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3 yrs ago
Y'all need some Omegavortex in your lives.


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There was no silence to break but the sound of a carbine sliding between the heavy-duty tones of pounding artillery fire and barking orders. In a flash of a moment the crack of the compact weapon stabbed and cut through the disharmony plagueing the year as electromagnetic rounds slammed against the helmet of the towering armor. The first two rounds staggered him as the faint glow of its visor flickered amidst the sounds of whirring motors arguing against crackling electronics. A harsh garbled bark broke out before electronic vocal-filtration cut out and a rough voice boomed out:


Redundant backup systems and hardened internal protective layers took the brunt of the blast but their limits were tested sorely by the well-placed rounds. The soldier sprinted back, footsteps crunching bramble and fallen branches, leaving deep imprints as he vanished behind a spray of wild retaliatory fire from the automata. He was fast but Alice's bullet was faster. Two near-invisible tungsten needles pierced nearly the exact same spot of both knees as the hefty trooper fell.

Not onto his armored face. He stumbled but moved fast enough to place his arms before him, breaking into a roll and half-suprpessing a pained grunt. The damage was agonizing but an augmented physiology combined with pain-suppressants and nano-repair capabilities was already kicking into overdrive, sealing the holes. Yet the effects of the wounds would stay unless properly treated, not only internally but forcing him into one of the cover of one of the larger trees.

At least, he would have tried if a spray of ulvath fire glanced his armor, his quick reflexes throwing him away into a roll. The gnarled bark erupted into a spray of shredded cloud as he fell onto his stomach, shoving and crawling across the ground as the CivSec tropers fired a series of bursts at the tarrhaidim's direction, spread out evenly among the large cargo crate like structures and the trees.

They did not stay static for long, taking measured potshots and it was clear they were meant to be personally guard their towering companion. That threat was positioned in the middle of a square formation. Yet while they focused on Ilshar, their robotic allies had broader aims.

Multiple LMG's opened up arrayed in a rapidly forming half-circle formation spraying off into the woods. Branches exploded into woodchips and fragments, leaves shredding into green mist and the airwaves flooded with the sound of crackling fury. It was hardly accurate in spite of the targeting capacities afforded but it did not need to be. With that many rounds they were bound to hit something; they were still trying to identify where the rest of the threats were and if unable, to keep their heads down with a deluge of fire.

Through the shimmer of the invisbility field, blurring as water ripples, multiple bullets pierced and flew then pinged with sparks against a large, formidable target. The dual-invisbility field of both voidhangers obscured the light of the sparks but only for so much. The advanced scanning capabilities of the automata when networked processed in mere blinks what trained soldiers might need a few seconds. It was not long afterwards that the four CivSec soldiers began falling back to hefty crates and reinforced structures in the area, sweeping their rifles as their scanners began to pick up thermal and electrical signatures with advanced vision modes.

Before any further information could be shared, the EMP grenade had already flown over the cacophonous fire. With its visor malfunctioning the power armored trooper had not seen it and its immediate subordinates were too busy taking pot shots at what they could make out from behind the blur of suppression fire. The casing of the grenade burst and with it a wave of semi-translucent purple-blue light washed out, engulfing four of the automata. The ocular lights blinked wildly as trigger fingers released, abruptly stopping most of the barrage and letting the smoke from their barrels hang over them - the entire left-end of their half-circle formation had been deactivated, the machines standing still or slumping to their knees as heads and arms twitched. Emergency reboot systems were in effect but they would take time to render them combat-ready once more.

One of the CivSec troopers, lining up a shot on the weakening invisibilty field abrutly dropped back into cover as the automata spared the EMP blast twisted their lower bodies, torsos facing the Envenomed as their legs walked back. Their fire came in bursts as they tightened their defences. The sound let-up enough that shouts and snapping volleys could be heard in the background; CivSec troopers moving between the trees further into the occupied area - one of them pausing for a moment, standing almost like the spitting image of a proper firing position from a training manual. A blink later and his upper body became a smoking mess, a u-pipe of melted meat and deformed metal bereft of the head, collarbone, and arms scattered around it and the blue afterglow of a rail-cannon's firing vector hanging in the air.

Bullets whistled then shrieked as they flew, slamming into occupation forces' armor, staggering some before punching clean through others. ZRF squad was advancing; slowly, cautiously, but for every volley sent their way a staccato riposte of single-shot bursts forced the scrambling UCL-backed forces into unfavorable positions.

"Let their flesh feed the Earth and our boots crush their bones!" A familiar, alien voice boomed over the coms as another rail-cannon discharge. At this short range, few things could withstand their raw power or the pain of a non-fatal shot. Someone screamed over the coms but it did not sound like one of the insurgents' own; too distant from the microphone-receiver and perfectly coordinated with the report of the banshee-scream cannon.

A far graver threat to the UCL allies remained, one that was amassing power in a hefty barrel. Yet whereas the distance between Echo and the scielto etherealist meant it could not detect the weapon charging up, this comparably shorter range engagement was another story. Mechanical heads buzzed and swiveled, correlating the visual report of bullets pinging off armor to target location as the active automata's sensors picked up distortions and build-up of energy in the air.

It was just in time for the power armor's HUD systems to regain most functionality.

