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War IS The Answer!

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The Battle of Forsthaven
July 16th, 598

Forsthaven-Map.png


So, I realize the map above is pretty crummy, but I forgot to make a better one, so I just threw it together at the last minute. Green are the Norkotian forces, Crimson are the Forsthaven forces. You can choose to focus one of the locations on the map, whether on your own, or paired with other players. I will post background posts for battles over certain strategic targets, but not every battle. Anyway, here are you possible targets:

1. City Hall - More of a morale target than a strategic target. Were the Norkotians to take the city hall and hoist their flag over it (especially if the mayor is also captured in the process), it would be a severe blow to the defenders' morale. 

2. Sheriff's Office - The main headquarters of the defenders. Seizing or destroying it would disrupt Forsthaven's ability to coordinate defenses, not to mention take away their primary armory.

3. Hydroelectric Plant - The primary generator of electric power to the city. Capturing and shutting it down would severely hamper Forsthaven's communications, as well take down most of the city's power.

4. The Lifts - A series of elevators used to haul people, vehicles and cargo from the upper plateau to the lower plateau. Capturing it would prevent movement of vehicles and heavy equipment between the two parts of the city.

5. The Old City and The Ramp - The historic downtown which contains many prized buildings, such as numerous churches and temples, old government buildings and museums. Nearby is the ramp, a winding footpath that acted as the original road between the upper and lower city. Capturing this would prevent any form of retreat or counter-attack from one city to the other.

6. Commerce Sector - Filled with fuel stations, warehouses, banks and other businesses, as well as hotels, this sector is the central hub of Forsthaven's trade market. It is the place most filled with foreigners.


Cast

Tyler
Executor Tynes | Mayor Cordoza | Colonel Krieger

SteamWarden
Lag-Nor | Lady Blaze

Infernal
Isaiah

Vielle
Nina Castro | Mateo Castro

Thotification
Linda Linda | Naherin Weber | Khaki | Sera

Zackrobbman
Clive McTeague | Zack Miller | The Tin Man

Fierach
Unknown

Edited by Tyler

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July 15th, 598…

2600 Hours

It had been many months since the Norkotian Union had been first declared, and its influence began to spread across the Plateau of Zühl. It was slow at first, but soon it was like a tidal wave, with town after town joining the Union through choice or subtle coercion. Most were accepting, as the Union promised security in these increasingly uncertain times, but there were some who neither liked giving up the sovereignty of their town, nor acquiescing to the militaristic rules of the Norkotians. 

photo-1529877721616-fa062dcba65a?ixlib=rb-1.2.1&ixid=eyJhcHBfaWQiOjEyMDd9&auto=format&fit=crop&w=1000&q=80%C2%A0Hundreds of refugees fled to the Southwest, where the ancient city of Forsthaven, the oldest of the Norkic-founded settlements on the plateau, stood as a gateway between the isolated highland and the rest of the continent below. The city was a unique blend of Norkic traditions and modern Terrenus, with Gaian Temples and Directivist Churches often across from one-another in the street, with mage guilds and gun stores on the same block, and with accents ranging from Germanic-Norkish to the Latin-Terric being heard wherever one went.

Because the city’s primary heritage, and about sixty or so percent of its population, were Norkic, and because it remained the last (known) settlement in Zühl to have yet joined the Union, significant efforts were made by the Norkotians to secure annexation. Instead, Mayor Nina Cordoza encouraged dissidents and migrants from other Norkic towns to settle in Forsthaven, while continuing to refuse every offer to integrate into the Union.

Finally, Grand Executor Joseph Tynes, overseer of both the Norkotian military apparatus and its foreign affairs, elected to seek a meeting with the mayor personally. But Tynes was no fool, he suspected that Forsthaven would not be made to see reason, and he could not allow the second largest city on the plateau be left independent (much less sympathetic toward a Terran Empire that he viewed as a rapidly failing state). No, he came to the meeting prepared.

As the meeting took place, Norkotian paratroopers landed in the planes below the plateau, cutting off every road connecting the city to the rest of the world. Tanks and transports began crossing the badlands, drawing in toward the city from all angles. Aircraft patrolled over their runways, waiting for the order to move toward the rogue city. But nobody in the city itself knew this yet, as the Executor and the Mayor speak, but only briefly.

“So, there is no way to persuade you.” Joseph concluded, a pen in his hand, which he tapped against the table between them.

“I have seen how persuasion works with you, Grand Executor,” Mayor Cordoza answered, her voice steady and stern, “Just as I see what manner of society you are attempting to build.”

“Is that so?”

“The people here in Forsthaven have lived in peace for seven hundred years. We accept the rest of the world for what it is, and embrace what it has to offer, rather than close ourselves off to new ideas and methods. But you would force us to regress, to limit ourselves and become isolated and prejudiced. And worse, you would end our tradition of peace, and bring our great city to ruin, along with all the rest who follow you!”

“You seem to have a great deal of misunderstanding when it comes to the Norkotian Union and its goals, mayor.”

“Oh no, as I said, I understand all too well your imperialist ambitions, Joseph Tynes.” Cordoza stood up from her seat, finished with this discussion, “Forsthaven will never be absorbed into your military machine!”

Joseph stood up as well, his face briefly displaying his irritation at her continued defiance. However, that expression soon softened into one of complete neutrality, as he turned to leave. But before he passed through the doorway, he paused to look back at the city’s ruler, and offer to her one last promise.

“Then... it will be crushed by it.”

* * *

2400 Hours

Less than two hours from the moment Joseph Tynes stepped out of the Forsthaven City Hall, the city found itself virtually surrounded. Artillery was set up on the plateau ridge to the north and south of the city, allowing the gunners to spot and bombard anyone attempting to escape onto the plains. Meanwhile, the highland section of the city was effectively surrounded by a border of tanks, cannons, artillery, and machine-gunners. What was more, mercenaries and bounty hunters had been hired on to chase down any would-be escapees and bring them in to military staging areas that were being set-up behind the front lines.

A flight of bombers flew overhead, releasing a payload not of explosives, but of pamphlets, urging all civilians to leave the city (by the main river road) and surrender to Norkotian soldiers there, for their own safety. From a great loudspeaker, Joseph Tynes addressed the gathering Forsthaven militiamen, who were hastily setting-up makeshift barricades around the city limits. 

“Citizens of Forsthaven, your leaders have opted to put your lives and homes at risk for the sake of their misguided political ideology! Lay down your arms and leave the city in an orderly fashion, and the Norkotian Union will ensure your safety. Defiance will only lead to unnecessary damage! You have exactly twenty-four hours from this mark! Anyone still within the city then will be considered an enemy combatant! Twenty-four hours!”

And so, under the bright, cheery July sun, a dark cloud settled over the spirits of the citizens of Forsthaven…

* * *

July 16th, 598…

0100 Hours

A tension-filled day passed, with thousands of civilians scrambling to gather their possessions, then flee the city along the main river road. Norkotian soldiers and federal policemen were waiting to escort and guide them up the river, to a smaller town some miles ahead where they would remain during the battle. 

However, the mayor had no intention of just letting any more people flee, and by the dawn of the next morning, all roads had been cut-off by militia, and any civilians inside the city were forced to return to their homes by law enforcement deputies or militiamen. Every mercenary, gunslinger, criminal and drifter who could be recruited was recruited, with the promise of wealth and privilege within the city limits if they could help repulse the attack. Some accepted. Others refused and elected to slip out once the attack began. Still others tried to escape the city and join the other side, though militiamen stopped most.

So while many had fled, thousands of civilians now found themselves trapped within the impending warzone...

* * *

0000 Hours

Zero Hour...

From a distance, one would think they were hearing the thunder of an approaching storm, yet rain was not in the forecast for today. At least, not rain comprised of water. Artillery shells began to strike the militia's front lines, pummeling the sandbags, stone walls and brick buildings they had taken refuge within or behind. The heat of the summer was soon joined with the heat of fire, as buildings were set ablaze and bodies were torn asunder. After a relentless thirty minutes of heavy shelling, the defenders were finally given a respite. But it was only temporary, as the sound of shells exploding nearby had now given way to the rumble of many heavy treads rolling their way...

