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Author Topic: Bastard's Bastards  (Read 8610 times)
WINGED NEMESIS
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« on: September 13, 2013, 03:36:18 PM »

Out of Character

This is a rough description of Bastard’s Bastards, a mostly-serious mercenary company I originally conceived for a forum game that never materialized. I’ll be crafting the setting from the bottom up, detailing the Bastards first and then slowly working my way to the surrounding universe. Influences include retro and “used” sci-fi aesthetics, the dieselpunk genre, 2000 AD comics like Rogue Trooper, Heavy Metal magazine, the art of late French artist Jean Giraud aka Moebius, Tank Girl, The Dirty Dozen, Dune, Firefly and Serenity, Battlestar Galactica and HBO war series like Band of Brothers and Generation Kill. I’ll be adding (hopefully) much more, but I was hoping I could get some feedback on what I've managed to get down so far.

The Bastards Themselves

Near-humans make up the largest portion of the Bastard population: being spread across such a vast number of diverse worlds, the species has long since mutated and adapted to the point that true pure-strain specimens are virtually unknown in the Rim. They are still of recognizably human stock but sport noticeable changes in areas such as skin pigmentation, eye and hair color, tooth shape, number of digits, etc. Coldworlders, for example, are as a rule taller, bulkier, and more hirsute than other strains, while humans adapted to life among the claustrophobic stacks of a sprawlworld are often wiry, compact, and sport almost-murine features. More extreme mutations like tails or gills are not unknown, but are generally restricted to isolated worlds.

The second most numerous species in the regiment is the crustaceal race colloquially called the prawns. Resembling nothing so much as a combination of crab, mantis shrimp, and cuttlefish, they have short, squat bodies covered in a spiny carapace and set atop six splayed legs; large compound eyes on opposable stalks; and two sets of long, dexterous tentacles they use in lieu of hands. Like near-humans, appearances can vary greatly from world to world, though being a hardier species to begin with, changes are typically very subtle. A mature prawn is a little over a meter long (not including their forelimbs) and just under a meter tall, but they continue to grow well beyond this and the oldest specimens are close to a horse in size. Despite the radical differences in appearances, they have a very near-human way of thinking, with the only real barrier between the two species is their method of communication: prawns speak by clicking and whistling through their mandibles and gesticulating with their tentacles. While physically impossible for humans to reproduce, many crude approximations of prawn words have made it into the anarchic, foul-mouthed patois known as bastardchatter.

An aggressive warrior-race that joined the Bastards after being defeated in a long, bloody war of attrition, the hazhrat are some of the regiment’s more physically-imposing members. They stand over two meters in height, with broad shoulders, barrel torsos, and thick hides covered in brightly-colored patterns. Their limbs seem disproportionately slender and gangly compared to their hulking frame, but actually possess powerful, corded muscles, and their wickedly-clawed hands are large enough to completely envelop a human head. The hazhrat’s long face is a mix of the amphibian and the canine: bulging eyes, slitted nostrils, thorny prehensile tongues, and multiple rows of angular teeth practically spilling out of their lipless mouths, which give them their characteristic slurring accent. An interesting feature of the hazhrat is the exceptional difficulty they have when it comes to discerning sexes: the species is quasi-hermaphroditic and without gender distinction, requiring the hormone rush of combat to stimulate fecundity. Hence, their ideal of “femininity” is as closely tied to violent dominance as it is childrearing, giving the hazhrat a certain kinky popularity.

Nicks are two meter-tall military automata of roughly-humanoid design, the most obvious exception to this being their television-like heads. The macrocorp that originally produced them hoped that by designing them with distinct personalities, they would be less unsettling for organics to interact with. The decision backfired spectacularly: combined with their hardwired enthusiasm for killing, a necessity with any AI, their boisterous expressiveness made them come across as murderously psychotic. It turns out that a robot that dispassionately eviscerates its target is still less unsettling than one who bellows inspiring ballads or cracks inappropriate jokes while doing so. Another of their unfortunate quirks is that despite being programmed to ham-handedly bond with their organic comrades, they are totally incapable of feeling remorse for their actions. Universally disliked and mistrusted by their fellow Bastards, the only reason the handful of nicks are given grudging respect is that their superhuman strength and heavily-armored frames make them extremely effective soldiers.

Gackervogels, also called gackers or cacklebirds, are a common sight in many a sprawl ghetto and shady Rimworld pub: they are scrawny-looking avian humanoids with oversized, saw-toothed beaks, dark eyes, hunched torsos and long, wiry limbs. Despite their corvine appearance, most of their body is covered in scales, their feathering largely restricted to a ruffed collar around their storklike throats. An opportunistic scavenger and ambush predator by design, their senses are incredibly powerful, particularly the senses of sight and smell; many these powers of perception make them excellent scouts and pathfinders. The cacklebirds got their nickname from the raucous, maniacal laughter they often produce, a sound most other species find incredibly grating. Though it may come as a surprise to many who’ve heard them, the vogels actually have an extensive vocal range and a natural affinity for mimicking sounds; many a gackervogel mercenary has used the call of a wounded soldier or crying infant to lure their prey into a trap. There is some contention among more intellectual Bastards about just how much of bastardchatter (which they speak with an unmistakable squawking accent) they actually comprehend and how much of it they’re parroting; either they simply reproduce sounds they find pleasing without grasping their meaning, or the cacklebirds just have a thing for incomprehensible non sequiturs.

