Episode 90

Street lamps reflect off binocular lenses, and a man settles down prone in the tall grass. Under the cloudy night, another man crawls up, and whispers quietly. “Anything new?”

Shaking his head, the man with binoculars grumbles. “No. But, no one has come out for a while.”

Nodding, the other man adjusts his face mask and helmet. “Well, something is up with that barge. The more the head office pokes the paperwork, the more holes they make.”

During relative quiet, the man lowers his binoculars and ponders. “What do you think?”

The other man mulls over a few thoughts. “Smugglers. Always smugglers. But... What are they smuggling?”

Lifting up his binoculars, the first man peers down to the large barge along a concrete dock. “Yeah. Good point.”

Loud, muffled clanks resonate out from the huge vessel. Large, armored men emerge from hatches on the deck, pull off a concealing tarp, and leap onto the dock. From under the cover, and a metal ramp unfolds onto the walkway. With the roar of engines, a dozen armed soldiers in red logos and black outfits rush out around the barge, and military quads take off with troops. Quickly fetching his radio, the man with binoculars blinks in shock. “Guess it’s fucking maniacs!”

Outside lights slip through the blinds into the two bed motel room. Echoing cracks vibrate through the window. Upon a pullout couch bed, Cideeda’s furry ear flicks as a series of distant, sharp snaps drift in. Turning her head of shorter multi-colored hair, she fights against sleep and groggily opens one of her emerald eyes. Another chain of muffled reports bleed into the room, and wake Cideeda abruptly. Shooting up, her ears sort through the noises, and she hops to her feet over to the window. Peering cautiously through the blinds, she watches a flurry of activity. Cars and trucks speed off in a panic down the main roads, straight to the highway away from town. Locals on foot hurriedly reach the streets and rush away from town. Noticing other motel patrons loading up, Cideeda freezes when the layered sounds of far off gunfire enter her furry ears.

Cideeda darts between the two single beds, shakes Dretphi awake by her shoulder, and grabs hold of Bach’s forearm. “WAKE UP! Something is happening in town!”

Dretphi sits up sorting through her platinum braids. Bach rolls over and groggily props himself up. Cideeda rushes over to her bags and swiftly pulls up a pair of shorts under her nightshirt. Another volley of distant weapon fire alerts Dretphi. “Gunfire? Where?”

Cideeda steps over to the door, wrapping her laser pistol holsters around her waist. “Don’t know. But, it sounds like a real fight. I’m going to see if I can find out where it’s coming from.”

Bach nods, listens to a chain of muffled gunfire, and hops out of bed to his luggage. “Wake the others. We’ll get ready.”

With an acknowledgment, Cideeda carefully cracks the door open, peers out, and slips into the chorus of far off firefights. Swiftly slinking up against the motel walls, she pauses occasionally and allows her furry ears to sift the noise. Reaching the corner of the building, she peeks around the corner, quirks an ear, and narrows down the direction an echoing barrage. Dipping back, she quickly darts towards her original room, halts a door short, and knocks firmly. Aristespha opens up, motions Cideeda inside, with the traces of lingering sleep. “What is going on?!”

Cideeda points roughly in a direction, and grimaces. “There’s huge gun fight going on towards the docks. Or, that’s what it sounds like to me. A LOT of small arms fire and some big stuff, too.”

A low rumble passes over the motel building. Sotalia exits the bathroom, adjusts her shirt, and sweeps up a remote from the nightstand. “Okay, the fuck is going on here? There’s GOT to be something on the local bulletins.”

The television flips on, and Sotalia surfs through the channels. Aristespha sits down on the bed, picks up a tablet, and taps through menus. A few knocks sound out from the door. Cideeda peeks out the window nearby, and opens up for Dretphi and Bach. Dretphi stands with her sub machine gun slung down upon her pajama shirt and shorts. “People are evacuating. I think we should.”

Bach glances out through the window, and shakes his head. “Yeah. Something bad is going down. The locals don’t think it’s worth sticking around.”

Sebastian phases in from the ceiling and lands in the middle of the team. “You ain’t kidding, bro. I can’t quite make it out from there, but things are burning. People are just fleeing.”

Sotalia halts her channel hunt upon a dark red screen with white text, and an emergency chime rings in through the speakers. Her golden eyes sort through the scrolling text, and she grits her teeth in surprise. “Bandit attack?! They’re telling everyone to clear out of Yazoo immediately, and avoid the docks and surrounding areas.”

In tense silence, Sebastian nods in agreement and grimaces uncomfortably. “Well, I’m not one to argue there. Okay, everyone. Pack up and let’s get moving as soon as possible-”

A shrill, pulsing alert erupts from Aristespha’s tablet as a guild emergency pops up on the screen, and she taps the prompt. She reads the message, draws in a breath, and gazes up to the team. “It’s a guild Emergency Broadcast for adventuring groups to assist in the Yazoo evacuation and containment of the threat.”

Sebastian thinks, and stands silently with the rest of the team. Searching through the expressions, he straightens his ethereal visage, and proposes. “So... Head out? Or, see what we can do to assist?”

After some internal deliberation, Bach shrugs his shoulders with an awkward grin. “I feel we should at least do something to help out. Don’t think it’s smart to go into town, but...”

Dretphi smiles warmly to Bach, and nods in agreement. “Agree. Defend this location? This seems to be a main route.”

