Space Marine Tactica: HQ Choices

Space Marine HQ units, like the rest of their codex, are decent at everything, but not particularly amazing at anything in particular. As a general rule, every Space Marine HQ unit is massively customisable due to the number of options open to them and sports a largely “Space Marine” profile with a few improvements due to their positions as HQ units.

Chapter Master

Firstly we have the Chapter Master. This guy is the one who leads your entire Space Marine chapter. He is the big cheese and his profile tries so very hard to show it. Without upgrades, I could not recommend ever taking this guy as he only wields very basic weaponry, has a temperamental Orbital Bombardment and a mediocre profile for his points cost. That being said, however, you do not take a Chapter Master and not give him upgrades. When considering upgrades, the situation changes entirely and makes him very useful. There is no denying that, with his profile, the Chapter Master is an offensive HQ choice, designed to get stuck in on the front lines and murder as many enemy models as possible. With that in mind, there are a few different items that I would consider giving a Chapter Master; I will start with standard weapons. There are two schools of thought here in my opinion; either you take a pistol and a one-handed melee weapon, or you take a specialist melee weapon and a two-handed ranged weapon. I believe that taking two specialist melee weapons is a waste of time as, whilst it makes him good in close combat, he ends up wasting his Ballistic Skill of 5, though I will go over a potential build that forgoes ranged weapons in favour of more close combat later on.

First possible build is a simple power sword with either a grav-pistol or a plasma pistol. It’s cheap and it works, allowing you to pick one off as you charge in with a pistol shot before wading in with six total attacks on the charge. If you want a budget, yet sufficiently dangerous Chapter Master, that is the build to go with.

Second possible build would be a choice from a relic blade, thunder hammer, power fist and lightning claw with a combi-weapon of your choice (depends on what you want, though I am a fan of either a flamer or melta). This will be roughly as pricey as the above build, maybe a little bit more expensive, and boasts arguably equal close combat power. If you take a thunder hammer or power fist you will lose out on your Initiative 5, due to the fact that they are Unwieldy, but when compared to other HQ choices of other armies this is mediocre at best. Unless you’re fighting against other Space Marine equivalents, you will probably be striking second anyway, or be too low strength for it to really matter. I really like the thunder hammer over the power fist for this variant as it basically gives you Concussive for an extra 5 points over the power fist, allowing you to more reliably go after higher toughness models or models with the Eternal Warrior special rule (basically, models that will survive a single strike).

The third build that I will go over is the more expensive build that uses relics. It’s way more expensive, but way more powerful. The only reason you take a Chapter Master is to kit him out to bring the pain, so why not spend the points to make him good at what he does? The items used are The Burning Blade and The Shield Eternal. What this gives you is a total of 5 attacks on the charge (4 otherwise), at Strength 7 and with AP2, as well as boasting a 3++ invulnerable save (not a huge sell due to the fact that a Chapter Master has an iron halo by default), +1 to Deny the Witch rolls thanks to Adamantium Will, and most importantly the Eternal Warrior special rule. Whilst this really adds up, it is definitely worth it if you are looking for a powerful melee combatant whilst staying away from special characters.

Finally, I will talk about extra wargear options. An auspex is a nice addition if you don’t take a ranged weapon as it gives your Chapter Master, who will probably be spending his time in your opponent’s lines, a supportive option to help your ranged units do their jobs better by reducing cover saves for your opponents. Melta bombs are one of those “I have a few points spare” items that you take at the end of list building. It’s a nice addition, but far from essential. A teleport homer is only useful if you want to deep strike Terminators in due to the fact that your Chapter Master should be leading from the front, which will allow you to not scatter and precision deep strike units behind enemy lines. Your opponent does not want to have to deal with units of Terminators popping up wherever they wish. Digital weapons are a must for any close combat Chapter Master as it essentially allows you a single re-roll to hit in close combat. Likelihood is that you will not hit with all of your attacks, so it’s essentially a bonus attack every turn. Then there are the two means of movement: jump pack or a Space Marine bike. I would advise always taking one unless you are taking a unit of Honour Guard or some sort of squad in a Rhino or Drop Pod to accompany him. When it boils down to the choice between the two, it depends on what sort of army you want to run. If you want to use Assault Marines or Vanguard Veterans, run him with a jump pack. If you want to take Bike squads, give him a bike, though bear in mind that if you give him a bike then Bike squads of at least 5 models become Troops choices, allowing you to get some interesting, mobile Battle-forged armies. In the end, he will need some sort of delivery system, whether it’s a dedicated transport or either a bike or a jump pack.

