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Tall Tales (Chapter Cover Art)

I'm going to be making use of a few random ideas that just don't fit anywhere else, so it may come across as a little more disjointed than usual

Story By JA Baker[]

Author JA Baker
Series Name Tall Tales
Alternate Universe Name
Year Written January 10th, 2020
Story Era Dark Age Era

It's been a long time since Galatea held the title of the Mercenary's Star, but while Outreach with its mighty Hiring Halls and proving grounds may have stolen its crown. It's still a world of secrets and mysteries.

Walk down the right or depending on your point of view. Wrong street in Galatea City, and you'll find yourself rubbing shoulders with disgraced nobles, masterless samurai, smugglers, spies and wonderers from across the explored galaxy and a fair bit of beyond. You know the right or again, the wrong people, they can meet the price you can buy anything on Galatea; slaves, drugs, Lostech, information, weapons, identity papers, stolen goods, black-market software, rare minerals and star charts to places that shouldn't exist. It can be a dangerous place, ready to eat you alive if you don't keep your eyes open. Always check the corners on entertaining a room.

Let the Dragoons have Outreach and all the 'respectable' trade, but give me good old Galatea any day.

It's also a good place to get lost. Given just how many people are looking to keep their own heads down and avoid doing anything to make the usually happily complacent authorities look their way. You want to get by on Galatea? Learn not to look too closely at what's going on around you and leave you sense of morality at the Drop-Port. The further you get from the government center, the more 'colorful' Galatea becomes.

One of my old haunts on Galatea was a place called the Blue Griffin. A Lyran style place built into the remains of an old Leopard class DropShip that made its final spectacular landing some time during the First Succession War. Legend has it that the Mercenaries who owned it sold it, along with the remains of their last BattleMech, the eponymous blue painted Griffin. Some local bought the ship and 'Mech as essentially scrap. Selling what was worth salvaging, only to find that the hull itself was too expensive to move and too difficult to cut up where it was. So, like any sensible person, upon finding himself in possession of a large armored box in the middle of nowhere. He had the Mech bays converted into a pub. Then paved the dirt track leading up to it and waited for the money to come rolling in. It's still owned and operated by his family. It still has the cockpit of that very same Griffin mounted on a plinth out front. It may not be the most popular or even best pub on the planet. However, the foods decent, the drinks aren't watered down, and they have plenty of exits should you find yourself in need of one.

Blue Griffin Bar

The Blue Griffin desert bar

I was there to meet Spencer: no idea if that was his first or last name, even if it was his actual name, but it was all he answered to, and had managed to snag a table in the corner to await his arrival. Spencer was an information broker who specialised in knowing what the big corporations were up to, and had sent word that he had a tip I might find financially beneficial. He'd never passed on false information before, so I was willing to skip the card game I'd been invited to so I could hear what he had to say.

Actually that part worked out in my favor, as the Bounty Hunter crashed the game, shooting the place up to grab one of the other players. Not saying I lost any friends, but a couple of the freshly made corpses had owed me money before he shuffled them off their mortal coils.

Que sera, sera.

Spencer was waiting for me at one of the corner tables, thankfully far enough away from the band playing what I've been told is called 'Rasalhague Death Slam', but sounds more like a waste disposal system trying to eat a cat to me. Spencer is a long, tall streak of nothing with closely cropped blond hair and a pair of thick glasses, making him look like a hick from some nowhere planet that's even lost laser corrective surgery. But I've known him long enough to learn that he's got perfect 20-20 vision, and that those 'glasses' are actually pretty impressive examples of Lostech. I made the mistake once of asking him to explain them to me, and got a two hour lecture about 'augmented reality', 'facial recognition' and 'holistic algorithms' that made my eyes glaze over. He could probably sell them to NAIS, ComStar or Cranston Snord for a Archon's Ransom, but he told me that no amount of money can replace what amounts to eyes in the back of your head.

Probably the smartest thing I've ever heard him say, which given the fact that he's one of the smartest people I've ever met, is saying something.

I signaled for the barman to get me my usual, then slipped into the seat across from Spencer.

