Today's story isn't available by the usual means, so we are providing a copy of it to read. This story is the property of Decipher, Inc., and Grail Quest Books holds the publishing rights to these stories. Decipher has given us verbal permission to post these stories for the time being, but we will remove them in an instant if they change their mind.
Summary: Talker and Hotwire go and meet the Gambler, and explain that the Gongen want Traginium, whatever that is, and then they get hired on for another job.
Its... Actually I don't know when it is.
Its certainly a place in time, and actually its not right now. Its certainly not right after the last story. Probably its closer to the release of the next WARS TCG set, ish. Probably right around it, as this story ties into “Nowhere to Hide” quite a lot. But the date on this story is in the aether, as with many things WARS related, the data backing up when it was released precisely have faded off. Its not right now, but since there is no date, lets go ahead and just do it. After all, this is the second half of “When the Mind is Realized the Body is Free” for all intents and purposes, so this is the perfect place for it. Drawing out the end would only be detrimental to our own purposes. So lets dive in shall we?
The last story was an explanarritive, and strangely this one is to, in a different way. While we don't get a long tangential lecture from multiple perspectives like we did the last time, this story is clearly meant to introduce the concept of Traginium to the reader, and into the setting, allowing it to be dropped into the setting for its inevitable use in the Nowhere to Hide card set. The story is short, and the explanation of Traginium is both very informative and still mysterious, as the substance itself remains. This time Talker (formerly Doc Six, which was a cooler name really) gives the explanation, and other characters are more of a willing audience than we had last time around.
The nature of these explanarritives is strange though, as while their purpose is to introduce elements of the setting to the reader, we already had the WARS: an Introduction to the Trading Card Game document to give us the bare bones details in no-nonsense prose, so what is the purpose of these stories then? After all, over the course of these two stories very little plot occurs: Talker is found by Hotwire who gives him a new arm, take him to a bar where he gets lectured, gets nearly mugged by some Gongen and then runs away to Europa where he tells the Gambler everything that happened. It would be easy to say that the writer was being lazy, or was untalented, but by the time we get to “Accord Negotiation” there should be no doubt in anyone's mind that Kallenbach can't write an amazing piece of prose. Not to mention Stackpole was just as willing to shove aside pretense of narrative to write an essay about the nature of the setting. So what is the purpose of all of this?
In all of these stories, the explanations have been given by characters within the setting. There hasn't been an omnipresent narrator who drops down and helps us understand things that have been confusing us, rather the people living on the dirt of these worlds tell us with all their biases, and all their flaws. They come from times we can't imagine in the future, where lives and worlds have changed immeasurably from our own, but they live there, and in giving them the chance to explain their world to us, they are selling not only their own reality to us, but that of the setting. This is a fairly complex maneuver being pulled here and its really quite brilliant. While the setting document itself lays everything out as it is in reality, the reality of living in that world is much more complex, and throws the cold reality of having a setting document into question at all.
Take the exchange we see in this story where the Maverick scientist talks to the Gongen soldiers about what Traginium is. They give us the basic facts we need: that Traginium is a waste byproduct that no one used to care about, but all of a sudden people do, that its radioactive, and that its only found in one place in the solar system. What they also do however, is lay in various perceptions and doubts about what those facts mean. The scientist implies that a NoBot on Gongen has ceased working, and because of this surmises that the Gongen searching for Traginium is part of efforts to alleviate this. The Gongen guard replies with a stern faced denial of this, while also trying to give a bogus excuse for why the Gongen are looking for this waste product to begin with, and in doing so gives us a great thing we aren't usually trusted to see: lies. That isn't to sat that lies are uncommon in fiction, what I mean to say is that lies are uncommon in fiction that is trying to establish the entire nature of a setting so that people understand it and want to buy a cardgame set it in it. This is a refreshing amount of optimism in the intelligence of the fans of WARS, and its frankly hugely commendable.
The characters have inserted their bias, and their outright falsehoods, all throughout this fiction line from the very first story. Starhawk is about as unreliable a narrator as one can get, being that he is a narcissist with a strong desire to make himself look good. How much of what Starhawk says he planned was just dumb luck is worth pondering, on the small end of things. On the large end of things, we're left to wonder if the conflicting accounts between the Earthers and Gongen of their conflict can ever be reconciled.
But WARS takes the route of letting these incongruities stand. In lesser universes, there would be an easy answer. Eventually someone would swoop in and clear up the canon once and for all so that everyone knew exactly what happened, how it happened, and why it happened. But we don't need that, as it doesn't actually reflect the reality we live in. After all, even with WARS and conflicts going on everyday those people who aren't directly involved in them can only get outside reports filtered through layers of media, and the people who made those decisions at the top will never be totally candid about how they made their own decisions. They could have had spy information they will take to their grave, or they could have just felt it was a good time to go get into a fight, as they didn't have anything else on their schedule that Saturday.
So we have founded the backbone of the world on lies and bias, and we have found that it is normal. Just as every person you meet knows for certain their way of scanning politics is the one that is the most correct, a stranger in WARS thinks the same way, and they can do that without becoming some sort of crazy fanatic or zealot in order to pacify any sort of nuance by making the wrong people crazy. Instead, its possible everyone is wrong, at least partially. Even the all powerful Shi can't get things right, or get off of their hubristic high horses. One nearly longs for a newsfeed of in Universe WARS updates telling us the same events from different faction's perspectives the truth getting muddier and muddier.
But Hotwire didn't care. And she doesn't care at first that she shouldn't speak out of turn. Because some people in reality don't care either and you can't make them care. Which is ultimately the problem for WARS as well. While the story here is good, and it introduces everything splendidly, we have hardly seen any wars in WARS yet, and the strangeness of that is palpable. But this was a story about a diplomacy bot, what else would you expect? Not to mention, we don't even know the date still. We don't know anything. Maybe that's for the best.
The final thing we should note is the last few lines. The horror of leaving the Gambler's office, and then finding out the guy you had just been talking back to before he cut you off was casually torturing a guy to death before you came in to have your meeting, and will now get right back to that now that you're done chattering, is a terrifying moment. Its one of the most surprising and effective endings of a WARS story we've had, and its brilliantly simple.
This gives us another layer of darkness onto the Mavericks. We've already seen how nasty the Accord was, but apparently we know for sure the Cartel is no better. We've met the factions now, and none of them are nice people. The Gongen have gotten off the easiest, but they also haven't had to play the villains actively yet, and to some characters they definitely are the villains. You can't trust any of the factions really, but you can trust some of the people in them, and Hotwire's kindness to Talker certainly paid off.
Its a difficult balance to strike, mixing compassion and hatred. Go too far one way or the other, and its not really realistic. But it seems we've hit something akin to it now. There are huge and evil forces everywhere, but not everyone can do anything about them.
But some people can, and as for the Mavericks, independence is their virtue. Which leads us to one of the main inspirations for the Mavericks as we know them...