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 Post subject: Mission #1: High Noon on the Shambles (Part 2)
PostPosted: Sun Jul 19, 2009 11:24 pm 

Joined: Mon Jul 13, 2009 10:28 pm
Posts: 97
(Okay, I've been going through my archives and found a few mod posts and cooperative posts saved- as many consecutive posts as I could find and pile together. This is the most recent stuff that has been posted, so we can jump right back into it. First, a co-op post between Drakgun and myself, regarding the fall of one of the Dead Batteries.)

The winds blowing around the Shambles were of artificial sources. What should have been a somber, dry, hot day was still somber but admist the blaze of battle. There was no rhyme ofrreason to which way the winds blew in the narrow passes and channels of the Shambles below. Hex sat as still as a real cactus, letting his systems absorb the solar energy as he surveyed the target.

As the winds blasted up from time to time the petals of his brightly colored flowers shifted up slightly until it stopped and then went back in place. There was no doubt in his mind that Sunset had seen his movements, but he hoped that was the only one who had seen them. Hex hadn't stopped to consider that the wasp he had shot down much earlier that day was active again or that his bright flowers might draw his beastial instincts towards him.

Sunset moved from cover to cover, darting out swiftly now and then to duck behind a chunk of rubble or a jutting rock formation. She kept an eye on Hex- at the moment, he was the only one of their party who had succeeded in taking the high ground. That made him important.

Elder was taking his time, drawing a bead on anyone he caught a glimpse of and taking shots. An expression of grim pleasure was etched on his craggy, time-worn features as he peered through the scope with his good optic.Hex took stock of this and nodded internally. Elder was cautious and he was patient, which meant if he fired before the Batteries member fired, then his weapon would be aimed at him within a moment's notice. The only way to get this job done was to wait for him to fire and then strike like a viper and move or be shot. From this angle he could see why Elder liked it, you could see everything to a degree.

Elder squinted through his scope, and seemed to sight something new. He saw Ataraxes weaving between cover, and a little sneer parted his lips. He settled his sights on her, the scope shaking minutely, and his finger squeezed the trigger. A shot rang out, and only a lightning-quick evasion by the horse femme saved her from another hole in the head as she dove behind cover. Elder scowled, ejecting the spent casing.

At the same moment that Elder had began Hex noted the smile and took the mark. He transformed into stealth mode, picking up his solar file as it quickly transformed into its weapon form. He fired it off quickly, letting the hot burst go, and just as quickly he had picked his other weapon up and converted his rifle back to its cactus stick form. As the bright shot raced towards Elder, and Elder no doubt noticed, Hex leapt away in a North Easternly direction so he was more behind the ancient one. Once there the two disguised weapons were placed down and he returned to his living cactus disguise.

"What the-" Elder's reflexes were slow in his age, but he was tough. He jumped back from his sniper perch, raising his other arm to defend himself. He caught a graze from the blast, and as the searing solar energy raked his side, he let out a hiss of pain. The armor sizzled, scored black from the heat, and he cursed.

"Goldamn plant bastard to the pit and his mother!"

Hex had a better understanding now, this was going to be a long fight if he had to stay at a distance. He didn't know too much about this foe except that his age did wear on his shell. That could be of an advantage to him. So Elder knew what Hex was up to now; no use trying to sit and hide. He'd have to jump around long enough until he had confused Elder. Hex also knew that the best chance against the sniper now was to get in close and strike and move away. He had to keep this guy guessing for as long at it took. Hex took a chance figuring that at the moment Elder was still looking for him and transformed in stealth mode again. After attaching his cactus stick to his back he pulled his big gun up and it transformed; it might not have the fiery hit of the other one but at the moment it could do just as needed. He began firing the thorns from the gun at Elder after having just enough time to map a route to jump and memorize the terrain to core. Lacking vision sucked in bot mode, that was for sure.

"Yeah well 'least my mama won't a burnt out toaster oven reject!!!"

"Disrespectful brats, in my day you'd have had your brains scraped out with a shovel, and stuffed into a junkyard drone to teach you some forbearance!" Elder spat, swatting away a couple of thons while a few other burrowed into his rifle-holding arm. He had no time to line up his shots as patiently, and lacking any kind of semi-auto capability on his near-antique rifle, he had to settle for blasting as many rounds in Hex's general direction as he could. He was still a damn good shot for that; several bullets sped close to Hex's head and chest as Elder fired off shot after shot.

Hex furrowed his brow and narrowed his vacant optics as he continued firing at Elder. The older Con would have to reload at some point. One bullet buzzed so close to Hex's side that it cut through the cloth of his overcoat.

"Big talk from a downgraded gasguzzler. I'd like to see you try that one on me."

He made the choice that it was a better risk to jump now than to wait. He needed to get closer. Hex placed his auto-thorn gun back on his body while pulling his shield free and using to to protect his body while he began his jumping from area to area in order to confuse Elder. He needed to get him good and confused so he could get in close.

Elder tried a couple more shots with his rifle, but Hex was moving too rapidly. One slug buried itself in his organic shield, another went wild. This wouldn't do. Elder dropped the antique rifle and drew a sidearm- in this case, it was a six-shot pistol with an elongated barrel. He steadied it at Hex, firing off rounds. His shield was already damaged from Elder's previous slug. That six shot was going to be a problem, was all Hex could think when the shots hit the shield and it exploded into shards of cactus in all directions. With this diversion, Hex dove forward, down, quick right, and then slung left rolling onto one platform, reverting to cactili form and then springing back up as his robot mode while continuing his unpredictable zigzag circle behind Elder.

Hex, within the moments of rolling as a cactili, scanned the area only long enough to get a rough estimate of the terrain around him. He was going to have to find enough cover soon to really scan the area. It was during his blind acrobatics that Hex decided the first close encounter assault with Elder might be best addressed with his pollen. If it worked then he'd have a little more level playing field, if it didn't then at least that was one less thing to try. If that didn't work his flare pod would definitely blind his foe, which was something Elder needed to focus.

"Goldamn ridiculous jumpin'-jack nonsense!" Elder growled. He'd spent three shots, and had three more in the revolver. He swiveled it around rapidly. "Hold still and fight man to man, you chlorophyll-huffing greenbeaned bastard!"

Hex wondered exactly where Elder was aiming currently. If his guess was correct he was close to the back of the Con. Hex took another uncalculated chance, it was all he could do since he was blind. While flying through the air he took a dagger out with pollen and landed. When he landed he was on the same area that held Elder, unfortunately it was to the right of Elder, who had a revolver ready to meet him.

"Clanking rusting buckets of Decepticons...." he rushed and then rolled forward as the first shot was fired taking the count down to 2 if he guessed right. Hex leapt back up under Elder's arm and slashed at his side with the pollen. Hex transformed into cactili form after he jumped from the cradle of the beast freefalling down to a platform below. A bullet lodged itself into his thick skin and chlorophyll began to leak out around the bullet in his skin. He quickly moved to hide in and around some debris. That bullet stung but not as much as it would have if Elder had hit him in robot form.

Elder was bringing his long-barreled revolver to bear for another shot, when his good optic started to lose focus. His aim wavered somewhat, and he frowned.

"You hippy-tripping...bastard...this ain't quite right. I'm not feeling quite correct- did you DRUG me?!" He stumbled a little to one side, and shook his head rapidly. The rooftop he was standing on was warping a little before his vision, and distant ringing noises were rising and falling in his audio.

"Some enjoy it, it's just my personal pollen. Oughta be lucky...better take it easy." Hex's voice kinda echoed off the metal on the roofs. He had his bearings, now it was time to get back up on top of this situation.

"Ether-headed junkie vegetation!" Elder shouted, his voice seeming to warble bizarrely in his own ears. He tilted somewhat, and squinted towards the sound of Hex's voice. He picked out a large piece of wood and metal debris that looked thin enough for a round to penetrate, and fired straight through it. Hex transformed into robot form and slung himself towards a chain hanging from the building which lead to the roof that Elder was on.

"Just wait a little and the real fun'll start. Wait 'til up's down...and down's up."

The shot that stuck in him from cactilian form was now in his new shield which made it weak from the beginning. Hex heard the shot hit and destroy his little hiding place as he continued to climb. Time to be silent. Hex narrowed his offlined optics in more of habit than need. Elder took a couple of stumbling steps as his antique neural net tried to fight the hallucinogenic poisoning that had overtaken it. Same as any intruder in a computer program- it went for the most vital areas and started working its effects. Optical perception went first.

The bomb-gutted roof of the one of the Shambles' houses seemed to warp and bulge to his bleary optic. Elder looked at his own hand, seeing the fingers twist and discolor before his gaze.

"This...is...intolerable, you damn-" Elder's voice seemed to draw out and grow muffled to his ears. "Bean...sucker-"

'Beansucker huh?' Was all Hex thought as he touched down silently on the roof top behind Elder at some distance. He transformed into cactilian form silently to observe the area and focus in on Elder. In only five clicks his stealth transformation activated again as he was in robot form with his bullet pistol in one hand and his dagger in the other. Hex moved forward without a word and slashed his dagger across the ancient one's back.

