1. Flipdarkfuture
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    Flipdarkfuture Member

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    writing a war story, how do I deal with the interludes between battles?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Flipdarkfuture, Oct 17, 2011.

    Hey guys, this is my first post in this forum so don't hold back.

    The story scene I'm trying to set out is a battle, specifically over Hoover Dam. And I'm absolutely stumped as to what to write about in the interludes between battles. I've currently got something about two soldiers on patrol at night. What do I write about? How do I write it out? Can you please help me?
     
  2. Dithnir
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    Dithnir Member

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    It sounds like you have the 'action sequence' sorted in your head but nothing else. For me it's everything but the action sequences that lend them the weight.

    Starting with your two soldiers on patrol, there would surely be dialogue, a chance here for some exposition, if you're careful, woven perhaps into their conversation about the troops or their captain, or their last mission.

    Perhaps you don't have an understanding of who these men are sufficiently for stuff to write about them to present itself as compelling. My first port of call would be to give them names and a background, a rank, what happened to them that morning, that afternoon, some joke they were told.
     
  3. Dithnir
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    Dithnir Member

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    It sounds like you have the 'action sequence' sorted in your head but nothing else. For me it's everything but the action sequences that lend them the weight.

    Starting with your two soldiers on patrol, there would surely be dialogue, a chance here for some exposition, if you're careful, woven perhaps into their conversation about the troops or their captain, or their last mission.

    Perhaps you don't have an understanding of who these men are sufficiently for stuff to write about them to present itself as compelling. My first port of call would be to give them names and a background, a rank, what happened to them that morning, that afternoon, some joke they were told.
     
  4. AtAvi5t_Ev3Nt
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    AtAvi5t_Ev3Nt Member

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    What are they patrolling? Why are they patrolling? Normally, two soldiers wouldn't "patrol". A platoon (20 to 30 soldiers) or a squad (5 to 10) would more likely patrol. (and certainly NOT on top of the largest terrain feature available!) From what you've given, I'm envisioning them walking back and forth across the top of the dam, smokin' and jokin' instead of doing the job. The two soldiers may be sentries, I suppose, but that type of "duty" doesn't happen just anywhere and certainly not in a hostile area. More background please! I have 20 years experience soldiering (still am...), if I can lend insight (and you if you want it), I will.
     
  5. AtAvi5t_Ev3Nt
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    AtAvi5t_Ev3Nt Member

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    On the topic of what soldiers do between battles:

    Depends. How imminent is the threat of more fighting? How close are they to the front? How heavy has the fighting been? How many soldiers are getting killed? Are they being resupplied?

    Generally, if the threat is nominal, (and I would instill this in my soldiers) clean your weapon, check your gear, check your buddies gear. Eat. Sleep if you can. Then clean your weapon, check your gear, check your buddies gear. Eat. Sleep if you can. After that, clean your weapon, check your gear, check your buddies gear. Eat. Sleep if you can. Get it?
     
  6. Silver. Fox
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    Silver. Fox Member

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    Well, I'm not an expert on history or battles...or war...by any means, but I think it would be fair to say that you should tell your readers exactly what the two soldiers are doing. Why are they patrolling? What are they doing? What are they saying? (Yay dialogue!) If it wouldn't be out of place and if the two characters are mains, then I feel you should give them some back story even if it's just to pass the time. How do they feel about the war? Did they leave anything behind? What's the first thing they'll do when they get home or when the war's over?
     
  7. Tessie
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    Tessie Contributing Member Contributor

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    I suggest reading up on your subject. Between battles there are plenty of tasks soldiers do and such as have already been said: eat, sleep, clean the gear, strategize. In the end, you are the one who must create the scene, so find some similar material, and good luck.
     
  8. Jack Mackerel
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    Jack Mackerel New Member

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    As above, definitely place in dialogue and character expansion. Note how that war films and other action movies usually have dialogue and "calm" periods in between the actiony bits - for obvious reasons, war isn't shoot 100% of the time. Provide some exposition and who-likes-who-and-who-doesn't, gossip, establishing character moments, et cetera.
     
  9. James Berkley
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    James Berkley Banned

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    Depends on time period but for much of history they would be board. people have described war as long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror. This description has also been applied to police work and EMS work too, I can only attest that it is true for the last one. It probably a bit different now with a changes in the enemy we fight, however there is still lots of non-battle stuff that is involved in a war.
     
  10. colorthemap
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    I'm a moron I just posted a thread about war stories, dumb dumb dumb. Hopefully mine is different enough.

