Larry sat in the back of a cargo truck with the rest of his team. Rain pelted at the canvas top obscuring the team from view. It was heavy, and the strong crosswinds threatened to throw the hydroplaning truck off of the road more than once along the trip. The nearby QAZ was causing all sorts of weather anomalies as of late, but this region was already known for its inclement weather. Larry just sighed and waited for the eventual drop-off. Flanking him on either side were two cheerleaders, Lacy, who had joined him on the previous mission at Montalban, and Lucy, the second sister. The two were practically identical except for how they wore their hair. Both of them looked entirely disinterested in sitting in the back of the dirty cargo truck. Lacy was looking over her nails, while Lucy was tapping away at her commlog and chatting to her fans. Lacy pursed her lips and dropped her hands to her lap, throwing her head back and groaning loudly, “Uuuugh! How much longer is this going to take?!”
Hanz, the taskmaster, sat across from the trio and shrugged with his big, armored shoulders. “Az long az it vill take to get us zere in one piece!” His voice was rather high pitched and slightly diabolical for his imposing size in that armor.
Lucy piped in after her sister’s initial outburst. “Like… What are we even doing here anyways? I thought the pilots were all in the Gucci place! Montague or whatever…”
“Montalban.” Larry corrected.
“Whatever it is, it isn’t here in this smelly fish factory!” Lucy retorted.
Petra groaned from further down the cargo hold. She leaned forward in her seat, staring past Salazar the Grenzer, “The pilots are mostly all secured now. We’re here in Okolnir because this is the planet’s fishing hub, and where the candidate pilots that haven’t been uplifted yet are pulled from the ocean. PanO and Ariadna had an agreement to trade the pilots, but since those two are at odds, nothing is stopping PanO from swooping in and downloading the fishing hotspots for themselves. We go in, we find where the data is being stored, and we wipe it. That should hopefully keep our unuplifted pilots safe from future capture.”
As Petra’s second in command, Salazar took it upon himself to follow her point, “You’d know this if you actually paid attention in the briefing on the ‘Hoff, ladies.”
The cheerleaders shrugged in unison before clinging to either side of Larry, “We have our own mission right here! Make this hunk of manliness a shining star bright enough to snuff out that hot dope Achilles!”
“… Right…” Petra said, rolling her eyes.
Petra turned her eyes over to a woman who was laying on her back. Kana, one of the zondnauts assigned to the Hasselhoff during the Durgama crisis, was turning a ratchet on her motorcycle. “There… How does that feel, Blitz?” Kana said as she patted the fuel tank on the bike.
The motorcycle let out an enthusiastic warble as it replied to Kana’s question. As with all zondnauts, their motorcycles were fitted with an AI that usually became the rider’s best friend. It was no different here. Petra had appealed to Captain Moreina about having a zondnaut on her
team for this mission. The open streets and necessity for speed called for an expert in mobility warfare. The request was very quickly granted.
Kana stood up and mounted her bike, preferring her seat over the crappy metal folding chair built into the side of the cargo compartment. The biker glanced to the daktari sitting next to Hanz. She watched curiously as the daktari was teaching her little zondbot how to say several vulgar words in Swahili, a lesson that the diminutive drone was taking in stride, repeating them back in the form of angry, high-pitched warbles. No human language could make sense of the warbles, but the peripheral link between it and the daktari translated those warbles into words much like how Kana’s link translated her motorcycle’s. The daktari clapped excitedly and gave the drone a high five.
“You’re corrupting it, Imani.” Kana said, disappointment lacing her voice.
Imani glared back at the zondnaut, “Oh? And how many swears have you taught your motorcycle? I’m sure you tunguskans have a very colorful vocabulary.”
The motorcycle rumbled and transformed partially, a robotic arm extending out from its side. The zondmate’s hand gave a thumbs down before making a ‘zero’ gesture with its articulated fingers. Kana crossed her arms and grinned, “Zip, zilch, nada. Blitz here is the most courteous and respectful zondmate in the nation!”
Imani rolled her eyes, “The nation isn’t exactly a high bar when compared to the Human Sphere. I am under no illusions that we nomads are inherently respectful people. Otherwise, we’d have respected the wishes of the Sphere and joined with the Maya generations ago.”
Petra spoke up in between the zondnaut’s and the daktari’s conversation, “Cut the chatter, we’re closing in on the compound. Larry, you’re not wearing nomad combat gear so get in that driver’s seat and get us past the checkpoint. And for the love of God… Do not screw this up like last time.”
Larry wrestled himself free from the protesting clutches of the cheerleaders. He grinned and winked back at Petra, “Don’t you worry one bit, darling. My Russian has improved since Kurage.”
Petra still remembered that moment. The thought of it happening again gave her chills. “Forgive me if I don’t feel relieved when you say that.”
Larry chuckled and stepped over the unconscious ariadnan driver to the front of the vehicle, an autodoor opening to the driver’s cab where the truck was driving itself. He sat in the seat and took a hold of the wheel, taking the vehicle out of autopilot and coming up to the security checkpoint. An ariadnan stepped out from his small checkpoint shelter and waved the vehicle down to stop. Larry pulled up next to him and stuck his head out the window while sipping a coffee. “Privyet, comrade!” Larry said bombastically.
The ariadnan raised a brow at Larry and studied him for an excruciatingly long three seconds. He reached his hand out to Larry, “Dokumenty,” he demanded.
Larry cleared his throat awkwardly, “Ahh… Er… One second… Can you say that again?”
“Is English preferable, ‘comrade’?” the ariadnan asked.
Larry laughed lightly and nodded, “Ah! Y- yeah it is! Thanks. What was it you were saying?”
“Your documents. Hand them over now.” The guard said.
Larry sipped his coffee again and reached into the glove box of the truck. He pulled out a stack of papers, unsure what any of them were. The ariadnan took the papers and looked them over. Larry was awkwardly silent while the ariadnan perused. “These papers are going to expire soon. I suggest you head to the transport office after this run and get them renewed. Otherwise you will not be able to enter, comrade.”
