Meridian LoungeFortunaPacific Mexican Coast2215 Hours, May 21, 1998At this time of night, Fortuna’s classier officer’s club was just starting to settle down. The deep, warm reds of the wood fixtures and the soft glow of shaded lamps cast the lounge into deep, velvet shadows. You are Andrew Sparks and you wince and lay your glass down with a clinking of ice. Whiskey on the rocks, your drink of choice ever since your distant army days. The fiery aftertaste is chased by the smell of cigarette smoke in the air but you inhale deeply anyway.[iFortuna was once a warship, like you, a veteran of the short-lived First-Strike War that burned swaths of Europe and Asia, but now it was a home. A home for mercenaries, but a home nonetheless. To that end, the Meridian Lounge was one of several bars and clubs throughout the ship, though it was among the most well behaved and quietest.“More, sir?” the barkeep asks, proffering a bottle at you.A subtle nod causes him to tip another splash of amber liquid into the glass before swiftly moving down the polished bar to other patrons. It was a lot to take in. A few years ago you’d just been a mech jockey, a hotshot, but just another trigger-puller at the end of the day. Now you were basically everyone’s boss. You drink again and savor the flavor of the booze, swallowing almost as an afterthought.Other glasses clink, quiet conversations murmur through the room just barely audible over the sultry notes of the piano playing away in the corner. You’re not sure you want this kind of atmosphere, you think maybe you should have gone to ‘The End’ instead, but these thoughts are banished when you see Sheila Craft enter through the frosted-glass double doors.
The year is 1998, thirteen years after the First-Strike War, a brief but deadly confrontation between East and West that swept like wildfire over the earth. With the decline of the superpowers of the Cold War, numerous smaller factions, nations, and corporations compete for a commanding share of the globe. Even as most give up the tools of battle, a select group of men and women continue to live as soldiers of fortune, mercenaries, warriors for hire.Of the numerous deadly innovations of the war of the late 1980s, combat mecha are perhaps the most apparent. These new mobile weapons platforms put the firepower of a platoon of battle tanks in the hands of a single pilot, granting them firepower and mobility that was previously only dreamed of.With the weapons, the will, and the know-how, mercenary companies roam the globe with their Mechs in search of conflict, money, and fame.This is Strike Mech ‘98.***Important links:>What is Strike Mech ‘98?https://pastebin.com/npxZyNVF>Archivehttp://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive.html?searchall=Strike+mech>Twitter feed I use to announce planned game times.https://twitter.com/TimeKillerQMI allow between fifteen and twenty minutes for voting depending on the importance of the issue and how divided the vote is. If the vote is tied up, I usually allow an extra five minutes for a tiebreaker, and if no one votes, I roll for the tiebreaker.I always try to incorporate (and encourage!) write-ins if they don't violate the spirit of voted decisions, though I may edit or tweak them to fit better.
Craft moves through the lounge as swift as she can, the silver head of her cane flashing in the light. Her juddering gait brings a fresh stab of guilt into your heart. You’d probably saved her life, but you also know that you might be the reason for her injuries in the first place. Despite the roughness of her walk, you can still see the grace and poise she’d always been blessed with, her long, jet black hair catching the redness of the light around her to appear almost purple.You catch her good eye, the other covered with a silky black patch before you turn back to face the bottles behind the bar.Sheila stops beside you and eases herself onto the barstool next to yours.“A drink before bed, Sparks?” she asks. Her face is blank, betraying nothing.“Just thirsty,” you say and sip again to emphasize this.“Just a beer,” she says to the barkeep who slides her a frosty brown glass bottle. “I just signed the contract with the Guatemalan government. It’s not much all things considered, but it’ll pay for our transit down the coast, or even the canal if you want.”You shake your head, “The Pacific coast will have less competition for jobs. We go through the Carribean and we’ll have to deal with mercs based stateside.”“Stay the course then,” Craft agrees, drinking from her bottle a moment. “The newbies are getting up to speed quickly. Dubois is pushing them hard.”“Yeah,” you swirl the ice in your glass and study the way the liquid moves. “She gave me a report. She’ll get them in shape. A couple of hoodrats and a washup army vet. It’s not ideal.”“We can always grab some more pilots when we hit Panama City,” Craft suggests.You shrug and let your eyes wander to your Executive Officer. She’d been your wingmate once, one of the best, before Russian guns had broken her in Cameroon. She wears all black, a form-fitting jumpsuit, no rank or other insignia that would give away her importance in the organization. After Barnake she’d been offered a sizable retirement package you know, the same one offered to all Edgeline employees seriously injured in the line of duty. She’d refused and instead been transferred to the administrative side of things, a role she excelled at, working her way up to serve as the Old Man’s right hand, and then yours.Not bad for a suburban California girl, she would say.Craft notices you staring. “Alright, Sparks?”>Just noticing how nice you look, Sheila.>Just thinking about the past. How far we’ve come.>Tell me more about this mission you’ve got us.>Write in
>>3558989>>Just noticing how nice you look, Sheila.man the tension between these two is just too much, how come they never jumped each other?
