Monday, April 13, 2015

[Actual Play] Tears of a Machine - Tales of the Arx Jericho 2.09: Cage Match

Starring...
  • Rick Hunter: Team leader, Blue Company. Rick is the son of a human abductee and a renegade Mayzor general. Rick long ago swore revenge on the Mayzor for taking his mother, but the recent revelations about his father have resulted in Rick suffering an identity crisis, which he has been taking out violently on anyone who threatens those close to him. Well, more violently than normal, since Rick is hot-blooded most of the time anyway.
  • Esteban Knowles: Alpha Company pilot. Esteban was orphaned by the Mayzor and raised as part of a child soldier program and has spent most of his life drilling and learning to take orders. As such, he finds it difficult to connect with his fellow pilots in normal social situations, and struggles when required to act on his own initiative.
  • Marten Oiseleur: Alpha Company pilot. Formerly of Arx Bethlehem, Marten was transferred to Alpha Company aboard the Arx Jericho after recovering from an incident in which his SAInt was destroyed and he had to be resuscitated after the pilot pod was crushed. Since then, Marten has experienced dreams and auditory hallucinations in which the 'ghost' of his former SAInt speaks to him. Determined and brave, Marten tackles whatever challenges he faces with sheer force of will. 
  • Jason Reyes: Alpha Company pilot. Technically gifted, but not the most physical or athletic of kids. Jason has never really got along with his career military step father despite wanting to because of this, and became a SAInt pilot in the hopes of making his stepfather proud of him. Things grew strained between them after his mother was abducted during the Mayzor assault on the Arx Galilee, which Jason partially blamed him for. He blames him even more now, having discovered that his step-father is in fact one of the Mayzor generals. Jason is quiet and reserved most times, although he does have a penchant for assigning nicknames to people, places and objects. 
  • Sarah Werner: Second-in-Command of Blue Company. Fun-loving and high-spirited, Sarah likes to help others and keep everyone happy. Her parents are alive, and her brother is a Robbie pilot for the Preservation Forces. She is an exceptional pilot, having defeated a Magnus single-handedly, and enjoys playing video games with friends in her spare time.
Guest Stars for this episode...
  • Laurie Bach: Jason's girlfriend and Second-in-Command of Bravo Company. Loving, loyal, committed. She can get jealous like any other girl, but she doesn't generally hold a grudge or has much of a temper. She's genuinely happy most of the time, despite the Mayzor attacks, but she's not incapable of being sad. She's smart, quick-thinking, charismatic, and respected by the rest of her company mates and fellow pilots.
  • Bala: One of the twins piloting the tandem-operated Mendicant-class SAInt for Bravo Company. He is outspoken, courageous, extroverted, comical, masculine, short-tempered, and blase.
  • Dr Elizabeth Harris: Extremely kind, passionate about the lives and well being of the SAInt pilots, cheerful and optimistic at the worst of times, often a friend to all. She has taken over Marten's psychiatric treatment since his transfer to the Arx Jericho.  
  • Captain Anastasia "AK-47" Kasherov: Operations director and SAInt Academy instructor, currently suspended pending a review into her recent command performance. Strict, direct, confident, not afraid to speak her mind, sympathetic, gives praise when its deserved, loyal, motherly, soft and caring underneath a harsh and strict demeanor.
  • Dr Donald Johnson: Gruff, stern, intimidating, manipulative, badgering, prideful. Dr Johnson is an analytical psychologist and adjunct professor aboard the Arx Jericho and recently appointed acting Operations Director while AK-47 is on suspension. He's also known to the pilots of Blue and Alpha Company as a Mayzor collaborator.
  • Joanne Klein: Current team leader of Alpha Company and Rick's girlfriend. Fiercely competitive and confrontational like Billy but less direct. She's more of a tease and usually not completely serious.
