Part 3: Session 002: Ambush
Session 002: Ambush
Day 1, 1426
I passed the photo around the bar, but nobody seemed to know who he was. Usually you can spot when someone's lying, but I could tell these people were being honest. Oh well. It really was too much to hope for that I'd get a lead in my first twenty minutes' worth of searching.
This is the shop interface. Items for sale appear in the big left-hand window along with their prices. Items in our inventory appear on the right with the price we can get for them at that shop. Items tinted with a blue foreground are those we've selected to purchase. In this screen, we're going to buy a cleaning kit, a throwing knife, and a roll of tape from this merchant. If you look carefully you can see that the translator apparently didn't know the English word "gauge," or at least how it pertains to shotgun calibers.
I put the photo back into my breast pocket and sold the Tokarev to the merchant hovering nearby. The deal was shitty, but I didn't need the baggage. Besides, I still had my pay from Palinero. I slid my Glock into its rightful place in the holster on my hip and let the weight of it reassure me.
I can do this, I told myself. I can do this one more time.
While it does not have a thumb-activated safety switch like most pistols, the Glock 17 has three internal safeties that prevent it from being fired unintentionally. The most obvious of these passive safeties is a small tab on the trigger itself which prevents it from traveling all the way to the rear unless the finger is squarely over it.
I looked around the room and spotted a rather nervous-looking fellow decked out in OD and boots. He looked quite ready to chew off his thumbnail, then his thumb, then the bone underneath. When you've been at it for as long as I have, you can always tell a merc. He was alert, but seemed kind of green. Probably still too embarrassed to solicit his skills. I decided to go over and have a chat.
"Green" is military jargon used to describe an inexperienced person.
I could have sworn he was looking right through me, so when I waved my hand in front of his face, he started.
"Jesus Christ! Don't scare me like that!"
He looked at me as though I were the stupidest person he'd ever met. "Shit, man, don't you know there's dangerous people all over the place here? You gotta keep an eye out!"
"Uh huh," I replied. "So when I walked up just now, where were you keeping your eye?"
He scowled and looked away. "Look, you just caught me in a moment of deep thought, that's all. Keepin' the mind clear and the eyes sharp."
"But not at the same time, huh?" I chuckled. "What do they call you?"
"Nothing, on account of I haven't told them what to call me yet." He was trying to sound tough, but I couldn't get that neurotic look out of my head.
"You don't have to tell them, but why not tell me. It'd make things go a lot faster." I folded my arms and raised my eyebrows.
"Pitch," he said, dropping the act and nodding to me. "I shoot, I wait, I roll around in the mud. If the price is right, I'll tag along."
I smiled a little. You can always tell a merc.
Our first hired goon is Pitch! Congratulations to him! Pitch has good all-around skills but his strengths are in sniping and camouflage, so we should get a rifle into his hands as soon as possible. Let's have a look at his inventory...
Pitch is starting out with a Beretta 92FS and two spare magazines.
The Beretta 92FS is issued to US military personnel as a sidearm. Its military designation is M9. The main difference between the 92FS and the M9? The stamping on the slide. Like the Glock, capacity is excellent, but the 9x19mm round they both fire checks in on the low end of acceptable defense calibers. Still, it's a great pistol to start out with.
Day 1, 1430
As we went around town, I briefed Pitch on the man I was looking for. I didn't say why, concerned he might try to collect on my job after we'd parted ways, but he didn't pry, and if he was green, at least he knew that rule well enough.
"Think we should try the local police?" I asked him as we stood outside the motor pool of Las Vacaciones's only police station. I had pretty much already decided not to, but I wanted to see what he said, how he reacted. When you're potentially going to be fighting alongside someone you've only known for a few hours, you have to read them as quickly as you can.
"Nah," he said, without a hint of uncertainty. "They barely tolerate gringos like us in their country as it is, and besides, they'd have more questions for you than you for them."
I nodded. Maybe he wasn't that green after all.
"But that don't mean they can't help us," he added as we walked away. He looked furtively over his shoulder and ducked around to the eastern side of the station, where two cop cars were parked.
He beckoned me over and gestured at the car. While I had some reservations about stealing from the local authorities within my first hour of being on their island, I did have to admit that I was already in the mood to get my hands on some heavier artillery. While Pitch stood lookout on the sidewalk, I liberated a shotgun from the driver-side front seat.
In a given town there's usually one or two cars that can be looted. The only way to tell if a car can be looted is if the cursor changes to a search icon when we mouse over it, however.
Well, hello Dolly.
