Waterfront Battle

The cityscape stretched out like some architect's washed-out scale model, a sketch of some twisted urban sprawl left to moulder away in a forgotten corner. What pale light fell on the jumble of listing office blocks and mouldering pagodas seemed to cast more shadows than it illuminated. Like grasping fingers the shadows reached out across the rooftops and barren gardens, scrambling over them as they clawed their way towards the thick, oily waters of the harbour. Between them, the unfortunate inhabitants ran back and forth under the screech of the re-tasked air-raid sirens; tiny ants trying to flee the attentions of some vast and malevolent child who had disturbed their nest.

By the docks, the source of their agitation could be more easily discerned. A handful of unfortunate ants had been caught by invading bugs skating in off the water. Darkly mottled beetles dwarfed the ants and gored them on their horns, swift insects flickering past on bone-white opalescent wings and lashing out with their venomous stingers and even grubbing, magotty creatures gnawing their way into the ramshackle shelters their prey had tried to flee into. At that point the analogy started to break down. Look to closely at the striuggles there and the "ants" were unmistably human figures, albeit slightly decayed ones. Worse though, was taking a closer look at their attackers. Seen clearly they resembled nothing so reassuring as the deadly predators of the insect kingdom. The were awful hybrids of flesh, shadow and less identifiable things all fused together into some blasphemous hole. Their mercies were even less tender and their prey less likely to escape with anything as kind as mere death.

From his vantage point, looking down on the latest assault pushing back Yomi's crumbling defences, Hito leant back and retacted his view to merely mortal levels. He slipped back along the twisted girder that formed one of the few remaining structural elements of the former headquarters of some electronics corporation. The building had reached the Underworld when it was demolished to make way for a newer, more impressive base of operations for the company, but the impression it had made while it still stood had kept it's spritual echo going here so far.

At least, it had until their latest effort to stall the advance of the shadow-Titan's forces had required their use of it. The innards of the building had been ripped out, leaving a hollow shell that had been fused into a semblance of stability, a terrible cocoon for the weapons held within. He could feel the sickly radiance of those same weapons behind him, washing gently over him with a nauseatingly familiar heat. The wash of green light was faint enough that their enemies without would not be able to see it yet. That would soon change. As would the faint rasping noises of steel on steel and flaking concrete, once the towering weapons hunched behind him were let off of their leash.

"You are worried, young Yoshi."

The mellifluous tones made it clear that they were simply stating a fact, not asking a question of Hito.

"Yes Grandmother, we may surprise their forces striking from these hidden bastions, but the element of susprise will not last long. It never does, against these creatures."

A resigned sigh could be heard to come from the feminine figure perched on the opposite side of the building-shell from Hito.

"And once again I say to you, please, HImiko. Insist on calling me Grandmother and I shall soon began to feel my age."

"Sorry Grand …Himiko. You know I mean it only as a sign of respect."

"Yes, I know Yoshi, and once again I say your respect is welcomed. But I tired of such formalities long before you were born and these forsaken battlefields are the last place I wish to be burdened with palace etiquette."

This time the rueful sigh came from Hito. It lasted only long enough for him to turn away from the vantage point out onto the city and spring across onto the twisted metal shoulder of the weapon nearest him. As he did so he could feel it stirring, eager for his will to send out into battle once more, for another chance to wreak chaos and carnage by it's radiant glow.

" I know, I know, but this plan has me on edge. I would rather we were out amongst the mend and women trying to hold our lines out there, not waiting here while they fall and die by our enemy's hands."

"You know why we are doing this, Yoshi. However many of the legions or there lesser minions we destroy there are always more to take their place, while our number run ever slower. If we are to make a difference in this battle then we must draw out their leaders, their commanders. We cannot do that if they are forewarned about our presence and our disposition"

"And I am certain that Father's plan is wise and cunning, no doubt. But it does not leave me any happier about leacing the souls out there to die as bait for enemies"

"So you would rather fight alonside the and watch them perish without their lives purchasing any real cost from the shadow's get? You would rather not use these new weapons of ours, however terrible they may be, to crush some of these despicable creatures once and for all?"

The silence that followed was broken only distant screams and the faint - and disturbingly organic - sound of steel rasping on steel from below them.

"Ahh, that is what really concerns you is it not, Yoshi? it is not our enemy that worries you most, but our new allies?"

In the dark cavern of the hollowed out building, Hito reached down to caress the rough surface of the towering humanoid shape he was perched. The lines of it had shifted since his first battle wearing, riding it. They were smoother now and the radioactive glow that blazed out between its seams and joints was more of a steady pulse than a furnace glare. He knew it was shaping itself to him each time they fought, and wished that he could believe that change was only in one direction.

"Very well, yes, it is them that disturb me. We call them allies but I do not forget that the Poison Sun holds almost as much hatred for the Amatsukami as our enemies do. They may chose to aid us, for now, but that aid will never come without a price."

"And you remember the price you have already promised them?"

Hito knew her well enough by now to hear the edge in her voice. In truth, he could not fault her for it. The bargain had seemed almost inevitable when he made it, but he knew it did not absolve him any of responsibility for the blood that would be on his hands. The blood of the children that would be sacrificed because of him.

"Yes, Himiko. I remember that promise very well. But it is not guilt clouding my judgement. We know that even the Poison Sun is not immune to Erebus' creeping taint. We have seen how terrible these new weapons could be if they fell fully into its hands."

Before they could continue any further a lone firework arced into the air over the waterfront, briefly lighting up the cavern walls nearby before a smothering hand of darkness snatched it out of the sky.

