been the one to kill her father!

"I will make who killa my old man pay,” Vienna seethed with rage.  “I will!”

 

+++

Back in the run-down trailer she and her father had shared in Arengas, Vienna started a process of transformation.  She crudely cut off her long hair and dyed it a fiery red, and put on a pair of her father's coveralls.  The once-feminine Vienna had evolved into more of a tomboy, at least that was her estimation of herself as she looked in the mirror.

It ain't enough, Vienna thought.  I gotta do more.

+++

Vienna took her father's stash of gambling winnings and went into Gamestown, looking for someone who could help her cause.  Word had it the best-priced and most efficient plastic surgeon worked near the Academy, often taking care of Pilots who had been disfigured by the aftereffects of cockpit damage.  His name:  Dr. Lawrence Wright.

"I'm not sure I can help you," Dr. Wright told his prospective patient.  "Generally what I do here is reconstructive surgery and therapy, not cosmetic work."

In the air, Dr. Wright traced the contours of Vienna's face.

"You have a beautiful face as is, miss.  I still don't understand why you want to change it."

Vienna plopped her cash on the table, astounding Dr. Wright.

"You ain't understandin' me.  My family is all gone now.  I ain't got nobody.  Wanna forget da past, move on.  If you ain't gonna do it, I can finda backstreet fella who will."

"After a few months of counseling, to be sure it's what you really want, then perhaps--"

"Ain't got time for no counselin'.  I know what I wants!"

Dr. Wright sighed.

"Then I'm afraid I can't help you, Miss.  I'm sorry."

Vienna raked up her money and stormed out.

+++

The not-so-straight-and-narrow surgeon Vienna finally connected with did a semi-hatchet job, claiming her funds would barely cover his work.  Her face looked changed enough, but  definitely rough and hardened... even mildly scarred in a few places. Not what she would have wished for, but as least it made it look like she'd truly lived her life fighting.  As if a hard life in poverty wasn’t battleground enough.

After "buying" a new identity on the street, the final step before entering the Academy lay ahead:  filling out all the blasted paperwork.  Vienna entered her "new identity" as Elise Shannon for the personal information, but became puzzled when she got to Pilot Handle.

"I ain't understandin' what this Pilot Handle thingie is," Vienna told the recruiter at the desk.

"It's the twenty letter name you want to go by, for the scoreboards and such.  You know,  an alias.  To make an identity for yourself."

Vienna smiled with satisfaction as she entered five letters into the Pilot Handle blank:  A-L-I-A-S.

Let the revenge begin...

 

In memory of David Webber (Editor, PAPER MAYHEM) for giving me my first gaming fiction break, and for all the support you gave to the Play By Mail community. 

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