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Alas, Babylon Gardens (PG-13) 
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Post Alas, Babylon Gardens (PG-13)
A new year, a new fanfic...

**********

"Babylon Gardens-- a pet-friendly community."
The truth of this phrase is about to be tested as never before.

When Martin Foster, philanthropist extraordinaire, gets word of an impending catastrophic event-- a nationwide EMP attack-- he leverages his substantial fortune and enlists the people of Babylon Gardens to prepare for the unthinkable. Prepare they do, and when the rest of the country goes dark, the Gardens are a shining beacon of civilization.

But this doesn't go unnoticed. Babylon Gardens becomes a target for gangsters, thugs, and ne'er-do-wells; its occupants must fight to keep what is theirs.

External forces aren't their only threat, though. Without national or state government, the occupants of Babylon Gardens can-- and must-- deal with every issue that comes up. Chief among these is the legal status of animals: are pets really just property? Do they have rights? Rights equal to humans, even? They work like the humans, so should they have a say in the direction of the community? Should they even have a vote? Should they, again like the humans, be able to carry weapons for self-defense? No longer can these dilemmas be passed up the chain.

This is a story of friendship and emnity, gain and loss; of right and wrong, good and evil. And ultimately, a story of community-- of people who, in spite of their differences and the crazy world around them, come together to be a light in the darkness.


Alas, Babylon Gardens
(with apologies to Harry Hart Frank)
Hitting the fan January 1st, 2012.

**********

Hopefully that didn't sound too pretentious...

So anyways, I hope you guys enjoy. Updates will be on Sundays, at least once a week-- as long as I maintain my current two-month buffer, anything extra will get published as I complete it.

Of course, if you see ANY mistakes, incongruencies, plot holes, or errors generally, contact me and I'll do my best to correct them ASAP. All constructive criticism is not just welcomed; it's requested.

And a VERY BIG thank-you to Rick Griffin (for the Housepets! universe, a wonderful comic, and awesome characters), Valerio (for his amazing work and permission to use his characters), Coatl_Ruu (for proofreading and permission to use his characters), lightwolf21 (for permission to use his characters), Karlos (for, yes, permission to use his characters), and finally to the HP! community (for being an awesome group generally).

If you haven't read this quartet of fanfics, there may be parts of ABG that won't make sense:

Housepets! The Series by valerio

The Dogs of War by Coatl_Ruu

Housepets: PoP-- A Lost Hope by lightwolf21

Housepets: Matt by Karlos


Stay frosty.
GunRacer


Tue Dec 27, 2011 2:38 pm
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Post Re: Alas, Babylon Gardens (PG-13)
Oy, this is going to be interesting, to say the least!
cross fingers and let's hope to see da good stuff, man! 8-)

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Tue Dec 27, 2011 5:02 pm
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Post Re: Alas, Babylon Gardens (PG-13)
I must say... this sounds really Nice to me~ Evil and Darkness! What Fun... What Fun... HA HA Haaa!

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Post Re: Alas, Babylon Gardens (PG-13)
intriguing. I look forward to the next update.

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Wed Dec 28, 2011 7:14 pm
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Post Re: Alas, Babylon Gardens (PG-13)
PROLOGUE
"Operation Thunderhead"



0312h Local
Unmarked Road

Four shadowy figures slowly crept down a dirt road. Their attire was quite oviously military: vests laden with pouches that bulged with grenades and spare magazines, camouflage fatigues, and combat boots. The rifles they carried (all suppressed) and pistols they wore on their sides further testified to their role. The whole procession would have been a serious affair but for one thing: the member bringing up the rear of the group was quite obviously a border collie. Even though he was camouflaged and armed like his squadmates, his presence lent an air of absurdity to the whole thing. But what were such obviously dangerous individuals after?

A major drug cartel operative had recently been the subject of an assassination attempt by a rival gang, and was currently on the run. Those who made it their business to know such things were reasonably certain this high-value target-- Luis Concepción Jimenez-- was spending the night in a run-down shack on this very dirt road.

So Fireteam Victor (not a government outfit, at least not officially) had been sent in to apprehend him. And this was the group quietly moving down the road towards their objective.

Eventually the quartet arrived at the shack, lining up against the front of it. The collie, Victor Four, pulled something out of one of the many pouches festooning his armored vest. The object in question was a small mirror, attached to a telescoping rod. Laboriously he extended it to the height of the building's high windows. By angling the mirror the right way, he was able to observe the shack's inhabitants. The team's target sat in the center of the house's one room, with bodyguards at each corner of the structure. Victor Four communicated the situation to his teammates entirely via hand signals; even the quietest of whispers was too much of a risk now. Once everyone was on the same page, Victor One held up a half-raised hand and pulled it into a fist. It was go time.

Victor One started the ball rolling. He pulled a flash-bang out of a vest pocket, removed the device's pin, kicked the door in, tossed the flash-bang into the room, and stepped back out of the doorway as he readied his rifle. Victor Four plugged his sensitive ears.

For those who might not know, a flash-bang is a device similar to a grenade that does exactly what its name implies: makes a bright flash and a sudden, loud noise. The net effect of these stimuli will disorient most people for several seconds. Using one in an enclosed space at night of course compounds this.

POW!

That was their cue. Victor One was the first in the door, swinging to the left and delivering a quick double-tap to his adversary's chest. Victor two followed a split-second behind, and gave the two bodyguards in the far corners of the room bursts from his M4. Victor Three entered perhaps a half-second later and neutralized the final target with a single, clean headshot. Victor Four then swept in to scan the room for any adversaries remaining, but had nothing to worry about.

"Clear," said Victor One after scanning the room. Everyone relaxed visibly. Luis, sitting in the center of the shack, was just beginning to regain his faculties. A string of Spanish oaths and swear words followed. Victor One drew his sidearm and pressed it against the valuable head of Señor Jimenez, nodding at Victor Two as he did so. The second member of the team produced some tape and zipties, and then deftly used them to render the cartel strongman mute and immobile.

*tink*

Only Victor Four's acute sense of hearing picked up the noise: it was unmistakably that of a grenade's pin being pulled. The dog pivoted towards the source of the sound. The bodyguard in the near-left corner was still barely alive, and had prepared one last unpleasant surprise for his enemies. "GET DOWN!" The collie yelled the with a voice that belied his size.

Then he sprang towards his adversary, dropping his MP5 and drawing his sidearm as he leapt. He delivered four shots to the chest of the guard as he dove to pick up the grenade. There was one, at most two, seconds left on its fuse. But Victor Four didn't throw himself on the grenade in a tragic but noble act of sacrifice (as the rest of his team expected, watching in horror). Instead he threw the explosive at the high window he had earlier looked through with his mirror. Then his compensated nine-mil barked one, two, three times. Each shot hit the center of the window's frame. The grenade's velocity and weight easily punched through the glass and splintered wood. It detonated harmlessly outside.

Everyone in the cabin, Luis included, stood dumbfounded.

Victor Four stuck a fresh mag in his pistol and picked up his MP5 off the wood floor. Then he turned to his squadmates; he was almost jumping up and down with excitement. "OH MY GOSH THAT WAS SO INTENSE WOW WOW WOW I CAN'T BELIEVE I DID THAT BUT I DID AND IT WAS SO COOL!" Here he stopped to take a deep breath. None of Victor Team seemed particularly alarmed by the sudden display of levity.

But before Four could start again, Victor Three put a hand on his shoulder and spoke. "Calm down there, Alex. That was incredible, and you saved our hides." Alex beamed, his tail wagging rapidly. "BUT we're not out of the woods yet. Our transport should be here soon, but we're still vulnerable right now. We'll save the partying for later. Okay?"

Alex nodded and put his "game face" back on. "Understood, Mike," he replied. His wagging tail, though, still betrayed his mood.

As this exchange occured, Victor One looked at his teammate. "Well, AJ, I had my doubts at first... but now, I gotta say those two are great."
"Yeah, Brock," replied the other. "Same here. That was some kind of crazy what that dog did there. Don't think I coulda pulled it off."

Then Brock and AJ saw that Alex and Mike were finishing their conversation.

"Victor Three," Brock addressed Mike. "What's the ETA on our transport?"

"I'm tryin' to hail 'em now, but..." he paused. "Ah crap! The spectrum's being jammed! The cartel knows we're here!"

Brock began thinking out loud. "Then we'll have to assume our ride won't be here on time. Hell, we may already be surrounded. The walls of this house aren't gonna stop a bullet, and we don't have the numbers or ammo to hold off a large group. If we tried to hide cartel guys'd probably find us, since they need Jimenez back. I think we're screwed."

Alex looked up. "I got it, guys. Don't know if anyone else saw, but there was an SUV parked at the treeline covered in some foliage. I wouldn't have noticed it but for the smell of gasoline."

"Great," said Victor Two. "But where are the keys?"

"Don't you worry about that," the collie answered as he pulled a lock pick out of a vest pocket. "Grab Jimenez and follow me."

By the time Victors One through Three had succeeded in picking up the uncooperative cartel strongman and hauling him bodily outside, Alex had unlocked the SUV. When the team arrived with Jimenez, wires were dangling from the steering wheel. Alex frantically fiddled with them as the rest of the team piled into the old Suburban. There was movement at the treeline on the opposite side of the clearing.

Victor Three, sitting in the front seat, cranked down his window and began hosing down the offending area with his M249.

Finally, Alex found the wires he was looking for and touched them together. The old engine coughed to life and idled roughly. Mike balanced his gun between the window and seat. Then he rolled into the driver's spot as Alex jumped over him and shouldered the LMG. Victor Three slammed on the gas and the old Chevy shot out from under its camouflage. The rest of the squad continued engaging the enemies at the treeline.

The SUV pulled out from the clearing and got on the road. Then the team was afforded some peace. "Now what!?" shouted Victor Two.

"If things got FUBAR, the backup plan was to meet in a clearing ten klicks down the road for evac by helicopter," answered the squad leader.

"En route," confirmed Mike.

Eight tense minutes later, Fireteam Victor arrived in the prescribed clearing and-- sure enough-- the distinct whup-whup-whup of rotor blades soon became audible. Shortly after that a JetRanger pulled overhead and touched down. Fireteam Victor piled in, Jimenez in tow. The helicopter rose into the air and flew off.

Then Victor Two untied "Luis Concepcion Jimenez."

"You all right, man?"

"Sure thing," the burly man replied in a Southern drawl. "All in good fun, and that was a whole lotta fun. Glad I could be part of it."

All the members of Fireteam Victor were relaxed and wore huge smiles. Alex's tail was wagging even harder than before.

Brock turned to Mike. "I'll be straight with you. AJ and I didn't know what to think when our two regular squadmates, Kramer and Jeff, couldn't show up. We heard about you two, that you wanted to be a part of all this. You were the only two with enough experience to replace our regular members. But we still had our doubts... I mean, a guy and a dog? Really? Now I'm sorry I ever thought that. You two are legit."

AJ nodded in assent. "Same goes for me, double."

Then Brock continued. "Any time-- any time-- you want to roll with Fireteam Victor in the future, let us know." He grinned wider. "You can consider that an order from a superior officer."

Mike pulled off a sloppy mock salute. "Sir, yes sir!"

Everyone laughed.

Then AJ turned to Alex. "And you, with that grenade, pulled off the craziest move I have ever seen bar none. No professional stuntman could have done that first try, spur of the moment. You saved the rest of us. You rock, little dude."
The collie blushed violently.

The team continued unloading their various weapons. Plastic BBs popped out of magazines and rolled around the floor.

"All I can say," said Alex, "is: Best. Airsoft. Event. Ever."

The pilot's voice crackled through the cabin intercom. "Look alive, people. We'll be on the ground in thirty seconds."

As the helicopter touched down, AJ and Mike popped the JetRanger's cabin doors and jumped out, followed shortly by Brock and Alex. As a team they walked to their "headquarters" and delivered their "captive."

