The Hunter's Life

A place for the stories that take place within Rhy'Din
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Mach
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The Hunter's Life

Post by Mach » Fri Jun 12, 2020 12:53 am

OOC Jabber: I've decided with some nudging to continue Mach's story here as well as it's original home - The Hunters Life back on DragonsMark. Posted here will be the most recent ongoing tale of Mach while previous exploits can be found in the other forum. I don't have much interest in working towards another folder at the moment so free form posting!

Disclaimer time – Mach's story is very much for adult audiences. It will deal with dark, gritty, and grim events and circumstances involving folks of varying degrees of broken struggling in a non-ideal world. There will be angry words, lurid words, violent words, ugly words, and foolish words. Any posts that might broach the line of suitable public reading will be marked as NSFW.

With that said please enjoy. Feel free to jaw at me via DM or Discord, I don't bite... only nibble.
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Re: The Hunter's Life

Post by Mach » Fri Jun 12, 2020 12:58 am

The Karmic Puppet Hunt - Stoked Flames

Ignition
Originally Posted: April 29, 2019


"You sure you want these case files, sir?"

Mach paused in the picking of the various bandages that encased his fingers, a lovely reminder of the 'ravens' from his last hunt, to shoot the young soldier a gaze. "Whadya mean by that? I'm principal hunter here, yeah? Why wouldn't I want to look at case files for hunts."

"Well... t-that is, um..." The corporal visibly squirmed under his lone cobalt blue gaze causing him to take a mental step back. It was blatantly obvious he was irate given the sourness of his expression and the weary droop of his posture. Whoops, letting the ol' front slip. It was one thing to feel like he did, or not feel as it where, due to the ramping up symptoms of his disorder which were taking a heavier toll by the day. It was quiet another to actually let on that he felt, or again not, so to others; especially those who might report him to higher ups.

Forcing some levity into his features he straightened his spine as he took the stack of manila folders placed atop the counter. "Just that I'm a peacekeeper and we're usually a lazy sodding lot, yeah?" He spoke seriously but followed it with a light grin as by now he'd learned that winking with only one eye just did not work as it should.

This change in demeanor didn't seem to set the other at ease though as they continued to fidget slightly in their little booth. Maybe they were just a naturally nervous sorts? If that were the case then being assigned to the Rhy'Din satellite base had to be some cruel souls idea of a joke. Or maybe the military was just that hard up for folks to spare for a special trade zone mission in a land full of corrupting influences when tensions back home were at an all time high thanks to, well, corrupting influences. Either way he paid the flustered man little mind as he began leafing through the folders, noting the different case numbers, names, and infractions listed. "Um, oh, n-no sir! Not at all! Just... well... you're an A3 and all of those are, um, S ranked."

He paused on that observation, gloved prosthetic fingers unconsciously feeling over the danger red tag in the corner of the file he was currently browsing. They had a point, he had no reason to even look at these files and yet here he was riffling through the list of most dangerous hunts in Rhy'Din as though looking for his next milk run. Maybe the man was nervous because he was acting bizarre though then again what high level hunter didn't? There certainly wasn't a lick of sense among the lot of them by his notion. "Well, yeah, they're what I requested..." Fingering that red tag a little more he let the almost maniacally okay front that he'd put up tarnish. "Just... something I wanted to look into. Personal reasons. You know." Glancing at the young man they most certainly did not know as they just sort of stared at him blankly. Seriously, where the hells did they scrape this guy up from!? "I mean, you've read about the Sanguine Hunt, yeah?"

This seemed to register as a bit of focus flickered in the young mans thousand mile gaze. "Oh, yes sir. I... I'm sorry for what h-happened to... well..."

He didn't bother to hide the annoyance in that sharp wave off of incoming platitudes. "Sometimes you're the hammer, sometimes you're the nail. It happens, nothing to brood over." 'Over long' though he left that little snippet on the floor of his mental editing room. "That aside, that case presented as grade A level threat, yeah? Bust some heads, kick in some teeth, bam, boom, one and done. But eldritch horrors, blood cults, and that lot? Yeah... no. That shit show was S level all around. So..."

"So..."

He couldn't help the aggravation in that sigh as the corporal seemed incapable of reading nuance or making connections less they were apparently presented via brick to the face. "So I'm looking for other high danger targets that might be doing stuff that'll intersect with me and mine. Patterns, yeah? Deductions and all that jazz you learn in academy, but practical. They were there for the Sanguine Hunt but I just didn't see them. Can't be affording to let that sorta lapse happen again; don't have enough eyes to keep paying for that stupidity."

The younger soldier almost looked like they admired him and his sage ways, right up to that eye payment comment. Aaaand back to nervous squirming. Well, he preferred young meat to not get too cozy to him. Better he served as a warning sign than any sort of person to aspire towards. Look what happened to Second Lieutenant Cole Jacobson and all that violence that went down thanks to the hubbub stirred by the Temple of the Divine Mother. Another cyclops cyborg in the hunter ranks, just like dear ol' Mach... if the kid was even still in the military. If they were smart they'd have gotten out with that little reality check but then again hunters were about as intelligent as they were normal and if being near torn asunder by a dragon didn't get the shitty likes of him to quit well... Then again they hadn't returned to the Rhy'Din posting after their medivac so maybe they at least had more sense then he did.

Returning his attention to the files in hand he continued to flip through the pages of atrocities, not really sure what it was he was exactly looking for. Certainly not the patterns he'd impressed upon the young corporal as he'd certainly never picked up on those – neither back in academy or by experience. The only reason he'd kept one step ahead of the bullet with his name on it to this point was nothing but luck, and he was running out of that quickly. Couldn't have luck if you weren't conscious to gamble with it and his worsening spirita dissociation was making sure that his dice getting worse and worse. He was probably playing craps with a pair of four sided dice, and soon enough he was sure he'd just be flipping coins. So when the rules of the game changed, well, the only thing to do was to change the game though he was sure no one would approve of the new one he played. Lucky for him his 'winning' personality took care of that little snag.

Flipping through a few for folder with mounting annoyance at the lack of 'click' he felt with any of them he suddenly stopped cold at a name that tugged him to the core. "Gin..." He almost couldn't believe the name that stared up at him from the list of crimes – Benjamin Ural Reeves... Gin. The young corporal shrank back as his attention shot up to them. "This one - 4678DB4R11993012, I want all the case files on this one."

"T-That one? He's a low priority target, sir. Dangerous bu-"

"They've killed hunters."

"Yes... yes sir, why they're dangerous. But on the priority scale they-"

"No, no, no, no, you don't understand. They've. Killed. Hunters. Our... my kind. I mean, what the fuck, I thought this guy was supposed to be toast after Gin... after Cpt. Reeves hunt party apprehended them!"

"O-Oh, um, uh..." The corporal floundered as they backed off to the safety of their terminal far out of the range of his crazed look. Tamping a bit on the aging relic the young man the printer in the corner squawked to life as it began spitting out pages of report. "R-Reeves... oh... um... yes, their hunt party did apprehend them but... um, hmm... ah, they were able to mount an escape while in transit to Kerns Arandrast for processing."

"Kerns Arandrast? That fucker should have been given a seven gun barrage, not rehabilitation! What happened!?"

"Um, well, th-they... hmm, looks like they made a deal with th-" The man almost jumped out of their skin from the resonating boom of his metallic fist making hard contact with the wooden counter. From the upper corner of the room he heard the sound of the mechanical motor swivel the auto turret his direction but he paid it no mind. Oh no, no damn sentry was going to stop him from hunting and putting down the bastard that put a rail gun bolt through his best friends chest not even a year from getting out of the game!

Fidgeting the young corporal once more jumped as the antiquated printer beeped as it spat out the last page of an impressively hefty dossier. Gathering the pages quickly they cautiously held out the stack to him as though feeding an alligator. Probably a good idea given how he was sure he looked but he didn't give a crap at the moment if his mask was on or off. Oh no, not with such a perfect hunt to end his career on. "Gaines Clyfer... your ass is mine."
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Re: The Hunter's Life

Post by Mach » Sat Jun 13, 2020 12:20 am

Burning Bridges
Originally Posted: July 07, 2019


"Whadya mean you got nothing!?"

"Exactly as I said - I don't have any information on Gaines Clyfer."

Mach felt his expression souring; his already haggard friendliness twisting into a scowl. Of course the fact that one of the madsci's abominations had absconded with a clip of 45ACP and the holster that held it... and part of the belt said holster was attached to... certainly didn't help his crumbling demeanor. "Reg, come on, the guy's a madsci; well known even. You gotta be jonsing me that he's not even made a blip on your radar."

"Jones, Shirley, or Jim I can't tell you what I don't have."

He couldn't help that incredulous crinkle of brow at how many idioms the man with less culture than some yogurts just blew through. It would almost have been impressive if it didn't make the back of his neck itch. No, something stank... more than the bobbing fellow who looked like they hadn't seen water let alone a bath in days. Sitting among a mire of technology, discarded food wrappers, and energy drink cans the fellow looked very much like a pack rat in a nest with more than a passing addiction to VR. Jeez, those goggles hadn't fused to their face, had they? "You can't tell me what you don't have?"

"No, I cannot. I have not formulated an advanced enough algorithm nor a sophisticated enough machine mind which to run said algorithm so as to make such high level predictions much less precognitive ones. Now if I had a sample of the coding used by Doombell to-"

Rather than argue with the man he instead took the moment of distraction to peer about a few of the many murky shadows in that cluttered backroom in search of his stolen equipment. It was rather unnerving; though, that every shadow he peered into peered back! The room churned, breathed with the movement of wee mechanical menaces, all with just enough of a spark of intelligence to be very dangerous if their collective conscious so chose to be. But he was a hunter, and as stupid and/or abstract as that concept probably was to the hive conscious even they knew he wasn't something to take lightly. This was evidenced well enough as each shadow coiled away just slightly from his probing boot save for a few metallic horrors that seemed particularly slow on the uptake.

A smirk crossed him at that rather dark thought of Nietzsche spinning in their grave trying to decide which of the two were the abyss and which the peering innocence. He, for one, certainly didn't feel like any sort of innocent given the shift in his methods as of late. With that ever present specter of dissociation snapping at his heels he'd found that being even a little gentle and merciful in his hunts was a good way to find himself dead as evidenced by more than a few close calls leading to stays in the ICU at Rhy'Din General. No, prolonging a hunt was just far too dangerous now, especially mixed with the fact that he hadn't felt his hands in months and the failing efficacy of his regeneration. So yeah, when you had to hunt with brutal efficiency in mind, well, the results were... monstrous.

But this was the choice he'd made by coming back. And he liked to think that the little company he maintained here was worth it, selfish as it was given that he would inevitably fail them. Already failed those who espoused such hopeful thoughts to him in the first place given what little of their company he held still but then he knew the sort of man he was, knew how folks tended to underestimate or overestimate his particular brand of stupid.

