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File 167798745891.png - (204.21KB , 1024x576 , HWC06_001.png )
1057440 No. 1057440 ID: a4d2ed

This mall is one of the few places where he's allowed to come. In part, because of the high ceiling clearance. In part... it sees alot of movement. I guess they want him to be seen as... normal.

And yet, plenty stores dont let him inside anyway.
61 posts omitted. Last 50 shown. Expand all images
No. 1059589 ID: 560aca
File 167987440068.png - (370.13KB , 1024x576 , HWC06_025.png )

And while I'm busy on my way... well, I was surprised to hear the girl's voice over the comms. Andrews had the decency to keep me on the loop, I guess.

> "H-hey..."
> "Payload?"
> "You. Look... mister fireman? I'm okay. You don't need to... Falcone is okay. It... they're just trying to keep me safe, please don't..."

She's disheveled but lucid. And sounded scared.
No. 1059590 ID: 560aca
File 167987463929.png - (247.37KB , 1024x576 , HWC06_026.png )

Soon I found A reason why. I met them as I tried to re-enter central atrium, but from the ground floor.

> "That's enough lady."
"Eh? Mall cops? Why are you even--"
> "We've been keeping that thing at bay for the last hour. We've been trying to get that woman away from the machine, and we're not delivering you to them either."

It has NOT been an hour at that point, I should point out.
No. 1059591 ID: 273c18

That is very sus. Wingman has no path, go join her and get a better look at the "mall cops". Possible infiltration? Ask the "payload" lady for her story. How long has she been at Falcone's side?
No. 1059606 ID: 94f0d9

Check if these mall cops show up on your gps. It is indeed kinda sus how they managed to get a drop on you - despite you checking for pings n stuff. Not to mention, it seems like they let out a little lie by accident? Looks like you are gonna have to keep your guard up around those dudes, but dont do anything drastic yet.

That being said, if they were in cahoots with the terrorists, theyd probably eliminate you then and there if it wasnt for Andrews being nearby. Ask them what their plan of action is, and lie to them - for the purposes of keeping them from panicking and restoring peace, winky wink - that counter terrorism units are coming to handle the situation. Tell them that you are heading for evac (dont specify where exactly) and that your job is to extract as many civilians from the site as possible - therefore, they are free to join. Reassure the lady on the Falcone that more specialized help is coming, and suggest that she remains calm and stays by the robot's side as much as possible.

Andrews, escort Wingman and the wounded dude to the north as planned. Keep watch on the (other) robot and the cops, pick up Wingman with her cargo and run as soon as you see any sign of hostility.
No. 1060250 ID: 2ae56d
File 168038540827.png - (294.29KB , 1024x576 , HWC06_027.png )

"No you havent? We've been here from the start, its been thirty minutes--"
> "Look I dont care how long its been, that square thing came trough a wall in the bowling alley blasting at everybody. We had a lot of hurt good men and women, and its a miracle nobody died. That thing has a hostage, and I'm not giving it another hostage."
"So the warbot is having a tantrum-- wait is that a gun, did you *shoot* it?? Let me go!" These guys are clearly NOT ready to handle this situation. I woulsnt doubt they made it worse.
> "Why do you care, who are you even??"
"And I am Andrews' assigned nurse and handler. We're with the fire department and you will let go of me!"
> "You're a tad undertooled to nurse that big boy over there aint you?"
"I'm meant to care for our vics, dipshit!"
>> "Fred?"
No. 1060251 ID: 2ae56d
File 168038545344.png - (309.26KB , 1024x576 , HWC06_028.png )

>> "The 'big boy' is pointing that gun arm at us."
No. 1060256 ID: 2ae56d
File 168038622591.png - (229.57KB , 1024x576 , HWC06_029.png )

At least that is done. I dont know what to do with our unconscious guy... probably leave it for them. But in the meantime, Andrews shows his ... smooth silver tongue.

> "Y-yeah?"
"Payload will be well. Will be taken to safe place."
> ".. you talk kind of like Falcone, don't you?"

Shouldnt be a surprise, really. They're clearly both Soldiers. ...Falcone might be from a different year. Certainly older...

"Where Payload and Foxtrot-Charlie meet?"
> "Foxtrot... Falcone? I came with him when he-- Sometimes I see .. him flying over my condo, watching everyone from above. I think we're in his patrol route. Everyone in the neighborhood knows him? Its a very safe neighborhood, always been, but sometimes he-he lands to- to... to sav--help. To help us out..."

