Part 29: The Red and the Black - ClereticThe Red and the Black (Rikti War Zone arc #4)
Last time, we were kicked upstairs after saving the world from a poorly co-ordinated alien invasion. Most people would be discouraged by this, but I spent this entire last week learning as much about accounting as I can, so we are gonna be saving the Vanguard so much money!
The Red and the Black
The mission I have is dangerous, but unlike some cloak-and-dagger types, I actually like it when the people I work with know what's going on. Deniability is great, sure, but I prefer people to be able to react to a changing situation. So if you're in, I'll give you the low-down. But don't make me wait too long.
Okay, here's the situation:
You know about the branches of Vanguard, right? The Helm, Shield, and Gauntlet? Well, there's another branch. The one I run: the Sword. We handle counter-intelligence, special forces actions, all that kind of stuff. It can be some ugly work, but it's necessary.
Now here's what this has to do with you: Some actions have gone... wrong lately. Frankly, I suspect that some of the Sword have been compromised. I can't investigate it myself so I need someone to do it by proxy. That would be you. And this is the incident I want you to check:
One of those Traditionalist Negotiators is missing. One of the Sword teams I suspect was in the vicinity, lead by Captain Flint, someone I used to trust. I want you to check out their location. If the diplomat's there, bring him back alive. I'll be waiting for your report. Oh, and the negotiator is named Sah'Teece. Apparently he was a Rikti sports hero before he became a diplomat. Some kind of racing, I guess.
Sweet, maybe I can ask him what Rikti sports are actually like.
Still. Gaussian might seem like he's pretty cool and has an interesting change of pace for a Rikti War Zone arc, but I hate him with a passion and have been putting off this update for a little while. Why?
Meet Vanguard Sword.
You might notice, if you are observant, that I am dead. I'm not sure why, but Vanguard Sword are one of the few groups that can beat my ass to a bloody pulp on a regular basis. On paper, they aren't much; they have Lethal and Energy damage and that's mostly it, with some random Cold, Negative and Psionic attacks thrown in in the upper ranks. But they have some horrible tricks up their sleeve. The Curse of Weariness is a five-minute duration attack that halves your maximum endurance, which even hurts the end-happy Clerisy. Some of their minions have Flashbangs, that ruin your accuracy. And if you happen to be the stealthy Stalker... well, I'm sorry to say, they can see through stealth inherently.
People don't like Vanguard Sword, but fortunately they don't appear very often.
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This detachent of Sword have holed up in an abandoned warehouse (to be fair I don't think they actually had a non-abandoned one to choose). We've got two jobs here - rescue Sah'Teece, and defeat the rogue Captain Flint. Thankfully this is a small warehouse.
We find Sah'Teece first.
The Vanguard Sword have two types of bosses - one fights like the Adepts we had on side when proecting Portal Corp, but the other has the Curse of Weariness alongside a lot of other irritating powers.
[NPC] Vanguard Ranger: Non-hostile, he says!
[NPC] Negotiator Sah'Teece: Protest: Innocence! Occupation: Diplomat! Prior Actions: Non-Hostile!
[NPC] Lt. Davidson: That's the problem. You're too much of a stabilizing influence.
[NPC] Vanguard Ranger: Sir!
[NPC] Negotiator Sah'Teece: We've been made!
[NPC] Lt. Davidson: It's not persona... Clerisy! Send a message to Captain Flint!
[NPC] Negotiator Sah'Teece: Expression: Many Thanks! Prior Status: Very Worried! Current Status: Very Relieved!
McCarthyism is alive and well in City of Heroes. I don't consider this a bad thing: A superhero setting doesn't cause people to put aside real-world issues, it just makes them shoot at other targets.
Still, while escorting Sah'Teece out, we run into someone!
[NPC] Captain Flint: You don't go any farther.
[NPC] Captain Flint: No one can stop the power of Flint!
Bring it on, Captain Fli--
If you weren't a member of Vanguard, this Cipher would take serious effort to decode. But with your training, it only takes a few moments to read the names of negotiators and diplomats this squad has been assigned to murder. The evidence is plain, but leaves you with more questions.
Counting Vanguard Sword, by the end of the game's run there were three groups heartily devoted to murdering diplomats, which I think was just due to the developers forgetting the previous ones existed.
