Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Compassion and Younglings

Some years ago there was a publication called The Star Wars Adventure Journal. It presented a combination of short stories, adventures and game articles all dealing with the galaxy far, far away. In hope of being able to submit to it, I wrote the following short story--a Star Wars tale with the serial numbers filed off of it--for my college's literary anthology. Shortly thereafter the SWAJ changed its submission guidelines so that it only accepted pitches from more established authors, quashing those hopes. Even so, I've decided to trot out the story for this blog, and to combine it with character stats for the Kid using the Edge of the Empire rules.



Army Trooper Wega had always hated sweeps.

The officers had another name for them, of course--fortification patrols was the term they used--but Wega and his fellow troopers had always used the less officious designation. It really didn't matter what they were called; he still hated them.

Surveying the wreckage that remained of the city of Malor, his beliefs were reaffirmed. It was one thing to have to enter a battle zone during combat, when all of one's senses were focused on merely surviving the encoutner. Now, however, after the fighting had ended and the adrenaline of combat had worn off, it was a different matter entirely. His eyes were unhindered as they took in the burned and broken buildings and torn landscape, his nose quite free to recognize the scents of smoke and death.
It all served to remind him what a grim and bloody business this war was, and that was a fact of which he did not like to be reminded.

The first signs of the uprising had come almost seven hours before, during the end of the night. At first, forces from the local garrison had managed to regain control, but the rebels had fought back sith what seemed like suicidal enthusiasm. For six hours the battle had endured; remnants of it were still being fought in the foothills surrounding the city. Reinforcements had been called upon from garrisons in other cities in the region, with neighter side showing any willingness to resign. Casualties on both sides had been high, but the army had been victorious by sheer attrition.

Wega himself had been awake to witness the revolt in its entirety, as he had just been comin off of barracks guard duty when it had begun. The fatigue he currently felt made everything seem almost surreal, like some sort of ill-conceived dream, but this was not in his imagination. Wega's fatigue had nothing to do with sleep.

Now, as the fires of the conflict were slowly being replaced by those of sunrise, Malor lay in ruin. Wega's sweep was centered in one of the more affluent residential areas of town, one where the damage was particularly heavy. Scarcely a building here had not been touched by the hand of destruction. From where he stood he could not see one which hadn't been hit directly or succumbed to the fires which had come later. The houses stood in the early dawn like a wicked altar to some vengeful deity. Here and there a scattering of bodies--some crushed, some burned, some barely recognizable--were visible among the wreckage. Wega's mind registered these images even as it desired desperately to shut them out from itself.

He continued his sweep.

The street down which he was walking was especially bad; apparently there had been several pockets of resistance in this area which had vought with particular vigor. Windows in most of the homes had been blasted out to provide access for the strike teams, with the gaping holes resulting giving glimpses of darkened interiors seemingly devoid of life itself. Wega wondered abouth those residents who had not been part of the uprising, and how they could possibly stand to live amid the destruction. He knew that he himself could not, and he had had the best military training that the government could buy. But command had insisted that the area be patrolled to ensure that no elements remained, and thus he was here.

He chose the first building on his right, advancing slowly across its once elegantly maintained lawn. This one was much like the rest, having lost the majority of the face of its lower story in the battle. Once it must have been a beautiful home, a place of security and contentment, but now it conveyed only a sense of danger and foreboding. Despite the best efforts of the sun gradually rising behind him, the majority of it remained cloaked in shadows. Drawing the hand light from his belt, he tunred its beam on the gaping hole. From this fantage point he could detect no movement; wth his pistol ready in hand he stepped over the broken wall and into the house.

The floor in this room was still stable, remarkable considering the damage the rest of the structure had sustained. e was in some sort of living room, although that tilte no longer seemed very appropriate. Broken pieces of duracrete from the demolished front wall were strewn about the floor; a thick layer of dust covered everything. Aside from this and the broken remains of some furniture, the room was quite empty, but a dorrway led deeper into the ruined building. Wega moved quickly across the floor and passed through it.

He found himself in a hallway. A pair of doorways stood along either side, and a set of stairs led up from the opposite end. He peered through the first doorway on his right, revealing the remains of a dining room. This, too, was empty, a grenade having leveled its contents. Another door to his left led out of the room; he could guess where it would take him. Glancing through, his suspicions were confirmed. It was the kitchen, or at least what was left of it. A doorway on the left side of this room took him back into the hallway.

The first doorway along the other side led into a lavatory; this had by some trick of fortune been untouched by the battle that had raged inside the building.It almost seemed strange to see something that had not been ravaged.

