This article originally appeared in the October 2011 issue of the downloadable PDF magazine.
Captain Nell Troutgarden 878965 Age 42
5 terms, Mercenary (Captain)
Ground Vehicle-0, Computer-0, Vacc Suit-0, Brawling-2, Combat Rifleman-1, Rifle-3, Carousing-1, Animal Handling-1, Survival-1, Stealth-2, Recon-2, Leader-1, Mechanical-1, Medical-1, Bludgeon-3, Polearm-3, Tactics-2, Heavy Weapons-1, Handgun-1, SMG-1, Linguistics-3 (Nepali) (Chinese) (Japanese)
Nell Troutgarden was born to a poorer family in the steel producing center of Coopertino, in Ellig, just south of the Great Canal that ran through the northern territories on the balkanized world, Titus.
At the urging of a media assault designed by Ellig’s ruling Corporation, Nell left her education behind, and at 12 (the age at which one could legally begin working in the steelyards), she joined the Ground Forces of Ellig when they went to war with their southern neighbor, the Democratic Principality of Manjibahpoor, over land on the north side of the Great Canal settled by both.
After eleven years of vigorous, if inconclusive warfare, a treaty joining the two was ratified, and Ellig eventually became a state within Manjibahpoor. With the war over, each side was whittling down their effective combat strengths, and thousands of troops were now out of work. Nell decided she just didn’t want to, or didn’t think she could anyway, go back to Ellig to work a smelter and eat a cheesesteak every day, so she decided, like many other vets, to join with a group of her fellows in newly-formed Free Companies—mercenaries for hire.
There was always some friction between the remaining governments of Titus, and a mercenary could make some pretty fair money—maybe even enough to retire to one of the palatial compounds to be found overlooking the north side of the Great Canal.
Eventually the Free Company of which Leftenant Troutgarden was a member, “Oswegatchie’s Troopers”, went offworld seeking contracts and spent the next six years on a number of different worlds, during which Nell was promoted to Captain.
Then a ticket came up for work out on The Frontier—the territory either butting right against, or well beyond the border of the Imperium—independent territories the Imperium liked to refer to as Principalities, regardless of what their rulers or organizations might actually be called.
The Whitehall Star Empire, called The Independant Principality of Whitehall by the Imperium, owed its name to the planet’s largest man-made structure, the carving of a huge mesa into a massive city surrounded by cyclopean rock walls 40m thick, more than triple that in height, and covered by hundreds of terraces balconies. Countless weapon stations bristled. This ancient hive of military might was situated at the natural narrowing of the terrain, allowing the citadel to protect the fertile valleys that stretched asway beyond it from encroachment. A spiderweb of interlinked trenches surrounded Whitehall at ground level.
The locals of the WSE were a TL5 culture, and “Oswegatchie’s Troopers” had been hired with the understanding that they were to support the WSE against several local factions composed of TL4 and TL5 cultures, joined in allience against them
It looked like the WSE and their allies the Troopers were going to be facing a protracted siege.
Soon after waking from cold sleep, and debarking the massive, rented transport which got the unit to Whitehall, Captain Troutgarden asked one of the WSE locals what was going on dirtside. The local told the tall, gangly woman "The Usurper—some minor, offworld Princeling—has proclaimed that the King and all on Whitehall must swear an Oath of Fealty, or else! Our King, knowing the hearts of his people, refuses this upstart’s demands out of hand! God Bless Him! So we are at War!”
This was definitely at odds with the briefing she’d received about the OpFor alliance, before entering cold sleep. As Troutgarden went to report this to the Major, a sudden cacophony of sonic booms split the sky in the wake of an air squadron’s fly-by. Nell knew the Allience weren’t supposed to be advanced enough to field supersonic aircraft, so she supposed that the Alliance might've hired mercenaries of their own—maybe Ramirez’s Aces and Eights, or Van Norman’s Hell Squadron, she thought.
As the fast movers tore over, target consentrations on the ground, weapon stations atop walls, heavy weapon mounts and armored vehicles, both ground and anti-grav were suddenly bathed in star-bright globes of searing plasma. With such advanced technology, it was no mere mercenary flight wing, but state of the art Imperial Fighters. In terror, many of Whitehall’s forces ran, some burned or blinded by the plasma blasts, only to be beaten or threatened bsck to their posts by hard-eyed Troopers.