Unless you’re running an all Terminator army, I would not advise taking Terminator armour. Artificer armour is just a lot more useful, as the Chapter Master can Sweeping Advance in artificer armour and still gains a 2+ save. Even then, I would advise taking a Terminator Chaplain instead in this case, but that will come in later when I go over Chaplains. Artificer armour, on the other hand should always be taken. I cannot stress this enough as it allows you to make 2+ armour saves against power swords, the most common type of power weapon, meaning that only a select few things will ignore your armour, such as daemon weapons, monstrous creatures, power fists etc.

Overall, Chapter Masters are your go-to model for a purely offensive HQ choice. He brings very little to the table for the rest of your army, unless you want to take Bike squads as Troops choices, but is capable of boasting decent offensive powers.

Captain

I will not go hugely into detail about the Captain as he is basically the same as the Chapter Master in all respects apart from having no Orbital Bombardment, one less Attack and one less Wound. However, there is a use for the Captain that the Chapter Master does not fill.

Simply take a Captain, give him a power sword and nothing else and sit him somewhere near the back for a relatively cheap melee deterrent. This way he will be difficult for your opponent to kill for Slay the Warlord and he does not take up a large chunk of points. I do, however, believe that this job is better done by a Librarian, but this method gives a better reason for your opponent to not charge your Devastator squad at the back. The other use is along the same lines, but you give him a bike as well, merely to give you the option of taking Bike squads for Troops without taking a large chunk of points.

Captains also allow you to take a Command Squad. This is basically a Veteran squad with a few more options. In my opinion, it is not worth the points cost, though it’s a very nice addition to a fluff-based army if you take a Captain.

However, if you’re like me and enjoy fluffy armies, the Captain is a better choice than the Chapter Master outside of Apocalypse games as a Space Marine Chapter Master is not exactly present on every battlefield their chapter fights on; they are important individuals and will probably not respond to a small-scale skirmish in person.

Librarian

The Librarian is my favourite HQ choice for Space Marines. He is very cheap with a slightly higher average profile than normal Space Marines, but his strength is not in his stats or his wargear options. With the introduction of 7th edition, Space Marines can now roll on every psychic table in the rule book, so a Librarian has access to any of the psychic powers in the rule book. He can also be upgraded to Mastery Level 2, which in my opinion is always worth taking unless you are really trying to be cheap with your HQ choice. The Librarian is definitely a support HQ, not really having the stats for front line duty. He is a very useful Warlord as he can sit in the middle of the rest of the army, throwing his psychic powers around from the protection of a large squad.

You can give the Librarian Terminator armour, though I would not recommend it outside of a Terminator heavy army. I could see him right at home in a Terminator squad in the middle of the table, blasting away with their storm bolters whilst he throws psychic powers about, but not in a Terminator Assault squad on the front lines. Weapon Skill 5, Initiative 4, 2 Attacks and 2 Wounds is not a good stat line for a front line commander, so it’s best to keep him largely out of trouble. True, his force weapon can cause Instant Death, but it’s not worth it in my eyes, especially as he only gets an invulnerable save if he takes Terminator armour, whether a 5++ from the armour or a 3++ from a storm shield.

All that said, I will have to experiment with the rule book psychic powers before making any claim to what tables I would roll on. I’m too used to rolling from my own powers in the Eldar codex!

Also something to note: Black Templars can’t take Librarians because they hate psykers.

Chaplain

The Chaplain is an odd HQ choice. It blends the capabilities of an offensive HQ with a support HQ, giving Zealot to the unit he is with and wielding the equivalent to a power maul. Zealot gives him and his squads the Fearless and Hatred special rules, meaning that him and his squad can re-roll their to-hit rolls in the first round of close combat and never have to worry about passing morale or pinning tests. In my opinion there are only two real worthwhile variants of Chaplain: jump pack or Terminator armour. If given a jump pack, he should be stuck inside an Assault Squad or a Vanguard Veteran squad where he can give plenty of re-rolls and augment another squad’s close combat abilities. If in Terminator armour, I would stick him with a Terminator Assault squad. If I had the points it would be a unit of five Terminators with lightning claws for re-rolls to hit and to wound, then I would put them inside a Land Raider Redeemer. He also comes with a Rosarius, making him more durable for front line combat than the Librarian, giving him a 4++ invulnerable save. There is not much else to be said about the Chaplain. He is a decent HQ choice if you intend to take some sort of close combat element to your army as he can really buff them up with Zealot, however he will not pack as much raw punch as a Chapter Master. For his points, I believe that he is a very useful choice as long as he has a close combat unit to buff up.