The aptly-named tallboys are a cephalopodal species with a distinctive radial symmetry, resembling the common alcohol container in addition to standing over three meters tall. They have four legs spread equidistant around their cylindrical bodies with an equal number of long, articulate tentacles sprouting from between them, a beaked proboscis dangling from their underside, and a ring of eyes around their “rim” that gives the creatures a 360-degree field of vision. As a result, they rarely ever rotate their bodies in the way that bilateral species do (the abruptness with which a galloping tallboy can change direction takes some getting used to) and they often have difficulty communicating directions, having no concept of “front” or “back.” In fact, like the prawns, they often have difficulty communicating at all: much of their rumbling language is within the infrasonic range and inaudible to most Bastards. While they are not especially aggressive, tallboys are incredibly strong. Their arms can effortlessly heft heavy weapons or fling human-sized creatures aside with ease, and while their movements can hardly be called graceful, their bulk and thick hides belie the speed with which they can propel themselves.

When a particularly-indispensable Bastard is killed in the line of duty and enough of their grey matter is left intact, they can be replaced brought back as a clone know as a xox (pronounced “zocks”). However, while xoxing produces an exact genetic duplicate of the original, the process is not without drawbacks that limit its usefulness. Because it is nearly impossible to transfer sensory memories like smell and taste, the xox will be left with a half-formed sense of identity and a headful of sounds and images that only barely register on an emotional level. This is, of course, in addition to the crippling existential crisis that often comes with being the clone of a dead person. While it is theoretically possible continue xoxing a person indefinitely, inevitably the original personality will degrade to the point that all that remains are memories of violent death. A handful of such xoxes, spitefully clinging to functionality, form the core of the notoriously-unhinged Suicide Squadron.

Despite their non-sentience, the mutant mongrels known as swarm hounds are a much-beloved part of Bastard’s Bastards and probably the closest thing the regiment has to an official mascot. By definition chimeric creatures whose appearance can vary wildly between breeds, the archetypal swarm hound is an insane hodgepodge of mostly-canine, feline, and reptilian features: a massive, mastiff-like body with a distinctive ridged back, six long legs and semi-opposable paws that make them capable sprinters and climbers, and a broad skull and blunt muzzle filled with teeth shaped for crushing and tearing, as well as two sets of wicked fangs filled with a potent cocktail of neurotoxins. Endlessly loving and affectionate to those with the distinctive stench of the Crimson King on them, they are utterly ferocious to absolutely anyone else and display a gleam of catlike sadism in the way they harry their prey. Individual swarm hounds will often accompany their owners into battle, but the majority of them are released en masse to chase down fleeing enemies or overwhelm defensive lines; they are such prolific breeders that they require these regular culls to keep their numbers manageable.

Notorious Personalities

The eponymous founder of the Bastards and one of the most infamous mercenaries on the Rim, Colonel Boudicca Bastard herself is something of an enigma. Rumors about her early life and military career abound, the most credible placing her in the Azure Empress’ special forces during the Second Invertebrate Jihad, but the first confirmed sighting of a mercenary company calling themselves Bastard’s Bastards was when there appeared seemingly out of thin air during the Pandissian War of Succession, conducting a bloody four-day raid against the Pretender’s stronghold and returning triumphant with his severed head in hand, earning them both an handsome reward and reputation for unscrupulous violence that would only grow in the decades to come. Boudicca herself is a near-human female with a definite bluish tint to her skin and hair whose age is virtually impossible to guess; the lines around her eyes and grizzled streaks in her hair suggest middle-age, but she has the wiry, battle-hardened physique of someone much younger. She lost her left eye to a voon insurgent and though replaced by cybernetics, she likes the way it looks beneath a black patch. She speaks mostly in a low growl, her voice scratchy from the cigarettes she constantly chain-smokes, but can rise to an impressive bellow during her frequent rousing speeches. As a leader, she is nothing if not flamboyant, always waving and pointing and pounding her fist. Retired from footslogging, she spends the majority of her time on the bridge or in her war room, which occasionally leaves some with the impression that she is nothing but a toothless old tiger; this would be a mistake. There have only ever been three series mutiny attempts, and in all three cases the leaders were personally given a bullet in the back of their head when they least expected it. She is as wily and dangerous a killer as she ever was and on occasions where she leads from the front, she is only too happy to demonstrate this fact. There is talk among her subordinates that she is romantically involved with fellow mercenary captain Padma Grimm-Toron, leader of the Poor Company, as whenever the two mercenary bands meet during a campaign, both of their leaders tend to disappear at odd times.

Every Bastard is well-acquainted with the smooth, sultry voice of Donna Desolation. From her private studio deep within the King, she plays records and radio plays from her extensive pirated collection, takes calls from “her lucky bastards”, and passes along regiment-wide commands and alerts, albeit in a much more familiar manner than is typical for military vessels; her sign-off “steady for the boom” originally alerted the crew to brace for imminent atmo-break, but her delivery proved so irresistible that it eventually grew into one of Bastard’s Bastards unofficial slogans. Despite her unwavering popularity, few Bastards have ever met the reclusive MC in person and few who have cherish the experience; she seems human enough, provided one ignore the twenty or so unblinking, soulless black eyes that cover a sizeable portion of her face.

SWITCHBOARD is the Crimson King’s central mainframe and like the rest of the ship, it is a ramshackle amalgamation of wildly-disparate technologies: an outlawed cyberwarfare suite from an Inner Sphere dreadnought, a pholanti think-machine the core of alien probe supposedly from beyond the edge of the Rim, and a liquid processor made of the rare substance known as “abyssal blue”, a fluid that achieves sentience under sufficiently-high pressure. As a result of this patchwork structure, SWITCHBOARD is an extremely powerful AI but not one anyone would describe as particularly, well, sane. Normally coordinating Bastard communications and controlling a small fleet of unmanned drones, she has been known to leave soldiers in complete radio blackouts as revenge for perceived insults; the most certain way to get on her bad side is to use her unofficial title, BITCHBOARD, on any open frequency. Because her position in the ship puts her in the role of the ultimate voyeur and because her intelligence permits her an imagination unfettered by biology, she is a damn sight more sexual than most Bastards expect a computer to be, and most objects of her fickle and seemingly-random affection are taken aback by the luridness with which she expresses her feelings. Depravity aside, she is incredibly proud of her own abilities and brute-forcing her way through enemy networks and, for lack of a better term, “having her way with them.”

