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.

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