The girl goes silent, holding back tears. There's something she clearly doesnt want to talk about.
No. 1060267 ID: a7a180

Focus on the present. Is your neighborhood currently under threat? If not, you should go home. It's not safe here.
No. 1060946 ID: 1fb822
File 168090579978.png - (288.90KB , 1024x576 , HWC06_030.png )

I can feel the humm of Andrews' scanner from here. Even the guards about me seems rattled. Its not a pleasant feeling for sure.

In the meantime, I watch from afar as he tried to grill the girl that was with the other guy.

"Payload, how is home?"
> "What?"
"Will take Payload home. Where is it?"
> "Uh..."

Her uncertainity is a bit worrying, and I dont like the other guy's fixation -- but Andrews finds a new way to reach her.

"Payload, your name?"
> "... Freya? Ah, Freya Andersson"
No. 1060949 ID: 1fb822
File 168090628163.png - (272.03KB , 1024x576 , HWC06_031.png )

"I got it, I got it."

I dont know whats going on at Dispatch, but thankfully, I dont need to use comms to reach Dana.

Heh. I remember a Sam Locke nurse -- no, Physician Assistant, and we mere nurses should never forget that, the ass. We shared a ton of courses when I was working for my accreditation to handle Andrews. Lockeynot had special trouble with medical robotics.

I wonder what Lockeynot is up to nowdays.
No. 1060950 ID: 1fb822
File 168090630042.png - (113.47KB , 1024x576 , HWC06_032.png )

No. 1060960 ID: a7a180

Deliver Payload to shelter. -Ooh, phrasing. Well, inform Andrews and his robot buddy then try and reach the bus stop.
No. 1060971 ID: 2dd0cb

You should go check on her in person.

Hm maybe tell Andrews for his "battle brother" to rendezvous with us, safety in numbers and all that.
No. 1060977 ID: f6ec4e

Sheesh, wow, so apparently a part of our city's peace corps are faulty, ticking time bombs ready to explode due to he tiniest short circuit?... Well, thats something to hold over the Council's head, potentially. For now, it seems like Andrews' presence has made the machine somewhat compliant, and we will need to use that to its fullest. Have Andrews tell his battle bro to stand down and go weapons cold - weve already confirmed that there are zero threats present - and then escort US, Payload and the irate mall cops (should they choose to follow us, that is) north towards the rendezvous point instead. Meanwhile, see if Dana can scrounge up more info about a certain patrol bot named Falcone- knowing your enemy (friend?) Is half the battle, after all.
No. 1061953 ID: e03a99
File 168225775061.png - (244.51KB , 1024x576 , HWC06_033.png )

"... I'm coming, Andrews."
No. 1061954 ID: e03a99
File 168225830618.png - (319.60KB , 1024x576 , HWC06_034.png )

I'm okay. I guess... its easy to forget we're dealing with two-ton armored veterans here.

You know what else? Its easy to make assumptions.
And until there's more to know and less to assume I'll focus on whats in front of me.

And on the maniacs thinking they are cops surrounding us, I dont wanna find out if one of them has a gun.

"Take look at Payload."
"That's .. why I'm here."
No. 1061955 ID: e03a99
File 168225853574.png - (230.83KB , 1024x576 , HWC06_035.png )

Before I can get to her though, he touches my shoulder-- I am not proud, but I shivered.

"Question Delta. Fox Charlie Kilo Golf Whiskey."
"Ah? Right, right."

I shoot a quick message to Dispatch. I'm not sure how Dana will get anything about this guy, but they've found harder stuff. Doesnt hurt to try.
No. 1061956 ID: e03a99
File 168225907351.png - (314.98KB , 1024x576 , HWC06_036.png )

Which leaves to me... the 'payload'.

"Miss Andersson?"
> "Freya.. is ok."
"Naomi. So, Falcone brought you here under his arm?"
> "Yeah, I was halfway up the building to get home when this ruckus happened, and they just snatched me away."

Messed makeup, slightly red eyes, cold skin but already warming up, large bruise... yeah, I diagnose her with "I have been dragged outside a rocket for a short distance and somehow didnt break anything." Id need someone to make the call, but what this girl really needs is a warm soup and some bed for a couple weeks.

"Now let me look at your--"
No. 1061957 ID: e03a99
File 168225975026.png - (294.43KB , 1024x576 , HWC06_037.png )

> "..."
Those are fingers.
Two hand-shaped bruises.
No. 1061958 ID: f59a07

Calling it now - the first bruise isn’t from Falcone’s abrupt extraction.

Complete the checkup, assure her everything is going to be fine, and start the process of deescalation - or as it’s known, calming everyone’s tits down.

And maybe redirecting some righteous tittery towards where it may belong.