Edited by Tyler

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Standing at the outer edge of the lower city stood the blackened armored knight with the swords at the ready as he watched the paratroopers prepare themselves. He was hired to do a job of attacking a city and managed to sneak inside and get to the bottom of the lower city and camp out for the night. Without his mounts at his side he felt weakened by a significant amount, luckily the person he hired to aid him on the front lines was with the dire wolf mount. As the artillery was heard in the distance, the Goliath immediately walked back towards the lower city and stood at the halfway mark of each sides defense.

The enemy soldiers upon seeing the giant armored humanoid immediately opened fire. The very next seconds they would witness the giant figure start walking ahead, leading to a jog then a full force running speed towards them. As Lag-Nor finally reached the sandbagged barricade, an explosion of sand and bodies flew through the air. "Time to do what I'm getting paid for." The massive double blades slashing through the soldiers, blood littering the ground.

---

On the other side of the battle field held a pirate woman with a parrot on her shoulder on top a pure white dire wolf, almost eight feet tall, covered in blackened leather armor. The pirate charged through the battlefield, dodging and weaving through the many, many projectiles that hailed through the sky from all directions. The pirate knowing that the city she was storming held a magic lowering barrier, she quickly reached off her back the rifle she 'acquired' from the Norkotians, and began skillfully placing shots from atop a wildly fast dire wolf, dodging bullets and artillery shells as it neared the Forsthaven barricades.

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When it came to siege craft, the lone saboteur was often more useful than an entire army of soldiers. A single man could get in, do his work and get out before the enemy even knew what hit them. Once the dust settled, your forces could move in, and everything fell in line like clockwork. 

Isaiah was approached for the job by recruiters after he came to town looking to sell some salvage. The money was good, so he figured he would put his talent to work and see what he could do to break Frosthaven of its will to fight. 

The hydro electric plant was a natural target to go after first. Without power there was a lot less chance of them calling for help from some foreign element. People also tended to have some hard feelings over their creature comforts being taken away from them. While the Vulkin was used to not showering for some time, he knew most humans got very cranky when they weren't able to wash regularly. 

Infiltrating the town wasn't hard, as he already had a means of getting in without anyone noticing. While all eyes were on the falling mortar shells and men with guns, no one took notice of the oddly shaped blob making its way across the stone wall that made up the span between the upper and lower levels. Donning a cloak he chose for its similar color to the stone, he knew his chances of getting spotted were slim to none, making it great camouflage for his journey to sabotage the hydro electric plant. 

Edited by Infernal

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The River Road
0030 Hours

61fRUQhRFIL._SX425_.jpgExactly thirty minutes after it first began, the howitzers and mortars abruptly went silent, and that was the moment that Colonel Randolph Krieger, former commander of the Norkotian expedition in Yh'mi, had been waiting for. With a wave of his hand, there was a revving of engines, as the line of Prowler-type tanks began to advance upon the town. The defenders were slow to respond, many of them still hunkered down in their cover thanks to the bombardment. Finally, a loud report rang out from the defender's lines, as one of their old, muzzle-loading cannons fired. The iron ball rang true, striking one of the Prowlers squarely, and resulting in an explosion as the high explosives inside detonated.

But the brief cheers of the gunnery crews turned into gasps of horror as the tank emerged from the cloud of smoke, with the only damage being some scorch marks on the paint. More of the defenders cannons opened fire, but their shells were not powerful enough to penetrate the armor of the invading tanks. The best they could do was target weak points, like treads, cannons or hatches, which would require impossible precision from this distance. Indeed, not a single tank was rendered inoperable, though one lost its main gun and another had its commander gunned down by snipers, as he failed to retract under the hatch in time.

Krieger remained topside as long as he could, but as enemy small arms opened up, he descended and tightened the hatch. From here, her continued to direct the armored column's movements, as infantry and mercenaries moved in alongside and behind them. The duty of the tanks was to soften up enemy strongpoints and eliminate hostile artillery. The simple cannons of the defenders were sitting ducks, and many were destroyed before the column even reached the defender lines. 

"Gun nest in the building at fifty-five degrees, second floor." Krieger directed his gunner, "Load high explosive... Mark... FIRE!"

A crew of militiamen, manning a gatling gun on the second story of a brick structure, were blown to pieces as the shell struck home. Chunks of brick, wood and steel rained down on the defenders below, as their lines broke. Militia, volunteers and enforcement deputies alike began to flee back into the town, taking up new defensive positions in alleyways, inside sturdy buildings, or behind rubble. Norkotian at this point were minimal, but this was because they had held the advantage in the open field. Now, within the structures and limitations of the city, their advantage was drastically lessened...

"Make sure the infantry keep up with the tanks." Krieger directed into the radio.

His spearhead proceeded directly down the main road, which was now a littered with abandoned vehicles, carts, and goods belonging to citizens who had attempted to flee. The tanks merely rolled over everything that stood in their way. However, this was what the Forsthaven defenders anticipated, and barely a few blocks into the city, a series of explosions, both mundane and magical in origin, began to rip through the front line of tanks. Damage was not catastrophic, but one of the tanks was annihilated, and another frozen up with ice. 

"Commander, spread your men out. Clear those side streets." Krieger ordered.

The order then went down to the infantry and mercenaries accompanying the spearhead. Move to the flanks on either side of the main road and clear out everything that resisted...

Edited by Tyler

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Red and Wolfniña castro

“My ventilation‘s fucked.”

The radio screeches like an electrified bat, and Niña resists the urge to slam her fist against the offending gadget and crush it to tiny metal chunks. Of all the damned things that could go wrong with their experimental walkers, of course it’s the communication devices that go off the deep end first. The Commander is going to have their heads if they screw anything up before their project really takes off the ground, and she is just not having that, not on her watch.

“Yeah? Cut off that mop on your head, see if that solves the problem,” she volleys back to her twin over the airwaves, gritting her teeth as she wrenches her toolkit from her belt, gloved hands all too bulky. She is no stranger to sudden surgical interventions on her inventions, but on an actual battlefield with the chaos of war and gunfire ringing in her ears? 

Yeah, no. Niña is definitely a virginal sacrifice here, with this first taste of hell on earth.

Thankfully, a few moments of fiddling with the wires that form the radio’s innards, the sound is as clear and crackly as it is meant to be. The headache threatening to overcome her subsides, just a tiny bit. Just as she finishes slapping the device back together, the orders come filtering in from the higher ups. “Time to get back to work,” quips Mateo; she is inclined to agree.

From their vantage point high up in the rocky cliffs just beyond Forsthaven’s borders, the siblings lie in wait within the confines of their mechanized fortresses, observing the skirmish below. The entry point through the River Road had been breached, Norkotian forces slowly pushing their way into the Upper City, and this particular stronghold to the south is about to fall suit.

“We can’t possibly fuck this up, yeah?” Her brother’s voice flits through the radio once more, and she responds with a throaty hum of agreement. They really can’t mess up here. They can’t.

Always something to prove with you, ey, mija?

Niña shoos the mental voice away, turns the full force of her attention to the proceedings below as the Forsthaven forces slowly fall away under the weight of the Norkotian assault, an opening through the city barrier quietly unraveling before their very eyes. Beyond the enemy lines, the Hydroelectric Plant and the Lifts begin to come into view.

“Wait for it—”

Edited by vielle

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The city of Frosthaven. It was once quite the beautiful thing but now the armed forces of Norkotian has rammed a knife in its belly, cutting it open for the world to see. Such were the horrors of war and conquest but for some people it was just another day of their usual lives.

"Glad you could all come," the Norkotian woman spoke, her uniform clearly indicated that she was a medic. The woman was petite and her face, gaunt and sickly, and yet her eyes were filled with bravery and hope. She was Naherin Weber, a lowly combat surgeon enlisted within the Norkotian army. Ever since her mind and body split into two halves, she left all her dark past and even her family within the cartel in pursuit of a better more patriotic life.

Except war happened.

Her visitors were all familiar faces, clothed in full length black trench coats. Famed mercenaries and occasion explorers, ones that have been almost everywhere within this continent and the lands beyond. These were her family within the cartel.

"Always happy to assist," one of her visitors said the one with the remarkably white hair, "Anything for one of my old friends. How are you coping by the way? Your other half, Mana Nahi have been quite the troublemaker around these parts."

Naherin sighed, "Sadly, I fear that I may never escape that part of me. At least I won't have to worry about her for a long long time."

The white-haired woman and the two other mysterious ladies behind her chuckled at that. "Anyway, shall we go down to business?"

