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Prologue - "24 Hours Ago" for Mario Zuko

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
(Game Master note to @Sherwood in spoiler)

For this intro only, Mario is wearing his A.T.A.C. megasuit and forearm shield. He is currently not wearing his helmet. He has on his person 1 standard issue LAR-10 laser rifle with 3 magazines along with a survival pack in his backpack.

Also, note that I have put a higher-than-usual number of spoilers filled with information and music here. =)

(Game Master mood music in spoiler)
"Heavy Metal (Takin' A Ride) by Don Felder from the Heavy Metal Motion Picture Soundtrack
It's hard to think about A.T.A.C. and tanks and not think "Heavy Metal." After all, what is a tank but heavy metal full of rock and roll? =)

Lyrics:
"Won't you take a ride, ride, ride
On heavy metal
It's the only way that you can travel
Down that road
Satisfied, fied, fied
On heavy metal
Baby won't you ride
Ride it until it explodes
Heavy Metal

My oh my how this lady can fly
Once she starts rollin' to leave you
You know you just can't lose the way she moves
You wait for her to finally release you
It's not a big surprise to feel your temperature rise
You've gotta get your redline fever
'Cause there is just on cure that they know for sure
You just become a heavy metal believer"

About 24 hours ago...

It was another warm and windy Florida afternoon on Eglin ASC base. The sun was high and there were but a handful of clouds in sky as Corporal Mario Zuko worked on his VHT Veritech Hover Tank. The shining twenty foot tall giant stood like a monument to all things mighty and badass as it looked over the A.T.A.C. training grounds.

It was a rare moment among the Myrmidons and supply trucks scattered across the mecha hangars, for there were few people about. Those that were here were busy. Eglin personnel moved with a purpose securing cargo, locking down doors, and making ready for something big. Corporal Zuko might have thought it was something big too - the New York native hardly ever had to deal with tornadoes in his part of the former United States. In Florida, tornadoes were like taxes; they were prices everyone had to pay for living there.

Far to the west in eastern Alabama, a tornado warning was in effect. The warning had gone out over an hour ago and the ever-twirling cone was barreling northeastward toward Florida at a moderate pace. Being a class F-3 tornado, there was civilian traffic fleeing hastily out of Alabama and into Interstate 10 as reported to Eglin ASC base by Tactical Corp. While the tornado was probably no real threat to Eglin, the F-3 had already ripped out trees, mangled homes, and caused considerable damage to all things in its violent path in Alabama. Eglin ASC base was taking no chances.

(Spoiler - Tornado terminology)
Tornadoes are classified into five categories, F-0 through F-5. F-0 tornadoes are the mildest. F-5 tornadoes are the most dangerous (and the rarest).
F-0 40-72 mph, Light damage, chimney damage, tree branches broken
F-1 73-112 mph, Moderate damage, mobile homes pushed off foundation or flipped over
F-2 113-157 mph, Considerable damage, mobile homes demolished, trees uprooted
F-3 158-205 mph, Severe damage, roofs and walls torn down, trains overturned, cars thrown around
F-4 207-260 mph, Devastating damage, well-constructed walls leveled
F-5 261-318 mph, Violent damage, homes lifted off foundation and carried considerable distances, autos thrown as far as 100 meters.
Information credit: Enchantedlearning.com

Mario had only been assigned to this Veritech Hover Tank this morning and now the lively engine hummed and purred beneath him like a predator ready for blood. As a new recruit to the Army of Southern Cross, it was his very first VHT that was specifically assigned to him. This was not a trainer tank, Myrmidon, or a borrow; it was his. After years of training, finally getting to this point was something of a celebration of a great goal achieved and, for many other tankers at least, a dream come true - to be worthy to pilot your own tank. Today, that dream had come to pass.

As his first VHT, it was always a good idea to check out the vehicle firsthand as the A.T.A.C. philosophy on the subject was "Check your gear - the less complications in battle, the better." This is what Mario was doing when Eglin tower, the tower that dispatched for A.T.A.C. and T.A.S.C. forces, called him on his VHT's radio on the local A.T.A.C. channel.

"Tower to Corporal Zuko, come in."

When he did, an older female voice with a southern accent ordered him, "Mount up and coordinate with Bravo squadron for routine patrol west of Eglin base. They are expecting you. Bravo has reported recent signs of Malcontent activity. Due to the tornado, you are their only backup. But first, you are required to check in with your commanding officer for release. Once we have the green light from him or her, you will be fully authorized to leave post. You copy?"

Mario copied.

For a recruit to check in prior to patrol was standard procedure. During training, he had been told it was a must given his recruit status. Mario looked around but found no A.T.A.C. personnel of any kind, only Eglin grunts and techs tying things down or moving equipment. But as he looked out across the flat grass and concrete roads with their many signs, he spotted a lone M-770 staff hovercar scooting by. Chances were it was military personnel.

Not about to let any big fish out of his net as it were, Mario hopped into his VHT, transformed into transport mode, and left a small dust cloud behind him as he tore after the staff car in hopes that it was someone in A.T.A.C. who could provide him the necessary permission to leave post. As he began to come up alongside the vehicle, sure enough, his luck would hold true - he could see the staff car had A.T.A.C. markings on the glass. The driver of the hovercar had evidently noticed him too. The brake lights came on as the hovercar came to a stop.

Nearly all commanding officers deserving of their own staff car had their own driver. So, Mario might have been surprised to find that when the driver door opened, the fellow who emerged from it was not only wearing an A.T.A.C. battle dress uniform, but it was decorated with a grand share of medals and pins. Alongside those hard-won earnings, Mario noticed, was the insignia of a colonel.

Mario realized then he had just pulled over the second-in-command of all Eglin base - Colonel Sharp.

Mario had never met the man and knew him only by reputation - which was as sterling as sterling gets. A lifelong tanker, Col. Sharp had been a young man in both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars commanding both M1 Abrams Main Battle Tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles in front-line combat. A Tennessee-born West Point graduate, Sharp rose through the ranks by demonstrating a combination of earnestly getting any job done, providing whatever care his soldiers needed, displaying bravery in combat and out, and always keeping a level of integrity that set the example for all soldiers beneath him. He talked the talk and walked the walk for more than one decade. Having done so, Col. Sharp was wholeheartedly trusted with the fate of Eglin base by even the commander of Eglin ASC, the feared and reviled Brigadier General Steele. Just about everyone else Mario had spoken to on Eglin seemed to trust the colonel, too.

A fit fellow in his fifties with large chest and arms, average looks, with an ever-present aura of calm confidence, Col. Sharp put away his glasses and now looked up with silent curiosity to the Veritech Hover Tank thrumming alongside his own vehicle. It was then that Mario realized he was not wearing his helmet. In his haste to track down an officer to get leave from post, he had placed his helmet beside him. There was no mistaking the young, muscular Italian behind the controls of the VHT.

"Hey, son. Where's the fire?"

It was when Mario looked down and met the eyes of his colonel that a very odd thing took place...

(Mood music in spoiler)
"Some Other Time" by The Alan Parsons Project
Partial lyrics:
"Could it be that somebody else is looking into my mind?
Some other place
Somewhere
Some other time"

(Game Master note for all: Folks, the following is a tribute to games long past... My way of saying it's great to be playing yet again in a sci-fi setting with Sherwood, this time with me at the helm. Before Sherwood, I had never roleplayed in sci-fi. I remember being skeptical. Thanks to our games together with Killfire, I've long since been a believer.

This scene is for Special Agent Captain Sherwood and his colonel, Hiram Sharp. =) )

Just being in each other's presence was enough to tell Mario that something unusual, something noteworthy or special was taking place. As Mario and Sharp looked upon each other, there was suddenly a tremendous amount of familiarity between the two men. Mario knew Sharp to be a man of honor and care, but not by reputation, but instead as if from firsthand experience.

It was a stunning sensation.

Colonel Sharp seemed to be equally flat-footed. As he peered up, he appeared to stare at Mario in a way quite unlike the meeting of strangers but instead like that of old comrades.

There was the unshakable feeling and realization that you had met before. Mario knew without a shadow of a doubt that he could trust Sharp, that he could count on Sharp. No, this did not make them the best of friends, nor did it even give them the slightest insight into each other's current lives (even Sharp's first name was well beyond Mario).

And yet... there was a comfortable sense of familiarity and strange but sure insight into each other's characters, perhaps into each other's hearts, that granted a nigh-permanent sense of ease between the two men. There were simply questions the two did not have to ask; they knew. They simply knew.

A small cloud passed overhead blocking the bright Floridian sun, and for a moment in time, Mario was not Mario but another man. In another uniform. In another time, another place. Sharp still looked like Sharp, but Mario was not always Mario. In the minds of both men, it was as if Mario was under this man's command in another life and that relationship well-suited the both of them.

In their mind's eye, the man Mario was before saluted Colonel Sharp with all that he is. Immediately and wholeheartedly, that salute was returned by the older soldier.

The cloud passed by. The sun beamed down. And once again, there was just Corporal Zuko and Colonel Sharp staring at each other in the present. Just the two of them and this profound feeling they shared.

"Do I... know you from somewhere?"

It was a foolish question. Both men knew the answer without a doubt.

Then the radio on Mario's Veritech Hover Tank crackled to life. Mario heard the voice of Eglin tower once again. "Tower to Corporal Zuko. I say again, come in. Do you read me?" From her urgent tone, it was apparent to Mario that she had been trying to raise him for some time, though neither Mario nor Colonel Sharp seemed to know how long that moment was.

Mario finally responded.

"Have you found a commanding officer yet? Bravo squadron is asking."

Colonel Sharp raised his hand in a manner that gave Mario pause. Colonel Sharp reached for the radio on his hip. Interacting with it, he spoke. "Tower, Zeus Two."

"Go ahead, Zeus Two."

"Bravo Four has the green light with full permissions."

The voice inside the tower seemed pleased. "Oh, thank you, Zeus Two. Bravo Four, you are free to execute previous orders. Godspeed beyond the wire, sweetie."