"GRAH!" Elder spun around, going on pure instinct, and lashed out with a punch. Decrepit tho he may have been, there was a lot of power in those old pistons, and Hex caught it right in the jaw. He stumbled back from the hit and growled. "Slag sucking saurian...!"

Hex leveled his pistol at Elder's chest and fired off a few bullet shots at rather close range. He might have been pushed back about 20 feet but it was still close enough. Hell his jaw hurt and then his tongue felt it, a loose tooth. "You sorry Deceptitoaster...you knocked one 'a my tooths loose." He spat on the ground some mech and plant mixture of fluids along with a tooth.

"No more'n you deserve, junkie!" Elder retorted. His CPU was flashing warnings of the intruder in his system, and he tried to reorient his sight and sound as he charged towards Hex. He spun out another punch, this one swiftly ducked by the Cactili 'bot, and tried to bring the butt of his gun downward on Hex's head.

First he tossed his dagger up towards Elder's gullet and next Hex brought his shield up to block the butt of the gun. It did its job but it also made contact with the bullet wedged in the shield. The bullet exploded on impact and caused cactus shards to fly in all directions as both Hex and Elder were knocked on their skids. Hex slowly got to his feet, reverting to Cactili form to survey the area and quickly changing back to robot form upon seeing Elder. He clutched the pistol in one hand and his newly formed, weak cactili shield in the other.

Elder got slowly to his feet. The battleground was chaos around them, bullets flying around and shouts of aggression and cries of pain sounding from below the roof. But at the moment, the two of them were focused solely on each other. Elder narrowed his good optic. He was seeing three Hex's. Now six. Now just one. Now three again.

"You know what you Maximals are? Same as you Predacons. A bunch of goldamned usurpers! Johnny-come-latelys to Cybertron! Pretenders to the power and glory of the Decepticon race! In my day you'd have already decapitated me, or I you, and that'd have been just and honorable! But now my brain's addled, I'm chock full o' poison, and it's all down to who can shoot faster, damn your eyes!"

"You dun' know how true you are 'bout that partner." Elder had no way of knowing that his enemy was blind and that's why he was having to be cautious but this was taking way too much time. Hex put his shield and pistol down. He pulled out two daggers and whirled them in his hands for only a moment before holding them back, ready to strike.

Hex lunged forward, knowing from memorization where his target had been last. He whirled quickly from one side to the other. Hex had no doubt that Elder would do damage to him when he got close but it was the only way he would be able to gut him like a fish. Hex leapt up into the air several clicks later after jumping from side to side while moving fast, he was just making it up as he went along. While Elder was preoccupied with his vision he slammed down both daggers towards Elder's throat.

Elder could see dimly that Hex had put down the shield and pistol, and so holstered his revolver. He drew a thick, nasty-looking club from his back, something that appeared to have real heft to it. The three Hex's in his vision jumped from side to side before diving down on him, and Elder just narrowly evaded the slice, rolling backwards with a grimace.

"Keep coming at me! One of us will finish this, or so help me I'll pick up my rifle and shoot out your brainstuffs aiming purely by the smell!" he ranted, before charging forward and swinging his club back and forth towards Hex's head.

Elder must have been seeing multiple versions of Hex because Hex could feel a lot of air swinging about him and near impact of something with a lot of force behind it as he moved. Hex spat in Elder's face as he rolled to the left to meet the club into his back. Damn that hurt. He then jumped up as the old one began to raise the club up again for another strike. Hex landed on top of the club using it as a perch for a moment and then jumped into Elder's chest. He wasn't going to underestimate the Decepticon's strength because this guy could move the club and maybe his own weight with only staggering slightly. But the imbalance from the increased weight with Elder's strength would cause a severe imbalance of weight and help propel Hex into his target. He stabbed the two daggers into Elder's chest plating, one on either side deep enough to stick but only to be slapped away by the con's hand.

Hex grunted as he stood back up and transformed into Cactili form about 15 ft away. If Elder had been able to see straight then he would have known Hex's weakness a while ago but he just couldn't tell if Elder knew or not.

Elder reached for the daggers jutting out of his chest. He pulled one out with a grunt, tossing it down onto the roof, and reached for the other one. He yanked it out, then looked at it speculatively- before stabbing his club straight through with it. He swung the new weapon from side to side experimentally. Now he had a club with a blade sticking out of it.

"Never leave your weapons with the enemy, boy!" Elder shouted, charging and swinging his improved bludgeon forward.

Hex laughed a little and he pulled two more daggers out from their holders. He rushed towards Elder seeing exactly what he hoped, the gash in the armor was enough to show the skinplates below, right about the spark casing. Hex preferred not to kill criminals, but this war criminal wouldn't stop if left to live. Someone somewhere would break him out and then it would start all over again. "May Primus have mercy on your spark as I send you straight to the Pitt!!!"

His daggers would be true and he smiled. He tossed the dagger in his right hand at Elder's chest as he yelled. If Elder deflected it Hex was already in the air and flyings with dagger in both hands towards the 'Con's chest to impale his spark.

Elder's vision was impaired, and so he saw three daggers flying at him. He spun out a palm to knock them away, but missed the one that mattered. The dagger sunk deep into his chest and he growled with pain, stumbling. Before he knew it Hex was upon him.

"I'm not a young'in like most of'em but I am still a junior only to you. On your way to the Pitt, enjoy your memories and live you gory glory. In eternal peace you died with honor in your final battle but now it's time to pay the price that all Cybertronian pay."

Hex pulled his dagger out and then stabbed it down into the hole he had started quickly. "In all time we all fall and eventually 'all are one' once more."

Elder sank to his knees, swung his improvised bludgeon one more time, and Hex sidestepped it. The blade buried itself in the roof underneath them and Elder grimaced irritably. He fell backwards, his vision turning dark as his ancient systems succumbed.

"I'll...see you again..." Elder wheezed, and his remaining good optic finally went dark.

Hex was silent in prayer, letting Elder's last words sink in. Once he raised his vacant optics he spoke while working over the dead Decepticon's body and collecting what he could. "That I have no doubt of...I am not without my own sin and when my time comes I will have to face my actions both by the spirits and by the allspark."

Somewhere across the Shambles a lone Decayote howled into the air of the battlefield, but none would know of its howl except for those closest to death.


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 Post subject: Re: Mission #1: High Noon on the Shambles (Part 2)
PostPosted: Sun Jul 19, 2009 11:26 pm 

Joined: Mon Jul 13, 2009 10:28 pm
Posts: 97
(Now here's my most recent mod post, compiling the most recent activities of everyone's character. If you want to jump right in, read this to see where your guy is. Direct any other questions to me over IM or PM.)

In the midst of this insanity, bullets flying back and forth, a lone armadillo was trotting its way across the scorched sand and concrete of the Shambles, avoiding one deadly projectile after another. Impossible? Apparently not, but very improbable. Digger clawed his way to a stop in the shade of a disembodied Autobot head, a large chunk of its face slashed out. No recent kill, him- this head had been here for decades.

Digger sniffed at the air, picking up the acrid scent of spilled mechfluid and ejected rifle round casings. He conjectured that he was beneath Elder's sniping spot, glancing up to see the overhanging roof where the ancient Decepticon had been terrorizing Digger's friends with well-placed shots. Then he saw it- an arm hanging limply over the edge of the roof, and mechfluid pooled on the roof's lip and dripping down steadily. Elder was out of the fight for good, leaving Digger to pursue another objective.

"Shit fire, and save matches!" Thresher said with surprise, staring up at the roof as he backed away from errant gunfire and noticed the blood-drip, halting nearby Digger's hiding place. "I didn't think anything could kill that old bastard. Flintlock's gonna be-"

The wheat-thresher Vehicon paused as his foot bumped against the head. He kicked it out of the way, and in the process of doing so, completely exposed Digger. Thresher stared at him for a moment, Digger stared back, and with a curse Thresher bent down, opening up his narrow chest to reveal a spinning, gnashing chaos of blades, and tried to scoop Digger up into himself.

-------------------

Buzzbomb may have struck the average observer as being a few sandwiches shy of a picnic, but he knew enough to learn from his mistakes- he was still smarting from having had his previous body destroyed by Hex back at Sawback Pass. He didn't swoop blindly down at Quake, tho his frenetic string of buzzing self-aggrandizement certainly continued. Quake chucked a grenade up at the chattering insect, who narrowly avoided the midair explosion. One of his wings was caught in the edge of the blast and he flapped a distance away, blowing frantically on the smoldering edges.

"Buzzy hates fire! Buzzybomb especially hates stupid coneheads that use fire!" he spat, and, his damaged wing extinguished, began to flap back around for another pass.

"Good shot! We should've hired you. I mean, back when I was still with this gang, and if I had a say in hiring policies." Turncoat said as he hurriedly crouched behind cover next to Quake.

"...the hell are you taking up my personal space for?" Quake asked, looking askance at him.

"I was with that armadillo guy, but he armadillo'd up and left me. Look, whats-her-name the wolf confiscated my piece, I can't do nothing! I need a gun!" Turncoat said, nudging Quake frantically.