  • Lieke: The second of the two twins piloting the tandem-operated Mendicant-class SAInt for Bravo Company. She is quiet, reserved, shy, introverted, relaxed, feminine, friendly, serious, and more prone to fear than her brother. She's currently competing for the affections of Strudel, who's been leading her and Ryoko on lately.
  • Kazuhiro Masaki: Current leader of Bravo Company. Kazuhiro is the strong, silent and charismatic type. He used to be bullied, now defends against bullies. Used to openly take credit, now he doesn't. Lives with regrets and dark memories. He has a close friendship with his 2IC, Laurie, leading some to speculate how close they really are.
  • Ryoko Mizushima: Current leader of Charlie Company. Contemplative, childish, flighty, easily depressed. She almost started dating Alex "Strudel" Struder last year, but he "stood her up" due to a SAInt mission in Brooklyn, NY. Since then, she's moved on but has fallen for him again due to his rising, celebrity fame since the Mayzor assault on the Arx Jericho.
  • Douglas Reyes: Charlie Company's newest pilot and Jason's step-brother. Douglas has a superiority complex and looks down on all the pilots, especially his step-brother. He has clear psychotic tendencies and is clearly part of some secret agenda, either his own or his father's. He also strongly dislikes any shortened form of his given name.
  • Alex 'Strudel' Struder: Strudel is extremely hyper the majority of the time and exponentially so when given sugar. He overhears things far too often and knows way more than he probably should. He had more sympathy for Billy than most of his other friends with the exception of Serena perhaps. Lately, Strudel has let the fame of being one of the SAInt pilots who defended the Jericho go to his head, and has become a bit of a 'Lothario', leading on both Ryoko and Lieke, after having broken up with Stephanie.
  • Allen Werner: Sarah's brother. Allen left home as well, but didn't qualify for the SAInt Program and became a Robbie pilot for the Preservation Forces' army instead. Charming, lovable, nurturing, though quite different from his sister in that he's more serious and self-disciplined when it comes to studies, following orders, and not wasting time having fun. He's close with his sister and visits her from time to time, but he has his own life and duties to fulfill aboard the Arx Jericho.
  • Commander Toshi Yamasuka: Cold but fair, goal-oriented, keeps her emotions in check (some would say she's emotionless), distant, intelligent, intuitive, a fierce negotiator, and a keen observer. The pilots of Blue and Alpha Company recently discovered that she is secretly the Grand General of the Mayzor herself.
  • Stephanie Yuzuki: Bravo Company pilot, Marten's girlfriend and Strudel's ex. She's flexible, nimble, and can pack some power when she needs to into her swings during Kendo practice. Fiercely loyal to her friends but generally somber and serious in her demeanor. She loves fiercely and does absolutely anything for the ones she loves, but she grows jealous easily and overreacts if she's hurt. She's always been easily depressed.
Extras
  • Annalise Lafayette: Age 15, from Martinique in the French Antilles. SAInt pilot, currently attached to Charlie Company.
  • Javier Ontonado: Age 14, from Dallas, Texas. SAInt pilot, currently attached to Charlie Company.
Previously, on Tales of the Arx Jericho...
The leaders of the pilot companies gather in the Kendo clubroom, where Jason, Marten, Rick and Sarah brief them on what they've learned.
Sarah: 'We can't trust Command. The Commander herself is the Mayzor Grand General, and acting Operations Director Johnson is working for her.'
Jason: 'My step-father is one of the Generals too and my step-brother is...'
Cut to Douglas grinning creepily as he talks to Sarah and her cousin Opsie: "The Mayzor have secretly been breeding with humans to create half-Mayzor hybrids...and I'm one of them. I don't know who the others are but I'll know soon enough."
Rick: 'Everyone on Blue Company, except perhaps Sarah, is a Mayzor hybrid, including myself and Serena. My father is one of the Generals too, but we've learned that he's leading a rebellion against the Mayzor.'
Cut to Rick confronting cult leader Ora Cohen: 'I need to speak with my father, and you can make that happen.'
