California Global Emits


March 2012 - California Dreaming.

Thurs Mar 1

"… You are California." These are the words that Governor Theodor Gill uses to end his daily radio address to the people of the California Free State. Every day, from the Bears Lair, hidden underneath South Butte in the central valley of California, he addresses his people both inside his territory and those still under occupation. Every day he exhorts them to rise above their differences and work together for the common goal of pushing the Japanese back to the sea. Every day, across California, from isolated Bakersfield to apathetic Eureka, from the nexus of Redding to Occupied Sacramento, the people of California listen in. But do they hear him?

In Fairfield California, just outside Travis Air Force Base, Sgt. Junjiro Ioshi of the Imperial Marines was traveling third in a line of several APC's as they rolled back in to base. They had just come back from pacification of a 'terrorist cell' in Vacaville, some 20 miles to the south. His features were furrowed, brow drawn low in thought at what he saw in that house. No terrorists. Just.. a Kawaru 'family'. The way the father threw himself in the path of the bullets to spare his son only a moment longer. It weighed on Ioshi. It weighed heavily and the rest of his squad could see it.

"Sgt. Junjiro." Said Sgt. Major Hiro Tanaka, a man of classically hard features and a demeanor that spoke of gravitas. Tanaka, called 'tank' by his men, was not easy to serve under, but when the chips were down, Tanaka was who you wanted calling the shots. His unit had a lower casualty rate than any other in the 5th Division, while simultaneously having an above-average kill rate. No one could claim they hung back in the fight or they were cowards. "What is troubling you? You should be joyous! We have won a great victory for the Emperor today. There will be extra rations tonight. Combat bonus for all."

"Was it?" Asked Ioshi, shaking his head. "Was it really a great victory, or did we just do Internment's dirty work?"

Sgt. Major Tanaka never got a chance to answer that question as the IED embedded in the roadside K-rail detonated. The K-Rails kept the masses off the roads, but they made great amplifiers for concussive force, rebounding it back and forth with such graceful ease. The APC slammed into the other wall, driven sideways by the blast. The lead vehicles came to a halt, marines jumping out and assuming combat positions, but there was nothing to be done for vehicle three.

Down in the Rez, Penny Dreadful, manager of the Bastille residency fortress for wayward shadowrunners… did not arrive for work today. Her battered jeep is not in the garage. Knocking on the door brings no answer and no one is answering her phone.

Sun Mar 4

In the warrens… Penny Dreadful's truck is found, submerged in the Quincy Reservoir. There is no sign of her however, and the Bastille has shut down it's leasing office, taking no further applications for space.

"This is Theodore Gill signing off, and if you are listening to this, then you are California." Finishing his daily radio address, the middle aged Governor sat at the desk, deep inside the Bears Lair. Both hands came to his face, rubbing across his features with a certain sort of tone, an emotion that bordered on gravitas and desperation. Satio's troops were pushing on Bakersfield and Minton could not hold out against a full press. The Pueblo were not providing as much material support now that the Ute situation was heating up. Santa Barbara renewed its motions for independence and neutrality while Hestaby was silent. The center could not hold and the Governor of California needed help. A break. Anything. Something.

Mon Mar 5

Meanwhile, near Modesto… Lt. Jace Gill watched through a pair of high powered binoculars as the VTOL troop transports swung in low over the Tuolemne River. Japanese markings, though recently painted on over the Aztechnology insignia that had been present before. "Right on time." He remarked to himself, though overheard by his XO.

Saito AirField, previously known as Harry Sham Field, served as the communications nexus for the Modesto Garrison and these transports were flying with low alertness. They were deep inside the Japanese Protectorate of California, far from any hostile areas, so they were complacent. Something that Jace intended to use.

Jace was not his father, the Governor. Theodore Gill tried to fight this war conventionally, with troops and tanks, diplomacy and treaty. An old fashioned, honorable man who forbade the use of terrorist or even insurgent tactics. "Light em' up." Said Jace to his XO. The order was relayed, and within seconds, the contrails of several surface to air missiles raced upward into the night.

The first one struck the lead VTOL in the port side engine pod. The pod exploded into brilliant colors, fire engulfing it and sending the craft veering into the ground, where it burst into flame. Two other military craft suffered similar fates, swarmed by the shoulder mounted missiles. Left alone in the sky, the Renraku Civilian aircraft, with 24 executives and middle managers from a variety of Japanese companies hovered as if unsure what to do.

"Take it down." Ordered Jace.

"Sir?" Questioned the XO. As a civilian craft, it was beyond the mandate of their mission.

"Damn thing looks armed to me, Bill." Opined Jace.

Turning his eyes to the unarmed civilian aircraft, Bill O'Conners narrowed his eyes. "Suppose it does sir."

Jace Gill is not his father.

"Sir, here's the report from the attack in Modesto." offered an aide as he handed the Governor the datapad. "Casualties were very light - one man took a grazing wound as they exifiltrated along the Tuolemne River."

"I see." Says Governor Gill, eyeing the report. "What's this here? Four craft down, but only three military aircraft on the flight." He pauses, to put on his glasses and read closer. "Get my son up here. Put him on the first available goddamn aircraft. I want him here! NOW! I specifically forbade civilian targets!"

Stepping into the Bears Lair's command center, Lt. Jace Gill snapped to attention in front of Governor Theodore Gill. The older Gill eyed his son for a long moment, saying nothing. There was a certain tension in the command center as the Gill's face off.

"What the hell were you thinking, downing that civilian air craft?" Asks Theodore, the Governor. "There were corporate executives on that craft. Corporations we've been busting a hump with trying to convince them we are the better choice!"

"Permission to speak freely, /SIR/." COmes Jace's clipped, military reply.


"Sir, I was thinking that I don't give one shiny fragging farthing about the Japanese Corporations or their precious executives. They're the ones supplying Saito's forces, that makes them the fragging enemy, and I'm going to frag them."

Tues Mar 6

1,602,000 cubic hectares is a lot of water. It's a lot of water indeed. Lake Berryessa, in Northern California, inside the Japanese Protectorate territory. Long a haven for sportsmen and boaters, it has been off-limits since the Japanese took over. Colonel Noboru Tanaka maintains the Internment Division's HQ on Berryessa Island, an upthrust in the middle of the lake. It's a nice place to be, all told, when you're committing genocide. Picturesque, even.

Dangerous Dan was a bad man. He spent a lot of time in the Warrens proving himself and throwing his weight around. A magician by trade, Dangerous Dan was a combat mage who liked to wander the Warrens and see if he could 'clean it up', using magic and grenades to enforce his will on lesser gangs, deftly avoiding anyone who might be a challenge. Dangerous Dan and his team of runners were 'good guys', in that they took jobs to do 'good things', like killing anyone they were told was bad. Dangerous Dan and his team were feared in the Warrens and elsewhere in the city.

Today, Dangerous Dan and his team were killed in the middle of East Smokey Hill Road while casually gunning down gangers. Actually, killed is too kind a word for it. They were executed like dogs in the middle of the road, their brains blown all over the street. Within minutes, everything they owned was taken from their rapidly cooling bodies. Many were ghouled by residents of the Warrens, even the sweet little old lady that they had 'protected' with their actions. The rats and bugs and street vendors got what was left.

Deadeye scouts out the city from atop his perch, content that he has a bird's eye view of the street below. A master shot, the man the drug lords fear is nevertheless on the top of a number of "Most Wanted" lists for his acts of terrorism. A 'shadowrunner', he spends his time playing hero. A mobster is the same as a politician, he has been heard to say, and taking either out makes things better for everyone.
The runner Deadeye will be found dead in the CAS Sector in a sniper nest just down from where the chief assistant to Councilwoman Kalheim lives. Much like Dangerous Dan and his group, Deadeye was executed, with just enough of his face left that any of his three living friends could identify. Sorry, two living friends, as Mark "The Armorer" Matthews will be found dead an hour later.

Yeah. 1.6 million cubic hectares is a lot of water. It's a lot of pressure on a dam, and Monticello Dam is no exemption. A hundred and twenty years old, the dam has been in continuous use during that time. No earthquake has knocked it down, no environmental study has shut it down, the attempt by the Tir Ghosts in the war to blow it failed. She stands strong and tall at the mouth of lake Berryessa, feeding her water to the agricultural lands of the valley all year long, her hydro electricity feeding the city of San Francisco, rain or shine.

Putah creek flows from Lake Berryessa, cold and frigid, drawn off the bottom of the lake. It flows down the canyon, to the of Winters. An agri-town, Winters has grown extensively since the awakening. Home to farmers, laborers and a Mitsuhama heavy equipment factory, it's not a small town at 45,000 people. Seated in the flood plain of Putah Creek, it's fertile land and the people have packed into it. Ten miles beyond, on that same floodplain, sits the city of Davis. 200,000 people, a university and major air force base, it's a quarter million people and hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland that sit down stream from Monticello dam.
You can tell where this is going, can't you?

GoldRush. It's not just a period of California History. It's a visceral name that's floated up from the chaos of California in the last few years. A small time partisan band that operated in Sacramento for a few years, it went silent about three years after the invasion. The Japanese attributed it to a near complete evisceration of it's leadership, utilizing the standard tactics you use anywhere - find someone and turn them - either by paying them enough or threatening the things they care about. In a series of lightening raids in 2065, GoldRush was brought to its knees. But since 2070, GoldRush has been resurgent. A few small raids in Auburn, then a stronger attack on a military convoy near Modesto, then sniper attacks in Tracy that killed the families of several executives of KamiAgri, a Japanese agricorp.
GoldRush got smart, it seems. Never sticking around after making a strike. Fading away as quickly as they hit. Military precision, the Japanese say. UCAS SeALs, some whisper. More likely, GoldRush is receiving support from the CalFree military, such as it was. The only problem with that, is GoldRush, despite being a 'terrorist' organization is just three times as effective as the Cal Guard. Which is pretty damn sad.

Travis Air Force Base is just outside the town of Fairfield, about midway between San Francisco and Sacramento. It used to be the primary US B-52 base. That means, it had some very… very… very large aircraft that carried very… very… very large bombs. A cold war relic, it was still the largest air force base in California and never shut down. The Cal Guard assumed it when the UCAS pulled out, and when the Japanese rolled through, they captured most of California's meager bomber fleet on the ground. A few aging B-52s, a pair of CFSB-34's. They sat moldering in their hangars for years - preserved in climate controlled environments. Fueled. Maintained. Ready to go. But with no use to the Japanese.
GoldRush has a use. Find out tomorrow what that use is.

Wed Mar 7

the CFSB-34 is the Cal Guard's premier bomber, part of an initiative of militarization back in the 40s, after the invasions of the north and south by the Tir and Aztlan respectively. A swept wing supersonic bomber capable of hitting most of western North America in under two hours, the CFSB-34 was the very height of technology. A low radar cross section making it nearly invisible, a high payload capacity and an advanced sensor suite made this aircraft ideal for striking targets deep in enemy territory with accuracy and also recovering your aircraft. The real problem with the CFSB-34 was the cost. It had to be the best, and the CFS government didn't really have a great grasp on how expensive the per-unit would be. Which is why there were a total of four built.
Two were based in El Segundo at the Los Angeles Air Force Base when they were destroyed in an earthquake that collapsed their hangers. CFSB-34A and B never saw action. Two were based at Travis, and actually saw extensive use in the battles with the Tir. CFSB-34D, the fourth and final aircraft of the series is nicknamed 'Dragonlance' for it's documented encounter with a juvenile dracoform while on a bombing mission north of the line. Returning home with half a wing and pilots in need of new underwear, the aircraft was repaired and returned to service, but too late for it to rejoin the fight.
Stored now on the north side of Travis Air Force Base, they are lightly guarded. After all, they can't exactly be -stolen-, being as they are large bombers with no ground crews to fuel them or prepare them for flight. They are just… big wastes of space that are kept because they are wonderful trophies. Wonderful, slightly obsolete, supersonic trophies.  

