Sun April 22 2012

Sun April 22 2072

Dodging and ducking artillery shells in Bakersfield, 'Midas' (Ryan) is talking with several commanders. "Look, look, guys. It's this simple. You need an /edge/ and I can give it to you." He says, laying out a variety of auto-injectors, inhalers and other drug delivery kits. "I've got what you NEED. Cram. Jazz. Nova. Long haul. That ones a popular one with the soldiers, let me tell you. Need someone awake for 48 hours without a nap, thats the one you want."

The commanders glance at each other - somewhat dubiously. Several take samples, and a few return later to buy larger supplies.

All goes well, until Midas is working in his little makeshift storefront, a burnt out 'CONDOMANIA' shop with a giant squiggly sperm on the roof. Hey, it's easy to find. He's working in back when a crazed, drugged-out soldier comes barging in. He needs a fix and he needs it bad. Tearing apart the store, he finds Midas running out from the back. What happens next is a beating so brutal that it's hard to put into words. But in the end, two Cal-Free Soldiers have to drag the man off Midas, who's a bloody mess under the soldiers hands. On the plus side… the Cal Guard are a little more alert, a little meaner, and a little more willing to spill blood.

Corcoran Prison was once a place where California stored its most hardened criminals, those who could not make it in world and could not afford to bribe their way back into it. Now, under the care of the Japanese, it's one of the most feared places a metahuman can be sent. Guarded by the internment division and by the Akuma, it's nearly impossible to break out of. It's a one way ticket, to Corcoran. Once you go there, you never come back. Hard labor and gas chambers. Those are the only escape. It is a massive place, housing some 20,000 people at the moment.

Tinman stands atop a truck, narrowing his cybernetic eyes until bare slits in an expressionless face. "Gemini. Move with Steel. Flank to the north - I want eyes on the north guard houses. We can only hit one - maybe two cellblocks before we have to go. Surprise is our biggest weapon. If we fragg this.. well. We're joining them. Warrent, Hardball. Go south. I'll come through center with the trucks. Right through the walls at the midpoint. We blow the satchel charges - we take down the wall. They will be disoriented - scared. We need to provide clear… direct leadership. We all ready?"

Gemini, Hardball, Warrant and Steel nod their understanding.

"Good. Lets go reach out and touch someone."

"Good. Now, I've bought us a 3 minute window. Their entire communications net will be down during that time. Intercoms, Cameras, cell grid. All down. I'm also opening the cages on a cell block to the north 60 seconds before that happens. It will give us a strong opening and distraction." Says Tinman, a decker of no small skill, committing himself to this run. "I've given us ever opportunity to succeed. If we fail now, it will be our own faults. Lets move."

Alarms go off in the prison - lights snapping on and focusing to the north. Gemini stands by with Steel, Warrant and Hardball sneak in close. The sounds of a riot can be heard from the cell block who's doors swung mysteriously open. The Internment Division swings into motion with decisive, trained action.

Warrant hoists the almost-cannon to his shoulder, then winks over at Hardball. "Hey, mate. Watch this drek." With that, he opens the magazine - and round after round of tungsten steal load into the chamber, to be launched down the barrel. What happens down range is a thing of beauty - of precision work with an imprecise weapon. Using the assault cannon, Warrant skillfully cuts lines between two windows, then down to the ground - effectively making a door. There's a groan, and then that slab of concrete flops forward, onto the grassy exterior with a heavy thud.

"Did I just fraggin' see that?" Asks Hardball, a little disbelieving.

"We call that a Lambeth Portcullis. Lets go," says Warrant.

Tinman has the plan. Warrant has the door. Gemini and Steel hit the opening made for them, while it's still smoking. The guards inside are already on alert, but confused as drek. When Steel comes in, Gemini flanks him, both with pistols drawn. Shots ring out, but it's quickly reduced to close combat as the guards rush them.

To say that Steel is 'good' at hand-to-hand would be a disservice to masters of the craft. Every move is elegance in physical violence. No wasted movement, no extravagant shouting. Just a clinical dispatch of those who come at him. In the blink of an eye, 4 prison guards are down, three with broken necks, the fourth from massive cranial trauma. Steel does not seem like he's even broken a sweat.

