There have always been demon attacks along the Western Borders of Dogwood due to the fact that they’re bounded by the Appalachian’s, or the D-Shifting mountains. Rifts open and drop out all sorts of nasties but over the past twelve months that’s been increasing.
The attacks on the Taniguchi borders are having an effect – crop yields are lower than expected and that’s bad.
Stella Bridger, Transport Extraordinaire, has been caught in the ‘shelter in place’ directive but she’s also received word that the Taniguchi’s need supplies moved between holdings and because the work is right on the border of their lands, an escort has been offered. An escort in the shape of a clothed and behatted Cyborg.
Whomever pshawed short runs as not worth it clearly never did any. They are invariably more complicated, or dangerous, or flat out annoying, or … all of the above. This particular run, thankfully, does not fall in the last category. The second, sure, but not the first. Transport within a holding is one of the simplest things possible, as there are no border crossings or inspections or documentation to deal with.
The annoying, she’s honestly still waiting on.
Standing next to her truck and inwardly glad this run doesn’t require a trailer (those triple the dangerous factor), she waits for her assigned escort. She recognized Baldur’s name, but couldn’t really place a face with it.
He might be just slightly disappointed that the transporter doesn’t remember him completely, but given a transporter wasn’t limited to a single place, Baldur supposes he shouldn’t be too surprised. He does know Stella though, or the few times they’ve met, and as to the job of escort, the cyborg has no complaints.
He’d been dropped off just a ways away, but the rest of the walk doesn’t take him very long, and he can already see where Stella is. Dressed pretty much as he always is, fully clothed and still preferring the likely old-fashioned leather armor to anything top of the line that Dogwood might offer, but then when you were basically armor yourself, anything worn on the outside is just decoration. Just like that hat he’s wearing, dark leather with a wide brim, snugly fit over his metal head. Tugged at a jaunty angle, it makes him look like he’s smirking just a bit as he comes up towards the awaiting truck and driver.
“Heya!” he greets cheerfully, raising a hand.
The job is simple enough. Take the supplies from the manor to the outlying Holdings and deliver them. It’s a day’s run, maybe more. Taniguchi holders will provide accommodation but where they stay will depend on how quickly they move. The first stop is the Winters Holding. They’ve both been there before. Baldur might remember riding a piece of machinery that had slipped from the trailer, Stella’s arm might twitch at the memory as well.
Fortunately, nothing untowards happened during that delivery. Stella might just be getting annoyed with how bland and boring this is. Well of course, there’s also Baldur to change that.
The truck pulls away from the holding and out onto the ‘track’ that passes for roads out here. It’s bumpy and uneven and nothing like the roads that exist around the Trent Factory.
Something catches Baldur’s attention, he might think it a trick of the light, but it looks like there’s something moving off the side road to their left. Stella however, gets a better visual – there is definitely something moving, and fast, towards them.
As they start out on the next leg of their supply run, Bridge resigns herself to another day’s boring drive. Better than annoying, anyway. And she can’t afford to just shove Baldur out of the truck and leave him behind.
She’s just contemplating starting a conversation with the robot when she sees movement in her peripheral vision. A quick glance confirms it and she reaches for a pistol with her left hand while downshifting to give the truck a boost of acceleration.
“Incoming from the left,” she tells Baldur as she lowers her driver’s side window. “Rifles in the back window if you need one.” And, with the truck having an extended cab with a full size back seat, there’s room and a second window for him on that side. Though, that would leave the right side of the truck exposed to a flanking attack. Maybe they can outrun this thing. She paid a good chunk of change to make it possible even on this decidedly rough terrain.
At least Baldur hasn’t started singing any songs or whistling. That probably would have gotten him a quick boot out all right.
He might have been about to, but that’s about when Stella calls something to his attention, although at that moment he’d been looking in just that direction, trying to figure out if there was really something there or not.
“I see it,” he says, already shifting from his seat to keep the incoming bogey in sight. He hesitates in reaching for his own weapons as Stella mentions the rifles, moving then to take up one of them up. They’d have longer range than his pistols, at least. It’ll be hard keeping a bead on the target given the rough terrain, but he’ll do his best.
It’s moving fast and was ahead of them, coming it at a forty five degree angle. As Stella hits the gas, the truck picks up speed with puts the creature, a grey skinned thing that runs on four legs, several feet right in front of the oncoming vehicle.
It turns, plants it feet as it eyes catches the light. Bright, blood red things that stare right at them. It’s playing chicken?