>>3558989>Just noticing how nice you look, Sheila.Let's see where this takes us, we didn't come to a bar to talk about work anyway.
Sheila sits on your right, a carefully calculated move you’re sure, her ‘good side’ toward you, the patch and the scars it only half covered hidden on the other side of her face. “Just noticing how nice you look,” you say, flashing a confident grin.Sheila doesn’t visibly react, her eye darts to glance at you side long before she sips her beer again and turns to give you a guarded look. “You should see what it looks like under here,” she taps her eye patch, finger tracing a scar that crosses her cheekbone.“I can’t imagine it will change anything,” you say, grinning wider.She looks away from you and back to stare blankly at the bottles behind the bar. “You’ve had too much to drink.” Her tone is neutral, impossible to read.“Why don’t I be the judge of that?” you suggest.Sheila says nothing and drinks again.“What’s the matter,” you ask, teasing, “left speechless?”“At your lack of professional tact,” she returns without missing a beat.“This is a bar, Sheila.”“I thought it was a classy one.”“On Fortuna? You’re deluding yourself.”She looks at you again, her good eye sparkling a deep blue, reminding you of the sea. “I don’t think it’s me that’s deluded.”You feign being hurt, “What, you don’t really think anything’s changed do you?”“It’s been-”“Almost ten years,” you reply, “Of working together. You haven’t changed a bit in my eyes.” God, maybe you have had too much to drink.For once, Sheila hitches, seemingly at a loss before she says, “I have to see a lot more of myself than you do. I don’t think you’re the best judge of these things.”You don’t have a chance to reply before she presses on, her subtly frazzled composure smoothing away to match her placid voice.(1/2)
“Razor picked up Dusty by the way,” Craft continues, referencing the special forces infantry team you employed who pulled double duty as ship-board security when not on a mission.You groan, “Oh, Jesus. What did he do now?”Sheila, to her credit, keeps a straight face. “He was forcibly removed from ‘The End’ when he got belligerent with the staff there. Then he was reported for defacing a piece of entertainment equipment- a jukebox-” she explains, “When Razor found him he was headed for the family housing deck where he tried to start an altercation with the team. He was arrested and put in the brig to sleep it off.”That was a lot for one man to get up to in just a few hours. You snort. It wasn’t unusual in this line of work to deal with hotheads or loose cannons. Dusty was different in that he seemed to be a man hell-bent on finding a good time, even if it killed him.“Is everyone alright?” you ask.“No injuries reported,” Craft says, “The Jukebox is out of commission though.”Shaking your head you say, “Dock his pay for the cost.”“Already done.” You should have known that much.>I’ll visit Dusty tomorrow morning when he’s sobered up>Dusty needs to get his shit together sooner rather than later>I can’t say I’m surprised. Maybe we need to buy him a tracking collar.>Write in
>>3559072>I can’t say I’m surprised. Maybe we need to buy him a tracking collar.Like a couple talking about beligerant kids
>>3559074>I can’t say I’m surprised. Maybe we need to buy him a tracking collar.>I’ll visit Dusty tomorrow morning when he’s sobered upmaybe...
>>3559074She avoided it with work, time to lighten the mood.
>>3559110>>3559074>I can’t say I’m surprised. Maybe we need to buy him a tracking collar.
You were too young to be a parent, a responsible one anyway, but you felt that way nonetheless. “I’m not exactly surprised,” you say, contemplating getting another drink, “Maybe we need to get him a tracking collar.”“A shock collar might do him better,” Craft says, shifting in her seat, wincing slightly as she adjusts her left leg. “We can’t have him blowing his top every time we come back from a mission. But . . . “She left the next part unsaid, you had no trouble voicing it. “We need his experience.”Sheila nods.“Right. I think sleeping it off in the brig might help out. That and a nice long port stay somewhere.”“Panama,” Craft says.It was likely the only major port city capable of handling a ship like Fortuna for a while at least, and something of a free-market paradise. Or hell. “Panama,” you agree, subtly wincing at the thought of all the paychecks you’d blown there in your younger days.“Dusty will grow up,” you add.“Or he won’t,” Craft says, her words reminding you that not everyone on this ship would live to see old age. A workplace hazard.“Yeah,” you say, mood souring. You startle as Sheila lays a hand on your shoulder, her eye flicking between yours. “Don’t worry about it, Andrew.”“Hard not to,” you say when you collect yourself, looking away from her face. “Like you always say, everyone dies.”“Eventually,” she says, “Yeah, but they don’t have to die young.”You’d seen so many guys die young in Germany during the war, others still in Edgeline. “Right.”She squeezes your shoulder, her fingers sending a chill down your back before she lets go. “You didn’t let me,” she says, so softly you think for a moment you imagined it. Glancing up at the clock behind the bar she sighs. “I have to get up early to go over some budget reports,” she says, “Goodnight, Sparks.”>Maybe you’d like some company tonight?>You and I should grab dinner tomorrow>Night, Sheila.>Write in
