- Jacksonville, Florida, November 26, 2039, morning
Being taken for a ride rarely felt good but this time was an exception because she was there and the ride was literal. The offer had been made last night and, to his surprise, he had accepted immediately. He wasn’t entirely sure why she chose him and had a lingering suspicion that she wasn’t sure herself since the first few questions regarding this topic were deflected and he knew better than to press on.
And so he found himself sitting in an old, rusty car next to her, thundering down Route 301 with windows open and the warm wind playing with their hair in the middle of November. Florida was amazing even in winter, he thought, quietly lamenting his childhood spent in the cold, sterile environment of a Clayburn Industries compound where snow existed only on a couple of ancient photographs serving as holiday season decoration.
Florida was full of sun, hopes and dreams. All their issues and fears seemed to melt away under its warm glow and for the first time in many months, he truly felt relaxed. He could sense that, to a degree, she felt the same way – the horrors of Sinai still haunted her, but she smiled more often since they arrived and that was enough for him.
They passed several abandoned gas stations. Their parking lots were still littered with old, rusty cars waiting for the snowbirds that would never return. For a short while, he felt almost sleepy with the car’s 8-cylinder rumbling and her silent behind the wheel with an unreadable expression on her face, but the monotony of the road was soon broken by towns and settlements teeming with life, people going about their business the same way they had the day before, ignoring such trivial things as weekends.
He only figured out where they were going only after they had passed the remains of a green sign with “GAIN” written on it. She wouldn’t talk about it, not even in front of Blackwood, whom she had informed earlier that morning that she’d go for a trip. A single nod had been Blackwood’s only reaction and she had seemed satisfied at the time, but now that he knew what was going on, he had to wonder what was going through her had.
The place resembled Jacksonville – the same smells, the same disheveled look and the same damaged infrastructure, but she did not seem to mind as he navigated the rumbling vehicle through the streets of her hometown, always finding enough place to squeeze the vehicle through even though parts of the urban areas, even the roads, had been damaged by climate or conflict, sometimes almost beyond recognition.
He watched her grow tense and knew they were almost there. She looked around with her mind in a different time. To her, the places around them were lit by the eternal sunshine of childhood memories, the now decrepit houses still shining white, the rumble of cars driving towards her father’s workshop. Finally, she brought the machine to a halt in front of an old but well-kept house. Recent repairs were still visible on it. A massive garage standing next to it was filled with two cars without wheels on what looked like a hydraulic lift, clearly in various stages of repair. Another car was standing outside, its front hooked to an ancient-looking truck that Seagrove had before only seen in old movies.
A burly man was standing on its porch, shielding his eyes with his hand and squinting, trying to recognize the car and its driver. His tanned and prematurely aged complexion spoke of a lifetime under the Floridian sun. Under a thick, brown beard, Seagrove could, even at the distance, recognize the same features the woman sitting next to him had.
She was clearly tense. For a moment, she closed her eyes, took a deep breath and she looked at him. She wanted to say something, her face a maelstrom of emotions, but, unable to find the right words, she just nodded and got out of the car. The man recognized her instantly and for a moment, they just stared at each other in a wordless exchange. Seagrove felt quite uncomfortable, like an intruder creeping up on one of the most private moments of her life. He didn’t realize how close he was to the truth, as this would one of the only two times in his life he would truly see her cry. He’d remember that day and her expression of pure joy mixed with tears while watching her hold their newborn son for the first time, years later.
The silence grew longer and, looking at her, he realized that she was crying. Tears flowed freely down her face. The man in front of them cried too and, finally, he opened his arms and she ran into them.
“Daddy, I’m home.”
- Later that day
It was dark outside already. They had talked for hours and he got to know her the way nobody else in their unit did – not the ruthless Kathryn Grey, but Katie from a small suburb home, the daughter of a car mechanic, the sister of her recently married twin, acting as if the events of the last months – not months, years –were just a bad memory. Her mother made a lunch for them, then a dinner – and still they talked about anything and everything.
They learned of the things she had done in the desert, she kept nothing from them, even though he could see the embarrassment and discomfort in her eyes when she addressed those topics. They knew a part of the truth already, the news of the conflict eventually made it into the local radios they listened to. She just had to fill the blanks and provide perspective. When describing the events of the previous months, her mother covered her mouth with horror. Her father listened without any expression and without a word – words were not what she needed. Instead, he offered a long, tight hug and she accepted.
Seagrove realized this was exactly what she needed but, at the same time, shattered her perfect, imaginary world of home by introducing her past to it. Things would never be the same for her, the memories she clung so much to would forever be tainted by this experience, but she was ready to accept that. Finally, as they were finishing the delicious bread and stew her mother had served them, the question they both dreaded the most came up.
“Mom, this is amazing,” she said with her mouth full.
Her mother, a quiet, tall blonde woman just smiled kindly and patted her lovingly on her head.
“I’m glad you think so, honey. Jeffrey baked the bread this morning.”
She looked up.
“Jeffrey? Stiles? The guy that used to come around to fix our PC?”
“Yes,” she smiled. “Turns out there isn’t much work around for... what was he before, George?”
Her father frowned.
“Systems designer or some such thing, I think. Either way, he’s a much better baker than he was a programmer. And...as it turns out, people need their cars again. Real cars, Katie,” he concluded, smiling. After taking a sip from a glass of what clearly was some local beer, he continued.
“We had to leave for a while when the shooting started. The feds came and then some bandits, some things got stolen, some things got broken, but in the end, they all left and the life goes on. Annie married in summer, the guy’s a mechanic from Oklahoma, imagine that. They live not far from here. Can’t wait to tell her you’re home again...”