Travis Air Force base is big. Guarded by a platoon of Japanese Marines that oversee a brigade of Homeguard. The Homeguard are native Californian units that have been raised or reconstituted from the defecting California Guard units from captured territories. Scorned by the resistance, but also riddled with spies and sympathizers.
Which brings us to this. GoldRush team members infiltrating Travis Air Force Base with stolen uniforms - driving a fueling truck into CFSB-34D's hangar… and just fueling the beast up. It's not until CFSB-34D is on the taxiway that the Garrison Commander in the tower realizes something is wrong.  

One of the glaring problems the Japanese have in California, is the lack of a real air force. That is not to say Cal-Free has much of an air force to capitalize upon this lack, but that Saito has no real air force beyond some attack helicopters that do infantry support.
So the net result is… CFSB-34D, 'Dragonlance'… gets off the ground… and there's really nothing to go chasing after it. Already, calls are being made to commanders, letting them know. There's a certain sense of… blase nature to the commanders. It's just one bomber. It has no munitions and CalFree really does not have the infrastructure to support it.
Let it go.

'DragonLance' comes to half speed as it curves to the east, moving towards Sacramento. The Capitol was almost empty after the invasion, but in the 10 years since, it's recovered a great deal as people return to their homes and new people move in, drawn by the lure of land, homes and employment. As Dragonlance comes in low over the American River that runs through Sacramento, her bomb bay doors open. Still in Californian colors, she's a terror to those who look up and see her. Leaflets rain down from her, littering a wide swath of the city. 'Only resolute composure and a heart of Iron bring victory. GoldRush stands for you!' 

CFSB-34D 'Dragonlance' powers up it's EMC suite as it powers across the Central Valley. Civilian communications go dark as repeater towers are blanketed in snowy haze. Long ago, we left the overwired world, for one of cordless freedom. It has its prices, in terms of security.

A moment after trix screens go dark, a moment after phone conversations go quiet - the image they display on their LCD's and other interfaces is replaced with the waving flag of the Bear Flag, California's flag. The screen splits, showing the nose-cam from CFSB-34's feed. A sweeping vista of California - no borders visible from the air. Farms and valleys, forests and cities. The illusion, just for a moment, of a whole, singular land. Backing this, in audio, the National Anthem of the California Free state.
'I love you, California, you're the greatest state of all.
I love you in the winter, summer, spring and in the fall.
I love your fertile valleys

'I love your red-wood forests - love your fields of yellow grain.
I love your summer breezes and I love your winter rain.
I love you, land of flowers

It's pretty sad when someone's runner team has to abandon them for dead when a run goes bad. It's pretty bad fricken ass when they show up on their own a few days later. Or… it's pretty concerning. Either way, Norris gets a name for herself in Denver for having either the stones to break out.. or the connections to walk free. (+150 Prestige.)  

The aircraft seems to pick up speed as it roars over Putah Canyon, the advanced avionics making the camera steady. The song dies out - replaced by a digitized male voice that has been run through enough filters to make it impossible to reconstruct its actual tone.
"For to long, California has languished in apathy. The tyranny of the weak and the pathetic negotiations of the hopeless."
The city of Winters and its 45,000 people flashes by underneath in a blink.
"For to long, California has languished in weakness. The invasion of the foreign, the wicked and the grasping of those in power who seek to grab what they can before the end."
Into the canyon now, with Monticello Dam some few miles ahead, shown in a secondary window that opens, a camera from somewhere nearby showing the dam independent of the nose-cam.
"For to long, California has languished without heroes. Without sons to rise up and do what MUST be done. Without those willing to risk what we have left, for those things we have lost."
It's with an incredible power and fury that CFSB-34D's engines, Dragonlance's engines, roar to maximum thrust. The dam comes closer still.
"GoldRush refuses to stand aside and let the Japanese take what is our birthright. Our destiny. We stand forth to say without reservation, without shame… we will not negotiate. And we will not back down. Let this act be a declaration, a statement. Let it stand without further comment."

The camera from CFSB-34D shows the dramatic last few moments, like some sort of Eurowars bomb-cam as it dips lower and lower, the dam filling more and more of it's field of vision… until there is nothing but the rising concrete of the dam. No way to avoid it, no way to pull up at the last minute. A wall of concrete, then nothing more as the camera goes to static.
The Camera from the overlook, that shows the dam from it's pulled back vision, shows something else entirely. The elegant swept wing bomber, with it's California Free State markings, dips low over the water, expertly guided by whomever is at the controls. It's glorious, like a California Condor in full flight as it seems to glide through the canyon's tight walls with ease.
And then the flight is over. Just like that, the plane and it's fuel load slams into the middle point of Monticello Dam. The impact is thunderous and shakes the ground, yellow flame billowing out in a ball of fuel that ignites, ribboned with black smoke that itself cannot move fast enough to avoid being caught in the flame again. Black smoke overtakes as the initial fireball subsides, rising up from the gaping hole in the outside face of the dam.
You knew this was coming. 

The camera continues to roll as alarms in the powerhouse of the dam go off. Red lights flash along the top of the dam. Earth quake sensors, really - designed to cut off the flow of water in the event of seismic activity. This is, after all, California. As the smoke starts to drift away and thin, the hole in the dam is clear. Water gushes - slowly at first, over the lip of the hole. SLowly the volume of water increases. Cracks start to ripple up the form of the dam as structural integrity starts to fail. Water starts to seep from those cracks - then it stops seeping and starts to jet. Monticello Dam has been critically breached, and 1.6 million cubic hectares of water carefully contained behind it… is about to be catastrophically released.  

The end of Monticello Dam comes in a titanic groan of concrete and steel, a wrenching sound as the pressure overcomes the last bits of structural integrity. Folding forward, the dam buckles under its own weight and the pressure behind it. What comes next is a frothing torrent some 275 feet tall as it roars its way down the Putah Creek gorge. There's no escaping this, no getting out of its way. Anything in that canyon, from homes, to cars, to campgrounds… to the reporters racing after the aircraft… are swept up like they don't even exist. 

The effects are felt almost immediately. The powerhouses go offline and 45,000 megawatts stop flowing into San Francisco. Brownouts start, followed by rolling blackouts that see entire zones of skyscrapers darkened. But that's an inconvenience. A minor problem compared to the town of Winters. There's almost no warning, as the water roars down Putah Gorge, following the creek bed. As it widens, the water slows but only barely, and always backed by millions of gallons more that push it ever forward. The water darkens, picking up trees, soil, rocks and cars. A slurry of death as it slams into the town like a quarter mile wide tide.

Thurs Mar 8

The waters wash over Winters. They never had a chance. There was no warning - no cry raised. Just the sudden invasion of a 30 foot tall wall of water carrying tons of rocks, cars and everything else the water could scrape up as it moved at breakneck speed. Houses shatter and trucks are thrown like toys. One car, a bright red BMW GHT50 sees the water rushing down the main street, caught by a traffic drone on camera as it reverses down the street at full speed. The driver hits the emergency brake, then slides the front end of the car around, shifting to drive and taking off again. Really, it's a very elegant maneuver in spite of the need. Maybe he'll make it, so long as the road holds out for him. The people behind him are not so lucky.

The aftermath of the destruction of Monticello Dam is still playing out. Massive flooding strikes a great deal of farmland, destroying crops, ripping up roads and obliterating farms. Loss of human life is high, and in the chaos of the moment, the agents who snuck into Travis Air Force Base melt away into the unfolding disaster. The City of Davis floods, though not with the same power that washed away Winters. While Winters is gone - Davis itself is just heavily damaged.
It's to early to put a solid estimation to the loss of life, but it is thought to be at least 10,000. One survivor, caught on camera as 'Red Car Guy', for his frantic bid to outrace the onslaught in Winters in a red sportscar, described seeing bodies, buildings and vehicles churning in the water like toys.  

The shadow community of California, centered in Redding, San Francisco and Los Angeles, is abuzz. The strike on the dam is quickly dissected and pulled apart, analyzed by people who know the various locations. It reveals underlying weaknesses in the Japanese regime, also highlighting the desperation that the Cal-Free is coming to in it's strikes. One thing everyone agrees upon is 'GoldRush' is not just three hicks with a shotgun and a can of spraypaint.
Several runners are unaccounted for following the damage in Winters and Davis, including Napa based fixer 'Longtips'. Specializing in luxury goods and smuggling, Longtips has been a fixture in the California Shadow scene, moving goods between Japanese and Cal-Free zones with ease, as well as between the Tir and Cal-free.  

Flashpoint: California Embers

Sun Mar 11

And so it starts like this…

Citizen of the Tir, Shaman and Denver based runner, Rosaline 'Raven' McLachlan makes her way to Sacramento by way of Reno and Truckee. Getting in to the JPC right now is pretty easy given that their entire northern California operations chain of command is in a spastic fit one might call 'OH HOLY SHIT' mode. If one called it such things. With a whistle and a breeze, she tries to find herself a volunteer organization, but finds out quickly that the Red Cross has long been cock-blocked from entering the JPC on account of all those messy meta human camps. She'll have to continue on her own. And this she does, making her way to the City of Winters. Or whats left of it. The deluge continued for more than a day, a constant washing of water that just left nothing behind. The houses are gone. The roads are gone. This is where the GPS says there should be the city of Winters. But it's… just… gone.
Without support and without a group to back her up, she makes her way down the heavy scar that's been left in the land, to the city of Davis - where the city of Winters washed up. Here, things are matchstick piles, some aflame and some simply thrown about like childrens toys. The water here was only (only) 10 feet deep when it came, but it was full of cars, houses and the flotsam of 50 miles of human settlement. She settles in to assisting in the rescue effort - but her results will be reported later.

Further south, near Bakersfield, Colonel Michael Minton has been shoring up his defenses with mercenary forces. The CalFree Commander of what's left of Southern California, he has his work cut out for him as Japan tries to press south. The battle of Atascadero, on highway 101 is a key battle and since the Japanese took the highway 58 pass, he's been unable to get forces into the area without using old 166, a treacherous switchback. Calling in a unit of the mercenaries he's been working with, Minton deploys them to Atescadero under cover of darkness. Josh 'ROlling' Thunder slides in with his T-Bird, deploying the troops.
On the ground, it's Caroline 'Crow' Rogers, a hard bitten, heavily cybered elf. You know what they say about soldiers. No such thing as a racist or atheist in a foxhole, or when the Japanese are shooting at you. Taking control of the situation immediately, Crow and her small team shore up the defenses, then start to exploit enemy weaknesses. In short order, what had been a route of California forces turns into a stalemate as the Japanese bog down on Crow's excellent use of urban fighting tactics. As her commands filter out to the Cal Guard, the entire offensive grinds to a halt.

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

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

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

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

"Boss, we got a hit." Sgt. Davis calls out from the radio.
Brock cracks his neck, the sound reverberating in the command tent they've set up in Sonora, then walks over. "What do you have?"
Davis responds, pointing to data trails across his screen. "Physical ident match, as well as blood type and DNA verification. He just turned up in a refugee hospital in West Sacramento. Japs don't have him yet, but I know they have people looking for him."
Brock grunts his understanding as he lights a cigar, the butt clenched between his teeth. The flickering light of the match gleams off his cybereye. "Alright… Here's how we're gonna play this ball…"  

The entry into the field hospital was smooth. Dressed as combat medics from the Cal Guard, Brock, Williams and Daniels move with assured confidence. Armor and sidearms, they are not out of place as they work their way through the warehouse serving as a field hospital for the wounded and dead.
Suddenly, a woman runs at Brock, hands up and clutching at his jacket. "You! Doctor! You have to help my boy! You have to save him!" She pounds on his chest, irrational in her tears and fears.
Brock's first instinct is to beat the woman away, but it's Ronnie 'Faceboy' Williams who steps forward, slipping his arm around the woman, guiding her away… "I got this, sir." Says he, to Brock with a devil-may-care wink… "Now now… Come on, lets see to your boy." 