Rick and co in a white room which shifts to a scene from the moon's surface, where his father, Rafe, has gathered a small army of Mayzor to his cause. He turns to greet Rick: 'I knew you'd make contact eventually.'
Rick: 'I need to know the Mayzor's plan.'
Rafe: "When we say 'the faith is strong' we mean it literally gives us strength. The Mayzor are using humanity's faith in the SAInts to increase their own power. Eventually they'll become so powerful that no force in the universe can stop them."
Marten: "There must be some way to turn their own power against them."
Rafe: "Rick and Serena can potentially tap into the faith, if the effects of the AmBro51A serum can be reversed, but they'd risk being corrupted by it like the other Generals have been."
Jason: "What if we use the AmBro51A serum against the Mayzor themselves? Cut off their ability to use the faith?"
Rafe: "That could work, but you'll need some equipment and raw materials...the only place to get them would be from a Mayzor outpost."
He gestures to his gathered army: "We're preparing an assault on the Mayzor stronghold in the Aitken crater. Rick, your mother is there. Jason's too, I believe. And you'll be able to get the materials you need there. But this will be the greatest obstacle you've faced yet..."
Rick: "And we'll need to do it without command approval..." 
And Now...
Secret Preparations
Over the next few weeks, AK-47 uses her connections to get more details on the process for creating the AmBro51A serum, but that won't help unless they can get the technology and raw materials they need from the Aitken crater. Any material they could have used from Rafe's old laboratory has been cleared out and destroyed since his being exposed as a Mayzor. She also finds surveillance photos confirming that Rick and Jason's mothers are indeed at that outpost, as well as her own daughter.
The pilots decide to use an upcoming mission as a cover to deploy for their own unsanctioned mission to the Aitken crater. Acting upon false intel fed to her due to Jason's actions in the previous episode, Commander Yamasuka has decided to deploy Blue, Alpha, Bravo and Charlie companies to a reported Mayzor stronghold on the north pole. Meanwhile, Delta and Echo Company will be deployed to provide aid in dealing with the food crisis on Earth.
In light of Douglas Reyes showing up uninvited to their previous attempt at a covert meeting between the pilot leaders, our heroes approach their fellow pilots via more subtle channels to get them involved in their unsanctioned mission to the Aitken crater. They will, however, leave out the details about the Mayzor using humanity's faith as a power source.
Joanne is already in on the plan, having been present for the psychic meeting with Rafe last session. Sarah contacts her brother Allen - who has recently recovered from the Mayzor plague - and he agrees to support them by piloting a dropship to evacuate human captives from the Aitken outpost.
Jason passes a note to Kazuhiro in the canteen asking him to meet him in the dorms, where Jason explains the situation and the plan for the upcoming mission. Kazuhiro is all for it, he doesn't like bullies, and bullies don't come much bigger than the Mayzor and their agents within the Arx command staff.
Ryoko challenges Rick and Marten to a tennis doubles match. She picks Strudel as her teammate, and he overhears some of their brief snatches of conversation about the upcoming mission during play. They win the match and Ryoko hears them out, agreeing to help. Strudel is annoyed that he hasn't been kept in the loop. Rick points out that Strudel has been distracted with spending time with different girls lately, which leads to him and Marten attempting an intervention to make the boy recognise the damage he's causing with his behaviour. Strudel stubbornly denies there's anything wrong with what he's been doing and threatens not to go on the mission. Rick chews him out for being so childish, but he shrugs it off and leaves.
Shortly thereafter, Marten receives a text warning them that Strudel is threatening to tell the commander and Dr Johnson what they're planning. Rick contacts Jason to get him to handle Strudel somehow, and Jason sends him a text to tell him that they need to talk. Strudel arrives at Jason's and Rick's dorm, hyper from eating out of a big bag of candy he has with him. Jason and Rick are both waiting for him, and get him to sit down and Rick takes the bag to get him to settle down. They explain everything they know about the Mayzor's plan, and - when they explain about the Mayzor feeding on humanity's faith - Strudel goes quiet and then weakly asks for his candy back. After Strudel's up to speed, he tells them that Jason's psychotic step-brother Douglas has been seen doing secret training with Dr Johnston and is probably going to join Blue Company for the upcoming mission. They'll need to think of a way to keep him out of the way.
