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Tall Tales (Chapter Cover Art)

To get permission use some of the information needed to write this, I may have agreed to provide a certain someone with a clean passport and a one-way ticket to Mexico...

Story By JA Baker[]

Forty Shillings On The Drum
Author JA Baker
Series Name Tall Tales
Alternate Universe Name
Year Written January 15th, 2021
Story Era Clan Invasion Era

You know, you're delving into something many would consider best left alone, right? But, since you took the time to track me down, and you're paying my bar tab for the night, I guess that the least I can do is tell you what I know.

So yes, I've met him: back in the War of '39, on... sorry, but I can't for the life of me remember where exactly. Somewhere on the Drac side of the boarder, that's for sure. He was working as a Mercenary at the time, having signed on with one of the countless smaller units that just get lumped together under 'supporting units' in the history books. Didn't think much of him at first. Just another face in the mess tent, or sitting in on a card game. Oh, I'd heard the stories, everyone has, but the part they never tell you is how he doesn't stand out, not at first.

No, he's got one of those faces that just blends into the background. Average height, average build, hair that can be called anything from dark blind to black, depending on the lighting, and eyes that are an odd blue-grey-green. No real accent to speak of, even if he does tend to talk in some crazy mixed up language all of his own that everyone can somehow get the gist of. And he's fun to be around, because he has the best stories about crazy, incompetent officers and getting away with shit that should have you thrown in the nearest stockade, something that was apparently only avoided by leaving behind stolen paperwork that implicated the Black Widow Company. Stories that may or may not have resulted in amendments to the Ares Conversations to outlaw the use of wildlife as improvised grenades. And you don't think about how can one man can have so many stories, how they can have lived through so much in just one lifetime.

But then you see him on the battlefield... and, if you're really lucky, you live to talk about it.

I've known people who were trouble magnets. People with an alarming tenancy to draw enemy fire like flies to shit. The kind of person you never want to find yourself sharing a foxhole with. But he's nothing like that. In fact, he's almost the exact opposite, and if anything, that makes him all the more dangerous to be around. Because, while some people can't help but get shot at, he can't get hit, no matter what. I saw him walk his 'Mech, an old Enforcer at the time, into the thickest of the fighting, and watched him become the eye of the storm. There was enough weapons fire being traded to strip an Atlas to the bone in seconds, and he just walked through it without taking so much as a scratch to his paint.

Oh, he can fight, I'll tell you that for nothing. I saw him take down maybe half a dozen 'Mechs bigger and nastier than he was, every one a hard-kill that nobody was walking away from. It was almost eerie, watching him stalk the battlefield, an untouchable spector. Which was great, until you realise that all the fire that wasn't hitting him seemed to be coming straight at you instead. I watched him dance with death, and the Reaper never laid a finger on him. He has the devil's own luck, that's for sure, be that a blessing or a curse.

Well, a couple of days later, some friends and I were so drunk we couldn't stand, and I asked them what the hell his deal was, half expected them to say he had some kind of LosTech ECM system, but instead they seemed to get real sober real quickly, and this strange, haunted look came over their faces.

They say that the Ninth Circle of Hell is reserved for Traitors, including Oathbreakers...and one said that that was his sin. Some time, and my friend wasn't exactly clear on when, he'd taken the proverbial King's Shilling, swearing himself to fight the enemies of... someone or another. Only, when the time came to fulfil his oaths, he turned away, refused the call to arms. In turn, the man he'd sworn himself to cursed him with his dying breath, condemning him to know no rest until he had fulfilled his oath to a descendant of that dead master. Another claimed that he'd been a soldier in an ancient army, and that he'd dedicated a church or temple, and had be cursed by God to know nothing but war until Judgment Day. A third claimed that he hadn't been born, but had instead been cast out of the sea, like some unholy abomination thrown out by nature itself. My personal favourite was the one that claims he lost a bet with a wizard and refused to pay-up, being cursed with immortality in response.

I've made it a point to collect stories about him, tails tall and impossible, yet here you are, asking me about them, because in every legend, is a grain of truth.

See, there's evidence. Photos, video clips, that show him as far back as the Outer Reaches Rebellion, if not further. He's always in the background, always a face in the crowd, but unmistakable. Denebola, during the Decoration of Independence from Terra, a soldier fighting on Tintavel, on Ares when the Conversations were signed... then Terra, piloting one of the prototype Mackies, fighting on several fronts and for multiple sides during the Reunification Wars, the Hidden Wars and the New Vandenberg Uprising.

And, of course, the Amaris Uprising and the resulting Star League Civil War.

Tracking him through the Succession Wars is harder. Far fewer records survive, especially from the early days, but it's clear that he didn't piss off into the Outer Darkness with Kerensky and his ilk. This seems to be around the time he became a Mercenary, moving from world to world, war to war, like a living ghost. He's gone by so many names they're not even worth recounting, but I knew him as Tommy Atkins, something that apparently made him laugh. The only thing he knows, the only thing he seems to be any good at, is fighting.

MechWarriors talk, soldiers always have and always will. So the stories get passed around, no doubt embellished a fair bit, but if you've ever met him, you now that those stories are all true, and he probably has done most of the things he says. Yes, even the one where his unit were tasked with 'kidnapping' a senior Maskirovka Agent as part of a training exercise, only for the rescue team to assault the wrong farm house and utterly ruin some poor bastards day while his unit took their 'prisoner' to the nearest tavern and got knee-walking drunk.

That one I've had independently confirmed by a friend in MI6.

So yeah, he's been around for a long, long time. He's fought with the Davions against the Liaos and the Kuritas, withe the Kuritas against the Davions and Steiners, with Steiner against the Kuritas and Mariks, with the Mariks against the Steiners and Liaos and with the Liaos against the Mariks and Davions. Then that's after he thought for and against House Cameron with, well, everyone else. Name a faction of any real size or note, and he's been in battle with or against them. Often both at the same time.

Everyone knows who he is, but for whatever reason, nobody seems willing or able to do anything to stop him. If there's a battle to be fought, he may just turn up, with somewhat questionable orders insisting that he's supposed for there. Everyone just seems willing for play along... if only out of morbid curiosity.

So, go looking for him, if you want. I suggest heading up to the Clans front. Word is ComStar has something big planned, and that's just the kind of thing that'll draw him out.

And, if you do meet him, tell him Dylan says hi.

The End

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