"Godspeed indeed, Loricatus Defensor," Colonel Sharp told Mario. With a nod of his head, Mario knew he was dismissed, free to embark upon his duty.

*
(Yet more Game Master groove music. =)

"Mystical Potato Head Groove Thing" by Joe Satriani (instrumental)
Because Joe Satriani is cool like that. =)

A lone M1A2 SEP Abrams Main Battle Tank with Eglin ASC markings thundered westward across Florida's grassy wilderness and over rolling hills marked with blackened blast craters and charred, ashen trees. Its tracks dug greedily into the earth as the 70-ton American powerhouse cranked along under a sunny sky far to the west of Eglin ASC base. Spray-painted in wide red letters across its 120mm main gun were the words, "Wake Up Call."

A couple of old soldiers rode atop their aged olive-drab battle machine, their massive guns at the ready. They were grinning as they rumbled along. The gray-haired crew could hardly hear a thing over the growling of the engine and the turning of those great treads across the battlefield, but their eyes were as sharp as ever.

From behind them came a powerhouse of a different kind driven by Corporal Mario Zuko; the kind that blasted along and above the earth without touching it. Powered by roaring hover propulsion systems, this ground combat vehicle raced along at nearly 100 miles per hour, far faster than the Abrams ever could, kicking up long trails of dust and small bits of debris. Gleams of red and gold shone off that lightweight alloy and ceramic armor upon which the insignia of the Eglin Army of the Southern Cross Base was emblazoned:

(Spoiler contains this custom-made insignia for the Army of the Southern Cross)
(The Latin across the top banner says Loricatus Defensors = "Armored Defenders.")
flag_of_the_armies_of_the_southern_cross_by_maxoconnor-d6t8vjw.png
(Image credit: Maxconnor.deviantart.com)

As the young tanker passed the old, there was the opportunity to be the first to salute the pair on the Abrams MBT. If performed, that salute was proudly returned as the Abrams crew watched and waved as the Veritech Hover Tank patrol shot past them in transport mode towards a fate unknown.

*
Not long afterward, Mario found himself listening in on different channels. Having a recently-trained military education in communications, this was something comm specialists did in an effort to gain additional information or perhaps a different perspective from whomever might be transmitting in the area. Given the coming of the tornado, there was no shortage of weather-related and civilian traffic. Yet, as he neared the coordinates where he was supposed to rendezvous with Bravo squadron, he neither saw nor heard any sign of them. Their channel was silent. However... he did hear this on the Tactical Corp channel...

The male voice made every attempt to sound calm and controlled: "Calling Army of the Southern Cross. Any units in the area. Tactical Corp engineering convoy escorting civilian convoy in distress. Location is I-10 eastbound, just past mile marker 25, 5 miles east of Escambia Bay Bridge. Patrol of 6 Malcontent foot soldiers have ambushed convoy from forest south of highway. Malcontents have blockaded the highway east of us. We are trapped and taking fire. Someone, anyone, help us! Please respond!"

Mario knew Interstate 10 was but a short distance away. A moment of examining his maps gave him his position - about 10 miles away east of the given location. Interstate 10 was a six-lane highway often bordered by long stretches of forests and rivers. Most of it was still intact and as such, it was a common route for civilian and military traffic to use. Especially when running from tornadoes.

Alone and in the wilderness well beyond Eglin ASC base, Mario had a decision to make:
1. Attempt again to contact Bravo squadron on the A.T.A.C channel (that channel has been quiet thus far).
2. Respond to Tactical Corp. (if only to let them know they have been heard or come to their rescue alone).
3. Approach Interstate 10 and take a look at the state of the highway in his area (Mario has no experience along this stretch; he knows that using it eastbound will take him straight back to Eglin ASC base).
4. (And because one of these options has to be ridiculous or just plain wrong) Say heck with the Tactical Corp, civilians, and Bravo squadron all and instead take the new VHT for a joyride and use the tornado as an excuse to get out of trouble later! Wooo!
5. Anything else Mario can think of.
 
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Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
With his iPod playing a mix of Led Zepplin tunes, Mario rolls up his mental sleeves and dives into the checklist.  It was a real charge to be working on his very own mecha, instead of the tired and worn out tanks at the training center.  Without any rush, but moving with a calm certainty, he starts with the power plant, then moving on to the hover jets.  He was just about to move onto the auto loader for the main gun when the control tower calls him.  After acknowledging the signal, he starts out, heading to intercept the staff car to get his authorization to deploy.


With his meeting with the Colonel over, Mario continues on his path towards his rendezvous with Bravo Squadron, keeping an ear to the comms for any updates on their status. 


Then, things take a sudden turn south with the signal from the Tactical Corps squad, asking for immediate assistance.  No word from Bravo, but there is this distress call.  I hope that there is no trouble with them.  Better call this in.  "Eglin Tower, this is Bravo-4.  I have not been in contact with Bravo Squad, but I am receiving a distress call from a Tactical Corps engineering convoy under attack from six Malcontent Zentraedi foot soldiers.  Relaying signal to you, and I am rerouting to assist.  Will update as needed."  Switching channels, he calls out on the Tactical Corps band, "Tactical Corps convoy, this is Bravo-4.  I am in the area and am on the way, ETA two minutes."  He slaps his helmet on and throttles up to full speed, keeping his eye on the radar to watch for other Zentraedi activity.

Armor at Full


APFSDS x 20


HEAT x 12


MPAT x 12


Plasma x 4
 

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
(Time to kick things up a notch.)
"Solar Heat" and "Ready for Action" by Gamma.

The oncoming tornado in no way impeded Mario's attempt to contact Eglin control tower, though the sheer amount of radio chatter from Eglin base personnel securing the base over the channel did. He was forced to wait his turn. After some persistence and patience, he got through.

"Eglin Tower, this is Bravo-4. I have not been in contact with Bravo Squad, but I am receiving a distress call from a Tactical Corps engineering convoy under attack from six Malcontent Zentraedi foot soldiers. Relaying signal to you, and I am rerouting to assist. Will update as needed."
There was quiet for a few moments. Then once again, the voice of an older southern lady came over the comm. "Copy all, Bravo Four. Will attempt to reach and advise Bravo Squadron for you. Am sending out a priority alert for A.T.A.C. and T.A.S.C. reinforcements in your area. You keep your shields high against them greenskins, sweetie."

Not three heartbeats later, Mario heard that heavy southern accent again as the promised priority alert went out over all Army of Southern Cross channels. "All units, red alert. All units, red alert. A.T.A.C. and Tac Corp escorting civilian convoy in distress. I-10 eastbound, mile marker 25. ASC versus 6 hostile Malcontent foot soldiers with possibly more in area. A.T.A.C. Bravo Squadron in area is silent at this time. Earlier advised tornado warning is moving in that direction. All available units respond on Tac 2 at 1428 hours." As the tower switched to the Tac 2 channel, Mario ceased to hear that lady's voice.

Switching channels, he calls out on the Tactical Corps band, "Tactical Corps convoy, this is Bravo-4. I am in the area and am on the way, ETA two minutes." He slaps his helmet on and throttles up to full speed, keeping his eye on the radar to watch for other Zentraedi activity.
The familiar voice of the man who provided the distress call responded, "We read you, Bravo Four. Sure hope you brought a lot of ammo!"

Despite Mario laying down the throttle, it turned out to be a long two minutes. The Veritech Hover Tank lit up with a roar and soon he was westbound and speeding across the highway with the trees and empty roads flashing by like a dream. The tornado had made traffic scarce on the eastbound side and non-existent down the trio of westbound lanes. Far in the western horizon, Mario saw this terrific mass of shadowy, haunted clouds though the bright sun shone down upon him from above. As Interstate 10 became itself a blur, Mario noted signs of previous battles on a giant scale. Blasted chunks of trees lay far and twisted from their roots on both the north and south sides of the road. Black and charred pits dotted some parts of the forest, but for the most part, the highway itself was unscathed.

As Mario neared mile marker 25, he came upon a great and chaotic heap of green and black debris. It covered both the eastbound and the westbound lanes forcing Mario to slow. Beyond the 20 foot high wall of broken mechanical parts and hulls from Zentraedi ships long-destroyed, Mario could see stray bolts of particle beams flash through the air, answered only by occasional laser and cannon fire.

As Mario neared the wall, he saw some of the vehicles in the convoy not 100 feet from the mega-damage barrier - two bright orange school buses filled with young children inside, three white box trucks, and two wreckers along with two red and white tractor trailers. Every driver, every person Mario saw (which numbered about 30 people so far) had panicked expressions. He heard desperate cries for help as every head looked westbound toward their doom.

There was no driving around the wall of debris and there was no crashing through it either. Through many small holes, Mario could only see a pair of M2200 Janissary mega-damage APCs and one M2205 engineering APC with its mounted bulldozer blade. The latter vehicle was attempting to use its cannon to blast a hole through the wall, but even at the wall's weakest point, the attempt was slow-going.

Meanwhile, beyond the APCs came blast after blast of particle beam and laser fire from opponents Mario could not see on this side of the wall. It seemed that the badly battered APCs had formed a wall of their own and were the only thing between the convoy and certain death.

Given Mario's knowledge of his own vehicle, he knew that it would take minutes even for his own VHT to make a gap through those massive piles of debris. It was minutes the convoy did not have...

What does Mario do?
 
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Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
As he approaches the barrier, Mario keeps checking his radar to try and spot the location of any of the attackers and, at the same time, he calls out on the Tactical Corps band. "TC convoy, this is Bravo-4. I'm on scene. Can you give me any data on the locations of the Malcontent forces? Are they all dismounted infantry, it are there any mecha in the mix?" Keeping his velocity, he charges right at the wall, a grin on his face. Kicking in his boosters on the vectored thrust nozzles, he leaps up fifty feet into the air, easily clearing the barrier, and transforms his mecha into its battloid mode and radius readies his Eu-11 for the fight.
 

