Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer

Imagine a frontier settlement from any decent cowboy film. Then substitute troops of the Galacta Navir for every cowboy. Make the planet it sits on something beyond arid and set the humidity to nearly zero.

Welcome to my world: Rumbleday; the planet under the Clervoy Orbital Refreshment Facility. A mean hunk of dust and rock under a pitiless sun that has only one real moon and twenty-eight fake ones.

I’m Paladin Anderson Brent and I’ve just woken after returning to town from a trooper’s disciplinary hearing late yesterday. The Galacta Navir likes to keep its troopers keen: Inter-battlegroup rivalry is encouraged and the “Cleansweep” bonus scheme adds a lethal frissance. It also means that off-duty rucks are invariably messy.

It’s ten before fourteen on a thirty-nine hour day and the chime of the mainline is an unwelcome interruption of my sleep-in. At least Arty sounds unhappier than I am: “Tabitha just called from Galadriel Port; the elites of Chevalier de Anjou just landed.”

“Okay, Arty. Looks like Chantilly is in for a high rolling week.”

“Anderson! I told you a week ago. Chantilly is full of Fils de Maginot elites!”

Now the folks out here have an unwritten agreement with local command: troops from rival factions never refresh in the same hemisphere. That goes double for elites. While the old adage about being kept in cages and fed raw meat is only true of aardfangs these days (and they don’t get refreshed, they get shot), it is a useful gauge for the mentality of elites.

Just then, my priority line beeps so I put Arty on hold.

“Paladin Brent. This is Paladin Deems. I’ve had to send the elites of Martelons de Lille to Chantilly as the elites of Kriegsturm rolled into Orleans.”

The world skews and my vision blurs in momentary fugue. We have three elites from the Garde Francais partying hard in my town. In fairness, it was one of the least dangerous options. A trio of elites from the Mord und Totschlag would have been armageddon crazy. The Garde were bad but had this flamboyant streak that led to shows of non-violent mayhem in amongst the usual carnage. You might wind up with your town repainted and needing Diogenes to find the virgins, but it was better than smoking ruins and random limbs.

I’m just reaching to reconnect Arty when I hear the distant sound of small arms fire. They let the elites off-ship armed? Tomorrow someone in Downship Protocol is going to have a procedural amendment they will never forget.

I scramble into the den and bring up the surveillance of Main Street. It’s beyond control already. Bodies litter most flat surfaces and worryingly, a couple of vertical ones. Eight vehicles burning along with two saloons. Time to dry them out. I open the crash cabinet and press the blue button.

The inhabitants of Chantilly withdraw calmly to their danger rooms as the klaxons sound. Three minutes later I power down the grid and drain down all the tavern pumps and water pipes. A minute after that, the meteor deflection field around Chantilly activates and the temperature starts to climb.

Three hours later the last elite in Chantilly keels over from heat exhaustion. We drop the field, start the grid, refill the pumps and spend a while dumping floppy elites into transports.

The early years of Rumbleday were marred by collateral fatalities. Now we can isolate each town and remove all fluid supplies. Everyone loses the will to party when the temperature hits 330 Kelvin and all the liquids have disappeared.

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