Flashpoint 4 21 12

Flashpoint 4-21

The Siege of Bakersfield

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Ryan

Ryan sets up shop in Bakersfield selling drugs of all kinds to give the Cal Guard boys an edge on the front line. He does some good business, too, until one of his customers barges in, jonesing for a fix, and decided to take out his problems on the fixer. Ryan is left battered pretty hard, but his supplies give the soldiers willing to take what he offered a little boost.

Mafen, Genesis, Tycho, Carpenter, Fray

Corcoran Prison is home to 20,000 metas, guarded by the Akuma in their concentration camp. There is no escape but death. Mafen and his team of Genesis, Tycho, Carpenter, and Fray are ready to prove the maxim wrong. Mafen, half metal and circuitry himself, breaks through the security on the prison's computers and brings everything down, then opens all the cells in a north block. The team, waiting to the south, gets ready to set charges to blow a path in, but Carpenter has a Panther Cannon and knows how to use it. In a few moments, he fires shells with precision to bring the wall toppling outward, opening a path in. Lightning-quick, Genesis and Tycho smash through the guards with bullets and fists. Fray swings above the melee and accesses the computers, and with Mafen's help gets the doors open, freeing 500 prisoners. And not just any prisoners: Mafen's been working for weeks to shuffle quarters around. These are the 500 toughest, best-trained potential recruits in Corcoran. And now they're busting out.

Mafen orders the prisoners from their cells onto the buses, but Genesis is the one with the presence to get them moving. Internment guards rally and fire on the prisoners, but Genesis gives as good as she gets, taking a grazing wound as the prisoners embark Only half, no more, but that's 250 on the road and however many more can break free and harass the Internment Division. A Japanese helicopter pursues, and Carpenter's assault cannon takes aim… and jams. Fray is ready with the support, though, and sends a missile into the help, dropping it in a rain of metal fragments.

Those who remain, 20,000 pissed-off prisoners, are left in full riot, and the Home Guard rapidly redeploys to try to quell the uprising. Those are men who are now busy far from the action at Bakersfield. Enough to make a difference? Only time will tell.

Air

In 29 Palms, home of the Desert Rats, Air drives in to have a talk with the UCAS unit that never left Cali. Those marines are all old now, but their kids still have fire in their bellies. So do the locals who have signed on, and the newer defectors who've come in at a steady trickle. They're a motley bunch, but they've got steel in their spines and, more importantly, the skills and equipment to make a difference. Brigadier General Laurence Tubbles was never on good terms with Minton. Now that Mintons' dead, Air brokers a deal, and the Desert Rats enter the fight on the side of the California Rangers. Their equipment is old, but they've got about four dozen tanks and not quite as many choppers and planes, with Air as their liaison to keep them in touch with Ranger command.

Calavera

Calavera's in Bakersfield too, and she has a mission: to take out the fuel stores for the CalFree aircraft and take them out of the fight. She spends more time than she'd like lurking under a truck, trying to get a damn dog to stop yapping so she can make her move. Finally, she puts a bullet through the mutt's handler's head, then the mutt himself, but even silenced shots get attention in a warzone, and she takes cover against a blind barrage of return fire. That's not the point, though. The point is that the detonators go off and the larger part of California's fuel reserves go up in a fireball. CalFree's at a huge disadvantage in the air, now, and the blow takes a lot of the wind out of the men's sails.

Crow

Crow is the hero of the hour in Bakersfield, with a new captain's commission, a new SIN, and shiny new armor. With Lt. Mazon at her side she assembles her men to strike behind Japanese lines and raid the Mettler scrap yard for supplies. Her Archons (that's ARmed ReCON) roll out on bikes, roar into Mettler… and then half of them just keep on going, taking the opportunity to get the hell out of Bakersfield. As first commands go, it could've gone worse, but it also could've gone a hell of a lot better.

Sage

War can make people mad, but in some cases they're mad to start with. An ornithologist seeks, and is eventually granted, permission to enter Cal Free territory to go take pictures of red-necked grebes. The guard's figure it's his own neck. A few hours later, the Sage is happily ensconced in an abandoned oil derrick, taking a few shots of birds and many more pictures of Bakersfield and the garrison there. His UCAS handlers pay careful attention as they try to stay on top of the developing California situation.

Catherine

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There's someone else up a tower too. Catherine climbs a water tower in Shafter, just a few miles behind the Japanese front lines, unpacks her gear, runs up her antenna… and broadcasts jamming across the field of battle to take out the Cal Guard's radios. In the chaos as the chain of command breaks down, air support and artillery go blind and the Japanese surge forward all the way to the outskirts of Bakersfield itself. But it's a risky op, because it's not hard to triangulate in on the loudest noise on the battlefield. The Desert Rats aren't a Cal Guard unit. They've got their own frequencies. And an A-11 Thunderbolt sends a missile into the tower, taking it down and ending the jamming. Catherine goes down with her tower, dropped into the wreckage.