"Dispatch, miss Freya has chokehold bruises up and down her neck and appears afraid to go into details. I’d say our extraction-happy friend here saved the woman from a serious domestic abuse situation... or worse. Please get someone to check on her home and whoever’s there. Andrews, any way we can get video logs from Falcone of the situation before the ‘extraction’? And dispatch, can we get a domestic abuse expert on call to speak with miss Anderson?"
No. 1061959 ID: f59a07

Or maybe this is all just leaping to conclusions, hm. It was the neighbor’s place that blew, maybe an actual accident, but Falcone saw the chance to make a big enough fuss with his rescue that she get a checkup and here we are.
No. 1061961 ID: a7a180

Without visual confirmation we cannot confirm that it is safe to return her to her apartment. Join the group evacuation efforts until the situation can be assessed.
No. 1063055 ID: c32dc3
File 168358074330.png - (383.00KB , 1024x576 , HWC06_038.png )

I dont like this -- not only for her condition, but for Andrews' reaction. I am pretty sure she has speed bruises, but I can read Andrews like a book -- he sure thinks otherwise, and is acting out in frustration.

I cant help but be on the edge, thinking about what... might have happened around Falcone. But assumptions dont help, not right now or ever.
No. 1063056 ID: c32dc3
File 168358077984.png - (248.73KB , 1024x576 , HWC06_039.png )

The best way to break Andrews from one of his thought loops is spurring him into action.

"So Andrews, whats the plan?"

"Keep Payload. Take Payload to safe place."

Freya seems uncertain about that, and looks to Falcone. The two take a long moment to react, as if busy with something between the two. At the end of it, Falcone turns to the both of us and... 'nods' its weird camera assembly.

> "See you around, Falcone?"
No. 1063057 ID: c32dc3
File 168358085453.png - (312.44KB , 1024x576 , HWC06_040.png )

Before either of us can react, Falcone says their first full sentence.

> "Take care, Payload."

And just like that, it feels like a gate to hell right on my face for fifteen seconds and he's gone.
No. 1063058 ID: c32dc3
File 168358096666.png - (217.11KB , 1024x576 , HWC06_041.png )


It shouldn't surprise me a skylight is just a suggestion for them. My phone gets a notification after Falcone is gone, with the stuff I asked from Dispatch.
No. 1063185 ID: 64094c

We still don’t know what the hell is going on, Alpha. Request situation update from Central units.
No. 1063332 ID: 9a2966

Uh, skim the doc? What does being classified Deranged mean for our new robuddy here?

Also, tell 'em it seems like there might be more to the story, and you've got a theory Faclone/FCKGW might not be Deranged, just adapting existing protocols to deal with a novel situation. It seems to be resuming its regular patrol now. Can Dispatch delay the response while you verify, or get you in contact with the responder units so you can keep them up to date on what you find out?

Tell Freya her robot buddy might be in serious trouble, and soon, for whatever went down here. Is she sure she has nothing to add about what happened and why he might have picked up her in particular for safekeeping when the explosion was in a neighbour's apartment?

Either way, you and Andrews should get her away from the hue and bustle of an emergency event and any cameras to come. Maybe go somewhere she can get something to drink or eat to calm her nerves? A backroom space with a big enough emergency exit that you all can leave discreetly?
No. 1063448 ID: f8083d

Take Freya out of this place and in the direction of a shelter. You can make conversation on the way.
No. 1063974 ID: 8f9bc4


Obviously he's a food preparation robot, and his built-in oven range has been detached.
No. 1064780 ID: 1bba7f
File 168541980311.png - (407.18KB , 1024x576 , HWC06_042.png )

The mallcop horde pay no attention to us, as Andrews leads us trough one of the hallways. They seem more worried with the skylight's new hole.

On our way, take a moment to finally read Dispatch's file.
Falcone is a -- Falcone... fought in the Alien War, to no surprise, and they served as part of a boarding torpedo squad. Their body is little more than a reactor, a rocket, a sensor array, a burner weapon that could turn the Tokyo Tower into slag, and whatever else goes into a Soldier.

They are very old. They got a few hundreds of missions on record, mostly on the UTA-Peregrine Falcon crew, in a job few lived long. Who knows what else they saw that isnt public record.

Some years ago, after the war, they got deemed fit for resocialization. Picked jobs patrolling different cities, the current one being for seven months so far.

Sam Locke is their Fragile. To no surprise, for some reason.
No. 1064782 ID: 1bba7f
File 168541999590.png - (369.44KB , 1024x576 , HWC06_043.png )

And then a beautiful day, a place explodes, another is crashed into, nobody dies, a veteran is declared dangerously insane and insurance companies everywhere are sweating buckets. None of this makes sense. "So, whats your call Andrews?"

