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Sparing a moment as she carefully disengaged from the fleeing Crimson Fists, Ziska studied the crumbled form of the enemy RVN-3L with grim satisfaction. The pilot had been unlucky. She didn't fancy the enemy MechWarriors chances in the storm. But they knew the risks. And now they knew the score.

Keying her mic, Ziska finally replied over the encrypted comms, "I'm good, Giggles, thanks for the assistance. You too, Desperado. I'm falling back."

She didn't bother taking any potshots at the enemy light mechs as they faded out of range. Her BattleMech was in no state for more fighting. She was in no state for more fighting. The Colonel's orders were clear, it was time to fall back. She knew they had to pace themselves. Asymmetric warfare was a marathon, not a race, and the Green Knights would have more time to bleed the Crimson Fists dry..

"I always said you'd die on some backwater planet," a deep voice rumbled from the jump seat crammed into a corner of the already cramped RVN-3L cockpit.

"Shut up," Ziska hissed between gritted teeth. She didn't bother to look. She would have recognized the voice anywhere. The smug, Davion military accent. The rolling consonants, laced with the rough pronunciation of a born scumbag. She could feel the flicker of unwelcome neurofeedback. The system was running hot. Reya would be happy. Her modifications to the Guardian ECM system had worked perfectly. However, Ziska doubted Reya would be happy about her BattleMech. Davids, Davids she knew would be furious. The thought of his imminent rage almost made it all worth it. It had been too long since their last argument and subsequent screaming match.

"I'd rather not," the speaker countered, laughing in the old way that Ziska had always hated.

Cursing loudly, Ziska turned, staring daggers at the heavy set man sitting uninvited in her BattleMech,"Get out of my BattleMech, Thomas."

"Don't hate me Tereza," Thrice-Hanged said, raising his hands up, grinning as if that would mollify her. "I'm just the messenger."

"Yeah? And what message is it that you're here to share? ComStar finally looking to pick me up?"

"Ha, I don't think they'd take you. Not anymore. But that's not what I need to tell you-"

"Shut up, Thomas, I don't want to hear it," Ziska said, waving a hand wearily. "Dead people can't talk. Go away. Leave me alone."

"Ah...How's the head? You hit it harder than you thought, didn't you?"

"I'll live," Ziska fumed, trying to rub the blood out of her left eye. She'd have to bother Doc Yuri. The blood was a pain. The pain was more pain. Ziska felt a pang of annoyance. She felt tired. It wasn't the time to sleep. She had to keep moving.

"Stay awake, Tereza. You're not much use unconscious," Thomas chided. "Kinda fucked up though, isn't it? You're talking to a dead man. To a ghost. You're losing it."

"I'm not," Ziska chafed, remembering Family Man's screaming.

"Systems running hot. Neurofeedback. Head wound. You're just noise. Nothing more," Ziska continued, willing herself to believe it.

"You tell yourself that, Tereza. Tell yourself that this conversation isn't happening. Remind yourself that you don't believe in any of this crap anyways."

"I don't," Ziska said, nodding. "You were always the one blabbering about Blake's infinite mercy. But please, spare me the preaching, it was bad enough when you were alive. Go away, Thomas, please."

"If only you knew," Thrice-Hanged said, his voice suddenly low and sad. "However, I can't leave, not yet, I still have matter to discuss with you."

"I'm not talking. I'm not talking to anyone," Ziska countered. "You're not here. You're not real. And if you are. Well, then I'm going to kill you again. I'm going to kill you again. And again. And again. I'll kill you as many times as I have to until you finally leave me alone."

"You didn't kill me the first time," Thomas chuckled.

"Well, it's the thought that counts isn't it? Not my fault that the Davion pirate hunters beat me to the punch."

"Ha, you were planning to kill me? For shame, Ziska, and here I thought that were were-"

"Of course," Ziska interrupted, letting out a low bitter laugh. "You were losing it. You were going to get us all killed. A mad dog gets put down, Thomas, you know that."

"Aye, I always told you that."

"You did. You always did. You fucked up. You fucked it all up, Thrice-Hanged. And now. Now I'm here. And you''re still dead."

"You got a plan?"

