Flashpoint California Embers - March

And so it starts like this…

Sun Mar 11 2072

Citizen of the Tir, Shaman and Denver based runner, Rosaline 'Raven' McLachlan makes her way to Sacramento by way of Reno and Truckee. Getting in to the JPC right now is pretty easy given that their entire northern California operations chain of command is in a spastic fit one might call 'OH HOLY SHIT' mode. If one called it such things. With a whistle and a breeze, she tries to find herself a volunteer organization, but finds out quickly that the Red Cross has long been cock-blocked from entering the JPC on account of all those messy meta human camps. She'll have to continue on her own. And this she does, making her way to the City of Winters. Or whats left of it. The deluge continued for more than a day, a constant washing of water that just left nothing behind. The houses are gone. The roads are gone. This is where the GPS says there should be the city of Winters. But it's… just… gone.

Without support and without a group to back her up, she makes her way down the heavy scar that's been left in the land, to the city of Davis - where the city of Winters washed up. Here, things are matchstick piles, some aflame and some simply thrown about like childrens toys. The water here was only (only) 10 feet deep when it came, but it was full of cars, houses and the flotsam of 50 miles of human settlement. She settles in to assisting in the rescue effort - but her results will be reported later.

Further south, near Bakersfield, Colonel Michael Minton has been shoring up his defenses with mercenary forces. The CalFree Commander of what's left of Southern California, he has his work cut out for him as Japan tries to press south. The battle of Atascadero, on highway 101 is a key battle and since the Japanese took the highway 58 pass, he's been unable to get forces into the area without using old 166, a treacherous switchback. Calling in a unit of the mercenaries he's been working with, Minton deploys them to Atescadero under cover of darkness. Josh 'ROlling' Thunder slides in with his T-Bird, deploying the troops.

On the ground, it's Caroline 'Crow' Rogers, a hard bitten, heavily cybered elf. You know what they say about soldiers. No such thing as a racist or atheist in a foxhole, or when the Japanese are shooting at you. Taking control of the situation immediately, Crow and her small team shore up the defenses, then start to exploit enemy weaknesses. In short order, what had been a route of California forces turns into a stalemate as the Japanese bog down on Crow's excellent use of urban fighting tactics. As her commands filter out to the Cal Guard, the entire offensive grinds to a halt.

'Longtips'. This is a man the Japanese want, and want bad. Not only is he one of the primary funders of the Napa Valley resistance arms, he's also an elf. Go figure with a name like that, right? Still, Longtips has a lot of support outside of Napa. Not the least of which is Alexandra 'Genesis' Beddleton and Victor 'Laz' Judson from Denver. This pair meets with retired UCAS Navy SeAL Commander Brock Seavers. Brock is an internationally renowned search and rescue expert, and if Longtips is in the soup, Brock and his team of former military men are going to find him.

(Brock Seavers is -NOT- Brock the Player Character.)

Local fixer on the rise known as 'Knox' tries to set up a secure information service, a relay between local fixers in California and Denver, to keep people aware of the current smuggling routes into and out of California, who's running what and who's been shut down. He's mostly successful, making inroads with McAffry of Santa Barbara, with Doolittle in China Lake, with TwoSprings in Redding. But Eureka, with it's more volatile politics, actively denies Knox the information, going so far as to accuse him of being a Japanese agent.

Part of the politics of goverment work is taking what you see as an opportunity and running with it. Mi6 Agent Brittany Voliare sees an opportunity to cause a little strife for the Japanese Occupation and corporations in California and takes the initiative. She contacts some of her old assets and arranges for them to provide training and logistical support to groups fighting in California. The runner known as Fusiler gets the call and packs his things. The first few days in California go well, he manages to contact a group and provide them with tactical training on the applied use of heavy weaponry. Unfortunately he isn't able to keep his trainees in check. The group, eager to show off their skills makes an attack on a Japanese convoy and it turns into a near disaster. Most of the trainees are killed or injured, but the group manages to fall back. Back at Mi6 Brittany hears several reports like this, and quickly wipes this fiasco under the covers. They were never there. Fusiler is left on his own to get out of California. Like any good spy.

"Boss, we got a hit." Sgt. Davis calls out from the radio.

Brock cracks his neck, the sound reverberating in the command tent they've set up in Sonora, then walks over. "What do you have?"

Davis responds, pointing to data trails across his screen. "Physical ident match, as well as blood type and DNA verification. He just turned up in a refugee hospital in West Sacramento. Japs don't have him yet, but I know they have people looking for him."

Brock grunts his understanding as he lights a cigar, the butt clenched between his teeth. The flickering light of the match gleams off his cybereye. "Alright… Here's how we're gonna play this ball…"

The entry into the field hospital was smooth. Dressed as combat medics from the Cal Guard, Brock, Williams and Daniels move with assured confidence. Armor and sidearms, they are not out of place as they work their way through the warehouse serving as a field hospital for the wounded and dead.

Suddenly, a woman runs at Brock, hands up and clutching at his jacket. "You! Doctor! You have to help my boy! You have to save him!" She pounds on his chest, irrational in her tears and fears.