Naomi, Jinx

Remember Brock, how the big guy got implanted into a car? Well, Naomi and Jinx don't let this sort of thing go. They know who's responsible, and they're going to make him pay. With Naomi's magic hiding her, Jinx fires an arrow silently at Major Kui Suzuki… who moves impossibly and snatches the arrow from the air. Then he responds by ordering all his men to empty their clips at the area the arrow came from. Accuracy's terrible against invisible targets, but Jinx still takes a few bullets as she scrambles away.

Flint

Flint sneaks into Delano with an old laser designator, checks what's on the menu, and then orders napalm to go. The Desert Rats oblige, turning Highway 99 into a firestorm that then turns into a hail of shrapnel as well as Flint's target, an ammo dump, lights up. The concussive wave smashes the designator and leaves a slightly stunned Flint to watch the fires burn.

Laura

The Grizzlies pour into the San Joaquin Valley and Laura rides with them. Her van's not equipped for the kind of assault work they're built for, but her drones are the eyes and ears of the Assault Division as the CalFree unit pulverizes a Home Guard company, take out a bridge, then swing north to wreak more damage. But the Japanese aren't without their own assets, and Laura's drones come under fire from attack drones they can't hope to match. The rigger recalls her fleet, but not without losing a chunk of them.

Nina

Nina is still in Bakersfield, in the suburb of Gosford. The city's almost encircled, supplies are low, but in this one section of the battlefield the Cal Guard always seems to be in the right place at the right time. And that's because Nina is working overtime probing the minds of every Japanese soldier captured and bringing up all the battle plans, all the supply dumps, everything she can. It all goes beautifully until one of the soldiers is less incapacitated than he seems and stabs Nina while she's trying to get a read. She'll live, but her role in the fight's curtailed.

Kismet

Colonel Fujiwara's got a fondness for older women. Much older women, brought in just for him from Japan. Of course, nobody knows that… but Kismet does her homework and then takes on the monumental task of making herself over into a replacement for the colonel's usual. She shows up in his command trailer with surreptitious cameras, and her strip tease is for his eyes only. His, and shortly after everyone on the 'trix. The tape cuts to black before the really good parts if there are any, but everyone gets a good chuckle out of Fujiwara's kinks.

Nikolai, Shay, Wyvern, Ford

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The Mojave Advisory Group mounts up on their tough dune buggies to go spread some in Japanese-held territory, and heads through Shafter. Nikolai, Shay, Wyvern, and Ford are ready to rock and roll when Shay spots Catherine's unconscious form in the ruins of the water tower. She's a mess: a bleeding, broken shell clinging to life. Ford steps up to put her out of her misery, but Nikolai talks him out of it, claiming the woman's paying for her crimes with her pain. Then they're distracted by a Japanese main battle tank rolling through. Shay's the one to casually walk up behind the tank, plant satchel charges on the treads… and then run like hell. By the time to explosives go off, the shadowrunners are living up to their names and running, because that tank's built like a tank. The explosives don't take it out, just bring it around after them. This time it's Ford's turn to play hero as he fires two shots from his Colt. Not much against the tank, but enough to take out the gunner trying to zero in on Wyvern.

Nikolai's the man with the plan for the Mojave advisory group, and he sends Ford to lead the tank into Oil Junction, then Wyvern to cut across and keep the tank guessing. Shay sets another charge on the tank, and the enraged driver barrels right into the trap: Ford and Shay blow two oil wells, and then a Great Dragon ATGM rockets into the tank, blowing it to hell and setting the oil alight to fry whatever's still moving. The MAG rolls on, edging past an embattled convoy.

Blindside, Janie, Spot, Mr. Terrific

That convoy? Starting up near Fresno, Blindside's been leading a convoy from his Leviathan, carrying the supplies Mafen picked up earlier to Bakersfield, where they are badly needed. Riding with him are Janie, Spot, and Mr. Terrific. They chug down 99 and unmolested as Blindside's ECM keeps the heat off until they reach Oil Junction, where they hit a Protectorate roadblock. The city's been emptied by artillery fire, and as they wind through the abandoned streets an anti-materiel rifle takes out one of the supply trucks, halting the convoy. The team pours out: Blindside to repair the damage and get the trucks moving, Janie to keep the drivers from bolting, and Mr. T and Spot to deal with the sniper.

Things don't look good. The sniper was only the beginning, and they're up against two platoons of the Third Battalion supported by a half-squadron of light tanks. But they're facing the best of the best. Janie has a Manhunter in each hand, and she's a match for any sniper, no matter the range, with her pistols. Spot holds the line with stunbolts and shotgun blasts, the dwarf running up and down and blasting down the Japanese as they come. Mr. T's fire elemental clears the snipers' roost, and the man himself musters the energy to bowl over a tank, although he nearly knocks himself out in the process. Then the trucks are all running and Blindside's back at the helm of the Leviathan, the turrets up, and the group is able to push through the ambush only a little worse for wear.