Most folks at least, though those who had more intimate knowledge of the situation and culture which birthed such a right bastard as he weren't so easily fooled. It was this thought that made him rather suspect the madsci that rambled on still, chattering on in a way that felt more nervous than it did focused. Usually this would have merely annoyed him but at this moment it infuriated him. Time was a luxury he was almost out of and he had no patience to suffer fools trying to toy with the inevitable.

"-w from Hordal's treatises on nt'h dimensionality one could, in theory mind you, construct a-"

"REG! Don't fuck with me!" His words and tone cracked like a bullwhip in that small room stilling the churning shadows and silencing the bobbing madman in the middle.

The mania drained from their features, head cocking his direction though they didn't bother to pull off those goggles. "I... am not. I don't know what you seek."

In spite of their mild affect he could tell there was just a snap of defensiveness in those words. He'd always been decent...ish... at reading folks but his dwindling time had certainly forced him to hone such a skill. Some people from his past might have been proud of this development if he didn't use this honed ability to browbeat folks even harder then he'd stubbornly did before. Learning, yes, improving... "Because you didn't look into them in the first place, yeah?"

"I did. I... looked into them. I..." That indifferent affect squirmed a little under the steady gaze of that lone cobalt eye. Friendly as they could be with each other there was always that undercurrent of hunter/prey that existed between them which Mach could leverage. He didn't usually because it was a total dick move but then Regi had never tried to be a purposeful obstacle to him before. "...I learned enough. They're not someone you want to go after Mitch. They're dangerous-"

"All madsci are dangerous." That twitch at the corner of the others lips felt like an icicle being stabbed into his chest even as he spoke that classic hunter line. Damn it, he didn't mean, he... Biting back that wash of guilt he doubled forced himself to double down on that hard tact approach, his features hardening. "That's why I want info on the guy. They need to be taken care of."

"Put down."

Okay, no, this... this was wrong. Letting out that tension in a tired sigh he lifted that gloved prosthetic hand to try and break up the stern mask that found itself at home on those rugged features far to often of recent. Yeah, he was giving in to the inevitable and had given in to being a devil more than he should have but that didn't mean he had to give up all that he was or push everyone away... not quiet yet anyway. "N-No Reg... sorry, I..." Struggling for what he wanted to convey he'd just shake his head sure that neither he nor the madsci had the faculties for such a heartfelt exchange. "...yeah, no. Take care of. Someone needs to take care of this Gaines."

For being emotionally stunted and having half their face hidden he could still see uncertainty play across the madsci's features. After a bit of fidgeting with some random wrapper that edge of defensiveness once more gave way to unease. "Maybe. Maybe not. They're not actively hurting anyone."

"But they have, Reg."

"In the past."

"That doesn't-!" He caught himself from yelling at the madsci, a step taken back as he deep breathed in and out. "Look, they killed-"

"Gin." That unclenching fist of his froze at the name the madsci dropped. He wasn't sure the look he gave the man at that moment but the shadows seemed to still dangerously, holding a collective breath. For their part Regi seemed unfazed by all the tension as they continued to fidget in the same uncertain manner as they had. "I know the importance of that to you. I can also see why it may blind you-"

"Oh, no. Nononono, don't give me shit Reg, if you really knew the importance-"

"Blind you to the danger-"

"I said don't give me that shit Re-"

"The danger of-"

"REG!" Even the massive collection of computers strewn about the room seemed to quiet at that. "If you really knew the importance of what that man did then you wouldn't dare try to talk me down."

Regi's anemic form coiled back a little at the bare anger in his tone, their expression shifting from uncertainty to annoyance. "It is my understanding that makes my voice all more important, Mach." A sharp edge curled into their usually meek voice, an unusual inflection of emotion. "You are not thinking about this clearly."

Despite his better judgement he scoffed at that sharp observation. "Yeah, I'm not. 'Cause that ain't what I do. Some bastard harms mine I harm back – no logic, no reason, just nature. It is what it is and you should know that too."

"Is it?" They canted their head towards him, thin fingers lifting to finally push the VR goggles up their brow revealing dull grey depths sunken by self-neglect. They turned their gaze to him, their expression not quiet the emotionless canvas he was used to seeing on the fellow.

"Is what?"

"It. All that 'it' is – just nature. Because it seems more than that. The danger-"

"Is part of me job, my life."

"Measured? Yes. Poorly? At times. But this is more... Too poor to be this measured. This isn't just 'Mach brand stupid', this is duplicitous."

He glowered at the man but found himself faltering before that fluxless gaze. "It is what it is..." All his fire and thunder left him as it was obvious that Regi was on to him and what was going on. Damn them. "You got this all figured out, yeah? Then you know this goes only one way."

No flit of smug pride lit up the madsci's gaunt features as was usual when they pulled one over the hunter. No, their expression was troubled at best. "It..." Thin lips twisted as if they were chewing on a lemon. "This will lead to your death. You know this. Gaines Clyfer is a Hunter Killer. They have killed those your better. I mean..." He watched as the others gray eyes flit about, searching. "Isn't there-"

"I'm flickering out... more and more each day. I've also lost almost all of my feeling and no amount of concentration is helping. And all of this paired with the fact that I'm basically poisoning myself with regeneratives now and I'm still not bouncing back... it's just... it's time. There ain't a damn thing I nor the Way can do about any of this and I'm tired, Reg." A thin smile pulled upon those rugged features as he laid all his cards out on the table. It was almost cathartic to be so bluntly honest; even if he was cheating a little given his audience. "Come on... the least I can do is decide what prick I get to kick last. Who I get to give the last middle finger to."

The other rocked softly, their expression conflicted as they wrestled with all of this though he knew the void of apathy which was a hallmark of madscism dulled any sort of emotional response they may have otherwise been burdened with. Part of what made them so dangerous and hard to deal with. They were human and yet they all were missing to some degree or another something vitally important for being such. And in it's place? Well, what space was hollowed out was filled by the need of the spark and the void of the hunger.

At long last the madsci seemed to calm down what emotions they had, their form stilling as thin fingers moved to pull the VR goggles down once more over their eyes blocking out the reality their spark so shunned. "I... I can't tell you what I don't know."

"Reg-"

"I won't know. I can't know. Don't ask me to know, Eli. You are a bastard, coming to me, but don't be this much of one. I can't have your blood on my hands..."

The man spoke without inflection and yet he could hear the pleas in those monotone words. A bastard... yeah, bulls-eye with that one. Maybe two given a small part of him still felt twinge of annoyance that the madsci couldn't help him. Damn.

Shaking away that feeling of loathing he as well drew back that comforting hand which reached for the madsci. No, any comfort he could offer was only going to sour with time. So instead he did as he always did and took on a confident posture, thumbs hooking his suspenders. "Ok... ok... it's ok Reg. I'll... look into this some other way. Sorry."

His words felt lame and yet they were the only ones he knew to speak. Luckily they were enough as the madsci nodded, all trace of uncertainty draining away into apathetic somberness. Neither of them spoke though really, in this situation, what could be said? And so he turned wordlessly for the bead curtain that lead out to the storefront but paused as the slip of his partially eaten gun belt reminded him of something else he'd come here for. Yeah, bulls-eye times three, he was grade A master bastard. "Oh... yeah, hey, on a different note, have you looked into the other matter I asked about? With the arm?"

And as if on cue the madsci brightened even if they themselves wouldn't have wanted to. Any who said madscism wasn't a curse had never had the displeasure of realizing how monsterously easy it was to manipulate one. "The one from the dog girl you gave me?"

"Yeah, that one. Figure anything about that crystal yet?"

The other grew animated as they began to rock in obvious excitement. "That, yes. It's very interesting in how it-"

"Can you make use of it how I asked?" He felt bad for cutting off the man in the midst of their prattling but guilty as he was about his mistreatment of the man he didn't have the luxury of time to spare them the kindness of a good ramble.

Rocking a bit more Regi seemed almost like they were losing themselves to their own thoughts though his question did snap them back, if just so. "Quiet possibly, yes. I can have that finished soon if..."

"Good. Do that. No worry over expense, I'll need that soon, yeah?" For what purpose he wouldn't say but then he was sure, moreso than before, that the madsci wouldn't approve. Hells, he barely approved though it was something he knew he had to do. One of those last orders of business. "Just let me know when it's done and I'll pick it up... Thanks." He held on that last word just a little longer, another pang of guilt washing over him though as he'd grown so accustomed to as of late he pushed it down to deal with, well, never. And with that he quickly pushed through the bead curtain before any more could be exchanged.
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Re: The Hunter's Life

Post by Mach » Sun Jun 14, 2020 12:29 am

Midnight Oil
Originally Posted: December 25, 2019


A wary sigh escaped the schmooze as he tipped back into plush leather that had been flattened with use, the chair giving off a complaintive groan which pitched into a whine as he kicked off into a lazy spin. That lone cobalt eye didn't focus on anything in particular as the small room blurred around him, a long moment taken simply to dissociate from everything as he gave his mind a much needed break. Going for a few more rounds he finally let his gaze drop to the glowing triplet of monitors that passed in and out of his vision, a menagerie of documents plastered across the electronic canvas. Case files, news stories, journal articles, dossiers, records both legal and medical – all revolving around the grainy, mussy looking fellow in the photo placed smack dab in the middle. The last known photo of Gaines Roybal Clyfer.

Research wasn't the sort of work he was suited to as it lacked that certain amount of sex, violence, and/or explosions as was his wheelhouse, but it was a necessary part of the job. Oh sure, there was nothing more satisfying than absolutely gutting a mad cult of mages worshiping some eldritch blood horror with nothing but his wit, guile, and an exorbitant amount of rage fueled violence... except for maybe anything else. His handling and 'resolution' of the Sanguine Hunt was an absolute fluster cuck of an operation that literally saw his handsome mug sandpapered off which was an experience he would have been glad never to have. If anything it was sheer dumb luck he was still walking and talking after such a royal screw up when other hunters had paid the ultimate price for less.

But luck, dumb or otherwise, was not going to get him through this hunt. If anything nothing was likely to get him through this alive. The unassuming madsci; middle aged, lanky build, merely middling megalomania; from a ho-hum background had nonetheless chewed up and left more than two dozen hunter corpses in half so many years. The man was a certified hunter killer, but other than the occasional 'experiment' on folks of the normy population they were rather inactive for being a mad scientist. And so they had been branded a minor threat to society which was why they'd never ranked as a high priority target and never warranted the true might of the hammer that was the U.T.R.A.. Oh sure they had a hefty bounty on their head but the general consensus was - dangerous enough not to mess with but benign enough to ignore. If anything most of the hunters killed had happened upon Gaines by accident. That's what had happened to Gin after all - wrong place, wrong time, wrong mark and for that... yeah.

