|RIFTS COUGAR POWER ARMOR by ChuckWalton|
The Roster (with ICONS "high concept" qualities, followed by traditional Rifts O.C.C.s)
Arisis Solstice, Radiant Daughter of Atlas (female Titan Cyber-Knight), played by Felix
Kat, Mutant Psi-Stalker P.I. (female mutoid Psi-Stalker), played by Chris
Maximilian Park, Runaway Teenage Mystic (male human Mystic), played by me
Valerie Cain, Amazon Cyborg Wildchild (female Praxian Headhunter), played by Kent
Now officially fielding two of their members in Serendipity's power armor tournament, Solutions @ Gun Pointe mingle with the fighting contest's other participants. Having already met professional mecha fighter Tracer Chen and the rest of the Northern Gun representatives, the group heads to the pit of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Workers, widely known as the "legitimate" operational wing of the Quang organized crime family. Orson Quang, who seems to be in charge, is a thuggish sort, but treats S@GP -- particularly Kat -- relatively cordially. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the Brotherhood's official competitor, Rachel Bailey. Valerie wishes her luck against the silent Glitter Boy pilot Jim J. Wynn, once again stating her opinion that the artifact mecha "belongs in a museum." However, Bailey is unresponsive, and seems to take personal offense at the presence of a teenager in Solutions' ranks, to the point of treating Valerie with thinly disguised contempt when she sticks up for Max. Orson's jealous, trouble-mongering girlfriend, Chessie Ly, is also openly hostile towards the women of S@GP, but Arisis and company laugh it off.
Before long, a massive battle ATV enters the field of battle, announcing that the mercenary team Black Fortress has arrived in force. The camouflage and khaki paintjobs of their armor and equipment do little to conceal their Coalition affiliations, but their entrance is indisputably impressive. With her teammates, Valerie begins to formulate a plan for S@GP's entrance. Max, however, is clearly distracted by the presence of a stylish young woman among the Black Fortress contingent, who seems close with the group's contender and leader, Brigadier Omar Espinoza. Kat notices that the young woman briefly seems surprised to see Max at the field of battle.
The remaining participants are either no longer present (Jim J. Wynn) or unapproachable (Naruni Enterprises), but Valerie goes out of her way to invite the Quangs, juicers, cyber-knights, and Northern Gun to the Serendipity Social Club that evening. As allies of Solutions, Reez and Mian are also invited to attend. Black Fortress, perhaps needless to say, is not on the guest list. S@GP then head back to their headquarters to prepare for their evening outing. Valerie insists that Mian and Reez come along and helps the willowy martial artist and the catgirl bounty hunter select something to wear from her wardrobe, which seems to spark some romantic interest between Mian and Valerie.
|Mian by K-Bonifield|
Kat's BAKENEKO drone, which she sent out to surreptitiously investigate the field of battle after she and her compatriots left, electronically relays that sensors hidden in the bunker-like structure Naruni Enterprises has set up there have been scanning the entire field of battle area heavily. She takes note of this fact, then sends the BAKENEKO to the Social Club and instructs it to follow the Black Fortress girl when she leaves. When the young lady does so, however, the drone observes nothing suspicious; she simply returns to the mercenary team's headquarters.
The following afternoon, Solutions at Gun Pointe arrive in style in their monster truck-esque Range Booster ATV. Eschewing the pits, tents, et cetera favored by the other participants, S@GP set up a sort of "picnic" atop their giant vehicle, with Max and Arisis watching their friends participate in the tournament from on high. Nysa and her entourage (which includes Annejah and Asha, as well as several mutant animals, security guards, and assistants) set up a day tent and parasols nearby so that they can better cheer on Kat and Valerie. As the sun begins to set on the field of battle's makeshift octagon, and the air fills with the scent of pho and funnel cakes, the tournament begins.
An exhibition match between juicers kicks things off, with the visiting Knucks St. Crux facing off against hometown favorite Begnijo Mbibe. Unfortunately for Mbibe, Knucks' ridiculous smoke-and-pyro-and-Scorpions-filled entrance is not an indication of the Wild Hurricane juicer's combat acumen. Knucks demolishes the Gun Street Girls' favored son, knocking him out in the first round.