The Remington 870 is a timeless shotgun. The 870 series comes in just about every configuration imaginable, from skeet and trap models to fowl guns to tactical entry guns. The 870 we have here is more of a hunting shotgun than a close-quarters weapon; it only holds 4 rounds at a time and its long barrel makes a tight shot pattern, but beggars can't be choosers.
Pitch grinned upon seeing it and snatched it up when I offered it to him. "Oh, this is so mine."
For the time being, Las Vacaciones had yielded no leads, but at least I had somebody to watch my back while we moved inland to Campesino.
Welcome to the map screen! Whenever you click the "Leave" button in the upper-right corner of the UI, you go to this screen. The map enables us to plan a route to our destination, be it a town, a section of road, or somewhere out in the wilderness. When not paused, time goes by extremely fast on this screen, to simulate the travel time between areas. The scale of time passage can be adjusted by the slider near the upper left.
There are a few features I'll be explaining later, but for now have a look at the red and blue rings in the lower right corner. The small yellow triangle in the center is our party's position. The blue ring shows how far we can see as we travel, and the red ring shows from how far we can be seen. The blue ring's size is dictated by the member with the highest Eyesight stat in the group (which, for this LP, is 70 for everybody), and the red ring's size is dictated by the member with the lowest Camouflage stat in the group. When the blue ring is larger than the red ring, the area in between is a "sweet spot" where we can see, but not be seen in turn. This is useful for spotting patrols along the road and for setting up ambushes, but more on that later.
The colored squares are urban areas. Green squares have a police presence and orange squares are lawless. The thin red border surrounding the four green zones is the "protected area" border, which will play a part in the storyline shortly. Notice that when we click on an urban area, we are automatically plotted to follow the road, which provides the fastest-but also the most conspicuous-route. We're going to see if we can't round up some more goons, so let's go to Campesino.
Day 1, 1633
We weren't two hours out of Las Vacaciones when we hit the roadblock. It had been set up in a good place, just past a particularly sharp corner in the road that would prevent people from seeing it too soon. I pulled Pitch into the brush to one side and asked him if he was ready.
Murphy's Law is "If it can go wrong, it will go wrong," and nowhere does it apply more than in combat. At the worst possible moment, guns will cease to fire, radios will break, batteries will die, food will go bad, and you'll get a Dear John letter at mail-call. In everything a soldier does, he must keep Murphy in mind and try to anticipate the next disaster. Look closely at the screenshot and try to see what the problem is there.
Pitch nodded and pumped the shotgun once, as if to drive the point home. I frowned. It hadn't sounded right. Too clacky, too hollow.
"It's empty, you moron!" I spat at him with a harsh whisper. "Just dump the fucking thing and get your sidearm out, we don't have time to dick around."
Since this is our first combat, we'll forego the narrative and do a play-by-play so that you can see how these events go down. First, Pitch will drop the shotgun since he doesn't have a rucksack to put it in and it would take too long to do even if he did. Just dropping the gun and pulling out the pistol is much faster, and the enemy already knows we're here, so acting quickly is crucial.
The enemy has line-of-sight down the road, so approaching them that way would be pretty damn stupid. Instead, Beacon and Pitch will creep around the cluster of foliage and introduce enemies to their field of fire one at a time.
Pitch stops here to provide cover for Beacon as he moves further forward. Squint did it kind of sloppily here, but it's the basic idea behind what's known as "bounding overwatch." Guy one covers, guy two moves. When guy two is in position, he covers while guy one moves up to his position. Lather, rinse, repeat.
To minimze the amount of time Pitch needs to fire in the event an enemy comes around the corner, we're giving Pitch a point of aim for his weapon. The button that does this is located at the bottom of the UI to the right of the red HP bar. Notice that it is pressed in.
Pitch is now in position with his pistol pointed out over the road. If someone comes into Pitch's field of fire, he will definitely have the drop on them.
With Beacon in position and his weapon at the ready, Pitch breaks covering stance and moves up to his position.
Corners and doorways are really, really dangerous in combat. When presented with either, a popular method of introducing yourself to a potential enemy field of fire is known as "slicing the pie." Here, Beacon holds position while Pitch creeps out to make contact with the enemy. New contacts show up as red brackets on the screen, as seen above. True to form, Squint does a shitty job of slicing the pie.
Now the shooting begins!
Pitch and the ambushers trade shots. Beacon and Pitch drop all but one of the bandits, who lands a hit on Pitch.
In this game, much like in real life, getting shot fucking sucks, as Pitch has just demonstrated. In addition to the immediate damage you take, depending upon where you get hit you can also take bleeding damage over time, go into shock, drop your weapon, experience whiteout/pinkout vision, lose the use of your arms or legs, fall unconscious, or any combination thereof. Pitch is only bleeding, so this is actually a pretty mild hit. Yeah. Don't get shot.
