Log Title: An Unlikely Ally
Location: Los Angeles, California
Date: 28 June 2017
As logged by Major Bludd
Los Angeles - California
Conflicting images of Los Angeles flicker across our television and movie screens: Hollywood glamour contrasts with gang violence, year-round sunny skies with smog, fast cars with traffic jams. From what travelers can gather, Los Angeles is a land of style and disaster, movers and shakers and earthquakes. Residents are accustomed to a rhythm that alternates between relaxation and stress, but out-of-towners -- fortunately -- tend to experience much more of the former.
The nation's second-largest city (after New York), L.A. is a great place in which to do business or take a vacation. Marvelous restaurants, terrific nightlife, beaches, diverse cultural offerings, Disneyland and easygoing attitudes converge in a vast territory flooded with sunshine and lined with palms. Nearly everyone should see L.A. at least once, though a single trip will hardly be enough to appreciate such a vast area that's jam-packed with things to do.
Currently the city is a shambles, under occupation by Cobra. Black and silver Battle Android Troopers are on every street corner, reminding citizens in their computerised voices that they must obey Cobra's commands or be punished. Mirror-helmeted Cobra Vipers patrol the streets, on foot and in black Stinger jeeps or Ferret ATVs.
Mainframe has spent the last few weeks bent over a keyboard working with Firewall, Hacker, and Hi-Tech to develop a virus capable of taking out Mindbender's BATnet. Now, he finally gets a chance to put it to the test. With his support team nearby but out of sight, Mainframe moves through Los Angeles in his urban camouflage uniform, dodging BATs and Vipers alike as he moves towards Cobra's carefully-guarded LA hub.
Disguised in his bland, nobody-in-particular holographic appearance, Major Bludd skulks about the streets and back alleys of Los Angeles. He's appointed Rio and the tiny Tonka to stand watch over Starlight Mansion while he goes in search of a method to circumvent the network of Battle Android Troopers that seem to be on literally every street corner.
Lowdown has been quite busy helping to reaclimate the Joes' latest informant, seeing as how the former Cobra operative has (for some reason Lowdown still doesn't quite understand) formed a bond with the Joe sniper. However, now that it's time to put some of that intel to use, he's back out in the field where he truly feels at home. And hopefully this won't be a horrible botch like last time. He's effectively shadowing Mainframe's path, sticking to higher positions whenever possible to provide fire support when it's needed.
Mainframe approaches the low building that's been repurposed as the new LA BAT central. He finds good cover and pauses, taking out high-tech binoculars and scanning the formidable defenses. BATs, Viper Guards, and Techno-Vipers. Too many for an all-out assault -- that would give them too much time to shut the system down and activate backups. So, something stealthy. Mainframe is no ninja, but unfortunately Snake-Eyes just don't have the tech background to make this work.
Bludd finds himself a few blocks from the control centre, though he's not aware of it. His knowledge of Cobra's operating methods applies mostly to military bases, not occupation of civilian targets. He takes a crumpled map from his back pocket and scrawls a couple notes on it, marking spots where the BAT blanket over the city has a potential hole.
Lowdown takes up position on a high-rise apartment building overlooking the facility that houses the BAT node. He's chosen one with the setting sun at his back, and sets up in between a pair of air conditioning units to provide some concealment against aerial observers. He speaks quietly into his radio, "Overwatch in position. No signs of high alert."
Mainframe nods silently in response to Lowdown's report. Mainframe actually has no idea where Lowdown is, but he trusts that Lowdown knows where HE is, so that's all that's important. Slowly Mainframe changes position, moving gradually around the building in a wide perimeter. He mentally marks the location of each BAT and human sentry, as well as their patterns of movement. He spies the building itself, looking for methods of ingress. Finally he radios, "OK. I got it. I'm ready to move."