"Glad you could make it." He looked usually fidgety, constantly checking the exits, which put me on the defensive.

"You made it sound important." I kept one on him, the other on the room.

"Got some stock information that might be... financially beneficial." this surprised me, as investment advice wasn't something he was known for, "Big contract going to be signed, but prices still low."

"Sounds almost too good to be true." I observed, thanking the waitress as she brought my drink over, "Which, in my experience, means it usually is."

"No, this is rock-solid." Spencer insisted, "Look, I'm going all-in myself, everything I have... only, to buy the amount of stock needed..."

"You need more money." it was a statement of fact, not a question, and I got up to leave.

"Frost Aviation of Argyle." Spencer grabbed my arm, "Nock Heavy Engineering is going to be buying them out, lock, stock and barrel."

I sat back down. Frost Aviation of Argyle is well known as a manufacturer of high performance, low production air and aerospace craft. Toys for idiots with more money than sense who liked to play at being fighter pilots without actually having to sign-up. They've produced quite a few record holders for both straight-line speed and agility, but never had the capital to really expand. In comparison, Nock Heavy Engineering Incorporated, based on New Avalon, is one of the largest manufacturers of industrial machinery in the Federated Suns. Mostly construction and mining Mechs, but they had fingers in a lot of pies, and word was they were looking into trying their hand at military contracts, beyond just support and supply. Putting weapons and armor on some of the toys Frost was producing certainly had the potential to produce a good interceptor.

"We're a long way from New Avalon." I pointed out, my interest piqued, but still waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop, "If they're planning on a buy-out, why aren't Nock making a move to buy up every available share as it is?"

"Thats because..." Spencer lent in closer, lowering his voice, "Because the idea hasn't occurred to them yet."

I sat back, looking at him, trying to work out what mad scheme he had bubbling away behind those thick lenses. It's not unusual for people in our line of work to be a little... odd. You spend enough time right out on the fringe of society, even in the middle of the Inner Sphere, and it can take its tole on even the strongest mind. Spencer had always had his little quirks. Hell, we all do, myself included, but I'd always assumed that he was keeping it together better than most.

"Look." he took a deep breath, obviously sensing my unease, "I don't expect you to believe me without evidence. I'm willing to provide it, but before I do, I want you to remember all of the information I've sold you. Especially over the last year or so. Have I ever knowingly passed on bad info?"

"No." I admitted freely. In fact, the whole reason I'd missed the ill-fated card game was because how reliable he was.

"Right." he nodded, glad to see that I was still listening and not edging towards the door, "Well, the same source that put me onto this has been providing me with most of what I've been selling this last year. And everything, and I mean everything, they've given me has proved to be on the up-and-up."

I mulled it over in my head: Spencer certainly had been batting above average recently, and unless it was some amazing long-con, I couldn't see any angle he could be playing. Plus, he knew me well enough to know that I would simply but a laser bolt through his head if he tried to screw me over. And if he was right, if a Megacorp like Nock was going to go after a comparative start-up like Frost, then buying up as many shares as we could in advance could earn us a tidy little windfall.

"I'm not saying I'm in, but, if I were, what's the play?" I asked, keeping my voice neutral.

"Okay, so I got word of this new arrival in system. Some third son of a minor Lord from who cares where." Spencer started to explain, "Word is he had a little trouble understanding that 'no means no', but Mummy and Daddy paid to keep it all quiet. Until they bought him a place at a military academy, and he tried it on one of the other cadets. Well, after she broke his arm, his jaw and his nose, there was an investigation, and his parents couldn't make this one go away, because the young lady in question is the daughter of a Duke. So Golden Boy is told to get gone and stay gone, completely cut off from the family and banished from his homeworld."

"Let me guess, he's burned through what money he had and is looking to sell some shares in Frost Aviation?" it wasn't the first time I'd heard a similar story.

"Among some other things." Spencer nodded, "But he wants to sell it all in one go, and even at below market price..."

"You haven't got the cash to hand to buy it yourself." I finished for him, "That part's easily confirmed, but what about the rest?"