Peering out the window, Cideeda surveys the area outside, and notices the growing traffic leading onto the highway. “Yeah, it’d be bad if someone jammed this up. And, I don’t see any police or PDF. Either they haven’t gotten here, or are tied up in the fighting.”

Sebastian glances over to Sotalia and lifts an inquisitive brow. Sotalia gazes back, cracks an eager grin, and rests her hands at her hips. “Let one of those bandit fuckers try to get past me. Yeah, I’m all for holding the fort.”

Smirking confidently, Aristespha taps through the guild program interface, opens up the information block of the emergency request. “I’ll contact the local police and PDF office, and let them know our location.”

She gazes up lovingly to Sebastian, and he nods with a bold grin toward the rest of the team. “Okay! I’ll watch over from above. Bach and Dretphi, get geared up first. Cideeda and Sotalia, keep a watch of the main road and highway. Aristespha will contact the authorities...”

He glances down at Aristespha, and sighs ethereally with a tense tone. “Dear, you will probably need to be ready to treat some injuries.”

With simple nod, Aristespha acknowledges. Sebastian gradually hovers up to the ceiling. “Okay. After we’re all geared up. Let’s rotate watches to free one of us to help load up the humvee. Let’s help, but let’s not stick around long enough to need it.”

Behind large crates on the dock, a muscular man, cybernetic giant, and grungy woman keep in cover from the chaotic battle. The woman snarls her scarred up lip, and aims her cybernetic optics into an angry glare at the muscular man. “Okay, Boss, what’s the plan now?! The grunts aren’t making any headway past the docks.”

Aiming a smug smirk at the woman, Boss flexes his shoulders, cracks his neck, and chuckles darkly. “Still working to my plan. I didn’t expect these thugs to get that far anyway. The grunts distract, and the interceptors go and shutdown the main routes into town.”

Pivoting his heavily scarred, gray face to Boss, the cybernetic giant growls. “So, the fuck are we suppose to do? Watch these idiots get fucked? We could do that on the other barges far from this cluster fuck.”

Boss points sternly at the metal plated man, and cracks an evil, sinister grin. “Mech... I did not forget about you, my fine Red Gear veteran.”

Glancing around the corner of the crate, he smiles menacingly. “Right now, all the defense this town has got is concentrated on these morons. WE are going to cause a few more distractions, and divide their attention. And, when the interceptors do their job, our reinforcements roll on in.”

The grungy woman inspects her rifle, spits off to the side, and snorts. “Hope those interceptors of yours pull it off. Doesn’t help us if everyone in the town runs off and PDF swarms in.”

Boss rolls his eyes, and nonchalantly shrugs his shoulders. “Well, Snipe, that’s why we have backup plans. The interceptors fuck up? We don’t bring in the reinforcements. We three get away, while the fodder keeps the locals occupied. Wait a week or two, and hit them when they’re weakened and unexpecting.”

He alternates an eager gaze between Mech and Snipe, and grins maniacally. “Either way, we’re going to accomplish far more than what our dipshit leaders could manage here. Am I right?”

Mech nods, pulling a cruel smile across his scarred face. He hosts up his hydraulic claw and snaps the sharpened blades shut. Snipe draws an evil tinged smirk as her cybernetic eye optics light up. She tightens the grasp on her rifle. Boss slowly rises up with the sound of the servos in his legs, and dramatically gestures with a hand towards the town. “Let’s give these people something other than the docks to worry about.”

Snipe slinks away into the shadows. Mech hoists up his steel plated body, stabs his opened claw into a metal container, and stomps with it into the fray. Rolling his eyes with an amused smile, Boss surveys the area, and spots a dock meters away. Kneeling down, he springs up from a sprint, and launches into a powerful long jump. Landing on the remote dock, he deftly pivots, shifts his momentum, and speeds off into the town.

Dretphi stands in her red plated armor, and motions another truck towards the highway. Bach stands nearby at the corner of the motel building, keeps searching down the night filled street, and holds his plasma pistol at the ready. Dretphi walks back into the shadow of the building next to Bach. “Anything?”

Bach shakes his head and sighs. “I think that truck was the last of the batch, for now. Gods, half the dock area must be on fire right now. You can see the smoke rising in all that glow.”

Dretphi stares out to the coastal horizon, watches the reddish orange haze in the distance, and follows the contrasting plumes of black smoke. Shaking her head with a heavy sigh, she side steps in front of the motel, and waves to Sotalia at the opposite motel building corner. Dretphi directs her voice to her helmet radio. “Anything?”

Sotalia shrugs her shoulders, and shakes her head as her voice echoes upon the team’s radio units. “No. We haven’t seen many coming down, but I think this leads to another part of the town away from the docks.”

Searching in the inky haze behind the street lamp light, Bach reaches his hand back and taps Dretphi on the shoulder plate. “Something is coming.”

Sebastian’s ethereal voice calls out from the roof above, and motions toward a small group of people. “It looks like a few escaping from the fight. One might need help.”

A trio of people rush down the street towards the motel, a man and woman support either side of a wounded evuukian man limping. Both Bach and Dretphi wave to the people, and motion them over. When the trio get close, Dretphi and Bach rush over and help carry the wounded evuukian man. Bach assures the people. “We’ve got a medical mage. She should be able to patch him up, and we’ll see about getting transport out of here.”

The human man and woman, and the evuukian man, express their relief. Aristespha steps out of the motel room door, and directs Bach and Dretphi to lay the evuukian down on the motel bed. She immediately notices the dried blood drenching the leg, and quickly examines the wounds with glowing violet eyes. “Definitely gun shot wounds. And, thankfully, they’ve missed any major veins or arteries.”

