1. Flight or FIGHT! (Part 3)


    Standing almost twice the height of a man, the Khardoran War-jack held the uprooted trunk of a small tree in one large metal fist, as its stacks chuffed smoke and steam into the sky from the effort of tearing its multi-ton bulk through the forest. Tossing the felled lumber away with a casual seeming ease, the War-jack shoulder its way completely clear of the foliage and walked forwards, its eye plates aglow and scanning, a second machine appeared pushing further trees out of its way to make room for a third. All the Scouts blanched at this display of mechanika and bent their backs to row faster.

    Allison McCain stood her ground, her booted ankles almost lapped by the flowing river at her back. All three machine's armored carapace were covered in the blood red enamel that signified elite Khardoran units. The massive hands of all but one were simple curled fists; each backed by large, spiked metal plates. Three sets of double stacks chuffed fire; ash and steam skywards as the two lead machines stepped left and right making room for the third War-jack to step to the fore. It raised the great mechanika axe it held in one hand as a way of salute and Allison stared into human eyes where vision plates of a 'Jack should be.

    "Ah, the rabbit has run its course." The man's voice issuing from within the hulking twelve-ton construct sounded strange. An echoing, hollowness affecting its tones as the machinery within the modified Kodiac chassis augmented the sound over the roar of boilers, heartfires, steam and hydraulics systems. Kommander Karchev stepped forward.

    "Your last name would not be Cathmore, would it?" As he spoke a strange look came across his pale, scarred visible features. Allison smiled and straightened, focusing on the face of the man and not the thirty odd tons of destruction arrayed before her.

    "Nope, sorry to disappoint. If I see one I'll be sure t' let 'em know you're in the neighborhood." She gave a lop sided grin. "Perhaps, sounding all 'Nobility' like, they'll arrange tea and biscuits?" Her gaze moved up and down Karchev's hulking metal body. "Um, perhaps you should bring a straw?" She tilted her head knowingly at Kharchev's figure, then made a dainty motion of lifting cup and saucer, one pinky extended. She saw the man's eye flicker to an arm of the machine that was his body before focusing back upon her with a deeper scowl.

    "You show spirit commander...?" His voice trailed off, though it showed no hint of him rising to Allison's verbal 'bait'.

    "Lieutenant Allison McCain." She smiled and waived him a salute.

    "Allison McCain?" Karchev looked puzzled and sounded intrigued by her surname, though now it was Allison's turn to scowl, shake her head and wave her hands negatively,

    "No, no. NO relation. Just one of those coincidences of life." She quickly replied, though a hint of anger still showed on her features at the implied association. Karchev sighed, another weird sound from the man/machine, as he looked away his expression seemed almost bored now. The Kodiacs to either flank of him continued to slowly sidle away from him, the better to keep her hedged in against the riverbank by a semi-circle of steel.

    "Surrender." A single word, delivered with no emotion, no inflection of feeling or care. Allison theatrically crossed one hand to an elbow and her other to point a finger to a cheek.

    "Um, let me think about that for a minute. Hmmm, nope! Sorry, you're going to have to actually work at catching your rabbits!" Her hands blurred to her hips.

    BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!

    Karchev lifted his axe, Slaughter, up before his face as the Cygnaran's shoulders shifted. He heard the cracking report of her pistols sound. The trilling ring of metal striking metal. He was long inured to the prodigious rates of fire exhibited by Cygnaran weapons, what did cause him to blink in surprise, however, was that none of the wench’s rounds hit him. Glancing to his left from were the sounds of impact issued, he saw the Kodiac there venting steam and hydraulic fluid from large holes in the machines shoulder plates, even as he caught the motion of the girl scampering along the river bank in that direction.

    He snarled as he poured focus into both Kodiacs, and his own metal body's turbine, pushing the enormous machines into a lumbering, earth shaking run. He grit his teeth, the minx would not escape back into the forest to lead him on another chase. As the War-jacks drove through the bushes and scrub of the river bank, metal feet clipping rocks and kicking off shards and raising dust, to head off Allison's path of flight even as she stumbled to a halt with one boot splashing into the river.

    "Whoops!" She exclaimed, regaining her balance half stepped into the river as she was, feeling the cold of the water through the thick leather of her boot. Karchev and his machines smashed through the terrain of the riverbank before slowing and turning to face her again.

    "Ah, you are like the fox brought to bay by the hounds!" His rumbling voice carrying easily over the sounds of the river and the mechanika of war. Karchev redirected his focus and a wall of mystical force sprang across the gap between his form and the hulls of the Kodiacs to either side.

    "And like any fox driven from the hen house, steps have to be taken to remove the threat, to make the house secure again." Allison watched the Kodiacs slowly begin to step diagonally away from Karchev, both widening the line as well as drawing the two far edges closer to the river, putting their large metal fists in range to strike at her should any attempt at flight bring her close to them.

    The strange wall of force expanded across the increasing gap. Its presence marked by a roiling sheen as if a gray film of oil, or a giant dirty soap bubble had been stretched between each. As she noted the occasional shrub or other detritus come into contact with the barrier, she watched it get viciously wrenched and shoved about and she knew that going through the arcane field was not an option.

    Out on the river the Scouts pushed their oars and paddles through the water Fervently. Shoving their rifle butts fiercely into the water, willing the bobbing and twisting craft to move faster through the water. While keeping the jostling bows of the craft directed upstream, the crews fighting partially against the current of the river to prevent from being swept further down stream while battling across its width as fast as they could. 'Kat' glanced over a shoulder and gasped when she saw the three great constructs and the wall between them towering over the shape of the War-caster, how it was slowly moving closer towards the bank.

    "Stop gawkin' an' keep paddlin'!" Gunter huffed angrily, she nodded and focused on her task at hand.

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