Man, Moment, Machine
This submission is largely based on the concept introduced by the History channel program of the same name. As such it is an NPC, a plot, and an item. Rather than break it down into three seperate submissions, I have decided to submit this experiment as a fiction/article. This submission is set in the Battletech universe, a setting based on mech to mech combat. Thank you.
The years following the Forth Succession War were a turbulent time for most of the Inner Sphere. Even after the regiments were called back to their bases and hostilities were ceased, bandit raids were a common event. Well, that is what many people thought. The truth was that such planetary raids were more common than before, but nowhere near the epidemic as espoused in the media networks. The fear of raiders was rampant though, growing as local and planetary economies were returning to peacetime production. A former mechwarrior and aspiring actor found a way to play upon not only this growing prosperity, but also the paranoia.
A WHM-6R Warhammer pilot in the service of the Federated Commonwealth, David Hanlon served for a number of years without seeing any significant combat aside from skirmishes and rare small unit engagements. Hanlon originally intended to be an actor in some holo-drama, but the onset of the Forth Succession War turned most broadcasts to reruns or propaganda and Hanlon ended his years at school to join the AFFC. After the war his mech was in poor shape and he was disgruntled after being passed over for promotion. It was not long afterwards that he ended his terms of service with the AFFC command and became an independant contractor.
During a short stint of garrison duty on the planet Ludwig, Hanlon came up with a novel idea, making an action holo for the media. Using his own mech as well as some wrecked machines out in the desert and a small crew of local photography and film students he shot a short pilot. Using what he knew he played up the lone mechwarrior playing out the role of the rough-riding hero from the terran Cowboy Epics.
The WHM-6R Warhammer has long been a workhorse of the Great Houses and by all accounts is a venerable and highly reliable weapons platform. It’s primary firepower comes from a pair of matched particle cannons, one mounted in each arm. Like a modern main battle tank, the Warhammer also mounts a buffet of lasers, machine guns, a short range missle system and a shoulder mounted search light.
Hanlon’s Warhammer, painted black with a red cockpit light, is in poor shape and is no longer considered combat ready. The primary reason is simply wear and tear, the machine is long overdue for structural refitting, the rear armor plating is scorched and burnt from an engine hit, and the engine itself still runs hot due to complications from said hit. Should the need arise, the mech can still move well under it’s own power and can discharge it’s weapons, a testament to the solidness of it’s construction. However, it’s deteriorated condition limits how long it would actually survive taking fire from newer mechs or those that are in better repair. As a result of the mech’s condition, it is never seen from behind, but only from the front or the side.
The pilot holodisc passed through many hands before it landed on the desk of Umberta Salazar-Serpiere. Seeing the novel approach proposed by the unorthodox Hanlon, Umberta sent a professional holo-film crew and a lump of c-bills to fund a second pilot. Most would have considered it a piddling sum of money for a mech-holo, but since Hanlon already owned the Warhammer, it was more than enough to film a second pilot.
This time, the pilot was a 2 hour special featuring Hanlon as a colonist pushed off of his lands by offworld bandits. Hanlon, playing the role of Michael Long finds and repairs a battered Warhammer and through several montages brings the machine back to life, and then one by one, confronts and defeats the ‘offworld bandits’. The Bandits themselves ended up being volunteers from the local garrison force of Ludwig and their machines were in better repair, still looked rough and grimy enough to be menacing.
most holo-critics considered the work to be amateurish and overly focused on Hanlon’s appearance than any style or substance. It found a cult following as unlike other holo-programs, Hanlon’s The Gunman used real mechs and real mechanics and weapons fire rather than mock ups or light mechs dressed up to look like bigger machine. After three years and several independant printings, Umberta and Hanlon signed a one year contract to produce 14 episodes of The Gunman. While not a critical success, the show earned enough money that it would eventually go on the last seven seasons before being canceled.
The Early Seasons
The first three seasons of The Gunman are generally considered the best as they focused the most on the mechs and personal drama from being a mechwarrior facing parts shortages, bandits, and often hostile locals. The main protagonist came about in episode six in the form of Aleta Kruppa, played by Sherri Noom in the first two seasons and Soileil Cavanaugh for the remainder of the series. As a rival mechwarrior, Aleta Kruppa piloted a smaller mech, a Kurita built DRG-1N Dragon heavy mech. Initially cast as a villainess, Kruppa gained a cult following of her own and soon was as synonymous with the Dragon mech as the Draconis Combine was. Aleta Kruppa bounced back and forth through the series, as often fighting against the bandits as part of the garrison force and at times against the garrison with the bandits. Throughout the first three seasons, she was always at odds with Hanlon’s Michael Long.
On a side note, Hanlon married Sherri Noom during the first year of the show and when she got pregnant dropped her role as the dangerous sex pot Kruppa.