A split second later, a lance of light slammed into where he had been hiding, disintegrating the crates before melting the reinforced exterior of the massive cargo container and hitting something vital within. The trooper sprinted away as a massive explosion rocked the battlefield, knocking over the front-most CivSec troopers and forcing the rear two to break cover, dodging flaming debris as they attempted to make their way to the power armored threat. One slung their rifle abruptly and broke from his squadmate towards one of the camo-netted tents. The other had tapped the power armored trooper, pointing towards the rapidly approaching unztadtlige.

In spite of the visible bluish-purple blood splattered on his knees and the last flickers of electronics self-repair on his helmet, the tallest of the enemy combatants immediately snapped to action. His surbordinate spread off to the right, obscuring himself from the sight of the whole squad as he dove behind one of the nearby tents. Echo's massive multi-legged bulk surged but nothing about the formidable supersoldier suggested the possibility of flinching. Falling into a crouched position, his carbine swing upwards and he flicked an switch. Already the platforms autocannons had torn and warped the torsos of two the active automata, leaving them as burning wrecks.

While it left two immediately active, the other four were already beginning to reawaken for a total of six machine hostiles, metal limbs creaking as they began to run, their actions taking a new speed and aggression. A scan from those capable of it demonstrated that the power armored soldier was directly controlling them through some sort of neurocybernetic link yet he was clearly focusing on the biggest, most immediate, cyborg-coral threat. In the time it took for Echo to get into position, three rapid bursts of heavy duty AP -shells, the sort normally used for killing vrexul-level threats were spat out.

Encased in shells of low-light energy, they did not have quite the same violent impact as vrexul autocannon-rifle rounds. Yet they were easily the equivalent of anti-material rifle bullets, larger and retaining even more impact force. Upon collision with a target, the energy field and the internal battery that provided it would discharge forwards for additional explosive power, capable of deforming metal and dismembering meat beneath.

The first was aimed at the "head" of Echo, aiming to at least diminish or damage its vision with rounds that at these closer ranges could scar the armor of such alien threats. The second went a bit wild, hitting a few of the leg-joints on the platform's right side. Flashes of metal on metal and energy discharge marked successful hits but its third burst was cut short as a combination of on-board sensors and those of the linked automata alerted it to the fearsome weapon, firing another beam. It leapt out of the way into a roll but staggered as it recovered from it; the needle rounds that had gone through its legs had hampered its mobility, even if the enormous human was still far more manoeverable than his bulk suggested.

A smoking crater where he had been standing caused a nearby tree to tip over, nearly falling onto the League soldier before he quickly back-hopped, letting it slam down in front of him before staggering to steady himself. His weapon raised and he fired another burst of heavy duty rounds, this time fully automatic and aimed at Echo's "head" again.

"There are more reinforcements, I can see automata platforms activating deerp into the camp! There's signs of smaller gun-platforms activating! Force their commander back, we cannot hold them off for long!"

The careful, precise, almost deliberately spaced out single shot bursts and monstrous rail-cannon shrieks grew far more erratic and inconsistent. Sounds of multiple missile launch systems and rapid fire machine guns were beginning to fill the air. The ZRF forces were still forcing the rest of the artillery site's defenders to focus on them rather than their newfound allies but for how long was another issue.
"You have the living tank. We do not. This makes you the perfect battering ram."

From beneath piles of rubble and blast-scourged earth, movement broke the sterility of the ruined battlefield. The area where one of Echo's drones had traced the targeting laser to came alive; light-refracting camo netting was tossed aside and moss-shrouded barrels revealed themselves, wielded by bipedal figures in fluctuating fatigues. Their very criss-crossing colour patterns shimmered from the appearance of mottled dirt and rubbled they were previously laying to into a mixture of murky smoke-grey and black-brown-grown mimicking the surrounding treelines and its many gaps.

There were at least 12 of them, rising to hunched posture. From beneath the shimmering camo-cloaks, a fabric-like armor almost like kevlar stretched against their torsos laced with dulled semi-metallic carapace plating. Above which six-spot eyed HUD-visors swept over the ruined area with a far, far wider field of view than a conventional human's sight.

There was no doubt about it that Intransigence funding and support was far more extensive in the region than even UCL news reports were aware of.

"CivSec defences grow heavier from this point onwards. We were under orders to guard the area, but this is too vital an opportunity to pass up on, now that we have proper firepower."

There were more however, hidden in the treeline; not rifles in their hands but miniaturized rail-cannons, slender and sleek but shoulder mounted. The shaped and edgeless metal of their bodies was contrasted by symbols of eel-like, serpentine creatures marked and imprinted across the length of these deadly weapons, wielded by armored fingers of long digitigrade legs cocked like predators ready to pounce. The slightly elongated heads covered in masks of shaped, cranially fitting composite metals, sleek and lined with one-sided transparent-alloy slits seemed to gaze at all yet also sharply in front of them. Each held their shoulder mounted-cannons with one long, multi-joined arm with six long, armored fingers, their free arms motioning to the notably shorter humanoid and tarrhaidim troopers to begin advancing.

"It had a heftier weapon we did. We arrived just in time to find nothing remained. We set-up a kill-zone with bio-sensors in the corpses, but it seems it's not returning. What this squad was doing, we know not. Autocannon-rounds. Maybe another vrexul squad. Maybe a walker. Gunship, even. With your unztadtlige ally however, its fangs will be blunted."

