Please note: there are actually two entries this week; but only the most recent is entered here; for the prior entry, please check the forums.
Jan 9, 2163 – Northern Saskatchewan
I was right. Corben Anastas is definitely alive, and he’s only gotten meaner since our last encounter. I’m not sure if he knew he was fighting me again; because he and I were both in mechs, but I knew. I guess I took it more personally than he did, anyway.
The fight was pretty brutal; Olin, Svetlana and Digit took Randall down into the tunnels below the city, to try to secure the bunker, while George and I took the Ak’uma into the air to help defend the city.
The firefight was a tough one; there were so many mechs flying about it was impossible for many of them not to get hit, and Anastas’ mech did tons of damage, so most people who got hit by him got fried; especially that blast weapon he uses sometimes. He also had some kind of protective shield up, and extremely sturdy armour, so almost nothing I had could hurt him. I used up my two heavy missiles, and that was about it.
I could see he was going for the reactor in the middle of the city though, so I told George I was committing to taking him down, in case he wanted out; because the only course I could see left open to me was to ram him, and hope the blast from our own system going up might do enough damage to keep him from the reactor; but before I could hit him, McGrudder interfered in his mech, and was pretty heavily damaged in the action. I tried to save him, but his mech was literally falling to pieces; there was nothing I could get a firm grasp on, and even with all that he could do, were weren’t enough to stop Anastas. Hitting Anastas wasn’t going to serve any purpose now, because he’d already fired on the reactor, and it was in the process of going up; so I could either stay and be fried, or take off. I took off, like a bat outta hell.
We were doing alright at first, but the crest of the explosion was gaining on us, and my mech was at top speed. I don’t exactly remember when we were overtaken; I lost consciousness. I’m not sure exactly how long George was up and able to act, but not long I guess. He managed to activate the auto-pilot anyway; which I hadn’t managed to do.
And then, while I was out cold, I had this really wild dream… I’m not even sure I can remember much of it, except that there were these animals, and they were sort of surrounding me; though not really together. They came at me from different directions, and sort of tried to attack me, but none of them made contact; they just faded away, a bear, a lion, a cheetah, and a wolf except for the last, who was an eagle, and he carried me in his talons. I’m not sure what the message there is, if there is one, but I suppose, my name being Washio, I should get along well with eagles. It probably doesn’t work that well in the real world, but in a dream maybe it does.
When I came to, I was in jammies, and in this sort of run-down looking room which I didn’t recognize. One of the first people I met was, surprisingly, Bruce Grey; the head of the Nambu Institute in Cosmopolis Sector (who was assigned to supervise the ISA’s presence on the Albatross when we left for Earth). I felt peculiar when I saw him, because of course, I was happy to see him; but without knowing if he’s a banana or not, what on earth can I tell him? And how do I avoid telling him anything if he asks me; he’s basically my boss. And my teacher of course.
I listened to begin with. Apparently he escaped the crash in an escape pod, like myself; and evaded detection by the squiddies. He was found by an older guy, who calls himself Hawk. I dunno what the political term is these days, but back in the wild west they were called Indians; like, Native Americans I mean; not from India. Only I suppose this one was probably a Native Canadian. Anyway, he says his name’s Hawk; which I sort of liked, because that’s what Taka actually means. Well, it’s a hawk or a falcon; and I’ve always associated it with falcons more than hawks, but it’s the same word. He said he was responsible for bringing me and George to this place, which was some distance to the north of Fairburg.
If I understand rightly, he, Hawk, works for the ISA on Earth; though I think it’s still going by the old ISO name; and he found Bruce, and he sought me out to bring me to them both. He’s some kind of Psy-Op, I think. I didn’t know the NI did that sort of thing; but I guess there’s no reason why they couldn’t.
Apparently, he’s got information which could be of use to us. He says the ISO here has been working on a way to harvest protomatter without recourse to the Cytrak plant. We should probably find a way to hook up with them, if this is true, since they’ll have much more powerful mechs than Fairburg had at its disposal. If it’s not a trap anyway. He said the nearest ISO base was in Northern Québec, which is still some distance away from where we are. And of course, I have to see if there are any survivors in Fairburg, and if they need my help. Once the Ak’uma’s operational again, anyway. Hawk’s got some automated equipment in this little ghost-town he’s been using as a base of operations; he’s fixing up my mech for me. It’s sort of hard to see how he could be working for the squiddies; but I can’t let myself be lulled into a false sense of security. Anybody could be a banana; the truth is, we don’t even know if the bananas themselves know that they’re bananas.
