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It was getting a little too busy around here for Kora's liking when the horse became evident as some kind of shifter. She wasn't aversed to an audience, but the phrase 'loitering with intent' sprung to mind, especially with horse-man making some oblique reference to her being killed and the resulting looting of her body.

"Good thing I'd be dead then wouldn't it? That sort of thing happening might really worry me if I wasn't." the Knight responded with a dark smirk.
"Not that I don't appreciate your concern for my corpse."

She didn't really have time to exchange words with ashlanders though. Her target was moving away.

"Sir, I'm under obligation to warn you that walking away from me at this point is resisting arrest, and if you don't stop immediately I will be compelled to stop you by force."

She lifted her left hand across her chest, closed her fingers into a fist, and upon extending them there was an abrupt flash of ignition. Her hand began to radiate intense levels of heat.

"I'm not going to warn you agai-"
Suddenly a voice spoke up in the her headset, the familiar monotone of her charming mission control.
"Enough of this. Engage."
"I'm obliged to give a verbal warning before-"
"That's an order, Knight."

"Alright. If a Commander takes issue with this it's all on you, autotune." she muttered, before making a dash for the man, her hands beginning to spark and warp the air around them. She did so with reasonable confidence that the assembled ashrats would disperse when things turned ugly. They had no reason to piss off the Kingdom of Erubesco for the sole reason of propping up some criminal who, for all they know, could have just murdered a bunch of people as part and parcel of his treason. If the two were able to sell off Erubescan security codes to Liberty or mercenary factions, he might as well have killed dozens of Knights with his own bare hands.

Magdalene sat with her head leaned back on the box. She needed to get up and move. That had to happen. It was going to happen. In five minutes. Maybe when she didn't feel like she'd been hit with a baseball bat.

Noise.

Footsteps.

A man's voice.

Fuck.

Guess she was already too late for the 'Move the supplies before any looters' turn up.

Typical.

From where she was sprawled, rather gracelessly against her supply crates, Mags emitted a rather weary sigh and fully intended to follow it up with 'Alright you got me, would you mind not killing me again it's getting pretty tired at this point?'

But she'd rather overestimated how verbally capable someone was after getting shot in the neck, and what actually came out was a raspy, cracking sound that seemed more like it would echo out of a crypt before something rose up to consume the flesh of the living. She then dissolved into some rather unpleasant-sounding coughs that spattered more dry blood across the floor.

Well that was pretty unsettling.

Maybe it would convince the intruder that there was some kind of brain-eating revenant living in the bookshop and that he should leave. Actually that might be the best possible outcome.




-----

"If you're innocent of any crimes levelled against you, then you've got nothing to fear in returning for trial." she responded, closing the gap fairly briskly, though avoiding breaking into a run or anything that might similarly be regarded as initiating aggression.

Had to do things by the book as much as possible. Besides taking down a man who was willing to talk it out was not her style...though she probably would be more than a little disappointed if it ended that easily.

She had no idea what the deal with the horse was. Files said 'former gladiator' but nothing about him having taken one of the props along with him. Not that that ruled it out as it seemed exactly the kind of thing ORIN might neglect to mention.

As Kora saw it, if someone was convinced of their innocence they wouldn't feel the need to trail off over miles of Wasteland and risk getting murdered by inbred ashrats for their boots. That didn't sound like the actions of an innocent man.

Internally Kora's mind was turning over the situation over and over again, trying to set on the best way to react if this turned ugly. The guy was able to take this metallic form on at will. Could she melt it? Probably depended on the metal. Had been a close one for her pewter mjolnir a number of times, and she was pretty certain she could melt iron like a blacksmith's forge. Beyond that though it was going to get a bit questionable.

The situation became even more tricky to figure out when she saw they'd been joined by a third person (to go with the two people, and one horse).

Mercs. In general the whole idea of them didn't sit right with her. You should fight for what you believe in, not just for money in your pocket. She'd take a good Knight over ten shifty mercs any day... and she didn't really appreciate being condescended to by one.

"Anyone who felt like trying to kill a Knight would be welcome to try."
If there was anything concerning Kora at the time, getting mugged by ashrats was not one of them. She'd like to think that most of them would have enough sense to know that a lone Knight wasn't something to be trifled with.

"Besides, I'm sure Mr Lazos is going to respond to this in a civilised way and there will not be any need for me to engage, correct?"


There we go, a face some of you from the previous AU might recognise. As a few details aren't pinned yet with a couple of people things are a little loose rn, but, Hel.



The journey was characteristically rocky. Teleportation always made Kora feel sick and was never something she was totally happy about...she'd seen it go wrong just enough times to have gained a degree of wariness about it... but soon the Erubescan found her boots on the dry ground of an ashland basin, the dusty breeze whipping her hair around her head.

Relutantly, the Knight snapped a switch on the underside of her bracer, activating the live feed and the uniform's bodycam. Reluctant because it would mean being subjected to more of ORIN's robotic bitching.

"I'm in the drop zone ORIN. How do I proceed?" she asked.

