Defiance setting and arkhunter Mahsuri
(Part #3 - Character and plot 1/2)
This is the third part of a series of articles, since there’s a lot of ground to cover.
The series goes :
- Setting, part 1. Start there !
- Setting, part 2.
- Character and plot, part 1. This here profile.
- Character and plot, part 2.
Sample character history (part 1)
Mahsuri was orphaned during the Pale Wars.
She has no memory of her parents or her early childhood, but was told that :
- Her name is likely Malay. Mahsuri was a legendary princess in the history of Langkawi .
- That her most prized possession, a small woven pendant, resembles traditional Ye’Kuana motifs. This would normally be obscure information, but this Amazon rainforest tribe received media attention when it was relocated.
Her features and skin tone could indeed be a Malay + indígenas heritage. Perhaps one parent was among those Amazon folks who received a Canadian citizenship, and met a Malaysian-Canadian person there.
As a little girl, the seemingly Canadian Mahsuri ended up as an orphan in Veracruz, Mexico.
Once upon a time in Veracruz
Locals called her “la vampira canadiense”, after a popular 1990s/2000s wrestler. This likely was the first Canadian thing that came to their mind, eh ?
The truck stop that found and adopted the lone orphan mostly did agriculture, and auto repairs.
Their customers were the main power in the area, the Vampiros Equis. Formerly a Fuerzas Especiales unit detailed to the Earth Military Coalition, the Vampiros had been stranded in Veracruz wilderness during the Arkfall.
From there the situation had gotten worse. Most of the local flora had been turned into dysfunctional new species by malfunctioning terraforming machinery.
The soldiers had managed to destroy these machines, then organize survivors. But the situation was awful. The most likely scenario was everyone slowly dying out over the next 20-30 years from lack of resources, poisoning, the wildlife, etc..
The locals weren’t having children in this hopeless situation. Therefore, the Vampiros were recruiting the youngest people they could find. To keep functioning for as long as possible.
That a little orphan was nicknamed “la vampira” amused them. The Vampiros took her in, and gave her their distinctive “skullface” unit tattoo.
The Vampiros Equis were critical to maintaining Human life in the devastated area. They even let a handful of alien civilians live, albeit in a dismal prison camp.
But their culture was hella toxic. And each harsh year was bringing it closer to a barbaric Death Dealer stan club.
Mahsuri still fared fairly well. She was naturally athletic, tough and accurate. This allowed her to excel as a soldier, so the Vampiros had to deploy her as one.
And though early on she was too young to be in the field, she still could be detailed to guarding the Votan prison camp – a despised posting.
Something that fits Mahsuri… yeah, definitely Control Machete.
Sample character history (part 2)
One of the prisoners was an aged, hemiplegicParalysed in one side of the body. Indogene called Lanma. She and Mahsuri became friends. Lanma re-taught her English – as Mahsuri had but faint recollections of her native language.
(Many Indogenes use brain implants to quickly master numerous languages. Though several locals spoke okay English, Lanma’s was flawless).
Another friend was Eduardo, the son of one of the Vampiros. Fat and effeminate, Edurado was reviled by his father. Mahsuri therefore took him under her protection.
To cope with stress, Eduardo kept nerding out about modern Mexican history. As he was always rambling about pachucos , the other kids nicknamed him “Tin Tan ”.
Tin Tan’s mother had told him how farming tobacco without protective clothing made people sick. Hearing this, Lanma correctly extrapolated that one of the few edible mutant plants, extensively farmed by local Human survivors, was acting as a slow contact poison.
Most Vampiros Equis were sceptical. But Tin Tan came up with a plan, and he and Mahsuri decided to execute on it.
Call of port
The idea was to trek all the way to the wrecked port of Veracruz, and scavenge any suitable protection equipment. Plus a vehicle to bring them back.
It was a long shot, but the young pair was convinced that it would save everyone.
On the second day, Tin Tan was nearly mauled by a mutant predator. He wanted to continue, but Mahsuri dragged him back all the way to the camp. He had been bitten, and Mahsuri wanted Lanma to examine the wound.
An infection had indeed started. With Tin Tan under Lanma’s care, Mahsuri resumed her trek alone.
Doing it alone through deadly, difficult terrain took weeks. Mahsuri eventually ran out of ammo. She made most of the journey defending herself with a pair of machetes, and eating Terran snakes.
Mahsuri reached Veracruz on the eve of her (arbitrarily set by the Vampiros Equis) 17th birthday.
