Part 11: Update XI - Damn This Damn DamUpdate XI - Damn This Damn Dam
Now, it's time to head to Shasta Dam and fuck up some Native Californians.
Norton and Dorbi will be coming along for the ride.
And here we are. Looks like everything is just fine.
Bollocks. So, we've got some explosives. If we were intelligent, we could disarm it. If we were charismatic or had the Security Etiquette, we could just tell the security guy to try and disable it. Alas, we can't do any of that, and this guy can't disarm it either, so one of our group will have to bite the bullet.
We can pick from every party member, so let's formally introduce Dorbi to the crew and have her figure it out.
She eats 25 HP of damage for her troubles. Oh well, nothing a medkit can't patch up.
And we don't have to worry about explosions in the immediate future!
What we do have to worry about is these fuckers on the other side of the bridge.
Did you crawl over here after I kicked you out of your garbage home?
Thanks for wiping out those waterjackers for me. Now my boys won't have any competition when we expand to control the 5.
Yeah, yeah. We didn't totally beat your ass at all back there.
[Let Dorbi speak.]
You fragging piece of slime! Those were good folks. Well, maybe not 'good', but next to you they were saints. I'll kill you for what you did!
What are you doing here?
I've noticed that you're letting filthy keebs roam around freely in Redding. That's a mistake, hoss. Do you think they'll just stand idly by when them pointy-ears come swarming down from Tir? They'll light the way for the invaders, and stab you in the back.
Are you as stupid as you are cruel?
[The elf has been bound tightly and made to kneel on the pavement. His clothing is torn and he's bleeding profusely, but he remains defiant.]
We elves will be the first ones up against the wall when Tir breaks through! Nobody will fight them harder than us to resist them.
See what I mean?
[Without looking, Claude casually slams the elf's head into the pavement.]
Treacherous, deceitful little vermin. If you had the guts, you'd take care of them yourself.
We could tell him that those elves are no threat, since people with nothing need to stick together, but we don't have the Street Etiquette for that. We could also tell him that he has a point, or that we need to question the elf if he's a traitor. Or, we could just do this:
Let him go immediately!
You want a fight, eh? Lucky thing we came prepared! Since you're out here, this is a prime time to take over that fine base of yours. Men, keep these heroes busy! I'm going to stir up some mischief.
And with that, Claude and some other guys run off and blow the bridge behind them, leaving us on the other side with some guys to fight.
Oh well. Kami does her thing...
...while Norton frees the elf.
Our new friend, Elorn, is a shooty type. He's got a shotgun and a submachinegun.
We splat all of the nearby enemies, but new ones spawn in at the top.
While Kami carves those guys up, Dorbi heads down to check the exploded part. Looks like we can't move on here now.
And next turn, the game just drops five guys directly next to our squishy mage and blocks the way past. Uh, whoops?
So, yeah, Dorbi gets kinda fucked up something fierce.
Thankfully, Kami can run fast enough to get to her to patch her up before she dies. We then carve up the rest of the enemies with relative ease.
He's convinced that, if he can get on the air and spew his racist propaganda for long enough, he'll persuade local humans to rise up and slaughter the elves. He's probably wrong - the people in Redding are good folks - but why take the risk? We should hurry and stop him.
Now that we're done with the battle, someone else showed up at the bridge.
I have seen much here, but I understand little.
[She motions you to come closer.]
Tell me. why were those men hurting that elf?
Our response options here are that they were doing it either because they're cruel sadists, they're scared of elves, or they wanted to solve a problem.
They're cruel sadists.
I'm sorry, but that concept is so foreign to me. I've known many, many cruel men in my life, but I will never understand why they would choose to inflict pain on others. I've heard frightened whispers of an invasion by Tir Tairngire. What does this mean?
It means either that elves may conquer humans, that many will die in a coming war, or widespread destruction.
It means widespread destruction.
I had thought that the elves of Tir Tairngire would care for nature. However, such an invasion would surely cause a great deal of harm. I am curious... how do the metahumans fare in these lands?
Here, we can ask for some opinions from the party.
Elorn, do you want to handle this?
Redding isn't the worst, but it's pretty bad. Many parents ostracize their children when they manifest metahuman traits. Discrimination is widespread, too. It can be really hard to find a good job if you're not a human.
What do you think, Dorbi?
We dwarves and elves have the best of it. Humans are content to call us names, but think we're pretty good workers at what we do. Orcs and trolls have it really tough, though. It's no wonder that so many of them end up as shadowrunners or in gangs, since the human world has little use for them.