With Williams seeing to their cover like a good Face should, Brock and Daniels move further in. By-passing other Cal Guard and more concerning, Japanese Marines, the expert team of former SeALs comes to the area where Longtips is supposed to be held. Only… it's empty. Narrowing his eyes, Brock reads the chart while Daniels grabs the next bed over's occupant. "Where did the man here go?"
"I don't know!" Says the young man, maybe 15 years old, with a crushed leg and lacerations to his face. "Some Japanese guys came by, but the elf was asleep! They read his chart then called some people on the radio! I don't speak Japanese, I don't know what they said, but they sounded excited!"
"What happened then?"
"The guy in the bed, he like, waited until their backs were turned, then went all Karl Kombatmage on them! It was pretty bad ass! They're under the bed there, and he lit out of here like no ones business. He's hurt, but he's gone."  

Brock and his team regroup at the stolen ambulance. Japanese Marines are flooding into the area… "Time to go." Says Brock, crushing out his cigar with a turn of his booted heel. "Tell the client the man's away on his own power… and we will go after him."
"Go after him?" Asks Daniels. "Why?"
"Because son." Says Brock, settling down into the passenger seat. "The Bravo Team always gets its man."

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

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

The battle is over in the blink of an eye, as deckers move at the speed of the electron and light. Traceroutes are run, proxies are utilized and finally, the two deckers square off in Macau as they cross each others paths in the server for the Pacific Prosperity Group, a bank holding several accounts linked to GoldRush. Accounts belonging to high ranking officials in the Cal Guard.
When the E-dust settles, Accelerate stands alone, but some of the data has been removed and the server is alerted. Grabbing what he can, Accelerate escapes without further incident, with a partial list of contributors to GoldRush's accounts. A very… damning.. list.  

At the Rag Doll, down in Castle Rock, Vlad looks over at Kolya with a look of stark disbelief. "You want me to smuggle this drek into Cali and then bring you the profits? Are you mad?" There's a heartbeats pause, then the man laughs again. "You always thought small time Koy… feck your little toys. I got something better. I will do this for such an old friend."
A short time later, Kolya's small time deal has been leveraged into something more… substantial. Vlad holds all the cards, and Kolya's along for the ride at this time. Not that that's bad, it's a pretty good shipment of shooters into Cal-Free, even if Koyla does not like who's getting them.
Guns flow from Denver into 'Not In My Backyard', a local 'militia' of California Loyalists who pretty much are nothing more than local thugs and tyrants. These guys are known for their stopping of out-of-town vehicles, robbing and raping the occupants. Nice guys.

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

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

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

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

Mon Mar 12

Meanwhile… In Reno, Ute Nation, the team of Blindside, Gunz, Steel Sandman and Sally are mounting up. The bigrig called Scabbard has Gladius, the souped up mustang that Blindside drives along with Cerberus, it's angry pissed off and armored cousin, inside and secured. Sally drives her own mustang. In Leviathan, the heavy industrial transport, Sandman is hanging out while Steel rides shotgun in Scabbard. It's several tons of high speed rolling thunder… and they escort a convoy of ten other big rigs. This? This is going to be an epic run.

The rigs roll out - Scabbard in the center of the pack with it's sensors pinging passively, while Leviathan takes the front. Coming down old Interstate 80, headed for Truckee and Auburn, the convoy encounters no resistance from Cal Free forces. Normally they could ride 80 all the way into halferville, but this is not a normal time. Traffic in and around Sacramento is snarled by the devastation in Davis. Several viaducts are washed out or covered in debris and structurally unsound, so the traffic is being shunted to highway 99. The only choice Blindside and his convoy have is to divert to 99, then catch four across the delta.. a veritable tour of backwoods California. Yes, Virgina, California has rednecks, hicks and shotguns.
Sally takes point in Baby, running ahead of the convoy by about 5 miles, blowing speed limits and drawing attention to herself. A tried and true technique, it's been made popular in a hundred trids and flatvids from 'Smoky and the Bandit' to 'Runner and Crash'.  

Roaring ahead down the road, Sally has Gunz in the passenger seat when she spots a low moving Ishani-3 scout helicopter. Used by the Japanese Marines as a scouting platform, the Ishani-3 has a good sensor and electronics suite, making it an ideal smuggler stopper.
Calling back across the comm, Janie relays the info back to Scabbard. "Scout chopper, 290 by 5, heading right for us!" She calls out, marking the chopper as due west.
Leviathan, the massive industrial mover with the heavy (concealed) armor and advanced sensor suite powers up its electro-magnetic counter measures grid, filling the air with static for those who don't make friends with the convoy. However, the EMC is not powerful enough, and it's clear the convoy's been made.  

Tue Mar 13

There's something to be said for twelve big rigs upshifting in unison. Drivers start to spool up their engines, preparing to make breaks for it as required. Blindside coordinates with Sandman in Leviathan, as the sensor suite in Cerberus is not as good as it could be.
Taking direction on the upcoming roads across his headset, the halfer in the armored sports car calls out what he needs. A 5 percent upgrade, about a quarter mile and 88 miles an hour.
Sandman is confused for a moment - 88 miles and hour? Uh… miles. Drek. There's 1.6 kilometers in a mile… frag!

Cutting onto a back road while the convoy continues down the highway, Blindside zeroes in on the Ishani-3. The aircraft has come to a near hover in the air as it focuses its sensor suite, working to cut through the shielding on the rigs and the EMC that Leviathan is throwing out.
"Tango-Five to Travis. Tango-five to Travis. Tower, do you copy?" Lt. Akutagawa radioed through the static. The EMC coming off the convoy was strong, but the chopper is getting through intermittently. They are just uncertain what is getting through and what is not."
"Lt. Akutagawa! Sensors show a fast moving vehicle, coming up behind us."
Turning the Ishani-3 to get a Mark-I Occular Readout on the vehicle, the Lt. tilts his head slightly. "Shit." he says, seeing the muzzle flash of the autocannon before the shells impact. The canopy explodes into shards of ballistic glass, alarms and warnings going off around them as the chopper spins, guidance lost and starts to plummet to the ground. "MAY DAY! MAY DAY! This is Tango-Five! We are under attack! May day! May day!"  

With Tango-five down, Blindside hustles his ass back to Scabbard. Roaring up into the interior bay while the truck drives at full speed, he exhales as the gun powers down with an electronic whine. "Frag me silly."
"No." Says Steel as the trucks detour off the main road, deciding to make an overland journey through the swollen delta of California's heartland.
It's not long before Gunz, riding with Sally in her mustang finds herself in a curious situation. Riding ahead of the convoy, there's a roadblock. It looks like Rio Vista, California has itself a good-ol-boy militia checkpoint. You know. Looking for Japs, Muties, Mages, Metas, negros and other such undesirables. That's real inconvenient for Gunz, being as she's one of those meta mage types.
Sally pulls the car over - because she's got a convoy at her back and there's just no room to maneuver. Stepping out of the car, Gunz runs a hand back through her hair. One of the boys from the line steps forward and gestures down the road to the row of trucks. "Sounds like yall done gotcherself a good convoy here. So here's whats gonna happen, babe." Says the man with the the shotgun casually lain back across his shoulder, before he spits to the side. "You're gonna lay me 10 thousand, certified, and then yer gonna step off to the side with me and show me some road hospitality… scan me?"
Gunz raises one eyebrow, shifting herself so that her hip is visible. And the big damn gun strapped to it. "One thousand… and you keep your teeth."

The 'negotiator' with the shotgun looks down the line of the trucks again, as Steel steps up on top of Scabbard, using the top hatch. Blindside and Bambi pull up in Cerberus. Sandman orients the top mounted sensor array from Leviathan on the roadblock. Sensor arrays - very dangerous looking.
"Uh… tell ya what sister, mebby I was a mite hasty… but on accounta I got no teeth.. what say you 2,000 and yall just… have a nice day."
Gunz just quirks the other eyebrow and then turns for Sally and Baby. "Reasonable."

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

Steel can't put his finger on it.. but the people are nervous. Grunting a nod to Sandman, the Cybered Ork lets the mage know he's uncomfortable. Sandman takes a moment to eye the group, but there's too much interference from their industrial location and he can't put his finger on it either.
Not until the trucks pull out and their 'new' guards have driven out of sight. "Uh." Says one young man, now that the other guys are gone. "You know… those weren't halferville guys. They got here earlier, and sort of took over the delivery point… said they'd gun us down if we told. You just handed off your cargo to The Manteca Irregulars… a go-gang thats been fecking with us for protection and such for months."
"Well Drek." Says Steel, his featureless plasti-steel face mask betraying as little emotion as one might imagine. "This mean we don't get paid?"
The roar of Baby's V-8 Detroit Muscle Engine comes sliding up behind Steel and Sandman to a stop, a door swinging open. "Stop talking and get in!"
Sandman shrugs as he tosses his Miller Lite (what a chump!) to the side, cursing as he slips into the passenger seat while Steel straddles the back. "This is like a bad fraggen trid."
"You talk too much." Says Sally, punching the engine and roaring off in pursuit while Gunz and Blindside reconfigure for the return trip.

Sun Mar 18

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

Steel is an ork, not that you could tell for his featureless face of plastisteel and sensors. Unsubtle, one might say, is Steel. One of the drivers approaches, a tire-iron held high. Sidestepping, Steel blocks the iron and belly-punches the man, sending him down like a sack of potatoes. "The trucks are ours." Says he, his voice digitally enhanced.
The 'guards' on the rig disagree, running at Steel. Rolling his neck from one side to the other, Steel just exhales. "This works."

Mon Mar 19

Mental note. Never frag with Steel. He stands, brushing off his hands atop a small pile of guards. He looks back to Sally, as if gesturing to the trucks, for her to take them. Sally's eyes go wide, as a final guard, unseen by Steel, pops up from behind the truck and starts sending fire down range at Steel. He however, this guard, did not count on Sandman, who simply stares at him.
And stares at him.
And stares at him.
Until the guard crumples.
"Did that with my mind, pretty cool, huh?" Asks Sandman, nodding to the trucks. "Lets get these back to Halferville… then get the hell out of here."
"Best plan I heard all day!" says Sally.

And so, with Sally on point in her Baby, Blindside in Scabbard surfing porn while driving, Steel in Leviathan and Flint sitting on top of Leviathan, the convoy returns to Halferville, drops off the cargo to the rightful owners… and hauls 9 metric tonnes of ass back to Denver. Job well done.  

Wed Mar 14

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

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

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

Jason Alexander, called 'Frost' by the runner community of Denver, stands in front of a small army of Hard Corps officers. Hard Corps is the 'first' Ares-owned private police force, known for its rougher hold on justice than Knight Errant. Drawn down on by twenty-odd cops, Frost keeps his hands folded across his chest. When he speaks, his voice is amplified by means unknown, but without so much more than a whisper, he seems to be heard by everyone within a mile of his location.
"Assistance has been rendered. Power flows strong from the east. Mojave awakens. The Trituracion grows stronger. Offer is made. California may keep its tainted weapons grounds. But Mojave takes no further metahumans. Metahumans must leave, save those places where Mojave deems appropriate and respectful. Offer to city of Barstow. Accept refugees, assist in resettlement… and water will flow."
It starts as a distant rumble. A like a small stream pouring over pebbles, but so too amplified by a thousandfold. The Mojave river runs dry, deep underground for most of the year. But upstream, something has forced the flow to the surface. Flowing dark and muddy at first, the river bed fills and starts to flow cleaner. A cool breeze wafts from this cold, clean water.
"Three days. Water will flow. Return for answer… water will stop one hour before arrival. Be ready with answer."