No, he didn't have any misconceptions about his odds of coming out of this alive, but by the hells he would take that bastard with him. And when one went into a no win situation without any need to plan for an exit, well, it opened up all kinds of new possibilities to screw up things for all involved. That was his hope at least though enacting this bit of Art of War-esque clever was going to be much harder than he'd expected. 'Know your enemy' was well and good when your enemy was prolific and highly visible but Gaines was proving to be anything but. First popping up on radars two decades prior the madsci was hardly prolific nor highly visible. They didn't cause massive amounts of damage, didn't disturb the public, didn't monologue, didn't have some grand world changing scheme. They didn't even have an MO, not really anyway. Mostly folks just disappeared and occasionally dissected remains reappeared. Rarer still folks reappeared driven mad by the... work... done to them by the madsci and usually had to be put down before answering any questions. And between those two options sat the third option mostly reserved for hunters: being found with a bowling ball sized hole punched out of their chests.

Those unfortunate enough not to be killed outright were usually forcibly augmented with prosthesis and organs of poor quality, had bits and bobs removed, and usually suffered from massive amounts of brain trauma and psychotropic torture. As for targets there wasn't any real pattern other than random normy humans... and the occasional hunter. Worse still the man didn't operate continuously vanishing before any serious investigation could ever get under away, staying so for months or years, and when they surfaced it was never in the same place twice. Tanga, neighboring nations, and now even Rhy'Din was fair game for the madsci's brand of horror.

Given all this it almost seemed Gaines Clyfer were just some run of the mill psychopath than a madsci, but then there was a certain clinical methodicalness to the tragedies they left in their wake. And what more there was a definite... hunger... to be seen in their work if one looked close enough. Gaines was searching for something though he nor any of the profilers that had worked up their case had ventured a good guess as to what.

So they had no patterns, no ticks, no idiosyncrasies, and a penchant for killing folks that just happen on them by accident. And what more his usual contacts either didn't seem to know about the man or were suddenly struck by a crisis of conscious in regards to his well-being. Yeah... this hunt was really looking like it was going to end with him getting a new chest piercing at this rate. Kicking off for another few spins he finally lurched out of the chair, hand snatching his phone with a displeased groan. Looks like he was going to have to eat crow and hit up some.. less usual... contacts.
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Re: The Hunter's Life

Post by Mach » Sun Jun 14, 2020 10:44 pm

Playing with Fire
Originally Posted: June 08, 2020


He hated how familiar the cobbles beneath his booted heels seemed. Meant he'd been here far too often for his liking though in honesty once was more than enough. Still, he couldn't help but feel just a little relief as the omnipresent pressure of being monitored eased into the less suffocating merely being observed. The dead drop message he'd sent earlier indicating his imminent visit ensured this with the need for the eyes of the U.T.R.A. to be guided away from his more... explicitly illegal bordering on treasonous dealings. It had been surprising and annoying to learn that the surveillance of his purity which had caused him so much grief early on in Rhy'Din was being conducted by a single intelligence officer who rarely left the satellite office and a few local subcontracted private detectives who themselves subcontracted to a small host of informants. Hardly the omnipresent law enforcement surveillance network or the galvanized public willing and able to report on the wrong doings, perceived or real, of hunters and neighbors alike such as how things were back in Tanga. He'd simply assumed that the ever present eye was an always and there weren't a thing he could do about it while still coming off as somewhat normal socially. Clandestine worked when meeting with the odd madsci who was already keen on avoiding the eye of the law to begin with, not so much when trying to build a relationship or at least score a warm body to share a bed. And so when his perspective was adjusted by his newfound... associates... it left a very bitter taste in his mouth. Would he have been treated the villain after the debacle of the Sanguine Hunt if his superiors hadn't had so much ammo against his purity thanks to the snooping of a few detectives? Would he simply have been slapped on the wrist for general negligence and sent right back on post once he regrew his teeth? Well, probably not, given this was still him and all but still, things probably would have been much easier without the hounding specter of purity always breathing down his neck if only in his own imagination.

Stepping up to the storefront he steeled himself as always, a force of habit which grew into a need to show he wasn't complacent in his underhanded dealings; even if only to himself. Setting gloved hand on the heavy weight of his caster he pushed through the door, the cadence of bells announcing his arrival. To the left Phineas and Rolo looked up from their game of Blind Hughie, the bone crushers sizing him up momentarily before greeting him with an all too familiar up-nod. Damn it. Returning the gesture in kind he passed down the central aisle flanked by shelves of jars, bottles, and vials containing a myriad of ingredients. At the end sat that old oaken counter with the proprietor of the shop sitting behind the bulwark piece of furniture wearing a well kept if not aged looking burgundy suit which would have been the vogue of fashion back on 1880's Earth. If you ran an apothecary might as well look the part they'd once told him. Of course dress them up as much as you like you just couldn't hide the predatory nature which hid within the stout, rotund frame.

They flashed a wolfishly 'pleasant' smile at him, opening up heavy hands in a broad gesture. "Aaaah, Mr. Turner! What a rare surprise for the hunter to come to me on their own terms!" The man's voice sounded like a well educated cement mixer and was about as warm and friendly. Obviously it wasn't their fine manner which brought them business.

"Yeah, odd times lead to surprises..." His own tone was muted, lacking that usual cocky bombast as he really wasn't in the mood to play the fool today. Raising his left hand would show the fellow that intricate circuit tattoo of his which scrawled up the inside of his wrist. The motion was a sign of greeting between those of the syndicate while also acting as a reminder of his place and the debt he owed. Like a dog giving it's paw up for a shake, or that's how it felt at least. Didn't help how the madsci so lit up as they mirrored the gesture back; their own tattoo much more intricate than his for what could be seen from beneath their sleeve.

With the formalities out of the way the larger man motioned eagerly. "Surprises indeed! Come, walk with me to the back, I'm sure we have much to discuss. How do you take tea...?" Already they turned to the flap door which lead off into the back rooms of the store. "...Other than with alcohol." And another cold grin curled on their porcine features, malevolent as it was cheery with humor.

He waved away that hospitality with his still raised hand. "No, no tea. I just need some simple information and I'll get out of your hair."

"Oh no, that will not do! It is rare for you to come so amicably to me. Surely I must enjoy such little pleasantries when they arise. Come. I promise I will not eat you." That grin of theirs only grew yet the humor drained.

Pushing a little smile upon his rugged features he reaffirmed that hand still resting on the butt of his caster, "This ain't amicable and I've not come for a cordial visit Delorno, I've come for business."

The air grew thick as he could just feel Phineas and Rolo's gaze as they stood, the mirthless smile that held to the madsci's features dimming just a little. "Come now, where are your manners Mr. Turner?" They motioned with a broad hand, demanding in it's purposefulness. "Join me for tea."

"Sorry, my mama never taught me these 'manners' you speak of, and I didn't come down here to play tea time. We doing business or should I go elsewhere?"

He tracked the movement of the two toughs as they slid as inconspicuous as buffalo through the aisles, making their way to loom before him in a threatening manner. Had to give them credit, he could tell that neither of them wanted to tangle with the likes of him. Unlike the usual shakedowns they were probably used to hunters were wild-cards and he was well known to be one of the more volatile ones - nobody was leaving such a tussle better for wear. Those tense few moments stretched in deafening silence as neither side gave ground. A battle of wills to see who would cave first but then again Mach didn't have any skin in this particular game.

So rather than continue that face off of dominance he opted not to play, a mild shrug given. "Alrighty then. See you Delorno." And with that he did probably the stupidest thing he could have done and turned his back on the bruising wall of tough, hand firmly on his caster as he made for the door.

There was a shuffle of feet behind him causing that grip to tighten, lone cobalt eye scoping potential cover to dive behind when silence fell. He took another step, then another until his retreat was halted by the sound of a cement mixer clearing it's throat. "Have it your way Mr. Turner, we will keep this strictly business. It is a pity, though, that you refuse to meet us on more cordial terms. Such would be beneficial to the both of us you know."

Mach felt his teeth grind at that thought – cordial. He contemplated just keeping on walking out of that shop to spite the madsci but that wouldn't serve any purpose but to unnecessarily antagonize an underworld mob boss over a little bit of pride and principle. Testing an underworld mob boss for the sake of pride and principle, while not smart, was acceptable... according to him at least. Besides, he didn't exactly have the luxury of time to waste on such pettiness and so swallowing his distaste for the umpteenth time today he turned about, a thin smile curling upon handsome features. "I doubt as much."

Waking back to the counter he gave Phineas and Rolo a jaunty little smile, his free hand shooing the walls of muscle out his way. They didn't take kindly to his antics but there really wasn't much to say once their boss had spoken. Lackeys through and through, a fate his continuous defiance hoped to buck though he knew with each little favor he danced more and more in the syndicate's palm. Delorno seemed to know as much too as despite his defiance they still welcomed him back with a smile, wolfishly friendly as it may have been. "We will not know until you try... but enough of such. Business, yes? You want to know about a particular 'madsci' as I understand..." Dancing indeed as he felt the wind leave his sails when the man beat him to his own request – damn it! This seemed to please the madsci as a little humor finally returned to their broad smile. "Come now, you came to me because you seek information. Is it not prudent of me then to know exactly what that information may be before my clients even walk through my door? That is the mark of a professional, no?"

They had a point... one which they used to great effect needling him. Still, he kept his composure refusing to let the man rattle him so easily as he offered a gracious nod. "True. Suppose if you didn't know you'd be a pretty shitty info broker, yeah?" A daring smile cracked on his face as he chuckled in forced humor on the madsci's expense, one they seemed less keen for as he pressed forward. "I'm looking for Gaines Clyfer. Setup shop somewhere in Rhy'Din a while ago but has been laying low. I need info on where to find them."

He watched the others' heavy features for any sort of tell though he knew he'd not be so lucky. Madscis were many things but one of the key binding threads was apathy and a lack of emotions. One could say they were just fancy psychopaths save that psychopathy didn't tend to drive folks to breaking the very nature of the world seeking to understand and manipulate it via magic which they did not possess. 'The Focus', as it was unimaginably called, which blunted a person's psychology into a mere tool for achieving whatever their focus was and robbed them of their ability or want to connect with folks.Oh it was all in degrees of course, Delorno was probably much more psychopath than madsci, but across the board they were just harder to read as they lost those social habits and tells to their obsessions. For their part the broad man moved the way they always did, ham hands sliding out across the countertop as their smile broadened. "Ah! Yes, Gaines Clyfer, as they go by now. I am familiar with them."

"Do you know where to find them?" He tried not to sound over eager but given this had been the only break he'd hadd in months it was hard not to be. Gaines was proving to be as unassuming a psychotic murder as their dossier painted them as. It was no wonder they tended to surprise hunters who just accidently came across them… only to kill them.