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
(GM Mood Music)

"Heavy Metal" by Sammy Hagar from the Heavy Metal Motion Picture Soundtrack

The reply Mario received from the speaker on the Tactical Corp channel replied, "Sure can. They have set up a barricade. We are all on the west side of it and trying to break through. The Malcontents are--"

About this time, Mario's Veritech Hover Tank charged at the wall and then over it. With a rush and whine of the tank's engines, Mario soared well up and over the barricade...

... and in doing so, he saw about 20 elementary-school aged children in the buses looking scared. At the sound and sight of Mario's tank coming to the rescue, their little heads whirled about. Expressions changed. Mario saw a wide variety of reactions on their surprised faces - from "Woooow!" to "Lookit that!" to "DURRRR!!"

The rest of the information on the Tactical Corp channel became rather unneeded as Mario learned that his hover-assisted, high-speed jump had not only carried him over the wall but well into the fighting. He had to use his thrusters again and again not to land on any civilian vehicles on the other side as he discovered about a half dozen cars between him and a safe landing spot. Thankfully, the tank was designed for both speed and mobility and he crushed and killed no one as he skidded to a halt alongside the Janissary APCs.

For a brief moment, there was an all-encompassing silence as all guns stopped firing and every eye noted the newcomer. Mario found himself facing all six giant Zentraedi warriors, each at least the size of Mario's hover tank in battloid mode. They seemed to be running at the convoy not 200 yards away when Mario heroically joined the fray. Now those warriors became something else in the New Yorker's mind.

In training and on the many videos, these Zentraedi warriors were indeed tall and menacing and everyone knew they were at least 5 times as tall as the average human or more. It was one thing to see in training; it was quite another to see them before you on the battlefield. In a flood of memory, all of the things Mario had learned from his A.T.A.C. training and on the SDF-1 on its trip back from Pluto came rushing to the forefront of his racing mind.

The Zentraedi were born warriors, created to kill straight out of the cloning tank. They knew no other lives, had no other purpose, desired no other goals. They were terrifically fit and battle-ready from birth and came from a race of warriors that had been killing long before homo sapiens ever took their first step. Laziness and decadence were unknown to them. Surrender and cowardice were words for their enemies to suffer.

Now, at this time here on Earth, these Malcontents were warriors without a way out. Their beloved Lord Dolza was dead. The Meltrandi had also arrived to fight them. These Malcontents had no way off the planet and no one to lead them any longer. They were warriors doomed to die on the battlefield and unlike the vast majority of human beings who might have felt differently if placed in a similar situation - the Zentraedi relished the idea of dying in combat. The only thing they now seemed to care about was how many human beings they could take with them before they themselves fell.

Nor did this mean they threw their lives away needlessly or hopelessly; it meant that most of this male alien race wished to die with their glory and honor intact in the name of their dead lord. In many ways, they resembled the samurai of old. And now, like ronin, that they had no lord to follow, there was only oblivion through combat.

(Translation from Japanese)
Ronin = Masterless samurai. Warriors suffering this great shame either somehow joined another lord or found a way to die honorably. These Zentraedi lack the former option.

And right now... the only thing between them and their intended victims were Mario and three badly smashed APCs.

The Malcontents, seeing Mario's arrival, yelled in their own language and dropped to the ground in prone position, making them all harder to hit. One pointed at Mario and shouted, "Micronian scum! Know that after you die, we will kill your cowardly people slowly as they rightly deserve! And since you dare stand in our way, YOU DIE!!"

Every Zentraedi laser pistol, rifle, and particle beam cannon fired on Mario's hover tank.

In a cruel twist of fate, Mario found that behind his tank was not one of the Janissary APCs, but instead, one of the school buses. Yet, of all of the incredible mecha created by humankind through the use of Robotechnology, not the Destroids nor the Valkyries nor the new ASC flying Veritechs had the means to stop such an attack. Only the Veritech Hover Tank possessed the mighty arm shields that could spell the difference between life and death - no other mech could make it happen. A.T.A.C. was here in the form of Cpl. Mario Zuko and the decision lay with him.

What does Mario do?
 
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Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
Six on one.  Fair odds that I'll come out of this in one piece, but this is going to hurt.  But, better me than those kids!  Before the lull comes to an end, Mario barks out on the radio, "Get those kids out of here!  They are the priority!  I'll handle these mooks myself!"  Kicking on the loudspeaker, he taunts the Zentraedi in their own language.  "<You think you have what it takes to knock me out?  Bring it on!"  Since his mecha is already in its Battloid mode, it doesn't take much to maneuver himself into the line of fire to do his best to block the incoming fire to save the kids behind him.  With both his arm shields raised up, he hopes to take the hits on them and save his main body from damage as long as possible.  As soon as I can, it will be payback time on these assholes! 

Now that I can see the Zentraedi, what kind of armor and weaponry are they equipped with, and are all six Zentraedi males or are they women?  What is the number and damage status of the convoy vehicles?  Besides the school bus with the kids in it, how many are MDC vs SDC armored vehicles?


EDIT: Is it too late to spend an Action Point to make sure that no stray shots go past me to hit the school bus?


Armor at Full


APFSDS x 20


HEAT x 12


MPAT x 12


Plasma x 4
 
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Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
Before the lull comes to an end, Mario barks out on the radio, "Get those kids out of here! They are the priority! I'll handle these mooks myself!"
"No shit, Sherlock! Why do you think we drove into the storm in the first place?!" yelled a gruff and very stressed man on the Tactical Corp channel. "Just buy us the damn time we need or we're all dead!"

Another unfamiliar voice on the channel added, "Bravo Squadron still hasn't responded to our calls - where are they?!"

"Doesn't matter!" the first voice shouted. "Laura, you unhitch that semi! Dante, get behind its wheel and push me!"

"No sweat!"

"You got it, Sarge!"

While the two smashed-up M-2200 APCs continued to fire and defend the other vehicles, a door on the M-2205 popped open and a pair of TacCorp in black, dirty megasuits ran out to the red and white tractor trailer nearest the barricade and got to work. The driver of the semi didn't put up a fight; she just raised her hands and wisely got out the way.

The TacCorp engineers, having failed to blow through the hard armor of the barricade, attacked the problem in another way - through mathematics and science. The M-2205 lowered its bulldozer blade and charged full speed into the seemingly least heavy part of the barricade with a great bang.

Beyond that, Mario could not know what they were doing, for the Zentraedi had desired his death so greatly that they had begun their all-out assault on him and him alone.

*
Regardless of how Corporal Mario Zuko approached the battle, nothing could change the fact that it was his first battle against the Zentraedi. Like most first-timers, that question presented itself - how will I do?

Mario was trained by A.T.A.C. to fight in teams. Yet here he was, the only A.T.A.C. soldier present. He heard the voices of his instructors in his head, all of whom wanted Mario and his fellow soldiers to not only survive against the enemy, but succeed. "Don't worry. When it happens, just remember your training, and you'll do fine."

As laser and particle beam blasts flew at him, an undeniable feeling came with them - for perhaps the first time in Mario's whole life, it was the knowledge that other people were trying to kill him. This realization dawned somewhere deep inside the young man and stayed there. He knew for certain - he might not be alive five minutes from now. He might join his older brother in death.

Then again, he may live on like his little sister. As the bolts and blasts hammered his shields mercilessly, Mario realized that in order to defend the people behind him to his utmost, it would take his fullest concentration. There would be no time to do anything else but keep both shields up and, as he intended, take every bolt aimed in his direction lest it strike and destroy the innocent people behind him.

Regardless of who they were, where they came from, or what they believed in, they were innocent human beings. Mother Earth's people. They had much better things to do than be thrown skyward by a F-3 tornado or to be slowly killed or taken prisoner by the merciless Malcontents.

Mario could feel his skin sweating even inside his mega-suit. Still, he parried and blocked with all the skill and sense of duty in him - and doing so required everything he had. Now, there was no time to call on the radio, look around him for possible advantages, or even fire back. So aggressive was the Zentraedi attack that he had little option, yet so focused was Mario on this duty alone that he did not fail the people behind him.

The arm shields on his Veritech Hover Tank were holding and as long as they did, the TacCorp team behind him had time to create an opening in the barricade. Each precious second was bought and paid for by Mario Zuko of New York.

But then... a most curious thing happened to the young Italian. Despite his adamant focus, another thought entered his mind, different than the ones before in one very important way...

This thought did not belong to him.

I cannot withstand much more damage.

The thought was not a sound inside his cockpit nor did it arise from his radio. It existed solely in his mind.

Training told Mario to check the status of his arm shields. They were in the yellow, but not in any real danger of being destroyed yet. Then he remembered something the technician said when he had first received this particular vehicle today. It had belonged to another soldier whose life it had saved, but the machine itself had nearly been destroyed in the process. Something about all limbs having been blown off but the core was just fine. The technician said it was back to full strength and if there were any problems to return the vehicle immediately. In other words, this particular machine was refurbished.

So where did the thought come from?

"...--avo Four. Do you rea..."

Mario's ears heard a beeping sound that told him someone was sending him a radio transmission on the A.T.A.C. channel. It sounded like the lady at Eglin tower was trying to raise him. Mario was not just a tanker but also a communications specialist. As such, he could, at least in a damaged Veritech Hover Tank, change channels accurately without even looking at the console.

Switching to channels was child's play even under the amount of stress and pressure he was on while taking this great barrage of blasts. The sounds of the blasts were so loud and coming in so often that it was hard to understand. "...single T.A.S.C. unit incoming..." "... and switch to Tac 3 as..." "...kyrie with you very soon. Repeat. Bravo Four, please respond on Tac..."

Just then, something white, big, and blindingly-fast shot over the barricade, the convoy, the APCs, Mario, and the attacking Zentraedi squad like a bat out of hell. The wake of the speeding aircraft violently rattled the windows on every vehicle in the convoy, pressed all grass flat against the ground, and scattered random debris everywhere. It must have had a loudspeaker, for the voice of an angry young woman came shouting down with the power of a cracking thunderclap. That voice said...

