Part 5: Session 004: Minister
While playing this session I saw a loading screen with an Algeyran passport on it. The country's name was spelled "Algeira" on the passport. Looks like even the country's name was mistranslated from the Cyrillic a bit. Since this snowball is already on its way downhill, we'll just stick with "Algeyra."
Session 004: Minister
Day 3, 0750
Sagrada was also home to Algeyra's only university. If this and La Trompeta were any indication, the institutions of the central city had survived the civil war rather comfortably.
Students ignored us as we made our way through the campus, searching for bits of information on Fakirov. We weren't a new sight to them.
While cutting through a park, we noticed a small group of armed men standing around a fenced-in statue of some long-dead national hero. They weren't wearing governmental uniforms and their faces were covered by balaclavas-they were probably a private bodyguard detail. They watched us like hawks as we passed by, grips tightening on their weapons just a little. I would have been content to just pass by and let them guard whoever they were guarding, but a light Algeyran accent called out from somewhere on the other side of the fence.
"You guys! Hey! Are you mercenaries?" He waved us over, and his guard dogs shuffled their feet in disapproval, but deferred to their employer. He with the gold makes the rules. I motioned for Pitch and Torpedo to stay where they were and approached the man.
His clothing was quality, but the red-dyed straw hat on his head was rather garish. Between the guards and the hat I gathered that he enjoyed displaying his wealth. After we made eye contact he nodded once and turned dramatically around to face the statue before speaking to me.
Yep. A true showman.
"My name is Ricardo Kerano," he said slowly. "I am sure you've heard the family name before?"
"No, not really," I said immediately. There was a pause as he collected himself. Sometimes rich pricks like him had to be hit where they're most vulnerable: their pride.
"Well," he said, clearing his throat once, "I have a brother who got trapped in Ciudad de Oro late in the war when that bloodthirsty bastard Defensa established the so-called "protection zone." I have been trying to buy his way back into the protected zone, but the police here, you can only pay them not to do things. I am thankful Algeyra's doors are open to... free enterprise once again."
"Yeah yeah, very poetic," I said, looking over my shoulder to see Torpedo and Pitch exchanging arm-punches out of boredom. Torpedo looked to be enjoying it more than Pitch was. "What's the job?"
"Is it not obvious? Go to Ciudad de Oro, and find out what has happened to my brother. If he lives, bring him back here. If he does not, find the men responsible and give them my regards. The pay will be generous."
No it won't.
Kerano snorted. "He is a fool, but hopefully he has not been so much of a fool as to go about spouting his family name down there. Robbers and brigands will have torn him apart by now in their struggle to be the ones to ransom him. Oh, and on your way, please talk to Chief Corvini at the police station and tell him I want my money back."
"I'll see what we can do," I said. Kerano raised a hand and the guards stepped between us. I gave them both a look and walked back over to Torpedo and Pitch.
"We in business?" asked Torpedo.
"Well, something to do if we get down south," I said.
"Fuck yeah, man! I knew there was asses needed kickin' around here!" he held up his fist to Pitch, who blinked at it for a few seconds and then slowly completed the most awkward fistbump ever seen this far south of the United States.
"First, though, we're going to finish up here and then head north," I reminded them, "to the governmental center in Artrigo."
"Heh, do it to it, man, let's go."
Sagrada's first major disappointment was the barrenness of her police cars. Torpedo was cool with it. I got the impression Torpedo was cool with a lot of things.
With nothing worth our attention on the outside, I headed into the station to give Sagrada's chief of police Kerano's token word of displeasure. I hardly expected that the businessman would ever be seeing his bribe money again, but far be it from me to cut corners on a job. As I entered his office, he tried to wave me off.
"You have something to report, talk to the desk sergeant downstairs."
I shook my head. "I'm here on behalf of Ricardo Kerano. He says he would like his money back."
The old man's eyebrows went up. "Are you honestly here to threaten the chief of police of the largest city in Algeyra?" There was an amused tone to his voice.
I shook my head again. "Just passing the word along, that's all."
The cop sneered at me. "That Ricardo. Always trying to use money to solve problems. Now he has you, yes? Just another way of trying to throw money at a problem." He paused for a moment while he sized me up. "Men like us, we know well that there are certain people in this world not impressed by money. Ricardo has yet to learn that lesson. Let me guess: he has you chasing after his brother."
I nodded, and so did Corvini.
"You should know, then, that you are not the first man he has sent on this errand. The lucky ones get stopped at the border of the protection zone and give up. The resourceful ones... well, whatever they got themselves into down there, it's outside of our jurisdiction. If you still want to work for that wastrel, I recommend you get a border pass from Interior Minister Caderas, up in Artrigo." He nodded at the door behind me. "Go now."