Jason gets to work on hacking the Arx main computers to disrupt their tracking systems during the mission so they can't see where they've actually gone. Also, with the help of Dr Harris, he alters the results of Douglas' pre-mission physical to make it seem as though he has the Mayzor plague (first introduced in episode 2.03). As such, Douglas is pulled from the mission roster at Dr Harris' insistence, using her authority as chief medical officer to override Dr Johnson.

Mosquitoes and Spiders
The SAInts launch and set course for the moon, but enroute they notice something on their scanners in the distance. There are four spider-like Trapper Locusts up weaving a web up ahead. Since there are four companies and only four of the Trappers, they decide to have each company take on one of the Trappers.
However, as they close in on the Trappers, rifts open in space and four more Trappers emerge with webs in place, enclosing the pilots in a cage of webbing. The new Trappers are also joined by twelve of a new class of Locusts - designated Siphoners - which look like a cross between mosquitoes and crane flies. The Trappers are also different this time around, with tougher armor and more firepower.
Joanne takes Alpha Company to deal with two of the Trappers on one side, Kazuhiro takes Bravo to deal with two on another side, and Charlie hangs back to provide cover while Rick takes Blue Company to deal with two more Trappers. Between the three attacking companies, the hope is that they'll be able to make enough of a dent in the webbing to free up more space for manoeuvring.
Esteban waits until he gets close to the two Siphoners in Alpha's path, engages his boosters at the last minute and dives in between them, spinning and slicing them with his twin 'Arc swords. One more starts circling around him, but Jason blasts its wings off with his newly invented particle rifle - barely missing Esteban - and Marten finishes it off with a blast from his levic flettette shotgun.
Blue Company bombards the three Siphoners ahead of them with fire, distracting them so that Rick can get into close quarters range. Rick recently upgraded from his twin 'Arc sword setup to an 'Arc Greatsword which gives his attacks extra reach, allowing him to catch the three Siphoners with one wide sweeping arc before boosting past them as they split apart and explode.
Charlie Company aren't faring so well, as two of the Siphoners have engaged Annalise, latching onto her SAInt and draining bio-electric energy from it. (In mechanical terms, this means the pilot losing ego.) One more Siphoner is moving in towards Annalise as well. Not only that, but the twins - Bala and Lieke - have got their Mendicant-class tandem SAInt caught in the web, with Trappers moving towards them. Kazuhiro and Lauren call the other Companies for support as they're currently preoccupied with the other Siphoners and Trappers. Jason, Marten, Stephanie and Strudel head off to rescue the twins, while Esteban and Joanne head over to support Annalise.
Rick blasts towards the third Siphoner headed for Annalise as it passed him, impaling it on his sword and flicking it off his blade so that it's debris joins that of the Siphoners he just dispatched. Esteban boots the other two Siphoners off of Annalise's SAInt and slices them to bits with his twin swords. Esteban brusquely brushes off her thanks, telling her to save it for after the mission before Joanne orders him to join her in dealing with the nearby Trappers.
Meanwhile, the rest of Alpha Company (plus Stephanie) reach the twins and draw the two Trappers' attention away from them with some covering fire. While Stephanie covers him, Marten boosts in close to one of the Trappers and blasts it repeatedly with his shotgun and it explodes, tearing apart some of the webbing. Strudel fires his twin particle SMGs at the webbing around the Mendicant to free the twins while Jason shoots off the other Trapper's limbs before letting Strudel finish it off with a head shot.