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

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

Fri Mar 16

"They complain… of the boundless cruelty with which the Japanese Protectorate of California seeks to rid themselves of their Kawaru elements. All these great empires of sympathizers taken together have only a handful of people to the square kilometre. In Japan, there are over 400."
"Yet formerly Japan, without blinking an eyelid, for whole decades hosted these Kawaru by the millions. But now… when the nation is no longer willing to be sucked dry by these parasites, on every side one hears nothing but laments and complaints! But lamentations have not led these democratic countries to substitute helpful activity at last for their hypocritical questions

Sat Mar 17

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

Frost returns - this time driving a car across the Mojave River Bridge. Stepping out, he removes his shades and looks over the police cars and Cal Guard that greet him. "All this, just for me? I'm touched." He says, lips tracing a bit of a grin.
The city council of Barstow, along with the Mayor, steps forward. Major Jim Hawking watches as Frost approaches. "Alright. You got our attention."
"Thats good. I'm not sure what else could be done to get your attention if this…" Frost gestures to the water as it flows… "Did not. Do you have an answer?"
"We run the numbers. We can't take them all. Just too many."
"Oh. Don't worry about them -all-. Just… the ones who will not relocate to Las Vegas. That is already handled."
"How many you thinking?"
"Fifty thousand, no more."
"And the water flows and the winds don't hit Barstow? You can promise that?"
"Me? No. I'm just a voice. A mouth piece. But my backers can. My friends. They will ensure that Barstow… for 15 miles from this spot… will never see an adverse wind again… and that the Mojave river flows year round with this quality. Do not pollute it, do not try to take more from it than it will give… and your flow is assured."
"Then we'll take your people."
"I know. The first will arrive in a months time. Try to build some shelters."

Mon Mar 19

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

Meanwhile, in the Sioux non-contiguous sector, talented busker Myson Avers is in the news. Petty crime is a rare enough event in the AAA downtown zone, much less a violent one. Busking on the corner of 5th and Trident, Myson observed an armed robbery, a brazen attack on a woman. While police response was swift, with Eagle Security Services arriving promptly - alerted by security drones - it was Myson who apprehended the suspect by throwing the bow of his violin with such accuracy and force as to shatter both the bow and the assailant's gun hand.

Sat Mar 24

Meanwhile… in Barstow.

The first convoy of refugees from the Mojave have arrived. Worn and weary, they lack for basic supplies and facilities. Barstow has been hampered by a lack of resources, despite the water flowing. A massive camp is being set up in the desert, with water piped in from the river, but sanitation, supplies and shelter are in short short supply. Tempers are running hot as the sun, and the California Free State seems to have nothing to offer. Indeed, the biggest contribution from Cal Free seems to be a steady stream of trucks siphoning off water. Water rustlers - bane of california, and no fricken joke.

Mon Mar 26

Did you hear about that guy, Air? He was down in the Bare Knuckle Gym, in the Warrens and Sandman apparently mouthed off to him. Fragger shot Sandman in the back! Left him sucking his own lungs and then walked outside to smoke a fag. I dunno how I'd mark that one, but at the end of the day… I sure trust that guy a lot less. (Rep Que: +1 Unbalanced, +1 Blatant, -30 PP)

Down in Little Amazon Park, in the Aztlan Sector… Laura and Naomi were moving gear from one vehicle to another and drew the eyes of two Aztlan police. Upon question, turns out it was a big toy car, and after a SIN check… Naomi's credstick appeared to be broken. The cops had no idea that it was a fake SIN and merely asked them to leave until the elf could get her credstick repaired or replaced. Folks grin slightly - another moment of beating the man.

Sat Mar 31

… From the Ute Nation's Las Vegas Corporate Enclave. Despite the difficulties that nation faces, the Corporate Enclave is a hotbed of economic activity. Gambling and tourism are bedrocks, but rising high to match, nearly eclipse are Energy Technologies and R&D for a wide range of things. Las Vegas's corporate structure, overseen by the Paiute Tribal Corporation and in partnership with several AA level corporations is a shining beacon of what -can- be done even in the middle of nowhere.

More interestingly, since the activation of Gaiatronic's 'Mother-1' facility, the largest fission reactor in North America, shadowruns in Las Vegas have flown fast and furious. Corporations are rising over night, being bought out and snuffed in the next sunrise. The Corporate Council is keeping a lid on it, but things are heating up as people prepare for the upcoming Nellis Baja Challenge…

What is the Nellis Baja Challenge? Oh, so glad you asked. It's an annual race from Coyote Springs to Tonopah, Ute Nation. Racing through the old Nellis bombing range, past such landmarks as Trinity Crater or Groom Lake (Also called 'area 51') and through the main practice bombing range of the US Air Force, this event is a highlight of the year for racing enthusiasts, carnage enthusiasts and gamblers alike.

The vehicles are armed, armored and very few holds are barred. Rules are in place regarding caliber and ammunition as well as armor thickness, but beyond that, there's almost no rules.

Coming… in April 2072.

April 2012

Sun April 1

Up near Toponah, Ute Nation, on the northern boundry of the old Nellis Air Force Bombing Range, a convoy of three missing recreational vehicles, that had been headed from Las Vegas to Reno, were found in a box canyon, burnt to the axles. No survivors were found, and the local Marshal is attributing it to 'those goddamn Apache'.

Tues April 3

Somewhere near the abandoned Historia Theme Park, over the Rustbelt, a customized Thunderbird with heavy weapons - that is - a partially or fully militarized air craft, was shot down by a CAS UGSAM. These relics of border defense are not TECHNICALLY militarization due to quirks of the treaty that allow protection of airspace and border integrity, and as automated systems, they require no military oversight. Fun things, these underground missile pods. Scattered along the border and, a little like land mines, people forget where they are.

Well. That TBird knows where one is. Right up it's ass.

Wed April 4

And so it begins. A major convoy of nearly 10,000 people flowed into Barstow, California Free state. Coming across the Mojave River Bridge, crossing the crystal blue waters of that now year-round river, the refugees were tired, hot and thirsty. Remarkably orderly and well behaved, those first refugees were what one might call early adopters. Those who took the offers given them. Rumors spread rapidly about great wealth in gems and jewels, mineral wealth given in exchange for peaceful departure.

Criminal syndicates up and down the west coast are thusly turning their eyes to Barstow…

Thu April 5

Violence in Barstow! The roar of Harley Davidson engines shook the night as 'Anarchies Heirs' arrive in Hinkley, CFS. Just outside of Barstow, this former ghost-town has been revitalized and restored to great effect in the past month. It's also where a vast trailer-city is set up as the refugees are being processed and assisted. Just hours after arriving, the Heirs were involved in several acts of violence against the refugees - murdering two families of metahuman refugees and stealing an unknown quantity of valuables from the families before setting their trailers alight.

The Mojave was one of the last places in California a metahuman could live mostly unmolested. And now there is a highly concentrated population. With money. And very little defense. Calls for support have been made to the Cal-Free government, but so far, Colonel Michael Minton of Bakersfield has not allocated any troops or support. The California Rangers under Sulu have dispatched several of their finest officers, but that alone won't stop the violence. Word is… the rangers are hiring.

Truth be told, when it comes down to it, folks down in the warrens have had a chance to think about it, both men - Flint and Air - have compelling and interesting sides of this story. When it comes down to it, Air's got the stronger rep and people are more likely to believe him. Also, they hear he shoots people in the the back, and that's a compelling argument in itself.

(Air rolled a 10 on his etiquette test, Flint rolled 9. Public opinion comes down on Air's side. +20 Prestige (correcting previous loss) for air, -5 Prestige for Flint)

Word comes back to Denver - a Japanese supply convoy headed to the Ute Nation via the I-80 corridor through the Sierra Nevada's was ambushed by a pair of runners. Smart. Savvy. Quick and deadly, the runners caused just enough confusion to liberate a bit of equipment, then withdraw before reinforcements could arrive. Some say that Tonka and Lucky pulled off the heist, and people talk about the tactics of it in the Rag Doll for several days. "No man, they had to hit them near the Truckee bypass, It's the only place that makes sense! Any closer and the aircover from Sactown would getem!"

(+50 Prestige, Air and Laz, for staff sponsored plot!)

Word on the street is Flint called in debts. Called in markers. Money floods his way, but his respect on the street drops until he can rebuild his favor-bank, if you know what I mean…

(Prestige Spend: -1000 Prestige.)

Fri April 6

Meanwhile… north of Barstow, Deadeye Bill, California Ranger, has a bit of a problem. He's rigged into his Ford F-1050 Pickup truck.. you know, the kind with the mudflaps, smokestacks like a big rig and the grill that could catch a cow, grind it to hamburger, grill it on the engine block and then serve it with fries? Yeah. That truck. But he's got a problem. Down in the valley, there's a tanker truck and it's sucking up water out of the goddamn Mojave River. And the truck's got the markings of the Bakersfield Cal-Guard. Minton's boys. Zooming in his sensors, Bill spots the two Imperial Marines with the Cal-Guard.

"Son of a Biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiitch." drawls Bill, narrowing his eyes. "Shit just got more complex. Patch me through to Sulu."

"Sorry, Bill." Says Sweetwater Jane, crotchety female voice of the drone brain of the truck. "I can't get an outside line. There's too much interference.

"Fraggen Japs. And Fraggen Minton. What's his angle?"


"Cute. Shaddup and configure for combat."

"Affirmative, Bill."

With that, the powerful Caterpillar engine powering Sweetwater Jane comes to full strength and the truck, with it's armor plating and state-approved missile racks, comes charging down the side of the wash. Playing across his loudspeakers, is 'California Dreaming', the 2034 remake by Dead On Awakening.

"Yeaaaaaaaaaaah HAW! LIGHT EM UP, JANIE!"

Deadeye Bill and Sweetwater Jane are never seen again. What is found, about 3 days later, is the crashed micro-drone that launched on the destruction of the truck. High Quality images show up on NewsNet, showing the Imperial Marines working with the southern Cal-Guard. And it lights up the California Resistance like nothing else. There is fury flying across the trix, with resistance groups in utter conniptions. There will be blood. Collaboration is word thrown around, along with treason and 'lynching'.

Sometimes, hard choices have to be made. Word filters out that down in Barstow, faced with a supply shortage and needing a truck, Sandman went hard core on someone. Theres a man with a broken nose in a parking lot crying because he's just been robbed of his every worldly possession.

Sun April 8

Baal DaSaed. His name didn't exactly ring many bells in Denver. A new runner to the game, just making his way in. Went to Barstow for a job that seemed like a cake walk. Find a missing girl. A few bad choices later, the mage tried to cast in the mojave. It didn't go as planned, and he cast again. A final bad choice was made as he tried to intimidate the wrong man - and the man, intimidated, shot him. Bleeding out in the Mojave is no way to go out.

Dead: DaSaed.

Tues April 10

In the city of Bakersfield… Colonel Michael Minton of the California Guard, regional commander of the Cal-Free forces in the southern central valley and Mojave is seated behind his desk, sipping brandy. "Look, Jace. It's not that I'm working with the Japanese. It's that I'm preserving /my/ people. What's your old man done for us since the invasion? He's simply not recognizing the truth of things. We're being carved up, and either we carve out whats ours, or we're on someone elses plate."

"It's an interesting perspective." Says Jace. "Do you really think that? That we have no hope, man? Is that really your bottom line?"

The older colonel sits forward, watching Jace. "Yeah. I think it's the damn truth."

"I'm sorry to hear that." Says Jace, shaking his head. He reaches up to touch his brow, two fingers stroking along a scar there.

There is no sound - other than a slight tinkle of glass, then the thud of a small bullet hole appearing in Minton's forehead.

"Damn sorry to hear that." From a half a click out, Jace's sniper starts to pack up his rig while his spotter polices the brass.

"Sampson." Calls Jace over the radio. "We on target for IED?"

"Yep. Down on Bakersfield and Farmington. It's all set."

"Barker. Get the body, throw it in the truck. Roll out."

"Affirmative, sir." Comes Barker's voice.

Less than 5 minutes later, Colonel Jace Gill, Cal-Free special forces, has loaded Michael Minton's body in to the Humvee and the truck is headed off down the road with a no-name PFC as the driver. It will be three minutes beyond when the Humvee will find an IED imbedded in the road - detonated by remote. Perfectly placed, it destroys the lightly armored vehicle with a single blast. If not for advanced DNA and forensics, they might never have been able to confirm that Michael Minton had been in the vehicle. Certainly, only a few people whisper about the cranial damage. But those people do find their way to Shadowland.

