- 1 Appearance
- 2 The Ballad of Tashunka Morgan . . .
- Tall he stands, with eyes of steel gray. Like icicles in starlight they sparkle, as if more at home in the mountains than upon any dockyard or in a ship's corridor. His face is roughly sculpted, tanned by the sun, tempered by the slightest hint of work-a-day grime. Shortish dark hair, just this side of black, frames his features in a slightly rakish cut. Lanky, loose, his build is rugged, his hands rough; they are the hands of a simple laborer. His pace, sure and quiet, like a crisp breath across snow - when he pauses, just as still, haunted by the touch of something feral, like far away storms in winter.
- He wears a long greatcoat, which falls in stiff folds, battered and scarred and heavy with stories left unspoken. Of deep russet, it is a true duster, crafted from worn oilcloth to hold against the elements. Almost to the ground it sweeps, loose and open, stained with grease and grit and dust in many shades of faded sepia. Its lower section is quarter cut, almost military strict, its reinforced panels betraying a history more martial than elegant. A set of rough patches run in broken line from bottom to shoulder, worn and frayed rectangles. One covers the right shoulder, and lower an older repair seems to have been torn away. Beneath, a heavy workshirt, of simple cut is worn, dark gray broadcloth, the collar stiff, the cuffs loose. It hangs loose, square cut tails covering a belt of black, over jeans of well worked denim, once a deep blue now white and pale. The cuffs are stuffed into a pair of tall leather engineer's boots, black and highlighted by dull rings of steel.
What happens to pickpockets . . .
The tall deckhand slowly turned his head, the quiet gaze of his gray eyes slowly falling down the folds of his worn russet duster to the slender arm whose hand had vanished into its deep side pocket. He considered the situation for a handful of heartbeats, finally replying in soft, gentle spoken tones. "That's my wallet ..." he confirmed, a slow nod offered the somewhat but not too guilty looking lass behind him. "My apologies ... you aren't going to find much. A couple of bills, a travel pass, and a pair of faded photographs. I'd be much obliged if'n you returned it when you are done ... the photographs come with a right powerful sentimental value."
What other folks have said ...
"Him?" The Kelly Mae's cargo master looked across the dusty tarmac or Persephone, where the big dockworker was settling a bank of pallets in a neat and ordered row. "Man's like one of those draught horses from Whitefall. One of those big, slow, peaceable guys that never start trouble." He paused then, rubbing his chin. "But he's good to have around ... cause when there is trouble he's one of those big, slow, peaceable guys that finish it."
It's The Little Things . . .
- Always looks like he does things slowly.
- Eats neatly.
- For Pix ... "NFZ" stands for "No Fly Zone"
- Tends to use "Miss","Ma'am", "Mister" and "Sir" as common honorifics, and actually seems to mean it nice and friendly like when he does.
- No one's ever seen him get angry. (Well not quite true any more. Nova saw him get angry. But not at her).
- Two Bricks
Music To RP By . . .
- Fire and Rain - James Taylor
- One Tin Soldier - Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter
- Black Velvet - Allanah Miles
- Dust in the Wind - Kansas
- The Night The Drove Old Dixie Down - The Band
The Ballad of Tashunka Morgan . . .
Here's How It Is
What most folks know
cue: Black Velvet - Allanah Myles, words and music by David Tyson and Christopher Ward
...Working dockside, on very edge of starlight ... Moonlight castin' bright silver 'cross the skies ... Like a vision, a dream in silken locks dark ... The sun has vanished, I see starshine in your eyes ... And your voice, crystal clear, just to hear ... One can't ask for more, a heart jus' longing for ...
- 2512 to mid 2524 - Worked most docks and ports in the Border and Rim as a general dockworker and laborer.
- Early April 2524 - Arrived on Persephone, working as a longshoreman when he could get a work ticket, otherwise undertaking odd jobs loading or whatever could be found to earn a few credits. He was present at the Great Rain of Cows, disarming a potentially explosive situation by losing a Mister Itzal's machine gun inside one of said cows.
