This was written in the Heavy Gear Universe by Dream Pod 9. It appeared in issue 4.4 of Aurora Magazine in July, 2010.
Like other hegemonic nations in history, the Southern Republic has gone to great lengths to secure its power, creating places where those who might threaten it, from within and without, can simply disappear and never be heard of again. Like the Gulag of the Soviets, like Abu Ghraib of the United States, most know, but don’t speak openly about L’Oubliette. It is a place where secrets, men, and horrors are sent to be forgotten.
Prison Complex – L’Oubliette.
L’Oubliette was an unofficial name used by the rank and file to describe the quasi-mythical prison where the most significant prisoners were sent to. The official name was Outpost Theta 3, which was originally built as a small scale proof-of-concept of the Gamma Base design. It is a self-contained military outpost built into the side of a natural cliff on the inside of a igneous rock mountain, a stronghold meant to be impregnable. Outpost Theta 3 was built in TN 1789 by the South Republican Army Engineer Corps, consisting of an above-ground, domed and turreted structure with automated defenses, and an underground complex that mirrors the layout of its upper half. At the time, there was no clear purpose for the outpost, as it was too small to house an army and its equipment in a practical fashion, unlike the Gamma bases that would follow. The 4th MP Regiment, using the political notoriety of its mission, chose Outpost Theta 3 as its base of operations soon thereafter, deeming its location away from most population centers, though still well within Republican territory as ideal. The underground half of the facility was promptly converted into the facility it is today.
L’Oubliette receives its prisoners and supplies through either the road that splits from a local maglev station some 200 kilometers away, or by air through the small airstrip that is within its defensive perimeter. Very few people have ever left L’Oubliette alive, guard or prisoner, and there have been no recorded successful jail-breaks, with attempts numbering less than a dozen.
The rolling plains that surround the solid rock mountain where L’Oubliette is cradled are subdivided into farming plots and grazing fields all the way to the horizon. The farming communities in the area are sparse and rural, making a point of being incurious about the small military base. In their mind, just as with any other Republican citizen, they saw L’Oubliette as the place where the most terrible secrets went to die.
There are a few persistent rumors that L’Oubliette was the site of experimentation with captured G.R.E.L. soldiers. Those rumors have never been publicly confirmed.
Although L’Oubliette is a military base in its own right, given the conversion of half of its functional space into a prison complex, the SRA detachment that’s stationed there is woefully underpowered. Single regiments from the Infantry, Cavalry and Gear branches of the SRA do the best they can in very confined quarters. In recent years, temporary buildings have been built around the outpost, encroaching on the plains below on either side of the road leading to the distant maglev station. Service at L’Oubliette is often seen as a test of loyalty for units that fail to inspire confidence in the higher rungs of the chain of command. It’s a chance for those disfavored units to prove themselves as steadfast soldiers of the Republic.
A single pair of automated defense turrets flanks the outpost with the typical, overlapping kill-zones cover the approach from the road and the airfield. There are other turrets mounted on the base itself, but their field-of-view is more limited due to their emplacement. Meanwhile, the regiments on-site can fortify and dig themselves in, if given enough advance notice of an attack. However, due to its location and relatively minor strategic value, a full-on assault is considered unlikely. At best, the Southern High Command argues, it has to be well defended enough to dissuade a commando raid. Given the nature of the base, such operations that would target it are assumed to be highly impractical, if not outright impossible to carry out successfully.
Capote du Bourreau – 4th Military Police Regiment.
When an officer who has proven himself to be otherwise competent, disciplined and bloodthirsty commits a capital offense, they’re sometimes given a reprieve from the usual punishment. If such a reprieve is given, the offender is presented with a choice between an executioner’s hood and a firearm loaded with one bullet with which to carry out his own sentence. Choosing the Capote du Borreau entails forsaking all honor for the sake of either continuing to serve the Republic, or merely saving one’s life. If the prisoner chooses the hood, he is still labeled as deceased and a grave is marked with his name. The newly anointed executioner is sent to L’Oubliette, where he will serve the Republic’s interests as a torturer for an indeterminate number of years. They carry out the duties that are too unsavory or dishonorable for regular officers, either in hopes that they will be released from service eventually, or merely because it appeals to their baser, crueler nature. In practice, they are not a military unit since they would never be deployed on to the field. Their role usually confines them to L’Oubliette. If their services are urgently required elsewhere, for whatever reason, they will be escorted by a detachment of regular Military Police officers who never let their charge out of their sight, for their protection as well as to prevent them from escaping.
