Flashpoint California Smoulders

And thus starts the day…

Sun April 15 2072

The Ranger supply outpost near Shafter receives word from one of their freelance scouts, Duncan "Blindside" Sorenson, that a column of LAV-93s is making a flanking push on their position up from Gold Hill. Veteran Rangers spring into action, hustling anti-tank missiles into concealed positions along the most likely route of advance based on the dwarf's last report while the rest get ready to move. No further reports come, and the heavy staccato beat of autocannon fire that accompanied the last position update doesn't make it likely any more will.

The cherry red Mustang spits gravel from rear wheels clawing at half-swallowed roads, climbing up and out of the low, wooded valley. A fighting retreat that would make any rigger damn proud (and left two APCs as burning wrecks) has turned into all-out flight, trees bursting like matchsticks in the 'stang's wake as shell after shell chases it up the hillside. The dense treeline that made the surprise encounter between the two forces possible seems like it'll shelter the Mustang just long enough to make it over the ridge…and then a lucky round catches the Mustang low in the ass, metal shrieking as it's suddenly in flight, twirling like a toy car along the ridgeline. The Japanese guns turn back to their advance, slowed by not stopped.

China Lake. The Rangers represent one of the last actual symbols of California Authority, an institution all California's look up to and respect. Funded by toll roads and roadside fines in addition to subsidies from corporations, the Rangers are well equipped to handle most any situation. But they are short on manpower these days, and Ragnar 'Lucky' Johansson is hired on with Rangers in China Lake. His training of the troops in China Lake is elegant. Brutal. Focusing on the high points of survival and cover, how to use the world against your enemy, Lucky's instruction is something these men, a whole new crew of ten Rangers, called 'The Prospects', will remember their entire lives. A former Go-Gang come to the law, the Prospects have a lot of potential on their fast-attack bikes and espirit d'corps.

Freelancers and Prospects are all that's in base when the Rangers get Blindside's last transmission. Trapped in his mustang, at the bottom of a ravine and bleeding on his own, the halfer jury rigs his transmitter and gets a pulse burst out. Japanese Convoy headed from Visalia. Bearing down on Delano, the first real outposts of the Bakersfield resistance. The Rangers know that with Minton gone, there's no overall command and the small garrison of Delano is the only organized force between Visalia and Bakersfield, and if bakersfield falls, so too does any hope for Southern California.

But as luck would have it, Lazarus 'Tonka' Jones came in with Lucky, and he's ready to roll out. The Prospects, so taken with Lucky's training and with the way Tonka portrays himself, they fall in line behind him. "Lets go kill some JAPS!" Says Burnout, leader of the Prospects. "YEAH!" says just about everyone else. Dubbing Tonka as 'Misfire', they follow his lead as they roar out to stop the enemy force.

Taking back roads the Prospects know, Laz and his new friends scream across the Japanese held back country. Their column of motorcycles crosses Catherine 'Crow' Rogers, the hero of Atescadero. The riders all raise a fist as they pass the woman's truck as it too heads north, to stop the flow of troops streaming south. She pulls in behind them, the Cal-Free Banner flying behind them. It's a rag tag sort of band that's forming up, blacktop being eaten up by the tires and the call going out. Dying times here, so don't be late.

No one would ever call a vulture a majestic bird, but no one would ever deny they rarely have problems finding bones to pick clean. And some vultures are more proactive than others. Into Barstow glides one such specimen, an elf by the name of Medaron who seems to have all the right things to say to all the right people. Smooth as silk and as genuine as a three-nuyen bill, it isn't long at all before he's found like-minded scavengers with whom to peddle his wares to the good people of the city.

There's always plenty of meat on an animal that isn't quite dead yet, and Medaron and his crew of vice peddlers have set about plucking it from amongst the still-writhing flesh of Barstow. So far, it seems, people are just glad for a distraction, however momentary.

Brock 'BigBad' Black and Anita 'Sally' Redford hit the ground in Barstow running. It may be a little odd for a Troll to be looking for work in Cal Free, and really, it's not exactly the best plan. Brock wanders the back alleys and the local fixers - and finds himself stymied. Approached by a man though at long last, a job comes through just before they might call it a bust and head back to denver.

Sally looks unimpressed, but piling in to Baby, they head north along Highway 99, dodging the Japanese Patrols and roaring past a line of 10 bikers and an odd truck.