Larry let out a breath of relief, “Whew, yeah I’ll be sure to get on that! Definitely.”
The ariadnan gave the papers back and looked at Larry again. “You know… You look kind of familiar… Have we met before?”
Larry took a better look at the ariadnan soldier. “Uh… I- I don’t think so, no.”
The guard narrowed his eyes and Larry just looked ahead, hands on the wheel while whistling innocently. He was pale. Of course he recognized the guard! It was the very same one from Kurage! The one he botched it with the last time they had to sneak through a checkpoint! What were the odds that in five years this single ariadnan soldier didn’t get a promotion or change jobs?!
The ariadnan man nodded slowly, “Da… Da I do recognize you!” he said, pointing accusingly at Larry, “You were there on Dawn! You blew through my checkpoint and got me in so much shit! You are the reason my career is in tatters! Suka! Get out of the truck now! And your friends too! I know they’re back there!”
Larry didn’t think. He just stomped his foot on the gas pedal. The truck roared and crashed through the checkpoint gate, the sudden acceleration throwing everyone around in the back. Petra shouted furiously from the back, “What the fuck, Larry?! I thought you said you could handle it!”
“I did! It’s not my fault the one man in the universe who could call my bluff went nowhere in life, alright?!” Larry yelled back.
Petra groaned and spoke over the radio to the advance infiltration team. “Phantom team, we’re en route but the jig it up! Things are going to get hot so take up positions and be ready to support us!”
“Phantom One, roger.”
The reports came in from the team ahead. The Hasselhoff had quietly deployed three infiltration specialists, two Spektrs and a Prowler, ahead of the mission for reconnaissance and softening the place up. Petra was glad that the captain had the foresight to send them. Things were going to get real messy for them.
The maritime facility’s alarms blared as the cargo truck screamed toward the mission site. Larry’s foot was to the floor as he drove the truck down a straight causeway to the compound the advance team had identified as the site. He spotted a team of ariadnan troops ahead fanning out across the road, all aiming their rifles directly at him. “Hang on!” Larry called back as he ducked low behind the dash. The windshield cracked and shattered as a volley of rifle rounds sprays the upper part of the cab. Larry manually shifted the truck down a few gears, letting the engine brakes slow the vehicle before twisting the wheel left. The truck leaned as its wheels screeched on the pavement. Several rifle rounds punched into the cargo canvas, perforating the walls with holes that bled lines dull light into the back.
Larry pulled the truck out of its tense turn, sitting upright after to assess the new route. Rain flew horizontally into the driver’s cab, pelting Larry and soaking the cab. He struggled to keep his eyes open. “Everyone good back there?!” He called back to the team.
“All good!” Imani said as she finished her quick check up of the team.
“I think I broke a nail!” Lucy said with a pouty voice.
“And nothing of value was lost!” Imani replied.
“Larry, slow it down!” Petra ordered, “We’re gonna start jumping out and taking up positions. Looks like we’re gonna need to fight our way to the servers! Kana, you first!”
“You got it, boss! You ready Blitz?” the zondnaut asked her motorcycle. The robot replied with an aggressive warble before its engine roared to life.
Petra flipped open the canvas flap and dropped the waist high wall, “Go! Go! Go!” Petra yelled.
Kana twisted the throttle back and took off with a wheelie. The engine’s RPMs skyrocketed and let out a high-pitched scream as the wheels left the deck of the truck. With a splash of water, the bike landed with its tail end swinging out. The engine revved and the zondnaut took off to wreak some havoc. “I’m on the ground!” Kana reported.
“Don’t wait for us! Get a head start and locate that server! We’ll follow you up!” Petra commanded.
A rattle of gunfire echoed from between the concrete and metal structures of the facility. Petra looked back into the cargo compartment, “Hanz, take the cheerleaders and rush up the center. Link up with Phantom One!”
The taskmaster stood and shrugged his big shoulders. “Understood! Letz go, ladies! I have so many ideas for your show! I can’t vait to tell you about zem!”
Lacy grabbed her rifle and dropped her multispectral visor down over her eyes. Perhaps the gunfire put her in the zone! Lucy, on the other hand, rolled her eyes and readied her MULTI Pistols. “Why can’t we be with Larry for this one? Isn’t he the entire reason we’re even here?”
Petra glared back at the cheerkiller, “You’re here to complete a mission! Suck it up and get out!”
Hanz laughed and jumped out from the back, the vehicle’s suspension easing in relief as the heavy armor was dismounted. Lacy and Lucy hopped out behind the taskmaster and used him as cover as they filed in behind a building. Larry noticed the sudden drop in weight, feeling the rear of the truck swinging a whole lot more on the rain slick road. Petra looked over to Salazar and Imani, “You two next! Find a position and hunker down. Salazar, don’t get our dak shot.”
Salazar nodded and waited for Imani to prepare the zondbot. The small remote tucked in on itself, allowing Imani to pick it up like a medicine ball. She hurled it out the back of the truck, causing it to smack the pavement and roll a short distance before the zondbot uncurled and arrested its moment. It let out a delighted beep and waved back at the daktari while she and the Grenzer threw themselves from the moving truck.
Larry kept driving but he heard a sudden snap and a concerning cranking in the engine. “Uh oh…” Larry said, “Uhh… Petra? I think I just lost steering!”
“Are you sure?” Petra called back, looking through the door to see Larry holding the disconnected steering wheel into view.
“Shit! Bail!” Petra yelled as she dove from the back of the truck, landing with a roll.
Larry reached around the door panel, searching for the less than obvious handle to open it. He looked ahead, seeing a stack of shipping containers that were getting close fast. He took his attention off of the impending collision to look at the door, finding the handle quickly and pushing his weight against it as it opened. Larry flew out the side of the truck, landing hard on the ground and rolling several feet on the rainy pavement. The truck collided with the shipping containers, causing the foremost one to collapse in on itself. The ones stacked above it listed and rolled over the truck, crushing it. The containers suddenly erupted with fire and followed with an explosion, immolating the stolen vehicle! Larry wasn’t sure what was in those containers, he was glad he was nowhere near that blast! Petra ran over to Larry and rolled the man onto his back. “Larry?! Jesus, are you okay?”
