I charged, not bothering to go on the defensive at all. He wanted it like this, me on the offensive, so he was getting it.
My first swipe wasn’t for him, not exactly. His spear deflected the blow, but it was still a solid, resounding impact between the two. Exactly what I wanted. A spear that long and massive had to have some sort of Tinker tech trickery going on in order to prevent it from being massively unbalanced. Tinker tech was powerful, but even his heavy armor was delicate when you got down to it. He wouldn’t be able to make field repairs.
I would break his combat capabilities down if I could, and then tear him apart.
If I was going to hurt him, I had to make his weapon ineffective. The world had become completely fucked if I was trying to destroy Defiant’s weapons, but here I was. Being completely fucked as my lips peeled back in anger.
I thrusted, and he deflected the attack upwards, sending it over his shoulder. Exactly like I wanted — as I pulled back, I jerked my weapon down, using my withdrawal to add extra force into driving the axehead against his shoulder.
He caught on to what I was doing immediately, making a backhanded swipe that impacted hard enough to make me stumble. His followup swipe was just a hair too low, though, letting me duck just under it, slamming the butt of my weapon into the chin of his helmet.
I turned, kicking to make him back off so that I could fix my grip on my weapon. I didn’t have long, though, before Defiant jumped for me, ducking deeply forward as he did so.
My body moved instinctively. Had I been thinking, I would have responded better as he went end over end midair. A flip in battle? It was insane. Whatever power advantage it gave would be negated by the fact that his feet weren’t on the ground, and the fact that he spent far too long vulnerable.
Too much flash.
As soon as he landed, his body crouched from slamming his spear into the ground, I was dropping my halberd and moving again. As he began to straighten himself, my hand caught his arm, thrusting it back down and keeping him from rising. I needed the momentum of that downward thrust, throwing myself into it to the point where one hand hit the ground and my legs came up.
A heartbeat later, they locked around his neck and I continued to twist as hard as I could, throwing my center of gravity down and everything that I had into it. With how he was bent over, gravity and basic physics took over, and he went end over end again onto the ground. The moment that he hit, I was unlocking my legs and slamming my foot into his helm.
His arm raised and I rolled back before he could snag one of my feet. By the time that I nabbed my halberd and got into a crouch, he’d already kip-upped up. Damn, he was fast and maneuverable in that heavy armor. I thought that I would have had more time.
I disconnected the bottom portion of my shaft, jamming it in my belt. Defiant just stood there, waiting. Strange, but I didn’t care. He wanted a fight, so he was getting one. I seized the rage, the pain, and embraced it. It was the only way I was going to be able to do this.
I lashed out three more times, each time connecting with his spear shaft solidly. As I lashed out again, he got wise and backed off, simply avoiding the attacks.
However, rather than simply wait for my next attack, Defiant used that moment to fold the shaft of his weapon in half, making it half the length. The spear still gave him more reach than with my shortened halberd shaft, but now we were far, far closer than we were before. I’d forgotten about that trick.
“Nice try,” Defiant called out. “But you–”
He didn’t have a chance to finish before I charged him again, choking up on my halberd. The heads of our weapons grazed each other, but this time I wasn’t going for an attack to his spear. Instead, I pushed within his attack radius again.
In a real fight, there was no such thing as honor. I let go with one hand to grab the shaft of his spear so that he had to work to maneuver it, making rapid strikes to his chest. Each one scored a line in his armor. It was only superficial damage, but it was promising.
I pulled back to use the spearpoint, only for him to jerk with his weapon, drawing me in to knee me in the gut. It wasn’t enough. Fuck him, I was angry now! Nobody threatened my friends! It wasn’t nearly enough to slow me down, and I was going to make him pay.
Instead, I choked up further, until my one-handed grip was right underneath the head of my halberd before lashing out. He barely ducked his head in time to keep the axehead from slamming into his neck. I didn’t have a chance to do it again before he backhanded my hand hard enough to dislodge my grip, sending my weapon flying.
I let go of his weapon shaft to grab his arm, yanking it up and across his body. I wasn’t trying to flip him; instead, in a flash, my pistol was in my hand and raised to fire five rapid rounds into his armpit.
Defiant’s arm moved entirely too fast, wrapping around mine and driving my aim off. Immediately, I felt his other hand on my waist. I barely had any time to react as I felt myself being pulled off my feet in an odd throw.
My body reacted by instinct again, my hand somehow finding purchase on the armor around his waist. Instead of trying to protect against the attack and make myself less of a target, I threw myself into the toss entirely as I hit the ground behind him. Using my body as a lever, Defiant was brought to the ground just as hard as he’d done to me.
