The Business of War

RPD War Journals 3

About a day after the conclusion of Good Ideas

"Whaddaya mean... 'Gone?'" I asked. Gag kicked the ground nervously.

"Uh... not here? Missing?"

I sighed in frustration. "An' WHERE were ya?"

"Look, last thing I knew, she was sleeping! She was five stories underground in a VERY safe bunker! Then, she doesn't show up for breakfast, and when I go to look for her, she's just not here. So, yeah, Gone," the little blue robot huffed indignantly. "And it ISN'T my fault."

I gave him a look.

"Okay... it MOSTLY ain't my fault."

"Actually, Mr. Hardman, I believe it's my fault," said an all-too-cheery voice behind me. I turned to see Gaderham, not looking NEARLY as sorry as he ought to after saying those words, and he offered me a grin. "I believe you and I need to talk in private," he said after a moment.

"Yeah, let's do tha'." I grunted, and followed him into a miraculously uncrowded room. I only noticed after I sat down that the name on the deask wasn't a name. It was a title. "Why're we 'n th' Chief's officer?"

"No one else is in here at the moment, and I did say we neederd to talk in private," Gaderham said as if it was one of the most obvious things in the world.

"So whaddaya gotta say?" I asked, choosing to ingore a few other questions that were now in my mind. Questions like 'Where is the Chief', and 'Is he going to be angry if he find us here'.

'Well, let me assure you that your young lady friend's disappearance is, indeed, not your son's fault." The words carried an odd tone as he spoke them. I think it was the way he skirted around usuing names that was irking me. Maybe it was calling Gag my 'son.' I never really thought of him like that. More like cheap labor... Gaderham continued. "The young lady has actually gone missing on a covert mission that we needed a human with some battlefield experience for."

"Wait... ya put Cass in th' field? Where?"

"I can't say," the wheeled nuisance shrugged. "Classified information and all that. Suffice to say she is in good hands."

"When ya say 'battlefield exerience,' whaddaya mean, exactly?" I asked. I was curious how much Cassandra had told the little guy about our history. It wasn't something she'd just start talking about unless something else was bothering her.

An odd look crossed Gaderham's features. "Why, the engagement with the Scissor Army units inside the hardware store a few weeks back. Surely you remember it? You were the one we dispatched to retrieve her squadron that was rescuing refugees."

Something went off in my head. I hadn't been 'dispatched' to do anything. I'd run off on my own to rescue Cassandra, and it was only through Snake's quick talking that I hadn't been offlined on the spot. EVERYTHING Gaderham had just said had the spin of politics to it. Politics that made my head hurt. Why twist the truth? And why call Cassandra and Gag a 'squadron' when 'two people with badges and a head for finding out where people had hidden themselves to avoid total slaughter' was more like it?

Then it occured to me. It was all about paperwork. Gaderham's bread and butter. He did it ALL. He could make anything happen, or make it so anything had happened. So, on paper, I had been dispatched, which meant nobody had to ask why my own shutdown hadn't taken place, let alone considered, and that same paper made Gag and Cassandra an official squad, which had gotten Cass her 'battlefield experience' that she'd needed for this... covert operation.

What the hell was Gaderham up to?

"Yeah," I said numbly after a while. "S'first time I ever got hit by a mine that had been put ON me."

"I'm glad we understand each other," Gaderham nodded, his smile never moving.

I sat there for a second, not really thinking about anything. "'S there anythin' else?" I asked, eventually.

"Well, I can only ask that you keep this quiet," Gaderham said, before picking up a piece of paper. "You have a guest in Interrogation Room D. One 'Hyper Storm'. I believe you two know each other?"

"Yeah," I mumbled as I stepped out of the room and back into the wading pool-like crowd that parted for my bulky form. I made my way, slowly, down a flight of stairs (the elevators didn't like me. Something about 'weight limits') and down to the third sub-level of the HQ, where the holding cells and one-way-mirror rooms were. I was met by Landigarm, much to my dismay.

"Yo, Metalhead," he sneered, "Your playmate is sitting pretty. Says he can't remember anything about his time in the SA. Have fun," Landigarm practically spat as he threw a clipboard at me and darted up the stairs and out of view. I sighed. One of these days, I'd find out what the hell his issue was.