"Kid, you are surely writing up a tall order, askin' ME for expendable hardware." Quake scowled at him. "Go away 'fore I punt you into a ditch."

"Look, if you protect me, it's worth your while!" Turncoat babbled, ducking under another volley of bullets. "I saw things and heard things while I was in the DBs' employ, and I can tell you where they keep their gains! Huge piles of credits, I swear on my mother's life!"

Quake suddenly reached out, snatching Turncoat by the neck, and pulled him forward. The weasel hit the ground hard and the space he'd just been occupying erupted into dust and smoke as one of Buzzbomb's grenades hit. They heard, distantly, the sound of a buzzing curse in the sky.

"Ya just got marginally more interestin'." Quake told him. "You ain't getting no gun offa me, as guns don't run cheap, but maybe I'll try 'n' keep bullets and blades from meeting your body while you tell me a little more 'bout this money."

"I know exactly where it is!" Turncoat told him, wincing as another bullet whizzed by overhead. "I know, I know, leading you to it, obvious trap, but if you get me through this alive I'll make it worth your while. I want to help you guys. Hey, maybe if I do good enough, you'll have an opening for me in your gang, right?"

"HEY! TURNCOAT!"

The youthful weasel turned around, his optics widening, and a series of hollow-point bullets slammed into his chest, piercing his spark and showering Quake with mechfluid. Gundown walked up, a patient smile on his handsome face. He leveled his gun at Turncoat- an old pistol, recently modified for burst fire capability, a laser sight, and a stock to reduce recoil. Gundown squeezed the trigger again, and three more rounds blew out the back of Turncoat's neural net. He hit the ground, what remained of his face staring at Quake.

"Precocious little back-stabber." Gundown tsked, as he raised his pistol and leveled it at Quake. "Got to admit, the lack of loyalty vexes me. How loyal are you, friend?"

Before Quake could answer, Gundown fired.

-----------------

"I think maybe you two idiots are getting me confused with my brother! I'm not gonna be that easy a kill!" Gatling called out as she swung her gun from side to side, barrels spinning and bullets chewing up anything in front of them.

Fenrir didn't reply back for once, as an idea occurred to her. Slinking down deeper behind cover, she eyed the massive ammo drum strapped to Gatling's back. A bullet-belt ran out from the drum's underside, feeding into the teen femme's gatling gun. She took a closer look at the straps- just leather, aged and frayed.

Pistonhoof was lining up his shot, waiting for the right moment. He fired off another round and Gatling cursed as her gun swayed. She smacked it with the flat of her hand, willing the barrels to speed back up, and began to march more in Pistonhoof's direction. Fenrir saw her chance. Uttering a very quick mental prayer to whatever she gods she never bothered to worship, just in case they were willing to listen now, she dove out from behind cover, took a bounding leap towards Gatling's back with all the speed a wolf could muster, and perched up on the ammo drum. Her knife flashed out of its sheath and she severed one of the straps to Gatling's ammo drum.

The teen desperado let out a yelp of surprise and rage, and spun around, smashing Fenrir in the face with her heated minigun barrels. Fenrir fell to the ground and dove back behind cover, clamping a hand to her dented brow. Gatling staggered, trying to regain her equilibrium. That ammo drum was still feeding her gun, but now it hung by one strap at an assuredly lopsided angle.

"PAINS! IN! THE ASS!" Gatling shouted, stomping a foot down on the ground, her drum shaking ponderously on her back. She glanced rapidly from side to side, aware that Fenrir and Pistonhoof were flanking her and to focus solely on either one would be inviting another backside attack. Focusing all of her strength, Gatling hefted the gun with one hand, firing it in Fenrir's direction, while drawing a sawed-off shotgun from her belt with her other hand and blasting it towards Pistonhoof's cover.

----------------

Flintlock leapt from platform to platform, an expression of blackest rage etched on her face. This was taking entirely too long, and too many losses had been incurred at these intruders' hands already. She'd take out every one of her frustrations on their heads. She idly glanced over to her left, on a roof far across, and what she saw very nearly caused her to stumble right off her platform.

"...PA!" she shrieked. "YOU BASTARD!"

She took a flying leap towards Hex, intending to pump him full of as many bullets as she could fit into his stinking Cactili frame, but a shot zoomed by her face and she changed direction in midair, putting out a leg to stop herself as she skidded into the Shambles dirt, narrowly evading one of her own gang's tripwires. Ataraxes lowered her rifle, smirking and beckoning Flintlock forward.

"First my boy, then my pa! You'll bleed for both of them!" Flintlock raged, and spinning her rifle out towards Ataraxes, began to blast away at the equine femmebot.


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 Post subject: Re: Mission #1: High Noon on the Shambles (Part 2)
PostPosted: Sun Jul 19, 2009 11:43 pm 

Joined: Mon Jul 13, 2009 10:28 pm
Posts: 97
(And finally, here's another co-op post that Tarantulas and I put together involving the fall of another one of the Dead Batteries Gang. And this completes my extremely long post dump. Welcome back to Metal Frontier!)

A 'bot of Quake's size wouldn't have had time enough to dodge a shot from a marksman like Turncoat at close point range, but then again Quake had never met a problem he couldn't solve by tearing into it with both hands. Ramming one meathook through the sheet-metal walls of the shack, the wall of shrapnel came apart with a titanic shriek. Quake brought his makeshift shield to bear just in time to ward off a perfect headshot-- but the bounty still got in his opportunity to perforate the big bot's shoulder with lead. Quake staggered back toward the steep cliffside dropoff behind him.

Gundown saw where Quake was headed and took advantage. He continued to fire off shots from his modified pistol, and tho Quake's shrapnel shield stopped some, others were merely slowed and drove themselves into his chest with reduced force- not enough to severely wound him, but enough to keep driving him backwards. Quake grunted under the strain, but managed to keep his footing steady, and just as his back heel touched the empty air out past the ledge, he tensed his arms against the pitter-patter-clang of each bullet, and then--

Gundown was forced to duck as the bullet-riddled titanium plate hurtled across the room, a projectile as wide as the slim Predacon gunslinger and half again. The throw went wide of the mark, but small meteors left less of an impression than the dent made by Quake's shield.

By the time Gundown went back to sighting down his barrel, where Quake had stood, there was only a swirl of sand and wind.

Gundown's optics narrowed and he hurried over to gaze down the cliff, keeping his gun at the ready. He had listened for the satisfying crunch of Quake's metal body hitting the rocks below, but had thus far been disappointed. The air gave hardly so much as a whistle as the blade arced in through the shack's crooked doorway.

Gundown let out a grunt of surprise, stumbling back and raising his left arm to catch Quake's hand. As they connected, the grenade tumbled between the two bots' feet and exploded, crumpling the lower corner of the shack inward and blowing out the ledge underneath them. The two lifted briefly into the air from the explosion, then started to fall. The drop wouldn't kill them, but it'd sure as hell hurt.

The sand-crusted bounty hunter wrenched his hand around, trying to get a grip on the smaller Maximal's body. The fall might hurt, but it'd hurt Gundown worse if Quake were to land on top of him. The two of them bounced off of a rocky slope and rolled down it, tumbling end over end. Gundown knocked his shoulder a damn good one on a jutting rock and kicked reflexively, pushing Quake off of him as he rolled away, finally coming to a stop some twenty feet away.

Quake slid down the slope at a clumsy tumble, rubbing his forehead into the dust and stone. He took that moment to cogitate a little, then dug his hands into rubble and righted himself, landing heavily on his feet. Gundown already had his gun out, now forced to shoot from his left side after having had his right shoulder injured. Accuracy impairment notwithstanding, he still got off enough shots grazing or impacting Quake to piss him off that much more. The Maxi was a hell of a quick-draw.

Quake, on the other hand, was slower than molasses at absolute zero and aware of the fact. He sidled crabwise back around the canyon's bottom, hugging the walls, wristblades drawn and held in front of him like a boxer. When he felt like there was some distance between him and Gundown, Quake leapt onto the rock face and punched both arms into the brittle stone, and began the process of hauling himself up again, little by little. There was no disguising the none-too-subtle sound, and Quake didn't try.

"Suppose there's no faultin' yer logic, offin' a two-timin' little squirt like Tourniquet like'n y'all did. Or... Whatever the slag his name was," Quake bellowed, nonchalantly, down the rocky alley. "Makes a fella wonder how such a level head ends up signin' hizzown very death warrant, throwin' in with a family which neither respects nor resembles him." Quake threw in the insinuation without even trying to disguise his amusement.

"The kids wouldn't look like me- they're adopted. You don't perform background checks on your bounties?" Gundown said, leveling his gun at Quake. He squeezed the trigger and the gun clicked idly, spent. Without even a pause to curse, Gundown lowered his injured arm and fished into his pocket compartment for another clip. Quake just knew he'd be one of those types that has their reload time down to fractions of a second.

Quake went over the top amid a hail of bullets. Rolling onto all fours, he took inventory of his aches and pains and all the little holes in his armoured hide. The sensory overload that a 'bot experienced as pain was getting to him-- whatever little of him there was to get to. No more risks. Gundown wasn't the last or biggest doggie of this particular roundup, and Quake would be damned if he'd let the little pest bog him down or see him sweat.

