The following works of short fiction by Josh Hebert and myself are the back-and-forth set-up for some special campaign scenarios we played around Sep./Oct. of 1999. We really got a kick out of trying to "one-up" each other, so much so that now we can't play Necromunda without writing some fiction to set the scene first. Enjoy.
The Scavvy boss, spacious hood pulled far over his scabbed, boily face, made his way through the crowded smuggler's market. His eyes passed over the goods offered for sale, but his mind dwelt upon his recent battles. His gang had performed well, stripping the caravan nearly bare and making off with some kind of device of unknown origin, but they paid a high price for their success: one man dead and another sold to the guilders. The boss asked himself again whether the ruinous rescue attempt was worth it.
The boss stopped to look over a table of used weapons offered for sale, more out of habit than any real need. As he picked up pistol in order to examine it, the dealer spoke to him in quiet tones, "hey, scum lord, got a message for ya."
[by Josh Hebert]
The boss looked up and fixed his bloodshot eyes upon the dealer, keeping his face stone still. The dealer tried to ward off the boss' gaze with a weak grin of insincere friendship. The boss said nothing and simply looked at the dealer, expectant.
The dealer cleared his throat. "Uh, yeah, anyway, this guy came up to me yesterday, guilder dog I think, said he had a message for ya if I happened to see ya. Said maybe you and he could work out some kind of deal. I guess you got something o' his, and he's got one of your guys. If you're interested in a trade, he said to meet him two intervals before lights out at pump station 6, and to bring the item. Said there might even be something extra in the deal for ya." The dealer nodded, as if to suggest, despite his complete ignorance, that he thought the deal sounded like a good idea and expected a response from the boss.
The boss' impassive face remained unchanged, causing the dealer to shift his eyes about in awkward discomfort. The boss spared the dealer further embarrassment by simply turning on his heels and walking back into the crowd.
The item must be valuable if the guilders would consent to deal with him. Normally, they would simply attack in order to retrieve stolen goods; they must fear the item might be damaged. Yes, a deal could be a good thing, and the 'something extra' sounded enticing, but could he trust the guilders? Were they simply setting him up? His gang couldn't take another beating, and the guilders were sure to come to any deal well armed.
Could he afford to take the chance?
Lump crouched quietly behind the ventilation fan and checked his escape route for the tenth time. If things went bad he could slide down the shaft to safety in seconds. He and Lefty had arrived hours before the appointed meeting time and established this vent as the best observation position. Lump would be able to see the whole thing go down from here and report back to Boss Fritch before Lefty led the guilders to their meeting place. Boss Fritch had the whole thing figured out . . .
"Smells like a trap," Boss Fritch said, "and I don't like traps, less we set 'em. Guilders want this box bad; they come to us. We'll get Peggie and we'll get creds. If Guilders try to doublecross us now, we cut and run. If they want box, so will others. We'll put word out, sell box to highest bidder. Maybe we don't get Peggie, but we don't get ambushed either."
[by Dan Roberts]
Fritch tapped the box gently and looked at his crew.
"Lump, you best sneaker in gang, you watch meeting from safe hole, and sklathe back here soon as guilders make a move. Lefty, you go with Lump and talk to guilders. Tell 'em Fritch can't come, Fritch got to protect home turf from . . . spyrers . . . yeah, spyrers in underhive sneakin' up on Scavvies. You tell 'em to come see Fritch back here. We'll be waitin'."
"What are you gonna do?" asked Lefty, looking Fritch eye to eye, "what if them guilders snatch Lefty up too? You gonna cut and run?" Lefty's gaze never wavered as he watched Fritch's face for a reaction. Fritch's expression was as unreadable as ever as he gazed back.
"Lefty, I'm Boss and I say you best to talk to guilders. I'm watching box, Skrock's watching me and Wretch and the rest gotta watch for them spyrers."
"But there's no spyrers to watch for," said Lefty.
"Guilders gotta think so. You tell 'em spyrers downhive comin' this way. They better hurry here or no deal ever. They won't snatch up Lefty when you tell 'em that."
Lefty glared back at Fritch, not liking the set-up. He looked at his fellow scavvies for support and saw wide eyes and blank stares. The others were too scared of Fritch and Skrock to get involved.
"Fine; Lump, let's go. We got to find you a hidey spot . . ."
