The Red Moons – Brixie Ergo

Red Moons Spotlight

Brixie Ergo

Brixie Ergo, image credit: Mike Vilardi

Encouraged by her parents, both recognized medical specialists in the Entralla system, Brixie enrolled in one of the prominent universities there to pursue a medical career of her own. After several years of intense study, Doctors Mari and Praxis Ergo were on their way to attend their daughter’s graduation ceremony when they were taken by agents of the Pentastar Alignment. Brixie never heard from her parents again.

Enraged and overwhelmed by a feeling of helplessness, Brixie was encouraged by some politically-active students to reach out to the Red Moons. Accused of paramilitary activity, the Red Moons and its leader—Colonel Andrephan Stormcaller—were said to be former Rebel Alliance infiltrators-turned-mercenaries. Stormcaller denounced the Pentastar Alignment’s occupation of his home world of Entralla. Dismayed by a lack of action from the New Republic, he and his associates took matters into their own hands. They sabotaged Alignment starships and bases, raided convoys, and liberated surrounding systems. If anyone could help Brixie free her parents, it might be them.

The young graduate’s attempts to contact Stormcaller were fraught with peril. Instructors warned her against it while friends either went into hiding or disappeared. Close acquaintances of her parents begged her to stop trying. The Alignment was simply too big, too powerful and controlled nearly everything on Entralla. Picked up and intimidated by Pentastar agents, they finally let her go, hoping she would lead them to the elusive Red Moons.

The agents, watching her by remote drone and security sniffers, tracked Brixie to a hurried comlink call directing her to a warehouse near the capital’s spaceport. The agents arrived with a heavily-armed squad of stormtroopers. They burst into the warehouse ready to arrest the student and the traitorous mercenaries, but found themselves locked inside—with a hungry trio of rathtars waiting to devour them.

Brixie, grabbed from behind and thrown into the back of a utility van speeder, was driven madly through the streets and tossed out near an alley between two commercial buildings in the worst part of the city.

“Don’t bother looking for us again!” the disguised driver warned her. She had been saved and turned away at the same time.

Dejected and roughed-up from her wild ride, Brixie was about to wonder how she was going to find a way back to her campus housing when she nearly stumbled over a drunken man in the alley. Cursing her clumsiness in a host of languages (none of them civil), the man shouted that she had interrupted his sleep. At the end of all patience, Brixie almost ran off in terror. But the man’s dismal lot in life and her chosen profession moved her to at least offer to help him.

“This is a terrible place for someone to sleep. Please come with me, sir. I’ll find you a shelter with a real bed.”

The drunkard’s surly voice changed to something surprisingly calm and observant.

“You’re a long way from the comforts of the city, Brixie Ergo, student of the medical arts.” The man got his feet and tossed aside the filthy raincoat he had been cocooned in. He removed a wig from his head and a set of plastic layers that disguised his face. “A long way to look for a name.”

“I am looking for someone!” Brixie was startled. How did this man know her? “Someone named Stormcaller.”

“Congratulations, my young lady.” He waved at his smelly self. “You found him.”

Colonel Stormcaller and the Red Moons had been keeping Brixie under surveillance, determining if she was truly in need of help or simply another plot by agents of the Alignment to trap them. Hearing firsthand the story of her parents and their forced induction in the Pentastar Alignment’s secretive medical corps, the colonel offered Brixie a working arrangement. He and the Red Moons would do everything in their power to locate and rescue her parents, and in return, Brixie would train to become a combat medic for the Red Moons.

The young graduate tentatively agreed, putting off her medical internship on Entralla for a uniform and a barren moon to begin training with the mercenaries.

Her time with the Red Moons was wearying and frustrating. Her parents were constantly moved around and kept just out of her reach. Though she became close friends with the core of the Red Moons, particularly unit leader Sully Tigereye and demolitions expert Hugo Cutter, she didn’t believe she was much of a soldier. There was plenty of violence and death as the war between the Moons and the Alignment for Entralla escalated from random piracy and sabotage missions to explosive battles in the historic quarter.