Suddenly speakers around the area boomed, "Ladies and gentlemen, Luis Concepcion Jimenez has been captured, and 'Operation Thunderhead' is now over. RTB for some refreshments provided courtesy of Bob's Barbeque. Great work, guys. This has been a Whiskey Tango Foxtrot production. Please take a moment to visit our generous sponsors over in the vendor area, and don't forget the raffle at oh-four-hundred!"







Hope you enjoyed; the story proper starts next week.

Stay frosty.
GunRacer


Sun Jan 01, 2012 8:22 pm
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Post Re: Alas, Babylon Gardens (PG-13)
I enjoyed and can't wait to see more of it!

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Mon Jan 02, 2012 2:49 am
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Post Re: Alas, Babylon Gardens (PG-13)
That was pretty good! Nice twist ending by the way. A lot of fun.

Oh, and isn't 0400 4 am in Military time? 4 pm should be 1600 hours, right?

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Wed Jan 04, 2012 9:16 pm
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Post Re: Alas, Babylon Gardens (PG-13)
Nice to hear the positive reception, everyone. I hope you're enjoying reading it as much as I'm enjoying writing it!

Copper (and anyone else who was wondering about the time): you're correct; 0400 is 4AM and 1600 is 4PM. But milsim events aren't exactly nine-to-five affairs, either-- many "ops" have anywhere from four to no hours of downtime per day. My fictional "Operation Thunderhead" is geared more towards the more hardcore set, so finishing up the event with a raffle and some catered BBQ at four on Sunday morning is quite plausible.

Not too much longer until the next installment...

Stay frosty.
GunRacer


Fri Jan 06, 2012 7:24 pm
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Post Re: Alas, Babylon Gardens (PG-13)
Alas, Babylon Gardens

Chapter One, Part Zero

A giant game table the size of galaxies sprawls across space. On it rests a large and incredibly intricate board, covered with symbols, boxes, and game pieces of all sizes. On each side is a massive, well-worn leather chair. At present only one of the four spots is occupied by a... well, fox is the closest word (inasmuch as your average fox can be several times as large as your average nebula, have snow white fur and glowing red eyes, and have nine tails). He sits and lazily draws a claw across the edge of the the table. What gives? he thinks to himself. Everyone should be here by now.

As if on cue, a blue gryphon winks into place by one of the empty chairs, folds his wings, and takes a seat. His feathers are ruffled.

"Pete," the fox greets languidly. "Thought you weren't going to show. Why the wait?"

"Well, you know, issues with the girlfriend and all," the creature replies with the wave of a feathered foreleg.

The white vulpid raises his eyebrows slightly. "So you and Cer are back together, then?"

The gryphon stares bitterly into space, "Were is probably a better word, GK. Managed to screw it up again."

GK (short for Great Kitsune) frowns. "So Cerberus won't be joining us, then..."

"You don't say," Pete replies sarcastically.

"Drat. This game should really have three players, but I guess we'll have to make do with two. Speaking of, when's Dragon supposed to be here?"

"Any time now."

A flash envelops the pair at the table, and when their eyes recover, a giant green serpent is seated across from Pete. She radiates an emerald aura, and looks a little out of sorts.

"Sorry I couldn't make it sooner," she apologizes hurriedly while making herself comfortable on the chair opposite Pete. "I had some... unfinished business with those ice giants, and it just couldn't wait."

"Don't worry about it, hon," GK replies with a wave of his paw. "I was just having a chat with our friend here." The dragon glares at Pete. The two were perennial rivals, and their gamemaster, GK, took delight in making them work together and watching the sparks fly. "In fact," continues GK, " since Cer isn't going to be here, why don't you two pick up your scenario sheets and see what this round has in store? Then we can get started."

They do as instructed and begin to read.

"Ooh. This'll be big fun," says Pete eagerly. "And I get King?"

"But of course," assures the white fox.

"Fascinating," comments Dragon. "Kudos to you, GK. Something different, for sure."

Great Kitsune waits as Pete and Dragon finish their sheets. When both have set them down, he picks up his own paper and begins to read it aloud.

"In a world plunged into darkness, can you hold together a fraying community at odds with the outside world and--"

Before GK can finish his sentence, he's interrupted by a thundering boom and cloud of acrid smoke. At the opposite end of the table stands a grinning, cape-clad figure. His smile is predatory. Except for a sculpted black goatee, he is entirely a crimson color, with a forked tail and reverse-jointed legs that end in hooves. The pupils of his eyes radiate a hellish orange glow.

The table's occupants collectively stiffen.

"Ramiel..." says Great Kitsune, a hard glint in his eyes. "You weren't invited here."

The demon sweeps his cape aside and sits at the empty chair, still wearing his feral grin. "Well," he says in a sinister voice, "I heard you poor saps were down a player."

Pete gets up from his chair. "Now I don't know how you knew that, but we sure as hell don't want you here."

"I prefer the term 'hades', you know," says Ramiel flippantly. "And I'm not sure whether or not you want me here matters... our friend owes me a game. Don't you, GK?"

The fox snarls. "And here I was hoping you'd forgotten. Silly me, huh?" Then his face falls as he looks at Dragon and Pete. "Sorry guys, but... he's right."

"What? Why?!" asks the green dragon indignantly, claws clamping down on the edge of the table.

GK drops eye contact and begins nervously scratching the tabletop.

The demon breaks in. "We'll just say it involved the rain gods and a supermassive black hole or two. But the point is, I helped him. Now I'm calling in my debt."

"Then quit running your suck, sit down, and read the friggin' scenario sheet," growls the Great Kitsune.

Ramiel picks the paper up and reads it as instructed. His pointy smile widens.

"Oh, I think I'll enjoy this one very much indeed. Let's begin, shall we?"

**********

You'll have to forgive the change in tense here. I actually just wrote this bit to provide a smooth transition from the prologue to the story proper. And since I've started writing in the present tense, this is how it came out. Sorry, but it just felt like this was a good time to introduce the villain.

This was sort of a mini-update, and Chapter One Part One is ready to publish... so do you guys want it today? Or should I wait until mid-week?

Thanks for reading.

And stay frosty.
GunRacer


Sun Jan 08, 2012 1:18 pm
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Post Re: Alas, Babylon Gardens (PG-13)
Do as you like. It's really good stuff!

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Post Re: Alas, Babylon Gardens (PG-13)
Up to you how you update. Depends on the amount of suspense you need really. :roll:

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Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:20 pm
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Post Re: Alas, Babylon Gardens (PG-13)
Alas, Babylon Gardens
Chapter One, Part One

0530
November 21, 2010
Babylon Gardens
Residence of Celia and Thomas Milton

Wow, thought Thomas. I must be getting really tired. I'm seeing things. Nothing's made sense in these last few hours.. He pulled himself out of his chair, walking over to the sink to splash a bit of water on his face and clear his mind. Then he returned to the computer. Let's see... pull up a graph of the last three hours... oh wow. A major market pull-out, albeit one cleverly hidden-- longer-term investments being restructured or sold outright. Some were being offloaded at ten percent below market rates! In the shadier areas of the online trading business, there was no way to tell who the offending party (or parties, for that matter) was (or were), but this job was too big for any entity short of a country. Regardless, some state or group of states appeared to be preparing for a major market crash. But why...? What could crash markets? Natural disaster, maybe? No... can't predict that. What else? Thomas paled. Something man-caused. Something that could be predicted with the right intel. A pandemic. War. A terrorist attack. And most of these fire-sale deals are on US assets. He didn't want to come to the obvious conclusion, but there it was: the United States was the target, and of something big.

"Ivan," he said in that low, calm voice people use when they're well and truly scared. The guard looked up. "Phone. Now. Something's going on, and Martin needs to know."

Ivan Danko shrugged and tossed his cell phone to the stock-dealing Milton with a suspicious look.

**********

0530
November 21, 2010
Federal Prison 200 miles northwest of Babylon Gardens
Cell Block D

The man known simply as "Mac" was shoved through the doors to his new prison cell by the security guards escorting him. He heard the door lock, and the guards walk off. He sat down on the bare mattress, which stank of vomit and urine.

Jeers and catcalls soon came from surrounding cells, occupants telling the "new guy" what would happen to him in the coming few days. To think he would spend the rest of his life here...

**********

0531
November 21, 2010
Foster Mansion
Babylon Gardens

Martin Foster awoke with a start, a thin film of sweat covering his body. What a horrible dream! It was something with Alcor... a wave that would engulf him and drag him away... but Martin could only watch; it had been like his legs were made of lead... the more he tried to think about it, the more the memory eluded him. But he could still recall the way the white cat's golden eyes had stared at him as he pleaded, saying simply, "Dad..." again and again.

Ugh.

"Dad..."

The elder Foster brother seized up. Oh Lord! It isn't over!

"Dad.."

"Dad, wake up." The white cat stood by the bed. "Thomas Milton needs to talk with you."

Lying there, recovering from the slight shock, Martin didn't register what Alcor said.

"Earth to Dad."

Just a dream. Martin Foster let out a ragged breath.

"Okay, Alcor. Sorry about that."

He hugged the white cat, and looked at the phone before pressing it to his ear. Karma HATED him!

"Thomas, how nice to hear from you so bright and early," Martin greeted, his tone making it clear he meant the exact opposite. Then he listened.

"That's... hard to believe, to say the least. But I'll act like I trust you, and ask what it all means."

A long pause ensued as Thomas explained.

"...Hmmm. I see. Well, you do your research, and I'll try and corroborate that. Forgive me for being more than a little skeptical. Oh, and if," here his voice became more of a growl, "if I find out you're yanking my chain for some reason or another..." then Martin paused to listen and grinned. "Well, I guess I've repeated that line enough before if you can say it for me. Yeah: a bullet through each kneecap, and I'll wing it from there. Bye now."

He yawned and stretched. No way I'll go back to sleep after that dream, so I might as well get started early. He went to his closet and dressed himself for the day, deep in thought about who he could call to confirm Thomas's hunch. Busy sifting through his mental contacts list, he was totally off guard when Alcor walked in holding a mug.

"Coffee, Dad?" The cat offered, tail swishing.

A distracted Martin picked up the cup and replied, "Thanks. I could really use some caffeine right about now." He put the mug to his lips...

"THREE HUNDRED DEGREES FAHRENHEIT! AAGH!"

After Martin had recovered and gotten ready for the day, he began dialing. The first call went to another stockbroker, one wealthier and far more reputable than Thomas.

"Well, if it isn't the indomitable Martin Foster," came the voice on the other end of the line. Caller ID was nice, but it did take away the pleasantries of introducing oneself. "Thanks again for setting me up with Jewel. She's the best cat my wife and I have ever had. I owe you big time."

"Just glad she could find a home, Frank. You deserved it; you've been managing a good chunk of my portfolio since day one," Martin replied.

"Oh, don't start," the broker mock-scolded. "You flew me down to be part of that grand opening and adopt. You dropped my name in front of everyone and brought me so much extra business, it's not even funny-- seriously. Anyways, what can I do for you?"

"Just have a question I need answered. Have the markets been doing anything strange? Not stock prices or anything-- Lord knows those're crazy enough right now-- but... ah..."

Frank didn't wait for him to finish. "Yeah, like a weird undercurrent? We've all been talking about it. I take it you've heard?"

"Mm-hmm."

"I wish I could tell you what's going on, but its so subtle it's not really doing anything to the big numbers. I don't think it's something to worry about."

"Well..." started Martin. How do I say this without coming off as a little crazy? Ah, heck. "What if I said a major player, maybe even a nation or group of nations, was pulling out of every US investment it could-- especially long-term stuff-- but trying to make it look like they weren't?"

"I'd say you were nuts... but that would also explain things. Really well, actually. I wonder what it'd mean?"