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles. Delbar 'Legs' Zoya is making her way through the ruins of Tustin. On the south side of the LA basin, just north of John Wayne International Airport, it was hit hard by the initial Tsunami and landslides that brought Los Angeles to its knees. Fire and brimstone shattered that great city, with most of the basin now underwater and in various stages of reclamation. Walled and dyked compounds of reclaimed land stand as sunken islands amid a choked and polluted sea of ruins, snags and hastily cut channels. Buildings standing above the waterline have been reinforced in patchwork fashions to exist as curious outposts and spires in this miasma.

In this environment, atop what used to be an office building, Norris meets a man. A man called 'Zipper'. A local information broker, he has a bit of information that Norris is looking for. What happened to her. Why she can't remember anything but those momentary flashbacks. The meeting is good - productive. But as she turns to leave, a single bullet shatters the mans skull and plasters her with his brain matter. Leaping away, she hits the fire escape - 3 stories above her boat as it bobs in the murky brine. Hitting the second story, she turns, but the rusted moorings of the fire escape pull free from the side of the building, as more gun fire erupts around her. Falling, she hits the edge of the boat with her temple, and blackness consumes her vision. Slipping under the water, her attackers lose track of Norris.

The Battle of Maricopa is hardly a battle, and is over almost before it begins. The Japanese didn't want to waste resources clearing out the primary resistance, a small town militia within the city comprised mostly of metahuman outcasts, and so they didn't. They sent mercenaries instead, hastily assembled and paid, but more than equal to the task. It's little more than a slaughter, and already word's making it out regarding the atrocities committed.

Some say the mercs simply lost control, others say Col. Fujimora, the liaison officer who handled the contract, specifically requested a cleansing. Whatever the truth may be, the pile of metahuman heads alongside Route 166 just outside of town speaks for itself.

Maricopa belongs to the Japanese, due in no small part to the actions of the Aztlaner elf known only as 'Skullz', reputed to have tallied over a score of determined, doomed defenders herself. Colonel Fujimora will be keeping an eye on her. Filth willing to clean filth is useful, after all.

Back in Barstow, Andrew 'Fray' Ramirez, Alexandra 'Genesis' Beddleton and 'Mark 'Temple' Church are working as a support team for Barstow's beleaguered civil service network. With an extra 20,000 people in a city of 10,000, with violence spiking, vice consumption skyrocketing and the other sundry problems involved, the whole damn place is just a tinderbox ready to light off.

A man, blanked out of his mind on a Psychotrophic BTL, lunges at Genesis as she helps Fray work on a patient. He calls her an 'eater', which seems to make perfect sense to him. Genesis sidesteps, but barely, taking a shallow knife wound along her arm. Fray is fast, faster than any halfer has a right to be, and he leaps across the table, fists blazing. The man refuses to go down though, and it's only through a combined effort that Temple is able to use a spell to drop the psychotic. A little stunned, the makeshift clinic is silent, before there's a loud cheer - then some clapping. The city may be on the verge of insanity, but but it's the efforts of people like these, who keep the lid on a boiling pot.

That convoy of Prospects, lead by Laz, with Crow bringing up the rear, meets up with Michael 'Sandman' Flint in a pickup truck. A truck with a bed full of rockets. Sandman grins over at Laz, shaking his head just slightly as he's passed by the eleven strong rigger gang, then Crow. Sliding in behind Crow, they all proceed north, into the teeth of the Japanese. Got to slow them down while Bakersfield comes to its damn senses…

Heroes. Villains. It's easy to cast things in black and white. It's easy to decide that the Japanese are bad, and the Cal Free is good. To draw lines and wave flags. It's harder to appreciate the nuance of what's happening, what long coming generational conflict is working its way to a slow close.

Isabel 'Sorina' Johnson moves through the Japanese-held areas of California. She stops in the towns of Kettleman City, Lenmoor and Handford. A quick trip, where she speaks to local militia leaders. Those quasi resistance fighters who have been worn down by the 10 years of fighting, who could be swayed. She talks about things they want to hear. Things like peace. Like stability. Like families reunited and an end to the conflict that pits brother against brother. They want to hear her message… and they respond to it.

350 fighters from those towns link up, men in pickup trucks with weapons bolted to the back, with hand made grenades and waving the Rising Sun Bear Flag… they stream south just as Laz's convoy streams north. There's something very bad about to happen.