Standing back from the melee, using Aikido to flip men back at Tycho, Genesis is competent in her application of bullets - sighting down the cellblock to take out a distant guard.

Hardball's on deck. Moving with an alacrity that can only be supernatural - the man moves like the wind. Using parkour-like fluidity, he leaps a table, grabs a low hanging pipe, then fulcrums around it, to launch himself into the air. Landing on the guards catwalk, he jumps across the gap to the control booth. A punch to the man behind the computer has the poor administrator knocked out cold. Hardball grunts, then eyes the computer. "What the frag… Where's the goddamn 'open button'?" He calls on the comms.

Tinman is patient, and walks the man through the standard prison software protocols… and in a moment, the doors all rachet back… freeing 500 prisoners from their cells.

Tinman's team has done the near-impossible, and broken IN to prison. Now. Can they get out? Can they get out /alive/? Can they get out alive… and with a goodly deal of prisoners? What are they going to do with those prisoners?

Find out in about 12 hours.

Lucky left China Lake. But unlike BSyde and his crew, Lucky traveled south by south east. His Jeep travels off road - using the desert as his highway. Sticking off the main arteries, he goes a little slower than he'd like, but he starts to approach 29 Palms just as the sun starts to rise.

"Breaker breaker one-niner. This is Lucky Pass-clearer, calling Deuce-Niner Actual. Come back."

"Go ahead, Mountainbacker."

"Looking for permission to come into town and talk a bit."

"You're coming from china lake?"

"That is affirmative."

"The Desert Rats welcome you to 29 Palms. You may proceed.

Back in Bakersfield…

Barnaby lays on the tarmac at Bakersfield Municipal, busily licking himself. The thick, wet lushing noise accompanying the act has Sam staring at him in mild disgust, but Barnaby does not care. Sam is afraid. Barnaby knows this because he can smell it. All of the humans are afraid. Barnaby doesn't know why, but it is making him nervous. Even without the nerves, he still would have smelled the Other. Her scent stands out from the complex pattern of the base, the melange of odors that he can read like a book. If he could read, anyway. As soon as that strange Otherscent reaches his nostrils, he stops licking, his ears perking. He doesn't like it. It is…something Other. He growls.

A lethal wind knifes silently through the night, every footfall carefully placed in the scrubland surrounding the airport. Skullz stays low, and slow. She has time. She knows exactly where she is going. She knows exactly where the fuel stores are for those big, thirsty Cal Free aircraft. She knows exactly where to place the light satchel charges carried high on her back. The elf is alone, and committed, and represents incalculable danger to the units trying to hold Bakersfield, and only a dog named Barnaby has any idea she's there.

That fucking dog's been ghosting Skullz all night long, and it keeps getting closer. She's got half the charges planted, but instead of finishing the job, here she is, laying under a fuel truck, waiting on a goddamn dog. "Hold." She can hear the soldier giving the dog the command, telling it to stay, even from thirty meters away. Her eyes narrow as the soldier starts towards the fuel cache. It's time to do something about this situation before it gets absurd. Her Predator III already has the silencer threaded on. She draws it. Quietly. Just as the soldier nears the last fuel cache she visited, Skullz sights in. It's not an easy shot, across a hell of a lot of open ground, but she makes it look easy, putting a single round through the unfortunate Californian's skull with a cough of her suppressor. That damn dog goes berserk almost instantly, whipping around and charging right for her. He doesn't have a prayer of making it, it's an easy shot, but that doesn't matter

Skullz slides down the shallow gulley on one hip, dirt kicking up around her from the impact of bullets. It's searching fire.

The silver-tongued Sorina rolls into Barstow on a mission of subversion. The city's chaotic, on the brink - its residents are stressed out, war-weary, flooded with refugees, and very likely next on the Protectorate's hit list. It's a perfect opportunity for someone with a talent for persuasion to add another jewel to the Japanese crown without so much as a drop of blood lost, as long as the right words make it to the right ears.