Helmsman was carved from the belly of a living biomechanical warship and transplanted onto the bridge of the Crimson King, and while he mourns the loss of his original home, he has no purpose or ambition beyond being a pilot, so it didn’t take long for him to make himself right at home. A many-armed, many-eyed crustacean physically wired to his console, it is unlikely that he would have any desire to stray from this spot even if such a thing were possible; he considers the ship and himself essentially one and the same, finding the Bastards’ need to give him his own name nothing short of quaint. He has little time for social niceties, snippy and condescending to those who distract him from his job, and not above hijacking the King’s comms to screech insults at an unfortunate engineer improperly manhandling “his” systems. As unpleasant as he is to interact with, his skill as a pilot and navigator is nothing short of incredible, and he’s saved the ship on multiple occasions with maneuvers few near-human pilots would’ve thought of, much less been able to execute.

If you’re curious about Boudicca’s most likely successor, look no further than Sergeant Joanna Blacke, leader of the much-renowned Blackguard section known as the Blacke Attacke. Born and raised among the Bastards and something of a military wunderkind, she was already racking up one of the highest kill-counts in the regiment by the time she was barely out of her teens. Her exploits are the stuff of pulp serials, stretching the bounds of credibility even for those who witness them first-hand. But Joanna also embodies some of the worst aspects of the Bastards: she is a flamboyant, hyperaggressive, and self-aggrandizing loudmouth who thinks her record entitles her to the best of everything and is seemingly lacking in the most basic of impulse control, her appetitive tendencies making her as much a liability as an asset while off-duty, and the arrogant enthusiasm with which she kills can be a little unnerving even by Bastard standards. While the rest of the Attacke can’t quite match her legendary record, all of them are hand-picked by Blacke and supposedly as superior to other Blackguards as they are to the rest of the regiment. She is never, ever seen far from the company of her best friend and trusty lieutenant Nadja Farrow, a comparatively more measured woman always ready to back Joanna up with a sneering barb of her own but unafraid to deflate her ego when it grows too unmanageable.

The Crimson King

Every bit as infamous as the company itself, the Crimson King is the Bastards’ mobile base of operations. Already rode hard and put away rusted by the time Boudicca found her floating in a ships’ cemetery, she has been modified and retrofitted so many times over that it is impossible to tell what sort of vessel she originally was. Her scarred hull is a dark gunmetal grey, the sole splash of color coming from the leering face of a crowned and bearded monarch painted on her bulbous prow in vivid red.

It’s worth noting that the vast majority of the actual crew of the King, from technicians and maintenance workers to comms operators and gunnery crews, are menials, not actual Bastards. For the most part, the rest of the regiment sees them as little more than indentured servants who have a faint chance of being promoted to the rank proper Bastards, but are for the most part completely replaceable.

The entire interior of the Crimson King is connected by an unevenly-lit labyrinth of windowless hallways and heavy bulkheads, dotted with display monitors and loudspeakers. At the fore end of the vessel is located the combined bridge and combat information center: a circular room lined with various stations and computer displays, including the primary Command and Control hub, Communications, Damage Control, Fire Control, Electronic Warfare, and Tactical Awareness, all networked to the TYPEWRITER mainframe housed in its own shielded room further into the ship. Navigation is controlled directly from Helmsman’s personal station near the center of the room, which sits directly below an elevated deck from which Boudicca and her command staff can survey the activities. Further back are the crew chambers. Bastards and important personnel like gunners and comms specialists sleep in modestly-sized berths, typically no more than six to a room, but the majority of menials are forced to hot rack in suffocating close quarters with as many as three crewmen sharing a single bunk. Since menials are not expected to stray too far from their work stations, these “coffin quarters” are spread throughout the length of the ship. Only high-ranking officers are afforded the luxury of their own private quarters and accompanying washrooms. For the rest of the crew, sanitation facilities (unisex, like everything else) are cramped and not particularly effective, as the King’s can only carry a finite amount out water and resupply is often not an option, so all waste must be recycled. The same system supplies the crew with their singularly-horrible meals, which, lacking any sort of formal mess, they are expected to eat in their bunks. The fore also houses the ship’s war room, a heavily-automated and surprisingly well-stocked medical bay, at least a dozen even more well-stocked armories, and a couple of fairly spartan crew lounges.

The midsection of the Crimson King houses the vessel’s battery of redundant life-support systems and sizeable water tanks, along with the recycling systems that maximize the efficiency of air and water use; as a result, the air aboard the ship always tastes faintly of metal, ozone, and sweat, and their water quickly turns cloudy. A substantial machine shop gives the Bastards the ability to manufacture their own weapons, vehicles, and ammunition in addition to modifying or breaking-down what they salvaged. Garages housing the Bastards’ collection of vehicles sit directly above the large dorsal hangar bay that takes up a significant percent of the King’s total internal space. One of these garages has been converted into living quarters for the tallboys and other large creatures, while another contains the improvised stables that house the regiment’s small menagerie of warbeasts. A pair of launch bays extending along the vessel’s flanks enable her to launch and receive fighters and smaller support craft, while heavier dropship transports must deploy from the primary hangar.

The majority of the aft is dominated by a single, massive hot-fusion reactor that supplies the vessel with all the power she could ever reasonably need, at the cost of keeping much of her rear end perpetually sweltering. Her powerful engines permit the Crimson King far more impressive speed and maneuverability than her bulk would suggest, while a battery of repulsors along her underside permit her to enter a planet’s gravity well without being dragged down to the surface, though maneuverability is virtually nonexistent once the ship breaks through the upper atmosphere. Because of the extreme heat and threat of constant radiation exposure, there’s little else located at this end of the ship: the sole exception is the brig, keeping prisoners nice and uncomfortable.

