Patrols out in Vesper have been interesting of late. Not withstanding strange occurences like squads appearing on the other side of the James River, the patrols have become increasingly tense. It’s like both sides, Vesper and Dogwood, are holding their breath – waiting for something to happen.
Of course, that’s in large part due to the army that Vesper is massing and now rumours about an even larger army that might exist in Richmond.
Whatever it is, Ardul’s not complaining. There’s work for her in these patrols and for the most part, uneventful.
She’s walking, at the moment, along the outskirts of Richmond, looping back towards the checkpoint there, silver armour gleaming in the afternoon sun as it starts to dip behind the mountains. “Clear here. Moving on to the next sector.” she says into her comms.
“Oh good.” Hunter isn’t in his bot today and that’s his voice on the radio. “I’m over in the next sector clearing a building. Pretty quiet here. Shall I meet up with you?” The next sector isn’t that far away. Ardul can be to Hunter in a couple of minutes or he can be to her. Either way works.
“I take it the clearing isn’t causing you any problems.” Arduls tone is dry as she moves carefully through the ruins of the city. The skeletons of the buildings starting to throw ghostly skeletons over the street. “I’ll come to you, given its clear here.”
As Hunter moves through that building, there’s a soft ‘whoosh’ sound and the light through one of the broken windows reflects off something and the air eddies about him. Much like it does when Ardul takes wing.
Then it all goes silent and still again. Well, mostly, the dirt is still settling from that disturbance. To his wolfen sense of smell, something has joined him though.
“Pretty much. It’s empty over here. I’m just making…” Wooosh. Hunter pauses, ears swiveling as he sniffs at the air. He turns, scanning the room and sweeping it with weapon drawn.
“Strike that. Something’s in here with me.”
The tone of his voice isn’t alarmed but it’s suddenly very clipped and businesslike.
“Acknowledged. On my way.” Arduls response comes over the comms and he hears the beat of her wings as she moves. She shouldn’t be too long.
Hunter can scent the newcomer. A mix of metallic and organic – cyborg. And he might have scented something similar before.
As Hunter turns, a winged being is perched on a window ledge in front of him, a weapon pointed at him.
There’s no announcement, no fanfare. It was just waiting for the Wolfen to be in the right position before it fired. Then it’s moving again.
Hunter throws himself into a roll not quite quickly enough. The energy bolt burns a hole in his coat and sears the shoulder of his good arm. The smell of burning fur fills the air.
Rising smoothly from the rather dirty floor the wolfen draws a bead with inhuman quickness. The combination of his reflexes and his cybernetic arm are a great leveler against the superhuman and a near insurmountable advantage against regular folk. Which one this is he doesn’t know but he’s not going to wait to find out.
As the shot is fired. The cyborg is already moving, dark, metallic wings, flaring behind it. Its other arm comes up and a tube extended. It’s so quick. A practiced, or perhaps programmed, set of moves.
The sound echoes through the room they’re in, just as Hunter fires. The winged, black, cyborg is sent flying backwards, a smoking hole in its shoulder and it hits the wall with a //thud//.
A glowing net appears in the air above the Wolfen, that starts to fall over him. It will entangle him, if he’s not quick enough.
Is Hunter fast enough? He is pretty fast and he starts to move again the moment he recognizes something above him. That it is a net doesn’t matter. There is nothing in a fight that can appear above you that is good.
It’s why so many successful ambushes use that third dimension.
The net drops fairly quickly. It’s designed to trap the Cyborgs prey – and prey Hunter is. He’s fast enough to avoid getting entangled in the thing, but it brushes him on the way down.
The shock it delivers //hurts// and might have been enough to the stun and disable the Wolfen if he were caught by it. Though, the question remains whether the Cyborg and the tech its using took into consideration Hunters physiology.
It’s long enough for the cyborg to recover and another //pzzt// fills the air. “Hunter. Aim for the chest. The control unit is there.”
That’s Ardul accompanied by the rustle of wings. Somewhere behind him.
Hunter has to roll again and his reaction time is slowed by the pain of the shock. Again his duster suffers a burn hole. The wolfen gunfighter comes to a kneel and snaps his weapon out, aiming down the sight.
Center of the chest. A pretty big target but likely armored. He lets out half a breath and fires.
The Cyborg staggers as Hunters shots ring true. He’s right, the creature is armoured and it takes the three shots to weaken and pierce it. But once it’s pierced, smoke rises from the chest cavity as the winged, black armoured ‘man’ stumbles and freezes.
On the ground behind Hunter, the net still remains. Energy arcing over the matrix it forms.
“Another one.” Ardul hisses as she moves past the Wolfens side, blade drawn and kicks the creature. “Let’s see what this thing has to say….” He might remember that she was worried about the last ones transmitting. Seems she’s not so much now.
“How badly hurt are you?” The blonde asks as she pries the destroyed chest open. The processing unit is a molten mess. “Can you check the rest of it over while I see what I can salvage here?” Likely, not much by the look of it.
Hunters examination reveals a few things. To his eye, this unit appears to be more advanced than the others that have come for them. Sleeker armour, the arms equipped to deploy different weapons.
In the cavity of one of the arms, he finds a cylindrical device. Similar to the one he took from the man in the marketplace not too long ago.
“Not badly, but my coat needs patching again.” The wolfen growls. His examination of the bot isn’t gentle. He simply carves chunks off of it with a vibro knife, which is how he finds a familiar and annoying looking cylinder.
“Nanobots again. And a shock net. I guess we can suppose that it was after me again. Do these things have computer cores that might contain their missions? Might give us some insight.” Hunter might have just roasted that core but he might as well ask.