They serve as interrogators, torturers, and executioners for the special category of prisoners L’Oubliette is meant for. That category of prisoner is usually comprised by those individuals whose incarceration would prove politically difficult for the higher spheres of Republican authority and society, including their most bitter rivals, blackmailers, and political hostages. From time to time captured spies are sent there in order to be debriefed before being interrogated and disposed of. This last type of short-term imprisonment is colloquially referred to as “retrieval” by those who order it and those who carry it out. It involves anything and everything an experienced and unscrupulous interrogator would think useful for extracting (or, indeed, retrieving) every last piece of pertinent information from a prisoner. Technically speaking, the Capode du Borreau recruits from the same pool of candidates as Les Etrangers, the irredeemably disgraced, but with a different skill-set. This skews the membership of this regiment heavily towards shamed Military Police officers, which keeps both unofficial branches from competing with one another.
The regimental situation of the Capote du Borreau is similar to that of Les Etrangers, operating in a gray area outside of the usual chain of command and with little regard for honor, doing what is necessary, as ordered by the highest political echelons of the Southern Republic, but still within the bounds of a loosely interpreted Law. Notably, the Capote du Borreau will not execute a prisoner unless they are ordered to, nor will they subject a prisoner to any treatment that wasn’t specified by those ordering their arrest. Very few prisoners in the care of the Capote de Borreau will be put on trial for their alleged crimes, for whatever reason, and so they operate under a different set of guidelines where they are merely the instruments of the will of outside civilian and military authorities, and it’s those authorities who would have to answer for any crimes that the Capote du Borreau carried out on their behalf. Those crimes would be part of the Les Temoins files on a prosecutor’s desk, in the unlikely event that a member of the political elite would be brought to trial as it, technically speaking, was committed by a dead man in their name. More likely than not, such a criminal would be a guest of L’Oubliette instead, where the Capote du Borreau would dispense its own form of retribution.
The Capote du Borreau have several tiers of convict personnel, ranging from commissioned officers, non-commissioned officers and enlisted personnel, all of them guilty of crimes that would usually carry a death sentence. They fulfill the roles they did before their crimes were committed, in most cases, except for the tasks that require contact with the outside world. Those tasks, such as prisoner intake and transportation, complex repairs, and so forth, are handled by whatever unit is garrisoned in the upper half of the prison. Technically speaking, the Capote du Borreau is subordinate to the particular SRA unit that is stationed at L’Oubliette. That unit is authorized to summarily terminate any of the personnel it’s guarding, but, in practical terms, the Capote du Borreau act independently within the confines of L’Oubliette.
It isn’t uncommon for a prisoner, usually sent there for life-long extra-judicial sentence, to switch sides and join the Capote du Borreau. The matter of which side of the bars they are on is largely inconsequential, they will most likely never regain their freedom.
L’Oubliette is not like other penitentiary institutions. There are no guidelines that apply to every prisoner. Because of this, the life of a prisoner could range from quiet, uneventful confinement in a small cell until a change in the political climate returns their freedom, or it can be a regimented Hell the likes of which haunted Dante’s nightmares. Prisoners are not allowed to comingle; they’re kept in their individual cells, which have facilities in accordance to their status, where they sleep, eat and live. Some of these cells could pass off as tiny, constrictive apartments, with bathrooms and a window that pipes in natural sunlight from the surface through fiber-optic conduits. Others, known as isolation pods, are no more than a suspension tank where prisoners are caged, fed intravenously. Some are allowed to slip into unconsciousness, while others, in accordance to the vindictiveness of those who sent them to L’Oubliette, denied sleep through a variety of drugs and techniques. The treatment prisoners receive is entirely dependent of the whims of the authorities that sent them there.