"Yes, we should," Naherin replied as she lead their little group forward under the shadows of one building to another, "For now, the Commander has ordered us to clear this streets but the Frosthaven bastards are proving to be quite the annoyance."

The white-haired woman pursed her lips in thought. "I see. And he has ordered that everyone left within the city to be considered as combatants?"

"Yes," came the reply, the tone clearly apologetic.

"No need to be down, Naherin. You are merely following orders. We only need to clear these streets not massacre every Frosthaven citizen we see," she paused to pull out a pair of pistols from the holsters strapped to her ample chest. She fired some shots at a few buildings and soon a few screams were heard. Miraculously, no one was killed but the white-haired woman was sure that most of them had fresh holes in their hands, arms or legs. "Let's keep casualties to a minimum as much as possible."

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"It's been a fucking while since I've hard to fight in the war. Motherfucking civilians trying to play soldiers. Goddammit!" Sera grumbled as she trailed after Naherin and the white-haired woman. As usual she was down to her awful mood even when murder and violence is prevalent in her surroundings. One can say that Sera is the sourest of all sourpusses within within their little group.

Beside her was Khakina whose eyes were more focused on the streets and building around them. Once in a while a Frosthaven soldiers would peak out of the corner and she would promptly respond with another round form her rifle.

"Clearly, these are either civilians or just really awful soldiers," Khaki spoke after taking down another target or two. "I feel bad for the defenders of this city. Should we even call this a war?"

"It's a fucking massacre alright," Sera spat, "And we are the ones doing the killing."

"At least look on the bright side, Sera. There's no dragons here or giant beasts trying to kills or even gods. Just a bunch of humanoid races trying to kill one another. This feels more like a vacation for us."

A stream of relieved laughter escaped Sera's lips. "Damn right! It's a fucking vacation. That's what it is."

102957-Kantai_Collection-Hellshock-Hetza-748x562.jpg

Edited by Thotification

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@SteamWarden

In the shadows of the city, there was a potential threat lurking. The Seekers of the Order of Force Majeure were to gather information on their ambitious ally, their expansion of territory, and the potency of their new technology by any means necessary. If that meant putting their lives on the line and killing a few of them, then so it was. The concerns of the Force Majeure outweighed that of the conflicts of nation-states, and if they did their jobs right, nobody would know the truth of their actual allegiance, other then being particularly skilled mercenaries in the employ of the foolish mayor.

Already they had coordinated with their fellows embedded in the mercenaries hired by the Norkortians and prepared an extraction point. Once they had inflicted some damage and tested the mettle of the good Executor's forces, they would disengage, and melt away into the compromised hirelings that were supposedly to prevent any escape. While the Seeker in charge of the operation didn't think that the battle would unfold according to plan (few things ever did, in his experience), he had no doubt that his small group of operatives were far more hardened and experienced then the majority of their opposition.

The six Seekers could not win this battle for the Mayor even if they wished to, but they did not. Nor would their standing orders allow them to drastically alter the course of this piece of history. Dressed in drab greens and greys, there was nothing to distinguish cleanly them from any other mercenary force. They were armed with a mixture of antique and modern weapons, machetes, tomahawks, and crossbows alongside high-powered rifles and grenades lined with runes. Much of it were like they were, deceptive, their true strength hidden.

They were currently posted as two teams of three. One was stationed near the lifts, fortifying the area against sneak incursions and aerial assault. The other team was in the commerce sector, intent on taking first blood of the Norkortians coming into the lower city.

One of them was taking aim now, at a strange woman charging toward the barricades on her furred mount. The pirate must have been another one of the mercenaries hired by Norkortia.

It was a difficult shot for anybody, but the grassy-haired woman was a skilled hunter and archer even before she joined and went to work for the Force Majeure. Afterwards, she had trained constantly to reach the pinnacle of such warcraft, becoming a veteran of the battle of Last Chance in the process. She pulled her bow taut in the shadows of some rubble, with no light to give her away, no tracers from her position as warning, and exhaled slowly as she tracked the zigzagging wolf. Take out the mount and the rider shall tumble, she thought.

She let the silver-headed arrow fly.

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Having made it past the lines of the defenders, Isaiah was making his way past the various defenders, sneaking through the shadows without a sound. With tensions mounting, the soldiers weren't expecting him, and because of that, they were going to pay for it dearly. 

Turning down a nearby alley, the saboteur noticed that there were guards stationed at the entrance. From what he understood of the plans, there weren't any better ways inside, not if he didn't want to be noticed. Looking around, the vulk found a piece of glass, and after a few careful calculations, figured out the best place to throw it. The sound it made breaking against the street a few dozen yards away was just enough to grab their attention. 

"What was that?" 

"I don't know. Go check it out and I'll keep watch of the door."

"I'm on it." 

One guard was gone now, at least for a moment. Isaiah had to get rid of the other one before his friend got back. Running at a mad dash, the lone man went at the guard, surprising him and tackling him to the ground before he had a chance to shoot. They wrestled, but Isaiah had far more experience in hand to hand combat, and had the other man in a headlock, squeezing the artery in his neck just right to make him pass out. Taking some rope, Isaiah bound the man, and drug him away so he could stash him behind some trash. 

Now it was time to slip in, and while the guards were busy trying to figure out what happened, Isaiah was already inside, sneaking his way to his objective, ready to plunge this town into darkness. 

Edited by Infernal

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It was another…dry, arid, and sunny day in the badlands. The sun heated the barren and harsh ground relentlessly, as if trying to turn the entire continent’s surface into a skillet for frying eggs. The various forms of wildlife that thrived here were thirsty, hungry, ever-vigilant for opportunity, and more than any of these…blood-thirsty. Yes, it took quite the indomitable and fierce spirit to survive out here. The land bore little for one to sustain themselves and the wildlife that barely scraped by here were about as friendly as the sun at noon. And even more dangerous.

 

 Out of all the places in Terrenus one might not want to end up, The Badlands had to make the top ten. There were still a few settlements here and there that thrived like stubborn cactus's, but for the most part, the people that wound up there were only there by mistake. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or is it quite the opposite? A certain, drunk, cowboy is about to find out the hard way.

 

Above the sound of critters skittering around and their respective mating calls came the sound of something that was steadily increasing in volume. It sounded like an airplane was passing by overhead, but if one were to actually be there by some stroke of bad luck and look up to see what the noise was, they’d see nothing but a small, black, speck. One that was rapidly increasing in size.

 

BOOM!

 

The ground shuddered and broke apart upon the egg-shaped capsules impact, sending chunks of parched earth flying in every direction. The capsule continued onward on the ground, carving a deep gully before coming to a slow and steady stop upon its side. The dust it left behind in its wake slowly billowed upwards as the capsule sat there for the next few minutes, its metal and battered surface glinting in the sunlight. The life that hadn’t scurried away on impact watched the odd metal object from their respective burrows and jutting crags, curious to know what it was and if it harbored the prospect of water or food.

 

The capsule then started making more sounds, as if dozens of tiny bits of machinery were moving around just below its metal surface. With a decompressed hiss, a hatch slowly opened on its side. Until it got stuck, that is.

 

“..The hell?” mumbled a man from within the capsule. Several metallic thunks could be heard from within, some of them accompanied by angry curses. The hinges keeping the hatch connected to the capsule finally gave way, a boot kicking it right off and sending it skidding a few feet away. The foot retracted and more grunting could be heard as a form emerged from inside. A man with a mohawk dressed in combat fatigues was shoved out, his limp body tumbling to the ground outside. His eyes were open and lifeless, probably having something to do with the bullet hole smack dab in the middle of his forehead.

 

“Ewe’ sum’b****.” heaved another man as he began pulling himself out of the capsule. “I told you I’d do it.”

 

He steadied the stetson on his head as he climbed out, the sun glinting off of the silver skull emblem tacked onto the front of the brim. He held his custom peacekeeper with his other hand, his pitch black eyes darting around the barren landscape as he stepped out into the unforgiving sun. He teetered a bit once he was on his feet, grunting through his teeth as he started to feel the bruises he’d gotten in the landing. Maybe a few from before. Course, that wasn’t the only reason he seemed so woozy.

 

Once he was sure there were no immediate threats around, he reached behind him and grabbed the drinking flask out of his pants. He deftly up-capped it and took a long swig of his contents, letting out a relaxed sigh when he was through and screwing the cap back on. He shoved it back in his pants before looking down at the dead man at his feet. His void eyes stared up at Clive with an eternal scowl, his mouth slack and open to whatever creatures would no doubt seek food and shelter inside within a few hours.