"Fugitives were spotted behind the ridge there heading due west 72 hours ago."
"Oh well that narrows it down to a fifty mile stretch of ash. Real brilliant detective work there ORIN."

"They've not been sighted in any subsequent sweeps, which would indicate they'd not passed far away from here. It could also be reasoned that they will, at some point, need provisions and are likely to approach a trading spot. Proceed toward the ruins and be on alert for signs of trade activity."

"What happens if I run into some local colour?"
"Do what you need to do, Knight. No-one gotten court martialled for terminating factionless individuals yet and I don't expect you to be the first."

"Kill them, got it."
Kora strode along the rocky ground in the direction of the town. Pre-war. It was rather hard to really wrap your head around what that meant. Indeed it was hard to ever imagine the town as anything but a decaying husk. The age of man was not that long passed, but as far as Kora was concerned they might as well have been gone a thousand years.

As she reached the edge, the Erubescan became a little more cautious. There were plenty of places for someone to sneak up on her. In the same sense, it was going to be extremely difficult to search all of the mouldering buildings...and even then no guarnatee of finding what she was looking for.

The best she could hope for was some clue as their whereabouts.
Which came right around the time Kora heard the scream.

By the time the Knight had jogged over the rise over which she'd heard it, her eyes had already set on the large animal stood beside the cracked asphalt of an old street.

ORIN, watching everything through the broadcast had utterly no interest in the horse however. She was far more focused on the man approaching it.
"Target sighted. Lazos. Move to engage."
"Right."

The woman stepped forward and snapped the voice amplifier on, broadcasting her voice down to the man so there could be absolutely no mstaking her intentions.

"Orion Lazos! You are wanted by the Kingdom of Erubesco for the crime of treason! Surrender yourself to arrest now and will remain unharmed! If you proceed to resist arrest, I, a Knight of Erubesco, am fully authorised to use any degree of force necessary to ensure that you face justice! You have five seconds to get down on the ground and put your hands behind you head!"
There was blood everywhere. One the walls, the floor, the mouldering volumes left on the old shelves, everywhere.

Out at the doorway, a silhouette of a man slipped out of the door, spreading a dusty light across the room, and to the body on the floor, a young woman in a dark jacket. She lay on the dusty boards in an expanding pool of arterial blood, struggling for breath through a ruptured trachea, watching as the man who had just shot her stroll off into the wastes, with her duffel bag in hand.

The trade had not gone well.

He hadn't even had a very good aim. What she suspected had been intended to hit her head instead hit her in the side of the neck, blasting apart the carotid artery and causing far more mess than it needed to. Maybe being the one who got shot gave her a bit of personal bias, but some of the last thoughts that flickered though Magdalene Atwood's mind as she bled out in the ruins of a pre-war bookstore, was that the murder had been a very sloppy one.




It was around two days that the corpse of Magdalene Atwood lay in the abandoned bookstore. The blood puddle had begun to become dry and sticky, though no flies or vermin had made any approach upon it.

About 48 hours after she had died, the body gave a sudden spasmodic twitch, the back arching up before pushing back down as she flung up into a sitting position and let out a sudden gasp for air. Two more desperate intakes of breath before she threw herself onto her knees and violently threw up, splattering the already ruined floor with congealed blood and stomach acid.

However many times it happened, re-animation was still impossible to get used to. Like even the body rejected such a violation of natural laws. Everything had to die. Very few things had made it a two way street.

It took a while, but Magdalene was able to rise onto her feet.

Her skull felt like it had been chipped out on the inside with a mason's chisel and her throat was burning with bile. All kind of par for the course, but she was pretty sure she was going to need to find something to drink pretty soon or this was going to get into a really unpleasant cycle.

'Don't pass out don't pass out don't-'

Clumsily, Magdalene reached round the bookshelves, blinking through fuzzy vision.
She just hoped that bastard hadn't found the-

Her fingers closed round a book.

'Got it.'

With shaky hands the book opened, revealing the hollowed-out inside and a concealed ID card with its chesspiece symbol sat within.

The motheaten rug in the corner was pulled aside, and the white plastic crates bearing similar insignia that had been set into replace the floor beneath were revealed, and the first opened with swipe of the card. LED strips on the inside flared and lit the packages inside.

The bag, with a couple of day's worth of rations stuffed inside, was a decoy. It served its purpose very well. Apparently her trader buddy had completely missed the real prize.

Three crates of Erubesco field unit supplies. Freeze-dried rations, water purifiers, heat packs, medical supplies...all the kinds of things you might miss living out in the ashlands. Also worth their weight in gold.

If anything gold was less important. You couldn't eat gold.

Mags reached round in the interior until her trembling hands seized upon an orange carton, which she cracked and downed near enough in one, but for what she lost when it spilled down her bloodstained shirt.

