Friday, November 25, 2016

Kragor the Merc: Showdown

There was some serious fire going on, indicating Juron had joined the fight. However, there were an explosion at the roof of one of the buildings where Lucas should've been and the heavy mounted gun sprayed the facade. There wasn't time to think about him though; Erza stormed out but went down hard as she ran into the two shotgun-armed combators I'd just evaded. As she fell next to our get-away vehicle it was all or nothing to get her safe; I lobbed yet another grenade and rushed forward as soon as I heard the blast... one of the bastards had gone but the other had taken the hit and I slammed him into the ground with my shotgun. A moment later the back door of the hover opened and I saw the barrel of a gun... I felt a sharp pain in my chest as I threw myself out of the way, only to be followed by a second hit to my ass - this was not going according to plan. You've been shot twice in the butt you stupid orc...

Out of nowhere Ed came calling - haven't been so glad to hear his voice anytime I can remember. I got a quick patch but in the end all we could do was to bail. I was injured but holding together; Erza was worse and after a small detour we managed to meet up with Lucas and Juron - the latter also seriously injured.

So, this was our time to fall... I've been through this a couple of times and if there's one thing I've learned about when the shit hits the fan is that its a good idea to not go where you're expected to go. So I called on old pal Richard Zima to have him fly us over to an open hospital. Rosina's good but there would be way too many questions. On route to our pick-up point we were chased by a response vehicle which were probably out looking for us. I cursed myself for letting Ed do the driving but there really wasn't anything to do about it. At this point the world just went mad. Angeline opened the back door and jumped out with a grenade. I didn't really see it, but there was an explosion, the pursuing vehicle went over... and Angeline was gone. Ed just pulled the breaks and ran towards the smoke but it wouldn't do any difference. I took the driver's seat and the others pulled him back in. A few minutes later Zima dropped us of at a hospital at the other end of town.

After the medics had dealt with the most critical injuries they wanted to send us back to Freelance as that was required by our insurance. I had my mind set on getting the fuck out of the way even if it meant paying for some healthcare on site, but Juron didn't catch my drift and there was just no way to explain it where we stood. Instead we all ended up in a waiting room as Erza was prepared to be transported to Rosina for surgery. There was a discussion on what to do next but everyone seemed to expect me to have all the answers. Fuck that; I take things like this one step at a time and right now I want to get the hell away from everyone that's probably looking for us right now. What we'll do tomorrow is a problem we can solve when we know we have a tomorrow to care about. It finally seemed as I reached Ed and he started to pull some strings - me, I'd used up what favors I got just to get us here. In the end Lucas too decided to hide away while Juron was set on heading back to Freelance. It bothered be I couldn't get heads or tails from the man as to his reasons. I was so tired of people not pulling in the same direction until I remembered that damn biomod we'd gotten a few months ago. It must be what's messing with my head. It wasn't my responsibility after all; I had to take care of my own hide. Erza would get the surgery she needed and Juron... well it was probably better for us to have him someplace else. At least the arbitrators wouldn't be looking for us, leaving only Ultra and possibly the Clans.

So me, Ed and Lucas left the hospital and took a cab. We were spotted but what the fuck could we do? Ed had arranged for that grumpy dwarf Grandpa to provide us with a temporary lodging. Boy was he glad to see us! No, no, he wasn't. Its a strange thing to see so much anger coiled together in a person that small. Well, we got served some food and Ed was just about to pick some shrapnel out of my ass when it knocked on the door. Had they found us already? I cursed the world for letting this happen when I had my pants around my knees, but I was too tired to argue. Let them come.

It wasn't them. It was a stranger - with a job offer. Since when did you get people hunting you down to offer you work after you'd just been steamrolled by corp security? Well, you'd better give me some answers stranger or I'll shove that job of yours up your ass along with a full blast of shotgun shrapnel. And no, I'm not in a bad mood dammit!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Kragor the Merc: A Favor for a Favor

With money in hand we arrived back at HQ. Lucas was already back but from the look of him everything was not entierly to his satisfaction. I headed for the showers with a need to get rid of the mud and the small particles of broken windscreen.
Erza caught me a while later and told she'd got what seemed as a job offer from the Clans and wanted my opinion. For my part I already had enough of dealing with them and told her so. Yes, there was the matter of Juron's debt... but in my experience you never pay them off by working for the bank. That will just get you in deeper shit. And if there ever was a reason for me working for low grade pay at Freelance it was to have a choice. Otherwise you could just as well go corp. But to be a merc in the hands of the Clans? It'd be the worst of two worlds.