Still forcing as much acceleration as the truck and its cargo can handle on the rough terrain, Stella sends the truck barreling straight toward the creature. Using some internal timing that she doesn’t share with Baldur, she swerves around the creature without slowing down and drops the gun again to concentrate on keeping them moving as fast as possible. They’ve got a decent head start since it was at a complete stop, but isn’t going to bet on them keeping that advantage.
Hopefully Baldur can take it down before it catches up.
He’s come into this expecting some kind of conflict or another, so finding something coming at them is enough of an incentive for Baldur to be on the defensive. The cyborg braces himself as best he can, an optic trained on the scene outside of the scope and the other seeking out his mark between those crosshairs.
The thing stops in front of them, which makes it near impossible to hit, but hitting it with the truck is probably not what neither he nor Stella have in mind. It’s a good thing that Baldur’s wedged himself in as the truck is brought into an arc around the target, and it’s more out of reflex than actual planning that he continues to move himself in order to keep that rifle pointed in the right direction.
His mind is the only part of him that hasn’t been swapped out for something mechanical, but it hasn’t slowed him down when it comes to moving, and even less so if he’s already decided to do something. The moment he sees his shot, Baldur takes it, his metal finger pulling the trigger, the rifle stock braced firmly against his shoulder as he fires at the unidentified creature.
“Yeah!” he shouts. He’d seen that hit. It hadn’t been between the eyes as he’d initially hoped for, but the truck’s maneuver had made it difficult to do so. A shot through its head should do just as well, right? ….except….
“-wait, is it still standing??”
Baldur’s shot hits the creature, he can’t be mistaken in that. Particularly not with the way the thing rocks back and grunts. Loudly. But it doesn’t go down. Instead, it shakes its head and turns as the truck swerves and Bridge guns the engines. It crouches and ….
It jumps over the truck and lands on the hood, turning to stare in the window at the two inside.
They might have heard of these creatures, called from another dimension. Whether that’s a ‘hell’ dimension or not, is some conjecture. But this is a Hunter. A fearsome creature indeed. Let loose to track down its prey. And apart from stopping in front of the truck and landing on it – it hasn’t attacked.
From where they are, they can see the long wiry whiskers on the side of its face twitch, as it ‘scents’ the air around them.
Mentally relieved that they got past the thing, Bridge keeps pushing her truck to get away from the creature. That is, until it THUMPS onto the hood and she finds herself staring at the Hunter’s face as it sniffs the air.
Oh hell no. Stella promptly snatches up the pistol from where she dropped it a moment ago and sticks her left arm out the driver’s side window to fire at the thing and in almost the same moment slams on the brakes. She’d cringe at the sound of its claws as it slides off of the hood, but she doesn’t take the time. Instead, she again pushes the truck to get them moving as fast as possible again, hopefully getting around the creature before accelerating.
After all, running OVER it would be bad for the suspension.
Baldur jerks back as the thing lands on the truck, not getting very far since he hits the frame of the window. He’s still staring at the thing and its creepy whiskers, probably trying to see where he’d hit it and why it hadn’t done any damage.
And then he goes falling back inside as Stella hits the brakes, but he’s hauling himself back up to the window almost immediately. Leaving the rifle where it’s landed, he swings an arm outside, his hand folding down at the wrist to reveal the nozzle of his internally housed firepower. He aims for the creature as it goes falling off the hood of the truck, firing a violet burst of plasma while it’s down.
Baldur can see where he hit the creature, there’s ichor dripping down it’s side but it’s tough, that’s for sure and isn’t letting a little thing like a flesh wound worry it. It’s hunting after all.
Just as Stella aims at it and hits the brakes, she and Baldur might notice – the thing looks like it’s about to turn and leave them – but it’s too late by then.
Stella hits with her weapons fire and the thing slides to ground with thud. It growls fiercely which turns to a slight yelp as Baldur’s weapons hits it mark. Then it shakes itself and heads off – further into Taniguchi lands.
Wait, it’s leaving them? “SHIT.” Stella thinks this is a REALLY bad idea, but she can’t just let that thing go deeper into Taniguchi lands. There’s no telling how much havok it could wreak. But, turning the truck takes just those few seconds too long, and it’s gone from their line of sight.
“Baldur, please tell me you have a way to contact the bosslady.”
The thing had struck him as strangely unresponsive. “You know, usually when you shoot something in the face, it gets pretty upset,” Baldur says, still hanging out of the window. “Wait, where’s it- Uh-oh.”
