APAGear II Archives Volume 2, Number 8 September, 2000


The Beast of Johar Ridge

Christian Schaller

The Beast of Johar Ridge

by R. J. Cross

[Originally appeared in the Winter, 1934 edition of the Rapid City Quarterly. © 1934, RC Publications. Reprinted with permission.]

Just south of the great UMF, situated at the edge of the Ashington Plains, bordering the Western Desert, you'll find the sleepy little Badlands hamlet of Johar Ridge. It's a small town, quaint and unimposing. There can't be more than 300 people living there, and everyone pretty much knows everyone else.

There, on the corner of Main Street and Hutchinson, you'll find Gekko's Garage, just across the street from the local gasoline/liquor store, kitty-corner from Mordy's Desert Skillet, and right next door to the town's general store. Parked there next to the looming maw of Gekko's Bay 2 squats the Beast of Johar Ridge, Rex.

Rex is... Rex is hard to describe. Beneath the leather and the chrome, it's Elementech's ageless Ground Hog Mark II Work Gear, except for the legs, which come from an older-model Northco Hunter. It's a beauty. A marvel of modern custom engineering. A work of art. An unlikely source of town pride.

Some might say the Beast is an eyesore, but they've never felt the steady purring of the completely re-machined Ground Hog V-engine. They've never blasted the Stoneheads from the high quality AudioDyne 911/PA ("Passive-Aggressive, not Public Address -- make no mistake about these babies!") speakers. And not those sissy, bootlicking New Original Stoneheads, either, but the Original New Stoneheads II.

Rex is why I came to Johar Ridge.

I spoke with his creator, Gekko Skovran, in the diner across the street.

"Yeah, see the chicks really go for him," he confessed when I asked him the obvious question: Why? (I was unable to find any of these 'chicks' when I went looking after the interview. Mr. Skovran thinks they're probably "just shy.")

Rex is spectacular. Take the old Ground Hog Mark II, swap out the legs with a Hunter's. The SMS rollers are a must-have for something like this, as every hot-rodder knows. Cover it with rich, studded springer leather and shiny chrome polished to 110 percent reflectivity. Add a couple of springer tusks and that awesome AudioDyne sound system. Don't forget the handle bars from one of the noisiest motorcycles ever to come out of Rapid City -- complete with a throttle on the grip.

That's Rex.

While talking with Gekko, Mordred "Mordy" Rock, the owner and head cook at the Desert Skillet, eyed me from across the counter. I think it was a friendly look, but I confess I have a hard time telling the difference between a GREL that wants to say Hi and a GREL that wants to tear off my head. I ordered the Desert Skillet Special: a root lizard omelet, apparently made without completely deboning the lizard.

"Nah, that's just gristle," Gekko explained. "Well, maybe a little bone. Ya git used to it," he added.

I washed down one of the more gristly bites with a swig of the local brew.

Gekko must have noticed my expression. "Ya git used to that, too," he said. With a chuckle, he added, "Rex basically has the same reaction to the stuff, but it keeps 'im runnin'."

I asked my opening question again: why?

Gekko grinned and scratched himself. "Well, why now? Rex was an old family Gear, kind of an heirloom. A good friend. My best loader 'n hauler. Can't do nuthin' in the shop without 'im. Well, hell, one day, 'e ups and blows 'is left leg hydraulic system. Suddenly the old goat's completely useless, but ya can't just scrap and old family treasure, can ya? So I had to rebuild the leg -- problem was, I didn't have any convenient parts on hand 'sides this here ol' Hunter out back. Next shipment ain't scheduled to roll into town for another season, ya know, so I did what I had ta do. I improvised."

I asked about the Hunter.

"Oh, that?" He scratched himself again. "Well, I got this old piece of crap Hunter out back, like I said. 'Bout one hunnert, one hunnert fitty cycles old. Pretty beat up. Trash heap. Got a good set o' gams, though."


"Legs. You know." He swung his own up onto the table for me to see, dislodging four different kinds of pepper sauce and knocking over my ale. I didn't really mind the loss. "Good legs, too. Fit real nice. Sorta surprised me at first that the Hunter's legs'd fit like they did, but who am I to argue? I had ta strip most of the original plating off to get 'em ta fit, though."

The chrome plating?

"Aw, hell, long story there. Buncha plates left over by some weird Suthern sissy-boy artist. Some kinda sculptor or somethin'. He abandoned the plates here after finishin' his project, then he took off, project and all. Things've been sittin' in my backyard for about five cycles now, lookin' for a good home. What the hell. I shaped 'em into armor plates for Rex. Came out purty nice, too, don'cha think? It was Rock that thought of the rest, of turning Rex into a Muscle Gear." From behind his counter, Rock waved.

Muscle Gear?

"Yep. Somethin' ta impress the ladies with. You know, like a big ol' hawg. A bike. A motorcycle. Leather, chrome, stereo. Rex has wheels now, too! That ol' Hunter's SMS was still in good shape, so I kept it. The chicks love it! They just love it! Rex here's way cooler than that sissy-boy piece of junk Mandeers makes, the 'Hobby Jäger' or 'Hobby Hunter,' whatever they call it. You've seen it -- it's for sissies."

Well, I own two of them, but I didn't mention that to Gekko.

What's next for Gekko?