No doubt those four were the squad leaders and given how substantially more heavily armed and armored they were, this still known threat was a major priority.

"We will be concealed in the foliage; a direct confrontation is not our specialty. Once you punch into their lines and confusion is sown, our wrath will be known."

A sound like a muffled saw aggressively ripping up soggy meat emanated over the coms as the heavily armored aliens raised their arms and swung down, half crouching as they stomped in a circular formation; some tribal war-dance punctuated by the sound of predatory teeth clattering and muffled, chanted words spoken.

Its energy bled through the coms, any semblance of their rigid militancy vanishing yet reappearing as quickly as it had been discarded. Like fish who had felt the water's surface disrupted, they shot off soon into the surrounding trees, silhouettes stalking along the treeline as they advanced towards the artillery platform.


The path had grown steeper but the presence of the artillery platform was ever-threatening. The trees had shuddered once, the ground quivering and buildings trembling. Now the foliage around them shook and thrashed as if by a sudden gust of gale force winds, the crumbling ground rocking itself, stone and loose debris tumbling about, and a wave of skin-tingling, uneasy power washed over them with every no longer distant report of its mighty blasts that nearly muffled anything they attempted to say to one another.

Much of the path the Envenomed squad had traveled on had vanished into the jungle again but that wasn't necessary. HUD systems, bioethereal sensory apparatuses, in-built scanners, even their own supernaturally attuned sensory capabilities - everyone knew it was close. Each time the weapons report made the world tremble, the plume of energy-discharge that burst above the treeline flashed warningly but with enough clarity now they were this much closer, there was no more room to really hide.

They were in deep jungle now yet it was hard not to feel exposed, not just from the bright glare of the energy-cannon's blasts but how busy the air itself felt. Voices could be heard, shouting commands indistinctly as a hum of pulsing, intonating density distorted and obfuscated anything discernible.

If they could hear that through the thunderous wrath of the artillery platform, it meant that they were close to both the target and its crew.

Another sound soon could be discerned. Gears whirring, uniform stomps, and the sound of dirt and rubble - it seemed perhaps there was a pathway again or some sort of road up ahead. Through the gaps in the foliage roughly 150 or so feet ahead, armored figures could be seen hurriedly moving through an area of cleared foliage. Some of them were definitely automata; rigid and tall, standing like statuesque products on display at some arms dealer expo before snapping their heads to wherever the hand of a blue-visored, heavily armored trooper pointed.

The former were familiar; they had seen a few of them back in the abandoned settlement, having run down from the hillside to assist but having been deactivated before they could have amounted to much. Yet this time, there were far more of them, at least six in total. The same LMG in their hands but this time it was yet unknown if they were controlled by a particular user or if they had some sort of autonomous capability.

They were dwarfed a few inches by a power-armored soldier.

No doubt about it, that was not the sort of armor a lesser post-Reckoning power would have access to. Too domineering in size, the brand new servos on its limbs almost profanely out of place in the jungle, and the modularity of its plating far too current generation compared to the heavily retrofitted armor of the CivSec infantry they had gunned down earlier. Its carbine looked almost too small in its arms but as a few of those very humans walked by, gesturing and pointing off down the clearing they stood in, it was clear just what they were up against.

The standard CivSec troopers were a general height of maybe 5''9 to 6''2 but this figure was at least 7''2, their armor a mottled darkened blue, splotced with green camo-patterns. Their carbine dwarfed their rifles, large and thick enough it looked as if hollowed out their rifles could be fitted inside of it diagonally. To say nothing of the barrel-drummed weapon magnetically locked to his back, even longer and larger if difficult to get a read on. The robots themselves were between the CivSec and likely League trooper in size, bringing the group to around 10.

There was a truck most of them were gathered around but past it they could see tripods with what looked almost like triangular communication-dishes made of diagonally pointed parallel rods, camo-meshed tents, and what looked almost like somewhat shrunken down but still enormous shipping crates covered in foliage and bramble.

The Envenomed team had not been spotted but it was outnumbered. While their previous foes had been trained by the League, the likely heavily augmented human while but a single soldier was nothing to be taken lightly. There was a reason they were a superpower; in terms of raw power and durability, augmented League troopers were said to be the most powerful of all the four hegemons.

Based on their body language, this one was not slacking and its high alert state was replicated increasingly in those under its command. They were expecting something and were getting prepared for a potential fight.
"Starting to think your friend spraying like severed neck might be a liability. Maybe we should take them off of you."

A sound like a mag snapping into place played over the communicator-panel with a long but ultimately empty pause. No crack of the rifle nor spray of blood. Just the echo of submachinegun fire and cold tension, fading into the backdrop of distant battle with its volcanic roars of artillery. The desecrated and re-tooled cadavers rattled dry and crunchy; the thump of the heavy cannon the squad was sent to wipe out shook the entire area, silencing the last of the residual weapon report.

"Your tarrhaidim associate had the right idea. The unztadlige's cannons as well. All teams, stand down."