Despite express prohibitions against it, prisoners do often manage to communicate with one another through contiguous cells. The guards often engage in smuggling, for themselves as well as well as for the prisoners. This black market is tolerated by the higher-ranked officers of the Capote du Borreau and by the SRA units stationed in the upper level of L’Oubliette. Smugglers often use an alternate entrance through a nearby McAllen tunnel network to deliver their goods to L’Oubliette clandestinely.
L’Oubliette was the site where the oft-rumored experimentation with captured G.R.E.L. soldiers took place. The purpose of those experiments was to find ways three-fold: Find the abilities, limitations and weaknesses of the G.R.E.L. in order to develop tactics and weapons meant specifically for them, discover the extent of the Earth Concordat’s genetic technology, and attempt to replicate and adapt those techniques for their own use. The experiments were led by hand-picked scientists in medical, biological and psychological fields, and ran the gamut from toxin exposure to invasive surgeries. The results of these experiments are ranked as most secret and have yet to be visibly influential in other Southern technologies. Some of the scientists that assisted in these efforts became inmates of L’Oubliette themselves.
Warden Reynaud Lachenal (Knight):
The Warden of this particular prison is a disgraced Southern Republic Army (SRA) Officer, who was assigned to this post as punishment for political indiscretions – namely his political ambition and scheming. He was caught red-handed, quite literally, in an attempt to blackmail his betters. The resulting embarrassment to his political superiors compounded his crime, although he was never criminally charged.
He is the senior officer in the Capote du Borreau, given that unenviable distinction due to his rank when he was “recruited” into the regiment in TN1925, and became its leader soon thereafter. Before being named warden, he was Sous Prefect Reynaud Lachenal, a name he was forced to abandon when he chose the hood as punishment for an attempt of intrigue that went catastrophically wrong. He had proved himself in the field during the War of the Alliance, leading his infantry regiment meritoriously. That, and the private humiliation he would suffer when his name was stricken from the Republic’s annals, made him a great prospect from this peculiar unit. When confronted with his choice, he took the hood as he saw suicide just as cowardly as surrender. At times, while he carries out the more distasteful aspects of his duties, he wonders if he didn’t make the wrong choice.
Even so, he never lost his pride, but the experience did break his ambition. All he aspires to now is to live out his dishonorable life until he is truly forgotten or pardoned, both of which are unlikely, if not impossible. He does not accept defeat easily, and while he enjoys complete obedience from his regiment, as they fear to be subjected to the same punishment they dispense on their prisoners.
Archetype: Senior Officer
On the surface, he seems calculating, with a frigid, deliberate approach to his day-to-day duties. In the more quiet moments, when the work is done and he doesn’t have to play the role of warden, he withdraws into fantasies of his past, taking up the bruised pride of those days.
Warden Lachenal was an effective infantry leader, and he still retains that edge when pressed. If he is threatened directly with violence, he won’t waste his time with a prolonged confrontation. If he cannot immediately subdue his attacker, which he still could do, he will go for the cleanest killing blow available to him. If he is facing a military threat, he will pull his forces back to draw his enemy into a trap, setting up kill zones and other such ambushes. In a stalemate, he is not above negotiating.
The highest echelons of Republican politics know of him and have something to fear from him. Despite that, his influence is limited to L’Oubliette, where his authority is absolute. If he were to reach out to the outside world, he can intimidate anyone of political heft, but not so with anyone below the rank of Prefect.
Sous Adjuntant Jacqueline Milliard (Bishop):
Sous Adjuntant Jacqueline Milliard is not a member of the Capote du Borreau, she is the personal assistant to the Adjuntant in charge of the outpost that rests on top of L’Oubliette, who in turn answers to the Warden below. She is, by all accounts, a loyal yet unremarkable officer. Her assignment to this particular regiment came during an inauspicious time for the unit, which through circumstance and bad luck, it was assigned to man the outpost resting atop L’Oubliette. They have been stationed for a few cycles now, and he has settled into the secretive routine of patrols and receiving newly arrived prisoners. Like any other Republican officer entrusted with a burdensome duty, she bears it with discipline and stoicism. In time, she has learned the ins and outs of the legitimate and clandestine functioning of the base. The prison itself is largely unknown to her, but she is very familiar with everything around it.
