Part 6: Session 005: Border
Session 005: Border
Day 4, 1640
"Senor! The shooting I heard just now, it was you, yes?"
I turned to face the man who had spoken. It was the chubby fellow who had been hanging around outside the bar since before we'd first come down the street. "What about it?"
"You mercenarios... was it Raul Mangosta?" His voice seemed hopeful that it was.
In a town which obviously had a separatist faction I didn't want to risk giving away that I had been sent by the government. "He was rude to me, and wouldn't apologize."
The man yipped and danced in place. "Maravilloso! El alcalde de Santa Maria, tell him, senor! He is at the Lions Hotel. We can build, we can build! Finalmente!"
The man ran off, presumably to go gab to his friends, family, acquaintances, and anybody else within earshot that ding, dong, the witch is dead.
Pitch leaned over to me. "Alcalde means 'mayor'."
"I know what it means."
"I don't know why I'm doing this. It's not like I really give a shit what the country's going through or what I can do to help."
"Well, you are the Beacon who was in Palinero two years ago, right?" asked Scotch as the four of them watched me approach the old hotel building. "From what I heard, you came to give a shit what happened to that country before long."
I pulled a sour look but kept my back to them so they couldn't see it. "Yeah, that was me. Fat lot of good it did. I guess I haven't learned."
The Lion Hotel was one of the few wholly undamaged buildings in Santa Maria. The structure itself was intact but the interior had been subject to the same looting and squatting all the other buildings had undergone. The former mayor's room was pretty easy to determine thanks to generous presence of armed guards stationed on both sides of the door.
After the guards checked me through I explained to the mayor that the anti-government leader in his town had been killed. He nodded, but was not as overjoyed as the barfly had been.
"It is good news, to be sure," he said, "but I hope that the worst is not yet to come."
"What do you mean?"
"Presidente Defensa, he is now wary of our town. I fear he may think we did not do enough to suppress the separatists on our own, and he is not a forgiving man. He might believe we were sympathizers. Mercenario, if you are going back to Artrigo, please tell the Minister of the Interior that we were hostages in our own homes! Without support from the army, without food or supplies, we were helpless. Please. Defensa will send trucks either way, but depending upon you, those trucks may be full of lumber... or soldiers."
"I do have to talk to the minister again," I said. "I'll pass along what you've said, but beyond that I can guarantee nothing."
The mayor just nodded, and slowly sat down in a chair, getting busy on his task of worrying about the fate of his citizens. I turned and left.
Back outside, I found iasoldier showing off some tattoos which looked like they would have been right at home airbrushed on the side of a van. Torpedo was pointing out that they were "bitchin'" while Pitch and Scotch took them in silently.
"The government's coming," I said as I approached them. "One way or another. Depending on the president's mood, we may not want to come here again soon."
"Then, while we remain, we should plunder! Sack! Pillage, as was the wont of the longboatmen of old!" cried iastudent, putting his shirt back down and pulling his knife out of his belt.
Scotch pushed his glasses up upon his nose. "I am sure that the vultures have probably picked this place clean already."
"Bah! But we, brother, are superior vultures," bragged iastudent as he grinned and slapped Scotch's chest with the back of his hand.
"Yeah, we're probably more resourceful than the thugs around here," agreed Pitch. "There's nothing in a police car I can't steal."
"Hah, couldn't hurt, man, I'm down for it!" said Torpedo, completely unsurprisingly. "We've already shot up the place anyway, so what're people gonna do now? Arrest us?"
It did seem like a good idea to get what we could from the town before troops potentially came to lock it down.
Looting Santa Maria was lucrative indeed! There were several cars, boxes and crates tucked away in the town that yielded several goodies.
Trinitrotoluene, or TNT, is a basic explosive compound that has been around for almost 150 years. Its main purpose in this game is to use it as the explosive in booby traps, being much more effective for that purpose than hand grenades. Our engineering experts should have fun with this. We found three 400-gram blocks in Santa Maria.
A generic protective vest with Kevlar fabric inserts. The game says it is capable of stopping lighter pistol rounds, but not much else. Hopefully we won't have to find out.
The PASGT (Personnel Armor System for Ground Troops) helmet was the combat helmet issued to US military personnel for 20 years following the retirement of the iconic M1 "steel pot" used by the US from World War II to Vietnam. According to the helmet's ingame stats, the main benefit it provides the wearer is a 20% reduction in the likelihood he will suffer shock from an explosion.
Up until now we've only had buckshot for our shotguns, but now we have slugs! The game doesn't specify whether these slugs are rifled or not, but hopefully they are because all the shotguns we have right now are smoothbore (meaning there's no rifling in the barrel). Either way, Pitch will be getting these for his 870 because he is the team member who will benefit most from the increased range that slug rounds give a shotgun.