In the media, it's GOLDRUSH! that takes credit for the kill. A screed decrying collaborators and holding him accountable for the crimes of his men. Across southern California things start to unravel, as the tenuous lines of loyalty that Minton maintained all fray and snap. What had been a marginally professional force disintegrates into localized militias.

Wed April 11

In Southern California…

The death of Minton to a GOLDRUSH! terrorist attack has fractured the tenuous control that the California Free State's central government could exercise on that isolated region. Cut in half by the Japanese, Cal-Free has operated essentially two allied states for nearly a decade.

With the death of Minton, three distinct powerblocks are rising. To the west, in Vandenberg, is the former smuggler-turned-resistance-fighter Mary McDonnel. Her Tbirds jam the coastline, running supplies and keeping Japanese Shipping wary of running without defense. To the south, China Lake's native California Ranger Sarah Raynor, her small cadre of desert Rangers working as an elite force, while in BakersField, it looks like there's a fire fight underway for succession of the main military detachment.

Order is breaking down and towns are splintering off - forming their own militias… and many are hiring runners and mercenaries to bolster their forces. Primary among them are Atescadero and Bakersfield, which each fear a renewed Japanese push.

Ehrenberg, CA/PCC/Ute - Sherrif Jesse Dawson has always had a problem with smugglers. Ehrenberg sits on the border of three nations, and in such a situation, it becomes an ideal spot for smugglers to gather and get people to any of the three destinations. The current situations in the Mojave and CalFree have only magnified things by a factor of ten, and the Sheriff has had to respond. Every week now the Sheriff has an auction of vehicles seized trying to smuggle refugees out of Calfree, and by the next week, many of those same vehicles find their way back into the auction, having been caught again full of refugees. Another month like this, and Sheriff Dawson and his entire department will have enough money to retire someplace tropical.

Meanwhile… in Bakersfield.

Longtips sits in a cafe with Brock Seavers. "Took you long enough to catch up to me." Says the fixer, over his chai latte.

"You move fast." Shrugs the big former Navy SeAL. "Vacations over. Need to get you back to Denver."

"I have things I have to do."

"I don't much care about that."

"A million Nuyen says you do. I could either give you that nuyen, or I could pay it to the team I have on standby to extract me from my extractors. It's a choice you get to make."

In Brock's ears, he hears Davis' growl. "Sir, this is a setup. Got a sniper on the tower a half click east, perfect draw down. Drone in the air two clicks up. I smell magic around. Not sure where."

Brock smiles at Longtips. "Well. How about we give you a week… and then we talk again?"

"Sounds' lovely." Says Longtips, standing to leave. "I suggest you sit there, enjoy your coffee, and not move for a half hour or so."

Thu April 12

Sometimes, you cash in your chips while you're ahead. Sometimes, you just sort of fold and step away from the table before anyone knew you were there. Offered a position as a security liaison with Gunderson in Miami, Summer Carter, known on the streets as 'echo', decamps back to Miami.

Retired: Summer

Flashpoint: California Smoulders

Sun April 15

And thus starts the day…

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

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

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

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

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

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."

Before the Storm

Flashpoint 4-21-12

Sat April 21

Route 155 over the mountains from China Lake and Alta Sierra has been blocked by a crack team of Japanese infantry. The small two lane road, laced with switch backs is the ideal choke point for a group of dug-in infantry to shut down all vehicular traffic. More than a few civilian vehicles litter the grade, both ancient wrecks and the still cooling forms of vehicles run afoul the Japanese mines and RPGs.

The Assault Division (called 'the Grizzlies') of the California Rangers is trapped in the Mojave Basin, as their scouting force, the 'Prospects', was destroyed at Delano by Laz's brilliant leadership but inept tactical ability. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it fight tanks with light arms. So the call went up by Goldenboy, otherwise known as Colonel Jace Gill of Bakersfield, asking for runners to donate their time and energy to the effort. The Grizzlies, though small, are a potent, mobile fighting force that can severely delay the Japanese.

Under the cover of night, elements of the Noppera-Bo brigade of the Akuma make their way into the northern oilfield of Bakersfield. Rolling hills have long been denuded of foliage, both by drought and design. Dirt and gravel roads criss cross, servicing the several thousand individual wells that dot the land. A well every few hundred feet, laid out in a loose grid pattern, pumping oil for over a century. The lifesblood of the city of Bakersfield.

Armed with satchel charges, intent on wrecking a little destruction, the Sappers know what they are doing. A few elements of the Zennyo Ryuo armored brigade move in support, to keep any casual Bakersfield troops at bay.

Somewhere to the north - a group of runners. Mustang, Sally and Princess, as led by Crow… they are reported to have broken into a Japanese supply depot. In that depot… they made off with a supply of VX 301 Weaponized Chemical Compound. No one knows quite how much - or in what form the VX was stolen… or how volatile it is. But a group of Shadowrunners have just stolen a weapon of mass and indiscriminate destruction. The big red letters say 'pay attention to this'.

The rumors about VX in the hands of independent operators… that gets people concerned. Now, people know Crow is the Hero of Atescadero and the Line at Delano. Those are names people /actually/ call her by. So they are confident she's not going to use it against California. But… Chemical weapons. It just doesn't sit right by all but the most fanatical warriors.

But all California has left… is the most fanatical warriors. Moderates and liberals died a long while ago.

The implications are somewhat frightening.

What's really concerning… is a rumor gets out. See… the weapons the Japanese had? Had Ute Markings. And under those Ute Markings? US markings. This shit's from the Tooele Chemical Weapons Depot in what used to be Utah… and the Utes ought to have had this under lock and key, per treaty.

Ceaselessly for hours now, the guns of Delano have hammered Bakersfield. Logistical warehouses, homes, hospitals and other infrastructure have been shattered by the guns. Military units have taken damage from the shelling. People are wounded and the field hospitals are overflowing. Artillery alone could win the battle if let go on long enough.

But it does not go on long enough. A team of runners and freelancers, Wyvern, Mr. Terrific and 'Bobo', they slip behind the lines… and the guns come to a shattering explosive stop. Moments pass, people flinching, waiting for the next shell.

Heartbeats pass, then heartbeats more. Then a cheer goes up from the defenders - and the night seems a little less dark.

In the oil field, the sappers move in deeper - and deeper still, until they come to a bit of a road block. A mage and an adept, by names of Ni and Sandman. They seem to use unconventional tactics - heavy doses of ammunition and a rocket launcher, but having destroyed a tank and killed several men, the Japanese withdraw that probe from the oil fields.

Lucky, Hardball and Mouse insert into the 155 pass, just west of the Japanese positions. With stealth, guile and strength, they hit hard and fast - and they distract the Japanese enough, wear them down enough that the Grizzlies are able to roll through - finishing the job with only minor casualties. However, in the fight, Mouse takes a shot tot he chest, dead center, and has to be medivac'd out of the area. She rests now at China Lake.

Tinman, Steel, SpectralClutch and Gemeni. It's an all-star team of strength and flexibility. It looks like sometime in the night, this team hit the Kettleman City supply depot. Liberating military rations, ammunition and other needful supplies, they made off the goods on a pair of Duce-and-a-half Home Guard military trucks. They arn't questioned as they run across the country side in military trucks.. headed.. god knows where. But something they do have. SOmething perhaps troubling, they have boxes.. and boxes… of clothing. Children's clothing. Used. All carefully stowed in boxes. Probably enough clothing to clothe 500 children.

Strategic Actions:

Guns and Butter: Completed. Mafen, Genesis, Ghostfist and Tycho team has 'supplies' to aid in flashpoint actions.

Oil Sappers: Completed. Nina and Flint prevented large-scale Japanese sabotage of the oil fields.

Gasmasks Required: Crow's team of Anita, Janie and Naomi has VX 301 for flashpoint actions.

Rolling Thunder: Air, Fray and Snow cleared the road for the Rangers.

Silence The Guns: Bobo, Mr. T, and Wyvern succeeded in silencing the guns at Delano - at least for now.

China Lake, Cal Free. The doors on the massive hangars roll up - and for a moment there is silence and darkness. Then the rumble of massive diesel catapillar engines. More power than is reasonable for any vehicle, but these, the Grizzlies, will use it all. Lights snap on - turning night to day. Rolling out, blowing air horns in time and forming up into a single line as they head across the desert, the combat big-rigs of the Grizzlies, the Assault Division of the California Rangers, makes its way west, and to the mountains of the pass at Alta Seirra.

With them, roll out Laura and Blindside, Watson and Janie, Spot and Mr. Terrific. It's a frightening display of heavy metal, of raw torque and power… but it's only a mote in a storm. They will arrive in the Central Valley tomorrow, and then the winds will be higher.

Several minutes later - a single vehicle races across the desert, high speed traveling. But Lucky - he's not headed across the mountains. He's traveling away from Bakersfield, away from Barstow. Where's Lucky going?

Flashpoint: California Burns

Sun April 22

And thus… it starts.

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.

Mon April 23

The communications blackout on the part of the Cal-Guard, while temporary, allowed for enough disorganization for elements of the Japanese Imperial Marines to slip around and complete the encirclement of Barstow. Now a city officially under siege, Bakersfield starts to panic. Jace Gill and his team of Goldenboys have left Petro-Cal and are on the front lines, engaging in fire support of the Cal Guard. None can deny that the Goldenboys are the best unit currently in Bakersfield, but that makes them just 'as good' as the Japanese Akuma. It's going to take a miracle to pull off victory.

But there may be a miracle coming together. The Desert Rats ground forces are closing in on the city - and may be able to lift the siege. The California Rangers are marshaling their forces and raiding the interior, forcing Fujiwara to redeploy some of his units to face them. The Mojave Advisory Group is still at large in the JPC, a cause of concern - while Tinman's jail break is causing its own havoc. Rounding out the possible tricks in the hat, is Blindside's resupply convoy, currently barreling for Bakersfield's blockade. Can these disparate forces come together and give Gill the room to breathe?

It seems unlikely. But… did you know that Colonel Takai Fujiwara engages high priced 'specialty' call-girls direct from Japan? It's true. Kismet found out - and then undertook a mission to 'replace' the callgirl coming in from the homeland. Only the 'call girl' was a 75 year old. Yeah. Fujiwara likes his women mature. Real mature.

Gamely though, Kismet went through with it - making herself up to seem like an octogenarian hooker. Let none of you doubt this womans -dedication- to her craft. Cameras -carefully placed- were rolling as she performed a striptease for the Colonel in his command trailer. As he swilled Saki and called her 'ha ha', she paraded her sagging, wrinkled goods for his enjoyment. No one's sure if she 'went all the way', but one things for certain.

His men are laughing at him, due to a 'leak' of the tape by parties hitherto unnamed, but rhyme with 'shizmet'.

The Mojave Advisory group. A loose alliance of runners dedicated to sowing terror and destruction behind the lines. Lyric, Valion, Gratch and Draco stand on a low rising hill, looking down into the town of Shafter. Japanese troops are moving through it - the smoking ruins of its water tower a beacon for miles around. You wouldn't think something filled with water could burn quite like that.

They mount up in their chenowith-lockheed light strike vehicles - small dune buggies with room for two, no armor or doors, but the ability to take a punishment and run across almost any terrain at top speed. Engines turn over and they head down into town. It's eerily quiet as they move street to street, flanking the Japanese force. The vehicles pull to a stop, sheltered by the fallen tower, still smoldering. It's Lyric who notices her - broken and bleeding, a heap of shattered bones and ruptured organs. Alive, but barely.

Valion strides forward, gun lowered, intent on killing the woman who fell from the tower.