Master of the Forge

A supercharged Techmarine, a Master of the Forge is a support HQ that will help keep your vehicles running and allows you to take Dreadnoughts, Venerable Dreadnoughts and Ironclad Dreadnoughts as Heavy Support choices as well as Elites, allowing you to take a total of six Dreadnoughts in a single Combined Arms Detachment. He can take a lot of different items, but almost every option is not worth it in my opinion as he starts with a servo-harness which includes a twin-linked plasma pistol and a flamer, though he can swap it out for a conversion beamer, which is basically a gun that gets more powerful the longer the range is. He can also make one ruin in your deployment zone have a better cover save by 1, so a 4+ becomes a 3+. A Master of the Forge is, in my opinion, a back line HQ. Either you give him a conversion beamer and sit him as far back as possible to maximise the beamer’s capabilities, or you put him behind your vehicles and fix them as you move up the board.

On vehicle repairing duty, I would take a Master of the Forge with no upgrades other than a unit of standard servitors to accompany him to both absorb shots as well as help the Master of the Forge to repair.

For a Master of the Forge acting as an artillery battery, I would replace his servo-harness with a conversion beamer and give him at least two servitors with two heavy bolters or plasma cannons. Multi-meltas are a waste in this situation in my opinion, as they are too short range to be used in conjunction with the conversion beamer that wants to be as far away as possible. It is counter intuitive in this case! Either that or stick him in a Devastator squad. Both will work.

Emperor’s Champion

The Emperor’s Champion is the character hunter of the Black Templars and is a nice HQ choice for them. He weighs in fairly cheap, has a 2+ armour save and a 4++ invulnerable save and a Master-crafted AP2 sword. He must issue a challenge where possible and must accept any opponent’s challenge. When fighting in a challenge he must take up one of two stances, either giving any roll of a 6 To Wound the Instant Death special rule, or giving him +2 Strength and Unwieldy with the Black Sword becoming Two-handed. He’s a fairly basic HQ with a basic concept. He has no wargear options and can only be taken by an army with the Black Templars Chapter Tactics. In my opinion, he belongs in any Black Templars army list and does not take up too many points. Just don’t expect him to win any challenges against the likes of Daemon Princes or a special character like Abaddon or Lysander. At least he is Fearless, so him and his unit will stick around until they are all dead. Very Black Templars.

Special Characters

I will not donate much time or space to special characters as they are literally just variants of the unnamed ones. I also have no experience using them as I always prefer to make my own characters with their own stories. What I can say though is that each one can only be used with specific Chapter Tactics and provide some flavourful benefits to their army.

Overall Views

I am not a huge fan of offensive HQ choices due to them being worth at least 1 victory point in every single rule book scenario. I also like to put a lot of thought into my characters and cannot justify keeping them alive if they die in every single game. There are only so many times you can get wounded! Due to this, I am not a fan of a lot of Space Marine HQ choices as they all have some offensive capabilities as opposed to specialising in support. When push comes to shove, I would probably take a Librarian in my army, possibly two, and upgrade him to Mastery Level 2. Psychic support is so important, especially in 7th edition with its own phase and Space Marines are no exception to this, especially now that they have access to all of the psychic power tables in the rule book!

Chapter 2: The Importance of Homework

The house was no better kept than any other house in the wastes. The walls were a patchwork of old woodwork and metal plates welded together where the original construction had not endured the harsh test of time. There was little indication as to what the original colour of the house was, patches of beige remained on the walls, though it was largely discoloured due to a combination of age and disrepair. The windows were just empty squares set into the walls covered by more sheet metal or wooden planks. It was obvious that someone lived here and that this certain someone did not wish to be bothered by others.

Eleanor rumbled up on her ATV and parked by the wide of the road, just beyond a waist-high wall that marked the edge of what used to be the front garden. The road was devoid of any life beyond the occasional pest scuttling across the street. The other houses were abandoned and in a similar state to the one that Eleanor had pulled up outside of.

“Creepy,” Eleanor muttered to herself, removing her goggles from her eyes and resting them near the top of her forehead, “you’d think that there’d at least be squatters.” She shook her head as she walked through the gap where undoubtedly a gate used to be. “I guess paranoid ramblings have more weight with some than they do with me.”

She took out her revolver as she opened the front door, slowly following the angle with the barrel of her handgun. The interior was empty, streaks of natural light penetrated the cracks in the walls leaving visible trails of clear light lancing through the otherwise dark interior. The interior was as dilapidated as the outside, wallpaper largely non-existent where it used to be. The furniture, or what remained of it, was quaint, mostly of wooden construction and covered in dirt and dust. She clambered her way up a mostly collapsed staircase to find that the upstairs was largely the same. It appeared as if nobody lived here.

