The Mediterranean Wastelands
A Transport Caravan – Sky Faction Military Terrain Crawler
To their credit, the Sky Faction troops on the ground were exactly as competent as one should expect for an army with aspirations to conquer the world itself, and their reaction time was not a trifling skill. As soon as the near-invisible mech had torn the front end off one of the transport vehicles, the men within it and the other perimeter vehicles (disguised as ordinary transports but really holding more soldiers), engaged, arming themselves with the impressive technology that heritage and labor had bequeathed them, and spilling out of the convoy, which had now stopped. The assault was not only from the front, though, and it was not long before a group of them were treated to a most unusual sight: a large, reptilian ravein fell from the sky and landed on the roof of one of the smaller transports with an unfortunate crunch.
Before they really had time to decide if he was dead or not, the man was up and about, lashing around with claws and a most troublesome tail. Not bothering to waste time answering questions, the five men all opened fire immediately, aiming for the admittedly rather large target. Two of them realized their mistake a bit too late, laid under by covering fire from above, but the other three managed to duck behind the shell of one of the vehicles.
Orders buzzed over the communications system: the caravan tightened formation, giving the men all large metal constructs from behind which to fire upon those pirates who had reached the ground, namely the crocodilian, the lion-man, and the mech. Still others went for the artillery stored in their transports- incendiary explosives loaded into impressive propulsion systems- and fired upon the ship itself, lobbing explosives up and over the low-flying vessel, to be dealt with by those still on board.
Captain DeVargo Barvassi hadn’t survived this long by being a fool, and he’d been expecting something like this to happen eventually. What he had not been expecting was that his crew would decide an ambush and assault was a good time for conversation, and subsequently would gather beside himself and Jan at the helm. He was about to order some people to get down there and help their fellow crew members when he caught the slightest glint of metal from the corner of his eye, reflecting the ship’s artificial halogen lights.
“Move!” he shouted, engaging his massive metal limbs to bend the air about him into a great whirlwind, strong enough to propel even Roussan backwards and away from the area-of-effect. He had not quite the same chance to move himself, and was barely able to bring his arms in front of him, shielding his more vulnerable flesh from the worst of the damage. Still, the concussive force of the grenade knocked him unconscious, and for the moment at least, the crew was on their own to complete the mission.
Whether or not they would do so was not even a question; they had their orders, and they knew to stick to them.
The Transport Caravan- Front
Rhys Wilcox, The Tempest
Though most of the bullets would do little more than merely bounce off the shell of Tempest, Rhys was much more interested in that which was now deploying from the tightened ranks of the Sky Faction soldiers: large, shiny, and clearly bristling with weapons technology.
“Oh, hell yes.” It had been a while since he’d had the chance to fight another mech, and this one looked like one of the newest, fanciest models he’d seen. The pilot wasted little time in charging towards him, apparently another one of those half-suicidal arrogant bastards who loved nothing more than getting in his opponent’s face. Rhys did so enjoy that. His hands reflexively tightened on the controls of Tempest, and his machine surged forward to meet the oncoming advance. The other pilot swung low, but with a hefty tug on the right-hand stick, Rhys danced his machine sideways, slamming the elbow joint into the upper arm of the silver monstrosity. The cacophonous sound of metal-on-metal sounded a grating rapport, but it might as well have been sweet music to his ears for all it fazed him.
He’d learned some time ago that despite its aesthetic similarity, fighting inside a mech wasn’t really like using your own body at all. The skills needed were similar, but there was an extra dimension to this, and it required an understanding of physics and space which wasn’t true when you had the instinctive understanding of your own bodily boundaries. So, while perhaps the movements themselves could be likened to that savage dancing Sheran Sheran favored, it was as much an intellectual speed-round of mathematics and strategy as that. That heady engagement of mental and physical capacities- in a combination that could and would kill you if you weren’t careful- that
was his obsession, his addiction, if one would.
A loud crunch alerted Rhys to the fact that there was unknown technology at work, and he watched with mild surprise, eyebrows lifted but otherwise no discernible change on his face, as a bladed arm sliced through his hull like a knife through warm butter. For a moment, there was the intense sting of pain when the jagged metal of Tempest’s midsection buried itself into his left shin, but that disappeared almost immediately as his cybernetic neurons shut off his pain receptors.