Von Bach (not that one)
Veracruz was uninhabited. Huge maritime fuel stores had taken a straight hit from a Votan escape pod. Launched too late as its Ark fell, it hadn’t had time to engage its engines.
The resulting fires had coated much of the port in toxic chemicals, resulting from the mix of Terran and Votan fuels.
However, Von Bach Industries operatives were present when Mahsuri arrived. They had been trying to salvage systems from the escape pod.
Von Bach Industries (VBI) is an armaments concern, headed by a techbro genius. Karl Von Bach is widely nicknamed “the death merchant” (whether he paints is left unaddressed). So, not a popular feller.
VBI emerged during the Pale Wars, to equip Earth forces with better weaponry. After Mr. Von Bach reverse-engineered Votan ordnance, they pivoted toward making hybrid weapons.
This meant that Von Bach consistently hired “arkhunters”. These were mercenaries willing to brave the deadly terrain around crashed arks debris.
The VBI bounties for salvaged Votan tech were really nice. It’s just that few arkhunters lived long enough to earn them.
An offer you could easily refuse, but it’d be, like, daft
Another type of bounty was for referring proven ark-hunting talent to Von Bach Industries’ HR. The team leader in Veracruz considered that a kid crossing miles of dysfunctional alien jungle qualified. He also really wanted to buy a car.
A deal was quickly reached, since it was basically all upsides :
- A Vampiros Equis squad would take VBI scavengers to the remains of the terraforming machine.
- This would be paid in survival supplies, including old hazmat suits for the peasants.
- Lanma would be hired by VBI as a technical consultant, and Tin Tan as Lanma’s nurse.
- Mahsuri was hired as an arkhunter.
Things briefly ground to a halt when it turned out that half the hazmat suits had small tears. But a larger replacement shipment was then agreed upon.
Her first contract was a foray into what had once been Soledad de Doblado. A secondary Ark debris impact had irradiated the area, resulting in a hostile minerals-based microbiome.
The mission nevertheless was a success. Mahsuri was therefore detailed to a major VBI project, headed by Von Bach himself.
This venture was also supported by the Earth Republic Army (ERA) – the successor of the EMC. An ERA stratocarrier, the New Freedom, would fly to California and deploy VBI assets for a long-haul mission in the Bay Area.
Von Bach’s greatest tech is fittingly called “EGO”
A week before boarding, Mahsuri underwent surgery. It was a new program for “high-potential xenotech field recovery specialists”.
As usual with VBI there wasn’t much explanation past assurances that it was “great”, “cutting edge”, the “best and latest” and “personally designed by Mr. Von Bach”.
The ERA stratocarrier made it *almost* all the way — which, given the dangers of flying, was remarkable. But it was hit by a massive blast out of the blue, forcing an evacuation. The carrier was about to crash into Mount Tamalpais .
However, Mahsuri’s drop pod malfunctioned.
- Real Name: Mahsuri NLN.
- Former Aliases: La Vampira Canadiense.
- Known Relatives: Parents (identity unknown, presumed deceased).
- Group Affiliation: Vampiros Equis, Von Bach Industries.
- Base of Operations: Mobile.
- Height: 5’5″ (1.65m). Weight: 123 lbs. (55 Kg.).
- Eyes: Brown. Hair: Black.
- Other Distinguishing Features: Skull tattoo all over the face.
Powers & Abilities
Mahsuri was raised by a bunch of tough survivors in a hostile environment. The bulk of this was done by Special Forces commandos reputed for their brutality and LRP skills.
She’s also naturally athletic, with good pain tolerance and amazing hand-eye coordination.
Despite her youth, she’s therefore an expert at survival, combat and tactics. She can be dropped into some really bad messes and reliably come out on top.
She doesn’t have the more sophisticated and technical skills that were a large chunk of Special Forces training before the Arkfall. But when it comes to the basic, core combat and patrol skills, she’s about on that level.
Mahsuri is fluent in both English and Spanish.
She also knows a dozen words in Ye’kuana, mostly cribbed from TV documentaries about their relocation. And some common phrases in Main Castithan (“Hello”, “Thank you”, “Could you please leave in order to help your father perform the following sexual manoeuvres on a purple donkey with a bowler hat”, etc.), with a marked Indogene diction.
Having grown up on a truck stop then a military base, she’s been taught to maintain and repair a wide variety of electrical and mechanical systems. And even some simple electronics. She’s no engineer, but she’s kinda like a techy handywoman.