Brock's first instinct is to beat the woman away, but it's Ronnie 'Faceboy' Williams who steps forward, slipping his arm around the woman, guiding her away… "I got this, sir." Says he, to Brock with a devil-may-care wink… "Now now… Come on, lets see to your boy."

With Williams seeing to their cover like a good Face should, Brock and Daniels move further in. By-passing other Cal Guard and more concerning, Japanese Marines, the expert team of former SeALs comes to the area where Longtips is supposed to be held. Only… it's empty. Narrowing his eyes, Brock reads the chart while Daniels grabs the next bed over's occupant. "Where did the man here go?"

"I don't know!" Says the young man, maybe 15 years old, with a crushed leg and lacerations to his face. "Some Japanese guys came by, but the elf was asleep! They read his chart then called some people on the radio! I don't speak Japanese, I don't know what they said, but they sounded excited!"

"What happened then?"

"The guy in the bed, he like, waited until their backs were turned, then went all Karl Kombatmage on them! It was pretty bad ass! They're under the bed there, and he lit out of here like no ones business. He's hurt, but he's gone."

Brock and his team regroup at the stolen ambulance. Japanese Marines are flooding into the area… "Time to go." Says Brock, crushing out his cigar with a turn of his booted heel. "Tell the client the man's away on his own power… and we will go after him."

"Go after him?" Asks Daniels. "Why?"

"Because son." Says Brock, settling down into the passenger seat. "The Bravo Team always gets its man."

Ryan Diego of Denver, a fixer of some small merit on his own, is an up and comer. He's able to swing a deal through Erik the Red to supply a couple hundred cases of Ammunition to Kelsey Edwards of the Home Guard. Unable to really get good supplies from the Japanese Marines, the Home Guard gets what it can where it can. This time, they are buying black market Ammunition from a fixer in Denver… and the ammunition has a high rate of dud rounds. It's an aggravation, and by god does it piss off Erik the Red, this little development.

Accelerate. It's a name few people in Denver know anymore. Decker without peer in the Digital Divide, he spends most his time aboard an airship. Or so the story goes. His curiosity piques, GoldRush and their attack on the Dam. An organization like GoldRush does not spring up over night and they do not fund themselves off breadcrumbs and dreams. The Decker plunges into the Calfree Matrix, tracing lines of money and influence. It's a tangled web, and GoldRush does not appear to be without its own defenders. TRipping a flag, Accelerate finds himself under attack.

The battle is over in the blink of an eye, as deckers move at the speed of the electron and light. Traceroutes are run, proxies are utilized and finally, the two deckers square off in Macau as they cross each others paths in the server for the Pacific Prosperity Group, a bank holding several accounts linked to GoldRush. Accounts belonging to high ranking officials in the Cal Guard.

When the E-dust settles, Accelerate stands alone, but some of the data has been removed and the server is alerted. Grabbing what he can, Accelerate escapes without further incident, with a partial list of contributors to GoldRush's accounts. A very… damning.. list.

At the Rag Doll, down in Castle Rock, Vlad looks over at Kolya with a look of stark disbelief. "You want me to smuggle this drek into Cali and then bring you the profits? Are you mad?" There's a heartbeats pause, then the man laughs again. "You always thought small time Koy… feck your little toys. I got something better. I will do this for such an old friend."

A short time later, Kolya's small time deal has been leveraged into something more… substantial. Vlad holds all the cards, and Kolya's along for the ride at this time. Not that that's bad, it's a pretty good shipment of shooters into Cal-Free, even if Koyla does not like who's getting them.

Guns flow from Denver into 'Not In My Backyard', a local 'militia' of California Loyalists who pretty much are nothing more than local thugs and tyrants. These guys are known for their stopping of out-of-town vehicles, robbing and raping the occupants. Nice guys.

Raven, back in Davis, finds herself grabbed by a Japanese Patrol - checking Identification. It's a bad place to be a Tir Citizen, a hostile nation and Metahuman power. She gives over her ident stick and they rough her up. It's Daniel 'Rip' Ripley, street dock who came into do a little organ legging on the side, who saves her ass from a gruesome bit of diaster-area gang rape. Half way into the act, the girl's been beaten and broken, when Rip drops a grenade of Neuro-stun that drops the soldiers.

Laz and Genesis part ways in West Sacramento. It's a curious little good bye as she walks across Tower Bridge, headed into the JPC. Laz is not asked to come, it's something she has to do herself. On the other side of the bridge, Williams waits for her in an SUV. The last time Laz sees her, she presses her palm to the glass as they drive off.

As Genesis pulls away, Laz stands there a little dumb founded. He starts to walk away, when he spies the dark car start its engine and move out to follow the SUV. Pulling on to the road, the car starts past Laz, he forgotten as they follow the truck. Quickly, another car joins them and Laz has to make a choice. Those cars are clearly heading to follow his friend and her suddenly competent team of runners… what does he do? Reaching out with Mana, the mage draws his fist inward, coalescing the forces of magic about it. The wind around him picks up as he reaches out, sending lightening down the length of the bridge. Slamming into an oncoming bigrig, the lightning shocks the driver into unconsciousness, which slumps him over the wheel. Turning hard to the left, the rig jackknifes, blocking traffic in both directions as the 18 wheeler turns over on its side.

