Part 23: Session 021: Mechanic
Session 021: Mechanic
Day 32, 1142
"Not bad," I replied, "though I was wondering if you had any leads for me. Could always use more work."
Josa shrugged and shook his head. "These days I must stay secluded, sadly," he said. "Defensa has insisted to the public that I am dead, and if this is to be believed, I cannot speak with my old business contacts. Perhaps it is a blessing; my life is much simpler for it. These days the only problems I have involve two pinche brothers who buzz around my complex like flies."
I cocked my head. "Maybe you'd like them dealt with?"
He waved a chubby hand. "Small time. My own men could dispatch them in a moment. Hopefully they will take the hint and leave soon."
Now I was curious. "Who are they?"
"Jorge and Juan Castillo, thugs from Santa Maria," said Josa. "Murderers and rapists, and proud of it." He spat on the floor. "They think such things impress me. They think such things impress anybody but themselves. Always going on about the gang they were in and this family they destroyed. After the disorder from the hurricane settled down, they moved here with their assorted rabble, thinking I would take them in like some monastery for filth. Let them rot outside my gates."
Josa nodded. "A tragedy, what they did. I hear only what my men tell me, though. You should ask around closer to Santa Maria."
I thought for a moment. "I'll look into this. Thank you, Mr. Josa."
The baron shrugged. "Whatever, mercenario. Good luck out there."
"So, cap'n, what're we on the hook for now?" asked LvK.
"We're going to go to Artrigo and see if there are any prices on the heads of the Castillo brothers," I said. "If there are, well... we'll collect on them."
Deadmeat looked up. "Bounty hunting? Interesting. I wonder what it's like to have a price on your head."
"I think it'd actually be kind of flattering, you know?" said ZeeToo. "Like, someone wants you dead so badly that they're willing to pay money for it? That's pretty validating right there."
Day 32, 1618
"All right," I said to the team after we reached Artrigo, "we're only batting about 500 with the government so I think the best way to find out about bounties would be to check the bar. I'm gonna need you folks sharp so go easy on the alcohol for now."
"Wwwoooowwww!" breathed a skinny, gawking young man as we entered the bar. He pushed his gigantic glasses up on his nose as we walked by. "A genuine troupe of mercenaries! A modern-day D&D party! Oh man, this is so uber!"
I stopped next to him while everyone else went up to the bar. "Can I, er, help you?"
He looked at me for a moment, breathing through his mouth with a whistle emanating from somewhere in his throat. "Noble party leader, I am but a wandering ronin, looking for a band of heroes to which I might lend my sword!" He made an awkward, sweeping bow, nearly falling over in the process.
I took a step back and he struggled to gather himself. "N-n-no, wait! I have the skills to pay the bills! I beg of you, let me join your merry entourage!"
I looked him over, not convinced. "What combat experience have you had?" I asked, his gigantic ears starting to distract me.
"So glad you asked," he said with a snorting laugh. "I am an uber-leet sniper! I have the gold sniper badge in both Battlefield 2 and Battlefield 2142, not to mention pwning noobs on a regular basis in Call of Duty 4! I've also been a prominent stage combatant in my LARP and SCA groups!"
I blinked, taking another step away. "Call of Whosawhat? LARP?"
He held his hands up. "L-l-l-look, just give me a chance to prove my fealty, okay? I can get headshots from across the map!"
"All right, all right, fine," I said. "What should I call you?"
He scratched his acne-ridden cheek. "Well, on Mal'ganis I'm known as Kamltoh, the fearsome Druid she-Tauren. All purpz, of course. Oh! But on my MySpace I go by Jenova Project, like from Final Fantasy 7!"
"I'll just... call you Jenova, how about that?"
He shrugged cheerfully. "Whatever my lord wills!"
Jenova Project is all about Sniping and Camouflage, so he'll be getting the SR-25 with the Leupold as well as the camouflage suit. He's also our first dedicated sniper.
I stepped over to the bar, and Pip slid up next to me.
"New guy?" he asked.
"It's just as well," said Pip. "Listen, sonny, I want to take a breather. Now that I've got some money I wanna make sure it gets put into my will. You know, passed on to the right people after I'm gone."
"Are you quitting?" I asked.
"Nope, just sitting out for a while," he said. "I still gotta kick the bucket, after all. Get on with seeing Elaine again..." He drifted off for a while, then snapped out of it and clapped me on the shoulder. "Talk with me again the next time we meet, okay?"
"Will do, pops," I said.
He gave me a sour look, then smiled, and walked past Jenova and out the door. I heard Jenova say something about "fare thee well, wizened sage" but ignored it and leaned in to ask the bartender if he knew anything about Jorge or Juan Castillo.
"Yeah, they were members of a gang that formed after the hurricane went through Santa Maria," said the bartender. "They even had a hand in killing a whole family. Only the father survived."
