Hunter’s Gunwolf is a hulking, brutal looking machine. Unlike Tessa’s almost ethereal looking bot, the Gunwolf is all about function over form. There’s hardly a surface on the exterior that isn’t a weapon or can’t be made into one. The claws on the hands and feet are silver plated for effectiveness against certain kinds of nasty. The articulated jaws in the head are as well. Presently it’s stalking down a street in Gunline. Up ahead, about half a kilometer away is the wreck of another team, their vehicles and hauler abandoned. The survivors took shelter in one of the low rises and put out a distress call to anyone willing to come get them.
And they need getting. Up ahead a trio of thirty foot tall demons and a swarm of smaller seven footers crowd the street. One of them is trying to kick the low rises barricaded door in with a hoofed foot.
//This is Hunter. I’m going in hot. Targets are locked. Weapons free in three… two… one… opening fire.// Twin auto-railguns open up along with a salvo of rockets. The weapons fire echoes through the city as Hunter pushes his bot up to cruising speed. //Two hundred meters to hard contact. Tell me the rest of you are in place. This is going to need to be by the numbers.//
Silver armour gleaming in whatever light there is, edges limned in neon blue, the blonde Winged Warrior perches on the top of a building. A high tech rifle, not seen on Rifts Earth before, is trained on the smaller bots that swarm on the street below.
//This is Ardul. I’m in position. I have target lock and I’m ready to drive the swarm in your direction.//
//This is Bridge. I’m in place and ready for the go signal.// Stella’s black truck hangs back as Hunter’s stompy-bot starts charging toward the demons who have trapped some people in a building. Her job on this run: get in, load up the survivors, get out again while Hunter and other other ore combat capable sorts concentrate on distracting and otherwise engaging the demons. And it’s going to require every last bit of her driving skill and race-trained reaction times.
This isn’t a job that pays in money. The payoff is in saving lives. And she knows it.
“Don’ bloody know how I get roped into these things,” mutters a voice not far from the gargantuan Gunwolf mech. Clancy Drover sits on a broken slab of something like concrete, smoking on a pipe. A satchel is slung over his back, to match a pouch at his belt, and he carries a long oaken staff in one hand.
Next to him is a giant kangaroo.
With a saddle (and a pouch, so — obviously a female).
The herbalist turns his head away as the Gunwolf opens fire, wincing at the noise. It takes him a moment to calm down the Ooroo (his mount) as well.
“Eeeeasy, Apanie,” he tells her. “Look: giant demons. Wanna taste? I’m stark-ravin’ mad, I know it. Bloody hell…” He reaches into his satchel, pulls out an amulet with a sprig of Mistletoe in it, and puts it on.
Immediately, the herbalist starts to float. Quickly, he hops onto the Ooroo, spins the giant beast around and bounds way — to the left of the mechs, but going in the same direction. “Don’t worry, luv,” he tells the Ooroo as she leaps through the wreckage and ruins. “We’ll keep to cover as much as we can. Feel like playin’ hero?”
And he bounds straight across from Bridge’s position.
//This is Teresa. Seraphim’s reading you loud and clear. Pulling up your tracking data now…// For a robot that is nearly eight meters tall the slender white Seraphim manages to be gaceful in its movements as it makes its way among the buildings. Where Gunwolf is a hulk of weapons and armor she only appears to have a single cannon ready to hand as she sets into a charge of her own, coming at the demons from the opposite side of Hunter.
//I’m counting ten targets… More? I’ve got your back, Hunter.// The cannon discharges in a long lancing beam that is less light or energy than raw force. //Two hundred and fifty meters… One seventy-five… Just watch to make sure the little ones don’t get in between your toes. They can make a bit of a mess.//
//Copy that Seraphim. Watch your crossfire and we’ll tie up the big ones. Stella, go. Ardul, she’ll need a clear path. Drover, help her.//
Hunter slews his targeting reticale across his opponents, stitching them with a couple hundred rounds of silver impregnated nickle ferrite and blasting chunks out of the buildings he hits as he does so. He slams the throttle forward as he crosses the fifty meter mark, pushing the gunwolf into a sprint. The little ones scatter away from the stampeding metal monstrosity as it shoulders into the big one trying to kick the door open and knocks into the apartment behind it.
Seraphim’s cannon fire gets an immediate reaction. The big demon closest to her turns and produces a blade made of fire. A blast staggers it back for a moment and then it charges. The third one is sort of monkey in the middle for the moment.