Their whereabouts? Yes. They arrived in Rhy’Din a few years ago for their research. As with anyone who's used our… services.... I’ve kept tabs on them.” Broad hands moved in a set motion over the worn wooden counter causing the shadowy corners of the store to whir and sparkle to life materializing a holographic keyboard and screen before the information broker. A few taps and swipes and a face appeared: lean, boney, handsome in a boyishly ragamuffin way.

Gaines… and a much more recent photo than Mach had! He was nearly salivating as he pulled out his cellphone casually. "How much for the info and demo?” He keyed up the blackmarket app he had to make off books transactions from his own personal slush fund. A necessity in his line of work.... honest folks need not apply to be peacekeepers.

Large hands clapped happily. “Oh there is no charge amongst friends, yes?” Their smile grew as they peered at him through the ghostly image that floated in the air. “Just our usual arrangement will do. Bring them in and we will dispose of them. We'll even send Mr. Poppler to assist given Gaines' nature."

Mach shuttered lightly at that wholly inappropriate name for the fixer in purple gloves he'd had the displeasure of working with. There was just something wrong with that person though he hadn't quite worked it out… and wasn't keen on having opportunities to either. Still, it wasn't that which had him shaking his head. "Nah, no thanks, this one’s mine."

Once more the madsci’s smile faltered. “Oh? Come now, Mr. Clyfer is not someone to grow a conscious over. And they are dangerous, wouldn’t want you to get killed over something as silly as a government contract now would we?

This ain’t got nothing to do with being consciousable or any sorta contract, this is personal.

That lone cobalt watched as the man tried to work through this, ‘the numbing’ which often came with the spark of madscism obviously hindering them in this regard. There was nothing personal to a full blown madsci, only hard logic and their pursuit. So it was little surprise his reason came off as simply bizarre, their head tilting. “Surely you jest. Why what benefit could there be in you risking yourself as such? And simply to bring such a man in-

I’m not bringing Gaines in, I’m putting them down.” He felt a little venom coating those words as they left him, his fingers flexed to try and let go of that tension.

But they are wanted alive. If you kill them you’ll be in direct violation of your rules of engagement.

He rolled his shoulders, the artificial one in particular. “Wouldn’t be the first time I’ve done such, yeah? Worked out pretty swell for you lot too.

Yes, but your worth to us is on the outside, not the in.” The man considered this more, shaking their head. “And besides, they are a hunter killer and you, pardon the disrespect, are not an exceptional hunter. It is very likely they will end you and for what? Now, what I offer is very generous-

To you.

To us!” There was a snap to their words, a pressure which had the man stepping back now, hands moving to grease back their already pristinely greased hair finding their dead wolf smile once more. “You would get to live and that which you hate would be dealt with.No more of your ‘comrades’ would suffer any sort of ill fate to them again. What is the downside?

Mach let a dirty smirk cross him, dark and malicious. “I wouldn’t be the one pulling the trigger. Like I said, this is personal. I don’t expect you to understand, I just expect you to sell me what I came here for and get out of my way.

You will die.

So folks are keen to note. But you never know, maybe I’ll surprise.

The man considered him for a long moment before their large hand swiped over the holographic keyboard sending everything scattering into shattering pixels. “I’m sorry, I can not sell you this information.

Mach felt his hand flex once again, teeth grinding as he throttled back the snarl that rose. “What do you mean you can’t sell me that? That’s what you do as an information broker, you broker information.

Delorno seemed non-pulsed by his outrage, hands sweeping as though to dust away the last remnants of holographic light. “To whom I so choose. I choose not to sell this to you Mr. Turner. I’ve got to look out for my investments, after all.

Don’t give me that bull Delorno. You tell me all the time you’re disposing those I bring you, so what matter is it if I kill them or not!?

This had the man chuckling. “That is up to you, yes?” Their smile grew as they needled him on his own willful ignorance on just what could be defined as ‘dispose of.’ “Regardless, we still wish to speak with Mr. Clyfer and we would not be able to do so were you to… pull the trigger yourself. As well, if you go after them and were… not… to surprise us then we would lose you as an asset as well. There really is no benefit to us simply to sell this information to you.

His teeth hurt from the effort it took not to just reach out and throttle the underworld boss. Instead he forced a thin smile to his features. “And what about being cordial, to a friend?

Bushy brown brows rose a hair at that offer, fingers drumming a moment upon the hard wooden counter before their face cracked wide with humor. “Oh, don’t sell yourself so highly Mr. Turner, you are not integral and neither are what you are and what you offer. You are simply a very handy, if somewhat temperamental, tool. No more, and you should hope never less. Now if you were a more… willing participant in our interests then yes, there could be much room for you to be more than just a tool. But, at very least on this matter, you do not seem capable of such.

A low growl rumbled at the back of his throat prompting a look from Rolo and Phineas though he was already turning, anger in his steps as he stormed for the door. Gloved hand reached to wrench the portal open when he heard that concrete mixer clear its throat once more. “Mr. Tuner, the request still stands. I would very much like to speak with Mr. Gaines Clyfer.

Yeah, well, hate to be temperamental but fuck you.” Grabbing the knob he gave it a nasty twist, hand-

I’m sorry, let me rephrase that. You will bring me Mr. Clyfer to speak with, I will provide you with those who can help you in that task. This is ‘one of those’ kinds of request.

Pausing to work on throttling back his rage he finally shot a glare back at the man. “And I already said this is personal, the only way they’re coming back is cold.” A shrug rose glibly even has that hand on his caster tightened. “Guess this is a ‘hope I never’ situation, yeah? So what’re you gonna do?

To you? Nothing. That wouldn’t be worth the resources. But there are… others… whom I can influence. Like that red head of yours in Marketplace…

The madsci’s wolfish smile tarnished at the bitterly humored snort that escaped at the attempted threat. “Sorry Danman, Foxy got tired of my shit long ago and I ain’t bothered none to replace them, yeah? Woulda thought an information broker would’ve known that but guess you are kinda shit at your job.” A breezy smile crossed him before his features hardened. “And I know you ain’t a big enough fish to cross the line of blood back home.So no, I ain’t taking your ‘request’, find another tool you think you got one though I’m gonna venture you don’t.” And with that he threw open the door and stepped out.

Mr. Tuner!

He just flipped the man, and his chances of getting that info he direly needed, off full of petty pride and everything. Damnit! Where was he going to shake information out of now!? The thought stuck firmly in his mind as he quickly retreated from the man’s turf, his footfalls carrying him off in search of that ever elusive information… and for another leather mask for what would surely be his last Beltane.
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Mach
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Re: The Hunter's Life

Post by Mach » Tue Jun 16, 2020 4:03 am

Burned
Occurred: Monday, June 8th, 2020

It took a steady gait to stalk on rain mirrored streets, moreso to do such without raising suspicions. The warehouses down in the docks district were always damp but rain from the day still clung to every surface, pooled and gathered on the ground, and filled the air with a muggy humidity as spring grew long, harkening to the fast approaching summer. A stark contrast to the festivities brewing down in the seaside district, a place he once lived before he got that all too familiar reminder where really his lot belonged. All this only added to the dour gloom that hung over the hunter on the prowl, backup caster in hand as that lone cobalt eye surveyed every flicker and shadow.

The 'prophecy' that he would have to kill his friend to stop them from turning into a lich, laughable if not for the fact that they were still greedy for power and marrying a fanatical mage. The betrayal of his trust from a supposed friend which he was sure only robbed him of what he already had so little of. The connection he felt with another because of the shit show life they'd had which he could and would only fail because he knew he couldn't let such a connection grow. And now just right before this the fact that he got another black flag to 'deal with' who just so happened to be a hunter with a kid like Gin had been but without the sense to keep their nose out of the shit… and the one he'd fail getting to see a glimpse of the cold hunter during the preceding to boot. And all of this had just been the last few weeks! It was little wonder he'd forgotten about the high money feelers he'd put out after giving Delorno the literal finger on their 'request'... spurred also by the ever present paranoia that followed him expecting some sort of retribution for such. And yet none had come. If anything his little stunt apparently shook a few branches as after he let the black flag go and was trying to figure what to do to not get curb stomped for his incompetence in tracking as well as to speedo or not to speedo when the break came in.

It wasn't much - a one time delivery for Gaines coming in through the port but it was more than he had in months. If he could show progress on his hunt for Gaines then his botch job with Elodie could be explained away… or so the lie he told himself went. If anything putting a bullet to the young hunter was a much higher priority and his ass would twist for failing to do such which was why he was out here, alone, underprepared and ready to face a hunter killer. Sort of his plan anyway, to find himself put 'out of commission' but doing so while going after Gaines was at least in line with his end goals. Not a high probability of success but hey, he may get lucky.

Rounding a corner he slowed as he heard the muffled sounds of a voice between the wet sounds of water dripping from the overhigh warehouse eves. Another fight with a monster in a Rhy’Din warehouse, life certainly had a way with traumatic themes. Still, he couldn’t have asked for a better local for a showdown as the din of the city with those he cared about faded beneath the washing ebb of waves crashing into shipping piers. Snagging a potion from his belt he threw it back in silence, a shutter crawling up his spine as the poison took hold, heightening his senses. The smell of salt water and grease assaulted his nostrils, the wet streets shimmered, the damp soaked down to has bones… and the lone muffled voice focused into clarity.

"Yes, bring that over… there you go. Snow, help Egg get that… no, no, no, the other way! Pong, show them how it's done! " A lone voice, nasally and pressured with a lowland lilt… Gaines. Mach couldn't believe his luck! Then again he wasn't all too sure what exactly this said about such as he was so very underprepared to deal with the madsci themselves. Straining some he failed to hear any other voices coming from the warehouse, simply the sound of moving crates and the pad of feet… paws maybe? So they were potentially alone save for at least 3 organics of smallish size given the sound of how they shuffled. Better and better though from what he'd gleaned from the case files against the madsci other hunters, better hunters, had just the same advantage and still came away with empty chests. No, there was something he was missing, something that-

"Hey faceman!"

His heart leaped up, pounding, into his throat as that caster was whipped around to the voice that chriped so casually into his ear. A cockney lowland lilt attached to a wry grin and a waifish yet curvy body of woman crowned with a choppy, rainbow pixie cut. It took his brain a moment to process the information, even more to superimpose the figure before him with the one he remembered in the overly baggy orange prison jumper and dull blond bob cut. "Talila….?!"

There was only a little shocked concern being at the business end of a caster before the woman's smile cracked wide. They leapt at him, arms wrapping round his neck as they drew in for a playfully sultry kiss, a pleased purr rattling his teeth. "It's been an age stud! I see time outside has…" Leaning back they gave him a once over with large emerald eyes, their grin shrinking some. " … not done wonders for ya. What the hells!? Thought they'd 'ave fixed you up something pretty! Instead you still got a missin’ eye and a dumb fake arm!