"Something bad, I'm afraid. Would you do me a favor and look into all of this? Call me back when you think you've got things figured out."

"Will do, Martin. Thanks again."

*click*

Thomas Milton: 1, innocuous explanation: 0.

Who could he call next? Ah yes, his contacts at that shelter in Ukraine-- those folks were always rubbing shoulders with special-forces guys. This is all probably no big deal, but why am I so worried? Sheesh, I'm getting paranoid...

Two calls later, the score was Milton: 3, innocuous explanation: 0.

Martin Foster walked downstairs to make his family some breakfast.

**********

Sorry about the lack of communication. My week has been crazy, and from the way things are going I think I'm gonna need every bit of my (now seven-week) buffer. That's why there wasn't an additional chapter this week.

I hope you guys can stand the next few updates, 'cause they'll mainly set things up and not be too exciting. After that, though, the story should get... interesting.

Stay frosty.
GunRacer


Last edited by GunRacer on Sat Jan 28, 2012 6:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Sun Jan 15, 2012 6:12 pm
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Post Re: Alas, Babylon Gardens (PG-13)
Ah, the suspense is building. What could it all mean? :roll:

Valerio will be happy about another fic tying into his Universe. Always interesting to see another interpretation.

Can't wait to see where you go with it.

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Mon Jan 16, 2012 1:59 am
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Post Re: Alas, Babylon Gardens (PG-13)
It was ALL worth the waiting!
I approve of this ficcie :D

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Post Re: Alas, Babylon Gardens (PG-13)
Has anyone gotten the name reference yet?
I thought it was kinda clever...

A quick note: the whole RP section on these forums is totally unfamiliar to me, but if anyone from there has a character or characters they'd like to see in the story, let me know! I'm always looking for some well-fleshed-out cast members.

Next update coming soon. Until then,

Stay frosty.
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Post Re: Alas, Babylon Gardens (PG-13)
Alas, Babylon Gardens
Chapter One, Part Two

November 21, 2010
0800h
Babylon Gardens
Foster Mansion

In the kitchen of Martin Foster's house-- known to most residents of Babylon Gardens as "Foster Mansion"-- Martin and the rest of his "family" were seated at a small table in the spacious kitchen.

Martin walked around, serving four seated pets. He put an omelet onto the plate of the white German Shepherd in front of him-- the idea of serving his pets (or any pets, for that matter) food different than what he would eat was abhorrent to him.

"Onions and mushrooms, Mizar?" Martin asked.

"No thanks," she said. "Just egg for me."

Martin moved on to the cat. "Alcor?"

"You know me," Alcor said with a grin. Shortly an omelet piled high with sautéed mushrooms sat before him.

Martin then walked to the other side of the table where two huge dogs, jet-black except for their red bellies and stub tails, were seated. A long, jagged scar ran across the chest of one.

"Antares? Aldebaran?" Martin asked.

"Two omelets..." said one.

"...and light on the onions," finished the other.

Martin chuckled as he scooped the food onto their plates. He never got tired of the way they went back and forth like that. Finally he served himself, sat down, and began to eat.

For a few seconds, the only sound was that of metal hitting porecelain, a sure sign of appreciation. Martin Foster wasn't a gourmet chef by any stretch, but he did pride himself on his omelets.

"Good morning, everyone," Martin began, examining a forkful of egg. "Sorry to get you up early. I had a nightmare and wanted to get working instead of trying to fall back asleep."

Before any of the pets could respond, he continued.

"As you know, Alcor," Martin began, looking at the white cat, "Thomas Milton got in contact with me this morning. He tipped me off to some strange stuff going on in the international markets, and everyone else I've called I don't know exactly what's happening right now, but things are looking very odd indeed..."

Mizar interrupted. "That's a little bit general, isn't it?"

Martin paused. "Yes, but it's all I know presently... I wish I had more to tell you."

"Well, what 'strange stuff'," said Alcor, making the universally-recognized finger-quotes gesture, "is tipping you off?"

"Whole nations are pulling out of financial markets, odd diversions of oil shipments... even strange military movements. And it could be nothing, but..." The way Martin's voice trailed off indicated he didn't really think so.

"Anyways," he continued, trying to sound happier than he felt, "relax and have fun. I need to pay a visit to a couple here in Babylon Gardens, and then make another call. See you in a bit."

Martin stood up and walked out the door.

"Well, that was abrupt," commented Mizar.

**********

Some minutes later Bismarck pulled into the driveway of Horace and Linda Erskine. Martin killed the massive vehicle's engine, got out, walked up to the door and knocked. This was followed by the sound of multiple locks disengaging, and eventually the door opened to reveal Linda.

"Oh, Martin! Come in, come in. To what do I owe the pleasure of a visit?" she asked as she closed and variously bolted, barred, and otherwise secured the front entrance. She looked every inch the perfect housewife, but for the pistol worn openly on her right hip (and two spare magazines on her left). "It's impolite to stare," she scolded.

"Sorry," apologized Martin. "It's just... disorienting." He gestured towards the handgun.

Linda was indignant. "Well, I'm in my own house, for goodness' sake. I think I have every right to do so."

"I'm just not used to it, is all."

"Oh, I know-- I was teasing you. It's just... after that incident with those dogs..." Linda shuddered.

"My investigator dumped a whole magazine into one of those poor creatures, and she didn't even slow it down," said Martin.

"Oh, I know. She was also using low-power non-expanding nine-mil target loads-- I asked afterwards. After hearing about that I sold my Beretta and got this baby here..." she patted the 10mm autoloader at her side, "which is, oh, around twice as powerful, and loaded with good hollowpoints. One shot'll drop a whitetail fifty yards away."

"Yikes."

"But on to happier things. What can I do for you?"

"Actually, I was hoping I could talk with your husband."

"Oh. He's out in the garden; I'll go get him."

"Really," said Martin, more than a little surprised. "This early?"

"We both get up around six," replied Linda. "Oh, and before I go get him, can I be nosy and ask what you want to talk about?"

"Uh... a giant, world-changing and possibly cataclysmic event?" Martin offered hopefully.

"Wonderful!" Linda said with a twinkle in her eye. "I'll have to join in. We love discussing that sort of thing. Sit down," she said, gesturing towards a chair.

"And where's Zap today?" inquired Martin, asking about the Erskines' Weimariner.

"He and Bino have been working on some old computers lately," Linda responded before walking out on the patio. "Horace!" she called out. "Martin Foster is here, and he wants to talk!" Then, to Martin, "Let me get you a snack. He'll be in in just a second."

The man of the house walked in shortly thereafter, dressed in a dirt-stained tee shirt and an old pair of shorts. His look certainly contrasted with Martin's freshly-pressed polo and slacks.

"Mr. Fost--"

"Martin."

"er, Martin-- good to see you! Sorry for the appearance--"

"Don't apologize," Martin replied. "Really, I should be saying sorry for the interruption."

"Don't even. You're always welcome here."

"Thanks. Anyways, your reputation as a... um..." How to put it charitably?

"Paranoid, black-helicopters kinda guy?" Horace finished with a wry grin.

"Well... yeah," Martin admitted. "Your reputation brings me here-- I need your expertise."

"Shoot."

"If, er, hypothetically you wanted to destroy the United States... how would you do it?"

Horace thought for a few seconds, and then slowly began. "Huh... there's always a large-scale nuclear attack. But we've got missile defense systems, and the attacker'd be toast. Mutually assured destruction, right?"

Martin nodded.

"So that's out, at least if the attacker wants to live. Dirty bombs-- explosives that blow radioactive nastiness into the air-- are cheap, easy to make, and would kill a lot of folks. Hard to trace, but they wouldn't really stop us as a world power. It'd be horrible, but not a game-changer."

"Hmmm," said Martin. That doesn't sound too likely.

"Ah... what else? A manmade pandemic, maybe, but the source would have to produce a lot of vaccine to inoculate their own people and allies. Plus you'd see international travel to and from the offending nation dang-near stop beforehand."

Martin made a mental note to check international flight schedules as Horace continued.

"So again, that's too obvious.... now when you say 'destroy America', are you talking our economy or status as a military power, or do you just want to kill off a ton of people?"

"Mainly our economy, but probably everything you just mentioned," said Martin.

Horace sucked in a breath. "That's a tall order. Maybe... no... huh. Wait." He snapped. "Of course."

Martin raised his eyebrows.

"An EMP. Electro-magnetic pulse. One medium-yield nuke detonated in space above the US would take out every electronic device in the country-- think hypercharged solar flare. It could be launched off some beat-up barge in the middle of the ocean. Pretty much untraceable."

"Okay," said Martin. "So people would have to turn off the A/C and get out of the house, maybe meet the neighbors, start a garden... might be just what our nation needs, in fact. Doesn't sound too bad."

"That's what most people think at first. But it's a little more complicated. Again, every electronic device would be fried. Including cars."

"So people would break out their bikes," returned Martin. He really didn't see any huge issues.

"Martin, please. This wouldn't turn the country into a Norman Rockwell painting. First, think transportation. If almost every car, truck, and van is taken out-- how does food get from the field to everywhere else? It doesn't. Most cities, and even small towns, don't have enough land to support their population, so starvation's almost guaranteed. Water pumps would go down too, so people won't have access to clean running water."

"I see." Now Martin was starting to get a little bit alarmed.

"The financial system would be destroyed; most money's nothing more than zeroes and ones. Four-oh-one-kay-- poof-- gone."

"Wow."

"Well, it gets worse," said Horace. "Sorry I'm droning on, but this is what fits your bill."

"Go on, go on. You're not boring me." In fact, Martin had a sinking feeling in his gut.

"Okay," continued Horace. "Transport, food, water, finance. All gone. Medicine-- supply chains break down, and no new drugs'll come out. All the manufacturing equipment's cooked, right? So if you're diabetic and take medicine or insulin, you're done as soon as you run out... ditto for any other chronic condition. And then society-- people will probably trust the government, think everything will be okay, for the first couple of weeks. Maybe even a month or two. But as soon as they realize the lights won't come back on for a long time..."

Martin shuddered. "Total anarchy," he finished.

"Yep," Horace agreed. "Our military is mostly overseas, too, and a lot of their stuff isn't hardened."

"Hardened?"

"EMP-proof."

"Which means...?" trailed off Martin.

"Which means a lot of our troops are stuck over in the Middle East, Europe, Korea, and so on semi-permanently. And that means the government won't have the manpower to keep things under control."

"Can you give me an idea of the death toll?"

Horace thought for a moment. "Well, I've heard nine out of ten people will be dead after the first five years. Now that's not a scientific figure or anything... but still, it does sound plausible."

Martin sighed deeply and leaned back in the chair. "Thanks for the info." Looking at the ceiling, he continued. "Are you a member of any big survivalist-type forums?"

"Definitely! Long-time user of a couple different ones, in fact," answered Horace.

"Then... can I ask you a favor?"

"After all you've done for the community and the shelter? Ask away."

"Get on those forums. Figure out all you can about EMPs and the potential impact. Get any books about EMPs you can find. That's your job now. And I pay well."

Although a little surprised at the commanding attitude, Horace was more concerned by Martin's earnestness.

"Are there any organizations you know of that have compounds? Networks?" Martin continued.

His host sighed. "I'll put it this way. If I was in such an organization-- I would be prevented from disclosing it if I was-- I would certainly get in contact with the head honchos if you asked me to. Now, in this entirely hypothetical circumstance, is there anything you would like me to ask these people whom I might or might not know?" The man finished with a wry smile.

"To stand by for further information and make sure they have what they need," Martin said without a hint of humor.

The smile on Horace's face promptly disappeared. "I'll do that," he said, dropping any "hypothetical" pretense. Then, quietly, he asked a question. "Martin... please tell me this is all a joke. As fun as it is to think about the end of the world as a mental exercise, and as prepared as I am, I've got family and friends all over the country. If something happens, I may never see them again. Are you sure...?"