I walked around the town. It really is a ghost-town though; almost nothing on the surface; just a couple of dusty, rickety, all-but-falling-down old buildings, so old and weather-beaten you can’t even give a colour to them; and between them this weird looking totem-pole which apparently belongs to Hawk. I’m not sure what the relevance is, but I did notice that the animal totems on the pole were a bear, a lion, a wolf, a cheetah and at the top, an eagle. You may recall the bizarro dream I had while I was unconscious from the blast (which, by the way, I was out for about 24 hours). They were the same animals. I’m still not sure what that means; maybe I saw the totem pole while I was being brought in, and sort of dreamed about it as a result. Or maybe Mr. Psy-Op was messing with my head. Or maybe the totem-pole is secretly alive and has a thing for school-girls; who knows?
Anyway, I talked to Dr. Grey when I had a moment alone with him. I made sure he was aware of the hulkers’ existence, which he was, and then I explained my trust issues. I figured, if he’s really him inside, he’ll understand, because really, he shouldn’t be trusting me either, without knowing for sure that I’m not bananas.
He agreed with me, and we decided to hold off on any more questionable conversations until we could track down one of the scanner mechanisms. Unfortunately, I’m not even really sure if Digit survived the attack on Fairburg; but Hawk says that Olin and Svetlana both did. Apparently he was able to find them with his mind, because they both were thinking of me. Or maybe because I was thinking of them. I’m really not sure how this Psy-Op mumbo-jumbo works.
I asked him if he could lead them (Olin and Svetlana) here to the ghost town, the way he claims he did me. I don’t remember being led; but maybe he did something to George, or to the autopilot while I was out. Or maybe, when I picked a random direction to jet the hell away from the reactor explosion, is wasn’t as random as I’d thought. He said he could lead them to me anyway, and sat down to do his shaman thing. I dunno if he’s really a shaman, or if that’s just a cover for his other abilities (or maybe that’s what it really means to be a shaman? How do I know?)
Meanwhile, I fielded requests from George to find out if Dr. Grey is single (which he is, last I heard; but I’m not sure if he swings George’s way or not). I told George to talk to Dr. Grey; I don’t really feel comfortable hooking my teacher/boss up with someone… what if they had a bad break-up?
Eventually, I went downstairs to watch the robots repairing my mech, and then when we powerful engines overhead (the facility here’s mostly underground), I poked my nose above-ground, and it turned out to be Olin, Svetlana and Digit. And some new equipment. They still had Randall, but there was a new, badass looking mech, with no arms, and lots of weaponry. I introduced the old gang to the new gang (I’m not sure which was which really; I’ve known Dr. Grey longer than I’ve known Svetlana, Olin and Digit, but I’d never met Hawk ‘til recently), and they had questions for Hawk; but he’s not really the type to answer questions I think; he prefers to keep an aura of mystery. I dunno if it’s a for-real mystery, or if it’s just one he’s concocted by never telling folk stuff, but it works.
Digit scanned everybody for bananas in the salad, but unless she’s been reprogrammed, it looks like everybody’s who they say they are. So finally, I can reasonably rely on what people are telling me.
Turns out, they were on their way northwards anyway, because they were doing a favour for the new military commander of Fairburg (no surprise, McGrudder didn’t survive the fight). Apparently he’s buddies with this guy; sort of a pirate, named Don Carnage, or something; and his Iron Vulture got attacked by squiddies and capsized. They were going north to help out, but their route took them close enough to the ghost-town that they could divert when Hawk started putting pictures of me in their heads (and I hope they were G-rated pictures; but given that I was in jammies when I woke up, anything’s possible).
As it turned out, the Ak’uma was just about done by then, so I decided to go with them to the crash site. I asked Dr. Grey what he wanted me to do about Québec, but we decided it could wait. He and Hawk are going to come with me on the trip north, since Hawk won’t tell me (or possibly doesn’t actually know) the actual location of the ISO base there (he said it was locked away in his mind somehow, so he can only tell when he’s closer to it; I guess that’s more Psy-Op stuff? I guess it keeps him from divulging the location to the squiddies). He’ll come with us, and Dr. Grey too (I guess he’s getting tired of living rustic). It’ll be good to see what the ISO’s been up to on earth while we’ve been away; and I’m interested to see these new mechs they’re developing. And maybe I can get some of them working on a way to recover bananas, so there’s still hope for Uncle Dan. And the rest of course.