Not a true warship, the Crimson King’s primary armament are the rows of heavy flak batteries and countless smaller, automated point-defense turrets lining its flanks, capable of intercepting projectiles and shearing apart enemy fighters that strays too close. Missile tubes can be armed with a wide assortment of ordinance for targeting spaceborne or planetary targets: they are one of the common means by which the Bastards deploy their extensive arsenal of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons of mass destruction.

Bastard Culture

The anarchic culture that permeates Bastard’s Bastards is a mishmash of well-established military traditions, a distinctive esprit de corps, and the customs and folklore of the thousands of different worlds and moons from which the regiment draws its members, all of which is invariably colored by its extremely high women-to-men ratio and the oft-brutal realities of space travel and warfare along the Rim. Daily life within the confines of the Crimson King is a (rarely-literal) orgy of sex and death, the two extremes that the Bastards enthusiastically celebrate in equal measure. There is no taboo on inter-regimental fraternization and common wisdom plenty of animal rutting keeps the nerves sharp and the muscles firm, so it’s a safe bet that any given Bastard is going to spend a significant portion of their downtime screwing literally whoever will have them; due to environmental pressures and the lack of any unifying gospel on the matter, sexual orientation is considered a fluid, inconsequential thing. That is not to say there is never a deeper emotional component, but the love shared by however many Bastards is not the sort of deep, romantic connection most would think of. Their affection is crude, loud, and frequently difficult for outsiders to discern from hate, with blows to the jaw a common substitute for a kiss. The only facet of sex that they treat with any degree of actual reverence is pregnancy, due in large part to the adopted hazhrati notion of mother-as-warrior, but the invariably bloody, painful reality of giving birth on board the King does much to impress the idea as well. Bastard-born children are often not even told who their mothers are, but are raised communally by the members of her section and other close friends.

If at any point in time, two Bastards aren’t screwing each other like mindless animals, chances are they’re fighting like ones. By necessity, career mercenaries have to be comfortable with committing violence, but the Bastards seem to have a boundless enthusiasm for it that goes well beyond the pale. Fistfights (or tentaclefights) ending in blackened eyes, broken noses, and missing teeth are a common way of filling the long stretches of downtime while in transit. A good Bastardly brawl is as much dialogue as competition, an opportunity for those involved to swap pointers and work out minor disagreements while keeping in touch with what real pain feels like.

Because space is so limited in, well, space, most popular pastimes are ones that can be enjoyed in very close quarters without much equipment: countless card games (most of them played with the standard 82-card deck), equally-numerous dice games, knucklebones, stabscotch, darts, knife-throwing, dominos, boxing, wrestling, various forms of animal bloodsport, and other games one would typically see played in a Rimward pub. Most Bastards will gamble on just about anything they can, wagering everything from spoils of war and favorite sidearms to (mostly) good-natured physical abuse.

Bastard cuisine is singularly horrific, shaped by the necessity to recycle every last usable calorie and drop of potable water while out in the Black. Meals consist of proteins and carbohydrates, which have likely already been served (and eaten) several times before, thoroughly mixed together in an unidentifiable hash or extruded into long, thick noodles. Because it tastes exactly as good as one would imagine pasta made from pseudo-soy and shit might, it is always drowned in sauce spicy enough to strip the carapace off a prawn. The myriad of mutant pests that infest the cramped underbelly of the Crimson King are much more appetizing, but they lack the nutritional content to be anything more than a (comparatively) tasty snack. Recycled water can be kept palatable much longer by steeping crude teas in it, but it eventually reaches the point where it’s only marginally more hydrating than one’s own bodily fluids; this waste is taken and used to make the beverage affectionately known as “piss beer”, notorious for being as alcoholic as it is noxious. Their situation being what it is, it’s hardly a surprise that the Bastards have little compunction about cannibalism. After a battle, in addition to being stripped of anything of value, the bodies of the slain are butchered and their meat, fat, and blood used to make surprisingly-edible rations.

Besides odorous piss beer, the Bastards enthusiastically partake in every sort of upper, downer, screamer, and laugher, regardless of whether they come as poppers, snorters, smokers, or shooters. Automated systems aboard the King are able manufacture simple pharmaceuticals, and every Bastard gets an allowance of the stuff that they can access from vending machines around the ship. By and large, these are not “hard” drugs; they’re meant to keep soldiers fresh and peppy or liven up the doldrums, not leave them in insensate stupors or send them on hallucinogenic vision-quests. The glaring exception to this is the notorious family of psychotropic amphetamine-based combat drugs known as “kill-pills”: only ever taken in the field, these addictive stimulants jumpstart the neurotransmitters that control anger and aggression, keeping the user in a hyperaware killing mood for days at a time. This is, of course, takes a heavy physical and psychological toll, with users often literally collapsing the minute the drugs leave their systems and even a mild overdose can spiral into berserk frenzy. Most Bastards try to steer clear of the stuff, but many find themselves in unenviable positions where a handful of Slaught or Black/Blues might mean the difference between wearing down and staying sharp.  

