Friday, January 20, 2017

Kragor the Merc: A truckload of gold

Did we break it or make it? By all standards we must have made it, but why doesn't it feel like it? Let's back up a couple of days...

When you're about do go up against professional killers and there's 200k in the magic pot you prepare yourself. Thus the week leading up to the job kindly offered by the Clans was spent doing just that. We arranged maps and route details from a contact given us by Silence. The cargo: 5 tons of gold bullion painstakingly mined and now being transported from the central bank to the harbor by train, then to be offloaded to a ship heading for the mainland.

We spent the next couple of days staking out the vast part of the city hidden beneath street level where old and new tracks ran among the foundations of the massive skyscrapers. Also it was shopping time. I had no problems taking a loan from the Clans to fund this mission: if all went well we would pay it back within a week, and if it didn't... well then a debt would be the least of my troubles, regardless who expected it. I enjoyed fooling Joline into believing I was giving in to her manipulations and committing myself to the Clans. It probably wasn't necessary given she knew what job we were doing but... yeah, fuckit, she deserved a bit of disappointment later on.

We bought guns and explosives and a shitload of other stuff... rented autos and recruited some people. We had a hacker but we needed someone who could handle tech on the ground - so I got around to see Keria... It was some time since and she'd must have had a small shock when I showed up and asked for help. But I knew she still had a bit of adventure inside and the lure of gold works on most people. As an extra treat I offered to buy some cool model headsets and other stuff for the mission through her. She agreed to lend a hand. Second target was Kronaug... I'd done him one too many favors to have him dodge this one, so I decided to eliminate that possibility altogether. As further reinforcement, Ed recruited a smacker named Charles through grandpa the dwarf and Erza recruited Hawk from Freelance. Erza herself however would remain back at Freelance - providing a plausible cover story and if necessary coordinate with us once we made our escape.

Surveying the expected route we learned that there were several complications. Firstly, the place was a maze and very hard to navigate. Secondly there were lots of unfortunates living down there and thirdly the open terrain did not fit in with our expectations and tactical planning. We would have to pick a spot for our assault with care. We found one in a narrow tunnel section located next to a side track in which we could hide our vehicles and prepare ourselves. We waited for as long as we dared to allow any surveying units to pass unhindered before we got to work. The far side of the track we rigged with mines, then be blew up the tracks themselves and built a small wall of rubble a bit further ahead to prevent the whole train from crashing at max speed. After all, we needed to be able to offload the cargo with ease.

The upcoming battle was now only minutes away. Juron had handed us some stereo packs and together with a bit of vitagel it made me feel prepared. That familiar nervousness came about and I went through the battle in my head. Ed, Hawk and Kronaug had been fitted with ballistic shields and would form the front line. Me, Juron and Charles would supply the heavy fire, with Lucas providing sniper support with his brand new magrail and Keria being prepared to handle any difficulties of a technical nature that might arise. I expected a battle similar to last time we tried something like this; well-trained combators with shotguns or automated rifles moving in formation. They would face a moving wall and the wrath of the shining heavy flamer firmly held by Juron. It looked outright evil. I had also prepared a little surprise in the shape of some electrified bolts for my crossbow. Hopefully they would be effective even against blokes in heavy armor.

Then was the sound of an approaching train. It was about to begin...

The train stopped pretty much as we had wanted it to and we advanced forward. But rather than the doors opening there were slids and hidden hatches... the train was a damn fortress. Being the one charged with the explosives I realized we must act fast or get bogged down here for far too long. So I left the relative safety of the shield wall and rushed forward, placing a micro bomb at the nearest steel door. I just managed to take cover under the train as bullets started flying and combators advanced out of the train.
From that point it was pure madness. Ed and Lucas kept communications tight over the radio in a fashion that would have warmed the frozen heart of any combator commander. Meanwhile Juron and Charles sprayed the train with fire and bullets while a mine detonated on the other side of the train. From my somewhat complicated position I managed to put a bolt in the leg of one of the attackers. Next a flashbang landed among us and broke the shield wall as Kronaug staggered. I detonated the explosive, which opened the door to the inside and while more attackers pushed forward from the back of the train I grabbed a grenade. Somehow it bounced and landed next to me beneath the train... I threw myself out just as a big brute in fiberplate brought down hell against us. I saw Ed being thrown to the ground despite his shield - apparently from the sheer force of the blow. On the ground lay Kronaug, bleeding from a wound in the chest he must have taken after suffering the flashbang - I saw little choice but to take cover behind him as shotgun shrapnel flew all around...

Then happened the strangest of things. As I dived in behind Kronaug and turned around I could swear I saw the fire from the gun pointed in my direction, I felt the sting in my chest and looked down as blood was pouring out of my chest, the world moved in slow motion... but in the blink of an eye it wasn't there. I was covered in blood, yes, but it was Kronaug's blood as his body had taken the blast for me. I pulled out my shotgun and blasted away at the advancing combator. Ed was somehow also back in the fight - which soon ended when Hawk with icy precision blew the head off of two enemies and Charles sprayed the rest with his assault gun. Somewhere in the back of the head was also a memory of Lucas' regular reports of enemies down. So we'd won...

