Chapter 4:

Hunt the Mage! Where's My Pitch Fork, Bessy?!

A Moribund Hero

Lucy glanced at the cloudless sky from her tank console monitors. All she knew of the world was scorching drab skies, dry heat, dust, and, well, brownish nature. But beneath the desert rubble were the hearts of strong people, metaphorically speaking. Her people. Damned to hell, she would let the magic go wild in her territory and bring harm to others.Bookmark here

Not that she had anything against mages themselves. They were probably decent enough peeps when being normal. Like the sorry-ass-mage, she and Wolf, her shock-troop partner, were chasing. The dude was likely a nice guy when wearing a different hat. But today he was wearing his mage hat and that was a big issue.Bookmark here

See, magic was her problem. The side effect of a pandemic war vaccine system gone tits-up. The worst case of that scenario; the biological oopsie had been allowed to run rampant through the next generations, granting little peeps power to control and destroy. Anarchy freedom and expression for freewill were one thing. Releasing a weapon of mass destruction from the palm of one's hands was another. Not forgetting the fact that wielding this power was mankind's sin. In short, nothing good came out of magic. If it wasn't for factions like the People Army, there would be many dead bodies littering the boulder crops and tree corpses. And god-knows-what else.Bookmark here

She stopped the tank near the cliff edge with a clear view of the valley bottom. The terrain view on her monitors was still and quiet. Apart from the dust clouds, Wolf had stirred up with his warning shots released from his high-energy laser gun.Bookmark here

"I don't like this. The dude's playing hide and seek. I'm crap with hide and seek," she mumbled to herself and slipped on her heavy-duty headphones to connect to Wolf.Bookmark here

"Hey, Wolf, the guy's playing sitting duck. Should you fire more warning shots?"Bookmark here

She stood to clip her gun belt to her waist, checking the safety switch on her regimented steel handguns before docking them in the holsters. A pair of fine daggers was slipped into the sheath pockets of her boots. A cool pair of sunglass visors slipped over her eyes, which allowed continual viewing of her tank monitors.Bookmark here

"And give me away? Lass, why don't yah fire off some rockets to shake the bushes. Edmund would do that." Wolf grunted and cursed internally when he mentioned the name of her year-younger brother. A slip of his tongue.Bookmark here

Lucy sighed. She didn't take any heed of the slip, since Wolf meant well. "How about we play, shoot the crap out of everything, and see if we hit gold. Twenty nickel  leura that I can hit the target through the thick wool of your beard."Bookmark here

"I only let me lover play with the beard, lass." Wolf joked.Bookmark here

"Eew. Don't want to see you making love to your gun." Lucy joked back.Bookmark here

Wolf's laughter bellowed into her ear, making her cringe from the sudden jolt to her eardrums.Bookmark here

"Geeze, Wolf. Wanna make me deaf?"Bookmark here

She pushed the turret hatch open and stepped up the ladder to grab the turning handles, aiming the barrel at the coordinates Wolf had given her. But her terrain view wasn't seeing any signs of the mage. Even if magic wasn't used, it still left a carbon ID signature. A tiny pattern of energy her tank scanners could lock on. Unless the mage was fitted with a suppressor. If so, she would be dealing with more than a rogue runaway.Bookmark here

"Hey, Wolf. You're sure that GCE bright spark is there? I don't see anything but rock and dust from your trigger-happy session. Bessy ain't picking up peanuts."Bookmark here

She frowned as she double-checked the gun's periscope to be sure. All she saw were craggy boulders, dirt among cacti, and dead-looking weeds.Bookmark here

"He's there. I saw the spark hide beneath the crop yah aiming at. Just fire. No sin in hitting rocks." Wolf grunted.Bookmark here

"Fine. Your sin if I get in trouble for disturbing nature and whatever." She steadied the tank's gun barrel and ducked into the gunner seat to release a flying rocket into the boulder crop.Bookmark here

Bang. Crack. The boulder crop became a dust cloud. The air fell silent. She sighed when it seemed she had shot at nothing. Her ears twitched to the sounds of sparking. Bessy's mage blip radar began flipping out with beeping.Bookmark here

"Lucy, get in the hull now!" Wolf bellowed into her ears.Bookmark here

A retaliation of icicle sword shards was already facing her. Hundreds of tiny ones slammed into the tank body with the intention to pierce holes through it. She narrowly missed a shard that had threatened to slice off her ears and cheek.Bookmark here

"Flippin breechers!" Lucy ducked into the hull in time and slammed the hatch.Bookmark here

She used her secondary aiming module to pivot the turret head and fire blasts toward the magic attack. Her firing had a weakness with timing. The magic attack was faster and knocked her tank body to make it sway on the spot.Bookmark here

"Hell, I let a mage get the better of me!" She revved up the tank and began descending into the valley to avoid the ice fireBookmark here

"Lucy! The hell, yah doing!" Wolf bellowed with a warning when the ice fire was aiming at the ground to dislodge the tank into a pit.Bookmark here

"I'm getting slaughtered here, Wolf. Hurry up and back me up!"Bookmark here

Wolf left his hiding spot on the other of the valley and jumped down to hunt the mage, having a clear idea of where he was hiding.Bookmark here

Just as suddenly, communications were cut. The ice attacks stopped.Bookmark here

She was a sitting duck, either way, so she decided to surface. If she could leave the tank to hunt the mage on foot, she had a better chance to evade his attacks using stealth skills.Bookmark here

Lucy emerged from the open hatch and saw an ice sword rushing for her face. No time to evade it.Bookmark here

"Die, primitive apes!" A man cried before his life was forfeited by Wolf's gunfire.Bookmark here

Wolf's heart raced at seeing the swift flying ice sword, knowing Lucy wouldn't be able to dodge the blow in time. The best she could do was let it cut off her ear.Bookmark here

A firewall flared up to absorb the ice sword blow before it reached her. Both magic dissipated with a poof, leaving behind the common stench of sulfur. Nothing had harmed her. Did someone else's magic save her? Not good.Bookmark here

She gazed about the valley and saw a man in an overcoat and wide brim hat standing on a cliff. He turned to leave and dropped to the ground. Dead. At least, it would seem so.Bookmark here

Hungry Sheep
Harmonica Writes
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