She sits down in a chair next to the bed, and pulls an end table of medical instruments over. “We’ll worry about proper removal of the slugs later. Right now, I’ll stabilize the wounds, give you something for the pain, and we’ll radio emergency services to send an ambulance.”

Both the human man and woman nod understandingly, and wait on the other side of bed to calm their friend. Bach and Dretphi quickly depart, and rush back over to the corner of the motel. While stepping over, Sebastian drops down from the roof in front of them, and holds his hands up with concern. “Hold up.”

He points around the corner as Bach and Dretphi press against wall of the motel, and whispers with a ghostly resonance. “I back tracked where those people came from, and I heard few people on an ATV. Seems like they were following the blood trail of that guy, and they don’t sound friendly.”

Dretphi nods resolutely, and readies her sub machine gun. Bach musters his courage, and raises his plasma pistol. “What’s the plan?”

Sebastian glances over his shoulder as the engine sounds of a quad grow louder. “I’ll go up, and we’ll see how they react. You two watch and be ready to... Return the favor.”

Bach and Dretphi nod. Bach speaks into his helmet microphone. “Sotalia, Cideeda. We got trouble probably coming up on our side. We’re checking it out, so be ready.”

Cideeda’s voice faintly crackles over the comm units of the team. “We’ll be ready.”

The roar of a small engine echoes out from an alley way, and a quad with three armored people skids out in a hard turn onto the main street. One points towards the sidewalk. The driver nods and revs the ATV up. Sebastian casually walks out into the middle of the street. He holds his hand up, stares at the trio on the quad, and waits. As the quad slows down, Dretphi and Bach peer out from cover near the corner of the motel building. Bach focuses, tightly grips his plasma pistol, and whispers to Dretphi. “How do we proceed?”

Dretphi narrows her cool stare ahead, scrutinizes the situation, and calmly explains. “If they attack, shoot the vehicle. Aim for weapon wielding arms. Attempt to capture from range-”

An armored man hops off the quad, walks up cautiously to Sebastian, and passes underneath a street lamp. In the downwards light, the red and black Red Gear logo tattoo reflects brightly upon the man’s exposed forearms, along with the traces of cybernetic enhancements. Dretphi’s steely gray eyes flit wide under her visor, and her expression chills. Her stare searches and locks onto similar logos upon the other two, and the ATV. During the Red Gear’s approach towards Sebastian’s visage, she snaps up her sub machine, levels her aim, and flips the weapon to fully automatic. The Red Gear begins to lift his arm up with weapon in hand.

Burst after burst of rounds roar out from Dretphi’s sub machine gun. Projectiles rip through the outer layers of armor upon the Red Gears, and sprays of blood mingle with cascades of sparks. Slugs pound solidly into the heads and chests of the three armored men. Barrages burrow through protective plating into flesh. The driver slumps off the quad into a wet flop spilling crimson. The passenger stumbles onto the ground and rolls into a motionless heap. The man in front stands against the onslaught of lead, as sparks and plating fragments spew out. Staggering back in the eerie lull of gunfire, he struggles to comprehend the last moments of projectile peppering. Dretphi methodically ejects the magazine from her sub machine gun, swiftly draws, and deftly locks the fresh ammunition into the weapon with cold precision. The remaining Red Gear regains just enough composure to lift his head up, and receives repeated controlled bursts into his face and chest. He topples over on the road with a crunchy thud.

Sebastian blinks blankly in utter shock. Bach remains frozen in place with his plasma pistol at the ready. Dretphi grips Bach’s shoulder tightly with a stern voice. “Follow me. Cover me.”

Dretphi keeps her weapon trained upon the downed Red Gear troops. Bach summons his courage and maintains his watch. Sebastian regains his senses, snaps his head over to Dretphi, and loudly whispers. “Why?”

Pointing out to the logos upon the perforated people, Dretphi coldly explains. “Red Gears.”

Sebastian shudders his head, pivots it sharply to stare at the bodies, and drops his jaw as he spots the emblems. “The fuck?! Out here?! In force?”

Dretphi pauses near the bodies, draws in a careful breath, and directs her voice to Bach. “Need to confirm. Red Gears are tough. Tricky. I will secure each. Watch over me.”

Bach nods and alternates his aim between the fallen Red Gears. Cideeda's voice crackles on the radios. "Is everyone okay?!"

Bach stares hard at the downed troops and nods. "Yeah. But, head over here just to be safe."

Dretphi kneels down, and cautiously inspects the body in front of Sebastian. Tossing aside pistols, knives, and a sub machine gun, Dretphi confirms the kill. When Dretphi checks the driver’s body, Bach trains his plasma pistol upon the heaped over Red Gear. Loud gunfire echoes sharper and less muffled than before. Bach glances around briefly to search for the source. The Red Gear heap slowly moves, the man gradually positions his changing arm at Dretphi, and blue white light emits from the opening end. Sebastian’s visage stiffens, and his eye widen. “BACH! LOOK!”

Bach snaps his head down, locks onto the charging arm cannon, and leaps onto the Red Gear. Quickly wrapping his hands around the weapon, Bach strains his muscles against the groan of cybernetic hardware, and wrenches the aim clear of Dretphi. A blast of plasma jets out and soars into the night sky. The Red Gear growls in a digital hybrid of anger, and Bach wrestles the man. With a flash of blue in his eyes, Bach tightens his grip on the arm cannon, and a swarm of magical flow embeds into the weapon. He twists his body and slams the arm cannon upon the asphalt. Upon contact, tendrils of magical energy sink into the ground, constrict around the cybernetic device, and securely root it into the roadway.