As she rolled him over, Larry had a shitty grin on his face, “Aww, I didn’t think you cared that much about me, Petra.”
Petra’s shoulders slumped as her concerned expression went deadpan. She punched Larry in the arm and started tugging him to his feet, “Shut the hell up, Larry! Come on, we gotta get to cover while I hack into the camera feed. No doubt the ariadnan’s aren’t gonna be too happy us being here.”
((OOC: The Nomads deployed with three hidden deployment units up field. Two of them were Spektrs with SMGs and E/M Mines, and the final one was a Prowler with a Spitfire. The plan was for them to ambush any specialists headed to the central console and set up a repeater net after the trap was sprung. I deliberately chose to take the second turn so that he could walk into my trap at the top of turn 1. I made my Zondnautica hacker my Uberhacker so she could rush ahead and complete the objectives rapidly. I however wasn’t anticipating the nightmare my opponent was going to unleash upon me.))
Petra climbed to the top of an unmanned guard tower to try and get the best possible signal she could get in the rampant storm. She ran a hand through her soaked, stringy hair and brought up her holographic interface. Every drop of rain passing through the hologram caused the image to distort slightly. She got to work, quickly overpowering the weak firewalls of Okolnir’s camera system. It was, after all, a maritime fishing port, not a military facility. It wasn’t like the security system was next level tech that needed a wizard to be cracked. Petra accessed the feeds and quickly swiped through the different cameras to get a sense of the situation.
“I’ve got the feeds,” Petra announced to her team. “Phantom Two, heads up! Looks like they’ve got a wardriver moving to lock down the servers!
Phantom Two, a Spektr by the name of Nix, responded with a cold “Understood.”
Nix waited in the shadow of a building for the wardriver to round the corner. He readied his SMG and aimed it at the corner, hearing the wet smacks of the hacker’s footfalls in the puddles. Nix opened fire immediately as the wardriver as had stepped out into the open. The suppressed SMG planted a bullet in the wardriver’s chest. A mortal wound, but not the instant death the Spektr was hoping for. The wardriver stumbled to the console and quickly interfaced with the console. “Firewall breach… detected… Server Node… Five…” he said with his last breaths. Nix kept his SMG trained on him and watched as the life faded from the hacker’s eyes.
“He’s dead, but he knows where our breach in the system is.” Nix reported.
“Copy, Phantom Two…” Petra replied, “Team, listen up. I can bounce the data wipe protocol to other server nodes, but the upload will take time. Server five has the program, keep that thing intact long enough for Kana to fry their system.”
A song of returns came from the rest of the team as they understood her instructions. Suddenly, a crack of high powered gunfire rang out through the rainy streets. Salazar quickly reported, “Contact! Looks like a fireteam!”
Petra quickly swiped the camera feeds into view, searching the complex for the group of soldiers Salazar mentioned. It didn’t take long to spot the team pinning Salazar down with sniper fire while they moved in to respond to the Nomad incursion. Petra ran a quick scan to brief Salazar on his contacts, “Looks like they’re troops from the 33rd Frontovik Battalion! Watch yourself, Salazar!”
It was too late. Salazar was an excellent shot, but he was fighting on Ariadnan turf in conditions they were more accustomed to. Salazar kept his profile low in his tower with Imani staying
totally out of sight behind him. He spotted one of the snipers peer out to fire another round at him. He shot back, his round blowing out the billboard next to the frontovik. The return fire came before Salazar could duck into cover, the round entering his head and exiting out the back. His body slumped to the floor. “Shit! Salazar is down!” Imani said as she scrambled next to him, “He’s dead. I’ll take care of the cubevac just stay focused on the fight!”
Petra cursed under her breath and continued to monitor the fireteam as they moved with frightening coordination and took up a strong position in a nearby building. Petra sunk lower in her tower. If she was spotted, she doubted she could put up much of a fight. Thankfully, Phantom Three was hidden in the shadows at the foot of the building with some lovely deployable repeaters at the ready to get Petra in the fight in a meaningful way.
((OOC: My opponent’s first turn was straight forward. He used most of his orders to move his fireteam into a very imposing position on my half of the table, forcing me to fight out of my deployment zone on that side of the table. My haris with the taskmaster and cheerkillers dodged out of line of fire while the snipers exchanged fire. A critical hit to my Grenzer on the first firefight really sealed the deal with his immediate defeat. The wardriver opted to push the objective’s button instead of dodging the Spektr, which paid off well for him as he revealed which tech coffin had my rogue AI in it within the first few orders of the game.))
“They’re holding positions. I think they’re trying to stall us long enough for the rest of the station to go on lockdown. Time to press the attack, Nomads! We don’t have the time to stick around and hang out!” Petra urged, “Kana! Give me an update!”
“Blitz is in the red and we’re lovin’ it! We’ll know where we’re headed in a jiff!” the zondnaut said, the whir of her motorcycle’s engine audible through her transmission.
Kana was indeed racing in the redline. Her body was pressed tight against the motorcycle’s as she sped toward the console Nix was covering. Intercepted rain drops left a spray of white in her wake while her tires kicked up plumes of rainwater from the ground. She fishtailed to the right and power slid next to the console, bringing up her holo interface and overpowering the simple firewalls of the civilian computer. The lights on the exterior of the computer’s all-weather casing flickered as Kana brute-forced into the computer. “Bingo! Server Three, opposite end of the compound. We wipe that and our pilots can rest easy!”
“Good work, Kana.” Petra praised before turning her attention back to the fireteam of frontoviks pressing on their right flank. “Phantom Three, time to get in on this. I need a repeater on that building!” she ordered.
“Stand by.” Phantom Three said.
At the foot of the building, the open air distorted and a second Spektr took shape! He pulled a small stake-like device from his waist and jammed it into the ground. A small drill at the bottom of the stake burrowed into the ground, and after it was secure, the top of the stake extended and beeped as a green light lit up on its head. “Repeater down. Net up.” He reported.
“I got it, thanks, Vex.” Petra said as her readouts updated instantly to accommodate for the expanded local cyberspace.