Now Lump could see Lefty walking out into the street across from the pump station. Soon the guilders would be here, and what was gonna happen would happen. Lump checked his escape route again. He could slide away in seconds . . .
Lump shifted uncomfortably. The mercilessly hard steel of the ventilation shaft was slowly robbing his ass of all sensation. Not for the first time, he considered perhaps he and Lefty had been a little too cautious in arriving so early; an interval or two less would have made little difference. His stomach growled its agreement. He glanced through the rusted vent grill at Lefty, who had long since fallen asleep against the barrels. Still no guilders. Having lost track of time, Lump could not be sure whether or not they were late. He drew his knife and began flipping and catching it. Flip-smack, flip-smack, flip-smack, flip-smack,
Emboldened by his apparent dexterity, Lump decided to attempt the ambitious double-flip. Flip-flip-smack. Success! Flip-flip-smack, flip-flip-smack, flip-flip-smack. Lump happily impressed himself and wondered why he hadn't thought of doing this earlier, then quickly realized that musing while flipping a knife is generally unwise as the knife appeared to be headed point first for his palm. Lump jerked his hand back, then scrabbled backward to prevent the rapidly descending blade from impaling his foot. His relief at avoiding the blade was quickly extinguished by the loud, echoing clang the knife made as it struck the disturbingly resonant shaft. He cringed and froze reflexively, daring to glance out the shaft. The Emperor be damned! The guilder group had just appeared and was looking in his direction. Lump cursed himself silently, then stopped, his jaw slowly dropping open in horrified astonishment.
[by Josh Hebert]
"Space Marines!" The exclamation escaped him in an almost inaudible whisper. Lump looked to Lefty, who remained obliviously asleep. He looked back at the marines. One of the three enormous armored men was looking at some kind of device. He glanced at the guilder and pointed toward Lefty's improvised nest, then glanced skyward and pointed directly at him. Lump shot backward, back striking the frozen fan hard, shaking free flakes of rust which rained down atop him. He turned about to flee when a new fear struck him: Fritch. The Boss would be angry if he ran, very angry. Lump stood crouched, paralyzed, as fear did battle with fear. Slowly, hesitantly, he turned back around and crept toward the grate once again; even if the Marines knew where he was, they couldn't get to him, and he could escape before they could. He peered over the lower lip of the shaft.
A sharp pain in the ribs awoke Lefty. He rolled away from the pain and lashed out wildly with his knife. A huge gloved fist grabbed his wrist in mid slash and squeezed Lefty howled in pain as he felt the bones of his forearm grind together. His knife dropped from his hand, forgotten. The huge hand released him, and he snatched his damaged wrist back to his chest and looked up. An enormous armored figure in black and green towered over him and was looking at him with unveiled contempt. Lefty whimpered impotently, inching backward, then turned and made a dash to escape. He saw a flash of black and green before him as he turned and felt his legs kicked from him. The ground leapt up at his face. He felt his nose crack, followed by the warm rush of blood, and lay still, hoping irrationally that they would leave him be.
"Where is it?" demanded a raspy voice. Lefty rolled his head to the side, flesh peeling wetly off the bloody concrete. The voice belonged to the guilder, a man dressed in a black faded jumpsuit surrounded by the largest men Lefty had every seen. Something in the back of Lefty's terrified brain whispered space marines, and he forced himself to concentrate on the guilder. The man was older, but fit, his head topped by wiry salt and pepper curls and the strongly lined face of a man who scowls far more often than he smiles. The guilder's inky black eyes regarded him coldly. "Well? Can you speak, or did they send a mute
idiot to negotiate with me?"
"Who are-" Lefty's question was cut off abruptly as one of the marines buried an armored boot in his ribs. He felt bones crack, and inhaled sharply against the pain, which only made it worse. He pulled his arm up against his chest and dared to glance up at the marine.
"We are not here to listen to your questions, mutant. You were asked a question. Where is the item you stole?" The marine's voice was crisp and austere with the edge of violence reluctantly restrained.
Lefty's decided he wanted to live. "Fritch has it, I take you to him. You deal, everything good."
"You were supposed to bring it here," complained the Guilder.
"That's what I said, Fritch not listen." Lefty remembered to lie, "Fritch said spyrers around, an' he has to stay and protect the turf. He said if you wanna deal, you gotta hurry. Maybe you help fight spyrers." Lefty smiled encouragingly, despite the taste of blood in the back of his mouth.
