The Running Man
|The Running Man|
|First published||19 March 2011|
|Era||Dark Age era|
|Timeline||18 March—8 April 3098|
|Preceded by||The Bitter Harvest|
|“||The Jihad left both visible scars and invisible ones, on both sides. Like many wars, its veterans were left unsatisfied. And, like many wars, its fighters continue on long after it's over. Christopher Purnell takes us to Caph at the turn of the century, chasing Blakist war criminals.||”|
Roland Stansfield and Zhenli Yuan are veterans of Stone's Liberators and professional Blakist War Criminal hunters, working for the Jordan Lewis Foundation to track down former Precentor of RMB 228 Ivan Gorlenko. Gorlenko has fled to the wilds of Caph with support from The Terran Legion, a covert organisation fronted by a veterans society, which has helped Gorlenko stay on the run for years.
With assistance from a local liaison, the young Erin Blum of the Caph Forestry Department, and aid from a regular confidential informant Stansfield refers to as the Raspy Man - and despite resistance from Director Robert McTavish, the civilian responsible for maintaining the nature preserves on Steam, Stansfield and Yuan are given permission to bring weapons onto Steam. Whilst McTavish is forced to back down by a data chip carried by Stansfield containing a recording of Devlin Stone instructing all members of the civilian government to provide full assistance to Stansfield, McTavish's receptionist is a Blakist sympathiser who passes on word that the hunters are on Steam and looking for Gorlenko.
Gorlenko has gone to ground on the Witherspoon Estate, a Terran Hegemony-era estate deep in the interior of Steam, along with his bodyguard and escape coordinator, the hulking Marius van der Merwe. Alerted to the presence of Stansfield and Yuan, and aware of who the married couple are, van der Merwe details his intention to use help from some of the young recruits of the Terran Legion to ambush the hunters in the wilderness, and use the local wildlife to dispose of their remains. To van der Merwe, Gorlenko is a patriot who has sacrificed much for Terra; Gorlenko regards the deaths of several hundred Draconis Combine and Clan personnel in his experiments as an irrelevance, pointing out that they would have died anyway, and that the Republic is happy to use the results of his work in the new generation of cybernetics for its own personnel, while demonizing him as a war criminal.
Van der Merwe launches his ambush on the trail leading to the Witherspoon Estate, but despite suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, Stansfield's instincts are good enough that he's able to react, swinging his Ibex RV off the trail and into the undergrowth. When the vehicle crashes, he and Yuan battle the ambushers. The ambush is further broken up by an attack from a female antrodemus, a large predator dinosaur that kills one of the ambushers and leaves the others open to be killed by Stansfield and Yuan, before the dinosaur attacks them in turn - regretfully being killed by Erin before it can harm them. With the attackers dead, Stansfield searches the bodies, and Erin and Yuan located the all-terrain bikes used by their ambushers, allowing them to continue their pursuit of Golenko.
When cornered in the estate, Golenko offers no resistance, and its revealed that the pursuit is personal for Stansfield; one of Golenko's victims was one Jacob Namura, a friend of Stansfield, who died as a result of the experiments. Golenko's argument that his research would've earned him medals if performed in the Capellan Confederation or Draconis Combine receive short shrift from Stansfield, and Golenko continues to argue that he and others like him were fighting to save the Star League - and that nothing the Blakists did was any worse than the actions of any of the Successor States during the Succession Wars.
The conversation between Stansfield, Yuan and Golenko reveals Golenko to be a Blakist and a Terran nationalist, convinced that the Word of Blake was betrayed by The Master and the Manei Domini, and that the establishment of a new, Terran-centric nation to lead humanity is a foregone conclusion - with Devlin Stone's influence being just a passing phase before a better state is created, and that this will his legacy, and the true legacy of the Word of Blake.
When the hunters arrive at the spaceport, they're intercepted by a group which includes the personal secretary of Planetary Legate Fuller, one Amy Selkirk, Captain Bandwike of the Republic militia, and an individual who identifies himself as Luis Ferré and claims to be a part of Republic Intelligence Joint Task Force Eumenides. Ferré lays claim to Golenko, saying that he's to be taken in for debriefing, despite Erin arguing that there is no such thing as a Task Force Eumenidies. Ferré counters her claim by pointing out that a lowly Forestry Department employee wouldn't have much of an intimate knowledge of Republic intelligence structures, and Selkirk vouches for Ferré's credentials, stating that Legate Fuller has authorised the transfer.
Stansfield reluctantly hands over Gorlenko, and the others leave on an unidentified Mule-class DropShip. Stansfield and Zhenli return home in the belief that there job is now done, and they can get on with the rest of their lives.
The epilogue to the story focuses on Erin Blum; on investigating further, she can find no record of the Mule, Ferré's arrival, departure or credentials, or of Amy Selkirk. It's revealed that Erin Blum is a cover identity, and that Ferré is a professional rival to the agent operating as Erin Blum. Identifying Ferré as an ex-ROM agent named "Nick", Blum admits a grudging respect for his sense of humor in choosing the name Luis Ferré, but is angry that one of the biggest fish still at large within the Republic has been taken away from her, feeling guilty for letting down Stansfield and Yuan. Nevertheless, Erin admits to herself that there was nothing she could have done to stop Ferré, because of the limits of her Blum identity, which she is about to abandon. Blum is further revealed to be the Raspy Man when she contacts Yuan to let her know that Gorlenko has escaped and that pursuing him will be both impossible and fatal due to the nature of the much larger players now involved.
Erin finishes the call to Yuan by confirming that she will contact them in the future with further targets to hunt down, before resolving to herself that regardless of her orders, if she ever encounters Gorlenko again, she'll kill him personally.
- Unidentified and unmarked Mule-class DropShip.