- Mid April 2524 - Hired as deckhand aboard the Redemption on a trial basis after meeting Maggie at the Dregs. Officially granted a 'nice ass' rating by Pix.
- Mid April 2524 - Not only survived but proved unexpectedly victorious in the Infamous Surprise Panda Attack of 2524.
... Like an autumn when the trees they sparkled of gold ... Hips swayin, I watched you just walk by ... Shadowed lady, so far beyond the dockside ... Felt your torn heart, like fire in the sky ... And when you dream, how could I hope, were it for me ...
- 28 May 2524 - Hired on the Redemption. Immediately swept Maggie off her feet, spun her around and kissed her!
... Oh Maggie ... don't you think that I can't see ... Oh Maggie ... beneath your soft rimward smile ... For just a heartbeat, when you give what you can share ... Oh Maggie ... yes I care ..."
- End of May 2524 - At a count of six and five, Maggie and Tash formalized their engagement, and instead of rings decided on something more permanent ... a mandala tattoo, of an interlinked wolfess and stallion. It is inked upon his wrist, (and for those that know them, it is a mirror image of Maggie's).
- September to October 2524 - Beginning to seriously contemplate kidnapping, bribery, the breaking of several major Alliance statutes and conventions or even fall to that last resort and seriously consider the "E" word (That's "Elope" for those not up with the current 'Verse slang). You'd think when two folks actually want to get married it wouldn't be so gorram hard to find a Preacher who actually wants to do the marrying.
- Mid October 2524 - Leaves the Redemption with Maggie. While the decision was stormy, when the storms cleared it was the fortuitous choice; hiring onto the Ethereal Embrace, under Captain Elliot Hayes and his boss, Leutrim Donnchadh.
- 29 October 2524 - Marshals Elliot to haul out the medpac and stabilize Leutrim as he is unexpectedly bushwacked by a dastardly insidious strawberry. Recognizing the symptoms of an allergic reaction, the two stabilize their Boss until helps arrives from the nearby Medical Wellness Clinic. Leutrim is kept under observation for two days and then released. The remainder of strawberries were eaten by certain other members of the Embrace's crew.
- Solstice Night, 21 December 2524 - The promise of matching inks is fufilled. Before their friends and compatriots Magdelyn Winter Anders took Tashunka Lee Morgan for her husband and he her to be his wife. The marriage took place at the Eavesdown racetrack on Pesephone, the location of their first kiss, there beneath springtime stars. Their crewmate upon the Ethereal Embrace, Shepherd Tacitus, presided over the assembly, witnessed by the ship's crew, many of Ethereal Investigations and old friends. Maggie's maid of honor was shipsinger Nova and Tash was not allowed to complete the ceremony without a best ... uhm ... cowgirl. Arriving at full gallop upon a cavalry trained morgan, one Corporal Tiffany "Ponygirl" O'Malley thundered in, set her old Sarge up right and proper. Tash's first words after the shock wore off were " ... you are supposed to be dead!" Their boss of bosses, Leutrim, thoroughly enjoyed taking care of the horse, and rumor has it the morgan has a new home at the flatrack.
A quite eventful affair, ending with a barbeque and the eventual slipping away of bride and groom upon their honeymoon.
... a bit of old time excitement occurred upon the Docks early last evening, as retired Major General Braxton Brekinridge managed to have his horse absconded with. In the first incident of rustling on Persephone in almost ten years, the fancied cavalry officer was at a loss to explain how his horse could have been stolen out from under him. At the moment, charges have not been filed at the Federal Offices, with the most probable reason being potential embarrassment. During the Great War the then Colonel had been nicknamed "Saddleless Brekinridge" after having his horses stolen out from under him, first at the the Battle of Thomas Mountain and then again at Rutherford's Farm and finally at Serenity Valley - Marjorie Tarkovsky, Alliance News Network, Persephone.
Here's How It Was
What only a few folks know
cue: Fire and Rain - words and music by James Taylor
... Just yesterday morning they let me know you were gone ... Suzanne the plans they made put an end to you ... I walked out this morning and I wrote down this song ... I just can't remember who to send it to ...