"Enough time for doubts, Yoshi. They are near enough for us now. We join the battle and show these monsters why they should fear the Gods once more."

As she stepped forward, Hito could see that she was laready enmeshed in the interface suit for her weapon. Its curves hugged tight to her pale flesh, and the faint pulsating of it own carapace beat a counterpoint to the steady rhythm of her breathing. As he stepped down into weapon, feeling it unfolding around him, Hito knew that he cut scarcely less eerie a figure. As the body of the weapon closed around him, he felt his senses flow out into it, felt the vast size of it, the agony of its unnatural existence and the nuclear fury that burned at its heart. At the same time he could feel it slipping into him, joining with mortal flesh and divine ichor.

Even as the rage and hunger of it slid into him though, he felt the pulse of heat from his arm where the traceries from Surtr's heart still marked him. He could feel the old ahce on the back of his neck where the Darkness' mark had claimed him until it was 'cleansed'away. And somewhere in the distance he caiught the faintest scent of brine and vengeful hunger. He had no doubt by now of the corrupting, insidious nature of the weapons. He did wonder though if they might realise how poorly they had chosen in trying to bind him. A faint smile quirked his lips as he settled into full union with the weapon. A single terrible fate might be enough for the Norse, but he had done a reasonable job of collecting strands of malevolent Fate for himself. Let his enemies try and sort out the tangle there if any one of them wanted to try and claim him.

Reaching out with a combination of his own sense and the hungry drives of the weapon, Hito could feel the tell-tale taint of the titanspawn approaching. They tasted like an oily slick on the air, like a stain spreading and eroding across the spread of his perception. He yearned to caste off the frgaile shell of the building containing him and charge out amongst them, to crush them beneath his claws and wath them burn away under his burning green glare, to show them how real shadows were made, against the buildings behind them. The longer he had to wait, the more he held themselves in readiness, waiting for the specific scent of the shadow's leader, the harder it became.

At long last he felt the skittering presence of their prey, it's arachnoid talons clambering over the crumbling concrete of the wharf as it Hybrid minions ran ahead into the collapsing lines of the ghostly defenders. Before he could respond, Himiko had laready thrown her own weapon into motion, tearing through the walls of the building hiding them like a terrible butterfly emerging. He was left, as usual in her wake, and through himself forward burning with shame and rage at being the slower of them. The clawed feet of their weapons tore through the buildings between them and the waterfront. Some distant part of Hito heard the screams of the inhabitants as their homes were torn away from them, and felt the weapon revel in that too. An even more distant part of him rattled through half-remembered building code regulations and noted that even as the ragged talons tore through the buildings, they were placed just carefully enough to miss the people huddling within. However much of a monster these battles might need him to be, Special Agent Hito Yoshiro of the FBI was never entirely gone.

As they plowed their weapons into the front lines of the titanspawn advance the creatures were already trying to reform and rally against the huge humaniform weapons. They had learned to fear their speed and power, had learned how deadly the viridian claws and blades were. They had also learned that even these monstrous machines were not invulnerable, that they could be swarmed and borne down by sufficient numbers, could be mired in the poisonous tarry bile that some of the creatures spat. Given a chance, they would bog down the attackers until their commander could manouever herself into position to strike at them, and poison them with her venom.

Of course, they were not going to be given any such chance. Even as they began to pull themselves back into formation in front of Himiko's hungry weapon, Hito dove beneath one of her strides and tore into them with teeth and barbed girder-spurs. As the spewers targeted him he became a blur of motion, tearing up the sides of the ramshackle wharf buildings, using them as stepping stones to safety even as they crumbled under his weight. Wherever the titanspawn tried to gather their numbers they found Hito and the tempting target of his weapon hurtling into their faces. Even with all his speed and motion though, leaping back and forth though the scuttling mass of the shadow-spawned forces, he could not evade their blows entirely. Pinpricks they might be, those few blows that managed to connect with the hurtling mass of steel and rage, but enough pinpricks would drop even one of the fearsome weapons, eventually. The nicks and cuts of theit strikes began to wear at his divine endurance, needing more and more of his ichor-laden blood to flow from the tiny, intimate lacerations of the interface suit to continue to drive the weapon. The poison of fatigue was quick to come with the intensity of his dance through the enemy lines, as were the less nameable toxins of their mounting blows.

But that was as had been anticipated. For even as the shadowy-figures began to congregate on him, their leader readying her monstrous sting for the final blow, Himiko's own deadly ballet crossed paths with his once more. They had allowed themselves to be tempted by the target held out before them, and failed to pay proper attention to the other weapon stalking lethally through their fringes. In a moment of perfect coordination, she leaped through the air and landed her weapon amidst the knot of forces around the titanspawn's leader. A stately pirhouette in tortured steel and feveris claws shredded the guards around her. As the leader frantically reared back on her insectile legs, gathering her defences against her sudden attacker another screech of twisted metal rang out. Hito lunged forwards, accepting the stings of enemy blows on his carapace-self, to pull up the tram line that the leader had moved to straddle, whipping the length of it up to crack her footing out from under her in a crescendo of tortured steel. As the shadow-creature was thrown forward onto the claws of Himiko's weapon, it dark life-ichor torn in out a flurry of savage blows, the ghostly reinforcements surged forward in a ragged line, driving the enemt back in the water and shallows of the waterfront.

Another day's battle had been won, and all it had cost was one more step slipped into horror and madness. Just another day in the Yomi of Erebus' making.