>>3559135>You and I should grab dinner tomorrow, and uh, go over the reports
>>3559135>>You and I should grab dinner tomorrow
>>3559135>You and I should grab dinner tomorrowMaybe walk with her, the night should be nice
“Sheila,” you say, laying a hand on her forearm as she reaches for her cane, “What about dinner tomorrow? You and I?”She raises an eyebrow at you.“We could go over some reports.”“Is that really what you want to do?”“Dinner? Yes. Reports? No.”She smiles. You feel blessed with a rare gift. “Dinner?”“You’re a smart woman, Sheila, don’t make me repeat myself.” You smile back.“Dinner. Okay. Yes.” She’s trying desperately to reign in her smile. “Just keep it professional, okay?”“When have I ever been unprofessional?”She leans in close, so close you could lean in and kiss her. “Every day of your life, Sparks.” Craft straightens up and grips her cane, thumb resting on the Latin motto. “I resent your implications,” you say, also standing. “Do you mind if I walk with you? It’s a nice night.”“It’s eighty Fahrenheit and humid,” she says.“I think I’ll manage.”Sheila shrugs, “Suit yourself.”The two of you step out of the bar, headed for the crew quarters.***Morning came soon to you. Life on a ship was never easy, or so you’d heard, but living in such close proximity meant everyone was slaved to one another’s schedules on a ship that never slept.“You up, Reznick?” Kilkirk asks, getting up from the lower berth on the bunk you shared.“Yeah, man,” you say groggily.Granted, things weren’t much better in the slums of Seattle, packed in like sardines to overcrowded and deteriorating tenement buildings, but at least there was shit to do.You’d heard that married personnel who opted to bring their families along got quarters more or less to themselves. Shame you're not the marrying type.You join the other guys starting the morning shift with a shower and a shave before shuffling to the mess hall to grab some so-so breakfast. Sausage, scrambled eggs, and toast with jam. Kilkirk was pretty much at your side all the time now, though he wasn’t any less quiet. From time to time he would make inane small talk, but mostly he kept his thoughts to himself.“Briefing today,” he says while you finish breakfast.“Yeah?”Kilkirk nods, shoveling the last bite of eggs into his mouth. “Dubois told me. Sounds like Saber team is heading out.”(1/2)
Saber Team. Dubois’s old unit, the veteran assault team on the ship and the rockstars as it were. You’d watched their combat footage and training data. They were certainly impressive, what real, well-trained mercs operated like. Your own team was shaky at best. You operated as one, you and Kilkirk were getting more accustomed to each other’s styles, but even so, you were separate individuals really just following the same basic plan, not a team, not like Saber.“What’s the job?” you ask.He shrugs, “We’re by Central America. Probably some kind of junta thing. Drug running. Dunno.”You look around the mess hall as it fills with Fortuna’s complement and crew. Pilots, technicians, administrators, some civilians, all mingling together. One of the Saber team guys, you think his name is Redford, is eating alone.The pilots of the support team sit together, each of them identifiable by the stylized vulture tattoo on their shoulders. They seem to get along well, talking, laughing, joking.Scythe team hardly ever did anything together.Dubois ate alone, a woman straddling two worlds, the current leader of a team of newbies and the old member of the premier mech team on the ship. You hadn’t had much opportunity to talk with her or to get to know your team lead, though it was apparent that she didn’t think much of your background.Toxic was another loner, she’d talked a bit with Dubois or Kilkirk from time to time, but mostly kept to herself. She’d made no effort to interact with yo save leers, glares, mocking winks, and half-hidden scowls. She definitely hated your guts and it wasn’t exactly clear why. The easy guess is that as another bit of street trash from the Seattle FTZ she was a part of a rival gang and carried over that old bad blood.Kilkirk lay his silverware down with a clatter, “I was going to hit the simulators before the briefing. I’ve got them set up for some local scenarios. You’re welcome to come.”>Sure, I could use the practice>Another time, I think I’ll catch up with Dubois>I was actually planning on trying to make peace with Toxic first>Write in
>>3559187shit, should we try to at least know why the girl hates our guts before we are deployed and try to avoid being shot from behind?