Thats when Laz decides… it's time to be gone. Which is good, because as he makes his escape, Japanese men start pouring out of those cars.

In the Chaos of the fall of the dam and the damage to Davis and West Sacramento, the 201st Cal Guard isn't at all shy about running headlong at the Japanese. Taking advantage of the 2nd Imperial Marines' distraction, they overrun the small but entrenched garrisons in Willows, Williams and Colusa. Elements of the 40th Infantry push out from Clear Lake, pushing the Japanese back even further. Towns and farmland held by the Japanese for a decade suddenly find the Bear Flag hoisted above them. The only question is will this hold in the next few weeks, when the Japanese turn their attentions back to Cal Free. Can Cal Free keep up the heat? Can the Japanese reclaim what is 'theirs' or is this the first in a long series of defeats?

Tue Mar 13 2072

There's something to be said for twelve big rigs upshifting in unison. Drivers start to spool up their engines, preparing to make breaks for it as required. Blindside coordinates with Sandman in Leviathan, as the sensor suite in Cerberus is not as good as it could be.

Taking direction on the upcoming roads across his headset, the halfer in the armored sports car calls out what he needs. A 5 percent upgrade, about a quarter mile and 88 miles an hour.

Sandman is confused for a moment - 88 miles and hour? Uh… miles. Drek. There's 1.6 kilometers in a mile… frag!

Cutting onto a back road while the convoy continues down the highway, Blindside zeroes in on the Ishani-3. The aircraft has come to a near hover in the air as it focuses its sensor suite, working to cut through the shielding on the rigs and the EMC that Leviathan is throwing out.

"Tango-Five to Travis. Tango-five to Travis. Tower, do you copy?" Lt. Akutagawa radioed through the static. The EMC coming off the convoy was strong, but the chopper is getting through intermittently. They are just uncertain what is getting through and what is not."

"Lt. Akutagawa! Sensors show a fast moving vehicle, coming up behind us."

Turning the Ishani-3 to get a Mark-I Occular Readout on the vehicle, the Lt. tilts his head slightly. "Shit." he says, seeing the muzzle flash of the autocannon before the shells impact. The canopy explodes into shards of ballistic glass, alarms and warnings going off around them as the chopper spins, guidance lost and starts to plummet to the ground. "MAY DAY! MAY DAY! This is Tango-Five! We are under attack! May day! May day!"

With Tango-five down, Blindside hustles his ass back to Scabbard. Roaring up into the interior bay while the truck drives at full speed, he exhales as the gun powers down with an electronic whine. "Frag me silly."

"No." Says Steel as the trucks detour off the main road, deciding to make an overland journey through the swollen delta of California's heartland.

It's not long before Gunz, riding with Sally in her mustang finds herself in a curious situation. Riding ahead of the convoy, there's a roadblock. It looks like Rio Vista, California has itself a good-ol-boy militia checkpoint. You know. Looking for Japs, Muties, Mages, Metas, negros and other such undesirables. That's real inconvenient for Gunz, being as she's one of those meta mage types.

Sally pulls the car over - because she's got a convoy at her back and there's just no room to maneuver. Stepping out of the car, Gunz runs a hand back through her hair. One of the boys from the line steps forward and gestures down the road to the row of trucks. "Sounds like yall done gotcherself a good convoy here. So here's whats gonna happen, babe." Says the man with the the shotgun casually lain back across his shoulder, before he spits to the side. "You're gonna lay me 10 thousand, certified, and then yer gonna step off to the side with me and show me some road hospitality… scan me?"

Gunz raises one eyebrow, shifting herself so that her hip is visible. And the big damn gun strapped to it. "One thousand… and you keep your teeth."

The 'negotiator' with the shotgun looks down the line of the trucks again, as Steel steps up on top of Scabbard, using the top hatch. Blindside and Bambi pull up in Cerberus. Sandman orients the top mounted sensor array from Leviathan on the roadblock. Sensor arrays - very dangerous looking.

"Uh… tell ya what sister, mebby I was a mite hasty… but on accounta I got no teeth.. what say you 2,000 and yall just… have a nice day."

Gunz just quirks the other eyebrow and then turns for Sally and Baby. "Reasonable."

Pulling into halferville's outskirts, in the shadow of the Martinez Petroleum Refinery, the convoy comes to a stop. Gunz, Sally and Blindside see to the loads while Steel and Sandman are on overwatch. The unloading proceeds very well, with the trucks all easilly transfered… but Steel… now Steel's a canny motherfragger. He knows his way around a package hand off… and these people are way to nervous.

Steel can't put his finger on it.. but the people are nervous. Grunting a nod to Sandman, the Cybered Ork lets the mage know he's uncomfortable. Sandman takes a moment to eye the group, but there's too much interference from their industrial location and he can't put his finger on it either.