Pitch is bleeding pretty badly, as you can see by the HP bar, so we'll have him move back behind cover. Beacon could not have moved forward to assist without crossing into Pitch's field of fire, and that could have had a very nasty outcome indeed.
The dark red portion of the HP bar shows how much health Pitch will lose due to bleeding if he doesn't get medical attention. There is still some bright red left on the HP bar, but in the event there wasn't, Pitch could have bled to death.
Beacon takes up Pitch's firing position and gets the guy that got Pitch. Pitch actually kicked quite a bit of ass in this encounter-only two of the five kills were Beacon's.
Since Pitch seems to be in danger of passing out due to blood loss, we'll take this opportunity to see how first aid works in the field, hey, why not.
Pitch is on death's door, but fortunately for him, we just looted a "Field Paramedic Kit!" Beacon's Medicine Skill is only 40 so he won't get much mileage out of the kit before it's used up, but fortunately Pitch doesn't have any locational damage to worry about.
To use a first aid kit, we have to put it into the medic's hands, which means he has to first put away his weapon. Once we do that, you can see the weapon-handling columns to the right of the HP bar have been replaced by a single button: "Heal." This button lets the character use the first aid kit he's holding on someone else. If Beacon needed to use the kit on himself, we could just right-click the kit in our inventory and select the "Heal Self" action.
As Pitch is being treated, these cool red crosses orbit his body to show that he's recuperating. If Beacon's Medicine skill were higher, Pitch would be recovering a lot faster. The red crosses disappear when the first aid kit is used up, but Squint didn't use the whole first aid kit so the crosses remained there until he finally did. You'll see what I mean. It's just a bug in the game.
While Pitch drifts in and out of lucidity, Beacon celebrates the victory by looting the bandits' car (there was an empty Beretta 92FS inside) and gathering up all of the stuff the bandits had on them. Among the items:
The "Obrez Mosin" is not just a fancy name for a sawn-off Mosin-Nagant rifle; it was actually manufactured in small quantities as a semi-concealable hand cannon. It's the first weapon we've acquired that fires a rifle round (and a hefty one at that: 7.62x54R), but its accuracy, capacity, and reload time sucks so hard for its intended purpose that we're better off just selling any we find and sticking with our pistols. Pitch is a decent sniper but he wouldn't be hitting shit with this thing.
The service life of the Makarov PM spans 40 years of Soviet history. It's a solid little pistol, but the magazine capacity is paltry given the relative strength of the round. Certainly not a replacement for Beacon's Glock or Pitch's Beretta.
We now continue from the ambush site to Campesino!
Remember what I said about time passage on this screen? Beacon and Pitch arrive in Campesino in the middle of the night. Notice that Pitch has recovered some health and energy during that time, but is still not in top form. They'll have to visit the hospital while in town. Back to the story...
Day 2, 0232
...in a moment. First, I'll explain this new screen. You get this screen whenever you enter an urban area. The green boxes here are points of entry, and we can choose which point a given member will enter the town. Also, when you mouse over certain buildings on the map a tooltip pops up next to your cursor telling you what building it is. It's kind of hard to read, but Squint used the mouse to locate the town hospital, so we double-click on the green box nearest the hospital to enter the town there and reduce travel time. If we wanted Beacon to enter at one point and Pitch to enter at another, all we'd need to do is drag the tab with their name on it to one of the other green boxes. Okay, now back to the story!
"I hope they have a hospital."
Pitch's skin tone had finally started to appear less gray after some field rations and plenty of water, but our pace had slowed considerably with his injuries. I had to hand it to him, the kid was tough: three kills and a deep graze to the arm would be enough to put most rookies out of action for a couple of days, but he had obviously been conditioning himself for this, even if he didn't have firsthand experience.
"Some days you just gotta earn your pay, you know?" It was the closest thing to words of encouragement I could think of. I helped Pitch up the steps and into the emergency room, where the bored-looking physician on the graveyard shift was broken out of his stupor by Pitch clearing his throat.
"You look pretty bad," said the doctor, the matter-of-factness cutting through his considerably thick accent.
"Yeah, well, you ain't so handsome yourself," quipped Pitch, chuckling like a drunkard. He had lost a lot of blood, after all.
If you can't fix it in the field, get them to a hospital! For a fee, doctors will get mercs back to 100% HP and remove all locational damage, but energy loss remains and can only be regained through time.
"Feeling better now?"
Pitch scratched the back of his neck, much more subdued than he'd been back in Las Vacaciones. "Yeah, I guess."
"Come on, let's find a bar. I'll buy you whatever passes for beer in this country."