"Colonel does, I suspect, maybe the others too. I'm just doing what I do best. Surviving. Killing. You know, the usual."

"Intimately," Thrice-Hanged cheerfully agreed and Ziska could feel his smile burning across the air between them.

Rolling her eyes, Umara took several steps away from the plain elf that seemed to be chastising her. What words she had said had been far from vulgar and she saw little reason in his manner.

She made no effort to hide her annoyance as she studied the unwelcome interloper. In her thoughts, she marked him a danger by his actions and by his words. His lies were bizarre. His manner peculiar. To endanger their endeavor so soon and without apparent reason, suggested only treachery.

There was no quarrel between them. She had not exchanged so much as a single word with the elf throughout the long journey. She did not know him. She knew nothing about him. She knew no name, no title, or even vocation. The measure of his motives eluded her, but Umara was not so guileless as to miss the provocation laced sweetly within his words.

"The nomads of the Desert Salts, the G'ana, have saying: 'The Gift of words is the gift of deception.' I thank you for the reminder," Umara said, channeling the kindly knife of politeness practiced by the famed swordsmiths of Nyskal.

Umara forced a smile onto her lips, nodding to the blond elf. Let him stew on that, she thought as she turned away from him. She walked slowly, willing no nervousness in her step and stopped next to the tall figure currently interrogating their unfortunate guide.

Better a pretty face, than a dull one, Umara reasoned casting a quick glance at Galahad before scowling once more at the beleaguered Farfa.

"Farfa plans to drown us," Umara bitterly said, standing unsmiling in the rain. The half-hearted shrug she shot the silver haired patrician as he stood in his increasingly wet fine clothes implied no apology for her interruption. "Why else would he leave us waiting in this weather?"

Fresh anger shook the weariness from Umara's tired limbs as she glared at the damp eyed demon. Frustration drove the faint traces of sleep from her eyes. The journey had been long. The dangers had been many. She could summon no more patience. Sparks of anger flickered to life in her heart. The danger was obvious. The threats freely spoken. Imprisonment. Enslavement. And death, always death. As she stood facing the gates that lead into the City of Demons, Umara thought that a small bag of coin seemed a poor bargain for her services.

The carriage had brought only more strangers, strangers stranger still with each passing moment. Umara's right hand moved reflexively to the pendent that she wore. Her fingers traced the patterns etched into the soft gold. She suspected that they would find that the line between life and death among the demons to be too quick and sharp for their liking. She shook her head to drive out the angry thoughts, glancing warily at the oracle. His appearance, although darkly outlandish, barely concerned her. She did not begrudge others their eccentricities, least of all when it came to their manner of dress. There was madness in his words, but it did not bother her. Madness held little mysterious to the young pyromancer. Derangement was not uncommon in a blight and dying land.

He had woven no spells. He had spoken no curses. And he had carved no runes into the earth with his staff. The stranger did not scare her. Adorned in bone and hiding beneath a stolen shell, he simply struck her as a sad. She did not relish the smell of his rags, but she did not fear his person. Still, he disturbed her. She did not know the veracity of his claim, but the presence of an oracle demanded greater caution. Prescience was a dangerous science. Prophecy was not without risk. She had no desire to be trapped by a soothsayer's visions. She had burned through the threads that had bound her. She had forged her own fate. And she would not be ensnared again.

The diminutive knight had cast new clouds of worry over her thoughts. His introduction threatened to shatter the last mote of restraint that she commanded. In names there was power and the two strangers had offered their names freely to the demon and the monstrous guards. Trust given so freely did not bode well for their shared venture. They would say too much. They would act too rashly. She felt an unwelcome pang of regret deep within her stomach.

Unfortunately, it was well past the time for leaving.
I have plans to reintroduce morality and goodness to the lands, if allowed that is. :D

And in classic waffle fashion, provided it doesn't conflict with any GM/DM plans, I'd like to swap/write most reluctant and unassuming character gifted (or in their view cursed) in the alchemical arts.
Imma go out of left field for myself and write something related to the Hanged Man.

So dibs, I guess? Or fight me via haikus, thx.