"How'd it go?" asked Pitch once I'd come back outside.
"Well, we have another reason to go see the Minister of the Interior."
Before we continue on to Artrigo, let's see where Ciudad de Oro is on the map.
Oof, that's quite a hike, and it's well south of the protection zone border. Were we to try to go there right now via the roads, we'd get stopped at the border, where we could either try to fight our way through (inadvisable) or agree to get escorted to Artrigo anyway.
Day 3, 1728
Even the governmental seat of Algeyra had a bar. The day had been particularly hot and I decided to step inside to get some shade and let the guys get something to drink.
The barkeep had a tip about some work available in Campesino. I considered stopping by to see what was up when we passed through again.
The only other patron of the bar was a bespectacled fellow in the corner nursing a glass of something hard. He wasn't a local, that much I could see, but I could also see that something was wrong. I decided to go see what it was.
"New in town?" I asked him genially.
"Not as new as you, friend." He let out a bitter chuckle and raised his glass to me before taking a rather long sip. He had a Scandinavian accent, but my ear wasn't good enough to know exactly what country.
He shrugged. "For the moment. I was told there was work here guarding embassies when I arrived in Los Vacation-however-you-say-it. So this man at the docks, this 'money changer' cheats me on the exchange rate and I wind up with only enough to hitch a ride on a smelly truck full of soiled blankets... one way. Then only to find no embassies here at all, or much of anything else. The bartender felt so sorry for me, he gave me this on the house." He raised the glass again.
I took stock of what he was wearing. "Do you fight?"
"Sort of," he said with a small smile, this one not so bitter. "I prefer to let the things I make do the fighting for me."
Ah. A bomb-jockey. He still had all his fingers so I figured he either had skill or was lying. I banked on the former, since this was quite an out-of-the-way place to go to make empty boasts.
"Tell you what. I'm Beacon. You come with me, do what you can, I can give you some travelling money." He nodded to me and put back the rest of the drink in one gulp. He set the empty glass on a table and tapped twice it with a fingernail, producing a couple of faint "clink" sounds.
"Call me Scotch."
Scotch comes armed with a Heckler & Koch Universal Service Pistol, or just USP. USPs come in several sizes and calibers; Scotch's model is chambered in the potent .45ACP, and as an added bonus the USP's capacity is above average for such a large round. This particular model also has a threaded barrel for attaching suppressors.
Scotch has replaced Beacon as the team member with the highest engineering skill, so he'll be the one to place explosive traps if we need them. His gunfighting skill is also superb, so it might be a good idea to get him a shotgun soon.
Before visiting with the minister I decided to explore Artrigo a bit for information and whatever else fell into our laps. Or onto the street. When we opened an unlocked car door.
Benzedrine, also known as "Bennies" by recreational users, does pretty much the opposite of what morphine does. It's a powerful stimulant that can help mercs continue to move and fight even when suffering from extreme fatigue. It also increases adrenaline levels, causing faster actions but erratic aiming.
Once our tour of the government city was done, we paused to admire Presidente Defensa's quaint place of work.
"Nice digs," muttered Pitch. "I wonder how many workers are buried under the foundation."
"Psh, you're weird, man," said Torpedo.
I counted four overwatch from where we were standing: a machine gunner on the roof, a rifleman on the second-floor veranda, and two grizzled doormen with submachine guns flanking the main entrance. Presidente Defensa, for all his bluster, was obviously not one hundred percent assured of his town's security.
"Maybe you guys should stay out here," I suggested. "No need to make our hosts nervous by all going in together."
"Ah, government duty. Perhaps we shall receive medals," joked Scotch.
"Ah, another tourist," said Mr. Caderas with more than a little smarm. "How are you enjoying Algeyra so far?"
"Interior Minister Caderas. Mayor Reyes of Sagrada referred me to you, told me to offer my services to this great nation." Sometimes I could give as good as I got.
"Presidente Defensa rewards well all service to the state. I do have errands that need running, yes, and I assume you will want payment in cash?"
"Of course, but what I would really like right now is sanctioned passage in and out of this protected zone. A high-ranking constable in Sagrada suggested you were a man with the ability to grant that passage."
Mr. Caderas cocked his head at me. "Yes, this man is right, a signature from me is all it would take for you to come and go as you please. I would provide it and ask no questions if you agree to do the same in what I need."
"Very good! Now then, let us not waste time. There is a man in Santa Maria who has proven troublesome for el presidente's rebuilding efforts there. His name is Raul Mangosta, and he brazenly wears the emblem of his rabble of thugs with pride. It is a simple black bullseye on a red background, surely he will be wearing it when you arrive. You should be able to get close to him where none on our official payroll can. Bring me his service tags, and I will have your border pass."
"Consider it done."