    Oh and writing without looking back helps.
     
  11. Excise
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    Excise Member

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    Most of the time spent in war is not actually in battle. There's tons of stuff for soldiers to do. Catch R&R, go out on guard duty, phone/write letters to their spouses, chitchat over a meal, haze the new guy, vent their frustration out on one another, peel potatos (or some other menial, army-type labour), stand around a big map making strategic plans (if they're officers), visit the medward to angst about their lost buddies.

    If you're set on having a patrol, then what exactly are they patrolling? Making sure nobody gets close to their lines? Reconnaissance to the enemy base? Scouting out the inevitable battlefield?

    Interludes between battles is where the real character development can come in.
     
  12. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    To me, the intervals between the battles would be the real book. I'd be rather tempted to skip the battle descriptions altogether. :)
     
  13. Goldstein
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    A battle on the Hoover Dam? Sweet, that sounds awesome. However, the fighting sequences shouldn't be the focus of the story. That doesn't mean they can't be cool. But don't make it the only thing you concentrate on.

    If it's only two soldiers patrolling, sounds like they're guarding a small area. Are they manning a checkpoint of some sort? Are they part of a band of mutineers, and they're serving as the night watchmen so the rest of the group can sleep? Were they separated from the rest of the squad and have been ordered to hold this spot?

    Try to build a contrast. Have them kid, joke around, talk about their families, then BAM! RPG blows up some concrete right next to them. And they both poop their pants.
     
  14. SeverinR
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    SeverinR Contributing Member

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    A patrol of two would either be a guard keeping a specific location watched, a post watching for enemy to report back,
    or scouts, specially trained to work in few numbers, still two is pretty small.

    Battle over the dam?
    Probably trying to prevent sabotage or its destruction. One cuts the power, the other destroys alot down stream.

    When not in battle:
    clean the weapons, ensure you have enough ammo, eat, hygiene(including the call of nature), check communication,
    if traps make sure they have not been messed with. Make sure the "towards enemy" is still facing the right way.
    If using fox holes, there is the ever improvement to it, or concealing it.
    Discussions anything and everything, from the worst of the last battle, to the worst fight ever, to some stupid memory of childhood. It is dealing with the stresses of battle, the deversion from facing the stress, just something to remind you your human, and that there is/was peace in the world.
     
  15. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Totally agree. the real story is what happens between battles. And to get a more humane feeling of it (to get a contrast to the battle scenes) why not include soldiers talking about their families and everything they left behind as a change from all the other battle related stuff? maybe they have wives and kids they don't know if they will ever see again, stuff like that. I think that is what makes those kind of novels good, not the battle scenes in themselves. treat them like humans who's lives were interrupted when they left for the war. who were they? Where did they come from and what was their background? maybe they would prefer not even being there. choose a number of people and tell their stories before they left for the war and how they deal with it now that they're there.
     
  16. Flipdarkfuture
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    Flipdarkfuture Member

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    Yes its actually a fanfic for Fallout New Vegas that starts with the final battle of the game. The soldiers are part of the New California Republic, essentially a new democratic nation. The enemy is Caesar's legion, a faction of Roman themed slavers.

    As for the two soldier's backgrounds, I'm not really sure since there wasn't much in the game to start with.

    One of them is corporal O'Hanrahan,who's essentially a farm-boy given a gun. While the other is his seargeant, Mags. She's been stuck with the misfit squad, and wants to be chosen for Ranger training.

    Apologies about the extremely late reply, my internet has been down alot recently.
     
  17. Devrokon
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    Devrokon Senior Member

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    The battles should include the action but what about the experience of war? The sorrow? The anger? The bitterness? Doesn't that give you enough to write about in the downtime between the battles?
     
  18. je33ie
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    je33ie Member

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    Also, do you have to limit it to just what the couple of soldiers on patrol are doing, and in chronological order? A couple of options to fill the spaces I was thinking of were:

    - flashbacks to their childhoods, training experience, previous experiences with wars or watching their parents go to war etc.
    - point of view of the people left behind at home - wives, children, lovers etc.
    - point of view of the enemy strategising an attack, making ground etc.
    - point of view of the leaders of the New Vegas they are defending etc.
    - point of view of their own leaders who are maybe based elsewhere and barking orders to them etc.

    This would make it a more rounded and interesting story.