The surrounding wilderness remained quiet but the microforms had managed to pick up the traces of the sniper's fire - a pile of rubble covered by greenish-grey camo netting, one that stretched its fabric and shifted its colours ever so slightly to the various shifts in lighting throughout the smoky day. Far, far away from the area they had walked through, enought hat without patience and a sharp eye (plus visual manigifying capabiity) it would have remained a well-kept secret.

"You mentioned an objective. I presume it is large, stationary, and causing problems for us down in the valley." The voice continued as the sound of rumbling anti-gravitational engines neared. The thick silhouettes of some sort of aircraft could be seen among the clouds, gliding overhead the way the Envenomed squad had been heading.

"You may have an unztadtlige but they have something worse. You have seen the results; even a main battle tank would have trouble with this many vrexul. Yet you do have an unztadtlige-"

The communicator panel flashed red, green, then blue. The insurgent's voice fanished as its screen lit-up and the static vanished. Video-uplinks connected to the Envenomed squad's individual HUD's or equivalents as a flash of light lit-up the screen, revealing a scene of carnage and confusion.

Scores of infantry, clad in armor far heavier than the insurgents they had fought alongside, surging forth amidst a creeping wall of fiery blossoms from scores of missiles and pulse-beam blasts raining from above. Heavyset automata, not military in origin but their civilian construction origins obscured behind reinforced armor and integrated heavy weaponry, stormed forth with blazes of rotary-cannon fire and shrieking trails of missiles before staggering or storming through scoring blasts of magnetically accelerated rounds and near-miss missile blasts.

The same squad they had seen in the foxhole viciously advanced, unfazed by the onslaught as augmented bodies snapped their weapons to distant targets shrouded in the haze of carnage and fire. Distant blasts where their rounds connected signaled their precision accuracy, flashes of shadowed bodies distorting and dismembering in the blaze speaking for their efficiency.

It was not long before they crashed behind the hole-gouged carcass of one of the walkers before one of them swung the camera to face themself.

"When this mission finishes pray that I do not take up your lack of disicpline with your handler!" They called out, crunching forth as their cover rattled, spraying bits of metal fragments that caused the camera to blur momentarily. "But you've finally picked up. Just in time, we're a little over halfway to our targets but resistance is stiffening. Are you anywhere near the artillery platform?"
The communicator panel Salvator had on hand began to bleep and blink as its small glassy screen flashed alive. IMMINENT MESSAGE: TRANSMITTING IN 10... 9...

The team in the valley had been attempting to make contact for a while now but they had been intermittent with the beeps. This was sudden and unaffected by radio static; the signal was strong, too strong, pulsating in a way that coincided with the hollow droning that emerged from the same carcass he had looted the shotgun from. It was a resonant, sonorous tone even as if intoned out from within a massive hallway yet emerging chant-like and deep. The carcass shifted, its armor plates creaking as the dying things that cowered within shuddered and twisted within, a half-torn head swiveling his way as connector joints and torn biomass tore itself to fac ehim.

And it was not the only cadaver that did not rest. The drone that Salvator heard was joined by a bassy thud, easy to mistake for solid impact on the soil itself but synthesized from sources not entirely digital. The very augmentations implanted in Ilshar's body picked up an influx of signals washing over them; a wave of biolectrical readings, the sort that were associated with targeting, radar, and mass-detection type systems. He'd made his way over to the cover but not enough that his enhanced body did not feel itself tingle and quiver, as if the many things hidden within now realized they were in the sights of an unseen threat.

The broken corpse scavenged by Kleo produced some sort of spherical objects tennis ball sized in shape and overlaid with a series of ridged rims, partially squeezable in her palms but with a satisfying weight behind them. They were some kind of tossable device, but it was difficult to tell if they were actually explosives of some sort. Some sort of priming system was around its top like a grenade but not a pin; a hole of some sort, easily wide enough for her finger to go in. It smelled of wet soil and leaves.

Maybe that was from the spindly and glistening appendages now beginning to emerge from the cadaver; auxiliary limbs alive and well unlike their now deceased owner. Simple at first until the multi-jointed and angular protrusions began to split at their tips, revealing a mess of smaller manipulator-arms, sensor-antennae, and cutting implements. One of these limbs was larger than the others, easily bigger than any human arm as it jerked and twitched. The creature itself appeared to have had four limbs, this one appearing to have been hastily reattached into whatever part of its body it was torn from, yet the double-barreled underslung wrist-claw gun, while not aiming steadily, still pointed Kleo's way.

8... 7... 6...

As the drone traveled, Echo would be able to notice the targeting beam move off of the drone and travel towards the rest of the team, before it abruptly flipped off. Yet it had been active long enough they would be able to trace it back, far back, past the large stones and through the fog to elevated, bushy ground at the outskirts of the area; near a series of heavy bushes and rubble piles.

If whomever was targeting them was smart, they would be focused on Echo. That coincideded with a hailing request over their coms; the source was vrexul, the IFF codes marking them as deceased, and signal tracing lead their multi-bodied sight to barely even a corpse. A scattered selection of armor chunks and limbs surrounding a crater, its severed insectoid head blinking with LED's as it attempted to communicate.

So, rather than directly hailing them, their unknown watcher was doing so through the corpses. The pulse earlier had been some sort of radar scan.