By now, Bravo Company have taken out a couple more Siphoners, but two more of them have latched onto Laurie, leading Jason to charge that way to engage them. Marten falls in behind him, along with Stephanie and Strudel. Jason rips one of the Siphoners off and shoots it in the head, while Strudel shoots the other one off Laurie's back with a volley of SMG fire that nearly grazes her SAInt as well.
Just then, another rift opens up near Ryoko, and a Magnus which appears as a muscular cross between a spider and a three headed human (like a dryder) with snakes for hair crawls out. A bulbous mass which passes for her belly carries the heads of SAInts that this Magnus - designated Abyzou - has defeated in battle. These heads still writhe and scream in madness, projecting their emotions psychically to drive pilots mad. As it crawls out of the rift, Abyzou grabs Ryoko's SAInt with its pincers and rips it apart instantly. Upon seeing this, Strudel screams a big 'NO' over the MetaTron and charges off towards the Magnus.
Jason and Rick intercept him and hold Strudel back from his potentially suicidal charge, even as Javier is struck by a blast of webbing from Abyzou that binds him to the web for the Trappers to converge on him. Rick orders Blue Company to fall in and prepare to engage the Magnus, suggesting to Joanne that some of Alpha Company support them while the rest assist Javier and mop up the rest of the Trappers. Joanne agrees, but wants to finish off the Trapper she and Esteban were already engaging first.
Esteban leads the charge, using his hover skates to grind along the electric charge in the web, doing an ollie over the Trapper and going upside down, chopping the Trapper as he passes over and then comes back down on his skates, continuing to grind the electrical field of the webbing towards the Trapper moving towards Javier. Joanne tells everyone that Ryoko might still be alive in her pod, ordering Jason and Marten to assist the assault against Abyzou and rescue her. Strudel doesn't even need to be ordered to join the assault.
Marten is worried that he's starting to hear the voice of his SAInt again, but soon realises it's a psychic assault from Abyzou's 'trophies' and tries to shrug it off. Strudel grabs Ryoko's pod and slips it into his SAInt's storage compartment while Blue Company, Jason and Marten lay down fire upon the Magnus, inflicting damage while keeping it distracted.
Esteban skates towards the next Trapper, skewering it on his swords and throwing it back on the webbing behind him as it explodes, breaking apart the web in his wake and freeing Javier. The Magnus fires out more webbing, trapping Kazuhiro against the web this time, as Esteban continues to grind along the web's electrical field and picks up speed.
Marten leads the assault against Abyzou, with most of the pilots fighting to retain their sanity against the myriad voices of the defeated SAInt pilots. Marten gets right in front of the monstrosity and blasts it continuously with his shotgun, breaking up the surface layers of armour. Jason shoots out the creature's many eyes with a series of very precise shots. Rick takes precise aim himself, splitting open Abyzou's 'womb' and causing dismembered SAInt heads and green amniotic fluid to spill out. She seems to deflate inward as the spilling heads disintegrate into silvery dust of nanite particles.
The energy core at Abyzou's centre flashes as it tumbles through zero-G towards the part of the web where Esteban is. It crashes into the web and explodes in a massive fireball that further breaks apart the webbing. There's a moment of horror as Joanne tries to raise Esteban on the MetaTron, before Esteban skates out from the fireball, resuming his grind along the outside of the web. He cuts through the web from the other side and slices the Trapper bearing down on Kazuhiro in half.
With Abyzou's defeat, the last of the Siphoners and Trappers are easily mopped up, with Javier and Kazuhiro both taking out the last of the Trappers in a vengeful barrage of fire. The command staff cheer them back aboard the Jericho, except for Commander Yamasuka who coldly orders them to continue on mission. Strudel checks on Ryoko's pod to find her vitals are very weak. Someone needs to transport her pod back to the Arx for emergency medical treatment, and Strudel volunteers for the task. He promises to rejoin them at Aitken as soon as he can. The remaining pilots continue on course towards Aitken, their collective mood grim but determined. 

TO BE CONTINUED...

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