>>3559187>>I was actually planning on trying to make peace with Toxic first
>>3559187>I was actually planning on trying to make peace with Toxic firstIf this goes quickly we can catch up with him on the simulator later
>>3559187>Another time, I think I’ll catch up with Dubois
>I was actually planning on trying to make peace with Toxic first>Writing
You look from Kilkirk over toward where Toxic sat, easy to pick out from her neon green mohawk. “I was thinking I might try to find out why Rainbow Brite wants me dead.”Kilkirk follows your gaze. “What, Collins? She’s just some punk kid, probably weighs ninety pounds soaking wet.” He seems genuinely disdainful.“It’s the underdogs you have to look out for,” you say knowingly. “Still, I’d rather only have her guns in my face in simulations, dig?”Your wingmate shrugs, “Sure. Catch up later if you want.” He leaves ’if you survive’ left unsaid.“Right,” you feel your mouth dry as you look at Toxic again, eating her breakfast peacefully while reading some kind of magazine folded over in her left hand. You toss your trash and snake through the cafeteria toward your squadmate. Upon getting closer you see that the magazine she’s reading is some kind of comic book, strangely sexualized robotic humanoids were fighting in a nuclear wasteland. As you look from the book back to her face, you see her eyes as they meet yours, an olive green, darker than the shade of her hair but just about perfect for the fatigues a lot of ground crew on this ship wore. Her eyes were ringed with dark circles, makeup, applied heavy and without much care. Oh god, she looks pissed.You sit down across from her, a stupid half smile on your face, impudence in the face of hate.“Good book?” you ask.She looks at the magazine and back to you, flipping it closed and tossing it on the table between the two of you. Howling Metal the cover proclaims in bold, chrome lettering, emblazoned above an apocalyptic red sky and an American soldier in heavy NBC combat gear toting a machine gun. An illustration of the war you think.“Salright,” She says.There is a heavy pause.“We haven’t had much chance to talk.”“We’ve had a lot of chances I think,” she returns.“Harsh,” you say automatically. “I think we’ve got a lot more in common than not, it’s pretty fucked to like, be at each other’s throats.”“You think that’s what I want?” she smirks, “That I want to be at your throat?”Actually . . . the idea doesn’t sound that bad. You push the thought aside. “You rolled with a gang, right?”“South Warsaw Sinners,” she says, not missing a beat. “And you’re a Diamond Shark.”The Sinners. Yikes. That was bad blood. “Yeah. Was.”She frowns mockingly at you, “Aw. You’re putting that behind you?”You remember the vibration that ran up your arms when you broke a Sinner’s skull with a baseball bat not far from South Warsaw street. “Yeah.”“Fucking tough,” she says. “I’m not going to forget the bullshit you assholes pulled.”>It’s not like the Sinners were blameless, you guys started shit too.>We’re a team now, let’s try to make a new start, huh?>What do I have to do to prove that I’m on your side now?>Write in
>>3559324>We're not in gangs anymore though, we're in a team now. We need to leave blood feuds and rivalries behind if we don't want to die.If she won't get rid of her grudge appeal to practicality.
>>3559324>It’s not like the Sinners were blameless, you guys started shit too.>We’re a team now, let’s try to make a new start, huh?You and I know we were not hero types and innocent kids playing around, we did what we have, and you did what you have, that place was not easy.
>>3559324why did you get out, was it just money?tell ours toohow about we meet at the sim later, we can go at each other there without fucking up our new life, I'd like to prove I'm on your side now, we'll need that when we are out there
>>3559428Another thing, do we have any visible markings? If we don't how does she know what gang we were from, did she see us before?
>>3559445>VisibleYou have a tattoo, but it's not visibleIt's possible she has seen you before, or otherwise recognizes you, though she hasn't said so. The Diamond Sharks were a pretty well-known group in the FTZ. You guys stood out so it stands to reason you have 'the look'.
“It’s not like you guys didn’t start plenty of shit,” you retort. “You didn’t call yourselves the fucking ‘saints’.”She points an accusing finger in your face, “Watch it, fuckhead! Talk shit and-”You hold up a placating hand, “Whoa, babe, you got it wrong.”She rankles at ‘babe’ but does not interrupt.“What I’m saying is: we’re not on the streets anymore. We’re a team now. Let’s leave the blood feud in the gutter, huh? It’s a war out there, there’s no faster way to get wasted than if your buddy has a knife in your back, right?”“It’s not me who should be worried about their back,” she says.“Yo, chill, alright? I know that you’re not the hero type, I’m sure as hell not either, but we weren’t just kids.” You lower your hands and drop your guard a bit, enough to show her you’re serious, “We did what we had to. I did and I’m sure you did too.” Recognition of the truth flashes in her eyes.“It wasn’t an easy place growing up. I got the scars to prove it.”She snorts, “No shit.”You decide to try to ply her for a bit more info, “I came out here to get away from all that bullshit. The Sharks, that’s not who I am anymore. I mean, you left too, are you running? Do you want the cash?”“I make in a month,” she says, “What I used to boost in a year,” she replies. “Hell yeah, I want the money. But I also want the fucking respect. You know what people see when they see us right?”You do, but you don’t stop her.“Fucking trash. A lost fucking generation. ‘Moral decay’,” she adds in her best TV announcer voice. “Fine. They can give me shit, but they’re going to do it while looking down the fucking barrel of a big ass gun.”“Well you know I don’t look down at you,” you say.Toxic laughs. It’s not a nice laugh, it’s full of malice and empty humor. “Right. You’re the fucking worst part. You’re a goddamn embarrassment. You’re everything I wanted to get away from. Some jumped up ‘roid boy with a bunch of gang ink and a piece shoved in his pants. Why the fuck would I want to be seen with someone like you?”“Yeah, you’ve definitely cleaned up real well,” you reply, glancing over her ‘warpaint’.“Fuck you,” she replies.(1/2)
People are starting to cast looks your way, nervous ones. The two gang bangers are butting heads.“What I mean is,” you grit your teeth and call on all of your decorum, “We’re in the same fucking boat, okay? So can you please take your goddam medicine and relax?”Toxic actually seems to try to do that. The chilling part, not the medicine part. She leans back in her chair, exhaling slowly until she’s rocked back comfortably, one arm draped over the back of the chair, breathing softly.“You’re a real son of a bitch, Reznick,” she says.You grin, “Yeah, I get that. Look, how about we meet at the sims later? You want to put some holes in me right? Well, we can go at each other there without fucking up our new life, I'd like to prove I'm on your side now, we'll need that when we are out there.”Toxic considers your offer. “You know I basically grew up in those right?”“Simulators?”She nods. “Mobile arcade in Oxbow park-”“Oh shit,” your face lights up, “Yeah, I remember that one. Had that fucked up cabinet of uh . . . ““Wizard’s Castle,” she says. “It ate your quarters.”“Yeah! Oh man,” You smile at the memory, briefly wondering why you didn’t play more games there before recalling one or two parking lot scuffles with the Sinners. Oh right, it was their turf.“Yeah, real nostalgia-inducing,” Toxic says, voice laden with sarcasm, “Let me finish my mag and I’ll be up.”This time her voice was loaded with slightly less vitriol than when you started this conversation. Progress.>It’s cool, I can wait on you.>So is it really that good? The book I mean.>Yep, see ya there.>Write in
>>3559502>>So is it really that good? The book I mean.ask to borrow the previous onesthen we>Yep, see ya there.