And the Corcoran breakout group? They're coming through the Oil Junction mess as well, using the hole Blindside's convoy punched through the Japanese defenses to link up with the other convoy as they stream into Bakersfield. The supplies and numbers can only do so much good, but every little bit helps.

Watson

Through it all, Watson's been tagging along. She followed Laura and the Grizzlies out, then split off when the Assault Division punched into the Japanese pursuit of Mafen's band to follow them and the prisoners back to Bakersfield. Her weapon? A camera and a good story to follow. She's 59 hours of raw footage from drones, from following battles, and from interview the Rangers, the shadowrunners, and the escaped prisoners. The anchoring piece is an interview with Watson herself: burned, missing half her face, and in the ICU, with Jace Gill himself as her interlocutor. These are the faces behind the cold statistics of war. Once this thing is whipped into shape and ready for prime time, it could set off a media firestorm.

Where things stand

What's the final score? The Grizzlies have rampaged behind Japanese lines. The Desert Rats control the skies, and their tanks have rolled into battle. The Japanese have taken their lumps, both from armies and from individual actions. But the CalFree has been hit hard, too. They lost comms for a while. They lost their own ability to field aircraft. They're encircled, battered, tired… and the power in Bakersfield has gone out. The California Free State has heart, but the Japanese have more better-trained, better-equipped men, and more of them.

Chaos in Barstow

Sorina

Barstow is still sinking into chaos, overflowing with refugees, its resources overtaxed, and its tempers running high. The Rangers have pulled out, and it's only a matter of time before the Japanese turn their eyes south. Sorina says a word here, drops a significant look there, trying to build up a coup in support of the Protectorate. She manages to whip up a small uprising… more of an angry demonstration… but then the local toughs, unofficially deputized by the Rangers, bust heads and kneecaps. Sorina's good enough to talk them out of shooting her in the head and leaving her in a ditch, but not so good that they give her a serious beat-down, tie her behind a car, and drag her out of town. Barstow's down but not quite out.

Medaron, Billie, Blue Monday, Rash

Medaron's also trying his hand at the Barstow game, assembling an underworld empire for himself. He's got the contacts, and now he's got Billie doing the legwork for him, talking to the right people with the right amount of force even when there are some doubts. Bobo becomes a street performer, keeping morale up with inspired street magic, sleight of hand, and acrobatics, and draws attention from the would-be kingpin. And then the muscle moves in: Blue Monday and Rash are two sides of the same coin: smiling or frowning, they'll ruin your day if you don't toe the new line in Barstow. The gang's able to sit on top of Barstow's underbelly for a while, but California doesn't like metas. Knife-ears and trogs taking over don't sit right, and the gangs on their home turf start grumbling. Two cent samurai tire to earn their spurs by taking on the new toughs in town. Medaron, Blue, Billie, and Rash are kings of the hill for now, but for how long?

Aladriel

The last player out in the desert is Aladriel. The hermetic mage sets her sights on the Mojave, and what she learns is that the desert doesn't like hermetics. The Mojave is a place for spirits, for the land awakened, and the careful logic and applied force of hermetic magic represent the very opposite. Human shamans may be tolerated, but hermetic mages… in Mojave, they are not welcome.

Denouement

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Jace Gill gives his speech, and NewsNet listens. The VX that runners stole and turned over to Cali goes missing in the night, although the authorities try to keep it quiet. But that's all sideshow as the lines of battle are drawn at Wheeler Ridge. The Desert Rats, with Air supporting their command structure, bring in their helos, their Thunderbolts, and two battalions of tanks after a grueling forced march. Against them is Major Ken Abe and his Zennyo Ryu, three brigades strong. The numbers favor the Japanese, and they outflank the Desert Rats in the opening engagements. The Rats barely hold back the second offensive. And then… and then, the Rats give up their maneuvering, the careful use of resources, and just charge into the meat grinder. The Japanese are caught by surprise, and then the Desert Rats' superior equipment and training come into their own. They crash into the Japanese lines… and through them. The losses are huge, but the back of the Japanese force is broken. The Zennyo Ryu are no longer the most terrible power in the area.

When what's left of the Desert Rats pull back to Bakersfield, the encircling Japanese forces let them through. The California Free State still stands. Bakersfield is still encircled, and now the power grid is down. The two sides take potshots at each other across the Kern River. But with Major Abe and his tanks out of the game, Barstow can lick its wounds, regather its strength, fly in supplies and heave a sigh of relief. Oh, and party. The survivors have their lives to celebrate.

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