Bach glances up to see Dretphi over him with her machete drawn. In a mix of experience and instinct, he blinks in surprise, and rolls quickly off the Red Gear meters away. With a glint of red ire in her steely eyes, Dretphi raises the machete high, and slams it down upon the upper arm of the Red Gear. The blade digs partially into the metal reinforced limb, and electrical arcs erupt within sprays of oily fluid. The Red Gear screams in spiteful rage when the machete slams down again, and fully severs. Bach wills cords of magical energy out from his arms, and ties up the Red Gear entirely.

From around the motel corner, Cideeda and Sotalia sprint out at the ready. Cideeda trains her laser pistols at the two motionless bodies, and scans between everyone else. “Situation?!”

Sebastian ponders summary out loud. “Three bandits on a quad. Bandits are Red Gears. Dretphi took them down. Upon confirming the kills, one tried to blast Dretphi. Bach stopped it and subdued it. Dretphi severed its cybernetic arm.”

Sotalia holds her hand out with forming electrical energy cracking, and aims it at the bound up, struggling Red Gear. “Keep that shit up, and I’ll fry every circuit you got.”

Dretphi steps over to Bach, reaches her hand down with a warm smile, and softly speaks. “Thank you.”

Bach holds onto Dretphi’s hand as she hoists him up, brushes himself off, and releases a tension filled sigh. “Thank Sebastian, he let me know. So, what now?”

Dretphi takes moment to exhale through her thoughts. She surveys the scene, and collects herself. “I need to contact my house. They will know who to contact further.”

She turns her machete up, rotates the blade, and sternly stares as the lamp light reflects off the roughened edge. “Time for the flow blade.”

The muscular form of Boss lands solidly from the top of the brick wall, and his cybernetic legs dampen the impact into a slow crouch. He springs up back, and surveys the darkened alley between shore side buildings. His radio chirps from a series of repeated key ups. Lifting the device up from his belt, he turns the dial, and listens to the familiar, angry growls of a woman.

“Boss?! Gods damn it, BOSS! Answer your fuckin’ radio you bastard, we got PDF rolling in from somewhere!”

Boss grimaces his annoyance, presses the button on the radio. “Snipe, how the fuck is that happening? There’s shouldn’t be any PDF this far out to reinforce this town this quickly. And, how the fuck are they getting in?”

Upon an audible backdrop of gunfire, Snipe yells out. “Well, one of YOUR interceptor teams didn’t do their jobs. OBVIOUSLY.”

Shaking his head with a frustrated roll of his eyes, Boss paces next to the alley dividing wall toward the white sand beach. “Well, I guess YOU and Mech will need to pick up the slack! Call the psycho, and the two of you figure out what the fuck is going on! I’ll make my way over after I find a landing site for the reinforcements.”

Releasing his finger from the call button, he snorts out an infuriated growl. “Fuck me, how can they fuck up this much.”

Seconds later, Snipe’s voice crackles out from radio. “Fucking fine! If he answers his radio, and we’ll go finish what your losers couldn’t. Over and out!”

Boss disdainfully eyes the device, lowers his hand, and sighs out his overwhelming frustration. “Gods damned unstable dipshits. If you weren’t useful for these things, I would...”

Pinching the bridge of his nose, he pivots his gaze out towards the shore, and distantly stares out at the churning waters. Slowly breathing and relaxing his shoulders, he opens his eyes. Glancing up, he spots fast moving aircraft flying low overhead. His eyes emit faint hints of electrical light, and he watches jets sharply bank to circle back. A surge of dread spreads out on his face, and he grits his teeth. “Fuck... How the... Why are...”

Gazing out to the open sea, he hoists up his radio, and dials in frequency. Keying up the device, he sternly speaks. “Abort. Abort. Abort. THE WOLVES are here. I repeat, the wolves are here. Send single pick up to evac location two. Full radio silence. Run dark.”

A roar of jet engines echoes out faintly over the water in the distance. Two military jets fly across the water, slow their speeds. Clipping the radio back onto his belt, Boss turns the device off completely, and sighs disappointed. Glancing over his shoulder at the panic in the far off streets, he reaches into a large pants pocket, pulls out a crude bandage, and conceals his Red Gear logo arm tattoo under a wrap. Hopping out onto the beach, he orientates himself, pivots southwards, and halts a moment. He places his hand on his radio with a frown. Sorting through the possibilities, he removes his grip from the device, furrows his brow, and smirks with ill humor. “Good luck you two. Keep them busy for us.”

Boss sprints down the empty beaches under the cloudy night sky above, and speeds away from town.

In the motel room, Sotalia brushes off a pile torn open medical wrappers, and drops off supplies next to Aristespha. “This is all I could find in the way of bandages.”

Aristespha glances over her shoulder, nods at Sotalia with a stern appreciation, and snatches a roll of gauze. “Thank you. That should be enough to finish up.”

Sotalia motions towards the door. “Should I tell the truck to hold on?”

Assessing an older emin woman’s heavily bandaged arm, shoulder, and neck, Aristespha nods firmly. “Yes. She needs to leave as soon as possible. And, we can’t risk waiting for another truck trip.”