Bludd quickly ducks into an alley as a Viper trooper on patrol turns a corner and heads his way. There seem to be more human troops in this direction, he muses as he crouches behind a Dumpster. Once the Viper has passed by, he takes out his map again and studies it. "They're all arranged near that one building here," he mutters to himself, tapping the map with a finger. "Wonder why." The map goes back into his pocket as he heads cautiously back out onto the street.
Lowdown is alternating between the scope of his large rifle and his own eyes as he scouts the area, looking for anything that might be out of this bizarro version of ordinary. There's some rather odd movement a couple blocks down the way, and (with the safety on) he sights through his scope to see what's going on. He radios to Mainframe, "Civilian movement... acting a little shady. I'll keep tabs on him."
Mainframe's entire attention is on his target -- without Lowdown's overwatch, he'd have run right out in view of the civilian without realizing it. He frowns -- he's got to move fast, but if this random dude calls attention to himself or gives away Mainframe's position, the entire mission could be lost. Mainframe hesitates a moment, then makes a call -- he's got to take out this shady individual fast, preferably painlessly, and then finish the operation. Retreating from the BAT bunker, Mainframe moves in the shadows towards Major Bludd.
The hairs on the back of Bludd's neck rise, though there's no obvious immediate threat. He puts full trust in his soldier's instincts and risks darting within a few feet of a BAT to put himself in another alley. He places his back against the wall and listens intently to his surroundings. The fading light makes it hard to determine movement with his eyes. He resists the urge to draw his sidearm -- if he's discovered by a trooper they're liable to let him off with a warning, but if he's armed they'll probably shoot first and not bother asking questions.
Mainframe spots the 'civilian' duck into an alleyway, and thinks, 'Perfect.' Ideally he can knock this guy unconscious and stow him away long enough to complete the mission, and no Cobra would be the wiser. He draws his silenced weapon, just in case, but isn't planning on using it -- not against this poor shmuck who might be just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Ducking low, Mainframe slides into the alley with Bludd.
Ordinarily, Bludd would have his weapon in his hand and be quite prepared to efficiently and emotionlessly end the life of anybody in his way. Recent events have left him with a rather different point of view, however. Caught in a silent battle between his soldier's instincts and his newly re-discovered sense of compassion, he freezes, his senses still reaching out for whatever has him on alert.
GAME: Mainframe PASSES an INTELLIGENCE roll of Above Average difficulty.
GAME: Mainframe PASSES an AGILITY roll of Above Average difficulty.
GAME: Mainframe FAILS an AGILITY roll of Very High difficulty.
Mainframe slips into the alley, and approaches the wary 'civilian'. Getting as close as he can, Mainframe raises his silenced pistol and points it towards the stranger's face. He hisses quietly, "I don't want to hurt you. I'm with the military. I need you to be quiet and lie face down. If you give away our position, we're both dead." Mainframe makes a slight motion with his pistol. He keeps his eyes on his target, trusting Lowdown to have his back.
Compassion or no compassion, a pistol pointed at his face is more than enough to goad Bludd into action. His right hand shoots out and he wraps his fingers around the man's weapon hand, pointing the gun into the sky. "I can't do that," he whispers. "I can't let you stop me here." He glances over his shoulder, toward the street behind him. "I can't afford to have them take me in." In his startlement he forgets to put on the American accent he's been using when away from the mansion and speaks with his normal, probably quite recognisable, voice and accent.
Mainframe's eyes widen in surprise as the 'civilian' grabs his gun hand and points his gun into the sky, and then speaks to him in a shockingly-familiar Australian accent. Mainframe squints in the growing darkness at the man's unfamiliar face. Could it be? No, there are clearly two working eyes -- no mask is that good. "Who are you?" he hisses. "I have no interest in either of us getting captured. Maybe I can help." Oh, my, this is getting unnecessarily complicated.