Not until the trucks pull out and their 'new' guards have driven out of sight. "Uh." Says one young man, now that the other guys are gone. "You know… those weren't halferville guys. They got here earlier, and sort of took over the delivery point… said they'd gun us down if we told. You just handed off your cargo to The Manteca Irregulars… a go-gang thats been fecking with us for protection and such for months."

"Well Drek." Says Steel, his featureless plasti-steel face mask betraying as little emotion as one might imagine. "This mean we don't get paid?"

The roar of Baby's V-8 Detroit Muscle Engine comes sliding up behind Steel and Sandman to a stop, a door swinging open. "Stop talking and get in!"

Sandman shrugs as he tosses his Miller Lite (what a chump!) to the side, cursing as he slips into the passenger seat while Steel straddles the back. "This is like a bad fraggen trid."

"You talk too much." Says Sally, punching the engine and roaring off in pursuit while Gunz and Blindside reconfigure for the return trip.

Wed Mar 14 2072

It's easy, in the chaos of California, to forget that the rest of the world exists. In Barstow, California Free State, the citizenry starts to batten down the hatches. Air pressure is dropping and dust is rising in the Mojave, a sign of an impending Trituracion (Grinding sand storm). These storms have been more and more common over the last few years, driving many smaller communities out of the mojave entirely.

From the dust of the gathering storm, a single man walks into Barstow. Wind whirls around him, a dust devil that extends several hundred feet and seems to perpetuate itself around him. Humanoid in form, this much can be seen on the tridfeeds of this curious display. He walks the Barstow Express bridge, and makes his way into downtown Barstow, paced by police cars and with several helicopters watching.

Stopping on the other side of the Mohave River's dry bed, the man wrapped in the swirling dust devil watches as the police set up barricades. Magical threat - evil spirit - god knows what. They don't really know what to do, as Barstow is not known for its magical talent. That little bit that comes up here, typically gets exported to Los Angeles or Las Vegas. After several minutes of just standing there, the dust devil seems to collapse downward, a spiral of sand piling around the feet of the man at the center.

"Be at peace. I come with a message."

Jason Alexander, called 'Frost' by the runner community of Denver, stands in front of a small army of Hard Corps officers. Hard Corps is the 'first' Ares-owned private police force, known for its rougher hold on justice than Knight Errant. Drawn down on by twenty-odd cops, Frost keeps his hands folded across his chest. When he speaks, his voice is amplified by means unknown, but without so much more than a whisper, he seems to be heard by everyone within a mile of his location.

"Assistance has been rendered. Power flows strong from the east. Mojave awakens. The Trituracion grows stronger. Offer is made. California may keep its tainted weapons grounds. But Mojave takes no further metahumans. Metahumans must leave, save those places where Mojave deems appropriate and respectful. Offer to city of Barstow. Accept refugees, assist in resettlement… and water will flow."

It starts as a distant rumble. A like a small stream pouring over pebbles, but so too amplified by a thousandfold. The Mojave river runs dry, deep underground for most of the year. But upstream, something has forced the flow to the surface. Flowing dark and muddy at first, the river bed fills and starts to flow cleaner. A cool breeze wafts from this cold, clean water.

"Three days. Water will flow. Return for answer… water will stop one hour before arrival. Be ready with answer."

His message delivered, the winds consume Frost again, and the Trituracion returns. When it is gone, so is Frost.

People in Barstow don't know what the hell to do. After about two hours, the Mojave River flows clear - crystal clear, deep and clean. Samples are taken, and the river is the single most pristine and unpolluted river in North America. The water seems tinted with mana, which interests Cal-Berkeley and CalPoly's magical departments. The Pueblo request to send an observer, but are rebuffed. Following the river back to it's source in the deep Mojave, they find that Soda Lake has refilled overnight, and all reasonable estimations indicate that the flow of the river should empty Soda Lake quickly,… but it's level does not seem to be dropping.

Wed Mar 14 2072 - Battle of Delano

At China Lake, Air engages in training and upgrading the tactics of a new unit of Rangers, the Prospects Motorcycle Gang. These gangers are ex military, so Air is able to whip them into fighting shape in no time, and the Rangers look forward to being able to project a hell of a lot more force with its motorcycle division.

The 3rd Imperial Division Japanese forces, the Akuma Division, are nearing Delano from the North, heavily armored and trained with the finest in equipment. Approaching with them are three attack helicopters, and a long line of APCs. Blindside intercepts this convoy, and engages in a fast moving hit-and-run harassment. He delays them slightly and is able to relay the location and strength to Ranger HQ before he is clipped and crashes.

Sorina traveled the backwaters and towns of Japanese Occupied California, preaching a message of stability and raised a small army of militia members to fight for the Japanese. Calavera swept with a mercenary unit forward along Bakersfield's flank, to hit the town of Maracopa. Here, they slaughtered the home town militia in the name of the Japanese, allowing them to threaten Bakersfield on all sides and seal Highway Five. Fray, Nikolai and Ford engaged in some back-town action as well, as Team Zeta inflicted heavy casualties on sympathizers and Jap-lovers.