The only person Brixie felt she could confide with among the Moons was the least likely among them: a thief and data slicer named Ivey Deacon. Ivey was nearly the same age as Brixie, but grew up in the grim plexes of Contras Gola’s hive cities. Ivey was curt, crude and could be brutally honest. She took to calling Brixie by the nickname of “Princess” because of her safe, cultured, Entrallan upbringing. When Brixie and the Moons were in a tight spot, it was Ivey who squashed security protocols and reprogrammed enforcer droids to open fire on their own troops. Once the battle was over, it was Brixie who patched up the survivors so they could fight another day. Tigereye, noting Brixie’s own cheerless tendency to keep to herself, kept pairing her up with Ivey on some of her wilder escapades: thieving supplies and information right under from the Alignment’s nose.

The idea of participating on one of Ivey’s “shopping expeditions” stirred Brixie with excitement. Ivey was more grinning outlaw than soldier. The two took to their work with glee, Brixie playing the meek girl in need of help from Alignment troops while Ivey drove off, waving to them, in their military speeder.

At last, Brixie was given her first mission. She was to accompany her instructor, Sully Tigerye, and two other experienced members of the Red Moons: Hugo Cutter and Lex Kempo. Their target: a slaving operation on the jungle moon of Gabredor III.

Cutter was considered a former prodigy of the Imperial Engineers Academy, that is until his father tried to have him reconditioned by the Empire. Young Hugo brought down the Academy’s famous bell tower on Corsucant without injuring a single person. He was swept up by the Rebel Alliance where he put his skills to work as a demolitions expert. Brixie spent her time on the mission carefully keeping an eye on Hugo and watching out for his somewhat erratic behavior. Lex Kempo, aka the “Mad Vornskr”, was a former scout trooper for the Empire and a seasoned merc. He took it upon himself to instruct Brixie on the finer details of mercenary life.

Brixie on Gabredor III, Image Credit: Mike Vilardi

Brixie’s first foray as a field medic was fraught with danger. The Red Moons’ ship malfunctioning, forcing a landing by lifeboat pod. Brought down some distance from the camp, Brixie and Hugo Cutter ran into several slaver scouts mounted on raptors. One of the beasts, its rider killed, charged into Brixie. Only her vibroblade saved her from being trampled.

The mission could have been hailed as a success: two important children taken by the slavers were rescued and many slaves were freed. But the toll on Brixie was almost too much to bear. Kempo sacrificed himself knocking out a heavy weapon bunker that had pinned Brixie and Hugo down.

The mercenary life was full of danger…and death. Brixie began to question what her personal crusade to rescue her parents would cost in the lives of others–especially  her friends.



More on Brixie and the Red Moons can be found on Wookipedia.

Some of this material appeared in the character synopsis for “Blaze of Glory” by Tony Russo, Star Wars Adventure Journal Vol. 1, No. 8, November 1995, West End Games. Original artwork credit: Mike Vilardi.

“Blaze of Glory” is also available in Star Wars: Tales From the Empire, edited by Peter Schweighofer. 

What The Heck Was The Star Wars Adventure Journal?


Where You Can Find Me!

“…and why should I care?”, you’re probably asking.

[In which the author attempts to explain the mysteries of writing for the Star Wars universe and the general headaches of working as a contractor building a pool for a house that the new owners didn’t want but decided to use sometimes.]

A long time ago in a house far, far away (the 1990s, just so you know), I was a struggling author with few publishing credits to my name. My fate at the time represented the Catch-22 of life as an author. To be considered for publication, you have to be already published. That’s the way it was. Agents wouldn’t read your queries. Publishers would laugh because they wouldn’t consider you as a real author unless you had some credentials.

I stewed like this for some time, sending out short stories to sci-fi magazines and novel submissions to the major publishers with hopeful expectation, only to collect a pile of rejection letters. (This was all pre-Internet, so the entire industry relied upon paper and envelopes and stamps.)