Eleanor frowned. There were a few aspects of the house that did not make sense.

Firstly, she noted that the interior looked largely abandoned, though the exterior screamed of occupation. The patch job was a clear indicator that someone was living there. However, she guessed that there was the possibility that the previous occupants had been turfed out by raiders or some other gang of degenerates.

However, the second aspect was one that sent the shiver down her spine; or rather, it was the shiver down her spine that was the aspect itself. As soon as she had walked into the seemingly abandoned house she felt uneasy, it was a feeling that could only be described as intuition; a feeling that something was not quite right about this place. She quickly dismissed this, however, as nothing more than a unconscious reaction to the ridiculous rumours that had been spread around.

Thirdly, the area was totally abandoned and had an eerie silence about it. Had she arrived just after a raider hit? Some tribes had different methods of clearing unguarded areas, some left nothing in their wake but this kind of eerie silence. Eleanor concluded that was the case at least. On her way back downstairs, Eleanor decided to make a quick sweep of the house to try and find anything worth looting. If the job was a hoax or if the information was inaccurate, then at least she would get some sort of payment for her time.

The house was clean in that regard, for the most part, the upstairs containing nothing of value. The water still worked, but it was obviously coming from a supply that had not been cleaned, the level of corruption in the water made it completely unusable. She had no more luck downstairs either, no items of worth remained in the house beyond a pack of cigarettes that contained just one. She could barter with it for something small, perhaps, but nothing much. The kitchen was slightly better, containing a few cans of what looked like cat food and a few sealed packs of something. They looked like military ration packs, designed to withstand anything. A brilliant find.

Cheerfully, Eleanor started to leave, her leather satchel full of her new bounty. She stopped dead in her tracks when her boot clacked against the floor, uncharacteristic and different to the rest of her footsteps. Most people would not have noticed, the change in tone was minor, but Eleanor froze up for a moment. She looked at the floor beneath her boot heel. It seemed completely normal, no differences at all from the rest of the floor. She dropped to her hands and knees and started to feel around the area, knocking on the floor to see the differences as she moved. There was a metre square of hollow ground, but no obvious way to open it. Eleanor took out her knife, a thin, easily concealable blade that she kept in a sheath on her boot, and started to try and pry at the edges.

The square came loose.

She pulled it up and out after placing her knife back into its sheath, revealing a small ladder that went into a dark, but seemingly illuminated area below. Revolver in hand, she dropped quickly through the hole and onto the dusty, concrete floor below with a clack. There was a man with thinning, blonde hair standing by a table in a black vest and a pair of khaki trousers. His shoes were worn and mirrored the state of the house above quite well. His skin was pale. He looked as if he hadn’t seen the sun in years. Perhaps he was a surviving vampire? If that was the case, she was in trouble, but flight was not an option considering it would take her a while to get back up the ladder and this man undoubtedly knew that she was here after her drop into the basement. There was only one course of action available to her.

Also, vampires were generally a lot more subtle as they did not have the luxury of magic to protect them like their persecuted friends.

Eleanor grinned, raising her pistol and taking aim at the man. This bounty was going to be a cake-walk after all.

She pulled back the hammer, took aim and squeezed the trigger.

There was a loud bang, then nothing. The man still stood above the table, working on whatever it was that he was doing. There was no impact. Eleanor felt like her heart stopped abruptly in her chest. She squeezed the trigger again. And again. Nothing.

Three bullets. Three bullets and nothing. I bet you’re really fucking proud of yourself you smug bastard, she thought to herself, squeezing the trigger again and again until all that happened was the gun clicked with each successive pull of the trigger. She wanted to pull out her knife and finish the job that she had accepted, but she couldn’t move her arms. The man turned around. His vest was caked in blood on the front, though his hands were spotless. He grinned and ran a hand through his wispy blonde hair.

“Didn’t believe the stories, eh?” he beamed, confidence radiating off him almost as permeable as the actual aura that radiated from him. She could see the six bullets that she had fired hovering in mid air, just in front of his chest. “You really need to do your homework, Mrs. Carter.” He chuckled quietly to himself at the irony of the statement, since Eleanor had been a University lecturer before the world ended.

She dropped her revolver; again, she did not want to, but regardless she did. She tried to move her fingers, but her hands remained motionless. She felt the compulsion to drop to her knees; she resisted with every fibre in her body, causing the man to look at her with a curious expression for a moment. She eventually fell to her knees.

“Should I call you Mrs. Carter, or is it technically Miss. Bennett? You’re not exactly an official divorcee after all,” he grinned at her once again.