But Hawk and Dr. Grey didn’t have a combat-capable mech for themselves; only a car of some sort, so I didn’t want them coming into a combat zone with us (it would have been disastrous, as it later turned out). Besides, Hawk had a bunch of things to do to prep the ghost-town for his leaving. He didn’t intend on leaving a functional base behind him; so he had to rig it to self-destruct. We decided we were going to hook back up with them on our return trip, to give them time to prep, and then continue back to Fairburg.
I didn’t see much point in entering jet mode, since ED-209 and Randall are kind of sluggish, so we strolled along. We’d sort of mixed up the crew by the way. Technically, the Ak’uma is George’s craft, but Olin wanted George to ride shotgun with him, because ED’s got some nifty systems which require a co-pilot to operate correctly, and he was concerned about Digit’s anti-violence coding. Not that we planned to be attacking humans; but then I suppose we need to clarify whether hulkers are different enough from humans in her programming that she’s allowed to harm them. Anyway, Digit’s riding with me. I haven’t really discussed with her about my alter-ego yet though, so I’m still not prepared to suit up in front of her. Especially since Olin’s technically her C.O.
We got to the site of the incident, and the Vulture’s pretty big; it’s big enough to hold a complement of mechs and maintain them also. It had lost control of its antigrav systems though; or pneumatics (I’m not really sure how it operates; is it a hovercraft, or is it something else?) at a critical juncture, and the front end had slid down an embankment into a ditch. It was more or less immobilized until the antigravs could be made functional again, and it could be dragged out of the ditch. (It doesn’t even really have useful wheels, so without the antigravs, it was going nowhere). It had obviously been on the losing end of a fight too. There were the remains of human-made mechs (and also a few squiddie casualties) littering the ground around it, but they hadn’t stuck around to finish the fight for some reason. We weren’t sure why, at first, though we have a theory now.
While we were investigating the site, and determining if the vessel itself was actually a trap, we picked up incoming mecha on our sensors from close range (okay, Digit did; I sort of suck at sensor control; but I bet I can fly better than she can!) Three standard squiddie mechs and one that was less common (it looked sort of like an octopus; eight arms and no clear definition between head and torso). I got to watch Randall and Ed in action; looks like they’re both pretty spiffy. Lots of firepower; and more agile than you’d figure, given that they’re basically tanks. Ed blasted the octomech so hard he literally knocked it back, and before it had hit the ground, it was a smoking pile of rubble. No real clue what that mech could do; all we can say for sure is, it needed better armour.
As for the other three, Randall took two of them out, I believe, with a well aimed mushroom (which is a bad-ass missile, did I mention? Even when it misses, it still causes enough damage over a large enough area that there’s still a good chance it actually hits its target). The last one I tangled with, but it took a few shots to bring it down, and there wasn’t a lot of point in wasting the heavier firepower equipment on it, so we let the fight last longer than it needed to, I guess. But we were just finishing up that fight, and sort of thinking about what to do next when suddenly Digit (who I’d had scanning for any incoming enemy reinforcements, fortunately) detected something coming up fast. It was sort of hard not to recognize it; size alone was pretty distinctive; it was the massive uber-mech that Anastas had been piloting at Fairburg.
And this time he took it to a more personal level. He began by opening communications, and when he realized I was one of the opponents, he focussed on me personally. Not that I mind; I fully intend to kick his tail one day, when I’ve got the equipment; but today wasn’t that day. By sheer luck, I managed to dodge two blasts from that cannon of his; I dunno exactly what kind of technology it is, but it incinerated everything it hit in Fairburg. Then he moved in close and took a swipe at me with his sword. I couldn’t dodge the sword though, and I knew I was probably in some pretty serious trouble when he clove through my shield-arm (the shield didn’t stop it at all); but I was able to get two good shots in at point-blank range with my heavy missiles before relocating, which is good, because my memories told me that these were the only weapons I had which could hurt the bastard. I figured, if I stayed in close though, I was only going to make it easy for him to kill me; but at the same time, I didn’t want to take the fight away from Olin and Svetka, since I figured now that I was out of heavy missiles, it was up to Randall and Ed to take him down.