Sah'Teece has been on Earth for a while. We told him that his kidnappers were really Nemesis Infiltrator Automatons, and he bought it without reservation. Guess you can get used to anything. But you and I know that those were real people, soldiers of the Vanguard who've gone renegade. They're taking orders to illegally murder people with an eye towards destabilizing the peace with the Traditionalists. This isn't just Flint and a rogue squad. This is a conspiracy. And I'm going to need your help rooting it out.
This isn't over yet, but with you around I think we just might have a chance.
The Red and the Black
Working with the data you've collected and the testimony of the traitors you brought in, we've found the location of a rally point for the renegades. I want you to go in and try to get any intelligence you can gather. We need to know what they're planning and how they were turned against us.
So far, we've kept the presence of the Renegades within the Sword quiet. I'd like to keep it that way and end this quickly.
So do I, man. The sooner we're done with these guys the sooner my blood pressure can go below danger levels.
Anyway, we've gotta kill another captain, name of Grool, and find three clues. Fortunately...
[NPC] Lt. Sefu Tendaji: We have tracked the missing diplomat here. Is there some reason I cannot meet with him?
[NPC] Lt. Ceres: Don't bother us with your petty concerns, Longbowman.
[NPC] Lt. Sefu Tendaji: Ah, Clerisy! Perhaps you can help me with your fellow Vanguard?
[NPC] Lt. Ceres: You've made a poor choice, Clerisy!
Lt. Sefu Tendaji, seen here being very patient working through red tape, is kind enough to help us work through this. What a nice man!
(not pictured: another death)
After you met up with him, Lt. Sefu Tendaji took a moment to speak to you:
'I came here to find a missing diplomat. We discovered that he had been taken here by Vanguard agents. I thought that there would be no problems, but this is madness! I have fought alongside the Vanguard, I have even defended the Vanguard to my superiors, but to be attacked like this? It is even more troubling that you seem unsurprised.
Well, I know I can still trust you. Let us find the diplomat, together.'
Observation was never Sefu's strong suit, because a conspicious glowing body bag is right next to him.
The Diplomat's name was Bill J. Wylde, a former astronaut and one of the chief proponents of opening talks with the Rikti Traditionalist faction. He was definitely killed by Vanguard weapons, from behind at close range. This was an assassination, and whether or not the people responsible were renegades, Bill Wylde's death is going to cause a lot of trouble with Longbow.
Fantastic. I wonder if Sefu was just being passive-aggressive, not acknowledging that this was right next to him.
Frtunately, with Sefu along, we shouldn't have many further issues with the Vanguard Sword in this mission.
...I expected to be tempting fate by saying that and he'd die in the next room, but Sefu actually does really well, surviving the whole mission this time. Which granted isn't very long, two or three rooms after we run into Grool, who I unfortunately didn't take a picture of.
[NPC] Captain Grool: Clerisy and Tendaji have joined forces? Bah! The fools!
[NPC] Captain Grool: Helping Longbow? You show your true colors at last, Clerisy!
Hey, they stole my color scheme, not the other way round!
[NPC] Captain Grool: We'll show you...
[NPC] Captain Grool: You're too weak to do...
[NPC] Captain Grool: What must be done...
Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, you found this. It was Captain Grool's next set of orders. It doesn't name the target, but from the location and the amount of forces they're preparing, the only possible victim of the next assassination attempt must be Lady Grey herself!
I can only assume 'the amount of fores they're preparing' amounts to three guys, Lady Grey gets killed by explosions being in the same room as her.
A laptop right next to where Grool was gives us further information.
This laptop belongs to Lt. Ceres. It's full of mad, paranoid ranting about how the Vanguard has lost its way, and may now be too 'weak' to do the job that the writer feels must be done.
This trashcan is empty, but there's tons of crumpled up papers lying around. Sword really overestimate their accuracy in trash-throwing.
This handwritten letter is unfinished and discarded, probably an early draft. It's addressed to a woman named 'Martha', and attempts to explain the deep regrets the author feels regarding the harsh actions he and the rest of the Sword must undertake for the good of humanity. It's unaddressed and unfinished, so there's no way to know who Martha was, or if she ever received it.
I rather like this clue. The Sword are still people, just misguided people.