At Delano, a small town of some 1,000 residents at the Cal-99 and Cal-155 intersection the 340th Forward Support Battalion of the California guard are reinforced by the Prospects, a motorcycle gang trained by the California Rangers. Leading the Prospects is Laz, who came in with Air and on their way north to Delano, they come across accompanying the forces are Flint and Crow. Also working in the Delano Area are Anita and Brock, but on a non-military mission.

The main battle of Delano begins with the Akuma division sending in artillery strikes on Veterans overpass. Shells landing all around the bridge but failing to hit it, as the Japanese clearly wanted the overpass intact. Anita pulls her mustang up the street as she drifts a curve and pulls in front of a house. Hired to evacuate someone from Delano she has with Brock in the sportscar. The nearby combat at Veterns pass has artillery fire landing nearby the house as the Troll leaps out of the car and walks up to the hosue for the extraction.

Just as the man they have come for steps out of the house, the house explodes. It sends Brock flying into the mustang; embedding him into the metal. Anita races him to medical help nearby and they keep the big fella from dying… but healing is going to be slow and painful for the magical healers couldn't work well around his cyber.

Sneaking on backroads around the main Japanese force; Flint gets into a firing position with a pair of man-portable rockets. He hits an ammunition loader, setting off a chain reaction from the armored artillery transport unit and the bombardment ceases with the destruction of the unit.

The Akuma division though advances with troops after its artillery in neutralized. The Japanese forces press hard and the Cal-Guard can not stand against the might of the Imperial Military. the Prospects on their motorcycles arrive to aid in the battle. Atop the back of a motorcycle, Laz rallies the troops and gives them motivation to fight back and hold their ground.

The Prospects form and charge into the Japanese forces, commanded by Laz in a display of complete military ineptitude. The Prospects are gunned down in the charge, laid down under the mighty fist of the Imperial military. The motorcycle gang and most potent fighting force in Delano, is shredded to only a few straggling survivors and a hush falls over the Cal-Guard.

Laz and the commander of the Akumu Division face off with swords, meeting on the field of honor face to face. This duel distracts the combat enough for Sorina's militia to arrive and flank into the Cal-Free line. Laz severs the hand of the Japanese commander, but the Japanese military unleashes on Laz and sends him to the ground in a pile of blood and gore before the Japanese commander takes his sword.

The 340th is collapsing… the Lt. Rickard Mazon, commanding officer of the 340this brought down by a sniper and Crow steps up at just the right time to turn the slaughter of the Cal-Guard into a strategic retreat with minimal casualties. They regroup in Bakersfield as night falls.

Fri Mar 16 2072

"They complain… of the boundless cruelty with which the Japanese Protectorate of California seeks to rid themselves of their Kawaru elements. All these great empires of sympathizers taken together have only a handful of people to the square kilometre. In Japan, there are over 400."

"Yet formerly Japan, without blinking an eyelid, for whole decades hosted these Kawaru by the millions. But now… when the nation is no longer willing to be sucked dry by these parasites, on every side one hears nothing but laments and complaints! But lamentations have not led these democratic countries to substitute helpful activity at last for their hypocritical questions

Sat Mar 17 2072

Zero Hour, Barstow. The Mojave river has flowed clean and pure for three days, the waters cold and welcome. Mana rich, the river has brought life where it touches. Already, reeds and trees are growing along the banks and the river teems with fish. Children play in the water and there is already talk of what the river could mean to Barstow. It would transform Barstow from a lonely little stopover to a regional presence, simply by having its own water, able to export it and use it. Agriculture could flourish. There is not enough to power a city like Los Angeles, but there is enough here to lift the lives of 50,000 people in Barstow… and support the estimated 200,000 refugees that live in the Mojave Basin.

Frost returns - this time driving a car across the Mojave River Bridge. Stepping out, he removes his shades and looks over the police cars and Cal Guard that greet him. "All this, just for me? I'm touched." He says, lips tracing a bit of a grin.

The city council of Barstow, along with the Mayor, steps forward. Major Jim Hawking watches as Frost approaches. "Alright. You got our attention."

"Thats good. I'm not sure what else could be done to get your attention if this…" Frost gestures to the water as it flows… "Did not. Do you have an answer?"

"We run the numbers. We can't take them all. Just too many."

"Oh. Don't worry about them -all-. Just… the ones who will not relocate to Las Vegas. That is already handled."

"How many you thinking?"

"Fifty thousand, no more."

"And the water flows and the winds don't hit Barstow? You can promise that?"

"Me? No. I'm just a voice. A mouth piece. But my backers can. My friends. They will ensure that Barstow… for 15 miles from this spot… will never see an adverse wind again… and that the Mojave river flows year round with this quality. Do not pollute it, do not try to take more from it than it will give… and your flow is assured."

"Then we'll take your people."

"I know. The first will arrive in a months time. Try to build some shelters."

Sun Mar 18 2072

Meanwhile, back in California. Sally and baby, with Steel and Sandman riding with her, charge down the road. She opens up the throttle and the car eats up the road. Swerving in and out of other traffic like it was standing still, she shows elegance behind the wheel. In short order, she's not only caught up to, but over taken the trucks as they roll down the road. Cutting the wheel sharply while hitting the emergency break, she leaves a line of rubber across the road, smoke pouring out from her wheel wells. The trick has the desired effect, bringing the trucks to a halt as Sandman and Steel pour out to take care of business.