"Time for a bushwhack," Quake muttered, and scuttled into high gear.

Gundown began to move quickly and carefully through the canyon, optics locked on the top of the ridge. There was a rocky path that ascended back up to the plateau proper of the Shambles, winding its way along the west side of the canyon. Gundown headed for this path, ready for and expecting Quake to pop out at any second like a shooting gallery dummy.

The rocks didn't stir, though they rang out with the sounds of the fighting that still rocked the rest of the Shambles. Grasses rustled, as dust whirled in small eddies about the wrecked walls and ship debris.

"You don't strike me as a team player. How many other hunters did you come here with? Seven? Eight? That's a lot of ways to split the reward money." Gundown said aloud as he gazed around the desolate path.

No reply. Stubborn coot.

"You can't be doing this out of any sense of justice or keeping the peace. You know all of that's a crock. So what are you? A tag-along? Hard up for beer money? Is that worth crawling around this dusty canyon hoping not to get your brains blown out?" Gundown continued, sweeping his gun barrel slowly from side to side.

Nothing but blasted, heat-scorched rocks, charred half to cinders by crashing ships and Pioneer guns.

"I guess comebacks aren't your strong suit." Gundown said, frowning a little, and turning his head to begin looking in another direction. He took a step, and the ground under his feet opened up like the jaws of Hades, with an alien monstrosity rising up to claim him.

Quake the antlion grappled the Maximal to the ground, dragging them both back down into the earth like an anchor, like some terrible insect Charon. Even with both mandibles clamped down, the bounty hunter's droning voice rumbled from somewhere inside the drab, hairy body.

"I ain't out here t' satisfy some scrawny bounty's idle curiosity, y' pissant. 'Bot what sets the traps oughtta know better'n rise to th' bait hisself. 'Specially fer the likes of you."

"Whatever- gets you- out where I can shoot you-!" Gundown retorted, his legs trying to push apart Quake's powerful jaws, holding onto one of the bristly mandibles with his left hand, while his right scrabbled along the dusty ground behind them for his weapon. He snatched it up and fired several shots into Quake's mouth. The hail of gunfire loosened the antlion's grip-- losing an eye will do that. The insect disguise tore away, exposing one of Quake's metal fists. A parting shot crushed several fingers, and the Predacon actually swore out loud.

"You c'n shoot as you damn well please, varmint, it ain't gonna mean much at this point! Terrorize!"

Transforming, Gundown's every shot took a heavy toll on his considerable bulk. Rasping nastily in his vocal processor, Quake used the temporary momentum of switching modes to sweep under the bandit with a jaw-turned-blade, flipping him a quick circle in midair, landing him face down in the dirt below.

If Gundown breathed, the wind would surely have been knocked out of him. As it was, his HUD flashed an impact/pain sensor warning and he scrambled to his feet. Before he could get his gun trained, Quake had flung out a massive fist again, meeting him with a honey of an uppercut. Metal clanged, Gundown's nose bent and broke to the left, mechfluid trailing out into the hazy high noon air, and the Dead Batteries' patriarch landed on his back in the dirt.

"That's the way y'do it." Quake stalked forward, nothing but patience in his walk. He could see Gundown's arm sprawled across the hardscrabble, his fingers still curling and uncurling loosely around the trigger of his sidearm. Gundown planted his other hand, struggling to his feet. He stood, barely, his optics struggling to focus on Quake. He leveled the gun at the antlion Predacon, but the barrel was wavering.

The two bots stared each other down. Gundown caught the glint of his own mechfluid around the edges of the bounty hunter, silhouetted against the horizon, Quake's featureless face glared in harsh light of sunset.

Quake took a step. "One hand behind my back," he snarled, putting his good hand around his waist, reaching out for the other bot with the fist Gundown had shot near to pieces.

Gundown pulled the trigger with all of his remaining strength.

The sun flared. The sound of it echoed like an explosion in Gundown's audio channels.

The bandit opened his eyes, not realizing he had closed them.

His arm, gun and all, lay twitching on the ground.

Quake held out his mangled arm, wristblade still extended.

"My-" Gundown said faintly, looking at the stump where his forearm had formerly been attached.

"Yep."

"Cut my-" Gundown struggled to speak, as if attempting to summarize this turn of events but unable to find the words.

"Yep."

"You cut my damn arm off." Gundown said. His other arm dropped. He turned around, starting to walk up the path. He managed several steps, starting to approach the top where the battle still raged. Quake followed him patiently, and watched as Gundown, mechfluid pouring down his side, crumpled to his knees, then fell flat on his face.

Quake stood over the fallen Gundown, solemn and silent, gazing across the Shambles, taking in the rut and riot of the fighting.

Then he skewered Gundown through the spark chamber, raised him up for a good long look, reached out and pulled off his head one-handed.

"C'mon, little man. Let's you and I give yer old lady an open casket at least."

Quake dusted himself off, considered the head, and dropped it with a tsk of dismissal next to the body. Weren't no money in collecting trophies, at least not for this job. He headed back towards cover.


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 Post subject: Re: Mission #1: High Noon on the Shambles (Part 2)
PostPosted: Mon Jul 20, 2009 7:48 am 
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"SonuvA!" Pistonhoof yelled out, "There's no stopping her!" He turned round and transformed to scaleback mode, taking off in a gallop.

Gatling gleefully kept shooting at his rump, "Yeah you better run!" she called after him.

"You yellow belly!" Fenrir shouted.

Shotgun pellets tore into Pistonhoof's tail hide, but he kept running. He winced and counted out the distance. "Seventy five.. One hundred, One twenty-five stop!" He whipped around and transformed, rifle in hand. Gatling kept shooting, but at this distance, he'd been in worse sandstorms. As she saw his long range rifle leveled against her short range shotgun, Gatling realized she'd miscalculated. She was about to spin around and switch her guns' targets but Pistonhoof's first shot rang out. Gatling felt a jolt in her shoulder and then stumbled off balance when her ammo barrel came loose and clanked on the ground. The next two shots bore holes in her left arm and made her drop the shotgun.

After the third shot, Pistonhoof paused, to get a good aim on her chest, and give Fenrir an opening.


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 Post subject: Re: Mission #1: High Noon on the Shambles (Part 2)
PostPosted: Mon Jul 27, 2009 11:41 am 

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"Well now," a bemused, cocky voice came from behind Gatling. The young femme clenched her jaw so tightly that you could have heard teeth grinding. "Isn't this just a predicament?" Pistonhoof sighed as Gatling turned, revealing Fenrir right behind her. Leave it to his temporary teamate to put herself in the line of fire just when he had the berserk mini-gun wielding femme dead to rights.

Somehow, Gatling still managed to almost 'quick-draw' the minigun, but when she pulled the trigger, the barrels spun a quarter inch at most, the electric motor that powered the thing whining in protest a moment before she swore and dropped it.

"So now what? You want a rematch? One on one, is that it?" She retorted, clenching her hands into fists. She was stronger than the other femme, and she knew it. All she had to do was bend a few arms, wreck a few gears, and she had a perfect shield to use while she booked for the hills and lay low before doubling back to meet up with everyone else. It was clear now that the Dead Batteries gang was no more. At least, not without a helluva lot of recruiting.

"Nah," Fenrir said, and grinned wickedly, before taking one big step to the left. A very loud bang rang out, and Gatling looked down in surprise at the gaping hole in her chest, just above her spark chamber. One hundred and twenty five feet away, Pistonhoof tilted his head to the right, then looked back down the scope. It had been a perfect shot, the size of the round severing the connections between the spark and the neural net. Gatling dropped to one knee, then looked up at Fenrir as the light in her optics flickered. "I just wanted to see the look of surprise on your face when you lost," the wolf-femmed finished with a smirk. With that, Gatling pitched forward onto her face, going into hard stasis lock. Fenrir meanwhile gave Pistonhoof a thumb's up.

Another one down.


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 Post subject: Re: Mission #1: High Noon on the Shambles (Part 2)
PostPosted: Mon Jul 27, 2009 4:24 pm 
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[[edited per clarification that Gatling isn't dead, just shut down]]

Pistonhoof rested his rifle over his shoulder, looked back at Fenrir and nodded once. Then, he drew in a sigh and let out a deep, sullen breath, not unlike the grunt of a scaleback who's just got done a day of riding two megacycles too long. That was no easy shot.

Aiming like that, you don't get much in the peripherals. Just enough for your instincts and early warning system to let you know where the danger is. He'd sensed Fenrir was wide open and Gatling was getting desperate. He had no idea if she was out of guns or had ten more. So he took the shot. When he looked up, and saw Fenrir's face and body language, he realized she'd just been goading her on. If Gatling had made a little quicker move, Pistonhoof would've fired the kill shot without thinking. It was there, and it was an easier shot. Instead, he had time to go for the shutdown. Now hopefully there wasn't anyone bloodthirsty enough in this posse to stab her spark, just 'cause.