Martin looked grave. "I hope nothing will happen. But I fear we're on the precipice of... ah, I don't even know what. I'll try to get you a solid answer on what's going on this evening. Just send me that information, and get in contact with those people you may-or-may-not know. Hope for the best..." Martin started, standing up from his chair and extending his hand.

"And prepare for the worst," the other man completed, also rising.

The two shook hands.

"And tell Zap hi for me, would you?" asked Martin.

"Sure thing," Horace answered.

Then Martin turned and strode out the door, just as Linda returned from the kitchen with a tray of freshly-baked cookies.

"Oh," she said sadly. "And I just made these, too."

**********

Now the only person Martin had left to contact was his old friend, the lieutenant general. Assuming things in Afghanistan fit the pattern Martin was seeing, well... that didn't bode well for anyone.

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Another massive plot dump-- whew! I promise things will get interesting soon.

Of course, all credit for Thomas, Ivan, Martin, Alcor, Mizar, Antares, Aldebaran, the Erskines, etc. goes to Valerio. Go read his awesome fanfic; you won't regret it.

And sorry for the delay, readers (all six of you). Due to a misunderstanding between me and my proofreader (Rollofthedice, who is an absolutely awesome guy) the wrong chapter got reviewed, so that took a little time to sort out. On the plus side, that means this weekend there'll be TWO updates.

As always, I'd love to hear what you think of the story so far!

Stay frosty.
GunRacer


Last edited by GunRacer on Fri Feb 03, 2012 12:02 am, edited 2 times in total.



Sat Jan 28, 2012 6:10 pm
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Post Re: Alas, Babylon Gardens (PG-13)
So apparently I'm a big fat liar.

After a brief discussion with Coatl_Ruu, he asked if I could hold off on Part Three until he's wrapped up The Dogs of War (which is on its last chapter). Since Pt. 3 pretty much consists of just his characters, it seems like honoring his request is the right thing to do.

Since the story progression is very linear right now, I can't just swap in another part... the actual double update is going to have to come this weekend.

Even going into this with a TWO-MONTH buffer, I still can't seem to keep my act together. Sorry, everyone. But the show must go on!

Stay frosty.

EDIT: Clarified the issue, Valerio. Good catch!


Last edited by GunRacer on Fri Feb 03, 2012 12:04 am, edited 1 time in total.



Wed Feb 01, 2012 1:49 pm
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Post Re: Alas, Babylon Gardens (PG-13)
That was awesome update, loved the characterization!
Just one minor detail about the black twins: they got a stubby tail, much like King

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Post Re: Alas, Babylon Gardens (PG-13)
Alas, Babylon Gardens
Chapter One, Part Three: More Dialogue!


November 21, 2012
1940h Local
US Army Base
Kabul, Afghanistan
Office of Lt. Gen. Daniel Evans

The office was certainly nothing special. The furniture was decent and the walls bore personal photographs, but the room was lit by unshielded halogens that cast it all in a harsh light. A military-issue desk sat at one end, surface occupied by a computer, printer, and several neat stacks of paper. A man, dressed in his fatigues, was seated there. He looked to be in his mid-forties, with close-cropped graying brown hair and an intense look in his eyes. He gaze wandered up from his paperwork to the walls... painted the same color as that infernal sand. Aagh. I've had it with this place. Sand, sand, sand, mountains, more sand. Praise the Lord this tour's almost over. Lieutenant General Daniel Evans stood up and stretched. He'd stayed in his office well past dinner time, and his stomach was protesting. It was time to go grab some chow. But before he could even head towards the door, his office phone rang. Evans picked it up, and quickly forgot all about his hunger as a grin spread across his face.

"Martin Foster, you son of a gun! Good to hear from you again!"

Marine K9 Sargeant Duke Walters winced. Here I thought I was gonna go eat soon. Now Evans is gonna be in here another hour chatting with an old friend. Some kind of a job, this whole "secretary" thing. The German Shepherd, a veteran of more than a dozen combat missions, was currently "driving a desk" due to a minor leg injury sustained in a recent firefight. He looked down at his ankle brace. Just a few more days and I'll be out of this thing. No more filling out paperwork and taking phone calls all day long... I'm dying to finally get back out on patrol.

Duke was snapped out of his thoughts by a change in his superior's tone. Evans sounded puzzled at the turn his phone conversation had just taken.

"Yeah, actually-- insurgent activity has exploded. IED reports have quadrupled, there have been major attacks on most of our smaller outposts, three assassination attempts on Karzai in so many weeks... this could be the bloodiest month of the war. All our in-theater intelligence resources have been turned to just trying to predict the enemy's next move. We're even using CIA and FBI assets in the region to stay up with what's going on."

Then the lieutenant general paused, and Sergeant Walters' ears perked up as he heard the voice on the other end of the line talk for several minutes straight. As Martin went on, Evans' face became paler and paler. "Oh... I see. You're sure? It does all fit... Three other sources? Wow. So this is real, you think. Uh-huh. Are you sure?"

Another pause ensued, and Duke let his thoughts wander away from the forms on his desk. As usual, they floated towards Zara, a female jackal who once saved Duke from certain death-- he had later returned the favor. After their first meeting, she had become an extremely valuable, if unofficial, addition to Duke's team: she spoke flawless Arabic (of course) and could gather intelligence with a far lower profile than any of the Americans. She was a crack shot with a revolver, too, and that had come in handy on occasion... yes, Duke certainly admired her. But not just as a capable teammate. Under her cynical, hard-bitten exterior, she was kind and affectionate, and had a soft spot for a certain German Shepherd. Any time Duke had leave and could get away from base, the two would spend time sitting together on the outskirts of a nearby town, each just enjoying the other's company. At his desk, Duke sighed happily as he reminisced, but then frowned. Whenever he thought about Zara, there was always a nagging concern in the back of his mind-- if people found out about his relationship, he'd be finished. Could you say "fraternizing with the enemy?"

The lieutenant general started speaking again, and Duke stopped daydreaming to listen.

"Yeah. There's no other explanation, is there? And you're in... Babylon Gardens? My wife and kids live about a hundred miles from there-- would you mind if I-- "

A long pause.

"--oh, you don't know what that means to me. Get that place buttoned up tight, and lemme see if I can't get some materials your way. No, no, don't protest. Anything for an old friend. Just make sure my family's there when I come home. And I'll pass what I heard up the chain of command, though I bet the brass won't listen. Certainly been nice talking to you... hope to be able to drop by and see you one day. Goodbye, old friend."

Turning to Duke, Evans said, "Your parents live in Babylon Gardens, correct?"

"Yes sir."

"Good. You're shipping out tomorrow."

The big Shepherd looked shocked. "But, sir, my term of service isn't--"

"Do you really think I don't know that? No, your family-- and your community-- are gonna need you one hell of a lot more than the USMC will... unlike me."

The lieutenant general sighed sadly, looking at the photos of his family on the wall.

"If you didn't have a better place to go, I'd keep you here, but... it's been a pleasure having you serve."

Duke looked at the general with puzzlement.

"Martin Foster'll fill you in when you get home. Something really bad's about to happen, I fear. You've got tomorrow morning to say your goodbyes, and I want to see you on your way home at thirteen hundred hours. Dismissed."

Even though the Shepherd had never seen Martin Foster in the flesh, he'd heard so much about him from family-- about his philanthropy, the Lucky Charm Grove shelter, all the good he'd done for Babylon Gardens. And I'll get to meet him, and talk with him! ...about something presumably horrible, judging by the state of the lieutenant general. It was true: dogs could smell fear, and Evans positively reeked of it. I don't even know what to think. And going home means leaving Zara... no, he couldn't think about that. Emotion might show, and nobody could know.

Truly confused by his orders and the whole situation generally, Sergeant Walters fell back on reflex. He responded with a firm, "Sir, yes sir!"

"Semper Fi, Marine," came the reply.

Duke began to walk out of the room.

"Oh, wait," the general added with a mischevious glint in his eye. "I forgot to mention. You can take your girlfriend with you."

Walters froze, mind racing. How could he answer that question? Oh crap. Think think THINK! ...Bailey. That's it, Bailey! Bailey McNamara was a member of Duke's K9 unit, a stocky and aggressive Boxer. Duke counted her as a close friend, and would trust her with his life-- but his girlfriend she was not. Still, the sergeant hoped his ruse would work.

"Sir, you must have the wrong guy. McNamara and I have never been--"

He was cut off by the general's laugh. "Oh come on, Walters. You and Bailey? Pfft."

Evans walked up next to Duke, and said, "Zara."

Before the poor dog could stop himself, his ears perked up and his tail began to wag. He looked ashamed.

"Come on, Duke, half the base knows by now."

The shepherd blushed.

"Really, everyone thinks it's kinda cute."

At this his ears began to function as miniature space heaters, but he was also relieved. This didn't sound like a disciplinary lecture.

"Zara's already agreed to go with you; she's been checked out and given the necessary shots. All the paperwork's taken care of."

Walters recovered from his embarrasment enough to ask, "What do you mean, she's agreed? I only found out about leaving just now."

Again Evans laughed. "Oh, this has been arranged for a while. It was supposed to be a surprise for the next time you went on leave, but... things have changed."

As the lieutenant general finished his sentence, all the mirth that had lit up his face drained out; it was replaced by a pained look.

"And how," he said quietly, more to himself than Walters. "Duke," he said to get his secretary's attention. Pointing at a picture on the wall, he continued.

"See this woman? She's my wife-- Catherine. The boy is Tommy, and the girl is Alaina. Take... good care of them for me, okay?"

"Yes sir!" Duke hoped he didn't look too confused.

"You'll understand soon. And now you really can leave."

The GSD began to walk out the door, but stopped and turned around. "Semper Fi, sir," he said as he saluted. Evans returned the gesture, and then Duke left the room.

As the door shut, Daniel finally allowed the emotion he'd been holding back to show on his face. Semper fi-- Semper fidelis. Always faithful. Even when it meant leaving his wife and kids halfway around the world during what might just be the worst thing to happen since the Black Plague. Of course, all he could do was serve his country, and hope that Martin and Duke would hold the fort back home. He looked at the phone one more time and dialed. He needed to give his family the news, to tell them where'd they'd be going and let them know about Duke.


Fri Feb 03, 2012 12:11 am
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Post Re: Alas, Babylon Gardens (PG-13)
YAY! Tie-in with "The Dogs of War"! :D :D
This is getting more awesome by the update :mrgreen:
Can't wait for the next update!

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Post Re: Alas, Babylon Gardens (PG-13)
Wow this getting more intense each chapter! Very poor times are on the way, by the tone and feelings coming off Daniel. Your story is fantastic so far and I'll be looking forward to the next update!

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Fri Feb 03, 2012 5:19 pm
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Post Re: Alas, Babylon Gardens (PG-13)
Excellent, excellent work ... you really do know how to keep up the suspense!

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Fri Feb 03, 2012 8:46 pm
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Post Re: Alas, Babylon Gardens (PG-13)
Awesome updates! I cannot wait for the proverbial hammer to drop..... And find out exactly which of our enemies got us. :roll:

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Post Re: Alas, Babylon Gardens (PG-13)
Chapter One, Part Four: Chekhov Would Approve

November 21, 2012
1312h
Interstate Highway 40
Black Honda minivan


All good things must come to an end, as the old saying goes. Operation Thunderhead was a fantastic event, but the weekend was only so long. The op had wrapped up at about four o'clock Sunday morning, and after a few hours of sleep everyone was heading home. Alex, Mike, Brock, and AJ (carpooling in Brock's minivan) sat in the flow of traffic coming from the site of the event.

Alex said, "I know I'm still grinning like an idiot, but WOW! What an awesome time!"

There was a general murmur of agreement.