As for our answer, we can say that metas face a lot of discrimination, that they need to learn to give as good as they get, or that they have it as bad as everybody else.
Metahumans face a lot of discrimination.
That's very unfortunate. How sad. I wish I could help them. Thank you for answering my questions. Can I do anything to help you?
Did you see a group of men running past here?
Yes, they passed this way. Their leader ordered the dam destroyed, and they detonated it behind them. Such devastation! While the dam is not natural, its razing would do nothing to restore harmony.
What do you think about our chances here in CalFree?
They certainly appear hopeless. However, the impossibility of the task should not deter you from your struggle. I believe that we all have an obligation to do what we can to change things for the better, even if it is impossible. No: especially if it is impossible. The day may come when darkness surrounds you, death presses in, and you can see no escape. Even then, do not give in to despair. Declare your intention to live. Tear down the very walls that surround you. Death may still find you, but you might persuade it to show mercy on that day.
Can you help us return to Redding?
Yes, this is within my power. Accept this as my thanks for the enlightenment you have provided.
And she just magicks the fire away, then turns into birds. ...sure.
Uh... what are you talking about?
Oh, you know! It's nice to be with a meta-majority group for once.
This is not accurate mathematically! We're an even fifty-fifty split!
Uh, guys, I'm right here.
Oh, you don't count! I mean... yeah, you're human, but you're cool enough that I consider you one of us. And you're not so uptight that you constantly surround yourself with other humans.
I have to admit, I don't really think about human versus meta all that often. In NorCalFree, I'm used to elf versus non-elf. People seem to be afraid that I'm part of a Tir Tairngire fifth column, whether they're human, dwarf, ork or troll.
Is that all because of the 2036 invasion?
Yeah. Most people were alive when that went down, and they're terrified at the thought of another invasion. Tir left long ago, but locals are convinced that the elves are plotting some long-running scheme to collapse CalFree. What's crazy is that, any time I meet an elf from Tir, they treat me even worse than humans here do. They think I'm a race-traitor, and genetically inferior to second-generation elves up north. Humans wish I would just 'go back to Tir', and Tir wants nothing to do with me.
Yikes... I'm sorry, Elorn. That really sucks.
Eh. Yeah, it does, but I'm used to it. Now that I think about it, maybe I should spend more time hanging out with metas like you. I don't think I have as much baggage with dwarves and orks as I do with elves.
You should! Ring me if you ever want to check out Halferville together. It's almost all dwarves, but they're really friendly to anyone who isn't with Saito. They could always use a talented guard like you, and might be able to teach you some new tricks.
Ugh... I don't think I could stand living underground for long. But, thanks for the offer. I really should try to get away from Redding more often.
Alright, looks like we need to deal with that.
Before we get in, we have to carve up four thugs, but once they're dealt with, we can head back to Redding.
And we've arrived back in our base, with it looking somewhat worse for wear.
After carving through the welcoming committee, we find that the door to the control room is locked, so we need to check out the other area.
There's more enemies here, and we also get to steal something from the supplies of our vendors to later sell back to them. Hey, it's a cutthroat business.
In the back, we find a talisman we have to break.
While Kami deals with the endlessly respawning enemies in the other room, the rest of the gang heads to the control room, but find themselves stymied by a locked door.
But Kami finds the key for it pretty quickly just laying on the ground. I guess some guy dropped it? Thankfully, the key just magically unlocks the door instead of Kami having to hoof it all the way over to the door.
Of course Claude got out.
So while Kami continues to carve up respawning enemies and not caring, the others clear out the control room and interrupt the broadcast.
Hm, all of these sound good in a way, but let's go and build some class consciousness.
We all need to stick together... and everyone needs to do their part. The Native Californians claimed to oppose Tir Tairngire, but their actions here today have helped Tir immeasurably. If you want to keep your homes safe, and see that your children grow up free, you'll need to help us repair the damage. We'll take your donations, your spare weapons, your labor and your valor. Help us save you.
Oh hey, where'd you come from?
That should persuade a lot more metahumans to come out and join us. We'll need every body we can get on the front line. What a mess. It'll take days to clean this all up.
[Selene shakes her head in amazement.]
Well. I'll get to it now. See you later!
But before we can head out to finish the run, we have some more dialogue.