 

“Dont’chu look’a me like that.” slurred Clive with a mild cowl of his own. “Snake like you probably didn’t have long to live anyway. Least I did you in quick. *BURP* Heh, It’d been hell’a worse if the punk got his hands on ya’. He hates backstabbin’ snakes like you.” Clive paused, looked up, and then looked around him for a second time. He then stared forward blankly with his head bowed slightly, as if listening for something.

 

“Hm.” he shrugged. “Or used to hate guys like you. Think he’s dead now.” Clive’s brows lifted slightly as he processed what he’d just said. He then pursed his lips and shook his head before tipping his hat to the corpse and walking away. He got maybe a few steps before he stopped and looked around for a third time, his eyebrows creased in confusion. There was nothing parched earth for miles in every direction. His features falling in exasperated realization, he gazed up. The sun was directly over him, hinting that there would be a lot of it to endure in the coming hours. That coupled with the fact that he had no idea which barren landscape he was in soured his mood even more.

 

“Damn.” he said in an irritated monotone. He stood there for a bit with his hands on his hips before taking in a deep breath and letting it out to calm the warnings of certain death that were blaring in his head. Or they tried to blare. The alcohol in his system reduced them all to small ebbs.

 

Knowing that standing around by a dead body when he didn’t know what predators roved about in the area was a bad idea, he resumed his walk with much less optimism than before.

 

“Should’a *HIC* brought more beer.”

 

 

 

 

 

Somewhere on a flying militia carrier…

 

 

“WHERE IS IT!?”

 

AGH!”

 

“C’MON PUNK!

 

“UNNNGH!”

 

“WHERE’S THE ACE IN THE HOLE!?”

 

“Th-The ace in the wHAAGHAHAHOOooow!”

 

“We KNOW you know where it is!”

 

“A-HOOLPHH!”

 

“Don’t play DUMB!”

 

Ptoo!I don’t know what the hell you’re talkin’ about man!!! RRNNGH!”

 

“You think we’re stupid!? HUH?!”

 

“Y-…yeOOAAGGH!”

 

“We get a blip on our radar for the radiation signature once we enter the Badlands and then YOU show up?!”

 

“I’m here…heagh…I’m just here for your boss. I don’t know jack about some stupid ace in the HOOOLPH!”

 

“Then I guess I just get to enjoy this. I’m gonna beat’cha until your too stupid to lie. JUST like you did my brother!”

 

“That wasn’t me man! Everybody knows Hutch had a bad habit of humping prostitutes that OD’d on Juice! It was only a matter of time before one of em’ punched him brain deaOWWwww!”

 

“MY BROTHER*sniff*…was MARRIED you lyin’ piece of s***! HAPPILY married! He LOVED his wife!”

 

“*cough* Heh…yeah, he probably did. Maybe almost as much as he loved strippeENNGGH!” 

 

“SHUTUP! SHUTUUUP!”

 

“L-look, man. I’ll tell ya’ where the stupid ace in the hole is.”

 

“TALK then b****!”

 

“I-I will. But my left lung is…*cough*…filling up…with blood. Come…come closer.”

 

 

 

 

 

At the carrier’s docking bay…

 

 

 

“Can’t believe that cowboy got away like that.” said a mercenary who we will name Bill for the sake of clarity. He was dressed in the combat uniform that his particular employer had demanded he and every other gun-for-hire under his payroll should wear. The combat helmet he wore covered his head completely, much like the other guy who was standing next to him.

 

“Yeah, I know.” said the other mercenary, who we will name Bob for similar reasons. “Thought for certain they’d kill him in the lunchroom, but the guys aim is straight up scary. Doug told me he saw him drop six guys in the blink of an eye on the cameras. He must’ve been some sorta gunslinger.”

 

“Why was he in the lunchroom?” said Bill. “He seemed to know where the escape pods were. The lunch room was way out of his way.”

 

“I…I think he wanted to raid the wine cellar.” shrugged Bob incredulously. “Doug said he saw him pour some of our wine into this little flask before he gunned down the rest of the guys in the room and ran into the hall.”

 

“...Are you serious?” asked Bill, turning to face his friend.

 

“That’s what Doug said, man.” said Bob. “Maybe alcohol gives him enhanced perception or something. I don’t know.”

 

“How’d we even catch that guy and throw him in a cell in the first place?”

 

“The guy he was working with to fly him in here and find our boss was working for one of our boss’s old buddies.” said Bob with a chuckle. “Weren’t for him, I’d probably have had to find a way to get a check from a corpse.”

 

“Yeah he had him fooled.” laughed Bill. Then the two of them were silent for a bit.

 

“Had us fooled too.” said Bob. “Took the cash our boss paid him and then tried to make off with the schematics for the Ace. Might’ve ruined the whole op if we didn’t have several backups.”

 

“Yeah.” exhaled Bill. “…Didn’t he try to use the same escape pod the cowboy jacked?”

 

“Yeah. He’s probably dead.” said Bob as he scratched a spot on his neck. “What I’m tryin’ ta figure out is how the cowboy got loose in the first place. We had him in a cell one minute, and the next he’s running around the ship.”

 

“I think it was that kid he had with him.” said Bill thoughtfully. “Word is that he somehow broke the lock holding the cell shut and things went downhill from there.”

 

“Yeah Doug told me about that.” nodded Bob. “The cowboy ditched him to make his escape and we recaptured him before he could run off.”

 

“I saw the kid in the interrogation room on my way down here.” added Bill. “He was hangin’ upside down by his feet and his hands were cuffed behind his back. He looked like s***. Eddie was really layin’ into him. Never seen him that angry before.”

 

“Eddie thinks he’s responsible for the vegetation of his brother.” shrugged Bob. Bill seemed taken aback by this.

 

That little punk?” asked Bill, to which Bob nodded his head. Bill shook his. “No. No way. He don’t look like no bounty hunter. Besides, everybody knows that Eddie’s brother was hit by a prostitute that day when he refused to pay and asked for another go. Lady was takin’ that super drug and punched him so hard that he went cross-eyed for life and forgot how to not s*** himself.”

 

“Yeah, I know.” Bob agreed. “But Eddie swears his brother never even touched a hooker. Said his brother loved his wife more than anything.”

 

“Which one?”

 

“NEEAAAAAAARRRRRGGGGOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGGGHHHHH!!!!!!!”

 

Bob and Bill slowly lifted their heads to gaze at the ceiling, the ear-piercing scream only muffled by the thick layer of steel that separated them from the floor above them.

 

“...What the-”

 

MY HAAAAAND! MY HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNOAGH!”

 

Bob and Bill readied their weapons and kept their eyes trained on the ceiling as the gunshots and shouts started. Bangs, clangs, and thumps could be heard as the noises traversed further into the ship. The shooting intensified as the ruckus continued, shouts turning into grunts. Grunts turning into blood-curdling screams. Screams turning into pleas for help and backup. Bob and Bill began backing up as they noticed that the sounds were gradually making their way down to their floor.

 

ALERT! ALERT!the sirens blared with the voice of a frantic man, gunfire and screaming being easily heard in the background. “A PRISONER HAS ESCAPED AND IS MAKING HIS WAY TO THE DOCKING BAGAAAAAARRR-

A loud boom echoed out somewhere in the ship, causing the entire room to shake as the carrier wobbled in the sky. Bob and Bill struggled to keep their footing as they tried not to panic.

 

“WHAT THE F*** MAN!?” shouted Bill fearfully as they heard the sounds getting closer to the docking bay entrance. Every thud and bang they heard sent vibrations through the floor that made them feel like they were made of glass and about to piss themselves. Bob stood with his gun aimed at the large bay doors on the other side of the room, his quivering mouth agape and his body shaking.

 

“B-Bill,” Bob began, not taking his eyes off the doors. “I uh…I-I-I-I’m sorry about that girl in Hell’s Gate!”

 

Bill almost didn’t hear him, his mind having to run it back a few times before he started to grasp the meaning of what his friend had just said. His eyes slowly narrowed in outrage before he slowly turned to look at Bob.

 

“...Y-…You-”

 

The bay doors burst open in a flurry of flames, smoke, debris and gunfire. Bob squeezed the trigger on his gun and fired into the chaos, but barely got off more than seven rounds before something hit him. Hard. A few specks of blood splattered across Bills visor when his friend was sent careening into the wall so hard that it dented the steel. Bill turned to see Bobs limp body rag doll to the ground. The visor on Bob’s helmet was split wide open, blood visible on the mangled face within.

