Cherry Blossom Procession 4 4 4

[19:36] <Minaplo> [The convoy cruised across calm, open water.-
[19:36] <Minaplo> [Eight vessels made up the convoy- six cargo vessels and two escorts. Like many long-range cargo vessels these days, the ships were entirely automated.-
[19:38] <Minaplo> [The weather was steadily cloudy, the sunlight a grey-white.-
[19:40] <Minaplo> [It made it harder to see the Skytears as they fell. Three of them came in at full speed, opening fire with their heavy cannons. The shells punched through the escorts' turrets, detonating them with force enough to sunder the top deck lengthwise. The ships started to list, then came to a stop.-
[19:43] <Minaplo> [The Skytears opened their front ramps as they landed on the cargo ships. Out of each Skytear came a full complement of battle-ready Iron Guard.-
[19:43] <Minaplo> [Out of the Skytear perched on the lead ship came a squad in bright red armour with gold highlights.-
[19:45] <Minaplo> ["Alright, fellas, you know what to do." Said Lieutenant Dominic, standing in the lead. His voice had an edge of boredom to it, yet he held his bolt pistol and prog sword at the ready and constantly scanned his surroundings, his eyes hidden behind his helmet.-
[19:45] <Minaplo> [The Guards all began to spread out, swiftly securing the open deck- laden as it was with dozens of shipping containers- before heading down into the lower decks…]
[20:15] <Raphael> There were few forces on the planet as terrifying in a confined space as the Iron Guards, and they knew it. Fast, strong and monstrously tough, there were very few ways to could harm them fast enough to mount an effective ambush.-
[20:15] <Raphael> Perhaps that was why the lead unit, stark red in the gloom of the ship's running lights, were relatively unconcerned to be funneled into a narrow strip of corridors.-
[20:15] <Raphael> All ten were inside when the Surov-designed EMP camouflaged inside a support beam activated with a high-frequency scream.
[20:23] <Minaplo> [The Iron Guards suddenly ground to a halt; the lights in their helmet lenses flickered away.-
[20:24] <Minaplo> [Even like this, they were terrifying, like monstrous statues that might spring to life at any moment.-
[20:24] <Minaplo> [The Guards were not immobile.-
[20:25] <Minaplo> [The armour, having lost its power, became a heavy, tight weight around them, a weight that moved with great resentment.-
[20:25] <Minaplo> [And yet they still moved.-
[20:25] <Minaplo> ["EMP!" Shouted the lead Guard. He began walking backwards, his movements sluggish and ponderous like someone in a brass diving suit trying to walk underwater.]
[20:42] <Raphael> At the shout the running lights died all at once, and the door to the lower decks swung shut and sealed magnetically, leaving the newly-limited Guards complete darkness.-
[20:42] <Raphael> A second later a catastrophic chemical roar sounded from somewhere down an adjoining corridor to their left, with an accopanying flash. A fist-sized bolter round tore the lead Guard's head from his shoulders with a nauseating splat.
[20:59] <Minaplo> [The Guard's body jerked backward before being caught by the locked mechanisms of the suit, leaving it in an awkward leaning-backward pose, its head missing.-
[21:00] <Minaplo> [The four Guards behind it struggled to raise their weapons- three with bolters, the fourth with a mascannon. After a few seconds the bolter-toting Guards managed it, firing halting bursts of shells down the black hall.]
[21:07] <Raphael> The shells only struck a wall before the mascannon punched straight through it, but the explosions illuminated nothing more than an empty hall. There were sounds now, heavy metal footfalls from things at least as big as an Iron Guard. They were still moving carefully enough to make it difficult to track them, but there was no way to make something of that size completely silently.-
[21:13] <Raphael> It served to disguise the much quieter sound of the figure that emerged from the other hall at speed, crashing into the Guard with the mascannon and pinning it roughly to the wall. A blade of pure light cast the hall in daylight brightness for a moment, illuminating a ten-foot tall AC suit in matte black, one fist around its victim's neck.-
[21:14] <Raphael> It didn't waste time. The sword plunged through the Guard's head and then it was dark again, the rushing sound of the Guard's body being hurled into the pack of survivors masking the sound of the AC suit fading away into darkness.