Ziska heard screaming. She heard talking. Her head hurt. Her face hurt. She could taste something metallic in her mouth, streaming slowly between her lips. Blood. Her own blood. She ran a hand along her head, until she felt a stab of pain that left her cursing. The cut was deep enough. It would keep bleeding. It would annoy her. Smashing a hand angrily the nearby circuit break panel, she spoke calmly to herself,"Get up. Get up. Get up...Get up, Ziska."

The leg actuators spun with fresh power as Ziska carefully moved her throttle, giving the shaken battle computer ample time to register the granular movements. Trying to see through fresh layer of red, Ziska gently moved her pedals, trying to find purchase on the ground beneath her. Metal groaned, demolished armor plates twisting, and then breaking off as the RVN-3L began to move. Somehow, improbably, the battered light mech stood up. Lying down was death. Standing still was death. Fighting was probably death. But Ziska had almost died several times. It didn't bother her. It didn't worry her. They'd drawn blood. Her blood, but she'd cut them too. The active NARC beacon still flashed happily on her HUD. One way or another, there would only be one RVN-3L standing.

Forcing her BattleMech to stand, Ziska wiped the worst of the blood from her face with the back of her hand. The comms chatter annoyed her. Killing was a business. A job was supposed to be done cleanly. She didn't need her feelings to kill. She didn't hate the Crimson Fists. A job was a job. A kill was a kill. But better them than her.

"You talk to much, you all talk too much," she hissed, shivering with a fresh pang of pain that dug into the front of her forehead, Doc wouldn't be happy, Reya would probably complain, and the Colonel would have some helpful advice Ziska decided with a heavy note of resignation. Not bothering to key her mic. Let them think her wounded. Let them think her already dead. They'd find out soon enough.

"Giggles," Ziska said, shifting her wounded RVN-3L into a shuttering gate as she ignored the alarm klaxon and warning symbology that glittered in front of her,"Kill this trash."

They needed to kill the enemy RVN-3L. They needed the ECM back. They were out of time. The other RVN-3L had to die. She wouldn't weather another volley of LRMs. Her RVN-3L wouldn't survive more LRMs. She had no armor left for the Longbow to sandpaper. It was time to gamble, Ziska knew, it was time to be clever, and it was time to see how cool the Crimson Fists were under fire. Hearing the tell tale swoop of burning rocket engines, Ziska saw a hail of LRMs thundering towards the enemy RVN-3L. She didn't miss the single SRM missile that followed soon after.

Deftly dancing to the side, Ziska aimed her own weapons at the RVN-3L and let loose another alpha strike. Overkill was the only kill as Thrice Hanged had always said.
I am intrigued and you have my interest!

Happy to write this in casual or advanced as well (I tend to write more along advanced, but I am flexible as always).

Ziska didn't bother wasting words. For all her humor, banter, and jibes thrown around freely, she had little interest in chatting with the enemy. She'd let them stew in their own silence. She'd wait for their unease to grow. Killing was serious work. And she had no intention of letting the crimson Raven escape alive.

Hearing Saarinen's lasers cut through the skies, Ziska wasted no time waiting for her battle computer to spit out damage. Pushing the handle of her throttle full forward, she slammed her right pedal, sending her RVN-3L thundering through scattered wreckage as she cut the angle between the fleeing RVN-3L the now distant Longbow in a razor sharp curve.

Twisting her sights on top of the Ziska fired a NARC missile and her TAG laser at the rear of the RVN-3L. A rear shot would be ideal, a left rear torso shot acceptable. Matching the speed of the other light mech, she kept her tight intercept, firing her two medium lasers. The proximity warning system in her RVN-3L blared at her as the distance between the two opposed RVN-3Ls closed to 90 meters. Unflinching, Ziska fired a salvo of SRM-6 Inferno rounds at the crimson Corvid.

Peeling off, mindful of closing the distance to the lurking Longbow, Ziska, shifted at an angle to the enemy RVN-3L keeping her tag laser firing on target for as long as she could. It wouldn't do to catch an LRM volley from the Assault BattleMech and she had no intention of being sandwiched between the enemy RVN-3L and the two light BattleMechs the Crimson Fists had brought to the fight.

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