Sons and Daughters
The Cold, Dead Hands
From Most Dangerous Games
“I’ll give you my gun when you take it from my cold, dead hands!”
-Slogan, National Rifle Association, pre-War gun rights advocacy group
Heirs to the tradition of the pre-war firearms enthusiast, the members of the reclusive and widespread gun cult calling themselves the Cold, Dead Hands (individual members referred to as Dead Hands for short, or derisively as Coldies) are devoted to the collection and understanding of guns. Their organization is monastic in its structure, with its initiates sequestered away for months as they learn to repair, build, and operate the lethal machines that define their existence. They revere the gun as an embodiment of birth and death, of creation and absolution, and honor the tradition of American gunmakers as saints, chief among them the holy trinity of Samuel Colt, John Browning, and Eugene Stoner. Stolidly neutral towards the other factions, the cult maintains a presence in most major settlements, buying and selling and maintaining machines of death, and its friars hire themselves as mercenaries for short terms, in order to gain valuable battlefield experience with their weapons and to spread the good word of proper firearm discipline and maintenance. Most others view the Dead Hands as strange for being just a little too into guns, but welcome the benefits their company brings.
After a Dead Hand has undergone the cult’s initiation, he chooses which order he will join: the monks or the friars. The monks of the Cold, Dead Hands live in communities with each other, some maintaining and operating their enclaves in larger communities, others living in the cult’s secluded ranges and manufactories. The friars are wanderers, acting as roving traders, teachers, and mercenaries. Dead Hands are encouraged to practice temperence, but are not forbidden from indulging moderately in worldly pleasures like drink and sex. However, they are not allowed to marry or raise families while remaining members. Those who wish to leave the cult for such reasons are allowed to do so without dishonor, unlike those who are cast out for treason or heresy. Outcasts are branded, but outcasts and honored departees share a fate: their trigger fingers on both hands are shot off, and they are asked to hang up their guns forever.
The three centers of power of the Cold, Dead Hands, their Grand Monasteries, are in locations of significance to the history of American gunsmithing. Their first Grand Monastery, the Colt House, is in Hartford, Connecticut, birthplace of Samuel Colt, inventor of the modern revolver. Their second Grand Monastery, the Browning House, is in Ogden, Utah, birthplace of John Moses Browning, who broke ground in developing semi-automatic weapons and the famed and feared Browning .50 caliber machine gun. Located as it is well within the borders of the nation of Deseret, the Browning House has a complicated relationship with the Mormons who govern the land and are uneasy of having another religious presence in their borders, but the Dead Hands have proven over the years to be considerate neighbors and profitable traders. The Dead Hands’ third Grand Monastery, the Stoner House, is located in Geneseo, Illinois, where Eugene Stoner developed the rifle that would eventually evolve into the widely-employed AR-15 series of weapons. The Grand Monasteries are compounds containing dormatories, gardens, classrooms, and workshops. Each has a chapel walled with stained glass windows depicting Colt, Browning, and Stoner, and paintings depicting other historic gunsmiths and their achievements.
A typical Dead Hand friar might be encountered booking passage on an airship from one community to another. His (or her, for some women are also drawn to the Way of the Gun) features are typical of the wasteland’s wanderers, but his face and hands are free of the scars from misfires that plague less-fastidious warriors. His outfit consists of salvaged or homespun tactical wear, festooned with holsters, magazine pouches, and cartridge loops. He travels well-armed, with numerous sidearms and a pair of longarms, all lovingly maintained. The end of a belt of machine gun ammunition dangles out from his bulging pack. He volunteers for watch, scanning the horizon through the optic atop his rifle. He offers to clean and tweak the guns of the crew and fellow passengers in exchange for valuable trinkets, but he prizes ammunition and chances to examine rare or sophisticated firearms most of all. He passes the spare hours by cleaning his guns, studying his chapter’s Manual of Arms, and leafing through his slowly disintegrating stack of pre-war gun magazines. Should the airship come under attack, the Dead Hand honors the crew’s hospitality by committing himself and his guns to the defense.