>>3559502>So is it really that good? The book I meanThat did not went that bad.
>>3559502>>Yep, see ya there.
You stand to leave and stop, studying the book she’s reading again, “So is it really that good?”Toxic looks up at you, clearly wondering what you’re still doing there. “I mean . . . yeah. If you like zombies and people dying and shit.”That sounds okay to you. “Sure.”“Then yeah, it’s good.”Someone’s face is melting off on the page she’s reading.“Do you have any other issues?”“What am I a fucking library?” she gives you a hard look, “I guess? Yeah. In my stuff.”“Do you have one I could borrow?”She rolls her eyes. “Look, why don’t we pretend to be besties after I’ve gotten to kill you a couple times, huh?”You snort, “Fine. Jesus.” You are reminded why you never dated many girls where you grew up for long. “See you at the sims.”“Uh huh.”***That’s it for my time! Thanks for playing guys and I will see you next Thursday, 7 EST (11UTC).https://twitter.com/TimeKillerQMhttps://discord.gg/WMEDDgX
>>3559579thanks for running
>>3559579Thanks for running QM.
>>3559586>>3559836Always a pleasure guys!
Feels like pure shit. Just want starships and Force rape back x
>>3559579Thanks for running!
You wipe the sweat from your brow and grasp the slick, rubberized control sticks of the Mech simulator cockpit. You'd been sparring with Toxic and Kilkirk for nearly two hours now. Kilkirk was talented enough, but Toxic was the one you had to watch for. Depressing your foot pedals, you March your Ozelot a few more titanic paces forward to the Crest of a low hill, feeling the simulated gait of the mech change as it struggles uphill.What had once been softly rolling farmland had been churned to ruin by war. You don't recognize the battlefield, but you imagine it was somewhere in Europe.Reaching the peak, you survey the countryside, orchards, and clumps of trees dotted the open spaces. No sign of another mech."Where are you?" You whisper to yourself, all too aware that your opponent sits just a few meters away in another simulator. "Just one more kill."It was all tied up. Toxic had killed you once and you'd taken her out as well. Whoever synched this one was going to get some major bragging rights.You'd quickly learned that despite her fiery personality, Toxic was more prone to well-thought strategies and ambushes before unleashing a relentless assault to leave her opponents off guard.You favored stand-off tactics and fire superiority.A quiet trill in your headset draws your attention to a series of mech tracks, footprints, leading through a muddy bottom, across a field and down a dirt track toward a small farming hamlet.They're not your tracks, you haven't been down that way yet, but it's clear Toxic has."Decisions, decisions."This might be bait for a trap, but it might be simply the clearly broadcast movement path of an opponent. Time is of the essence if she's simply on the move, otherwise, you could be walking into a trap.>Follow the tracks into town>Take an alternate route to town>Circle the village and see if there's any sign of a mech.>Write in
>>3573256>Circle the village and see if there's any sign of a mech.
>>3573256>>Circle the village and see if there's any sign of a mech.