Kettleman City. It's a small town, a stopover for travellers mostly. Steven Kirkson and his band of 40 men just departed - their taillights are just now out of sight when Team Zeta makes it's move. Working in the enemies rear, Team Zeta is an elite unit of Shadowrunners bent on sowing terror in the sympathizers ranks. Under the command of Grach, this portion of Team Zeta kicks in the door to Kirkson's house. The phone lines are cut and the jammer is going - there will no calls for help.

It's not even a battle. Bethany Kirkson pulls a shotgun, but Grach's assault rifle chatters, bisecting the woman. 8 Children, ranging from 15 to 2 in age, suddenly are in an uproar, screaming and crying and running.

It's not even a battle, as Grach cuts down Sid Kirkson, Steven's eldest at 15. The boy got his father's pistol and was drawing a bead. Once those two, Bethany and Sid are down, it's just mop up. 7 more shots. Seven more people dead at the Kirkson farm.

In Lenmore, the families of the fighters headed south are gathered at the auditorium. It's sort of a potluck style event, mutual support and moral structure for the families left behind. There is an almost festive atmosphere. The sort of thing where if it was another time, another place, it might be a talent show, a county fair. But instead, it's young teens - those too young to ship out with the men, are carrying assault rifles. On one wall, a crudely painted banner says 'METAHUMANS' but Meta has been spray painted over with 'SUB'.

Team Zeta is here. Walking among them. They don't see her, the one who calls herself Anika. She's new to town, only came in earlier today. But she's helpful. And she has immediately fit right in. Her classically Caucasian, human looks endear her. She's a refugee from up north, she says. Pushed back when Willows was taken by Jace Gill's men.

Anika steps outside, to smoke a cigarette. Walking to her car, she leans over into the the trunk to get her lighter. As she does so - the windows and walls of the assembly hall shudder and blow out. The carefully placed satchel charges were easy to conceal in childrens backpacks. She lights the cigarette as alarms start to blare and the screams come. She's not interested in the casualty counts. Just that people remember… you don't work with the enemy.


Corcoran. Just outside Visalia. It's a small town, like the others. The local Sheriffs department is staffed by Japanese Loyalists. Team Zeta is here.

Notch steps into the lobby, cracking his neck.

"Can I help you, son?" Asks the sheriff as he steps forward. The Sheriff is 60 if he's a day, and there are two other deputies in the room.

Notch doesn't seem terribly worried. He moves like a lion and the space between him and the Sheriff is gone in an instant. Grabbing the stunned man's head and wrenching hard, the sheriff's neck snaps as Notch slips a hand down to draw the sheriff's own pistol. He moves so smoothly, with such speed and alacrity, the old man has not yet hit the floor before Notch fires two shots with the pistol.

The Deputies have only started to rise, before the rounds - each perfectly aimed, slam into their foreheads. They clatter backwards, over their chairs.

Eyeing the revolver in his hand, Notch drops it and shakes his head. "Lazy." He can be heard to mutter.

The city of Delano is an unlikely place for a battle. The only thing it has going for it is the junction of Cal-155 and Cal-99. Two major highways that create a logistical chokepoint and bottleneck. Before the fall of the United States, Cal-99 was called the Veterans of Foreign Wars Memorial Highway. Now, it's overpass where it curls across High street like a sidewinding snake, is the host to a Domestic War. A war right here, right now.

The local militia is dug in, but the Japanese are pressing hard. Only a dozen or so men are on that overpass, raining down fire on the Imperials below. The militia reinforcements that Sorina dregged up are a few minutes away, but closer still, are Laz and his Prospects. Crow and Flint. The battle comes together.

Mon April 16 2072

When we last left our flashpoint, it was nearing its boiling point. The battle of Delano. Delano is a small town who's primary distinction is sitting on a strategically important highway intersection of Cal-99 and Cal-155. Cal 155 is the only east-west road with the infrastructure capable of carrying big trucks and heavy equipment, while Cal 99 is the major artery for the eastern side of the valley that runs north-south. Only 5000 people lived in Delano at it's height, but now it's mostly a ghost town. Some 1000 people still live here, but it's a highly fortified existence. The northern wall against Japanese aggression.

Traveling south bound, is the teeth of the Japanese thrust. The 3rd Imperial Division's assault regiment, called by some the Akuma. Heavily armored, trained with the finest in equipment and the pride of the Japanese Protectorate of California, these men will not break easy. A trio of Japanese Naginata Attack Helicopters are in the air, providing support and cover for the long line of APC's that bears the Akuma southward. Moving in support of the Akuma, is the rag-tag militia of 350 lightly armored and armed men in trucks, that while poorly trained are highly mobile and unpredictable.

