Sun April 15 2012

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.

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