That left only one door for Wega to check, but it was this one that he desired least of all to investigate. Logically it would have led down to the basement, and that was where the heaviest fighting would have taken place. That, of all places, was where the rebels living here would have made their last stand.
From the top of the stairs he could see virtually nothing. His hand light did little to penetrate the darkness below him; it was as if its illumination bas being thrown back at him derisively. WEga took a deep breath, then let it out very slowly.

He headed down.

The basement was a scene of blatant death. The walls were pitted from countless rounds of fire; off to his right it was apparent where explosives had been utilized. Coming to the bottom of the stairs he was forced to step over the body of one of his fallen comrades. The man had died a horrible and violent death, his lifeless face orzen in a rictus of agony even while his hands still held up the rifel that hadn't protected him.

But if that sight was terrible, it did not and could not prepare Wega for what he saw next. Four bodies lay against the far wall, an entire family having sacrificed themselves for their idealism. Two were male and two female, two of them adults and two adolescents. From the look of it the children had gone down first, and the parents had died standing over them. They had all known that capture was no option for those who betrayed the government; death had been their only solace. An entire family, all of their hopes and potential accomplishments, gone in a moment of violence.

Wega was forced to look away.

Still, standard operating procedure held that he search all bodies and confiscate any weapons, to keep them from falling into the hands of other rebels. The very thought of it sickened him, but he forced himself to do it. Taking the backpack from his shoulders which he carried for just that purpose, he moved over to the corpses. The father and son each clutched a heavy pistol and the mother had a smaller weapon; no pistol could be found on the daughter. With a considerable act of willpower he patted down the bodies, but found nothing more. Gathering the weapons, he dropped them into the backpack and then hefted it once again.

As he was turning back toward the stairs he caught a motion out of the corner of his eye.

It was a young boy, huddling behind a pair of storage creates underneath the stairs. He sat with his back against one wall, his knees drawn up to his chin and his arms wrapped around them. He must hae been a member of the family, somehow spared from death. The expression on his face stunned Wega. It was as if he were lost to the world, cut off from the events transpiring around him. His eyes seemed glazed and unfocused; there were not tears. Wega had no wonder wabout what could have caused such trauma for the child, having seen the rest of his family lying dead in their home.

A wash of pity swept over Wega. His training, his orders insisted that the child be brought into protective custody, to be saved from the influences of political deviants, but Wega could not accept it. There was nothing left for the child in this house, but there would be even less at the hands of the government. He would be recognized as what he was, the sone of therebels and therefore the enemy. They would work what little information he might possess out of him and then abandon him into the system.

No, Army Trooper Wega could not deliver the child to such a cruel fate. Turning away from the boy, he stopped over the body of his fallen comrade to removed the weapons he had carried so that they might not fall into rebellious hands, then began to ascend the stairs.

It was as his foot touched the first stair that the shot struck him.

Wega fell to his knees, his hands moving reflexively to the wound in his back. The agony was intense; whether due to skill or hapenstance, he'd been hit with a well-placed shot. Already he felt his legs going numb. With difficulty he drew his pistol and turned on the child. He struggled to focus, despite the darkness descending over his vision.

The boy had risen, was not standing with a pistol held in both hands. It was almost too large for him, obviously not having been intended for a child's use. In that moment it all became clear to Wega: the daughter's missing weapon, even though she had been involved in the battle...

But what struck him the most were those eyes, still devoid of recognition or emotion.

The flash at the weapon's muzzle was the last thing Wega ever saw.

The Kid

Brawn 1 Cunning 2 Presence 1
Agility 2 Intellect 1 Willpower 2

Soak: 1
Wound Threshold: 11
Strain Threshold: 11
M/R Defense: 0 / 0

Skills: Perception 1, Ranged--Light 1, Resilience 1, Stealth 1, Survival 2, Vigilance 1

Talents: None

Abilities: One free rank in two different non-career skills

Equipment: Clothing, blaster pistol, other scavenged stuff

The kid is a product of life on the streets, where he has lived since his family was killed at the hands of the Empire. Although he sometimes bands together with other scavengers, he is just as likely to strike off on his own. Needless to say, he hates Imperials with a passion and, given the opportunity, would act on that hatred.

Optional Rules for Younglings

GM's wanting to use younglings in an adventure or campaign can do so with the following modifications.
  • Younglings have the same base attributes as other members of their species, except that they suffer -1 reductions to Brawn, Intellect and Presence.
  • They do not have a career or specialization, and therefor possess no talents.
  • Younglings start with one third of their species' normal XP, rounded down.

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