This is a follow-up to the introduction of Souchart, exploring his life in the near-desert highlands West of si‘Scatvatsa, the primary location of The Right of Rule,the role-playing game I’m in. I should reiterate that I’m exploring the world, but exploring a part that is very different from the game. This gives me some leeway, but I’m also not able to really display the richness of what she’s created.
There will be more about Souchart. I’ve already invented a sail-powered train to get him around. There’s no way I’m leaving that in the dustbin.
This is just over 4000 words, and writing this for one post is why I did not post my 2000 word story on Monday. I plan to stick to the schedule more closely from now on.
Souchart had just entered his eighth Summer when he was sidecast and turned out from his family. A sidecast was untouchable, not an orphan. No family was allowed to take him in, but none could deny him his living necessities.
His first night he spent in the tribe’s herd of kamidar. The lumbering reptilians stank and moaned all night, but they were warm and they did not seem to mind. The light was dim and kamidar are not smart creatures; perhaps they saw his mottled, hairless skin and thought him one of their young, just out of the nest, encephalitic and unfortunately missing a tail.
Unlike the kamidar, Souchart had no beak with flat grinding plates, and he could not eat the grass and scrub brush that they seemed to relish. He owned a wooden bowl and a bent spoon, and was able to acquire food just by asking. One morning he decided he was tired of sleeping in the corral, and he bathed and washed his clothes, drying them in the sun as he carefully held them aloft to keep the dust off. That evening, he timidly approached a yurt just south of his family’s.
This is the backstory of a character I am playing in a role-playing game, for a campaign called “Right of Rule,” based in a world by our game master Dru Pagliassotti. The basic scenario is “post-apocalyptic Tibetan diesel-punk,” and add to that a heavy Yakuza vibe, some dinosaurs-among-us, and physics-based magic called “chirate” and you have a good sense of the world. The other characters tend to be socialites and educated, so I decided to go after an illiterate kung-fu wizard. The problem with magic in this world is that it is chaotic and tends to damage the mage as much as his target, so I felt that to explore that part of the world I needed someone who had little to live for but an incredible passion to pursue.
This is written mostly for the other players, and so the description world is deliberately left a little sparse. I hope it still makes sense.
As was the custom among the Taanxiu, Tan Souchart was given his name two months before birth. “Born to a good life” his father Tan Bei explained. “A name that will give guidance to the architect of his machine.” Tan Bei’s wife, Xieh, chided him for assuming that she was to bear a third son for him, but a month later after a harrowing premature labor, Tan Bei’s expectations were proved right. Souchart was born.
The midwife pretended not to notice when Tan Bei left the birthing room and hid under a tree for an hour while his exhausted wife fluttered between consciousness and delirium. The babe that emerged was indeed male, small, but well shaped, with all limbs, fingers and toes accounted for. His spirit engineers saw fit to set his machine in motion, and his heart began ticking out the billion cycles we are each alloted. The bellows of his lungs powered a cry that bespoke of health, but that single pronouncement of terror at being exposed to the world outside the womb was the only sound Souchart made for five days. Though his silence was unusual, the babe was healthy.
What made Tan Bei run was not Souchart’s form, but his countenance.
I remember it being a Tuesday morning in April when Dr. Yuki Dupree announced the cure for everything.
She was in Kyoto, and rumor was that she wanted the American stock markets to be closed because they were so overrun with robot traders. Vast server farms located on the same block as the NYSE so that the speed of light wouldn’t hinder the rapidity of their buying and selling. Dedicated fiber optic lines from traditional news sources and databases so that that packet-routing silliness that made the internet work wouldn’t impede their access to data. More servers than Twitter and Facebook combined, just to analyze the trending topics of social chatter on Twitter and Facebook.
All that automated moving of money made things volatile when the unexpected showed up. Markets were going to crash anyway, but if she could keep the humans involved then they might crash just a bit more gently. When she did this, healthcare services, pharmaceutical companies, massive insurance cartels, and all the politicians their lobbyists supported would all come crashing down to being near worthless overnight. She had dumped the plans for this dime-sized, 75¢ piece of gallium and silicon onto a dozen servers around the world, and with that she had cured… everything.
It was barely four days later that she regretted it, and six weeks before she became the first of the Healthy But Dead. Continue reading