>>3573256>Take an alternate route to town
>>3573256>>Take an alternate route to town
After a moment of hesitation, you throttle up again, peeling off from the path through the mud and instead setting a wide orbit of the town, taking yourself along the slope of the surrounding hills so you can peer down in and look for a target.After you pass through the cover of a tangle of woods, branches and foliage snapping across your hull, you get a good visual on the town, compact but large. The town center seems dominated by a number of high rise buildings and shops, just a few stories tall, as well as a church steeple sheared away by gunfire at some point.It seemed like a good place to lay an ambush, you would be money that Toxic was in there, hidden among those buildings waiting to drop a killing shot against you. You slow your pace, moving in a wide circuit around town, tracking your weapons from building to building.Thermals turned up nothing, too much reflected heat from the cement and stone of the town, parked cars were scattered across the streets adding to the confusion.The cockpit spins around you and your stomach drops out from the glancing impact of a shell striking your glacis plate. She’d seen you.You don’t have a clear visual but spray a stream of armor piercing slugs from your rotary cannon across the town, tracers flashing and bouncing high into the air. You’re already backpedaling as fast as your mech will go, moving for the relative cover of the trees if you can just-You take another glancing blow, this one across the shoulder of your mech, right past the head assembly. At this range, your armor was enough to deflect these glancing blows, but a dead-on shot would likely be fatal.“There!” You spot a telltale wisp of smoke from a gun muzzle across the small valley the village nestled in. Toxic’s mech squats on the edge of a hedgerow near a farmhouse, in a good position to fire on the village, and you in this case. She’s definitely got the drop on you. If you withdraw now you risk losing her again, but standing and firing was a game of chicken and a risk, gambling your gunnery skills against hers.>Stay and take the shot>Withdraw and circle back>Write in
>>3573347>>Stay and take the shotplay to our strengths, we are not a mover we are a shooter
>>3573347>>Withdraw and circle back
>>3573347>>Stay and take the shot
>>3573347>Stay and take the shot
You were gonna play this game by your rules. Toxic was better than you at a few things, target practice wasn’t one of them. Exhaling, you bring your crosshairs up and onto the hazy blob that was Toxic.A pair of shells whistles overhead, digging furrows into the soft earth behind you before detonating. Her last chance.You stroke the trigger twice.A hit, square on.It’s not a clean kill, but her mech loses balance and topples over into the hedgerow, sparking a fire in the brush there before the simulation fades out. You inhale again, feeling the heady rush of victory. The sensation sticks with you as you remove the headset and neurohalo and exit the cockpit.“Hey, nice work man,” Kilkirk says, somewhere between bored and entertained.Toxic exits her own simulator across from you. She’s clearly pissed.“Hey, good fighting,” you say, failing to keep a shit-eating grin from your face.“Easy to say when you fucking won,” she returns cooly, “I don’t think I heard anything like that when I killed your ass.”You can’t help but grin wider. “Yeah well . . . “ It’s true.She seems to be making an effort to calm down at least. “You’re ballsy though. Didn’t expect any less from a Seattle street punk though I guess.”“Aw, Toxic, you’re making me blush.”From the corner of your eye, you see Kilkirk stiffen up and you glance over your shoulder to see Genevive Dubois, your team leader, enter the simulator room. “What’s going on here?”“Training, ma’am,” Kilkirk responds automatically.“Don’t fucking ma’am me,” she retorts. “This is not the god damned army.” “Y-yes,” Kilkirk returns awkwardly.“Training,” Dubois continues, turning to you, “And you have learned something then, yes?”>What a good shooter I am (+1 Gunnery)>Spotted some weaknesses and shored them up (+1 piloting)
>>3573408>>What a good shooter I am (+1 Gunnery)
>>3573408>>Spotted some weaknesses and shored them up (+1 piloting)we will need to move eventually
>>3573408>Spotted some weaknesses and shored them up (+1 piloting)Not to brag
>>3573408>Spotted some weaknesses and shored them up (+1 piloting)
>>3573408>>Spotted some weaknesses and shored them up (+1 piloting)
>Spotted some weaknesses and shored them up (+1 piloting)>writing
“Just polishing away my flaws, boss,” you say with a grin.“Be careful, Reznick,” Dubois replies, mirroring your smile, “Do that too much and there won’t be any of you left.”This elicits a genuine laugh from Toxic, but only dings your ego slightly. “I’ll be sure to leave enough that I fit in with the rest of the team,” you say.The back sass seems to please her, her hard expression softens at you, just a bit. Something approaching friendly. “C'est bon. Come. We have a briefing to get to.”***You slump into a plush chair in the near-empty pilot ready room. The high back and sturdy armrests put you in mind of a fighter’s cockpit, or maybe an older-style mech crash couch.Kilkirk sits parallel to you, just a pair of seats away, pad and pen in hand, ready to take notes. You wonder if you should have also been so prepared. With some scrounging in the seat back in front of you, you fish out a pencil nub and scrap of paper. It’ll have to do.Toxic sits a few seats back from the two of you, in a row her own while Dubois moves purposefully down the center aisle to the front of the room, turning on heel to survey her small team, her braid swinging like a pendulum before coming to a stop.Dubois looks between the three of you in turn. When her brown eyes meet yours, you’re struck by the fact that they seem too soft for her demeanor. Dubois was an attractive woman by any standards, and it just made you wonder all the more how she ended up in a job like this. “Saber Team is already en route to the target,” Dubois says, sparing no time for pleasantries. She indicates the map on the rear wall, a collection of TV monitors working in concert to display a fuzzy monochromatic map of the area. “This is a simple job, Guatemala needs us to take out a heavily armed band of smugglers operating over the Mexican border. We also need to operate quickly without Mexico getting involved. That means-” she says, “No fire support, no planes, no nothing that might alert them to what it is we are doing in their country.”“If those other guys are already on the way,” Toxic says, “Then what the fuck are we doing?”“We,” Dubois says, staring hard at Toxic, “Are to be on standby. Should Saber be unable to finish their mission then it is up to us.” Her tone makes that perfectly clear how likely she thinks that is.“It should be us out there,” Toxic continues. “It’s bullshit that we have to sit this one out. Any half-ass merc group can knock over smugglers.”Dubois says nothing, but her face remains defiant.>She’s right, when are we going to get a chance to show that we can fight?>Toxic, we’ll get our chance. Chill.>Say nothing.>Write in
>>3573463>>Toxic, we’ll get our chance. Chill.calm down damn
>>3573463Write in"Hey Toxic, this is one of those "what could possibly go wrong?" kind of situations, I bet 2 days pay we are going to see some action."