She was totally helpless. All she seemed in control of was her face and voice.

“Not surprised a fuck-up like you doesn’t understand how relationships work,” she spat at him, her tone venomous. She knew that she was going to die, an unprepared wastelander like her could not fight against a sorcerer who had managed to survive until this day. Weak magic users had a tendency to meet an unpleasant end, whether at the hands of an angry animal, a mob riled up by a religious cult or a gun for hire such as Eleanor. This one, however, was way out of her league.

He frowned for a moment, observing his would-be hunter with a patronising air about him.

“Uh huh. Says the woman who abandoned her children. Says the woman who gives an absolutely wonderful example to them even after having abandoned them. You’re a great role model to them, getting pissed at the local bar, starting fights, using your friends like they are merely a material asset to be used and discarded once they have been used up,” he replied with a largely sarcastic tone to his voice. He glared daggers at the woman, who merely returned an apathetic expression.

“How about you shut the fuck up about shit that you don’t know anything about,” she ordered aggressively, though the man just sighed and shook his head, walking up beside her, then behind her. She could feel her hand reaching down to her boot and taking out her knife. She wanted to pull it out, but this was not of her own volition; if it was, the movement would have been a lot faster and would have been placed firmly into this man’s neck by now. The movement was slow, almost lethargic as she drew the blade up to her neck, pressing the steel against her tanned skin. She was breathing faster now.

“You speak as if I haven’t already been inside your head and taken everything I want to know about you. You speak as though I’m not still in there, stringing your body along like a puppet,” he crouched behind her as she pressed the knife against her neck harder, beads of crimson blood running along the blade. “I could make you kill yourself right here in an instant. I could force you to kill yourself slowly whilst playing Mozart on your nerve endings to make you feel everything ten times stronger. I can make you do anything and you still try my patience.”

He placed one hand on her back and one on her forehead, holding her firmly with her head against his chest. “So I’ll just get this over with now to spare us both the embarrassment.”

She dropped the knife to the floor, her neck still bleeding mildly from where she had pushed it against her skin too hard. She felt nothing as her arm went limply to her side.

Then an excruciating pain that started from her head and lanced through her body. She screamed in agony, though there was no one around to hear. It was unbearable.

It did not take long for everything to go dark. Her body shut down.

Chapter 1: Whiskey in the Wastes

Gratuitous amounts of clothes shopping (well… online window-shopping. I can’t afford to buy myself more clothes just yet) has led me into a post-apocalyptic mood. This is in the same world as my modern day fantasy that I am working on (the one where I am at about 21k words so far. Watch this space!) but is a few years in the future. I will try to post up a chapter each week, but knowing me that may not happen. Regardless, I’m going to try it. Here is the first chapter! I stayed up late to write this and need to be awake in 6 hours!


 

The wastelands of the old United States of America were a curious place. The harsh, unforgiving climate could kill an unprepared individual, primarily through dehydration. The wildlife could kill an unprepared individual, creatures that used to be harmless having mutated and changed into far more threatening visages of their former selves. The locals could kill an unprepared individual, no shortage of bandits and raiders in the large absence of law enforcement who would murder and rob as they desired. More dangerous than the rest, however, were the dimensional instabilities that could kill anyone who strayed to close, reckless usage of magic and the occult sciences by the world’s governments had destabilised the entire planet. However, even in such a hostile environment, the human race trundled along as it always had. People banded together into convoys or settlements. Traders and merchants travelled around peddling their merchandise to those who needed them. Volunteer militias fought back the perils of the wastes, keeping the less physically capable as safe as they can. Human society still functioned, more or less, in spite of everything fate had thrown at it.

“So I told him that if he wanted to leave with his pride intact, he’d cough up double the original fee,” Eleanor laughed as she spoke, taking a sip from her glass of whiskey once she had finished. She was a fairly small individual, a petite woman in her late twenties with tanned, olive skin, chestnut eyes and shoulder length brown hair tied into a messy ponytail. Her voice was soft and well-spoken, her English accent rather out of place in the messy, American wasteland tavern. However, for all of her differences to the rest of the clientèle, she had an equal number of similarities; she was dressed in a pair of fitted black trousers and a ragged grey short sleeved t-shirt lay underneath a black protective vest. Black, leather combat boots adorned her feet and her right hand nestled inside a black leather glove; her left hand was wrapped in a red fabric and on her forehead was a pair of biker goggles. At her waist rested a Colt Python, stainless steel with a six inch barrel. Her demeanour was crude, though with subtle, refined undertones in the way she acted and spoke.

