Part 20: Session 018: Cali-Cantinos
Session 018: Cali-Cantinos
Day 30, 1549
"Hey, it's the gringo what was asking about the Kerano kid. What do you want?"
To translate further, if you leave the immediate area ("immediate" being in this case about 50 feet) with the pistol, Nuñez, de Castigo, and all the other miners go hostile and the mission is a wash.
I turned the pistol over in my hands, acting out my part. It had a LAM* and suppressor on it, just as de Castigo said it would. It was a .45, just as Scotch's USP had been.
*High-speed acro-speak for "laser aiming module."
I looked up at Nuñez, who was watching his pistol like a hawk. It obviously did mean a lot to him.
"So..." I said casually, lowering the gun to my side.
"...you killed a man with his own pistol? I wonder what that's like."
In an instant, I raised the pistol to Nuñez's head, the laser's dot kissing him goodbye. He didn't even have time to realize I wasn't joking around.
The suppressor was a good one; all that was heard was the click of the bolt and the miniscule clink of the casing hitting the ground. I looked at my team, and none of them had tensed up, which meant that nobody had seen. LvK was grinning unevenly, her right shoulder and bicep having caught some of the spray from the back of Nuñez's head.
"It's all warm," she whispered. "Fuckin' wicked."
I wiped the pistol clean of my fingerprints with my shirt, setting it down on the ground near Nuñez's right hand. Since the entry wound was square to the front, I turned the USP inward, as though he had pulled the trigger with his thumb.
"Let's scram," I said. "Wait for me at the GAZ. I'm going to tell de Castigo that the deed is done."
Inside the warehouse, de Castigo accepted the news of Nuñez's death.
"All things told, he was a good man," he said. "He fought bravely during the civil war, but I suppose he lost the stomach for struggle somewhere along the way."
"His body is by some shipping containers," I said. "I made it look like a suicide."
"Marco here will 'happen' upon his corpse and report it to the police," he replied, gesturing to his assistant. "They will ask questions, but they know not to ask too many questions of us miners. The police here let us handle our own affairs. We will tell them it was a suicide and they will believe it."
"Whatever," I said. "I'll be on my way. I'll tell Tanya that you're her lieutenant in Ciudad de Oro now."
I turned to leave, but de Castigo stopped me. "Mercenario! You have shown you are a man willing to get his hands dirty, and I too have labors in the name of revolution. Whenever you pass through, please come see me, and I will pay you well for your time."
I nodded, my hand on the doorknob. "I'll keep that in mind, thanks."
This is a "universal" LAM, meaning it'll fit on many different weapons that make use of a rail system. Lasers slightly shave down aiming time, but can also potentially warn an enemy that he's being aimed at, especially at night.
My team got down to business swatting away mosquitos while I spoke to Tanya about her new direct subordinate in Ciudad de Oro.
"It is my hope that Victor serves us better than Pedro did," she said. "With him in place, as well as my other agents, I can begin to revamp operations in the so-called 'protected zone' Defensa is so proud of."
I cleared my throat, and Tanya smiled at me, tossing me a stack of bills held together with a rubber band.
"The revolution is growing," she said. "If my comrades need help elsewhere, do not hesitate to lend them your gun."
I knew what she meant, but I couldn't help think about the situation I'd just left with Nuñez lending me his gun. "de Castigo has already hinted that he has work for me," I said.
She nodded. "I tell you now, we have a supply line up from Palinero. Money, food, and weapons pass right under the noses of Defensa's bootlicks in Fort Alesa. The arms dealers in Cali-Cantinos have much better stock than what you have probably seen so far. You should see what they can get for you, mercenario."
When I took the job of finding Fakirov, I didn't much relish the idea of being so close to Palinero, let alone returning to it, even for a short time. If Fakirov skipped the country, however, he almost certainly left through the porous southern border and into Palinero. And Cali-Cantinos was the closest waystation...