Sotalia confirms, and sprints off into the parking lot outside the motel. Waving her arms in the air, she calls out to Bach helping a wounded man up into a large medical transport. “Bach! Tell them to hold up! We have have one more.”

Bach snaps his head over, nods understandingly, and finishes getting the man into the vehicle. He quickly steps around the truck, and gets the driver’s attention. Minutes a later, Bach and Sotalia carefully carry the emin woman to the awaiting medical transport in a crude gurney. With assistance from civilians onboard, they secure her in the vehicle, and signal the driver to drive off. Sotalia glances over to Bach and cracks a weary smile. “How are you holding up?”

Bach shudders his head. “I don’t know. I’m here. But, I think we’re pushing our luck at this point. These have to be last few people evacuating. Fuck, I have no clue. It just feels like the calm before something bad happens.”

Sotalia draws in a long, uneasy breath, and stretches her arms out nervously. “Yeah. I know. I hope this was the last group, so we can get out of here.”

In the motel room, Sebastian drifts down from the ceiling, lands next to Aristespha, and gazes at her with concern. “How are things holding up, dear?”

Aristespha surveys the chaotic mess of used medical supplies, and shakes her head. “Sebastian... I am about out of everything. I don’t think we can handle anything else. We may be endangering people by directing them here rather than somewhere else.”

Sebastian calmly nods, and smiles understandingly. “Yeah. I’m not seeing any more people coming this way. What fighting I heard is getting louder. We need to head out.”

With slight bow of the head, Aristespha sighs deeply, stiffens her upper lip, and straightens her posture. “I agree. I hate to abandon the post, but by all logic we are spent.”

Sebastian’s ethereal visage frowns, and he gazes lovingly at Aristespha. “I know. Well, call that we’re clearing out. I’ll round everyone up.”

Cideeda stands near the motel corner along the main and her furry ears perk up. An armored PDF transport rolls down the road and roars into the town. Sebastian’s ghostly visage flies next to Cideeda. “Load up. We’re getting out of here. Nothing more we can do.”

Cideeda, Dretphi, Sebastian, Bach, and Sotalia gather around the humvee. The group quickly goes through last minute checks, and settle into the vehicle. Aristespha methodically gathers up remaining supplies, and systematically packs up a large satchel.

Her aetherphone rings out upon the nightstand, and Aristespha taps the speakerphone on. “Mage Orienden speaking.”

A female voice sounds out from the speaker. “Yazoo dispatch. I know you are leaving your position. Is it still possible for you to handle a medical emergency?”

Aristespha pauses, slowly faces her phone, and sternly answers. “Nature of the emergency?”

The dispatch officer sounds out into the room. “An officer and fvalian woman are assisting a seriously inured grath man. From what the officer has said, the grath man has suffered a traumatic amputation of the right arm.”

Widening her violet eyes in surprise, Aristespha blinks through the swell of dread, and grits her teeth. “The patient is still mobile?”

The dispatcher’s grave tone resonates into the room, and trembles. “Yes. But... I don’t think for much longer. Your last reported location is very close. Can I- I direct them your way? Please? They’re being pursued by a bandit, and your group was able to handle some.”

Aristespha slowly stands up as she wraps her fingers around her aetherphone, wrestles with her mind, and grits her teeth. Glancing out to the humvee, she fights against a flurry of emotions upon face. She winces in pain, and draws a sharp breath through her nose. A cold, neutral expression coats her, and she starts to open her mouth. Her words halt short of leaving her lips, and pained cringes squeezes tears out of her regretful eyes. Mustering up her composure, she blurts out. “One moment.”

Rushing through the motel doors, she opens the humvee door to her seat, and addresses the team. “I’m sorry to ask this you all, but can we hold here for one more emergency. We are the closest, and I don’t think the patient will make it to another location. The patient and people aiding him are being chased.”

The team quickly exchange glances, settle their gazes upon Aristespha, and each offer their support. Sebastian smiles confidently, and reassures. “What do you need, dear?”

A thankful smile appears through a wave of relief, and Aristespha directs her voice to her aetherphone. “We will assist. Direct them our last location. Dispatch a medical transport.”

Lucida frantically glances around the intersection, darts her panicked stare around, and points a claw tip down a long alley way. “This way! It’s close.”

Slowly rounding the corner, a police officer supports a young grath man under his remaining arm. “Hang in there, Ralthinen. We’ll get you patched up, and get the hell out here.”

Ralthinen winces, fights for each step, and grunts a nod during the struggle. Lucida’s furry ears perk, and she glances down the path behind with looming terror. She shudders out of the trance, rushes up in front of the officer and Ralthinen, and rests her hand on Ralthinen’s chest. “We’re almost there, Ralthie. Stay with me.”

Ralthinen lifts up his head slightly, dons a stoic smirk, and nods to Lucida. “I will.”

Lucida musters up some warmth against her fear. She glances over to the bloody towel bound by belt around Ralthinen’s right shoulder, and faces his blood splattered purple shirt. Diverting her attention from the empty space right of his chest, she quickly scouts forward. She slinks halfway up the road when Cideeda’s voice calls out. “Over here!”

Lucida shifts her attention notices Cideeda waving from a building corner and Dretphi standing next to the motel. A wave of recognition and overwhelming relief washes over her, and she frantically signals them over. Cideeda trains her shotgun down the street behind the group, and maintains a vigil. Dretphi hoists the weigh of Ralthinen off the worn human policeman. The officer stop next to Cideeda, points his pistol down the dark road, and pants. “Some fuckin’ cyber freak has been hunting us down this whole time. I hope you all have some fire power. My pistol does nothing.”