"First time I rode in a helicopter," Mike offered. "Although throwing the helo in at the finish there did seem a little gratuitous."

"I hear ya," AJ said, "But it was being used for door gunner duties during the battle that afternoon, so I guess the organizers figured they'd use it at the end too."

"Huh. Makes sense," Mike replied.

"Again, congratulations on the awesome job, guys," Brock addressed Mike and Alex. "You worked with AJ and me like veteran teammates. When the regular four guys on our team haven't all made it to an op before, sometimes the people we've had to use have been... less than skilled. But not you two. I'm glad we took a chance on you. In fact, you guys are the only human/dog pair I've seen in the sport."

It was true; few pets played airsoft beyond small backyard games. Since the pellet guns used were dead ringers for real firearms-- which pets were prohibited by law from even touching-- the community frowned upon non-humans playing. Mike and Alex could have cared less, though. They were trailblazers and proud of it.

"Thanks," responded Alex. "It was an honor. Glad it all worked out, and I can't wait to work with you in the future."

"Definitely," AJ agreed. "We'll talk with our other two teammates and try and get you in. Your schedule fairly flexible?"

"Heck yes!" said Mike. "We hit most of the big ops in the country."

"Really?" asked Brock. "So what do you do for a living?"

"Believe it or not, I work at a gun store. Lucky me, right? And the owner's pretty good about letting me miss a Monday here or there. 'Course, I put in lots of overtime and teach some classes."

"Dang!" interjected AJ. "And to get enough money doing that to travel as much as you do... wow."

"Well, I love the job and it pays the bills, but that's not how Alex and I get places." Mike nodded to the collie.

"Yeah," Alex continued. "Actually, the travel budget mostly comes from stuff I do."

AJ and Brock looked surprised. "Really," one said.

"Yep. I do a lot of freelance gun and gear reviews for different websites. You know, keep what I like and sell what I don't. Enough cash comes from that to fund most of our travels. We don't stay at four-star hotels or anything, but we get around."

"Wait. Why haven't I seen you, then? A dog doing airsoft reviews... I'd remember that."

"I publish everything under Mike's name."

Brock cut in. "Why do that? You're a cool guy. I mean, I figure it'd set you apart from the pack-- no pun intended."

A bitter edge crept into Alex's voice. "People don't trust dogs. I mean, what would I know? I'm small and covered with fur, so I must be unqualified to review gear for a 'human' hobby. After all, I'm just property." Then the collie smiled weakly. "But there's no sense in griping about what I can't change, is there? So anyways, I do reviews and Mike and I have a podcast. Kilo-Niner Productions. We just started it... hopefully that brings in some money going forward too; at least I can be myself on there. If you can't tell from the name, it's sort of a selling point."

"Well, good for you," said Brock. "I'll let people know about it."

Mike looked hopeful. "In fact, you could do us one one better. I bet our listeners would appreciate a post-game discussion with two members of the best-known team out there..."

"I'd love to," said AJ.

"Same here," replied the driver.

"Awesome!" said Alex happily as he produced a voice recorder from his pants pocket. "You ready to start now?"

"Sure," Brock answered as AJ nodded his assent.

Alex hit the device's "record" button and set it on the vehicle's center console, mic facing up.

"Hey guys. It's Mike," Mike started. "... and Alex," the collie finished.

"And this is the Kilo-Niner Productions podcast, the voice of airsoft. If you've been listening to us lately, you'll know we've been prepping for the premier milsim event in the country, Operation Thunderhead. It was staged this weekend; we went there and had a great time. And boy, do we have some stories for you... as well as a couple of guests you might have heard about before."

The recording session went on and on as Brock's minivan made its way down the interstate. The four bantered about the course of events, their personal stories, being part of Fireteam Victor, the guns and gear they saw in use, and allowing pets in the sport. After almost ninety minutes they wrapped up their conversation, and Alex shut down the recorder.

"I think that went well," said Mike.

"Oh yeah," agreed Alex. "Now I just have to edit it and put it up online."

"Look forward to hearing it," AJ said simply.

The carpoolers sat in silence for the next few minutes.

"I know it's not too much longer 'til we get out," acknowledged Mike. "The exit for Oak Knoll has a Carabba's. Wanna stop for lunch?"

"Never turned down Italian before, and I don't see a reason to start now," AJ replied.

Turning the van onto the exit ramp, Brock said, "Sounds great, Mike... but I'll be paying."

"Oh," Mike answered with a glint in his eye, "I think we'll cross that bridge when we come to it."

Brock shrugged his shoulders as he turned off the exit ramp and into the parking lot. "Challenge accepted."

Brock parked and unbuckled, and then opened the van's center console.

"I smell gun oil," said Alex.

"Yeah..." Brock said. "I, ah, don't wanna sound paranoid but if-- God forbid-- if I'm in a situation where I need to defend myself, I'd like to have that option." He glanced from Alex to Mike with an apprehensive look. "I hope it doesn't make you uncomfortable."

Mike chuckled and pulled up the right side of his shirt, revealing the butt of a handgun. "Not at all, man."

"Ah. Good," Brock said, relaxing. He looked around to make sure there weren't any passers-by and then pulled his pistol out of the console. He quickly holstered it.

"A Sig," Alex noted. "You have good taste, sir."

"Thanks," said Brock with a smile. Then he looked at Mike. "And you?"

"Para Warthog. It's a sweet little forty-five."

"Well, I normally carry too. But then I forgot to bring my gun on this trip," said AJ. "'Course, I've never been assaulted before at all, much less in an Italian restaurant. I think we'll be fine."

"Oh, of course," Brock responded as he, Mike, Alex, and AJ all climbed out of the van and walked towards the restaurant.

**********
Notes:

Ack! More dialogue!

Kudos if you get the title reference without using Google or Wikipedia.

In case anyone's doubting the realism of the situation here-- it's not too well-known, but the vast majority of states in the US do actually allow the carry of concealed handguns (by regular, law-abiding people) for personal defense. Before anyone gets too worried, let me say this-- your average concealed-carry license holder is more than three hundred times LESS likely to commit a violent crime than your average citizen.

Stay frosty.
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Tue Feb 07, 2012 12:48 am
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Post Re: Alas, Babylon Gardens (PG-13)
another fine update! Keep them coming, your dialogues are billiant, i don't mind them at all :mrgreen:

EDITED IMPROPER MINIMODDING POST

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Post Re: Alas, Babylon Gardens (PG-13)
Excellent update! Really like the back and forth there. They seemed prepared for just about anything.

Well, pets are once again second class. So sad....

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Post Re: Alas, Babylon Gardens (PG-13)
Part Five

November 21, 2012
0945
Babylon Gardens
House Foster

Martin Foster hung up the phone and stared glumly ahead. The pieces all lined up too well-- something bad was going to happen; nothing else could account for what was happening. But still... he needed more confirmation. Of course! Martin walked in front of a hallway mirror and pulled out his phone one more time. Then he dialed a local number, and punched the call button.

"You can hang up now," said a voice that lacked any apparent source. Martin did as instructed, and then looked up from his phone. On the reflective surface in front of him, the image of a golden-furred Pomeranian floated by his shoulder, eyes glowing a uniform spectral green. The man had dealt with the dog-- called Tarot-- before; he was once caught up in what was best described as a "paranormal entanglement" (a really nasty one, at that) and she had coordinated the rescue effort. Ever since then, Martin had kept the dog's house on speed dial.

The Pomeranian cocked her head. "You are calling with regards to the impending catastrophe, no?"

"That's why I called, yes," Martin said before continuing hesitantly. "So... something is actually going to happen?"

"It's a certainty," replied the canine.

"An EMP attack?"

"What I foresee is a time of great darkness, physical and spiritual. Make of that what you will."

Yeah, sounds like it fits the bill...

Then Tarot continued. "I'm not allowed to tell you much, but Babylon Gardens is a... very special place, with very special people. And while I foresee darkness, I also see you as a great light... one of very few. Guard this place and its inhabitants well, Martin Foster. More is at stake than you could know."

Then, with a *POOF*, the apparition was gone. Martin shuddered.

"More is at stake than you could know."
Ha. No pressure, Marty!

Now think.

OK. Babylon Gardens is about the right size-- not huge, but enough people to cover each other. I have enough money to provide for everyone here. So what will we need? Let's see. Essential needs: food, water, shelter. So seeds, farm equipment, fertilizer, digging tools for a well, sanitation equipment. We've got houses already, but more wouldn't hurt... so construction supplies and equipment. I should start a list.
He chuckled. I don't even know what I don't know. I might as well tell the rest of the family before I get going.

"KIDS!" He yelled.

Within a few seconds, his four pets stood in front of him.

"You needed us?" Mizar asked.

"Yeah," said Martin. "So here's the deal..."

Over the next half-hour or so, he explained the situation to his pets.

"And I don't even know how to prepare. I just don't think I can get everything I need on such short notice," he finished with a sad shrug. "Ideas?"

Alcor examined a claw. " 'Course you can't do it. There's no way."

"Wait... what?" Martin responded.

"He's right. this is bigger than one person can handle," said Antares.

"But maybe not too big for Babylon Gardens," his twin brother finished.

The two continued their verbal tennis match.

"With everyone's help, it might even be fairly easy."

"Call a meeting. Let people know."

"Then get their help with preparing."

"Yeah, boys, I thought about that," Martin returned. "But you four trust what I say... everyone else, they'll probably think I'm off my rocker."

"I don't think there's any other way to do it," Mizar said. "You can't go this one alone, so swallow your pride. Maybe everyone thinks you're crazy at the end, but you have to try."

Martin put up his hands in a gesture of surrender. "I'll think about it, I'll think about it. In the mean time, though, I'm going to do what I can. Doc Moore'll know what medicines the Gardens will need for the next few years, and I can get him to sign off on the paperwork... well, if he believes my crazy story, anyways-- wish me luck. And I'd really appreciate it if you could get brainstorming while I'm gone. You know, write down what stuff you think we'd need."

He paused.

"Uh, you don't think I'm crazy, do you?"

A chorus of "no"s and "of course not"s filled the air.

Martin grinned and said, "Glad to hear it. I'll be back in a while."

The pets began putting their ideas down on various electronic devices (except for Alcor, pen-and-paper traditionalist that he was). A minute or so later, the four pets of House Foster heard the noise of Bismarck's engine start up, and then trail off, as Martin drove away.

**********

November 19, 2012
1139h
Babylon Gardens
House of Bill McCartney

"Okay, guys! I'm all packed up, so I'd better see you and your suitcases by that door. If we leave soon, we'll be in Kansas before dark. This is gonna be a great Thanksgiving."

Bill McCartney the policeman (known to most residents of Babylon Gardens simply as "Officer Bill") hurriedly threw clothes and toiletries into his suitcase. He was in a wonderful mood after being awarded some extra time off for Thanksgiving. This year, he would get to attend his family's reunion for the entire week the event lasted. It certainly beat cold turkey and cranberry sauce eaten in a patrol car like the last November!

Three dogs all stood by the door with their tiny suitcases (lacking clothes, they didn't exactly have much to pack). Two of the group, an Alaskan Malamute and a Corgi, were peppering a gray husky with questions about the gathering.

"How many people will be there? And what's this place like, Fox?" asked the Corgi.

"So it's a big gathering, with lots of people-- around," the husky named Fox scratched his chin,"forty, I think? The house is big, really big, and we'll be sharing a room with all the other pets. There's a lake and cornfields and just tons of space to run around outside. In the evenings everyone sits and talks by a big fire in the living room. It'll be great!" His bushy tail beat back and forth. "Oh, there'll be plenty of cute girls, too, King," he added, with a sly look at the Corgi.

