It is in the early hours of the morning, the quiet watch before the dawn when the night is darkest and stillest that the storm finally breaks. It began with a scattering of laser fire miles distant. The pickets started reporting contacts and the entire force was roused and quickly sent into their fortifications.
The pickets bolted back to safety as quick as the good, telling of a large demon force headed toward the Trent-Taniguchi line.
That was ten minutes ago. Jericho is in his bot, powered up but with the running lights off, scanning on radar and visually with his low light filters on.
They are coming. He can see that on Radar. And they’ll be here any minute now.
“Baldur, are you and the other armored infantry in position? Suki, what’s your status?”
“Here they come,” the cyborg murmurs, mostly to himself, but in a way he’s relieved in the sense that they at least know to expect the attack. It’s a matter of moments than an unknown element of time that played with your mind, fraying nerves and stoking anxiety for the longer things stretched that nothing happened.
They were prepared, but here was when things really mattered.
His guns are whipped out in a fluid, matched motion on both sides, his optics flickering lowly however unaffected as his internal readouts monitor the movement in the darkness, following the growing mass of thermal signatures- not that it’s difficult to miss. “Arm up,” he says a little louder, this to his fellow soldiers, not that he thinks they need to be told. They probably see what he’s seeing just fine. To Jericho he relays, “Yep. In position, Chief. Ready and waitin’.”
Natsu sits in the dark of her bots cockpit, watching the screens of her radar as she waits. She doesn’t want to be here, still doesn’t have the confidence in herself that she won’t be a burden, but they need her in the field with that Puma.
“Powered up and running dark, Jericho. Stalker at least isn’t being difficult right now.” They might hear her swallow over the comms. “That’s … an awful lot, isn’t it?”
Normally the part-elf would be back at the manor, directing what she could from there.
“Be well, all of you.”
It’s no surprise that Elpida should be here. The Gorgon Gunslinger has been hired by them before, and it won’t be her first time squaring off against ‘demons’. Tipping the hat that keeps a good portion of her snakes under control, she draws one of her two pistols and makes her way to join the others.
“Oh good,” she says. “Just what the doctor ordered, right?” A heavy sigh.
They come. They can be heard before they can be seen. A ravening, chittering, screaming horde. They come in all sizes from a bit larger than a dog to as tall as Baldur. There must be thousands of them. Jericho watches them break into the prepared killing fields two hundred yards distant at a full run.
“All soldiers all batteries… fire.”
The line opens up, mowing into the demons but they just keep coming. An unstoppable wall of flesh.
“Natsuki, signal the psy stalkers to start their flanking action and support their maneuver. Elpida and Baldur… hold the line.”
Baldur nods at Natsuki’s words, even though she’s nowhere near him. He cocks both his weapons, watching out of his peripheral as his troops take aim. The mass of demons before them isn’t any prettier once it comes into view, and that’s even with what limited details show up through his optic readouts. He digs in, tempering the others to hold.
“Fire!” His order comes a heartbeat after he hears it from Jericho, the first rounds cracking and blazing as one, and then it’s a chaotic mess as the armored infantry lines up shots or lets loose as they please. Baldur’s arms are rigid as he fires straight at whatever comes down his sights.
“No lettin’ anything get past us! Chief’s orders!” he barks above the explosions and release of weaponsfire.
“Acknowledged Jericho …” Natsu answers. Her voice doesn’t waver, she’s proud of that. “Now, Vos.” The loud speak on the Cat sounds, letting the psy-stalkers know it’s their time. They … swarm. With a ululating cry, curved knives at the ready, their bald heads gleaming in what light there is.
It’s a flanking maneouver. They converge from the side, crashing into the line of demons and taking them by surprise. At least for the moment. The psy-stalkers knives flash as they slash – their wielders eating well.
Stalker moves behind them, at far slower pace, remaining hidden for the moment. Waiting for what Natsu knows must come.
“…***,” is what Elpida offers after a moment. Of course, the Gorgon is pretty deadly on her own, what with her petrifying gaze and crack shots, but she’s still one person. She’s letting loose, trying to focus her gaze on the largest of them while opening fire into the horde. She’s trying to make her shots count, yes, as best she’s able. Statues make great obstacles, after all.
The ground in front of the Trent-Taniguchi positions becomes a charnel house. Mangled demon carpets the land before them, leaking black ichor. Those demons who are smart enough to retreat limp back to the cover of the trees. The rest are trapped by Vos’ maneuver and continue fighting. All around Baldur and Elpida the shouts of soldiers and the scent of ozone floats up.