Cideeda nods, directs her voice into her vest mount microphone, and calls out. “Did you all hear that? Something bad is coming this way.”

Stepping through the motel room door, Dretphi eases Ralthinen down upon single bed, and inquires in grath. While Aristespha diagnoses the remains of his right arm and Lucida holds onto his left hand, a defiant, proud smirk cracks across his face. He speaks a few grath phrases with a nod. Dretphi returns the gesture, and a bit of pride slips out from under her stoic facade.

Above the alley, Sebastian hovers and searches the area. “Not seeing anything.”

Cideeda’s furry ears twitch, and she pivots her head to scan the air. “I HEAR it. It’s close.”

Bach and Sotalia settle behind piled up garbage cans and debris. The ambient sounds of distant gunfire wane, the background noises fade out, and a heavy silence presses down. A growing cacophony of heavy ground impacts, hydraulic strain, and electronic mechanisms echo. From the intersection, an enraged Mech stomps out, and slams his regular cybernetic arm into shattering brickwork. He turns his freshly bloodied, clawed up face, and hatefully glares with his remaining cybernetic eye. Faint sparkles shorting circuitry illuminate an ooze of dark red from the combat knife embedded into his other eye socket. The fluid coats over the exposed metalwork underneath his torn open face. Underneath the scars, a twisted, evil grin warps his face. In the dim street light, he slowly hoists up his powerful hydraulic arm, and rotates the blood soaked, bladed claw. Light reflects off the slick sheen, and contrast the red soaked purple fabric hanging off. Drawing in a large breath into his massive, cybernetic frame, Mech bellows out. “WHERE ARE YOU HIDING GRATH BOY!? YOU STILL GOT ONE ARM LEFT TO FIGHT WITH!”

Bach, Cideeda, Sebastian, and Sotalia exchange glances, and shift their full attention upon Mech. Bach and Cideeda open fire. Sotalia quickly gestures through a complicated series of incantations. Sebastian dives down and zips around Mech. Blue laser beams drag across the metal shell, and plasma bolts burst open upon reinforced joints. Mech stomps ahead, wields his large claw arm up as a shield, and smirks amused. A loud hum resonates from within, nodes upon his cybernetic frame illuminate a blue-white glow, and an enveloping haze projects out. The laser beams and bolts dissipate upon the surface of the barrier, and Mech cackles throatily. “Must be fuckin’ amateur night!”

Sotalia narrows a hateful glare upon Mech, thrusts her arms forward, and sneers. “If you’re fuckin’ here it is!”

Swift flows of energy swirl around Sotalia’s arms and condense into crackling vortex of power. Filling the dark streets with light, a massive arc of lightning threads out and explodes into a web of electricity upon Mech’s barrier. Seconds of chaotic sparks streak over the energy shield, and sink violently into the rough pavement below. Cutting off the spell, Sotalia watches uneasily as Mech simply smiles back. Bach, Cideeda, Sebastian, and Sotalia watch in fearful awe as Mech resumes his march. From back of Bach’s mind a surge of determination and stubbornness erupts forth, and he grits his teeth. “FUCK. THIS. GUY.”

He calls out the rest of the team and grins. “Keep him busy for a moment... I got something for that shield.”

Placing his hands close together, a torrent of prismatic energy swarms off his body and swirls into layering, tightening ball of energy as spinning rings whine out a high-pitched roar. Mech slowly steps forward, slams each foot into the crumbling pavement, and flexes his claw menacingly towards Sotalia. “You’re next magic bitch!”

Sotalia smirks defiantly, quickly gestures out an incantation, and swings her arms forward. “Next to kick your ass!”

A warping wave of energy erupts, impacts the barrier surrounding Mech, and envelops the shield tightly. Mech fights against the forces, and slowly trudges ahead with a chuckle. “Neat trick. How long can you last?!”

Sebastian drops down in front of Mech, jumps around him mockingly, and grins derisively. “Longer than you can!”

Mech glares at Sebastian, struggles to swat at him him with his power claw arm, and closes his eyes at the bright diffusion of blue laser light upon his barrier. Cideeda carefully aims, and alternates laser pistol pulses towards his face. Mech holds position at the junction between the side street and back building alleys, while he sorts through the forces and distractions. “You’re some annoying shits! It’s going to be that much better when I slaughter you all!”

Bach stands up from cover, narrows his bright blue glowing eyes, and positions the D-Ball in his hand at the ready. Summoning up a surge of flow, he flings the prismatic orb of destructive energy ahead, and concentrates as faint threads of magical energy trail behind the ball. Sebastian darts out of the way, Cideeda stops her attacks, and Sotalia eases her hold. The D-Ball zips down the street, and flies straight to Mech.

Cocking his head curiously, Mech dismissively furrows his brow, pulls his power claw arm back across his chest, and smirks. When the ball gets close, he swings his arm out powerfully against the orb of energy. The shield encased limb and orb collide in a violent deadlock. The spinning vortex of energy rings carves into the barrier, sloughing off jets of plasma and magic. Glowing blue-white nodes flicker and spark upon Mech. With the D-Ball diminishing in size as it shreds through the barrier, Bach draws in a breath and tenses his body. A wave of prismatic energy swirls down the magical threads, contact the D-Ball, and spread through Mech’s shield.