Unfortunately, finding the right ears in Barstow is a tough task. Sorina's deceptive message of pro-Japanese peace just isn't finding an audience, or at least not the right one. There are people who will listen, but they're nobodies; poor refugees, known gullibles, suspected Protectorate agents. Being so charismatic that people will lay it all on the line for you is often a gift - in this case, it's a curse.

The pathetic pro-Japanese uprising in Barstow's over before it begins. The Rangers don't do the dirty work - they've got guys for that. Unaffiliated officially, natch. Ugly bruisers to a man, they break bones and crack heads all along Pioneer Street, home of the burgeoning protest, and they've got it stomped out in under an hour. They've also got the information they wanted: the name of the woman who started it all.

When they come for her, Sorina's silver tongue finally remembers its talent, and she's able to convince them she's not a Japanese agent. Her lack of a Cal Free SIN makes her claim of refugee status a tough sell, however, and the last anyone in Barstow remembers seeing of her is a beaten, bloody pulp being dragged out of town towards the Mojave behind a Toyota Gopher.

Captain Crow - in her shiny new California Free State Captain's Armor, a personal gift from Colonel Jace Gill, she looks out over her men. Yes. She has men now. Crow's got recruits coming to her. They want to work with her. Serve with her. Her right hand man, Lt. Mazon - formerly of the shattered 340th - is there with her. "Now. What we are going to do is infiltrate behind the Japanese line, where we're going to hit the Mettler scrap yard. There's a warehouse there that supplies we need, and the Jap's don't. So we're going to take it from them."

The men, informally called the Archons, after Crows' decision to call them 'Armed Reconnaissance', seem motivated and good to go. They know Crow's reputation and her penchant for pulling it out of the fire. Mounted on bikes, they roar south, along the portions of Highway 99 that California still controls. More than a few cheers go up to see 30 men on motorcycles, all flying California colors.

The Archons roar into Mettler - and suddenly, Crow is faced with a challenge. One half of her unit, two fireteams, about fifteen guys, decides to not stop. It looks like some men came to her unit just for the motorcycle and the chance to get outside of Bakersfield… so they could make a run for it. What can she do? Very little. What's left of the archons scavenge in Mettlet, but it's a quiet ride back home.

29 Palms. This former Marine Base is home to a unit of former UCAS Marines called the Desert Rats. They refused to leave California when the UCAS pulled out, and were some of the only opposition that Aztlan faced when it rolled in to San Diego. Now, those old marines are tired - but their sons and daughters, the locals who have joined them and a steady stream of Ex Marines from the UCAS And CAS have bolstered their ranks. Don't let their worn down vehicles and haggard look fool you. The Desert Rats know what they are doing.

And they are listening to Lucky as he talks about the situation in the southern San Joaquin valley. See, the rats never liked Minton, and they clashed often. The last 10 years saw the rats being used by the Pueblo as a buffer against Mintons occasional raids. So they have very little love for Bakersfield.

But Lucky has the attention of Brigadier General Laurence Tubbles, current CO of the Desert Rats. 40 years young, barrel chested and a veteran of the Desert Wars, he looks past the years of hate for Minton's ways, and sees only slanted eyes.

Bgd. General Tubbles stands up, running a hand down the line of his stubbled chin. He looks to the maps his men are bringing him and he exhales. "Alright. Heres what we're going to do. We've got about… a brigade's worth of troops here. We're not set for straight line battles anymore. But I'll send my armor and my aircover with you, 'Lucky'. You're our liason to the Rangers. We don't work for Minton, or Gill. Or anyone."

"We work with the Rangers. We clear? That's 15 upgraded 2050 Schwarzkopf main battle tanks, 5 Yellowjacket Light Strike Helicopters and 5 Thunderbolt ground strike fixed wing aircraft. Thats all I'm willing to send - but we'll mobalize and send a dispatch of supplies and MP's to BArstow. This good enough for you?"

Lucky just nods once. "Seems fine, sir. Now, the Rangers are coming in across 155, here, so if we… " And then the conversation turns to tactics and coffee.