Not that he'd shed tears over Gatling, it just wasn't his way. Not a path he wanted to trod again. Pistonhoof shook it off. There was still shooting and commotion going on, so back to business.


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 Post subject: Re: Mission #1: High Noon on the Shambles (Part 2)
PostPosted: Wed Aug 05, 2009 9:04 am 

Joined: Mon Aug 03, 2009 10:58 am
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Hex had enough time to recover as he scoped the area in Cactilian form. His new equipment gathered from his ded foe. These were hard times and Hex always used what every the spirits or the Allspark afford him. Those vacant eyes scoped the skys for any unfriendly individuals. Hex snapped his gaze down upon Flintlock who was madder than a nest full of hornets after being hit by a rock. That vacant stare closed in on her sight of aggression. Ax was going to need some cover fire if not more. Hex moved to a closer position above the ground to Flintlock and began to close her in his scopes only aftr converting back to his sightless bot mode.

' Suppose this is redemption time. Gotta roll with it.'


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 Post subject: Re: Mission #1: High Noon on the Shambles (Part 2)
PostPosted: Fri Aug 07, 2009 6:38 am 

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Digger scrambled backwards even as the Vehicon’s clawlike fingers gathered purchase under the armadillo’s scaly plates. Thresher, who was pretty much a giant monster to Digger from his beast mode’s current frame of reference, proving the point as his churning, whirling turbine stalled on a big chunk of volcanic glass. A whole mess of shards pegged Digger’s shell. Hurt like the dickens, but the pain could tell you when you were still alive, anyway. He scrambled some more.

Thresher roared something and plunged an ugly metal fist into the dirt and weeds near Digger’s tail. Tere were probably words in that roar somewhere, but Digger didn’t make them out over the spinning blades, not to mention the flurry of error messages flashing through his electronic brain. Going to beast mode on a busted leg among other injuries maybe hadn’t been the best of plans, especially what with Digger missing the last two years’ worth of preventative maintenance. Transforming back to normal, though, could come with its own share of problems.

But what were his better options? Sneaking through a battlefield, another one of his fine-tuned plans, and then getting caught halfway through the sneak? Worse wisdom could be had, but you’d need to go far to get it.

Digger was saved for a spell by big chunks of plant matter going into the Vehicon’s gaping maw. Thresher chewed up the cactus thorn bullets (if that was what they were) and spat them back out, but the impact slowed him down, for what that was worth. It gave Digger time to round the corner headed downhill, into a series of forking canyons. With any luck he could lose the big-mouthed ‘Con down a switchback. Four feets don’t fail me now, Digger mused to himself, making for what looked like a safe niche to duck out of sight.

But some bandit had the same idea. A skinny, run-of-the-mill Pred covered in rattlesnake hide and toting a minigun along one arm looked down at the Earth mammal at his feet with a look that was a mixed cocktail of desperation, despair, and pure will to survive, and the chaingun’s barrels started to spin up.

Digger thought about transforming, but this narrow canyon seemed like the worst place to be bigger than a two-foot armadillo. Instead he gambled and ran between the chaingun Pred’s-- Chainy for short-- between Chainy’s bowed legs, into a puddle that gave way to a crack in the cliffside, made by long-term erosion.

It was luck, mostly, that the water got deeper and the hole got wider. It got a lot darker, too, but Digger trundled on.

That was when he heard the rattle.

Chainy, it seemed, had gained back a little confidence. Seeing Digger flee might’ve done it-- Preds could be like that. Hell, anyone could. If a full-grown rattlesnake could kill an armadillo, then Digger didn’t much like his chances against an oversized mechanized version, and like as not trained by this Predacon’s navy. He could barely turn himself around in this watery tomb he’d backed himself into. If there was a prayer, then it was a hole overhead, some sixty paces ahead, letting a little natural light into the water.

The footing gave way underneath him, leaving him to tread what was mostly water, and a little mud. Still no room to manuever, scraping the walls with his sides.

Forty paces, thirty...

If he had to swim... Armadillos could swim, but they weren’t much good at it. They sank, eventually.

Twenty paces, ten to go...

Digger was up to his throat in it now, paddling furiously, knowing some poison-toothed snake nipping his heels, rattling away like a jazz trio.

The hole. No way to go but up. Only problem now was how to reach it...

He could transform, and hope the ground was soft enough he’d bust right through it. If he didn’t?

Well. Too close for comfort didn’t begin to describe it.

Time ran out all at once, announced with a bass hiss from close at hand, backed by a waterlogged rattle. Then a whining mechanical noise that struck a familiar chord-- a spinning blade. Seemed like Thresher was just in time for the denouement.

Pure luck is what did it, in the end. Digger didn’t see what happened himself, but he pieced out the facts later, sitting in the rubble and wreckage, nursing his busted leg.

The snake, it seemed, had caught up, poised and ready to strike at Digger’s armoured back. It’d take him some time, but he’d have his way with the trapped armadillo.

Thresher, though, impatient lout that he was, chose that exact moment, having peered down the hole and spotted his victim, to reach in and make a grab for Digger, trapped in mud and easy pickings.

Chainy’s mouthful of venom landed slightly far of the mark, embedding both spring-loaded cyber-fangs in Thresher’s iron knuckles. Incensed, and assuming the little armadillo had more sting than seemed warranted, Thresher went on with his original plan: to pull out the offender and thresh his head good.

And he did that, and that might have only marked and end to one of Digger’s problems.

But that Chainy’s neural net wasn’t located in his beast mode head, but further south. And so as Thresher was chewing all hell out of the snake’s upper half, yanking him up out of the ground, Chainy spake himself the magic word:

“Terrorize...”

The resultant explosion blew Thresher clean in half and sent up a cascade of mech-fluid such as if you’d struck oil. It didn’t do any wonders for Chainy, either, though in transforming he did manage to blow the ground wide open, opening up to Digger a clean escape, albeit leading into a decidedly unpleasant scene.

But Digger had seen worse, and insofar as the day seemed to be won, he maximized, sat with his back against the rock, set his leg in the cooling clay-y muck, and cocked his gun, just in case.


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 Post subject: Re: Mission #1: High Noon on the Shambles (Part 2)
PostPosted: Fri Aug 07, 2009 3:09 pm 

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"Aw, hell..." Ataraxes mumbled darkly as Flintlock spun around to face her, blackest rage etched onto her faceplates. The dark red and black femme was forced to dive to the side as a hail of rifle-fire whizzed toward her. A pained, strangled grunt was released from the femme as she shouldered hard into the dirt, using her momentum to roll to her feet. "Alright, lady. If you want a fight, you got one..."

"Come and get yours then, you slaggin' Maximal whore!" Flintlock raged, tossing her rifle down onto the ground next to her, a silent snarl curling her lip components. Across from her, Ataraxes shook her duster off of her shoulders, casting it off behind her, own rifle landing on top of it. She eyed the larger femme for a moment before glancing up toward Hex.

As Flintlock approached Ataraxes, the smaller femme braced her feet against the solid ground beneath her, expecting a charge from the other. That's what she got, and Ax felt Flintlock's fist scrape dangerously across the top of her head as she ducked the first swing. She drew her right arm back as Flintlock finally made contact with her, Ax forcing a close-quarters punch into the other femme's abdominal plating, then shoving back against her roughly, coming up to see about a hit to Flintlock's jugular fuel line. A hard left hook across the jaw stopped that notion right in it's fledgling tracks. Ataraxes stumbled backwards with a hiss, snow dancing across her optics from the force of the hit. A hand went up to the affected area, accompanied by an irritated hiss from Ataraxes as she re-calibrated her optics. Flintlock didn't give her much time, and soon had Ax on the defensive again while the equine femme looked for an opportune place to strike the other, a place that would send the other reeling and give Ataraxes the chance to finish the damn job.


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 Post subject: Re: Mission #1: High Noon on the Shambles (Part 2)
PostPosted: Sun Aug 09, 2009 1:44 am 

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Digger heard rushed footsteps and crouched down a little lower behind the rock. Could be this was an ally rushing to him to offer assistance, words of sympathy for his ordeal, maybe a nice steaming cup of energon-laced black coffee. More likely though, it was another one of the Dead Batteries' lackeys coming to check on how and why one of their comrades had exploded from the waist up. Digger kept his cocked gun at the ready, trying not to poke out from behind the rock in any noticeable way.

"What the HELL happened to him? And to you?!" Dropzone asked with shock as she took in the sight of Thresher's lifeless lower half and the partially masticated Chainy.

"Rgh. I've got parts all over me." Chainy groused, picking small metal parts of Thresher off of himself.

"Quit your griping and get back to it, rookie!" Dropzone said. "The Dead Batteries don't pay us to groom ourselves! As a matter of fact- I think I see a mark."

Without further ado, the avian thug had jumped up and over the rock, and then over several more, failing to notice Digger, as Chainy hurried off to another area of the battleground. Dropzone landed in the sand with a great thud, smirking as she stood up to face Oakscream. He looked at her with frank surprise- he'd been focused on keeping out of the crossfire, and trying to keep an eye on Sanddigger and Furral. This was not how he'd dreamed an attractive femmebot would drop into his life.

