You can read today's story HERE!
Summary: Two Mavericks break into a ruined Gongen base, find some Traginium filled NoBot hearts, blow up some Shi and Quay while trying to betray each other, and then team up.
Its December 16th 2004, and we're getting introduced to Michael O'Brien. We've had several distinct things WARS has been at this point, most of which could have been several totally different settings if it weren't for the names shared between the stories. Nowhere to Hide part 2 changed that with its changing perspectives between Earthers and Gongen, and here we have the first of Michael O'Brien's stories that focus on taking the diverse world's we've built up, and chucking characters from one world into the other. This is quite distinct from the times we've had characters encounter other factions before in that this time we're encountering elements we’re familiar with. Indeed, this story's actual focus is to act as a pseudo-sequel to Nowhere to Hide, allowing us as the audience to learn information that explains the events of that story without those characters from Nowhere to Hide learning it.
This is a great way to do serialized storytelling as it turns out, and while as we stated before its totally too late, its certainly an effective way to deal with the problems of wanting to make a running story out of a card game where you want as many figures from the card game to appear in the fiction as possible. That's been the straining element in WARS fiction this whole time: where is the line between marketing and narrative? The flush of characters rushing in and out, the way that people drop off of the stories after only one or two appearances, it makes it very difficult to be invested. But this is an adequate replacement: if you aren't going to let people get invested in people over the long term, you need to get them invested in something, and a long running intertwining mystery is certainly a good way to go. While this story explains one thing from Nowhere to Hide (why is it that people want the Traginium anyways?) it still doesn't actually explain all of the reasons why they need it (okay, so you can make NoBot hearts out of Traginium... Why do you need more? Are the NoBots running out and need replacements? Are the Gongen planning on building a whole new slew of NoBots?). Which is the perfect balance of giving readers an answer to a mystery while still leaving them wanting more. Over all, WARS has finally found its form, and its a form its basically going to stick with all the way to the bitter unanswered end.
Its just a pit they didn't figure this out from the get go.
The story itself as a story definitely falls into the category of Cyberpunk, with a pair of Mavericks who are living in a very Cyberpunk plot (one isn't about to pay off their internal organs, I mean, this is classic gritty future stuff here) who don't like each other searching for things to get money, but also working hard to figure out how to betray each other. The ending, where after a Quay and Shi pop into the base that the pair are searching in, they get blown up because the crates of equipment were rigged to blow up in case one of the pair betrayed the other, is the sort of rollicking black humor that Cyberpunk is built on. That the characters lightheartedly decide to team up based on their mutual dishonor is just the icing on the cake here. Its good fun, and exactly the sort of thing that brings a smile to your face on a cold December afternoon.
We've now bound our worlds together: the Cyberpunk grunge has met the Space Opera, and instead of choosing one over the other has shrugged, thrown up its hands and asked why it can't just go ahead and do both.
We're also shown a new side of the Mavericks here: while Starhawk managed to fit into Gongen culture, this time we're shown Mavericks who treat the rest of the factions in the WARS Universe as being inherently outsiders that all get nicknames. Gongs, SeeGeeks, Floaters, Demons.... The new names change the other factions inherently.
Names are a powerful thing, what something is called changes the way people think about it, the power that it holds over a person and the way it affects the universe around it. There is a reason that throughout history people have been choosing to rename things in order to change the way that people perceive them. From cities being renamed to lay a new claim to the city's purpose (New Amsterdam to New York, New Rome to Constantinople to Istanbul) to political concepts being renamed (the fight over the terms “Global Warming” and “Global Climate Change” comes to mind) to words that change people's personal identities (new words coming into being for new identities and movements, words being invented to change those groups into angels or demons) words hold a significant and increasing power in the Universe. As our world becomes more technological, these words hold more power to change the way we perceive the world as we can spread the meanings of those words over a wider playing field than ever before. Its not just that the worlds have power, its that we're giving them even more power without realizing it.
But there is something arcane to this whole affair, its not just that words are potent because of our brain chemistry, but because language itself is something inherently outside of nature. Sure, many animals communicate, but only humans have developed a complex system of symbols and sounds that communicate complex imagery and ideas. Our speech and text may be something we can do biologically, but it has still separated us from the natural world. In being able to mentally understand the underlying systems of the universe, we get farther from touching them at a base animalistic level. Which really isn't a bad thing, after all who would really in all honesty want to go back to hunting and gathering with no way outside of pointing and growling to express the pool of chaos with ourselves? No, words are a good thing, they are simply unnatural, and thus people have often associated them with the arcane.
With this comes the idea that a name has a spiritual power, and in some cultures secret names are given upon joining or initiating into certain groups that give that sort of power. It carries into mythology where there are some mystical creatures that can be controlled if only one learns their true secret names. Its from this big mess of ideas that we begin to make sense of names, which is a concept we're going to be talking about again so I may as well get the introduction to the topic wholly out of the way.
The Mavericks are the least powerful group in WARS, they mainly have to scrounge and scavenge their way around the Universe, and even their largest and most powerful groups are strange confederacies of gangs assembled under one larger banner like the Cartel and the Accord. Its only natural then that the Mavericks are the first to rename not one but all the factions. They're the most away from civilization, tied to strange frontier worlds and the blackness of space. They have the least safety nets, and seem to be the most superstitious of the WARS factions. Naturally, renaming things comes second nature to them.
The big name change in the setting is of course Gongen, which used to be Mars for the longest time till it got rechristened. Which once again shows a parallelism between the Gongen and the Mavericks. While the Mavericks certainly don't get along with the Gongen often, they got along with them well enough to have a city, Colocog, on the Gongen surface, which is more than can be said for the Earthers and Gongen. But the Mavericks are inherently averse to being too tied down to anything, making them less of a unified whole and more of freelancers.
But this synergy is played into in the story: while no living Gongen appear here, the Mavericks in the story still end up blowing up their payload (though of course its revealed there was more) in order to save the Gongen from the inevitable power the Shi would gain over them by knowing that the Traginium was so important to them. While they were certainly not above robbing the Gongen dead, they also aren't just going to commit them all to death.
The Gongen chose their own name, and Mavericks chose another one for them. They slink around each other in the rim, feeding off their successes and failures while the Earthers ready themselves to take back the solar system that should be theirs. The Shi and Quay fight their endless battle between each other, and ruin and lay waste to endless space in the process. Everything is being redefined, from names to friends to battle lines. Even here two Mavericks who should kill each other team up. Things are changing, the setting already isn't the place it was when the game started, and maybe if we go far enough the secret names of the Universe will change again.