Holding the line at Delano is the 340th Forward Support Battalion of the California Guard. Originally a logistical battalion with mechanics, cooks and medics, it's slowly been transformed into a front line combat unit by simple necessity. To say they are the best California has to offer.. would be an incredible, incredible lie. They are not. They are simple men, simple soldiers, who happened to be the only ones who stayed at their posts when home towns called their boys home - when Bakersfield descended into street-to-street fighting between Cal-Guard units vying for control. When order broke down. They happened to be the only ones who stayed to man the line.

And they are likely going to die for it. Moving to support the 900-odd men of the 340th are the Prospects. A recent addition to the California Rangers, this motorcycle gang turned lawmen recently got training - very good training - down in China Lake at the hands of Lucky. Leading them is Tonka, a charismatic sword wielding man who's talked them up into a fury. Sandman has fallen into this convoy, as well as Crow. Operating in the area are also Sally and Bigbad, thought they are… not exactly on the same mission.

Thunder resounds in the valley. A peel of reverberating, booming power that comes so rarely to the valley. California is not known for its heavy weather, and lightning, much less thunder that comes with it, is virtually unknown. A once in a decade occurrence. It's even less known when it comes without a cloud in the sky.

Lt. Derrik Mazon, a 30 something African American with a shaved head and just one eye, stands on Veterans overpass - the primary strategic objective of the city of Delano. His binoculars are raised to his features as he sees the ground-based flashes of light - then hears the thunder. "COVER! TAKE COVER! INCOMING!" He calls out, before stepping down from the crate he was standing on. Artillery strikes come in, landing to the left and right of the bridge, flattening buildings and sending concussive waves of force that blows out glass for blocks around. "Stay covered! That was fire for targeting!" Calls out Mazon on the radio-net.

Sally slings her mustang through the streets of Delano, smoke trailing from her tires as she drifts a curve. It's an awesome sight. Sally is one of the finest drivers in the world, and it shows with the simple elegance of her driving, the deft touch on the steering wheel that sends the car where she wants it to go. Reading the road like a book, she knows just where to be to get the fastest, safest run. Baby responds like a living creature, seeming to anticipate her needs.

"We gotta get this slitch and get out, Brock! This was a stupid job to take!"

"Hey. Hey hey hey. Do I look like a FECKING johnson?"

"Not exactly." Says Sally as she whips around a fleeing truck filled with panicked townsfolks.

"There's the address there - 203 S. Main Street. She's waiting for us." Says Brock as they pull up to the address, a half block west of Veterans Overpass.

You know what happens next… don't you.

Bigbad steps out of the mustang, grateful for the moment to stretch his legs. That damn car may be fast, but it's certainly not 'roomy'. He rolls his neck as steps for the house. Too big to wear his security armor in the Mustang, he's dressed in an armored jacket, over his form fitting body armor. He takes a moment, before he heads to the house, to strap on his helmet. Say what you want about Bigbad's ability to be a fixer, but he knows his shit when it comes to covering his ass.

With that, he steps for the house, taking the front steps. Knocking on the door, he glances to the left and right, before he tries the door. The door opens, and there stands their protection detail target. A small man of no remarkable attributes. He has a suitcase and he looks ready to get the hell out of there.

Just as the man steps out of his house, to take the ride out of danger.. there is the sudden CRUMP-like sound that slams into the house, nearly dead center. Bigbad only has time to widen his eyes and thank god that his faceplate is down as the house explodes in a circular wave of pressure and debris. Picked up by the blast, Bigbad is thrown backwards, his armor holding up to keep the worst of the injuries at bay, but he slams into Baby's side, rocking the car and putting a 'Troll-at-60mph' sized crushed-in dent in the side of the Mustang that nearly puts the car on its side. Bigbad does not move.

Sally tries to get Bigbad into the car, when her ears stop ringing, but he's actually lodged into the body pretty well. She's left with with the choice of going on foot to get help for her badly injured partner or… driving the car with him in it. Literally in it. She makes the choice and limps the car to an emergency station. There, Bigbad is pried out and a medic stabilizes him and a passing mage tries to heal him, but the big troll is just too wired, too modified for the mage to work with. It looks like Bigbad has a long road to recovery.

The Japanese Column comes onward, artillery shells landing all around the bridge - but none striking it. Thunder continues to roll, the muzzle flashes of self-propelled artillery pieces lighting the sky to the north, all in time, a ripple of continuous fire that sings a sonorous song of destruction. Cymbals of whistling shells, percussion of the firing guns and the crushing baseline of impact.