I stepped back out into the sunlight and rejoined my group. Nobody said anything, not even Torpedo, so I let out a breath and smiled a little.
"It's a hit. Some kind of two-bit resistance leader out on the coast."
Torpedo pumped his fist. "Shit yeah! Fucker's gonna bleed!"
"I will prove my skill," said Scotch.
Pitch just nodded.
Day 4, 1303
"The Interior Minister said this Raul Mangosta guy likes to wear the symbol of his gang or whatever. A black bullseye on a red background. Keep an eye out." All three signaled their understanding, and we started walking the streets of Santa Maria.
Pitch eyed a ruined churchtower as we walked by it and a series of other derelict buildings. "What happened to this place?"
"This is weather damage," offered Scotch. "There are no scorch marks from fire, no craters from shell impacts. This town is on the coast, so I think perhaps a hurricane."
"Maybe it's just a fucking dump," said Torpedo.
Pitch stopped walking suddenly and cocked his chin in the direction he was looking. We all stopped as well.
"Is that the guy? He's wearing red."
"His back is to us," said Scotch. "We should verify that he is wearing the bullseye first."
Torpedo held up his 919K, grinning. "Yeah, then we get in there and shove this up his dickhole!"
I rolled my eyes. "Look, I'll just go talk to him."
Pitch grabbed my arm, his eyes wide as saucers. Nervous-Pitch was obviously in control now. "Talk to him? Just... walk up and talk to him?"
I shrugged his hand off. "Look, he doesn't know who we are, which is why we have this job in the first place. You three chill back here, I'll go see if he's got the bullseye on the front of his shirt."
Torpedo's grin got even wider. "Balls of steel, man, I love it!"
The man's cohort let him know I was approaching, so he turned to face me before I'd even arrived. His red tank top had a black bullseye target on it, sure enough. The man in the white shirt who had been hovering in the area started to back away-he was probably someone Mr. Mangosta used as a legitimate face for the civilians there, and didn't want to be seen associating with him.
"Excuse me, sir, I was wondering if you knew of any-"
"Fuck off, gringo."
Raul Mangosta spat at my feet and turned back to his toadies without another word.
I returned to the group, but continued to walk past them, whispering "follow me" as I did so.
Once we were all around the corner, I nodded. Torpedo pumped his fist again, Scotch press-checked his USP, and Pitch nodded back, his knuckles whitening on the Remington.
"Press-check" is a term for pulling the slide back slightly on a semi-auto pistol to see if there is a round chambered and then releasing the slide once it's been verified one way or the other.
"All right," I said. "Here's how we'll do it. They're standing in a pretty close cluster, but they're out in the open and it's the middle of the day, so sneaking up on them is right out."
"Pitch, you will stand by at the corner of the building nearest our target, out of line of sight. I want you to wait for the sound of my grenade explosion, then pop around the corner and drop any survivors."
"Torpedo, you're going to be holding their attention. Keep your weapon lowered, just make sure they're looking at you and not in our direction. After the grenade goes off, feel free to join Pitch into putting some rounds into anybody still moving."
If a merc points his weapon at an NPC for a few seconds, and the NPC sees it, even if the merc doesn't fire, the NPC will get spooked and shoot first. This is why Torpedo can't have his weapon at the ready to reduce aiming time.
"Scotch will be with me behind the garden fence to the south. He'll cover me while I throw the grenade. Scotch, draw down, and if a bad guy so much as turns in our direction, pop him."
The AI will scatter from a grenade if they see it and have time to do so. They also sometimes psychically know the exact point from which the grenade was thrown, and Beacon will need time he won't have to bring his shotgun from off of his shoulder. With Torpedo keeping the enemies turned towards him, Scotch is able to aim his pistol without spooking them.
Once the plan was laid out and everybody was in place, I crouched by the garden fence at the enemies' four o' clock along with Scotch. I watched Torpedo stroll out from behind the corner we'd gathered at and start doing a grind dance with nobody and shouting what I guess was his mating call.
"Yeeeeeah, baby, wooooo! You like this shit, doncha baby, yeah! Torpedo's gonna sink you good, honey, watch it!"
It certainly did the job of distracting them.
I wrenched the pin from Torpedo's RGD-5, let the spoon go free, counted to two, and threw it as hard as I could.
Hollywood would have you believe that hand grenades explode after the pin is pulled. Not true! Nearly all modern hand grenades' fuses are activated when the flat metal tab running along the grenade's side-the "spoon"-is released. Only after the spoon is free of the grenade does the fuse start to burn. And remember Murphy's Law! A five-second fuse will only last three seconds. And don't try to pull a pin out with your teeth-your teeth will come out before that pin does.