But we needed work, that was for sure, so I suggested we spend our day off investigating the rumors of escaped criminals' hiding out in the wilderness. It smelled corp to me and corp meant money. Erza was willing to give it a go and had a suggestion for where to start: a contact of hers in the Blocks. So we decided.

The next day we were off, but not before I did a little errand. As it seemed we were heading into deep shit I thought a little extra precaution would be wise so went to see Keria to get some tracker markers. Not that they would save my life but at least I could give Elizah a means to locate my body and perhaps extract some revenge should the shit hit the fan. I figured everyone of us could use one just in case the others needed to find that person. Juron was first on my list of people who should have one. As we were preparing to get started he had rushed off to the gym but given his investment with Clan money it seemed a good idea to bring him with us as all we knew was that people following these rumors had gone missing or ended up dead.
The meeting with Erza's contact, a rough-looking man named Ruben, proved fruitful. Apparently he had funding and influence in the Blocks and he showed us a security camera recording where one of his associated, who was asking questions, got her throat slit by a mysterious figure. The assassin's face was only visible for a few frames but it felt familiar... like I'd seen it before. There had been a body guard to Abriel - our contact at GERO. Could it have been her? It was as solid a lead as we could expect.

I had hoped for a straight line from this point, but we had barely left the building when things started to get complicated. Juron showed us a message he'd just received from Joline asking us to come right away. We decided to comply and raise any issues face to face. As expected it turned out to be a job offer. It was good money - 75k - which would place it in the category of "very appealing" without reaching "Juron could clear his debt with this". It wasn't a game I was willing to play so I decided to raise the stakes and told Joline that we'd already been booked at a job, just to see her reaction. It wasn't a team-sanctioned thing to do, but I felt I needed to know. It was clear she wouldn't let Juron get away from this one and it was equally clear Juron didn't want to get away from it. In fact it struck me the guy had an apparent habit of getting utterly dependent on any person who provided him with something he wanted. Babette would take his money for drugs. I could live with that. But what Joline would take... no, that couldn't end well. But this time we would have to do the job. For the sake of appearance I required that Joline provided us with any intel she had to help us with our other job as a part of the deal. This seemed to be just what she wanted - a favor for a favor - but it also cleared one thing for me: the Clans wasn't involved in that business. Which was good.
But before we left there was just one thing I had to do. The tracker markers where in my pockets and if this bitch wanted things to be personal she'd better be prepared to play that game... so I gave a stunning performance getting angry at Juron, who pushed me to the floor. In the fall I managed to tag a tracker to Joline's robe. We were rushed out of the room after that but it was well worth it.
Of course, neither Juron nor Erza took my behavior very well. Explaining it didn't quite help: Erza still thought it was a very dangerous and risky move but hey, fuck that. I still remember her version of playing it safe from Dukkha. Juron seemed hell-bent on being pissed out over the whole thing despite my best attempts at reconciliation. Apparently he had never been shot in the back by someone he'd trusted or he'd known the difference between a betrayal and an act for the greater good of the team. But since there wasn't much else I could do I had to leave him to wisen up on his own.

With all the tension slowly going away we were left with planning the job for tomorrow. What Joline wanted us to do was to high-jack a Ultra Weapon Systems armed transport by blowing up a slip road and forcing it to take a detour into the Blocks (where we would be waiting). According to the intel - which for a change was very good - we'd face some serious security. It would be a difficult task even with the demolition stuff going as clockwork. But we planned it to the best of our ability.

We left HQ very early the following morning to stake out the site and place some explosives. Our preparations hadn't gone entierly unnoticed but I had hopes we could claim doing the escape criminals gig when reporting back.

We managed to place the explosives without any trouble and then it was just a waiting game. Sitting in our get-away vehicle waiting on a side road to the expected route we had a walkway bridge rigged to explode as the convoy passed. It would be three vehicles with armor and a six man escort unit. The front vehicle would carry some mounted heavy weaponry. We blew up the slip road on time and then just waited for the action to start. After a while Juron reported the column had just passed by and Erza timed the demolition of the walkway. With the explosion and sound of rubble hitting metal I threw myself out and lobbed a fire grenade towards the last of the three vehicles, mostly to get a response. One came in the form of shotgun fire and I felt a sharp sting in my ass as I threw myself out of the line of fire...

