There was a certain music to a city, the beat of traffic and pedestrians, harmonies of neon light and street cart aroma alongside the melodies of hawkers selling their wares, passers-by laughing in delight at performers.
It evoked memories of home, of the bustling metropoli of Yutang, of the nights where the empty cities of Chung Kuo sought to reclaim their past vigour. One could almost forget that ThIS 'city' was to be found on an airless rock floating in the void, on the far edge of human space.
A pause and a sigh at the sight of a thin batter layer being spread over a large griddle. But there would be time for Zhou Shiwen to indulge later... for now there was work to be done.
Here on Novyy Bangkok, the StateEmpire of Yu Jing had responded to the revelation of Shasvastii infiltration by seeking to investigate and secure Harry's Bar here on the Strip. A hub for the dealings of the Ikari Company was a fitting target for investigation, given the prominent role of those mercenaries in the 'Japanese Uprising', whose purpose had surely been to weaken the StateEmpire in preparation for the launch of the Combined Army's Third Offensive. But of course the mercenaries whose business would be brought under the microscope were less than eager to undergo such evaluation, and had been agitating the locals against the StateEmpire's work. Unrest would make any investigation far more difficult, not to mention encouraging yet more of the slanders that always seemed to get thrown at Yu Jing. This would thus have to be curtailed, by working with local community leaders... and by measures taken to identify and subvert the defenses of the so-called 'NA2'.
Foreign Company wasted no time on their first turn, moving up the board to grab as many Classified Objectives as they could. Perhaps embarrasingly, HVT Zhou Shiwen was immediately kidnapped, doubtless lured into mercenary clutches by the promise of excellent food carts. The advance also allowed the mercenaries to Net-Undermine Yu Jing's network in vicinity of the Bar, securing them a firm lead.
Not everything went well, however: during the advance a noble freedom fighter for the liberation of the Oom, empowered in their struggle by the beneficent StateEmpire of Yu Jing, opened fire on the advancing forces, taking down famed Aristo Senor Massacre with a DEP and managing to survive the hail of return fire.
Meanwhile along one flank, a Peacemaker REM advanced to catch a pair of Shaolin and a Zhanshi Yisheng who had taken shelter behind a building in preparation to support the Hsien and Haidao on the roof above. Though the monks managed to gain temporary cover with smoke, the remote's Auxbot reached the position it desired: all three Yu Jing units, too tightly packed, were in range of its heavy flamethrower. This would lead to an exchange that felled all three StateEmpire units, but also the Peacemaker.
Finally, as Laxmee prepared to Cybermask so she might advance up the table, a concealed Ninja Killer Hacker emerged in an attempt to explode the Maasai hacker's brain.
Though this risk was carefully timed to leave the enemy no chance to respond before their turn was over, this attack failed, leaving the ninja in an uncomfortably exposed position.
Yu Jing now found itself poorly positioned to score the available Classified Objectives. With several requiring a hacker, the ninja's choice was particularly difficult: every action would result in a wave of AROs, and between number of foes and the Core link status of several the odds were not in her favour. Sometimes circumstances call on us to give our lives for the StateEmpire, of course, but on that day we must be sure our sacrifice gains the most it can for Yu Jing.
The question for the ninja: attempt to score a Classified Objective with her last breath, or employ her KHD for the task it was designed and ensure the death of the enemy hacker so they too could be denied.
She chose the latter, and both Ninja and Laxmee were felled in the resulting exchange.
The Hsien, meanwhile, rose from his covered position without the need to consider self-sacrifice, delivering a withering hail of fire to fell Hannibal.
While one flank of Shaolin monks had fallen, two remained on the other, and these had lain covering smoke for the movement of a Rui Shi, which employed its MSV2 to great effect in picking off enemy forces... if one cannot accomplish one's mission goals, after all, the next best thing is to prevent the foe from accomplishing THEIRS.
Another thing not to be forgotten, of course, is preventing the enemy from doing the same to you with a gang of ravenous Pupniks, and to confront this threat the brave Libertos advanced the cause of Varuna's national liberation by advancing to fell their commanding Chimera with SMG fire, even as a nearby Pupnik brought the Varunan's life to a brutal end.