From what you found, the situation with the renegades is worse than I suspected. And now Longbow has a stake in it. Tendaji's a good guy, but the murder of Mr. Wylde is too much. He's going to go to 'W.M. Dietrich', and then there's going to be trouble. But we have to concentrate on putting down these renegades first and that means stopping the assassination attempt on Lady Grey. Or does it? Hmmm... You know, I've got an idea...
I hope he's good at those.
The Red and the Black
Here's the plan, Clerisy. The Renegades are gathering a large number of their forces for an assassination attempt on Lady Grey. I've talked to her and she's going to walk right into the trap. Only now the trap is for them, not for her. You're going to be there as her back-up, you and any allies you want to bring. We're going to break this conspiracy and put an end to this today.
The Renegades planned to get Lady Grey alone and then swarm her with hit-squads. They might have had a chance, too, but not anymore. You have two objectives: first, you have to get Lady Grey to safety. If she falls, even if we're able to miniport her back out, that still will count as a victory for the Renegades. Your secondary objective is to eliminate all the assassin squads. Good luck.
I haven't even started this mission and I know we're going to fail.
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To be honest I thought we'd have hit an abandoned office map long before halfway through the third contact.
[NPC] Lady Grey: We are becoming most exasperated by these attempts on Our person.
[NPC] Lt. Donai: This will all be over soon, Ma'am.
[NPC] Lady Grey: Playing the odds only works when no one has changed the game.
[NPC] Lt. Donai: Clerisy? But the odds against this are impossible!
These lines are tripped when I enter the map, despite Lady Grey actually being at the end. Between the start and end of the mission are nothing but Vanguard Sword; and half of them only spawn after rescuing Grey, so we can't just clear it out before getting her.
Also this is the first time I actually noticed the 'Our' with the capital in that line. I don't think it means anything, but we really can't tell with Lady Grey.
Death count: 4.
[NPC] Colonel Toros: We must strike now!
[NPC] Colonel Toros: No one gets out alive!
Including us! We last about half of one spawn. This isn't my fault, I don't know if anyone has ever completed this mission.
Lady Grey will recover, but she's out of it for the moment. The Watcher has a stand-in taking her place for a few days until she recovers. Which means he knew he'd need a stand-in. I don't know how, and honestly, I don't think I really want to know. However, this may provide us with an opportunity to draw out the Renegades. That is, unless someone does something stupid...
I'd have liked to see you do better.
The Red and the Black
With their attempt on Lady Grey a failure, the Renegade Sword units are on edge. They're making mistakes and now one of their key intelligence officers, Captain Racer, is exposed. Your mission is to catch him and bring him in.
We need to know what the Renegades are doing and what they plan to do next. You'll have to take care of any opposition on-site, but keep on-task. We need to find out their plans.
We're in another goddamn warehouse, but when we enter we find... well, it's not Sword.
[NPC] Longbow Minigun: Heroes fighting Heroes. Has it really come to this?
[NPC] Longbow Eagle: Save it. The Vanguard are no Heroes.
[NPC] Longbow Minigun: All Vanguard personnel are to stand down!
While in-character this is a big problem, we really couldn't ask for anything better. With Longbow standing in for Vanguard Sword as our opponents, we have to worry a whole lot less about getting cheaply destroyed. In fact we only have to worry about two things: One, Longbow lieutenants have some -Resistance attacks. With Barrier Destiny backing us up when we need it that isn't much of an issue.
[NPC] Lt. Sefu Tendaji: The prisoner swallowed a poison capsule? This is madness!
[NPC] Lt. Sefu Tendaji: So, it is down to this, then, is it?
The one guy that can survive as long as us is our opponent.
Sefu Tendaji is a Longbow Ballista, already a high-powered enemy to fight. Sefu's got unique Arch-villain resistances on top of that - while we're not fighting him as one, he does get some extra mez resistance out of it. In addition, that big bubble he's always seen with gives his allies extra defense.
[NPC] Lt. Sefu Tendaji: This is on Ms. Liberty's order. The Vanguard have gone too far!
[NPC] Lt. Sefu Tendaji: You fight well, but your cause is lost.
[NPC] Lt. Sefu Tendaji: Ms. Liberty has ordered Vanguard shut down, and Captain Dietrich will see it done.
[NPC] Lt. Sefu Tendaji: You won a good fight. Now let me tell you something...