A piece of paper folded in an oilcloth pocket. A letter unsent, worn and yellowed the lines of simple blocky script blurring from too many miles traveled.
Postmarked Londinium. Stamped return to sender, addressee unknown.
Growing up on Londinium, away from the grand cities and starports. Up on a mountain's rugged slopes, at the border between snow and trees. Where father ran the logging walkers and mother kept them running, just a couple years apart, me and Suzanne. She was always trying to keep up with me, racing traycones in the streams which formed when winter retreated, climbing up on my looking rock, sneaking along the ridge where the howlers denned, and both of us running back as fast as we could if we actually managed to see one of the elusive hunters.
My little sister. It's what little sisters were like.
Gods. Forever away.
She was the one always looking ahead, poking her curious little button nose into the darkness. Asking questions, always going on a look and see. So it was me who had to pull the hedgehogs quills from her palm. No, Suzanne, don't pet the hedgehogs. I know they are cute. Climbing trees so high she couldn't figure out how to get back down. Always the first to jump into the falls come the summer, not caring that the water hadn't quite warmed up yet.
Knew she was going to go out on a ship some day.
Me, I was the quiet one. The one who watched and listened, and was the one who hauled her out when she got stuck in the rocks, hid behind when the growler cub chased after her, made sure someone stood between her and Mothers wrath when Suzanne tried to make breakfast.
She was the wind through the forest.
I was the solid mountain stone.
We were best friends.
Me, I wasn't like Suzanne. I never took up much with book learning and all. Don't get me wrong, its not like I'm simple. I just never quite took to it like she did. My handwriting is simple, hers was expansive. I spent my nights looking across the range beneath the stars. She sat with me, reading a book with her little clip light.
Occasionally I could convince her to turn it off for a bit, and we'd listen to the wind whistle across the midnight sky, see the tracking of a satellite arcing over head or even the comet slice of an outbound transport.
She said it was her job to be finding out.
And my job to be remembering.
Though she always poked me, poked me in the side.
Reminding me that it wouldn't hurt me to try something new every now and then.
She did say I looked good, when I returned home in my uniform. She was quiet about it, and I'm not sure what she really thought.
I was the oldest in the family, and Mother had taught us about responsibility and service and that if you really wanted to help folks, well this was an honourable choice. And it was the only choice that could keep Great-Grandfather from marrying me off to a socialite's daughter for his own political alliances. He had already chosen the girl. But that reason, that reason was a secret between me and Suzanne.
I didn't mind the hard work.
And it was protecting folks, which was good. And how was I to know what would happen in but a handful of months?
For it was the winter of 2505.
.. Oh, I've seen fire and I've seen rain ... I've seen sunny days that I thought would never end ... I've seen lonely times when I could not find a friend ... But I always thought that I'd see you again ...
And I couldn't hate her. I couldn't. She was my sister.
It was just so much Suzanne. She always questioned everything. Always looked at things differently.
It's what made her who she was.
2506 did more than break the peace.
I had my duty.
Suzanne followed hers.
I wore purple.
She wore brown.
2506 broke families too.
... Been walking my mind to an easy time my back turned towards the sun ... Lord knows when the cold wind blows it'll turn your head around ... Well, there's hours of time on the telephone line to talk about things to come ... Sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground ...
On Hera it stopped being about duty. Like snow into the fire we were tossed, as if we could somehow dowse the Independents. But the steam that blew back was crimson, condensing into rivers of blood.
Somewhere in Serenity Valley the difference between their blood and ours was drowned.
On that last day, I had so many bullets in me I lost count. You couldn't tell us apart, browncoats, black coats. Everything was just red.
A ruined bulding, a bulwark of bodies.
There I found Suzanne and she found me.
For a while we listened to the winds blowing across the midnight sky once again, counting the stars above ... one ... two... three.
She died sometime in the night.
... Oh, I've seen fire and I've seen rain ... I've seen sunny days that I thought would never end ... I've seen lonely times when I could not find a friend ...But I always thought that I'd see you, baby, one more time again ...