>>3573489kekyeah, shit's gonna go down.
>Say nothing.>>3573471>>3573482>Toxic, we’ll get our chance. Chill.>>3573476>Write in>>3573489>Say nothing.Writing
You sigh inwardly and cross your arms, determined not to get between Toxic and whatever the current target of her inward rage is. Besides, you have a feeling you won’t be on the sidelines for this one.“Anyone else have any cute comments?” Dubois asks, answered only by silence. “Then you know what we’re doing. I expect you will remain mission-ready until we are cleared. Questions?”Toxic shifts in her seat but says nothing.“Dismissed.”***“Sparks,” Redford says, his voice buzzing in your ear, “We’re clear.”You resist the urge to look over your shoulder to double check that three other mechs had, in fact, emerged from the inky black surf on the coast behind you. There was a lot about this mission that you didn’t like. The task and target were simple enough, but the complications made it . . . complicated. With no heavy fire support, you were constrained in what weapons you could bring to bear, though against a band of hopped-up smugglers you didn’t expect too much of a fight. The bigger concern was your own team.“Saber Three, Saber Four, move up from the beach and get eyes on the town,” you say, glancing at your minimap display, wondering what “Gancho” means. “I don’t want any surprises before we move inland.”“Copy.”“Affirmative lead,” Saber Three, Rookwood replies. She was a member of Halberd Team, your fire support unit, but she was competent enough in the cockpit to act in the assault role. At least, you hoped.Dusty was also here, probably your best pilot with Dubois serving as team lead for Scythe, though he was more subdued than usual, likely from the night spent in the brig. That left Redford, previously your rookie, now he was expected to step things up.With the team spreading out and Dusty doing overwatch, you spare a moment to study the map of the area. El Gancho, the largest town in the vicinity likely wouldn’t prove to be a problem. The smugglers were based further inland according to intel and would likely not be expecting this attack, assuming you could keep the element of surprise.The terrain here is flat and open, a coastal plain, scattered with villages and vineyards, not much in the way over cover. You’d have to get closer to the smuggler’s base before you made any more in-depth tactical choices, but first you had to decide how you’d approach. A roadway led straight to their reported position, a quick path, but one they’d likely watch. Granted, it also gave them less time to prepare if you moved fast.There was also a river nearby and you were more than capable of moving up the river to avoid prying eyes and hit without warning, but it would take you significantly longer to reach the target sight, probably arriving close to daylight.>Travel by road>Travel by river
>>3573559>>Travel by river
>>3573559>Travel by river
>>3573559>Travel by roadWe're supposed to do this job quickly, and they're not expecting us
>>3573559>Travel by riverWe don't know how far ahead they watch the road, we may lose the element of surprise
>>3573559>>Travel by road
>Travel by river>>3573563>>3573591>>3573616>Writing
Not wanting to risk being spotted prematurely, you opt to travel up the river, moving against the current. Traveling in the dark on uncertain ground is slow going, but you maintain a steady pace, creeping further inland, an eye on your minimap display until you get as close to the final target site as you can.After a final weapons check, you move your team out of the shallow river, your mech’s feet claw up the bank and onto dry land, stomping forward in the night. “Target spotted,” Saber Three says, nervous fear edging her voice. “Copy, stay put,” you look away from your map and move up the final few paces to where Rookwood’s mech is crouched, inching up beside her to peer across an open field to a small village.“They’re in the town looks like,” Redford says, “Two mechs, a couple armored cars, technicals. A real party.”The town is lit by electric light and even without the aid of your night vision or thermals you can see people moving about, a lot of people, it looks almost like a party. Zooming in, you see armed smugglers moving around, watching. “They’re using the civilians as a shield,” Dusty says, his tone making it clear what he thinks of that.“We can take out some of those bigger assets easy enough,” Redford replies, “Even at this range.”“What are the chances of misfires?” you ask, “Collateral damage?”“It’s a significant risk, sir,” Rookwood replies.You grit your teeth and think about what Sheila would tell you in these circumstances. Shooting up a Mexican town was a good way to get blacklisted from working for them, at least for a long while. This job was shady enough that you weren’t sure how they would react to that.“We might be able to lure them out Dusty says, “Pop a few rounds over the town and move south, Three and Four can pick off anything pursuing us.”It was a risky strategy, one that would put your people in harm's way, but it also afforded the villagers here the best chance at saving their town.>We’ll risk the town, take out the smugglers>Dusty and I will draw them out, Three and Four, take them out when they are clear>Write in
>>3573658>We’ll risk the town, take out the smugglers