Using the cameras, Petra quickly got to work selecting the most pressing of the frontoviks for some digital highlighting. She ran an equipment scan on them and identified a frontovik setting up his spitfire LMG on its bipod. She tapped the image on her interface resembling that frontovik and began uploading a spotlight program. In seconds, the outline of the frontovik lit up on the HUDs of all of the Nomads in the AO. “He’s lit, Three, take him out!”
The Spektr quietly stepped out from the shadows, the frontoviks still unaware of his deadly presence. He shouldered his SMG and aimed up, firing at the chin of the highlighted frontovik. The soldier didn’t stand a chance. The sub-sonic round punched into his jaw bone and came out the top of his skull. The frontovik’s helmet liner stopped the round, but it nevertheless had enough force for the helmet’s sturdy chinstrap to hold and cause the dead frontovik’s head to swing backward and topple him back first to the floor. Vex could hear a series of curses and grunts in Russian, a language he understood from his life on Tunguska, but the dialects were so different that even he couldn’t fully understand what the Tartary soldier was saying.
The cursing frontovik leaned over the guard railing with his assault pistol and fired a round at the Spektr. Vex was initially confident his thermoptic camouflage would keep him relatively safe, but then he noticed the visor fixed to the sniper’s helmet. “Ah shit! They have MSV’s! Damn techno-regressives!”
There was no way to dodge as the assault pistol unloaded and punched into neck of Spektr. He collapsed to the ground. There was no need for a report from anyone in the team since Petra had been watching the action through one of the facility’s cameras. Petra cursed quietly, but she kept her composure. He had managed to deliver critical information to the hacker before he died. Using the late spektr’s repeater, Petra began uploading spam to the digital dopple-space. The connected multispectral visors that the frontovik snipers were using were quickly flooded with illicit images and static. The digital disruptions in the area also served to cause chaos on the MSVs’ tactical readouts. “The snipers are blind! Larry, I can’t believe I’m saying this but I need you!”
“I knew I’d win you over eventually!” Larry said enthusiastically.
“Not in that way, moron! The frontoviks are blinded, step out from your corner and take ‘em out!” the interventor said.
Larry flipped his breaker combi’s safety off and did a press check to make sure his weapon was actually readied. He wasn’t going to have a repeat of his little oopsie in Montalban! “Okay! I’m on it, babe! Nothing to worry about!”
“Just get it done, Larry!” Petra snapped.
Larry jumped out from his cover and aimed his combi rifle at the first frontovik he could see. The ariadnan had a sniper and he was too busy trying to filter out the digital nonsense Petra threw at him to spot the CSU pointing a rifle at him! Larry squeezed the trigger, sending out a
burst of breaker rounds at the sniper. Two shots smacked into the building’s side, but one shot hit the trooper in the chest and put him down. “Uh… I think I got him?” Larry reported.
“You got him, Larry. Now get your ass behind cover before you get perforated!” the interventor said, doing her best to keep her eye on the whole situation.
The other frontovik sniper was setting his rifle up with a bipod to overlook the nomad positions. It was no secret where most of them were. Most of them. Checking her feed, Petra could see that Phantom One was in the perfect position to prevent the frontovik's overwatch. "Phantom One," Petra started, but the Prowler was one step ahead of her.
"I've got him sighted. One second..." Phantom One replied.
The Prowler dropped his thermoptic camouflage with his spitfire already trained on the unsuspecting frontovik. He suqeezed the trigger before the camo cloak fully dropped, lighting his surroundings up with the repeated muzzle flash of his light machine gun. A burst of rounds connected, two hitting his chest and two more smacking into the cover the frontovik was behind. The ariadnan's ballistic plate took the first hit, but the second punched through the ruined plate and embedded itself in his chest. The sniper sputtered and fell back on the floor, his IFF highlight on the Prowler's HUD vanishing. The Prowler, named Leos, kept his spitfire trained on the building the frontoviks were occupying. "He's down, maintaining eyes on."
Petra ran managed to break through the comms encryption in the facility to listen in on their chatter. "Ahh shit! Listen in, team! The whole facility is awake! They're closing in on us, we need to move now and get the hell out of here!" Petra warned before radioing back to the ship, "Hasselhoff, this is One! Things are hot down here! We're proceeding on mission but extraction will be difficult!"
"Copy, One. I am dispatching a shuttle now. Do you have wounded?" Captain Moreina asked.
Petra nodded, "Salazar and Vex are KIA. Salazar's cube was successfully evac'd by Vex' will need a remote wipe! That's all-" a spurt of gunfire stopped her mid-sentence. She peered over her cover and saw the two cheerkiller sisters take a burst from the frontoviks. Leos fired back to try and cover them while Hanz dragged the injured girls to safety. "Scratch that! One KIA, two wounded!" Petra corrected.
She heard an alert from her commlog and double checked her camera feed, seeing that their motion trackers were tripped in two different locations. "Behind us! Shit they're behind us!" Petra announced to the team.
Larry had slung his rifle to take sip of his ever important coffee. The rain was bitingly cold and he needed to keep himself warm to not let the team down! He let out a long sigh of relief as the hot liquid went from his mouth to his stomach. "Ahh that's the stuff..." he said contently, fully oblivious to Petra's warning that they were about to be flanked.
The gunfire ringing out around the corner deafened Larry to the sound of footfalls in a puddle behind him. He was completely unaware of the para-commando rushing at him! A quick whizz of gunfire ripped past Larry, making him jump in surprise and spill coffee all over himself! At least he was warm now! Larry heard a body drop on the ground behind him, making him look over his shoulder to see the sneaky ariadnan not five feet from him. "Damn! That guy almost got me!" he exclaimed.
"You're welcome." Leos said over the comms.
"I'm sure it vas nassing ze Kruggernaut couldn't handle!" Hanz added in, "Isn't zat vight, Larry?"
"Oh! Yeah! He would've regretted tangling with me!" Larry said confidently as he eyed the knife in the commando's hand.