I was waved past by the guards on the door of the room and let myself in, the somber form at the table barely moving as I entered. I set the clipboard and the paper Gaderham had given me down before sitting down heavily in the chair opposite the former SA officer.

"Yo," I grunted. Hyper Storm looked up at me.

"You," he grimaced. "Not pulling any punches, are they?"

I cocked an eyebrow at him. "Whaddaya mean?" I seemed to be saying a lot lately.

"Standard interrogation tactic, bringing in the guy that brought you down."

I gave a half-hearted shrug. I couldn't say I knew why Gaderham had seen fit to have me weigh in on this particular discussion, so let the guy assume whatever he wanted.

"Truth is, I'm lucky you RPD guys picked me up from that field. If the General's forces had recovered me, I'd probably be dead by now."

"Gen'ral Cutman don't seem like th' type ta fergive 'n ferget," I agreed.

"So I want to help!"

I looked Hyper Storm over. He was... smaller now. In a lot of ways. He'd been stripped of his SA armor almost immediately, partially so it could be studied, and partially to remove the possibility of his just crashing his way out of a holding cell. He looked a lot like... well, like Hyper Storm is supposed to look. And the look on his face seemed... overly sincere.

"Joinin' up wit' th' SA prolly won't look good on yer resume," I told him.

"It wasn't by choice," Hyper Storm said with some disgust in his voice. "That idiot leader of ours, Quint... he led us into a trap! We were all brainwashed by that Mesmerman guy. I swear, its the truth!"

I wasn't inclined to disbelieve him, that was for sure. The Seven Mercenaries, while slightly off the radar, hadn't really been a bad group of people, all things considered. I could have seen them throwing in with Wily, but their allegiance to the Scissor Army had come as a bit of a surprise. And taking apart the team and putting them back together as the loyal officers of the Scissor Army sounded JUST like what Mez would do.

"Bu' what c'n ya offer th' RPD?" I asked. "Sure, ya got all kindsa spunk, I'll give ya tha', but yer not whacked-out-crazy-powerful anymore. Wha' kinda chance would ya honestly stand 'n a fight against th' SA now?"

"I think I can do okay," Hyper Storm said, looking hurt. "You beat me AND Ballade, so I can probably take on a few crazy robots, too."

I sighed and shook my head. "Look, kid, ya jus' don't have th' kinda time logged in on this stuff tha' I do. I've got years, maybe a decade on ya when it comes ta fightin' it out wit' people. I beat you an' th' purple chick, bu' barely, an' I had ta get assitance off th' field after tha'. Say wha' ya will about Ballade, tha' sonic thing sh' does HURTS, an' I don't mind admittin' it."

"But I want to help! Not just the RPD, I have to help save the other Mercenaries! They're my team..."

I looked him up and down, sitting there, in shackles that probably wouldn't hold him if he REALLY wanted to get out of them, looking downcast. I couldn't just ignore his past as a Scissor Army officer, and there was no way I could think this wasn't some kind of trap, but it was possible, just maybe, that all those blows to the head he took when he and I threw down in Madrid had knocked some sense into him. It was certainly something I'd have liked to believe. I try to think the best of people, I guess.

And his sentiment... saving his team. Bringing them all together again. In these dark times, we sought familiarity. I know I did. I'd distanced myself from the Mechs as a whole when the Shutdown Code started to become a serious idea, seeking solace in the company of my long time friend and best employee. But... I'd forgotten that the Maniacs, in their own way, were just as important to me. I had to stop thiking of the team as co-workers, and more like a family. Like how I thought of Cass and Gag. Well, less on the Gag thing, really.

Maybe that's what Top had been talking about before he'd left.

"You okay?" Hyper Storm asked, startling me out of my inner reflection.

I shook my head and stood up. "Yeah... I'm just gonna go get Crorq. Make yer case ta him..." I said, and I left.


Magnus grumbled to himself as he sat at the table. That jackass Crorq was supposed to be a walking super computer, yet he seemed to have the IQ of a braindead monkey with an ego almost the same size as Forte's, if not bigger. He sighed when Hardman later returned with the previously mentioned RPD 'commander'. The moron couldn't lead a squad of officers to water even if he was on a fishin' boat.