Grach calls a halt, raising one hand. His point is simple - this woman is paying for whatever crimes she has committed.. and death is to easy a release from the caul of her own pain and suffering. Valion just quirks a brow, but before a serious debate can be had, there is the sound, the unmistakable sound of tons of metal moving in one great machine across treads. A tank. One of Japan's captured Californian M1-G AbraThe M1-G Abrams rattles down the street and Lyric slips out of the Chenowith-lockheed. Rolling into the shadows, she clutches the satchel charge of C-VII military-grade plastic explosives. It's inert in its natural form - you can stomp on it, burn it, electrocute it and it's just really smelly playdoh. Pointless. It's even non-toxic and safe for children. But. She grins, pulling a detonator from her breast pocket, jamming it into the quarter kilo of plastique. Put that detonator in it, and it becomes a weapon of mass amusement.

She waits for the machine to rumble past - the men in the tank not seeing her. She slips forward, walking in the tanks shadow, no need to mask her steps. She makes it up to the side of the tank, hidden in its over hang. Ballsy, Lyric. The satchel she shoves into the treads, then runs. No one even sees her as she runs, jumping behind a fence, then not stopping. She does not stop until she hits the other side of town. Halfway there, the satchel explodes, a deafening rumble and a column of black, inky smoke. hams, it may be a hundred years old in its shell, but it's a capable, canny fighting machine with software and electronics upgrades. The group backs up, reversing out of Shafter. That tank. That tank is going to have a bad day.

The M1-G Abrams rattles down the street and Lyric slips out of the Chenowith-lockheed. Rolling into the shadows, she clutches the satchel charge of C-VII military-grade plastic explosives. It's inert in its natural form - you can stomp on it, burn it, electrocute it and it's just really smelly playdoh. Pointless. It's even non-toxic and safe for children. But. She grins, pulling a detonator from her breast pocket, jamming it into the quarter kilo of plastique. Put that detonator in it, and it becomes a weapon of mass amusement.

She waits for the machine to rumble past - the men in the tank not seeing her. She slips forward, walking in the tanks shadow, no need to mask her steps. She makes it up to the side of the tank, hidden in its over hang. Ballsy, Lyric. The satchel she shoves into the treads, then runs. No one even sees her as she runs, jumping behind a fence, then not stopping. She does not stop until she hits the other side of town. Halfway there, the satchel explodes, a deafening rumble and a column of black, inky smoke.

Up near Fresno…

"Looks like we got us a convoy." People throughout the train of trucks had been making that joke for hours during the trouble-free run down 99, but as the run on Bakersfield itself gets nearer and nearer, people are starting to quiet down. Tinman and his crew took down a nice score, and it's BSyde who's been tapped to deliver it. The dwarf showed his mettle to the Rangers, and trying to run the Japanese blockade is suicide, so he's the perfect man for it: not important enough that he'll be missed when he gets blown to hell, but possessed of a slim chance of success. So it's him leading the convoy, and a convoy it is.

Aside from his own Leviathan, leading the pack, he's got the faithful Scabbard big rig following along behind him, laden with munitions. Behind it, three battered Cal Guard trucks come rumbling along, stuffed to the gills, driven by convalescents. The heavy hitters, though? They're up in Leviathan with BSyde. Mustang. Fairplay. Spot. Serious, serious mojo. Hopefully, they won't be needed. But as they near the lines, nobody's really thinking that's going to be the case.

Wyvern is a decent driver. At the wheel of a LSV, she glances over as Lyric dives into the vehicle, offering a grin. She hits reverse, then spins the tires. Gravel flies up just as a chirp comes from her scanner. A glance up while she maneuvers tells her all she needs to know. "Get down."

"What?" Asks Lyric, confused.

What comes next is an awesome bit of driving, in which Wyvern uses peripheral awareness to dance the vehicle between buildings and other cover. A thunderclap - and a building to the right explodes.

"What the hell was THAT?" Shouts Lyric, eyes wide.

"Your new friend, the tank! It's following us home!"

And indeed, though she knocked the tank off-track with the satchel charge, she did not destroy it - and the automatic retracking system had it back on the go in the time it took Lyric to run to the meet-point. Charging full ahead at 60 miles an hour, the massive tank is bearing down on them, smashing through the obstacles that Wyvern must dance around.

The BSyde convoy passes its first whiff of real danger without getting blown to hell. A flight of three Protectorate assault choppers, waiting for target vectoring, passes within five miles, but their ground-scan radar never picks up the quintet of heavy vehicles making its way down the highway thanks to BSyde's alacrity with the ECM spoofing.

Oil Junction. That's another matter entirely. That's where the Protectorate attack, pushing up from the northwest, has really started to dig in, establish cordons. It's part of the noose looking to strangle Bakersfield to death. And as the convoy rolls through the town, shelled clean of its defenders by Protectorate artillery the day before, it's way, way too quiet.

Wyvern can't shake that damn tank off her ass. She tries - oh how she tries in her fast little dune buggy, to shake the massive tank that barrels after her. The main cannon swivels to orient on her - tracking on the move like only the Abrhams can.

But then, the whine of an engine and then in comes Valion's LSV. It leaps from behind a dirt ramp, all dukes-of-hazzard as he stiff-arms the wheel. The man driving the dune buggy draws his M1911. It's not a tank. It's a 45 Caliber hand gun named for the year it was first produced. Designed by the daddy of all gun designers, John M. Browning of machine-gun fame, the pistol never ever jams and has been in continuous production and service for over a hundred and 160 years. It is the most popular firearm on the planet, eclipsing the AK-47 somewhere in the late 2020s.

At the top of the jump, with dirt and gravel trailing behind his tires, Valion lets of a pair of shots. The shots would do nothing to that tank - they could do nothing to that tank. But to the soldier exposed, manning the top-mounted 50 caliber (browning made!) machine gun, those two bullets are a bad day in the making.

With a sort of marksmanship that comes only with the best of the best, the two bullets shatter through the soldier's goggles and rattle around in his skull after making doors out of his eyes.

He slumps over, dead, the 50cal now unmanned as Valion's buggy slams back to earth.

"Did you see that drek?" Asks Valion of Grach."

"Whoa." Says Grach.

BSyde's convoy has been forced off 99 by an ominous-looking roadblock, coaxed onto the eerily silent (and much tighter) streets of the city itself. As they come round a corner, the silence in Oil Junction's broken by the crack of a heavy anti-material rifle. The Japanese sniper had a head-on shot, and he was going for the vehicle in the lead - Leviathan - but the heavy, engine block-destroying slug goes high, passing over Leviathan, over Scabbard, and thunking solidly through the hood of the first Guard truck. It dies almost instantly with an agonized shriek of metal, forcing the vehicle to an immediate halt, and blocking the progress of those behind it.

BSyde's jacked out and out the door of his Leviathan almost instantly - without those three trucks, this run's little more than a vanity exercise. He has to get them up, and get them moving. Mustang's with him, already starting to bark orders at the Guard drivers, who already look like they're thinking strongly about ditching their charges and legging it. And nobody could blame them. This? This is a perfect ambush spot. Playfair and Spot are already doing their thing, seeking out the opposition in the astral. Their report's not going to be good.

Picking up the coms, Grach switches to VOX. "Wyvern! Valion! Here's what we're going to do. Valion, I want you to lead the tank left, into Oil Junction! Dodge, duck, dive and dodge. Wyvern! When we come around to the outskirts, I want you to cut across his front… Lyric, thats where you throw another satchel charge to get his attention. When that goes off, we break left, you break right. He'll come down the center. Lyric, Valion, you'll knock the tops off two of those oil wells here on the map, and we'll lead the tank right into the spray. A little Grand Dragon ATM later… and we've got a goddamn tank fricassee."

And that, they say, is exactly how it happened. The tank roared right into the trap, egged on, spurred on by the tight knit coordination of the Mojave Advisory Group. The right tactics, the right situation, the right plan. The two vehicles of the MAG roar off down the road - skirting a battle underway involving what looks like a convoy of trucks. "Sucks to be those guys." Mutters Valion, as the team heads deeper into town.

Heavy autofire rains down from the surrounding buildings on the convoy trapped in Oil Junction. Two platoons from the Third Battalion of the Zennyo Ryuo have the picket duty here, supported by a half-squadron of the Noppera-bo's light tanks, and they're doing everything they can to kill every last member of BSyde's crew as the dwarf works furiously to patch up an engine block with little more than spit and hardcopy porn. Miraculously, nothing's exploded yet.

Though maybe it's not so miraculous after all. Seriously outnumbered, seriously outgunned, the three Awakened runners BSyde took along to ride shotgun are showing exactly what kind of pain they can dish out. Mustang has marshaled them and the drivers into what little cover the rubble offers and, trusty Manhunters in hand, she's slapping fresh mags like a mad woman. Every bullet kills. Every. Last. One. Impossible at this range. Impossible for anyone. Mustang? She makes it look easy.

Spot's a dervish. There's no other word for it. The dwarf's a spell-slinging madman, and just as many Protectorate soldiers are going down under the barrel of his shotgun as they are from the astral flares of his stunbolts. He's running the ragged, pathetically small defensive line BSyde's convoy has established, and what he lacks in precision he makes up for in ferocity. Don't piss off dwarves. Ever. They're the perfect height to buckshot your nuts.

And Fairplay? He's not exactly a slouch, either. His fire elemental, Bob, is currently throwing a sniper team out of their nest high up in the Allison Energy building, letting them burn all the way to the ground.

Just as BSyde slams the hood shut and shouts that they're good to go, the first of the Japanese tanks rumbles around the corner up the road. It doesn't know what it's walking into. A raised palm, a muttered word, and a wall of invisible force hits it, hard enough to knock it right over like a toy. Fairplay, looking drained, humps it back to Leviathan.

The Leviathan roars back to life, and it's pissed. It's been shot at without getting to respond, but as soon as BSyde jacks in? Up comes that turret, and soon enough the transport rig is screaming its anger back at the Protectorate troops remaining as the dwarf at her helm guns the engine. It's like something out of a tridflick as the convoy gets rolling again, taking fire from all directions, giving better than they're getting back in return. The convoy starts to move, Bambi driving Cerberus (Who knew a sexbot was more than a fleshlight with legs?) and doing a decent job of it, running interference.

It's a hailstorm of shells and bullets. Rounds bounce off Leviathan, sparks flying up from its bulk while they ricochet off Scabbard. Lighter armored, that truck takes a pounding, holes appearing in her metal and cries of anger rising from the Drone Pilot. Pulling out of the would-be death box, Mustang, Spot, Fairplay and Blindside appear… free and clear. Shot to shit, but free and clear. Miraculously, nobody's dead, and the worst injury is a broken coccyx. The tale of how it was earned will likely be told over beers in Bakersfield, a city that's going to be more than happy to see relief, however token, barreling down the highway.

Meeting up with Blindside's convoy is Tinman's private mass transit system, the five busses of the Corcoran Correctional Breakout. Using the hole punched through by Blindside, they all roll into Bakersfield together, airhorns blaring.

Trailing in on the convoy into Bakersfield, is Watson. The intrepid reporter came out with LooLoo in her little van, then shifted to the Grizzlies for a while. Armed only with a camera, a plated vest and a lack of terrible good sense, she transferred to Tinman's convoy just south of Cororan after the Grizzies blew the hell out of a pursuit team raised by the prison. What's she been doing the entire time? She's been making a documentary. It was too good a chance to pass up.

The Documentary is yet untitled, but with 59 hours of footage, including battle cams from drones and vehicles, landscape shots from the terrain she's traveled, with Interviews with Rangers, Runners and Refugees, it's going to be good. If she can get it on the air. NewsNet seems interested, but it's going to need polishing.

But it may just blow the lid off this whole goddamn state.

What has it cost Watson? It's cost her quite a bit, and it's the piece de resistance of her little show. Watson's now in the critical care facility of Bakersfield General. Coming into Bakersfield, her car took a shot that seems to have blown off half her face and left her with burns across shoulders and chest. She's weak, and no amount of cosmetic surgery is going to restore her good looks, but it's scars well earned. The centerpiece interview, is Jace Gill, interviewing Watson - asking her what made her do it. What made her risk herself. The image of the reporter, lying burnt in her hospital bed… is what will drive home the personal, less abstract cost of war.