"Not chance. Past event this morning."

"If Falcone got PTSD or *whatever* that can explain an expensive meltdown, its not in his files."

"Fox-Charlie not a danger. Bad reaction to new event."

"Bad reaction, what do you mean?"

"When Unit is hammer, trouble are nail."

Andrews is being particularly articulate today, and that worries me. "Well then this is the first time its solutions involve punching a hole into a Grumbel's. Or at a setting higher than medium rare, the file makes no mention of Falcone ever being dangerous to people or property."

"If only some one have answer."
No. 1064783 ID: 1bba7f
File 168542001833.png - (235.11KB , 1024x576 , HWC06_044.png )

I think we both know who could have an answer.

And she's keeping that answer close to her chest. I'm not sure if grilling Freya over this is going to be productive.
No. 1064784 ID: 1bba7f
File 168542023860.png - (272.59KB , 1024x576 , HWC06_045.png )

I hate to think about this, but -- we might be done here. I can hear footsteps echoing from far and ahead of us, other firemen and first responders streaming into the mall as the place finally got safe.... er.

I know I need a coffee. Freya might need something too. And I'm not counting on finding some since there's no power, but Andrews is leading to some smaller corridor, hopefully looking for some too.
No. 1064813 ID: a7a180

Thinking of running a distraction for Falcone? What you need to do is get to HQ and get them to call off the hit.
No. 1064969 ID: 8f9bc4

On one hand you're a... nurse? firefighter?

On one hand you're probably not a private investigator. On the other hand, someone was trying to choke that girl, which is likely the "trouble" that Andrews said "are nail." Falcone probably couldn't identify the attacker, which is why he thought that everyone not-the-girl was an attacker. So someone is still out there who poses a threat to this girl. Falcone seems... relatively neutralized at least.

Coffee would definitely be good now. And maybe some hot cocoa.
No. 1066204 ID: 1dcedc
File 168713518797.png - (427.80KB , 1024x576 , HWC06_046.png )

Andrews leads us down a few corridors, and we come across a coffee kiosk that still holds something warm in their barrels. I dont feel like questioning the legality of him just searching its cabinets for a pair of mugs, or that my hands are better suited for this than his.

Freya finds a seat. She needs it more than me.
No. 1066206 ID: 1dcedc
File 168713543629.png - (423.69KB , 1024x576 , HWC06_047.png )

I can tell there's something weighing on him.

"Whats on your mind, Andrews?"

"Kilo-Romeo-Kilo find Fox-Charlie."

"... Kirk? What, the Force sent him to pick up Falcone?"

Kilo-Romeo-Kilo see Fox-Charlie as bogey. Can not see them different. The talk makes me tired."

"... is this a Soldier bigotry thing?"

"... Kilo-Romeo-Kilo does not see in pictures. And does not like people to know that."
No. 1066207 ID: 1dcedc
File 168713589195.png - (473.99KB , 1024x576 , HWC06_048.png )

"What do you mean he cant-- how would he drive around across town all day?"

"IFF and map."

"Are you *serious* that a *bus* has been literally flying blind full of people around the country on GPS and transponders?!"

> "Who's Kirk?"
No. 1066209 ID: 1dcedc
File 168713702049.png - (402.99KB , 1024x576 , HWC06_049.png )

Kirk is with the Army, he's a Soldier that works as a T3. I guess someone figured he still has a point defense system and sent him to hunt Falcone."

> "Wait, why is he a bus, what does that even--"

Soldiers -- the ones that are even *sane* enough to want and be able to walk among humans, tend to be task-oriented. A job gives them a routine to experience, gives them a place in a society they basically made; they've been used up by the Alien War, and they need more than just... that. Its a source of money, dignity and reassurance to them, and as much as we can think some of their choices are strange... they wanna feel normal.

Naturally, their choices are limited by what they can do, and specially, what they used to do in the War. And Kirk worked on the dockyards near Titan as a tugboat.

"Kirk wanted to meet people and only fits in a garage."
No. 1066228 ID: a7a180

Can he process visual data sent to him? Transmit data confirming bogey identity.
Also, why does a bus have point defenses?
No. 1066231 ID: 1dcedc
File 168714675331.png - (546.00KB , 1024x576 , HWC06_050.png )

> "But if he's a bus why does he have we--"

I feel my phone vibrate. I put it up on speaker -- its Dana. I know Andrews can listen me in, but I dont wanna seem like I'm playing games to Freya.


"Hey Alpha-14. You're still in the mall, aint you?"