"Well, the Hunter legs is okay, I s'pose. What I really want, really bad, is a set o' Ferret legs. Rex'd be a lot cooler if 'e were lower to the ground and had the buttwheel. Maybe we'd get a bigger engine, too, ta go a lot faster." He leaned in close to me from across the small table and whispered conspiratorially, "The next thing we're gonna do, though, is strip down another Ground Hog -- probably the spare that eventually arrived -- and mount a CEF hover system on it. Rock knows where ta find an ol' wrecked hovertank." Gekko leaned back and laughed, quite happy with the prospect. A nod to Rock sent the Mordred GREL into fits of laughter. The GREL pounded the hardwood countertop with his fists, and tears of mirth rolled down his face.

I assume they were just pulling my leg, but who knows? A man that can do what Gekko's already done can probably do just about anything with a Gear, and Rock may very well know where to find a CEF hovertank. So maybe we'll see this new creation some day.

I'll be sure to check it out if we do.


Vehicle Specifications

                   Name: Rex
           Vehicle Type: Work Gear ("Muscle Gear")
        Production Type: Scratch-Built
                   Cost: 13,760 M + parts
           Manufacturer: Gekko Skovran
                    Use: Impressing Ladies, Making Loud Noise, Machismo
                 Height: 4.2 m
                  Width: 2.8 m
   Avg. Armor Thickness: 12 mm
         Armor Material: Steel Alloy and Chrome
    Standard Op. Weight: 3.7 tons
      Primary Move Mode: Walk (42 kph)
    Secondary Move Mode: Ground (72 kph)
       Deployment Range: 550 km
           Sensor Range: 1 km
    Communication Range: 10 km
             Powerplant: V-Engine

General Stats

           Threat Value: 86
        Offensive Value: 0
        Defensive Value: 54
    Miscellaneous Value: 204
                   Size: 5
  Original Default Size: 5
       Indv. Lemon Dice: 14
                   Crew: 1
          Bonus Actions: 0


      Primary Move Mode: Walk
           Combat Speed: 4
              Top Speed: 7
Secondary Movement Mode: Ground
           Combat Speed: 6
              Top Speed: 12
               Maneuver: -2


                Sensors: -2
         Communications: -2
           Fire Control: -3


           Light Damage: 6
           Heavy Damage: 12
               Overkill: 18

Vehicle Availability

Availability Threshhold: N/A
    Max Number on Field: 1 (Unique)


Name                  Rating Game Effects

Audio System          -      The really good kind
Easy to Modify        -      +2 to repair and modify rolls
HEP: Desert           -      Protection from sand and dust
Loudspeakers          -      The really powerful kind
Manipulator Arms      -      Cannot punch
Reinforced Armor      2      Neat (and expensive) chrome plates on the front
Reinforced Armor      2      Neat (and expensive) chrome plates on the right flank
Reinforced Armor      2      Neat (and expensive) chrome plates on the left flank
Reinforced Location   2      Fancy chrome plating on the V-engine and hydraulic systems
Searchlight           -      50 m, FF


Name                  Rating Game Effects

Exposed Crew Comp.    -      "Crew" hits are one step worse
Exposed Movement Sys. -      "Movement" hits are one step worse
Large Sensor Profile  2      Really loud (and cool!) engine


Name                  Rating Game Effects

Movement Defect       -      -1 to maneuver (repaired)
Structural Defect     -      -1 to maneuver (repaired)
Structural Defect     -      -1 to base armor rating (repaired)
Electronics Defect    -      -1 to sensors (repaired)

Service Record

Most of the time, Rex just stands around outside Gekko's Garage. It has been involved in two successful combat missions, however. The first was on its maiden voyage, with the very drunk GREL restauranteur Mordy Rock at the controls. Rex successfully trampled GREL Isaac Britt's prize-winning flower garden. There was very little enemy fire, however, since Britt himself was stone cold drunk, face down in his living room at the time. The second engagement, with Gekko at the controls, took place a week later. Rex successfully squashed an annoying sipphorwhill. Enemy forces included a second sipphorwhill, which managed to escape after severely scratching Gekko's face.

To date, no ladies have been impressed with Rex.


To build Rex, you need a Ground Hog Mk II and a Hunter or a Hunter clone. The weird armor set-up (base armor of 6 instead of 8, with 2 points of reinforced armor all over the place) is intended to reflect a set of more expensive chrome panels as well as chrome exhaust pipes on the engine.

Author's Notes

This piece has appeared in a slightly different form elsewhere. I posted it to the HGML several years ago, and I've had it posted on my own Heavy Gear Web site for about as long.

Eventually, Johar Ridge, Rex, Gekko, Rock, and Britt grew on me. A lot. I'm now in the long, slow process of developing Johar Ridge in some detail. I'll be presenting it here in APAGear through a series of articles like this one as well as more conventional articles. There's also the story "Braver Deeds," which appeared in APAGear II, Volume 1, Number 2. I plan on revising that story some time in the future (though I'll probably finish off "Perceptions and Realities" first).

The big change in this revision to the interview with Gekko about Rex is that I turned the author's tone around. He was originally pretty disgusted with the whole thing, and I think that was a perfectly fine way to present it. However, since I plan on expanding this town, I wanted to present a more favorable interview -- especially since more journalists from the Rapid City Quarterly will be visiting Johar Ridge in the future.

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APAGear II Archives Volume 2, Number 8 September, 2000