Dropzone took in the sight of Oakscream's complete lack of armament, and chuckled.

"You know who's dumber than the man who brings a knife to a gunfight?" she asked. "The man who brings nothing to a gunfight."

She lifted her gun to point blank range and began to open fire.

--------------------

Flintlock was in a towering rage now, and rushed towards Ataraxes in a way that all too clearly showed she didn't intend to stop killing Ataraxes until little pieces of her- and anyone else Flintlock currently wanted to kill, which was everyone- lay littered around the Shambles. She moved rapidly and surely, striking out with a series of nasty PSP-style moves. Ataraxes was successfully deflecting many of them, but others found their mark in painful face strikes and body blows- and, truth be told, even the unsuccessful attacks hurt just to block. Ax decided promptly that she needed to put more distance between herself and her attacker- force her to close the gap, make herself more open to counters.

She circled around Flintlock and moved backwards with this strategy in mind, but unfortunately, Flintlock didn't comply with Ax's predictions. Instead of moving in to press the physical barrage, she whipped out her gun and fired off several rounds in Ax's direction. The other femmebot quickly ducked these, and the bullets buried themselves harmlessly in a moldering brick wall behind her. Flintlock let out a hiss of rage, but before she could fire some more, Versa had jumped down behind her and had drawn a fearsome-looking knife. Before Flintlock could draw a bead on Ax, Versa had scrambled up onto her back and plunged the knife into her shoulder.

"YOU BITCH!" Flintlock shouted, and with little reaction to the blade jutting from her shoulder, pulled out an impressive judo flip that sent Versa sprawling to the ground. She leveled her gun on Versa and fired a couple of rounds into her chest. Mechfluid sprayed and Versa skidded a few feet backwards through the dust with the force of the bullets' impact. A telltale trail of radiation from her chest let her know all she needed to- the spark chamber was pierced. She needed repairs, immediately.

Flintlock went to finish the job, ready to squeeze the trigger and end Versa's life, but was distracted by cover fire from Pistonhoof. He was shooting wild, reacting to the situation- he just wanted enough to distract Flintlock. It did the job- she turned to focus on him. She was enraged, attacking whoever had most recently announced themselves as a threat. Easy to maneuver in some ways, but Pistonhoof didn't like to think of what she'd do if they tried to corner her.

"Somebody get Versa out of here!" Fenrir shouted above the din. "You two, grab her and go!"

This she directed at Furral and Sanddigger, who were still crouched in one of the Shambles' labyrinthine series of low trenches. Oakscream had been with them, but was now engaged in battle with one of the Batteries' low-wage mooks. They weren't prepared for this sort of combat. As if to verify this, Furral just nodded meekly, cradling his injured arm, and helped load Versa up onto Sanddigger's shoulder. Sunset provided cover fire, shooting in the general directions of Buzzbomb and Chainy, keeping them from attacking the retreating trio.

Far removed from the melee, Spines finished lacing one final tripwire across a trench, covering his tracks. He stood up with satisfaction- that was his job concluded. The longtime associate and friend to the Dead Batteries family paused then, and looked speculatively at the battle behind him. Most of the family was dead. The hired help, dropping like flies. Without further hemming and hawing, Spines just nodded once and took off at a trot down the hill, away from the Shambles.

The Batteries were nearly done. He had another employer to consult.


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 Post subject: Re: Mission #1: High Noon on the Shambles (Part 2)
PostPosted: Sun Aug 09, 2009 11:48 pm 

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Once Hex heard his target move, beginning to fight back with Ax he knew he had to switch tactics. He swiftly reverted to Cactilian form still in stealth mode and observed what his damaged optics could not. Hex saw the pattern. Ax engaged first and Flintlock came after her, Versa did the same with similar results, and Pistonhoof was the last to engage and was the new target. She reacted to new threats fast it seemed. It was probable that she would redirect with each attack. If she were broadsided with attacks one after another, it might give someone a chance to intercept and catch her at a moment of weakness. If she were confused enough then she wouldn't be able to focus on one of them. Hex calculated a few possible attacks and then attempted to use his internal communications systems. If he could get just enough words out, Sunset might be able to rise up and stop Flintlock without the cost of another fallen Hunter.

//Sunset//crypticchannel50%deteriated//Listen and gather what you can. If I'm right she's quick on the draw but not the thought behind it. She attacks without direction until a new one is presented. We need to barrage her one after another long enough to confuse her launch of attacks. You need to get in and finish her. We've all taken damage and depleted most of our ammo. You've got the best chance. If it's a go pass it one through what you can and nod to me. This has to stop.//


Hex waited with his vacant look on Sunset and prepared his weapon.


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 Post subject: Re: Mission #1: High Noon on the Shambles (Part 2)
PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2009 2:36 am 
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Location: in the Gulag, with a drillbit to my chest
-{Distal Damage to Right Lateral Auditory Sensor... Compensating}-

The bullet damaged the outer superstructure of Oakscream's head; projectiles are hard to avoid. The gun holding hand of the avian femme was locked into his grip now. This pain was bearable. There were several following movements: another grip to the gun holding using his free hand, a twist and locking of the femme's joints involved in holding a gun in that arm (at this point her optics began to glow brighter; she knew what was coming), the retraction of his wing's into sharp appendages, the twisting of Pterascream's body while maintaining grip in order to dislocate all the joints in the wrong direction, a swift kick (to the oblique system of muscular mechanisms) elegantly and violently performed to perfection.

Dropzone held her dominant arm in pain yards away as she regained her stance. Oakscream stepped onto the gun that she held before and gave her a stern suggestion, "I would have killed you on the spot in another life."

Dropzone lost her composure. Her own weapon was launched into her face by a swift movement of Oakscream's foot from the ground as she reached for a weapon with her other arm. "That is the weapon you started with. You must prefer the weapon. Take it," Oakscream told Dropzone.

"And I'll shoot you down with it!," she exclaimed. One of Oakscream's two sharp appendages penetrated deep into the shoulder of her good arm; she dropped the gun just as quickly as she picked it up.

Oakscream growled as he was forced to remove his appendage. The more he used it as a weapon, the more it caused him great pain. Dropzone used the opportunity to bodycheck Oakscream. Dropzone became open to transform and make an attempt to fly out of close combat range. The fleshy parts of Oakscream's appendages folded out into wings; Oakscream was in pursuit.

Dropzone sacrificed her direction to transform into robot mode in an attempt to shoot Oakscream down. Dropzone flew into a side of a cliff. Oakscream's wing was hit and we was forced to land in an unstable manner. "I would have let you fly off, but I have a feeling you would just shoot me from a distance," Oakscream told Dropzone.

"Who the slag are you?" Dropzone asked as he tried to get a shot off with two bad arms and missed.

"I am no one. My name was taken from me. I know who you are. You are not one that would make my name known if I died by your hands," Oakscream told her. Oakscream continued to move toward her. Several bullets missed. Oakscream was too close now. Wincing, the last bullet was not lethal, but it did go through the right side of his gut. Dropzone thought she had the moment to shoot again; Oakscream took the shot on purpose. He was too close now; he grappled and fractured her good hand. Dropzone dropped her gun; she dropped to her knees soon after-this time from a stern hit to the gut.

Oakscream growled as he picked up Dropzone's gun. Pterascream roared out in pain as he shot her point blank as she kneeled in front of him. This was not a killshot; the pain Pterascream received from the act of using an object as a weapon prevented him from that short of focus. Dropzone was still a mess. The upper-right chassis above her spark chamber was exposed.

Oakscream knelt to one knee; he just took another stray bullet, and the pain did not even register because of the pain he was now recovering from. Dropzone's internal computer began to count down to stasis lock. "If you survive this, come back and try to kill me when you have a better reputation."

"I'll do better than that," Dropzone said as she spit mechfluid into Oakscream's face and faded into stasis lock.

Agavus walked passed Oakscream with a grin. "Ain't lookin' so good ain't ya. Should I finish her off?"

"Leave her be in her defeat; let her live in shame. Are you done laughing at people from a distance?" Oakscream told Agavus in irritation.

Oakscream took a break as Agavus pulled out all four revolvers-one for each arm. Agavus made his way toward the vicinity of Flintlock to provide coverfire for the others.


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 Post subject: Re: Mission #1: High Noon on the Shambles (Part 2)
PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2009 9:29 am 
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Pistonhoof tried to make the most of his remaining rounds as Flintlock charged. His next shot got her near the shoulder, but then just as he committed to the next squeeze of the trigger, she darted behind a rock. She came back into view, and Pistonhoof fired again, but just as quickly she dropped down into a ditch. Rage might've blinded her to strategy but clearly she still had her wits. Pistonhoof started to get nervous. That was the last bullet in his rifle. By the time he reloaded, his range advantage would be gone, and Flintlock would be closing in to her most dangerous.

"Beast mode," he said hesitantly. Keep her chasing was the best way to draw this out, was how he rationalized. But he had his wits. He ran left, towards Sunset. As he galloped he realized Flintlock wasn't on his view anymore. It might've been a good thing but more than likely wasn't. As he ran past a broken down house he felt something in the air above him, and then Flintlock landed on his back hard.