Bludd loosens his grip on Mainframe's pistol hand, but doesn't release it. Inwardly cursing himself for letting the accent slip, he continues on with his normal voice. "It doesn't matter who I am," he whispers. "I want to see this city freed from occupation, but I'm only one man. I ... really don't know what I expected to find out here. I just got tired of sitting around waiting for the military to come rescue our asses."
Mainframe feels Bludd's grip loosen, but doesn't pull away. Instead he tries to very slowly lower the gun. "Well, I'm the military, and we're finally here to rescue your asses. With the occupation, we couldn't just come in guns blazing -- we needed a plan. Now we have one. Now, tell me who you are -- it does matter. Maybe we can work together, but I need to know if I can trust you. If we're on the same side, you can trust me."
Bludd smiles despite himself at Mainframe's parroting of his phrase. "No, course not," he drawls, his voice still low. "I can't tell you who I am," he insists. "You ... probably wouldn't believe me anyway. There's a lot of things that you wouldn't believe." He releases Mainframe's hand with a sigh. "Just don't shoot me, okay?"
Mainframe sighs, and nods. "Very well. We all have our secrets. I'm called Mainframe, by the way. I've located the center of the BAT control network here in Los Angeles, and I'm come to shut it down. I don't need your help, especially, but I need you not to garner the BATs' attention." Mainframe looks over the mysterious stranger. "I have a feeling that's something you can handle," he says. It's not really a question.
Relief, hope, and uncertainty cross Bludd's face in rapid succession as Mainframe speaks. "You really have a way to shut down the BATnet?" It was something he'd hoped somebody was going to try, as it was obviously the Achilles' Heel of the occupation. He unwittingly uses the term 'BATnet' as a result of years of working with the Over Kill unit.
Mainframe's eyes immediately narrow with suspicion as Bludd unwittingly reveals a little more about himself than intended. Mainframe grabs at Bludd's arm. "'BATnet'?" he quotes back at Bludd. "You seem awfully familiar with the situation for some random passerby. Who are you, really? I'm not letting you go until you tell me. I can't be walking out of here with some Cobra at my back. Just what are you playing at?"
Bludd's holographic eyes widen for a moment as he realises his mistake, and he flinches as Mainframe grabs him, fighting his instinct to struggle with the man. Stumbling about in an attempt to create a believable story on the spot is not going to fool this fellow, he knows. "Okay, alright," he hedges. "I do know something about BATs. But I don't work for Cobra. If they knew I was here, they'd make my life miserable in a damn right hurry. And I've gotta say that living in an occupied city is already pretty miserable to begin with." He gazes intently into Mainframe's face for a long moment and comes to a decision. "You said you needed to know if you can trust me. What I'm about to do is a show of trust." He closes his eyes and clasps his hands in front of him in a very honest gesture of trepidation. He lowers his head, takes a slow, measured breath, and softly requests, "Drop the disguise, please." As the hologram dissolves, revealing his true, haggard, burned and somewhat battered appearance, his expression softens. "I told you the truth: I want to see this city freed from occupation. And you have me in a very dangerous situation: anybody you show me to is going to be very interested in doing some very unkind things to me. I'm trusting you to not throw me to the wolves."
Great shock is evident across Mainframe's features, even if he already suspected the truth. "Sebastian Bludd!" he gasps, a little too loudly for someone hiding from nearby BATs. "It is you!" he exclaims, at least lowering his voice to a harsh stage whisper. Mainframe peers into Bludd's battered face. "How did you do that --- more importantly, how are you here?" Mainframe seems confused and curious, but although he's still holding onto Bludd's arm with a tight grip, he's made no move to raise his pistol or radio his teammates.