"Get the heck away from my baby!!"

Hearing this, the Zentraedi shouted in surprise and outrage. In their fury, three of them seemed to forget their situation, as they rose from prone position, and stood up aiming their laser pistols and particle beam cannon at what appeared to be a Valkyrie in jet mode curving skyward as if coming around for another pass.

"Cursed micronians!" "Filthy scum!" "I shall not fall to a female!" The other three soldiers rapidly and excitedly implored the standing trio to get back down on the ground.

As this distraction took place, there blossomed a single moment of golden opportunity. Mario noted that the lead of the three was no more than forty feet from the other two, all of them positioned in a neat circle of sorts...

But as Mario quickly digested this information, his eye also caught the sight of the single circling Valkyrie that had rode to the rescue. Along with Eglin ASC base and T.A.S.C. markings, it looked like this...

Just like this...

(Valkyrie)
vt-1-fighter.gif
(Image credit: Heroes of Robotech )

Now that someone has bought Mario a moment to "come up for air," what does Mario do?
 
Last edited:

Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
The grin on Mario's face fades into a clenched jaw and a glare as he works the controls of his hover tank.  The armor of the VHT is the best there is, but even his tank can't survive an endless attack from the Malcontents.  I have to keep this up, no matter what and buy enough time for the TC guys to get the civilians out of here.  I just hope that I can walk away from this in one piece when all is said and done. 


When the sonic boom hits him, it is music to his ears.  I think the pilot said to switch to Tac-3. Lets give this a try.  A press of a button changes the frequency of the radio, and Mario says, "Valkyrie pilot, this is Bravo-4.  Thanks for taking some of the heat off of me.  Let me try and thin the numbers down a bit for the two of us.  Loading MPAT."  Despite not being in his Guardian mode, he unsheathes his main gun.  With all that fire coming on him right now, there is now way he's going to go out of Battloid and lose the protection of those arm shields.  Trying to line up a shot to hit more than one of the Malcontents with the area of effect of the proximity fused shell, he aims carefully as he braces for the kick of the big cannon.  "On the way!"  BOOM!

Arm Shields damaged; extent unknown


APFSDS x 20


HEAT x 12


MPAT x 11


Plasma x 4
 

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
A press of a button changes the frequency of the radio, and Mario says, "Valkyrie pilot, this is Bravo-4. Thanks for taking some of the heat off of me. Let me try and thin the numbers down a bit for the two of us. Loading MPAT."
As Mario swapped to Tac 3 and spoke, a strange feeling came over him, despite the heavy stress of combat and the adrenaline flowing through him. For a moment, he was taken away from the fight. His mind was whisked away to somewhere peaceful, harmless, and altogether without worry.

Something inside of him told him that everything was going to be all right. Especially when he heard the now-calmed and curious voice that replied over Tac 3. That voice may have been the most beautiful woman's voice he had ever heard. The way she seemed to make unconscious use of tone, the way the sound came to his ear; it did not take a communications specialist to appreciate this natural gift of hers.

But above all.... he somehow knew it was the voice of the Valkyrie pilot. Not her co-pilot if there was one, tower dispatcher, or anyone else. It was her.

"He--.... Hey, down there... Bravo Four... Have we met?"

(Blast from the past for Sherwood. =) )
"tapDANCE" by David Foster
Remember this tune, by chance? =)

As when Mario met with Colonel Sharp, there was again an all-powerful feeling. All sound dulled. All sense of vision outside instead faded and focused on Mario's inside. It was as if the depths of his very mind had opened brilliantly and overpoweringly like the birth of a newborn star.

(Game Master note for all)
And this scene is for Special Agent Captain Sherwood and... Special Agent Captain... well... Sherwood's player knows her name. =)

Once again, almost like deja vu, and twice in the same day, Mario experienced a feeling he had never felt before, yet he had always known. Mario had no idea what the name of the woman was on the other side of the screen, but now that they were speaking by radio, video was also available as well. Perhaps Mario thought the craziness of combat was getting to him, but when he saw her face, all doubt was removed.

They knew each other!

(Her face.)
(The Valkyrie pilot.)
Shirley Mackenzie .png
(Image credit: Larry Elmore)

Again came an experience that rocked Mario's senses and shook the core of his being. Like the colonel, Mario had just met her. He had just seen her face for the first (?) time. And yet, he knew he could trust her. Even moreso than Sharp. Mario knew he could trust her with everything. Even with his life. In fact... Mario felt that he had.

As with Colonel Sharp, this new knowledge and familiarity in no way meant anything for their relationship now - there was just the overriding, all-encompassing feeling that to be anything less than a friend to this woman was outright stupidity. Mario and this woman had known each other before. What were they to each other before? Where? When? The details seemed to not matter in the slightest. What mattered was that they were here, together again, now.

Mario knew without knowing that beyond any friend he had ever made in his life, he could count on her. Even now in a weaponless Valkyrie, she would fly, scream, and fight alongside him even if there was no one else below her to save.

And he would do the same for her. He had done the same for her.

There, in his mind's eye, he saw himself in another uniform, in another time, another place. Perhaps he was another man. But instead of saluting her as he had done with Colonel Sharp, they were softly embracing. It was then that Mario realized that unlike Colonel Sharp, she was someone else then too. Just like Mario was someone else.

In that shared togetherness, there was a deep warm feeling of goodness. Of not being alone anymore. Of not worrying about the small stuff. They had each other's backs. Perhaps they had each other's hearts. That feeling made the whole world and all their living in it so much richer.

BEEEEEEEEEEP!

Mario knew immediately what that sound was. The targeting reticle of his Veritech Hover Tank had found a range of 190 meters to target and his MPAT round was loaded and ready to fire. Whether he wanted it or not, the electronic sound had suddenly brought him back into the tanker's seat (along with another realization - he was not a tanker before!). But before what?

Unfortunately, it was a question for another time.

Mario's senses fully snapped back into the present. When Mario unsheathed the main gun from its forearm housing and aimed it at the center-most distracted Malcontent, no one present perhaps save Mario thought about how relatively inaccurate the round would be since his Veritech Hover Tank was not in tank mode. Nor were they thinking of why it was highly recommended that the VHT should be braced against the fantastic recoil should it fire in battloid mode. No.

All the civilians were thinking other thoughts when Mario dropped his VHT into "firing stance" (in which he - at this point in his young life - had only practiced on the simulators and training grounds and never before fired in combat before now) and focused.

Mario lined up his crosshairs on the intended Malcontent and activated the red trigger button on his cadillac.

(Excerpt from Thunder Run by David Zucchino)
From Thunder Run: The Armored Strike to Capture Baghdad by David Zucchino

(Page 11) Ellis traversed the gun tube, got a laser reading of 610 meters, and put the targeting reticle's tiny red crosshatches on the hut. He squeezed the trigger on the gunner's power control handles, which all the gunners called cadillacs, for the original manufacturer, Cadillac Cage. "On the way!" the announced. The MPAT round reduced the hut to dust, unleashing a cloud of gray smoke twice the size of the structure.

(Page 14) "They squeezed red trigger buttons on their cadlillacs and the bunkers exploded with a heavy whump and a shudder as the HEAT rounds detonated."

GM note: Pardon me while I give a salute of sorts in Robotech: Broadsword to all of the M-1 Abrams crews out there by declaring here and now that the firing controls on Veritech Hover Tanks everywhere are also manufactured by Cadillac Gage, down to their red trigger buttons. =)

BOOM!

There is a wonderful thing that happens when a Veritech Hover Tank fires its main gun. Unlike any other ASC mecha-based weapon, there is a tremendous shockwave-producing explosion that erupts from the barrel and out comes that one highly-deadly mega-damage round, spinning at its target like some gigantic bullet on steroids. In RDF and ASC training, the example of the main gun of a tank is often used to quickly and easily describe the difference between S.D.C. and Mega-damage armament - and it does so with memorable accuracy.

(Short tank-related video)
NOTE: During the transfer back to xenForo, I lost the original video here, but I found one that I think fits even better. So here it is:

Say it slowly with me now: "Boooooom." =)

To the heavily-engaged TacCorp engineers credit, they only flinched when Mario sent the round flying; every last civilian screamed, shouted, freaked out, or in some small cases, uncontrollably wet their pants when that 105mm main gun suddenly roared its war cry. At the sound of the exiting explosion, the right arm of Mario's VHT yanked back horribly (which he knew was bad for the VHT's actuators, but given the circumstances, the damned actuators were supposed to be the least of his concern).

The round flew through the air unerringly at its target and all things seemed to move in slow motion to the New York-born tanker. He saw the Malcontents take their eyes off the sky. He saw them turn back his way. He also saw all of their eyes widen on him where they should have never left in the first place.

Mario's three targets did not shrink at the report of the mighty cannon; they simply exploded in an earth-shaking blast.

Two of the three Malcontents blasted by the fragmentary effects of the MPAT round flew through the air as if struck by the hand of God. They were killed before they hit the ground. The third, however, vanished almost completely, weapon and all, in a grand cloud of smoke and fire. When that cloud disappeared, only his boots remained on the ground. They smoked piteously. Nothing else remained of the Malcontent.

The uncontrollable cheering of school-children (not to mention the bus drivers and other civilians) could be heard from behind Mario.

The TacCorp raised cheers of their own. "Nice shooting!" "Way to go!" and "Damned good shot, A.T.A.C.!" That last yelled from the cantankerous sergeant in the M-2205 over his loudspeaker. The Valkyrie pilot cheered too and the sound of it was enough to raise one's spirits heavenward. "That's giving it to 'em, Bravo Four!"

And yet, Mario had been trained to never take his eyes off of a live opponent. He also knew all too well the power of communication. So when the prone Malcontents gritted their teeth at the loss of half their squad and returned fire again on Mario, it was the third who was shouting into his radio that Mario found himself watching. Mario had also paid long hours of attention to the language of his enemy while his fellow A.T.A.C. recruits partied and enjoyed themselves. Mario's sacrifice toward education (one of many) was about to pay off.