[21:38] <Minaplo> [Outside on the deck, Lieutenant Dominic strained against his grudging armour. "What's going on in there?!"-
[21:38] <Minaplo> [He turned torturously back toward the Skytear. "Did you do this?" He shouted.]
[21:47] <Raphael> Surov's EMP, as powerful as it was, could only disrupt the Iron Guards' hardened suits for a minute at best. A few seconds later Dominic's armour flickered back to life, but by then there was no sign of life from the soldiers he'd sent below decks.-
[21:50] <Raphael> And then the deck below him was slashed open in a flash of blue-white light as the Peaceknight exploded from the deck below him, one giant metal fist catching him in a vicious uppercut as it surfaced.
[21:52] <Minaplo> [Dominic's head was thrown back; his neck snapped and most of his face was pulverised in an instant.-
[22:02] <Minaplo> [As Dominic hit the ground, all his killer could hear was the distant sounds of combat from the other vessels.-
[22:03] <Minaplo> [The Skytear remained still.-
[22:14] <Minaplo> [A few seconds later, a tinny voice cried out of the hull. "Did you kill them all, then?"]
[22:22] <Raphael> The Peaceknight's thrusters set it down gently, almost daintily, on the deck, but it remained poised and ready as it stared towards the Skytear. The small emitter of a beam saber was held unlit in the AC suit's right hand, while a vehicle-grade bolt shotgun was fitted over its left.-
[22:23] <Raphael> Raphael's voice voice boomed out of speakers in the head, only lightly distorted. "Not permanently."
[22:24] <Minaplo> ["Good enough, good enough." Came the voice.-
[22:24] <Minaplo> [There was the sound of ineffectual grunting and straining against something heavy-
[22:24] <Minaplo> [And then very light footsteps.-
[22:25] <Minaplo> [Appearing at the top of the landing ramp was Prefect Han. "Hiiii."]
[22:28] <Raphael> The AC suit stood silently for a few seconds, then there was the faint, reproduced sound of a sigh.-
[22:29] <Raphael> "Han," he said without warmth. "What sign are we under?"
[22:30] <Minaplo> ["Forward. But my sign is 'No Parking'." Said Han, waggling a finger.-
[22:30] <Minaplo> [He sat down idly on the top of the ramp. "Sigh. The Net, should be."]
[22:31] * Raphael had taken a single step forward after the first answer, but halted after the second. "Good enough," he said.-
[22:33] <Raphael> Inside the cockpit he switched off the speakers and pulled up the command channel over comms. "All teams report. We have our info."
[18:45] <Minaplo> ["Savage here," Came Terry's voice. "Stiff resistance, but half of 'em went down at the start. Proceeding."-
[18:45] <Minaplo> ["Rurikovich!" Came Isidor's voice. "Heavy fighting- Guards are close combat specialists!"]
[18:49] <Raphael> "On my way," Raphael said shortly. "Pai, if things are clear downstairs I want you and half your unit to secure the Skytear. The rest are coming with me to support Ship Two."-
[18:50] <Raphael> He pointed the AC Suit towards the apparently empty horizon. "Pilots Simonides, if you're capable of providing targeted support let me know."