"Odd way for Zanos to be headed, platform." The voice was garbled intentionally, yet it did not sound vrexul. Whatever was contacting Echo was speaking through the corpse but it was both firm and rigid. "And so well dressed for the occasion. Is that human of yours your guide? She's very well dressed; that supplier just happens to deal in recent League antiques, don't they?"

It was a closed channel yet it might be possible for the rest of the party to listen in or for it to be broadcasted. But at the same time...

3... 1... 1...

The communicator panel's screen went black but the lights indicating a message was receiving came through.

Or it would of anyways, if one of the withered trees still standing suddenly jerked. Burnt bark and wood chips burst out of a small human finger-sized exit wound in its back, a bullet cleanly passing through and whizzing past Kleo's side and smacking into the dirt.

Standard rifle cartridge, armor piercing, still smoking - enough to be a threat to medium to light augmented armor but Kleo was the only one whose armor probably would face any major issue from.

The thing is, whoever had fired hadn't realized that that Echo's drones would be able to trace it... back to the rubble pile from earlier.

Not long after, the communicator panel spoke.

"It is not often I grant leniency to swine, especially those bearing such familiar kit. My squadmate is eager for action after what happened here hours earlier. Perhaps you should help me with that. Suspicious lack of markers on you... just new here, let's hope no?"

This was an alien voice, charismatic yet almost hissed not with vitriol but from the mere nature of the voice. An accent that fit the English language yet slightly bent and strained its various syllables. Almost sounding Irish yet the words slurred together slightly with a sonorous tone. Likely gealtirocht, especially from the cocksure swagger it possessed.

The thing is, this one couldn't be so easily traced and somehow, it knew there was a communicator panel here. How exactly it had gotten into the system was anyone's guess. It appeared that for all the informant's talk of the communicator panel's "[e]ncrypted secure coms", it had been bypassed in a matter of minutes.
I was thinking a human smuggler/gun slinger who made a lil (big) fucky wucky on a delivery for an Yrrkradian warlord. Maybe said warlord might've been a bit closer with the emperor than smuggleman assumed. Big bad consequences for failure IE whole crew gets merced to make an example. So now he's officially in the shits with a highly influential Yrrkradian politician or two due to the consequences of said delivery not making it. Likely something that screwed a loyalist war effort or left them lacking supplies of some kind. He wants vengeance and they think he's dead kinda thing.

100% workable. I look forward to the character sheet. I am a bit busy right now but you can jump on our discord too.
Yes we are. What characters do you two have on mind?
The ground beneath was dry and crusted with a mixture of what was definitely blood but other fluids had intermingled, turning into a layer of scraping, staining crust like a mixture of scabs and solidified pus. The shotgun was no different other than the crusty, grainy pieces of meat encrusted with exoskeletal growths, the weapon's targeter lights blinking as if awakened by Salvator's hands. The weapon was heavy, even for an experienced and augmented soldier, yet its weight was unusual; it shifted and shuddered as if reluctant to face whatever hellish force had scourged the life from its prior owner.

As if out of some primal fear, the weapon itself reached out.

Salvator would detect it on his HUD; notifications of attempted communications channels opening and preview messages in an almost hieroglyphic language. As if someone had ground up a collection of insects and arranged them into stark geometric characters. It was a vrexul language specifically, one of many and rendered in some sort of cold character of weapon permisison and targeting system calibration.

This meant a number of things:

1) This shotgun was likely from a gun-platform type biomechanical drone; something it was common to see deployed as a part of vrexul infnatry squads. Yet if it was a size and shape that a voidhanger could use it, it was likely manufactured with the intent of giving it to local rebels.

2) Its lethality was considerably higher than a conventional shotgun. Unlikely to the same degree as one properly scaled for its creators but the tips of the slugs almost stared at Salvator. The bandolier of rounds had a threatening weightiness to themselves; perhaps one could simply beat someone to death with it like a flail. This thing could probably punch through a fully power armored UCL trooper with a direct hit or two to the chestplate.

3) The ability to do so had not stopped what were at least four vrexul soldiers (plus an indeterminate amount of biomechanical drones) from being slaughtered into festering slag. Given by the scourged rocks and the chunks of rubble surrounding them, they had put out quite a bit of retaliatory fire.

4) Apparently it was also sending a transmission to the communicator panel, silencing the beeping if only to replace it with a reverberant, crackling drone.

5) In short, the weapon like many vrexul technologies primarily associated with the Intransigence, it was essentially "alive" and if it did not shut up, there is no telling who might hear them.

The rock slab that Kleo had stuffed herself behind was somewhat misleading. It had looked like a single large jutting rock formation but the actual "rock" part of it was maybe less than half of its actual bulk. There was solid natural formation there but a huge part of it was shorn off; the whole upper part of it looked as if someone had hacksawed it away with the uneven and even near-toothed, raw way it had been forcibly removed.

And by the grooves that were cut into it, it had been with a solid round weapon of some sort. A smell of slightly stingy, metallic odour wafted from behind her cover and if her eyes followed it, she would see the circular back-end of some sort of shell embedded in the ground. A circular back-end larger than what one might even load into a vrexul autocannon.

Like the one that lay cracked and bent, nudging up against her knee like some dying animal begging for release or relief. The weapon itself was a broad, semi-rectacugular prism shape simple in structure yet lavished with shifting carapace and slithering bioelectronics, bent at an awkward as if it had been forced into a 45-degree v-shape. Its barrel was torn off with serrated wounding patterns and the creatures that lived inside to maintain it could be seen in the little gaps within its battere shape, life leaving them as it did the weapon.