The Middle Seasons
Seasons four through six received mixed reviews. Most viewers liked the production value as the show’s budget increased, but the mechs and combat started to take a back seat to personal drama and most considered episode eleven of season six to have been the killing point of the series. The long time sexual tension between Long and Kruppa is broken after Kruppa joins forces with Long to fight off a major invasion. The middle seasons are most marked by generally better writing, but much less emphasis on action. While the earier seasons were often derided by critics for being cheesy and poorly written, Hanlon’s one liners and hard shooting antics were popular. In contrast, more eloquently spoken and diplomatic Hanlon was seen as increasingly ‘sold out’.
The last episode of season six left fans on the edge of their seats as Long’s black Warhammer is destroyed on purpose to stop Kruppa’s old gang-boss’s dropship from escaping with a kidnpped Kruppa and several important hostages.
The Last Season
The last season of The Gunman portrayed Michael Long as having married Aleta Kruppa and the duo having two children. Long’s Warhammer is replaced in the first episode by a greatful planetary government with a brand new battlemech. Reaction to the new mech is mixed, as most fans preferred the rusted and real aspect of the old Warhammer as opposed to the gloss black paint job of the new machine. The series faltered through it’s last season, desperate to regain it’s former ratings. After 7 of the plotted 14 episodes, The Gunman was canceled.
After the Gunman
A short time after the series was canceled, the original six series went into syndication and retained a strong folloing of viewers and fans. A tour was considered, but the cost of moving the Warhammer and it’s cast and crew was considered to be excessive. David Hanlon made enough money to put himself and his family up comfortably, but never was able to break away from his role as Michael Long and never gained much success as an actor afterwards. Soileil Cavanaugh gained successes after The Gunman, playing a number of prominent roles in programs intended for audiences in the Draconis Combine. Her popularity and association with the DRG-1N Dragon mech made her a natural endorsement for Luthien Armor works, the manufacturer of the DRG-1N
A Theater Near You
The Gunman would spin off two feature length movies, both set in the early part of the series and featuring Hanlon’s original Warhammer. Reminiscent of older Cops and Bandits movies, Long squared off against corrupt local forces and the movies featured extensive chase and battle scenes. Both were commercial successes, but again critics blasted both for being shallow and being written by hacks. A third movie, The Gun Woman was based entirely around Soileil Cavanaugh as Aleta Kruppa as the protagonist. Critics described it as a testosterone soaked romp of guns, nudity, and gratuitious violence, fans described it as possibly the best grindhouse movie ever.
Additional Ideas (1)
Angus Murphy Ph.D. was granted his doctoral degree by Savonburgh for his dissertation on the Gunman.
His hypothesis was that the
“Gunnman shifted the vocabulary of mech warrior conflict away from horrific violence and towards entertainment. It also placed the mech warrior into the arena of the common man. Prior to the Gunman all mech warrior fiction was pure proganda. In those story lines mech warriors descended from wealthy noble houses defended the honor of their nation states. Because Michael Long was a peasant who became a mech warrior to defend his home, he changed the focus of Battlemech violence from political to personal.”
As part of his thesis Angus Murphy assembled some of the more popular memes born from the series. Here are some excerpts from Murphy's dissertation regarding popular quotations associated with the show and his view of their meanings..
“Two particle cannons, no waiting”
Long said this line in episode 9 of the 1st season right before engaging an entire company of medium mechs. This line is commonly uttered by men with both fist raised and was also adopted as the motto of pit-fighter Na Phun Koo who won a record 14 titles on the world of Barras.
“I only need heat sinks when women are around.”
The character of Long never actually spoke this during the series, but it is still commonly attributed to the show. It is linked to that fact, that in the series Long’s Warhammer only had problems with over heating when he was battling the character of Kruppa. Long had five battles with Kruppa during the first three seasons and each ended with Kruppa running out of ammo and Long overheating.
“Here is a tactic for you, shoot them first and shoot them more often.”
This was Long’s response to a career officer from Capellan-March who is lecturing Long’s militia on battlefield tactics. This line uttered in episode 2 of season 2 formalizes the visceral and intuitive nature of Long’s character as a contrast to the unpopular Nobility. It is of note though that Long does eventually bond with the officer character by the end of the episode.
“A great mech deserves a great pilot, you are the only one I’d let in my cockpit.”
In the 11th episode of season 6, Kruppa and Long find themselves isolated together during a major invasion and Long suffers a head injury. Kruppa comes to his aid but he is unable to use the neural uplink. He allows Kruppa to pilot his Warhammer. This line is often repeated as a whole or in parts. One of the underlying themes of the Gunman series was that Battlemechs represented the character's id. Thus by allowing Kruppa into his Battlemech, Long is surrendering his basic needs and desires to her.