(In Zentraedi which Mario understands). "The new warrior mecha is too strong! Send in the advance force!"

While Mario parried the incoming blasts, he listened over Tac 3 and heard her again. Her voice. It was unreal. She had this incredibly-captivating voice that a guy could just listen to all day long or longer. "Bravo Four, heads up! Four battle pods coming out of the woods west of your position and moving in fast. There is smoke in the trees where they came from."

Another voice, male and young-sounding like a teenager's, joined in on the channel.

"Lieutenant?"

"Yes?" she replied.

"Do you think TacCorp is going to break through the barricade in time?"

"Oh, they will if that lone tanker and I can buy them time, Rothschild."

"Are we in life-threatening danger?"

"We sure are!"

"Wow," Rothschild sounded amazed without being overly excited. "Is there anything I can do?"

"As a matter of fact, sweetheart, there sure is. Get Hairball on this channel. I have an idea..."

"Hairball? Back at base? Yes, ma'am."

The Valkyrie lieutenant addressed Mario. "Bravo Four? Behind you, TacCorp has the unhooked semi pushing their 'dozer against the barricade and it looks like it's working! Once it's out of the way, the civilians will need about two minutes, I'm guessing, to get out. Keep up the defense!"

Now that the level of fire had leveled off, Mario could fire back normally against the three foot soldiers while still blocking with his arm shield. However... far down the road with the terrible tornado darkening the background with its oncoming storm, Mario saw new opponents coming down the highway and running fast. Mario had heard how fast battle pods were but had never seen them in live action until now.

"Fast" was not the word - they would be here in about 15 seconds...

(New opponents)
(Four of these.)
battle-pod-color-start.jpg
(Image credit: treebeerdstuff)

What does Mario do?
 
Last edited:

Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
The fact that he was just responsible for the deaths of three intelligent beings was not lost on him.  It is one thing to 'kill' virtual targets in a trainer, or to fire on dummy targets on a live fire range.  It is entirely something different when it is for real.  But there is no time to dwell on what he just did; innocent lives were in the balance, and by God, he will not let them down.  Losing a single kid would be a burden on his life that Mario does not plan on having to deal with.  All of those kids will go home to their families tonight, even if it kills him.


Over the radio, Mario calls out, "Valk pilot, this is Bravo-4.  Do you have a boyfriend?  I don't want someone to get jealous when I take you out to dinner and drinks for the timely arrival!"  On the tower frequency, Mario does his best to remain calm as he reports, "Eglin Tower, we have a confirmed sighting of four, I say again, four Regult class Battle Pods, closing in on this position at top speed.  The Tactical Corps team are evacuating the civilians, but will need at least two minutes, and this fight will be long over by then, one way or another." 


A hundred different options are all playing out in his mind at the sight of the new threat.  Do I continue to engage the foot soldiers, or use this chance to take out a Pod before it gets in weapons range?  Decision made, he breaks into a run, kicking his jets to leap high into the air.  Moving to the side to keep any stray shots from hitting the children, Mario flicks a switch to shift into his Guardian mode.  Against the infantry, I could risk a wild shot.  Against Battle Pods, I'll need the accuracy of being in the right mode to unleash the cannon properly.  This time, instead of the MPAT, he tasks the auto loader to ready a APFSDS round.  I'll only have one more shot with the 105 before it needs to cool for a moment.  Got to make it count.  He targets the lead Pod, and says, "Firing Silver Bullet!  On the way!"  Boom!

Arm Shields damaged; extent unknown


APFSDS x 19


HEAT x 12


MPAT x 11


Plasma x 4
 

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
Mario must have certainly known that it was a great gamble for him to have moved from his present spot to fire, for to do so left the school bus he was protecting wide open to enemy fire. It was a gamble that paid off - his actions had caused the Malcontent foot soldiers to target him and him alone and they did so with military precision.

As Mario commanded his VHT to leap, transform, and fire in mid-air, the young pilot realized then that he was a moving target firing against another moving target - a difficult shot indeed.

And yet, behind him, from both of the schoolbuses, came the wild cries of the civilians, most of them children. With hands and books over their ears, Mario hears little voices shouting, "Boom him!" "Do it again! I wasn't ready!" and "Blow him up good!"

Mario's rocked the battlefield again causing kids to cheer and adults to cringe as the round went out. BOOM!

The four battle pods raced down Interstate 10 at incredible speed...

(Spoiler contains lots of boom).
Another video that did not make the transfer. But once again, here is an even better one. Probably not safe for work, but not gory or anything like that either.
Gangway! Coming through!

And then there were three... Perhaps the battle pods misjudged the small ASC mech or perhaps they did not even see him until he fired. Either way, they knew something bad in the convoy was protecting the people there when the 105mm tank round entered the front section of the first battle pod and its pilot and exited out through both and kept going down the road. The battle pod suddenly exploded into a tower of gurgling flames and twisted metal as it crashed to the highway, scattering its burning cannons, legs, and other debris all over the concrete.

Still, the Malcontent battle pods charged on, springing down the road, heedless of the destruction of their comrade. It was as if his death had meant nothing.

Or so it was until that orange Valkyrie in jet mode came screaming at them from across the treetops of the forest south of the highway, engines alight with bright blue fire. Along with it came the furious fire of the Valkyrie pilot's voice over the loudspeaker.

"Give it up, you goons! There's no way you're laying your hands on my baby!"

The great cries of the jet fighter's engines shook the very air. This was a sound the Malcontents knew. Many a battle pod had been blown to bloody scrap by transformable veritech fighters and they had no way of knowing at the moment that this one was a trainer without guns or missiles. Immediately and hastily, the other three Malcontent pods scrambled and scattered into the woods for cover.

The Malcontent foot soldiers witnessed this and winced. The one who spoke did so again, this time with the tone of outrage. Mario understood every word as the 40 foot tall giant shouted, "The armored threat shall not be allowed to live! Send in the main force!" Then they opened fire on Mario.

Denied arm shields, Mario could not parry. Nor did the idea of dodging seem to come to mind lest he exhaust precious time taking that action. Having little recourse but to rely on the thick armor of the Veritech Hover Tank, he felt the blasts strike his machine, causing it to shudder. Both incoming lasers caused little damage to his hull, but then the particle beam cannon nailed him dead-on. It struck with a tremendous crash and something most unusual followed...

Mario heard some kind of bad rattling sound come from the inside of his VHT. The direct hit from the cannon had not penetrated his chest armor, which was up until these moments, was undamaged. Still, a bad feeling fell over the Italian like a lead cloak. Nor did not help when the following thought suddenly appeared in his mind...

My reactor core shielding has become dislodged.

Once again, a thought had appeared in his mind and it did not belong to him.

Inside Mario's mind, the sudden internal damage sent off red alerts from all over Mario's training. Corporal Zuko knew the core of the mech was the most heavily-defended part of the tank and able to last for years and years of service, but if the core were seriously damaged, the destruction of the mecha was imminent. "How then did this damage take place?" his training demanded to know.

The main body on his machine should have been able to take a lot more damage than this, and in fact, the armor itself was holding. His arm shields too were damaged, but nowhere near critically so. So why was every related sensor in his mech now telling him that his mech was in terrible danger of exploding if he took one or two more serious hits to the main body?

*
The TacCorp M-2205 APC was at full power in its attempt to shove the massive section of barricade out of the way. Pressed against the rear of the APC, the semi tractor, also driven by a TacCorp soldier, was rumbling heavily and providing all the considerable horsepower it could. Between their desperate efforts, the twenty-foot tall barricade made of Zentraedi ship debris finally began to move.

The TacCorp engineers gave everything they had as the convoy of other cars, trucks, school buses, wreckers, and tractor trailer sat back and watched with varying degrees of hope. With an ear-wrenching scream of starship metal against concrete, the barricade moved inch by inch, foot by foot across the interstate...

...until with a loud clang the motion suddenly stopped cold.

"What in damnation?" yelled the TacCorp sergeant in the APC who, when in doubt, performed the age-old maneuver taught to any serious vehicle driver, G.O.A.L. ("Get Out And Look!"). There in the highway before him, the sergeant saw something that made his face fall in momentary despair.

Over the T.A.S.C. radio channel where all friendly ASC parties were now in communication, the sergeant's voice was hard enough to break glass. "Sonofabitch! Tower, Malcontents cut about a three-foot gap down inta the highway which the whole barricade just dropped into! Even with both semis pushin' me, we don't have the damned horsepower to shove the barricade outta there!"

Immediately came the voice of the Valkyrie pilot. "Then get outta my way!"

(Spoiler contains mood music.)
"Get Outta My Way" (7th Heaven Extended Remix) by Kylie Minogue

Lyrics:
What's the worst thing that could happen to you?
Take the chance tonight and try something new
You're getting boring; you're oh-so boring
And I don't recognize the zombie you turn into

Don't worry 'cause tonight I got you
You can take a seat, do what you normally do
I'm about to let you see
This is what'll happen if you ain't givin' your girl what she needs

Leave you, move on to a perfect stranger
You talk, I walk, wanna feel the danger
See me with him and it's turning you on
It's got me saying
Getting me back at the end of this song

(chorus)

Get outta my way
Get outta my way
Got no more to say
He's taken your place
Get outta my way
Way outta my way
Got no more to say
He's taken your place
Get outta my way

Now I gotta taste; I wanna explore
Ain't going to waste, no, not anymore
You going hard now to win my heart, but
Too many times now you've been calling her

Don't worry 'cause tonight I got you
You can take a seat, do what you normally do
I'm about to let you see
This is what'll happen if you ain't givin' your girl what she needs

Leave you, move on to a perfect stranger
You talk, I walk, wanna feel the danger
See me with him and it's turning you on

It's got me saying
Getting me back at the end of this song

(chorus)

And, no, I ain't goin' home 'cause I wanna stay
But I won't be alone, no how, no way
Now I've showed you what I'm made of
This is what'll happen if you ain't givin' your girl what she needs

Leave you, move on to a perfect stranger
You talk, I walk, wanna feel the danger
See me with him and it's turning you on
It's got me saying
Getting me back at the end of this song

(chorus)

No, I ain't goin' home
But I won't be alone
Now I've showed you what I'm made of
Now I've showed you what I'm made of

"Wha?!"

