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The Long Hard Goodbye
Necrotech
Blood and Iron
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Wilson “Weasel” Wilcox’s heart sank lower when his head motion, for the gates at Shantyville were open once more, The Wastelord’s forces streaming onto and across the ravine.

"It's over," said Weasel.

"Mike’s dead," Ditto agreed. "And we've got to get Tom out of here."

"Let us hope that “Ripcord” has a vehicle available and ready," Weasel explained to Ditto. "If not…. He jumped down to the alleyway and helped slow Ditto's descent as the human came down behind him. They turned back the way they had come, picking the fastest route to the tavern, toward a service door for the kitchen.

They had barely gone a few steps, though, when they found the way blocked by a most strange-looking mutant.

"I once met me Weasel, ya know," he chanted. "The two of us suren did have a good row. He did dart and did sting, how his blade it did sing, till me hammers landed a blow!"

Weasel and Ditto stared at him open-mouthed.

"HAHA AH HAH!" the mutant bellowed.

"What a curious little beast," Ditto remarked.

"Oh, do kill him," Ditto said to Weasel with a sneer.

"The fight is over, short stuff," Weasel said.

"I ain't thinking that," replied the mutant.

"I'm going to get my friends, to get them away," Weasel explained. "Shantyville is not for Blood and Iron right now, so it has been decided by the Police themselves. and now, we go. There is no reason to continue this madness."

"Nah," the mutant spouted, unconvinced. "I been wantin' to test me hammers against the likes o' Wilson “The Weasel” Wilcox since I heard your name, slugger. And I been hearin' yer name too many times." He drew his hammers from over his shoulders.

Weasel’s sword appeared in his hands as if it had been there all along.
"HAHA AH HAH!" the mutant roared in laughing applause. "As quick as they're saying, are ya?"

"Quicker," Weasel promised. "And again I give you this chance to be gone. I've got no quarrel with you."

"Now there's a wager I'm willin' to take," said the mutant, and he came forward, laughing maniacally.

Hammer and sword crossed in a dizzying series of vicious swings, more a matter of the combatants trying to get a feel for each other than either trying to land a killing blow. What stunned Ditto the most was the way the mutant kept up with Weasel. He had seen the wastelander in battle many times, but the idea that the short, stout, thick-limbed creature swinging unwieldy hammers could pace him swing for swing had the man gaping in astonishment.

But there it was. The mutant's weapon hummed across and Weasel angled his blade, swinging opposite, just enough to force a miss. He didn't want to connect a thin sword to one of those spiked heads.

The hammer head flew past and the mutant didn't pull it up short, but let it swing far out to his left to connect on the wall of the alleyway, and when it did, the ensuing explosion revealed that there was more than a little force in that weapon. A huge chunk of the building blasted away, leaving a gaping hole.

Pulling his own swing short, his feet sped by his desparation, Weasel saw the opening and charged ahead, only wincing slightly at the crashing blast when the hammer hit the wooden wall.

But the slight wince was too much; the momentary distraction too long. Ditto saw it and gasped. The mutant was already into his duck and turn as the spiked hammer took out the wall, coming fast around, his left arm at full extension, his second hammer head whistling out as wide as it could go.

If his opponent hadn't been a mutant, but a taller human, Weasel likely would have had his left leg caved in underneath him, but as the hammer head came around a bit lower, the wastelander stole his own forward progress in the blink of a surprised eye and threw himself into a leap and back flip.

The hammer hit nothing but air, the Weasel landing lightly on his feet some three strides back from the mutant.

Again, against a lesser opponent, there would have been a clear opening then. The great twirling swing had brought the mutant to an overbalanced and nearly defenseless state. But so strong was he that he growled himself right out of it. He ran a couple of steps straight away from Weasel, diving into a forward roll and turning as he did so that when he came up, over, and around, he was again directly squared.

More impressively, even as he came up straight, his arms already worked the hammers, creating a smooth rhythm once again. The hammers spun at the ends of their respective arms, ready to block or strike.

"How do you hurt him?" Ditto asked incredulously, not meaning for Weasel to hear.