But then the tune goes off key - the song falters. Sandman has snuck up backroads to insert his truck behind the artillery line. He stands on the hood, a rocket launcher on his shoulder. The backfire from the launcher has scorched trees behind him, but left his position relatively unseen as his rocket slams into one of the artillery units. Thinly armored, the vehicle shudders, then explodes as the rocket detonates within. It's own ammunition stores cook off, setting off a chain reaction down the line.

The song falters. And then stops.

The battle is joined, with the Akuma advancing with smooth military precision. Trained soldiers, born and bred for this very action. Battle hardened in the Philippines, across Asia, then in the Invasion of California, these men do not take prisoners. They do not bend. They do not break. Lt. Rickard Mazon finds himself on the line, a line that rapidly collapses in front of the onslaught. The Cal-Guard are folding like paper in front of the iron dragon of the Imperial Marines.

Then… there's the whine of High Performance motorcycles. Roaring up and over the rise of Veterans overpass, come the PROSPECTS, ready for battle. They are low to the ground, sliding in and out of the obstructions like well oiled machines. Lucky's training shows to good effect as they roll past the Cal-Free, using local terrain to their advantage. These men are good. They are hard core and they are not about to take shit from no slant eyed Jap.

Standing on the back of the lead Prospect's bike, Tonka has his katana out and is rallying the troops. The Cal Guard regains its morale as the motorcycles roar by. The fragging RANGERS are here. The California Rangers. It's easy to underestimate the power a legend can have, the power a symbol can have. It's easy to dismiss it, until you absolutely need that symbol. Men who had been running, they turn when they hear Tonka's exhortations. They find renewed vigor for the fight and the line wavers - then starts to hold again. Tonka and his Prospects hold that line, funnelling firepower right into the claws of the Iron Dragon. He levels his blade, and high on the moment, orders the Prospects into the Dragons Maw.

They say in combat… that it's better to be lucky than skilled. They… are wrong. The men of the Prospects are lerey, but in the moment, with Tonka's charismatic leadership and the momentum of the battle, they follow his direction. Engines roar and they form up into a flying wing, a wedge formation. Chainguns chatter, rocket launchers let off, and the men scream their defiance to the Japanese invader.

This would prove to be a very bad move.

The Prospects ride right into a line of fire. First down is Mojojojo, the big black Ork on his Scorpion. His chain gun rips into the line just before his head disappears into a fine red mist. Second, almost in the same heartbeat is Lugnut, the 60 odd year old human with the beard that just won't quit. His bike is raked by a line of fifty-cal that sends him tumbling end over end. Third is Ricky, the youngest of the group at only 22. This former UCAS Marine had just moved to the area to fight the good fight. His bike catches an RPG from one of the APC's and he just disappears.

The Prospects are down and down hard. A light-strike harassing force was used as an assault team. If there are survivors, they will be found only if the CalFree somehow manages to salvage this battle. Otherwise, the only thing awaiting the wounded is a bullet to the back of the head. Right now, the bullet looks more likely.

The death of the Prospects brings a hush to the battlefield - and for a moment, neither side of the conflict fires. It's one of those moments where you can see the tumbleweed blow across the road. Standing there, in the midst of the carnage and the destruction of the Prospects, is Tonka, blade drawn, face bloodied.

Answering this unspoken challenge - perhaps a challenge not even meant, steps forward Colonel Taiki Fujiwara, commander of the Akumu and the 3rd Marine Division. He draws his Katana, and in the smoke and fury, Tonka and Taiki meet blades.

The bladework is adept by both men, and these men have both armies attention. The delay this curious duel makes allows the militia raised by Sorina to arrive to the left flank - and as they charge into the Cal-Free line from the side. They rip into the beleaguered Guard unit, and the collapse begins again.

the battle in the center, between the Colonel and Tonka, it ends suddenly, with Tonka whirling around with a blade-strike that severs Colonel Fujiwara's hand at the wrist, sending his sword clattering to the ground.

Falling to his knees with a cry, Fujiwara bows his head suddenly. It's not submission. It's clearing the line of fire. Tonka is cut down by a line of gunfire that erupts and he crumples to the ground. Fujiwara leans over - prying his fallen foes katana from his hands, then limps back to his own men.

The Japanese line opens up again.

"There's no salvaging this, Lt." Says Crow, standing on the bridge next to Lt. Rickard Mazon of the Cal-Guard.

