Posted on Sat Jan 7th, 2012 @ 10:46am by Master Julian Salazar
Edited on on Sat Jan 7th, 2012 @ 10:47am
Chapter 2: The Map says 'Go Here'
Location: Cannon Deck, Steamhawke
Timeline: Just before landfall
Salazar had spent his morning, as per usual routine, patrolling the decks before breakfast. After a warm meal, though, and a day free of drills and duty, he spent some alone time below, inspecting the cannon deck. It had been some time, prior to boarding the Hawke, since Julian had fired a cannon, let alone commanding a crew to do so. The smell of the steel and the stone and the gunpowder, it brought memories flooding back to him. He sat down quietly, the deck otherwise deserted, and ran his leathery hand up the side of one of the cannons, enjoying the cold, brutal feel of the metal against his fingers. It took him back. Way, way back.
Salazars time in the Old Western armed forces had been long and dreary. He'd seen a lot of blood shed, a lot of homes destroyed, a lot of lives and families ruined with the pull of a trigger, the shout of a command, or the signing of a combat report. Growing up on the ranch with his parents, a passive and loving environment, it seemed strange that such a man could adapt to the pure carnage that was the military, enforcing the martial law that kept the Old West from total anarchy.
In his last tour of duty, with Belinda and the kids waiting at home, Salazar had been the head of a Heavy Weapons team that was part of the 52nd Division responsible for 'liberating' a small rancher town called Calaraton. The place was a nothing blip on the map. One in ten of the troops had heard of it before - none of them had ever been there. The reasoning, high command had said, was that it's insignificance in the grand scheme made it the ideal base of operations for a local militia unit. High Command had been right, of course.
The small town, built to support maybe a hundred or two people, was teeming with resistance. It took the Frontliners, the riflemen who would usually lead the charge, a full three days to break through the outer perimeter to allow for the rest of the Division to head in. There were no heavy weapons, though. No forts, no steamtanks, nothing but a few hundreds citizens armed with rifles and blades, fighting for their right to govern themselves. By the time Salazar and his team got into the combat, all that was left was the blood-red dirt and the clean up teams. It was a bloodbath.
High Command called it the most astounding 'tactical victory' in three decades. Nobody else even those who received the iron stars for it, saw it as anything else but a bloody execution. An unnecessary one. There were no top secret plans revealed. No assassination plots discovered. Nothing that made this small town of men and women (and children), half of which were the local inhabitants, any more of a threat than the British Navy massing across the oceans. Sure,t he people here fought back. Sure, they hated the government. Who didn't? They were defending their homes from a fully fledged military incursion. What did the top dogs expect? They'd roll over and surrender. Sometimes Salazar wished they had.
He remembered one scene quite well; an old barn in which some kind of meeting amongst the rebels had been taking place. The men and women in there, dozens in total, had been meeting with some other force who, according to reports, managed to get out alive and evade the clean up teams. The rebels present, though, were slaughtered like cattle. Some of them had still be sitting around the large round table, their blood staining the papers on the table. Papers written up for a trade agreement with another town.
It made Julian sick to think about. There were multiple reasons why he'd disbanded. One of them was clearly his family, a matter he liked thinking about even less that his war days, and a matter which he believed he'd taken care of.
The other was Calaraton.
The old mans thoughts were interrupted by a young boy who came wandering down the stairs, looking for the Master Gunner.
"Master Salazar, sir." He said nervously, fully aware that he was interrupting.
"We've spotted land."
He gave a nod and dismissed the young boy, looking out at the approaching islands. The breeze was cool on his face, drying his moist eyes, and he gave himself a few more moments to compose himself before standing up and grabbing his cane. The men and women of the Hawke couldn't see their old, gnarled Master Gunner getting nostalgic, nor emotional. No, it was time to be the old Grumpy Salazar again. And with that thought, Julian pulled himself together and began hobbling up onto the deck, cane in hand.
He would have just stayed on the ship, right there and there, if he'd known that his past was about to catch up with him.