Juron had taken a bad hit to one of his eyes and Kronaug was dead. Otherwise we were unharmed. Juron had left two people alive inside the train: the driver and some corp holding a case. Hawk took the corp aside and made him reveal any codes and intel he had before killing him. I shot the driver, though Ed tried to get in the way. He looked at me disappointedly but said nothing. It wasn't the time for a lecture on Fringe ethics so I didn't either.

I didn't look much at the rest of the carnage; I just wanted to get it all done. We started mounting our improvised cableway on which we placed small bags which we used to slide the gold back to the waiting cars. Hawk noted that there was a lot of top grade equipment to be looted from the guards. As we were one orc short with the loading we left her to it.

A couple of minutes later we were leaving to collect a full 200k. Any evidence left on the site was torn apart by a compression bomb. There had been a terrible price and Kronaug's death was on my hands. Yet I couldn't help but think that without a doubt the others who had died had been far better people than he had. He was a scum after all and though it was my fault he had died today I had saved his hide on several occasions - a death like this was to be expected for an orc like him. The others... they need not have died at all had I not come along. I could just hope that if the gods, provided they exist, really had watched they had been pleased by the spectacle.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Kragor the Merc: New Beginnings

I've learned not to be surprised in situations like this. Ok, Freelance's boss was heading out - now what? Both Demon's Head, Silence and Hawk where there. Keys and passcodes lay on the table and Erza moved towards them - only to be intercepted by Krelik. So that was how it was going to be.

About 30 seconds later Ed and Joshua where pointing guns, me and Jiang-Pfengh were holding grenades. Oh, and Silence had somehow slipped out of the building. Given this it was slightly unexpected to find ourselves in Elizah's office a few minutes later, going through the paperwork. Less unexpected was that Erza had apparently gone for the position of chief not so much because of her great managerial skills but more out of pride. I'm no paper-pusher but I know there's more to this business than meets the eye. Fortunately the common opinion seemed to be we should hire someone for the administrative stuff. Ed contacted his hacker/love-interest to get some suggestions.

Next thing on the schedule was to find some work. I lay forth my theory of GERO negotiator Abriel's "bodyguard" being involved in the fishy business we've been investigating. Yes, it would be a big gamble - but you couldn't go far without taking big risks. Particularly Ed seemed reluctant to commit without knowing the possible gain - a statement that in my opinion would get us no further than standard escort jobs until the end of time. A middle approach was decided when it turned out Juron had been contacted by Joline again; we'd check if Erza's contact Ruben would be prepared to pay us on learning the assassin's identity and then go speak to the Clans on the following day.

Me, Erza and Ed went to speak with Ruben that same evening. In hindsight it would have been better if it had been just me and Erza - just saying. As we had hoped to get a bounty offer on the assassin we were disappointed when Ruben decided it was too big for him with GERO involved. To see what we could get out of it I put forth the suggestion that we might know someone who could handle it - the assassin known simply as K. Ruben agreed it was worth investigating so we set up a meeting early the next morning and were offered to stay over the night as guests. As we were practically heading next door for our visit with the Clans we sent a message to Lucas and Juron, informing them of the situation.

The following morning K showed and even in an indoor setting it was immediately apparent he wasn't anyone to trifle with. He was prepared to kill Abriel's bodyguard for Ruben, but the price was 28k. I suggested I go talk to him as I didn't think we could handle the negotiation through Ruben anymore. I think K recognized me and I asked if we could think the offer over but he seemed to consider this a waste of his time. Given I came here to gain money - not spend it - I decided to decline. I knew this would lead to some discussion but I couldn't see how we would benefit from the deed in the long run. After all, the bodyguard was just one piece in our investigation - her death would not mean check mate.

After K had left we rested until Juron and Lucas arrived in the Blocks. The meeting with Joline was, as expected, more of a forced recruitment as it would appear she now had a hook on Ed as well. At least she gave us a number of jobs to choose from. Though dismissed at first due to our last experience, we eventually settled for an armed transport robbery. It had the best opportunity for cash - 200k in a best case scenario - and the guards would be armed and prepared for combat. Apparently this meant killing them were more ethical than killing some politician who probably kept hundreds starving and dying due to a lack of medical care. Well, I made it no secret I don't like working for the Clans but given the situation we're in it seems stupid not to go all the way. Either we make it or break it and I must say I enjoy the opportunity of finding out.

But the day hadn't given up all its opportunities yet - as we returned to Freelance we soon found Abriel (and that bodyguard...) knocking on the door. She wasn't offering us a mission this time but rather a full-time employment for several months. With so much options I couldn't help but wondering: how soon would things start to go bad again?