"Move that semi, mister! You might not have enough horsepower, but I sure as heck do!"

There was the briefest pause. Then... "Shit! Drake, back her up an' out! Move, move!" Drake did just that. With shrieking, smoking tires, the semi went into full reverse and pulled away. Looking west of the convoy down the highway, that orange Valkyrie could be seen twisting in mid-air without losing speed, all in one incredibly aerobatic turn.

The aircraft came flying down the highway straight at the barricade. Midway there, the veritech sprouted robotic arms and legs as it transformed into guardian mode. Taking no chances, the TacCorp APC turned and sped away to join the convoy.

Arms outstretched, the veritech slowed to a safe speed and met the barricade, bracing itself against the wide mass of green metal and wreckage. The head underneath the veritech spun around for a moment as if looking about.

"Rothschild, hold on!"

"Holding, ma'am!"

The Valkyrie's legs and feet burned against the concrete causing all sorts of shouts and cries from the people in the convoy as they saw what was coming and sought cover inside their vehicles. The world itself seemed to tremble as the pilot of the Valkyrie brought forth all of the power of the veritech's engines to bear. Bright blue flames from both engines created a blazing cone of earth-shaking fire and nerve-wracking sound. It seemed to the people in the convoy as if all the world were about to be brought to apocalypse as the Valkyrie threw itself against the set barricade.

The barrier held against this onslaught in a titanic test of technologies - that is, until the pilot engaged her afterburners...

(Spoiler contains short video of afterburners!)

Even the Malcontents firing on Mario's tank paused and took note at this moment in time. They watched in awe as great brilliant gusts of howling fire erupted from the veritech fighter. The sound was terrifyingly, unforgettably loud as if the very planet were suddenly coming apart. The barrier held on and on until something near its bottom began to slip and bend against the tremendous forces blasting against it. And then...

CLANG!!

The barrier, unable to take any more, burst forth from its nesting groove in the highway. The entire section of wreckage screamed horribly as the Valkyrie, now free from this contest, pushed it down the road until it fell on its side. Then the transformable fighter lifted and shot off skyward to the cheers and raised hands of the people in the convoy.

The TacCorp sergeant was overjoyed. "Hot damn, Valkyrie! You did it!" Using his bulldozer blade, the sergeant pulled up on a stray section of hull and pushed it toward the groove in the highway. With expert maneuvering, he created a bridge across the small gap tough enough for even the tractor trailers to handle.

The Malcontents saw this and roared in their fury. "They are getting away!" "Annihilate them!" Once again, their guns were aimed at the school bus now plain in their view.

However, it was not the three prone Zentraedi giants that got Mario's immediate attention as his eyes strayed westward down Interstate 10, nor the three battle pods emerging from the forest behind them. It was instead the distant sight of a dozen battle pods, some with missile pods, and one looked like a giant eye. However, a larger, nastier machine that seemed to lead them all...

(Spoiler contains a peek at what is leading them.)
95984a875264dc0514508dac243cd230.jpg
(Image credit: www.pinterest.com)

The main force was on its way. Though some distance away, they were all coming down the road almost casually toward the convoy and would be here in scant minutes.

What does Mario do?
 
Last edited:

Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
If there is one thing that Mario's time in the military has taught him, it is how to mult-task.  After endless hours of training, performing multiple actions inside the tank was second nature to him.  Flipping back to his Battloid mode and moving to once more block the attacks on the school bus with his shields, Mario calls out on the radio, "Eglin Tower!  The situation has gone from bad to worse!  The initial attacking force is down by three infantry and one Regult Pod, leaving us three infantry and three Battle Pods, but reinforcements are underway.  I have a full dozen Battle Pods incoming, including Artillery Pods and an Officer Pod!  I say again, twelve hostiles in mecha inbound, ETA two minutes!   I have taken several hard hits, and my reactor is unstable; even though my Main Body armor is holding, I'm not going to be able to last through another hit like that!  I need backup, ASAP!  One unarmed Trainer Valkyrie is not going to do much to sway this fight!"  With his mind racing he come up with a wild idea that will probably not work. 


In Zentraedi, Mario broadcasts on a wide channel, trying to get the attention of the Officer Pod.  With a voice that is dripping in sarcasm and scorn he says, "Oh, how very noble and honorable you are, using so many Battle Pods to attack defenseless children.  Too bad you don't have the stomach to face off, one on one, with a challenge that can fight back.  Only a coward would continue on this path, hiding behind their troops, and not face me by yourself.  Especially since I've been damaged so much by your advance party!  If you were at least as skilled as a bunch of Maltrandi, I might have a threat on my hands, but I don't suppose that I have to worry about that!"  Back on the TacNet with the TC bunch, he says, "The way is now open for you!  Get those kids out of here!  I'll stall the Zentraedi here for as long as I can, but I won't be able to stop them all!"


Edited, with the changes underlined.

Arm Shields damaged; extent unknown


Main Body damaged; extent unknown


APFSDS x 19


HEAT x 12


MPAT x 11


Plasma x 4
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
(Spoiler contains GM mood music)

Time to take off with some Rock & Roll...
Note: Since the transfer back to xenForo, I have forgotten which song went here so... I'm just going to add one I like and hope it's close! If nothing else, the message of the song fits the scene. =)
Here's "Driven" by Rush (live from Rush in Rio. =)

"I need backup, ASAP"
Instead of wasting precious time replying to Mario, Eglin tower immediately put out the alert again. Mario heard the calm and cool woman's voice with her southern accent delivering the message with professionalism and urgency; it was the most potent alert a dispatcher could provide under the circumstances. A long loud beep came over all channels declaring emergency traffic only.

"All units, red alert. All units, red alert. A.T.A.C. and Tac Corp escorting civilian convoy in distress. I-10 eastbound, mile marker 25. ASC versus hostile Malcontent platoon-sized force including foot soldiers, battle pods, and one Officer's pod confirmed. A.T.A.C. Bravo Squadron in area is silent at this time. Earlier advised F-3 tornado warning is moving in that direction. All available units respond on Tac 2 at 1430."

"One unarmed Trainer Valkyrie is not going to do much to sway this fight!"
Mario's statement over the comm caused the pilot of the orange Valkyrie to suddenly explode in a brand of wrath that can only be described as all-female.

"What?! A.T.A.C., you listen up, buster! My baby is down there and if you think for a minute that I came here to let those Malcontent muttonheads put their paws on him, well, you've got another thing coming! You think we flew out here without a plan of action? Just let me show you what an unarmed Valkyrie can do!!"

There was a pause. "Rothschild! Have you got him?"

"He appears to have his 'ears on,' ma'am, but he's not answering. Maybe he stepped out?"

"Uh, uh. He's in there... All units on Tac 2, incoming high volume..." The Valkyrie pilot inhaled deeply. Then she screamed with all of her considerable vocal might; it was a sound that was as beautiful as it was loud.

"HAAAAAAAAAIIIIRBAAAAAAALL!!"

A voice that could only belong to a large, rotund man burst over the comm. That nasal voice sounded like it belonged to someone disoriented, half-asleep, completely surprised, and possibly quite drunk.

"Hhhhheeyyy!! *hic* Whhhaaa?! Whuuss goin' ooooon?"

"Hairball, I need you!"

"Hhheeeyyy, Mack! Shhhure! Anythhing yoooou want!" He hiccuped loudly. "So whaddya waaaaant?"

"What are you packing?"

"Ohhhh, *hic* nuthin' really exciitiiing.... Jushhht fraaags an' H.E. todaaaay..."

"I'll take 'em! Give me the codes!"

"Whhhhoaaaa... Hhhhey, Tower? Am I cleeaaaared fer thaaat? Huuuuh?'

The voice from the tower was all-business. "Hairball, you are clear to provide Comet One anything she needs."

"Oooh! Nowww weeee're taaaalkin'!" Far to the east of the battle on Interstate 10, just inside the fenced borders of Eglin ASC base, stood a quartet of destroids, one of which was a shiny, immobile Phalanx.

(Spoiler contains excellent Phalanx artwork.)
PhalanxatcollectemallIMG_0305.jpg
(Image credit: COLLECT 'em ALL)

When that Phalanx destroid suddenly came to life, the other three destroids close by, one Gladiator and two Tomahawks, took notice and turned toward the Phalanx. They seemed to stare at the Phalanx in anticipation... or perhaps dread.

"Whaaata yooou got?"

"Hairball, my baby's down there and it's about eight-to-one odds! Plus there's a civilian convoy on the line."

"Yoooou gonna trrrrry that thhing we werrre taaaalkin' *hic* abooout?"

"Yep!"

"Oooh! Thhhen.... take mmmmy codes! My mishulls *hic* arrrre your mishulls!"

"Rothschild? The numbers have to be exact or it's no good!"

"Yes ma'am... There. All triple-checked and set."

"Rrrrready ta firrrre!! Rrrrawwwr!"

Eglin Tower dispatch came over the comm. "Now, Hairball don't you start with your nonsense--"

Suddenly, at the base, the Phalanx opened its missile tubes. It began to stagger and lurch about in a strange fashion as if there were something horribly wrong going on inside. Immediately, the other destroids ran away from the Phalanx as if trying to flee some nigh-inescapable doom.

Then Hairball sounded truly terrible. "Whhhaait, Tower... Hhh... Hold onnn..." The Phalanx rocked back and forth violently like a living thing that had suddenly become tremendously sick. "Ohh! I dun ffffeel shhho good... Isssh.... Ish a BIG ONE!"