Bludd frowns suddenly at the increase in Mainframe's volume, glancing about to see if anyone or anything has noticed the noise. "Now that I can't tell you," he replies, in reference to the how of his disguise. "It's not my secret to reveal. I've not been using it for ill, I assure you. As for how I'm here... I came here to protect someone. I've been basically hiding out from Cobra since the occupation began, trying to keep this person... these people... safe." He touches the burn marks on the side of his face. "It hasn't been easy. One man against a biker gang, an Incinerator... but I've managed. I've had no choice." He gazes at Mainframe imploringly. "Please don't dob me in to your superiors," he requests. "And please don't press me about the disguise. I'm not helping Cobra here. I didn't have to reveal myself. I could have fought with you." He taps the sidearm in a holster on his chest, now unhidden by the hologram and in plain sight. "I could have shot you dead. But I didn't." He sighs, glancing from Mainframe's face to the hand on his arm and back. "A lot has changed for me. I haven't been in touch with Cobra for two years, near enough. I'm a different man now. It hasn't been easy," he repeats.
Mainframe narrows his eyes a moment, staring into Bludd's eye as if trying to see into his soul. Finally Mainframe nods, and releases Bludd's arm. "OK. At some point we need to have a talk about your past crimes, but now is not the time. If you want to help, so be it. I won't press about your disguise, or who you're protecting. But if you want to keep them safe, work with me to help stop these BATs, and free LA. If this works, the entire country might be next. Are you OK with that?"
Bludd ducks his head slightly. "Thank you," he says quietly. "I'll do whatever I can to help. I have some general knowledge about the BATs, but I'm no Techno-Viper." He smiles momentarily. "I know quite a bit about Cobra's modus operandi, but I've been out of the loop well long enough that I'm certain none of my access codes would still function, aside from being a giant spotlight on the fact I'm here. Tell me what you need me to do."
"You mustn't let on to anyone that you've seen me here," he adds.
Mainframe nods. "OK. For now, your secret is safe with me. Better reactivate your disguise, though, because I have a sharpshooter watching over me, and as soon as we leave this alley, he's going to spot you. Now, I've been watching the BAT command and I've traced out the guard movements, but anything you can tell me might help make sure I get past them." Mainframe fishes what looks like a folded piece of waxed paper, but when it opens it a dark computer screen appears on it, complete with a map of the building and the guard movements and BAT location mapped out. "Now, here's what I know," he begins. "Let me know how you can help..."
Bludd nods. He grins over as Mainframe produces the foldable screen, a usually uncharacteristic, almost childlike fascination spreading across his face. "Now that is a neat trick," he says. He clasps his hands in front of him and takes a steadying breath. He doesn't need it this time around but he's hoping to make it harder for Mainframe to figure out just how he's creating the disguise. "Need my disguise back, please," he murmurs, almost too quietly to hear. His appearance shifts back to what it was at the start of the encounter. He takes his own folded paper, the map he was scrawling on earlier, and holds it where Mainframe can see it. "I took some notes on patrol routes and gaps in the BAT stations," he explains, pointing at various marks on the map as he speaks.
GAME: Mainframe FAILS an INTELLIGENCE roll of Very High difficulty.
Mainframe glances up in similar wonder as Bludd shifts his appearance again. "That's also a neat trick. Did you learn it from Zartan? Oh, wait, no - forget I asked. Sorry." He looks down again, and then smiles when he sees Bludd's map. "Excellent. This will really help if we need to make an escape in a hurry." With a trace of his fingers over his own, more high-tech map, he adds Bludd's data to his own, and then looks up with a grin. "OK," he announces quietly. "I'm ready to move in. Are you with me?"
"You want me to go in with you?" Bludd turns a surprised look on Mainframe.
Mainframe grins. "If you're up for it. I could use backup on the ground who knows Cobra guard patterns. I have a team nearby, but none of them have inside knowledge like you do."
Bludd nods. "I'm up for it," he agrees. "Whatever I can do to help." He considers how he might let Kimber and the others know what he's doing without arousing more of Mainframe's suspicions but catches himself: Synergy already knows, and can fill them in herself. "I'm ready when you are."
Mainframe's smile widens. "OK," he says, raising his pistol once more, but this time across his chest - no pointing at Bludd. "Let's go."