Bingo. Money for revenge. "Father, huh? Who is he?"
"Pablo Rodriguez, once known as the best mechanic in all Algeyra," said the bartender. "His wife, his daughters, his house... he lost it all. His story is fairly well-known but the gang disappeared after Defensa moved his troops in to restore order. He moved down to Ciudad de Oro to go live in a bottle, from what I understand."
That was all I needed to know.
"We're off on a noble quest!" cried Jenova. "And with so many girls, too..."
There was a brief silence, marred only by the sound of labored breathing through the mouth. I heard Deadmeat's voice whisper in my ear from behind the driver's seat.
"Floor it. Please."
Day 32, 2112
Once in Ciudad de Oro, I left the team to go check out the local canteen.
I knew I'd talked to him before as soon as I walked in.
He looked at me through bloodshot eyes. "What do you want?"
"I heard about what happened in Santa Maria. I'm sorry."
He grunted and shrugged. "Can't do nothing about it now, can I?"
I folded my arms. "Well... perhaps I could have a word with the men responsible."
"You looking for money? I don't have money. I need a job. Either that, or someone to put me out of my misery. Could you do that?"
He seemed to respond to that. "Really?"
I nodded. "You'd have to get off the booze, but my GAZ doesn't run on good intentions. And you are definitely a man who needs a break, so-"
"There were five of them," said Pablo. "I only know the name of one of them, however. Antonio Costa, that bastard! You find him, and you squeeze him, and he'll cough up the names of the others."
"All right, Mr. Rodriguez, leave it to us," I said. "Here's to better times ahead."
I turned and left the bar, leaving Pablo to his drink.
"We'll start our search in Santa Maria," I said. "We have the names of three of the five gang members now, so I'm sure at least one of them will refresh the memory of someone who was there through the hurricane."
"Ooh, gang work!" cooed raverrn from the back. "Just like in FAP 9: Pooper Troopers."
"Oh em gee!" shouted Jenova. "I wrote a fanfic about the FAP series! Are you... a-are you... the raverrn?"
"Speed please, boss," whispered Deadmeat from behind me. "Speed is good."
Day 33, 0208
The night crowd in Santa Maria was sparse; the town was still recovering from the hurricane. The name "Antonio Costa" seemed to make most people suddenly unwilling to talk to us, which was a good sign we were close. Finally, the name brought us a lead from one young woman who hurried quickly away after speaking.
With the knowledge that Costa was still in Santa Maria, we set about searching for him. We eventually did, and I took precautions in case the conversation went sour.
"Mr. Costa, good to see you," I said. "I was wondering if you could tell me about yourself and the other four people involved in the murder of the Rodriguez family here in Santa Maria."
He looked at me, and I saw him fingering his gun. "Don't," I said. "You're being glassed right now. You so much as raise that thing an inch and it's over for you.
My precautions consisted of Jenova, whom I had instructed to set up shop a block away.
This screenshot is just to show Jenova's stealth meter at night with the camouflage suit on and while in the prone. He's almost completely invisible. Nice.
"All right, señor, all right," he said, his voice wavering. "Please don't kill me."
"It's in my interest to do so," I said. "Tell me about the other four, give me an alternative to killing you, and I'll consider it."
"The other four, yes! Their names are Ramòn Vasquez, Carlos Montega, and Juan and Jorge Castillo."
That confirmed the Castillo brothers. "Where are they?"
"I don't know exactly! Ramòn went to join some pro-government gang in Sagrada, Carlos went up north, and I don't know where the Castillos went, I swear it!"
I nodded. "All right, fine. Now let's get on to why you should live to see tomorrow..."
"Five thousand! I have five thousand eldos buried nearby! If you let me live, I will dig it up and it will be yours! Please, señor, I do not do those evil things anymore! I will leave Santa Maria!"
I sucked on a tooth. "The money. Get moving."
Costa needed no second bidding. He rushed down the street and turned left, stopping at the base of a squat palm tree.
With Jenova still watching through the Leupold, Costa hurriedly dug at the soft earth beneath the tree like a dog, as though he feared taking too long would make me kill him out of boredom. It may have, who knows.
He extracted a small box made out of sheet metal, which he set before me like an offering. "Five thousand, it's all there. Now please, señor, let me go."
I regarded him for a moment, then cocked my head at the street. "Get out of my sight. If I see you anywhere ever again, I will kill you. Understand?"
Costa gave me a panicked nod and slunk off into the night.
Day 33, 0236
"So why did you let him go?" asked ZeeToo as we drove up to Olvidad.
"He'll be living in fear for a long time," I said. "It was apparent that everyone in town knew about him and what he did, and now he doesn't even have any money to buy himself some friends. Before long he'll wish I had killed him."