There's Cali-Cantinos, waaay down there on the other side of the mountains. The horizontal line passing through the middle of the map is the Palinero-Algeyra border. Palinero is the country in which the events of Brigade E5 took place.
"So where to now, boss?" asked Deadmeat from the back of the GAZ.
It took me a moment to respond. "We're going to stop at Fort Alesa, see if Fakirov passed on through the border. Then... then maybe we'll go to Cali-Cantinos, see what we can find there."
"We are going into Palinero?" she asked. "Will we be able to get back?"
I shrugged. "The rebels can, and they're the ones the government actually wants to keep out, so I'm sure we'll have no problems."
"That place is still a mess," said ZeeToo. "Maybe not as bad as Algeyra, but still..."
"If it's fucked up, all the better," said LvK as she chewed on her lip. "Nobody'll care if we leave our mark!"
Pip shifted in the passenger seat. "Say, girly, you, uh... you are gonna wash that blood off at some point, right?"
Day 31, 1502
Fort Alesa was positioned next to the only road still open between Algeyra and Palinero. The road was in a valley, providing a natural funnel for wheeled traffic and the perfect place for a border checkpoint. We could have driven right by, since the army didn't give two shits about people leaving the country, only people coming in, but I decided to stop and ask about Fakirov anyway. I remembered Minister Caderas mentioning that they had thrown Fakirov out on his ear after asking for political asylum, so I figured he'd be on some kind of government blacklist or something.
"Well, it looks like a fort all right," said Deadmeat after we dismounted in front of the gate. "A fort from the middle ages."
"Heh, it's got a moat and everything," added LvK.
"This won't take long," I said. "Just stay back here and try not to look like you're going to shoot up the place." I made sure to make eye contact with ZeeToo and iamsmike before leaving them.
The guards raised their rifles as I approached the honest-to-god drawbridge, and for a moment I half expected them to say "Halt, who goes there," but I was instead greeted with the more contemporary "The hell you want, gringo?"
I stopped where I was. "My name is Beacon and I was wondering if a man named Ippoli-"
"You want directions? Go north or south. Those are your options." The guard didn't speak it like a joke.
"I'm not a tourist," I said. "I'm looking for a Russian man who may have passed through here."
"Get lost," said the other guard. "Got no time for tourists."
I sighed. I wasn't going to be getting anywhere with these people for now. "Fine. Whatever. See you later."
I walked past the team, who fell in behind me and piled back into the GAZ.
"Didn't go so well, huh sonny?" asked Pip.
I shook my head. "About as useful as a sack of orange peels."
"You can put orange peels in your garden to keep slugs out," said LvK out of nowhere. Everybody looked at her while I started up the engine.
On the drive to Cali-Cantinos I swore that, if there was work further south in Palinero, I wasn't taking it.
Day 31, 1756
Pip shut the passenger-side door and unslung his shotgun as he looked around. "So this is Cali-Cantinos? Seems pretty nice."
"It's a smuggling town now, mostly," I said. "With all the chaos going on from two years ago, it's about the most prosperous place left in Palinero, which is why we're here. We're here for work, and to make sure my guy didn't skip the country. Nothing else."
"You just let us know when people need deadin', boss." LvK's expression of support was comforting, very comforting.
There weren't any patrons in the bar, but the bartender had heard about some local errands that needed running.
"Gustav Gelding?" The name sounded odd. I didn't want to wind up visiting the one porn studio in Palinero just so I could ask one of the actors if he needed anybody shot at.
The bartender leaned on the side of the liquor shelf. "He owns a... pawn shop a few blocks from here. Follow this street east. You'll know it when you see it."
I thanked him and stepped back outside, my team following me down the street. About two blocks down, I heard a voice I hadn't heard in two years.
"Well if that don't beat all."
I stopped and turned to look. "Rico?"
