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Oh boy oh boy. Here we go again.
Tue Feb 22, 2011 12:43pm

Kaze's ears had almost become numb to the endless knocking of shells and plasma charges exploding overhead. The long-term ramifications for his hearing had started to concern him somewhat when a cellphone he'd been given a week ago rang for its first time. His jaw reflexively clenched as he pulled the device from a pocket and turned it over. The screen spelled out a simple text message: 'Caroline'. It was the agreed upon codeword and his cue to-

"Private First Class Matthews!" Kaze stood bolt upright and turned to salute his commanding officer.

"Sir!" Rigid military form was something he'd learned as a late teenager, and he'd practiced his role before this mission to reaffirm his familiarity with the textbook rigor. (Much to the amusement of Shinsei.)

"What the hell are you doing? A tech just reported in that a single panel of the defense shield just flickered. He says he thinks it was a momentary failure, but I want you to make sure it's not sabotage. Check in with power substation R-09. We're marking it on your HUD." A tiny blinking asterisk appeared over Kaze's viewscreen.

"Sir, yes sir!" With another salute, Kaze unshouldered the rifle he'd been issued and made double-time towards his ordered destination. He and a number of other Freelancers had been inserted into the city a week ago in the latest batch of mercenaries hired by Lariam's armed forces. Two days after, the shield had gone up, preventing escape until the main force arrived and punched a hole from the outside. Three after that is when the artillery had started. Only now their patience was coming to bear fruit. Kaze disabled the comm frequencies he'd been reporting through over the past week and keyed up the Freelance Reploids' encrypted channel.

"Sorry for the delay. Brass stuck its nose in."

Axel's voice crackled over the line. "What's the lay of the land?"

"Recon mission has been successful, command. Uploading." Any Freelancer capable of receiving the transmission downloaded a military-annotated map of the city, as well as a glowing buzz of multicolored markers that denoted points of interest. "Reds are defended installations, firebases, SAM sites, the like. Yellows are power plants and their backups, munitions dumps, and vehicle garages. Greens are barracks, and whites are points that we suspect are important but couldn't get in to examine ourselves. Big Kahuna is here." The maps zoomed in to an estately building that was part mansion and part skyscraper, marked with a red star above it. "Presidential palace. We're not sure if the target is still there, but we know they have underground evacuation bunkers."

"Got it. Maintain your cover until shit hits the fan, then either regroup with us or start breaking things that look important, depending on the situation."

"Sir." The commline died, and substation R-09 came into view around the next corner.


Shells spattered off Shinsei's shield even as she crouched low to the ground, letting her allies fire over her shield from behind her. She crept forward into a position behind a low wall that covered her entire body from incoming fire while still allowing her defenses to be projected where they were most needed. A hail of minigun fire lashed across the warm, pale wall, turned to slag, and ran down its contours until it evaporated. Axel turned to fire on the pillbox, but stopped as a flash of crimson energy shredded the weapon and the infantrymen inside. Kail's helmet passed the window, and Shinsei wondered what constituted "the shit hitting the fan."


NRP: Just getting in to the game.

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