Wispa tackled the next mission — Wispa again.. why is this series called “*Snips* and the Wasters?” and not “Wispa and the Wasters”? She assembled Snips the Sniper Girl (freshly back after fleeing the city) and Wyndham the Sentinel, an old chum of poor Mieville, to pilot the work robot Dr. Klunk. Wispa once again brought Johnny Big Nuts and Ace, who got a surname now: Hole. Snips looked for a new good-looking strongman, but only found a duo: one good looking and one strong man. So she hired them both: Jack, the intimidating looking, but fearful stutterer, tough frame with little to back it up, and Phan, a smooth-skinned model-type, although with a constant look of sullen anger; a Vietnamese who can’t remember any local names. She bought shotguns for both of them, and gave each 10 slugs and 10 stray shots. “Follow me and you will make it far in the world,” she lied with practiced ease.
Wyndham hired Remus the Ronin, a tough dude with a seldgehammer.
This made a huge party: Eight wasters and a robot with a power claw. With such numbers, Snips and Wispa expected little trouble on this delve. The mission: Find a case with precious metals for 1K bucks, out in a contested territory. That the territory was contested worried Snips less than that it was neighbour to a police outpost. But hey … hunt or be hunted.
Hunt or be hunted
On a sunny day they set out: Dr. Klunk the robot on point, Phan on his right, and, since Jack was too angsty for the front row, Johnny Big Nuts on the left. A good show, designed to make rivals re-consider making trouble. Smooth sailing for a good while, but then there came a police drone patrolling the streets. Snips pulled her hood up over her head and the team ducked into an alleyway to wait 15 minutes in quiet. After that, the drone was gone.
Despite the quiet, it took them the whole day to get close to the target area – so with nightfall they had to seek a place to sleep. As luck had it, the territory from Wispa’s last delve was right close. So they went there and holed up in one of the shops where they had left sensors. This shop also had a power outlet, so they were able to re-power Dr. Klunk.
On the next morning, they got called out by some gang wannabes with shiney kneepads. “Hey, nice robot!” the youths called. “Nice kneepads!” the team answered, and that was that. But then they noticed that they were followed. Wispa and Snips hid to surprise the guy on their heels, while the rest of the team moved on and would turn around once the shadow was engaged. It was a Chinese guy with spiked shoulder pads (like the guy who had watched the robot-fight not far from there).
The girls asked him what the fuck he was up following them. He answered in Chinese.
“Speak American!” demanded Snips.
Again, Chinese talk.
“Phan!!” shouted Snips, “This guy talks in Foreign! Come to translate!”
The team had the guy surrounded now, and he was pretty nervous, but he did not understand Phan’s Vietnamese. Neither did he speak Spanish. However, he also showed no signs of aggression, heavily outnumbered as he was. He sad something that sounded like an apology and retreated. Wyndham gave him a candy bar as a goodwill gift, and we split in peace.
The contested territory turned out to be between a rock and two hard places: close to the police outpost, a heavily guarded military outpost, and a corporate outpost, a tough looking compound of “Expert Media Services”, whatever that was.
The team collected a crashed Hoverbot as a potential “Mrs. Klunk” and scouted the area for likely places to find the mission objective. Only one building fit the description: An old pharmacy. Wispa checked the door but found it closed, and Dr. Klunk cut out the lock to open it up.
Dr. Klunk went in first and got promptly hit by a brutal trap. Then he got hit again by a second trap as he entered the main shop. The back room turned out to be occupied: Some homeless guy had piled up stuff to make himself a hideout. Beautiful Phan called out soothing phrases, but the man remained on guard. He was hiding from robots, he said. They were after him, he said. They were everywhere, he said. Snips promised him that the team were good guys, and even held out her hand to offer him a food ration: He accepted, and allowed them to pass through on their mission. He said his name was “D”.
Now they noticed that he owned a Katana, and in retrospect Snips felt her hand twitch.. she had held it out into his reach after all. The team piled into the room and gave Katana-D some more food, which he gladly accepted. He asked that they bring no robots inside, but otherswise he was very tolerant and accomodating.
While we were still wondering why D was so paranoid about robots, they already came up: Three bots showed up and made trouble. Dr. Klunk blocked the entrance so they had to stay outside, and the team shot them down. D was not that paranoid after all.
Snips inspected the back door that led to a staircase, but she made some noise, and someone upstairs reacted. Snips hid, and the person came down to check: It was a crazy antisocial who had removed his hands to replace them with a blade and a submachine gun! The crazy freak commenced to chase Snips up and down through the room, slashin, stabbing, and shooting, while Jack, Phan, and she herself shot at him from all angles, but he went on and on despite some shallow wounds. The dude laid waste to the room until D, who had calmly sat right in the middle of the crossfire munching his rations, stood up and cut the maniac down with his katana. Slap. Quiet. D sheathed his katana and continued eating.
The team found lots of meds and drugs, worth easily double the actual mission pay, and collected it all. They were worried they would take something that belonged to D, but he did not mind their activities at all. Dr. Klunk was sent up to check the top floor, and most of the others followed. Only Wyndham and Remus stayed downstairs. That was when some young punk peeked in through the broken windows and asked nosey questions: “Hey, what you up to? What ya doing? How many ya be? Mind sharing with us?”
Wyndham told the punk that we were many, and politely asked him to take a hike. The punk deduced from the noises upstairs that we might really be many, so he retreated for now. To be sure, we posted Jack and Ace downstairs too, as backup for Remus.
Upstairs, the team encountered two rescue robots of a model comparable to Dr. Klunk, but malfunctioning in a bad way. The robots imagined that there was a fire and they had to “rescue” us, and started shooting with a water cannon and grabbing with steel claws.