Then a howl suddenly echoed through the streets, putting a stop to the exchanging fire momentarily. "What the hell was that?!" Larry said.
A sudden new exchange of gunfire sang out from another part of the compound, with Hanz immediately reporting, "Ah scheisse! Dog face snuck up on me! I know zat emblem, zey're Mirage-2! Margaret and Turok! Zose bastards destroyed my dearest Mika's cube two years back! Nasty business viz zese two!"
Hanz fired a few tight bursts of his red fury at the approaching spec-ops team while falling back into a better position. Margaret fired a handful of rounds at the taskmaster, his heavy armor deflecting the shots. Unhappy with his partner's apparent ineffectiveness against Hanz' armor, Turok roared and brought both of his chain rifles to bear on the big man. The chain rifles let loose a torrent of superheated metal at Hanz, his armor holding against the first burst of white-hot slag, but the immediate follow-up of the second damaged the suit. Hanz growled and threw himself into the cover as Petra checked up on him, "Hanz! You good?" she asked.
"Just a damned flesh vound! Keep on viz ze mission! I'll handle zese two personally!" the taskmaster said.
Turok, the apache-turned-dogface, rushed ahead while his partner continued to fire at Hanz to keep him down. Turok shoulder slammed into the breached server that the Nomads were using to access the system, practically tearing it out of the ground as he did. He slung one of his chain rifles and reached over his shoulder to draw a massive dog warrior sized knife from its sheath, stabbing and slicing into the sensitive computer system to make sure it wasn't going to be operable any time soon.
Petra's camera feed went dead, making her punch the floor, "Shit! Cameras down! I need a few seconds to access a new node! Someone take that freak of nature down!"
Imani set Salazar's lifeless body down after scrubbing his cube's left over ID data. There was no way Ariadna would be able to identify the L-Host and use it to incriminate the Nomads afterward. She heard the growling and smashing below the tower she was situated in and peered over the edge to see Turok raging at the server. He didn't see her, so she quickly tucked herself back into hiding and began interacting with her commlog, "Alright, Zonda! You might need to get to work soon! Remember that word I taught you, alright?" she said to her zondbot which was tucked away safely under the tower. A quiet digital chirp came back in her comm from the vulgar zondbot. Imani blinked, "Wait, I didn't teach you that word! Where'd you hear that one?"
More chirps and warbles came back, and Imani gasped, "The cheerkillers taught you?! I'll have to have a word with them. Only I can corrupt your innocent little AI matrix!"
((OOC: My opponent's second turn was used entirely to bring in his reserves on a double flank with both a para-commando and Equipe Mirage-5. Larry failed his PH-3 roll to turn around to face the commando dropping in right behind him, but the commando was mistakenly placed within view of my Prowler, who managed to land a shot on him and down him as he entered the table. Mirage-5 however was significantly more successful. Duroc destroyed my console with the rogue AI in it, and my taskmaster was wounded in the surprise attack. With such a massive threat in my rear line, I needed to take care of it before the damage became too great. This match was not looking good for me at all!))
Disregarding the chaos happening around the rest of the team, Kana remained focused and sped toward the target! She could reach the server node with relative ease, and as long as the data could get wiped, this mission would be considered a success even if the team took heavy losses. Thankfully it was standard procedure for all crew of the Hasselhoff to have cube backups stored both on the ship and with the Black Hand of the Nomad Military. If they died, it wouldn't be long before the deep pockets of Tunguska covered the exorbitant costs to resurrect lost crew of one of their Vortex Special Tasks ships. She simply didn't harbor the fear of death!
As she raced across an intersection, she took some gunfire from an ariadnan troop set up in a guard tower. The round pinged off of the armored chassis of her zondmate motorcycle. With a slight wobble, Kana corrected for the impact of the rifle and simply raced ahead. No time to fight. In her peripheral vision, Kana spotted a large and imposing creature. Another dogface maybe? No... It looked too big to be a dogface... Wait... Was that... A bear?!
It roared at her and gave chase. Kana sped up to dangerous speeds in the rainy conditions, the front of her bike kicking up in a wheelie. "What the fuck is that thing?! Does everything on Dawn have a mutagenic virus in its bite or something?!"
She drifted around a corner and spotted the server that contained the data of the pilots' whereabouts. She fired a smoke grenade from her mounted grenade launcher at the server, obscuring it from the ariadnan who had taken a shot at her just moments ago. "Alright, Blitz! Take the wheel!"
The motorcycle warbled its confirmation as Kana dismounted the bike at high speeds. She hit the ground, her padded and plated leg armor keeping her safe from road rash as she slid along the soaked ground with a spray of water behind her. As she slid into cover, the swiped her hand and brought up a holographic display similar to Petra's. The motorcycle continued racing forward into the smoke, its silhouette changing and taking a humanoid shape.
Kana could hear gunfire through the smoke. Her peripheral link informing her that the zondmate had been engaged by an ariadnan soldier and had taken damage. Kana couldn't waste the time to help her zondmate, she had to wipe the data! She was no interventor, but thankfully she didn't need to be to break past the civilian server's firewall. There was no time to search for the specific data, so Kana just selected everything on the server and wiped it all. She could hear the heavy footsteps of the bear-thing still chasing after her. "Come on, come on, come on!" Kana said as she watched the deletion progress climb to 100%. Once it was complete, Kana pumped her fist and reported it, "The data's gone! Our pilots are safe, but I don't I'm very long for Concilium in a few seconds!"
Petra heard the confirmation, "Good work, Kana!" The thought of losing the zondnaut was rough in the current situation. She could really use some extra support on their side of the compound. But she appreciated Kana's fearlessness in the face of a brutal death. She'd be sure to put a note in for priority resurrection back on the Hasselhoff after all this was done. "Give 'em hell, Kana! I'll see you soon!" Petra said before turning her attention back to the disaster that was unfolding on her end.
Hanz was still in a pitched gunfight with Mirage-2. His armor was holding, but he was outnumbered and being forced back and kept at a distance. Shots whizzed past him as he used a billboard for cover, his armor stopping another chain rifle blast while he deployed a crazykoala suicide drone. "Go little one! Go and blast zat bitch's head form her tiny shoulders!"