"Mercy is for the weak, cap'n!" said LvK, leaning in between the front seats. "Shoulda offed him after he gave us the money."
"Our great leader is merely observing the tenets of chivalry," wheezed out Jenova, "in which I myself am well-versed thanks to my solid renfaire attendance record. Furthermore-"
"Aw, shut up, ya gawky bell-end," said LvK. "Take yer chivalry and jam it down yer pee-hole."
I heard Deadmeat sigh. "I miss the guys you had before, Beacon."
When asked about Carlos Montega, the bartender in Olvidad informed me that he heard a band of mercenaries swept through and wiped his gang out a couple of weeks ago.
From Session 011.
"Oh, so that's who that was. I remember now. Okay everyone, back in the GAZ."
Day 33, 0612
With dawn upon us, we drove to Sagrada to hunt down Ramòn Vasquez.
The first person I met was Mr. Muaro, walking from his car to the newspaper building.
"Good morning, Mr. Muaro," I said.
"Oh, the mercenary, yes," he said. "Good morning."
"So he is in this town?"
"Oh yes, he and his toadies hang out in a vacant lot behind the building down the street from the university. They're a rough group, so be careful."
We found the vacant lot easily enough, and Deadmeat confirmed that Vasquez was there. With Deadmeat and LvK covering two gang members inside the walls and Jenova set up to take down Vasquez, the rest of us stacked up outside the walls to cover the exit.
I have to admit that Jenova wasn't just putting me on when he said he was a good sniper. A single shot from the SR-25 brought our man down.
The rest of the team leapt into action. LvK blasted one of the bandits with her Saiga.
Deadmeat, unfortunately, was beaten to the draw, and when she called out for help the entry team rushed in to assist.
ZeeToo sprinted to Deadmeat's position, skidding to a stop to bring up his weapon. "Deadmeat, get clear!" he shouted, and she was barely able to stumble to cover behind the nearby truck.
Deadmeat's assailant fell over dead after a single burst from ZeeToo's Uzi.
I brought raverrn over to Deadmeat, where she got out her first-aid kit.
"Here, let me replace the pain with relief," said raverrn through half-lidded eyes. What followed was probably the most sensual application of a field dressing I had ever seen up to that point.
Judging from the "woohoo" that came from the other side of the truck, it was the most sensual application of a field dressing ZeeToo had ever seen as well.
One of the gang members had an M9 bayonet on him, which can fit onto any M16-style platform that has a bayonet lug.
"I've given her all the sexy first aid I can, Mr. Beacon," said raverrn, "but she still needs to go play doctor with... well, with a real doctor." She giggled.
We helped Deadmeat get to a physician in Sagrada's hospital, who removed the bullet from her arm and gave her some hemostat. After some recovery time, we had to hit the road again.
Day 33, 0805
Three pillagers down, two to go. I figured a nice side-effect of dispatching the Castillo brothers would be getting them out of Mr. Josa's hair, which might pay off for me later on.
Jenova was practically bouncing on the drive back to the Josa compound. "Did you all see the way I headshotted that noob back there? It was like, epic win for sure."
I didn't wait for Deadmeat to whisper to me this time. I gunned it.
As Mr. Josa had said, I found part of Castillo's gang hanging around outside the hacienda. They watched us carefully, but without being in Mr. Josa's employ they had no authority to challenge us passing through.
"Same as before," I whispered. "Everyone choose a target, and wait for the first shot."
I had to play it ignorant to avoid tipping my hand.
"I need to talk to the Castillo brothers on behalf of Emiliano Josa," I said to the leader. "Know where I can find them?"
"Finally that fat fuck is coming around!" laughed the man. "I'm Juan. My brother Jorge is over at the plantation up the road."
"Plantation, huh? Okay."
I raised my rifle and fired from the hip at Juan, but missed. However, the shot was enough to set the rest of the team to work.
I heard the blast from LvK's shotgun as she laid into her target.
Juan was a better shot than I had been, his round bouncing off of my body armor hard enough to stun me.
"Backup! Backup!" I shouted, which was answered by Jenova's nerdy cackle of victory over his opponent.
LvK finished off her guy while raverrn rushed to my aid.
Wasting no time, she ran up the steps onto the porch...
...and shoved the SG 552 into Juan's chest.
The gunfire was mostly muffled by Juan's torso as it splattered across the wall of the hut behind him. What was left of him slid to the floor, and I was left to catch my breath from the numerous rounds my vest had taken.
"Thanks, raverrn," I said, wiping my forehead.
"I live to please," she said with a saucy wink.
I gathered the team up at the hut and nudged Juan Castillo's corpse with my foot.
"That's one brother down. He said Jorge was at a plantation along the road, so that's where we're going next."
Day 33, 1334
"Think this plantation belongs to Josa?" asked Deadmeat.