The barrier blows out and nodes on Mech’s frame go dark in eruptions of smoke. Mech’s eye widens in utter shock as the D-Ball continues into his power claw arm, rending solid metal into a billowing cloud of dust. He reflexively side steps out of the way. The orb curves after him, but drills through a concrete power pole behind. Blinking bewildered, he mutters loudly. “The. Fuck.”

Crackles seize Mech’s attention. A bolt of lightning contacts Mech’s cybernetic chassis, and violent electrical arcs cascade chaotically across his metal frame. Flashes of blue-white light, bursts of yellow-orange fire, and shadows of smolder project into the night. Moments later, the lightning halts, and Mech drops down to a knee. Steam and smoke vent from him. Bach leans against the nearby brick wall, Sotalia braces herself along the motel corner, Cideeda readies her pistols, and Sebastian carefully approaches. As Sebastian’s ethereal form nears Mech, the cybernetic monster stirs and cackles. “N-n-not bad. It’ll take a little more than that to take me down. Just give a moment...”

Sebastian grimaces sharply, then stares down the alley way. Over radios and out from the alley, Dretphi’s voice calls out calmly. “Keep your distance. Cover me. I will subdue him.”

Sebastian nods understandingly. Mech pivots his head around and snarls his upper lip confused. “The fuck-”

From the alley way, a red glow swiftly pours through the flow channels of a large blade, and the long edge brilliantly illuminates a bright crimson. In a split second, red ethereal fire erupts and blazes out, highlighting the tall, red plated form of Dretphi. Stepping forward, Dretphi drives a cold, calculating stare through the cyborg. Mech’s eye springs open in abject terror as recognition chokes his words. “Y-y-you! WHY ARE YOU HERE?! YOU’RE RETIRED- There’s NO WAY! Wait- You’re not... Oh.”

Swift sweeps of blazing crimosn precisely slice effortlessly though shoulder joints and upper legs. Mechanical limbs flop upon the ground, smoking from their molten incisions. Dretphi kicks over the dismembered torso of Mech, glowers down upon his horror, and backs away carefully.

The team in the alley regroups, and keep their weaponry trained upon the crippled Red Gear from a distance.

Inside the motel room, Aristespha maintains cool exterior as her brightly glowing violet eyes dart around the severed end of Ralthinen’s right arm. She keeps her gloved hand flowing stabilizing magical energy against torn major arteries and veins, and glances into her medical kit. Sifting through the contents with her free hand, she grabs hold of a bright neon orange box. Popping open the metal box, she sorts through the empty wrappers, and finds one remaining film covered, treated wax sheet with a familiar sheet magical medical fabric. She pauses moment, thinks briefly with a slight smile, and takes it. In minutes, she extracts material, preps it, and seals torn veins and arteries with it. Concentrating powerful flows on the wounds, she carefully dresses the injuries and secures protective bandages. Blinking out the violet illumination in her eyes, Aristespha draws in a long breath and addresses both Lucida and Ralthinen. “I’ve stabilized everything for now. You should be out of immediate danger. Wait here for the medical transport.”

Lucida smiles thankfully with tears welling in her yellow eyes, and grips Ralthinen’s left forearm tightly. “Thank you, so much.”

Ralthinen musters up an appreciative nod through his mental haze. The police officer glances out the motel door, and direct his voice at Aristespha. “I think your group actually took down that bastard. Holy shit.”

Aristespha stands up, takes off her gloves, and quickly casts a cleansing incantation while walking to the door. “Good. One less thing to worry about. Stay here, I’ll check on them and see if I can find some other supplies in the humvee.”

Slipping cautiously through the door, Aristespha travels to the humvee. Sebastian notices Aristespha around the vehicle, and flies over to her. “Everyone good, dear? We dropped the cyber psycho.”

Aristespha nods and sighs out her tension. “Yes, Sebastian. Just waiting on the medical transport. Then, we can get out of here. Thank you.”

Sebastian smiles lovingly to Aristespha and chuckles ethereally. “Well, I don’t think any of us would have felt right ditching anyone in this mess.”

From a nearby rooftop, a grungy woman pops up from behind a low wall, and rests her rifle upon the brick top. Searching the vicinity, she peers through her cybernetic optics and rifle scope. The crosshairs scan around between obstructing buildings towards the front of the motel, and halt near the humvee. A wry grin cracks across Snipe’s face, and she shifts her aim between two targets “Medic or stealth guy... I guess... Must be some new cloaking field. Yeah, better take you out, so I don’t have hunt you later.”

Aristespha brushes back her silvery blue hair, and smiles. “Well, I’ll get everything loaded up. Gods knowing I’ve gone against my more logical judgment enough for today.”

Sebastian’s visage briefly distorts around his head, a hard metal impact shatters out, and Aristespha’s head bobs down. A loud report echoes into the area.

Sebastian glances over to buildings, then snaps his head in horror hearing Aristespha panicked pants. Watching her clutch a flow of crimson from her under her left jaw, Sebastian’s transparent visage pales and he yells out. “SNIPER! ARISTESPHA GOT HIT!”

Dretphi charges out with energy shield up and sub machine gun at the ready. Sotalia quickly side steps out with her hands out projecting a magical barrier with Cideeda and Bach behind. Aristespha clambers onto the humvee, and drags herself into cover in front of the vehicle with a red soaking her shoulder. After Bach and Cideeda get into cover, Sotalia slips down while releasing the barrier and immediately checks on Aristespha. “Oh gods! Shit! What do you need me to do?!”