But he did hear, though, as was evidenced by his responding shrug as he and the mutant engaged yet again. They began to circle, Weasel sliding to put his back along the wall the hammer had just demolished, the mutant staying opposite.

It was the look on Weasel's face as he turned the back side of that circle that alerted Ditto to trouble, for when he suddenly broke concentration on his primary target, his eyes going wide as he looked Ditto's way.

Purely on instinct, Ditto snapped out his chainsaw and spun, swinging wildly.

He hit the thrusting bayonet right before it would have entered his back. Ditto gave a yelp of surprise, and still got cut across his left arm as he turned. He fell back against the wall, his desperate gaze going to Weasel, and he found himself trying to yell out, "No!" as if all the world had suddenly turned upside down.

For Weasel had started to sprint Ditto's way, and so quick was he that against almost any enemy, he would have been able to cleanly disengage.
But that mutant wasn't any enemy, and Ditto could only stare in horror as the mutant's primary hand weapon, the one that had gouged so gaping a hole in the building, came on a backhand at the passing combatant.

Weasel sensed it, or anticipated it, and he dived into a forward roll.
He couldn't avoid the hammer, and his roll went all the faster for the added momentum.

Amazingly, the blow didn't prove lethal, though, and he came right around in a full run at Ditto's attacker-who, spying his certain doom, tried to run away.

He didn't even begin his turn, back-stepping still, when Weasel caught him, sword working in a blur. The man's rifle went flying in moments, and he fell back and to the ground, his chest stabbed three separate times.
He stared at him and at Ditto for just a moment before falling flat.
Weasel spun as if expecting pursuit, but the mutant was still far back in the alleyway, casually spinning his hammers.

"Get to Tom," Weasel whispered to Ditto, and he tucked his sword under his other arm and put his open hand out and low. As soon as Ditto stepped into it, Weasel hoisted him up to grab onto the low roof of the shed and pull himself over as Weasel hoisted him to his full outstretched height.

The he turned the moment Ditto was out of sight, sword in hand, but still the mutant had not approached.

"Could've killed ye to death, flatskin," the mutant said. "Could've put me sting on the ball that clipped ye, and oh, but ye'd still be rollin'! Clear out o' the streets and into the hills, you'd still be rollin'! HAHA AH HAH!"
Ditto looked to Weasel, and was shocked to see that his friend was not disagreeing.

"Or I could've just chased ye down the hall," the mutant went on. "Quick as ye were rid of that fool wouldn't've been quick enough to set yerself against the catastrophe coming yer way from behind!"

Again, the he didn't disagree. "But you didn't," Weasel said, walking slowly back toward his adversary. "Twice you had the kill, by your own claim, and twice you didn't take it."

"Bah, wasn't fair!" bellowed the mutant. "What's the fun in that?"

"Then you do have honor," said Weasel.

"Got nothin' else, slugger."

"Then why waste it?" Weasel cried. "You are a fine warrior, to be sure. Join with us. Put your skills-

"What?" the mutant interrupted. "To the cause of justice? There ain't no cause of justice like yourself and myself helping one side or the other side-they're both the same side, ya see-climb to the top o' the hill."

"No," said Weasel. "There is more."

"HAHA AH HAH!" roared the mutant. "Still a young'un, I'm guessin'!"

"HAHA AH HAH!" the mutant roared again. "If ye only knew the half of it, slugger, ye wouldn't be so quick to put “Hammerhead” by yer side!" And with that, he charged, yelling, "Have at you!"

Weasel paused only long enough to look up at Ditto and snap, "Go!"
Ditto had barely clambered two crawling steps up the steep roof when he heard the pair below come crashing together.

Ditto kept his head down, focusing solely on the task before him. Crawling on hands and knees, picking each handhold cautiously but expediently, the man made his way up the steep roof.

"Have to get to Tom," he told himself, pulling himself along, increasing his pace as he gained confidence with the climb. He finally hit his stride and was just about to look up when he bumped into something hard. Dusty, grime layered boots filled his vision.

