|The Four Rouge Winds - Our Main Heroes|
Though the inhabitants of Caelum fly every day of their lives, fighter pilots are a breed apart, a closed group viewed with awe and respect. A man repairing his light zep watches a passing Heimdurin Wespe and dreams of having the same skill and freedom. Pilots talk, spreading word of the great and the dangerous, the sharp and the stripped. Any pilot will tell you to turn your wing when Black Jack Saber’s zep runs out her guns, and will point you toward Paydin’s Hawks when you need to make a quick run with no questions asked. Sit down in any bar, from the finest Ban Altian restaurant to the grimiest Drift hole, and you can find a sky sharp willing to fill your ear for the price of a drink. One name you’ll hear every time the stories glide toward the best in the sky: Captain Harrison and his Rogue Winds.
|Captain Harrison - Mentor and Father Figure|
Harrison got his start flying with the Ban Altian military. In the years before the Horizon War, the two nations spent a lot of fuel flying along the other’s borders. Occasional skirmishes broke out, and Harrison’s wing showed a skill and ingenuity that got them decorated and promoted. He rose quickly through the ranks and found himself the captain of the most respected carrier in the fleet. And he hated it. The story goes that he got together with the pilots from his old wing and got deep into his cups. After hours of talking about the old days they decided the open sky was the only place for them. The next morning an Admiral found five empty bottles of whiskey outside his front door, each with a letter of resignation rolled up inside. The first Rogue Winds had taken flight.
Some fighter pilots eventually get tired of the life and settle down. More often, they burn up in the open sky when they meet a sharper or luckier ace. Of the original four that left with the captain, two got shot down, one lost her leg on a mission, and one chose to put his plane in the hangar for good. But as he lost friends, he met a few new pilots and rebuilt his squad.
Harrison refused to pick a side during the war. He took missions from the Trade Guild, escorting medical and food shipments but kept away from any frontline engagement. The Winds helped more than a few refugees on both sides find safe haven out near the Drift. But luck runs out and even the best pilots turn against a strong wind. In the final year of the war, Harrison took a job from a Ban Altian agent that should have been a simple recon and recovery. Things went sideways, and when the clouds cleared, Harrison was ash and the Rogue Winds were left without a Captain.
|Lori Cross - Leader|
Captain Harrison wiped the grease from his hands and stared at his ship. He’d done as much as he could to repair her. Now he had to wait for Burn to get back with the new parts. He stepped out of the hangar, stretched, and realized that dawn had somehow arrived without him noticing. Across the street, the vendors were opening up for the day, laying out their wares and shouting to the early morning wanderers. Harrison rolled a cigarette and waited. He spotted the girl a few minutes later as she slipped out of an alley and started chatting with one of the vendors. Her eyes scanned the crowd as she talked, scanning for likely targets. Two candidates stumbled toward her a few seconds later, a couple of sharp-dressed men who didn’t look like they’d made it home from the night before. Nodding farewell to the vendor, she fell back into the street and sauntered towards the men. Neither noticed her into she ran right into the lead one, a dark haired guy twice her size. He shouted and she apologized, patting him on the back. As she slipped away, the man stopped and patted his pockets.
“Almost, kid,” Harrison said as the two men turned and started shouting at the girl. She took off at a sprint, and they pursued. Harrison made a couple calculations in his head crossed the street at a jog. Past the main drag where the market set up, the streets became a tangle of narrow alleys and tight curves. The ground climbed at a steep incline to the packed and stacked houses hewn into the rock. Harrison knew the area pretty well and guessed where she might be running. He found a likely spot and waited. The pounding sound of her feet and the shouts from the men told him he’d guessed right. She skidded around the corner, and Harrison scooped her up by the waist. He set her down, smiled, then plucked the wallet from her hand. The lead man barreled into the alley and almost ran them over. Harrison turned, placing himself between the girl and her pursuers.
“This is yours, I think,” Harrison said, holding up the wallet. “No harm done.”
“Thanks mister, but that girl and I have some business to discuss,” the man growled. His friend stood at the mouth of the alley and laughed.
“I don’t think you do,” Harrison replied. The man started to reply, but Harrison tossed the wallet into his face. His fist followed a second behind. As the partner stopped laughing and moved forward, Harrison grabbed the stunned man by the shirt. He shifted his weight and tossed the guy into his friend. The two of them struggled to get off the ground, and a flash of metal revealed one of them had a knife. Harrison’s pistol slipped out of the holster under his coat.
“Looks like you brought a knife to a gunfight. Take the wallet and have a fine day,” Harrison smiled. They took his advice. He turned around and was surprised to find the girl still in the alley.
“I could’ve handled them, mister,” she said, standing up straight and sticking out her chin.
“I’m sure of that,” he chuckled. “What’s your name, anyway?”
“Lori,” she replied.
“Have you ever thought about working flying, Lori?”
Lori Cross grew up on the streets of a Ban Altian colony called Norwind. Her parents died when she was six and her two teenage sisters didn’t have any idea what to do with a child. They found jobs working with mine crews and left Lori to her own devices. They struggled along as a family, sleeping in crowed homes shared with unlucky kids. Lori learned she could help out by acquiring a bit of extra money from fools in the street. Sure, it cost her an occasional beating when a mark caught up with her, but her agile hands and quicker head kept food in their bellies most nights. Then Captain Harrison found her and decided to turn her talents toward more legitimate exploits.
Lori was twelve years old when the Captain first met her. He and his crew were stuck in Norwind trying to get all their ships back in the air. He showed her around the hangar and started filling his empty days with impromptu flying lessons. By the time his crew was up and spinning, he’d decided to offer her a way off that rock. She hugged her sisters goodbye and hasn’t regretted it.
Lori proved to be a fast learner and a sharp flyer. In turn, Captain Harrison turned into a pretty good father. The roster of the Rogue Winds has changed over the years, but no pilot has come close to Lori’s natural skill in the cockpit. She’s brash and hot headed, but usually smart enough to get out of the trouble that causes. When she can’t…well, that’s what your wingmen are for, right? The Captain’s death hit her harder than any of the other Winds, though she wouldn’t admit to it. She took on the role of leader and has tried to fill the hole he left. She knows her inclination to shoot at any given problem keeps her from being a great captain, but the rest of the crew seems content to follow in her wake. As long as they want her around, she’ll keep flying with the Rogue Winds.
written by Paul Dodson
art by Vince Medellin
story by Vince Medellin, Paul Dodson and Dave Shapiro