As he impacted, I heard him give what sounded like a bark of laughter. Fuck him! Fuck him, fuck Dragon, fuck Fyrtorn, fuck them all! My eyes watered as I lunged on top of him, a primal snarl of rage tearing from my throat. The edges of my vision narrowed as my hands went for his neck.
They never connected as he effortlessly threw me off again before rolling away.
My gun wasn’t in my hand any more. My halberd was somewhere else. But as I landed, I was greeted by another weapon — his. I grabbed it, scrambling to my feet… only to find him on his, holding my halberd.
Oh, fuck that shit!
I released another howl as I charged. If only I could figure out how to use the nanothorn generator on this. He would be dead. Dead! Nobody used my halberd but me! Nobody touched it without my permission! Especially not some asshole who had just been insulting it!
Instead, we went back into the pattern of me making quick, sharp strikes, and him trying to defend. The extra reach helped, and while I was well-versed in fighting with spears, this still wasn’t my weapon. I had to rely on my own fury to keep him backpedaling, leaving him only able to make the occasional counterattack.
At least, until I over-committed to a lunge that he deflected with contemptuous ease, leaving me wide open to getting one of his massive armored boots to my chest.
I stumbled back, but when I looked up, he wasn’t in a fighting stance any more. Instead, he was holding my halberd horizontally in both hands. He made a slight motion with it before I picked up on what he wanted. Wordlessly, we both tossed our weapons to the other.
Wordlessly, we both immediately began clashing again, trying to score a hit without opening ourselves to counterattack.
Deep lines were appearing more and more in his armor. Along the thighs, some on his chest, a few on his arms. Every time that his defense began to become more solid, I changed my style — from spearwork to using my weapon like a greataxe. From that to a yari, from that to a naginata, from that to a zweihander. Each time, it took him a moment to recover, granting me a quick moment of advantage to create another line in his armor.
It wasn’t enough, though. Not nearly enough.
I ducked under a jab of his spear towards my head, my hand going to my belt. As he drew back, I threw. The pellet hit against his triceps, spraying the liquid across the arm, chest, and armpit before solidifying almost instantly. His arm was locked in place.
I took the moment to chop at his knee as hard as I could. As I heard the coating on his arm strain, I gave another quick attack to the same place before pulling back. Just in time as the coating shattered, barely giving me enough time to get out of the way from a powerful swing.
Defiant didn’t give me time to counter, instead turning his entire body into a kick. The rotational force would have increased its power greatly had I not moved to the side just enough to avoid the thrust of the kick, my arm wrapping around it.
One of my feet landed firmly on his that was still on the ground before I fell back, taking him with me. His legs stretched as I fell to the ground, forcing him into the splits. As soon as we landed, the reinforced knuckles of my free hand impacted with the hollow of his power armor, where it connected with his groin. I swung again, glancing off of his codpiece before connecting with my target.
I didn’t get a third swing as two fists cupped together slammed into my rib cage with enough force to make my armor briefly harden and crackle.
Hit a nerve, did I?
I let go and we rolled apart towards our weapons again. Only this time, my hand went to my belt, thumbing the other pellet free. In that brief moment where his back was to me, it connected and burst into flames.
Defiant was a cyborg, and one who hadn’t been fighting for a while. Not that I expected him to have any cybernetics that were anything other than combat-oriented or anything. The key was, heat. His organic muscles probably weren’t used to this intense of a workout any more, and his cybernetics were working hard.
Both of these built up heat. I didn’t see any sort of obvious radiators on him, but it would make sense for him to have some way of venting heat so that he didn’t bake to death inside of his armor. A heat venting system would be a huge liability, though. A place of decreased durability. He would want to keep it as far away from whatever opponents he fought as possible.
That basic design principle was applied to the Dragon’s Teeth armor, placing the heat venting system in the back. If Defiant had designed the DT armor then most likely those same basic design principles applied to himself as well.
Setting that on fire would make it do the opposite of what it was designed for. Unless it was a Maxwell system, which the DT back home had complained was extremely unreliable and were being phased out, then setting it ablaze would not only keep it from venting the heat, but would make it absorb heat instead.
Once his cybernetics started overheating, they’d start failing. If I was going to win, or even put up enough of a fight that he left the others alone, then I needed to leverage every single advantage that I could get.
God damn it, why was he doing this to me?! Why was he making me hurt him?
He didn’t even seem to notice as he turned to me, spear in hand. Either I’d missed my mark, or he was playing it cool, keeping me from knowing that he was in trouble in order to maintain whatever advantage he had. I couldn’t tell which was which. But in the end, did it really matter anyway? I just had to keep the pressure up for as long as possible.
I had to make him pay for threatening them.
Defiant’s legs flexed and his shoulders hunched slightly. Flip attack again. Even as he jumped, the moment that he committed to it, I was already moving to avoid it. As his heavy boots left the ground, I was moving forward, my own leg raising and my abdominal muscles tightening.