“And? Did he?” Zack inquired curiously, his dark blue eyes meeting hers. He was larger than Eleanor, slightly older too, though he was far from imposing in stature, his head completely devoid of hair though one could tell from his eyebrows that his natural colour was not that different from Eleanor’s. Unlike Eleanor and her well-spoken English, his Minnesota accent not too alien in what used to be Colorado, though nobody paid any attention, too busy with their own companions, alcohol, problems, or all of the aforementioned items. He wore brazen, metallic armour from his neck down to his feet that looked like it had been largely cobbled together; well cobbled together, but cobbled nonetheless. He had a sawed-off shotgun at his hip and a tan Scar-H slung across his back, both of which looked used, but meticulously maintained.

Eleanor grinned as she placed her glass down on the counter. “He almost threw the money at me. He was a desperate man indeed.”

“You know his reputation, right?” Zack warned, swirling his scotch and peering at the bottom. The glass was dirty, old drink stains along the bottom, though by the standards of the wastes it was not of Zack’s concern. “Jameson’ll come after you like a man possessed. He’s got the resources to just throw hired goons at you until you’re dead.”

Her grin did not fade as she shrugged. “Don’t care,” she replied crisply, holding her now empty glass up to get the bartender’s attention and ultimately refill her glass. He was a fat man in a simple, hooded coat and white slacks that looked like they had seen better days, even by contemporary standards. “I got to punch that arrogant son of a bitch in the face. I can die satisfied,” she continued as the bartender walked by to fill her glass again. She pulled a small box of hand-loaded shotgun shells to the bar and slid them across to the bartender with a smile. “Should pack enough punch penetrate most armour and severely mess up any trouble makers underneath. Just keep giving me your empties and drinks at your bar and I’ll keep you stocked up.” The bartender took the small box with a grunt and walked off in the other direction. Eleanor faced Zack once more, his expression far more serious than hers.

“Ellie,” he started, his tone dropping to a sombre one, “if you keep being as careless as you have been, you’re going to drive yourself to an early grave and leave your kids without a mother.”

Eleanor froze up at the words, staring into her drink. It was not a subject she wished to discuss.

“Ellie?” Zack pressed the matter, though he was met by an angry glare from Eleanor.

“They already don’t.”

An awkward silence hung over the pair like a bad stench as they both faced the bar again.

“I got another job lined up, you know?” Eleanor eventually broke the silence as she took another sip from her drink. “Some nut-job is holed up in a house to the west, near the ruins of Denver. Being paid to put a bullet in his head.”

“What has he done to piss your employer off?” Zack inquired quickly, eager to avoid another awkward moment.

“Apparently it’s a rogue wizard. I reckon it’s just some asshole with a hard-on for fire.”

“What did,” Zack started, though he bit his tongue. “What if it really is a rogue wizard? Do you have a plan?”

“Yeah.”

“What are you planning on doing?”

“I plan on putting three bullets in his head.”

“Ellie…”

The pair were interrupted as a tattooed man in a leather vest barged up to the bar next to Eleanor, causing a large amount of her drink to relocate to the front of her vest and trousers. She turned slowly and deliberately to face the man, an irritated expression on her face. He was scruffy, long, dark hair and a bushy beard hid most of his face, though she could make out what seemed to be the man’s eyes and fixed her gaze on them.

“Excuse me?” she uttered aggressively in a bid to get his attention.

He did not acknowledge her, merely ordering a beer from the bartender.

“I said, excuse me!” she raised her voice, grabbing onto the man’s arm. He turned to meet her gaze, shaking her grip from his arm.

“What’s your issue?” he replied nonchalantly.

“I believe you owe me a drink,” Eleanor replied curtly, holding up her almost empty whiskey glass.

“I don’t owe you shit,” the man snarled, picking up his own drink.

“Ellie,” Zack started putting a hand on her shoulder, “let’s just go.”

She pushed his hand from her shoulder. “No, that’s not how this works.” She turned back to the bearded man, her eyes still scornful. “See, you barged past me and knocked my drink down the front of me. Therefore you owe me a drink.”

“I said, I don’t owe you shit, bitch,” the bearded man responded, taking a sip from his beer and looming over her. He was larger than Eleanor, though that was not a feat in itself.

Eleanor threw a punch at the man’s face, causing the man to drop his beer, the bottle shattering on the floor as he staggered backwards from the blow, sending old wooden stools cascading to the side. “I believe that makes us even,” she mumbled, downing the rest of her whiskey and depositing the glass back on the counter.

“I’m going to wreck that pretty smile of yours!” the man yelled as he charged at her, fists clenched and angry expression on his face. Another individual had also started to make his way towards Eleanor, his stride aggressive and his glare menacing.