Fighting against panic and for consciousness, Aristespha concentrates on her instructions. “Shrapnel. Feel it... Find hematologic sealing agent... apply... stabilize.”

With Sotalia scrambling pass the motel room door, she shifts her fading gaze at Bach, struggles with her words. “Out of tissue bonding... sheets... make... one...”

Sebastian stares in horror as the life drains from Aristespha face, his visage warps and shudders. Cideeda waves to Sebastian, glares at him sternly, and commands him. “Help us find the sniper.”

Fluttering her eyes, Aristespha drifts off into unconsciousness as Bach swiftly applies pressure on the crimson flow behind her slipping hands. Bach gawks in shock, and overhears Sotalia cursing as rummages around inside. Feeling the crimson warmth drain through his fingers, the fear upon his face solidifies into resolve. A bright flash of blue erupts into his eyes, and he positions both hands around the gushing injury. A surge of magical flows and threads swirls around Bach’s body, and rush to the palms of his hands. Energy condenses, and thin conduits sink into to the site of the wound. The flows of red slow to gentle oozes as golden layers surround a pulsating copper shard. Drawing a long breath, Bach drives his full focus and winces at the strain as magical mechanisms materialize off to the side. The energy machinery operates sluggishly and a fine magical mesh forms row by row at a ponderous pace. Gritting his teeth, Bach pants with the dimming of blue in his eyes, and curses under his breath. “Fuck... not now... I got to have a little more somewhere...”

With the fading blue in his eyes, courage from within pushes a determined, distant stare upon Bach’s face. He closes eyes, grimaces, and reopens them with points of white spreading out from the centers.

Cideeda crawls under the humvee while Dretphi orbits carefully around. Dretphi calls back to Sebastian. “Stand where you were.”

Cideeda adds on. “Act like you are looking for the sniper.”

Filtering out all other thoughts, Sebastian steps cautiously over while pretending to search around. He stops at a spot. “Here. I felt it go through my head. I think it hit the humvee. They’re probably trying to figure why I’m still up.”

Dretphi notes the spot, glances up to Sebastian, and pivots her stare to a fresh dent on the vehicle’s body. She calculates, and glares through her full face visor. “Third building south from east road? Flat roof. Likely location.”

Cideeda trains her emerald eyes out and pricks her ears forward. In the lull of background noise, her furry ears detect a noise, and a pair of reflective glints sparkle. “Confirmed.”

Opening the motel door, the officer peeks out. Sotalia slips out, and scrambles quickly over to Bach and Aristespha. “I found some, but I don’t know if it’s-”

Around Aristespha’s injury and between Bach’s hands, a magical medical fabric materializes rapidly, increasing in size, threads of flow connect to thin golden barriers, and the copper shard slowly backs out of the wound. Immediately, the freshly made tissue bonding sheet floats into the injury and surrounds the damage within. Bach’s fingers constantly twitch, his hands tremble, and his white glowing eyes dart rapidly around to distant places in his mind while white magic flow splinters out on his face. Sotalia blinks in disbelief and remains quiet and hopeful.

Sebastian grits his teeth, readies himself, and calls out. “One... Two... Three!”

Sprinting out into the open, Sebastian yells out and gestures rudely into the area. “FUCK YOU! YOU MISSED ME! CAN’T HIT ME!”

Dretphi notices movement on the rooftop, snaps up her sub machine, and sprays burst after burst. In the flurry of suppressing fire, Cideeda aims her shotgun, places her finger on the secondary fire trigger, and squeezes. A projectile launches out of her under barrel of her weapon, coasts in the night sky, and drops down on a business building rooftop. Fiery orange bursts out. Cideeda quickly reloads another round, takes aim, and fires again. Another blast of flames bellows out upon the rooftop. Cideeda’s furry ears flick forward and trace a distant scream. A fire coated figure tumbles off the top of building, and falls.

Bach focuses upon the task between his hands. A sheet of tissue bonding material closes the cut in Aristespha’s ivory skin. He shakily rests his hands down upon the ground, sways unsteadily in place, and continues to stare blankly at the ground. He manages to mutter with a strained, weak tone. “hope... that... works... Don’t know. I... tried...”

Sotalia feels the other side of Aristespha’s neck for a pulse, and listens close. “She’s g-got a good pulse and breathing... S-s-so, that’s really good.”

Fluttering her violet eyes open, Aristespha groggily mumbles back into consciousness and searches around. “...then allow me to-”

With a surge conscious thought cascading back into Aristespha’s mind, she blinks her eyes hard, glances around worried, and struggles through her confusion. “W-w-what happened? How am I alive?”

Sotalia smiles happily as she holds her shoulder. “Bach. He patched you up with the stuff you asked him to make.”

Sorting through the probabilities and feasibly, Aristespha squints through her drowsy haze, and flits open her violet eyes. Her stare finds the faint traces of elder energy flow surrounding Bach’s eyes and the fading pinpoints of white in his dim blue pupils. She reaches her hand out, tightly grasps Bach’s trembling arm, and calmly asks. “Bach? How do you feel?”

Bach barely lifts up his head, cringes sharply, and weakly mutters. “Not... good...”

His arms buckle. Curling up, he clutches the sides of his head. Aristespha winces, carefully lifts herself up with Sotalia’s help, and tends to the pain overwhelmed, whimpering Bach.