Original Flavour Text
(the original mini-story written for the campaign setting proposal)
It was five minutes to high noon, and hardly anything moved in the hot desert sun. Just a few folks were scattered up and down the wooden train platform; no one that would stand out particularly. There was the old robot, of course, sitting as it often did on a bench at the east end of the platform, staring off down the train tracks with its optical array shaded by aid of its beat-up old stetson. The old robot paid no attention to the others waiting on the platform. It just stared into the distance, motionless. Towards the middle of the platform, a mother humanoid-coyote splice attempted to keep her pups quiet while they impatiently waited for the arrival of their father. Not far from them, a voodoo witch-doctor stood silently in a pinstripe suit, holding a sign printed with the name “LAFAYETE” and watching the coyote splices with disdain. Near the west end of the platform, a nervous-looking piscine splice in a high-collared coat glanced around nervously, occasionally gulping the dry desert air and making faces like he had eaten something unpleasant. It was not unusual for the piscine to act nervous; they all did, all the time. Their genetic type had not been designed with this climate in mind, and their unsuitability to the region gave them a permanent nervous disposition. This particular piscine splice sat on a bench next to a heavily-muscled man with facial tattoos, who appeared to have been sewn into his barely-large-enough brown duster coat at the time of its manufacture (as all other methods of donning the garment appeared implausible). The tattooed muscle man occasionally leaned slowly over to the piscine to whisper some inaudible message, but the piscene showed no indication of paying any attention; he just continued to tap his webbed fingers on his knees, look around in a twitchy manner, and gulp.
The wooden sign which hung from the roof of the station swayed gently with what little breeze there was, its digital readout ticking away the seconds until the train’s arrival. Suddenly the old robot stood up. It continued to stare down the tracks to the east, attentive as ever. After another couple minutes, a barely audible hum could be heard, growing steadily. The station’s generator started up with a crackle and a grunt, followed by a growing hum from the linear induction motors of the station. As the station sign ticked over to 12:00:00, the speaker crackled to life and a snake-like voice hissed, “twelve o’clock… Ssssandstone to Briarton arriving… ssstand away from the edge…”
Before anyone could react, the slowly growing hum was blotted out by a thunderous din as the 12:00 train rocketed into the station from the east at such blinding speed as to almost have appeared from nowhere. The sun reflecting off the train’s gleaming metal hull blinded those waiting on the platform with a momentary flash, and the air pressure of the train’s arrival knocked the coyote-splice pups back onto their tails. Nearly as soon as the sound exploded upon the platform it was gone, replaced by the slowly dying hum of the linear induction motors powering down. As the train cut power to its maglev systems, it settled gracefully onto the tracks with a thunk. The doors slid open.
The coyote-splices barely had time to register their horizontality before being greeted warmly by one of their own: a large, grey-haired male who embraced them all in turn before accompanying them off the platform. The voodoo man held his “LAFAYETE” sign prominently in front of him expectantly. In short order the train shuddered slightly as a massively obese woman in a lace-frilled pink dress squeezed herself out one of the doors. Catching sight of the voodoo man, she let out a shriek of joy and lumbered down the platform toward him, nearly bowling the gaunt figure over as she caught him in a sweaty embrace and landed a big sloppy kiss on his painted lips. The two staggered off the platform, drunk on love.
After a few moments, a handful of other figures emerged warily from one of the train’s doors. They wore the gritty cynicism and old scars of an elite posse ready for any encounter. Clearly a man would be foolish to tangle with such a dangerous and skillful crew. The old robot instantly knew these were the ones it had summoned for its task.
Three of the posse glanced towards the robot, while one, an asian woman with jet-black eyes, moved toward a large door on one of the train’s cargo compartments. As the old robot limped towards the posse, its oddly synthesized voice rang out. “Greetings, travellers. I am the one you know as BLU-6. I see you have brought your equipment. Much gratitude at your prompt arrival, however I do not see the fifth of your member.”
A reptilian man in a dusty brown suit stepped forward and greeted the old robot. “You mean Frank? Matsuo’s just letting him out.” They all glanced over to the asian woman, who entered a code on a keypad next to the large cargo door. The door retracted upwards with a screech, and out from behind it emerged a 10-foot-tall bipedal mass of muscles and scars with a comparatively tiny bowler hat improbably perched on his head. The behemoth yawned and stretched his gargantuan shirtless arms before bellowing, “FRANK HUNGRY. WHEN LUNCH?”
“There’s Frank,” said another posse member who was clad in a weapon-scorched metallic battle suit which covered all but his head. Slung over his back was a massive beam weapon. “So, granted it’s not exactly your area of expertise, but do you happen to know the best place to get some grub around here? The geni-mealpacks on the train smelled like ass.” The old robot did not respond. It appeared to be looking down the platform toward the piscine man and his tattoed companion. No one had come to meet them on the train. “Hello…” said the man in the battle suit, “your audio receptors working?”
Without a word the old robot began to hobble toward the piscene man at an increasing pace, moving unusually quick despite its limp. The piscine and his companion, noticing the robot, began to stand up. Hatches on the old robot’s legs opened, and the handles of two Ultra-Colt railgun revolvers emerged slightly as the robot began to reach for them. Just as the old robot was about to draw the guns, the tattooed muscle man pushed the piscine off to the side and lunged at the old robot. With reflexes like lightning, the old robot’s arms whipped upward and it clamped its hands onto the man’s upper arms with an iron grip. The man’s face barely had time to register surprise before the robot, in one fluid and seemingly effortless movement, ripped both the man’s muscled arms straight off at the shoulders. After a brief moment of shock, the man let out an agonized scream and fell to his knees as blood gushed from his ragged shoulders.
The piscine man’s face twisted into an expression of panic and rage. “You’ll never put me away, you metal monster!” he gurgled out loudly, followed by a gulp of the dry air. “You’ll pay for what you done! It ain’t over, not nearly!” Just as the old robot dropped the lifeless arms on the dusty floorboards of the station and began to move toward the piscine, the robot and posse members turned with a jerk toward the sudden groan and screech of tearing metal. The middle of the train began to lift into the air, its ends hanging limply, before breaking in half under the strain. With an ear-splitting clatter, one half of the train was thrown a hundred yards out into the desert. There in its place stood a large anthropoid battle robot, surrounded by a number of half-crazed piscine vigilantes interspersed with tattooed hired mercenaries. Their eyes were filled with murder. “Death to the water-stealers!!!”
The old robot drew his pistols in a flash. “Apologies. Events seem to precipitate immediate action.”
The last posse member, an insectoid in a woolen poncho, also drew his four pistols and glanced around the group while uttering a clicking noise. Matsuo, with bony knives emerging from the flesh of her wrists, turned her solid black eyes towards the man in the battle suit. “Shall we do this?”
Frank’s mass of muscles trembled in excitement. The lizard man’s hands glowed with building magical energy. The man in the battle suit surveyed the others, glanced down at the wooden train platform, and kicked a piece of twisted train debris off the edge of the platform. As he drew his large beam weapon from his back and powered it up with a hum, metal plates extended from his suit to cover his head in armour. “Let’s do this.”
Matsuo looked up at Frank. “Frank, it looks like it’s lunch time.”
Frank bounded off the platform and charged into the crowd of warriors, letting out a great roar. “FISH FOR LUNCH!!!”