Steel is an ork, not that you could tell for his featureless face of plastisteel and sensors. Unsubtle, one might say, is Steel. One of the drivers approaches, a tire-iron held high. Sidestepping, Steel blocks the iron and belly-punches the man, sending him down like a sack of potatoes. "The trucks are ours." Says he, his voice digitally enhanced.

The 'guards' on the rig disagree, running at Steel. Rolling his neck from one side to the other, Steel just exhales. "This works."

Mon Mar 19 2072

Home to much of the domestic oil refining capacity of the west coast, Halferville has long enjoyed a certain level of immunity to the policies of the Japanese Protectorate of California. Tacit support from Ares and Novatech as well as a generally defensible position have made halferville (Concord, Martinez and Walnut Creek) quite wealthy in the last 10 years since the invasion. However, a shift seems to be brewing in the Japanese as refineries in Stockton come closer to activation.

Wed March 21 2072 - The Siege of Bakersfield (Flashpoint)


Ryan sets up shop in Bakersfield selling drugs of all kinds to give the Cal Guard boys an edge on the front line. He does some good business, too, until one of his customers barges in, jonesing for a fix, and decided to take out his problems on the fixer. Ryan is left battered pretty hard, but his supplies give the soldiers willing to take what he offered a little boost.

Mafen, Genesis, Tycho, Carpenter, Fray

Corcoran Prison is home to 20,000 metas, guarded by the Akuma in their concentration camp. There is no escape but death. Mafen and his team of Genesis, Tycho, Carpenter, and Fray are ready to prove the maxim wrong. Mafen, half metal and circuitry himself, breaks through the security on the prison's computers and brings everything down, then opens all the cells in a north block. The team, waiting to the south, gets ready to set charges to blow a path in, but Carpenter has a Panther Cannon and knows how to use it. In a few moments, he fires shells with precision to bring the wall toppling outward, opening a path in. Lightning-quick, Genesis and Tycho smash through the guards with bullets and fists. Fray swings above the melee and accesses the computers, and with Mafen's help gets the doors open, freeing 500 prisoners. And not just any prisoners: Mafen's been working for weeks to shuffle quarters around. These are the 500 toughest, best-trained potential recruits in Corcoran. And now they're busting out.

Mafen orders the prisoners from their cells onto the buses, but Genesis is the one with the presence to get them moving. Internment guards rally and fire on the prisoners, but Genesis gives as good as she gets, taking a grazing wound as the prisoners embark Only half, no more, but that's 250 on the road and however many more can break free and harass the Internment Division. A Japanese helicopter pursues, and Carpenter's assault cannon takes aim… and jams. Fray is ready with the support, though, and sends a missile into the help, dropping it in a rain of metal fragments.

Those who remain, 20,000 pissed-off prisoners, are left in full riot, and the Home Guard rapidly redeploys to try to quell the uprising. Those are men who are now busy far from the action at Bakersfield. Enough to make a difference? Only time will tell.


In 29 Palms, home of the Desert Rats, Air drives in to have a talk with the UCAS unit that never left Cali. Those marines are all old now, but their kids still have fire in their bellies. So do the locals who have signed on, and the newer defectors who've come in at a steady trickle. They're a motley bunch, but they've got steel in their spines and, more importantly, the skills and equipment to make a difference. Brigadier General Laurence Tubbles was never on good terms with Minton. Now that Mintons' dead, Air brokers a deal, and the Desert Rats enter the fight on the side of the California Rangers. Their equipment is old, but they've got about four dozen tanks and not quite as many choppers and planes, with Air as their liaison to keep them in touch with Ranger command.


Calavera's in Bakersfield too, and she has a mission: to take out the fuel stores for the CalFree aircraft and take them out of the fight. She spends more time than she'd like lurking under a truck, trying to get a damn dog to stop yapping so she can make her move. Finally, she puts a bullet through the mutt's handler's head, then the mutt himself, but even silenced shots get attention in a warzone, and she takes cover against a blind barrage of return fire. That's not the point, though. The point is that the detonators go off and the larger part of California's fuel reserves go up in a fireball. CalFree's at a huge disadvantage in the air, now, and the blow takes a lot of the wind out of the men's sails.


Crow is the hero of the hour in Bakersfield, with a new captain's commission, a new SIN, and shiny new armor. With Lt. Mazon at her side she assembles her men to strike behind Japanese lines and raid the Mettler scrap yard for supplies. Her Archons (that's ARmed ReCON) roll out on bikes, roar into Mettler… and then half of them just keep on going, taking the opportunity to get the hell out of Bakersfield. As first commands go, it could've gone worse, but it also could've gone a hell of a lot better.


War can make people mad, but in some cases they're mad to start with. An ornithologist seeks, and is eventually granted, permission to enter Cal Free territory to go take pictures of red-necked grebes. The guard's figure it's his own neck. A few hours later, the Sage is happily ensconced in an abandoned oil derrick, taking a few shots of birds and many more pictures of Bakersfield and the garrison there. His UCAS handlers pay careful attention as they try to stay on top of the developing California situation.