"If Jorge Castillo's hanging out there, it must be," I said. "He should be easy to find. If his brother's MO is any indication, he'll probably be pacing around just outside of the plantation, trying to pass himself off as an employee."
I parked and dismounted on the road, next to Josa's plantation. Immediately we were surrounded by half a dozen men in balaclavas.
The leader walked up to me, arms folded.
"What do you want here?"
"I just came from the compound," I said. "I need to talk to Jorge Castillo."
"You are," replied the man, "so make it quick. I don't think you're welcome here."
"Mr. Josa is thinking of hiring you," I said. "But first I need to interview the foremen, see if you've been causing trouble here."
He laughed and gestured up the hill. "Talk to them, go on! I've got nothing to hide."
I nodded and looked back at my team, beckoning them over with my head.
"What's up, boss?" asked ZeeToo.
"Come with me," I told them.
Once we were out of earshot, I stopped them and surveyed our surroundings.
"They have rifles so ranging them will be tough. What we'll try to do is cause as much damage as possible in the initial strike, then pick off the stragglers as they try to counterattack. We'll funnel them into this narrow ridge we're standing on-should be a turkey shoot."
"ZeeToo will fire the opening shots and throw a grenade into their midst; that should help them prioritize. In the confusion, Jenova and I will pick off whoever we can until they regroup. ZeeToo, as soon as that grenade is thrown, fall back to the far side of the ridge with Jenova and me. Deadmeat, you set up a mine along the ridge to catch at least one more pursuer. LvK and raverrn will cover the other avenues of approach on the chance that a couple of them have half a brain and try to flank us."
ZeeToo, Jenova and I made our firing line while Deadmeat got busy setting up a tripwire.
"Remember," I muttered, "avoid the tripwire while falling back. ZeeToo, whenever you're ready."
ZeeToo grinned and let loose a generous burst from his M14, firing into the nearest group of bandits.
As he finished and readjusted his point of aim, I followed up with a couple of single shots while Jenova started sniping bandits to the right.
One of the bandits started charging us already, but the firing line put him down quickly.
"ZeeToo, grenade," I said. "Get ready to fall back, it's going to get really hot in a second here."
ZeeToo slung his rifle and readied a grenade. As soon as I heard the ping of the spoon being released I tapped Jenova on the shoulder and rushed back towards LvK and raverrn.
"Ow! Shit!" came ZeeToo's voice. A round had caught him before he'd been able to throw. I slid to a stop and turned back around, running up to his position to give him more covering fire as he got his bearings and finished up with the grenade.
Even while being shot at, ZeeToo had managed not to drop the hot grenade. Instead, he threw it like a champion, the five-second fuse spending itself as soon as it hit the ground. The explosion shook some leaves off the trees and was enough to at least wound four or five bandits.
"Hah! Another perfect throw!" laughed ZeeToo as he ran by me.
I dumped the rest of the magazine in the general direction of the bandits to keep their heads down while Jenova and ZeeToo put more distance between them and the enemy.
Looking over my shoulder, I saw Jenova still taking shots.
"Dammit, Jenova, get a move on!" I shouted, not waiting for him to start running before I took off.
"But guys, I had a muh-muh-muh-muh-monster kill going!" whined Jenova as he hopped the tripwire.
Ignoring him, I called ahead to the backup team. "They're coming!"
"Let's get these boys taken care of!" said raverrn, running up to provide us with covering fire as Jenova dropped back down into a new sniping position.
"Oh yeeeeahh, this is the stuff!" squealed raverrn as she let rounds fly from her SIG.
"H-hey, come on, my scope lens is fogging up over here," murmured Jenova.
raverrn's onslaught made the attackers go prone, and the explosion of the trap going off made them rethink their situation. By that time, however, they were caught out on the ridge, and the resulting slaughter saw the end of Jorge Castillo.
The final kill went to Jenova, who sniped a bandit who had not advanced with the others.
"Godlike!" he shouted.
I looked around and took stock. "Everyone in one piece?" They all nodded.
"Shit, I ain't get ta do nothin' that time!" said LvK, pouting.
"Be secure in the knowledge you helped a mechanic get revenge for his dead family," I said. "Speaking of which, we should get back to him."
These bandits were packing Ruger Mini-14s, and one of them even had a CAR-15. Enemy hardware is definitely starting to ramp up!
Day 33, 1804
Back in Ciudad de Oro, I was eager to give Pablo the good news.
"Mr. Rodriguez, the men who killed your family have been dealt with."
"Thank you, Beacon. Perhaps now I will be able to sleep better at night."
"You're welcome," I said. "You can move into our base any time you like. It's a couple of miles outside of Campesino, on the northern side of the road.
"I know the place," he said, nodding. "I shall gather my things and head there soon."
We now have a mechanic at our base! If a vehicle takes damage in combat, Pablo can repair it, as long as we can get it to him.