The crazykoala saluted the taskmaster and sped out of sight toward her target. Hanz stepped out from his cover, his red fury at the ready as he fan-fired the weapon from left to right, catching both Margaret and Turok in the burst. Turok had a smoke grenade go off at his feet just moments before Hanz opened fire, making it difficult to see where the dogface actually was. His rounds connected with nothing while Margaret's elite instinct kept her behind cover from her share of the taskmaster's shots.
The crazykoala came around a corner with a screech, its eyes bright red as it leaped at Margaret's face. She reflexively jabbed her rifle's muzzle at it, catching the koala before it could cling to her. She fired a shot into its neck and swung its wrecked body away before it detonated. Hanz cursed in German when he saw that his two-pronged attack was ineffective. These two were good!
((OOC: My order pool was beginning to buckle under the pressure of my opponent's aggressive assault from all angles. Thankfully my zondnaut had the benefit of her impetuous order and her uberhacker order to get to the rogue AI and wipe it. When I dismounted the zondnaut, I sent my mate out behind the smoke to get into some total cover, but I stumbled upon the bearpode handler on my second short skill! I had no idea she was there! The handler's shotgun downed the zondmate and the zondnaut was quickly being encroached upon by a dodge-moving bearpode hot on her tail! The rest of my efforts were put into my taskmaster fighting against Mirage-5. I knew Duroc could take a taskmaster on in CC, so I resorted to gunfighting and trying to overwhelm them with burst 4 and crazykoalas triggering on their AROs. Sadly, some hot dice rolls and armor saves rendered the entire attack ineffective. Margot and Duroc were still threatening my deployment zone!))
Margaret exchanged more fire with Hanz, their rounds smacking cover and armor alike. Margaret tucked in behind cover to reload her rifle, taking a moment to look over to Turok and send a hand signal to the dogface. He intelligently read the signal and turned to run after another one of the servers that the nomads had breached. With a fresh magazine in her rifle, Margaret rose up form her cover, firing another burst of armor piercing rounds at Hanz. Hanz fired back, intent on keeping the merovingien woman distracted from the second crazykoala taking a sneakier path.
In the exchange of fire, Margaret didn't hear the quiet mechanical motors of the crazykoala approaching her rapidly. She staggered forward and against her cover when she felt the small metal drone slam into her backplate and cling to her. She let out a curse in french as it detonated, shattering her backplate and throwing her face first into the building's wall. She was alive but critically injured and unconscious. Hanz let out a victorious laugh as he reloaded a new drum of ammunition into his red fury. "Ze bitch is out of ze fight! Now for ze volf!"
Turok was in a full tilt sprint to reach the other server. As he launched past a corner, Imani's zondbot jumped in surprise. It's small round optical sensor on its chassis flared a bright red as it entered itself into combat mode, chasing after the wolf ten times its size with its own two, stubbly robot legs! There was no chance the drone was keeping up in a foot race with the dogface, but by Mary was it trying! Turok skidded to a stop and gave the second server the very same treatment as the first, ruining it with fury and rage! Once the server was down, Turok felt a small zap on the back of his leg. He quickly turned and stepped away from the tingling sensation, looking down to human level to see nothing. He felt another zap and took another step backward, looking even lower to spot the diminutive zondbot zapping it with a taser!
Turok tilted his head in bemusement that such a small drone was actually picking a fight with him. Was it even worth it? The drone's angry red optical sensor zipped up to meet Turok's furious eyes, speaking in excited warbles and wildly exaggerated gestures with its arms. Turok just blinked. The zondbot's warbles became distorted in static as it changed from its encrypted speech to a small speaker placed in its chassis. "Your mother was a*Beeeep!* and a *Beeeep!* who *Beep!* *BEEEEEP!* You should be ashamed and *BEEEEEEEEEEP!*"
Imani yelled out from her tower at the drone, clearly repulsed by the crude language the little zondbot was spouting. Not even she, a foul mouthed daktari, would call somebody's mother that! The nerve! "Zonda! That was so rude!"
Turok's eyes flicked between the daktari and her drone. He was completely confused by this. But he certainly didn't appreciate the things the robot was saying about his mother! She was a sweet lady! The zondbot finished its very thorough and very hurtful string of insults with its articulated hand punching out into the air toward Turok's face with a middle finger pointing directly to the sky! Turok recoiled and growled, kicking the zondbot away from him and watching it stumble and roll in a puddle, its small limbs disconnected in several places. Even in its ruin state, the zondbot was still spouting profanities!
Petra watched the exchange over the feeds, and even she thought less of the rude little robot after associated Turok's mother with a manatee! The gall! But she couldn't remain in a stupor because of the drone, she had a mess to clean! At least the data was safe. The mission was technically a success despite all of the hiccups along the way. That was what she thought before she did a small scan of the database to ensure the data was truly gone. Petra raised a brow when she saw a ping come up in her search. There was a copy. The system was actively backing itself up and returning to a recovery point! She isolated the location of the backup to another server. "Dammit! Kana! We need you! Please tell me you're still alive!"
Nothing. Kana's biometric readout had flatlined and her comm was dead. Their speed demon hacker was out and their window of opportunity to destroy the backup was closing. She looked around in real space to get a sense of things, then she went back to her interface and pulled up the tactical readouts of the facility Phantom team had acquired before they arrived. Coupling it with recorded data from the live encounter, Petra was able to isolate a route that wasn't being covered by any of the known ariadnan forces. And Leos was standing right on it.
((OOC: Pretty simple turn here. Margot tried to finish the taskmaster, but a crazykoala managed to render her unconscious (damn you shock immunity!). Duroc spent several orders dashing across my deployment zone to reach another console to destroy, obviously to get ahead in objective points. He ignored the zondbot that he passed by, and through three consecutive dodges on 4's, the zondbot pursued and engaged Duroc in CC, committing him to the engaged state long enough to burn out the last of my opponent's orders! On the opposite end of the table, my opponent's bearpode made very short work of my zondnaut.))