"I can take you to meat my informant," Spencer's brow knotted, "but I need you to... keep an open mind."

Unfortunately, it was at this point that a group dressed in black leather appeared in the bar. I saw Spencer glance at them, then quickly at the band, and turned my head to get a better look. It was clear right from the get-go that they were Yakuza enforcers, not something you'd expect to find on a Lyran world so far from the border, but as I said, Galatea is kind of odd like that. The bands drummer, a mountain of a man with long blond hair who looked every centimetre the stereotypical 'Neo-Viking' Rasalhaguer, saw them too, and stood up. He ripped open his shirt to reveal a massive, and quite well done, tattoo depicting the Free Rasalhague Republic emblem.

"Lo, there do I see my father." he proclaimed loudly in a voice so heavily accented that it probably could have deflected a PPC bolt, "Lo, there do I see my mother and my sisters and my brothers!"

"Lo, there do I see the line of my people, back to the beginning." the lead singer, if you could call the noises she'd been making singing, joined him, "Lo, they do call to me."

"They bid me take my place among them. In the halls of Valhalla, where the brave may live forever." the rest of the band joined in, and I found that my body had decided to leave the bar while my mind was still taking it all in, Spencer right behind me, "Nor shall we mourn but rejoice for those that have died the Glorious Death!"

It was at this point that a massive, double headed axe was drawn from somewhere and sent flying across the room, catching one of the Yakuza right in the chest, killing him instantly. The momentum of the impact sent him flying across the room, only stopping when he hit the bar, knocking into the local Chapter of the Sons of the Suns motorcycle gang, spilling their drinks. Realizing that the night had reached the almost inevitable bar brawl, the waitress dived over the bar while the barman pulled down the armored shutter with one hand, reaching for the sawed-off shotgun that hung under the bar with the other.

All in all, another Tuesday night at the Blue Griffin.

Spencer tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to where a nondescript ground car was parked, indicating that our plans were still on, despite the riot breaking out back in the bar. We drove for about half an hour down a few side roads until we arrived at an overgrown parking lot. It took a moment for my eyes to adjust to the dark, but I soon made out a large weather worn sign welcoming me to Wonder World, the Happiest Place in the Inner Sphere!

Yeah, so, back towards the end of the Second Succession War, some corporation noticed that people weren't attacking Galatea as often as they were other worlds. Turns out that Mercenaries don't take kindly to people trashing the closest thing they have to a home, so it was kind of unofficially declared off limits for the most part. With this in mind, some bright spark had the idea of turning it into a resort world, where people from all over the Inner Sphere could come an relax in relative safety. Hotels were built, massive resorts planned, and yes, even one of the largest amusement parks off of Terra built. Everyone was ready to greet the masses, and their money, only no one turned up.

Turns out that, with near apocalyptic wars breaking out all over the place. Not many people had the inclination to travel a few hundred light years to ride a roller-coaster. A few mercs between contracts and the local population kept the place going for a while, but it soon went bankrupt and was closed. Since then its become home to an odd community, even by local standards. People who fell through the cracks between the cracks or are looking to hide from other people on Galatea. It's a world unto itself, with even the local police flat out refusing to go in there without military back-up.

So, of course, I wasn't at all surprised when Spencer led me through the open gate into the world beyond.

I'll admit that, despite the fact that knowing more than the next man or woman is my stock and trade. I had never been inside Wonder World before. I hadn't been avoiding the place, it just never came up. I suddenly Realized that I didn't have any idea where Spencer lived, and started to wonder if he was taking me back to his home.

We'd been walking for a while, past the remains of long abandoned rides and buildings that had been re-purposed into ad-hoc accommodation by the people who called the park home. When Spencer suddenly stopped and tilted his head slightly. Following suit, I could just about hear a faint 'clip-clop' heading our way through the darkness. I instinctively reached for my hold-out laser, but Spencer gave me a 'be cool' look, and I figured that I'd followed him that far down the rabbit hole, I may as well see where it led.