The short man with the ratty beard grinned and waved me over. Rico Reyes was a small-time gun runner I did some business with back in 2006. He'd set up shop in Cali-Cantinos, apparently now to closer to the action happening up in Algeyra than anyone else.
"Back for more, huh?" He laughed. "I knew you couldn't live the soft life."
"Why are you still here, Rico?" I asked. Nostalgia wasn't my forte, and Rico was more acquaintance than friend. "You're almost exactly where I left you."
"The bills don't stop coming, my man," he said. "Not all of us get our paydays in nice six-figure chunks."
"I put more than enough of that in your pocket, I remember," I said. "So what's the deal, are you still running?"
"Yeah, of course I am. I'm shit at anything else, man."
"Are you the guy supplying to Tanya Tormens's people up north?"
He shrugged. "Maybe I am. I don't exactly perform background checks, you know. They have money, I have guns, and when we're done, they have the guns and I have the money. What else do I need?"
"Got anything in your private reserve for a repeat customer?"
He grinned. "Thought you'd never ask."
The story missions have progressed a bit, so weapon selection is starting to open up anyway, but the traders in Cali-Cantinos always have a better selection than the folks up in Algeyra. Up first in Rico's shop is the Czech Skorpion machine pistol. This particular model is the vz.82, which fires 9x18mm Makarov rounds at an impressive 900 rounds per minute. It has a folding skeleton stock and makes for a truly compact bullet hose on par with the Mini Uzi.
Next up is the Russian PPSh-41 submachine gun. It went into production in World War II and became the mainstay submachine gun of the Soviet army. It fires the high-pressure 7.62x25mm Tokarev round at 900 rounds per minute from a generous 71-round drum magazine. It's a bit bulky by modern submachine gun standards, but it's still a solid performer.
Ah, the SKS. Ubiquitous, cheap, reliable. This is a Yugoslavian M59/66, complete with bayonet and M89 Zrak scope providing 2.5x magnification. It holds ten rounds of 7.62x39mm ammunition in an internal magazine. Possibly a good rifle for mercs with high Shooting skill to engage from medium-long range, but an out-and-out sniper would probably prefer a more dedicated platform.
Arguably the cornerstone piece of Rico's collection for now, this is a Swiss-made SIG SG 552. As you can see, it sports a side-folding buttstock and rail system. It's a select-fire weapon, making use of the 5.56x45mm NATO rifle round. Pretty nice.
This is a Colt CAR-15, and an extremely early flavor of CAR-15 at that-this one would have been made sometime in the mid-1960s, making it a pretty nice collector's item. It fires 5.56mm rounds and is capable of automatic fire. Chopped-barrel technology being what it was at the time, this carbine is loud and its muzzle flash is bright.
The KA-BAR is the knife of choice for the US Marine Corps. This one has a newer synthetic handle rather than the more iconic wooden handle of the World War II-era KA-BARs.
Here's a SMERSH-5 knife, the Soviet counterpart to the KA-BAR. Large and in charge, the SMERSH-5 was specialized more for fighting than the KA-BAR's more general-purpose design.
This vest, which the game calls the "WildKat," is lightweight and provides minimal protection. However, unlike our current flak jackets, it can accept a ceramic or titanium insert.
This vest provides out-of-the-box Class IIIA protection for the front of the torso, in addition to accepting inserts for the back. One bad thing about it is it's pretty heavy.
Rico also has a wide assortment of pistols, submachine guns, shotguns, and equipment we've already come across.
"It's some pretty nice stuff you've got here, Rico," I said. "I might be back later to take some of it off your hands, but right now I'm on my way to a possible job contact, so I don't have much time to chat. Have you seen this man come through Cali-Cantinos by any chance?
I held up the photo Mr. Rezvy had given me, and Rico shook his head after looking at it. "Not so far, and I see everyone who comes through here. But I'll keep an eye out for him, sure thing."
"Thanks. If you happen to hear anything, his name is Ippolit Fakirov."
"Fakirov, eh? He do something bad?"
