Another week, another chapter. Wanted to have this up on Friday but things didn’t quite work out. So here it is.
Also, just a heads up: I’m participating in Camp NaNoWriMo this July (writing a Spyro fanfiction because I can’t let those childhood memories go). While I’m going to try to keep writing and updating Lamenting City, there may be some slips in my schedule. Hopefully there aren’t, but warning you all in advance.
Also I need to like. Not name stuff.
Axel stared down at the murky water that stubbornly flowed through the deadscape, trying to make out her reflection in the brown hues. Just as lifeless as the rest of the wasteland around it, offering no solace from the pains wracking her body and her soul. Drinking it might, might, quench her thirst, but it’d also find new and exciting ways to make her sick, to make her stomach lurch and empty itself until she saw blood. Was it really worth it? Who was she to judge, really?
Against her better judgement, she placed her hands into the dirty water and cupped them, bringing them up and drinking the vile-tasting liquid. It was better than nothing. It was better than nothing. She wasn’t sure she quite believed herself, and she felt a strong desire to go back in time and change that decision.
Her body heaved, trying to force the water back up her throat, but she clenched her jaw and held it down. She glared at the water for a moment and then turned her head away, forcing herself to her feet. Her head spun and a tremor went through her flesh and bones. She covered her mouth and closed her eyes, forcing herself to think of everything except her nausea. She tried to imagine a land of green fields and crisp, blue water. A place with people and animals, and no pain. Her stomach still lurched, and she mentally asked herself why she bothered.
The scent of smoke drifted into Axel’s nostrils, sending a different kind of shock throughout her body. She looked at the Gun Raptor, hidden as best it could be in the city ruins. She’d leave it for the moment, walking in the direction of the smoke. She thought it easier to track down the source without the oversized mech. She could return to it anyway if need be, she wasn’t exactly going to be saying hello to whoever lit the fire… if anyone had.
She kept close to the shadows of the bleak night, until she could see hues of orange and yellow dancing across the walls in front of her. She stepped inside one of the buildings, the bottom floor the remains of a bank she thought, and peered outside the cracked, dirty windows. The faintest hint of warmth touched her face. She wanted to get closer to it, to escape the biting cold. She held still.
First she noticed the fire and then she noticed the two figures around it. She could make out the figure of a man and the figure of a woman, sitting opposite from each other. The light of the flickering flames danced across their white armour and their solemn faces. They held pieces of bread in their hands, but it went untouched in favour of them staring at each other, eyes full of things to say but no willpower to say it. Noticing something in the corner of her eye, Axel moved her gaze upward and froze.
Mech pilots, they were mech pilots. She saw them, an Armour Tigon and a Spectre Fox. She couldn’t make out the flags on their shoulders, hidden by the darkness of the shelter they stood within, and she saw the flags were already faded to begin with. They had been wandering like she was, she realized, separated from the rest of their unit and left in the deadscapes to wither away into nothing. She couldn’t tell if they had been wandering as long as she had, or longer, just that they looked so worn.
Axel turned away from the window before she could be seen by the two. She couldn’t trust them, no matter how much she wished to approach the fire and escape the cold that snapped at her skin. She didn’t know whether they had rejected their purpose like she had, or if they still intended to fight for the people that had rejected them. She wasn’t going to take the risk.
Axel made her way back to the Gun Raptor, if she could even still call it that. She had replaced one of its damaged legs with the leg of a Velociripper not long ago. She would have replaced the other, too, but the Velociripper’s own left leg had been crushed under its own weight and thus useless to her.
She’d worry about the mech’s name later, there were more important things to worry about than her patchwork repairs and the stated mission of the mech she controlled.
Axel wasted no time in syncing with the Gun Raptor and stepping out of its hiding place. She knew the other pilots would probably hear her footsteps throughout the city, but she opted to take the risk that they would pursue her. If they did, she would be ready to fight. She didn’t fear the stealth-oriented Spectre Fox, and she didn’t even fear the Armour Tigon, which had been designed to take damage like a sponge and still fight back.