A Benelli M4? Well, along with the tactical 870 we're already starting to brush the top of the ladder in desirable combat shotguns. The M4 is semi-automatic, meaning that every time the trigger is squeezed, a round is fired with no pumping necessary in between. It also has an integral Weaver rail mount on the top, just in front of the rear sight. The rail system allows us to mount certain attachments to weapons such as optical sights, lights, and lasers. A reflex optical sight of some kind would be ideal for this weapon. Let's hope we find one soon!
The game calls this "Paramedic Field Kit 2," which I guess means that it's a step up from the first-aid kit we used on Pitch back in Session 002.
There were some other odds and ends, but none of it new or interesting stuff: mostly canteens and ammo for guns we're not using.
Once we were satisfied with what we'd found, we left Santa Maria.
Now there is a red "-20" under "Santa Maria." This is our standing with that city. Our standing in Santa Maria took a hit from that civilian we killed during the fight with Mangosta. Standings will rise and fall based upon our actions in different places and who gets pleased or pissed off by them.
Day 5, 1535
I held out the bloody dogtags to Minister Caderas, who took them from behind his desk with an easy smile.
"El presidente could use some competent guns out there, helping to unify the nation," said Caderas as he studied the tags intently, "But if you just want to go out of the protected zone and kill some rebels, well, that will be helping us too." He slid a notarized and signed slip of paper across the desk, which I picked up and read.
"Free passage in and out of the protected zone, as agreed," he said. "I hope that you will remember how I have kept my promises when dealing with others who might not." He locked eyes with me for a moment, a faint warning there.
"The mayor of Santa Maria is quite relieved to have Mangosta's element out of his town. He wants to know if he has the president's support in finally being able to rebuild the town."
The minister looked back down at his paperwork, starting to write again. "As Minister of the Interior it falls upon me to send aid shipments. I will see what labor and materials can be spared, but given the destabilized environment I may also have to send a security detail there to oversee the reconstruction. At any rate, it is not your concern."
Politicians and straight answers don't mix. I shrugged.
The "eldo" is the Algeyran unit of currency in the storyline, but for the UI its symbol still seems to be the dollar sign. Four thousand is decent pay for early-game quests, but there's no time limit on this one, so we'll get to it when we do.
"You are welcome here in Algeyra for the time being, mercenario. Now then, I am a busy man, as I imagine you are as well." The guard stepped towards me and I took the hint.
Back at the bar, I briefed the men on our next course of action.
"We've got a couple of missions down south, but while we're this far north I want to check out Olvidad."
Torpedo looked up. "Huh? Why, man?"
"We may not be this far north again for a while, and I need to see if Fakirov is there, or if he has at least left a trail."
Torpedo shrugged. "Whatever, man, long as we get paid, I guess."
"From all accounts," I continued, "things are pretty interesting down south, so enjoy the downtime while you can."
"Yes!" shouted iastudent. "I look forward to the, the... not-downtime! We shall feast upon the flesh of our fallen opponents and gain their powers while their heads bear witness through lifeless eyes from atop a pike!"
Pitch took a step back from the Viking warrior, as nervous as I'd ever seen him.
Day 5, 1811
"Halt!" called the watch captain as we approached. "State your business here."
"We are private contractors authorized by Interior Minister Caderas to travel across the protected zone border." I held up my pass, which the captain snatched from me and read carefully, his riflemen watching us closely.
After a few moments, he looked up from the paper. "So we are clear, once you cross this border and until you return, not me, nor my men, nor any military or government figure is responsible or avowed of ensuring your safety or rescue. It would be the same even for citizens."
"I wouldn't expect anything less," I said with a smile, and the captain shoved the papers back into my hand, which I refolded carefully and placed back into my pocket. He gestured for the gate operator to raise the arm, and the five of us struck out into the forbidden zone.
Day 5, around 2100
We heard the man before we saw him. Out of the shadows flanking the road stepped a bearded, older man carrying a submachine gun and flanked by two pistol-wielding thugs.
"You are surrounded, so speak carefully."
"We are mercenaries on a recovery mission," I said calmly. "We are looking for only one man. His name is Ippo--"
I blinked. "And if we refuse?"
We do have a choice here, but we'll worry about tangling with different factions a little later. For now, though...
Willingly getting escorted off to God-knows-where by a bunch of armed men who answered to nobody didn't seem like a very good idea, especially in a part of the world known for its kidnappings. We'd probably never have been heard from again.
