Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Brotherhood Lost

When the flare of the dual plasma cannons faded away, both Lethane and Ravyn were down. Both were steaming. Both were motionless.

Fortress took another thunderous step forward, large bladed pistons unfolding and firing themselves into the asphalt to anchor his gargantuan suit of powered armor. Carbine steel rods drove deep into the ground, stabilizing him against the cumbersome reality of his suit's weight.

"I am almost disappointed. I expected more of a fight." Another step, followed by four ballistic pistons slamming earthward. "But this does make things easier."

Bloodravyn was buried upright in the brick wall at the alley's end. Directly below him, Lethane was a crumpled heap of pain and unconsciousness, only alive by the whim of fate and the density of his alien flesh.

The massive frame of the Fortress-One bodysuit lumbered forward, cannon ports retracting into the armor's forebracers. The helm tilted to the wounded-strewn street of the alley, scanning faces and genetics with an active probe that, had any of the villain's been awake, would have seriously hurt.

Killer Instinct, who had been half-faking his convalescence, whimpered and tried to lie perfectly still. If the huge armored figure noticed the reaction, it gave no indication. Instead, it just kept moving forward, slow step by piston-driving step.

"You have made this easy as well. Consorting with these... degenerates. Each and everyone is a villain with a Dead or Alive price and a crime sheet three screens long." Fortress raised his foot over Siegemaster, the first unconscious body in his way. "And you have become one of them"

Past swelling and the taste of bitter copper in his mouth, Ravyn struggled to consciousness enough to growl through his agonized lips. "P..please... don't... k... k..."

The 300 pound foot came down, crushing Siegemaster's upper chest. The pistons unfolded, positioned and fired, tearing the villain's corpse apart and pinning its largest remaining pieces to the red-stained alley road. "Dead or alive."

Disfocused from the massive impact into the wall, Ravyn was having trouble keeping his eyes open. But that, that he saw. A spike of fury shot through him, forcing him awake. "Y...you bastard! Bul...Bulwark, how could you?!" Even with new armor and a modulated voice, Fortress could not hide who he really was from Bloodravyn. Somehow, Ravyn could simply feel his old... friend.

With one foot actuator streaked crimson, Fortress strode forward and brought the other one down. It smashed through and then shredded the body of Feral. If the bestial villain hadn't been dead before, he certainly would be now. "These creatures are monsters and have no rights. I am doing a favor by taking them out this way." As if to prove his benevolence, Fortress raised his alloy-shrouded right forearm and extended his plasma cannon. Taking aim at the next villain on the ground, a bright lance of raw energy lashed down and left nothing behind but a burning grave nine feet deep and a pair of disconnected feet smouldering at one end. "It is quicker and cleaner than they deserve."

Ravyn groans and shook his head as quickly as his stupor would allow. "N...n-no! H...heroes... aren't exe-executioners!"

"I ended your life effectively enough once." Ravyn had no answer to that.

"And now I'll have to do it twice." Or that.

Fortress' murderous foot came down over the legs of the next villain in line. There was a sheering pain, a terrible sound of breaking, splintering bone and then Killer Instinct really was unconscious - this time from shock.

"Please, don't bother struggling." Fortress raised both cannons and aimed them at Bloodravyn as he dangled helplessly from the ragged wall. "These weapons are tuned to your genetics; they have been designed to knock out your powers, destroy your equilibrium and then end your existence."

The glow in the cannons was bright again, moments from the critical mass that meant the end of the road for Ravyn. He knew it, he sensed it but he could not avoid it.

Fortress calculated the throwback effect on two full burst plasma emitters and decided to shift his position. The suit's right foot rose into the air and started to come down over the next body in line - Fatale.

"NO!" Bloodravyn felt a strange surge of energy just as Fortress' constant monitors picked up a localized tremor in the ground beneath them both. Basalt tore its way free from the ground, spiraling around Bloodravyn and shedding a bright, warm green glow. In that instant, he was healed, free and clearheaded again. He was also covered in the now-familiar obsidian and basalt plates covering much of his armor.