The scaleback kept running as Flintlock slid down his right side. She'd've gotten a good trampling if she fell, but instead she grabbed and held on to his saddle with one hand, and pressed a gun up against his neck with the other. As soon as he felt that Pistonhoof stopped short on his front legs and kicked up the rear. In the same instant Flintlock went flying over his head, and a bullet blasted through his neck.

Pistonhoof's front legs buckled, as Flintlock broke her fall with a roll in front of him. The scaleback stayed low and charged forward in a quick strike. He was on instinct now, gnashing his rows of sharp teeth and opening up his long mouth to snap her neck like a piece of prey. Instead he got a sharp kick on the side of his head, followed by an open palmed hit straight on his fresh gunshot wound.

The scaleback wheeled around in pain and kicked back wildly with his rear claws. He knocked Flintlock right in the chest and threw her into the air and onto her back. Never get behind a spooked scaleback, the ranch bots always said. Flintlock, on the other hand, was dangerous from any angle. Flat on her back, she fired a shot straight through Pistonhoof's gut. He stumbled three steps, hazily considering his remaining options, then fell over on his side.

He at least fell smart, with his back and rear facing Flintlock, and then tucked his head between his front legs. If she wanted to finish him, she'd have to get up and stand over him to do it. If he were lucky, she'd recognize that's not the best move with other gunslingers still around. If not, well then hopefully there were other gunslingers still around.

Half a cycle, he told himself, just long enough for repairs to kick in, long enough that if she were gonna shoot him through the spark she woulda done it. Count it down. Then whatever else happened, however much pain, long as he was still alive he had to get back on his feet. Do something. Not let anyone else get Flintlock on them solo.


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 Post subject: Re: Mission #1: High Noon on the Shambles (Part 2)
PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2009 4:35 pm 
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Joined: Thu Jul 09, 2009 12:52 pm
Posts: 91
Location: in the Gulag, with a drillbit to my chest
Oakscream began to coat his wounds with some Aloe Superior that Agavus lent him. The substance numbed his pain, but it was only good for speeding up the healing of his organic parts. Oakscream would have to rely on his nanites to finish the other repairs.

"Slag it to Primus," Agavus said out loud as got closer to Flintlock and Pistonhoof. Pistonhoof was worse off than Oakscream; he was suprised that neither of them went into stasis lock by now.

Agavus layed down some distraction: a a bulb bomb and two flare rounds picked up all the dirt and sand and some bright light between Pistonhoof and Flintlock.

It was a matter of timing now. Agavus was still only shooting distance away from both Pistonhoof and Flintlock. If Flintlock was homicidal enough, she would still beat him to Pistonhoof through the smokescreen. If Agavus could get some of his healing ointment to Pistonhoof, Agavus knew Pistonhoof would be able to get passed the pain and keep on fighting.

Agavus was running top speed, but he only had about average speed. "Yo 'Hoof, I'ma comming. Just don't go dyin' on us!" Agavus yelled to Pistonhoof.


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 Post subject: Re: Mission #1: High Noon on the Shambles (Part 2)
PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2009 3:13 am 

Joined: Mon Jul 13, 2009 10:28 pm
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Had things not gone a little differently, Pistonhoof's murmured prayers that Flintlock would not take advantage of his downed status would not have been answered. Luckily for him, Hex's hastily dropped bulb bomb had sent up a flash of bright light and a billow of dust that distracted Flintlock, temporarily obscuring her vision and preventing her from finishing the job.

The leader of the Dead Batteries moved back a step, waiting a moment for the dust to settle, and raised her left arm. Her right hand still clutched a heavy-duty handgun with bolted-on stock and increased ammunition capacity; an anniversary present from Gundown. She lifted her left arm and activated an inner mechanism that caused several of her metallic avian feathers to slide outward, exposing razor-sharp blades. With these deployed, she promptly charged at anyone with the misfortune to be close to her.

Agavus strained his servos well past their operational peak, trying to close the gap before Flintlock could bring those nasty feather-blades to bear on his comrades. His four arms pumping furiously, he jumped over debris and weaved in through the low trenches criss-crossing the Shambles. Then he heard the worst thing to hear just now- a merry buzzing as Buzzbomb descended upon him.

"Bzzz, not get rid of Buzzy the buzzbomb bomber that easy!" the insectile Predacon hissed happily as he swooped down.

Meanwhile, Flintlock had descended on Ataraxes in a flurry of rage. The horse stumbled backwards as razor-feather attacks pelted her deflecting limbs, carving deep gouges and gashes in her armor. Flintlock booted Ataraxes in the midsection, causing her to stumble backwards into a wall, and Flintlock leveled her handgun on Ax's head. She fired, and Ax barely tilted her head to the side in time to avoid the shot, the bullet burrowing into the wall mere centimeters from her face. Before Flintlock could squeeze off another shot, Hex fired at her again, a bullet raking her shoulder. Barely reacting to the sizzling pain of the graze, Flintlock whirled around and threw one of the feathers. The razor-edged projectile sliced through the midday air before imbedding itself in the barrel of Hex's gun, temporarily making it useless. Flintlock crouched, preparing to launch herself up to Hex and attack him in earnest.

Agavus ducked inside the trench to avoid Buzzbomb's dive, and more out of accident than anything, tripped one of the wire traps that Spines had set all around the Shambles. The battlefield trembled as a pillar of explosives went up- Agavus avoided the worst of it by ducking as deeply as he could into the trench. He could feel flames licking briefly over his shoulder, singing his armor. Buzzbomb jerked himself upward out of his dive, buzzing happily as he evaded the explosion- but not the result. A pile of boulders and debris that had long since collapsed the second-story of one of the Shambles ghost houses now came roaring down. Buzzbomb looked behind himself, startled, before being overwhelmed. Agavus scrambled through the trench on hands and knees to get out of the way as a half-ton of rock crashed into the trench. From underneath the mass of stone, Buzzbomb's hand flapped a couple of times and then lay still.

Flintlock turned to look at this explosion- as did everyone else- and then she saw something else. Lying in a heap atop the crest of a winding path moving up to the Shambles, it was Gundown's body, sans head. Quake was crouched in cover nearby it, and his optics locked on Flintlock's for the briefest moment, enough to say everything that she needed to know.

Flintlock let out a guttural howl of rage that seemed to reverberate out of the deepest recesses of her spark and pierce even the background noise of the Shambles' chaotic battleground. She charged, body-checking Oakscream out of the way, and vaulting over Dropzone's body. She had only Quake on her mind, and was looking at him with blazing hatred. Quake stood up rapidly, his red optics widening.

"Aw, hell- din't sign up for this, now." he muttered, looking at her with consternation, and then she was upon him. Quake pulled out his wrist-blades, just in time to deflect a storm of razor-feather strikes as Flintlock leapt back and forth, bringing down harder and heavier offense on him, her face stuck in a rictus-like scowl of hate. Quake tripped over a rock, stumbling backwards, and glanced up at her with a brief moment of something like fear as she bore down on him.

//"Sunset, she's about to kill Quake, I don't have a bead on her-"// Hex radioed Sunset urgently, as he worked to pry the razor-feather from his gun's barrel.

"I'm trying to get to her. Fenrir, what are you-" Sunset asked, glancing over as Fenrir hefted Gatling's chaingun with a grunt of effort.

"We finish this now." Fenrir said, beginning to march towards Flintlock.

Before Flintlock could get the chance to drive one of her razors down through the pointy top of Quake's head, he immediately burrowed down into the ground, popping up several feet behind her. Tracking the vibrations in her feet to the exit point behind her, Flintlock whirled around with unnerving speed and brought up her handgun. Quake reached out for Chainy, who had been limping to cover, and pulled him up in front of himself. Chainy let out a yelp of pain as several bullets slammed into his torso, perforating his spark chamber and killing him instantly. Quake watched Chainy's head loll to the side with no sympathy.

"Nothin' personal, pal. Ain't letting that woman nowhere near me." Quake said.

Fenrir stomped forward and opened up with Gatling's chaingun. Her aim went wild, bullets spitting out and driving themselves into dirt and debris. The chaingun was much harder to aim than it looked- and it hadn't looked easy to aim in the first place. Flintlock's head snapped to face Fenrir, and moving her left arm back and forth rapidly, she managed to deflect several bullets before letting another razor-feather fly. It buried itself forcefully in Fenrir's right shoulder and threw her aim off entirely, spinning her to the side. The other gunslingers closed in relentlessly, starting to form a circle, and Flintlock grew even wilder, seeming insensate with rage. Feathers flew out, one grazing Digger's shoulder, another catching Ataraxes in the leg, another slicing along one of Agavus's arms as he tried to aim at her. And the bullets flew, firing wildly, it was becoming more and more dangerous to even get near Flintlock, she was working up a head of steam-

Sunset aimed and fired, and knocked the handgun out of Flintlock's grasp. It sailed barrel over stock in midair, clattering to the ground a few feet away. Flintlock looked at Sunset, marking her, and then another bullet slammed into her chest, slicing along the edge of her spark chamber and trailing radiation out behind her in a fine mist. Flintlock's optics widened, and she clapped a hand to the wound. Her razor-feathers remained extended, but forgotten. She looked slowly up at the circle of gunslingers.