She knew her haphazard creation could defeat them if the need arose. A part of her almost hoped they would try, if it meant the monotony of her current day to day existence would be broken up. The better part of her hoped they didn’t bother, because a fleeting moment of adrenaline wasn’t worth the risk of them actually winning, or worth the risk of putting down the only living things she had encountered since she had been abandoned.
Once she felt she was far enough away from the campsite of the other mech pilots, she broke out into a run throughout the city, leaping over debris and the remains of mechs while crushing vehicles underfoot. She ran until the strain on her left leg threatened to topple her and send her crashing into the dirt. She slowed her pace, and then she heard it, the deep growls of another mech.
A mech that wasn’t the Armour Tigon or Spectre Fox she had seen earlier. No, this growl was much deeper, much more otherworldly, much more… dinosaur. And, she noted with a growing terror, the growls didn’t match the Gun Raptor or the Velociripper, or similar small dinosaur mechs. This was something larger and to her, more dangerous.
Axel stepped out into what was once a bustling city square, looking around for any sign of the wandering mech. The growls grew louder, and she noticed red light to the right of her. Her head whipped around, greeted by glowing red eyes and shiny, pearly white teeth set inside a crocodilian mouth. The mech stood on two legs, with arms longer than the actual dinosaur it had been based. Vicious claws gleamed from what little light came from the stars.
Spino Avenger, the mech had been called. A powerful unit, but also one designed for electronic warfare. Perfectly capable of smashing her into the dirt regardless.
This one seemed different from the ones she had encountered when she still had other mechs fighting alongside her, and also different from the Spino Avenger models that the Chinese mech force utilized. It was different in that she could see, somehow, within its glass eyes that it still moved even after death.
The Gun Raptor’s scanners, meager as they might have been, detected no life signs from the pilot inside the Spino Avenger. It stood and roared at her regardless, as if held together by the fury and terror of its pilot’s final moments. Its eyes held no reason, no feeling except the rage, that horrible rage.
If she were an outside observer, Axel would’ve found it tragic. Within the actual moment, however, she felt only a raging fire inside, the desire to stay alive where the Spino Avenger’s pilot had not. And, she noted, a desire to put the Spino Avenger out of its misery if she could. She roared back at it, stepping forward as a challenge.
The Spino Avenger reacted with a tortured snarl and charged at Axel, any restraint it might’ve had now gone to the aether. She sidestepped out of its way, the claws missing the chance to even scrape her smaller frame. The massive mech didn’t seem to notice at first, smashing into the side of a building before turning around to face her.
Axel steadied herself and growled at the Spino Avenger, peppering its sides and then its fronts with the laser guns mounted on her wrists. The glowing, blue lasers hit exposed wires, prompting hellish shrieks from it and for it to begin charging the beam cannon inside its mouth in retaliation. Axel staggered forward and launched herself up and towards the Spino Avenger, the red beam shooting across the square and right under her, smashing through the side of another building.
She came down on the Spino Avenger’s head, clawing and biting at its face. It reached for her tail and grabbed it, throwing her off and through several windows and a wall. She lied there on her back for a moment, scrambling onto her side and then her stomach, forcing herself back to her feet as the Spino Avenger charged up its beam cannon again, eyes on her.
Axel dove forward and back onto her stomach, the beam passing behind her and burning through the building, not quite reaching the other side. She stood up once more and jumped through a window, turning her head to look at the Spino Avenger taking notice of her and roaring.
Axel landed and collapsed, unable to handle the shock of her legs, one of which was still damaged, hitting the concrete and dirt below.
The Spino Avenger stepped towards her, for a moment appearing only as red eyes and sparkling teeth in the darkness. She weakly held up on one of her arms, pointing the gun at the Spino Avenger and firing. It growled back at her and quickened its pace, jaws open wide…
A roar and a cry tore through the air, and both mechs turned their heads in the direction of the sounds. Claws glowing with green energy, the Armour Tigon charged at them, eyes on the Spino Avenger. The source of the cry was nowhere to be found.