There's someone else up a tower too. Catherine climbs a water tower in Shafter, just a few miles behind the Japanese front lines, unpacks her gear, runs up her antenna… and broadcasts jamming across the field of battle to take out the Cal Guard's radios. In the chaos as the chain of command breaks down, air support and artillery go blind and the Japanese surge forward all the way to the outskirts of Bakersfield itself. But it's a risky op, because it's not hard to triangulate in on the loudest noise on the battlefield. The Desert Rats aren't a Cal Guard unit. They've got their own frequencies. And an A-11 Thunderbolt sends a missile into the tower, taking it down and ending the jamming. Catherine goes down with her tower, dropped into the wreckage.

Naomi, Jinx

Remember Brock, how the big guy got implanted into a car? Well, Naomi and Jinx don't let this sort of thing go. They know who's responsible, and they're going to make him pay. With Naomi's magic hiding her, Jinx fires an arrow silently at Major Kui Suzuki… who moves impossibly and snatches the arrow from the air. Then he responds by ordering all his men to empty their clips at the area the arrow came from. Accuracy's terrible against invisible targets, but Jinx still takes a few bullets as she scrambles away.


Flint sneaks into Delano with an old laser designator, checks what's on the menu, and then orders napalm to go. The Desert Rats oblige, turning Highway 99 into a firestorm that then turns into a hail of shrapnel as well as Flint's target, an ammo dump, lights up. The concussive wave smashes the designator and leaves a slightly stunned Flint to watch the fires burn.


The Grizzlies pour into the San Joaquin Valley and Laura rides with them. Her van's not equipped for the kind of assault work they're built for, but her drones are the eyes and ears of the Assault Division as the CalFree unit pulverizes a Home Guard company, take out a bridge, then swing north to wreak more damage. But the Japanese aren't without their own assets, and Laura's drones come under fire from attack drones they can't hope to match. The rigger recalls her fleet, but not without losing a chunk of them.


Nina is still in Bakersfield, in the suburb of Gosford. The city's almost encircled, supplies are low, but in this one section of the battlefield the Cal Guard always seems to be in the right place at the right time. And that's because Nina is working overtime probing the minds of every Japanese soldier captured and bringing up all the battle plans, all the supply dumps, everything she can. It all goes beautifully until one of the soldiers is less incapacitated than he seems and stabs Nina while she's trying to get a read. She'll live, but her role in the fight's curtailed.


Colonel Fujiwara's got a fondness for older women. Much older women, brought in just for him from Japan. Of course, nobody knows that… but Kismet does her homework and then takes on the monumental task of making herself over into a replacement for the colonel's usual. She shows up in his command trailer with surreptitious cameras, and her strip tease is for his eyes only. His, and shortly after everyone on the 'trix. The tape cuts to black before the really good parts if there are any, but everyone gets a good chuckle out of Fujiwara's kinks.

Nikolai, Shay, Wyvern, Ford

The Mojave Advisory Group mounts up on their tough dune buggies to go spread some in Japanese-held territory, and heads through Shafter. Nikolai, Shay, Wyvern, and Ford are ready to rock and roll when Shay spots Catherine's unconscious form in the ruins of the water tower. She's a mess: a bleeding, broken shell clinging to life. Ford steps up to put her out of her misery, but Nikolai talks him out of it, claiming the woman's paying for her crimes with her pain. Then they're distracted by a Japanese main battle tank rolling through. Shay's the one to casually walk up behind the tank, plant satchel charges on the treads… and then run like hell. By the time to explosives go off, the shadowrunners are living up to their names and running, because that tank's built like a tank. The explosives don't take it out, just bring it around after them. This time it's Ford's turn to play hero as he fires two shots from his Colt. Not much against the tank, but enough to take out the gunner trying to zero in on Wyvern.

Nikolai's the man with the plan for the Mojave advisory group, and he sends Ford to lead the tank into Oil Junction, then Wyvern to cut across and keep the tank guessing. Shay sets another charge on the tank, and the enraged driver barrels right into the trap: Ford and Shay blow two oil wells, and then a Great Dragon ATGM rockets into the tank, blowing it to hell and setting the oil alight to fry whatever's still moving. The MAG rolls on, edging past an embattled convoy.

Blindside, Janie, Spot, Mr. Terrific

That convoy? Starting up near Fresno, Blindside's been leading a convoy from his Leviathan, carrying the supplies Mafen picked up earlier to Bakersfield, where they are badly needed. Riding with him are Janie, Spot, and Mr. Terrific. They chug down 99 and unmolested as Blindside's ECM keeps the heat off until they reach Oil Junction, where they hit a Protectorate roadblock. The city's been emptied by artillery fire, and as they wind through the abandoned streets an anti-materiel rifle takes out one of the supply trucks, halting the convoy. The team pours out: Blindside to repair the damage and get the trucks moving, Janie to keep the drivers from bolting, and Mr. T and Spot to deal with the sniper.