It was all a lot to take in, that lone cobalt staring at the woman with no small amount of bewilderment despite the rather… enthusiastic greeting. “What the hells are you doing here!?

This apparently warranted him a flick to the brow, “Is that any way to talk to yer friend? I’m here to help you of course!” They looked almost proud as they spouted this with a grin.

Ok, ok, but….here!?

I know! I was workin’ as… well, I was workin’ fer the Syndicate, yeah? And then I gotta call about a job down here helpin’ you and I just couldn’t resist that!

Mach considered the woman for a long moment, their smug pride honest as it was misplaced. Damn it. Now he knew why Delorno hadn’t retaliated against him for his slight. Once again the waif of a half-elf was being used as both a carrot and a leash against him thanks to the machinations of the Syndicate. Just how badly did they want to talk to the rogue madsci? Why go through all this trouble? The questions only piled up. “Wait you-” Shuffling sounds to the side worked to remind him of the task at hand as again he pointed his caster at… a small ball of fluff with horns?

Poro~!" The thing galumphed proudly; dark, vacant eyes filled with a desire for a treat as it padded about in circles. Wait...pad? That lone cobalt shot wide as his head snapped back to the warehouse, will focused as a blue light creeped out around the edges of his eyepatch. The life detect he'd downed earlier, while not able to grant him the ability to look through walls, did allow him to see vague outlines of auras. And the aura in the warehouse… was facing right at them!

"Shit!" He barely had time to unleash the spell that spun in the caster's second processor as he wrenched Talila around. A crack like a whip of lightning boomed through the air and not even a moment later he felt himself being twisted and flung to the ground by the depleted uranium round that caught him in the side like a freight train; pain searing across his back as rib after rib cracked and snapped. His coat deformed, the spell pushed through the integrated spellweave threads working to absorb or shunt as much of that kinetic force as possible but there was just so much of it. Still, the garment held though he wasn't out of the woods yet, the cantrip he'd held in hand tossed aside. The wood splintered and burned up immediately, the charged energy of the linked spell immense as a wave of pure force took him and the half-elf held in his grip careening away from the stick… and the second whip of lightning which sent another slug blasting a sizable crater into the asphalt where they would have landed. The double tap that had been the end of many a hunter though he was still in much worse shape at this point in the fight then he'd hoped for as he hit the ground, tumbling into a warehouse wall across the way all while grasping the woman now cursing beneath him.

"What the Fatanyu! What was that!? What-!" Angry words paled as his blood dribbled upon freckled, angular features; the spells, and the broken ribs, showing their toll. Damn it, magic hadn’t always been this damaging, this hard though then in the past he’d never danced this fine a line with his failing tolerance. So much raw etheric energy just saturated Rhy’Din to the point of giving him a constant headache and yet he couldn’t use a lick of it unless some mage had already been casting and processing the ether for him or he infused each spell with a thread of his very own dwindling life. The subtle but important distinction between him just being a mage with a gun and him being a hunter.

Unfortunately that made hunting a madsci like Gaines that much more dangerous a proposition as they didn’t use magic. They merely emulated some of the miraculousness of magic using esoteric, extreme, and often dangerous science and technology. But that which was miraculous and not easily understood may as well just be magic for all intents and purposes, especially if it was being applied in the pursuit of putting an over large hole in his person. So that meant everything was Mach powered and his life as a battery was pretty much done but that wasn’t going to stop him. Pushing himself up off the woman he snagged a verdant green potion from his belt and downed it, a little steam rolling from his lips. “Get outta here Tali, this ain’t something you ought get involved in!” He all but pulled them up with his right hand, his gaze shifting back to the warehouse, the aura of life missing. Damn!

Like I’m gonna run, you’re friggin’ bleeding! Come on, we gotta get outta here together!” Long fingers wrapped around his gloved hand, pulling yet he wouldn’t, couldn’t run with them. No, the fight had already started and if he ran now there was a very good chance Gaines would run, go to ground and given the restrictiveness of his posting he’d not be able to give chase. He’d lose them… and that was something he just couldn’t do. “Mach!” They pulled harder but he held his ground, his gaze still wild as he looked for that aura once more. He’d spy it rounding about the corner, coming right for them.

Go!” The command left him, booming along with that whip of lightning as he pushed the woman away. A moment and suddenly he was being wrenched around, broken ribs screaming as they failed against that torsion. Panic crossed him as he saw the woman being wrenched along with him though the reason was soon evident as a spray of hydraulic fluid and leather, carbon, and titanium shrapnel filled the void between them as the slug tore apart his prosthetic. A flash of agonizing pain blitzed through his mind before the processors cut off the cyber nerves though where the limb entered his shoulder still throbbed metal pulled away from flesh tearing some of those coaxed connections.

The color drained from the woman’s face as she stumbled but didn’t fall, his gloved hand still held among thin fingers. The look she gave him was one he was all too used to - a look of horror at what his life could entail, could be, was. It took a monster to take down monsters and he filled the roll with aplomb. “Go!” The command snarled with venom and rage as he snapped that caster back towards the shadowy figure aiming back at him. He jerked back on the trigger, a menacing electromechanical growl rumbling from the handcannon as it whirled to life…

But that whip of lightning was much faster, a flash of electricity and plasma flaring before the boom. A moment later and he felt his body being ripped the other way, the slug catching his side, arresting in his coat as that spellweave flared though it the kinetic barrier shattered as the processor in his caster crackled and fried under the stress. The slug had lost a lot of its kinetic energy but still had plenty to rip into and out of the tender flesh of his side sending him sprawling to the wet asphalt. And what more he felt the web of his spell shatter apart as the primary processor of that backup caster, his primary given to the idiot hunter in a stupid moment of sentimentality, cooked; an arc of electricity crackling about jolting the weapon free from his grasp, black noxious smoke billowing out of the newly burnt hole in the side chamber. Shit. Shit!

He hazarded a glance to the side, the last vestige of that glowing life sign that was Talila spied hiding behind a warehouse down a ways. They weren’t running but at very least they weren’t peaking back at him. Turning his attention back to the figure that closed he worked to ignore the ball of fluff that pranced around him merrily, tongue lulling as it purred and galumphed. Lone cobalt did note one of the horns had a small, filled, drill mark in it explaining much about how the madsci could target him without a direct line of sight. And so adjusting his one good arm so as to prop himself up he glared at the thin figure that came to stand before him in a worn brown suit which hung on their lean figure. Messy brown locks were kept short and untidy and in those amber eyes he could see the obvious flare of the spark as they studied him. “Oh my, oh my… a hunter, out here? Surely that’s got to be an abuse of taxes.” They spoke with a spry lilt, Northwestern with a hint of pressure from thoughts that traveled just a little too fast to keep up with. “And you’ve chosen to come after me? All the way out here. Really?

Mach adjusted his comfy lay on the ground to roll his shoulder mildly in a shrug. “Seemed the thing to do… Gaines Clyfer.” His smile held a vicious edge to it as he stared defiantly up at the ragamuffin man, in no position to have such confidence but then if not during such down and out times then when? This garnered a curious tilt of head from the madsci as they watched him though their gaze continued to flit to the yapping creature that was still bounding around behind him. Something seemed off about the excitement the thing had, especially given as a couple more flanked the madsci now, no taller than their knee caps but just as vacant looking as the first.

Suddenly the man’s angular features shifted, brow dropping as their mouth opened in awe. They peered down at him. “Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait. a. minute!” A pair of glasses was pulled from their pocket and crammed onto their face as they peered at him more intensely, their expression splitting into a maniacal grin. “Oh this is just great! Egg, you brilliant ball of fluff and tongue! This is perfect!

Something about the man’s excitement disturbed him as he shifted once more. “What’s that…asshole…?” He could feel his breaths grow more shallow as fluid slowly filled his lungs, a burning pain radiating out from his torn up side.

The venom in his tone was blithely ignored as their grin cracked malevolently. “Why, you of course!

This warranted a ragged snort, his head shaking. “Sorry to disappoint...but only thing I’m doing is...avenging Gin…

The man’s near bouncing slowed just a smidge as they considered him curiously. “Who?

Right. His brows furrowed angrily. “Ask him when you see him…” Shifting he fell off that leaned elbow, the hand that had worked its way behind his back drawing the service 45 auto from it’s paddle holster.At this range he didn’t have to worry about aiming or bracing as the thrust the gun forward at the man, their eyes widening just a hair as he pulled the trigger.

One, two, three, four… the gunfire resounded in the relative peace of the docks, the rapid salvo lossed center of mass in the man… or should have. A roaring hiss came with the thrust of his gun, the image of the grinning madman shimmering before distorting with each bullet that surged forth only to disintegrate before the madsci. A supersonic wanterjet shield… and apparently one or both of those fluffy lackeys seemed to carry the generator of such. Damn.

He hit the ground with a wet thud, splattering the puddle of his own blood with a groan as the shock aggravated destroyed ribs. Damn it, he… didn’t have anything left! His mind raced for something, anything he could do and yet he came back with nothing as the fellow raised their hand to him, the air crackling with electrical charge. “I think not, hunter.” The air shimmered threateningly before that outstretched hand, a whip of lightning accompanying a vicious flash of arcing electricity and the world according to Mach went black.
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Mach
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Re: The Hunter's Life

Post by Mach » Sun Jun 21, 2020 1:59 am

Missing

Text from Sammie:Gotta -clapping hand emoji- it to ya, you sure know how to make a girl feel welcome.

Text from Shrink Dinkling: Mr. Turner, you are overdue for counseling again. Please call in when you get the chance.

Text from Sammie: -Emojis: Peach, Thumbs Up, Index Point to the Right, Fireworks-

Text from Rhy’din General Hospital: Your new billing statement is available. Please contact our Billing and Finance department if you have any questions or concerns.

Text from ReggBoo: This is my new number.

Response: Timeout Error - Autoreply Sent: We're sorry, the mobile user you are trying to reach is currently out of network or their phone is off. If this is an emergency please text 37911 to this number to initiate a forced notification. Rates and fees may apply.

Text from Sgt Tightwad: Turner, HQ wants an update on the Spencer case. Were you able to apprehend?

Response: Timeout Error - Autoreply Sent: We're sorry, the mobile user you are trying to reach is currently out of network or their phone is off. If this is an emergency please text 37911 to this number to initiate a forced notification. Rates and fees may apply.

Text from Sgt Tightwad: Force Notice Initiated - Message: Hey asshole, crawl out of whatever hole you’re fucking and get back to work.

Response: Timeout Error - Autoreply Sent: Error attempting to force push notification. Please contact your service provider for assistance.

