Friday, August 20, 2010

Yet Another Space Cowboy

I've somehow managed to have something new posted at the start of every work week since I started this blog last year, and rather than break the streak while we prepare to go camping in Banff tomorrow, I thought I would cheat a little with a rerun of sorts.

A few years back, a friend of mine started a science-fiction role-playing campaign set in the universe of Joss Whedon's Serenity. All of us were huge fans of the short-lived Firefly TV series, and rightly so, and leapt at the chance to stretch out the experience of life in the 'Verse just a little longer, and to enjoy hearing those distinctively anachronistic turns of phrase so particular to the show. Plus, any book with a chapter entitled "Gorram Chinese" is a must have by my reckoning.

Unlike a lot of RPGs which follow an 'equip - quest - fight - loot - equip...' cycle pretty much ad infinitum, Serenity encouraged a high degree of drama and mystery, and expected the players to help the game master out with this by giving their characters idiosyncrasies such as a troubled past, a secret weakness or an implacable foe.

My character, Gus Hardy, would typically work as a dealmaker or frontman for a ship or crew looking for work, using his skills as a carny barker to drum up business or talk his way out of trouble. Not a violent man by nature, he is not to be trifled with as he is a very decent shot and (more importantly) incredibly fast on the draw.

I had a backstory worked out for Gus, and decided that the best way to impart it to the referee (and to formalize it for myself) was to write it up as a sort of short story, in the form of a one-sided interview. It's unlikely we will get an opportunity to play again anytime soon, what with the game master having moved out of province, so I thought I would share the story with those of an interest. Let me know what you think.

For the Record

Gus Hardy. Oh, full name? Augustus Chang Hardy. I guess if you’re recordin’ this for more than posterity I oughta keep things proper, huh? That’s a nice deck, can I have a look at it? Not a lot of people use these carts anymore…whoops.

There, it’s working again. Sorry about that.

No, I’m not currently employed, that’s what made me interested in the sign downstairs.

I guess it’s been, what, two weeks or thereabouts? I was working with a theater troupe touring Beaumonde, mostly barking, but occasionally up in the lights. Whassat? Ha, ha! No, no offense, I’m sure no self-respecting actor wants to be told they look like an actor. Kind of defeats the purpose, don’t it? No, it wasn’t that kind of thing at all, more like carny work.

Sure, if you’re having one. I’ve no preference, they all taste pretty much the same to me. Incident with my tastebuds, actually. Got any ice? Ahh, much obliged.

Not hardly Hamlet, mostly just tricks to drum up a crowd, a little light magic to charm the kids and their moms. Between you and me, if you can get a pretty lady to ask, ‘how’d you do that?’, you can pretty much close the box office, know what I mean?

Having a background with sideshows and the like is a good fall back. Seems there is always some group or another droppin’ in or leaving atmo, and I’ve loved the life since I was a tike. No, not to go to, to be in. My daddy’s cousin on Paquin took me in after my folks died back on Boros. Kind of the black sheep if you know what I mean, but he was the only kin what could take me in. I was 11. Helluva strange environ to grow up in, I don’t mind tellin’ you! Anyways, where was I? Oh yeah, Beaumonde. No, Mr Cartwright treated everyone respectful, and paid regular enough, which is rare in that line of work. It was just time to go. Time to try something new.

Sure, two fingers.

Yeah, barkin’ is just like sellin’. Ain’t nobody goes lookin’ for a show like that, you need to be convinced, y'know, cajoled. Yeah, I like that word too. I haven’t done any actually sellin’ for a long spell now. Medicine, actually. Didn’t much like it.

Well, that was their idea too. Have a well-spoken individual come out and do a few tricks to raise up a crowd, and then lay into my pitch about the benefits of Elixirase, the wonder remedy of the age. What? No, I’m pretty sure snakes had nothing to do with it. Oh! Ha, ha! I’m surprised you’ve heard of it, actually. Yeah, I’d say ‘unpleasant’ is a gorram polite way of puttin’ it all right.

No, I’m good…well, it ain’t hardly like I’m driving is it? All right.

That was a bad time, and no mistake. Sure I felt responsible, I sold it to to them. Me, personally! But let’s get one thing straight, I never once told them to give that luh suh swei to their gorram kid. I knew the stuff wasn’t all that good, I had no idea at all that it might end up with someone gettin’ hurt, let alone dying. I ain’t much for hurtin’ folk. Well, unless they’re tryin’ to hurt me.

Nope, never went back after that. In fact, I drank the rest of the stock before heading back to my ‘riginal line of work. Hmm? ‘Bout ten days I think. I have trouble recollectin’ exactly, I think it has something to do with the high alcohol content. Everything’s tasted the same ever since. Aw, it ain’t so bad, I save a lot of money buying the cheaper whiskey, and protein bars are as good as a steak now. I only know what you’re serving me is top shelf because I recognize the label. Whoa up, that’s good. Thanks.

And Kersey keeps turning up, and I keep moving on. The kid’s dad, that’s who. Can’t rightly say as I blame him either, but martyrdom ain’t exactly my cup of cha. At least he’s easy to spot now that he walks with a limp. The time before last was a mite closer than you like a feller to get with homicide in his intent. Ha, ha! No, it’s just…of course I could kill him. It’d be easy enough to do, too. I’m a damn sight faster ‘n him, and the reason the room was dark when I shot out his kneecap is because I shot out three candles in the room tryin’ to scare him off. That, and to backlight him and keep it dark enough he couldn’t see me too clear.

No, just the wicks. Any ruttin’ idiot can shoot a candle. How do you think I earned my keep with Uncle Lewis, playin’ ‘is it the eight of clubs?’ with some rube? Anyhow, being able to shoot him ain’t the problem. I could even make a damn good self defense case. It’s just I got enough to answer for with a dead kid on my plate without addin’ a grievin’ parent to the mix. No thanks.

Not as much help as you’d think. Most of them what need a man with a gun are less concerned with how good he is with it, and more concerned with how discreet he is with it, how willin’ he is to use it.

Sure, I’ve shot a few men. Even killed a few when they forced my hand. But they always drew first. I’m not one for dry gulchin’. Which, sure, has cost me the occasional job, but never one I wanted. I’ll work for unsavoury types when the need appears, but I’ll never kill a man for money.

Speaking of jobs, you’ve let me do most of the talkin’ here. Pardon my ramblin’, I don’t usually carry on like this. Must be the liquor. Strange how neither sellin’, speechin’ or shootin’ has prompted you to say much about what you want me to do. I reckon that could mean you’re workin’ for Kersey and wanted some proof I was here on Tonqa, hm? Hey now, no need to get jittery, mister; I understand how it is. We all gotta work, right?

Here’s a proposition: I'll keep that cart I palmed earlier on so you have nothin' for Kersey, and we go our separate ways, call it square, how's that sit by you?

On the other hand, if Kersey is bringing in third parties, he’s probably got a right shiny bounty on me. You've given me a fair amount of whiskey, it’s probably slowed me down some. Is it enough? You look like you could be fast. How fast? D’you want to find out?


Much obliged for the drink.

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