Fresh troops. New supplies. A renewed sense of morale. But is it enough? Can the Cal Guard overcome the deficit of trained, professional soldiers? Can they dig themselves out of the hole they got into when Minton died and they turned on each other? Can they fight their way out of an encirclement by superior forces?

So far, even with every victory scored by the runners assisting, with every round fired by the soldiers defending, it's just been a delaying action.

Mafen's refugees, armed by Blindside's supplies, constitute a bare fighting force of only 200. Motivated, to be sure, but only 200 men. Flint's attack on the ammo dump slowed the enemy down, and though the artillery was stopped, it still rained down hell. Efforts by the MAG cause havoc and force the redeployment of the Home Guard off the front line, but the advance isn't slowed appreciably.

The Japanese have heavier armor, better training and more men. They knocked down the Cal-Guard aircraft, they blocked Cal-Guard communications for hours, and the slammed into the front line and collapsed it time after time. The collapse of Bakersfield looks imminent, as the powergrid flickers - then dies.

But what of the California Rangers and their vaunted Grizzlies? Oh, they are powerful, and they are wreaking havok. But they are being pitted against the Home Guard, and those units, while impressive, are reluctant to open full bore against their own countrymen - though the feeling is mutual. They have turned south, to attack the Japanese flank.

And what of the Desert Rats? Their planes control the sky, it's true - but what of their land forces? Tanks roll into Wheeler Ridge, along the I-5 corridor, and the fighting there is fierce. The muzzle flash of tanks and the drop of bombs light the night sky to the south and west, the Desert Rats doing what they do best.

But neither of these forces are invulnerable. No one is. Losses do mount. People die. Symbols shatter. No people know that better than the Californians. They've been in the business of shattering for 70 years now. They are experts in watching everything they love tumble down around them.

"And this is Ken Takamura with NewsNet Nightly. All news. All the time. The straight scream. We go now to our action-point: California Bureau and Jill Haverstrom in Bakersfield, California. Jill - can you hear us? We know you're connecting through STARnet. You're coming to you live from the top of Petro-Cal tower in Bakersfield. We can see behind you, that the city is blacked out. How many people are still in Bakersfield, Jill?"

Jill is indeed, atop the tower, standing with General Jace Gill - recently promoted by order of Governor Gill for valor in battle. He looks tired. He looks haggard, but he's got a hell of a strong chin and alert, angry eyes.

"Yes, Ken! The city is blacked out - with complete power failure as of 30 minutes ago. The city receives power from the Lake Isabella Hydro plant, but with the encirclement of Bakersfield and the severing of Cal-178, the power appears to have been cut. Still in this city, are some 200,000 civilians who have been shelled, bombed and burned, and now have lost power. The pumps on the water towers will only operate for some 36 hours, before water pressure will drop to nothing, Ken. When that happens, basic sanitation will break down."

"Oh my. Who is that with you?"

"Ken, this is General Jace Gill of the California Guard. He'd like to say a few words."

"Well certainly, put General Gill on."

Jill passes the Microphone to Gill, who takes a moment to compose himself. "People expect me to make an inspirational speech. They expect me to stand up here and tell you that we're going to pull together and come out of this as heroes, covered in Glory and the Bear Flag. Well." He says, features hard. "That may not be the case."

"Loyal agents of the Great State of California, they intercepted and stole a shipment of VX 301 Aerosol gas. This is a Neurotoxin. It's fatal with even a small dose - and when not fatal, it causes paralysis and coma. It doesn't break down rapidly - it doesn't go away. This shipment was bound for the 3rd Marine Division, which is bearing down on us. This is not a weapon of war. It's a weapon of murder. It doesn't care who you are. It doesn't care if you're metahuman or human, it doesn't care if you are rich or poor, Japanese or Californian. It's a horrible substance and has only one use. Mass Murder. And it's coming for us."

The California Rangers have sent out word. The man responsible for the disaster at Delano has escaped. Lazarus 'Tonka' Jones used magic to make his way out of ranger custody and vanished. The rangers are offering a bounty of 250,000 for his return alive or 100k for him dead. There are rumors that this elf may be working for someone else, and that the whole fiasco was engineered to help lead to Southern California's situation. The collapse at Delano and the destruction of the Prospects allowed Bakersfield to be encircled.

Halferville has been attacked! A magical terrorist snuck into the refinery and managed to detonate explosives that damaged the dock facilities! West coast gasoline and oil prices are expected to spike. While repairs are currently underway, the work stoppage will take at least two weeks. The ruling council of halferville is being fairly mum on finger-pointing, though there are rumblings from some that the individual in custody has links to the Japanese. Some rumors place him as a sword-wielding elven magi. He is currently being held in the Port Chicago Prison.

Mafen, Tycho, Flint and Sage only: Undercover of darkness, the city blanketed in a blackout, they strike. Rappelling down from a nearly silent helicopter - a helicopter only you seemed to hear - be it from acoustic reverberation or your spidy sense. You can't pinpoint it, but it was there…

Moving with military precision - a crisp control and communication. Hand signals only, no radio communications, no lights, no nothing. They move through the Bakersfield armory. Silently, they take down the 4 members of Gill's personal guard - the Goldenboys - who guard the Canisters. All four are loaded into backpacks, then the men are wenched back aboard. It's less than a minute, in and out. Then the helicopter - and its whisper quiet rotors - is gone.

"Mr. President. Here's the dossier you requested. California Free State."

Kyle Haeffner takes the datapad and touches the screen. Pressing his thumb to it, it reads his DNA and unlocks. 'Eyes only'.

It's census figures.

2040, State Population was 45,000,000 people. Before Los Angeles was kicked out. Population of estimated metahumans: 9,000,000.

2050, State population was 35,000,000, after Los Angeles. Estimated Population of Metahumans: 7,000,000.

2060, State population 38,000,000, Estimated population of metahumans: 7,500,000.

2070, State Population (CalFree+JPC), 30,274,000. Estimated Population of Metahumans: 2,300,000 (Anomaly: Population indexes indicate average mean of 6,054,800).

2072, CIA Estimation of Metahuman population: 242,200.

Kyle closes the datapad, then puts his face in his hands. "Why havn't I seen this before?" He asks, voice deceptively quiet.

"Sir?" asks Avery Brooks, director of the CIA. "You've never asked to see it."

Word filters back to Bakersfield - Corcoran is in an uproar. The internment camp there, though only 20,000 people remained, is in a full riot. Lt. General Neil Rogers has had to pull back the Sons and the Brother's Keepers to assist the internment Division in putting the riot down. The Warriors have been redeployed to chase down the Grizzlies - pulling nearly 2700 men off the line in Bakersfield.

Tues April 24

The Akuma came into Bakersfield with 14,000 men. Due to their superior medical support services - their casualties have been lighter than one might expect. Men who might have died are saved, and men who might have been removed from the fighting can move back to the front lines. The care for this goes to Noppera-Bo, Batallion 3. Unmolested while the war raged around them, they have been quietly patching up men left and right. But that does not mean the 3rd is without casualties. The air company was wiped out of the air in the first day - no match for the Thunderbolts of the Cal-Guard. The Aobozu have suffered 50 percent casualties, with 2,500 men down and unable to fight, while the Onryo have taken 20 percent casualties.

Meanwhile, The largest armor battle ever fought in North America appears to be shaping up between Zennyo Ryuo and the Desert Rats - three Battalions, all but one of the Akuma Armor, are now squaring off with the two battallions of the Desert Rats.

Meanwhile… In Barstow…

A unified Barstow would be a hell of a good thing for Cali, and at least one man has his sights set on just such a goal. The vice-peddler known as Rose, who recently made an impression amongst the criminal underclass, is starting in on a takeover. He's got the network for it, and he's a pretty convincing bastard, and it certainly helps that he's got some muscle behind him. That always makes people more willing to listen.

And listen they do, when the elf known as Billie starts making the rounds of the drug smugglers, making offers that they can't refuse, so to speak. She makes plenty of sense as to why they'd want to align themselves under Rose, and she gets what she wants, but more than a few can't help feeling like they're being taken advantage of, or getting in a little too deep. Besides…never trust an elf.

In Barstow, not everything is death and chaos and explosions. A troll is there entertaining some of the refugees, fancy magic tricks, which in a trolls hand, rather large objects manage to disappear. You also wouldn't believe the fact he made a small pipe disappear up his nose instead of a pencil. The finally is when the troll performs acrobatics, literally running up the side of a building before back-flipping and landing on the ground. Its not food, its not shelter, but for a short moment, its enough to raise the spirits of this ragtag group of refugees.

In the crowd though is someone who while smiling, is not quite thinking of the circus. Rose and Billie watch the trolls displays, and realizes that this talent could easily be put to use in other areas. The elf will soon have to have a chat with the troll about his earning potential.

The Battle of Wheeler Ridge. It's a show down between armored forces that is being watched by every major power in North America and beyond. The single largest clash of tanks ever had in North America outside of Texas, it's a trial by fire for the Desert Rats and a critical battle to win for the Japanese.

On one side, you have the superior trained, superior equipped Desert Rats, but they have just completed a forced march of over a hundred miles and are charging directly in to combat.

On the other side, you have the numerically superior Japanese, using a smattering of Japanese tanks, but the majority of which are captured Cal-Guard tanks taken during the first invasion.

The battle seems to go in favor of the Japanese from the outset, with Major Ken Abe of the Zennyo Ryuo outflanking the Desert Rats. Losses mount on both sides, but with nearly equal commanders and numerical superiority, the Japanese clearly dominate. The forces break off, regrouping to return to battle in the next few minutes. Some 1/3rd the Desert Rat force lays smoking, while less than a quarter the Japanese have been destroyed.

The regrouping of the Desert Rats does them well, but they are unable to break the grip of the Japanese. An inspired charge by Ken Abe is only barely blunted by the efforts of the Desert Rats, in an engagement that will be disassembled for decades to come at West Point. It is a ballet in the hills, a dance between hundred ton partners that maneuver and turn for the advantage. In the end though, the nickel and diming of the Japanese add up and the Desert Rats have to break off yet again.

The Desert Rats are pressed on all sides. Ken's armor has out maneuvered them, out gunned them and out flanked them. Pulling back for a moment, the beleaguered and exhausted fighting force tries to figure out what to do. Major Jim Sykes shakes his head, eyes squinting. Conferring with Lucky, who knows the lay of the land better, they come up with no real options. They're boxed in.

"You know what rats do when trapped?" Asks Lucky. It's only a half heartbeat pause. "They fight like lions. Lets do this."

And do it they do. The Desert Rats stop trying to play games of flanking and posture - they stop trying to dance and they start a good old fashioned American Brawl. The Japanese, somewhat overconfident with their ability to wear down the Rats are shocked - stunned by a full frontal charge by a numerically inferior foe.

When the dust starts to blow off from the battlefield, the Desert Rats have lost more tanks, more men - but Ken Abe's feared armored Brigade has broken - leaving behind more than two thirds it's number as they retreat north along highway 5.

They will not be returning to Bakersfield.

OOC: Victory, Desert Rats.

Meanwhile, back in barstow…

Rose doesn't have his sights set solely on blow and hookers. Control a city's crime and you control the city, and he wants it all. To that end, a pair of his heavy razors are making the rounds of the local fences, chop docs, and fixers. You work for Rose now, they patiently explain. Alright, "patiently" may be a bit of an exaggeration. These two hombres are all business. Blue, the elf? He'll kill your ass with a smile. His partner Rash? He'll beat you to death with a scowl. They're an interesting pair, but they're goddamn effective, and soon enough anybody who makes his bones in the illicit underground of Barstow fears their name - almost as much as Rose's. All it takes is a couple of examples being made, and suddenly people can't wait to hitch their wagon to Rose's train fast enough, once they hear that the smilin' knife-ear and Bonebreaker McTusky are coming for 'em.