"Sure, sure," the object of Fox's ribbing muttered with an exasperated sigh. Why does he keep harping on this? I'm still a little shell-shocked by everything. Through a twist of fate involving the blue gryphon named Pete (and far too involved to detail here), a man previously known as Joel Zechariah Robinson had wound up as the little Corgi who stood in the hallway, ears folded back and eyes turned toward the floor. It didn't help that Fox was a dog "Joel" had tried to kidnap in his past life... and now the husky was his best friend. He doesn't know that, King. Just stop thinking about it.

"Kiiiiiinnnnnnngggg," said Fox in a singsong voice. "Did you hear me?" The Corgi liked his new body and his new life, sure... but the idea of any sort of romantic involvement still freaked him out. "I'm telling you, the ladies won't be able to resist," the gray dog continued.

Then the Malamute broke in. "Whoa, whoa, whoa," he said, feigning indignation. "What about yours truly?" the dog asked, finger pointing at his own chest.

"Well, that goes without saying... your name's Lucky, for crying out loud," replied Fox with a grin.

King saw an opportunity to redirect the conversation from its current uncomfortable direction. "So you think he's better-looking than me, huh?" he asked, also grinning.

Bill smiled as he heard the three go back and forth. It cost a little more to house and feed another two dogs, but whenever he saw all of them together like that... well, it was more than worth a little extra money.

His three pets saw him walk down the stairs, duffel bag in hand.

"Okay, guys. Let's head out!" The officer said happily.

"Sure," replied King. "But just one question... how are all three of us gonna fit on the back of that motorcycle? And where's your helmet?"

Bill walked around his house, checking to make sure all the lights were off. "Well, a lot of guys at the PD are taking time off over the holiday, so the sheriff let me borrow a cruiser," he explained. Satisfied his abode was secure, the lawman strode to his garage door and opened it up. Sure enough, a blue-and-white Crown Vic sat in front of them, parked next to the officer's beloved Harley.

"Awesome!" the three dogs chorused as they looked at the vehicle.

"You guys'll have to sit in the back, but there should be more than enough room."

"Not a problem," said King.

"We get to ride in a cop car. Woohoo!" exclaimed Lucky.

The dogs continued their excited banter as Bill closed and locked the door to his house. Then he and his pets put their luggage into the cruiser's trunk, and piled in the car. Bill buckled himself in and started the engine. Then he reached under his seat and pulled out a garage door opener.

"I think this is gonna be a great trip," he addressed the dogs as the big metal door rolled up. "Just be on your best manners and all that."

"Oh, come on, Dad," said the husky. "You know I always am." The cop grinned as looked over his shoulder and backed out of the driveway. He hit the remote again to close his garage.

"You're right, Fox. And King, Lucky, I expect the same from you, okay?"

"Yessir," the Malamute responded.

"Will do," said the Corgi.

"Great!" Bill said. He reached over to the radio dial. "Now how about some road tunes?"

**********

November 21, 2012
1235h
Interstate Highway 40, near the Oak Knoll exit
Bismarck

Medical supplies were piled in the back of the big black Hummer; Martin Foster's morning had certainly been productive. Thankfully, one of Martin's shelter's doctors, Peter Moore, had managed to fill out the paperwork required to get huge quantities everything from prescription painkillers to high-strength antibiotics to insulin. It had cost him an arm and a leg, sure, but Martin had a feeling they'd be worth far more than he paid if an EMP hit.

Then Martin's stomach rumbled-- his breakfast was wearing off. Absentmindedly, he began scanning the road ahead for places to eat. A sign on his right alerted him to a Carabba's at the exit for the town of Oak Knoll. Ooh.[/] he thought. [I]Italian.

He pulled off the interstate and headed towards the restaurant. Five minutes later, Martin was cursing like a sailor as he maneuvered his Hummer into a cramped parking spot while trying to keeping damage to the surroundings, other vehicles, and pedestrians to an absolute minimum.

**********

Hummers, towering above other vehicles as they do, tend to attract some attention. And so the black SUT caught the eye of another car's occupants as they passed down I-40's exit ramp.

Two men sat in the front, both wearing loose polos and khaki shorts. Another, dressed in a suit, sat in the back.

"<Look>," the front passenger said in Russian. He raised his voice to attract the driver's attention and pointed to the object of his interest. "<The big truck over there. That is what Martin Foster drives, no?>"

The driver glanced over quickly. "<Yes, but so? There are many like that.">

The man in the suit spoke. "<No, that make is not very common. I would very much appreciate an opportunity to... do away with the man who took away from me much business. We will check this out. If I am wrong, we lose five minutes.>"

"<Yes, boss,>" the driver replied obediently. His employer, Dmitri Pevchenko, wasn't one to let a score go unsettled. Martin Foster had been a thorn in Pevchenko's side since the old shelter had been torn down: a man named Mac, the brutal master of that place, had been thrown into prison for the atrocities he perpetrated on the animals under his care. The one who exposed the whole mess-- Martin Foster-- had also hurt Pevchenko's business. You see, the mafia cell Dmitri headed up had provided the old shelter with imported (read: smuggled) Soviet-bloc slop to feed its pets. And while this food (using the term loosely) was inexpensive, the animals of the shelter did consume a lot. Martin Foster had stopped all that when he brought the whole sordid business of the shelter to the light of day. Dmitri's organization had cut its losses and disposed of any evidence the police could trace-- but there still wasn't a way to get that regular, and much-needed, cash flow back. The incident was over and done with, yes, but Pevchenko figured he could at least stop Martin from stirring up any more trouble. Of course, he thought, that probably isn't Foster's car. But if it is...

**********

Martin walked into the restaurant. In front of him stood three men and a collie (who was, oddly, wearing clothes). One of the group was in a heated discussion with a member of the staff-- the manager, judging by his attire. His two companions stood akwardly a few steps away.

The philanthropist walked closer to hear what they were saying.

"... sir, I'm afraid the rules are very clear."

"Well, why's there a rule in the first place?"

The manager looked confused. "I'm sorry?"

"The purpose of the rule. What is it?"

"To ensure a quality dining experience for all of our patrons. Just like every other rule we have."

"And so you're telling me he--" Mike pointed towards the well-dressed Alex, "will detract from the 'dining experience'?"

"Maybe not your pet specifically, sir. But I shouldn't have to tell you that a lot aren't as well-behaved or -dressed. That's why we have a blanket rule."

"So," Mike said incredulously, "you're going to let a policy that, by your own admission, doesn't apply in this instance keep you from selling four meals to us?"

"Well... I, ah..." the manager was rhetorically outgunned, but it was obvious he didn't want to give in.

Martin decided to break the stalemate. He began walking towards the group as he pulled a pen and checkbook out of his pocket. "...now, there can always be exceptions. Of course, I'd be happy to compensate you for any inconvenience." He uncapped the pen.

"Martin Foster?" The shocked manager asked.

"The one and only," replied the famous philanthropist. "They're with me," he added, gesturing at the group.

"Oh! Gentlemen," the manager said as he looked at the equally-surprised Mike, Alex, AJ, and Brock. "I'm terribly sorry for the inconvenience. Here, let me show you to our private dining area. And put the pen and checkbook away, Mr. Foster. This is on the house."

"Well, come on," Martin said lightheartedly as he looked at the dumbfounded quartet. "Let's eat."

The five were shown to their table.

*****

"Thank you, Mr. Foster," said Mike. "Very much... I don't know what to say. It's an honor to meet you. I'm Michael Preston." He held out his hand. Martin gave him a firm handshake.

"First of all, just call me Martin. That was impressive, standing up to the manager like that. Without courageous people like you, the status quo won't ever change. I admire that."

"Thanks," Mike said, more than a little embarassed.

Then Foster turned to the collie, proffering his hand. "And you are...?"

"Alex, Alex Preston," the dog answered as he shook. He was nearly bursting with excitement. "It's, wow, just such an honor to actually be meeting you. I mean, the Martin Foster, in the flesh. Thank you for all you've done for the old shelter and the attention you've brought to places like that everywhere. You've made such a difference..."

Now it Martin's turn to be put on the spot. "Oh, I'm just a regular guy who won the lottery. Y'know, to those who much is given much is expected, and all that."

"Well, thank you still," Alex responded.

"I appreciate it," Martin said. Then he looked towards Brock. "And you are?"

"Brock Miller. That was great of you to take care of our little entanglement, by the way." The two shook hands.

"No problem at all-- a pleasure to meet you." Foster faced AJ. "You're..."

"Andrew's the name, but call me AJ," said the man as he, too, gave Martin a handshake. "It's pretty crazy to actually be talking to you... the world needs more Martin Fosters. Thanks for everything you've done," he paused. "And for lunch, too, I guess," he finished with a laugh.

A waiter guided the group to their table and took their drink orders.

The humans ordered different sodas, but Alex asked for some hot tea-- there was nothing he enjoyed more.

"So," Mike asked, "what brings such a distinguished person to humble little Oak Knoll?"

"Oh, just picking up some odds and ends," Martin said vaguely before turning the conversation away from himself. "But what about you four? You all look like a group to me. What brings three men and a collie to an Italian restaurant?"

"Ever heard of airsoft?" said Brock.

"Ehh... sort of," Martin replied, waving his hand vaguely. "I've heard the word before, but have no idea what it actually means.

"OK. So there are these guns-- airsoft guns-- that are like plastic BB guns. But they look, feel and work just like the real things. People get all camo'd up and run around shooting at each other with 'em. Anyways, our group is just coming back from a big milsim--"

"I'm sorry?" said Martin.

"Military simulation," Brock explained. "Sorry. So anyways, it was a big event with about five hundred people where we went out and simulated a large-scale South American conflict between an army and narcos. Operation Thunderhead."

"Sounds neat," Martin said.

"It really is," broke in Alex. "Tactics, hand signals, small-unit maneuvers, all that. A lot of military guys play so they can stay sharp. It's a lot more dynamic than, y'know, going to a range and going bang... bang... bang into a paper target all day. Loads of fun, too."

"So you play?" Martin asked the collie, who was busy munching on a piece of bruschetta.

"Oh yeah!" Alex responded after swallowing.

"Huh. I'd figure people wouldn't like that."

"Oh, they don't. The whole 'pets and guns' thing is the main issue." Mike said.

Martin nodded knowingly; he'd tried to have the canine half of his shelter's K9 security teams trained on firearms, but soon found out doing so was in violation of at least a dozen federal laws.

"But we don't let that stop us," Mike continued. "The fact that Alex can outshoot nine guys out of ten helps, and we've built up a bit of a good reputation, too."

"Interesting," Foster said. Small unit tactics, drills, military maneuvers... useful skills to have. "So, any experience with real firearms?"

"Yeah," AJ said. "Quite a bit."

"I put a couple hundred rounds downrange a month," added Brock.

"Believe it or not, I work at a gun store. Teach gun handling, concealed carry, and defensive pistol classes," Mike finished.

"Wonderful!" the philanthropist blurted out. Did I just say that out loud? Whoops...

The rest of the table's occupants looked at him, puzzled.

"I'll explain in a bit," said a chagrined Martin. "So, any of you military?"

"Used to be in the Marines," offered AJ.

"Army Reserve until a year ago," said Brock.

"Nope," Mike responded sadly. "but wish I'd served."

Hmmm. Martin thought. So they won't be called up when it all hits the fan. Talk about coincidence... these are the kind of people I need.

"If I could pry a little and ask where all of you live...?" Martin continued.

"We're all within about fifty miles of here," Brock said guardedly.

"I don't mean to be disrespectful, Mr. Foster, but this is feeling a bit like a questioning session," said Alex.

Might as well come out with it now.

"Clever little guy," Martin said to the collie. "You're right. This is beyond happenstance... I think we were all meant to be here."

"What?" said AJ.

"I can explain, but it will take a while."

"Go ahead," prompted Brock. "We've got the time."