She’s a surprisingly good rapper. Not pro-level, but her flow in Spanish is solid.
Mahsuri is an exceptionally hard, unpredictable target.
She’s always moving, darting from cover to cover, reloading with no discernible pattern, producing bursts of speed or suddenly stopping, deftly changing her trajectory, dodge-rolling… while shooting.
If you think she’s going to zag, then she’ll zig. Never fails.
This ability to never do what her foes are expecting is key to her survival.
As an experienced operative for Von Bach Industries (VBI) — the leading Human armaments firm — Mahsuri is better equipped than most Human soldiers.
This Votan personal force field functions like shields do in sci-fi video game shooters. Say, Mass Effect or Borderlands.
As such it is an ablative, regenerative buffer of “hit points”.
It doesn’t make a soldier invincible, but it provides a critical protection against mistakes, bad luck, ambushes, etc.. A sort of second chance.
A four-wheeled all-terrain motorbike. In Mahsuri’s case, her quad is an A-Tex Growler Pro, which seems to be the Earth Republic’s scouting vehicle.
Her shield can extend just enough to also protect her ride.
It’s a typical MMO “mount” that can be summoned out of thin air, and will disappear when not in use. We could always imagine that there *is* an autopilot and radio locator allowing the operator to “whistle up” the quad to their current location.
This is a Pale Wars-style EMC model refurbished by Von Bach Industries. It has a sort of high-end military cyberpunk look.
(The game doesn’t really feature this. Except — I think — as endgame skin grinds I haven’t looked at. But it would make no sense for an elite arkhunter working directly with Von Bach not to wear one.)
Mahsuri is implanted with EGO nanotech. It can rewrite DNA to add capabilities.
This is top-shelf Votan military tech. However, Karl Von Bach found a way to make it compatible with Humans.
Mahsuri seems to have been one of the earliest implantees – she might have been a test subject receiving a prototype.
Like many forms of sci-fi techs, it works through nanitesSwarms of microscopic worker robots..
That makes Mahsuri a super-soldier. In a more efficient manner than the wartime “bio-marine” Earth tech, and with far fewer observable side effects.
What it does exactly, and how, is unclear. Probably even to Karl Von Bach. Observed functions are :
Advisor (part 1)
An autonomous intelligence. It can :
- “Speak” in the super-soldier’s mind.
- Appear as a controlled visual hallucination.
- Interface with the micro-electronics on cutting-edge VBI infantry webbing.
The advisor can analyse extensive data from environmental micro-sensors at great speed. The results can be conveyed :
- As small visual hallucinations (essentially a HUD out of thin air).
- On a wristband-mounted mini-screen.
- And/or through an infantry armoured tactile tablet.
The analysis will be nearly flawless. That allows for skipping on a lot of scientific and technical training for the soldier.
Battlefield orientation and military intelligence missions are both greatly improved. The advisor will be running the micro-sensors, cross-checking the databases, running communications, etc.. It’s a bit like having a dedicated flight engineer in your head.
The EGO is a full artificial intelligence, with something close to a personality and free will. Its priority is to serve the public trust… no wait, it’s to protect its soldier.
Advisor (part 2)
The advisor also has computer hacking and research capabilities. Presumably there’s something to plug it in (or access wireless networks).
The sensors include at least one HD camera for intelligence gathering.
The advisor has broad, efficient scientific skills. For instance, it can draw fast and accurate conclusions when using the sensors to analyse chemicals, when triangulating radio signals, when parsing captured data, when reading radiation counters, when doing forensic medicine, etc..
In the strange, part-alien future of Defiance, having a scientist-in-a-box (plus a comms-operator-in-a-box and an engineer-in-a-box) when in the field is invaluable.
One mission has the advisor guiding the Player Character through repairs of advanced hydroelectric equipment. Since these were too complex to conduct for regular dam employees, this suggests vast technical equipment databases that the advisor can parse at superhuman speed.
Those databases also include the workings of all sorts of agricultural machines.
Defiance 2050 has typical regenerative health bars for its characters.
Imma assume that this is diegetic . And that EGO-enhanced troopers therefore have nanomachines quickly patching their wounds and preventing any long-term impairment.
Nanites also protect against background radiation. Thus allowing the trooper to function indefinitely without a supply of irradiation-blocking drugs.
Since Player Characters ignore the day/night cycle, assuming that the EGO greatly reduces the need for sleep seems reasonable. If not well supported.