The Cal Free border guys just across the line from Castaic have an interesting case on their hands. The guy they're debating on letting into Cal Free territory would look pretty bland if it weren't for the absurd handlebar mustache and all the camera equipment festooned about his person.

"So let me get this straight…" begins one of the skeptical soldiers. "You want in, and travel permits up to Bakersfield, because you're an orni…an orni.."

"An ornithologist, yes," answers the man known only as the Sage. "Birds. I love them. And this is the best time of year for spotting the red-necked grebe."

The guards exchange an incredulous glance. "You know there's a war on, don't you, sir?"

"I have ample private means," responds the man known as the Sage, proferring a thick wad of gilt-edged Saeder-Krupp scrip. "I'm sure I'll be fine."

Five minutes later, his rented Americar is on its way up the 5.

The passage of several hours finds that most unlikely bird-watcher known as the Sage firmly ensconced atop an abandoned oil derrick just outside of Bakersfield, giving him a mostly unobstructed view of the western half of the city and its surrounding terrain - not to mention the Guard garrison visible from that side of the 'plex.

As the shutter of his tridcam clicks, a continent away, analysts at an undisclosed location study each new image as it's received, real-time, via 'trix-link, updating and annotating files. The occasional transmission of a half-assed shot of some Californian duck goes uncommented upon as one powerful national government gains a much better understanding of the complex Cal Free situation.

Under cover of stealth, Catherine Carter, electronic specialist, climbs a water tower in Shafter. Shafter is in the control of the Japanese Protectorate, about 5 miles from the front lines. Setting up her gear, she hunkers down as false-dawn lights the eastern sky. Antenna's up, gear online, she nods to her self as she cascades down through the frequencies. Isolate. Decrypt. And… Jam.

In a blink of an eye, the California Guard fighting in Bakersfield loses the ability to communicate. It's radios fill with static and it's comms are dead. The interference is powerful, blanking out a 25 kilometer radius from her tower.

It's several hours of jamming. Confusion spreads down the line, and Japanes troops press forward. The front line collapses again, cut off from artillery support and from the limited air strikes that had been coming in from the Cal-Free air force. Troops regroup at the Kern River, holding the bridges against the Japanese. This move, the wholesale jamming of California's frequency is a risky gamble by any singular player. Military jamming tends to come from heavily defended communication sights, with S-A-M defense and hardened bunkers.

Catherine has none of that. It's nearly 11 AM when a trio of A-11 Thunderbolt Ground-Attack aircraft roar past her, banking to circle the area. Catherine sees them, sees their UCAS markings. She knows they are not actually UCAS aircraft, but rather, the desert rats. The planes circle again, then one banks hard up and away, getting an attack vector on the tower.

"Foxtrot Alpha to Marine Actual. I have located the transmission source. Shafter water tower. I don't see any broadcast devices on fly by, but it's the center of the Jamming zone. Requesting weapons free."

"Foxtrot Alpha, this is Marine Actual. You are a go for weapons free. Destroy the tower. Telemetry confirms it's at the center of the interference zone. Repeat, weapons free."

"Confirmed. Foxtrot Alpha is weapons free."

Catherine looks to the plane as it rolls back on her, and she's already moving. Lithe, limber and fast, she hits the ropes. None could not ever say she was bad at her job. If she had a failing, it was simply hoping the planes would fly her by. But she couldn't know they weren't on the same frequencies as the Cal-Guard.

She's halfway down when the missile slams into the tower, a concussive wave that slams metal and water and fire into her. Battered and bruised, she hangs limp in the rope for a moment.

The tower groans, then leans, then comes shattering down. Her rope jerks along with the tower, and she comes tumbling to the ground, unmoving at the bottom of where the tower used to stand. If she's alive or dead… no one knows.

Sometimes, in war, people take things personally. Like, 'Curse' and 'Princess'. Throw someone's favorite boyfriend into the grill of a mustang, and see how pissed off she gets. The answer is pretty pissed off. Curse and Naomi make their way into the Japanese lines - looking for a target for rage - for vendetta.