Sefu Tendaji, seen here surviving a hell of a lot longer than anyone else we've so far fought (seriously this took like six minutes), eventually goes down after essentially telling us that both groups are overstepping their boundaries; The Vanguard is a UN-backed force, while Longbow and Ms. Lib only have the authority they give themselves. But Sefu, being a cool guy, helps us out afterwards.
Always an honorable man, Lt. Sefu Tendaji took a moment to talk to you after you defeated him:
'I am very worried, my friend. I know that these are renegades, but people are afraid, and there are many in Longbow who have never trusted the Vanguard. In fact, we've had a secret monitoring station in the area for some time, listening in on Vanguard communications. It has been busy recording all of the activity among the Renegades lately, particularly after you stopped their assassination attempt.
Unfortunately, I do not have access to the listening station, but I believe that whatever the Renegades are up to can be found in those records.
On the other side of the map, there's actually a fight going on between two large spawns of Longbow and Vanguard Sword. Sword win, but not without suffering heavy damage and losing most of their fighting force.
The fight took place over Racer's dead body.
You found some of the information you were looking for, but not everything, and you can't ask Captain Racer for more. He swallowed a poison capsule, opting to die rather than reveal his secrets to Longbow... Or you.
This is what I was afraid of. Knowledge of the Sword Renegades is out and people are scared. Incandescent is doing her best, but Longbow is Ms. Liberty's force and the people love her. Now Ms. Liberty has decided that Longbow should handle the Rikti situation and that Vanguard should join up or stand down. She's said that we're superfluous, a danger, and that Longbow has the troops and gear to take on the Rikti better than we can. After all of this, I can see where she's coming from. She may have a point. More than that, she may be right. But I don't look good in red and white. We have to handle this.
I will overlook that veiled insult to my fashion, Gaussian.
The Red and the Black
Longbow's been wrapping up all of our leads as they're trying to seize control of the situation and get enough rope to hang us. But we're not out of it yet. Lt. Tendaji strongly hinted to you about a Longbow listening base they have hidden in the zone, and we've found it. If they have the information that Tendaji implied they did, it could help us confirm what we think the Renegades are up to. We need all the information we can get to stop them and we can find it in only one place: that Longbow Base.
All we want in there is the data. Unfortunately, the base will be staffed, and most likely there will be security responses each time you get some of the information. Still, it would be best if you could do this without any unnecessary action. I have my own problems with Longbow, but we're all on the same side against the Rikti.
There's actually no consequence to killing Longbow in this mission, despite the mission brief sounding similar. I'll avoid fighting if I can though, just because after all these Swords I don't much feel like it.
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Longbow maps are pretty simple and straightforward. There's some terrible rooms with bad spawn placement, but for the most part they're okay.
Our job is to find three pieces of important data.
I actually die a couple times doing this, because while Clerisy can stealth a mission in theory, doesn't mean he should. In fact this is arguably harder, but fuck it, I'm not interested in dealing with Longbow.
There is a massive amount of data here, a record of every transmission made by a Vanguard Unit. It looks like they sorted them all by branch. There are even separate files for the Renegades' transmissions. The listening post must have assumed they were a new branch.
This crate is filled with gear captured from Vanguard agents. There's also a lot of technological items re-captured after being stolen by Sword Renegades. There's enough here to build some kind of portal-related device.
This unfinished but well-researched report details one Agent Ikah's theories about recent Vanguard activity. Ikah lays out the probability of a renegade branch within the Vanguard and then analyzes their recent actions. His conclusion is that if they make an attempt on Lady Grey's life and fail, they'll likely take a desperate measure to cut off what they see as the source of all their problems at the source, and make an attempt to destroy the conduit between our world and the Rikti homeworld. It sounds like a good idea, but as Ikah points out, the barriers between Earth and Rikti Earth are so weak right now, such an action could have unimaginably bad consequences.
This is bad. If Longbow is right, and I think they are, the Renegades are about to cause a catastrophe. If they manage to use the device they're building to destroy the inter-dimensional corridor between our world and the Rikti Homeworld, it won't seal the thing off, it will open them up. To EVERYTHING. It could change the laws of physics, free the Rularuu, and worse. They have to be stopped.
If comic books have taught me anything all that'll happen is Power Girl or Donna Troy will have a new backstory, but they'd probably appreciate us stopping that happening.