At the apex of his flip, the moment that his back was towards me and his head was pointing towards the ground, my ankle impacted between his shoulder blades, a scream of fury escaping me as everything that I had was put into that one kick. My hips and knee felt the strain as it connected with far too much mass.
I hadn’t realized that time had slowed down until it went back to normal.
Defiant hit the ground hard on his face, his spear going flying as he dealt with the consequences of a maneuver that was far too flashy. As he quickly rolled over, I was on him, straddling his chest gripping my halberd awkwardly in both hands so that I could slam the axehead into his helmet.
He raised both hands to grab the shaft, trying to protect himself. I had the better leverage, though, throwing all of my weight into forcing them down over his head, pinning them with the shaft. This was how he wanted it? Fuck him!
Fuck them all! Every single god damn one of them!
My right hand came up to my chest, drawing the blade free. Over him like this, my knees jammed into his armpits, leaning forward to try and keep his hands pinned, I at least had leverage.
I didn’t just stab his visor. There weren’t words for the flurry of blows that I delivered to it, each one scoring a deep scratch into it as he struggled beneath me. I snarled, I howled, I screamed as the tip of my Tinker-modified knife connected.
But the speed slowed quickly as I threw more into strength than speed, trying to find purchase in the areas where the individual pieces of the helmet fit together. Even as I worked, though, my vision blurred.
“Leave us alone!” I howled. “Leave me alone! Leave! Me! Alone! Leave!”
“Jordan!” It was a new voice, loud enough to be heard over the rushing of blood in my ears. I looked up, only to find Dragon slowly walking towards me. Her weapons were powered down and her hands were spread peacefully.
“Det er helt fint, jeg skal nok tage mig af det,” she said in a heavily accented voice.
I sniffled, blinking the tears out of my eyes as I stared at her. Something about what she said made me feel like I was falling. At least Defiant wasn’t struggling underneath me any more. What was she saying?
“Bare rolig, jeg kender ham godt.” She took another slow step towards me. Her helmet was… rather impressively animated. “Jeg tager ansvaret, hvis der sker noget.”
It’s fine, I know him. I’ll take full responsibility if anything happens. Somehow, the words translated automatically in my mind.
I stared at her, my face feeling numb. What… What was happening?
Dragon’s hands moved up to remove her helmet, letting long dark hair fall free as she smiled sympathetically to me. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Tobias. What brings you here? You’re a long, long ways from home.”
Why…? What? What was going on? Why did that sound so… familiar? It was right there, so why…?
Why was my vision blurring even worse now? My jaw opened and closed slightly in jerky movements. My brain was refusing to process this somehow. I was only dimly aware of the knife tumbling from my hand.
“Tobias,” she continued. “Listen to the sound of my voice. Focus on it. Remember. Remember how you would work for so long that your eyes would burn? I’d have to come and give you eyedrops because you’d spend hours straining them while you worked. I’d have to remind you to sleep. Do you remember?”
Something stirred in the back of my head, but I was too numb to process it.
I heard a noise under me, and when my head looked down, I wasn’t looking at a helmet any more. Defiant’s visor had lifted, and the part that covered his mouth had opened. I was staring down at a bearded man, only his cheeks and jaws were clean. Salt and pepper hair only wrapped from his upper lip down to his chin.
Defiant spoke slowly, his eyes piercing. “For Christmas, you made your sister a necklace. It was a huge project for you, making it entirely yourself. You dragged me out to buy some jewelry. A necklace.”
“I still have it,” Dragon added.
“I felt guilty,” Defiant continued. “So we made a little dojo in the back yard for you to train in. For us to train in.” He paused, his eyes narrowing. “You found a way to counter my toss. When I used it here, you used the same counter. Do you remember?”
I stared at him, my head spinning. No…
“When you tried to save that broken trigger, I called you out on your lie. Do you remember what I told you?”
I opened my mouth, a small croak escaping me. A moment later, though, I found my words. “That… That I should have asked if she was okay.” Defiant. Nathan. Dragon. Taylor. The memories were tickling through the fog.
I licked my lips as I released my grip on my halberd. It wasn’t just my face that was numb, it was my entire body. “I… Old man?”
Defiant nodded once.
I… I had spent an entire winter with them. I had sparred with him at least once a week. I’d worked for her. I… No. No. That was too much of a coincidence. It couldn’t be. It… It couldn’t. How? How could I have teleported blind, just to find a place with the two them there? Where they would take me in? The chances were… impossible.
“Jordan, get off.” I focused on Defiant again. He was speaking more firmly now. “We don’t have time to be laying here. Things are happening, and we have work to–”
My fist impacted with his face.