I shrugged. "Someone with a checkbook wants him found. That's about all I care to know."
"Hah, you've gotten colder since last time," said Rico. "Not the beacon you once were, eh?"
I was already walking away. "I guess not," I said over my shoulder.
The "pawn shop" the bartender told me about was a full-blown gun store. The gun-running in Cali-Cantinos had apparently gotten so profitable that some of the bigger fish enjoyed a quasi-legitimacy-only after having put lots of money where it needed to go in the community, no doubt.
My team goggled at the display of guns before them. ZeeToo got a big grin on his face, reminiscent of the one LvK had after getting a piece of Pedro Nuñez's mind.
"Heaven, I'm in heaven, and my heart beats so that I can hardly speeeeeeak," he sang quietly. I rolled my eyes and left my team to eye-fondle the hardware, approaching the man behind the counter. He had a receding hairline and was wearing a leather vest with no shirt underneath-he was either a very good gun-runner or a very poor one. Given that he had a brick-and-mortar place while guys like Rico were still doing business out on the street, I went with the former.
"Are you Mr. Gelding?" I asked. The man nodded, saying nothing.
"I'm a mercenary. I go by 'Beacon.' The bar down the street told me you were looking for someone to do some-"
"Let us save the hiring talk for a little later," said the man in a gruff, vaguely Slavic accent. "Yeah, I need something done, but first, have a look around and let me know if you are interested in anything."
I looked over my shoulder to see the team already busying themselves with that task.
Mr. Gelding's shop has quite a weapons cache! We'll start with this Chinese Type 56 rifle, which is based off of the Soviet SKS design, if you couldn't already tell. It feeds on 7.62x39mm rounds, ten at a time via internal magazine, just like most other flavors of SKS out there. Notice that this rifle has a spike bayonet, whereas the Yugoslavian SKS had a blade bayonet.
Yeah, we've already seen an M91/30 Mosin Nagant, but this one has a PU scope on it! Bolt-action snipery goodness for the potent 7.62x54R round.
Here's the M91/30's little brother, the Mosin Nagant M44. In addition to being lighter and shorter than a full-size Mosin, it also has a permanently-attached folding bayonet. Night-firing is not recommended if you're trying to stay stealthy, as this puppy puts out a hell of a muzzle flash.
This is an M14 designated marksman rifle. How am I so sure it's not an M21? Well, for one thing, the game calls it an M14 DMR, and for another thing, it has a select-fire trigger group. Comes with a generic 8x scope and detachable bipod.
The Saiga 12 graces us with its presence. It is an adaptation of the Kalashnikov receiver design for 12-gauge shotgun rounds. Detachable magazines mean this is the fastest-reloading shotgun we've seen yet. In addition, the buttstock is foldable, making it an appealing choice for Gunfighting mercs.
The Ruger Mini-14 was introduced in the 1970s as a sort-of 5.56mm version of the M14 design. It's compact, and the weight is reasonable, but it overheats faster than a Volkswagen in second gear. Its main selling point is the price.
The AN-M8 smoke grenade produced a thick, long-lasting cloud of white smoke for use as concealment during movement, signaling, or diversion. The grenade is non-lethal, but it can burn the hands if held for too long, plus prolonged inhalation of the smoke itself is a bad idea.
This tactical light operates in similar fashion to the LAM we took off of Pedro Nuñez's USP. It is a "universal" accessory, fitting on many different weapons. As you may have guessed, it puts light on your target in dark environments.
Another accessory for all different sorts of weapons, this bipod clips onto barrels and provides greater chance-to-hit for shooting done from the prone position. However, it also penalizes the weapon's Balance stat, making it slower and less accurate to fire when not prone.
Finally, a generic titanium helmet. It provides better protection from gunfire than the M1 kevlar helmet Beacon used to have.
Mercs, if you see anything you'd prefer to have, reply with your wish list and we'll see what we can do to kit you out. Keep your stats in mind!