The Red and the Black
We've been tracking the movements of a large group of Renegades, but didn't know their objectives. However, the information you found has made their aims abundantly clear. I believe this group is armed with a portal destroyer, and are going to try and use it in a last-ditch attempt to stop the Rikti invasion forever. Which wouldn't be a bad idea, except that trying to destroy the inter-dimensional conduit between our world and the Rikti homeworld could make the universe collapse. So we gotta stop them.
It's a crazy world, ain't it? This is the Renegade's last push, so they've gone all out. You'll need to capture two of the Renegades' top technicians, defeat the Renegade's leader, and destroy the disrupter before they reach their target. They'll be a bit distracted from all the Rikti, so you have a good chance. Oh, and to make it even more complicated, Longbow will probably be there. They're a lower priority, but if W.M. Dietrich is there, you'll need to defeat her, too, before they'll give it up.
Hooray, we get to punch someone out that deserves it!
We're in the Rikti Caves again, but unfortunately we aren't fighting Rikti. The map is instead populated by, of course, Vanguard Sword. In the early areas they're fighting Longbow, but all those fights end with Sword winning before I can get a good shot. We've got a few objectives.
First, to destroy the portal disruptor.
[NPC] Vanguard Ranger: How do we put this together?
[NPC] Vanguard Ranger: Where are those technicians?
Although I don't think that was ever going to be a threat with these guys.
This batch of destroyed equipment was going to be the portal disrupter that the Renegade Swords were planning to use. If it had been assembled and triggered, it might have been able to break the interdimensional conduit between our world and the alternate reality the Rikti come from. Unfortunately, that would have also shattered the barriers between the two universes, collapsing them in on each other, or worse. You have to wonder just how often the entire universe is placed on the brink of destruction by something like this.
Every single reference to what this thing could do is different, it's great.
Second, we have to down the renegade leader.
[NPC] Renegade Leader Gen. K. Alito: Fool! You will not interfere with my plans!
Fortunately, Alito isn't actually anything special. I'd probably have broken something if I had to deal with an Archvillain or Elite Boss variant of these guys.
Especially because he still kicks my ass.
Captain Dietritch's also on site. She's not a fun fight for me.
She's largely unsurprising, with gun-based attacks and grenades like the Longbow Eagles she's based off of. She's also got stealth, but what really hurts is that jetpack of hers. Clerisy doesn't have good vertical movement, so we faced a bit of an issue.
Fortunately she ended herself by flying away, into one of the two technicians we're also supposed to beat. Vanguard Sword are hostile to everything in this map; not just you, but the Longbow too. So they shoot her down too quick for me to catch it on camera.
[NPC] Capt. W.M. Dietrich: Has there been any sign of Clerisy?
[NPC] Capt. W.M. Dietrich: I was wondering when you'd show up!
[NPC] Capt. W.M. Dietrich: I always knew the Vanguard could not be trusted!
[NPC] Capt. W.M. Dietrich: What is your real agenda? You will answer me!
[NPC] Capt. W.M. Dietrich: Vanguard will be revealed for the traitors you all are!
[NPC] Capt. W.M. Dietrich: Even if you defeat me now, I'll still know the truth!
[NPC] Technician Kan: What am I even doing here?
[NPC] Technician Kan: Aaah!
[NPC] Capt. W.M. Dietrich: Sefu was right, you are dangerous...
[NPC] Capt. W.M. Dietrich: But how could he believe you could be trusted?
I deal with Technician Kan myself...
[NPC] Technician Stoji: I never even wanted be here.
[NPC] Technician Stoji: Aw, man!
And Technician Stoji right afterwards. Sorry, man, we're both guys doing our job, and it happens that mine is beating your ass.
You really saved the day, Clerisy. The surviving Renegades are all in custody and the dimensional barriers are safe. A quick trip to the hospital cooled off Dietrich, and once she had proof that this was a Renegade group acting on their own, she took it to Ms. Liberty, who's backed off on calling for us to be disbanded. WMD may not like us, but she's honest, I'll give her that. Overall, things worked out okay.
Well, except for me. All of this happened on my watch, so I've got a lot of people in Vanguard pretty angry at me. I need to spend some time and clean up my organization. In the meantime, the Watcher asked me to send you his way. I don't know what's up, but whatever he thinks of me right now, he's heard a lot of good things about you. I'll see you later.
Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to get the Swords sharp again.
While you're at it, Gaussian, can you make it so that they aren't thoroughly infuriating to fight? That'd be super.
Next: The Horror of War