The Tower roared. "Oh no! Not on my channel! Don't you--"

The Phalanx heaved forward again and again as if attempting to release something from deep within itself, something it desperately had to eject. Twenty-two long range missiles flared to life and burst out of the Phalanx in a great pillar of orange flame. Gigantic plumes of white smoke shot out from the Phalanx. Yet it was not the fantastic display of missile launching that was the most memorable thing, for along with this eruption came the most sickening sound ever produced on recorded radio by a mecha pilot...

"HKKK, HHHHGGKKKK, HGGGRRRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACCCCCCK!!"

The Tower roared. "Dagnabbit, Hairball!"

Rothschild was amazed. One could just hear the smile in his voice. "Wow! Ma'am? That has to be the most disgusting sound I have ever heard!"

"Whuuu! Whaaaait, everrrybody! *hic* Whaaait! I ghhotta --HRRK-- anooooother one! Oh!"

"Tower to Hairball! Why do you have to do this every time you launch a volley--"

Once again, the aged, shining Phalanx heaved forward again and again as if regurgitating something big and ugly up from its insides. "Ohhh! Thish one's.... thishhh one's bigger, BIGGER den thhhhe firshht one! Oh, oh! HGGGGHKKKK!! HURRRRKAAAAKKK!! BBRRRRRAAAGGGAACKACKKGGLLLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGHKK!!" Twenty-two more long range missiles leapt out of the Phalanx in a fiery dance and together rocketed westward across the sky as smoke clouded all things nearby the Phalanx.

Rothschild chuckled brightly. "No - THAT was the most disgusting sound I have ever heard!"

"Ohhh, oooooooh!" Hairball sounded clearer and relieved. "Ohhhh, dat whuuus great, Mack! Thhhhanks! I fffffeel SHO much BETTER! " The lone Phalanx began to clank and stagger away. The pilot sounded weary. "I'ma go drink aboooout a galllllon of wwwwater an' replennnisshhhh my mishulls now... Whooooo... Wotta day..."

*
About 200 feet above Interstate 10, a fiery flock of forty-four long range missiles ripped westward across the sky at incredible speed. The very busy Valkyrie pilot flew her veritech in guardian mode while manipulating the laser targeter in her trainer and the computer that would allow her direct contact with the missiles now under her command. This was called "buddy lasing."

Help was on the way and rapidly.

(Spoiler contains an excerpt from Black Aces High by Robert K. Wilcox.
(From page 181)

Buddy lasing.

The Hornets were carrying laser-guided Maverick air-to-ground missiles. These honed in on laser reflection and were unique in that they could be dropped and then the Hornet could fly away. Nothing else was required of the pilot. As long as the target was illuminated, the Maverick, which had wings, fin, and a motor would fly to the laser spot on its own. It was an easy-to-use bomb for what would come to be termed "buddy lasing" -- using the laser of one aircraft (in this case, the Tomcat) for the bomb of another (the Hornet). The Maverick was also specially made to destroy hardened targets like tanks and armored vehicles. It could easily penetrate farm buildings.

One by one, Bru and Joey called in the Hornets, which stayed out of visual range. They gave the Hornet pilots the target coordinates to aim the Maverick and the LANTIRN laser code so the missile could recognize and be guided by it. Once Joey had the laser aimed at a spot, the Hornet would make its run, still staying a safe distance away. When the Maverick located the laser, probably about five miles from the target, the Hornet would release the missile. It would then fly to whatever Joey was illuminating.

They decimated the area.

Game Master note: I know we're talking about Maverick missiles and I am taking some liberties here, but Robotech: Broadsword is a role-playing game and if this sort of thing can be done using F-14A Tomcats made in the 1980s, then I don't mind allowing something similar to be done by state-of-the-art protoculture-driven Valkyries or ASC aircraft along with long range missiles made from the same era of technology. I will therefore add the "buddy lasing" technique to Shop Talk along with these notes and game-related details.

*
Far below the orange Valkyrie, Mario found himself locked in the fight of his life. There, in battloid mode, he and his Veritech Hover Tank were the only things between the destruction of civilians and their freedom. One by one, the vehicles of the convoy hustled over the bridge set up by TacCorp while their APCs fired back on the Malcontents now engaged with Mario.

The APCs returned laser fire against the three prone Malcontent foot soldiers and the three battle pods that now sent twin blasts of punishing particle beam destruction toward the ASC forces. Mario's tank shuddered repeatedly as he parried every slamming blast he could. His shields were holding but it was a matter of time until they wouldn't.

In Zentraedi, Mario broadcasts on a wide channel, trying to get the attention of the Officer Pod. With a voice that is dripping in sarcasm and scorn he says, "Oh, how very noble and honorable you are, using so many Battle Pods to attack defenseless children. Too bad you don't have the stomach to face off, one on one, with a challenge that can fight back. Only a coward would continue on this path, hiding behind their troops, and not face me by yourself. Especially since I've been damaged so much by your advance party! If you were at least as skilled as a bunch of Maltrandi, I might have a threat on my hands, but I don't suppose that I have to worry about that!"
The reply Mario receives from the oncoming Officer's Pod is brief. "Die properly, Micronian. I have no time for your games." The officer and his entourage of battle pods continued to race toward the battle at top speed. Mario had learned from Zentraedi language class that the Zentraedi won their battles regularly by using overwhelming numbers and sound tactical strategies against their foes.

"The way is now open for you! Get those kids out of here! I'll stall the Zentraedi here for as long as I can, but I won't be able to stop them all!"
Mario knew that TacCorp was now on the Tac 2 channel along with now that everyone involved in the battle. The TacCorp sergeant's reply was unamused to say the least. "No shit, Corporal Obvious! What in tarnation d'you think we've been doin' here since well before you showed up?! I'd call you Captain Obvious, but anyone can see yer a greenhorn! At least yer blockin' in the right spot, so stay put an' we'll try ta help ya!"

There was a pause. "Martinez! Cho! Pop smokes an' pull back after that semi makes it through! I'll cover ya an' greenhorn here!" The cannon of the M-2205 sounded across the battlefield as the two M-2200 Janissary APCs stayed beside Mario's tank. There were two small thumping sounds as a small salvo of grenades flew through the air and landed in the earth between Mario and the Malcontents. A wall of black, green, red, and white smoke began to rise up obscuring vision. This did not impede Mario so much as it did his six opponents.

However, it was the seventh opponent, over a mile away, that changed the tide of the battle. The Officer's Pod paused as his fellows raced past him. The long, deadly barrel atop the alien mech steadied and aimed directly at Mario as he quickly parried every blast he could.

"Micronian, your destruction is required..."

There was a tremendous blast of particle beam fire. Mario did his best to parry this, but despite his youthful reflexes, he could not match that well-aimed beam traveling at the speed of light.

The Veritech Hover Tank shook awfully as if kicked by a titan of old. A heart-shaking rattling sound suddenly reverberated through the machine. Red alert lights and warning sounds went off all over the control panels, yet the hit was not a critical hit as Mario knew them to be. Something was inherently wrong with the tank itself. Furthermore, Mario knew a normal Veritech Hover Tank could take such a blast under normal circumstances, but the readouts he was receiving were confused and jumbled signals. It was as if the sensors on the tank were in a state of shock and did not know precisely how to tell him what was happening.

Then, without warning, came yet another thought into Mario's mind. He did not create it nor was it of his imagination; of these things, he was certain. The message it provided to him was clearer than any sensor and more urgent than any alarm... Each word was large and powerful in his mind like no other thought he had ever experienced in his life. It was as if the tank were attempting to save his very life when it seemed to say into his mind...

I am about to explode.

Mario's logic told him that there was no way any tanker could have figured this out from what his sensory equipment was telling him. His training and every teacher he learned from told him that no tank was worth the life of the tanker inside it. The tank could be replaced; the tanker could not. The lead cloak of dread that had fallen over him earlier was now heavier than it had ever been. There was, he was absolutely sure now, no hope in the chair he was sitting in. It was as if the tank itself was telling him so.

With half the convoy across the bridge and his laser rifle in the nearby locker, Mario's only chance was to get out while he still could.

Due to these new circumstances, Mario has the following options:
1. Get out of the tank.
2. Get the hell out of the tank.
3. Get the hell out of the tank now.
4. Tell the GM all about your next character...
5. Anything else Mario can think of (that includes getting the hell out of the tank now).
 
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Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
One thing that Mario has learned over his many years starting off as a kid in New York and leading on to his career in the military, its how to cuss effectively.  Venting out a spray of colorful words, he tries one last gambit to put his dying tank to use.  Shifting into its transport mode, he aims his rig at the nearest Battle Pod and guns the engine, locking the steering controls just before grabbing his laser rifle and diving out, tumbling head over heels, thankful for the heavy armor that protects him from the road rash he would otherwise have.  Still, he'll have a few colorful bruises to show off at the end of this.  Over the radio, he calls out, "This is Bravo-4!  I'm hit bad and my engine is going critical!  Abandoning the Tank now!  Valk pilot, your aim with those missiles had damn well be on target!"


Here's to hoping that I won't be 'collateral damage' in just a few seconds...
 
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Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
(Spoiler contains just a little bit of GM mood music. =) )

Sometimes remakes are just as good as the originals, but not often. Besides, some time ago, Sherwood expressed a like for this song. =)
"Major Tom" by Shiny Toy Guns (original by Peter Schilling).

Valk pilot, your aim with those missiles had damn well be on target!"
"Greenhorn," replied the Valkyrie pilot using the new nickname the TacCorp sergeant had given him, "you really think I came all this way and did all this just to miss? You just keep your shields up and your head down."

The cloud of multicolored smoke that the TacCorp personnel laid down was just as effective at blocking Mario's sight as it was the Malcontents doing their best to kill him. Still, he knew where they were prior to the smoke being released and it was definitely hard to not notice mechs that were taller than five-story buildings.