Things seem like they're going pretty smooth for the would-be Kingpin of Barstow. He's got most of the drug and flesh peddlers under his thumb, and the black market's got a distinctly rosy hue to it. And you know what? Without shithead criminal scum blowing each other's brains out over table scraps, the city's actually looking like it might go a long way towards unifying and, hell, even surviving.

There's always someone to piss in a perfectly good bowl of soyflakes, though, and Barstow doesn't lack for examples. It isn't long before people start putting two and two together, and pointing out how it's all these metahumans running things now. A bunch of dandelion-eatin' keebs. A psychotic, chromed-out tusker. Gotta be a conspiracy, man, know what I'm saying?

The "logic" doesn't work with everybody, but it works for enough. Opposition starts forming. Razors looking to make their names start hiring out to the other side. Rose and his crew have their fingers pretty firmly dug into Barstow's creamy crime pie, but it doesn't look like the status quo's going to hold all that long. Maybe, just maybe, it'll be long enough.

She's been out of the game for a while. Phoenix. Aladriel Cindel. One of the best hermetic magi in Denver. Watching the rise of Barstow with some mix of concern, interest and trepidation, she sets out to learn what she can. She learns they don't like hermetics. That the Mojave does not typically allow hermetic magi in.


It's about paradigm. Shamanism is about the athropomorphism of natural phenomena. Talking to the land through its spirits. It's about being water that flows through the natural channels of the world and working with it. Heremticism is about science - taking what is here and turning it to your own ends. Formulea, not pleases and thank you's. Summoning circles and spiritual slavery. Binding elementals to your will for years at a time with no hope of freedom.

The magical Mojave does not care for, nor want these people. They are anathema to the Mojave, which rises as a place of power in the physical world for spirits - and spirits alone. The destruction of deeprock at White Mesa was a wakeup call. These are the things Ally learns as she researches.

OOC: Thus concludes the player emits for Flashpoint 4-21. Further developments in Bakersfield and Barstow will be emitted in the next few hours… then we open the sandbox for players to play in. Run plots, build up contacts and allies. I need a break from Flashpoint work for a week or so - so we will set a provisional flashpoint date of 4 weeks from Saturday, May 26th. This should be the final flashpoint for Southern California for a good. Long. Time.

The end result, when the Desert Rats limp into Bakersfield, rolling down highway 99, is that the encirclement of Bakersfield is broken, and the Armored Core of the Akuma, while still a force, is no longer the tiger of the San Joaquin Valley. - Map is updated.

So that is where Bakersfield stands. Highway 99 is open, though it's a long and treacherous route. Power to the city is cut, and he city is still mostly encircled - but there is a way in and a way out. Both sides lick their wounds and trade shots across the Kern River - constantly skirmishing, but it appears the big drive and push died when Major Ken Abe's tank force - the real hammer of the 3rd - was crushed by the Desert Rats. With Meadowfields Regional Airport in the hands of the Japanese, the small municipal airport is now seeing a drastic uptick in air traffic. Wounded are being flown out while critical supplies are flown in.

The Rangers, having wreaked havoc in the back nine of the Japanese, have withdrawn back to a forward command in Glennville. The Desert Rats hold Wheeler Ridge, which is just for the moment, a massive fricking party.

The situation is not good. But it is, just for the moment.. stable.

California: Aftermath

…And in other news, a major armored battle was fought today in California's San Joaquin Valley, outside bakersfield. In the maze of oil pumps and rolling hills, the forces of the 'Desert Rats', remains of elements of the United Canadian and American States Marine Corps that refused to withdraw from California following its removal from the Union, fought with the forces of Protector General Kenji Saito.

The battle, seen here from a UCAS SR-69 NightRaven reconnaissance aircraft, took the better part of four hours. Though outnumbered, the Desert Rats seem to have driven the Japanese from the field, seen here as their remaining tanks stream north along Highway 5. Ares subsidiary Mojave Air reports an uptick in bookings to it's Mojave Spaceport, just across the Tahachapi Pass from Bakersfield. Reportedly, Marine Corps Alumnus are calling for volunteers to refill the ranks of the Desert Rats, and many, after this dramatic victory, are answering the call.

… and in other news, a major armored battle was fought today in California's San Joaquin Valley, outside bakersfield. In the maze of oil pumps and rolling hills, the forces of the 'Desert Rats', remains of elements of the United Canadian and American States Marine Corps that refused to withdraw from California following its removal from the Union, fought with the forces of Protector General Kenji Saito.

The battle, seen here from a UCAS SR-69 NightRaven reconnaissance aircraft, took the better part of four hours. Though outnumbered, the Desert Rats seem to have driven the Japanese from the field, seen here as their remaining tanks stream north along Highway 5. Ares subsidiary Mojave Air reports an uptick in bookings to it's Mojave Spaceport, just across the Tahachapi Pass from Bakersfield. Reportedly, Marine Corps Alumnus are calling for volunteers to refill the ranks of the Desert Rats, and many, after this dramatic victory, are answering the call.

Wed April 25

News has come out of Halferville, the Terrorist that attacked the facility is to be executed on the 20th of May. This delay is only so that special experts may be called in to try to determine who was behind the attack. Rumor has it that the elf mage was severely injured, and is in a coma.

Barstow California: The peace is uneasy out here, it seems the gangs are holding sway on the town, and despite that, things are fairly calm. Most days. Today though, the ork known as Steel decided to pick a fight with one of the elven gang members, a sturdy elf girl with hand razors. The overconfident ork quickly found the girls skill to be more than he could handle, and when he drew his assault rifle to fire….things got worse. Witnesses said it was over so fast they don't know exactly what happened, but what came after, everyone in Barstow was talking about.

Steel currently hangs on the side of the old Pioneer Bank, cruicified to the wall with rebar through his cyberlimbs. A sign hangs from his chest for all to read 'Guilty: Disturbing the Peace'

Later, underneath Steel's still-hanging form, someone scrawls in spray paint: SIC SIMPER NOVO-HOMO.

Thu April 26

Exposition, not for player IC knowlede.

Mercutio and Junjiro sit in a cafe in Lisbon, Portugal. They could not look more different, these two. Mercutio, a sort of neo-gypsy with his long and bald african features, bald head and simple, almost homespun clothing with the little bells sewn into it. Junjiro, the very dashing picture of the japanese businessman with a rakishly styled goatee, japanese features and heavy brow, dark black hair slicked back into a pony tail and his impeccably tailored suit.

"My brother." Says Mercutio, echewing his usual third person canter and pace.

"My brother." Returns Junjiro, picking up his drink and giving it a sip. It's a thick greenish sludge called Quaha, a turkish sort of coffee. That strips paint.

Mercutio adds sugar - three packets - to his tea, sweetening it to a point the Queen of England might slap him for. "The Bloodgates seem to be coming along nicely for you, despite my best efforts."

"Do not sound so dejected, brother. You have secured the burning stills. I have all but secured the bloodgates, it is true - and there is very little you can do to stop it. You know what your problem is?"

"No." Deadpans Mercutio. "Why don't you enlighten me, brother."

"Your problem is the same as it has been for three ages. You offer them no gain for their choices. You give them nothing worth fighting for. Like, that woman - the mother in Denver. You took away her responsibility - by her choice - and gave her nothing for it. I promise you, now she feels stupid, spinning concoctions of conspirisy in her mind and turning -you- in to the jeudo-christian Devil."

"In Judeo-Christian Mythology, the devil represents informed choice, which is at complete odds with the concept of faith-based devotion devoid of choice or reason. I do not find this unreasonable."

"Always the thinker, Mercutio. You should /feel/ more. People /love/ to feel right. Remember that your peace is a lie - and only exists because it is punctuated by war."

"This has been very good tea, Brother. But I must be going."

North of Sacramento, there is the town of Roseville. It's an economic center, servicing both agricultural and industrial needs, home to about a hundred thousand people. Teddy Gaines is playing with a group of his friends - 12 years old. His father is a member of the home guard, a captain. Deployed in Davis to help with the rebuilding, Teddy has not seen his father in weeks.

So he's taken to dressing up in his father's old Cal-Guard camouflage. It's not got any markings on it. No Cal-guard logos. Just oversized pants and a field jacket, with a helmet he plays in. They run in the street, as dusk falls, playing soldiers. His friends scatter down the street as the Japanese patrol comes through, riding in their LAV.

The man on the top does not hesitate when he sees the soldier. Everyone's on edge. Everyones worried. Hefting his assault rifle, he draws down and lets a shot fly down range.

The bullet catches Teddy at the base of his spine, severing the cord. Legs flop to rubber bonelessness as he hits the ground. The next round ends his life. Children die all the time in the 6th world. This child is no different. But then, what was different about the Lusitania that prompted action? What about Anne Frank tugs at heartstrings? The fact that they are normal in the course of their own events. That they do not stand out, is something that awakens us to that they ought.

Fri April 27

Did you hear about Steel? Yeah. He's pretty bad ass in a fight. No lie there - he's pretty bad ass in a fight. But thats the problem. He acts like a hammer, so all the worlds a slotten' nail. Every situation he's in somehow degenerates into a fight of some sort. Like a job he took with Walker and Eastwood in which Steel decided to pick a fistfight - with gangers. Now, people know Steel's armored up like a tank, so it should be no surprise that an unfair fistfight became an unfair fist-and-grenade fight. What was that guy thinking?

PP Loss: Tycho, 100.
PPLoss: Hunni, Boomstick, 25.

While we're on the subject of things not to do in a warzone… Looks like Steel's got himself a fancy ruthenium suit and thinks it makes him a ninja. So a black helicopter sneaks into Bakersfield during the siege, people rappel down and and steal California's VX gas… then Steel decides to walk into General Gill's command post with some other people, but invisible and not announcing himself. Then - in the middle of tense discussions, he pops out of his ruth and starts talking like nothing's wrong! That's one fullborg who damn near became a swiss-cheese-borg. Seems Tinman took some control of the situation and promised to give Steel a beatdown. Maybe that's what Barstow was really about?

PP loss: Tycho, -75. Softened from 100 due to this action being unlinked to a plot in which he received reward.

Did you hear? The Tinman's been sticking up for Steel. Apparently Steel rode shotgun on some big ass job to save some folks in Cali and the Tinman was impressed. Also, I gotta admit, it takes a lot to be nailed to a wall and live. I suppose Steel ain't all bad. I just hope someone holds on to his leash a bit tighter. Looks like Tinman's picking up the slack.

PP Gain: Tycho - +10
PP Loss: Mafen - -10
Normally something this small would not get an emit. But this is Mafen putting his own reputation on the line for Tycho, and that means if something goes wrong, it's Mafen who's going to get smacked, not Tycho.

Sat April 28

Meanwhile, in Seattle… The USS President Dunklezhan has put to sea with her battlefleet. Originally scheduled to do her sea-trials in mid summer, the UCAS Navy has decided to move up her shakedown cruise immediately. The Sovereign Tribal Council has been made aware that Buckley Air Force Base in Denver will see a marked uptick in traffic as man, materials and aircraft for 'The Dunks' air wing are flown into position.

Mon April 30

Meanwhile, Back in Roseville…

People say one bullet can be the difference between peace and rebellion. Perhaps, but it's not the bullet that is the spark of what's to come. It's the voices that follow.

War is horrible, but as long as it's on the other side of the trid screen while one has their morning coffee or relaxes after a day at work then it never truely pieces the heart of those not directly affected. Not until one puts a face to it. The face of Teddy Gaines, his picture displayed by the tearful image of his mother. It's the perfect piece to pull at the heart and set things in motion.

The town of Roseville is a bubbling cauldron. Death has hung over Cal-free like a cloud the entire conflict, but the death of a child has sent things from comfortable to about to boil over. Japanese forces aren't offered looks of respect, fear or even indifference the way they had been. For every person that turns away as the patrols roll through there's another face with eyes of anger and defiance.

Something's going to give.

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