As in any military force, Bastard culture is lousy with petty superstition. The specifics vary from squad to squad and platoon to platoon, but every solider has at least a handful of rituals and taboos that zealously observe and rarely bother explaining or rationalizing, like how having “Front Toward Enemy” on your weapon brings good luck or drinking hard liquor from a can basically being a death sentence. Most Veteran Bastards accumulate sizeable and eclectic collections charms and amulets that they carry with them at all times: everything from auspiciously-numbered hands of playing cards to pouches of dried herbs and near-human teeth to hand-carved alien fetishes. The Crimson King is filled with ugly, ramshackle little shrines honoring deities from all corners of the Rim: the Bastards are unsurprisingly fond of monstrous goddesses of sex and warfare with names good for invoking in curses, but like true mercenaries, less-bloodthirsty ones can still find adherents if they offer things like wealth or good fortune. Militaristic “household” god and trickster spirits are offered propitiations to subdue their misanthropic tendencies, while famous (or infamous) Bastards are often the subject of ancestor worship by their former units.

Another notable characteristic of their mercenary lifestyle is the sort of media they consume: in a nutshell, anything that lacks a sizeable amount of ultraviolent or pornographic content is not going to hold the average Bastard’s attention for very long. Sure, there are the snobs who spend their downtime reading ancient treatises on the art of warfare or listening to eloquent radio hosts discuss Sphere politics, but they get laughed at a lot by their less-refined peers. No, most Bastards prefer dime-store novels and four-color comics filled with thrilling pulp action, newsreel footage that doesn’t shy away from the grisly bits, slapstick comedies that border on the sadistic, low-budget skin-flicks featuring every species on the Rim, and other forms of entertainment that don’t require too much of an intellectual investment. Due to the sheer variety of local dialects, the most popular media tends to be more visual than literate. Much of the Bastards’ collection is either stolen or bought from local vendors, but that’s not to say they produce nothing themselves. Many Rimworlders are familiar with “Bastard bibles”: pocket-sized eight-pagers printed on scavenged paper, which often contain witty and incisive gossip about actual members of the regiment…mixed in with the lurid sexual exploits, of course. Other Bastards write sensational stories about their own units’ exploits (and scathing mockeries of others) to be passed around the King and occasionally hocked planet-side, but their colorful vernacular makes them all but unintelligible to most outsiders.

Beneath the cacophonous roar of machinery that echoes through the halls of the Crimson King, there is the marginally-quieter cacophony of Bastard music. Despite their ship’s atrocious acoustics, the group is actually very fond of music-making, every member contributing the traditions of their particular homeworld to be mashed together with others in ways that are rarely harmonious but always distinctly Bastardly. They prefer chordophones like the guitar, sitar, and hurdy-gurdy, which are common enough to steal and simple enough to jury-rig when they can’t find one to steal. While the actual sound of Bastard music might be unique to the musicians themselves (though there is a strong preference for droning and buzzing), certain themes definitely predominate their profanity-laced ballads: praises for the “virtues” of Bastard’s Bastards, shout-outs to the Bitch Queen herself and other important sods, swaggering boasts about the singers’ prowess in battle or bed, threats to prospective enemies that range from the ominous to the gruesome, etc. Together, they form a crude saga, an oral history unconcerned with minor details like accuracy or consistency. Many Bastards also compose songs specifically for the battlefield, whether to be sung en-masse or blared for vehicle-mounted loudspeakers; these are meant to unnerve and terrify the listener, featuring plenty of high-pitched shrieks and whoops, haunting chants, and grinding industrial acoustics.

Instantly recognizable to nearly practically any Rimworlder as the symbol of the infamous mercenaries, the highly distinctive colours worn by every member of Bastard’s Bastards is the only thing the regiment has that even remotely approaches a uniform . Most often a bombardier or blouson jacket made of leather, denim, or some other hard-wearing material, every set of colors is a form of anarchic heraldry unique to the Bastard who wears them. Even the most minimalist colours feature insignia on the sleeves and back that denotes the wearer’s unit formation, rank, and occupational specialty. Most are considerably more elaborate, with patches and emblems indicating the wearer’s nicknames, notable tours of duty, and decorated achievements; other popular additions include religious icons, popular slogans, kill markers, roundels, nazars, irreverent memento mori, leering gorgoneia, and licentious putti. It should be no surprise that many Bastards’ colours feature obscene images favorite pinup models like one of the strapping and well-hung Hunky Punks or the vertical smirk of Shelia Nagig.

The Fighting Bastards

Highly-mobile, heavily-armed, and broadly-competent commandos and stormtroopers, the Raiders are the backbone of Bastard’s Bastards fighting force, an elite special forces unit by the standards of any other army along the Rim. It is a point of pride that there are few military operations that there are precious few military operations that Raiders are incapable of undertaking: they can fight as lightning-fast mechanized infantry from the backs of the equally-versatile Waste Rat light trucks, as marines during amphibious assaults and espatiers during spaceborne boarding actions, as air cavalry, as infiltrators, as skirmishers, and as mountaineers. Likewise, Raiders are undaunted by all but the most truly inhospitable of environments: from frozen coldworld tundras and disease-ridden fenworld quagmires to scorching duneworld wastes and the miles-high stacks of hyper-urbanized sprawlworlds. Every Bastard begins their career as a Raider and the majority end them still proudly bearing the title.

While ostensibly considered light infantry, every Raider is staggeringly well-armed. Typically, each member of a twelve-woman section carries a small arsenal consisting of a heavy carbine as their primary weapon, a submachine gun or compact shotgun as a close-quarters secondary weapon, one or two additional sidearms, a dedicated melee weapon like a sword bayonet or tomahawk, several smaller blades, and a variety of grenades. Additionally, two or three members of the section will carry some sort of support weapon, most often a light machine gun or flamethrower. Underneath their colours, they wear a lightweight ballistic vest that does not restrict their mobility, but which offers only limited protection against modern firearms. They also typically carry a tactical radio headset, compact gas mask, clip/drop harness, and very basic medical supplies, with other gear depending on their role in the section.