“I’ll take your coat to Mister Jenek…” Ardul mutters quietly as she works in the chest cavity. His words though have her looking around and actually cursing. “Given I wasn’t here, that’s a given. If it wasn’t for that, I might have said to trap me, but I don’t think so.”
“Processing core is here. It records everything these things do but we might be able to ….” she grunts a bit as pulls part of the electronics to the front. “… get something. You’re shooting was spot on, it’s a mess in here.” After a few moments, the Cyborg jerks and a metallic voice sounds from near its head.
“Unit 9867 reporting for duty” There’s a staticy hum that underlies its voice.
Ardul looks to Hunter. “Well that’s something.” Then to the unit “What was your mission here?”
“… secure Wolfen …” static “… Knight Commander …” some more static “… return … Iyesgarth.”
Hunter grunts and stabs the cyborg with his vibro knife again out of pure spite. “Shut up.”
They had wanted it to talk. Don’t tell him that right now.
“Well that’s not particularly surprising I suppose, except for the part where they want to take you back to Iyesgarth. I was under the impression they wanted you dead.” Not really unreasonable considering the constant flow of killbots.
Did it mean return Ardul to Iyesgarth? It certainly sounded that way. But the words were all broken up.
“Hunter …” Ardul says quietly, in that way she has when trying to placate and calm the Wolfen.
The Cyborg arcs and sparks shower from it. They’re not going to get anymore from this thing right now. “I’ll need to strip this for the parts. At least the power unit is compatible with my armour. Want to help?” They can take some of the bits at least, but they won’t be able to carry them all.
“And they did. Do. Want me dead. Or at least they did.” the blonde sets to work, stripping away the processing unit from the chest. “I’m a living reminder that Nina’s Uncle usurped the throne and who knows what I might do with that?” That sounds slightly bitter. Certainly, genocide when Royal coups occurred wasn’t uncommon.
“And even if Nina is alive and somewhere else, returning me to Iyesgarth doesn’t serve anything does it?” Unless they think to drag the information from her. The scars she bears are testimony to how ruthless her people can be.
Hunter flips his knife in his hand and starts to carve out the cyborg’s chest. He knows about where the power unit is. Getting it out will be messy but extracting cybernetic components is always messy so no real loss there, as it were.
“Not on the surface no. Maybe they’re just being sadists. Or perhaps something has changed.” Pity that their attackers tend to be so silent after fights. But it can’t really be helped. They’re strong enough that going easy on them for the sake of leaving them alive simply isn’t an option.
“Thank you.” Ardul says quietly, working deftly to secure the control unit. “We might be able to decode this further. See if there is anything more in there. I’ve done it once before here.” What neither of them have asked, is how this unit was planning to return to Iyesgarth. Ardul certainly can’t.
“I’m sorry they’ve targetted you.” As Hunter removes the power supplies, she strips away the weapons that were mounted to the chassis. “I might not be able to use these, but they might bring us something in the markets.” Glancing over to the Wolfen, grey eyes serious “I’d say ‘run and run far from me’, but I fear it’s too late. They know about you and that’s enough.”
“Maybe something has changed back home.” The blonde still thinks of it as home, several months hasn’t been enough to change that. “But I don’t want to find out by being taken back there. At best, they’ll execute me publically. At worst …”
“If you’re willing, we might be able to rig up some form of detection device. Give us some warning that they’re near. Maybe it will let us flip the tables on them and take one by surprise, learn more.”
Hunter blinks. “Have you known how to do that all this time?” Because if she has, he wonders why she hasn’t mentioned the possibility of detecting them before they start shooting. The look he’s giving her is one of amused and possibly slightly annoyed incredulity.
“Because yes. If you know how to do that we should try to do that. I dislike surprises of this nature.” Beat. “Unsurprisingly.”
“Of course not.” Ardul gives Hunter a look. “I would have said if I could. But I was thinking, with your some of your tech, these components and the ones we’ve salvaged previously, we might be able to.”
“It was your Wolfen beacons and the fact that these guys must have something unique about them that got me thinking.” Shaking her head and giving him a look of slight amusement in return “And I just love to tweak you, you get so growly, you’re almost cute.” No. No, he’s not. Not at all.
“We’ll start working on it, as soon as we return to Sarens Rest then. In the meantime, I’m sure I can find surprises that you like.”
Straightening, the blonde looks at the remains of the cyborg. Maybe they can swing past again and collect what’s left – if there’s anything that is.
“Next sector is waiting. And I can tell you about the youth I’m training in Vesper.”
Ardul has seen Hunter growly. She knows better. Hunter stands up with the power unit and flicks the sludge that might also be blood off his knife blade before sheathing it.
“Is this the one who might possibly be a little bit hopeless?” He’s smelled him on Ardul and suspects that he’s both young and fairly untrained. Hearing about it should at least be amusing. Maybe one day he’ll come by and watch.
Arduls nose turns up as the sludge is flicked from Hunters knife and she turns, waiting for him to join her and then departs.
“I wouldn’t say …. ” the blonde sighs and shakes her head “… alright, a little bit. But that’s why he came seeking training. It’s like … I don’t know Hunter. It’s like he’s watched people fighting a lot and is putting that into practice. He’s young and he’s eager and maybe I can keep him alive.”
“I’m not sure he was ready for my training regime though. I’ve got him running every morning. Kilometres through Vesper.”
Ardul would be very pleased if Hunter just dropped by. As for watching? She might recruit him to bring another flavour into the training she’s been doing.
“Next Sector, then the checkpoint and you can buy me dinner tonight.”