“Now look at what you’ve done,” Zack muttered quietly, stepping in between the new combatant and Eleanor.

The large, bearded man grabbed onto Eleanor and swung her around with little effort, slamming her down onto the surface of the bar with a dull thud. As he raised his fist, Eleanor brought her right leg up forcefully, kicking the man in the groin as he loomed over her. In that instant he let go and stumbled back again, holding his crotch and staggering in pain. As she got to her feet once again she could see that Zack was having no problem with the additional two that had rallied to the large bearded man’s side, one already out cold and the other pinned under Zack’s armoured gauntlet.

He turned to face the now standing Eleanor and shook his head. “I don’t care the predicament, but that ain’t a place to kick a man. Ever.”

Eleanor chuckled quietly as she approached the bearded man, who was now propped up against a table, his pained expression visible even beneath the mass of hair as he tried to recover from the blow. “Fighting honourably is for gentlemen and wannabe knights. Do I look like either?” she asked rhetorically as she approached the man who was now holding up a hand in submission. Eleanor smirked briefly before bringing a strong right hook into contact with the man’s jaw. He collapsed to the ground, out cold. Zack had ended his fight moments earlier, his eyes fixed behind Eleanor.

She turned to see the bartender, pump shotgun raised and pointed straight at her. She raised her hands and smiled.

“Robbie, baby,” she started with a nervous chuckle, “you wouldn’t shoot a lady with her own ammunition, right?”

The bartender shrugged, his gun still trained on her. “Why not?” Zack’s hand had found its way to his sawed-off shotgun.

“Come on,” Eleanor continued, a friendly smile on her face, “that’d just be wrong, you know?”

“Would it? Do I look like a wannabe knight to you?” he glanced at Zack with a frown, “I need to test out the penetration on these shells. After all, you guaranteed it.” His gaze went back to Eleanor. “Reckon it’ll go through that fancy vest of yours?”

Eleanor turned to Zack and shook her head, her face awash with fear, motioning for him to stand down and take his hand off the grip of the shotgun. With a sigh, Zack removed his hand from the shotgun, putting his hands where the bartender could see them, assuming a non-aggressive stance. “Well? Will it?” the bartender asked again, causing Eleanor’s gaze to snap back around to the barrel of the gun.

“Hey, I said nothing about honour there,” she replied, a smile back on her face, “it just wouldn’t be right. That’s not honour, that’s just right and wrong.”

“Sounds like honour to me.”

The bar went silent, tension so thick it could stop bullets. At least, that’s what Eleanor was hoping for at that moment.

“Come on, the situation’s resolved and we didn’t damage your property. When these poor bastards wake up they’ll want to buy more drinks to soothe the pain, so it’s a win-win, right?”

The bartender lowered the shotgun and shook his head. “You’re a real handful, you know that?” he admitted, placing the shotgun back under the counter. “Just get out of here, I’ve got some clearing up to do.”

Eleanor flashed another friendly smile at the bartender before quickly making her way outside.

“You’re a fucking idiot sometimes,” Zack called to her as the pair made their way outside.

“Love you too, Zack,” she replied sarcastically, pulling her goggles over her eyes as she reached her ATV, a dark blue chassis with a heavy metal box on the back and an engine nestled under where the seat was.

“Are you trying to kill yourself? Really, I’m curious as to what would drive you to do these things!”

“And why should you care what I do with my life?” Eleanor snapped back, getting onto her ATV and starting the engine. The two stared at each other in silence for a moment, the only sounds present were the sounds of the engine and the ambient sound of the wastes. “Yeah, I thought as fucking much.” Eleanor gunned the engine into life and sped away from the bar. She had a job to do, after all.

The BIG One…

Well, it had to come at some point and this has been skulking in the shadows for too long. This post may end up being long, so I ask for patience and hope that you can bear with me. It is an important one, after all, and it had to come at some point. It refers to many personal issues as well, but I feel that nine years is long enough to keep everything bottled up inside.

So, I shall first start talking about a few things in the past. My pieces of creative writing will be the first call. Many of the pieces that I write feature female protagonists and/or important female characters. I prefer writing female characters and feel that modern media definitely has a sexist bias, so I will do my part to bring back the balance. Next, tabletop role-playing games; whenever I take part in one I will often opt to play a female character. In video games, the pattern remains constant, having played through Dragon Age (Origins and 2), Mass Effect (all of them), Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (1 and 2), Star Wars: The Old Republic, World of Warcraft, The Secret World, Wildstar, Fallout (3 and New Vegas), Borderlands (1 and 2), Saints Row (2, 3 and 4) and even multiplayer games such as Garry’s Mod, Killing Floor, Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, Quake 3 and Unreal Tournament (all of them) all as female characters. Suffice to say, that’s a long list. But why?