>>3573658>Dusty and I will draw them out, Three and Four, take them out when they are clear
>Dusty and I will draw them outWriting
You’re momentarily reminded of Barnake as it burned, the firelight illuminating the savannah around it.“Dusty and I will draw them out. Four, be ready to blast anything that comes our way once it’s clear, copy?”“Hard copy,” Redford replies, voice solid.“Alright, Two, let's wake them up.” It goes against years of training and experience, but you miss your target, putting a brilliant rainbow of tracers over the roofs of the village, firing two drawn out bursts before turning and fleeing south at speed, enough to draw attention to you. Dusty imitates your “strike” firing a single HE shell that detonates in a vineyard on the other side of the town, igniting the vine-laden trellises.“That got them, hostiles inbound,” Redford says, “Three, watch fire, check your targets, start with the mechs and work down.”“Affirmative,” Rookwood responds.A few tracers from machineguns flash past you as you flee, pushing for the cover of a bottom in one of the nearby fields.“Civilians are fleeing the town in vehicles, do not target any trucks unless fired upon, copy?”You stop and glance back to see Dusty doing the same. A pair of US-made mechs, Wolfhounds like yours, lumber from the village, weapons zeroing in on you. They’re dead the second they step foot outside the town. Shells from Redford and a single anti-mech missile from Redford take them both out, lighting them like matches.“Scratch two!” Redford says.“Good kills,” you’re already looking for new targets and spot the wheeled APC only a second before it fires, too fast for you to get your crosshairs onto it. “Heads up!”The missile streaks out from the roof-mounted launcher and strikes Dusty’s mech in the side, exploding in a brilliant flash that lights the surrounding farmland like a lightning strike.“Watch for hostile vehicles!” You say as you drop a shell through the flank of the APC, bursting it like a rotten fruit, a fireball climbing into the lightening sky. “Two jeeps in the open, engaging!” Redford says, spraying down and unseen target with his rotary cannon.“Dusty, you-”“I’m good,” Dusty coughs, “Armor stopped it. Some cheap Soviet shit I think. My right leg is fucked up though.”“Do we need medevac?” you ask, alarmed.“Nah, my mech, man. It’s all jacked up. I can move, but slow.”You look up at the sky again, the faint purple hint in the east heralding the coming sun. “Copy, start for the shore, we’ll clean up the rest of the smugglers here. The hard stuff is done.”“Affirmative,” Dusty says.
The remaining cleanup is easy enough, half an hour of cat and mouse hunting with the remaining smugglers, most of whom abandoned their gear and fled, but some were persistent or desperate enough to try to get cute with sneak attacks.“That’s the last I think,” Redford says, he mech visible to you in the grey twilight of the pre-sunrise.“Saber Lead, this is Castle,” Sheila says, broadcasting on a secure comm channel. If she was breaking radio silence, that wasn’t good. “Copy, Castle, go ahead. What’s the bad news?”“Seems like someone blew the alarm, we’ve got intel that the Mexican army is deploying mech teams to the area, seems like they want to deliver some retribution on whoever is out here violating their sovereignty.”“So . . . us.”“I’m standing by to deploy Scythe team to secure the beach so you can evac ASAP,” Sheila’s tone is neutral, flat, but she speaks faster than normal. She’s worried.Sending Scythe in to cover you would mean open conflict with the Mexican military, a surefire way to get blacklisted. At the same time, scattering and fleeing stood the risk of losing people or equipment to government forces. You might forestall landing reinforcements and simply take your chances with a standard withdrawal, though if it came to a shooting affair you’d likely be outnumbered. Still, it might be enough to avoid a political incident.“There weren’t supposed to be any military forces in the area, Castle,” you say, exasperated.“I’d guess the smugglers had them on the payroll, otherwise Intel missed it.”“I am firing that whole department when I get back,” You say.>We can’t risk an incident, scatter and flee>We won’t escalate this, but weapons are free your lives are more valuable. We’ll have to do our best.>Send Scythe team to the beach, they can cover our retreat, Guatemala can deal with the consequences.>write in
>>3573769>Send Scythe team to the beach, they can cover our retreat, Guatemala can deal with the consequences.Shit's fucked, important thing now is to not lose people and mechs
>>3573769>Send Scythe team to the beach, they can cover our retreat, Guatemala can deal with the consequences.Fuck
>>3573784>>3573815>Send Scythe***I'm going to stop here for the night. Episode 3 will start next Thursday at 7 EST (11 UTC)Thanks for playing guys! Be sure to drop by the Discord or follow on twitter for updates.https://twitter.com/TimeKillerQMhttps://discord.gg/WMEDDgX
>>3573842Thanks for running
>>3573842Thanks for running!
>>3573842Nice time. Also when will we read howling steel.
>>3573850>>3573850>>3573853Thanks for playing!>>3573853>Howling MetalIf you can ever get Toxic to loan you a copy, or find one yourself.
>>3574309I knew I was getting it wrong.