It would normally take a few days to be back up to standard after a reanimation. She was pretty sure she did not have that long before one of that scumbag's buddies got wind of the place and turned up to try and loot her corpse. One way or another she was going to have to move her cache without any of the wasteland's more colourful characters catching on. That would take strategy, cunning....all the kind of things you lost when you were short around half of your blood. Mags leaned back on the crate and groaned. Why could she never reanimate to good news?
The Citadel. The biggest military base on the east coast. The dark heart of Erubescan military operations on the north american continent. It rose up above the surrounding city like a great sentinel, the banners of the three disciplines, Knight, Alchemist and Acolyte, fluttering in the breeze that blew in off the Atlantic and whipped the flag, the King piece, into a frenzy atop the tallest tower.

There were plenty of windows in the Citadel. Made with a strong, impact and heat-resistant polymer, they looked out, but not in. That was how,as she progressed along towards the departure point, Knight Kora Norrevinter could see for miles.

Below them was the Citadel Capital, a sprawling metropolis of shop, housing and attractions existing n constant defiance of the threat of war.
Beyond there, industrial land, beyond there, farms, beyond there, defensive lines, beyond there...the ash. The place of savages and poison and death. Soon to be her destination.

'Teleportation Area - Manual Checks in Operation'

Kora stepped inside, passing a quick salute to the stationed knights guarding the entrance and exit checkpoint. There was only one place in the citadel where teleportation disruption was not in constant active effect and anyone teleporting in from the outside wouldn't end up with only around one half of them actually arriving. It was also one of the most actively guarded parts, for obvious reasons.

You could get away with being reasonably lackadaisical when near every room in the base was under constant unceasing scrutiny from the eyes of-

"I'm pleased you eventually saw fit to arrive, Knight." the synthetic voice in her earset wasn't especially grating, perhaps like something that had undergone far too heavy a use of autotune, and conveyed no tone whatsoever. And yet Kora still in some fashion found it needlessly condescending.
"I'm twenty seconds off the hour ORIN. If you have an issue feel free to pester the quartermaster on duty instead of me. I submitted the requisition forms for the new uniform a month back."
Kora and the current quartermaster had exchanged some rather terse words several times over uniforms.
Each year the fashion houses of the city engaged in vicious competition to design the next Erubescan military uniform. Each year Kora had to go through the rigmarole of trying to acquire a field set for a 6ft 6inch female. Each year it was a nightmare and generally resulted in her threatening some acolyte on the acquisition with intense levels of physical harm before she got it. They massively resented havng to order anything in for anybody under Commander rank.

Knight Commander.

The coveted position where you gained a unique uniform and people started knowing your name and inviting you to parties. The position Kora had been gunning for for eight years and still hadn't caught a viceroy's eye.

But you never knew. Perhaps this next mission was exactly what she needed to pull some attention.
Recovery of some fugitives who'd escaped into the ash. Pretty standard really, but if the rumours were to be believed they were attempting to sell state secrets to Liberty. That in itself was going to reflect well on her when she dragged their sorry asses back to the Citadel.

"Bay 16K Knight. There's a teleporter waiting. Drop zone is near the last recorded sighting. They are wanted alive. Any deaths are going to result in consequences."
"Yes ORIN, I know not kill them. I'm not stupid."
"Your previous records do nothing to give me confidence, Knight."

Whether that was a reference to Kora's ability to moderate her damage to opponents, or her being stupid or not, Kora wasn't certain.

So she stood there in all her glory. Six and a half foot high, with wavy ginger hair that threatened to obscure her vision on the regular basis and yet she'd made no attempt to cut back or style in a way to avoid it. Armed, not with firearms or anything so needlessly practical, but with her two most favourite combat knives, Geri and Freki, and seemingly nothing else.

It was always that kind of soldier, the under-equipped kind, that you had to look out for. If a Knight was not carting kit around, it meant they were carrying inside them something that negated the need for it. A very destructive gift.

"I've uploaded the data of the targets to you. Ingram, Leila. Lazos, Orion."

Kora half listened as she adjusted the new bracers her current uniform had been graced with. Black, this time around, with the knight insignia, a horse-head chess piece, cast into a curved metal insignia on the chest. It provided no camouflage whatsoever. Fortunately Kora needed none. If the people in the area weren't aware of her upon her arrival...they would be soon after.

Ingram. Lazos. The names didn't really matter as far as she was concerned. Traitors were traitors.




Within a control room somewhere in the depth of the citadel, ORIN sat across a high-backed office chair. Her legs were hooked over the arm and a cup of coffee rested in her gloves hands. Several cables trailed up from her shoulders up to gaps in the room's ceiling, leading into the citadel's grid.

Whilst she was a long way removed from the female knight, ORIN saw exactly what was going on. She also saw the names and faces of the fugitives that command had sent a retrieval order for. Orion Lazos and Leila Ingram.

Ingram.

ORIN would be lying if she said that she didn't take some satisfaction from this particular deployment. Some work was a chore, others was a joy to do. Even having to work with an idiot Knight wasn't going to entirely ruin the satisfaction of watching Ingram get dragged back to the Citadel as a traitor. And ORIN herself hadn't even done anything to bring about this catastropic change in fortunes.

Well, they did say it, if you give someone enough rope they'll hang themselves.
He can always pester ORIN if need be in that being pestered is basically her job.
@lokystro Ouch. That sucks. =( I have known those feels.


And my Ashlander!







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