Snips hoped they might power down and go on standby if nobody was there to rescue, so everyone retreated downstairs. They still harassed Dr. Klunk on the way and damaged him considerably. Wyndham piloted him down the stairs and turned him around to wreck the stairs, which succeeded. But the rescue robots were not to be discouraged: in the absence of stairs they just dropped down one floor and crashed, taking damage. Dr. Klunk tried to disable them, and managed to take one of them out, but the second one wrecked Dr. Klunk. Then he came after the humans.
The team formed a massive firing squad along the opposite wall to wait for the robot, and D, the old robot-hater, joined it, producing his own, so far hidden, submachine gun. As the rescue robot showed up and whirred his power claw, he got greeted with a hail of bullets. He kept coming, and only in the second row Wispa’s explosive ammo did the trick and wrecked the thing.
By now, D had fought at the team’s side a lot, so he was considered a comrade and friend.
The team left Remus, Ace, and Phan with Wyndham and returned up, climbing ropes, and checked for secret rooms — two areas were sealed off without visible doors. The first was opened through an empty bookcase: A room with an open safe standing in a pool of stagnant water, with cables. A power control was found and switch on off, then the water checked: Safe! The stash turned out to be lots and lots of valuables, plus the mission objective, the case with precious metals.
A bad case of nerves
And then the unthinkable happened: With a room full of valuable stuff, police showed up. The pharmacy was dark, with the power cut, but they had noticed movement and came to check. Snips felt like a cornered cat: She had killed two cops, so she felt about the men in blue like D felt about robots.
D was not too fond of cops either: As they neared, he crawled into his piles of bedding and made himself scarce.
Taking the absolute most valuable things there were, including the mission objective, and the most incriminating, namely, a pile of weed, Snips and Wispa hid in the top floor and pulled up the ropes, then laid down on the floor, hugging their guns and holding their breaths. All the others staid downstairs to greet the cops.
The police guys were wary of the group, moving in tactically, full auto guns at the ready.
Wyndham went on a big charm offensive and greeted them with a lot of “Sirs” and “Officers”
“Mind if we come in?” they asked.
“Not at all, officers, feel free to come in. We have found interesting things here.”
“Did you now?”
The cops came in and checked out the rooms, found the destroyed robots. “They attacked us, we had to destroy them in self defense”. Then they found the dead freak. “He suddenly came for us with this blade and this gun, you know how it is, sirs, you have to deal with such people every day I’d wager!” The cops agreed, that yes, people who removed their own hands to replace them with weapons made it difficult to be viewed as innocent victims.
The destroyed staircase was a godsend now – the cops saw all the broken rubble and ascribed it to the general quality of the building. Only yards away, Snips and Wispa lay, staring with wide eyes. The cops turned away.
Then the cops inspected the loot, and found it quite valuable. “Mind if we take a look?”
“Not at all, officers. Please, see if you can make use of anything here – you have to make a living too, right? And we are very thankful for your presence here, keeping the neighbourhood safe. Without you boys in blue, things would surely be much, much worse. There would be a lot more people like this man with the blade here… we are always happy to see police presence on the streets.”
That even got the cops to laugh out loud, and one of them said: “Come on, you don’t have to lay it on THAT thicc.”
Wyndham reacted with a sheepish grin and a wink, and all was fine.
The cops took mainly meds — stuff that was hard to come by even with their resources, and packed only as much as they could without compromising their freedom of movement. A small amount, really. Then they said their goodbyes and went away, and Snips dared to draw breath again, having lost 10 pounds in cold sweat in these 5 minutes.
Brother from Another Mother
It was too late to go home at this point, so the team hid upstairs and spent the night in the pharmacy. Then, come morning, they loaded up as much as they could carry, but it was clear that much had to remain behind — and that was even before opening the second secret compartment. So they offered D to come with them: “Help us carry, and you can name your price! We can invite you to a fine dinner. We can give you money. We can give you food, drink, or drugs. You can join our outfit!”
But D was not to be swayed. He was fine here. He did not want to come back to civilization. He did not need money, and he did not care for drugs. He was happy with a bit of food.
“Would you stay here and guard the stash? We will return with more food.”
No – he did not like staying in one place too long. He would leave here soon, and nothing could sway him.
“D … whatever you need, whenever you need it – find us at Club Lavender, ask for us and we will be at your side.”
“Nah, nah, it is alright.”
And then he went even further and cut open his stuffed jacket, producing a hidden datastick. “Here .. this might be useful for you guys. I do not need it.”
Almost in tears to lose this precious jewel of a man, the team finally parted ways with D, the katana-man.
Acid & Rain
Slow and careful now, the team made its way back home, slow, encumbered to the max. They dodged another drone by hiding under some carport-like contraption, and made it far before it started to rain – fizzling, sizzling acid rain. They hid under a roof to let the hostile weather pass … but the up side was that no threat was going outside in this rain either. As the rain had passed, they crept on, careful to avoid the puddles … and then got soaked by another shower, this time, thankfully, by clean rain.
The Hero without a Cape
Wet, but happy and relieved they finally reached the safe zone and cashed in, raising a glass at Club Lavender to toast to the continued health and to good luck for D, the hero without a cape.
The massive payout would hurl all the retainers, Jack, Phan, Ace Hole, Johnny Big Nuts, and Remus the Ronin, to higher levels and extended hit points. And the very successful delve and big payout, and the knowledge of the stash, might even keep them on the team as regulars… time would tell.
Image: neymark195 / pixabay and unnamed pixabay / pexels