When I’d put some distance between us though, I turned to face him. I figured, if he was going to kill me, I wasn’t going to get hit in the back, like I’m running away. I’m not scared of him. Not really. Well, I mean I am; he’s pretty scary to look at; but I’ve fought him hand-to-hand and survived, and last time we fought mech-to-mech, I pretty much committed to killing him, even if it takes a kamikaze run; so scared or not, I’m going to kill him eventually. Anyway, that was when I noticed (okay, Digit noticed, if you must know) that the Iron Vulture wasn’t entirely inoperable. It has this big old cannon turret mounted on the topside, and it was swivelling to take aim at Anastas. So long as I kept Anastas in more or less the same firing arc, there was a chance they’d hit him. (That, we figured, was why the squiddies hadn’t stuck around to finish the fight the first time; that and maybe they’d spotted us on their sensors, and wanted to launch a surprise attack?)
I’d like to say I decided to stay and keep him there, but really, after he took another swing at me, and took out my left wing, I really didn’t have much choice anymore; we weren’t flying anywhere anytime soon; and walking, we weren’t outrunning anything.
Anyway, Svetka took a potshot with a mushroom and managed to do a lot of damage (okay, to Anastas and me, but as long as she hit Anastas, I’m okay with that at this point), and between her and Olin and the Iron Vulture (the canon’s pretty sweet, but not exactly new tech), they whittled him down quite a long way. I’d probably still have been toast (I told Digit to stand by on ejection systems at this point), but Anastas (whose communications systems were still online) received some kind of orders from somebody (the squiddie-bosses, I guess, since the squiddies themselves never really retreat), to fall back and regroup. I’m not sure if he obeyed out of fear or loyalty, I mean, just how much of a psychopath is he now? But eventually he pulled back, and the Ak’uma limped back to the Iron Vulture and we met Don Carnage. Or whatever his name actually was.
We pulled the Vulture out of the ditch once the antigravs were running, and stored the mechs (and useable salvage) in the hangar bay, and the Vulture continued on toward Fairburg (detouring by way of the ghost-town – Hawk packed his totem-pole, and detonated the self-destruct, so there’s no turning back now!). The long and the short is, we talked Don Carnage into helping out in Fairburg (I think), since they obviously need someone who’s skilled at … shall we say, procurement… to help them rebuild. Meanwhile, he’s got a hangar bay full of mechs which are slowly being repaired (turns out Ed actually belongs to him, but was on loan to Colonel Ventura); but none of his mech pilots survived the skirmish. And, go-figure, we’re a squad of pilots who could use an extra mech or two. So he wants us to consider working for him. He’ll even pay us. Or give us part-ownership of, I guess, if he works the way most pirate crews do. Or did historically.
We hadn’t committed to anything yet; I mean we were planning to bring him to Fairburg, and then I had to head off to Québec, with the others or without them, so I couldn’t exactly agree to work for this guy (and anyway, I already work for the ISC!), but we were sort of stalling for time, since he’s eager to please us while he tries to talk us into helping him. But when we got to Fairburg, Venture intercepted us and thanked us for helping his friend, but said that the civilian leadership of Fairburg wasn’t enthusiastic about having a pirate in their midst, and so basically he wasn’t welcome. Likewise, they didn’t think it was a good idea for the four of us to continue to use them as a base of operations, since it would risk calling attention to the fact that they weren’t actually dead, and might bring Anastas and another horde of squiddies down on them. So basically, they were kicking us out.
Now, like I said, I’d already been planning to leave, so it was no real skin off my nose anyway; and I agreed that we were putting them in danger by hanging around, so I was perfectly happy to head off to la belle province. I think they’re a bit short-sighted in ousting Don Carnage, but then again, I’ve known the man less than a day; they’ve lived here all their lives; maybe I’m over-simplifying.
In any case, we talked it over, and we’ve agreed to help Don Carnage, while we’re travelling together, and he’s agreed to travel north into Québec, so hopefully I can find my compatriots.
Anyway, so once again, Anastas is alive and at large, and Digit’s scanning the crew of the Vulture for signs of bananas, since we understand Lola Ingersol was among them prior to the ambush which capsized them.
I finally have a moment to sit down and input this into my diary, and hopefully we’ll have a quiet trip into the great, white north.