A friend of mine returned from a local convention with a broadside offering authors (of all stripes) a chance to write for a company called West End Games which was putting out something called The Star Wars Adventure Journal, a quarterly magazine offered as a companion to its new release of Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game. The Journal would offer little games, new characters, equipment and location stats for enthusiastic use in the RPG. It would also offer short fiction. In other words, it was a chance to write for Star Wars–and have your work considered canon.

So what is canon? (It’s not a gun, but it has been used as a weapon.)

Canon is the Holy Grail of writing for someone else’s property. Say you have an idea for Buffy The Vampire Slayer? It belongs to Joss Whedon, so you skillfully locate his postal address, slip your manuscript (with brass brads!) down the mail slot and eagerly await his reply. Mr. Whedon’s lawyer promptly writes back and tells you to go jump in the lake. Buffy is a product that belongs only to Mr. Whedon, only he can create licensed material or make deals to produce more material. Think the Buffy comics and you understand what I mean.

West End Games held the license for producing the Star Wars Roleplaying Game and was offering chances for writers (some with limp credentials like myself) the chance to write more material for the universe. This chance was extremely vetted–the editors at West End Games had to pass each writer’s work on to Lucasfilm for a blessing. Once blessed, the work was considered canon. What you had written was part of the Star Wars universe, living side-by-side with the movies, the books, the video games and other stuff.

I wrote like a demon. This was a universe I adored when I was a teenager and in the Nineties, Star Wars had lost most of its luster. The universe was lying there in a used speeder shop waiting for someone to tune it up to eleven again. Timothy Zahn released a trilogy of new books with new adventures for the Skywalkers and the Solos. The New Republic era was created. West End Games had a new edition of its roleplaying game tied to this new era and things started cooking. The Adventure Journal came out along with new books, new comics and new releases of toys.

It lasted only for a few years. West End Games developed financial problems. It bought licenses for other properties (some of them without much lucrative basis for an RPG) and overextended itself. Some people got paid very slowly and others not at all. The RPG license was passed to Wizards of the Coast (which was consumed by Hasbro. Pen and paper RPGs were slowly being edged out by video games. The RPG languished and so did Star Wars until the prequel movies were released.

There was a lot of material to keep track of. Too much canon, in fact.

The point of this is to explain why some material written for Star Wars (the so-called “Extended Universe”) was wiped out and tossed in a Sarlaac pit. After Disney acquired Lucasfilm and Star Wars, it wanted to make new movies, new characters (which in turn are used to decorate toy boxes) and erase a lot of confusion regarding the period between the end of Return of the Jedi and their new stuff. In other words, the EU was sent to the boneyard. That meant my work, twenty or so years ago, was voided and is no longer considered canon. (On Wookiepedia and, much of this material has been reorganized under the title Legends, to avoid confusion.)

Which is too bad. While it was confusing to some, there were tons of material produced by great writers and artists in the fifteen editions of the Star Wars Adventure Journal (um, my own stuff included). Some of this material did slip in from books like the Star Wars Sourcebooks created by West End. What’s the interior layout of the Millennium Falcon and where are its secret cargo compartments? How does a blaster pistol or a lightsaber work? Where’s Yavin Four in relation to the other worlds in the galaxy? What are the known variants of the TIE Fighter? This is essential legwork–a story scaffolding–that’s already been established and it occasionally pops up, again and again, in The Force Awakens, Clone Wars, Rebels and Rogue One.

Check out that portable missile launcher from Rogue One!

Missile Launcher!

With this one…

Finbat Anti-walker missile and launcher, from the Star Wars Adventure Journal, “Blasters-for-Hire”, written and drawn by yours truly

So twenty plus years later, I decided to dig in that past and write a new piece of fiction to celebrate my old work with the Star Wars Adventure Journal. It’s not canon, its not authorized, its simply a work of love.

Red Moon Rising

Red Moon Rising covers some of the heroes, adversaries, characters and worlds I previously wrote about and updates them with events of The Force Awakens. Consider it a chance to return to the world of Star Wars while endlessly waiting for The Last Jedi.