Rickard eyes the 'hero' of Atescadero for a moment, then nods. "I gotta agree. We had a chance until…" He gestures at the smoking mess where the Prospects just got cut down.

"Yeah. Lets go." Says Crow, just before a round catches Mazon in the shoulder - at a gap in his armor. HE spins, dropping to the ground, thudding heavily. Requests for orders are flooding in, across Mazon's radio and Crow has to make a choice. She grabs his radio, and in smooth, clipped tones, relays the orders to withdraw. Her grace under fire in the face of defeat allows her to withdraw the 460th with minimal needless casualties. As they limp into the outskirts of Bakersfield, they are beaten and battered, bloody and low on morale.

But they ain't broken.

And that's not nothing.

Night falls in the Central Valley. Highway 58, headed south east is overflowing with people trying to escape Bakersfield. It's cars and trucks as far as the eye can see. Contraflow has been installed by the rangers, with no traffic save military flowing into Bakersfield, and even that's using the frontage roads. People would normally be fleeing to Los Angeles, but the Japanese, operating freely due to the actions of Skulls in Maricopa, faced no resistance as they landed a team of Japanese airborne infantry at Wheeler ridge, the critical Junction of Highway 99 and Highway 5, where they merge to climb the Grapevine.

Bakersfield is almost encircled by Japanese Forces. On the brighter side, Colonel Jace Gill has managed to insert himself and his team of crack commandos into Bakersfield, and with the help of Rangers and by winning the loyalty of several Infantry Platoons, has managed to seize control of the town. Something approaching a unified defense is appearing in Bakersfield.

Barstow however… Barstow. Faced with a sudden flood of new refugees, these ones without money and without preparation, Barstow cracked. The local Rangers quickly realized there was just no where else for these people to go, and there was no power on earth that could protect the haves from the have-nots. It's a bad day when the Rangers have to pull out - but with the losses of the Prospects, and the uncontainable situation about to unfold… they had no choice.

"Protector-General!" Announced Captain Akahana Watanabe, command liaison for the 3rd. "I am pleased to report that Akuma have taken the Oil fields outside Bakersfield with limited casualties. With the unexpected reinforcements and the success on the flank, we flattened Delano and powered through to the outskirts of Bakersfield."

"And yet." Says Protector-General Kenji Saito, tapping the table in front of him as holographic unit markers hover in the air in front of him. "You do not have Bakersfield. And Gill is now taking command. Why is that?"

"Delano had an unexpectedly stiff resistance. They saw us coming - we think a Ranger in a sports car saw our column deploying. We sent recon for him, but we found nothing when we got there."

"Damniable Rangers. They would be comical if not so damned effective." Mutters the Protector-General. "What are our fuel supplies like?"

"Well… Since Shiawase cut off our oil supplies and Minton is no longer selling to us… we have maybe… 2 weeks of oil before we have to do something drastic."

"Such as?"

"Crush Halferville."

"Mmmm. Yamatetsu and Ares will block that."

"Not if we move fast enough."

"I'll consider it."

Tues April 17 2072

Word on the street is that 'Tonka' was evacuated to Bakersfield with wounded from Delano. Patched up in a field hospital, it wasn't 30 minutes after surgery that 'Dauntless', the California Rangers mobile Airborn Command Platform landed next to the hospital and 20 heavilly armed Ranger Patrolmen (Samurai) secured the hospital. Not all Rangers are Riggers, not by a long shot. They are almost a separate, special purpose military.

They quickly took control of Tonka's post-surgery comatose form. And none of them look very happy.

Less than ten minutes after it landed, the 'Dauntless' took off again, with Tonka aboard. Captain Catherine 'Crow Rogers and Lt. Rickard Mazon watch the lift off with silence. "Maybe they'll kill him." says Mazon.

"Maybe they'll turn him into a robot." responds Crow.

"Man. I would rig him as a robot, then have every goddamn trog in the Mojave pound him in the ass."


Back in China Lake…

"The man KILLED 9 Rangers! Destroyed 5 million nuyen worth of machinery, not counting the augmentations on the Prospects!"

"Yes. He did." Says Hiraku Sulu. Yes, he actually has that name. "And he is a dead man. Do not worry, Captain."


"Whatever. Do not worry." Says the big anglo man who calls himself Sulu, sipping his tea. "The situation is under control. We will use him for a mission we need completed… but cannot dare send someone with any reasonable ties to the Rangers."