While, as states before, the majority of Bastards do not stray far from the role of Raider, some soldiers either already possess or acquire over the course of their careers expertise that makes them suited for more specialized battlefield roles:

Destroyers are heavy infantry tank hunters who have survived enough lopsided engagements, whether through natural talent or sheer dumb luck, to have picked up on the art of defeating heavily-armored opponents; this expertise also makes them the most suited for taking out aircraft and oversized beasties. They specialize in the use of an extensive array of heavy support weapons: recoilless and anti-tank rifles, shoulder-fired missiles, fusion blasters, and coilguns should be able to disable an enemy vehicle with a well-placed shot, allowing plasma torch-armed Destroyers to cut their way through bulkheads and other weak points before dispatching the crew with submachine guns and frag grenades. Given that even relatively outdated armor can still make mincemeat out of soft targets that stray into their field of fire, the learning curve to become a Destroyer is brutal and the margin of error narrow; those who make a mistake are rarely get the chance to make another.  

Demolishers are combat engineers and sappers who specialize in breaking through fortified defenses as well as (to a lesser degree) constructing the Bastards’ own field fortifications, a role that is both technically and physically demanding: lugging a heavy kit of basic engineering tools in addition to their sidearms and any specialized equipment the situation demands, Demolishers must be well-versed in route clearance, minesweeping, mine placement, defusing booby traps, bridge-laying, and, of course, demolishing enemy structures and fortifications with explosive charges, all while under withering fire. They are also the ones tasked with operating siege weaponry, which means that they must also be able to safely handle and deploy the Bastards’ extensive stockpile of tactical (and not entirely stable) nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. As such, being a Demolisher is rarely something a recruit falls into: those with the guts and technical aptitude are tutored by veteran Demolishers, honing their skills as assault pioneers until they’re considered competent enough to become true specialists.

Boudicca Bastard’s pet psychopaths, Scalphunters are terror troops par excellence. Typically deployed far behind enemy lines, their role goes far beyond simple psychological warfare or assassinations: they become horrifying bogeymen in the imaginations of their foes, murderous shadows in the night, picking off isolated patrols one-by-one, creeping into their camps in the dead of night and leaving officers dismembered and disemboweled in their own beds. As such, joining their ranks requires not just a talent for infiltration and fieldcraft, but an imaginative enthusiasm for cruelty that goes far beyond the Bastards’ natural amorality. There is little love lost between Scalphunter teams and the rest of the regiment; in addition to the grisly mutilations they inflict upon themselves to confuse efforts to tell them apart, they have no qualms about putting their own compatriots in harm’s way, or outright executing them themselves, rather than risk the success of their mission. It is only their unquestionable impact on enemy morale that earns them the most grudging sliver of respect.

The moniker of “Ironclads” refers both to the suits of powered exoskeletons resembling hulking bipedal tanks and to the highly-specialized operators who pilot them. Micro-nuclear reactors power the complex system of servos that give the suits their incredible strength as well as their surprising speed and agility that is often belied by the layers of heavy armor that renders them all but impervious to even concentrated small-arms fire. They also feature support systems to keep the operator alive but not necessarily comfortable; the reactor keeps the interior of a suit suffocatingly-hot, so most pilots eschew all but the barest minimum of clothing, often making bailing-out a non-option. The standard Ironclad loadout is an array of quad-linked heavy machine guns and an underarm flamethrower on one arm and piston-driven thermo-claw on the other, making it a dangerous opponent for light armor as well as infantry, but the versatile chassis can be mounted with whatever armaments are required: the Ironclad Slammer, for instance, trades much of its close-range killing power for shoulder-mounted mortars, turning it into a walking artillery platform. The greatest flaw of the Ironclad is by far its sheer bulk; while it packs the firepower of an entire Raider squad, it also weighs nearly as much, making it nearly impossible to carry in anything other than a dedicated transport.

Rough Riders are essentially light cavalry outriders mounted on fast, powerful, and most often custom-built motorcycles that excel at running-down and harassing more sluggish opponents. In true Bastard spirit, every Rough Rider “mount” is well-armed for a vehicle of its weight, sporting a pintle-mounted machine gun (or sometimes two) between the handlebars; saddle holsters hold the rider’s other weapons, typically cavalry sabers and sawn-off shotguns. While their all-terrain tires and rugged suspension can tackle extremely broken terrain, they excel on flat, open terrain where they can charge their targets at full speed, strike in a lightning-fast blur, and disappear before their victims have a chance to react or regroup.

As mentioned before, the hard-wearing Waste Rat light truck is the backbone of the Bastards’ motorized force. It is difficult to overstate just how versatile a vehicle it really is: its sturdy tires and rugged suspension allow it to navigate broken or uneven terrain with ease. The robust “gin-sipper” engine can run on anything from bathtub moonshine to vegetable grease with only a few minor adjustments, yet is simple enough that most repairs do not require much by way of technical expertise. A single Rat can haul a compliment of six Bastards and roughly a ton of equipment, and while the open-topped, thinly-armored chassis offers little protection to its passengers, the medium MG mounted in the front and two light guns in the bed at least give them a little extra firepower to answer with. The Rat’s greatest strength, however, is the ease with which it can be modified for virtually any terrain: for instance, pontoons and a tail-mounted propeller permit Swamp Rats to navigate shallow water, while Snow Rats sports treaded tires and a super-insulated engine to prevent flameouts. It can also be outfitted with heavier siding and a turret-mounted support weapon (e.g. a light anti-air cannon or recoilless rifle) in its bed, the resulting gun truck often referred to as a Waste Warden; losing some of the Rat’s legendary speed and efficiency, it is not nearly as common a sight.