Kathryn looked up nervously.
“About that, dad... look. I have to go again, for a short while.”
Her both parents looked at them in shock.
“But... you’re finally home, Katie. Home. This is your home. Not some strangers. No offense,” he added, looking towards Seagrove.
“None taken”, Seagrove responded flatly. They had full right to feel that way. She was, however, visibly taken aback a bit and took her time to answer, looking everywhere but in their eyes.
“Look, it’s.... it’s not that simple. I’d love to stay, I really would,” she pleaded, almost desperately so.
“But those guys, they need me. They’re not just some strangers, dad,” she continued. “They’re good people. One of our mechanics, Tom, he writes poems. Good ones too. Rebecca from the recon section sews clothes for the entire unit. Mike, he’s an American like me, from Kansas, he wants to go home too.”
Her voice gained confidence with every word and he could once again see the embers inside her being stoked into a powerful flame. She wasn’t avoiding their eyes anymore and spoke with the old passion he knew her for.
“A lot of them lost someone, but they’re staying around because they won’t let the old son of a bitch win. We’re gonna loot his bunker and steal all his valuable shit. I’m back home within a week. For good. I promise.”
“And what about you, young man,” her mother turned towards Seagrove. He shrugged.
“Don’t know. Whatever will be, will be, I guess.”
“Well,” his father scratched his beard, “I could always use some help in the garage... there’s always a place for a good worker.”
Kathryn gave him a long look, as if she was considering something, but finally turned back towards her parents, getting up from the table.
“Mom, dad... we have to go. But I’ll be back soon. I promise.”
They looked at each other for a long time. Finally, her mother mumbled “Let me just pack you something...” and left, tears in her eyes. Her father looked at them and finally nodded.
“So... what are you planning then? How will you get there?”
“Well,” Joshua leaned against the door frame, “we don’t have much money, but we have a ship. We traded it for an old train. We’ll load about a dozen vehicles if we can find enough flatbeds or something. We’re ready to go in a day or two.”
As Kathryn left to pick up her things, the father turned towards Seagrove, turning quite serious.
“Listen. Promise me something. Protect my little girl. And get her home safe.”
- Southern England, late Autumn, 2040
Their meeting was coming to an end. Strom could feel it, but there was one last chapter in their story. The final one.
“So, they actually managed to get a train running. Loaded up whatever they could on the flatbeds and just took off?”
Clayburn took another sip of whiskey and nodded.
“Essentially. They hoped to find all the supplies and valuables in my facility. When my ships landed, we found only a few former Seahawks who had chosen to stay behind. They talked after some...,” he paused, “persuasion.”
“We took the city easily,” he continued. “PMCs and rebels or what have you, have a reputation, but they couldn’t really stand against an actual corporation. My men weren’t some lousy, underpaid conscripts. And they were led by the best," he nodded at Grimm.
The fighting was short. The city fell within an hour. Most of the mercs and bandits fled, the rest either gave up or got killed fighting.”
“What happened to the captives?”
“We’re not savages. We gave them a choice – join us or leave. Many actually took our offer.”
“Wait... this can’t be legal. Corporate forces can’t just waltz in and take sovereign nation territory.”
Clayburn’s smile widened further in triumph.
“But it was. Completely. For one, the Bordeaux Treaty allows extreme measures when dealing with what it defines as ‘rogue elements’. Remember Operation Sentinel? That was, naturally, the most extreme and therefore best known example, but there have been many smaller scale cases over the years. And after the Seahawk blunders in Sinai... well, let’s just say the Supreme Court in Istanbul frowns upon mercs slaughtering civilians. With the formal Seahawk declaration as rogue, the last obstacles fell and our hands became untied.”
“Naturally,” he added, “the Americans weren’t initially happy to have PMCs and corporations taking the fight to what they had perceived as their territory, but, as they so like to say, we ‘made a deal.’ We’d take the city for them; they’d pay us and send us on our merry way.”
“But, in reality, we never left. Jacksonville is now the seat of regional Clayburn headquarters.”
“Exactly. They didn’t have the power to take it even from lousy underequipped mercs. They had no chance against my elite and they knew it. In the end, after a few months of bickering, we settled on a sum high enough to catch their attention but far lower than I had anticipated. As it turns out, American territory comes cheap these days.”
“And the Seahawks? They did find the bunker, didn’t they?”
“And? What happened to them?”
“Well, about that...”
We are happy to announce the results of the Episode 4 Bonus Objective, where you had to, during the course of Episode 4:
- Play at least 20 Global Operations battles using Tier 5 or Tier 6 vehicles
- Play at least 40 PvE Easy or Medium battles using Tier 2, Tier 3 or Tier 4 vehicles
We are happy to announce that 1505 players completed the Bonus Objective, winning the Clayburn Industries 2039 decal which will be sent out soon!
Additionally, since more than 70 percent of Episode 4 winners completed the Bonus Objective, the prize was upgraded to a Tier 7 premium vehicle and the Seahawks received 30 additional men as well as an improved morale, making Episode 5 easier. Finally, Joshua Seagrove becomes the prize commander of Episode 5.
Current state of the Seahawks:
- Current Stage: Episode 4 finished
- Location: Jacksonville, United States of America
- Seahawk Manpower: 272 (+30)
- Morale: Very High (up from High)
- Joshua Seagrove: Alive, Neutral
- Kathryn Grey: Alive, Very Happy
- Adrian Blackwood: Alive, Neutral
Seahawk military power (using Episode 4 and 5 mechanics): 8662,5
- Episode 5 becomes 10 percent less difficult
The grand finale of the Storyline Campaign will start soon, commanders – we’ll see you on the battlefield!