But before Martin could begin, a waiter walked up with the group's drinks, three men in tow. "You're quite the popular person today, Mr. Foster," he said. "These gentlemen wanted to speak with you."

One of the men, the one wearing a suit, produced a suppressed Makarov from under his jacket and pressed it to the back of the waiter's head. "Nobody moves," he said with a thick Russian accent. "Or I shoot."

Time slowed to a crawl.


***************

Thanks for all the feedback, everyone, and forgive the slight delay.

Stay tuned for the explosive ending to chapter one, coming... well, at some point!

... School, etc. is eating up my life right now.

Stay frosty.
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Tue Feb 14, 2012 12:32 am
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Post Re: Alas, Babylon Gardens (PG-13)
Eh, that's fine. We can wait for the shoot out!! :lol:

I liked it! You can really build suspense and have casual conversation.

I just have on issue really, and it is nothing at all. King just doesn't seem like King to me in this update...*shrugs* Maybe it is just me...

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Post Re: Alas, Babylon Gardens (PG-13)
copper wrote:
Eh, that's fine. We can wait for the shoot out!! :lol:

I liked it! You can really build suspense and have casual conversation.

I just have on issue really, and it is nothing at all. King just doesn't seem like King to me in this update...*shrugs* Maybe it is just me...


Yeah i agree with copper. You build suspense very well and the shoot out is going to be awesome. It isn't just you copper, hasn't King gone to Kansas already? And told Fox about being Joel in the past, in Valerio's world?

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Post Re: Alas, Babylon Gardens (PG-13)
musclecar326 wrote:
copper wrote:
Eh, that's fine. We can wait for the shoot out!! :lol:

I liked it! You can really build suspense and have casual conversation.

I just have on issue really, and it is nothing at all. King just doesn't seem like King to me in this update...*shrugs* Maybe it is just me...


Yeah i agree with copper. You build suspense very well and the shoot out is going to be awesome. It isn't just you copper, hasn't King gone to Kansas already? And told Fox about being Joel in the past, in Valerio's world?



Not only that, but Bill's entire family from Kansas has moved to Babylon Gardens to manage that farm thing.... perhaps this is an offshoot reality?

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Post Re: Alas, Babylon Gardens (PG-13)
*Smacks self in face*

Okay, rushing the release of part 5 was a bad idea. Not putting a note at the end of it to explain some stuff wasn't the brightest thing either: my story is on a somewhat modified continuity of HP!TS that branches off shortly after the "gas leak" explosion at Whiteman House-- well before Bill's family from Kansas moves in. My explanation is that the depicted reality is a different U&U scenario branching off of one of the previous "games" (HP!TS)-- hence Pete's asking GK if he gets King as an avatar in part zero. That said, part of the dialogue between King and Fox is just blatantly out of continuity (Fox would know his friend's origins at this point), so I'll go ahead and fix that bit when I can.

And copper:
Yeah, I know King doesn't really sound like himself; I struggled with that. Authentic dialogue was, unfortunately, one of the casualties of rushing to put this part up. I'll fix that when Bill and the dogs get to Kansas, where there should be plenty of opportunities for good characterization.

So, lesson learned: I won't tie myself to a specific update schedule now, and will work towards quality over quantity. You should see that in part seven, the end of chapter one.

Aaaaaaand a final note to all readers: up to now ABG hasn't been, for lack of a better word, all that "furry." To get the story going, it was neccessary to focus more on human activities, but chapter two will introduce everyone's favorite characters and hopefully balance things out a little. No matter what it seems like now, Alas, Babylon Gardens won't be a post-apocalyptic story just barely shoehorned into the Housepets! universe... trust me on this.

And stay frosty.
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Post Re: Alas, Babylon Gardens (PG-13)
Sounds good! I can't wait to read it when it comes out. Quality is definitely something to go on...

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Post Re: Alas, Babylon Gardens (PG-13)
Part Six has been submitted for proofreading, so not too much longer here.

Would you guys forgive me if I told you that ABG has so far been composed entirely on a smartphone? I'm not kidding here... neither is my carpal tunnel syndrome (just kidding; that's already come and gone).

Stay frosty.
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Wed Feb 29, 2012 9:53 pm
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Post Re: Alas, Babylon Gardens (PG-13)
Thanks for the update, and it is even more impressive that it is smartphone literature! :lol:


I live in Florida. I have to wear shorts in January and February..... I have never been Frosty! :P

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Post Re: Alas, Babylon Gardens (PG-13)
Finally got around to reading this, and it's awesome. I look forward to the next update.
after this whole hostage situation gets cleared up, I suggest they order the Sirloin Marsala. It's the perfect way to lessen the sting of impending doom.

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Post Re: Alas, Babylon Gardens (PG-13)
1241h
November 19, 2012
Carrabba's Italian Restaurant
Town of Oak Knoll

...But before Martin can begin, the waiter walks up again with three men in tow.

"You're quite the popular person today, Mr. Foster. These gentlemen wanted to talk with you."

One of the men, the one wearing a suit, produces a suppressed Makarov from under his jacket and presses it to the waiter's back.

"Nobody moves," the man says menacingly, with a thick Slavic accent. "Or I shoot."

Time slows to a crawl.

AJ and Brock are on one side of the table; Alex and Martin are seated opposite. To the left of Brock and AJ, the table butts up against a wall, and to their right sits Mike. The waiter is standing directly to Mike's right, with Dmitri positioned behind him, pressing a gun to the man's back. Pevchenko's henchmen stand to either side of their boss. On an unspoken cue, they reach under their shirts and draw machine pistols.

Mike's mind is going a mile a minute. There are three adversaries, all armed. He and Brock both have handguns, but need cover or a distraction to draw them. The table can't be flipped to provide cover; there are people on each side and it's at the wrong angle to the mafia men. There's nothing either of the armed men can do.

"So," Dmitri says as he looks at Foster. "I finally meet the man who has given me so much trouble." Martin is too shocked by the recent turn of events to respond. "I see you do not know me. Call me Dmitri, Mr. Foster." Still no response. "You see," the mafia don continues, "when you closed down the old shelter I lost business-- much business-- selling food."

Pevchenko cracks the butt of his pistol over the top of the waiter's head. The man slumps down, unconscious. Then Dmitri moves to Foster and presses the suppressor to the philanthropist's temple. "I do not like it when I lose business, Mr. Foster. I would hate for there to be an incident here. Perhaps instead you could compensate me for my losses. How about... ah... fifty million?"

Martin finds his voice. "Hah!" he spits out. "After all that slop you sold the shelter, I should pay you? Because you stopped profiting off the misery of the animals there? Like hell I'll pay you!"

The Russian's arrogant grin slides away, replaced by an angry sneer. "I think you forget who here is the man with the gun, Mr. Foster," Dmitri says sharply. "I could blow your brains out if I wanted."

"Go right ahead," Martin comes back defiantly. "Maybe I deserve it, after all the bad things I've done. My affairs are in order, my money will continue to be well-used, and my family will be taken care of. You... you won't get a single penny."

"Yes... your 'family.' You love animals, no? So, how about fifty million," Dmitri says, smiling, as he strides towards Alex and presses his gun to the collie's temple, "or I blow his brains out?"

Martin pales. "I... I... please... don't..." Dmitri sneers. "Make it sixty million -- you have five seconds to decide. Five... Four..."

"Let me call my people," responds the millionaire, a defeated look on his face. Martin moves to grab his phone out of his pocket, attracting the attention of the Russians-- they need to make sure their target isn't drawing a knife or gun.

Mike sees his opportunity. It means having the Makarov pointed at him for a split second, but better him than Alex. Now or never.

While the Russian trio is distracted by Martin, Mike gingerly reaches towards Alex's tea, trying not to attract attention. In a single lightning-fast movement, he picks up the steaming mug and hurls it towards Dmitri's face. The scalding liquid finds its target, and Pevchenko, in pain, loosens his grip on the Makarov. Mike rips the gun from the Russian's hand. The guards hear their boss's cry of agony and wheel towards the noise.

Mike lets go of Dmitri's pistol, using his left hand to sweep his shirt while he goes for his .45 with his right. Mike throws himself out of his chair and onto the carpet. He puts his handgun's sights on Dmitri's chest, gives the trigger a quick double-tap, and the bigbore pistol thunders twice. The first shot flies wide, but the second smashes into the mafia man's arm.

"Get over here!" AJ yells to his compatriots across the dinner table. Alex doesn't need to be told twice; he scrambles over and dives between Brock and the former Marine. Martin, catatonic, doesn't budge. "Move it!" AJ bellows. He lunges towards Martin, knocking plates and glasses out of the way in his haste. AJ grabs the other man by the shirt and heaves backwards, pulling him across before grabbing the table's edge and shoving it onto its side. He picks up the suppressed handgun Mike dropped and runs the slide back halfway to make sure there's a round in the chamber. Brock draws his Sig.

The guard to Dmitri's right grabs his bloodied boss and the two duck behind a wall. The second henchman moves partially behind the opposite wall, bringing his Skorpion up. Mike sees him, and swings his Para towards the adversary. Guard number two and Mike are in a race to put their shots on target. They both fire at the same time, the Russian letting off a burst from the hip and Mike sending a single, sighted round towards his adversary's chest. Three of the Skorpion's bullets graze Mike in the side, but his body's pumping with adrenalin and he doesn't even register the hits. What Mike does notice is his opponent crumpling to the ground.

Some yards away, and out of his targets' sights, Dmitri is being dragged to safety by the other guard. "<No,>" the mafia don rasps, grimacing. He sits up, takes a cloth napkin from a nearby table, and uses it to bind up the gunshot wound on his arm. Then, with his uninjured left hand, he reaches under the back of the jacket and pulls out another pistol, this one a Tokarev. Dmitri pulls the hammer back with his thumb. "<We end this now.>" His guard nods assent.

"Mike! Get over here!" yells Brock, steadying his Sig on the upturned table's side. Mike darts over and ducks behind the cover of the table with the rest of his group. "You okay?"

"Yeah," Mike pants, looking at his side. "Just nicked me."

Martin looks panicky. "Wait," he says. "There were three. So where are the other two?"

"Oh hell," Brock says. "Martin, call the cops."

Martin tries to dial 911 with his shaking hands, failing a number of times. Eventually he gets the number right and presses the device to his ear. Then, in a staccato burst of gunfire, splinters explode out of the table behind the phone, knocking it out of Martin's grip. "AAGH!" Martin yells, more in surprise than pain. Mike and Brock pop over the table and start firing... at the man Mike shot down seconds earlier. One of Mike's shots and two of Brock's slam into the henchman's chest – he grunts and falls to the floor again, dropping his gun. But just when they think the man is down for the count, he stirs and reaches for his SMG.

"BODY ARMOR!" yells Mike. A single metallic CLACK rings out, and the Russian' head jerks from the impact of a bullet before the man finally stops moving. AJ stands between his compatriots, pistol outstretched.

"Cover me!" the former Marine barks. He vaults over the table and runs to the dead Russian. Then he picks up the machine pistol lying on the floor and pulls a spare magazine from his deceased adversary's back pocket. AJ sprints back behind the table and decocks the Makarov, thrusting it into Martin's empty hands. "Chamber's loaded and the safety's off. Take it." Martin grasps the gun and sights in experimentally while AJ reloads his newly-acquired weapon. Martin looks at his benefactor.

"Tha--"

"Thank me later."

"Yeah," adds Brock. "We've still got two armed bad guys running around in here."

Dmitri and his guard slowly creep towards the voices of AJ, Martin, and the rest. They freeze at the sound of a gunshot.