Archetype: Junior Officer
The members of the Capote du Borreau are outnumbered by their prisoners at least a hundred to one. They have to maintain perfect control over all of their prisoners at all times, or risk being overrun in the matter of an hour. This leads to a very tense and stressful environment for the guards, who have to follow the others of the Warden while keeping the tightest grip possible on the inmates. This, while being prisoners themselves of L’Oubliette. That peculiar set of circumstances culls the weak-minded very quickly, cracking them in a matter of weeks. Most of the guards have military backgrounds, and have at least basic training in military police procedure and tactics. The only true benefits a guard of L’Oubliette receives are time outside the prison’s walls, under the strict supervision of the SRA units stationed in the upper half of the outpost, and direct access to the black market. The shore leave comes once every season and only for a short period of time, and being able to procure smuggled goods does give them a few luxuries to treasure in an otherwise miserable existence. Thus far, these two advantages have proven enough to maintain order in L’Oubliette.
Archetype: Military Police
Political Prisoners (Pawn):
The AST’s political arena, both in and outside of the Republic is fraught with treachery and intrigue. The higher the sphere of power, the more ruthless and malicious the game becomes, and nothing is off-limits. There are all kinds of political prisoners in L’Oubliette, for all sorts of reasons, but political prisoners are usually there through no fault of their own, aside from being seen as leverage on someone prominent and unruly. This strategy isn’t used to silence casual dissenters. However, the staunchest critical voices might find a family-member or a lover might gone one morning, picked up by the local authorities. By mid-afternoon, a Republican official might be asking leading questions, and advising caution. This type of prisoner is usually kept in the most comfortable cells L’Oubliette can offer, often permanently, but separated from the rest of the prisoners. In the rare instances that one of these prisoners is released, they are returned to their homes, traumatized by their experience. Political prisoners have always been the exceptional minority of L’Oubliette’s population.
Criminal Prisoners (Pawn):
Criminal prisoners have earned their visit to L’Oubliette; their guilt of some terrible crime is all but certain. They are sent to L’Oubliette whenever their death isn’t the immediately desired outcome. These prisoners can be military personnel or civilians who have somehow victimized the upper echelons of Republican society, knowingly or not. Usually, their life sentences at L’Oubliette are cut short as they succumb to the treatment proscribed by the Republican official that sent them there. In other cases, these prisoners might be recruited as the lowest-ranking guards at L’Oubliette, trading in the last of their pride for the few perks they might receive. This class of prisoner is usually housed in small 2.5 meters by 1.5 meters, typically, but this can be escalated to the isolation pods, depending on the prisoner. A majority of these prisoners are expected to suffer some type of psychotic episode within a year of their imprisonment. The majority of L’Oubliette’s prisoners fall under this category.
Special Prisoners (Pawn):
These individuals are considered to be prisoners of the State, mostly for security reasons. These include the G.R.E.L. and other Earth invaders that were captured during the War of the Alliance, as well as spies from other leagues. At L’Oubliette, these prisoners are subjected to different kinds of interrogation, torture and experimentation. The most unspeakable acts ever committed at L’Oubliette were probably the series of experiments conducted on the G.R.E.L. held there, some of which survive even today. The most peculiar prisoners who fall under this category are the researchers that were deemed as a security risk by Republican authorities, suspecting that these scientists could sell or otherwise divulge the findings of their work.
L’Oubliette prison is meant to be a dungeon for role-playing campaigns, which players could explore or escape from. Consider the possibilities of the storylines tucked away into each cell, the secrets every door could reveal. The archetypes presented here are, therefore, purposefully vague. The Gamemaster is given absolute freedom to create whatever characters within the categories described above to suit the needs of their campaign, while L’Oubliette serves as a rich and tense backdrop for the storyline that is being developed. The Archetypes noted above are suggestions for the statistics each NPC should have, mentioning archetypes contained in the Heavy Gear Player’s Guide.
Cesar Mateo Gonzalez