Tag Archives: Battle Reviews

Battle Review: Jackson 7-in-1 VersaPlanter

Want backstory? Here you go.

(Record of interview with suspect Jhalen Vergan, 9933PSII6, conducted 26 Aries 3316. Video unavailable, probably corrupted during prisoner’s escape on 36 Perseus. Prisoner’s current whereabouts unknown.)

Jackson VersaPlanter ensemble

Admit what I did and how I did it? Sure. Why not? You can only shoot me twice. Besides, I might give someone else ideas, and then you’re all in trouble. Got full audio and video going? Better hang on, then.

Any decent illusionist will tell you that the best way to hide something is in plain sight, by letting everyone assume that it’s something else. Any decent data thief’s tools have to work the same way. If you see me wandering around with standard extraction and transmission gear in public, it’s hard not to assume I’m not doing something illegal. You’d be amazed at the number of amateurs that do this, because they think wearing headglobes and Suzzie kits to clubs is just too scrotnig. Let them: it just keeps the law from looking at me.

The other mistake the tyros always make is to go for bright, flashy, and overly complex. If it doesn’t break when you use it, you forget how to use it. The good thieves understand that any tools they need have to be simple and multiuse. Even better, they should always seem reasonable for the place and the use. If you say you’re a transmat tech and you’re caught with a full transmat toolkit, who’s going to suspect that you were using those tools for a bit of burglary?

That’s why I have a full cert list for air cleaning plant maintenance, and why I have a full kit. It doesn’t take much to pretend to be one, but there’s always some lawbug who will drag in everyone at a crime scene and expect some explanation for why they were there. Spend a couple of seconds discussing why you want to plant “Siouxsie” air plants instead of “Billy Broad” plants, their eyes glaze over, and they’re glad to be rid of you.

(rattling and sliding sound) Oh, yes, that. Like it? It’s a real vintage Jackson Versaplanter from First Earth. It’s real horttech from before the First Migration, and it still looks new, doesn’t it? Treat your tools right and they’ll last forever, and a lot of people loved this thing as much as I do.

Jackson VersaPlanter blade - front

Jackson VersaPlanter blade -- back

First, forget nanoplastics or some of those new frictionless ceramics. Old-fashioned stainless steel holds an edge, has just enough flex to be used as a lever without breaking, and it keeps its shape when dropped in a sonic cleaner. Try doing that with a nanoplastic blade. Having a measurement scale on the front comes in handy every once in a while, but the back of the blade has to be smooth. Smooth.

And then there’s the edges. In this business, you get a few sociopaths who enjoy killing, but I’ve never drawn a drop of blood with a blade in my entire career. That doesn’t mean that you don’t need a blade for cutting up plastic, scoring thermowall, and cutting up a lawbug’s uniform to tie her to a chair. I’ve even used the serrated edge to cut hair, even if the cut isn’t fashionable. By the way, you know the shows where data thieves all have those stupid Vokko dreadlocks? You don’t want to get those caught in a door at a bad time, and that’s how I know the cut isn’t fashionable. Took me years to grow the hair back. If not for the twine cutting notch on the straight edge side, I’d probably still be there.

Jackson VersaPlanter tip

Oh, the tip. It was originally designed for grabbing a weed’s taproot, and that’s why I use it for air cleaning plants. But did you know that it’s also the perfect size to grab a singularity conduit and pop it out without damage to the conduit? And now you know why you didn’t find any traces of me at the Voluth affair.

Jackson VersaPlanter pommel

I told you: I’ve never killed anyone on a job, and I can also say I’ve never taken a drop of blood during one, either. That’s because if you pop someone right behind the ear with a VersaPlanter pommel, they’re out for hours. It’s handy as an emergency hammer, too, but it really saved my life when I was accidentally sealed inside a moving tram car about three cycles ago. It made more racket and saved my fists, and I got out before the air ran out.

Jackson VersaPlanter sheath

The other reason why I love this wonderful tool? It’s this sheath. It has a built-in lock to keep the blade from sliding free, and it won’t slide free until you unlock it. Shake it upside down, slide down a sewer tunnel, or swim across a buffering pond, and it’s not leaving your side. Some tools stay with you for a while, but a tool that really stays with you is one that you cherish.

Well, what else can I say? You caught me. I’m not going anywhere. Can I have a few minutes alone before the execution?

(Suspect Jhalen Vergan, 9933PSII6, is still at large, with standard ProConSec rewards available for his capture. Whereabouts of his VersaPlanter, reclaimed during his escape, are also unknown. End record.)

Battle Review: Garrett Retriever

Want backstory? Here you go.

Garrett Retriever - profile

The wilds of Hyperborea are desolate enough, what with serpent people during the day and unspeakable nightmares at night, but the rare ambers found at the foot of Mount Voormithadreth keep bringing us all back. Voorish Signs and incense are little help when the beast that just clawed its way from the thick volcanic ash stands taller than your entire mining party combined, and amber mining requires one of two strategies. The cautious bring out as many archers and crossbowmen as miners, which slows down movement to and from Voormithadreth and guarantees that bloodwamps and soul-ticks will track them all down that much sooner. The smart and the fast come in with tools that double as weapons, so you don’t have to drop your shovel to grab a sword. When doing that sort of double duty, the Garrett Retriever may not be the perfect hand tool for amber mining, but it has several advantages over its contemporaries.