Princess wraps and wards her in magic, making her invisible and hard to track. Curse draws an arrow, knocking it back in the string, then draws back the bow. The arrow flies straight - it flies true at Major Kui Suzuki of the DeadMen. The arrow would strike him right in the neck - severing his jugular and containing through the other side. It would have, too, had he not spun at the last moment, eyes blazing, to reach up and catch the arrow with his free hand. Some men are harder to kill than others.

Curse is taken off guard - surprised by the man's defense. He unlimbers his assault rifle, eyes narrowing as he directs his men to basically -hose- the area the arrow came from in fully automatic assault rifle fire. That's a lot of bullets, and even an invisible person gets hit. Several bullets find Curse, and she limps back to her own lines with Princess.

Down highway 155 comes the fighting force of the California Rangers. The sounds of their air horns blowing - not one single whit of thought to stealth given - as the A-11 Thunderbolts of the Desert Rats bank overhead, jet engines roaring. The Japanese have made great inroads - they have taken much of California. Their air cover is unsustainable, their fuel is low, their city is partially occupied - but they are buoyed by the news that the Rangers are slamming into the flanks of the Japanese force, while the Desert Rats, their armor and light strike vehicles, are pouring across highway 138 and slamming into Wheeler Ridge.

The counter attack is ready. With radios finally operational, with air cover overhead and with friendlies in the back 9, with troops hopped up on combat drugs and partially resupplied… Jace toggles the radio open, and hits the send switch.

"Citizen Soldiers of the California Free State. Look overhead. The engines of the Desert Rats and Cal-Free's own Air-Guard roar. Listen to the distance, where the sounds of battle join you. Look across the river - to an enemy that takes only in stealth, by surprise. An enemy that fights without honor. THey have before them the finest fighting force ever assembled by California. To the left of us, The California Rangers. To the right of us, our to-distant cousins in the Desert Rats."

"We are California. We've spent 60 years getting kicked in the teeth by a world we're unable to comprehend. Magic. Metahumans. Attacked on all sides, abandoned by our parent-nation. The Elves, the Indians, the Aztlanner. Kicked in the teeth, then kicked while we were down. The Japanese Look across the river - to an enemy that destroys families and takes our land. Takes our sovereignty. To take what is ours."

"But we are California. Every man. Every woman. Every too-young son, every unready daughter. And California is about to kick some ass."

Back in Delano, Sandman creeps along the bed of Delano creek. His hands have in them an Ares Arms Laser Designator, circa 2060. It's older, but it's the military standard. Light weight, the size of a pair of binoculars and just as easy to use. Even as Japanese troops press in to Bakersfield, Bakersfield presses back. Lifting the unit to his eyes, he uses the buttons atop to scroll through the menus. "MOAB… No… Hellfire… no.. Oh. THat looks fun." Says he, flipping through the loadouts on the various planes in the air. Like a kid in a candy shop. "THAT looks fun…"

30 seconds later, the sound of jet engines swoop overhead as anti-aircraft opens up. There's the whistle of canisters falling… and then…

North of Bakersfield, the city of Delano lights up in a line of fire some 80 feet high. The Desert Rats drop naplam across highway 99, lighting fires and damaging the infrastructure. Fire touches on an ammo-dump, the target that Sandman was lighting up. The ammunition cooks off and Sandman finds himself flat on his ass, holding a now shattered Laser Designator.


Rolling into the San Joaquin Valley with the Grizzlies is LooLoo. Blindside's convoy peels off as they hit the valley while LooLoo sticks with them. This expert Drone Rigger rolls in a van that's obviously not part of the assault team, so she hangs back. A small fleet of drones flies overhead, buzzing about - to the flanks and forward. Her network is without peer, feeding information into the grizzlies.