[19:12] <Minaplo> ["Damn skippy." Said the twins in unison.-
[19:15] <Minaplo> ["Moving to secure." Said Pai, his soldiers running out from below deck, four of them moving to secure the Skytear.-
[19:18] <Minaplo> [Ship Two's deck was awash in blood.-
[19:20] <Minaplo> [Isidor had misspoken slightly when he described his enemies as close combat specialists. Five of the Iron Guard indeed were, wielding shields, bolt pistols and swords, but the other five were all sporting ranged weapons, including a pair of heavy bolters. The fire support Guard clustered on the ramp of the Skytear, which had taken back into the air, giving them a great shooting position.-
[19:22] <Minaplo> [One assault Guard was fighting Isidor and Hugues at the same time. The Guard swung his sword down at Isidor, only for Hugues to block it with a shield, throwing his entire body into it; just as Hugues buckled, Isidor lunged low toward the Guard's leg. A moment before impact, the Guard leapt away from the thrust, then charged forward, shield down, smashing Isidor into Hugues and knocking
[19:22] <Minaplo> them both to the ground.-
[19:23] <Minaplo> [Two more Guards fought the mass of Isidor's men, all of whom were skilled fighters as well- but many simply struggled to match the Guard's strength. There were about four men to a Guard, with another three men already dead or extremely hurt. Isidor's men tried to surround each guard, making it impossible for the Guard to focus on all of them- but it didn't mean much to the man they did focus on.-
[19:26] <Minaplo> [One Guard was already dead, however, lying on the deck with his own sword through his chest, whilst his shield was embeddged halfway through his stomach. His killer was not too far away- Eevi was facing off alone with the Iron Guard's leader-
[19:28] <Minaplo> ["YOU'RE NOT GETTING AWAY FROM ME!" Roared Helen, two positron-edged swords in hand, which she swung at Eevi, who hurriedly ducked away. "THIS TIME I REALLY WILL EAT YOU!"-
[19:29] <Minaplo> [Eevi was nimble and small, advantages she had to use to full effect here- Helen swung with such speed and force that even with Eevi's AT Field, a single hit could be lethal.-
[19:30] <Minaplo> [Eevi ducked and wove around Helen in a constant smooth pattern, always moving out of Helen's sight radius, always slipping into the next attack on Helen's exposed flank- yet despite this, Eevi struggled to properly connect.-
[19:32] <Minaplo> [The Skytear was angling itself downward, allowing its main cannon to be brought to bear. It aimed the devastating weapon at the hull, toward Isidor, and fired.-
[19:33] <Minaplo> [At the very second of its deafening discharge appeared a Dirac portal, directly in front of the Skytear. The cannon shell vanished harmlesly inside.-
[19:33] <Minaplo> [A second later a very large, humanlike hand of lavender and black tore out of the portal, grabbed the Skytear and snatched it back into the dirac sea. The portal then winked out of sight.]
[19:50] <Raphael> The Peaceknight adjusted course, steering around the portal and pulling into a nearly vertical dive towards the deck of the ship as the Skytear vanished. "Thanks!"-
[19:50] <Raphael> "SOS-4, take high ground and provide fire support. Blaise, you're calling their targets. I'll be with you momentarily."
[19:51] <Raphael> He focused on a different target. The deck ahead of Helen disappeared in a blast of shrapnel, diverting her charge as the Peaceknight landed hard alongside Eevi.
[20:06] <Minaplo> [Helen jinked backward and brought her swords up in front of her. She looked between Raphael and Eevi for a moment, then-
[20:06] <Minaplo> [Eevi lunged forward, ducking under Helen and putting her squarely in between Raphael and herself.-
[20:15] <Minaplo> [Blaise, meanwhile, tapped his comms. "I'm gonna mark your target! Watch closely!"-
[20:15] <Minaplo> ["How-?"-
[20:16] <Minaplo> [Blaise broke free of his melee and charged the Guard pinning down Isidor and Hugues.-
[20:16] <Minaplo> [He leapt into the air, pulled his power fist back and clocked the Guard square across the jaw. The Guard staggered back a few feet, shook its head slightly, then raised its sword to bring down on Blaise-
[20:18] <Minaplo> [A hail of accurate maser fire tore through half a dozen weakspots in the Guard's helmet, punching through its neck joint, its eye lenses, even one shot blasting through a respirator tube. The Guard stumbled away before falling to the ground- not dead yet, but unable to stop Blaise from grabbing its head firmly with his fist and twisting until something snapped.-
[20:18] <Minaplo> [Isidor and Hugues looked at each other- then leapt back to their feet and joined the general melee.]