I was more or less on target; the explosion killed one of Mr. Mangosta's henchmen outright and knocked the other one onto his ass, bleeding heavily. Mr. Mangosta himself was hit, but he was resilient, dropping to a crouch and blindly waving his revolver in Torpedo's general direction.
Scotch finished off the wounded gunman nearest us.
In the screenshot above, we're giving a fire order to Pitch. Notice the small box in the center of the screen detailing what part of the body is being aimed at, its chance to hit, and the condition of the target. Mercs can only target the body when snap-aiming or rough aiming, but when aiming carefully or through a scope, they can target the head, arms, body, or legs. As you can see by the buttons activated in the UI, Pitch is using rough aim (to get a bonus from his extended shotgun stock) and single shot mode (the other modes are grayed out because the weapon is not select-fire).
A single blast from Pitch finished off the man in the white shirt while Torpedo hooted and raised his machine pistol to rake Mr. Mangosta.
Note how Torpedo has his weapon set to fire on fully automatic. We can set the average burst length by the slider underneath the weapon, which the arrow is pointing at. With it set to four, bursts will be between three and five rounds. To spread automatic fire over an area rather than a specific target, we can drag the cursor and create a "fan" for Torpedo to track as he fires. This fan is kind of sloppy because we wanted to illustrate how you can drag it "through" enemies.
Mr. Mangosta never got a shot off before doing a grisly bullet-dance as rounds from Torpedo, Scotch, and Pitch all slammed into him from three different directions at nearly the same time. He slumped down into a pool of his own blood and lay still.
We convened at the bodies of our targets. I stepped around Mr. Mangosta's pool of blood and pulled the dogtags free of the oozing, shredded mess that used to be his neck.
Pitch was in his characteristic daze, Scotch was quietly nodding his satisfaction, and Torpedo was doing an endzone dance.
"We rock, man! We're the fucking kings!"
I looked at each of them. "Anybody hurt?"
"Nor am I."
"Nah, I'm good, man."
None of the mercs took a single point of damage. Superior tactics win the day! Actually, it also helps that, unlike the ambush, they weren't outnumbered, were better armed, and also could initiate combat when they were ready to.
The haul is kind of lean...
Does this pistol need any introduction? The Colt 1911's declaration of what a combat pistol could be echoes to this day. Low capacity is offset somewhat by the potent .45ACP round this pistol fires.
The Colt Python brought magnum loads for handguns into the mainstream. The .357 Magnum round is a beast, giving even many kinds of body armor a run for their money. With only six rounds and a considerable reload time, however, each shot counts, so this hand cannon is best suited for mercs with a superlative gunfighting stat.
We picked the corpses clean of valuables and stacked the bodies in the ruined building that Pitch had used for cover. Before returning to the minister, however, I had to visit the town bar and see if anybody was looking for help.
There was a fence standing outside the bar. I don't know how I knew... there was just something about him that said "Fence." While my team went inside to get a drink, I sold off the two 1911s Mr. Mangosta's entourage had been carrying.
Sell value of Raul's gang's loot: $1900 for two 1911 pistols. Not bad. Our enemies haven't been armored yet so capacity still wins the day over punch. The Python is a pretty nice find, though, so we'll keep it.
Once inside myself, I saw a wild-eyed young man with long hair brooding out away from the bar. As I passed him, he stiffened, and closed his eyes slowly.
"Stop," he commanded. "This was ordained."
His accent was Scandinavian, but much thicker than Scotch's. As I turned back to look at him, his eyes bored into mine and he nodded to himself.
"You are warriors like me. Your men, you, and myself, we are destined to be einherjar and feast at the table of the gods. Even today the blood of wicked men are upon you, and the Aesir are pleased."
I wasn't sure what to say. The man straightened up again, as if to salute, and then clapped his fist over his heart.
"We will fight as brothers, and shed our blood and the blood of others for the gods' amusement and favor. Odin wills it!"
Oh, why the hell not. "So what should I call you?"
The man seemed not to hear. His eyes were full of stars, his mind playing out battles not yet fought. "I am... ia! Student! I will study the art of battle by bathing in pain! It is the only true way to learn the ways of the warrior!"
"I'll... just call you iastudent, then. I guess."
Coincidentally, iastudent is armed with a Colt Python of his own. We'll give him the one we just got so that he can no doubt enjoy some awesome New-York-reloading action later. Unfortunately, you can't dual-wield pistols in this game.
iastudent's throwing and melee skills are outstanding, so we'll be loading him down with knives and grenades.
Introductions were made at the bar, with iastudent going even heavier on the "brother" talk with Scotch, not surprisingly. After everyone's thirst was slaked (though iastudent was quite disappointed that the bar did not stock any mead), we stepped outside and back on the road to Artrigo.
"Hey, tweaker, ya got some blood on your ear, man."