Text from UNKNOWN - 1347-209-1-754: Ping

Response: Timeout Error - Autoreply Sent: We're sorry, the mobile user you are trying to reach is currently out of network or their phone is off.

Text from Sammie Did you really have to be so hard on Rapunzel?

Response: Timeout Error - Autoreply Sent: We're sorry, the mobile user you are trying to reach is currently out of network or their phone is off. If this is an emergency please text 37911 to this number to initiate a forced notification. Rates and fees may apply.

Text from Sammie: Force Notice Initiated - Message: WTF?! Is this the world's most complicated blow off? Look, whatever, the kid fucked up. I can guarantee she's beating herself up way worse than you ever could. Just talk to her. Ass.

Response: Timeout Error - Autoreply Sent: Error attempting to force push notification. Please contact your service provider for assistance.

Text from UNKNOWN - 1347-209-1-754: Ping

Response: Timeout Error - Autoreply Sent: We're sorry, the mobile user you are trying to reach is currently out of network or their phone is off.

Text from XuneRune: You dont have to die alone

Response: Time-out Autoreply Sent: We're sorry, the mobile user you are trying to reach is currently out of network or their phone is off. If this is an emergency please text 37911 to this number to initiate a forced notification. Rates and fees may apply.

Text from XuneRune: Force Notice Initiated - Message: don’t do this

Response: Timeout Error - Autoreply Sent: Error attempting to force push notification. Please contact your service provider for assistance.

Text from Regi: That ‘soul’ bottle you brought me should work great

Text from Regi: Still don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish with this

Response: Time-out Autoreply Sent: We're sorry, the mobile user you are trying to reach is currently out of network or their phone is off. If this is an emergency please text 37911 to this number to initiate a forced notification. Rates and fees may apply.

Text from Regi: I mean it would have to be small and you’d only have a week

Response: Time-out Autoreply Sent: We're sorry, the mobile user you are trying to reach is currently out of network or their phone is off. If this is an emergency please text 37911 to this number to initiate a forced notification. Rates and fees may apply.

Text from Lt Tightbuns: Turner, it’s been a week. I know you can go deep in whatever you're into at the moment but I need a response on the Spencer black flag you got. Get back to me or file a brief direct.

Response: Time-out Autoreply Sent: We're sorry, the mobile user you are trying to reach is currently out of network or their phone is off. If this is an emergency please text 37911 to this number to initiate a forced notification. Rates and fees may apply.

Text from XuneRune: I wish you would come home. I know this numbers not working but you’re an idiot.

Response: Timeout Error - Autoreply Sent: We're sorry, the mobile user you are trying to reach is currently out of network or their phone is off. If this is an emergency please text 37911 to this number to initiate a forced notification. Rates and fees may apply.

Text from Regi: Force Notice Initiated - Message: Your machine response system, while elegant for what it is, is annoying.

Response: Timeout Error - Autoreply Sent: Error attempting to force push notification. Please contact your service provider for assistance.
The phone creaked in the jaws of the poro as they returned to chewing on the sliver of tech once more; a pleased purr escaping as the device flickered to life and began to vibrate with the backlog of notifications flooding in. Prancing about merrily the creature chewed some more, pausing only as it’s master reached down.

Come on now Egg, you know these things are full of squacky little apps…" Gaines depressed and held in the power rocker once more, a ten count later and the device once more blipped off. “You can only chew on it if you’re going to be careful, yes?

The poro chirped admonished though it’s mood greatly improved as they were handed back the sliver of technology turned chew toy. Prancing around once more the creature ran around the figure strapped to an industrial metal chair, a thick cable attached to a large mainframe on one end snaking up and plugging in through a hole drilled through the back of their skull. Mach.

An IV in his arm slowly dripped a cocktail of drugs into him, keeping him unconscious and sedated though whatever dreams played out had the man squirming, a gamut of emotions pulling on tear streaked features as one word uttered painfully, repeatedly under his breath…

Elena…
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Mach
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Re: The Hunter's Life

Post by Mach » Sun Jun 21, 2020 12:31 pm

Lucid Memories / Vivid Dreams - part 1


The world before him washed out in warm light, his body felt heavy, tired. Reaching up he tapped the side of his head, neoprene gloves soft against his temple as the rumble of a diesel engine filled his ears. A few blinks and finally the world came into view. Before him a brilliant vista over the lazy roll of the ocean, the road he travelled upon cut… no, grown from the winding cliff. Looking down he noted the digi-gray urban camo of his service jumper, black tactical gloves hugging his hands with a wrist comp strapped to his left forearm. He scratched the mildly at his right arm, the stiff fabric itchy upon his skin.

“Looking a little out of it there Captain.” His gaze slid to the deep rumble next to him, a large black man dressed in a similar camo jumper with black combat boots and a service pistol strapped to their hip mirthless as they kept their eyes ahead and hands on the steering wheel of the transport. Gunnery Sergeant Rolands, or just Gunny Rols as everyone knew them. Stoic as any Dogaran he’d ever met.

“Oh lay off the Cap, you know how busy he can be, right?” He looked back to the grinning face of the fellow behind Rols; angular and lean with a shock of blond up top and shaved sides - Sergeant First Class Jefferies. The taskforce quartermaster, Jeff was a born and bred haggler who was the reason why a plucky peacekeeper outfit like there's as well supplied as they were.

"Not so much as you, busyboy." The caramel like voice dripped with smarm from the caramel skinned woman in the seat behind his. He could just see the playful half grin of Specialist Tenwa in his mind, a Tolirean women who could kick the ass of just about anyone in their platoon save for maybe Werebear, one of the other proper 2A hunters other than himself and the unfortunately nicknamed Battery.

"If you've got time to banter you've got time to review mission details." The gruff voice scratched in his ear from the small sound tube that snaked up behind from the mic collar strapped around his throat. Sergeant Major Gillen was exactly what you wanted from an operations NCO - a firm anchor and steadying voice for the taskforce though they were a little too humorless at times.

"Ah come on Sarge, nothing wrong with a little comradery before a mission, yeah?" Sergeant Everette spoke up in the comm with the same Minostre plainsland accent that he had but theirs had a distinctly more educated, less punky childhood vibe than his. Then again they were one of the two TS29 MOS' along with Specialist Ano attached directly to his taskforce and the military didn't just let any braindead idiot play with their tech… hunters like him excluded of course.

’Palling around won’t stop a bullet or a fireball’” Staff Sergeant Ylgan cut in full of mirth as they channeled the operations sergeant. A wholly average grunt from the Volstyr region who’d somehow weaseled their way out of any actual combat during the war with the Vil’nyr Collective, the two were kinda like night and day given Gillen had volunteered for every forward operation he could during the five year conflict.

It won’t.” The sergeant majors gruff voice cut back that cold barb over the comm.

Sir...rs, please don’t.” Sergeant Gordon’s voice was soft spoken yet blunt, the comms officer obviously not finding the chatter amusing given they had to listen to all of it as part of their job. A stark difference from Specialist Bordensky whom he was sure had tuned out to their music long ago. Give target and they'd put boom on it, just don't ask anything more of them.

Alright everybody, let’s clear the comms.We’re almost at the university and I’m sure Blackjack is trying to think.” This voice scratched softly in his ear, warm and gentle from the section's field medic. He couldn't help but smile just thinking of Sergeant Sapinsky… of Elena's calming presence. They just had that way about them, a natural caring sorts who should've been a doctor in the civy side of not for circumstances.

His reverie was cut short by a snort from Jefferies with a slight grin even pulling on Roland's stoic features. Jerks. Turning his attention back out the windshield he could see their destination crest out from behind the cliffside ahead - Holvath University of Arcana. Or more precisely the artifact research and scriptorium. Right, they had a mission to do out here. A disturbance report investigation at an arcane school promoting the need for hunters rather than mere police… and his section was closest. A veritable milk run of a hunt.
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Re: The Hunter's Life

Post by Mach » Sun Jun 28, 2020 1:49 am

Lucid Memories / Vivid Dreams - part 2


The Holvath University of Arcana had originally been a scholarly monastery dating all the way back to the dark ages. It was situated in a remote and secluded alcove in the region north of the Deganbacks both for it's natural fortification and the current of wild etheric energies washing over it driven by the churning waves of the ocean making it an ideal place to study magic. Of course nowadays it was mostly kept active because of its seclusion from population centers making it easy to just bomb into a crater if any of the arcane research that occurred there got out of hand. Oh how times could twist and change the importance for a location.

Stepping out of the armored prisoner transport he couldn't help but be taken in by the old world majesty of the ancient stone buildings that surrounded them. Even though every building had that simple monastic look despite additions throughout the centuries it was still easy to pick out which had been originals given the swirly, grainy pattern on the surface of the blocks used to build them. The telltale markings of the ancient, primitive magic manipulations used to grow the blocks, sewn deep to the very heart of the stone so no amount of weathering could ever polish or wear such features clean. It gave the buildings an almost coldly organic look, a garish corruption of the warmer wooden longhalls and cathedrals depicted in the histories which these were based on though none of those had survived to the modern day, decaying away millennia ago. A living fossil, a throwback to a bygone eon where humans lived under the yolk of oppression by the ancient races, arcane monsters, and even the demi-gods themselves… or so the textbooks said.

He didn't care much for any of that, all he knew was that the buildings gave him the heebie jeebies. Doubly so for how quiet everything was. Campus security and local law enforcement had already set up a perimeter by the time they came rolling in. The situation report they'd gotten at the entrance was… unhelpful though they typically weren't given most folks were typically smart enough to turn tail when fireballs started getting bambied about. Of course the campus was apparently rather abandoned to begin with given most the students and staff were away for the inter-semester summer break. This fact along with the small size of the group likely meant that this was an artifact heist by some antagonistic group or another and not some form of demonstration.

Moving away from the gathering he quickly worked to don his ballistic vest and hip pack of potions pulled from the lockers in the transport. Next came the anti-domination helmet, G54-A bullpup assault rifle under arm, and finally his Rugen SA Caster under his other arm - the weapon of the hunter. It wasn't a lot of protection but then layers of ballistic plates weren't going to save a person from being fried by lightning. No, better to have mobility and spellweave sewn into your jumper then lots of probably useless armor.

With that done he moved back over to his colleagues; fingers wandering absently to do one last touch check of gear both holstered or affixed via webbing ensuring every cantrip, ammo clip, and ancillary tool or item he figured he needed were in their proper place. As he walked amongst his soldiers he made spot checks of their gear as well, tugging here and there to make sure everything was secured properly, a pat offered to shoulder if they passed his offhand inspection. It was such an odd feeling, his soldiers, as though he’d somehow earned the right to lead anything beyond a fireteam. And yet here he was, a 24 years old punk from Prysbil and already the rank of Captain with his very own command. It hadn’t been an easy road for a natural dumbass hothead like him but a cooler, calmer head had helped him by providing a goal for him… for them to work towards. A future, not predicated on the shit lot in life either of them had been born to.