Yeah, the direction the thing is heading is not a good sign. The cyborg tries to grip the edge of the window to lean out of, but it takes him another attempt since he forgets his arm’s still in weapon mode. “Um…yeah, that’s bad. Should we follow it?” He blinks and looks back towards Stella.
“Contact the wh- oh! Yeah, um…” He pats at his belt pack and pulls out the small comm device. Now how do you use this thing again? Probably a good thing he’d been given one with the most basic of functions. He taps a button, taking the lit up light to mean that it’s on and working. “-er, hello? Anyone there?”
It’s the House Captain that answers the call “Captain Merriwether here, Baldur.” The man answers. The best the Cyborg is going to be able to do is relate the details and hopefully Taniguchi bannermen will launch a patrol.
Stella stares out of the truck’s windshield, blinking rapidly a few times to cycle through the modes in her optics. She makes a note of the direction the Hunter is taking and waits for Baldur to get through to someone before sharing the data, offering bearing and speed information with the precision of… well, of a computer.
“Hey! Captain! So um, listen, we kind of ran into something out on the fringes here-”
It… is probably a good thing that Stella is there to provide specifics because Baldur’s explanation is not nearly as accurate. He’s better with the military perspective of it. “-yeah, that,” he offers as the transporter rattles off what she’s gleaned of info. “Big gray, four-legged thing, ugly face and whiskers, creepy red-eyes. Shook off our shots like a baby punching a sheep. Err…. attempts to subdue it resulted in minimal damage, target showed no interest in us and ran off.” In the direction as Stella has indicated.
The details of the ‘attack’ are noted and the Captain sounds concerned. “Focus on your task, Baldur. I’ll send a squad of bannermen out on patrol and we’ll keep our eyes open.”
Though, both Baldur and Bridge will know from the stories they’ve heard, that no matter how big these things are, they aren’t easy to find or track. They appear out of nowhere and disappear just as quickly.
“Take care out there. Taniguchi Central, out.”
Leaving Bridge and Baldur to what is, hopefully, an annoyingly boring drive.
Once the report is sent in, Stella gets out of the truck to check the damage. She’s not looking for the cosmetic things, she knows those are going to be there. She’s making sure the truck is going to continue running. And… it looks okay. Just in case, she checks the driver’s side front tire while she’s there, because that was closest to where the thing got shot multiple times.
“So they want us to keep on the route.” She’s not surprised. She knows the supplies they’re carrying include medicines. She gets back into the truck and turns them back to their designated course, resuming the earlier just fast enough to not make the terrain a problem pace.
“Yep, sounds like they’ll handle things on that end,” Baldur confirms, sinking back into a more relaxed position as he taps off the radio. “…wonder what that thing was after. It didn’t seem very interested in us.” Which struck him as weird. “Was definitely looking for something.”
Baldur’s reply earns him a brief glance. “Wait. You know that that was a Hunter, right?” Bridge sounds like the robot-looking person just admitted to not understanding the sky was blue.
“Yeeeeesssss..?” the cyborg replies, in a way that makes it sound like it should be a ‘no.’ “Which implies it’d be after something, right?” He tilts his head in Stella’s direction as though prompting her to fill in just what that might be. Not that he’ll complain that it wasn’t looking to rip open random trucks, but the thing on the loose still poses a problem.
“Yes. And that’s what worries me.” But, they are on their assigned task so she can’t divert again. “That was a Hunter. They’re from … somewhere else. And they’re usually tasked with hunting a specific person or thing, and they’ll ignore anyone else.” Which is why she’s worrying.
Fair reason to worry, that Baldur can agree on. “Hopefully we don’t have to find out the hard way,” he mutters. Truth be told, he’s more than a bit antsy in having to stick to a delivery job when they know something like that’s running around within the territory. But orders are orders…
Although even Stella might notice how bothered about it the cyborg is, for all the shifting he does in the back, and the drumming of his metal fingers. Sooner they get this job done the sooner they can check back in with the Hunter situation.
Stella is very much aware of how antsy Baldur has become, but she also knows that they can’t go off chasing after the creature with the supplies they’re carrying. The people at their destination need them, and they might only be a hindrance in the efforts of stopping the Hunter.
But, she does try to get a little faster, aiming for the smoothest patches to cross to do so.
Stella and Baldur run into some problems- quite literally- while out on a delivery run within the Taniguchi holdings.
July 15, 2410