First, I am a feminist. A rather blunt way of putting it, but I see modern media and sigh. Protagonists are often male and women often play unimportant roles or that of the damsel in distress, a prize for the hero. Many films and games include female characters predominantly as a love interest for the protagonist with little more purpose other than that of an object, something that is acted upon as opposed to taking action itself. Fortunately, literature may offer us some measure of comfort beyond the fringes of modern media, though sexism and misogyny still run rampant within the pages of many books. I will not delve into my views on such matters, as this would be material for an entire article or two or three or ten. This is not the article I wish to write today.

Secondly, I am a male-to-female transgender. This is the main thing that I have kept hidden for years, kept hidden from people even to this day. True, there are a few people who are already in the know, though I was incredibly selective at first with who I told. First were my housemates last year, a very accepting fellow and a female-to-male transgender who I will forever be grateful to for helping me come to terms with it. Then, close and trustworthy friends, then part of my family, then some more friends, now everyone. This ties in with the first point I made about what I have done in the past; recreational activities have always been a means of escapism for me, a way for me to be who I feel I am at heart. I went so far as to lie to my family to cover up this truth for years. People always though that I was obsessed, some would go as far to throw the word ‘addicted’ into the mix, with video games. Perhaps when I was ten years old, the obsession theory had some truth; I enjoyed video games a lot and played them as much as I could, though that would also bring the parental limitations that were in place into consideration. You know what they say about the forbidden fruit, after all. The truth of the matter, however, was that I craved the possibility of being who I wanted to be as I grew up. Society largely shuns what I am, much as they used to shun homosexuality, and how they still do in parts of the world. I could not just come out with it and expect everyone to act responsibly concerning my life choices; not at the age of sixteen and finally in a school where I had friends, where I was not bullied every day and where I finally felt comfortable. By thirteen I found myself uncomfortable with who I was, fourteen saw me start to explore my real identity through the means of the internet. By sixteen I was sure, but it took me until I was twenty to fully come to terms with it and start telling people. When I say that this is my closest guarded secret to date, I mean every word of it. Now, however, I feel that I am prepared to reveal this to all of my friends and anyone who may read what I post. If you think that this makes me some sort of abomination, or if you’re one of my friends and this changes your perception of me for the worse, I don’t want to hear it; you’re probably in the wrong place.

Thirdly, this technically makes me a lesbian. Some people are probably thinking that I’ve lost it by now, or think that this post is a joke or an attempt to troll (I could name names, but I won’t). Gender identity is independent of sexual orientation; just because I have come to terms with my identity, associating as a female, does not mean that my orientation will suddenly change to match. You can imagine the confusion that this may bring to some. I’m glad to have made friends this year, however, who are accepting and understand. It was really helpful to be able to just get it all off my chest, if only to perhaps a dozen people total.

Suffice to say, my years at University have not exactly been smooth sailing. I graduate in a week and a half from posting this and I am just glad to be leaving with a piece of paper on top of my debt, as opposed to just a debt. Of course my hatred and complete incapacity for computer science was a major contributor to my difficulties, being a computer scientist who can’t write code (translation: do half of their degree) is rather harrowing, especially when the person in question is used to high grades; scraping by was not only stressful, but also degrading. Nevertheless, I would be a fool if I were to say that this was the only reason; I re-sat my second year because of my issues, proving to be sufficient extenuating circumstances for my University to give me another shot. Turns out all it did for me was land me an extra year in debt as the outcome was the same with slightly better grades as I had still not really come to terms with it until the end of the last academic year. This year at least I passed the majority of my modules quite handily, only failing one where I did not do the coursework which happened to be worth 40% (I thought it was only 25%!), though I managed to get 60% in the exam. Unfortunately, 60% of 60% is only 36%, and therefore a fail. Oh well, I passed the year, I will graduate and I am happy for it. The best years of your life will be at University? Perhaps, but also bear in mind that this may not necessarily be the case. I have personally hated most of my time at University and I will not have many fond memories of this place. Happy to be returning to Brighton in the foreseeable future!

So, that is all I really wanted to put out there for now. Serious post, I know, but I felt that I needed to put it out there. As I post everything I write on my Facebook page, some of my friends will likely see this so it will be interesting to see what, if any, kind of response it will garner there, as well as here from people who have not known me for years in person! I wonder if any of them will read it at all.

But damn I’m good at hiding proverbial skeletons in my closet. I really need to go into politics.