[20:30] <Raphael> The path of Helen and Eevi's combat had led them to a crude arena boxed in by shipping crates, a deep pit gouged in the centre courtesy of the Peaceknight's shotgun blast.-
[20:32] <Raphael> "You'll lead?" Raphael asked Eevi calmly, drawing a bead on Helen.
[20:45] <Minaplo> ["Yep." Said Eevi.-
[20:46] <Minaplo> [Helen turned herself sideways, one blade pointed at Eevi, the other at Raphael.-
[20:46] <Minaplo> [Eevi made the first move- a blunt charge at Helen whilst encased in an AT bubble. The simple trick slammed Helen backwards towards Raphael- she lost her balance, and…]
[20:58] <Raphael> The beam sabre ignited for a second - the power core on an AC Suit, even one like the Peaceknight, couldn't sustain one of the blades for long - and swung in a quick vertical arc that severed both of the Guard's arms. They fell to the deck, each one still tightly clutching a prog sword.-
[20:59] <Raphael> Then an elbow struck her in the chest, knocking her flat on her back.
[21:04] <Minaplo> [Helen crunched against the deck, cracking the metal flooring beneath.-
[21:04] <Minaplo> [She reeled her legs in, preparing to leap back to her feet, heedless of her now-missing arms-
[21:05] <Minaplo> [Eevi pirouetted through the air, slashing straight through the legs as she fell- one with a sword, the other with a sharp plane of AT energy.-
[21:05] <Minaplo> [She turned and pointed her sword at Helen's throat.-
[21:05] <Minaplo> ["Two-zero to me."]
[21:11] * In the cockpit Raphael let out a long breath and leaned back into his seat. "I would've left it to you, but Alphonse and Rei'd have had my head if you slipped up."
[21:14] <Minaplo> ["Then we would both be headless, but at least mine grows back." Said Eevi. She turned around and almost casually threw her sword at the final Iron Guard still standing- it punched through his power pack and through his chest.-
[21:14] <Minaplo> ["Is that all of them…?"]
[21:21] <Raphael> "Seems like," Raphael replied after a moment spent conferring with the other commanders. Fighting on Ship Three had died down as well, with two dead and a handful wounded amongst Macnair's soldiers. Dirac portals began to open on all three boats as the all clear came in, disgorging medics for the wounded.-
[21:24] <Raphael> One of the Peaceknight's feet planted itself gently on Helen's torso as the AC suit loomed over her, its eyes glinting red in the sunlight. "Mortens sent a third of the Wizard Guard to raid an automated convoy?"
[21:32] <Minaplo> ["WHAT OF IT?!"]
[21:35] <Raphael> "Seems like a misapplication of resources," Raphael replied. "Ten of you could've handled an empty convoy, and thirty lost to an ambush is quite a blow with numbers like yours."
[21:37] <Minaplo> [Helen laughed.]
[21:37] <Raphael> "No?"
[21:37] <Minaplo> ["You haven't got a clue about our numbers."]
[21:40] <Raphael> "Well here's an idea," Raphael said, his voice soft and cheerful. "You can tell me now and have the opportunity to gloat while you do it - I know you enjoy that, Lieutenant - or I'll have psychics tear it out of your head an hour from now without the commentary."
[21:42] <Minaplo> ["Do whatever you want."]
[21:45] <Raphael> "As you wish," Raphael said quietly. The AC suit leant to grab hold of the ruined armour around one of her shoulders, then turned its head to Eevi.-
[21:46] <Raphael> "Come on. We should go help with clean up."
[21:48] <Minaplo> ["Yeah." Said Eevi, leaping up onto the Peaceknight's shoulder.]
[21:52] <Raphael> And the Peaceknight took to the air, bounding over the shipping crates with Helen dangling limply by its side.

fin

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