Before Fortress could step down on the femme or fire his cannons, Ravyn hauled himself from the hold in the wall, smashing headfirst into Fortress' battlesuit. Upon retrospect and the need for massive doses of painkiller, Ravyn would have due cause to question that decision

The impact did serve to send both of Fortress' shots wild. Unused to missing, that stunned moment was enough to get him sent backwards almost to the mouth of the alley. Burning punch after burning punch kept Fortress' defense web unsure of what it should be combating - fire or high-impact. With the Fortress-One's suit systems in confusion, Bloodravyn knew the time to strike was now!


A moment's hesitation, Ravyn's fist clutched around a sword of raw fire, the blade drawn back to finish him off. In the next moment, he was flying backwards into the main street, nearly struck by a car. The Fortress-One was a state-of-the-art design; it would never be down for the count long.

"Do yourself a favor," Fortress's deep monotone echoed from a passionless speaker. "Just go down. Let me end this quickly." With each word, Fortress was smashing Bloodravyn into something else. Mail box. Trash can. Circle K. Car. If this was Bulwark's idea of quick, Ravyn was certainly glad his former friend didn't want this to linger.

Using as much speed as his connection to the earth allowed, Ravyn started anticipating swings through ground vibrations and dodging them because of the warnings. The fight took them back into the alley after trashing everything on the street outside. They fought and tangled, Ravyn finally fighting back, until they were almost at the end of the side road again, Fortresses back a few feet from the broken wall.

Bloodravyn had even managed to make sure there were no more collateral victims, though it had cost him a nasty set of blows to the back. He'd carried the survivors to the shadows of the alley instead of leaving them right out in the middle of it. Fatale and the others were safe... as long as he didn't drop. He was both certain of and disgusted to admit that if he went down, Bulwark would murder the bar's survivors. All of them.

That gave him another burst of rage, a surge of power that allowed him to smash through the Fortress armor's defense grid and weaken its shielding.

Unfortunately, while he was saving lives and hurting a force field, Fortress had been badly injuring a Bloodravyn. He's scored three solid hits so far, one of which was finally taking its toll. The pain of a cracked bone in his upper leg sent Ravyn to the ground, staring up at a raised foot. The glowing aura protecting Fortress shifted completely to the front side of the armored suit. From this position, with that field in place, there was nothing Ravyn could do to defend himself.

"Forgive me, brother, but this could end no other way. You fought well but you cannot beat me."

Ravyn sighed and looked down, shaking his head as the foot descended toward him. "You're right, Bul. I can't. I never could." The sound of shearing metal and grinding gears was deafening, making him wince away from the sound even as his death loomed overhead.

When the noise stopped, the foot did too. Mere inches from his face, it ground to a halt and left the suit with only its other boot, fully anchored, to keep the armor upright. Not that such fine points would matter any longer to the wearer of the Fortress-One. A huge hole was torn through the front chestplate from behind, a vicious set of clawed fingers clutching something pulsing and leaking.

Ravyn looked up at the brutality, wincing and looking away again. "I'm sorry, Bul. There wasn't any other way..."

Lethane, still smoking, dropped the gushing thing and yanked his hand out the back of the suit before pushing it over with a growl. "Oh, get over the waterworks. That wasn't a heart. It was a hydraulic pump."

Bloodravyn looked up, blinking. "What?"

From the look on Leth's face, if he'd had a tail it would have been lashing angrily. "Hydraulic pump. There's no one in the suit. Your 'buddy' Bulwark send a drone in his place." Leaping straight up forty feet, Lethane landed on a rooftop and shouted out, "CHICKEN SHIT! STRAP UP AND BRING IT, YOU OLD CRIP!"

Below, Ravyn was ignoring Leth. He was kneeling beside the suit of armor, looking inside it at the automaton systems still sparking from Lethane's 'reprogramming'.

Bul hadn't been in it. He had not killed his best friend.

And while his best friend had not killed him either, there was no shadow of doubt any longer.

No way to deny it now. The Vigilant wanted him dead. They could strike at any time, from any direction, with nigh-infinite resources. Sooner or later, one of them would succeed.

And there was only one way to keep that from happening.

One brutal... terrible way.

Leth's way.

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