The second wave emerges from the treeline. This one has some giants in it. Big ones the size of the bots.
The firing intensifies. Baldur hears Jericho move into position behind him and begin firing massive ion cannon into the massed demon ranks, gouging out holes in the line meters wide and tens of meters deep. Still they come on though and this time they make contact.
“Swords! Bayonets!” Yells go up from the soldiers as Baldur and Elpida both find demons dropping into the trenches to engage in hand to hand fighting.
On the flank the psy stalkers have carved in, but they’re at risk of over extending and being cut off if those Giants push in and surround them.
“Suki. Engage those big ones and keep them back. Not seeing any ranged weapons from them yet.”
“Vos, don’t overextend.” Natsu communicates as she sees the flank collapse. Jericho had explained the danger – a crash course for battles he’d given the part-elf recently. “Begin to regroup, we’ve a second wave coming in.”
“On it, Jericho…” The Puma leaps at her command, landing with a heavy thud between the psy-stalkers and the second wave. Blast fire from Shadowcat’s shoulder – auto cannons. Spewing up dirt in front of one of the big ones and then hitting it.
She’s found her range.
Baldur sees the next wave, keeping a wary eye on the approach as he reloads his weapons. It’d go faster if he had an extra pair of hands, but he still makes good time, even without looking at what he’s doing as he rams a new cartridge in his plasma gun and slides bullets into the other. It’s back to firing as soon as that’s done, and he can hear the heavy artillery moving in closer just before the brilliant flare of Jericho’s ion cannon bears down on the incoming hordes.
“Yeah!” he shouts encouragingly, echoed by a few others, but there’s still plenty more demons where those came from, and as the shouts to prep for melee come, Baldur steps forth, bringing a gun to one invading demon’s head before it can do anything more. He turns, ramming the barrel of his other gun in another creature’s mouth, pulling the trigger.
He can feel the charge in the air, the familiar rush of being in battle, or maybe he’s equated it with the surge of his questionable internal systems. Either way he keeps shooting, keeps moving. When one gun runs out of ammo again he holsters it, whipping out his knife so he can still do some damage while he tries to reload the other, a glance cast —towards the oversized giants as they make their way forward.
Eventually, Elpida’s guns run empty and she has to take a second to reload. In her time on Rifts Earth, she has grown intimately familiar with her revolvers in a way that lets her reload with barely a look in their direction. This is good, because she’s doing her level best to turn every damn demon that looks her way to stone.
There is an increasingly horrified expression on her face as she does.
She may have been in fights, wars even, but it’s clearly not getting any easier for her.
Jericho shifts his fire upwards to the large creatures now lumbering toward the line. The fight in the trenches has gotten messy and that has lessened the fire coming from the strong points. The Trent gun trucks in the back of the line open up. Large vehicle mounted weapons turn into the still oncoming horde to try and break it up, slow their advance and give the infantry time to recover.
BOOM! Something hits Natsuki’s bot in the side. Not a rock or a magical blast, that was some manner of missile. She can see a third wave, the largest of all, coming down and supporting them are giant demons in ornate armor wielding some kind of techno-magical staves. That must have been where the missile came from. Yep. They level at her and Natuki’s target lock warning starts to blare.
Jericho is now right behind the trenches, firing enough that the heat wash off his bot is really quite uncomfortable. He’s got to be near overheating. He needs to let his bot cool but there’s no break in the action.
“Baldur.” He says calmly into the radio. “Counterattack.”
Attack? Into the teeth of that?
“Elpida, shake free of where you are and turn the biggest one you can into stone. Natsuki… bait them in. Let them think you’re going to pull back and leave the stalkers to their fate. Make it convincing.”
The sound, the shot had come from the opposite direction their forces were facing, that much Baldur had seen. He curses and brings up his gun, getting knocked back by another demon body before he rams his shoulder against it and into the trench wall. Using it as leverage he clambers up out of the trench and resumes firing. He isn’t even sure where the knife’s gone, probably still stuck in something’s face.
And then he can see it, yet another wave amassing, heat signatures flaring bright against the more regulated bodies as they fire off weapons. They’re still too far to do anything about, and they’ve got their own problems yet, even with a big cat at their backs.
“C’mon boys. Showtime,” he calls to his infantry, leading off with another double round of shots as he moves forward.