It's not a bad life, being a simple deckhand.
I watch all the faces on the docks.
Sometimes, sometimes I think I see her amoungst the crowd, a moment, then gone.
I'm trying to pick out a melody on this battered six string.
Trying something new.
Suzanne would like that.
The Truth of It
What no one knows
cue: One Tin Soldier - Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter
... Listen, children, to a story ... That was written long ago ... 'Bout a kingdom on a mountain ... And the valley-folk below ...
Londinium. Center of the universe, center of the Core. Home of the Parliment and the the Alliance houses. Steeped in the remmnants of Earth-That-Was, sculpted gothic towers reaching for the sky where the flagship Victoria watched over the soft blue sphere.
A place where everyone works for the Alliance government ... or works for those who work for it.
And the appointments are almost fuedal in their nature and hierachy.
And that is how Constance Harrison Caprice and Richard James Morgan were brought together and appointed the management of the Highbeck Ridge Forest Preserve, or as it was known eventually, the Morgan Ranch. It was an important holding, one with duties and responsibilities. The Caprice family had always been associated with the government, the patriarch in Parliment, the others scattered amidst the other Alliance houses and offices, high and low. And thus for the youngest grandaughter, with a twin degree in history and applied mechanics, the coveted position her graduation gift. Of course a forester was needed to help run the logging camp. Richard Morgan was from a good family, had his degree in environmental sciences and terraforming and the understanding of both the opportunity set in front of him and the necessity of maintaining proper decorum. A marriage of political convenience it was, for of course a Caprice Lady could not be alone with a single man out in a wildlife preserve.
The marriage was arranged, coin and influence exchanged.
Two children later, they had grown to love one another.
... On the mountain was a treasure ... Buried deep beneath the stone, ... And the valley-people swore ... They'd have it for their very own ...
"Mother, do I have to?"
"Listen to me Tashunka Lee Morgan. These are important people. They will help you when you leave school and rise within the ranks of power and propriety. They will ensure your success. Great Grandfather expects no less from you.
"But Mother, all they do is giggle to each other and hide behind their fans. Suzanne's the social one, Mother. I get all tongue tied and they might even ask me to dance.
"Your father and I have already discussed Suzanne with Great-Grandfather, Tashunka.
"Have you discussed this with Suzanne?
"Of course not, she's only fifteen. Next year."
Tash almost winced upon hearing those words. Mother still didn't know it was Suzanne who kept leading the grand escapes from the homestead after curfew or who was the one who poked her head into the hedgehogs den. Suzanne wasn't going to be happy. And nowhere as calm as her quiet older brother.
"Now, we are out here in the middle of nowhere. Our guests are Important People, and both Father, Myself and Susanne are depending on you. We all shall gain if you make a good impression upon them. Especially young Lady Patricia Callahan."
"She's going to ask me to dance again."
"Her Father is a Member of Parlimnent."
"She's going to ask me to *dance*, Mother."
"Surprisingly, she actually likes you Tashunka Lee.
And that scared the young man the most.
"Now, go make me proud of you."
And that was the one request he could not refuse.
... So the people of the valley ... Sent a message up the hill ... Asking for the buried treasure ... Tons of gold for which they'd kill ...
"I don't see how you can take it so calmly, Tashy."
Beneath the stars Tashunka lay, hands laced under his neck, forming pillow on the cool ground. Every now and then a golden leaf would skitter across the grasss, a hint that autumn was comin to the remote mountains. In the crisp air a million stars and a handful of planets sparkled bright.
"It's not like I can do anything about it. You know Mother when she gets an idea in her head.
"But this is not like when she decided to overhaul the main rotors of the logging walkers by hand over the course of two weeks. We are talking about the empty brain pan of Patty Callahan.
"She's a nice girl, Suzzy. She's just .. she's just ...
"Tashy, her idea of duty is a Shepherd's Social in support of the Victoria and her idea of honor is once a month, after you are married and if you are lucky."
