In which we meet Two-Gun Malone, the Fastest Archaeologist in Algiers. In a month or so, this will be transformed into a Personalities dossier, complete with Connections, Adventure Hooks, and some steampunk gadget Goodies.
Moses Malone was born with itchy feet. His mama had to watch him like a hawk. Instant her back was turned, he was out the door and wandering around the neighborhood, gettin’ way too close to the street with the poor white folks on the other side. She tried setting his big sister Phoebe to watch him, but Moses learned real fast how to distract her with a question about one of her dolls. While she was yarn spinnin’, he was out and off again.
They were living in Atlanta, but on the southwest side. The city, a tattereed remnant of itself, still tried to uphold the lifestyle and views of its antebellum glory days, but without the foundation of slavery, the economics just wouldn’t stand. Sharecroppers just weren’t as profitable. As the white upper class faded into genteel poverty, they leaned more heavily on the institutionalised racism of their culture. The hired help lived downwind, on the other side of the tracks, in the disreputable neighborhood with the rundown houses, somewhere out of sight but not far enough to slip the leash and start gettin’ ideas above their station.
A young boy eaten up by curiosity like Moses was going to get himself in trouble. He asked too many questions, couldn’t just let things be, had to know and had no sense of boundaries whatsoever. He got known. When he tried to get into the public library at nine, the desk clerk called the police, and they took him to a foster center. It took his mama the rest of the day begging and apologizing and pleading to get her son back. When he tried again at fourteen, the desk clerk let him in, but then called her brother, who showed up with three friends and a couple of tire irons. The took Moses out the fire door into the alley, and stopped just short of him being unable to walk. He lied to his mother when he dragged in late, beat all to hell, told her he’d been set on by his classmates for holding up the high end of the curve. His mama didn’t believe that for an instant, but she let it slide, and hoped the beating would knock some sense into him.
It rolled off like water off a duck. Moses just got more clever. He learned to be sneaky. Poking around in areas most people didn’t usually go into, he found a back way to the library that let out at the janitor’s entrance. A couple nights of talking with Mr. Creech got the old man to let him in after hours. Moses knew if he got caught, somebody would break a window and he’d be arrested if he was lucky. He learned to be circumspect, to scout ahead, to plan his visits carefully, to leave no trace of his presence, and to negotiate his way through.
Applied to his schoolwork at Miss Agnes’ Institution for Boys, he attracted the right kind of attention. Rev. Draper convinced his mama to take the family out of the Baptist Church and bring everyone over to the AME. He convinced Moses to apply for a scholarship. Next thing Moses knew, he was on the train to the Promised Land, or Williamsburg, Virginia, anyway, with four years at William and Mary courtesy of the African Methodist Evangelical Benevolent Association.
They hoped he’d catch the spirit and come back a preacher. There was some disappointment that he went into fooling around with dinosaur bones, those might just be tools of Satan, but he took an academic prize and earned two years in the archaeology department, with time set aside for him to continue his work in drafting. Moses turned out to have a sharp eye for detail, and a steady hand with a technical pen. For two years, he mapped dig sites and potential new ones, drew the fossils in situ as they were uncovered, learned Arabic and French, and how to negotiate in both. He travelled. Not only had he become the first in his family to leave the Confederacy since their ancestors had been brought there, he became the first to go back to Africa. The entirely wrong side of the continent, yes, but he went to Africa.
It changed him deeply. Coming home to Atlanta, a Masters degree in archaeology, a certified draftsman, a travelled scholar, he felt so horribly guilty. He looked around at the tenements where he’d grown up, that he had escaped but still held his family, and he begged his mama for forgiveness. She held him, and told him, now he knew the price that had been paid for his education, what was he gonna do with it?
I’m gonna find us a better place, he told her. Only way Atlanta’s ever going to get better is if somebody burns it down and they have to start all over. I’m gonna get my people out of here, live up to this name I carry, and find us all a better place to be.
Which is why Moses Malone, Ph.D., went down the Rabbit Hole, completed his thesis in the field, defended it in a pub in Alice, and is one of the best Earther guides and expedition organizers in the Gruv. His mama wasn’t long for the world after they brought her over from Earth, but she lived her last few months in a different world, one maybe a little brighter. Her headstone was the first in the AME section of the Alice Cemetery, which gives the family some standing in the community. That’s Phoebe in the office, doing the books, handling the fulfilment and logistics and seeing to it that the supplies and animals and such for each party actually get ordered, delivered to the right place, on time, and gets paid for. Uncle Silas runs the garage. He’ll be the one signing off on all the vehicles going out, certifying that they’re in proper repair, all preventive maintenance has been done, and they’re provisioned appropriately with fuel, spare parts, and so on. Dr. Malone is the gentleman in the frock coat, all sober academic black but for his waistcoat, made from a quilt his mother assembled. He will be your guide, planner, logistics contact, expedition leader, and raconteur. The only thing he loves more than telling a good story or exploring a previously unseen land is his family. The way he was raised to.
See the PDF, and note the following.
• His Profession abilities are:
◦ Karma for PER, Recovery, noted on character sheet
◦ Physical Defense +1, reflected on character sheet
◦ The Next Hill Over: For one point of Strain per person in the traveling party, including themselves, the Explorer can inspire their companions to greater effort, allowing them to travel another two hours beyond the normal maximum of eight without having to make a Toughness Test against Fatigue (see Fatigue and Injury, in the 1879 Gamemaster’s Guide). This effect can only be used once per day, and cannot be used to extend travel time beyond ten hours. The Strain is taken all at once. The effect does not extend to the party’s animals, which must make the normal Fatigue Test.
This Personality now goes to Editorial, through a couple of revision passes, and on to Layout. In a month or so, it’ll be a PDF with five Connections, three Adventure Hooks, and three Goodies added. More news as this story develops!