No, Your Trilogy Doesn’t Need An “Empire Strikes Back” Moment

The Power of The Dark Side, yada, yada, yada
The Power of The Dark Side, yada, yada, yada

Another week of writing, another preponderance of movie makers humble-bragging about their projects. This week, it’s Colin whats-his-face of Jurassic World fame. Not only is the director of one of 2015’s more pointless money-making sensations talking about Jurassic World 2, but the usual scuttlebutt points to him saying that the second movie will be, naturally, darker. Just like Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. (or Episode V, for all you purists out there.)

This is not the first nor the last direct response to hopeful fans that it’s important for a trilogy to “go darker” and to mention Empire in the very same sentence, much less the same breath. There’s no overstating how much of an impact Episode V has: poor Han Solo encased in carbonite and taken by the bounty hunter Boba Fett; Luke finding out his father is that person, and losing his hand and lightsaber to boot; and Leia ends up at the end of the movie with only a nice brotherly hug and nothing else. The film is clearly a darker turn than the film that preceded it, not only in terms of story but in cinematography. Hoth is bleak and cold enough to force you to hide inside a dead Wampa. Vader’s Super Star Destroyer Executioner is an arrow straight to the heart. Bespin is a golden-colored hot mess of clouds and an Art Deco Cloud City laid out in purples and menacing equipment. The Rebels are scattered and their base is shot to pieces by a couple of walking mechanical elephants, our heroes have few places to turn and no one left to trust. The guy who runs Cloud City is a seedy con man who puts Colt .45 Malt liquor in his bantha juice. Luke is directed by his old master to land in a swamp and take lessons from a creepy, backwards-talking, 900-yea- old elf who sounds just like Fozzie Bear.

Is your trilogy really required to have its Empire moment? This is a task that faces many writers, who, encouraged by the popularity of books that go on and on (Game of Thrones, etc.) we end up writing The Lord of The Rings when we really meant to just write a collection of short stories about your misadventures in the bathroom. Sooner or later, writers feel that the only means to propel the story is to create a dark section. This is descent into the Woods, the Dark Tree, however the mythological patterns tell writers to proceed.

Then there’s the plot twist that made everyone who’s seen Empire gasp; the bad guy turns out to be your hero’s father. Holy Conundrum, Batman! Take the one thing your hero hates, the villain, and make him his only surviving relative. Will Luke send a Life Day card to Daddy Vader? How awkward can Father’s Day dinner actually get? And what’s going to happen when Leia finds out she’s a part of this whole twisted Skywalker mess? (Say hello to my therapist droid: 2FREUD-PIO.)  Joking aside, it’s easy to see why George Lucas and Lawrence Kasdan became so enthralled with this idea. It keeps the hero loop going for an entire other film (Jedi), with one relative trying to turn the other to his side of the Force.

But does a writer need an Empire moment (or even an entire Empire storyline) in his or her story’s structure? Is it so important to put your heroes in the worst place possible and then watch them crawl out with help from a sudden redemption moment (Vader tosses Emperor down a chasm) or a lucky coincidence (the Ewoks turn out to be expert guerrilla fighters and can build a tower to destroy an AT-ST walker in no-time-flat.)

We’ve experienced Sansa Stark’s horrifying marriage (if you can call that a mawwwaage) in Game of Thrones. Is that her Empire moment? (“Feed him to the dogs! Oh wait, that was just a figure of speech….”) How about Gwen Stacey’s death in (nobody really cared to watch) Amazing Spiderman 2; is that Peter Parker’s Empire moment?  Is The Walking Dead nothing but Empire moments, strung together like an endless chain of tragedy and death? Do we need to drop the floor out from underneath our protagonists to give them an interesting story? Has the Empire moment now reached the level of cliche; we expect the floor to fall out and we can’t wait to see our heroes kicking tail in the next book. It’s just another obstacle for your character to overcome. Another blip in the story outline.

If you have another idea, let me know. I’m wrapping up the second book of the Vanquish series and poor poor Briley … oh no! … don’t confront that heavy-breathing guy in the mask, the black cloak and the bad attitude. He’s got nothing but bad news for you….