Ardul opens fire with that rifle of hers, straifing the street below with bright blue laser fire – dancing with precision from demon to demon.
Her giant grey wings flare behind her, providing balance as she stands on the edge of the building.
//First contact made. Initiating second …//
The woman leaps into air, wings beating powerfully – helping her climb initially. Then she turns and dives … she’ll start another straifing run in just a moment.
On Hunter’s go, the black truck roars forward, accelerating steadily and QUICKLY for so large a vehicle. One might almost think she’s had the thing fitted with a launch control. She’s timing it to reach the besieged apartment building on the tail of Ardul’s strafing dive. It’s going to be very close and very tricky timing, though. Too fast, and she’ll be right in the middle of the mess. Too slow, and she’ll miss the window. No worse than timing the hairpin turn in the Dogwood’s semi-pro racetrack, at least.
//Alright, alright,// Drover remarks over the radio. //Gonna try’n keep the radio-chatty-chatty to a minimum — you know what happens to these things around ma — woah!//
He stops talking to guide Apanie around some half-demolished vehicles… and out into the open. A man. On an Ooroo. With some thirty-foot demons ahead. “Oh, blimey…” Drover mutters. “Okay, mates: look alive!” As the Ooroo bounds high — very high — into the air, the Australian ‘Clever Man’ on its back reaches into his satchel and produces a couple of small vials. Murmuring a hasty blessing upon each vial, he tosses them down onto the ground, right in the middle of the demons there.
The vials explode on contact.
Releasing potions of Rue — also known as Herb of Grace, or Holy Water — on the demons nearby. //That’ll get ’em nice an’ cranky! — No, Apanie, I don’t think they’ll notice us…//
He immediately cringes as ‘Ooroo and rider’ continue their mad, semi-leaping/semi-flying dash toward the rescuees.
For a second it looks like Seraphim might be the classic deer caught in the headlights. Another lance of raw force is fired. The rifle doesn’t fire in barrages but instead long beams that she sweeps across her targets lancing into- and through- them, cutting through most obstacles with ease. A couple long shots from this wholly unusual cannon apparently aren’t enough to stop the massive demon from crashing towards her, the air filled with the heated glow of a a flaming blade. She doesn’t seem to have a response right away. Sixty meters. Thirty….
Seraphim leaps aside with surprising alacrity and lifts its left arm to help deflect the burning blade as the demon is screaming past her. Just before they meet a glow appears in the bot’s hand. The blade is pale t first, but it swiftly grows more solid. Still translucent, the light pulses as she crosses blades with her foe.
The railgun in the chest of the gunwolf, just below the cockpit, opens up right into the demon that Hunter is wrestling. He claws at the thing’s gut over and over and over again. It’s close, nasty, brutal work. The street thuds and echoes with bellowing and grunting and mechanical whining.
The demons scatter as Ardul strafes them and as Stella comes to a halt the door to the low rise flies open. The survivors pile out and into the bed of her truck, anywhere they can fit. Most are hurt but a few are armed. It’s going to be a trick to get clear again, though, they’re already closing in when Ooroo descends upon the scene. There’s a lot of fire and pointy looking black iron spikes in these things clawed hands and the smallest one isn’t an inch under seven feet.
This is going to be close indeed.
The The first demon stumbles and falls as the Seraphim slews fire across it but the second one – well the remaining unengaged one – leaps over its ruin and comes on bellowing. It looks like it’s going to hit her. Twenty meters. Ten…
Like an avenging angel, Ardul swoops over the heads of the remaining smaller demons, tryhing to draw their attention, still firing as she does.
She’ll lead them back towards to Drover and Ooroo – clearing the way for Stella to leave.
As she closes on Drover, the rifle is holstered on her back and she draws the cylinder at her hip. A bright blue energy blade springs into existence with a //hum// and she turns, ready to face whatever is left.
Why yes, a dually truck DID just make a perfectly tidy handbrake turn to stop in front of the building. It wasn’t showboating, though, it had a very specific purpose: setting the truck to allow people from the building to get into the truck as quickly as possible and then they’re already facing back the way Stella came to get them out again. Hopefully.
