The main drawback of releasing two chapters back-to-back is that the wait for another ends up feeling super long. It wasn't until this afternoon that I worked out how to choreograph this whole thing, it's been a real headache trying to work it out until now. Hopefully 34 won't take as long. I think @Grin will like this chapter Here's 33. Sorry again about the wait, I will try to be better * KINGSGUARD Chapter 33: On The Back Foot February 21st, 2253. 2:07pm. The town of New Kirkgate. Kyros and co. are attempting to fight off the horde of bots coming from Hera. Kyros and Bauer are observing the state of the battle from a high vantage point. “Hey, Kyros. Doesn’t it seem like the number of bots on the field is slowly increasing?” Bauer asked nervously. Kyros nodded. “It’s not looking good. If this keeps up, we could end up being wiped out completely.” Bauer shivered. “Seriously?” Kyros nodded again, his face grim. “We’ll run out of steam eventually. Our only choice is to try and shut that cube down.” “Tch. Easier said than done.” Bauer retorted. “We’ll work on a plan later. For now, we’d best work on clearing a path there.” Kyros instructed. Bauer and Kyros jumped towards the fracas, hoping that their efforts would turn the tide. As he headed towards a horde of bots, Kyros muttered under his breath. “I’d better get home in time for date night…” * 2:15pm. On the Battlefield. Yamamoto and Ookami are in the midst of fighting off the ever-growing army of bots. Yamamoto sliced her way through bot after bot. Despite the large volume of them coming her way, she noticed they were going down a little easier than normal. Had she gotten stronger, or was the enemy sacrificing quality for quantity? After clearing the area immediately around her, she turned to Ookami. “Hey, Yuu,” Yamamoto shouted. “Something seems different about these ones.” Fighting off a couple more approaching enemies, Yuu answered. “Yeah. They’re coming quicker, but they’re going down quicker too.” Turning behind him, he checked to see how the rest of their squad were doing. It seemed as if they were struggling to keep up the pace somewhat. “Hey, Shishio. We should probably get back and help the squad.” Shishio sighed. “If we have to…” As Yamamoto and Ookami turned back, neither of them clocked the two bots flying towards them. Just before they could land a hit, they were intercepted. Another soldier sent them flying. As the pair turned around to see who it was, they were met with a telling off. “Y’know… For people with years more experience than me, you sure are careless.” Yamamoto took offence to her saviour’s comment. “And just who do you think you are?” she spat. “Corrinspike. Pragma Corrinspike. Temporary leader for the 7th Division while Captain Bauer’s on Elite duty. One of your subordinates called me over to provide support.” Pragma quickly scanned the situation around him, and then offered his support. “My division have some of the machina squad backing them up, so if it’s okay with you, I’ll stay here and lend a hand. But man, it must be hard for you guys, having so many of your squad missing.” Yamamoto could feel herself becoming incensed. Like she needed those guys anyway. She was plenty strong on her own. “I think we’ll be fine, rookie.” Pragma sighed. She was just as difficult as he expected. “Alright. Suit yourselves.” With that, Pragma headed back towards his division. Speaking over his headset, he asked a good friend for an update. “Kai. How’s it going over there?” Pragma’s question was answered with a laugh. “You’ve barely been gone a minute. It’s exactly the same, idiot,” Kai teased. “Always gotta check, you know,” Pragma replied, “A lot can change in a few seconds. Anyway. Yamamoto’s division are doing fine, I’m heading back now.” As Pragma headed back, he fought his way through another horde of bots. They wouldn’t stop coming. * 2:18pm. Kai’s Location. Kai swept through another line of bots, crushing each one under his machina’s fist. For some reason, there weren’t any of the larger-class bots around, giving him a significant size advantage. Whilst he was enjoying himself, he couldn’t help but feel uneasy. War wasn’t supposed to be fun. Concerned, he put a call through to his Commander. “Hey, Commander Cosmos… It’s Kai. Do you have a few seconds?” After waiting a few seconds, the response from Cosmos came through. “Sure, Kaiser. What’s the problem?” “Have you seen any of the 3 or 5-meter classes around? There’s only soldier class bots in this area.” “Hmm… I’ve only seen solider classes around too. This is weird. One sec.” After a few seconds of fiddling with channel frequencies, Cosmos sent out a message to everyone in the machina division. “Sorry for the interruption mid-battle. But has anyone seen any larger class bots around?” As Cosmos waited for her response, she flicked away a few more bots that were charging towards her. Eventually, a response came through. “Lieutenant Garth Burr here. I