Not a variation on the Rat so much as a close cousin to it, the Waste Weasel is a squat, squarish, open-topped crawler light crawler with a surprisingly-thick hull. It only requires two Bastards to operate, a driver and a gunner who both sit at the front of the vehicle, the latter operating a light machinegun from behind an armored shroud. While the vehicle’s spacious bed could technically shuttle infantry, the Weasel was conceived as a support weapon carrier that would be able to keep pace with the fast-moving Rat. The scrappy little box can lug an incredible variety of weapons: howitzers, auto-mortars, quad-cannons, anti-tank guns, multi-rocket launchers, heavy flamethrowers, etc. Waste Weasels epitomize shoot-and-scoot tactics, slowing as little as it necessary to make an accurate shot and then immediately accelerating out of the line of fire, preferably to a blind spot where the crew can continue firing. If armed with a sufficiently high-caliber weapon, they are even capable of ambushing and defeating heavy crawlers and creepers, though doing so is still a risky proposition for a vehicle of their size. Every bit as adaptable as its cousin, the only glaring deficiency the Weasel has compared to the Waste Rat is that its tracks don’t allow it to make sharp turns while moving.

The Marauder armored car occupies a somewhat awkward strategic position, possessing neither the flexibility and operational range of the Waste Rat and its ilk nor the survivability and firepower of heavier armor. A squat, six-wheeled car with a single enclosed turret, its primary battlefield use is as a heavy reconnaissance vehicle, scouting ahead of the main force, but it also sees its impressive speed put to use running down fleeing infantry or acting as a screening force for retreating Bastards. The Marauder’s armor is not thick enough to reliably protect against anything more than small-arms fire, but as is something of a running theme, it is often considerably over-armed. In addition to a turret-mounted autocannon and co-axial heavy machine gun, the car sports a hull-mounted MG on its front and pintle-mounted twin-linked guns in its rear, as well as a pair of four-tube rocket pods on either side of its turret.

While the Bastards are footsloggers through and through, the garages of the Crimson King house a large and varied assortment of heavier tracks, crawlers, and even creepers. On the battlefield, most are manned by a crew of indentured menials with a single actual Bastard acting as vehicle commander; to motivate them, said crewmembers are often shackled to their stations or sealed in from the outside, ensuring that if their vehicle is lost, they go down with it. Despite this looming threat of horrible (likely flaming) death, there is rarely a shortage of volunteers, as successful crews have a chance to be promoted to the rank of Bastard Charioteer. The contempt the rest of the regiment feels towards career tread-lovers is mitigated by their undeniable effectiveness (in certain situations) and a touch of sympathy for the poor blighters mad enough to actually enjoy being cooped up in a hot, fume-filled metal coffin for days or even weeks on end.

Generally speaking, Bastards love assault guns: the simple, brutal elegance of an array of overpowered weaponry affixed to the casemate of a heavily-armored chassis designed to batter or blast its way through anything in its path. The old-fashioned but robust Grumbler crawler is by far the most popular design, so-named for the distinctive purr its engines produce. Its main armament is a daunting 140mm howitzer capable of both direct and indirect fire; in addition to the usual high-explosive and armor-penetrating shells, Grumbler crews often employ more exotic ammunition. Beehive canisters filled with thousands of ball bearings or flechettes can wreak havoc on unarmored targets, while thermobaric and chemical rounds are prefect for smoking out entrenched forces. Thanks to its thick hull, the vehicle can even weather the detonation of low-yield nuclear shells at relatively close-range. It is especially effective in the claustrophobic hell that is urban combat, able to smash through the surrounding architecture to ambush enemies or create new avenues for supporting forces. As a staple of Bastard armored warfare, it should be no surprise that it has spawned a number of offshoots and variations.

Bastardchatter

Bastardchatter is the closest thing the Bastards have to a native tongue, an unharmonious creole of dozens of Rimworld dialects, approximations of alien syllables, and corrupted military jargon that often grates on the ears of non-speakers. While difficult to understand (the Bastards don’t put much emphasis on things like syntax or pronunciation) it is impossible to mistake for anything else; in much the same way as coldworlders have over a dozen words to describe the color of snow, so too does Bastardchatter have over a dozen ways to tell someone to go fuck themselves.

Acker: a piece of antiaircraft artillery. Someone specialized in disabling these defenses is known as an “acker-smacker.”

Black, The: the void of space, typically has nostalgic or affectionate connotations.

Burner: a flamethrower or similar incendiary weapon.

Boiler: an incendiary direct-energy weapon.

Crawler: a track-driven ground vehicle.

Creeper: a vehicle that moves on legs rather than wheels or tracks.

Cutterfly: derogatory nickname for ground-attack aircraft, due to how easily they can be shot down.

Eye-popper: a boiler, after the gruesome-but-theatrical effect of the weapon boiling the aqueous humour in the victim’s eyes.

Frag: originally meaning a fragmentation grenade, it is one of the most common expressions in Bastard parlance, often used in place of or in conjunction with “fuck”.

Freen: to threaten death or serious injury, after the sound prawns often make when baring their razor-sharp mandibles.

Glazzers: a common form of Bastard skimmer, so named for how the electrostatic discharge from their crude anti-grav systems fuses loose particles into glass.

Gropo, groper: corruption of the old spacer slang “ground-pounder”, an insulting moniker for a terrestrial fighting force. Worn as a badge of honor by units like the Bastards, who generally distain career spacers and their ilk.

Guzzler: short for exactly what you think it’s short for. Alternatively, a term for an outdated or obsolete vehicle that can be used both disparagingly or affectionately.

Nazie: Rimworlder nickname for someone from the Inner Sphere, based on a common and less-than-flattering impression of how they talk.

Nuhu: slang for near-human, sometimes used disparagingly by non-humans.

Pressure cooker: a thermobaric weapon.

Skimmer: a hovercraft, does not denote any specific means of propulsion.

Sneezer, sneezie: a biological warfare agent.