"So, INFIDEL. This fool tells me you want to defect." Crorq said, a few bits of chicken flying out of his mouth. The freak must've shoved a chunk in his mouth before he came down. "Why do you think-"

"If there's any FOOL here, it's you." Magnus snapped. Self-important jerks didn't sit well with him. "I'd have thought someone in your position would have been overjoyed to get a new drone to boss around."

Crorq's eye's narrowed into a glare, while Magnus grinned defiently. "You DARE to assume what I think?! You'd better watch your mouth, INFIDEL, or i'll end you myself."

"The only thing YOU can end is a truck load of KFC." Magnus commented, rolling his eyes. "I'd be more inclined to be a nice guy if every three people who sees me doesn't automaticly want to shoot me or call me a 'Metalhead'."

Hardman seemed oddly confused. The guy he was just talking to sounded polite and a bit shaken, especially for a former SA Officer. Now he was acting more serious and had a bit of a sinister tinge to his voice, and Crorq was loosing his temper faster then Quickman could do the 50 yard dash.

"WATCH YOUR TONE, IIINFIDEL!" Crorq bellowed, leaning forward slightly. "I don't have time for fools like you." The walking PC started to turn, then Magnus slammed on of his hands on the table.

"Fools like ME?! Do you have ANY idea what it's like to be plugged into a Scissor Army body? I'd imagine you could compair it to being in one of those Gammas." Crorq stopped, and turned back.

"I though' ya' said ya' couldn' remember bein' in th' SA." Hardman asked quizingly.

"I only said i couldn't remember MOST of it. I can remember an odd twinge in my brain before getting thrown into one of the General's 'upgrade' tubes and getting 'improved', and I remember a few bits from Mexico and about half of my little scuffel with Hardman." Magnus stated coldly. "It wasn't fun, I can tell you that. I just want to set my record straight and get my friends back from that demented General and his crazy little buddy."

"Oh, boo hoo. Cry me a river." Crorq grunted in a mocking tone. "You think we're going to let you in just becase you say you're sorry?"

"Well gee, think of it if you and me were in different the other's positon: I'd at least have SOME moral fiber left in me for a guy who's been subject to Mesmerman's control before getting stuffed into a tin can that only knows how to suck up to its boss and slaughter humans en mass." Magnus snapped. "Besides, if I'm such an 'Infidel', why WOULDN'T you just throw me on teh front lines with a butterknife and watch me get blasted apart?"

"Tha's a bi' harsh." Hardman mused. Magnus chuckled, but Crorq wasn't amused.

"Bah. You're sti-"

"Before you finish that, think about this: You have someone who's got nothing to loose anymore who wants to do what's supposed to be considered 'right' in the world." Magnus stated, his tone about as serious as it could get. "Why waste an opportunity, even if they're a former SA Officer. And don't bring up the lack of experience thing like Hardman did, I may be a newbie, but i'm not a fool like you seem to think everyone else around you is."

Crorq's eyes narrowed again. "Talk all you want, i'm not changing my mind unless you can make General Cutman appear out of thin air."

"Oh really? What, are you just afraid I'm gonna beat you down before Hardman can give me another concussion the moment you take these shakels off?" The dragonic one asked, holding up his arms slightly. "Trust me, I'd have come close to killing you by now if I thought it could get me on the front lines sooner."

"'ey, calm th' heck down, kid." Hardman said, stepping forward. "An' what happen'd ta' making your case to Crorq?"

"I doubt this stuck up jackass knows what it's like to HAVE a team that's dependable. Why plead a case to someone who puts themself so much higher on the food chain then almost everyone else? I'd probably have better luck talking to whoever gave Crorq the RPD's control panel."


"Well, you've certainly convinced me! Welcome aboard Hyper Storm!" Crorq announced with no small amount of sarcasm in his voice.

Hyper Storm folded his arms smugly. "About time, jerk."

Crorq then beckoned for a police bot. "Have this robot outfitted with the Shutdown Chip immediately!"

Hyper Storm shrugged. "Better than the General's systems at least."

The Robot Police Chief then grinned sinisterly "And as soon as the operation is complete, activate his Shutdown Code for insubordination to a superior officer!"

HS nearly fell out of his chair. "Hey, what!? Weren't you listening to me? You need to give me a chance to save my friends!"

"Look how much I care!" To illustrate his point, Crorq blanked out all the screens that represented his face.

"Are you stupid or something? You need a fighter like me on the battlefield!"