And that was how I met The Lieutenant, something of a local legend that I'd heard stories about. It had always considered to be something of an urban myth. Word was he'd actually been a Kommandant in the LCAF, before some unspecified incident had rattled his screws loose, earning him a medical discharge. Somehow he'd found his way to Galatea, and had taken to 'patrolling' the planet on horseback, armed with, and I kid you not, an authentic cavalry saber and a compound crossbow. For some unknown reason, he had this habit of wearing a Lieutenants field uniform, devoid of any name or unit insignia, hence why he was simply known as The Lieutenant. He came riding into view atop a very expensive looking grey horse, but he evidently recognized Spencer, as he simply nodded and kept on his way.

I blinked as, a moment later a scruffy looking man in BDU's came following behind riding atop a dented ATV. A Imperator 2894A1 SMG slung across his back. He likewise nodded at us, then continued on behind the horse, the two men quietly disappearing into the darkness.

"He follows The Lieutenant everywhere." Spencer explained, noting my confusion, "He says it's out of morbid curiosity, but a lot of people recon he's been assigned to keep an eye on him by the LCAF."

With that, he led the way a little deeper into the park, until we came across what had once been some kind of Fun House, but was now evidently just a regular house. Spencer knocked on the door in a complicated fashion, and an ancient looking intercom sparked to life.

"Yes?" a tinny voice asked.

"It's Spencer." The information broker announced, "I brought the guy I was telling you about. The possible investor."

"Investor?" the voice sounded confused, "OH, yes! We've had that conversation, haven't we."

I shot my companion a look that said more that words could possibly convay, but he held up a hand to silence me.

"Yes, Meg, we have." he continued, "Can we come in?"

"Of course! Of course!" the voice proclaimed excitedly, "You know I always leave the door unlocked when I'm expecting you!"

Much to my surprise, the door was indeed unlocked. Upon stepping through, I was somewhat surprised to discover that if it hadn't been we would have needed an BattleMech to get through all the locks. Bars and reenactments that had been added to the inside. Spencer led me down a dimly lit corridor with a deliberately unstable floor into what we evidently the parlor, where an elderly woman was just pouring tea.

"Milk and two sugars." she held out a cup to Spencer, the offered a second to me, "No milk and a dash of brandy."

I was impressed. Very few people knew how I liked my tea, and Spencer wasn't one of them.

"Sit! Sit!" the woman gestured to a pair of threadbare armchairs, "Let Megan look at you both!"

While she was looking at me, I took the opportunity to look at her. I've often found that you can tell a lot about someone by the image they choose to present to the world, often more than they ever intended. It's all about looking for what isn't there. But with 'Megan' ... she was pretty much your stereotypical 'crazy old lady'. Unkempt greying hair, disheveled clothing and crooked teeth, needing only a dozen or so cats to really complete the look.
"So." she asked with the sort of cheery smile that only those with a tentative at best connection with reality have, "What can Megan do for you today?"

"Spencer says that you know something that's going to happen in the future." I decided to cut the bullshit, "Something that even the people involved don't know they're going to do."
"No, Megan doesn't know these things." she shook her head, "But Molly knows."

"Molly?" I asked, probably more sarcastically than I intended.

"Molly was... is, Megan's twin sister." Spencer explained.

"Identical twin sister!" the old woman injected as she rummaged through a small box that seemed to contain truly random junk.

"Her identical twin sister." Spencer corrected himself, "She was on a JumpShip that... we'll, let's say it didn't exactly end up where it was supposed to."

I felt a headache coming on, and pinched the bridge of my nose.

Yeah, we've all heard the tall tails of JumpShips that run afoul of some random negative space wedges or something, and are propelled to the far corners of the galaxy. Couple of them actually happened, truth be told, but I've met enough people trying to sell me 'genuine relics' of such an event to know when someone is trying to offload a bill of sale. Such accidents are so astronomically rare, and seldom leaves anything that could even remotely be called a survivor, that they're effectively a statistical non-event.

Throwing in an identical twin was a nice touch, I'll give them that.

"I think I should..." I started to stand up.