 

A loud beep from behind him that caused Bill to whip his head around. He saw someone. It appeared to be the same kid that had accompanied the cowboy, but he looked much different now. His clothes were in bloody and scorched tatters, his body not looking much different. He was covered in bruises, cuts, burns, and what appeared to be over a dozen little holes in his skin about the size of a bullet. But just the skin. The bleeding holes ended there, leaving the busted muscle ligaments within visible to the naked eye. It was as if he’d been shot, but none of the bullets went through. He could even see a few still stuck in his skin.

 

The kids arms were cuffed behind him and and he was standing, slightly hunched over as if he were ready to pounce. There appeared to be some guys severed hand clenched tightly in his mouth, the kid holding it up to the bio-metrics scanner that opened the bay doors. Blood oozed from the stump of the hand as Bill stood frozen by the kids eyes. They were wide. Manic. Wild. His pupils looking like little, black, pinpricks with years of darkness and insanity packed tightly inside, begging for an excuse to come out. It was like the eyes themselves were screaming. Angrily. He was breathing heavily and quickly, making him look even more unstable. He stared at Bill as the hangar hatch leading to the skies outside began to open downwards, the alarms in the room going off as they flashed and bathed the room in strobes of red. It didn’t help to steady Bill’s nerves.

 

Bill hadn’t turned his whole body to face the kid yet, so his gun wasn’t pointed at him. His hands trembled on his rifle. His teeth clattered. His heart was racing a mile a minute. Sweat streamed down his forehead. It was as if the kid was waiting, daring him to try and take aim.

 

“THERE!” shouted one of the mercenaries where the entrance to the hangar used to be. The smoke had cleared enough for them to see the kid standing by the opening hatch, and they wasted no time in firing their weapons.

 

“PTOO!”

 

“YAGH!” yelped Bill when the severed hand collided with his face. Startled, he turned and started firing his rifle. But the kid wasn’t there anymore.

 

“OOOOOH, NO YOU DON’T!” came a gruff mans voice from Bills right. He turned and jolted when he saw a large, muscular mercenary come sprinting towards the open hatch whilst slipping on what appeared to be a jet-pack. The mercenary leaped through the open hatch and his jetpack activated with a boom. In an instant, he was a shrinking speck in the clouds.

 

A bundle of other mercenaries, some of them limping, bleeding, or patting out burning spots on their uniforms, jogged over to the open hatch and stared out of it at the disappearing forms of their comrade and the prisoner.

 

Damn.” said one of them. “That crazy son of a b**** jumped after him.”

 

“I can’t believe it.”

 

They all turned their heads to look at Bill, who was just standing there and looking out of the hatch into the passing sky, a distant look on his face as he shook his head. There was a moment of silence as the other mercenaries waited for him to say something else.

 

“You…mean the kid?” said one of the mercenaries as he pointed out of the open hatch.

 

“You BASTARD!” shouted Bill, twisting on a heel to glare at Bob’s broken and limp form. “It was YOU!” Bill stomped over and began shaking his former friends body. “You took Kathy away from me!”

 

“Kathy?” said one of the other mercenaries. “That one chick from Hell’s Gate?”

 

Bill stopped shaking Bob’s body and turned to look at the merc that’d spoken.

 

“...*sniff* Yeah.” said Bill before dropping Bob and wiping the tears from his eyes. “She was the only woman I’d ever loved. I loved her so much that I refused to have sex until we were married. She was kind…and beautiful…and-”

 

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa…” waved the mercenary that had been speaking beforehand. He and the other mercenaries glanced at each other before looking back at Bill. “You mean Kathy? From Hells Gate?”

 

“What’re you, deaf?” growled Bill. “I just said that!”

 

“Dude,” said the mercenary, looking at his comrades one more time before continuing. “She had a shlong. A big one. A big hairy one.”

 

“...W-What?”

 

“You’re friend is…was gay.”

 

“...Oh.”

 

No one spoke for a while as they let this sink into Bill’s head. The rushing wind outside and blaring alarm seemed profoundly distant to Bill as he stared down at the floor.

 

“So…” said Bill, raising his head. “...Does that make me gay?”

 

 

 

 

The sun was beginning to set over the Badlands, bathing the harsh environment in a reddish-gold glow. It did the same with what few clouds were in the sky, not that someone would have the chance to notice if they were falling towards the ground at terminal velocity from over 12,500 feet with no chute and their hands cuffed. A crazed, jet-pack toting mercenary trying blow your brains out or saw off your head might also distract you from the serene, terrifying view.

 

“YOU CAN’T RUN FROM ME, PUNK!” shouted the buff, angry, mercenary before slamming into the kid, barely missing his jugular with the knife he was wielding in one hand as he tried to blast him through the eye with the pistol in his other. The kid moved his head to avoid the shots and bit down on his other arm hard, causing the mercenary to scream in agony as blood fell up from his new wound. But he didn’t let go of the knife. He instead gripped it harder and took aim at the kids head. The kid let go to avoid being shot, the bullet grazing the mercenary’s arm before he was kicked in the stomach and sent spiraling away above the kid. He quickly regained control and took aim again, but when he pulled the trigger, all he got was a metallic click.

 

“Hehe,” chuckled the mercenary before throwing the gun away and taking out another knife. There was a button on the handle of this one, and when he pushed it, the blade began to vibrate at an extremely fast rate. “I ALWAYS get my m-”

 

The mercenary’s words choked in his throat, his seething, sinister expression fading to one horror. The kid was flashing him a manic smile, a small circular priming pin tightly clenched in his bloody and chipped teeth. The mercenary’s eyes widened to the size of dinner plates as he let go of both his knives to frantically grab at the live grenade somewhere on his belt. He suddenly felt ridiculously dumb for having so many on his person, and the kid’s expression fell when he thought of that and of the possibly unstable energy that was fueling the mercenary’s jet-pack. The kid turned and tried to worm away from the coming explosion, but all he managed to do was look stupid as hell.

 

 

 

 

Clive had been bumbling through the desert wasteland for hours now, singing songs to himself to pass the time and keep his mind off of his current situation. He’d appear delirious to any onlookers, but the thing about Clive was that his shooting hand was always wide awake and ready. A few of the smaller predators that had been tailing him found that out the hard and final way before they could get within two-hundred feet of him.

 

“Cruuuuuel, cruel world, must I goooo on.” he sang to himself with an obvious slur. Whether it was because of his fatigue or because he was drunk was anyone’s guess. “Cruuuuuel, cruel world, I’m movin’ on-….wait….is that?”

 

Clive stopped walking and teetered in place as he focused his hearing. His eyebrows narrowed as he picked up a faint but alarming sound. Like air, but softer. More fluid.

 

Water.

 

For the first time in the passed hour, he started paying attention to where he was going and looked around. Small shrubs and plant growths could be seen protruding through the unforgiving earth way up ahead, and this was a very odd sight considering the lack of vegetation he’d noticed hours ago. The only plants he saw were cactus’s, and he could swear one of the prickly plants was following him around. It seemed like every time he’d turned his head, there was one directly behind him a hundred or so yards in the distance. Even when he couldn’t recall passing one, it was still there. He was drunk yes, but not drunk enough to hallucinate. His legendarily tolerant kidneys would never allow him to become that drunk with relatively little amount of alcohol he had in his system. Or does it not work like that? I don’t know. I don’t drink. I’m a narrator. I have no arms, mouth, or kidneys. I technically don’t exist if my quantum theory is accurate. But enough about my own bitterness.

 

Realizing what he could have been possibly hearing, he started walking again with a little more pep in his step. He’d been on a liquid diet of alcohol for at least three days now and some regular, old, water seemed like heaven to him. To wash up with of course. A man as indebted to alcoholism as him would probably get sick if he drank regular water.

 

It took about another twenty minutes before he reached the source of the noise, his boots crunching on and passing by an increasing number of plants and small bushels as he made his way there.

 

“Well, I’ll be damned.” said Clive as he slowly stepped up to the precipice that over looked a wide and lengthy valley. It seemed to span off into the horizon in both directions, being miles across. He could spot dozens of clusters of plants by the flowing ravine at the bottom, animals of all sorts drinking from it on either side. Clive smirked.