Ditto froze and slowly lifted his gaze, up past the harsh fabric of canvas pants, up past a rusted and pitted belt buckle, a gray vest and brown shirt, to a face he never expected.

"You!" he cried in dismay and horror, desperately throwing his arms up before his face as a crossbow leveled his way.

The exaggerated movement cost the man his balance, but even the unexpected tumble didn't save him from being stuck in the shoulder by the quarrel. Down the roof Ditto tumbled, darkness rushing up all around him, stealing the strength from his limbs, stealing the light from his eyes, stealing even his voice as he tried to cry out.

The mutant's swings didn't come any slower as he rejoined battle against Weasel. And The Weasel quickly realized that the mutant wasn't even breathing hard. Using his footwork to speed his steps, Weasel pushed the issue, scampering to the left, then right back around the mutant, and out and back suddenly as the furious little creature spun to keep up.
The mercenary worked a blur of measured kicks and strikes, and exaggerated steps, forcing the stubby-limbed mutant to rush every which way.

The flurry went on and on, sword rolling one over the other, hammers spinning to keep pace, and even, once in a while, to offer a devious counter-stroke. And still Weasel pressed, rushing left and back to center, right and all the way around, forcing the mutant to continually reverse momentum on his heavier weapons.

But “Hammerhead” did so with ease, and showed no labored breath, and whenever a thrust or parry connected, weapon to weapon, Weasel was reminded of the mutant's preternatural strength.

Indeed, “Hammerhead” possessed it all. Speed, stamina, strength, and technique. He was as complete a fighter as Weasel had ever battled, and even without weapons to equal Weasel's own fine blade.

And “Hammerhead” just kept howling, "HAHA AH HAH!" and charging on with abandon.

Seeming abandon, because never, ever, did the mutant abandon his excellent defensive technique.

He was good. Very good.

But so was Wilson “The Weasel” Wilcox.

He slowed his attacks and let “Hammerhead” gain momentum, until it was the mutant, not the merc, pressing the advantage.

"HAHA AH HAH!" “Hammerhead” roared, and sent both his hammers into aggressive spins, low and high, working one down, the other up in a dizzying barrage that nearly caught up to the dodging, parrying man.

Weasel measured every movement, his eyes moving three steps ahead. He thrust into the left, forcing a parry, then went with that block to send his sword out wide but in an arcing movement that brought it back in again, sweeping down at his shorter opponent's shoulder.

“Hammerhead” was up to the task of parrying, as Weasel knew he would be, bringing his left-hand hammer flying up across his right shoulder to defeat the attack.

But it wasn't really an attack, and snuck in for a stab at Hammerhead's side. The mutant yelped and leaped back, clearing three long strides. He laughed again, but winced, and brought his hand down against his rib. When he brought that hand back up, both Weasel and he understood that the merc had drawn first blood.

"Well done!" he said, or started to, for Weasel pulled out a knife and leaped at him, sword and short blade working wildly.

Weasel rolled them over each other in a punishing alternating downward and straightforward slash, keeping them timed perfectly so that one hammer could not defeat them both, and keeping them angled perfectly so that Hammerhead had to keep his own weapons at a more awkward and draining angle, up high in front of his face.

The mutant's grimace told Weasel that his stab in the ribs had been more effective than Hammerhead pretended, and holding his arms up in such a manner was not comfortable at all.

The mercenary kept up the roll and pressed the advantage, driving Hammerhead ever backward, both combatants knowing that one slip by Weasel would do no more than put them back at an even posture, but one slip by Hammerhead would likely end the fight in short order.

The mutant wasn't laughing anymore.

Weasel pressed him even harder, growling with every rolling swing, backing Hammerhead back down the alley the way Weasel had come, away from the bar.

Weasel caught the movement out of the corner of his eye, a man’s form rolling limply off the roof. Without a whimper, without a cry of alarm, Ditto, tumbled to the ground and lay still.

Hammerhead seized the distraction for his advantage, and cut back and to his right, then smashed his hammer across to bat the merc's chopping sword out far to the side with such force that Weasel had to disengage fully and scamper to the opposite wall to simply hold onto the blade.
Weasel got a look at Ditto, lying awkwardly twisted in the alleyway's gutter. Not a sound, not a squirm, not a groan of pain….