How fare your comrades in the Central Valley? We regret that we have not paid as much attention to this region as we ought. San Francisco has consumed far too much of our time of late.
Well, that right there is the problem, Norton. Nobody gives any drek about little towns like ours, except as spots on a map that can be claimed for the glory of their empires. Sacramento holds the political power, San Francisco the economic power, and Tir Tairngire the military. Against them, places like Redding are nothing. So. how do we fare? Much better than we have any right to, I guess. Nobody gives us anything, and they'd love to take away the little we already have. We've learned to keep our heads down, and hope that people like you will forget that we exist.
People like us? We assure you, Elorn, all cities in California are cherished subjects of our empire!
Whatever you say. I must admit that I never lie awake at night worrying about what will happen when Emperor Norton invades our city.
Nor should you! For you are already fortunate citizens under our rule. And rest assured, we shall do all in our power to keep you safe.
That's a fine offer. But what exactly is in your power? I mean no disrespect, but where are your armies? Where are your drones? Will you bring infrastructure, logistics, training? What, exactly, do you DO?
[Norton laughs heartily.]
Our dear Elorn, it is not what we do, it is who we ARE! We embody California, in all her strengths and contradictions. As long as we remain hale, so shall our beloved nation. And as long as our nation remains strong, so shall we. Do you understand?
I wish I did, Norton. I really wish I did.
[Elorn sighs glumly.]
I would give anything to have the depths of your beliefs.
And with that, we head out to get a hotel room because yeah, I'm not sleeping here.
Hey, we have, like, stuff here now! Let's chat with everybody to cap this update off.
How are the preparations going?
I have to say, I'm pretty worried. We don't have nearly enough bodies to mount any effective field action against Tir forces. We might be able to harass them a bit with snipers and saboteurs, but they shouldn't have any trouble surrounding and wiping out our forces. I strongly urge you to do all that you can to encourage additional recruits to travel here.
Do you need any support?
The most important thing you can do is inform folks what you're doing. The more famous you become, and the more attractive you make our operation sound, the more people will show up in camp and the more potential soldiers we'll have. That said, I know a group of mercenaries who might be interested in joining us. They don't come cheap: it'll cost ¥4000 to hire them for this engagement It won't make a huge difference in the grand scheme of things, but sometimes every little bit can help.
We'll be keeping this open until the end, since we'll have more money then.
I decide to grab an upgrade to Close Combat and Melee Weapons to unlock the next weapon.
What's your opinion of conditions in the camp?
Supplies are critically low. You wouldn't believe the disgusting swill we're trying to feed your soldiers. And the body armor they're trying to patch together... it's pathetic, frankly. I strongly urge you to bring us more gear, and do it quickly.
That still doesn't sound good.
What do you think of our chances against Tir?
[She hesitates. choosing her words carefully.]
It'll be tough. Those of us who saw them cross the border in '36 remember them as this enormous green wave, inexorable, sweeping over everything in its path. The one advantage you have is that you're prepared. Back then, nobody suspected they would come. We were the first state to recognize their independence, after all. I think we all felt betrayed back then, and we don't want to make the mistake of underestimating them again. Then again, just knowing that you're going to get reamed doesn't exactly help against it happening, or make it feel any better when it does. I think this is beyond all of us. The best we can hope for is to delay their approach, make them bleed, and pray that some greater power will come to our aid before we're all washed away.
So you're saying there's a chance?
Where do you get your supply from?
It's not easy, I can tell you that. My San Francisco locations receive supplies from Seattle that are smuggled onto the coast. This far inland, we need to either hire runners to escort them over the Coast Range, or else cut deals with the local water gangs to bring in materiel from Pueblo.
We also grab ourselves a shiny new weapon.
Are you worried about the imminent invasion?
I guess? I mean, it sounds scary and everything. It's a bit hard for me to focus on something that's so far out in the future, though. There's plenty of stuff that can kill me RIGHT NOW. I don't have too many worries to spare for something that might kill me next month. That said, I don't like what I've heard about Tir. They're not quite as bad as the Native Californians, but it seems like the same sort of thing: They're building an elf-only nation, and kicking all of us non-elves out of it. So, yeah, I'll gladly toss a fireball or two in their direction.
What's your story?
Wow... are you recording this? Am I on Truly Trideo? Let's see... I grew up outside of Sacto. Mom worked for the agri-corps, never met my dad. I was a late bloomer, she near had a heart attack when I went trog. She was a good soul, though, didn't hold it against me. I started manifesting around that time, talking with invisible spirits and whatnot, and she figured I might have better things to do in life than jab at the ground with a pointed stick. So, she sent me off to Chico to study with a local shaman.