It belonged to the other part of the "rock" she had been hiding against; the slouching cadaver of an enormous vrexul. Undergrowth camo-pattern body, covered in a layer of dust likely from the rock it had unsuccessfully used to shield itself from its foe, half of its skull torn open, leaving her with the empty pupil-less ocular dome stare of its one remaining primary "eye" and the imperceptible emotion of its incompete mandibular array; perhaps horror, perhaps hatred, perhaps some sort of empty machine-apathy many were stereotyped as possessing.

She could see shapes moving within the various other holes in its body; glistening in the thin rays of light that peaked through the flog and the flares of light from the distant-yet-ever-present battle. Shapes not of native scavengers but living things carrying out whatever tasks they could to maintain a long since deceased form, perhaps in denial or they simply were not biologically programmed for anything else.

Ilshar's guerilla career informed him of some of the patterns and marking not on the front of the various shorn-off vrexul armor chunks but their underside. Patterns inscribed almost as if they were runes seemed to speak to the distant memory of far more violent years; symbols that seemed to gnash at the mind with scything mouthparts laden with teeth, eyes that stared not at but through the psyche in pseudo-geometric patterns on shield-shaped faces. At once militant in severity yet occult in the specifics of construction; hardline militant groups no doubt possessing a similar hatred as the ZRF for its foreign oppressor.

The piece of carapace he held was inert yet he could feel something within; maybe some sort of wiring and electronics preparing to link up to a full-spectrum combat suit, or something that squirmed and crept in its little dark realm of bioengineered robotics-intertwined complexity. He was not merely picking up supplies for repair but something that almost felt like the living, hateful will of another hardened insurgent.

There was something... odd about the body however if he looked closer. Parts of it were shattered and a gruesome labyrinth of annihilated anatomy, yet there were certain components that were missing. The tarrhaidim had no doubt seen the bodies of vrexul before (perhaps he had been responsible for a number of them), and it was rather telling certain components had been removed. Not just organs but something else. What exactly was difficult to discern yet there were parts of its lumbering corpse where connector veins, internal limbs, and claspers were rather delicately pulled away or excised, laying on the viscera-strewn grass or sliding around in its shell.

There was something off about some of the organs that weren't removed however, as if they were bereft of the hellish trauma visible and tangible on the others.

Almost as if they had been planted in the corpse after the fact. Like clusters of fleshy grapes, worm-like veins laced through them, and very slightly growing and tensing as they they traced like trails through their bulbous mass. It was biotech, perhaps not vrexul, but it looked like it had been implanted in the body after it had been averted from living unto death. What was its purpose exactly though?

As the microforms traveled across this landscape, the severity of the scene grew clearer. Some of the shell casings here were almost as large as the little drones themselves and these were not Veiled War era suprlus ones. They were at least from three to five years ago; a few could be seen embedded in a particularly large 12 foot long vrexul slumped face down in the dirt; exit wounds on its back as massive as the dinner plate sized ones they saw punched through the trees earlier. At least nine of said wounds on its body; likely some on the shattered sideways-earwig shaped autocannons that were attached to the underside of its arms but those had been cracked in multiple spots and-

Signal interference, connection fizzling, warning signs; Echo's on board systems were detecting some sort of signal passing through the area. No, it wasn't passing but bouncing about, multiple points of contact - including the corpse that Ilshar had procured an armor shard from. The digital feed faltered yet control of the drones wasn't being affected. It wasn't jamming but some sort of ambient static in the air, the drones unintentionall picking up some of it.

Investigating further, it was connected to the vrexul bodies. Not the corpses in and of themselves; multiple HUD-markers indicated it was something inside of them that was generating the signals.

One drone, the one furthest from the others however, was picking up a sort of light invisible on the physical spectrum. A laser of some sort; stopping right on its body.

Something was targeting the drone but it wasn't firing.

Not yet anyways.
It was hard not to feel the glares against their backs as the smoking wreckage of civilian architecture slowly retreated back into the distance, joining the protests of the scielto commander as still-piping hot barrels were pressed against their back. Soon it was but smoke visible through the envelopment of the forest green as it trembled from the raging violence in the valley.

Every few minutes, a great light would erupt in an explosive blast from the valley or the mountain opposite to their own, the pinkish-white light overwhelming the pure gold of the mid-day sun. Branches would tremble, the dirty leaves that had replaced foot-trails fluttered from the blast-waves that washed over them. The worst was the light however, as if a small sun had blossomed off in the distance yet whose shining splendor greedily overrode that of the planet's primary star, silhouetting the foliage that enshrouded them from the world in streams of black, slihouetted shadows.

Rather than illuminate and reveal, the lack of paths through the uneven, wooded mountainside with its logs, vines, and rocks became hidden momentarily in near-blinding flashes. They were diminishing in frequency and ferocity as they progressed and one could see why with a glance off to the side. Down in the valley, sloping fronts of dark-green armored personnel carriers, top-mounted autocannons spitting as digitigrade-legged bipedal mecha stalking forth ostrich like sent storms of missile and minigun-spray into bonfire-raging blasts of CivSec positions.