"You don't mean…"

"Yes. I do. Tea?"

Rumbles coming out of Halferville seem to indicate that the Imperials are taking a more strident tone with the metahuman enclave. Mitsuhama in specific seems to be demanding access to the hydrocrackers at the refineries, and attempts at intrusion are up significantly.

Gunfights broke out today in Barstow - several skirmishes between the wealthy immigrants from the Mojave and the more desperate, poor evacuees from Barstow. The Rangers have pulled back from the city, perhaps gathering force for some kind of military strike, leaving the local police force ill equipped to handle the situation.

The Gypsy Caravans of California, migrating populations that have existed since the NAN wars… have been streaming into China Lake and Redding. A steady line of vehicles - packs and bands coming together for a grand allthing. God knows what the Gypsies will discuss at this moot.

And what of the Mojave while Barstow breaks down? What of the chaos there? Civil authority is on the verge of collapse - the city is reeling and crumbling under the weight of evacuees from Bakersfield and the strain of those coming in from the Mojave. Air pressure drops and those watching the desert see the dust kicking up. Fear goes through the city. A Trituracion.

Wed April 18 2072

Supplies are low and morale is lower in Bakersfield. Units which had just been shooting at each other find themselves facing the Japanese not more than a mile away with a sense of resignation. There are rumors up and down the line that elements of other units have deserted. So far, officially, there are no desertions. Officially.

"Captain." Says the communications officer aboard the Dauntless. "We have an incoming call from Bakersfield Actual - Colonel Jace Gill."

Ronald 'Hiraku Sulu' Johnson sips his tea as he watches the main screen. "Oh My. Put him on."

The forward viewscreen of the massive VTOL Aircraft fills with the sweaty, grimy face of Jace Gill. "Hey! Sulu! How's it going man!" Asks the younger Colonel. "Hey look. We're in a tight spot here. We could really… really use the Assault Division I know you've been working on out in China Lake. I don't mean to step on your cock, but those big trucks. Sure could use them out here!"

Sulu simply quirks one brow upwardly. "Is that a fact. I would love to help you, Colonel, but you already seem to have destroyed a quarter of the assault force - it's scouting and recon division."

"Now now, Sulu." Says Jace, shaking his head. "That wasn't me - you know that. I'm here, on on the ground and I need your damn support! California needs you!" He grimaces then, looking off camera. And then he leans in, whispering to the feed. "The -Federation- needs you."

Sulu's other brow raises. "Oh my."

Several hours later, Sulu contacts Jace again. The situation is simple. Without the Prospects, Assault Division would be flying blind. THe big trucks are useless in mountain passes like what would be required to get anywhere near Bakersfield.

"I read you, Sulu." Says Jace, his eyes narrowing as he looks at the map. "What.. What if I cleared here. Alta Sierra… Highway 155 down out of the mountains… and into Fujiwara's Back Door?"

"Oh." Says Sulu, looking at the map. "Back doors. Now you're sparking my interest. If you could clear that road… I could get Assault Division out to you. Probably 10 trucks. It's no military… but they love to raise hell."

"Alright. I'll see what my people can put together. Bakersfield Actual, out."

Fri April 20 2072

Artillery is often used to soften up a target before an attack. From Delano, the guns of the Akuma open up. A rolling, unceasing peal of thunder that never ends, punctuated lightening at the end when a shell lands and explodes. Every 10 to 20 seconds, a shell lands and someone dies.

Hour after hour, the guns fire on. A droning in the distance and a shattering clatter in Bakersfield. Shell after shell lands. Though not massive in volume, and not aimed at specific targets, they seem to be having a hugely demoralizing on the population. No one knows where the next shell will land. The concept of 'civilians as non-combatants' is a new one in our own world of 2012, but in 2072, it has been lost again, in favor of total war.

And the guns fire on. The steady, smooth report of artillery rings in the valley, the haze of cordite smoke and the backblast dust from the firing of the guns raises up in the valley. The guns of Bakersfield open up - counter-shelling beginning slowly - one gun here. One gun there. It's certainly not as effective as the concentrated, sustained effort of the Japanese.

It's been said that power flows from the pen and not the sword, and while this is the digital age, the concept remains the same. If you control the content and the message, you control the world. In the world of 2072, content on the Matrix and on the news channels, in the scream sheets, it's highly edited. Highly spun and slanted. And even worse, the media consuming population is entirely asleep. While MOM and other Metahuman Rights Groups have tried to popularize the cause of the metahumans in California, there's not been much traction gaining in the last 10 years.