 

“Times like this?” he said before slowly and carefully making his way down the steep incline. Had he turned around, he would’ve noticed a familiar looking cactus only a few feet behind him. “I wish I had a damned slot machine.”

 

This wasn’t the first time Clive had gotten lost in the middle of nowhere, so he knew a few things about rivers that made a lost individuals chances of survival skyrocket. For starters, the water was likely relatively drinkable and one wouldn’t have to worry about dehydration. You also wouldn’t have to worry about starvation either, since a lone, centralized source of water like this would attract animals for miles. This included predators, but Clive could see none that looked big enough to worry about unless he chose to take a nap nearby or pissed them off enough.

 

The third and final thing that water meant for Clive was the prospect of civilization. Settlements were often built along or at the end of a river due to life’s natural gravitation to water, so he now had a valid direction to go in. Well, one that made more sense anyway. Even better, he might be able to find a bar. Or a group of murderous bandits. Both usually had alcohol, although the price for each was usually different. Vendors get cash, bandits get a bullet per head. Or kidney if he was feeling kind. The alcohol bandits carried was often half drank and in poor taste anyway, so his hopes leaned towards an actual settlement.

 

One he’d reached the bottom, he jogged over to the ravine and knelt down to splash some water on his face. He also cuffed some in his hands and took in a few gulps. He wasn’t certain if the water was drinkable, but this mattered little. His kidneys’ had weathered over thirty years of heavy drinking and weren’t about to keel over from some salty water. In fact, a part of him hoped that there was something toxic in the water. It might give him a buzz.

 

Once his thirst was quenched, he decided to take a leak. So he stood up and unzipped his pants, already whistling as he prepared to expunge the normally fatal amount of alcohol in his system.

 

BOOM

 

His whistling stopped, the cowboy’s face going rigid for a moment. It had sounded like thunder, but more blunt. More succinct. It echoed above him, the sound reverberating off of the few mountains that stood in the wasteland’s hazy and shimmering distance. Utilizing his uncanny ability to control his bladder, he stopped peeing and quickly zipped his pants back up. He turned around and looked up toward the source of the noise. He saw a large plume of black smoke far up into the sky, the clouds around it appearing to have been blown away. He was no demolitions expert and a generally simple man, but he could tell that he was staring at the aftermath of an explosion. Not wanting to have the lower ground if something was about to go down, he quickly climbed up the slope leading out of the ravine. As he was pondering what had caused it, he noticed something heading towards him. The object was coming down fast, and there was a small, faint trail of smoke trailing in its wake. Clive hovered a hand over his peacemaker and narrowed his eyes. Was it…screaming? It certainly sounded like it.

 

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAADOWWWWWW!”

The ground shook when the screaming object slammed into it, sending up dust and chunks of dirt before bouncing up and forward. Clive could swear that he saw a shoe come flying off when it impacted. One he’d seen before.

 

“DAGH!” the man cried when he slammed into the ground again, his body spiraling from the impact. He continued skidding across the ground much like a stone would when thrown across a pond, each landing slowing him down a little more than the last. Clive’s eyes were narrowed in confusion as they followed the increasingly familiar man’s crash all the way to the ravine.

 

“...Punk?” winced Clive as he watched the young man’s now limp body careen over the edge of the incline and into the ravine itself, the cool water extinguishing the flames that had once dotted his body with a hiss and a sliver of smoke. Clive waited at the top of the incline for the mans body to resurface. His eyes widened and he his shoulders sank when it did.

 

“...Wow.” he muttered, shaking his head in disbelief. The mans body was now floating down the river, showing no signs of movement or life. Clive stood there for a bit with his hands on his hips, just watching the mans body get carried away by whatever life had in store for him. Then again, it hadn’t necessarily been life that had done this to him this time. It’d be irresponsible for him to say otherwise. He sighed through his nose and shook his head again.

 

“S***.” he grunted before taking off his shirt and pants.

 


 

Clive sat on the ground, his arms perched on his knees as he stared ahead at the opposite end of the ravine with an irritated, distant, scowl. His black, wet hair hung down and dripped onto his shoulders, the rest of his body just as wet. His hat, gun, shirt, and pants were laid neatly on the ground to his right, his clothes folded with his hat on top.

 

To his left laid the body of the man that had fallen from the sky. Well, to most on-lookers, he looked like a kid, but he was a man. At least legally. He was also soaked, but water on him mingled and mixed with the bleeding spots, cuts, bruises, and what appeared to be fresh burns that covered his body. His mouth hung open to the side, allowing Clive to see his chipped teeth. They hadn’t always been like that, so he surmised he’d been in a scuffle. The rest of his face suggested the same story. It was like someone had been punching him for hours. Blood oozed from his broken nose and ran down his face to join the small puddle of blood that had formed on the ground from his mouth. He obviously didn’t fare too well in whatever fight he’d gotten in, but that probably had a lot to do with the odd, high tech cuffs that bound his hands behind him. His wrists appeared to be bruised and bleeding, as if someone had cared enough to put them on extra tight.

 

His chest rose and fell slowly and rhythmically, although his breath seemed to catch in his throat at times. Clive moved two fingers over to the side of the man’s throat and waited for a pulse. It was faint, but it was there. And it was regular. He’d live. Probably. Clive was no doctor.

 

“Punk.” said Clive, nudging the side of the young man’s head. He waited for a response, but got none. Peeved, Clive nudged him again, this time a little harder.

 

“Punk!” he called, louder this time. Still, the man showed no signs of hearing or feeling anything. Clives features hardened as he sighed through his nose and shook his head again.

 

“Hey!” said Clive as he actively started patting the man’s cheek. “Punk! Wake yer’ a** up! Wake up!”

 

The man still showed no signs of consciousness, so Clive did the next best thing. He raised one of his hands and arced it back.

 

WAKE UP!” shouted Clive as he gave the unconscious man a mighty slap whose echo bounced off the the opposing walls of the ravine. “Got dammit…ZACK!” he shouted again, backhanding Zack’s face. “WAKE UP, you damned, yellow-bellied, punk!”

 

He continued slapping him for a minute or so until Zack’s face was beet red from the assault, specks and splatters of blood dotting the ground from where it was slapped from his already bleeding mouth. Clive sat there, breathing heavily as he looked down at Zack’s unconscious form. He was still alive, but he wasn’t waking up. That only meant one thing. He’d have to carry him.

 

Figures.” fumed Clive, throwing his hands up and sitting back down. Although the water had cooled him off a great deal, the thought of carrying a man possibly for miles in a place like the Badlands didn’t resonate with him at all.

 

Still, after deciding that he wasn’t cut-throat enough to just abandon him a second time, he put his clothes on once he was dry and hefted Zack’s body over his shoulder. He didn’t like what he was doing, but it was right. He was certain that Zack would do the same. He wouldn’t like it either, but he too would do it just because it was right, and Clive wouldn’t turn his back on a man like that. Never again. Even if he only saw him as some annoying kid with over a dozen hefty bounties on his head from the criminal Underworld, he was still a good person.

 

Unfortunately, the ravine Clive was following was leading right into the thick of a war that was just about to kick off with a bang.

 

 

 


 

 

 

On the outskirts to the south-west of Forthshaven, within one of the many Norkotian battlements…

 

 

One of the most profitable and equally wasteful things to exist is war. Countries, cities, settlements, and people stop what they’re doing to raise hell with someone else, often forsaking things they need just to give themselves an edge. What they’re willing to pay to attain victory can get straight up ridiculous. Economically crippling sums of money, myriads of lives, previously held morals, and much more were thrown into the mixing pot to boil away into something horrible and wrong. People, primarily the more prominent ones in society, often justified their heinous deeds, hatred, and murder by saying that its for some greater good. As if they hadn’t already lost the war within themselves.

 

People like this are who mercenaries look for for. They rove about like starving hyenas for some poor sap that’s desperate and willing to destroy themselves in order to destroy another. They wait for people to break and forget what really matters in life so that they may feast on the fruits of their evil. All they care about in the end are themselves and the delusion of wealth and power selfish ones often seek. They’ll say and kill anything and anyone for money. Thats the mantra they often put out when marketing themselves. Usually, as long as they get paid, they don’t cause any more trouble than they’re paid to. Doing so would tarnish their reputation, causing other possible clients to decline their offers. But the key term I used up there is usually. Some mercenaries…have a different agenda. Some think far ahead of the money.