"Phantom One! I'm sending you a safe route! Start running fast and don't stop! You need to destroy that server before it the pilot data is backed up! Go!" Petra ordered.
Hanz turned and looked at the prowler as he gave himself a second to understand the very specific route. "I'll cover you! Get a move on!"
Leos nodded and vaulted over a waist high wall as Hanz came out from cover and trained his red fury on Turok. The dogface had been left out in the open after Imani's drone valiantly distracted it! He squeezed the trigger, spraying a torrent of bullets at the big wolf man. Turok was caught by two, one in the neck and the other in the side of the head. He howled in pain and fell to one side, the life leaving him not long after the initial hits.
Leos climbed up some stairs on a roof top, using the billboards and signs as concealment to get around the imposing sight lines of the ariadnan defense forces. He had pulled Petra's safe route up on his HUD, the visor highlighting the path over in augmented reality over the route. He was coming up on a long staircase down, and he knew he needed to be quick getting down it. He stopped for a moment, ripping a metal panel off of the back of one of the billboards before placing it flat at the top of the stair case. He jumped on it and surfed down the stairs. A few stray shots whizzed past his head and smacked into the building he was descending.
When the panel hit the ground, Leos jumped and landed with a trained parkour roll. He kept his momentum up and carried it into a sprint. The server was in sight. Leos didn't break stride as he reached for his belt and readied a demolition charge. He didn't have the technical know-how to scrub the data. But he knew that blowing the thing to hell would do the trick nicely! After all, if a wolf man could smash and crush one of those servers, why couldn't a shaped charge take care of one? With no ariadnan forces in sight, Leos slapped the charge onto the side of it and threw himself back before triggering the detonator.
The blast was directed into the server with an orange fireball and sparks blowing out the back of it. Petra watched as the backup was confronted with several errors. The data wound up being corrupted, and now the pilots were well and truly safe from PanO's poaching efforts. "Leos you brilliant bastard! Excellent work!" Petra praised.
"We need to get out of here now, boss!" Hanz said, reminding the interventor that Okolnir's defense forces were none too happy about their incursion.
"Right. Everyone regroup! We need to clear an LZ for the shuttle! Move!" she ordered.
Little did Petra know. She was in for one of the longest nights of her life.
((OOC: Two things happened in turn 3 that I needed to undo before the game ended. The first thing was that Durok destroyed a second server, meaning that the victory conditions favored my opponent for having destroyed more servers than me. So I needed to somehow destroy another one with absolutely nobody nearby to accomplish it. And the other thing was that my opponent hinted at what his classified objective was. Duroc was still engaged with the unconscious Zondbot in my deployment zone, and if the game ended with those two locked like that, he would have scored his classified and been well in the lead for objective points. I used a coordinated order to get the Prowler moving to the server while my Taskmaster shot at Duroc. Shooting an enemy in the engaged state imposes a -6 to the shooter's BS, with any miss hitting the friendly instead. I didn't care, either I killed Duroc or I killed the zondbot, either way, he would no longer be engaged and the classified would not be fulfilled. Duroc died with the half burst, and the Zondbot was spared! With the remaining orders I had in my order pool, I cheerled my prowler on a mad dash through an intricate path that wouldn't incur ARO's, straight to another server for his D-Charges to annihilate it. With the server destroyed, and my classified being completed, the game ended with a 6-5 Victory for the Nomads!))
The team ran together toward a landing pad situated on a docked cargo ship. Hanz had both of the unconscious cheerkillers over his shoulders while Larry fireman carried Salazar's corpse. Unfortunately, the team wasn't able to recover Kana's body with the bearpode looming over it, but they were at least able to visually confirm that Kana's body and zondmate were virtually unrecognizable. If her body was to be used as some sort of evidence in Nomad tampering, it would be easy to dismiss due to the L-Host being too damaged to identify. Leos and Nix worked together to carry the body of the dead spektr, Vex, while Petra took point to lead the team out. Imani had stuffed her broken zondbot in a backpack and was taking up the rear.
The team had stumbled into a handful of firefights, but they were easy enough to brute force through. They had to keep moving though. Okolnir's forces were hot on their heels, and if they stopped any longer than a minute, they'd all be done for. But they ultimately managed to reach the landing pad that had been selected for an extraction point. Everyone except for Hanz was out of breath, but they all knew that they had to keep alert. They weren't out of the woods yet!
Two distant spots of light could be seen through the intensifying storm. The Hasselhoff had sent a duo of shuttles to get them out! It was standard practice. One shuttle carried a relief team that'd land first to secure the site and cover for the empty shuttle to get out with the operatives. Petra spoke over the radio to guide them in, "This is One, I have the shuttles in sight! You've got balls of steel to fly through this weather!"
The shuttle pilot responded, "Damn right I do, One! We don't leave our own behind- ... Ah shit!"
Petra's face twisted to concern, "What's wrong?"
"They've shut down the air space! We're the only inbound crafts here right now! They're onto us!" the pilot reported to Petra.
"Shit!" she yelled before bringing up her holo interface, "Fly like hell! I'll try to kill the lockdown!"
The pilot's return came with furious beeping bleeding in from the background, "Missile lock! Ahh crap not like this!"
Petra was working furiously to try and force her way into the defense net and revoke the air space closure. But it was too late. She heard a high pitch whine as a missile flew overhead. Petra lifted her eyes from her interface and joined her team, watching the missile collided with the extraction shuttle! The small craft ignited into a bright fireball as it rapidly lost altitude and crashed into the raging sea! Another missile screamed past this one going for the relief team's shuttle. The shuttle let out a burst of hot flares in all direction, successfully diverting the missile from its path. It came in low, a third missile arcing high and nose diving into the water in its attempt at shooting the shuttle down.
Petra ducked low when bullets whipped past her head. Larry, Leos, and Hanz all returned fire from the landing pad. The security forces were close! Imani kept herself low as she took the stationary moment to apply first aid to the cheerkillers. Lacy looked like she needed the Hasselhoff's medical facilities, but Lucy was mostly okay. She hit her head and fallen unconscious, but she didn't have any other injuries aside from a cut on her forehead and some pretty bad bruising on her arms. Imani gave the cheerkiller and adrenaline shot, making the cheerleader gasp and snap upright. One less casualty was always a good thing.