Watching through her rearview mirror, Bridge waits for the survivors pile in and the moment the last one is in and the tailgate latched, the black truck is trying to leap away again. And if there’s one of those seven foot tall demons in the way, well, that’s why the truck has a cattle guard on the front and the driver’s side window is down. Bridge is apparently completely able to drive with her right hand and fire a pistol at anything in her path with her left. It’s almost like she’s practiced it.
The Ooroo lands with a mighty ‘THUMP!’ on the ground just beside the truck, and behind Ardul. Drover quickly dismounts, without quite touching the ground thanks to the amulet, and glances sidelong at the truck
Mainly, it’s *driver*.
“Bridge?” he asks in bewilderment. “*You’re the ‘Stella’ the wolfy-britches was yappin’ about? Blimey!” There is no more time for talking or gaping as the demons advance, so Clancy pulls back his sleeves and stretches out his arms. “C’mon, mates,” he breathes, then murmurs something in his native dialect. Two ghostly, striped… dogs appear — one red, the other gold — the size of… very large dogs, and immediately charge around Ardul to attack whatever demons are left.
Clancy turns back to the truck and gives Bridge a nod. “Get ’em outta ‘ere! We’ve got ya covered!”
Ten meters… Zero. There’s a flare of light and heat as Seraphim ignites her engines, driving forward to meet the demon in question. The glowing blade is raised, making no pretense of using the rifle any longer in this close of quarters.
//How’s that rescue coming along?” Tessa can be heard somewhat tersely over the radio. It’s soon followed by the whine of servomotors as demon and robot clash. She tries a quick thrust, careful to keep Seraphim’s body out of the reachof claws.
//Everyone al- right… out there?// Sparring with demons is exhausting work. Tessa is just a little out of breath.
//Thump// The big demon that Hunter had been grappling with drops to the ground less most of its midsection. The larger bot fires bursts from his arm mounted railgun into the crowd but he has to be careful or he might hit Stella and the survivors which would be bad, or Ardul and Drover which would be embarassing.
He can’t fire on Tessa’s demon either since her close quarters grapple would put her in the line of fire as well. He has to trust that she’s got it. So far, though, it looks like she does.
Ardul and Drover’s ‘hounds’ clear a lane. Stella’s got a clear shot back to the Wardstone line, but she needs to take it now. The demons are pressing in closer, sacrificing defense to try and overwhelm them with sheer numbers. Already a dozen are dead at the feet of the battle angel and the crazy aussie but they’re still coming.
Elder demons are generally clever and quite dangerous. The one facing Tessa isn’t that, though. It’s just //big// and it’s trying to bull it’s way through her defenses rather than employ any finesse. In its defense that’s always worked before. Now, though, it’s just slamming itself agains Seraphim endlessly, trying to hook an arm and drag her down.
“She’s nearly clear…” Ardul calls to Clancy, dipping low as her blade scythes through the neck of the nearest demon … it hisses on the way through, separating the head from the body.
“Keep their attention on us…” She spins, putting her back to Clancy as a demon visciously swipes at her.
Stella doesn’t hesitate when the odd hounds clear a path out. The truck roars again and accelerates away from the combat, Bridge’s left arm reaching back to fire a shot at one of the smaller demons getting a little too close for her taste. And then they’re through and racing back to the Wardstone line. //We’re clear,// she tells the others over their comms.
Holy crap that was tense. And the others still need to get out themselves.
“There’s got ta be a better way ta meet people!!”
Clancy Drover shouts in the middle of various incantations — either lending strength to his spirit-animals, or drawing strength from them. As soon as Bridge is clear, Drover sticks two fingers in his mouth and whistles shrilly. Both thylacines — the hounds — turn toward him and bound back to their human. The red one has a demon’s arm in his mouth. The arm has a dagger of some sort in its hand. The thylacine… looks *very* pleased with himself.
Of course, as soon as the spirit-beasts return to their home Plane, they drop the twitching arm at Drover’s feet. “That’s… jus’ put me off me dinner,” he mutters and swings up into Apanie’s saddle. “Okay, luv,” says he to the animal. “Straight off after Bridge. Give it all ya got.”
The Ooroo leaps high into the air. //We’re outta he — !// Clancy’s radio fizzes and dies. “SHIT!”