"4412-976-442-Beta-9." Megan didn't even look up from the box she was rummaging through, "Code-word Rudbeckia."

I sat back down. No one, and I mean no one, else alive in the entire galaxy had any right knowing that. Every trace of my old life had been systematically whipped from existence, my true identity known only to two senior agents in Lohengrin, and myself. Unfortunately, my two handlers we killed by the kind of unfortunate accident that had all the hallmarks of an internal power-play, leaving me twisting in the wind before I decided to go into business for myself. It certainly wasn't anything I would ever consider telling another living soul.

"How..." I managed to stutter, my complete and utter shock overriding a lifetime of training and experience, stopping me from putting a laser bolt through her head, followed by one through Spencers.

"You tell Molly, Molly tell Megan." the old woman smiled, like it was the simplest answer in the world, "She say you know nothing else would convince you Megan tell truth. Megan not so sure, but Molly knows best."

"...I don't know anyone named Molly." I shook my head.

"Yeah,it's... complicated." Spencer looked thoughtful for a moment, "See, Megan and Molly always had this... connection. A way of... knowing things that the other had learned."

"Molly says you look better with grey hair." Megan commented, seemingly only half paying attention to our conversation.

"Yeah, see, that accident with Molly's ship?" Spencer winced, "It turns out that it stayed in the exact same place... just sixty years into the future, but that was twenty years ago, so from our prospective, she's... forty years or so into the future."

I looked at Spencer for a moment: any other day, and I would have called it all obvious bullshit and walked. But there was simply no way, no possible way, that Megan could have known my old service number or code-word. Like I said, the only other two people who had known them were dead, and they certainly weren't written down anywhere or on any computer system. The only way, the only possible way, for someone to learn them, was for me to tell them. But why would I? It served no purpose, other than to possible paint a target on my back.

But, and this is a big but, if I was going to send a message back in was something that only I know, and something I'd know I'd take notice of.

"Molly says you found her after the accident and helped her." Megan continued, "Molly says you good man, despite what you may want others to think."

"Megan reached out to me," Spencer add, "she knew that I know you."

"Molly explained everything." Megan continued, cutting him off like she'd completely forgotten he was there, which may have been true, "You knew to help her because Megan tell you about accident before happen. You ready with ship before bad men arrive."

"Bad Men?" I asked, the back of my right hand itching like it always does when I know I'm going to be killing people in the future.

"Yes. Bad men in robes." the old woman nodded, excitedly, "They take ship and crew away, but you save Molly. You tell Molly you know Megan, Megan send you to help, so Molly help you. Megan help you."

I read this book once, while I was on a long journey and we were waiting for the KF Drive to recharge. It had this guy go back in time and hook up with some random woman. Then, when he goes back to his own time, he discovers a photo of his grandfather... only its him. The woman who he'd knocked boots with had been his own grandmother. I called it somewhat sick, but the story called it a causal loops. He was always going to travel back in time and screw his grandmother, because otherwise he wouldn't be born.

"Please tell me that this doesn't end with me sleeping with my own grandmother?" I asked.

"No! No!" Megan shook her head, "Time loop, yes. But not like that."

"You will, one day help Molly because Megan helps you now." Spencer stepped back in, "and Megan will help you now because you will one day help Molly."

"Yes! Yes!" Megan nodded excitedly, "Snake eats own tail."

I sat back in my chair, the pieces finally starting to fall into place before my eyes. In order for me to be in a position to help her sister in the future, Megan was using the knowledge she somehow gained from her twin to help me. The reason why I would help Molly in the future was exactly because Megan stepped in to help me now. It still sounded completely crazy, but it did explain just how Megan knew something that she couldn't possibly learn without me telling her indirectly or not. Then again I had a mission again. Something that had been missing from my life for far too long. Something to truly give my life meaning.

As I said, Galatea is a world of secrets and mysteries, and I had just stumbled into the middle of the greatest one of all.

"Well then, Megan, Molly; I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship." I sat forward with a smile, "Tell me more about Frost Aviation..."

The End

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