"We're making our way out. So, we talked to Falcone--"

"Because of course you did."

"Fox-Charlie is not a danger."

"Yeah, he -- they -- whatever, Falcone wasnt weird. Sure, punching trough a building isnt normal behaviour, but he had a passenger that is pretty well cared given and surrendered her to us."

"Someone tried to wound Payload. Fox-Charlie act to save her. Fox-Charlie may be not able to mark bogey. So, Fox-Charlie fall back to war ways."

"And Fox-Charlie is, well, a breaching unit. Andrews thinks he came across something unexpected and reacted poorly. That doesnt warrant a Deranged call, he needs help not a bullet. Any way we can get that struck out?"

"Sure. I just need to hear those same words from his own handler, not you. You dont know Falcone, you're not his Fragile."

This is a thought I dont wanna have, and yet, are words that feel pretty safe to say. "Has anyone even heard of Locke after all this?"

"About that... not really. So its pretty safe to assume..."


"... I really hope Falcone did not end his own handler. Thats textbook Derangement. I see he's still on patrol though? I thought Kirk and Kat went take him down."

Kat, ugh. I know she works at the school near the base. I dont know whats her model, but she has a railgun. "Andrews was talking to Kirk. And I think falcone is a 'they'."

"Kilo-Romeo-Kilo and I make an agreement. He will wait."

"So thats why I have a dozen messages from Kat."
No. 1066236 ID: 1dcedc
File 168714910138.png - (518.48KB , 1024x576 , HWC06_051.png )

> "N-no."


> "I- I know what you are doing. I was - am just a neighbour. I hav- I have nothing, noting to do with all of this."

Okay, where -- fair, with how today is going I guessed she *might* know more than what she's telling, but --

> "I wont -- I had nothing to do with all this. I just wanna go home and take a shower and not be in the news and take a shower and warm up my cannelloni and have dinner and sleep and wake up tomorrow and forget this nightmare I'm having. And you cant make me not to."

... where the heck all this is coming from?
No. 1066237 ID: a7a180

Background check on Locke... Did Freya see his handler anywhere?
Hail Kat.
No. 1066245 ID: f8083d

Tell her keeping nightmares bottled up is a good way for them to get recurring. Trauma is best let out.

Also, contact Kat. Her handler could possibly help too, but contacting them directly could be a breach of Soldier etiquette.
No. 1068736 ID: fb3ac9
File 169008570193.png - (421.56KB , 1024x576 , HWC06_052.png )

I shoot a last message to Dispatch. O'Hara is one of the good guys, even if he's not entirely straight. We can trust him with a favor, I wouls just rather not ask him favors. I'm afraid I cant say much more, I wouldnt like any of this on record.

You cant bottle bad thought. It just grow. Wound need air to get better.

> "Easy for YOU to say! You, after all this gets to go home to rest and eat and and be safe under all that metal! I cant even get my guard down in my own home!!"

I understand. She is lashing out. Andrews seems understanding. Or she is just not letting him answer.
No. 1068737 ID: fb3ac9
File 169008573483.png - (357.70KB , 1024x576 , HWC06_053.png )

> "I cant even be safe in my own place. Do I still even have a place? Should I go back after--"

At this point, Freya poured her heart. Yeah, she knew Locke. Apparently they met three months ago when Locke moved into the city with Falcone, and was about to leave in a few weeks. Things between the two seemed to be going nicely. When trying to talk about what happened the last time they met, she just broke into tears.
No. 1068738 ID: fb3ac9
File 169008582662.png - (264.79KB , 1024x576 , HWC06_054.png )

Between her yelling, her soft cries on my shoulder, and the scent of rewarmed coffee, the rescuers have no trouble finding us. Which bring us a problem... now what?

"Whatever you guys decide, I got your back."

It didnt dawn on me at the time, but... Freya is traumatized, Locke is unavailable -- permanently --, and Falcone got caught by Kirk and Kat, but they just locks and shuts up whenever someone asks them something uncomfortable. Me, Andrews and Dispatch have the most information on the situation, and whatever story we ended up making held a disproportionate amount of weight on the things that followed. In most possibilities, either Freya or Falcone would end in a bad spot.

So what did we end up telling them?
No. 1068739 ID: 273c18

A full and unbiased report, obviously. The authorities can gather further evidence, and the situation is fragile enough that they're going to want to do a thorough investigation.

A corrupt handler brought to justice by the soldier he was paired with? That's fine, the public will appreciate that story. It will be seen as that soldiers can be trusted more than their handlers.
No. 1068825 ID: f8083d

I suspect Locke confronted whoever is threatening Freya and got done in, setting off Falcone.
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