    Good luck! Sounds like fun. :)
     
  19. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    Farm boys were considered ideal soldier material, because they're used to working hard and taking orders. He probably won't complain a lot about the work, and would be in good physical shape even before he starts training (and he'd already know how to dig well!). But combat might be a big shock to him as it sinks in that he could die, that any of his army buddies could die - the first combat experience is likely to freak out all the new recruits. Maybe have him talk wistfully of back home on the farm, and the girl he's thinking of marrying, trying to reassure himself that he's going to survive by planning his future.

    Mags probably would feel pretty resentful about being in the misfit squad. Firstly, an important question is why has she been stuck in the misfit squad? Is it just a random choice? Is she a misfit herself? Are her superiors impressed by her and want her to get them to shape up? She probably won't know which of those it is, so you could have any combination of reality and what she believes. The reason why they sent her there might give you a hint about what she's like - a misfit would be pretty different from someone expected to fix the squad.

    Depending on what kind of person Mags is, she could react a variety of ways. She could just sigh and work hard, hoping if she does a good enough job they'll recognize her for Ranger training. She could start trying to work in ways to show off her Ranger potential, possibly at the expense of doing what she's actually supposed to be doing. Or she could do a shipshod job because she doesn't think this post matters, while complaining to anyone who'll listen about how she really should be in Ranger training.
     
  20. superpotroast
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    superpotroast New Member

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    Maybe you can write Mags as being very devoted to her duty, and wants to be seen in a better light to her superiors, since she's in this 'misfit squad'..But O'Hanrahan on the other hand is more of a talker and while they're both assigned to be sentry\patrol O'Hanrahan is trying to talk to her, but she's not really in the mood..That would give opportunity to get into O'Hanrahan's past and eventually, later in the story, you could make Mags open up, like after a big devastating battle or something..
     
  21. Flipdarkfuture
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    Flipdarkfuture Member

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    Thanks guys, I've made a chapter that deals with the interlude after the first few hourse, can you tell me how it looks?

    It may be a bit long.

    still WIP.

    Chapter 4: longus nocte procedit

    NCR defensive line. Hoover Dam.

    The last rays of the Mohave sun fell short of the ground, stopped in their tracks by mighty dark clouds bearing down from the north, the land was blanketed in darkness, and not even the stars would shine tonight.

    A light spray of rain patted down over the top of the wall, creating a orange haze around the lit up NCR positions. Mags slumped down against a wall of sandbags, her helmet leaning forwards over her face, rifle resting on her forearms. Her eyes were downcast as she rested there, trying to recover some stamina and willpower for the next onslaught. All across the NCR's positions this was seen, on privates without a unit, snipers without a spotter, and on weary field medics. A MRE lay abandoned near the butt of her rifle, the contents undisturbed. She shivered as the memory of blood, fear and screams came rushing back, she felt like crying, but nothing came out. Her hands shook as she remembered the meaty thunk her of her rifle as she clubbed a legionaire. She stuck her hands under her armpits, attempting to quell the shaking. Luckily no-one was around to see her like this, at least that was a small relief. A bearded support gunner walked by, tearing into a MRE. His boots crunching on loose bits of concrete as he stopped in front of her. She sniffed as she looked up at him, tears carving furrows in on her dirt encrusted cheeks. He sighed, and sat down next to her, his prized browning nestled in the crooks of his elbows as he fumbled around for some polishing and cleaning agents. Silence descended over them as the rain thickened, sagging the canvas shelters with their weight. After a while Mags spoke.

    "I've always aimed high, Alvarez. Always gunned for the big jobs, the high-risk and high-reward ops, I was on the fast track to a place with the Rangers, I knew it back at boot camp, my instructors did too. That's why they pushed me far more then any other recruit there. Then I messed up. I did. Not the squad, nobody else, just me. Remember Bitter Springs?" Alvarez's eyebrow rose up.

    She sighed and closed her eyes, "I was the one who called in, who mistranslated the orders. Got alot of people hurt." Alvarez was speechless.

    The rain grew heavier and heavier, turning into a downpour. Must be hell for the troops down the sides Alvarez noted.

    She continued on.