The second turn saw consolidation of Foreign Company forces, and an advance to disrupt the Hsien who had positioned himself in Suppressive Fire. This effort forced the senior agent of the Emperor to drop out of sight into cover, opening the surrounding area for the arrival of a Cube Jager, who proceeded to inoculate an HVT Party official with some unknown contaminant. It was to prepare humanity for just such an alien menace that the StateEmpire rightfully demanded access to the Narooma medical facilities on Flamia Island, and each day that passes proves that demand more and more correct!
This was followed by Yu Jing now being driven to attempt for objectives. Path cleared, the Rui Shi advanced to Identity Check an enemy HVT in military uniform: ah, of course, an officer from the PanOceanian fleet's PR department, well known to Yu Jing from her role as an 'expert' on Maya describing events at the Baijing Orbital in the wake of the Wotan crisis. Errors had been made there, of course, but such biased 'technical' testimony had fed public misimpressions. A propagandist for the Hyperpower, or perhaps a Shasvastii agent? Her name and biometrics would be recorded so she could be properly monitored.
While a tower blocked the Hsien from seeing them entirely, the Haidao rose to target two Warcors across the table, whose flash-pulsing cameras had been plagueing Yu Jing's attempts to advance and establish legitimate order and rule of law around Harry's Bar. The proportionate answer to this threat was a MULTI Sniper Rifle.
But the criminality of these Warcors knew no bounds. Though one of the villains was taken down, somehow the other managed to point his laser directly into the visual sensors of the Haidao, leaving the HI Stunned and diving for cover in the aftermath. The StateEmpire will present evidence of this obvious war crime to the proper tribunals at first opportunity.
The last effort of the turn came from a camouflaged Zhencha Invincible. This Forward Observer advanced to try and gain Telemetry data on the mercenaries, eventually succeeding at the cost of substantial blood loss.
The final turn seemed to take a dark turn when two Classified Objectives appeared side by side: Extreme Prejudice and In Extremis Recovery. With the field blanketed in unconscious models, it looked like Foreign Company could expand their lead and secure victory.
However, the foresight and strategic wisdom of Yu Jing, as expressed in the ancient saying of Sun Tse "Put as many bullets as you've got into every opponent you can", opened an opportunity: the Rui Shi shrugged off a hail of enemy fire before falling silent. A coup de grace gave the mercenaries one final objective, but they lacked the orders to complete the second.
Further evidence of Yu Jing's strategic brilliance, and not at all incredible luck, saw a chance for victory. Terracotta Invincible Krit Kokram, brave Yu Jing Datatracker (who seems to have been napping up until that moment), sprang into action. The Engineer rushed to the smoking Rui Shi and employed his skills to make repairs, vitally important as this particular REM had been an experimental variant on a Test Run.
A Tiger Soldier then dropped from the sky with one objective: recover one of the injured mercenaries for interrogation. An exchange of fire felled a CSU, whose unconscious body was carried away as the game came to an end.
Zhou Shiwen studied the reports coming in. It had been a close struggle, but the fallout was clear: the interests of the StateEmpire had advanced. The legitimacy of Yu Jing operations had been demonstrated to the local populace, and important data gathered about those who sought to seed chaos in the Party's path.
There had also been the minor matter of being detained by mercenary agents, but that had been easily resolved with return of a beloved gun-concealing briefcase and some footage recorded by the Rui Shi remote during the exchange... the filming crews following the Foreign Company apparently lacked multispectral recordings of their own, and hoped for clips to supplement their reel as they prepared the latest episode for release on Maya. A demonstration of Yu Jing's technological prowess, and they would likely need it... the Ninja clans would already be moving to wipe out signs of their presence on the battlefield.
An alert brought the political officer's attention back to his comlog. More reports of victories, further assets inbound... the StateEmpire's work on Novyy Bangkok was far from over, and to assure the triumph of Yu Jing there was still work to be done.