Finishing his self check he found his fingers lingering over one vial in particular - a regeneration potion. Muscle memory spurred by trauma was obviously a bitch to erase as he forced himself away from that potion, from all of them. No, he wasn't going to get himself snacked on by a dragon, stop it PTSD! On top of the ludicrousness of that whispered scream from the back of his mind though he was trying to cut back on potions, regens in particular as they had a tendency to sterilize hunters with enough use and he had plans that required a working dongle!

His meandering pace finally carried him up to the other two hunters in the section, 1st Lt. Raol 'Werebear' Ulvir who was pretty much an ogre in human skin and 2nd Lt. Peter 'Battery' Bartrim who was pretty much a weevil in human skin… yeah, they were very much night and day. In all accords really Werebear was just finishing sinking a battle stim potion, the fellow a brewster like him. Battery, like a true archanist, was triple checking their stock of cantrips and caster rounds which they could power for much greater effect than Ulvir or himself ever could. In honesty this should have made Battery more useful though in practice most folks tended to surrender when they had an angry looking Werebear charging like a freight train at them. "So, what do we think?"

Werebear gave him a sideways glance. "Looks like it aughta be very educational…" Their stoic expression held for a long moment before their lips cracked into a grin.

"Oh har, har…" Battery shot them a withered glare which only seemed to delight the walking mountain of a hunter. "At least you don't gotta worry none about potioning so hard you burn a place down."

"Sounds like someone's got a problem prematurely poppin' off." His own grin grew as Battery took just as much offense to his little jab.

They looked like they were about to snipe back when he felt the heavy presence of Sergeant Major Gillen stalk up from behind; their voice a low, thunderous growl. "It sounds like our three principles have got a problem with their threat assessment."

Despite outranking the curmudgeon he… all three of them couldn't help but stiffen up a little. The man had been in the military longer than some of them had even been alive, they'd earned the respect they were granted from everyone and he wasn't going to stand in the way of them helping him keep them all alive. "You have us there Master Gillen, us lot ain't ever been well learned on threat other than what sorta hammer to bring to bear."

This warranted a dismissive snort from the man as they fell in line next to him. "Well here's hoping all we have are small nails to deal with then today. So we have a plan?" They shot each of them a look. They might have been the most experienced one there but that didn't mean they just steamrolled over their superiors. The man was well aware of the give and take face of being in the military. There were no efforts that weren't team efforts as the motto went.

"I'd say a three way sweep." Werebear motioned to the largest, oldest building that was the reported last known location of the aggressors.

"What about any splitoffs?"

They shrugged at the Master Sergeants loaded question. "Don't want to dilute down our strength too much. If we're all in the same building we can help each other out if things get hairy. For splitoffs we can deal with them systematically afterwards. Not like there's a lot of ways in or outta here.”

“For us.” Battery interjected, ever the pessimist though they liked to call it realism. Then again they had a point, mages had far more ways of slipping in and out of a situation than normies or even augmented normies did.

“Both valid points. Sir?” The Gillen looked to him, both respectful and quizzing.

While his close council was always welcome to make suggestions as commanding officer the final say was always his to make. Just one of those things that came with command though if he didn’t think… if they didn’t think he was up to the task he’d never have pushed for this. Considering his options for a moment he looked back to the ancient building. “We play this by the book - three team concentrated sweep. We’ll watch our backs, make sure we all come back, and if any get away, well, guess I’ll get my ass massaged by the tender teeth of Major Bently.”

Gillen seemed to approve of this as they almost let their lips curl upward. “Right. Any objections?”

Both Werebear and Batter shook their heads, easy to agree to such when their asses weren’t in the crosshairs if things didn’t go right! Regardless he couldn’t help but smile at the confidence they put in his judgement. “Looks like we’re in agreement.”

All of them turned back towards the gathered troops, Gillen stepping forward as their voice rose to a bark. “Alright ladies and gents, we’re going to split into three fireteams, each led by a hunter. We’ll sweep the last known location of our three perpetrators.

Wraith 1 will be Ulvir, Ylgan 2, Bordensky 3, Ano 4 - you will take the upper floor, left side offices and scriptoriums.

Phantom 1 will be Battery, Rolands 2, Everette 3, Tenwa 4 - you will take the upper floor, right side offices and research halls.

Spector 1 will be Turner, myself 2, Jefferies 3, Gordon 4, Sapinsky 5 - we will take the first floor lecture halls and offices.

All teams will enter from the north and make their way south to grand library hall. Once we finish our sweep we’ll reconvene in the storage area and decide if we need to sweep the other buildings. RoE is capture but survival comes first. Any questions?”

The gathering shook their head, their answer coming in unison. “No sir!”

He stepped forward as Gillen stepped aside. “Alright then, keep your heads on a swivel and lets do this. Good hunting.”

“Hurrah!” His team chanted in unison before breaking apart into their respective groups as they made their way for the large, ominous stone building. Passing by a stone statue of a Mangdrell circling the central fountain of the courtyard he felt a tug at the sleeve of his jumper, a look back caught sight of soft walnut brown hair.

“Sir, a moment?” It was all business as Sergeant Sapinsky looked up at him with gray flecked hazels. He had to force himself to keep a professional face as well as he looked up at the rest of his squad. He could see the coy amusement on Jefferies' face as they turned to play catchup with the disinterested Gordon leaving only Gillen to level a disapproving look at the pair. Staring them down a moment longer the man grunted, turning to follow-up the rear of the squads.

They barely made it around the ferocious granite beast when the woman slid into his arms, leaning up to share a greedy kiss with him. He savored the stolen moment, the taste of her lapsinberry lip balm and the gentle aroma of habidrys that wafted from her short, curly locks.

The punk and the gentle princess, it was almost laughable that the two were a pair and yet… there they were. A wedding was still a ways off because they hadn’t quite worked out how they were going to do that since they’d rushed into pulling strings and favors to end up in the same platoon and even the same section despite the U.T.R.A,’s strict policies on fraternization between officers and NCO’s or their unwillingness to put families together. But the promise was made; the fancier, matching chain used to hold their dog tags speaking volumes of such.

Breaking that kiss he smiled down at the woman who mirrored the warmth back at him. “You be extra careful Len.”

“Oh, I should be careful Tia?” She giggled softly at the notion, the both of them knowing he was much more likely to fly off the handle at things than the battlefield medic. Part of the reason she used that same nickname that his brother Mike used rather than the much preferred Eli. Still, it was by her own insistence that she was part of a hunter team rather than as a nurse in a VA so she didn’t have much of a leg to stand on.

“Yes you should.” He gave her as stern a look as he could muster but it fell apart the instant her lips lifted to brush against his once more before she pulled away.

“I will. I got my hero with me after all, yeah?” Such a cheeky smile as she prodded him with that little term of endearment. He didn't’ see it, especially given that she’d been the one to save his life when he’d been munched near in two by a dragon during the war yet she still insisted that his punk ass self had done just the same and more back when they were just teens on the mean streets of Prysbil.

Rounding about the statue she was all business again, same as him… save for that little eep he garnered when he smacked her bottom while passing to catch up with the rest of the troops.

* * * * * *

It had been a cozy stay at home night for the new couple. Upon learning Alexia had never seen a television in her life, Danny exuberantly suggested a trash tv night. Bad sitcoms and poorly written drama series that took themselves too seriously, and lots and lots of junk food. She was only too happy to have a reason to snuggle up with him for hours. This time, she had stolen one of his shirts, despite having plenty of her own clothes, with the argument that it was just so soft and smelled like him. Greatly amused, he smiled and opened up his arms to her from his spot on the couch. Eventually, they both fell asleep in each other’s embrace. The channel they had been watching defaulted back to the color bar test screen, casting a soft glow upon them.

Sometime after, the little fae stirred. It started with a soft groan as though she might awake, instead resulting in a furrowing of her pretty brow and a frown pulling at her lips. In her dreams flashed the faces of people she had never met in what looked like some type of battle gear. They were looking at her as a voice somewhere near her barked orders after giving a last minute rundown of their mission. As they continued to stare at her, she became unnerved.

Soon the faces blurred and new images swirled into semi focus. A large building loomed ahead. She could hear broken static signals and the frantic sounds of crackly voices corresponding and then suddenly falling silent. Inside the building, books lined the walls all the way to the ceiling and would have been enticing to the vociferous reader that was the little halfling, but for the sudden burst of flames. They licked at every surface, singing her nostrils with acrid smoke. In the back of her subconscious, she wondered at the sensation. This was supposed to be a dream, a nightmare to be specific, so why did it feel like she was actually inhaling smoke?

Before she could ponder on it another moment, she felt strong hands on her shoulders. A familiar voice called out softly.

Alexia? Alexia!” Her eyes flew open and Danny’s face came into focus, concern etched deeply into his handsome features. He held her upright by her biceps, steadying her while she battled a small coughing fit. Idly she wondered when she had sat up. As her breathing slowed and the nightmare faded, her deeply scarred little hands rose to rest on his shoulders.

Wh-What…” Her voice trailed off as the upsetting visions began to fade.

You were having a nightmare, love.” His thumbs gently massaged her shoulders, grounding her back into the here and now.

N-Nightmare?” She echoed. Slowly, her little body began to slacken in his grasp. Danny nodded in response to her question.

Are you okay? Do you remember what it was about?” Although Danny didn’t know too many of the specifics, he knew, just like him, she’d had more trauma than one person should have to bear. His intense green eyes searched her rich dark brown ones.

N-No, I can’t say that I d-do…” With a small shake of her head, she managed a sweet smile for him. “I th-think I’m alright now, mo chroí.

He looked at her with uncertainty for a moment or two before softening his expression as well. Smiling warmly right back at her, he released her arms and reached up to take her face in his hand, his thumb gently tracing her eyebrow.

What say we go to bed, then, yeah?” He said, almost whispering. She nodded sleepily and, after placing a soft kiss on her lips, he scooped her up in his arms and carried her off to his bed. Within moments, they were both fast asleep, nestled happily in each other's arms.

(A special thank you to Alexia Longbow for writing in this scene!)
Last edited by Mach on Sat Jul 04, 2020 4:30 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Hunter's Life

Post by Mach » Sat Jul 04, 2020 4:29 am

Lucid Memories / Vivid Dreams - part 3


The weight of gravity pulled harshly against his limbs, causing the joints to scream. Blearily that lone cobalt eye, crusted with salt, cracked open as he groaned around a moist sponge shoved into his mouth. "W-Wger…?"