It's like the entire world turned a blind eye to these events - these horrible acts of genocide that have taken place in the California Sun - like they simply do not exist. But that seems to be changing. With the attack on Bakersfield, NewsNet, the last truly independent news source in the 6th world, ran a story on the devastation of the Monticello Dam attack, and it showed the former internment camp. Now it seems… -now- it seems… that Senators in the UCAS and CAS are taking notice and asking for intelligence briefs from the CIA.

The guns of Delano hammer away at Bakersfield. A line of artillery nine guns long and coordinated slam shells into the beleaguered capitol of the south. Jace Gill stands firm, atop PETRO-CAL's corporate building - his defacto head quarters. Artillery rains down, striking and collapsing the San Joaquin Community Hospital to the north. The 30 story building is the center of town, and thus far they have not shelled it. From its heights, he can almost see Delano, and he can certainly see how the artillery has left gashes in the city.

"Alright. Here's the plan. We sucker them deep - pull our main units back behind the Kern River - we hold them at the bridges and then the rangers sweep down behind them while we use the Condors…" Thats the Bakersfield Airwing - currently in Mojave at their air base.. "Will tear up the Artillery when they shove forward and have to lighten their defense. That should reel them back a bit and we can move forward across the bridges with our armor."

"You really think we can do this, Sir?"

Raising his binoculars to his face, Jace grimaces. "Not a doubt in my mind."

In the city of Santa Rosa, some 20 miles behind the northern coast frontline of Healdsburg, Colonel Tadao Shiawase, commander of the 5th Marine Division, the Jikininki (A ghost that eats human corpses from Japanese Folklore), stands before a crowd, atop a gallows.

"This man! This -Ranger-. Comes into your city. Comes into our home! Spreading sedition! Treason! He spreads lies! Talk of precious California Freedom! Freedom! General Saito has brought freedom and peace to our land! Has brought order from chaos! Look to Sacramento, so silent now. But no more silent than when Governor Gill ruled from there! He, this man here, this Ranger. He speaks of betrayal, of Collaborators! But I ask you! I ask you, who has betrayed California? Is it the General? Is it you? Or is it Governor Gill and his impotent, corporate-dominated toadyism?"

The crowd of several hundred, gathered in the square - they roar their approval for Colonel Shiawase's commentary. At the high point of the cheering, California Ranger Bill Tanner, a 20 year veteran of the force, falls 3 feet, the noose stopping his fall with a sudden snap.

Sat April 21 2072

In the bears lair, Governor Theodor Gill rubs his face as he stares at the view screen feeding him data. Towns that have fallen, towns that have burned. Casualty rates in Bakersfield. The map showing the San Joaquin Valley almost entirely in Japanese hands.

"How did we come to this?" He asks rhetorically, to no one in particular.

"You forgot how to fight, Mr. Gill." Says a gravelly yet smooth voice, slightly asian toned voice. "You are so worried about what you still have, you have forgotten how to risk it to gain more. You have forgotten how to want."

The older governor turns slowly in his chair, one hand moving to the pistol at his side.

"No no, Mr. Gill. There is no need for that. I am here to make you an offer. I am here to talk. If I wished you dead, you would already be such."

"You have my attention." Says the old soldier, looking more tired by the moment as he turns. "But I do not have a name for you."

"You can call me Junjiro. Mr. Junjiro."

"And what is your offer, Mr. Junjiro?"

"I can give you California. Protect you from your son. All you need to do… is what I ask."

"And you want me to ask you what you want. Yes…. yes." Says Gill, shaking his head. "But I am not going to, Mr. Junjiro. I was warned you would come at some point - when things looked darkest. That someone would come and offer me whatever it was I wanted… and all I had to do was sign over my soul - and the soul of my nation." He shakes his head again, almost sadly. "Mercutio was right."

"The black skinned one is a fool. Think clearly, Mr. Gill." Says Junjiro, entirely unperturbed by his lack of dramatic revelation. "Think clearly on what I offer, against what he does." Junjiro rises then, straightening his sportcoat's plackets. "I know the way out."

Standing atop the PETRO-CAL building, Jace watches the far line of battle, the occasional report of gunfire and muzzel flashes in the distance. "How did we come to this…" Asks Jace, rhetorically.

"By remembering how to fight, Mr. Gill." Says Junjiro, standing next to him. "By remembering that only the strongest, fittest creature survives."

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