The Spino Avenger turned to face the Armour Tigon, right as the feline mech launched itself at the spinosaurus. The Spino Avenger charged its beam cannon for a third time, but an invisible force slammed into its side and knocked the beam off-course, sending it cutting through another skyscraper. The Armour Tigon slashed the Spino Avenger across its already battered neck and chest, tearing off several now distorted metal plates.
With an agonized roar, the Spino Avenger stumbled back and its jet black spines vibrated. Another ethereal yet metallic cry resounded throughout the square, and the Spectre Fox appeared into view, moonlight shining upon its deep violet and navy blue body. Its purple eyes glowed, and Axel thought she saw fear within them.
Several seconds passed, feeling like an eternity to Axel. In the brief haze of inaction, she finally noticed the faded flags on the Armour Tigon and the Spectre Fox. Japan’s, she remembered that much. And she remembered enough to know that the deadscapes they all roamed did not belong to Japan, and so she realized with a stab of pity that the pilots of the feline and vulpine mechs had been abandoned, left here to die.
She became more conscious of the Chinese flag still on her shoulders. By all accounts, the Armour Tigon and Specte Fox were not her allies and there was no reason to think they would be. That was just how things went here, outside the deadscapes and within them. The Spino Avenger, a deadwalker, was simply the priority for the moment. Or so she decided to believe.
The Armour Tigon and Spectre Fox moved closer to Axel, standing in front of her with the Armour Tigon shielding both her and the Spectre Fox with its body. The Spino Avenger charged and fired its beam cannon at them. The Armour Tigon summoned a bright green shield in front of itself and the two smaller mechs, the beam colliding with it and breaking off into a five pointed star shape. The force of the beam pushed the Armour Tigon back, its claws tearing through the pavement. Axel and the Spectre Fox could only watch.
Cracks lined the shield like glass, and the Armour Tigon groaned under the pressure. The Spino Avenger kept the beam going, and before long the shield would shatter and the Armour Tigon would be consumed by the beam. Axel and the Spectre Fox too, if they didn’t move.
Thinking quickly, or perhaps not thinking at all, Axel took a few steps back and pointed the sniper rifle housed within the Gun Raptor’s tail at the Spino Avenger, through the Armour Tigon’s shield. She wasted no second in firing, letting out a silent prayer as she watched the Armour Tigon quickly lean to the side to avoid the laser shot, and then she held her breath further as the shot flew through the shield unharmed and smashed into the Spino Avenger’s face.
The Spino Avenger shrieked, knocked onto its back and with its faceplate knocked off completely. The Armour Tigon dropped its shield and slumped its shoulders, while Axel and the Spectre Fox rushed at the downed deadwalker, whose limbs still twitched. Axel dove for what remained of the head, slashing and biting it into pieces until the Spino Avenger’s twitches stopped. The Spectre Fox hacked away at its neck, separating the head from the rest of the body.
The exposed core within the Spino Avenger’s chest glowed the last blue light it ever would, dimming until darkness consumed it. The only light was the glow of Axel’s, the Armour Tigon’s, and the Spectre Fox’s eyes.
Axel looked at the Armour Tigon and Spectre Fox, her organic heart and even her power core both seeming to beat in union, in the waning adrenaline of the battle and the uncertainty of their standing with each other. She stood her ground and let out a low growl as a warning. She would fight them, too. She would win.
A deep rumble left the Spectre Fox’s throat, and Axel raised her head, leaning it to the side. The Armour Tigon joined in on the conversation with its own rumble that echoed throughout the city square, as it stood at the Spectre Fox’s side.
Friend. That’s what they said to her, what they wanted her to believe. But could she afford to believe them? Could she afford not to? They had helped her kill the deadwalker and put that restless soul to another, hopefully better world, a point in their favour…
Abandoned, the mechanical hums and cries told her. Left to die among a field of fallen siblings. Had seen no one, not a soul, until they had met her just now.
She hummed back at them, finding it in herself to believe in them. What did she have to lose, really?
She stood tall and approached them as equals, clicking noises leaving her, telling her name and asking theirs.
Cloud, the Armour Tigon rumbled.
Snow, the Spectra Fox cried.
I’ll be writing up a lore post later to give more info on the deadwalkers.