Things don't look good. The sniper was only the beginning, and they're up against two platoons of the Third Battalion supported by a half-squadron of light tanks. But they're facing the best of the best. Janie has a Manhunter in each hand, and she's a match for any sniper, no matter the range, with her pistols. Spot holds the line with stunbolts and shotgun blasts, the dwarf running up and down and blasting down the Japanese as they come. Mr. T's fire elemental clears the snipers' roost, and the man himself musters the energy to bowl over a tank, although he nearly knocks himself out in the process. Then the trucks are all running and Blindside's back at the helm of the Leviathan, the turrets up, and the group is able to push through the ambush only a little worse for wear.

And the Corcoran breakout group? They're coming through the Oil Junction mess as well, using the hole Blindside's convoy punched through the Japanese defenses to link up with the other convoy as they stream into Bakersfield. The supplies and numbers can only do so much good, but every little bit helps.


Through it all, Watson's been tagging along. She followed Laura and the Grizzlies out, then split off when the Assault Division punched into the Japanese pursuit of Mafen's band to follow them and the prisoners back to Bakersfield. Her weapon? A camera and a good story to follow. She's 59 hours of raw footage from drones, from following battles, and from interview the Rangers, the shadowrunners, and the escaped prisoners. The anchoring piece is an interview with Watson herself: burned, missing half her face, and in the ICU, with Jace Gill himself as her interlocutor. These are the faces behind the cold statistics of war. Once this thing is whipped into shape and ready for prime time, it could set off a media firestorm.

Where things stand

What's the final score? The Grizzlies have rampaged behind Japanese lines. The Desert Rats control the skies, and their tanks have rolled into battle. The Japanese have taken their lumps, both from armies and from individual actions. But the CalFree has been hit hard, too. They lost comms for a while. They lost their own ability to field aircraft. They're encircled, battered, tired… and the power in Bakersfield has gone out. The California Free State has heart, but the Japanese have more better-trained, better-equipped men, and more of them.

Wed March 21 2072 - Chaos in Barstow (Flashpoint)


Barstow is still sinking into chaos, overflowing with refugees, its resources overtaxed, and its tempers running high. The Rangers have pulled out, and it's only a matter of time before the Japanese turn their eyes south. Sorina says a word here, drops a significant look there, trying to build up a coup in support of the Protectorate. She manages to whip up a small uprising… more of an angry demonstration… but then the local toughs, unofficially deputized by the Rangers, bust heads and kneecaps. Sorina's good enough to talk them out of shooting her in the head and leaving her in a ditch, but not so good that they give her a serious beat-down, tie her behind a car, and drag her out of town. Barstow's down but not quite out.

Medaron, Billie, Blue Monday, Rash

Medaron's also trying his hand at the Barstow game, assembling an underworld empire for himself. He's got the contacts, and now he's got Billie doing the legwork for him, talking to the right people with the right amount of force even when there are some doubts. Bobo becomes a street performer, keeping morale up with inspired street magic, sleight of hand, and acrobatics, and draws attention from the would-be kingpin. And then the muscle moves in: Blue Monday and Rash are two sides of the same coin: smiling or frowning, they'll ruin your day if you don't toe the new line in Barstow. The gang's able to sit on top of Barstow's underbelly for a while, but California doesn't like metas. Knife-ears and trogs taking over don't sit right, and the gangs on their home turf start grumbling. Two cent samurai tire to earn their spurs by taking on the new toughs in town. Medaron, Blue, Billie, and Rash are kings of the hill for now, but for how long?


The last player out in the desert is Aladriel. The hermetic mage sets her sights on the Mojave, and what she learns is that the desert doesn't like hermetics. The Mojave is a place for spirits, for the land awakened, and the careful logic and applied force of hermetic magic represent the very opposite. Human shamans may be tolerated, but hermetic mages… in Mojave, they are not welcome.


Jace Gill gives his speech, and NewsNet listens. The VX that runners stole and turned over to Cali goes missing in the night, although the authorities try to keep it quiet. But that's all sideshow as the lines of battle are drawn at Wheeler Ridge. The Desert Rats, with Air supporting their command structure, bring in their helos, their Thunderbolts, and two battalions of tanks after a grueling forced march. Against them is Major Ken Abe and his Zennyo Ryu, three brigades strong. The numbers favor the Japanese, and they outflank the Desert Rats in the opening engagements. The Rats barely hold back the second offensive. And then… and then, the Rats give up their maneuvering, the careful use of resources, and just charge into the meat grinder. The Japanese are caught by surprise, and then the Desert Rats' superior equipment and training come into their own. They crash into the Japanese lines… and through them. The losses are huge, but the back of the Japanese force is broken. The Zennyo Ryu are no longer the most terrible power in the area.

When what's left of the Desert Rats pull back to Bakersfield, the encircling Japanese forces let them through. The California Free State still stands. Bakersfield is still encircled, and now the power grid is down. The two sides take potshots at each other across the Kern River. But with Major Abe and his tanks out of the game, Barstow can lick its wounds, regather its strength, fly in supplies and heave a sigh of relief. Oh, and party. The survivors have their lives to celebrate.

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