The guilder's mouth twisted with distaste. Indecision washed over his face, and he glanced sidelong at the marines. He looked back at Lefty with a glare that spoke of murderous vengeance. "Well, get up! You're not leading us anywhere lying on the ground."
Lefty raised himself painfully to his feet.
Lump raced into the camp, stumbled over a discarded bone and fell to a skidding halt. He jumped back up and looked around, and found everybody looking back at him with some alarm. Fritch's voice cut the silence.
"Speak up, Lump."
Lump spun about to look at the Boss, eyes wide with fear. "Space Marines!"
The camp erupted...
"Skrock!" Skrock exclaimed, confused anxiety actually showing on his face. The huge Scaly cradled his scattercannon like a fragile baby and peered into the darkness surrounding the small scavvy campsite. The
scavvies were staked out in the lower wastes downhive of Scumtankers, resorting to foraging for a meager existence when they couldn't find easy prey traveling the outskirts of town.
Wretch and Wings started grabbing all the scrap in arm's reach in an attempt to carry the whole camp away between the two of them. Shells, the newest member of the gang, shook where he stood, looking even paler than usual for a scavvy and dropped to the floor like a sack of fungus molds.
[by Dan Roberts]
"Frag!" Boss Fritch spit, "are you sure about this Lump? What'd they do with Lefty?"
"They were grabbin' and kickin' 'im. He didn't see 'em comin', I guess. He's bringin' 'em here, just like you told 'im to," Lefty said, making sure to shift as much blame as possible onto Lefty while he had the chance.
"Frag and double frag!" Fritch snarled. "there's no dealing with space marines. This box is too hot; we leave it here and move out. Guilders are gonna pay for this; it's cost us too much. Skrock, get Shells and
Fritch looked regretfully at the archeotech sitting untouched in the middle of the campsite. What was it, he wondered. It looked just like any other box of tech to him but if space marines wanted it that meant it was priceless. And he had to just leave it lying there for the taking. That severely upset Fritch's view of the world, and he didn't know any other way of looking at it. Maybe he could make the space marines pay after all; if not with creds, then in some other, more painful way. Fritch tipped the archeotech backwards, and placed one of his precious Tox bombs underneath. Leaning down to peer under the techbox, he carefully pressed the deadman's switch on the Tox bomb, and moved back, chuckling to himself. The space marines would pay, alright.
In moments the scavvies vacated the wasteland campsite. All that remained were some drained power cells, some makeshift tire mattresses, and one black metal box.
Lefty kicked up red dust as he stumbled towards the campsite. Sweat trickled down his forehead as he nervously tried to glance at the space marines behind him. The barrel pressed into the back of his head discouraged him from turning his neck more than a few degrees, and he saw only vague shapes. He stumbled again, and the barrel came down hard on his skull, driving him to the hive floor.
"Get up, mutant," the marine barked, "Where's this Fritch?"
"Camp's right there," Lefty shakily pointed up the ramp, "Fritch must be fightin' them spyrers, or they'd be here right now." Lefty hoped the marines would let him go now that he'd led them to the campsite. He didn't know where Fritch was but the words "cut and run" had been echoing through his mind the whole way here. He wanted to run too; more than anything he wanted to run but those boltguns made his legs turn into jelly. All the strength had sapped out of his body once the initial adrenaline rush had worn off.
One of the space marines was pointing some tech-gear at the campsite, paused and swept the device all around them.
"All clear. If the mutants were here, they're gone now," the marine reported.
Pain exploded in Lefty's head as the gunbarrel crashed down again. He fell to the floor, unable to rise. Rust powder stuck to his bleeding wounds and covered his clothes. Lefty wished he could just sink into the floor itself and disappear. The guilder loomed over him with a penetrating gaze that in a bizarre way reminded Lefty of Fritch.
"Where are they, mutant scum?"
Lefty went blank in response to those all-seeing eyes. His mouth stuttered in an attempt to comply, but his mind was transfixed with fear. The guilder scowled at the lack of response, and prepared to strike Lefty again, when the marine with the tech-gear exclaimed, "I'm picking up a possible STC device 100 yards straight ahead." The guilder shifted his stance towards the rampway, and with an almost dismissive look slammed his fist into Lefty's face.
Merciful darkness wrapped around Lefty's thoughts as his eyes rolled back into his head.
[Order of Battle]
© 1999 Dan Roberts
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