Stalker fires again and again, Natsu controlling the rate to keep the temperature down. These bots are good but they still generate heat and that heat has to go somewhere after all. Still, the sweat runs down her brow and back, the cooling vest she wears starting to work overtime.
She actually squeals when Stalker is hit. No, she didn’t have the comms open – nobody should have heard.
Stalker leaps again, as the missile lock sounds – it might be enough to shake it. Otherwise she’s going to get hit.
“Yes, Jericho …” The words are quiet, her voice might travel properly over the comms. Turning Stalker to face the ongoing bots, moving backwards – she makes it look like Stalkers limping.
Every so often, she lets out a volley of laser fire from the Pumas muzzle, just in case they loose interest.
“…uhnm, what the ***?” says Elpida when sees that giant demons. With the technomagical stuff. That’s evidentally a new one on her and she’s more than a little alarmed. . “Right! Okay! Uh, I’ll do tha t!” Orders snap her out of it, though. She givesd a demon that got a little too close a powerful kick in the chest that sends it hurtling back towards the others. With all the shooting she does, it’s easy to forget just how strong she actually is.
Now shaken loose, she, trying to identify JUST the right demon to target as ordered, focusing her gaze on it. “Come on. Look at me, you son of a bitch!” She bellows.
The demons surge forward as the infantry comes out of it’s defenses and the giants that are hanging back rush in to crush the psy stalkers that seem to be vulnerable. Jericho stops firing. Hand to hand fighting starts again…
And that’s when Elpida does her thing. Jericho opens fire and blasts the leg off the newly made statue, laying it down behind the enemy and cutting off a good portion of the easy way out…
“Guild Corvina. You’re up.”
There’s the sound of screaming engines above as three dozen Flying Titan armors swoop down and release incendiary bombs.
The entire battlefield goes up in flames just in front of the Trent-Taniguchi soldiers. The demons cook and die. And all that’s left now is to clean up the ones who survived.
“All units, attack.”
The savage grin is audible in Jericho’s voice.
Stalker’s paint job is a mess. Natsu has sustained continuous hits during her feint to lure these demons in. The part-elf hasn’t faltered though.
When the Flying Titan armours thunders over, she breathes a sigh of relief, urging her Puma forward now and opening up with the LRMS situated on the left shoulder. When the Puma lands, it goes into what looks like a “play bow”, the tail poised over its back and above its head.
The energy weapon in the tail opens up – what’s left in front of Stalker is soon … incinerated.
It’s a daunting force coming to meet them, the numbers greater than any previous battle they’ve had so far. Soldiers of flesh and blood might balk, and reasonably at that, but here, Baldur’s in his element. It’s a grim acceptance, but there’s no denying what he’s been made for as he walks forward boldly, like he’s firing into a storm. In a way it is, a storm of demons, wild and bloodthirsty.
The ground rumbles underfoot with the crash of a newly made giant statue, and Baldur halts but continues to concentrate his fire on what might seem a hopeless cause. If all were at a loss he’d still rather go down like this, guns blazing, still fighting. But he knows they’ve still got an ace up their sleeve.
At the sound a few of his troops look up, but most of them continue to fire, at least until the flying armor makes it rain. Suddenly everything’s ablaze and they can finally see…well, something of whatever’s left of the demon forces, eerie if not bloody or charred from the drops.
Baldur slams fresh ammo into place and lets out a whoop, as good a signal as any for them to charge in on. Nice thing about being made of metal is you don’t have to wait for the ground to cool, and his guns flare with renewed effort as they swarm after the straggling survivors at the Baronet’s command.
Elpida’s out in the mix, now. She can’t help but be there. Statues guard her back from time to time as she pushes back at the demons, those survivng creatures, and endures the fight.
When all is said and doen, ultimately, her clothes are shrrdded and she’s left hunched over a demon’s corpse.
Losing her lunch.
There’s a reason she turns to drink with alarming regularity.
The Trent-Taniguchi line surges forward with Baldur and the psy stalkers bolt off in hot pursuit. Jericho fires several more blasts and then radios over to Natsuki. “Don’t let them get too far Suki. We’ll have to reign them in and re-establish our lines. But we’ve won tonight I think. We just need to make sure we don’t walk into a trap.”
And with that he turns his bot left and swings out toward the flank to make sure nothing untoward happens there while his people… clean up.
The demons finally make their move against the Taniguchi-Trent forces.
May 06, 2412