"ALRIGHT!" yells Mike, smoking gun pointed at the ceiling. "We all know you're out there, Dmitri! You too, muscles-for-brains! So here's the deal: you come out, hands up, we all go home happy-- no police even. OR," Mike raises his voice even more as he slams a fresh magazine into his Warthog. "Or we come out, guns blazing. There are five of us, and we have four guns. You have one weapon between the two of you. If you choose to resist, mark my words WE WILL KILL BOTH OF YOU." Once finished with his spiel, Mike reaches into his back pocket and pulls out a tiny .32, pressing it into Alex's hand. He says quietly, "Don't shoot unless you have to, but..." The dog nods and puts the gun in his front pocket.
"Brock, you take point," whispers AJ, as he points to an exit fifteen yards away. "Martin, follow him. I'll come behind you, and Mike and Alex can bring up the rear. Everyone good with that?" The group variously nod and flash thumbs-up to indicate approval.

Brock stops leaning against the back of the table and goes into a low crouch, moving swiftly and quietly towards the door to the outside-- and safety. Martin is the next to move, with AJ going alongside. Mike and Alex start moving towards the door, but Mike makes a terrible mistake: in his haste, he outstrips the collie.

Alex yelps.

"Guns on floor! Hands up! NOW!" yells a heavily-accented voice. Mike wheels the right, but it's too late... he and the rest of his companions find themselves staring down the barrel of Dmitri's second pistol. The bodyguard next to the Russian holds Alex with the barrel of his Skorpion jammed into the dog's temple.

"He will pull trigger," Dmitri says warningly. "If you do not drop guns."

Mike flicks his Para's safety on and lets go.

"Do it," he tells the rest of his group, and his companions' sidearms clatter to the floor.

Dmitri smirks malevolently. "Now, Foster," he says. "I think we can renegotiate price. I," Dmitri gestures expansively, "was very kind in beginning. I only ask for sixty million. What do I get for kindness? Me with hole in my arm, and my poor guard Mikhael shot dead. This time I am not so generous. I want all of your fortune, mister Martin. And I will take you hostage until I get it. If not," he says in a quiet, deadly voice,"the dog is shot. Move!"
The guard looks at Martin and makes a "get over here" gesture with his gun. The man obediently walks over; Dmitri kicks him in the gut and Martin drops to all fours, moaning in pain. The grinning mafia leader sticks his gun into his waistband, and then uses his one good arm to haul Martin up by the shirt collar. "Fool!" he says quietly. "You are only one I need. Well, maybe the dog is worth some money... but the rest? They see too much. Grigori?"

"Da," the guard responds.

"Shoot them."

Grigori throws Alex to the floor and begins to raise his Skorpion.

"NOW, ALEX!" screams Mike as he runs toward Dmitri. The dog spins onto his back and reaches into his pocket.

Dmitri drops Martin as Mike rushes towards him. "<**** you!>" he snarls in his native Russian, fumbling at his Tokarev. Mike runs into him as he draws. The Russian tries to bring his pistol up, but Mike grabs the man's gun arm and pins it at his side. Mike slams his knee into Dmitri's crotch and the man doubles over in pain. The Tokarev discharges once as Dmitri jerks the trigger. Mike then smashes an open hand into his opponent's temple and Dmitri sees stars, passing out and collapsing to the floor.

Alex gets ahold of the .32 in his pocket and draws it, aiming at the guard who is now turning to shoot Mike.

Mike finally rips the pistol from his stunned adversary's hand. Out of his peripheral vision, he sees the guard pivoting towards him, Skorpion held outstretched. Mike begins to bring the Tokarev to bear, but he's just too late.

Alex centers his gun on Grigori's chest. He squeezes the trigger deliberately, then again and again. Three small, sharp pops ring out and the Russian stumbles-- the little bullets don't penetrate his body armor, or even hurt the man that much. But they do throw him off, and Mike takes advantage of the opening. One fireball after another bursts from the muzzle of Mike's newly-acquired weapon, and every bullet finds its mark. The guard makes a gurgling noise and topples over. Finally, the fight is finished.

It's been less than two minutes since Dmitri drew his gun and started the fight. The Italian restaurant of one hundred and twenty seconds ago is unrecognizable: the patrons have all fled, spent casings lie strewn about on the carpet, and there's the occasional bullet hole in the walls. The smell of tomato, basil, and garlic is overpowered by the acrid note of gunsmoke. Two men lie dead on the floor.

Brock and AJ move over to the rest of the group. AJ turns the guard over to make sure he's truly dead, and then crouches down next to Alex. "You okay, buddy?" AJ asks the collie.

Alex nods slowly. "Yeah," he pants. "I think so. I..." he looks at the gun still clutched in his paws. "I shot someone. It's just unreal."

"I know the feeling," says AJ quietly.

Meanwhile, Brock ties up the unconscious Dmitri with some napkins. Mike sits in a nearby chair, hands shaking uncontrollably from the massive adrenaline dump the gunfight caused. Brock looks up at him. "You look pale, Mike."

"Yeah, I feel lightheaded." Mike begins to tip over, but then steadies himself by grabbing onto the side of his chair. "Really lightheaded." Then he notices his hand is covered in something warm and sticky. Looking down at the right side of the chair, his eyes widen. One entire leg of his jeans is solid red. "Oh wow..." Mike swoons again, but this time the shock and blood loss are too much. Brock catches him before he hits the floor and eases him down to the carpet.

"AJ! Get over here!"

"Oh, hell..." AJ says, striding over to Mike. "He must've been hit in the femoral artery!" AJ kneels down next to Mike, pulls off his belt, and cinches it tightly around the injured man's leg.

"I'll call a medevac flight," says Martin. "But I need a phone."

Brock pulls one out of his pocket and hands it over; Martin dials a number and presses the phone to his ear.

"Guy! Yeah, it's Martin here. I need the helo, and I need it five minutes ago. Bring doctors. ...the Oak Knoll Carrabba's. Go!" He hangs up and turns towards the injured man.

Mike has lost more blood, even with the makeshift tourniquet. He's slipping in and out of consciousness. Alex kneels beside him, tears running down his face. "Mike... hold on... someone'll be here soon... hang in there. Hang in there, darn it!"

Mike looks up at Alex fondly as blackness tugs at the edges of his vision. "It'll be okay, Al..." he says reassuringly. Then he passes out.

**********
Brent:
Thanks for the compliment! And your food suggestion has been duly noted.

Copper:
The funny thing is, even on the hot days...
(puts on sunglasses)
I still manage to stay frosty.
YEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!!!

But I digress.

So anyways, Chapter One is finally finished! Hooray!
What did you guys think?

Some bad news: My school workload is overwhelming, and I'm spending too much time writing ABG and on the forums-- it's just that simple. Much as I hate it, Alas, Babylon Gardens isn't worth poor grades. The end result is that Part 2 will be on hold for an indefinite period of time. I'll work on it whenever I can, but don't expect a ton of material to come out in the next quarter.

That said, I am not quitting this project. And of course, I'll still be logging onto the forums every so often to check PMs and such, so feel free to get in contact.

Stay frosty, everyone.
GunRacer

INFODUMP ALERT!
INFODUMP ALERT!

A couple of notes on the technicalities of the gunfight (in case you were wondering):

Bulletproof vests will keep most rounds from penetrating, but the wearer still feels the impact-- I'm talking cracked ribs, bruised organs, internal bleeding, and potentially death. Ballistic vests are great, but you're sure as hell not invincible with one on.

About the Makarov's "clack"-- suppressed guns don't make that ridiculous kitten-landing-on-a-pillow *ptew* sound you hear in the movies. A good "can" (suppressor) removes the BANG of expanding gases shooting out of the barrel, but the CHINK-CHINK noise of the slide flying back and forth is still very audible. An excellent demonstration of this can be found here (bear in mind this is using subsonic ammo; supersonic fodder makes a loud "crack" even when suppressed):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ygl9YGM3 ... ata_player (yes, suppressors are legal in most states; you just have to do a crapload of paperwork and pay a $200 tax stamp).

Attentive readers probably noticed that while Alex's shots didn't penetrate the second guard's vest, the rounds Mike fired did. This is entirely intentional: the Tokarev pistol chambers an intriguing little round that low-profile ballistic vests won't protect against. There are different classification of body armor types: II, IIA, III, IIIA, etc... Wikipedia would probably do a better and more concise job of explaining this than me, so if you're interested go check it out there. Anyways, most handguns fire significantly larger-caliber, heavier, and slower bullets than rifles; that's what police and civilian ballistic vests will protect against (up to a .44 Magnum at most). Smaller, faster rifle bullets will punch through these things like a hot knife through butter-- most vests just aren't designed to take rifle fire. The Tokarev, however, fires what is effectively a scaled-down rifle round-- the 7.62x25. It's smaller (.30-caliber), longer (25mm vs. 19-22 mm for most others) and much faster (1600+ fps in most loadings) than 9mm, .40S&W, or .45ACP. You end up with a pistol round that shoots flat out to about 100 yards, carries the energy of a .45, and penetrates like the dickens. It's a wonderful for target shooting or as a glovebox gun (where a person might have to deal with auto windshields, metal paneling, and so on), but surplus non-expanding bullets aren't the best for personal defense: they make an itty-bitty hole and then keep right on going. And going. And going: In Mike's case, he just happened to acquire the right weapon for the situation.

Yeah, you might say I like guns. :3


Last edited by GunRacer on Mon Mar 12, 2012 11:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Fri Mar 09, 2012 8:35 pm
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Post Re: Alas, Babylon Gardens (PG-13)
I'd say 'good story BUT!
Martin is not a whimp. He's a man who can keep his cool even with a bomb right under his butt and with a psychopath ready to blow him to smithereens. He also faced an assassin dog and crushed his throat...by the *inside*
Martin also has street smart after spending part of his life as a semi-derelict with temp jobs. He *knows* how to fight and he could've easily disarmed the guy pointing the gun at his head. Granted, he's not Cap America but he also had extra combat training with keith greyfield, so he could've helped turning the situation in favor of his allies instead of standing there 'trembling' or 'looking panicky'-in fact, he'd actually try to take control of the situation. Oh, and when he starts to get angry, he doesn't show it. That's what makes him dangerous.

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Sat Mar 10, 2012 1:41 am
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Post Re: Alas, Babylon Gardens (PG-13)
Oh yes, I know. Martin was a victim of circumstance, is all. Sure, he could've disarmed Dmitri easily... but then there still would be two guards with submachine guns on both sides. Meaning that if he grabbed Mr. Pevchenko, at least one side would be open no matter what he did. Martin's only other opportunity to turn the tables would have been when he was going over to see Dmitri, and that was when the rest of the group was being held at gunpoint.

The kind of sudden shock of having gunfire explode next to your head isn't at all related to what kind of guy you are-- .45ACP out of a 3-inch barrel would probably have the same effect as a flash-bang if you're close enough. Ergo the momentary shock.

And finally, the trembling hands is in no way a sign of weakness or fear here-- unless you've been in extensive live-fire training, once the shooting starts your fine-motor control will be more or less destroyed... doesn't matter how well you keep your cool otherwise.

In other words, Martin was a victim of circumstance this time around. There was very little his training and skill could have done, even if he had been armed.

I'm terribly sorry if I came across as treating Martin as some wimpy rich guy; that wasn't my intent-- you and I both know he isn't. And don't worry, he'll get a chance to show off some. Trust me on that one.


Sat Mar 10, 2012 11:34 am
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Post Re: Alas, Babylon Gardens (PG-13)
I can definatly understand martin's behaviour in that scene, even some smaller events like the possibility of a normal fight can set people off like that and being threatened with a gun and having bullets whizzing around you is a lot more than some piddly little fight. I hope you are right about martin getting a chance to show his stuff later, he needs to teach them what he is capable of. I also can't imagine poor alex is coping well after having a barrel pressed against his head, poor little schweetums

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Sat Mar 10, 2012 3:36 pm
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Post Re: Alas, Babylon Gardens (PG-13)
Well, admittedly it was my fault as well for giving the impression that Martin's life before turning millionaire was relatively easy. I will have to correct that...

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