So when Mario took the time to transform his mech, aim it, and then perform the necessary motions to have it charge at them, all before taking his rifle and then jumping out of the rattling, dying, and now speeding Veritech Hover Tank, something in him may have realized that he was taking more than a small chance with his own life.

Mario leapt out of the racing tank and hit the highway. But he landed wrong. He knew the moment he touched down; his right foot had come down at the wrong angle. There was a wrenching and extremely painful sensation as Mario's ankle folded underneath him. Unable to support his own weight, he collapsed onto the concrete. But being trained as a member of the Armored Corp, the New Yorker was not down long. He struggled to his feet on his good leg.

As the Veritech Hover Tank sped through the smoke, it suddenly exploded. As Mario's adrenaline rushed through him, the next few moments seemed to move in slow motion. His first Veritech Hover Tank transformed from a mobile gun platform into a glorious and enormous cloud of raging fire and spinning metal. The sound of the explosion was deafening, but Mario's megasuit saved his hearing. Over his headset, he heard that beautiful Valkyrie pilot scream fearfully.

"Greenhorn!!"

Mario also heard another shout but not over the radio which, for a few moments, became a mishmash of conversations as varying parties urgently reported and relayed. The loud, male voice outside the radio was close by and filled with pain and shock. With all the smoke nearby, Mario could only surmise that it was one of the enemy Zentraedi foot soldiers. Evidently, one of them had been using the cover of the smoke to run in when the tank's explosion caught him.

But the explosion did more than just catch the Malcontent...

Mario, too close to the tank, was hit and hit hard. One moment, he was getting to his feet. The next, he was blown off of those feet. The world sped by in frantic motion as Mario hurtled helplessly through the air. His senses were rocked and disoriented. He did not remember his body striking the interstate or skidding along the concrete at more than fifty miles per hour. Nor could he remember how he had become to a stop, face-first on the highway, rifle in both hands and clutched to his chest. His instructors would have been proud at that last; a warrior's weapon was a warrior's life.

The Valkyrie pilot shouted again. Mario could tell she was trying to keep calm, but it was no easy task. "Omigosh! Hey! If you can hear me down there, stay the heck down!"

As vehicle after vehicle in the convoy crossed the makeshift bridge and sped to safety, Mario heard laser fire and cannon fire all about him. He rolled onto his back, still dazed and confused. The plumes of multi-colored smoke began to dissipate in the increasing winds.

Mario could see the three battle pods. They were much farther away now, but behind them, Mario saw the oncoming main force. Yet beyond them were a far greater mass of black clouds in the distance along the horizon. The tornado, so Mario's brain reminded him, was still out there and on its way.

For the moment, Mario could not rise if he wanted to. His body had been shaken up too much. But perhaps this was a good thing. His ears told him of familiar voices over the Tac 2 channel.

"Eglin Tower, Comet One." The Valkyrie pilot's voice was mostly calm again.

"Go ahead, Comet One."

"Fox Four times forty-four on incoming Zentraedi force. I am targeting all enemy forces."

(OOC translation in spoiler)
"Fox Four" = "I am firing a long range missile."
"Times Forty-four = "I am firing forty-four such missiles."

The sergeant came over the comm. "TacCorp copies! The cars and school buses are away! It's just that last semi now going across the bridge now. Cho, Martinez, forget the bridge! Take the gap at full speed and you'll make it! Now git!" Down the road from Mario, the TacCorp APCs rolled out of the zone as quickly as they could. With one on either side of the second red and white tractor trailer, both APCs revved up their engines and true to the sergeant's word, they jumped the gap and sped down the highway.

Mario was alone.

In the distance, he heard the screaming engines of a Valkyrie in Guardian mode staying aloft, but there was another series of sounds that his ears just could not place. As his senses returned to him, he was greeted by quite a scene - great volleys of big missiles flying over his head, trailing fire and smoke in groups of four. Eleven groups of four, he counted. They were just below about 200 feet which Mario knew was where radar could not find them. The Valkyrie had used both the low altitude and the smoke canisters dropped by the TacCorp to fullest advantage - the Malcontents did not appear aware of these volleys of death... until it was too late.

Suddenly, the sky lit up as the enemy filled it with auto cannon fire, particle beams, chaff, flares, and missiles. Some of Hairball's oncoming payload was destroyed en route...

...but it was not enough.

(GM note: The strike looks a bit like this...)
Since I cannot provide you guys a video of 30+ long range missiles descending on a group of over 15 battle pods, I hope you enjoy the power of Real Life bomb compilations like these. Unfortunately, no Malcontents were harmed in the making of these explosions. And don't worry, these scenes aren't the messy kind if you get my meaning. =)
Note: Another video eaten by the transfer back to xenForo. And another video that's short, sweet, and straight to the point (NSFW: profanity. Then again, given that we're talking about bomb drops, if there's no profanity, it's probably not a big enough bomb. =) ).

If the sounds of the Valkyrie pushing against the barricade with her afterburners lit were like the whole planet breaking apart, then what followed was impossibly, fantastically worse. Great explosions lit up the air as missiles erupted with amazing violence, one after the other after the other... It seemed as if there were no end to them and Mario had a front-row seat to the whole show. He saw the foot soldiers rise and run toward the tree line and not make it there. He saw battle pod after battle pod blow up into hellish eruptions of flying metal, black smoke, and red fires so bright he had to shield his eyes.

The ground shook and shook as if the Floridian highway were suddenly under the wrath of some tremendous earthquake, yet the highway was not becoming as damaged as it would have been had the majority of the missiles struck the pods directly. As it seemed to Mario, nearly all of the long range fragmentation missiles and high explosives were detonating in midair, shredding the Zentraedi mecha, but damaging the interstate as little as possible. The blasts also caused the trees on both sides of the highway to shake violently back and forth, but remain in place. In such a barrage, there was nowhere for the giant mecha to dodge to; their vaunted speed and agility could not get them out of this holocaust of airborne destruction.

After what felt like an eternity, it ended.

Silence reigned. Mario's whole body felt numb inside his mega-suit with the exception of his ankle which was fine until he decided to move it. Then the twisted ankle hurt like blazes. Yet Mario forgot the pain for a moment when his eyes caught the stunning scene down Interstate 10. Every enemy was still. Nothing stirred except smoke and fire. Battle pods had been blown open including the Officer's Pod which had been hit several times by direct fire. Smoldering, bloody debris was littered everywhere. All of the Malcontents here had met their doom.

Mario tried his radio, but perhaps due to the immense volume of violence here or perhaps because of the storm, nothing was getting through. He found that using his mega-damage rifle was useful in helping him get to his feet. Here, far away from the decimated remains of his first Veritech Hover Tank, he was well out of harm's way. He figured he had been propelled some 70-80 yards down the highway. He had, among other things, his paint-scarred mega-suit to thank him for being in one piece. As he stood on the highway, he realized then the awesome distance he was from Eglin ASC base.

He was some 50 miles from home with an oncoming tornado close enough to see its black clouds.

He looked eastward toward home. No vehicle stood near. Only the barricade.

Yet far down the highway, he saw something lift off into the sky. It was the orange VF-1D Valkyrie trainer in Guardian mode. Under it was a red and white tractor trailer that was getting smaller by the moment. Despite his attempts, he could not reach anyone or anything on his radio. The semi rolled away. The Valkyrie rose into the sky. Both receded into the east.

Never in his young life had Mario's footsteps along the highway sounded so loud in his ears...

(GM mood music)
O.K. There is no motorcycle in this scene. Still, I like the groove of the song, and I know Sherwood enjoys Satriani, so since this is his character's prologue... =)
"Motorcycle Driver" by Joe Satriani

When you're alone, sometimes sounds seem louder, senses seem sharper. Perhaps it is the lack of distraction of company. Whatever the case, Mario was more than acutely aware of his aloneness now as he hobbled down the highway, perhaps with the aid of his rifle.

Yet, if his senses were supposedly sharper, then why did he see something small and red down the highway? Did the missile apocalypse cause him to suffer a concussion? Was he really hallucinating? He could swear that something was driving down the road toward him. Something sleek, red, and altogether gorgeous.

If he wasn't losing his mind, Mario's ears heard something that very much sounded like this:

Yes. Seriously. =)

And it looked exactly like this:
imageproxy.jpg
(Image credit: Alfa img)

And if that were not enough, right there in the driver's seat with one hand on the wheel, was someone who looked like this:

She wore a sweaty, white RDF flight suit minus the helmet all with T.A.S.C. and Eglin ASC markings which indicated her to be a Flight Lieutenant.
Shirley Mackenzie.png (Image credit: From Reflections of Myth: The Larry Elmore Sketchbook Volume One by Larry Elmore)

Also... her voice sounded awfully familiar.

"Hey there, Greenhorn," she smiled. "I'm Shirley. Shirley Mackenzie. This here is Baby. My baby." She slowly ran her hands down the steering wheel and petted the knob on the stick shift. "You helped save him." If her voice was wonderful to experience, the same had to be said of her smile. "Plus, I think you mentioned a little something about dinner earlier, right? So..." She reached over and opened the wide passenger door revealing a very comfortable-looking black leather seat in what looked to be a perfectly-kept machine.

Shirley winked. "Wanna ride back to base?"

Then came that familiar feeling again; the feeling that she and Mario had known each other, perhaps in a different life. With that feeling came the reinforcement of another feeling, that they would be fools not to at least be friends for one another.

Behind Mario was the terrible F-3 tornado, the battered interstate, and well over a dozen corpses of Malcontent enemies along with their mecha and their slain leader. In front of Mario was a new friend and an offer back to safety, and more. Since he had somehow survived such a strange and perilous encounter, there was a new day ahead.

It was a day to be enjoyed.

(Game Master note: This concludes the prologue for Mario Zuko. Sherwood, while you are welcome to reply to this in-character, providing Mario's thoughts and feelings, I believe the next time we roleplay Zuko will be in Chapter One. =) )
 
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