Thundering down the road, The Grizzlies slam into a company of Home Guard and dont' even stop to count the casualties. They take out a bridge in the back company, then they turn north - destroying a convoy of supplies rolling south. This is where LooLoo runs into an enemy rigger. Suddenly, her drones are under attack. She turns, whirling in her multi-spatial perceptions, but the fixed-wing drones are just too fast for her rotorcraft. One by one, they start falling, and she has to unplug from them rapidly. Calling back what she can, she shuts off the RCD and the Grizzlies cover her in their EMC network. She goes invisible to the enemy rigger… but she's lost a good number of drones.

When we last left Corcoran Correctional, they were in a state of panic. The wall breached, Tinman leading Warrant and Hardball, Gemini and Steel were at the seat of victory - at least… half way there… They broke in to prison. A curious sort of thing to do in the best of times. Now. Can they get out?

Tinman sits on top of the buss as it's backed all but in-to the prison, through the 'Lambeth Portcullus' that Warrant blasted for them. He calls out orders, ticking off the seconds, eyes hard and without mercy. He does not lead with inspiration but with cold precision. He is the clockwork man and he makes no apologies. These are not people around him. They are cogs, wheels, turning with the machine of his plan. "Move move move! Double time!"

Gemini is on prisoner detail - rounding up as many as possible and using the force of personality and leadership she's coming to be known for. A soft touch, but a deadly aim. As she's herding people onto the bus, a team of Japanese Internment guards comes from a side hall. Gunshots ring out and prisoners fall, hit and wounded. Gemini is hit as well, a trio of bullet slamming into her shoulder, rocking her back. Her armor holds, and what could have been a fatal wound turns to a glancing enough blow. Her pistol rises, and she returns fire as inmates scream onto the bus. The Japanese are pushed back.

The buses - all 5 of them - one to a runner, pull out, filled with 250 internees. More are left behind, so many more. But those who have been taken are the fittest, most capable they could find. You can blame Tinman's decking skills for that - subtle shifts to housing details, gathering people forward in one area. Atop one, is Warrant. His assault cannon by his side, a cigarette burning in his mouth, he's the very definition of English Cool as his hair blows in the wind. "Oy!" he calls out, spotting a helicopter lifting off in the distance. "We got some berks want to be birds!" He finds this very amusing, as he sets his stance and takes aim. His finger hits the trigger and the gun powers up - but does not fire. He looks down, realizing his gun has jammed. "DREK!"

"No problem!" Says Hardball, on the next bus down the line. He slips the man-portable Stinger-style missile from his backpack, drawing aim. With a cheeky grin, the shadowrunner sights down range, the little radar in the missile launch system locking onto the helo. A flash of light and then a trail of smoke - then an exploded helicopter.

Back in Bakersfield, things are dire. Supplies are low and the lines are being forced back. One bright spot, is in Gosford. A small suburb of Bakersfield, it's an almost nothing on the map. But it is site of some of the fiercest fighting. The Cal-Guard troops there are better armed, better supplied, and better informed than anywhere else. Why is that you might ask? Because 'Ni' is working with the ground troops. When a Japanese soldier is captured or wounded - she goes into his mind. Pulling up details on battle strategies, supply caches and the locations of other units. It makes the Cal Guard in Gosfard that much harder to pin down… and indeed… they have actually taken territory with this information.

But this plan comes to a stop when Ni is reading a soldier who has a bit more fight left in him than intended - and he stabs her. But she is quick, light on her feet. She sees the attack the moment he thinks of it, and though he is fast, she is able to twist away, taking a long, deep wound to her right thigh - but not one to be fatal.

Bakersfield has problems. The ground elements of the Desert Rats have yet to arrive, and while the Grizzlies are loose in the Japanese countryside, the troops in Bakersfield are being pressed back. Fuel concerns have grounded the Cal-Free aircraft and supplies are running low across the board. The usual supplies that could be called upon from the southern desert have been sucked up by the crisis in Barstow, leaving Bakersfield with nothing to fall back on. The power grid flickers, artillery having taken its toll. Units are running low on ammunition, trying to scavenge the bodies of the dead. Despite gains in Gosford, overall, the line is collapsing.

More problematic… Bakersfield is now fully encircled. The Bakersfield-Barstow highway has been severed and the city is now truly under siege.

The story continues… tomorrow.

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