Mon April 16 2012

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."

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