"Bwahhahhah! You think I need a disrespectful infidel like you? BWAHH HAH HAAH HAH! Why, I...BWAAAAAH HAH AHA HAH!! He thinks that I...GRAAHH HAH HA HA HA HAAA!! I'm sorry, it's just too funny!"

Hardman scratched his head uncomfortably. "Geez chief, if yer gonna be tha' cold, why dontcha just kill 'im where he stands?"

Crorq continued to laugh hysterically for several seconds before eventually catching his breath to respond. "Oh, it's the principal of the matter. Besides, I REEEALLY want to shut one of you peons down, and it might as well be this one that thinks he can join up with my organization and live without kissing my ASCII." To illustrate his point, he then emblazened an ASCII rendition of a human posterior on his main screen. "C'mon, pucker up..."

Hyper Storm was about to learn that when you're on the RPD, there's only ONE God .... Crorq!


Occurs at the end of Rematch in Alaska!

RPD Headquarters, Infirmary

It was quiet, and I appeared to be the only human patient in the infirmary. I had my own special place tucked away in a corner, laying in a bed wearing the standard hospital patient attire, much to my displeasure.

Captain Spiegel shook his head, his eyes fixed on my X-ray results. "Damn, that's one fine armor you've made there. If it hadn't absorbed most of the shock from that punch you would have died right on the spot. But even then you're pretty damn lucky the doctors were able to just mend your spine back in place. Otherwise you'd be paralyzed for life."

"And my god, the Special Forces! You've already lost 8 under your command, with an additional 8 badly damaged!" Vatnick exclaimed. "You have no idea how hard it was to convince my superiors to keep providing you with bodyguards!"

I was drowning my Watchers' voices with my own thoughts. I recalled my conversation with Vulcan. The situation was dire, when all of a sudden he had said:

"You know, I figured now would be the time to say this, but you remind of someone. He was a good man..."

He was on to me. But how could he know? I was pretty much a completely different person! The only thing he knew was that I was a convicted felon, my fighting style, my name...

My name. Shiken Max. Shiken Ma-

....Holy shit.

I wanted to smack myself upside the head. I'm supposed to be a genius here, and until now I've only realized my real name is simply an anagram of my alias! How slow can I get?

But it didn't matter. There was no way he had solid evidence to know it was me, and for all he knows, I'm supposed to be dead. I'll just keep the facade up and everything will go smoothly unless he outright confronts me.

You'd better not for your own sake, Vulcan.

"...And these guys will be your permanent bodyguards. You won't be getting more after that, so take good care of them, kay?"

I looked up to see three Special Forces units standing in front of me. Two of them I somehow recognized to be Dan and Donald. "Your name is Tyler," I decided, pointing to the third.

Spiegel shrugged. "Whatever. See ya in 24 hours."

"Wait what? I can't get discharged now?"

"Nope. Sleep tight, Max-y."

And with that my two Watchers left. Dan, Donald, and Tyler still stood there like statues.

12:01 AM

"Ever heard of a band called Oasis?"

"I don't listen to music, sir," Donald replied blankly.

"That's a shame. Music is a wonderful thing," I sighed.

"Recreation is unnecessary and non-beneficial to our performance," Dan said monotonously.

"Guys, what do you think of me?"

"Your safety is our maximal priority."

"Anything else?"

"Average height, hair colored brown, eyes colored green, average build, large feet and hands..."

I chuckled. "Do I really?"

"Yes, sir. Scan results of the body show that hands and feet are not proportional with the rest of the body, sir."

"Okay, but you haven't really answered my question. Am I a good person or a bad person? Do you like me or do you not like me?"

"Analysis of effort and performance on the battlefield are at 84%. Comparing performance to other-"

"Nevermind," I grunted.

As the night went on my restless mind drifted to different things. The war has been going on for quite a while now, certainly much longer and fiercer than...

And goddamn it, I got trapped in that maelstrom of memories once more. They came flooding back to me, until one word remained ringing in my head.



A song came into my mind at that point, and it quietly slipped out of my mouth.

"Made a meal and threw it up on Sunday
I've got a lot of things to learn...
Said I would and I'll be leaving one day
Before my heart starts to burn

So what's the matter with you?
Sing me something new...
Don't you know the cold and wind and rain don't know
They only seem to come and go away...."



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