Storms of flashing energy-jacketed rounds and piercing flashes of condensed beam-energy responded in kind as they seared and scored scars and hits along tanks that had last seen active service in the Veiled War. The ensuing energy-splash or detonating armor cast black shapes against the erupting flames as infantry rapidly disembarked mere feet from rumbling, boxy vehicles and stomping bipedal warmachines. Far heavier vehicles lay in wait, entrenched in camouflage of repuroposed trees and heavy netting or sniping them down lengthy sightlines extending over trenches and between bunkers.

It was easy to miss out on the buzzing of the communicator-panel in its reinforced carrying-case. There was so much going on that even when the savage judgement day knell of the artillery-cannon's blasts died down, that left the shrieking of aircraft and multi-targetting missiles in its place. It was not enough to drown out the nagging buzz of the device, nor was the smoke that began to creep forth enough to hide the extravagance of the raging battle that consumed the region.

It was more akin to a fog with how it crept from deeper into the woods where the light was forced to not only navigate the dense leafy cover but also the wafting white that rolled out from within its depths. The roads were entirely absent now and the only real way to visually orient themselves was where the light of explosions and energy beams shone from. It was further away from the mountain edge, moreso on the spine of the enormous formation, and getting harder to see without some sort of scanning or imaging capability that was unaffected by such visual obstruction.

All the while the communicator buzzed naggingly, awaiting for anyone to respond. It was clear for once as the sounds of battle grew distant, almost as if respectful of the sombre and somewhat pungent fog that crept in. Where trees once stood tight and clustered they began to slouch and lean; dinner-plate sized holes punched through their bodies or having gutted their circumferences caused a few to keel over, resting upon one another or the forest floor itself.

It made the area somewhat easier to navigate yet more and more of the trees were increasingly fallen, some torn into smaller log-chunks, their leafy tops crumpled and burnt as they wreathed their own remains. Spent shell casings flashed at the Envenomed squad's sight, all of them the sort reserved for anti-material rifles others withered and crusty, shaped like the pupae of flying insects yet laced with deliberately implanted metal firing mechanisms - those ones were at least for light autocannons.

They were in a clearing in the woods, the fog heavy yet not entirely obscuring - they could see the blast-craters upon the ground, the trees that had been sunken along with the large, chunky and lump-like shapes laying scattered all around, limbs of some large, monstrous, multi-digited sort and blackened bio-metallic acrmor could be made out through non-enhanced sight as both the main recipients of immense violence and the source of much of the smoke. So too could be areas of elevated terrain; jutting rock-heads slouching off before the congregation of massive, shattered forms, their sides torn and desecrated by retaliatory fire.

Piles of rubble stood in front of these natural formations, having violently deformed them but far lesser than the now brutally deceased who who had fired upon some unknown aggressor. A few larger, older trees sat proud and looming, extending past the fog and scourged with puncturing wounds but none of which were anything like the massive holes punched through the trees prior or the arthropod bodies in the area. The latter two were large enough sometimes that a human could fit its body through the wounds torn through them; these would be a much tighter to impossible squeeze to make.

With the team nearly halfway to the artillery emplacement, it was clear that they would have to cross a treacherous and eerie stretch of the mountain where some sort of battle had taken place. The bodies appeared arthropod like and most of them were facing towards the bulging rocks that jutted from the earth, yet what exactly had slaughtered them so thoroughly?

And why was the communicator-panel they were handed starting to beep and blink a red warning light, then a green signal-transmission one?
The creature's digits clenched tighter, scraping armor and the first audible signs of wear and tear made themselves clear. The huge creature even with such injuries was pumped full of anger and adrenaline. Its eyeless attention turned to Salvator as it hesitated for a moment. It spoke but this time the words were not the swamp-murk rumbling of its native tongue but English, words fogged by the hazy intonations of its deep, frothing vocalization.

"You do not know my fight; OUR struggle," He paused to make a deep sound; sucking inwards with a flanging, mud-bubbling gargle. "If you think we expect such mercy from the enemy. Do you not know the value of a hostage of an enemy with an image to keep? Their sapient rights and sapientaraianism; the luxury of the oppressor to parade their righteousness. Empty words for burned down ghettos."

His grip loosened only slightly. Like worms his digits still coiled even if the pressure was far less bruising.

The footsteps of other tarrhaidim drew nearer, measured and careful as if approaching a potential landmine. He motioned over to the gathered Envenomed, stone-spire teeth clenching as his hands waved - he needed them to make some space but he was careful to keep his mouth shut. More voices were more fuel to the fire.

More human voices that was. The ZRF's squad leader looked to Ilshar and decided that whatever the fellow fungoid had on mind was good a guess as any, motioning his hand over his mouth as he looked at Echo. The enormous Unztadtlige alone was a walking death threat even if it was not actually expressing any aggression.

As Ilshar spoke the fingers slid off of Kleo's arms and it turned to face him, sliding back into the archaic tongue of his kind.

"My anger has been tended to well for over a decade of subjugation; countless habitations under the claw of suited barons and their lackeys' armored bootheels. You speak as one of similar sufferings. Similar hatreds."