The muffled word seemed to catch the attention of the wiry man in the corner, staring raptly at the wall of displays glaring too painfully for him to focus on. Gaines turned, a look of surprise crossing them as they rushed over. "Oh no, no, no Mr. Turner… you still have work to do…" He tried to track them, a burning pain and pressure in the back of his head preventing him from following their movement to his side as they adjusted something with a few bips. He did spy a white… thing chewing on what looked like his cellphone though parts of the cover and display were obviously strewn about on the ground, the device destroyed.

And then he felt a shock of cold pushing into his arm, his gaze lethargic as he turned to look at his suspended arm, a blue liquid running through an IV taped into his veins. Shit, no, this was bad! He had to get up! Had to.. get out of.. this… Had to...

- - - - -

Silence shrouded the building, the crashing waves of the ocean and the call of the cliff dwelling birds uninterrupted by words or the bustle of habitation. It lent an eerie feeling to the large, monolithic structure as though death had come to the organic stone and they were some grisly cravens here to defile it's Leviathan corpse. Stacking up on the massive cathedral style door Phantom 1 pulled out their caster, a round manually fed into the chamber before they made a gesture back to the other two. Wraith team rounded the corner to the left side entrance while he and the rest of Spector stacked up on the much more sensibly sized entrance to the right, a quick check making sure the door was unlocked. A touch to the base of his left thumb would key up his comm, a soft 'S1 open' mumbled softly through closed lips. This was picked up, translated, and broadcast out in a soft robotic voice to all team members much like the 'W1 open' that whispered into his ear. With that Battery lifted their caster into the air and pulled the trigger, a soft electromechanical whir emanating from the device as it spun up. It took a moment for the spell to build before it released with an anemic, uninspiring pop. Inside the massive wooden doors mechanisms suddenly came to life, knocking and thudding as lock bolts slid, levers flipped, and finally a heavy clinking filled the air as chains were pulled along by counterweights causing the massive two story door to slowly swing open.

It was at that moment that he tipped open the door, Jefferies twisting the top off a canister they'd pulled from their chest webbing before lobbing it in through the gap. Similar actions occurred with the other two teams, a five count passing before… silence. The cathedral door reverberated a hollow thud exposing the large, empty atrium. 'Clear' whispered in tandem through the sound tube, in stereo for the third as Jefferies spoke while depressing a button on the canister top they still held deactivating the smart flashbang which obviously didn't detect any eyes. Still he gave the signal for everyone to sweep in; each soldier quickly slipping through the door in time, bullpup rifles up, with him bringing up the rear.

He swept his aim over the large room high and low as he entered, sighting above the scope as he looked for any threat or movement, not him or his. The rest of his team did the same, each covering a different quadrant of the room though there was no movement to be seen. It could almost have been mistaken for everything being as it should save for the body to right strewn out on the ground half out of a security vestibule. Dressed in the simple gray and black uniform of campus security, the poor bastard was missing half their head, hand still holding the melted remains of their radio to the crater that was once their left ear. The first responder that had called in the suspicious individuals to security dispatch.

"Shit, poor bastard…" Battery's tone was mild as they spoke, eyeing the corpse warily.

"Cut the chatter and focus on the task..." Gillen spoke in a hard hiss which had the hunter waving them off.

"Right, right…” Motioning lazily, their team proceeded up the right stairway as Werebear’s headed up the right. "Call me if your ass gets in too much of a sling, right Cap?"

He couldn't help but smirk at the glib, smug smile from the other as they made that jab in passing even as Gillen stared daggers into both of them. "Sure, sure. Let me know if the boom gets too much for you..." Now it was the others turn to chuckle mildly as they bound up the stair two at a time to catch up with the rest of their team which had already joined Werebear's at the top to sweep the balcony. A duo of ‘clears’ hummed in his ear before the group separated off down their respective sides of the building. For his part he waited for Jefferies to retrieve their smart grenade, the safety twisted back on before he motioned silently for his team to take the central hall which ran down the first floor. As the hunter he would take point, his rifle held level as he reached to depress the trigger once on his caster causing it to hum to life as it fed energy into the spellweave in his jumper. If shit hit the fan a hunter was most likely to walk away from it given each one was practically a walking swiss army mortar artillery. That and he had the means to protect himself from fireballs so he made a pretty hand hat on a stick.

This theory was tested out time and time again as he was the first into every room now, pushing in carefully to the empty offices and lecture halls, sweeping with the aim of his rifle before stepping in to allow the rest of his team to rush in so as to secure the space. Performing a thorough enough sweep of the area they’d ease back out into the hallway, the room just swept sealed with a piece of bang tape which would detonate if removed forcefully or broken. As the voices buzzed softly in his ear so too would be give brief, periodic reports over the comms to the others. ‘L2 Office swept, clean.’ ‘R3 Lecture swept, clean.’ ‘L3 Office swept, clean’ So on and so forth him, his team, and the other squads under his command moved as they worked to investigate the building.

It wasn’t till they’d just finish clearing the sixth lecture hall, Jefferies putting a strip of danger red bang tape between the frame and sliding door when the next report came in different from the rest:

Wraith 1 - UL8 Scriptorium, bodies found 8 adults, all DoA.

The report sent a chill down his spine as he considered this. “CoD?”

Wraith 1 - they all appear to be hit by fireballs… Fuck, none of them stood a chance, nothing but defensive burns on them…

He felt a frown pulling on him as he absorbed this information, a look and he quickly motioned his team to the next office suddenly feeling very exposed in that hallway. Crossing over quickly he pushed into the office only to be assaulted by the putrid stench of curdled rust. He smelled the body well before catching sight of it, a woman in her mid thirties slouched in the corner, blood oozing slowly out of a rather gnarly looking hole in their shoulder. “Shit!” His eyes widened, rifle leveled instinctively though he shook away the notion as he saw the slow, barely there pulse of blood from them. “Sapin… Spector 4, Spector 5, down and out, I need a status. Spector 1 All - body found L9 Office, 1 adult possibly still ali-”

Muffled by the walls and ceiling above he could still pick out the staccato bark of a burst from a G54-A, one, two, and then there was a chorus as others joined in. “Phantom 1? Wraith 1!? Report!” His call was met only with the rapport of more gun fire before more voices squawked in through the sound tube.

"T-This is Wr-Wraith 4... w-we've bee-"

"Wraith 2! Taking casualties! We're fuc-"

"Ano? ANO!? Shit, on my way!"

"Phantom 3! Get you're ass back in position! Phantom 3!"

"Werebear! Battery! Answer me, dammit!" He felt his teeth grit, a look back to his team who all looked to him expectantly. What was the right call? What should he do!? The thoughts buzzed in his head as the radio continued to buzz in his ear. Finally he had to pull the sound tube out, a shake of his head. "Gillen, Sapinsky, Gordon - stay here with the civvy. Jefferies, you're with me."

"Sir-" He heard the tension in Gillens gruff voice, whatever disapproval they were going to voice cut off by the hard glare he shot them.

"That's an order. If you can save them or you lose radio contact with all hunters then double back to the fire exit by L4 Scriptorium. Understood?"

The mans fingers flexed on the handrail of their rifle a moment, their jaw flexing before they gave a curt nod. "Roger."

"Jefferies-"

"I got it!" The man was already tossing the webbing containing their proximity kit to Gordon before they palmed a second magazine in hand for a hot swap. "Ready!"

There was no smiles for this situation but he offered the man who gave him so much crap... and understood him so well... a knowing nod as he joined them by the door. "Let's go."

* * * * *

Not long after the little fae had fallen back asleep, the same scene snapped right back into view. Grim, expectant faces awaiting command, the looming building with rows and rows of books. Only this time she could feel a tightness around her chest and her head felt heavy and enclosed. It was enough to induce a claustrophobic panic, yet somehow she pressed on. Something dangerous weighed heavily in her arms. She looked down to see a pair of deadly looking weapons, what she could only assume were firearms. Her stomach rolled at the sight.

She tried to close her eyes, so certain hot tears would begin to build and roll down her face, but they never came. And everytime she tried to close her eyes, the images would not disappear, but instead shift jarringly from one to the other. Until a soft, beautiful face came into view. A face with captivating hazel eyes, speckled with grey, framed by hair as dark as her own. All manner of emotions churned within her breast. The stranger’s smile simultaneously brought her boundless joy and reeling fear. She felt a deep, inexplicable longing to reach out and touch her cheek, but soon she too dissipated and gave way to the sight of that same stone building once more.

Suddenly, she was inside the building, pointing, giving orders in a voice that was not her own but still sounded strangely familiar. Groups broke off into fours in stealth.

Wraith 1, upper floor, left side offices and scriptoriums, go.” Her eyes followed as the first group departed.

Phantom 1, upper floor, right side offices and research halls, go.” Only when the second group disappeared did she turn to the remaining four faces that awaited her word.

Jefferies, Gordon, you take the right hall and circle about the dead and stuffed exhibit. Call in if the boom gets too much.” With a single curt nod, they were on the move.

She tried to steady herself as the world around her whirled like images on microfilm coming into focus. The sound of staticky airwaves buzzed in her head, broken only by the sound of panicked voices on the other end. Difficult as it was to make out what they were saying, it was clear they were in trouble. Then, suddenly, they fell silent.

Werebear! Battery! Answer me, dammit!” She felt the words tear from lips that were not hers. Desperation pervaded her mind as she pressed on into the next wing of the great library.

Suddenly, she saw her. That tender, loving face from before with the hazel eyes that were now wide with terror. Her heart dropped and a chill spread through her chest. She wanted to run to her, reach for her, this stranger with the speckled eyes, but before she could even breathe her next breath, there was a flash, a fireball exploded, and... blood. Her eyes shot wide with grief and fury searching wildly for the source, finally resting on what looked like a mage. A primal shriek rang in her ears, full of rage and despair as hands that she had no control over tore into their body, a wail of anguish pouring forth as she could see only red.

Then everything grew dark, the images of blood coating her hands and the frightened hazel eyes lingering, even as the nightmare faded. And the screaming. The screaming still pierced her ears until finally a familiar voice called out to her.

Alexia! ALEXIA!” Her eyes snapped open and for a moment the mage’s face still filled her vision, slowly giving way to Danny’s face, wrought with fear and deep concern. He had been trying to hold her by the shoulders but her hands flailed wildly, nearly striking him. Thanks to quick thinking, and even quicker hands, he darted out and snatched her gnarled little hands, easily engulfing them within his own. One, he brought down firmly on the center of his chest, the spot where her soul had settled when he and the witch, Sammie, brought her back from the ether.

Look at me! Look at me! It's alright! It's alright. Breathe, love. Just breathe.” As soon as her hand touched his chest, the screaming stopped. Her eyes slowly focused and the high pitched ragged breathing of an impending panic attack quickly quieted until she sagged in his arms. Finally, the tears came. Pulling her to his chest, he held her tight and stroked her hair gently while she sobbed uncontrollably.

(A special thank you to Alexia Longbow for writing in this scene!)
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