Sitting next to her brother Suzanne Alyssa Morgan crossed her arms.
"I'm right, aren't I?"
What followed was a long silence, with only the wind whipeering through the trees.
"Do you love her Tashy?"
"What do you think?"
"Never could fool you, aye? Mother say I'll grow to love her, just like her and father. I haven't the heart to tell her I have no interest in forestry or mechanics, especially since she has already told me Great-Granddfather has willed me this place.
"Tashy, what are we going to do."
That was how it was between them. When one was in trouble, both were. Oh they argued and bickered, but in the end she was his little sister and he the older brother.
"I'll marry you."
"WHAT? YOU CAN'T BE SERIOUS."
The older brother just nodded slowly, his voice a gentle deadpan spoken to the stars.
"I will marry you. It will be incest. Great-Grandfather will go all apolyeptic and disown both of us, and I won't have to worry for Patty Callahan ever again."
"You lug-a-bug!" And with raucous false growl Suzanne turned the joke back on Tashunka, beating him soundly with little fists upon his chest. It would have hurt, but she was laughing too hard.
In the end, however, it was the little sister Great-Grandfather disowned.
... Came an answer from the kingdom ... With our brothers we will share ... All the secrets of our mountain, ... All the riches buried there ...
Between a rock and a hard place; otherwise known as Great-Grandfather Caprice and Mother.
And knowing that they were discussing wedding plans.
The 'Verse works in strange ways. Smart enough to pick out what was going on about him, perceptive enough to have a slight edge over the average citizen. A sense of duty and propriety. A protective streak a mile wide.
Being as strong as an ox didn't hurt either.
Thus there was nothing either Great-Grandfather or Mother could say about the Military and the right honor of enlistment. It was not only a proud profession of any son of Londinum, it was often the expected choice of profession for the eldest one. Of course any wedding plans had to be postponed, for of course it would take a well determined period of time for Tash to attain a rank sufficient to become a properly married officer.
Great-Grandfather wasn't impolitic enough to try and get Tashunka a commission. That was for the best and the brightest, and ones with more drive than his quiet and even natured great-grandson. But he was able to extend a certain amount of influence. Some strings were pulled and it was into a unit of tradition long and proud.
Reconniassance Platoon, Support Company, First Battalion, Coldstream Guards of Earth-That-Was.
In truth, it fit the elder Morgan son well. A history and tradition that could provide an anchor in his life, a foundation proper and firm. Good work, strong work and something he could be proud to do, because his job was to protect people. Even Suzanne had to admit that he was just suited to a soldier's life.
Six months after he enlisted the Independents and the Alliance went to war.
Amoung other people, Patricia Callahan was not happy.
... Now the valley cried with anger ... Mount your horses! Draw your sword! ... And they killed the mountain-people ... So they won their just reward ...
"G-g-g-g-g-g-g-gorram, Horse, d-d-d-d-on't know h-how you can t-t-take it. T-t-t-taint normal."
They called him Slinks, and he usually walked point, kinda liked it that way. Moving quiet, he liked saying he was half Sihonese wildcat. Didn't hurt that he had sharp eyes and good ears and a silent pace. The problem was that south of Sihon wasn't known for its snow and it was deep in the winter on New Kashmir and they were far from the warm trenches that marked the Alliance and Independent lines.
It was Ponygirl who spoke up, where she was tucked beneath her heavy duster, the oilcloth collar snapped up to keep out the bitter wind. Across her lap the big thompson assault gun rested, as she slowly snapped round after round into the feed chain. "Horse is horse is a horse of course, country boy from the mountains. Oughtta have seen him in the fire pits of Muir. Thought he was gonna melt away, right Horse?"
The snow whipped around them, the squad far beyond the main battlefront, their shelter the hollow of a blown out fieldstone silo in a ring of think evergreens.
"Ever notice how she always speaks up for the corporal? Betcha three-bits ..."
That's always what Three-bits bet. But then again, the night after the pay muster, that's usually as much as the radio operator ever had. He took it in stride though, and somehow always never had less than those three quarter credit in his pocket. Called them lucky, with a bright laugh.