His head turned to the fallen scielto, glaring from the corners of what one could presume were its eyes at the rifle barrel pointed at the side of its face. The soldier stopped as the ZRF squad leader's hands motioned him to stop his little escapade of anger, leaving promptly without a word to rejoin his comrades.

He turned to the rest of the squad, his own wounds less gruesome but his ballistic padding armor torn and multiple burns traveling up his sides and back. A part of his face bubbled from a residual energy burst of some sort and shapes squirmed beneath in torment or in desperation to repair badly damaged biomass.

"You fight well. That is noted," He paused to glance at Kleo, his teeth half-clenched with some sort of frustration, but turned then to the human informant while he addressed the rest. "But our mission ends here. Too many wounded, much already lost. You make your way wherever-to now."

It was not much but as he left, the informant was already clenching his teeth and lightly banging his forehead against a half-broken doorway. He did not hide well the curses uttered as whispers.

"Well, I was hoping that could be the backup but it seems you're on your own... but right, where was I huh... the mission. Well... you remember that massive blast from earlier? Not the one that unlucky scielto fellow made. The massive one, artillery blast, the one that shook the whole hillside."

He walked out and pointed off in the distance, along where the trees gradually sloped upwards, rustling in the wind and in the wake of massive blasts. Blurs through the air, slamming along the hillside, sending up clouds of dirt and mushroom clouds of flame.

Little more than the barks of hounds as the massive beast roaring in Hades' depths roared from off in the distance, a massive plume of blue-yellow fire erupting far off near the peak of the mountain they stood upon. Not long after, another massive blast off in the distance on the opposing hill, gouging out an enormous bite of an opposing mountainside. The very report of the weapon made trees tremble, the village shudder, and the ground quake beneath their feet.

"... Yeah, that? Artillery, off-world from the UCL. Some sort of test-run for it, multi-drone triangulation-targetting and live battlenet-feed coordination with on-ground elements. That opposing hillside? That's our artillery. As in 'Definitely-Not-Intransigence' artillery. Pathetic, yes, but that's what happens when you don't control the space around the world and have to rely on informal smuggler networks to sneak in anything that won't catch the actual regional League fleet's attention."

He put a hand on his chin, looking upwards for a bit before remembering something, immediately disappearing back into the house. A few bits of the ceiling were flaking off onto his head, making him curse as he disappeared inside. Something heavy dragged along the floor and the man audibly grunted as clips of some sort were undone, zippers opened, and contents rummaged.

Returning, he held a blocky square-like device with an antennae poking out one corner and various switches and buttons adorning its face. It was held in a sort of reinforced case and with clawed grasper-straps allowing for attachment to one's back. Currently it was open and he was pressing a few buttons.

With a bit of fidgeting, he managed to slide what appeared to be a button/switch/knob covered panel and reveal a screen, before fumbling some more to activate a quartet of small LED's. Immediately, a holographic projection emerged; four beams of light splintering into countless smaller ones, projecting an image of a video feed through a light blue filter.

A group of faces were visible; armored, sloping helmets, curving lines across the sides of their ridges and a rough, dense appearance. Augmented combat suits ("power armor" if one wanted to be blunt), Intranszjednota issue, early Reckoning of Empires period; a squad, bipedal and humanoid, showered with dirt and cautiously looking over their shoulder in whatever foxhole they were huddled in.

"Oi, before you start, yes, they're here! Look, just get going, I'll fill them in fast and it won't be long alright? Thank you."

Before any of them could respond with more than a flicker of motion and the loading of their mags, he closed it and handed it to Salvator.

"I'll be frank, there's not much to say but there's two things you gotta do. First, get to there-"

He pointed off in the distance where the massive blast from the artillery cannon had spouted out, also cursing as he fumbled around with a few more contents he'd extracted from the house.

"That fancy CivSec artillery canon? We need you to secure it. Not destroy it-" His eyes glanced at Ilshar and Echo. "Secure it. That device I handed you? Encrypted secure coms and a battlefield computer-suite. It's got a map and navigation program but really, it's a straight shot there; can probably make it there in the next hour or less if you get going soon."

The encased device was buzzing; any attempts to network with it via digital systems revealed that it was updating something related to their current location and distance to the targeted area.

"Second? You actually should get going real soon because those guys you saw on the holo-feed? They're on the move and you're working with them. They're getting close to a target and fighting the UCL suckers in the valley at the same time. They're going to paint the target once they get close enough to them. Once they let you know, you guys get to help the League uh, test out their new product's accuracy when they do that. Assassination but with a knife you can level a mountain with."

He nodded before returning into their house, grunting as he pulled something heavy then returned with a backpack. Bits of fluid coloured its tough nylon like material in hues of blue and green. A slight odour wafted from it, one that was wet and slightly dirt-like, something he pretended he did not smell.

"That's my end of this deal held..." He muttered under his breath as he started to move. "Have fun, I'm getting off this clusterfuck."

As he left, the ZRF the squad had fought alongside began to take their leave. Many of them hobbled, some fashioning crutches from large branches or were held from under their arms by comrades. Their wounds were horrific but there were a number that in spite of that, seemed none the worse off. The tarrhaidim obviously, but they were occupied with their prisoner, now on a slow march back away from the frontlines of the conflict.

The informant joined them, exchanging a few words, before the Envenomed team were left with their task.

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