Bad Water

This article is about the short story. For the symptoms of Brisbane Virus infection, see Brisbane Virus.

Bad Water
Product information
Type Short story
Author Kevin Killiany
Pages 41
Publication information
Publisher BattleCorps
First published 9 April 2010
Era Succession Wars era
Timeline 17 October-29 December 3041

Bad Water is a short story by Kevin Killiany that was published online on BattleCorps on 9 April 2010.

Teaser text[edit]

War is a specialty trade... and just like most trades, it has unique aspects that require experts to succeed. When the Concordat goes looking for the just the man for the job, they get more than they expected about things they never knew...

Plot summary[edit]

Terrence Henderson used to work for the Brisbane Maritime Constabulary, but following an injury where his head was split open he left service fifteen years ago and by late 3041 is operating a seagoing boat (outwardly unassuming but in fact massively upgraded to near-military standard) for tourists as well as smuggling and poaching on Brisbane. On 17 October 3041 he and his son are almost caught poaching by the Tucumcari, a Brisbane Maritime Constabulary cutter, and upon returning to his seaside home Henderson is bluntly informed by Boatmaster Thompson that both he and his boat are needed for a covert mission on Bromhead by the 27th Armored Recon under one officer named Andrew. Henderson tries to refuse, but is coerced into going anyways by not-so-subtle threats referring to his poaching activities, and by being reactivated from the reserve. Thompson and Andrew insist that Henderson is uniquely qualified.

By 4 December, Henderson is moving a group of seven Taurian Concordat agents under one Force Sergeant Jerrod through the Sholon Delta on the Salazar continent's west coast, Bromhead, with a local pilot named Sauud guiding them through the treacherous waters. Henderson rebuffs Jerrod's attempts to socialize, and treats him with open contempt while lecturig him about geology and seamanship. He does form a bond with Sauud though over their shared interst for boating and navigating the treacherous area. With their combined great skill they reach the cliff where the recon squad is set off to reconnoiter a training camp beyond the ridgeline.

As soon as the scouts are gone, Henderson is knocked down by Sauud and taken captive by Federated Suns forces. When Sauud demands Henderson to climb the cliff Henderson refuses, citing his "bad water", and then explains to Sauud that this is a Brisbane expression for impaired balance and reflexes, a result of his head injury. He is then lifted across the cliffs in a sling. From his captors Henderson learns that the Taurian recon squad is walking into a trap to which they were "invited". Sauud overheard that Henderson was an unwilling civilian conscript on the mission and quite hostile to the Taurian soldiers, and thus suggests that Henderson may be a willing source of information. Due to Henderson's unexpected skill in navigating the boat (Sauud expected them to never actually reach the drop-off point) the Davion troops were out of position to capture the recon team. At the Davion compound, Henderson sees operatives in Taurian uniforms and deducts that House Davion is training infiltrators here, and invited real Taurian commandos to capture and study them so that they could be impersonated by the Davion troops. Due to his (partly feigned, partly real) deteriorating condition Henderson is brought to the infirmary. There, he appropriates a syringe, draws blood from his own vein, and secretly injects his blood into vitamin shots destined for the trainee commandos.

Shortly afterwards, Henderson is rescued by the commando team he brought. They have killed most of the staff at the Davion facility and taken Sauud hostage. After feeding him some misinformation, Henderson leaves Sauud (feeling they are square now, as Sauud had used and betrayed him but had been relatively decent in the process) and proceeds to evacuate the Taurian squad in his boad, using knowledge gleaned from Sauud and the trip upriver to facilitate a quick escape with the special gadgets of the boat. When Sauud mentions that Henderson would not have the reflexes to pull that off due to his "bad water", the troopers react strangely, but they pull through with the plan and manage an escape on a shuttle that had been hidden at the extraction point.

In the debriefing back on Brisbane on 29 December it is revealed that "bad water" in reality is a local term for the Brisbane Virus infection, a bloodborne pathogen that attacks the central nervous system and will incapacitate a person within some two years. Henderson had tried to live his life to the fullest in the brief time he has left, and could have walked away from the assignment by revealing his true condition, but he accepted the mission as he felt they really needed his expertise to pull it off. He also tells Thompson that he contaminated the vitamin shots with his own infected blood—the Davion agents may be dangerous now and cause some damage, but within two years they will not have a man standing anymore.

Featured Planets[edit]


  • Brisbane has been mentioned as a world under quarantine for the Brisbane virus and is sometimes even omitted from official maps.
  • According to author Kevin Killiany's commentary posting on the genesis of this story (see also this article's Talk page), the faux Taurians trained at Bromhead were the ones who would raid the Capellan Confederation world of Rollis pretending to be Taurian troops from Laconis. This caused a devastating retaliatory attack from the Rollis militia that in turn was answered by Laconis hiring mercenaries to strike back at Rollis, setting a vicious circle in motion. Killiany figured that this only made sense if Laconis had been set up in the initial attack; Bad Water explains how that came to pass, and also why this successful strategy was not repeated.