He was somewhere past pain; it seemed to Weasel as if his spirit had already left his battered body.

And Weasel couldn't go to him. Weasel, who had chosen to return to Shanty, couldn't do anything but look at his dear leader.

His first attacks after seeing Ditto fall were measured, his first defenses almost half-hearted. Weasel could hardly find his focus, with his friend lying there in the sandy alley, could hardly muster the energy necessary to stand his ground against the mutant warrior.

Perhaps sensing that very thing, or perhaps thinking it all a ploy, Hammerhead didn't press in those first few moments of rejoined battle, measuring his own strikes to gain strategic advantage rather than going for the sudden kill.

His mistake.

For Weasel internalized the shock and the pain, and as he always had before, took it and turned the tumult into a narrowly-focused burst of outrage. His hands picked up their pace, the strength of his strikes increasing proportionately. He began to work Hammerhead as he had before the fall of Ditto, moving side to side and forcing the mutant to keep up.

But the mutant did match his pace, fighting Weasel to a solid draw strike after thrust after slash.

And what a glorious draw it was to any who might have chanced to look on. The combatants spun with abandon, sword and knife and feet and hammers humming through the air. Hammerhead hit a wall again, the spiked hammer smashing the wood to splinters. He hit the cobblestones before the backward-leaping fighter and crushed them to dust.

And there Weasel scored his second hit, trusty knife nicking Hammerhead's cheek and taking away his smile.

"Ah, but ye'll pay for that, slugger!" the mutant roared, and on he came.

To the side, Ditto groaned.

He was alive, but needed help.

Weasel turned away from Hammerhead and fled across the alleyway, the mutant in close pursuit. He leapt to the wall, throwing his shoulders back and planting one foot solidly as if he meant to run right up the side of the structure.

Or, to Hammerhead's discerning and seasoned battle sensibilities, to flip a backward somersault right over him.

The mutant pulled up short and whirled, shouting "HAH! I'm knowing that move!"

But Weasel didn't fly over him and come down in front of him, and the merc, who had not used his planted foot to push off, and who had not brought his second foot up to further climb, replied, "I know you would know."

From behind the turned mutant, down the alley, a throaty engine roared, like an exclamation point to Weasel's victory.

For indeed the win was his; he could only pray that Ditto was not beyond his help. His sword slashed down at Hammerhead's defenseless head, a blow that split the mutant's head apart. He took savage satisfaction in that win as his blade connected against Hammerhead's skull, as he felt the transfer of deadly energy.

Weasel had felt that sensation many times before, as if he had landed a blow almost without consequence, so clean was the strike.

Hammerhead spun, hammers flying desperately out of his hands. One barely clipped Weasel's blade as fell from a hand that longer had a will to grip.

Weasel sheathed his sword next to his rifle on his back, as he ran past, grabbed one of the Hammer’s hammers towards Ditto.

Out of the corner of one eye, he noted the rise of a rusted trunk, another Blood and Iron member rushing towards Don “Double” Ditto.

A black shadow rushed at his head, the last thing he saw.

Weasel couldn't sort it out, but then he remembered Ditto. He bolted upright, eyes scanning the room, hands going to his back.

His weapons were not there. He didn't know what to think.

Don “Double” Ditto sat calmly before him, his arm in a sling.

“Thought we lost you there for a moment” he drawled

“Tom was a little TOO over eager trying to get to us, kinda knocked you into a coma with his bumper”

Weasel was still trying to figure things out; he looked to the side to see a long wrapped package by his side.

“Tom happened to see everything before we had to bug out of there and thought to grab you a souvenir.” Ditto said with hint of a smile in his voice.

“You earned it”

Weasel carefully tore open the one end of the surprisingly heavy gift.

He grinned at the sight of the head of a spiked hammer.

.........................
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Posted Mar 14, 2013, 3:18 am Last edited Mar 15, 2013, 4:43 am by Necrotech
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