Slammer: derogatory nickname for an overarmed mercenary who relies more on advanced technology and logistical support than actual skill. Alternatively, an indirect fire weapon like a mortar.

Spacer: someone who spends most of their life in space, particularly in the context of a military or merchant capacity. The natural enemy of the gropo.

Tilly: artillery, typically used with some flippant connotation.

Tracker: a halftrack.

Vape: to vaporize, often used in the same manner as frag, e.g., “Get vaped, slammer!”

Verter: occasionally-used term for vertical-take-off-and-landing (VTOL) aircraft.

Voon: an abomination, the opposite of everything it means to be a Bastard. The name of an emotionless warrior race that has had a decades-long blood feud with the Bastards.
« Last Edit: January 24, 2014, 01:12:23 PM by Superbright » Logged


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« Reply #1 on: September 13, 2013, 04:06:58 PM »

Pretty damn awesome!  I love the idea of xoxes especially.

What're you envisioning for the leadership structure?  Is there one guy at the top or a bunch?  An AI?  Mysterious general never seen in public?  Alien superintelligence?

What's advancement like?  Can you work your way up the ranks through good soldiering?
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« Reply #2 on: September 13, 2013, 07:28:25 PM »

Hm. Your xoxes remind me of John Scalzi's Ghost Brigades, was that also an influence? Your version takes on a darker and, I think, more interesting tone with more possibilities, however.
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« Reply #3 on: September 13, 2013, 08:19:55 PM »

Steerpike

Pretty damn awesome!  I love the idea of xoxes especially.

I didn't expect for them to steal the show quite as much as they seem to have: half the reason I included them at all was because of how pleased with myself I was for coming up with the name.

Steerpike

What're you envisioning for the leadership structure?  Is there one guy at the top or a bunch?  An AI?  Mysterious general never seen in public?  Alien superintelligence?

Hah, forgot that most people never saw my original summary of them. The Bastards are led by the eponymous Colonel Boudicca Bastard, who's essentially the lovechild of Col. Hunter Gathers and Tank Girl, with some swaggering WWII commander thrown in there as well. Her and her eccentric command staff (one of whom I'm considering making an AI run on a ramshackle mainframe cobbled together over the years) technically have absolute authority, but usually they're content to let their subordinates do as they will.

Steerpike

What's advancement like?  Can you work your way up the ranks through good soldiering?

Apart from the commanders, ranks are something of a formality. There's no ironclad hierarchy: the Bastards are a gleefully anarchic lot and getting a position of authority is mostly a matter of experience and personal charisma. Companies and platoons are more like gangs than anything else, groups of underlings the most decorated veterans have accumulated over the years, and I imagine the process of sorting out who goes with who before an assault would resemble captains picking dodgeball teams.
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« Reply #4 on: September 18, 2013, 12:27:05 PM »

Added a bit on the Bastards' hideous culture, if anyone's interested.
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« Reply #5 on: September 18, 2013, 04:14:20 PM »

Still impressing me.  It's a culture steeped in the abject, the re-purposed, the squalid, the profane... definitely my cup of (oft-recycled) tea.

I notice there's no mention of religion.  Are we dealing with a mostly-atheistic future that's mostly done away with faith, or is the Crismon King filled with ugly little shrines, or is there some kind of semi-official "company god" or whatnot?  Or something totally different?
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« Reply #6 on: September 19, 2013, 03:59:43 PM »

The latest update should answer your questions and might raise a few new ones as well.
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« Reply #7 on: September 19, 2013, 06:56:05 PM »

Superbright, this is awesome!  You're inspiring me big time!  Do you intend to create a setting around the Bastards or use them as a plugin?
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« Reply #8 on: September 19, 2013, 07:20:50 PM »

It'll be built around them, since they've got a very specific retro-future vibe that would probably fall to pieces if jammed into a different setting. I've made allusions to the wider universe with the macrocorps, Inner Spheres, etc., that I'll flesh out down the line. Glad to know you like what I've got so far!
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« Reply #9 on: September 19, 2013, 10:17:46 PM »

Like it?  It makes me wish that Mnemosyne game had materialized!  I almost want to revisit it now.
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« Reply #10 on: September 19, 2013, 11:30:07 PM »

>>most of them played with the standard 82-card deck)

Why 82? More suits?
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« Reply #11 on: September 24, 2013, 10:38:27 AM »

There's some about the Bastards' military organization and battlefield roles, which means I'll probably have to get down to the nuts and bolts of their tech sometime soon. Since I'm developing this piecemeal, is anyone confused by something and want it better explained? Any tidbits you'd like me to flesh out? Any more general comments or critiques?

Oh, and Light Dragon, it's because the traditional European tarot deck has 78 cards in it and I imagine the Bastards would've added another obscenely-named face card. Or in other words, it's sci-fi and I'm trying to be difficult.
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« Reply #12 on: September 24, 2013, 09:10:26 PM »

Glad there's an explanation. That's a good one!

As an aside: "traditional European tarot deck"... are there non-European tarot decks? If so, please educate me.

I'd be interested in hearing about the culture before the technology. I'm interested in what their favorite movies/books/songs are and how that contributes to their badass personae. laugh.
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« Reply #13 on: September 27, 2013, 12:22:44 PM »

Okay Light Dragon, added some about media and specifically music. Let me know what you think.

Given the source material, there will absolutely be psychics and other supernatural influences, but I'm trying to stay away from anything too Lovecraftian. Mostly, I think otherworldly insanity is a bit...played out, for lack of a better word, in pop culture right now, and I think it'd detract from the real horrors that underlie the setting: the horrors of being shot at by tank-pulping coilguns, of being shot at even by more mundane weapons, of explosive decompression, of unrestricted NBC warfare, etc.
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« Reply #14 on: September 27, 2013, 06:51:31 PM »

This just gets better and better.
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