 

As you’ll soon find out.

 

As Norkotian troops go on about their duties to get ready for war, a flock of drop-ships break through the clouds in the distance. Flying in a V formation, they steadily start their descent as they near the Norkotian forces. The ships look extravagant and expensive, each one armored and toting mini-guns and missile launchers. The whirring blades atop each one spin furiously to keep them airbourne while thrusters in the back push them forward. Their black sheen glistens in the sun as their landing gear engages. There appear to only be thirteen of them, but each looks big enough to carry at least sixty men. The ships blot out the sun once they reach the encampment, stopping mid-air and killing power to their respective thrusters before slowly hovering to the ground outside of it. The chopper blades sent out gusts of wind that blew clouds of dust and gravel out from underneath them. The landing gear beneath each one touched base with the ground without the slightest hint of imbalance or strain.

 

Once the ships started to power down, all manner of mercenaries both big and small, jovial and surly, skinny and burly, started filing out of the ships and towards the Norkotian camp. Their armor and combat fatigues mostly appeared to be black and grey, but overall, there appeared to be no set uniform. They seemed to be wearing whatever they wanted, the only thing that visibly told them apart from the Norkotian forces being their lack of uniform and a red armband. Each armband had the same picture emblazoned on it, said picture being a black gear with a red T in the middle. They carried assault rifles, miniguns, knives, rpg’s, smg’s, and pretty much any other kind of weapon used for taking another human beings life or causing mass genocide. They hoo’d and haa’d as they got off their respective carriers, some thrusting their guns up into the air and firing off a few shots in celebration.

 

Out of the ship that had been at the front of the V stepped another group of mercs, but these ones were different. They stepped out in an orderly unison, and their faces were devoid of emotion. Their eyes were blank and dead, as if the will to live had fled from their minds years before. Their black combat fatigues were all the same, and so was their equipment. They marched out with unnatural form and discipline, as if they weren’t human beings at all. Their movements were precise and perfect, like machines. They stood in grouped lines on either side of the ship as the other, more rowdy mercenaries split to go around them. Then, once they were all out and in formation, the last two occupants stepped out.

 

The first one was a man who towered above the rest, looking to be over seven feet tall, his build reminiscent of someone that worked out every day and ate grounded up steroids for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. He was wearing a white tank-top that tightly hugged his chiseled abs and clashed with his dark, skin. The belt around his waist holstered what would appear to be a worn, custom, desert eagle. His careless, indifferent, gray eyes stared blankly ahead of him into the mass of soldiers as he stood by the front of the ship with his hands behind his back. His eyes had the look of a man that had seen much combat and death, but there wasn’t a single scar on his body. Not even a little one. His skin was perfect, as if he’d come out of the womb just a day before. Any that would try to speak to him would be promptly ignored.   

 

The second person that came out was also nearly seven feet tall, perhaps even taller than the one who preceded him. Immediately one would notice his strikingly red eyes. The crimson in them was undoubtedly alive and practically glowing with an infinite amount of energy. Like a fire that just kept getting bigger and hotter. The dark green military cap he was wearing on his bald head hung low, overshadowing his eyes and making them seem to glow even more. The gray, long-sleeved shirt he wore was pushed up to the elbows, revealing an odd and intricate pattern of scarring on his fore-arms. They were thin, straight and geometrical, as if left by an expert surgeon. His expression was completely relaxed, even friendly. He had an easy smile that went well with his easy gait as he made his way out of the ship. There was a lit cigar in one of his hands, one of the big, expensive ones that egomaniacs always smoke. The mercenaries that had filed out of his ship paid him no heed as he stepped out and took in the scenery.

 

He took a long drag from his cigar and blew out a puff of thick smoke as he observed the activity in front of him. The sound of artillery and explosions could be heard far in the distance from Fortshaven’s direction. Perhaps, if one listened hard enough, they could hear the screams. The wails of grief and loss. The desperate cries for help as their life drained from them in front of their loved ones.

 

The man’s grin grew just a touch.

 

“I see you’ve started without me.” hollered the man, his voice wild and gritty. “Tin Man, reporting for duty!”

 

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Krieger's spearhead was now reduced to a crow, as the infantry swept the zone for mines and magic traps ahead of the tanks, as well as cleared the buildings on either side of the main highway through the city. Visible from the road, so close, yet so far, stood the city hall, one of the older and more impressive buildings in the town. Technically, the tanks could bombard it from here, but their orders were to take it intact and with minimal damage. Forsthaven needed to be beaten into submission, not destroyed, all rhetoric to the contrary aside.

"Look out!" a call suddenly came from the left flank, not far from where Naherin, Linda, Sera and Khaki were situated. 

From one of the windows of a three-story brick apartment, a small, relatively weak magic spell was hurled down at the soldiers below. But it went over their heads, causing most to initially assume it was a miss. Quickly, several men lined up their rifles and submachineguns to riddle that window with bullets. However, not a single shot was fired before a massive whoosh of flames, courtesy of a hidden pile of oil-soaked rags dumped on the street just to the unit's right, came forth to set several men on fire and knock others to the ground from heat shockwave. But the soldiers were not stupid, and most rolled about on the ground to smother the flames as quickly as possible. Even so, many were badly burned from the occurrence. 

"Medic! Over here!" the sergeant barked, then motioned at a man with a rocket launcher and pointed at the window, "Deal with that!"

The rocketeer went down to a knee and aimed at the upper window, taking aim and firing the weapon with a whoosh. The warhead hit the upper level and detonated into a fiery explosion, though whether it killed anyone up there or not couldn't be discerned from the street level. As a result, a couple riflemen kept an eye on that window as the medic tried to tend to the burned men. 

"You, sniper! Watch those damn windows!" the sergeant barked at Khaki, "Make yourself useful, mercenaries!"

He didn't see it, nor did most of the soldiers watching the buildings above, but a manhole in the midst of their unit was slowly sliding open right beneath them. Nobody seemed to notice it either, as it was soundless despite its weight. Only the movement could be detected to those who were paying enough attention.

@Thotification

* * *

Old City Outskirts
0052 Hours

Luckily for "Tin Man" and his troops, they had been directed by radio to the northern corps and had arrived before it began its assault. While Krieger's armor and veteran troops were marching straight down the river road, the paratroopers and hired Goliath putting pressure on the Lower City to the west, and several experimental units lie in wait to the south, it was the northern force that was to be personally led by the Executor and his personal guard. A unit of grey-painted tanks stood on stand-by, waiting for the Executor to give the order to move. Behind them were several brigades of grey-uniformed grunts, but also a regiment of black-uniformed Executive Guardsmen. These were Tynes's elite protectors, given the best training in both military and police tactics, armed with the best weapons and compelled into absolutely loyalty to their leader. This corps of troops would sweep through the old city, sealing off the ramp (the footpath leading down the slopes, not an actual ramp) and cutting off any forces withdrawing from the east and south. They would move deep into the city, eventually making rendezvous with the southern unit at the lifts. Once their maneuver was complete, the enemy in the Upper City would have nowhere to flee, and reinforcements could be easily funneled down into the Lower City as well.

But the arrival of Tin Man's mercs, who were expected by noticeably late, forced a delay in the order to commence the attack. Joseph cared little for the haphazardness of mercenaries, but could not deny that they more "flexible" when it came to certain duties. But this war he intended to conduct with minimal loss of life and damage to property. Were this a Gaian city like Hell's Gate, he might have been less concerned about public perception, but this was a city whose majority population were Norks, people of common culture and heritage to him. These were people he wanted united under his banner, not holding grudges and inciting endless rebellions against him. So while he had accepted Tin Man's offer of assistance (primarily to make sure he didn't sign on with Forsthaven), he did not intend to tolerate insolence from him or his underlings.

"You are late," the Executor spoke to the mercenary leader, "Our scheduling is precise, so you should have arrived twenty-two minutes ago if you wished to join in the initial assault. Fortunately for you, we have not begun ours here. We are ready to move, so position your men up front; you will move in alongside my armor."

Tynes himself would be occupying one of the tanks. He was a relatively tall man, not near as much as the should-be basketball player he was addressing, but enough that tanks were cramped quarters for him. Even so, this was how he intended to enter the battlefield. His guardsmen were originally to be the infantry escort to his tanks, but with the arrival of the mercenaries, he concluded that he might as well keep his valuable men in reserve. No doubt the mercs would prefer to be in the thick of it rather than playing rear-guard anyway.