I let out a breath, then whispered. "Boys. Get to work."
Pitch and Scotch leveled their shotguns at the underlings and blew their legs out from under them. I fired wildly at the bearded man, landing only a glancing hit to his side. As he stumbled into Scotch and Pitch's line of fire, I saw reinforcements running up through the brush to our position. I ran up to Torpedo's position at the front and knelt beside him as he trained his machine pistol on the reinforcements, waiting for them to get into range.
"iastudent!" I shouted behind me as I slung my shotgun over my shoulder and pulled out an M67. "Ready grenade!"
iastudent has a high throwing skill, so we can enjoy impressive grenade arcs like this one.
I heard the "ping" of a spoon being released and then saw a pineapple sail far over my head to land in front of the approaching group. I threw my own grenade, hoping that the reinforcements couldn't see them sitting in the open in the dim moonlight.
As if on instinct, Torpedo spun and fired into a pair of thugs trying to flank us.
He landed a couple of hits, because they dropped to their knees, obviously in a lot of pain. Scotch and Pitch finished them off easily.
An instant later, the two grenade blasts caught two of the three running down the road full-on, killing them instantly. Torpedo and I were a little too close, however, and the concussion shook us up a bit.
The third managed to drag himself into the foliage before we could recover to get a shot.
I directed fire into the brush where the grenade survivor had escaped while iastudent gave a howl of rage and went to ensure all of the nearby targets were dead.
One made a move for a dropped gun as iastudent approached, but Scotch and Pitch made him lay still for good.
Then, all was quiet. "Perimeter, perimeter!" I whispered as loudly as I dared. "Three-sixty degrees, there's still at least one out there." The men quickly formed a tight circle, guns facing outward, their backs to each other. They were working together like true professionals.
I moved over to Torpedo and tapped him on the shoulder. "Come on, we're gonna go flush him out," I whispered. Torpedo nodded without a word and stuck tight to my back as we flanked the bushes next to the road, staying in a crouch.
As we got closer, Torpedo caught sight of the man trying to crawl away.
He put a volley into the bushes.
I crept forward to confirm the kill while Torpedo swapped his magazine for a fresh one.
The man was alive, but combat ineffective. He'd dropped his gun somewhere in the foliage and was laying there, full of shrapnel from the grenades and probably a couple of rounds from Torpedo. He saw me and held his hands up by his face, signaling surrender. It was apparent he was in agony.
I looked over my shoulder at Torpedo and gestured him over with my head. He moved silently up to my position and regarded the dying man with disgust.
"Good eye, man, I never saw him." I said. "It's your kill if you want it."
"Fuck yeah I do," he said before firing a final shot into the man's head.
We waited a minute or two, but the sounds of the jungle around us began to resume. We gathered back on the road and took stock. Torpedo and I had gotten a little punchy for a moment from the grenade blasts, but aside from that there wasn't a scratch on anybody.
Which is pretty surprising, but we did a good job of prioritizing targets and shutting down two separate (albeit small) reinforcement efforts very quickly.
It's loot time! There was another Benelli M4 on one of the enemies here, but what's even more interesting is that it had this mounted on it: an ACOG (Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight) with 4x magnification. It's a little laffo to have magnification on a scattergun, but if we have the ACOG on a shotgun loaded with slugs, it becomes a pretty solid mid-range precision-fire setup for people with shooting and sniping skill. Pitch will now have a Benelli M4 slug gun with this ACOG mounted on it. It should work well.
Hollowpoint .45ACP ammunition. "Hollowpoint" denotes a style of bullet that is designed to expand drastically upon contact, increasing stopping power and the size of the wound channel. The only weapon we have that fires .45ACP is Scotch's USP, which is now acting as Torpedo's sidearm. Torpedo doesn't have much inventory space so we'll load his pistol magazines up with these and throw the old rounds away.
The guards were wearing rebel uniforms, which we can take and put on ourselves. Uniforms visually identify mercenaries as "belonging" to one faction or another, whether that's actually the case or not. Each faction reacts differently to each uniform, some prompting the mercenaries to be attacked on sight and others allowing them to go where they normally wouldn't be able to without a struggle. Since we're in rebel territory we might as well put these on.
Last but certainly not least is the famous Uzi submachine gun, which the leader had been carrying. This is the mid-size model of Uzi, the Mini-Uzi, chambered in 9mm, which features a side-folding skeleton buttstock and a rate of fire of 950 rounds per minute. Capacity is excellent; along with the gun itself we found two 32-round magazines. Beacon has a new primary weapon.
Once everyone was rested up and had some water, we rucked back up and continued east to Olvidad.