"Bastards..."

With ponderous slowness, Flintlock turned away from Sunset. She looked at Gundown's decapitated body, and started to limp towards it. Mechfluid was streaming between her fingers, she must have been in terrific pain, but her gaze remained resolute.

"You killed my son..."

She covered the distance, moving step by agonizing step, staring at Gundown's body.

"You killed my daughter..."

She was a few feet away now. The circle had parted to let her pass. They knew Flintlock was on her last. There was still possibility of repairing the damage she'd taken, but she wasn't going to let anyone take her alive.

"You killed my pa..."

She was nearly at him now. She collapsed to her knees.

"You killed my husband..."

She remained kneeling there for a moment, then rolled over onto her back. Her hand reached out questingly, fingers scrabbling along the dirt, inches away from Gundown's lifeless hand. Sunset began to walk, staring at Flintlock. Her head was lowered, her visage unreadable. At least to most- she passed Fenrir and Digger standing near one another, and they both caught a brief glimpse of her expression- deep sorrow and terrible weariness.

Flintlock was making soundless faces, trying to speak as she gazed up into the blazing sun above Dustball. Then Sunset's silhouette blotted out the sun, her shadow looming across the fallen leader of the Dead Batteries. Flintlock looked up at Sunset with the same emotions that had dominated her life- rage, hatred, and a sort of bleak, eternal defiance.

"You're just like me." she spat. "Nothing but a damned killer."

Sunset leveled her gun at Flintlock's face.

"That's right." she said quietly, and blew Flintlock's neural net out all over the dust.

Silence fell across the Shambles, and Sunset turned away from the body. She took a couple of steps, then started to methodically reload her gun. Her gaze remained locked on the ground. She would not look at anyone. The assorted gunslingers glanced at each other, then began to move about the battlefield, retrieving fallen weapons, tending to injuries. Fenrir slowly moved up to Sunset, who still wouldn't quite look at her.

"Is that all of them?" Sunset asked brusquely.

"I haven't seen Spines, I think he made a run for it. And Gatling's still alive, just in hard stasis lock." Fenrir said lowly.

"Can you carry her?"

"Sure, she's little."

"Alright." Sunset said, and then spoke aloud, loud enough for everyone to hear her. "I saw a wagon back near the bottom of the hill. Get the bodies and load them into it. We'll pick up Fireplug on the way back."

She lifted her head, placing her gun back in its holster, and began to walk back down the hill. After a moment, a few of the others walked with her. The Dead Batteries Gang was no more, yet none of them felt particularly triumphant.

---------------------------

Back in Rotwood, Gloom surveyed the town from the front of the sheriff's office with mingled emotions- distaste in its shabbiness and its annoying townspeople, yet a fierce desire to protect it, simply because it was his, and no one else's. Gloom knew any day now the UCCA agents would show up to pore over the ruins of the bank and ask annoying questions, and he'd have to provide somewhat satisfactory answers. Gloom knew that Dirty Deke was sitting in the jail cell inside his office even now, meticulously picking his nose and passively stinking up the place. And Gloom knew, looking at the Hitching Post, that he'd dearly like to burn the place down for the bartender's temerity.

His emotions must have showed on his face, because the young 'bot who showed up on his step immediately read them and offered up a few words of appropriate consolation without preamble:

"You know, I've always felt that the office of local lawman is far underappreciated. Believe me, my friend, you have my unending respect."

Gloom looked up sharply. The visitor, a newcomer to Rotwood as far as he could remember, was a youthful Maximal, looking like the Cybertronian equivalent of about 22. He was handsome, clean, was all subdued coloration, had no visible weaponry, and wore small round sunglasses over his gently inquisitive optics. He smiled up at Gloom and stood patiently waiting for Gloom's reply.

"Who the hell are you, and why shouldn't I haul you in right next to the stinky bastard in my cell for annoying me?" Gloom asked irritably.

The young Maximal chuckled a little at that, rocking back and forth on the heels of his feet. He gave off an aura of barely suppressed enthusiasm, like a small child with a brilliant joke he couldn't wait to tell. He took off his round sunglasses, gingerly depositing them in a pocket compartment on his torso, and looked back at Gloom with merry blue optics.

"My name is Errant, and you and I are about to have a very interesting conversation." he said.

-------------------------

Two days later

The door to the municipal office opened and Spines slipped inside, followed closely by the two thugs who'd showed the same foresight as he, to cut and run from the battle at the Shambles before their lives were claimed, like so many others had been. Spines had been riding for the past day and a half to get to this area, but he'd still heard the news. Those gunmen had returned to Rotwood with a wagonful of bodies...there was quite a tale to tell.

The three of them stood inside a waiting room that was in stark contrast to the harshness of the Dustball environment outside. This room seemed cheery, with a low coffee table and circle of chairs around it, yet there was a pervasive feeling underneath of being watched. The attractive femmebot receptionist at the desk seemed nice enough, yet she always kept one hand beneath her desk as she eyed the trio of visitors. There was a camera mounted on the wall keeping tabs on them, and the door to the municipal office loudly locked itself behind them.

"Take a seat. I'll meet him myself." Spines said to his two accomplices, who each nodded quietly and sat down. There were no magazines to read, so they just settled for gazing around the waiting room and eyeing the security camera mistrustfully.

Spines approached the receptionist's desk, but before he could open his mouth long enough to begin speaking, she was speaking for him, her speech rapid and professional.

"Mr. Spines? Deadline's been expecting you. Go ahead and see yourself in. There'll be a long corridor and you'll want to take the second left."

Spines just nodded once. He was a professional as well, and adapted quickly to new information. New information was what had made him leave the Dead Batteries to their fate. He walked through the door behind the receptionist's desk and began to stride through the hallway beyond it. The walls were a uniform gray, devoid of decoration or information as to which way a visitor ought to go. Spines walked for a few minutes before passing first one left turn, and then another.

As he entered this second left, his spiny shoulder brushed up against a bot who was walking out of the office. The unknown 'bot glanced briefly at Spines. He was of average height and build, his coloration a blend of dull gray and black. But most striking was his face, which was completely smooth and blank, with only two narrow white optics to show any features at all. The blank-faced 'bot continued on his way without saying a word to Spines, or even looking back at him. Spines stared after him for a moment, then turned to face the door to the office, and walked inside.

He was immediately struck by the impression that he'd just entered the sales room of an electronics store, or perhaps a huge audio-visual studies classroom. He could see a wall of various holographic screens floating in midair, each one projecting a different image- some showing stats and figures, others talking 'bots, others showing panoramic vistas of the different planets comprising S-321, but mostly Dustball. Then, upon closer inspection, Spines realized that this multitude of holo-screens was all revolving around one individual: Deadline, who leaned back behind his desk as he surveyed the screens, engaged in businesslike discussion with a few different holo-screens at once.

"-we'll make every effort to allocate those resources to military ventures in the region. Yes, that'll be fine, thank you." he said, glancing from one holo to another holo, effortlessly holding a few conversation threads at once. "Pardon the pause. As I was saying, I'd like to schedule a meeting with Governor Truncheon. I have concerns about Cactili land claims encroaching on sites designated potentially profitable to UCCA interests- er, hold on just a moment."

He lifted a hand, and a few of the screens paused, while others continued to play. Deadline seemingly had no problem maintaining focus on these while sitting up in his chair to look at Spines.

"Spines, take a seat. I understand that your previous employers have met their end."

"That's right." Spines nodded once. He paused- possessing an echidna beast mode meant he wasn't always sure how his quills would do with chairs. He finally just let himself sink down into the cushions. "This is a cause for some concern, Deadline."

"Is it?" Deadline asked, hands steepled under his chin, while his optics continued to roam back and forth between virtual screens.

"Well..." Spines considered his words. "I've been watching the Dead Batteries for quite some time, and I knew they were accumulating enemies. They were always fairly high-profile, only just managing to evade the authorities. Their tactics would've been learned and yet, teams of well-trained bounty hunters who'd been studying their prey for weeks always got slaughtered. This new group, led by this new femme, Sunset? They were different. They took down almost all of the gang without a single fatality of their own. Bots are going to start talking about this."

"Let them talk." Deadline replied calmly. "The Batteries were hardly an integral part of my arrangements. You've survived, that's what's important."

"I take it you'll want me to keep an eye on Sunset, then?" Spines asked.

"I have other agents I can employ for that purpose." Deadline said. Spines remembered the blank-faced bot outside in the corridor, and briefly thought about asking Deadline who that had been, but decided against it.

"Why have me rush here to meet with you, then?" he asked.

Deadline stood up and walked towards the window. As he walked, the circle of holoscreens moved with him, a constantly orbiting network of sight and sound that followed him wherever he went. But this time, if only for a minute, Deadline froze all screens as he gazed out at the barren landscape through the window.

"Because something has changed, and you'll need to be informed. I have great plans for this dusty little rock, Spines, and no small-time bounty hunters are going to ruin them now."


END OF MISSION


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