The shuttle was below the landing pad on its approach. Ocean spray from its engine wake telegraphed its rapid approach. With a quick pitch up, the shuttle elevated, using its underbelly RCS thrusters to slow it down and land hard on the pad. Its side doors opened and other members of the Hasselhoff's crew rushed out to add their firepower to Petra's team while a small mechanical boom on the back of the dropship deployed a Reaktion Zond for covering fire. Gin stepped jumped out of the shuttle and pulled Petra into a quick hug, "You're okay! Thank Mary!" she said.
Petra returned the gesture, but she quickly got back to business. "We're down a shuttle and we can't all fit in the shuttle! Take Imani and our casualties!"
Petra waved Imani over, and the team began to ferry Lacy, Salazar, and Vex into the shuttle. Gin looked worryingly at Larry as he place Salazar inside. Everyone knew the score with the extraction shuttle down. There wasn't enough room for two teams inside, especially not with air defenses active. "You're not coming... Are you?" Gin asked Larry.
Larry shook his head, "Not this time. We need to shut down those air defenses so you guys can make a clean escape."
Petra, in a rare moment, agreed with Larry. "He's right... I'm the best hacker on the Hasselhoff, if anyone can shut the facility's defenses down it'll be me. But I can't do it alone."
Gin frowned, "Let me come with you!"
Petra shook her head, "We can't lose two team leaders over this! Concilium is still in a sorry state and the 'Hoff isn't getting any less busy because of it! I'll take volunteers from your team if they want to join mine, but I can't take you!"
A gust of wind from the storm whipped Gin's robes about, her hood clinging to half of her face as she looked around at the rest of the nomads on the landing pad. Petra and Larry were right. Not all of them could come, and the dead and dying needed to get taken out of here... "Fine!" Gin conceded.
Petra nodded as Vex was loaded onto the shuttle. "Team one!" Petra called out to the remaining conscious members, "We're staying!"
Hanz was getting medical attention from Imani for his injuries sustained from Turok's chain rifle. He gave a thumbs up, "Zat iz fine by me!" the taskmaster enthusiastically said. He understood the stakes too.
Petra looked over to Leos, Nix, and Imani, "You three go! Imani, you need to help out in the medical bay. Nix, Leos, I need heavy weapons and armor, not subtlety. Your job here is done!"
Nix nodded without a word, but Leos seemed disappointed by that. Imani spoke some colorful language in swahili, but she didn't argue. She had lives to save. Nevertheless, they took up positions to fight back the ariadnan response in order to bide time for Petra to clear the skies. Gin looked out to her team as they traded fire with the defense forces. "Team two! We're not letting One go back in without a full team. I need volunteers!" Gin yelled.
Returns came from hand signals and shouting back. Quick and easy. Petra appreciated team two's willingness to get dirty. "Thanks, Gin." Petra said nodding in the reaktion zond's direction, "I might need that too."
"All yours," the reverend moira said.
Gin looked back at Larry, who was helping Lucy get her sister on the shuttle. Seeing the cheerleaders with him still annoyed her. But she didn't stop him from getting the wounded nomad aboard. Once done, Gin stepped over to Larry, "Before you go back in!"
Larry blinked, "Uh... Sure, what is it, Gin?"
This was it! Her chance to stick it to both the cheerleaders and Petra that she was the one who deserved Larry's affections! Gin was nervous, but not from the bullets flying overhead. Larry was just confused as the moira looked him in the eyes without any words. "Gin? Hello?"
Petra looked at Gin and facepalmed, "Oh for the love of-... We don't have time for this..."
Hearing Petra, Gin panicked! Fearing the chance was slipping away from her, she quickly grabbed by Larry by the collar of his shirt with both hands and pulled him toward her. Gin's lips met Larry's. The CSU's eyes went wide, and a few of the nomads not actively engaged in a bit of shooting whistled and cheered jovially at the sight! Larry placed his hands on Gin's shoulders and managed to part the two a bit. He looked completely shocked!
Petra quickly pushed herself between them, "Okay! Okay! Romance scene over! Larry, hurry up and turn your brain back on! We got work to do! With Salazar down, you're my second in command now... Lord have mercy on us all..."
She pulled Larry away from the moira. Gin stood there looking like she was just born anew. She pumped her fist and gave herself a little cheer on the spot before a bullet narrowly missed her and smacked into the hull of the shuttle harmlessly. She flinched and was brought back to the reality of the situation. "Er- Right! We're totally in a battle right now... Good timing, Gin... Whew!"
She ducked low and took up a position as well while Petra and her newly formed team resupplied and got ready to leave. Larry glanced back at Gin and gave her a wave, "Good luck! See you aboard the 'Hoff in a few hours!"
Gin gave Larry a thumbs up and watched as he and the rest stepped off.
This was a brutal game! I was pretty sure that I was going to lose this one, and my opponent was tasting victory! I was fighting on three fronts and I had lost a bunch of troops before I even had my turn. To top it all off, my opponent achieved not one, not two, but FIVE critical hits within round one! I only managed to turn it around on the last round with some clever thinking and devious strategizing.
This report took me a while to get done. The game was played on the 14th, but a combination of writer's block and being busy with so many other things really delayed this report coming out. There is one more report I need to do before the campaign ends in a day so stay tuned for the final report of season 4 of Diaries of a CSU! The events I wrote in this report directly tie into the events of the season finale. Brace yourself, as this season is going to end with a less than happy ending!
Back during Strikezone: Wotan, I never thought that I'd go this far with CSU Larry as a character (he was initially a throwaway that people ended up loving). Years later and now I've had to come up with a deeper narrative about Larry as a character and the crew of the Hasselhoff, while still trying to maintain the sitcom styled moments of comedic relief. You might have spotted a few moments throughout season 4 where I've sprinkled in elements of character development and some foreshadowing of where things might wind up!
Thanks for reading episode 3! Episode 4 is hot on its heels!