That was generous of her.
Yeah, she'd never caught a break in life, figured it was time for one of her progeny to make it. Anyways, I'm definitely the best shaman in my family, but that ain't saying much. No matter how hard I practiced, I just couldn't reliably cast the most important spells. I didn't even bother trying to get a job in corp security or as a shadowrunner. I wouldn't survive a single month of combat. But, I wasn't about to go back to farming. I know the theory behind magic, and I REALLY know the business, so I decided to open a shop. There are some good sites of power near Redding, so this was an ideal spot for me to set up a store. As soon as I saw your crew moving into town, I said to myself: "Self, these folks are going to need a lot of magic, and you are going to sell it to them." So I'm moving my operation over here for as long as you guys stick around. Don't make a liar out of me: Go ahead and buy something!
Eh, I'll pass.
Where did you get your supply from?
Well, Kali remembered me from our time together in Antumbra, and I guess she was impressed enough by my work to front me some startup capital. She has strong connections with Mitsuhama, and was able to send some surplus gear my way. I'm pretty self-sustaining now, and am cutting deals with local gangs to get more supplies. Still, Kali continues to offer good advice, and is earning her cut of my profits.
How did you end up here?
I grew up in Seattle, and decided that it was just getting too played out, you know? Like, nothing new seems to happen there, just the same drek repeated over and over again. I had to get out. California seems like it'll be the next big thing, so I sold all my gear and bought a one-way ticket down here. I didn't exactly expect to end up in a war zone, but now that I'm here, I actually kind of dig it. It makes me feel alive. I never really thought of myself as an aid worker or anything, but the medkits and stuff I'm selling might help save someone's life, and that's pretty rad.
I'm glad to see you survived that hostage situation.
I don't think I ever thanked you for that. So... thanks.
[Elorn shuffles awkwardly for a moment before meeting your eyes.]
Compared to the war you're facing, it would have been easy to ignore the fate of a couple of elves. It means a lot to us that you care for those living under your protection, and not just killing your enemies.
What can you tell me about Redding?
It's already started changing since you arrived here. It tends to be both sleepy and on edge at the same time, if that makes sense... we've been fought over and abandoned, and try not to worry about it too much. These days, there's more of a sense of purpose. Everyone knows that a war is coming, and we'll be the first casualties. So we don't have much choice: We have to train ourselves, arm ourselves, and prepare for what's coming. We would probably have just formed a militia, but now that you're setting up here with your out-of-town friends, it seems like our best chance for survival is to work together. After that, who knows what will happen?
What kind of training do you have?
My dad was a leader of the local insurgency after Tir Tairngire invaded back in '36. He helped make sure that me and my sisters would grow up in freedom, and he did it by shooting bullets into the back of elven heads. Ever since we were old enough to hold a pistol, he's trained us in marksmanship. We've always known that Tir was coming back one day, and all of us would need to be ready to fight them. I've drilled at the target range almost every day for most of my life. That said, I don't really have much experience shooting actual, living people. At most I'll occasionally need to take down a hellhound or cockatrice. That fight at the dam was the closest exposure to death I've experienced. I don't think I'm quite used to it yet... but I'll need to be if we're going to win against Tir.
I've heard that you're Emperor of UCAS and Protector of Aztlan, but have you ever been to either of those places?
We are far too busy to spend our time in idle transit! Thanks to today's communications advances, we are able to track events all throughout our far-flung empire, while remaining close to our beloved city of San Francisco. Never fear, though. While our feet have not trod the soil of those lands, our soul resides fully with her people. We take our duty seriously, and we shall not shirk from it.
What do you think of our prospects?
Frankly, they're not good. I have a few other operations in the region, and at the moment they're looking more resilient than you. Unfortunately, that probably means that Tir will target Redding as the initial weak point. As for what comes next... If you do survive, you'll be one of the most valued employees of the megacorps. Just how far you take that, though, will depend on the wealth and resources you can accumulate here. My superiors have tremendous respect for possessions, and the more supplies you can collect here in Redding, the more likely they will be to treat you as a peer, not just a lackey.
Well, we'll have to see how we end up in that regard. Next time, we'll be heading to Colma to pick up Norton's Army. I'm sure nothing will go wrong there at all.