//Get out of my way!// Tessa actually shouts, though the rado does somewhat dull the impact of her soprano voice on the ears. She twists out from beneath the demon, looking to drop it to the ground at her feet. Regardless, she follows the movement p by bringing her sword to bear on the creature’s head with all of Seraphim’s strength behind it. //It was great meeting you and all, but would you kindly. just. die?!//
//FFFFFFFFZZZT// The massive energy blade projecting from the Seraphm severs the demon’s head. And then she’s clear. Another volley of rockets from the Gunwolf impact the street halfway between Stella and the demons but rather than exploding this salvo released great clouds of smoke.
The gunwolf starts to back, targetting by thermals. After a few more bursts though, they’ve broken contact.
//This is Hunter, no further contact. Call out if you’re still alive.//
Ardul grunts and raises a booted foot to kick the offending demon away, following up with another swipe of her sword. Her gleaming armour, isn’t anymore, showing several scuff and claw marks … “Right behind you …” she mutters to Clancy, letting her wings carry her higher.
“Clancy and I are clear. Following Bridge out.” the winged warrior reports, making sure their retreat is covered. “No more contact from here.”
The truck makes it back across into the safe zone and slows to a more reasonable pace. //This is Bridge. Going straight toward the nearest medic’s station.// Because she KNOWS some of the survivors need medical attention.
With his radio broken — always the way! — Clancy resorts to bellowing into the wind as the Ooroo carries him into the safe zone. The Gunline. As soon as Apanie skids to a halt, he slids down the beast’s tail and starts running over to Bridge’s truck.
“Hi, luv!” he calls out with a wave as he darts past the driver’s door to the rear of the vehicle so he can get a look at the wounded. The man grins. “Bet yer glad ta see us, eh? Awright, who needs healin’?”
“Good.” Hunter can see that Tessa’s bot is still up. She doesn’t have any further heavy class threats, so she should be okay so long as she vacates promptly.
It doesn’t take too long to reach the wardstone line. Stella can stop there. Once on the right side of the wardstones, it’s safe. It doesn’t matter if a demon is inches away. Saren and the demon masters of the city have a deal. This area is his and no violence can be offered within it. In fact they can’t even cross over the line.
The gunwolf stomps up last, having covered the withdrawal. It starts to ‘wind down’ as its pilot goes through the shutdown procedures. He’s out some ammo and needs some armor repaired, but it’ll be okay.
With their retreat covered and the others behind the wardstones, Ardul alights on the ground, not far from the gunwolf – extinguishing her blade as she does. Hooking the hilt of her blade to her ‘belt’, she looks around “Stella has taken the evacuee’s to the med facility. Any injuries here?”
Her wings flex, causing the detritus on the ground at her feet to eddy. “That was good work out there. I don’t believe we have lost anyone.”
Stella cuts the truck’s engine when Drover shows up alongside then moves to help any survivors with injuries. She pats the truck’s dashboard lightly before disembarking with her first aid kit in hand. The people packed into the back of the truck start clambering out, those who are less severely injured getting out of the way so those worse off can get medical attention first.
Bridge hands off her first aid kit to someone who seems more likely to use its contents correctly, then reaches back into the truck’s cab to pull out containers of food and water. It’s her own personal travel stash, but it’s just stuff. Stuff can be replaced.
“Here,” says Clancy as he walks over to Stella. Clearly, the man is glad to see her — and at the same time, a bit unnerved. For a start, she has two arms again. The last time he saw her… she’d lost one in a crash.
He holds out a small container. “Acorns. Give one to anyone who’s hungry; it’ll do ’em fer a meal — trust me. An’… ‘sgood to see ya. It is.” He gives a smile then, reaching back to rub at his neck with his other hand, looking slightly uncomfortable.
“‘Aven’t had ta charge a mob o’ demons like that in a while…” he murmurs to himself. “Cranky lot, aren’t they?”
“Cranky doesn’t begin to cover it.” A grey furred wolfen says as he exits the hatch at the back of his bot and climbs down. “Nice work out there Ardul. Stella. And… what did you say your name was?”
Crazy, actually. That’s what he’s fairly sure his name is. Insane. Not that he’s going to say that right now. Man did good work.
Ardul simply nods to Hunter adn turns to check on Bridges patients. Once satisfied that all is in order she turns to back to the little group. “I’m Ardul…” she holds her hand out to the Aussie “And that is indeed an interesting steed you have there.”