"That's why she's Ponygirl, rook, and who else but the corporal here ..."
The sentence was started by Catseye and completed by Whiskers. Both were from Cathedral, back home. You think they were twins that just didnt't look alike, the way they stuck together. That and they had that disturbing way of finishing each other's sentences.
" ... would take care of us when we done gone and lost another sargent."
That was true. Recon was point, always deep into the Independent territory, their job to find the browncoats in their own home ground. It usually meant days in the field, searching, spotting and calling in the strikes. Support's first platoon was getting to be being known as being a bit hard on its sargents.
"Don't know why they just don't make Horse sarge ... "
Danny Up was the youngest of them. He carried the grenade launcher hung beneath his gun, the shortest of them, and the one who insisted on having the upper rack on Slinky's dropboat. Danny Kei was supposd to get that bunk, but being a peacable fellow out of the Shepherd's retreat he didn't mind giving his up and becoming Danny Down.
"While the Lord works in mysterious ways, Up ... the brass are just idiots."
Carnie and Saks, they couldn't comment. They were watching the perimeter. Now Saks, he'd just disagree to be disagreeable. And Carnie didn't mind the brass as long as they never took exception to the dice and cards. Most of the staff and gunnys didn't as long as he let them win. The lieutenants were a different matter.
"Ssssssssshhhhhhhhhh ...." Tash "Horse" Morgan nodded, a small and easy motion as he listened to the others. " ... sound travels far on a cold night ... and ...
" ... and you'll wake Flower."
Holly-Flower shouldn't have been there. Curled in a tight ball next to the corporal, with half his duster wrapped about her. She shivered as she slept, small and slight, pale with dusky light hair. Like a doll she was, quiet, shy, so very shy. As kind as kind could be. She was hardly taller than her rifle.
But she had a heart that wouldn't give up, and was the best field medic in the battalion.
... Now they stood beside the treasure ... On the mountain, dark and red. ... Turned the stone and looked beneath it ... Peace on Earth" was all it said ...
In battalion command the file was thick.
Longhorn Creek, Thomas Mountain, River Forks, Operation Stranglehold, New Kashmir, the Wilderness Campaign, Du-kang ...
"Sir you got to do something. The men, they are starting talk ..."
And on top was an intelligence report, from Central, stamped with the seal of the Victoria. It was classified. A photograph of a young woman was paper clipped to the top, the family resemblence strong, and the name beneath the comfirmation: Captain Suzanne Alyssa Morgan, Danforth's Raiders.
The Lieutenant looked up to the Colonel.
"Respectfully, sir, he's held Recon together since the first battle in this gorram war ...
"Fine. We shall make him recon's sargent. But after that, Lieutenant, even if he brings down Orbin's entire army singlehandedly it falls under the category of just doing his job, understand?"
"Yes sir ..."
"And Lieutenant ..."
"Don't you ever swear in my presense again."
... Go ahead and hate your neighbor ... Go ahead and cheat a friend ... Do it in the name of Heave ... You can justify it in the end. ... There won't be any trumpets blowing ...
"And we'll need to hold them down, until Wilkin's troops land and swing in on their flanks. So they can't simply flank us in return. Right here.
"Yes Lieutenant ..."
"Thats the Howler's Dens. Whoever we send in there ... they ain't coming back, Sir."
The Colonel considered that very quietly. Then he reached down and scribbled a notation on the map. A simple designation. Recon, the Coldstream Guards.
"Sir ... isn't that Horse Morgan's unit?"
"Yes. There's never a job he has't managed to do. So we'll give him this one."
"But, respectfully, Sir that's exactly why ..."
"His sister's a browncoat, Lieutenant."
The discussion was over.
... Come the judgement day, ... On the bloody morning after.... ... One tin soldier rides away ...
In the wallet of Tashunka Lee Morgan:
A handful of credits.
A Londinum Citizen's Full Travel Pass.
A photograph of Suzanne.
A photograph of Flower.