Then, the power armor tournament proper gets underway. Rachel Bailey, representing the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Workers, and the mysterious Glitter Boy pilot Jim J. Wynn have a less one-sided bout than the juicers, with the opponents raining largely uneffective blows on each other's heavily armored battlesuits. Though Rachel Bailey is judged the winner, the crowd is split over the decision.
Kat faces Brigadier Espinoza, Black Fortress' combat-decorated, four-armed full conversion cyborg in the next bout. He is accompanied to the ring by the young woman Kat investigated the previous night, but her moral support makes little difference. Kat denies a handshake from the Coalition veteran, and S@GP's nimble psi-stalker's lightly armored custom mecha consistently stays one step ahead of the Brigadier. It isn't long before Kat KOs the cyborg with her (blunted) daisho, to the roared approval of Nysa's group, Max, and the rest of her comrades.
Next, Valerie squares off against Naruni Enterprises' unusual Techno-Warrior power armor after a carefully planned, crowd-pleasing entrance where she spins out her Cyclone in motorcycle mode, then transforms to battloid mid-leap. The opposing pilot, a blue-skinned alien named Auunio, takes advantage of Valerie's hung-over state early in the match. She soon gets her head in the game and rallies for the win, using her mecha's agility to avoid her opponent's vibro-sword attacks and deliver a knockout punch. The crowd is clearly behind the beautiful amazon in the flashy mecha-motorcyle.
The cyber-knights' Dame Illiaema faces Tracer Chen in the next match. Surprisingly, she has the professional mecha fighter on the ropes for the entirety of the first round. It soon becomes clear that Chen was taking it easy, however, as he trounces her at length in the second round, taking his time to show off the capabilities of Northern Gun's new Cougar power armor. He shows her mercy in the third round, effortlessly KOing the elven woman immediately after the opening bell, which garners mixed reactions from the crowd.
|Quinn (detail) by EUDETENIS|
As the tournament enters the semi-final brackets, Tracer Chen again enters the octagon, with Kat as his opponent. Kat and Chen seem evenly matched at first, with as many blows being dodged as connecting. Before long, the two begin trading blows in a brutal tit-for-tat. Both opponents back off momentarily to catch their second wind, but Chen is ultimately the victor, with his mecha piloting experience giving him the edge over Kat's raw, innate agility. Her friends in Solutions are crestfallen, but congratulate her nonetheless, as Tracer Chen basks in his victory and advances to the final bout.
Valerie cheers up her compatriots when she soundly defeats Rachel Bailey (after a rousing entrance set to Blur's "Song 2"). Bailey's heavily armored mecha soaks up a lot of damage, but its lack of speed and maneuverability is her downfall. The older Brotherhood-affiliated combatant takes her loss in stride, but Chessie Ly, a poor loser, repeatedly screams "she ain't shit!" at Valerie from ringside. From the crowd, the young Black Fortress woman confronts Chessie, telling her to sit down and calm down. She catches a preternaturally fast, vicious attack from the psi-enhanced Chessie in response.
Almost instantly, a brawl between Black Fortress and the Quangs erupts, and Max bolts to the scene, followed by the rest of Solutions @ Gun Pointe. Kat gleefully leaps into the fray. Max and Arisis are unable to calm the mob -- in fact, their respective attempts to use psychic stun attacks and sheer titanic awe to control the melee seem to make matters worse -- but Valerie, transforming her Cyclone back to motorcycle mode, is able to kick up enough dust and dirt with her wheels to force a stop to the fighting.
Sir Shanidar, the organizer of the tournament, takes to the octagon with microphone in hand, insisting that any further disruptions will result in the immediate cessation of the contest, with no winner declared. Valerie encourages her opponent in the finals, Tracer Chen, to get in the ring with her, and the two combatants pose together, telling the crowd to calm themselves "because you want to see us fight, right?" The mob begins to disperse, and from her vantage point in the elevated octagon, Valerie sees Max helping the bloodied Black Fortress girl to her feet.