Bridge stops and stares at Drover intensely for several seconds after he addresses her directly. She’s clearly trying to figure something out. And when she does… “Clancy, you bastard. Is that the ‘better half’ you used to always talk about?” She’s gesturing toward the gigantic kangaroo. She then takes the acorns (ooookay), and distributes to the survivors along with containers of water. It’s all stopgap, but better than nothing.
The roaming herbalist smirks — and give Apanie a pat on the shoulder. He can’t reach much higher without floating upward. “Bridge — Apanie. Apanie — Bridge. Reckon she’s faster then you, luv. Should test that out.” The Ooroo ignores him, but does give Stella a curious look.
The Aussie turns around and takes Ardul’s hand, giving it a firm shake. “Clancy Drover, pleasure!” he tells her, admiring the wings. “Friends call me… hell, whatever ya want.” To Hunter he raises his eyebrows, then glances from the Wolfen to the Gunwolf and back again.
“Crikey… Erm, yeah. Clancy Drover. Jeez, that’s a helluva… mechanical-fightin’-movin’… thing. Hey, anyone know why there are so many demons here? It’s NUTS. A bloke’d hafta be off ‘is rocker to come here… lookin’ fer… the odd herb… yeah. No one in particular; just sayin’.”
“Nice to meet you Clancy.” Hunter says haking the man’s hand. “Herbs?”
Herbs. Who looks in a demon infested mega city for herbs? Well he’s heard stranger things.
Actually that’s not true.
At any rate he has an armorer to see. “Well good work all the same. Now if you’ll pardon me… I have to make sure the Gunwolf gets serviced.” So with a wave of a cybernetic hand, off he goes.
“A pleasure to work beside such warriors.” Ardul responds, eyeing Ooroo with interest. After the last few weeks in this dimension, she’s getting used to the attention her wings get.
A frown creases the blonde face and a far away look comes to her eyes for a moment. With a sigh, she looks down at her armour and back to the gunwolf “I’ll come with you. My armour is in need of attention.” Back to Clancy and Bridge “Perhaps we will meet again.”
With another flex of her wings, the blonde moves off – on foot, following Hunter, heading for Megs Mechworks. They seem to have tools she can use.
Stella Bridger looks up at Apanie for a moment, then nods to the Ooroo before looking at Hunter and Ardul as they take their leave. She’s staying with her truck at the survivors getting medical attention. “So what’d you do after I dropped out of the racing circuit, Clance? And what’s with all the hoodoo stuff?” She’s not even about to mention the two hound-like creatures. That was just too weird for words.
“Uhhh…” Clancy says, rubbing the back of his neck again. “Yeah. About that. I’m a…uh. Naturist!” Then he suddenly realises what he has said, and immediately holds up both hands, waving them. “What? — no! No, not like… ‘that’, ah bloody hell…” Taking a moment to wave a bit to Ardul and Hunter as they leave (at to stall for a bit of time), he eventually clasps his hands in front of him — ‘fig-leaf’ style — and shrugs.
“I wasn’t completely ‘onest with ya back then. I’m a herbalist — shaman — yeah, that kinda thing. Doesn’t go over well in Dogwood, so I played it down. As fer what I *did* — actually it’s great seein’ you up ‘n drivin’ again. Really great — I went back to travellin’. Left the States fer Europe — one big, bloody mess, Europe.”
He pauses, clears his throat and asks: “What about you? You… do this fer a livin’ now? Rescue-jobs?”
Bridge scoffs. “No. Nothing nearly this exciting. This was a case of right place right time.” She hands out the last of the acorns and steps back over to her truck. “I usually transport cargo between Vesper and Dogwood.” She doesn’t explain why she’s doing this instead of racing. That’s a story for another day.
“Then I reckon yer entitled to a beer,” replies Drover. “They do sell beers somewhere here, don’t they? Can’t be worse than the piss I’ve been drinkin’ elsewhere. Wait, that sounded worse that it was meant to…”
He trails off, and distracts himself by looking over the Ooroo’s saddle. “C’mon, we’ll see off this lot — the injured ones anyway — an’ I’ll follow ya to the pub. Plenty o’ time fer a catch-up later, eh?” And he pulls himself up into the saddle. Drover grins down at Stella.
“Really great to see ya, Bridge.”
Not everyone made it back to the safe-zone after a trek into demon-territory. It falls to Hunter, Ardul, Tessa, Stella and Clancy to go in and get the survivors out (in one piece, preferably)...
December 09, 2409
Gunline - Saren's Rest