“Hmm… they did give you some fancy tricks, didn’t they?” He inquired pleasantly, drawing back his right-hand lever and slamming it forward with extreme prejudice, using the lack of distance between himself and the shiny one to land a blow at the neck-joint. Apparently, the other pilot had intended to cut him in half as well, or at least Rhys presumed he had, unless he was just an idiot who left himself open after an impressive show of force. All things considered, then, Rhys probably wasn’t nearly as impressed
as he was supposed to be.
The blow sent the other pilot back a few steps, and Rhys grinned, advancing in the wake of the small retreat and striking again, without mercy or really any identifiable conscience at all. A small opening was all you needed when you knew this business as well as he did, but that wasn’t going to stop him from taking a large opportunity and devouring it.
“Hmm… well, that was unsatisfying.” Rhys frowned and looked around, ignoring the smoking heap of metal that he’d reduced the other mech to. Surely the others would have managed to exercise some competence by now and find whatever the hell they were looking for? Well, if there was still a line to break, he supposed he could help with that.
The Mediterranean Wastelands
A Transport Caravan – Terrain Crawler – Storage
Estelle Amorica, The Emperor’s Alchemist
The sounds of gunshots and artillery sounded a rat-ta-tat-tat against metal surfaces, and she didn’t miss the whistle of air that accompanied incendiary fire. Estelle closed her eyes and tried not to think about it too much; though there was little stopping the tremulous shaking that the noise induced. It hadn’t always been so, really, but things can change after you’re forced to watch your best friend being executed by imperial firing squad.
She heard the driver of the vehicle exit, and was suddenly very conscious of the fact that she was alone. This was her opportunity, if she was brave enough to take it. Unfortunately, she’d never really been all that courageous, at least not enough to run out in the middle of a firefight and escape or anything. But…
Setting her mouth into a firm line, Estelle decided to stop thinking about it and just go. She was dead if she was discovered anyway. Feeling along the wall of the transport, she eventually found the latch and scrabbled to grip it in thin fingers, tugging until the boot of the terrain crawler popped open. Glancing around, she noted with a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach that the wagons had circled, so to speak, and there was no way out that didn’t have a bunch of men with guns standing in front of it. Granted, most of them were facing away but… oh. Right.
Her more sensible self protested that this was indeed a very
bad idea, but her fear-driven adrenaline was pushing her to get outgetoutgetout, and for once she was inclined to obey. But first… Estelle pulled one of the titanium bracelets from around her wrist and touched the transmutation circle etched into it, producing a thin, linked chain, which she then threaded through the object held in a deathgrip in her other hand. This, she slid over her neck and under her clothes, flexing her cramped fingers and trying to pick the best angle of escape.
The large mech fight over to her right was discouraging to say the least, so she banked left instead, picking up as much momentum was possible, mechanical legs carrying her in quick strides that would never match the feeling of flight. The next part almost did sometimes, and she launched herself as well as she was able over the line of gunmen and heavy-armored crawlers. She probably would have landed lightly on the other side, had a stray bullet not caught her in the back and sent her sprawling onto the sand instead.
To say that the sensation was painful would have been quite the understatement. Stars exploded behind Estelle’s eyes, and she screamed at a rather high pitch, struggling to find her feet again despite being scarcely able to see. It was sheer luck that she’d managed to land behind a small outcropping of stone and was thus safe from further fire from the Sky Faction side. Tears streamed down her face as her hands ineffectually clawed the dirt, and she was aware of the sensation of blood sliding down her back. It took her a moment to recover mental faculty enough to strike her hands together, activating the largest and most complex circle tattooed on her person. She barely maintained control of her stomach as the bullet was pushed out and the wound closed up; the amount of energy it expended was more than she was used to, and her limbs had taken on a different kind of tremble. Exhausted, she swiped at her eyes to try and clear her line of sight and pushed herself to her feet.
It still hurt, of course. The formula was imperfect by necessity, and she wouldn’t be able to run quite so fast anymore… if she could walk at all.