The EGO bolsters natural endurance. This is usually used to sustain a fast jog for even longer than a highly fit soldier could.
It can also be used for bursts of slightly superhuman speed. However, there’s a cooldown as the nanites need to clean the unnatural build-up of lactic acids. The two main applications are :
- Sudden sprinting at horse-like speeds, while still retaining good manual dexterity (to shoot, reload, etc.)..
- Spurts of enhanced hand-eye coordination, allowing to place short-range gunshots with little conscious aiming.
There are also implications that it augments strength – in-game melee attacks sure do a lot of damage. But I haven’t seen it stated.
Likewise we can *hypothesise* a level of low-light vision. Since Defiance 2050 follows the video game convention of having night cycles that are but marginally darker than day cycles.
(This sample character has the Assault class, which is more geared toward solo play. So the abilities are less exotic than with some other classes, who have short-lived invisibility and stuff like that.)
Mahsuri’s workhorse weapon is a Von Bach Industries pulser. It’s a copy of a common Votan model of submachinegun. A pulser fires energy bolts rather than bullets, but it’s otherwise comparable to a high-tech Terran SMG.
This model has :
- Huge ammunition capacity. It comes from mags that look like soda cans.
- Low recoil, allowing for precise placement of even long bursts.
- A low weight and encumbrance, making it fast to aim and easy to use in cramped quarters.
Furthermore the ammunition naturally acts as tracers. Against durable targets, this makes it even easier to hit weak spots.
Pulsers aren’t rare. Many Raiders have these. But this specific model, in Mahsuri’s hands, delivers a high volume of sustained and accurate gunfire. This often has a demoralising effect on the opposition.
A XAR-37 Sovereign assault rifle. This aging, wartime weapon was a gift from Joshua Nolan . It’s a medium-calibre, compact, beefy small arm.
Mahsuri uses it for medium-range engagements, about 30 to 70 metres, in short bursts. It’s primarily useful when targets are too far away for the pulser to be at optimal effectiveness.
These grenades give off sonic waves that are particularly damaging against shields. The blast lasts for a few seconds, with multiple waves.
These are carried on the ATV.
On her quad is bolted a lightly armoured tube filled with dry aerogel.
It originally housed a Deadbolt scoped precision rifle, the old EMC marksman’s long arm. A Deadbolt is mission-specific, often for sentry or patrol removal.
This was replaced by a Von Bach Industries BAS-7 Derailer anti-materiel rifle.
This large bore sniper rifle has a sort of lever action. The “pschht” sound when pressing the lever to chamber a new round may imply some sort of compressed gas, which is presumably a Votan approach. The projectile also looks almost more like an energy bolt than a bullet.
It is also about as light as a 7.62mm (.308) sniper rifle. And thus much lighter than normal anti-materiel ordnance.
This kind of weapon is kinda like a short-range, low-velocity grenade launcher. Though with a good eye for pronounced ballistic arcs, it’s possible to use it at about 25 metres.
Importantly, the explosions do not harm the user. I’d assume that the explosive projectiles are some sort of plasma ball keyed to the frequencies of the user’s shield.
Mahsuri mostly used her detonator when dealing with smaller hellbugs. The area-of-effect of the explosions speeds things up. So, it’s niche.
Mahsuri occasionally uses a shortened military Street Sweeper shotgun. It’s a beefy, powerful semi-auto shotgun with an oddly fast reload.
The Sweeper proved easier to wield against some targets lacking ranged attacks, such as most Hellbugs or remaining Afflicted, than the detonator.
A Shockwave close quarters weapon eventually joined her arsenal. This Votan weapon is kinda like a large bore shotgun. It’s manually loaded with a single canister round, which blasts out short-range unstable energy projectiles.
As it turns out, it comes handy when playing cat-and-mouse games with heavily armoured opponents who can’t quite locate her. But the breech-loading procedure is musket-like in its slowness.
Originally a mission-specific weapon that gradually came to live on the back of the quad. Primarily to deal with war mechas deployed by the Grid, or by Dark Matter.
The weapon Mahsuri uses has a lock-on guidance system. One takes time to aim, the reticule locks onto the target, and the rocket will angle its trajectory to intercept. This is presumably meant to shoot moving vehicles.
This series of articles is continued in (and ends with) part #4.
Source of Character: Defiance 2050 video game.
Writeup completed on the 25th of April, 2021.