Garrett Retriever - head

Forged by smiths that know the needs of treasure hunters, the Retriever combines one curved chopping face on one side of the head with a straight rake on the other. The curved face is remarkably good at chopping large chunks from soil, wood, and bloodwamp, but that curve might get in the way of landing the perfect killing stroke. The rake, on the other hand, sinks in and bites, allowing the user to bring in a dagger blade for a swift slide under a rock-lizard’s jaw. That rake is also remarkably good at scraping away ash and dust from smaller items, exposing amber deposits without tearing up larger pieces or scattering the fine dusts on the wind. When mining time can be measured in minutes, especially when the serpent people are attempting to gather subjects for their arcane and unholy alchemistic experiments, that distinction is important.

As a side-note, sharpening the curved edge may not add much to digging and hewing, but it improves the Retriever’s use as a brush clearing tool. One good solid thwack against the stem, and even the toughest thorn tree saplings go flying. Grass, fungi, toadmoss…anything that clears both vegetation and overburden saves valuable minutes, and those minutes are sometimes the only defense an amber miner has.

Garrett Retriever - rivet

A note of caution: while the Retriever does its job well, amber miners should always remember that this is a tool first and a weapon second. The wooden handle has a stout rivet to keep the head attached, but that rivet will eventually fail if used to parry moon-dwarf blades for too long. Stick to using it for digging, with the intent of working quickly and quietly before escaping the notice of worse things.

Garrett Retriever - magnet

Ah, but then there’s the surprise at the butt. Speaking of moon-dwarves, most go into complete shuddering spasms the first time they feel the magnet embedded in the butt of the Retriever catching their blades and thus preventing one of their famed belly-stabs. The magnet also comes in handy for pulling out chunks of ferrous metal in dig sites, such as the belt buckles and scabbards comprising the last remains of the previous party, but the real joy is in watching serpent man and moon-dwarf alike stare in disbelief as their carefully plotted attack goes awry. Sometimes, it’s worth throwing a Retriever at one from a long distance, just to see that magnet home in and impact on sword or shield. It’s even more effective than spraying them with redfooted wamp lymph.

All told, the Garrett Retriever is an honorable and impressive tool, and should be an essential item in the pack of any amber miner with more than a teaspoon of brain in his head. Keep it right next to your canteen, because you WILL need both before you finish a dig.

Battle Review: The Origins

A preamble. Back when I was in high school, I came across a very thorough and very witty book on medieval weapons, and how many of the choice hand weapons in the pre-gunpowder era started out as agricultural implements. I don’t remember too many specifics, but I remember laughing myself sick at some of the quips about halberds and flails, and I remember one comment about the conversion of the bill from a pruning implement to a very effective anti-horseman weapon. Specifically, the author stated that “someone noted that pruning bills were as good at lopping limbs off people as for limbs of trees…”, and that crack still comes to mind every time I pull out my handy bill from the shed.

In fact, it’s hard not to see how many weapons originally started out as garden implements. Battle axes. Mattocks. Flamethrowers. My own family descended from Norse raiders who looked around one spot of farmland right on the border of England and Scotland, realized that the weather was better and the girls cuter than back home, and decided to get into the farming trade. Apparently, they wanted a challenge that was tougher on body and soul than anything they’d faced hacking up Saxons or torching longboats, and the worst monsters on the edge of the world had nothing on a Riddell woman upset that her husband was home late. Compared to a day in the fields, jumping into the Crusades, the Battle of Brannockburn, or Verdun was a vacation.

A thousand years later, that still holds true. That’s why, when I’m hacking nutsedge out of the front yard or yanking clover out of the Sarracenia pots, I have an appropriate soundtrack.

Oh, it gets better. Because of the Czarina’s addiction to the British show Midsomer Murders, I started wondering what would happen to various fictional soldiers and detectives once they got the gardening bug, especially ones with a more fantastic bent. Oh, we already know that Brigadier General Alstair Lethbridge-Stewart became a gardening fiend, but what about all of those old soldiers and explorers of fantastic fiction? What was King Conan of Aquilonia’s equivalent of “You kids stay off my lawn?” Do we really want a book on poison gardens with contributions from Elric of Melnibone, Kane, and Morgaine? And what would Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser or the Falcon Prince deal with a recurring squirrel problem?

And that’s where things got odd. Last December, an odd package arrived at the mail drop. I knew I hadn’t ordered it, and the Czarina swore that it wasn’t an early Christmas present. The package didn’t come with any kind of note or notice as to the entity that sent it, and all we knew was that it had been ordered from Amazon. If it was a gift, then someone at Amazon left the invoice inside. Being at a loss as to whom to thank, we opened it up and found…some of the coolest implements of horticultural destruction this side of the Garden Weasel.

This leads us to the Battle Reviews. If it stands to reason that many horticultural tools found new use as devices of war, then that should still apply, right? Just ignore the cries from the tomato garden: the neighbors are used to seeing weeds flying in the air alongside screams of “Blood and souls for my lord Arioch!” at 8 on a Saturday morning.