    "Then I got stuck with the misfits, the so called "worst squad ever", a pacifist farm boy, a know it all slacker, and a messed up raider. Sorriest bunch I ever saw. They all said we couldn't do anything right, no one believed in us. Well. Except for McCredie." her hands clenched in frustration. " I- We- proved them wrong, made them into some pretty damn good grunts, even Poindexter managed to scrape through" Alvarez chuckled. "But that was all before, well" she held her palms up, gesturing to the whole area. "This. This fucking blood-bath. I have to take them in once again, and make them heroes." she sobbed once more, "And there I was thinking back then how fantastic it would feel to be a Ranger." tears welled up in her eyes. "But you know what? Screw that for a joke, Rangers get into terrifying stuff like this everyday, most of the time while alone out there! I can't even handle just sitting here waiting for those savages to come! How the hell can I face up to voluntarily taking their lives and risking others!"

    the rain grew heavier, making the canvas roofs sag audibly.

    She broke down into tears, wrapping her arms around herself.

    O'Hanrahan bent down, placing his rifle against a line of sandbags; he unclipped his water bag and took a long draught from his water bag, making sure to hydrate before his watch came up. He wiped his lips with his hands; and clipped it back onto his belt. Picking up his rifle he began to make his way to a hastily constructed lean-to, in it lay four brown packs with sleeping bags rolled up and placed next to them, and one rucksack filled with ammo and extra medicine. He sat down next to his, and pulled the zip, revealing a small heap of objects. He poked his hand through the pile, rummaging for something very important, the back shifted slightly and rattled as heavy arms fire chattered away in the hills on both sides of the river, just because the main offensive had started didn't mean the other positions weren't under siege. Poindexter scratched his neck as he walked, he snagged a roll of duct tape from Razz's pack, normally he wouldn't dare touch his stuff, but Razz had been missing for a few hours and he wasn't in any hurry or mood to look for him.

    He sat down near O'Hanrahan and held his glasses in the palm of his gloved hand, and began wrapping the tape around the joint, taking longer than usual, something to do was better than nothing to do.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Hoover Dam, central tower.

    Disposable lanterns were scattered around the room, struggling to keep even half of the room lit. The reach of the lanterns ended in front of a four star general and his colonel, gathered around a central map of the battle raging below.
    Oliver clasped his hands behind his back as he scrutinised the map. Colonel Moore tapped the edge of the table with a gloved finger, waiting for a late Courier to arrive with some news about the Legion. Oliver rubbed his chin as he formed plans and strategies.
    "Colonel, what's our current battle strength?"

    Moore sighed as she answered "We have at least 500 people currently on the D line, with another 300 in the bowels of the Dam. And another 200 spread out among the cliffs fending off flanking manouevers across the river." she focused her attention on the Dam's wall, and the five red little blocks lined up side by side. She mentally groaned as she saw the huge forest of black and crimson blocks on the Dam's eastern approach. She then wanted to punch Oliver in the face when her eyes swept over a staggered collumn of 'specialised troops' situated near Boulder. Ranger's and Heavie's would be invaluable on the D line right now, especially with the night settling in. the wooden table made a quiet scratching sound as her finger dug into the weak wood. Oliver didn't notice.

    He focused on the specialised collumn of troops, mentally checking deployment times and what orders they would be given. he switched his gaze to Colonel Moore, and gave her a curt nod "What are the reports saying?".

    She clapsed her hands behind her as she began "Our battalion on D line is operating at a third of their efficiency, partly due to weather and casaulties, which are currently at 100 wounded, and 30 KIA." she swept her hand to the smaller blocks on the western bank "So far our defending units have repelled a combined force of at least 200 Legionnaires, although..." her hand hovered over three small red blocks right next to the Dam's wall "3rd battalion reported that while engaged with 40 assailants, 10 escaped into the facilities at the bottom of the Dam, they have a direct path to the generators, Sir" Oliver responded with an annoyed grunt. She noticed the bags under his eyes. Not a good sign.

    He looked up at her, his bars gleamed in the dull light "What about our specialists? The Heavy's and Rangers?", Moore focused her gaze on the forest of triangle blocks scattered in the hills behind their side of the river dam. "we have at least 10 squads of Heavys, hunkered down in the hills in the area. They will wait for the enemy's final push and break through their lines, taking the enemy's doorstep." she paused for a moment. "Sir if I may?" she inquired. "yes Colonel?" she bent over the table, her hands resting on either side of the map. "Why can't we release the Heavy's now? D line is taking a pounding sir, and the Legion already had us outnumbered at the beginning of the battle." Oliver rubbed his chin with a gloved hand "I have my reasons Colonel, and you may be surprised to know they aren't about glory or dramatics."

    Moore's cheeks flushed slightly in embarrassment "sorry sir, the troops..." He silenced her with a sweep of his arm "Yes I damn well know what the troops think of me! Now shut up and listen Colonel!" he brought his fist down the table, rattling the blocks.