Friday, November 4, 2016

Kragor the Merc: Underworld Connections

Nothing like coming home from a long run to find 1) lending sharks from the Clans giving you a ride and 2) arbitrators all over the place. In both cases they seemed most interested in Juron (guess we know where he got that fiberplate after all...) who seemed to have left one of his fish hooks in an inappropriate place (the mouth of a dead guy). So much for having a day off...

While Juron was dragged off to be interrogated by the city's finest we where left to try and save his ass. After all, if he got locked up he could pay no debts and then the sharks would come for us. Bye-bye pension savings account. But where to start? The little we knew was that it was being painted as a racial homicide of two nokhs by the media. It had happened on a day when Juron was out having fun with Sandrah, which included a visit to Babétte and a lot of memory lapses. Erza immediately jumped to the conclusion that Sandrah was behind it all. It caused quite a lot of tension back at base but didn't really lead to anything.

Well, to be frank its not something I want to talk about. We followed a few leads but got stuck in the end - however it seemed as Juron found his own ways out. It cost him another 10k but it worked. On a more positive side note I managed to drive home an important lesson on Fringe ethics. From what I surmised Erza had found a possible solution to get Juron out but choose not to when she learned the Clans had already offered to help (for the stated sum of 10k) as the solution was a bit shady. Well, it turned out the Clans solution was to make it look like a serial killing by murdering some more people (while Juron was still locked up at the station) and paying someone to take the blame. So, your ethics got people killed and still cost the fair sum of 10k just because you didn't want to break the law? I hope we can all act as grown-ups after this.

Thankfully Elizah had awarded us with an extra day off as a result of our good performance on Dukkha which gave us a chance to get some sleep and exercise and just hang out. Of course, the best way to "hang out" was generally agreed to be doing more work. A little corp-work gained us a few extra credits and we had all but forgotten about the bit where someone tried to frame Juron for murder.

Real work was coming up and while Lucas was hired for a job requiring his special skills our eyes where quickly set on a new piece of mission posted by GERO. "Scouting/Hunting" sounded intriguing and it did deliver on that point as it turned out another GERO scouting patrol had run into a pack of werewolves out in the forest. We were the cleanup squad. Apparently Ed had some previous history involving werewolves but he couldn't tell us much about them beside "they can rip off the arms of a man". Well, mr Butcher, so could my mother.

We set out a few hours later in a single jeep. Winter was coming, which could be felt in the air and seen on the presence of the snow tires. For my part it was again that feeling of simplicity: we had an enemy to fight and we would win or die. My orc blood loved it. My human blood... well it did make existential thoughts seem a bit redundant. And it involved good money (despite whatever Ed thought of it).

It was getting dark and I was driving when we reached the quadrant in which the werewolves had been encountered. It was at this point I had to revise my take on the GERO job description. It hadn't stated who would be hunting whom. Suddenly the pack was upon us... I could here Juron and Erza fire away from the back of the jeep, the heavy thud from Juron's assault gun disrupted only by howling. Ed, who was seated between me and Angeline in the front seat fired away out of my window. Don't know if we hit a rock or what next, but at one point I was driving on two wheels only... and then a werewolf crashed in through the windscreen. Ed and Angeline fired away like mad and I got the jeep to a halt and grabbed my shotgun just in time for a big ugly beast to rip open the door and try to take a bite out of me - he got fed his furry friend instead and then my flesh-tearing explosive rounds to the face. I got out to take care of any pursuers only to find there was only one left. Juron and Erza had left a clean house with a scarred hand and a few cuts from the broken front window as our only injuries. We loaded a few of the bodies to bring back as proof (Erza's orders) and then set out tracking them back to their camp. The jeep was in a bad shape but Angeline and Juron did the best they could to keep it together. Eventually we found another pair of werewolves out hunting: one was killed while the other fled into the forest, wounded. With winter coming... and the rest of the pack dead it probably wouldn't make it. Mission accomplished. We headed back home.

The contract had stated "minimum collateral damage" to the area itself but thankfully the jeep wasn't included... we got full our full payment and headed back for base - minds set for our next challenge.