"We will move on my signal. See to it that you are in position in two minutes."

He saw no reason to treat the mercenary leader, intimidating and experienced though he may be, as though he were an equal or a guest of honor. He was a contractor, a hired gun, and so he would be given his orders just as any of the other freelancers here would be. And so Joseph Tynes returned to his tank and took position. The rest of the armored unit was ready, and his guardsmen were given the order to take up position as the rear guard, to sweep the battlefield behind the tanks and mercenaries. Now all that remained was the command.

"Forward!"

Precisely two minutes from when he told Tin Man to get his men into position, the Grand Executor gave the order, and the tanks and mercenaries plunged forth into the fray...

@zackrobbman

Edited by Tyler

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Lady Blaze heard a something fly through the air and then a few seconds later a THUNK and slight whine from Luna but other the dire wolf kept running. With a look down towards the wolf she saw an arrow sticking from its side. "An arrow? Against a heavily armored beast?" With a quiet chuckle she raced through the field, eventually reaching the enemies barricade shots firing from both directions. As she reached closer to an artillery spot she leapt off the dire wolf and landed on the ground. "Luna. Charge." With a pointed hand towards the artillery cannon, the large dire wolf charged as fast towards her mark, in an attempt to topple whatever she could over. With rifle and sword in hand the weapons both glowed brightly then dimmed down. With a grunt she remembered the field around the city affected her abilities to a certain extent before running behind cover.

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If the Lady Blaze could hear it, the beep of a embedded chip activating, then transmitting, she might have been more introspective about the arrow in her wolf. The Seekers of the Order were no ordinary rogues, skilled in tracking, sabotage, reconnaissance, and their gear matched. The silvered arrowhead was a tracer, and the archer smiled viciously as she saw it strike home through armor.

Now the fun part began. In rapid unison, she notched and fired three more arrows, this time towards the sky. Her hand skillfully brushed an activation rune on the feather base of each as she did so, the projectiles' lethality underscored by the differing heads of each. Two appeared to be canister-like, filled with a storm of poison darts. As long as even one could bypass armor and nestle themselves in joints the target would be rapidly overcome and neutralized by a debilitating cocktail of pain and muscle paralysis. 

The last arrow was more straightforward, a simple drillhead packed with enough explosive to take out an armored vehicle. Luckily for the Lady, with a tracer to guide it, it would be set to become an airburst instead. A small consolation to be sure when her pet would be thrown into the ground by the blastwave. 

Each arrow flew straight up into the air and then came back down, homing in on the armored wolf with means both magical and technological. Her squad of three would move towards the tracer signal now, both to confirm the kill, and to guard the artillery enplacements.

Elsewhere in the lower city, the other Seeker team set the finishing touches on one hell an ambush. Paratroopers were best used when the enemy weren't aware of them, and they needed to be supported by armor and artillery quickly. Neither of those could truly support the Norkortian and mercenary paratroopers as they now entered the impending meat grinder of urban combat. Mines were the preferred weapon, set alongside sidestreets and flanking paths where main barricades had been setup with the remaining militia who weathered the bombardment.

Edited by Fierach

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The Lower City
0035 Hours

army-paratroopers-1800.jpg?itok=LPFL1jnGThe Lower City of Forsthaven was quite unlike its partner on the cliffs above. Though it was the older part of the city, technically speaking, most of the structures there were much newer, and far higher-class. While culture, government and industry all made their homes in the vast Upper City, it was the merchants and traders that made their homes in the land below. Commerce was the king in this part of the city, for it was the first civilized place one would come to when traveling to the plateau from the rest of the continent. In addition to those coming and going from the plateau itself, there were numerous others who passed through here on their way across the plains, as there was a road that passed through it going northwest. All this meant that the Lower City was built to satisfy the traveler, with everything from gas stations, trading posts, animal stables (for mounts), hotels and even casinos, all being located down below. 

As a result of this, the Lower City was much richer than the Upper City, and most of the wealthy business and merchantmen made their homes on the coast of the lake, into which the Troz River poured from the plateau above. Many of those wealthy individuals had no interest in this war, and there were a number of them who actually preferred Norkotia to their own mayor, simply because of Tynes's policies that were drawing more people (and thus, more wealth) toward Zühl. Many had already left, surrendering to Norkotian lines immediately, after making sure to secure their wealth and lock-up their homes for fear of looting. But some had stayed put, even going so far as to compete with their own government to hire-up the various mercenaries and transients that were staying in the lower city, hoping to use them to privately secure their homes or businesses until the war was over. 

Even so, the Lower City still housed a sizable number of gunfighters, drifters and refugee fighters from both the plateau and the greater continent. Many were more than willing to take a crack at defending the city, whether for the fun of it, or for the vague promises of generous rewards from the mayor if they managed to repel the invasion. Thus, alongside the militiamen, and the disguised Seekers, a fair number of renegades and ruffians were also lying in wait. The paratroopers though, were primarily expected to hold the road and prevent escape, not penetrate deep into the city. Only a pair of platoons, bolstered by a handful of mercenaries on the Norko side, among them the giant Lag-Nor, were attempting to break through the lines.

And even then, their goal was not to capture territory, but to keep the enemy busy. The more enemy militiamen and mercenaries that were kept busy down here in the strategically unimportant part of the city, the less that could be funneled into the upper city to reinforce the defenders there. The units making their way into the town were built for staying power, meant to be able to occupy enemy forces multiple times their own size. The Goliath himself was a perfect embodiment of that philosophy, as he barreled through the first line of defense, slaughtering dozens of men and sending many of the militiamen running. Some of the mercenaries held their ground longer, but most of their small-arms weren't penetrating his armor. Behind him, the paratroopers and Norko mercs moved-in, entering the city through the breach.

"We'll make for the Wie Strom Casino," their commander had told them, "It is the tallest building in the Lower City. Intelligence has indicated that it is unguarded, so we will seize it, then position snipers on the upper levels. The defenders will have to move to retake it, or risk being unable to move freely through the city. We'll be getting ammo drops once we have control of the building. MOOOOOVE OUT!"

And so here they were, busting through the front lines of the Lower City defense. But the defensive lines were hardly the only thing blocking their path. The defenders pulled back and began to go building-to-building, using each one as cover in hopes of dogging the Norkotian advance. Anti-personal mines were also shown to be a problem, much as anti-armor mines were causing trouble for Krieger's spearhead on the River Road. One of the barricades on the main road, soon had them pinned down, as several gunmen, a gatling gun crew, and a mercenary sorcerer pelted them with bullets and low-level offensive spells. 

"Okay, big guy!" the paratroop commander snapped toward Lag-Nor, hiking a thumb at the pile of sandbags, "Bust us through!"

Even as the Goliath prepared himself, he could see the sorcerer on the other side had seen him, and appeared to be prepping a defensive power of some of some kind.

@SteamWarden @Fierach

 

 

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41079259_309155996329897_8913755624259616585_n.jpg?_nc_ht=scontent-atl3-1.cdninstagram.comNAHERIN WEBER

Naherin did not need to be ordered to act. She was already moving as soon as she saw the fires drop. Her steps might be fast but there was no expression of haste in her unamused face. There will always be injuries, wounds, and deaths at times of war and this was no different. She was merely a simple soldier doing what the sovereign tasked her to do.

"Cover me," Naherin barked at her mercenary companions. This is Norkotia after all. With limited access to her magic, she is incapable of protecting herself while treating the wounded.


GrotesqueWildCaterpillar-size_restricted.gifLINDA LINDA THE MERCENARY

"On it," Linda cried back as she took off after Naherin. Without missing a beat, her pistols fired while she covered for her friend.

The woman spat once Naherin pulled out the last living Norkotian victim. "Bloody defenders. They should when they were beaten."

But there is no time for rest as she had to hide under cover as another series of shots peltered her position.


d64c8cef14b3c7656faef3ed44248371.jpgKHAKINA KHATUN AND SERA MAVAJO 102957-Kantai_Collection-Hellshock-Hetza-748x562.jpg

Khakina did not need to be told twice. With new orders given, her petite body vanished from sight, nowhere to be seen. First, she needed a good vantage point and one of the nearby buildings should be viable. For this, she brought Sera who was kind enough to sweep the whole thing so unexpected shit does not happen. 

Within minutes, Khaki is already up on on the rooftops and making a killing with all the hostiles she shot down.


 

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