After a dozen more sound-barrier-shattering air strikes laying down sun-hot plasma in the target zone, the local radio was jammed by the Imperial Navy, at near 100 decibels, delivering, in perfect, bone-jarring, accentless Anglic, “Rebels, Stand Down!”, it began. As the message droaned, one of the King of Whitehall’s command officers, intent on surrender picked up the communicator only to be cut down by the King’s Champion. The Champion also laid out several more who appeared to be of questionable moral fiber in a red whirl of prowess.
Excusing himself from the King’s staff slaughter, Major Oswegatchie left with his aides, and once in private contacted the Imperial Navy on the Guard Channel in an attempt to surrender before the Navy's customary response to rebels—the flying of the blood red “Flag of No Quarter” (sending its image across all local communication bandwidth).
“I am sorry, Major Oswegatchie,” some nameless rating droned, “But siding with Insurrectionists against His Majesty is Treason. Your unit’s status is flipped from Free Company to Rebel Combatants, with no rights under Imperial Law. Your Bond and rights to equipment retreival are hereby rescinded. IN Cruiser Tacumsa—speaking for His Royal Majesty The Emperor, in absentia—Out.”
Oswegatchie and his Troopers were screwed. Hired to fight the WSE’s enemies, only to find their foes, an Alliance of local forces, didn’t exist. The Troopers were pawns in a battle between Whitehall separatists and some minor, offworld “Princeling”—His Majesty The Emperor of the Imperium.
Major Oswegatchie had been in the Imperial Marines a hitch in his youth, and informed his people of the inevitable next step: Concentrated fire from orbit before the Marines made their assault. Some Troopers spent these last minutes digging in, others made Cr1,000 bets to see who was going to make it out, while others simply broke and ran before being shot down like dogs by their brethren.
Then molten hell poured from the sky, churning up the ground and battering and breaking the ancient block that was Whitehall, killing tens of thousands before the Imperial Marines arrived by dropships to assault the ancient citadel in savage, street-by-street and house-by-house close combat that went on for almost two weeks.
The locals and the mercenaries made a good showing of themselves, if only it had mattered.
A visiting ship belonging to the TNS that had been planetside, interviewing and capturing images all through the action, managed to thread themselves through the Imperial Navy’s blockade of Whitehall and escape into space with six Troopers and three locals aboard as the Imperial Marines were detonating an enhanced radiation WMD inside the monolith to bring the battle to a quick end—The Emperor, after all, wanted results.
Not only had Troutgarden been one of the lucky survivors, but she’d managed, by mere happenstance, to be holding the blood-drenched bag with the bets when she stopped to render first aid to Corporal Costello when he was hit while reloading the gauss SAW.
As the Newsboat left Whitehall, the crewmen aboard interviewed the survivors. After they’d gotten Nell’s information, all they could get out of her was long, slow laughter, followed by jags of horrible crying.
One of the lasting images from Whitehall’s destruction remains that of a filthy, gore-spattered Captain Nell Troutgarden, hair long and matted, sobbing noiselessly.
After some knocking around, Nell, ever the professional, eventually wound up working as a driver/bodyguard or dog-handler/bodyguard on Olde Earth.
After crossing and beating senseless the wrong Triad member over a game of Pai-Gow, Nell decided to leave; getting working passage as a security specialist aboard a merchant. Then working security became the norm, and she’s done it for many ships over the past 10 years.
Nell is a bit more than 1.6m tall, with a long,too-thin-seeming neck suppporting her small, round head with its large ears. Her shock of very thick, sandy hair is now cut into s short, tangled mess, and her clear green eyes strike some as sad. Nell is lanky, well-muscled, and an amazingly fast runner.
Nell speaks Anglic and her dead partner’s Nepali, as well as Chinese and Japanese.
While some vets will tell war stories, Nell manages to avoid these. If pressed, she might mention some other action, but not Whitehall.
Nell has no intention of ever going back to Titus. If aboard a ship that either orbits or lands on Titus, she will stay in her quarters, alone, for the duration.
Nell has a real weakness for strawberry-banana milkshakes.
Nell has a serious rage disorder lurking just beneath her quiet surface (See the reason she had to leave Olde Earth, above).
Nell learned flower arranging (and Japanese) from her grandmother, and finds it soothing (Successful use of this skill offsets any rage problems for 1/2D days). Sometimes her work is truly quite beautiful.
Regardless of what she’s wearing, Nell carries herself like a vet.
Nell has a large, geneered Mastiff. The dog can’t talk or do assorted stupid stuff like Scooby Doo (pass itself off as someone's Aunt while in a dress and sunhat, drive a car, climb a rope, etc), but is smarter than the average dog, and does understand what Nell tells him. To make things exotic, have the dog understand one of Nell’s other languages instead of Anglic.