    "Three reasons why I can't send them down to the Dam. One." he rose one finger "They aren't equipped with night vision or thermal scanners, making target aquisition impossible. Two." another rose up "Movement is restricted on the Dam at the best of times, if I sent them now they would be fighting in close quarters, and since their armour is scavenged, their combat effectiveness will plummet. And lastly?" his third finger rose "I just had intel come in that the Courier is on his way here, we can let him bloody the Legion and weaken his forces. That'll teach that bastard to cross the Bear!", a dangerous fire shone in his eyes.

    But Moore didn't care, her face was a mask as she shook with rage and indignation. Her men were going to get slaughtered tonight just to satisfy this prick's ego! Oliver shouted at her, breaking her out of those dangerous thoughts "Dismissed Colonel!". She swallowed her pride and straightened, snapping off a salute as she exited the room. Oliver went over to his desk and and sat down with a heavy sigh, dragging a bottle of very old whiskey and a even older shot glass from his desk drawer. He set them both down on the old table with a wooden thunk. Dust tumbled around as it was disturbed by the impact. He picked up the little shot glass, studying it with sullen eyes. With a sigh he dropped it back into the drawer, grabbed the whiskey by the neck and took a long draught.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Courier's camp, Western bank.

    The canvas mats formed a canopy over the camp site, providing cover and dryness from the heavy storm raging. Arcade sat on a rock, brooding. He had been travelling with the others for a month now, he was with them when the Courier drove the Fiends out of New Vegas, he was there when he and the others watched the Courier dissapear before their very eyes when he examined a strange satellite. He had been through a lot in a very short time, something which all of them can attest to. He realised that the last 3 months passed by at a quick pace, at least now that they have passed. At the time he met him, he was just a Doctor with the Followers, and even then not a great one. In the time since then he had killed so many living things, something which will probably skyrocket tommorow. The battle tommorow would be huge, even bigger then the siege of Navarro, which he saw as a terrified kid hiding behind his mother in a Vertibird with two soldiers, their commander, a doctor and a pilot. He wasn't sure if he would survive tommorow, nobody here was. His gaze steeled as he pushed down the dark thoughts. No! They would survive! If not for the Mohave, then at least for each other. A single nod finished his mental discussion.

    "Something bothering you, boy?" a black giant loomed over him, peering down with a kind but wrinkled face. Judah Kreger.

    He looked up at him "Just thinking about how many pieces of us will be cleaned up after tommorow."

    Judah chuckled, his eyes shining in the warm glow of the fire. "You and your wit. You are very transparent, you know?"

    Arcade grumbled "Am not."

    Judah teased him "Yes you are! Your young friend told me herself!", Arcade protested "I am not transparent! I am a perfectly complicated man who just happens to hide insecurities behind intellectual wit and situational sarcasm."

    Judah was unfazed "Well be that as it may, you aren't as aloof as you pretend to be."

    Arcade grew serious "Yeah, I wish was though. It would help with alot of things." Judah fell silent.

    The young man carried a lot of baggage.

    "Hey, look." he placed an armoured hand on Arcade's shoulder. He made no motion to brush it off.

    "From what I've heard you and your friends have been through a lot together, haven't you?" Arcade glumly nodded. "You've saved each other countless times?" He nodded again. Judah's face brightened "Well whaddya have to worry about then? As long as you guys stick together, you'll do fine. Its what we did at Navar-"

    suddenly Judah fell silent, Arcade glanced at him, a deep sadness was in the old man's eyes, he suddenly looked very tired. He placed his left hand on Kreger's.

    "We did it there, and We can do it here." was all Arcade said. They both stared at the fire, lost in its depths.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Field outside of the Courier's camp.

    The ground quaked as a massive Golden Gecko waddled into the clearing, towards the inviting pile of Yucca fruit in the center. Its orange eyes swiveled to sweep the brush around the clearing, checking for any scavengers or others of its brood. Satisfied, it croaked and flicked its tongue out, tasting the sweet nectar on the air.

    It came to a stop in front of the pile, and tore in. Stuffing its face full of the sweet fruit. Two figures crept up behind it, one holding a caravan shotgun and the other a strange contraption on her wrist.

    The one holding the caravan shotgun chuckled "This will be easier then we thought huh?".

    The girl with the contraption snorted "Sure, not like last time right?", she chuckled quietly.

    The other one scowled "You can be such a bitch sometimes, Veronica." she chuckled, "I must be doing something right."
     

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