haven’t seen any out in the northern sector. But I can see the cube. A lot of bots are coming out… Like, a LOT. All small ones…” “Thank you, Lieutenant Burr. I’ll pass this on to Commander Kyros.” However, before Cosmos could relay the information, a call for help came through her headset. Answering the call, she went on her way. * 2:51pm. Kyros’ Location. “Jeez… They really don’t stop coming, do they.” As Kyros took a second to refill his lungs with oxygen, he looked around. Hundreds of metal corpses surrounded him. After nearly half an hour of non-stop fighting, he finally had a moment to pause and recover. As he thought about what his next move should be, a call came through from Cosmos. “Hey, Kyros. It’s Maria. I’ve received word from my subordinates that the cube is only producing soldier-class bots, but in high volumes. I’m in the western sector, by the old market. Things haven’t come close to slowing down yet. How far are you from the cube?” “I’m all the way on the south end, so pretty far.” Kyros answered. “I’ll call Bauer, and see if there’s a chance he can get close.” However, before Kyros could make the call, his channel was interrupted by a familiar voice. “Oh ho ho… Dear Kyros, you need not worry. For I, Arthur Grinnington, have the solution you need!” Cosmos, who was still listening in, gritted her teeth. “What are you going to do from all the way back at the facility, huh?” Grinnington tutted. “Oh, simple Maria. My solution is already on the battlefield, you see. She’s been single-handedly keeping the numbers on the eastern flank to a minimum!” Kyros suddenly felt his stomach drop. “Grinnington. Don’t tell me that you’ve released THAT on the battlefield…” Grinnington chuckled. “Ho ho ho! Worried she’s after your job, Kyros?” “I’m more worried she’s been killing our own men.” Kyros quipped. “My, my! How cruel! You truly do underestimate how much I’ve achieved over these last five years! My baby is stronger than ever before, and is at no risk of circuit overload! Give her the chance, and that cube will be shut down in no time!” Kyros and Cosmos both hesitated. “If you must, I’ll put Bauer in the channel now.” Grinnington replied. After a few button presses, Bauer was in the call. “Welcome to the big kids’ channel, Edward.” Grinnington joked. “This better be good, Arthur. I’m trying to fight over here.” Bauer responded, seemingly short on patience. “Well, Kyros here wished to know your current battle status. So, I thought you should tell him.” Grinnington asked, his tone scheming. “Well, Commander, after we separated, I headed East, but I wasn’t needed there. So then, I-” “And why weren’t you needed in the eastern sector?” Grinnington interrupted. “I dunno. Some little pink girl was doing the job of a hundred soldiers out there.” Grinnington laughed a maniacal laugh. “Ho ho ho! So you see, my fellow Elites. My Hope is more than up to the task! Send ol’ Bauer to the east, not that there’s all that much to do there now, and Hope will deal with that pesky bot cube! Easy peasy!” “Wait… That’s Hope?! I thought she was scrapped because of the whole going berserk and almost killing Marko thing…” Bauer exclaimed. “Edward. Do not talk about my baby as if she’s a piece of scrap metal.” Grinnington scowled. “I’ll have you know, Captain Marko himself pleaded with the Owl King to have her on standby while he completed his sidequest! And now, it’s the perfect opportunity for me to prove that she’s far superior to that squishy bag of flesh!” Analysing Grinnington’s suggestion, Bauer came up with an alternative. “Since Hope’s doing so well where she is, why not just leave her there? I’ll try find a group to head to the cube with me.” “I’ve run the numbers, and I believe this is the best way to keep the power levels in each area as balanced as possible.” Grinnington answered. “Wait… You have power levels for all the Kingsguard soldiers?!” Bauer replied, shocked. “More or less,” Grinnington responded nonchalantly. “Don’t worry Edward, you’re in the top 5,” he teased. “Anyway, what do you guys think?” Bauer asked, deferring to the other Elites for advice. “Even though I’m still sceptical about Hope, I trust Grinnington’s math completely.” Kyros chimed in. “I agree. I’ll go along with it, but only if Grinnington promises to withdraw Hope if the second it seems like she’s losing control.” “You have my word.” Grinnington promised. “What about you, Maria? The others seem to be on my side…” “… If they’re fine with it, I am too. I trust them. Not you.” Cosmos answered, unhappy that her nemesis was getting his way. “… A glowing endorsement from Maria, as usual.” Grinnington chirped. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be sending Hope her instructions. I trust the rest of you will play your parts as well?” After receiving the all clear from the other Elites, Grinnington closed the channel. Preparing the appropriate data for Hope, he could feel himself trembling with excitement. * 3:08pm. Hope’s Location. “Out of my way, lesser machines.” Within seconds, Hope cut her way through another battalion of enemy bots. The fleshbags behind her simply stood and watched; their jobs were being done for them. Every now and then, a couple would slip out of Hope’s radius, and it would then be a race to see who could get there first. They almost felt bad; their comrades were out there struggling, yet their job was being done for them by a bot that looked like a child. Hope didn’t care, though. Why should she care about how those sorry excuses for soldiers felt? As she continued to mow down bot after bot, she was interrupted by an all too familiar voice. “Oh, Hope darling! I have a new mission for you!” Hope felt a little engine oil in the back of her throat. It was him. Resisting the urge to destroy her auditory circuits, she responded. “Can’t you see I’m busy, Grinnington?” “Yes, yes. I know. But you see, I need you to destroy the thing that’s been producing all these bots. It’ll only take a moment. And once that’s done, this fight will be all but over!” Hope contemplated this for a moment. The fight being over would mean that she’d be put into sleep mode until that thing needed her again, but it also meant she didn’t have to hear its voice. She liked this new plan. “Very well. I’ll play along, Grinnington. Make sure no fleshbags get in my way.” Grinnington’s voice was full of excitement. “That’s my girl! I’m sending you over the information now!” “God, you’re such a creep.” Hope waited for the data update to come through. Once it arrived, she took her time to process it fully. “Very well. I’ll be on my way now.” Turning to the idle soldiers behind her, she issued her final goodbye. “Fleshbags. This is your problem now. Don’t die a pathetic death. Grinnington doesn’t have the money to make another me.” With that somewhat charming farewell, Hope headed north towards the cube. Hordes of bots came her way, and they were disposed of with 20% effort. As she ducked and dived, slashed and stabbed, Hope eventually found the cube. There was an intense heat radiating from it. She watched, as countless bots were birthed from it, each heading mindlessly into battle. Was she just like them? Or was she somehow different? She knew Grinnington would spout some bullshit about how she was “special”, and “unlike anything anyone’s ever made,” but she knew deep down it was a lie. For now, those questions could wait. She had a mission to fulfil, and a voice to get out of her head. Quickly scanning the area, she determined that there were roughly two hundred bots between her and the cube. She didn’t have to take them all out; only the ones that targeted her. The fleshbags would deal with the rest. Holding her knives in a reverse grip, she zipped towards her target at Niklaus-like speed. A series of loud thuds followed, and a path to the cube began to form in front of her. As she drew closer to the cube, she began to feel gradually hotter, almost as if she was walking into a furnace. Her path cleared, she quickly leapt several metres into the air, heading for the cube. Preparing a powerful slash, she wondered what effect it would have; she had no structural data for the cube, but it didn’t have any of the typical weak spots that other machines in her data log had. As she prepared to slash the front face of the cube, a sudden wave of energy sent her flying backwards, almost as if it were repelling her. As she landed, she looked back at the cube. Two legs sprouted from underneath it, followed by two arms, and then a head. It was an odd-looking machine that had a very clear design theme; cubes. As the newly-transformed Hera opened its hand, a hole opened in its stomach. Out of it came a large spear. Targeting Hope, Hera decided to launch a mighty attack. As the threat drew closer, Hope scrambled through her data for a counter strategy. However, none seemed to fit. Was her big debut set to end in defeat? She readied herself to try and block Hera’s attack. At the very least, she could defend herself. However, before this could happen, Hera was sent flying backwards. Gravity Blade! Surprised, Hope looked around for the fleshbag responsible. None of the soldiers on the field right now had an attack like that in their arsenal. As she scrambled through her data to find out who it was, Hera stood back up, and attempted to throw its spear. But before she could, her hand was impaled by another spear. Spear: Return! Two soldiers in purple jackets landed in front of Hope. The jackets were unfamiliar, but their physiques weren’t. As she watched them, the purple pair spoke to each other. “Looks like we just made it in time, huh, Zak?” END To be continued in Chapter 34: Hera, Mother of Creation Character(s) Debuted: @10thMember 's second character, Garth. He'll probably do some more stuff in the future. Hope 2.0 - just like the first Hope, but with less glitches and even more sass!